77: LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar 2011

 You will not want to miss out on this. It’s very hard to find! Luckily, we purchased ours at the LEGO Store in Orlando last month.

I think the highlight of this Advent calendar is the Yoda Santa Claus! Yep. Your Star Wars fans, young and old, will love this Christmas activity!

Click here to order yours today!

26: Mind Your Money

Today is Black Friday. While the retailers want us all to do our part to boost the economy, be careful out there. Just because it’s a traditional shopping day, doesn’t mean you need to get out there and overspend. Make a list and check it twice. Have a budget. Stick to your plan. Don’t dig yourself deeper into debt! Bake cookies for gifts, spend $10 more and go watch a movie if you have to go to the mall! Be smart!

33: Toy Recalls

In the rush to find toy bargains, it’s a good idea to stick to brands and vendors that you know. Beware of deep discounts or suspicious bargains because those toys might be on a recall list or made with inferior materials. Be smart!

Here are some useful links to check for toy recalls:

35: Take a Vacation Day (to shop on a weekday)

If you are able to take a day off to shop, do it! Before your big shopping day, make your list and check it twice. A comprehensive list with the sizes you needs, people you need to shop for, stocking stuffers, entertaining housewares, and sale flyers will help you organize your day. Plan a time-saving route ahead of time. Stick to your list. Pack a few snacks in your purse and don’t forget your own reuseable shopping bags. They are durable, packable, and hold a lot. On days like this, I enjoy having lunch by myself at a restaurant I love and go through my lists and relax for a bit.

Take a day and get it done!

36: Wish Lists

Handmade wish lists have a certain charm and appeal that you won’t see anywhere else, so hang on to these! Make copies before you mail them to Santa!

Great advances have been made in online wish lists. There is something for everyone!

The Amazon Wish List is our top pick. Our favorite feature is that you can’t see what has been purchased from your list, but other users only see what is available to be purchased on your list. The purchased items remain a surprise! This feature can be activated for 30 days before all important occasions (birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.)

Wish list websites

Photo courtesy of Karyn Sig. Wish List courtesy of her daughter!

41: Michelle’s Christmas Memories

My friend Michelle sent me a note with her favorite Christmas memory filled with traditions:

“Absolutely, hands down….
Family dinner, followed by the opening of one gift, then Midnight service at church, ending with ‘Silent Night’ by candlelight and coming home and making ‘reindeer food’ with my nieces and nephews.  They’re grown now and we all are in different places, but it warms my heart to think about it!”

What a great evening! There are several elements to this evening that make it special: food, gifts, worship, tradition, and fellowship. Any great memorable tradition combines many of these elements. When all five senses are engaged, the experience is etched in your memory very strongly.

Beautiful photo courtesy of Miriam.

43: Moon In My Room from Discovery Channel

Discovery Exclusive Remote Control Moon In My Room

We’ve given this toy as a gift to another child and to our own son, who just had to have one! This toy has an illuminated moon which shows all lunar phases, waxing and waning. It includes a remote control and an audio CD. The moon automatically turns off 30 minutes after the last activity on the remote.

Not only is this educational, but it’s really soothing. Our son loves to watch his moon as he’s falling asleep. These are fantastic gifts that won’t stay on the shelves for long. Get yours today!

45: Bedtime Stories for Christmas

If you aren’t already reading books at bedtime, this is a great tradition to start. It’s great for your infants, toddlers, pre-readers, young readers, advanced readers, and tweens! Here are some great Christmas titles for the season:

Photo courtesy of abbamouse.

46: Gifts for Grownups

If you are going to give gifts for grownups, give something consumable. Gifts to charities, gourmet foods, event tickets, are all great gifts for grownups.

As an extended family, we’ve decided to forego gifts for the grownups this year.

  • We have just about everything we want already, unless you count big ticket items.
  • We have a clutter problem.
  • Money is tight this year.
  • We want to focus on more than gifts.

Those are the main reasons. It’s not that we don’t enjoy giving other people gifts! Gift giving should be joyful, not stressful. If all we can think about is how we can’t afford it, whether or not the recipient will use/appreciate it, or out of time for shopping/baking/working/decorating/our family, the joy is gone.

Gift the gift of freedom to the people who struggle with gift giving! Merry Christmas!

Photo courtesy of Tammy Green (a fabulous food photographer!)

49: Usborne Books

If I had to pick one thing that I couldn’t live without, it would be books. It runs in my family. One grandmother was a librarian, the other a literature fan. One grandfather was a church scholar, preacher, and history buff, and my dad is a huge science fiction fan. My husband is a voracious reader, and it’s been passed on to our daughter, who reads more than any other kid I know. I love to read and enjoy that when I have the time. I love books of all kinds, but especially non-fiction! Around this house, we love to learn about all kinds of things, so you can find books on just about everything in our family library.

As a homeschooler, we consume books at a near-alarming rate, so I’m always on the lookout for great stuff. I discovered Usborne Books a few years ago at a homeschooler expo, and love them! They have beautiful, durable volumes in addition to some non-book items. The illustrations and photos are vibrant and plentiful, while the content is rich and accurate. Take a look at their books and see what you like! They have internet specials frequently, too, so check back often!

There’s a Mouse in the House is one of our kids’ most beloved books! It has a little mouse that slips through cutout slots in each page, and the kids love it!