Saturday, November 30, 2013

Christmas Pillowcase Tradition

We had a quiet Saturday morning and as we are super busy the rest of the year {seriously! its crazy!} I thought we better get to and make our traditional Christmas Pillowcases.

As I was packing up even The Mr said... 'are you going to make me one?' {lol}
Since the girls sew it nearly all themselves now I might have to make one for us.

The girls promptly changed all their pillowcases over and even asked, since a few of them have two pillows if we could make them two Christmas pillowcases! {no!}

We even had a 10 year old neighbour drop by see the left over material and ask if she could have one.
I said yes if she helped sew it. Her first time at a sewing machine and she did great.

Days later as I tucked my little ones into bed my four year old stroked her cheek back and forth across her pillow and spoke in that melt my heart baby voice 
'I just love my gingerbread men sooo much. My pillow is soooo lovely and pretty!'

How could I deny them a tradition they love so?
{even when they need prodding to turn off the tv/computer to help come and make them! grrrrrrr!}

It's sometimes hard in January to get them to hand the pillowcase over.

Actually since my four year old loves Hoot and she had a Christmas owl pillowcase last year she kept her pillowcase on nearly all year round {It wasn't overtly Christmassy so I let it stay}

Here are our pillowcases from past years. I have quite a collection now.






 Find the  Pillow Case Tutorial Here

What to do with all those pillowcases?

They make easy wrapping for large gifts under the tree.
We wrap our nightly Christmas books in them, tie with a string, add a number.
Repurpose into other Christmas crafts {I'm thinking table runner in the future}

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Our Hill {15 year Engagement Anniversary}

I'm not sure how it started. I think it was finding an old calendar of The Mr's. An old calendar in which he had hastily written short snippets of a few things that happened during our dating time. A few years after we were married we came across these little notes. One had the {two} dates he proposed. We can't really visit the place of the first proposal so we decided to go back and visit the place of the second proposal. We've been doing this for a number of years now.
The girls have been asking all month - 'when are we going to Our Hill. When will we have dinner on the tallest hill and then roll down it?' Its became as much a part of them as it is a part of us.
This year I was spoilt with a rose and chocolates. I suppose 15 years deserves some sort of recognition. Roses are the flower for 15 years. The man does his research. I had no idea :)

Other visits to our hill here:  2012  2011  2010  2008

Our Hill reminds us how to love and keep loving, the example we set our children, the importance of righteous traditions, to take time for family, to keep the flame burning, to realise what future comes of those early decisions, to keep our future bright. As bright as the sunset on our day at the hill.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

FHE Lesson {Christ Centred Christmas Countdown}

Opening Song: He Sent His Son #34

Opening Prayer:

The 1st of December is next Sunday. This week we are going to prepare this Christ Centred Advent Calendar. This is to help us remember the true meaning of the season and what we really celebrate. We celebrate the birth Christ that the prophets of old foretold. The hope and love he bought into the world gives joy to many in the world. We know that through him we are forgiven and will obtain eternal life.

Play 'what do you know about Jesus' game {idea from 12 Gifts for Christ by Merrilee Boyack }

When did you first know Jesus? {premortal life}
Who was Jesus Father? {Heavenly Father}
Who was Jesus Mother? {Mary}
Who was Mary's Husband? {Joseph}
Where was Jesus Born? {Bethlemhem}
Where did he live as a little child {Egypt}
Did he have brothers and sisters {yes, how many unknown}
What trade did Joseph teach him? {carpenter}
Where was Jesus Baptised? {River Jordan}
Who Baptised him? {Cousin, John the Baptist}
Where did he live growing up? {Nazareth}
How many apostles did he choose? {12}
Who were his friends? { Mary, Martha, Lazarus and others}
Jesus healed lots of people, what did he heal them from?
How did he die?
What happened three days after he died? {Resurrected}

Add any other questions you would like :)

Listen to The Living Christ or look at a copy or

Watch The Living Christ a slideshow with pictures


 To make a Jesus Tag:

Cut pictures from the Ensign Magazine {we borrowed from Grandma's stash} or print some

I just used a glue stick to stick the picture onto regular white copy paper

Cut around leaving a small border of white

Glue onto cardstock. I used what I had on hand - Dark Blue and Gold

Cut again leaving another small border.

