A Star for the Tree

It’s the height in hilarity at our house that the second Hadley saw our finally upright tree after his nap (after shouting “Christmas tree!!! Goody, goody!!!”), he insisted that it needed a star on top.

Huh. Yeah. We didn’t have one.

As kids, we had our own hilarious time making fun of our omni-drunk angel tree topper (um, she was always crooked, no matter what we did or shoved up her dress to straighten her out). I guess we weren’t a star family back then, and I didn’t think I was part of a star family now.

It’s even more ironic since we’re a pretty non-religious group. We feel that we’re spiritual and insightful, but don’t relate to one specific religion. We’re all baptized Catholics, and at times (usually around Christmas), I feel the pull of mass, but all-in-all, we’d like to educate our son about morality more than doctrine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

So, there he was, sweetly demanding a star topper, then again later that night, then again in the morning. After seeing some crappy store versions, I turned to Pinterest (clearly my real religion…that’s a joke, guys) to see if I could figure something out.

During my star search, I also heard a sweet story about my grandmother, who would annually cut out a star out of cardboard that came from my grandfather’s starched shirts, cover it in tin foil, and cut a hole in it. She’d stick it on top, pull a light up through the hole to let it “shine” and call it a day. Classic, sensible and creative. Apparently, everything my grandmother was.

So, I got to work. I cut a cereal box up to expose the two large sides. After printing off a star shape, I traced it onto each box and cut them out. Then, I creased inside each point for some dimension and glued each side together. (Before it was fully dry, I trimmed it further and pressed it together again.) Finally, I glued an empty toilet paper tube to the back.

You could paint the star, cover it in glue and glitter, or put foil on it. I decided to keep it natural this time. I’m not sure if the best part is the fact that it was totally free, that it appeased the little guy’s craving for a star, or that it was a pretty old-school way to handle the issue. And not to mention eco-friendly up the wazoo!

Oh, and while I’m at it, I thought I’d share another tree that has taken up residence at our house. It’ll probably be up until Valentine’s Day, with how long it took me to finally toss it up.

I just cut out a tree shape from a large piece of green felt, then a textured piece for the trunk and a “skirt” from red. Then, I cut out random shapes, including a little snowman and present, and of course a star for the top. I used Command strips (the poster kinds) on the back and the “ornaments” and such attach without any adhesive (one of the best parts of felt). I’ve also made a felt board for pretend play as a Christmas gift, a “piece of pie” to add to his collection of fake food, and may make another piece if I find the time before Christmas eve.

Felt = the perfect toddler plaything!

So, what type of tree topper do you use in your family? We’ve used bows in the past, and even a scarf last year (I’d LOVE to find an old antique top hat with holly berries!), but we’re always willing to change if the little guy dictates a better idea.
 

Currently / 12.19.14

Hiya, folks! If you’re stopping by from the linky party, thanks and it’s great to see you. Here’s this week’s themes:


I’m currently LOVING the fact that today’s the last day of school before a two-week vacation. Sure, the day’s jam-packed with singing in the teacher’s chorus, squeezing in a quick class, the nerves of having my husband invited into school to do one of his famous readings of “The Polar Express” (and watching my 2-year-old in the process), and my usual classes, but there isn’t a real complaint in the mix. Oh, and I’m even going for one of my 2-3 times-per-year hair cuts tonight. Exciting stuff, people. Ex-citin’.

I’d like to think that READING more would be high on my list of 2015 goals, but I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself since I always seem to have at least a half dozen books going at a time…and rarely find myself completing a single one. That said, this was shared on FB by one of my librarian buddies (for those that don’t know, I’m a school librarian by day) and sparked my interest. UGH! So many great ideas to go after on that list, but to avoid the inevitable failure, I’ll aim for a handful this year. Maybe that’ll be doable.

Lately, I’ve been CHOOSING between sleep and getting projects done, and guess what’s actually happening. Right. Neither. While I’m waiting for that bolt of energy to strike me motivated, I sit there spinning my wheels while staring at a computer screen (only half getting anything off-topic finished). So, I’ll have to work harder than Santa’s elves to get a couple of the handmade projects I’ve got planned for Hadley done in time!

