October 27th—59 days until Christmas—My Favorite Advent Calendar

Our countdown is into the fifties! Time is moving on. That’s why it’s not too early to be thinking about Advent Calendars.

My Advent Calendar today doesn’t hold gifts. This one is full of activities the family can do together. The easiest part is making the container—I use an old vase, wide enough at the top so that small elf hands can fit inside and tie a bright read bow to make it seasonal.


Then fill your vase with twenty-five sheets of paper.

What’s written on each paper?

A different activity that you can do together. By the time December comes around, if you’ve been following this blog, you will have completed your shopping so you can relax and make memories that will last a lifetime.

Need some activity suggestions? How about these as possibilities?

1.  Make a card for someone special

2.  Go through your toys and belongings to find those still in good condition to donate to others less fortunate. This has the added advantage of brightening someone else’s holiday and gives you space to put the gifts received this Christmas.

3.  Bake cookies—What about these yummy white chocolate oatmeal cookies?

DSCN0370 (2)

4.  Shut down your computer, no video games. Everyone in the family gather around the table and play an old-fashioned board game. SCRABBLE anyone? MONOPOLY?

5.  Do an outside activity together, walk, jog, ice skate, build a snow man.

6, Start a jigsaw Christmas puzzle. Serious Puzzles on the internet has jigsaw puzzles from 13 pieces up to 6,000! Check them out here.

7.  Read a Christmas book aloud.  Perhaps this lovely collection of poems (My alter-ego Ann Whitford Paul has a poem there.)

manger  Or, better yet, this book about ME!

Christmas_cover - Copy

My next few blogs will be devoted to further suggestions for your Activity Advent Calendar. What fun you and your family will have together!

September 29th—91 days until Christmas—Stocking Stuffers

Here are a few ideas for small stocking stuffer gifts for kids.

Everyone loves super bouncy balls.

small balls

These Plan Toy dollhouse people are fun to play with even if there is no dollhouse.


What young boy won’t love racing these Mattel Hot Wheels around the tree?hot wheels

Here are some darling animal erasers by Iwako.


And cute insects by Z Wind-ups.  wind ups

Even necessities like toothbrushes can be fun if they’re these Dora the Explorer brushes made by Colgate.


Anyone else want to share stocking stuffer ideas for kids?

Next post I’ll have suggestions of those adults on your list.  We can’t forget them, can we?

September 8th—108 days left to Christmas—Avoiding Family Fisticuffs

Family, like fire-works in July can often explode, especially at the dinner table.  Start planning now for activities to keep everyone happy.  Start saving toilet paper rolls!


What, you ask, do toilet paper rolls have to do with Christmas?

They are the basis for making Crackers.  Not the crackers you eat—the old English Crackers.

All they are is a wrapped tube that makes a pop when you pull off the paper.

english crackers

Each one is filled with little gifts, sweets and jokes.  Whatever you want to put in is fine.  You can order them here– http://www.oldenglishcrackers.com/  but they’re more personal if you make them.  Instructions will come in a later post.  All you have to do now is start saving toilet-paper rolls, paper-towel rolls and wrapping paper rolls.  Also collect jokes from the funny paper that strike your fancy.  Riddles, too, and keep your eye out for small cute gifts everyone can use—erasers, fun shaped paper clips, marbles, etc.  I ordered my snaps from http://www.oldenglishcrackers.com/cracker-snaps-p-91.html

Stash the snaps, rolls and gifts away in a closet and then you’ll have everything you need to make them.  I’ll post the directions closer to the holiday.

Be sure to read my next post where I’ll give you a yummy cracker (the eating kind) recipe.

Do you have any other suggestions for easing family tensions on the big day?  I’d love to hear them so we can all enjoy a stress free-love filled holiday.

142 days until Christmas—Vacation Shopping

We’re into the last month of summer. Perhaps you’re on vacation. Why not pick up one-of-a-kind gifts that your family would never see in their local shopping mall.

My friend—I can’t tell you her name in case her family is reading this—bought her children hand-carved puzzles,
her neighbor a distinctive box,
her daughter a new spread for her bed
a mitt for her favorite chef
and for those people who still write letters by hand, these beautiful pens. 003 (4)

Think Christmas on your vacation and by the end of the summer your shopping will be done. And the special people in your life will be thrilled to receive such unusual gifts.

Focus on Kids

We’re getting close to the big day.  Let’s spend it with our kids, grandchildren, neighbors, nieces and nephews.  Make a kid-friendly dinner like this Lasagna, filled with the colors of Christmas—green spinach, red tomato sauce and the star-white of cheese.  It’s so good, kids won’t even know they’re eating a leafy vegetable.  Serve it with crusty garlic bread and a salad.  Then while sitting around the table, play this game.  WHAT MIGHT ANIMALS WANT FOR CHRISTMAS?  The inspiration for this game came from a poem and while spiders aren’t often seen up here in the frigid North Pole, it’s still fun to imagine.



A shoe for every foot?  That’s eight.

A shiny silver dinner plate

for eating bugs?  Bright red lights

to decorate its web at night?

Using this poem as a starting point, ask the youngest at your table, to pick an animal—a rabbit perhaps?  An elephant?  A whale?  Then she poses the question, “What will ________ want for Christmas?” 

Others will suggest possible Christmas gifts for that animal.  When no one can think of anymore, it’s time for the next older person to suggest an animal and ask the question all over again.

I guarantee laughter at your table.

For desert, bring out a selection of those cookies you have in the freezer.  What could be easier?  What could be better?

Then after everyone, each like a helpful elf, has pitched in to clean up, bundle warmly and walk, or drive, around town to enjoy the bright holiday lights.


With everyone home for the weekend, it’s a perfect time to start making a Christmas-themed puzzle like this one.  santa puzzleYou can order it here.  Also you can draft your young helpers into making these holiday pinwheels, a favorite kid-friendly, kid-delicious appetizer.

Can you suggest other fun family activities? 

          Next post on December 23rd we’re going to pause from last-minute preparations and count our blessings

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .

Puzzle Elves Suffer from Arthritis Pains

        Poor Santa has trouble.

The puzzle-making elves can’t work.  They’re suffering terrible aches in their hands from cutting out so many pieces.  I’m sorry to say this year you’d best make your own.  Don’t panic.  It takes very little time. 

Just scan a cherished family picture, or perhaps a piece of art you or your child created and go to www.shutterfly.com or www.puzzleyou.comPuzzle You is more expensive, but the puzzle arrives in a pretty holiday box that you don’t need to wrap.

Shape puzzles for the youngest on your shopping list are easy to make out of felt. Check out this website for easy instructions.  Here’s a picture of one:Homemade-Gift-Felt-Puzzles-Fish-1024x768

           And while we’re on the topic of puzzles, do you have any of those kid’s puzzles where each piece is a whole object—a cat,an apple, a house—but you’re missing some of the pieces.  The elves always want to throw the rest of the pieces away, but don’t! They make great tree decorations. 

 001 If you want to be fancy, paint the backs, or you can leave them plain.  Using a glue gun, attach a ribbon hanger and voila!  You have a one of a kind decoration that brings back happy memories to your family.

          And my last word on puzzles . . .

When Santa comes home after a long and busy day at his factory, he and I often relax over a puzzle.  Next month, especially if you’ve finished your shopping and cards, is a great time to bring out a puzzle.  What fun everyone will have searching through a pile like this to find the missing edge piece!  Make it a family project.  It can keep you busy for days.


On my next blog, November 25th we’ll talk about NOT planning Christmas parties.

Until then, let’s all strive for a stress-free, love-filled Christmas . . .