Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Tomato Cage Christmas Tree!

How do you display your Christmas cards? Hung on a doorframe? Taped to the wall in a tree shape? In a basket? I am typically frustrated with constantly propping them back up on my mantle, and couldn't wait to try this super-cute AND decorative display idea that Tara ran across...using Tomato Cages!

We realize it's probably a leee-tle bit late to make a Card Holder for this Christmas, but maybe you'll want to tuck this idea away for next year. Tara happened to have two colorful cages in her garden just begging to be trimmed for Christmas. Plain wire ones (new or charmingly used) would be just as cute! She tied the legs together with floral wire to make the tree top, and we each had an instant wire tree.

I wanted to decorate our Card Tree on the cheap (free, actually), so I pulled out some pages from an old book, retrieved my craft bin, and we spent a couple of fun hours creating little ornaments. My kids loved tracing Christmas cookie cutters and then outlining them in glitter glue. I folded some pages like fans and then glued them into circle shapes, adding colorful scrapbook paper accents. A snowflake wearing a little fabric yo-yo with a button center formed our tree topper.

We tore paper into snowmen and added scrapbook paper buttons and faces. Paper strips glued together made stars. We clipped everything in place with mini-clothespins and mini-binder clips.

We love our little Card Trees...and how they proudly display each lovely card received from family and friends!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Seek and Find Christmas Activities: Recycle your Mail!

If you are like us, December is the one time of year when we scurry down to the mailbox full of eager anticipation.  We love to see who has taken the time to actually send a Christmas card or a gift in the mail of all things.  In addition to our personal mail, my kids are still young enough to enjoy looking through the colorful catalogs and Christmas ads that we receive on an almost daily basis.  So, this year I decided to save ours in a pile and put them to use!
If you have any bright Christmas ads around, it's time to pull them out. Some of my favorites (for this project) are Kohls, Target, Toys "R" Us, and Pier 1, but even Lowe's, Pottery Barn or Sears, etc. will work!  It's a shame to just throw away all these bright and colorful magazine pictures.

Game #1
My kids love the "I Spy" books, and anything that has to do with searching and finding hidden objects.  I came up with this printable to give them a way to dig through the magazine pictures and use their observation skills along the way. I also love how these games force my kids to work together to find things.  If your kids are older and you want to make a competition out of it, I'm sure that would be fun, too!  
Go here to print this out, give them a catalog and a pen, and the rest is up to them.  The beauty of this activity is they can take a pen or Sharpie and circle the objects along the way inside the ad--they aren't hurting anything since it is already trash!  If your child is not reading yet, tell her to find the objects pictured on the page by herself and then help her find the rest.  Also feel free to make your own list or add to this one!  There are MANY things to choose from in these ads!
Game #2
This is a similar game but instead of circling the objects, let your child hone his cutting and pasting skills along with his observation skills!  Print this list, then give your child several catalogs, a blank piece of paper, scissors and a glue stick.  See if they can find the amount listed to the left (ex. 2 mugs of cocoa, 3 candy canes) or simply let them find one of each!  Depending on the age of your child, cutting and pasting 1 of each might take long enough.
Another fun Christmas catalog activity is to let your kids create some festive paper dolls or cut and paste a Christmas scene (fireplace, stockings, tree) into a room. My daughter LOVES doing this and is currently cutting and pasting her little Christmas room and family now.  If you want ideas on how to get started, check out this post.  Have fun making use of your colorful Christmas mail!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Guest Blogging...Hopscotch!

We are excited to be guest blogging at Living Life Intentionally today!  Beth is a like-minded Mom who has great tips and ideas for home-schooling, investing in your children's lives, and creating wonderful God-centered family life.


Check it out here for our unique handmade Christmas gift idea!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Free Printables: Pen & Paper Games!

So many exciting events, programs, and parties during the Christmas season. Not to mention shopping and appointments and road trips to visit family. Some of these can get a little long or tedious for children to sit through. Once the candy cane is crunched away, the doodling page is full, and the Christmas lights have lost their dazzle, these pen & paper games may help ward off the wiggles for a little longer!

The first game is a Scattergories type word game...scan the room for objects that begin with each of the letters, MERRY CHRISTMAS. Can be a competition with points scored for the number of letters in each word, and extra points for double words! Print it here.

Gingerbread Squares is a game you may remember from childhood. Requires 2 or 3 players, and they take turns drawing lines to connect the gingerbread men. Whoever forms a box with their line gets to put their initial inside. This is a great game to teach strategy to preschoolers--my 4-year-old loves it. It can be printed here.

Print a couple off and stash them in your car for some quick entertainment when an event or appointment drags out longer than expected!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

*Our 100th Post! Original Painting Giveaway!*

cel·e·brate [sel-uh-breyt] commemorate occasion, achievement
This is a special day for us. The Christmas season is already in full swing and now, to top it all off, today marks our 100th blog post.  When Kylee and I joined forces to start this blog last April, we blindly entered the world of mom-blogging, hoping we wouldn't get "blogged down" in the process. So far we have learned a lot, met many great moms and received lots of encouragement from you all. We are feeling very blessed!

In order to officially toot the ceremonial horn on this special day, we are offering this fun giveaway.  Our goal is to reward our current friends while also meeting many more new friends.

