Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Advent Calendar Activities

It is that glorious time of year when the air is filled with pine, kitchens are filled with cookies, and advent calendars are filled with chocolates---at least until December 2nd when you realize that your toddler has systematically pilfered the chocolates behind windows 2 through 25.  (Cue weeping and wailing from the other children.)  Miriam and I have learned to combat this eventuality with two things:  1) an arsenal of back-up chocolate advent calendars, and 2) an activity advent calendar.  Years ago I bought a wooden advent calendar at Costco that has 25 small compartments, and each year I put a slip of paper in each compartment that announces a small activity that we will do that day.  And while it simply wouldn't be Christmas for my kiddos without their daily dose of waxy chocolate in the shape of a teddy bear or rocking horse, they have become just as enamored with our tradition of a daily Christmas activity.  I love my activity calendar.  I mean I REALLY love it.  I just might be buried with it.  But here are some easy and adorable calendar options that are just as lovable:

Paper Chain Advent Calendar (photo from stitch/craft)

This calendar is made with reusable felt strips, but you could do it just as easily with strips of paper.  What a great way to use the chains that your kids will be making anyway!  Just be sure to jot down the activities on the inside of the paper strips before your kids break out the glue.

Envelope Bunting Advent Calendar (from Tip Junkie)
I'm a sucker for buntings.  I'm also a sucker for anything Christmas.  So put the two together and I'm all aflutter.  A simple array of paper shapes or fabric pockets or envelopes, some string, and a few dozen trusty clothespins, and voila!  An adorable homespun calendar that would cheer up any mantel, hallway, or banister.

Stocking Advent Calendar (from Martha Stewart)

And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but the PERFECT way to re-purpose that basket full of single socks above the dryer!  (Granted, my basket full of stained gym socks and lonely argyles might not have quite the same charm as this array . . . ) 

Now, the actual calendar itself is the easy part.  It is coming up with 25 realistic activities to do during the busiest month of year that gets a little hairy.  Here are my top 25.  I've done all of these with my kids, and while some of them do require some planning and effort, most of them can be done while eating chocolate, bidding on ebay, and curling ribbon.  

25 Days of Christmas Activities
  1. Make hot chocolate
  2. String popcorn and cranberries
  3. Sleep under the Christmas tree
  4. Go caroling
  5. Cut out snowflakes and hang them from the ceiling
  6. Drive around the neighborhood looking for Christmas lights
  7. Write a Christmas letter to friends and family
  8. Make cookies
  9. Watch a Christmas movie
  10. Make graham cracker gingerbread houses
  11. Decorate bedroom doors for Christmas
  12. Put on costumes and re-enact the nativity
  13. Make edible ornaments for the birds out of pine cones, birdseed, and peanut butter, and then "decorate" a tree outside with them
  14. Take a family Christmas photo
  15. Do a Christmas tradition from another country
  16. Have a candlelight dinner while playing Christmas music
  17. Decorate oranges and lemons with cloves
  18. Take treats to your neighbors
  19. Have a gift-wrapping party
  20. Decorate gingerbread boys and girls
  21. Have a snowball fight (or if you are in Arizona . . . see 22)
  22. Go ice blocking
  23. Collect cans from your neighbors for the local homeless shelter
  24. Go to a Christmas performance (like The Nutcracker, The Messiah, A Christmas Carol)
  25. Be Book Bound by reading lots and lots of Christmas stories!
Happy December to you!  May you have 25 fun (and chocolate-filled) days ahead of you!

For the Kids Friday

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Printable: A good reminder

You will have to excuse my being a prolific printable maker this morning; sick babies means a lot of time to hold them and make printables. :)

"If we are to have the very best Christmas ever, we must listen for the sound of sandaled feet. We must reach out for the Carpenter's hand. With every step we take in His footsteps, we abandon a doubt and gain a truth." - Thomas S. Monson

This is a big file, so you can size it however you would like to print. Click here to download.

Linking up to Blue Cricket Design, and Someday Crafts, Sumo's Sweet Stuff, & House of Hepworths.

Joy to the World Printable

Time to deck the halls! And if you, unlike me, did NOT find a family of mice living in your favorite Christmas tree box, you may be feeling more of that jolly Christmas spirit.

I have one tree that is my "Pretty Tree." None of the homemade ornaments go on this one- it's silvery and beautiful. I made this printable to go along with that space.

Don't be surprised if a lot of Christmas Carol printables pop up here. I just love them too much to stop myself.