Laminate!!! {optional}

Cut around lamination, add a bow {12 for $2} by piercing a hole at the top.

Add a string.

And you have a Jesus Ornament, Gift Tag etc

Display on a Christmas Tree, or bunch of sticks in jar.

Extra ways to use:

Attach matching scriptures for each day
Discuss what is happening in each picture
Reuse as an Easter Countdown too!

Closing Song: Little Jesus #39

Closing Prayer:


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Recycled Christmas Gifts

When your kids are little and are more impressed with the wrapping than the gifts did you ever just think about wrapping up toys you already had? {I'm not the only one surely?}

Do you ever lament that you don't have room for more toys but would feel horrible about not buying any for Christmas and just buy more anyway {Yup me every year}

Have you ever recycled a Christmas gift?

The only recycle I do is that every year I re wrap the kids photo albums.

Yep. I take their photo albums {regular slot the photos in the pocket style} off our bookshelf and I re wrap them and put them under the tree. Except that I also print off the best photos of the year of each girl and slip them in {about 30 photos each}. But they are the same albums. Re wraped and put under the tree. I've rewrapped the same albums for about 4 years now.

Since the most used Christmas gifts from last year were the fabric notebook holders I made - I've been thinking about also re gifting those with new crisp notebooks and fun pens placed within. Perhaps tucking some fun stickers or something unexpected will also increase the excitedness value.

I've also loved the hairband organiser (my sister found) I got them full of clips, bows, headbands, hairbands last year. Sadly as with every year half of them are lost and the organiser is almost empty. I'm thinking of restocking it and rewrapping it to go under the tree. Full of fresh hairbands for the new year/school.

A few years ago my mother in law rounded up a box of old costume jewellery, plastic glasses, gloves etc from around her house and gave it to the girls as a Christmas party gift. It  kept them busy and made for a fun night of playing.

I've also thought it would be fun to have one of those joke gifts that is something just crazy stupid that gets re wrapped every year and gets given to someone unsuspecting in the family.

Each year I also think about doing the parade of animals like O Happy Day . I think it was a genius idea - they used existing toys they had and put them under the tree because a) they lived in several teeny apartments and b) anything they bought in France had to be shipped home one day... and what animals don't look cute lined up with bows under the Christmas tree. If my kids were still toddlers I would totally do it! All our miniature animals and dinosaurs would look so cute lined up.

So what's your take on Re wrapping, Re gifting or Recycling Christmas Gifts for kids.

Would you do it? Are you doing it this year?

Looks like I might have 3 recycled gifts under the tree this year.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

FHE Lesson {Symbols of Christmas}

Opening Song: Have a Very Merry Christmas #51

Opening Prayer:


What is this? {point to your Christmas tree or a picture of one}
Why do we have Christmas Trees at Christmas? {enjoy their varied answers}

The Christmas Tree is a symbol of Christmas because :
The evergreen tree means lasting light and life. As many things die in winter but the evergreen does not, it symbolizes life in the midst of death or rebirth. The evergreen with its unchanging color represents the hope of eternal life in Jesus. Its needles point heavenward as a reminder that man's thoughts should turn heavenward as well

Talk about why you like to put a star or angel on the top of your tree.

Read this scripture to go with your discussion.
Luke 2:9-12 for Angel
Matthew 2:2 for Star


Make some decorations for your tree.
Stars or angels or pictures of Jesus printed and coloured.

If your tree is up sit with the lights out with just the tree lights on and spend some quiet time admiring your tree and talking about why you love to have a tree at Christmas

Closing Song: Stars were Gleaming #37

Closing Prayer: Child

Click on links for some yummy treats
Cheese Christmas Tree

Christmas Tree Krispy Treats

Christmas Tree Sandwiches

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The art of Christmas Gifts

Anyone else in the full swing of present buying?
{I want mine all done before they finish school - cause then I have no time}

Every year I seem to be having an internal debate over present giving.