We are offering 2 large (11X14 each) original acrylic paintings on canvas.  These paintings were designed and created by me (Tara) and contain a background acrylic painting, paper details (tree and words), as well as thread which is hand sewn into the canvas to attach the letters.

Here are a few more detailed images:

Here are the Rules!
  • We are in love with you, our current fans, but we would love to see our infant blog grow even more.  Our challenge is to spread the word about us to your friends and family--we'd love to meet many new great folks just like you.  If you are already a member on our blog, then you already have an entry to win!
  • Once our members on this blog reach the magical number (100) we will randomly select 1 fortunate fan and ship these paintings straight to you (as long as you are a U.S. or Canadian resident!)
  • Don't like those odds? Better your chances to win something by commenting on this post and you will automatically receive an entry to win our second place prize.  Do you love So do we.  Comment on this post and receive an entry for a $10 Amazon gift card. It's that simple.
The winners will be chosen when our blog members number has officially reached 100 so keep checking back regularly!  We are thankful for you and hope you enjoy many special memories with friends and family this season!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Short and Sweet: 5 Quick Christmas Activities!

Whether you are a fan of chaotic messes or not, the December forecasters are calling for mounds of crumpled Christmas wrapping paper, flurries of pine needles and occasional sprinkles of sprinkles. 'Tis the season for glitter and boxes and clutter. 
Embrace it and hang in there; you will have plenty of time to clean it all up in January and February when you are trapped inside your home staring at your walls.
Around here, the kids are beside themselves with energy from the combination of Christmas activities and sugar, so yesterday I tried to channel the excitement into some fun little activities for them.  Here are a few quick suggestions that will keep your little elves busy, happy, and involved in some fun this season.
Yesterday my kids came up with the idea of creating their own Christmas Party in their rooms.  Of course the party required decorations, which is where I came into play. The first thing we did was:

1. Make a decorative paper chain.
The paper chain has been around for many centuries and many holidays, but the timeless joy created by a few simple pieces of construction paper, scissors and staples (or tape) is classic.  It took me 5 minutes to cut strips of paper and staple them into this chain. This was nothing fancy, but the kids thought I was a super hero.

2. Glue and Glitter: Don't be scared of it.
You are going to be vacuuming up pine needles and dried leaves and cookie sprinkles for the next 4 weeks anyway--this is the perfect time to let the kids go ahead and break out the glitter.  If your kids are big enough to use the Elmer's to write something on paper, let them do it! Otherwise, make some signs for your Christmas Party or personalize (and glitterize!) those impersonal Christmas cards you know you will be sending out shortly.

3. Paper Snowflakes. Remember those?
We might assume that everyone knows how to make a paper snowflake, but this might be the first year for your child to experience the joys of folding, cutting and opening a wonderful paper snowflake. It's exciting and unique every time!  If you forget how to do it or want a little help, here is a great sight with some templates.  Simply print, fold and cut. 

4.  "I'm already tired of wrapping presents!"
You might be tired of wrapping presents, but it will turn into hours of fun for your kids!  My kids are planning to exchange gifts at their little party, so I simply provided them with some paper (those useless, oblong leftover scraps are the best!) some tape and scissors and let them wrap up random toys and books in their rooms. I gave my daughter an empty box to fill with little toys so it would be easier to wrap. They enjoyed the wrapping and are even more excited to let each other open the special gifts tomorrow!

5. Tripping over Amazon boxes?
Create the Polar Express!  Last week I counted 6 various boxes throughout the house that were the result of Cyber Christmas shopping. While I gathered the boxes to throw them away, I decided I might as well let the kids play in them for the rest of the day.  We didn't even decorate them, we simply lined them up and the rest is left to the imagination of your little ones.  If they have wrapped up their little presents, it might be fun to let them have a Christmas train and push their "train" filled with gifts around the house.

**More Bonus Thoughts**
If you have a Light Bright in your home, tucked away in the tallest shelf of your closet with the glitter and the Easy Bake Oven, now is the time for Light Bright to shine.  You will already be busy vacuuming up pine needles and cookie sprinkles, so you might as well be on the lookout for those tiny lights that are sure to scatter and hide across your carpet.  Pull out the green, red and white lights, and be prepared to see some smiling kids.
Finally, a word about tinsel and bows from Dollar General.  Remember, our kids are only little for a few years.  If you are willing to clean up some messes, you will reap the reward of fond childhood memories with your kids.  This year I got a packet of tinsel for $1 and it was by far one of the best dollars I have spent in a while.  The kids LOVED placing tinsel on the tree--the strands that are splotched all over our tree and the pieces that have gracefully fallen to the ground are marks that we live in a home filled with kids.  If you are unwilling to let them decorate the main tree, maybe you can let them toss some tinsel on a little tree in their room (or in the yard!) And although it is nice to carefully decorate and wrap each present and put all that Pinterest pinning to use, if you are willing to set aside a few gifts to let your kids help wrap (Grandparents, cousins, etc.) they will love being involved.  I picked up a large packet of sticker bows at Target for $1 and my kids really enjoyed removing the stickers and matching up bows with the gifts.
Enjoy making a mound of memories this season!

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

~Dr. Seuss