Go here to download. Prints as an 8X10

Linking up to Today's Creative BlogNot Just a HousewifeBoogieboard Cottage, ModVintageLife, Sugaranddots, and
Tip Junkie handmade projects

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Book Group Night: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Earlier I showed you the invitation for The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie book group, and here is what it all led up to!

The banners were super cheap and packed an easy punch.  I printed the jack snipe image (or crow as the case may be) on some computer paper, turned it upside-down, and strung some ribbon through it.

I decided to recycle the leftover pumpkins on my porch from Halloween by painting them with white craft paint.  I gave them a few coats of white and then free-handed some images in black craft paint on top (which would explain why the bird looks like it suffers from bloating and leg amputation).  The "L" is for "de Luce" because I couldn't figure out how to fit in the "de" and make it still look good.  And the fleur de lis is simply because the de Luces were French (at some point in their genealogy), and because it was easier to paint than a coat of arms.  So sue me.  After the party, I let my boys take the pumpkins to a nearby field and use them as target practice for their BB guns.  You would have thought that I had announced Christmas was coming twice this year.  Win-win situation, I say.

These little chalkboard frames were the darlings of the party; my guests couldn't quit talking about them!  If only they knew how simple they were:  white frames with a coat or two of chalkboard paint on the glass.  And tah dah!  Adorable display plaques for all your sweets and savories!

And caloo calay . . . That's our book group day!  The best decision I ever made (next to marrying my husband and quitting my gym membership) was to go with a simple and graphic color scheme because it made everything easy to coordinate---from the paper goods to the candies in the jars (which happened to be white breath mints and Ghiradelli dark chocolates).  I hope this helps get your juices flowing for your own mystery book group night!  Cheers!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Charles Dickens Christmas Decor

Christmas is my favorite holiday and Dickens is my favorite author, so I figured why not combine the two for a picture perfect Yuletide?   Welcome to my Christmas Carol home!  While I would have loved to put a Jacob Marley face in my Christmas wreath to greet guests, I decided to save that stunt for Halloween.  I settled for a Victorian Santa Claus and a Christmas Carol greeting instead.

I trimmed our living room Christmas tree with the most Dickensian things I could imagine: silhouettes of my children (thank you to Miriam and her Photoshop wit), flickering candles (electric), and cloved oranges and lemons.

 The red, orange, and gold of the tree set the tone for the rest of the details, including the mantel . . .

and the banisters in the foyer.
And a Dickens Christmas simply wouldn't be a Dickens Christmas without carolers.  I decided to put mine in the kitchen to greet family and friends.
And for those who need to spend a cozy Christmas evening at our home, I decided to deck the halls of the guest room, too.  With a few stockings, some boughs of greenery, and a Victorian Christmas book paired with a cup of cocoa, this room suddenly feels like a holiday haven to me.  I hope our guests feel the same way.

And my favorite touch of all . . . wall quotes from the Christmas Carol.  I have a quote about Mrs. Cratchit's pudding in the kitchen, a line from Tiny Tim in the playroom, and this quintessential Christmas declaration in the foyer:  "I will honour Christmas in my heart and try to keep it all the year."

May all your Christmastide's be book-inspired!  And may "God bless us, everyone!"

Linked up:

A Christmas Carol Tea Party

Suggested Menu:

Frame Graphic courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Welcome to our (Virtual) Tea party. 

Enjoy a cup of Cinnamon herbal tea or Wassail...

warm up with some Butternut Squash soup...

Enjoy a Winter Vegetable Puree, and some Cranberry Orange Scones...

~Oh bring us some figgy pudding, oh bring us some figgy pudding...~

And finish the soiree with a sweet taste of Caramel Pumpkin Pots de Creme.

I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.

In the interest of full disclosure, I took these pics at our most recent tea party. Those beautiful scones and delectable pots de creme were made by my amazing Sister-in-Law and Mother-in-Law. Also, the puddings are actually Sticky Toffee Pudding, but I felt that was close enough. Recipes yet to come.