There can be several reasons why:
Restricted budget
Against excessive consumer consumption
No room for any more toys!
Trying to show the real meaning of Christmas versus getting

I've heard many ideas and have several swirling around and there are pros and cons for each.

:: 3 presents each. Good enough for Baby Jesus.. Good enough for you

:: 1 present from each person in the house. ie in our house that would equal 5 gifts each.

:: 1 present full stop. Let kids choose a really great most favourite thing in the world type gift.

:: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, something to read.

:: Just buy them what they want (within budget). Happy for them, Easy for mum.

:: Mum just shop and shell out whatever (our usual tradition ;)

I've heard of and loved most of the above ideas for years.
There always seems to be a reason why I can't implement any of these sayings as longterm traditions

Too many gifts (usually)
Too few gifts
I don't usually buy big ticket/expensive toys
I didn't find a 'need' for one kid or a 'book' - is the saying now cancelled out?
Do all the trinkents in stockings count in the present count?
How to teach the above reasons or the thoughts behind our gift giving to the kids

Last year I was impressed when a family I know said they put the names in the hat and they all get (and buy) ONE present each, little kids included!
Is it bad that I actually thought that sounds refreshing? But regardless I've already bought more than that. I'm not sure I would even know how to buy just one gift each. I think that would give me more worries about getting it right! I like to increase my odds of at least one successful gift :)

There's a little pressure around Christmas to get it right and make kids happy for that magical day of the year.

My kids are usually very happy with basic toys and don't write long lists or anything but there is also the yearly dilemma of what kids want and what I want to buy for them. Many times the gifts are what 'I think' will make great gifts. Sometimes I'm a winner! sometimes not! It's hard not to discount what kids want in favour for educational gifts, or battery free gifts, or toys I'd prefer around the house. It's hard not to want to sneak in new school supplies and underwear and pass it off as a gift.

There is also the dilemma of favourite gift of Christmas day versus the most used gift for the rest of the year.

There seems to be a strange coincidence that the gift most played with on Christmas day is never the most used gift the rest of the year.

The handmade note and pen pouches were our most used gift from last year. Used every Sunday in church and during trips to restaurants, visiting people (without kids or toys), used in boring places that kids need to be quiet.  Even though the girls love them it wasn't something that got them excited on Christmas Day.

The 'it' gifts are often left untouched once the excitement wears off (mega annoying!!)
(how many walking/talking/moving stuffed animals do we have not played with!? How many Crayola glow in the dark art stations and zhu zhu pet houses were thrown away only weeks after?)


Do you try to cover Christmas with buying both types of gifts?
Dispense with even bothering with 'it/must have' toys?  (wasted money!! But makes you a Grinch!)
Buy toys to get the quick joy and forget about how long it will be played with?

The art of the Christmas Gift is a very fine line

This year my goal was that they could choose anything they wanted at all (within reason) the girls actually balked at that and said 'no mum, just do Christmas how you usually do...'

ha ha ha ha.

Hopefully they are happy with my choices :)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

FHE Lesson {Wise Men}

With 7 Mondays till Christmas I'll be sharing  Christmas based FHE's till then!

Opening Song: The Nativity Song #52

Opening Prayer: Child


Scripture: Matthew 2:1-2
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.
Saying where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.

The wise men spent a long time finding Jesus. They were on a long trip after seeing the star.
Just like the wise men we also wait with excitement and count down the days until Christmas.
 It is more important to count down the days until the birth of Jesus, than to think about what presents we are waiting for. Jesus's Birth is the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

The wise men arrived with special gifts for baby Jesus. What gift will we give him?
Have a special present box or stocking in which you will put 'a present to give Jesus'. Draw or write down something you are going to do or be better at as your present for Jesus. Leaving the present box or stocking out in a special place leading up to Christmas will remind us of our gift and to try hard.

These 'gifts' could be the first you open Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning.


Watch the LDS Bible Video - Wise Men Seek Jesus (5 Mins)

Give everyone a plastic glow in the dark star to keep in their room, or stick to the ceiling above their bed leading up to Christmas  (idea from 12 Gifts for Christ by Merrilee Boyack ). This reminds us of the wise men that followed the sign of the star that led them to baby Jesus. We too must be like the wise men and remember to follow Christ.