Hopefully, I’ll be DESIGNING several things in the new year: a new website, re-designing the blog (still doesn’t feel quite right…what do you think?), but most importantly, myself. Internally. Not, like, a superficial makeover, but a total rehab of the good ol’ interior. Mhmm.

WONDERING if I’ll actually have the guts to get some stuff published this year. Wondering if I’ll have the motivation and guts to write more, and to try for some freelance gigs in 2015. Wondering if it really matters. Wondering what my focus needs to be, aside from the usual musts (family and friends). But, more importantly, wondering if we’ll have a white Christmas this year. (We weren’t supposed to last year, but we had an unexpected, unpredicted coating that filled me with joy and excitement. This year, there’s a chance for a storm, but it might include ice and rain, sooooo…)  

Do tell! What’re you loving/reading/choosing/designing/wondering currently? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Linking up with the fabulous Ot & Et and Harvesting Kale

Gingerbread Pancakes

There’s something about molasses. The mere smell or tiny taste of it automatically transports me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Her spice cabinet was filled with its scent, and I vividly recall sitting on her countertops staring into her bowl of molasses cookie dough (and occasionally giving it a stir). Her soft cookies were a family favorite.

So, it’s no surprise that I’m also a gingerbread fan. Like, huge. My mother once brought gingerbread to celebrate my birthday instead of a cake in college, and it was AWESOME. There’s just something about the spongy, spicy goodness (topped off with homemade whipped cream…always homemade).

I decided to make some of my “mug” pancakes in the gingerbread tradition, complete with (real) butter, (real) syrup, aaaaaand whipped cream. Yep. Let’s just say they’re perfect for your Christmas morning. Oh, and try using some greased cookie cutters on the griddle to make adorably festive shapes!

Gingerbread Pancakes

1 mugful flour
1 mugful milk
1 egg
about 1/8 – 1/4 c. molasses
1 tsp. cinnamon
sprinkle clove
1/4 tsp. ginger
pinch salt
1 1/2+ tsp. baking powder
1/2 baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Whisk together dry ingredients and spices. Separately, whisk egg with molasses and vanilla, then add, along with milk, to dry ingredients. Don’t overmix.

Cook in greased skillet or griddle over medium heat in spoonfuls (depending on size you prefer). Flip when you see bubbles appearing.

Top with butter and syrup, cinnamon and sugar, vanilla yogurt, or a dollop of homemade whipped cream (or a variation of any of these).

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These would be a perfect holiday breakfast, along with some sausage or thick-cut bacon and sweet potato hash browns. Hope you enjoy them, too!

Welcome Back, Red

In the early days of my blog, I had a lot of red decor in my house — and I HATED it. So, over the years I neutralized things with a white slipcover, a switch-out of pillows/curtains, and (the best part) a freshly painted no-longer-crimson dining room. I had a huge bias against anything and everything red.

But, now it’s Christmastime again, and I decided to pull out some candy cane colors…mixed with some traditional neutral, vintage and woodsy items, of course. It’s how I do.

I’m a great believer in picking a theme every year. It makes it way easier when I’m looking at the bins of decorations, deciding which to use (can’t possibly use them all in our tiny house). It also helps me flex my creative juices, which I always find fun. I even found a few minutes to string some white and red pom-poms onto some red threat for a homemade garland (to add to a banner that I made in the fall and totally forgot to share with you…so let’s pretend that’s new, too, mkay?).

One of my favorite things is that everything except for that new garland (which was super cheap; under $5 with plenty of materials leftover) were free from our stash. I’ve had a stack of vintage Christmas cards that I bought in VT years ago that my husband loves as much as I do, so I love that I was finally able to pull them out and find a purpose for them. With all of the old-school movies were tend to pull out this time of year (okay, and throughout the year), it’s very “us” to use these, with messages and images that harken back to those lovely, simpler times. 

I’ve added a thing here or there since these crappy cell phone pictures were taken, like building up the greens more (had to trim the tree) and I realized that the chunky trim above our built-ins is PERFECT for displaying Christmas cards, like a free ledge shelf.

So, here’s a little view of our Christmas cheer this year.

Hard to see, but here’s some detail…


The tree is super simple this year (it’s a Toddler + Cat Tree). Looking through the pictures, I realize how many are personal touches. I grabbed some red books from our upstairs shelves and mixed them with my winter magazine collection. The beautiful, rustic blue painting in the dining room is one Dave did in high school (I know, right?!). We mixed antiques and chalkboards (did a quick reindeer sketch on my $1 board and a surprisingly simple drawing of Nest of Posies’ printable) and some of my favorite all-season accessories (like mercury glass candle holders and switching out vase fillers).