From the Book Nook: A Christmas Carol

    I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me.  May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. 
    Their faithful Friend and Servant, C. D. December, 1843.
I know that Erika and I are not the only girls in the world who had the George C. Scott version of "A Christmas Carol" memorized as children. It's a miracle that old VHS lasted as long as it did. This is mostly due to Erika's deep, deep love of all things Christmas. She would wait for July, because then she could justify playing holiday tunes on the piano under the guise of "Christmas in July." She has requested that we all sing Christmas songs at her funeral. And a couple of years ago, her beautifully decorated home was part of a Christmas home tour as the "Dickens home." As you can see, this theme runs deep in our family, so how could we possibly skip over this literary gem? Here's my recommendation for December:

The writing is beautiful, the characters are vibrant, and the message is timeless. Extra bonus: It's a perfect book club selection for the busy month of December because it is short. Even if you don't share this with a book group this season, read it for yourself. It will put you in the Christmas spirit almost immediately, I promise. By the end, you will exclaim along with Ebenezer, "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thanksgiving Printable

I love this time of year. My fantastic sister knew this quote from the first Thanksgiving by heart. How amazing is that?

"By the goodness of God, we are so far from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plenty." -Edward Winslow

I love to reflect on the humble gratitude of the pilgrims as they write these words to their friends back home:

Click here to download. Print it as a 5X7, and enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

A "Pie"fect Invitation . . .

When I read Alan Bradley's The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I knew I had to choose it as my next book group read.  The question was how to announce the book to the rest of my book group.  My first instinct was to find a dozen dead jack snipes, stuff stamps in their beaks, and plant them on my friends' door steps (see book cover).  In the end, I decided to go with the less-creepy, less feathery option:  pie.  I made a basic pumpkin pie recipe and poured it into individual tins.  After baking and cooling the pies (and garnishing them with the obligatory fall leaves), I put the evening's particulars "on the bottom of the pie" tin with some tape.  And voila!  With one batch of pie batter you have seven or so little "pie"fect invitations to your upcoming book discussion.  The trick is getting them delivered before you consume one or two in a fit of autumn frenzy . . . If this happens, just blame it on those pesky jack snipes!

From the Book Nook: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Miriam and I just might be the only two individuals under the age of 97 who watch Matlock on a regular basis.  We thank our mother for that habit, along with our love of all other "mysterious" things---from Nancy Drew novels to Agatha Christie whodunits to breastfeeding.

This month we're happy to suggest a delightful addition to the classic mystery repertoire:  The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley.  The protagonist and "detective" is precocious 11-year-old Flavia de Luce.  She's brilliant.  She's cheeky.  And she's quite alone in the world:  her mother is dead, her older sisters ignore her whenever they aren't tormenting her, and her father escapes his financial problems in the oh-so-riveting world of stamp collecting.  On the bright side, Flavia's lack of attachments allows her to roam the 1950s English countryside snooping for clues on her trusty bike named Gladys.

Bradley's writing is fresh, witty, and captivating from the first page to the last.  And best of all, it is squeaky clean . . . aside from the occasional dead body, that is.  But we should warn you, if you start this series you had better find a comfy chair and make sure you've got Matlock on TiVo because you won't want to stop reading.  And while you're at it, put an extra copy or two of the book in your Amazon cart for gift-giving.  Cheers!

Click Here to see the Party Invite,

Click Here to see the Party!

Monday, November 7, 2011

A triumph, my dear; another triumph.

I wait with great anticipation for my "Cuisine at Home" magazine every six weeks, and even more so for the Christmas issue. Well, the eagle has landed!

And the recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Pie bars is a winner that you can use at any fall book group get together. Or you could just eat a while pan yourself. I may or may not have engaged in the latter.

So without further ado, here's my version:

BeBookBound's Pumpkin Pecan Pie Bars
Adapted from Cuisine At Home

2/3 C Brown Sugar
1C Butter, softened
2 2/3C Flour

cream sugar and butter, add in flour just til combined. Press into a greased 9X13 pan and bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, or until it begins to brown.

This is a good time to toss your pecans onto a cookie sheet and throw them in the oven to toast for more of that pecan flavor. It should only take a few minutes for them to become fragrant, and you can yank 'em then.

6 Eggs
3/4 C Brown Sugar
3/4 C Granulated Sugar
 (Whisk the above, then add:)
1 C Maple Syrup
1/2 C Light Corn Syrup
1 Can Pumpkin Puree (15 oz.- the small one)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4tsp. Ground Cloves
1/2 tsp. Salt
2-3 C Pecan halves, preferably toasted (See above)

Mix the filling up, and add the cooled pecans. Be ready to pour this onto that hot crust when you pull it from the oven. After you do, put the whole shebang back in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until just set.

COOL before cutting. And add ice cream if that wasn't enough sugar for you. Quite frankly, it is enough sugar for an army, so I would be surprised if you needed the ice cream, but it looked better in the picture, and to each his own. Whipped cream would be a lovely alternative, and still dress it up nicely. Enjoy!
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