Closing Song: Stars were Gleaming #33

Closing Prayer:

Treat: Use cookie cutter to cut bread or brownies into star shape. Sprinkle with coloured sugar.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mangoes... Finally

It seems 'first mango of the season' is getting later and later each year!

It's November people! But the girls finally got a special treat in their first mango of the season.

We usually make a big deal out of it, but this time we forgot about our mangoes from the markets till 6pm at night {so not much good light for photos!}

They ended up being dinner.  Mangoes are a great dinner too I must say.







Monday, November 4, 2013

Pocket Bunting Advent Calendar

As I've discussed before it can be hard to find advent calendars that have enough room for treats for large families {and I don't really even view my family as *that* large}.

I'm always on the look out for ideas that can fit several treats inside each pocket.

I was excited when I found this idea and went to work straight away on it {back in September!}

Bunting and Advent Calendar? perfect!

Pocket Bunting Advent Calendar

Start with making a pattern/template.

Draw a kite shape on some paper or card.

I did mine by drawing a vertical line about 20 cm long. About 1/3 from the top I drew a horizontal line that was 14 cm long. Join the edges up and create a 'kite shape'. Now trace the bottom triangle part of your kite shape. You will now have a kite shape and a triangle shape.  These will form the Bunting.

Cut a kite shape and triangle shape from material of your choice

*side note - I used old clothes to create this bunting. I find old clothes are usually of heavier material, have interesting patterns and a good way to recycle. I was able to recycle a pair of kids jeans with a broken zip and a ill fitting dress, a skirt and another piece that had a stain on it. Best of all it made this project almost FREE as these were things that were going to be thrown out anyway. You can't really tell from the photos but the fabrics are textured and interesting. And I love the grey, light blue, red and white colour theme that popped out from these old clothes.

A thicker type material will make your bunting sit better.

Now, Sew them together.

Place right sides of fabric together and sew down the V of the bottom of the kite shape.

Turn inside out and you have a bunting with a flap.

Fold down flap.

Make 25 more :)

Embellish your flags with lace, embroidered edges and numbers.

The flap on the bunting has raw edges (so it could fray) so you might like to blanket stitch, add some ribbon or lace or be like me and use the decorative stitches on your sewing machine - FOR THE VERY FIRST TIME!! {I was scared! lol. But so pleased how it turned out!}

I originally wanted to be lazy and buy some iron on felt numbers or similar. Except I couldn't find any small enough or not individually packed (that would = expensive). In the end I printed the numbers and used that as a template and cut my own numbers out of a scrap of felt I had at home. I attached the numbers with a little glue and a couple of stitches through each number to secure.

Attach the flags

You can attach the triangles to thick cord or twine, a strip of fabric or bias binding.
However you would like it to go.


For mine I:

Puchased a 3 metre length of bias binding. Fold in half and sew closed.

Attach each flag to the bias binding. I did this by opening up the flap and sewing along the top of the triangle - attaching it to the bias binding. {But DON'T sew the Pocket shut!}
When the flap is closed over you cannot see the sewing line.
Mine still seemed a little flimsy so I also did little vertical stitches on each side of triangle up and down attaching the flag to the bias binding better.

Alternatively you can just glue them to cord or the like.

Fill with treats.

This year I'm using Sippah milk Straws, Squinkies and some chocolates/lollies.
{Squinkies are obviously passé  as they used to be $20 now you can buy them for $4}
 I filled this Advent Calendar with four gifts for each day for under $15.
Maybe I could also reuse pop in the Christmas Jokes that were last years Advent treat

Lastly take lots of photos :) I find Advent Calendars notoriously hard to photograph.
Long and Skinny and hard to capture their cuteness

I only made ours into a 12 days of Christmas of Christmas Advent Calendar.