I like to think this mix makes the house feel fun and festive but in a cozy, hint-of-the-modern way. Oh, and I only decorate those few spaces, usually. (No bathroom or even kitchen decor here this year.) What about you guys? Do you decorate the same way every year? Do you try new things or find comfort in the tradition of your favorite pieces? How does your place look this year?

And I totally know I don’t have a tree topper. I’ll actually be talking about that later this week. 

The Real Santa

Isn’t it strange how belief and acceptance can come in phases? It can be applied to much in life, but for today, I’m talking Santa.

My belief in the big guy only lasted until about second grade. I wasn’t out to “find out” about him. I didn’t really question a single bit of it. I was riding merrily along in full belief mode, ignorant of the facts.

But, then I found myself in a storm of constant sickness. One evening, I was resting poorly in my mother’s bed (to avoid getting any siblings sick), flailing around uncomfortably, when I absentmindedly fell out of bed. When what to my eyes did appear but…Teddy Ruxpin.

I furrowed my brow. Huh. Well. Maybe Mom bought him for me instead of Santa since she knew how badly I wanted him. Yeah. That.

So, on Christmas morning, when I opened the gift and noticed that the tag did, indeed, say that the gift was from the jolly man in the red suit, well…I was depressed. The fact that good ol’ Teddy only lasted a week before he started speaking a low, eerie language all his own that even my grandfather couldn’t fix added insult to injury.

Fast forward 25+ years. I’ve been excitedly attending the Candlelight Evening at a local living history museum on and off since I was a teen. At this event, it is always the coldest time you can imagine having on planet Earth, and it is always incredible. There are white bag luminaries and lanterns lit throughout the grounds, where you can visit “local shopkeepers and vendors” like the printer, doctor, pharmacist, tavern, church and more. There’s a working farm with animals that you can greet, and wassail cauldrons over bonfires strewn throughout the space. Delicious comfort food is served (can you say “gingerbread”?) and you can buy handmade goodies (or more touristy stuff) at several shops, all while hearing the sound of carolers and performers wafting with the sound of horse-drawn carriages.

I mean, seriously. What’s more traditionally Christmasy than that? We hear so many songs about jingle bells and horses, sharing cheer and the like, but how often can you see it in person? It’s unimaginable.


The best part of all, though, is St. Nicholas. My God, guys. It’s the REAL Santa. Seriously. He talks in the schoolhouse about the tradition of St. Nick, as well as telling a story about what preparations were made for Christmas in the 1800s (“saving the best apples in the cellar from the autumn harvest”), before wandering around outside for people to interact with him. When my nephew was younger and in that is-he-or-isn’t-he-real phase, he saw Santa, dropped his jaw, and went up to him to say, “It’s such a pleasure to meet you, sir!!” I mean, good!

So, of course, after Dave experienced this whole thing for the first time (we even dragged some friends along over the years), we decided that it would be a tradition, barring bad weather, for our family. I honestly don’t recall whether we brought Hadley when he was a baby-baby (I almost think so…?), but last year was his first memorable experience (check it out here and here). It was cold and snowy – terrifyingly so on the ride home – but wonderful. He met Santa, who knew our names (!) and the rest is history. And of course we’ll be visiting this year, although we have a far antsier little toddler on our hands who may or may not allow me to sit and enjoy my gingerbread (an old fashioned peppermint stick bribe may be in order), but as long as we can see THE Santa, we’ll be happy.

But I WILL have my gingerbread. Oh, yes. Make no doubts about that.

I’ve always tried to keep the Santa concept going with my young students, although it used to be awkward and kind of difficult for me. Now that he’s part of our vocabulary, though, I find myself having total dialogues with Dave (or even myself) about what Santa’s life must be like, and how he gauges between a naughty deed and being a truly naughty child, and so forth. As if I’m part of a play that turns incredibly “method”, I have actually started to believe again.

I mean, of course I realize how the whole thing works. Clearly. But, thanks to this little boy (and the help of a few hundred elementary students and one incredibly convincing old-fashioned Santa), the spirit of St. Nicholas is still very much alive and well in my heart.