As mentioned here and here sometimes 24 days can feel too long, too many treats, loses its novelty factor, forget to check it, or even forget to make a calendar by 1st December. 12 days before Christmas coincides with the end of school, shorter time frame, less treats to buy to fill it. Still as cute :) That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

{plus we have several other advent calendars around the house!}

A friend told me they celebrate the 12 of days of Christmas with her kids getting a little present each day leading up to Christmas - delivered by the elves! I love that idea! So this will have to be the closest we get to that, this year.

Enjoy Counting down the Days till Christmas!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

FHE Lesson {Gratitude}

Whilst Thanksgiving isn't celebrated in Australia , November is often known as a thankful month. Good timing to get the children appreciating things before the commercial side of Christmas hits.

Opening Song: I am Glad for Many Things #151

Opening Prayer: Child


What is gratitude?

Gratitude is not just a commandment from the Lord. “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things.” (D&C 59:7) It is a commandment with a promise, “And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.” (D&C 78:19)  { idea from here}

Why is being grateful important?

{it helps us to see the good things in life, it can help us not be sad, we show God that we care for all he has done for us, when we are happy and grateful it makes it easier for us to want to help others. It will help us see all that others do for us, Sometimes because it is our regular life, we can fail to see all the amazing blessings around us because we forget to validate them by writing it down or saying thanks }

Being Grateful can change your life and your outlook. It is a very important thing.
The more we look for to be grateful for .. the more we see. Then our lives are abundant.


Get a small Christmas tree {or some branches}.
Write or draw things you are grateful for.
Attach to the tree. {as ornaments or rolled like a scroll}
Tell children for the month of November we will {daily, twice a week, weekly, whatever speed you choose}write down things we are grateful for an attach to our gratitude tree. In a FHE in December or on Christmas Eve, or end of November, meet together and read out all the things you are grateful for. {Idea from 12 Gifts for Christ by Merrilee Boyack a great Christmas book I just read}

Thankful List Printable  (for parents and children who can read/write)
Idea from Chocolate on my Cranium Here

This can also be a good time to talk/make journals and follow Elder Eyring's  Advice
"Have I seen the hand of God in my life or my family's life today?"
Set a challenge to write in your journals more this month.

There is also a Gratitude Tree idea/printable in the November 2013 Friend Magazine.

Closing Song: Count your Blessings #241

Closing Prayer: Child

Treat: Something you are grateful for!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

November is... {Advent Calendars}

November is all about the Advent Calendar.

Why? Because December 1st will come around all too soon. And will you be ready?

Wasn't it September just the other day!?!? This year is sailing by!

I've said Advent Calendar Making is like a sport around here.

We try to make a new one each year.

I'm terrible at keeping count on who's turn it is to open the calendar so it must have room for atleast four treats daily, or be something that doesn't involve sharing watching someone else eat a treat.
I've filled advents with jokes, scriptures, activities to do.

There are just so many types out there, I want to sample all of them!

I've just done the finishing touches on my new advent calendar for this year and can't wait to share.

Till then here is a round up of previous years Advent Calendars.

Click on the links for instructions on how to make your own if you wish.
Pocket Bunting Advent Calendar

Lolly String Advent Calendar

Christ Centred Advent Calendar

Sewn Brown Paper Advent Calendar

Envelope- Activity a Day Advent Calendar


Add a decoration Quilted Advent Calendar

Ours are pretty simple {I'm all about simple and achievable!} and smallish {oh I love those 24 individual box ones with miniature trees on top, but alas, no space} and usually hang on the wall.

The best thing about these is that you can throw it away at the end of the season and make a new one next year {though I'm torn in whether I should sew a family heirloom 'use it forever' type one}

My other favourite love is paper advent calendars. I fondly remember a lovely one from my childhood that had {what I thought} was the most beautiful little pictures behind each window. They were so sweet and Christmas dream like, I just loved it. I don't collect anything and am starting to think if I should collect paper advent calendars. Anyway I've bought a new one for this  year and will hang a few of my {tiny} collection together. Now we will also have a few paper windows to open each day. Look at these dreamy ones from a  German Shop that's been making them for 60 years!!

This year will also be our first year with a Lego friends Advent Calendar too!

Think we have enough!?

Check back for this years Advent Calendar in the coming week.

Happy Advent Making!!
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