And, really, isn’t that the idea of Christmas?

So, be honest, guys. Do you believe? Has anyone else had a “rebirth” regarding the issue? Or go ahead and tell us how you found out “the truth”?  

Holiday Cleaning


Things may be fully holiday decorated at our house, but things seem more disheveled than usual. I’m pretty sure it’s because we a) have a super small house, b) bring so much additional “stuff” in (like gifts, Christmas cards, wrapping, etc) this time of year, and c) didn’t plan ahead and clean before the onslaught of the holidays. So, today’s just a brain dump of all the “unfun” stuff to do so that my brain isn’t swimming by Christmas. Let’s blame my mother; she always had the house quite clean for the holidays. I always assumed it was because we were having a special guest (Santa) come; it was probably actually because of the REAL guests (family) coming. Duh, Meg.

Anyhoo, some of this I’m sure I won’t get to, but I also have T-W-O whole weeks off for the holidays, so I foresee a “New Year project” or two here…

Kitchen walls/shelves. My open shelving area is a bit of a hot mess. The dishes we use all the time are perfectly clean, but the shelves themselves have a layer of grease (which attracts more than a little dust and probably cat fur) and need a good scrubbing and reorganizing.

Kitchen cabinets. Also in the kitchen and also in need of a good scrubbing are my cabinets. The insides are also SUPER disorganized (namely the bottom ones, which hold all cookware). Truth be told, a scrub + paint job are in order. Blah.

The damn “V.” Okay. So. Over Hadman’s crib, I applied papier-mache letters that spell out “LOVE” when he was a baby. They’ve worked perfectly up until this point. One day, while he was supposed to be napping (that’s a whole other issue lately), I hear over the monitor a weird clicking noise. Come to find out, he had pulled the “V” off of the wall and started using it as a clapper — tearing the middle of the letter so that he could “clap” the two sides together. I. Was. Livid. He got pretty upset, too. He’s still asking where the V is and I have a hard time not snarkily responding that he’s responsible for the death of the V. (sigh) I don’t say that. But I want to. :-\

 Office disorganization. This is an ongoing headache. For now we’ve just gotta pick the place up and make it look presentable, but ultimately we’ve gotta figure out our storage and do a total overhaul of how we use the space.

Gifts are messy. I love giving gifts, and even kind of enjoy wrapping them. But, keeping the joint somewhat picked up is a pain. I always end up with a bag containing tags, ribbons/bows, tape, and a pen that I use for the whole shebang, and generally keep a large box of boxes, bags, tissue paper, and gift wrap nearby, but I’m not one to schlep the whole thing down to the basement when done only to drag it back up later. Maybe I’m just lazy? We also have a HUGE gift that arrived, box in shambles, that’s giving me an eye twitch.

This is all aside from the fun “responsibilities” of the holiday, of course, and the usual upkeep of the joint. Can you say floor mopping? 🙁 I was hoping to get a chore or two (along with a fun “chore” or two!) out of the way today, thanks to some inclement weather, but that didn’t turn out to be very bad. Blah.

I didn’t really do a good fall cleaning this year, so if I had I’m sure I’d be less bummed about these jobs. So, please don’t take this as complaining as much as my own mental checklist of crap I have to do — and commiserating, if you will! 🙂

What about you guys? Any chores you dread doing but that you’re sick of having hanging over your heads this time of year? 

 

Christmas Tree 1, Us 0

I’m a fan of real Christmas trees, I am. I even recently wrote a piece for Green Child Magazine finally answering a constant question in the green community: which is greener, a real tree or artificial? But this year, we found ourselves having a battle that found us grumbling the pluses of fake trees.

As with last year, we found our tree (and a couple of inexpensive, gorgeous wreaths) at Candella’s in Marcy. It was a nerve-wracking trip home, between the line of traffic piling behind us and keeping a constant eye on the branches jutting off the car roof. When we finally got home, Hadley gave us a hell of a time going down for a nap (the time we were going to use to put the thing up).

Eventually, we started working on dragging the tree in and setting it up. The two lessons of the day are, if possible, determine how many branches REALLY need to be trimmed off the bottom of the tree when the gentleman asks how we’d like it trimmed and, um, we need a new tree stand.

Let’s just say it took about an hour+ of frustrated finagling (and a couple of small pieces of scrap wood in the water bowl part of the tree stand as a makeshift support/wedge) before the tree was freestanding.

As I sit watching “White Christmas,” I’m in a fowl mood, eying the unadorned tree. It’s Sunday night and I now have absolutely zero motivation to even decorate the thing. But, since Had’s STILL sleeping (um, it’s dark out) and I know the glow of those glimmering white lights will be worth it. Coming in to the cozy glow at the end of the work day will be awesome.

But, at the moment, I’m feeling simply defeated. Oh, yes, we will buy another real one next year…but hopefully with a new stand and a keen eye for the “that one looks PERFECT!” allusion.

Who uses a faux tree here? Real? We grew up with the fake kind (and I remember some issues with those, but they were old school), but there’s something about the smell of fresh pine that says “Christmas!” Oh, and I also strongly believe in white lights; not colored. 😉    

Free (Yes, Free) Holiday Gift Ideas

I’ve requested to Dave that we not only do a pretty sparse budget for each other (or, at least, it’s sparse to me!) this holiday season, but also to give each other one gift that costs nothing.

So, this could mean a lot of things. It could mean that you use something you’ve already got lying around that you haven’t gotten around to giving the person. It could mean making something by hand (whether you’ve got the materials lying around or had to buy them, it’s totally up to your standards of “strict” are). It could mean repurposing something around your house to give. Or, it could just be a huge act of kindness or unforgettable experience. The list goes on, really, but here are a few ideas…

Artsy Fartsy Stuff

Wall Collage 

This is best if you live with the individual so that you can surprise them with it, already-done. I’ve had a stack of Instagram prints (had a coupon, I almost think they were free or darn near close to it), but don’t we all have SOME picture prints floating around that we don’t know what to do with? Well, I’ve fallen for the personal yet organized look of a wall collage of same-sized prints. Mine just happen to be 4″ x 4″ but even rectangular shots (or pictures cut down to squares) can look awesome grouped sweetly on the wall. You can use that sticky tack stuff or tape (or spend a little money and get Command strips; I won’t tell). 

Handmade Wall Art
Similar to the wall collage, look around and see if you have any art supplies that would help create some wall art. Maybe you have an old canvas (or an ugly one you can paint over). Or maybe you have an old embroidery ring that’s begging for one of those quirky embroidered quotes (or an inside joke!) that you can hang. If you’re stumped, look for simple art ideas on Etsy or Pinterest. You can keep it simple, or if you’re on the artsier side, paint a family portrait or pet portrait for your receiver.

Repurpose an Old T-Shirt
You know that ratty old t-shirt that just won’t go away? Or the perfect vintage shirt with an awesome logo that they can’t wear anymore because they splattered paint on the bottom? Stretch it in a frame or create a quilt, pillow or bag! You’ll not only give it new life, but the giftee will love that they don’t have to say goodbye to it forever.

Knit a Scarf  
Again, this totally depends on your ability level and whether or not you have the materials around the house, but a scarf seems far easier than mittens or a hat, right? Think of the person’s favorite color (or if you know what color their favorite winter coat is, be sure it won’t clash) and get a move on!

Reuse, Reuse, Reuse

Look around and see what doesn’t seem to have a life anymore. It’s perfectly fine to re-gift something, especially if you personalize it a bit first. Like, you have way too many mugs in your life, so that set of white plain ones sit totally unused? Use a Sharpie (or paint pen, if you have one) to draw a design or cute quote, then cure it (may not be dishwasher safe). Or go ahead and spend a buck at the Dollar Store if you want to get new ones; I won’t tell. 😉

Nom-Noms

Favorite Cookies
You’re probably making a buttload of cookies for the holidays, anyway, right? Grab a large, clean mason jar and fill ‘er up. If you’ve got the time, feel free to add a label with a cute holiday saying (check Pinterest, there are a million), or just tie some burlap or a festive ribbon on and call it a day.

Homemade Granola 
You may already have the makings of this in your cabinet as we speak, so why not make a super big batch to dole out to all your friends and neighbors? No extra shopping needed.

Fudge
Mmm. Fudge. This pretty much goes hand-in-hand with the cookies, but I just wanted to make everyone aware: fudge. 

Favorite Meal
Make the recipient their absolute favorite meal, just be sure that it’s in your grocery budget (hence, y’know, practically free ;-)). Or, make a “gift certificate” to make the individual their favorite meal after the holidays. 

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries
Okay, this may not be free, but all it really takes is the purchase of some strawberries (since we all have chocolate in our pantry, right? RIGHT??). And, I tell ya, they’re a show-stopper.

Keep It Simple

Create a “Thankful Jar”
This is a great gift for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Father’s/Mother’s Day, and more, but I love the idea of gathering together the warm fuzzy feelings you have for a friend or family member and letting them know. I’ve done this for Dave (on Valentine’s Day), filling a mason jar with individual ideas of why he’s awesome and why we’re lucky to have him. You can fill it with 365 “favorite” things about the person for them to pick each day, or 52 (one for each week), or whatever! I just printed them off using Word and cut them out; easy peasy. 

Scavenger Hunt
This could be as simple as an indoor one at your house or as complicated as sending your friend or loved one around an entire city (think: your favorite haunts). The trick is to not make it too lengthy (especially if it involves schlepping all over town in holiday traffic) and to be as witty as your brain can possibly be. Oh, and don’t make the clues too hard or else you’ll get a tearful phone call. Maybe. It’s possible.

Homemade Coupons
This is a classic from our “we don’t earn an income, what can we give to Mom?” days, but you can modernize it for your current needs. Think of what you’re good at and see if you can give a “gift certificate” or book of coupons to help out. If you’re a budding photographer, offer free sessions. If you love organizing, offer up a day of helping to declutter one room. If you’re a cook, offer a free meal of their choosing (just wanted to see if you’re paying attention; this is a repeat from above, mwahaha).

Or, if it’s for someone you’re a bit closer to, make a booklet of kindnesses. If they have a little one at home, make one coupon of a homemade meal, another for an afternoon of babysitting, and still another a coupon for a girls’ (or boys’) night out. This is also your way to spend zero dollars at the holidays but offer a nice gift for later in the year, like taking a friend out to their favorite restaurant or your sweetie out to a movie (and popcorn, of course).

Movie Night at Home
Speaking of movies, this idea would honestly make my husband’s day. Gather together some popcorn (we use the loose organic kernels, so I’d put them in a simple brown paper bag with cute writing on it), a DVD or two that you already own (ours would probably involve “Citizen Kane,” a William Powell flick, or a fun ’80s rom-com), and anything else you like to enjoy at movies. If you drink soda, put a bottle or two in; if you snack on candy (and have some around the house), throw some in. You can bag this all up in a holiday gift bag or basket or popcorn bucket or, heck, whatever!  

Walk Down Memory Lane (Literally)
You can give a card saying that you’ll be (politely) kidnapping them for a day or half a day at the person’s convenience. Take them to some of the spots that have meant the most to you both over the years. For example, if I was going to kidnap my sister, we’d drive by our first home, walk the town, check out the schools, maybe “play” at the playground (although they’ve changed a ton over the years), and grab the makings for lunch at The Village Market (or junk food at the convenient store). For Dave, we’d probably walk around the town he used to live in, waste time at Barnes and Noble (and maybe Target), then I’d take us to lunch at one of the local places we used to eat a lot — like Raspberries Cafe. Or, feel free to do a nature walk or hike, if your giftee is into the outdoors.

The point of going these places is to trigger positive memories and meaningful conversation. So, be ready to chat and keep things upbeat. Our hometown is a bittersweet place, but by keeping the memories realistically light, it could help to reconnect with a shared, fond past.  

What do you guys think? Have any great (free) gift ideas to add? Are any of these doable for you?

A Fun Holiday Game

Happy Black Friday, y’all! I hope you had a wonderful time yesterday and stuffed your bellies to capacity (while giving lots of thanks for all we’re lucky enough to have…of course ;-)). Anyone doing a bit of shopping today, or are you officially getting the heck out of the way of the crazy shoppers?

Anyhoo, last week I posted a bit novel about how to keep the holidays relatively low-stress and simple. This week, it’s all about how we have fun – namely, a simple (there’s that word again) yet fun game that my mom discovered a few years back that we look forward to every year.

This is an awesome game involving gifts that you could play at a friends-only shindig, or at your annual family get-together. It can be adjusted to whatever your needs are. Whatever floats your boat!

Here’s what you need:

– One gift for each person in attendance (small, inexpensive, fun gifts)
– Two decks of cards

Yup, that’s all. My mother buys one gift for each individual and jots their name on the package (under a taped-on piece of matching wrapping), but you could buy a bunch of random doesn’t-matter-who-gets-what items. You could also put instructions on people’s invitations to bring one random $10 or less gift, wrapped. (If you do this, buy an extra one or two to have on hand in case *someone* spoils the party and forgets. Ahem. Nudge.) If you have guests do this, however, take a pen and write someone’s name (not the person who brought it) at the bottom of the gift. It tends to be difficult to see, on purpose.

So, when it’s time to get the game going, put all the gifts in the middle of the room and have a helper (this is our niece’s job) hand out cards to everyone in attendance (everyone should get 2-4, or more, depending on the size of the crowd). The person in charge (my mom) uses a separate deck to call one card at a time. When she calls your card, it’s your turn to select — either grab from the pile, or steal from someone in the group.

Guys. Seriously. This can be HILARIOUS or cut-throat…or both. It’s fun to see who ends up with what, and who fights over an oddly-shaped gift.

Oh, yeah, that’s important, too. You can either wrap things normally, or get tricky. (Like putting something that rattles in with a pair of socks, in a super huge box, so when people shake it they’re clueless about what’s in there.)

In the end, we look at the names on the bottoms of the gifts and hand them out appropriately, waiting to see what that strangely-shaped item really contains. Sometimes Mom will get all the girls the same thing, but the way they’re wrapped, they look totally different. Other times, everyone has a different item.

So, what do you think? Sound fun? Does your family do any fun holiday games? Please share! My mom’s always on the lookout for a simple addition to the fun. 😉

The Thankful Post

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everybody! Things have finally died down here, with the Book Fair complete for another year and a few days off to enjoy the holiday. I get to hang out with the little guy today while Dave works one more day, then tomorrow it’s time to watch the parade (one of my favorite parts of the day! Especially the Broadway performances), eat a big breakfast, then head off to eat with our families for the “big meal” and dessert.

We’ve talked to Monkey about what this special holiday means, and it’s been a great opportunity to open his mind to the idea that we’ve super lucky (and some people aren’t). It looked like I nearly blew his mind when I explained to him that we’re so very lucky to have a house and food, and that some people, even little two-year-old boys, DON’T. *kerpow*

I thought it’d be fun to share a couple of simple, last-minute ideas for the holiday to help friends and family get hands-on sharing their thankfulness this Thanksgiving. This year, we’ll just be having a family talk or two about the things that we’re lucky and happy about, but I can’t wait to try some of these out in the future!


Some of these are simple enough to throw together in less than fifteen minutes, and will help you and your guests remember – amid the craziness of getting a meal together and trying to pull everything together – that the day is about more than perfecting your recipes and using your best china. And feel free to use these as jumping off points; do whatchya can!



Thankful Tree

Brown Paper Thankfulness

 
Gratitude Jar (and Chains)
(With free printable! Couldn’t be easier, really.)



Thankful Chalkboard Wall
(Could also be brown paper on the wall, easy peasy!
And I’d suggest using an old chalkboard if you have one, but that depends on if you’re cooking a turkey and have the time to make one from scratch. ;-))


Thanksgiving Light
(You could also do this on a white paper bag half-filled with sand. Just insert a candle and light. Luminaries always make me cry, but that’s another story!)



Frame of Blessings


Or, after discussing your blessings, have a “did you know” session about the history of Thanksgiving. Watch this brief video for a bit of the background. (They didn’t have pumpkin pie or sweetened cranberries due to the lack of sugar in the “new land.”) It’s also a good reminder of the original natives who were trusting enough to help the Puritans settle and successfully plant in their new, treacherous conditions. Anyhoo, we’re weird; we watch a different, lengthier documentary every year (sometimes twice) about Thanksgiving (and Halloween and Christmas, for that matter.) You could turn it into a Trivial Pursuit type game, if your guests are into it!

However you celebrate, whether you’re giving thanks openly (saying “grace” always made me terribly nervous as a kid!) or just using the holiday as an excuse to enjoy a great meal with your favorite people, my family and I wish you the happiest of days!