99: LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar 2015

It’s that time of year, again! Get the all new LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar for 2015! You do not want to be left out in the cold when this sells out.

This is the brand new 2015 version!

  • Open a window every day to reveal 24 different LEGO Star Wars themed gifts; features 5 minifigures and 2 holiday-themed Droids
  • Vehicles include Jabba’s Sail Barge, Sand crawler, Star Destroyer, Millennium Falcon, AT-AT, A-wing Starfighter and a sleigh
  • Also features an Ewok weapon rack, catapult, gun turret, blaster rack and Hoth command post
  • Play out fun LEGO Star Wars scenes on the fold-out playmat
  • Makes a great festive gift for humans and Sith Lords everywhere

Our family has enjoyed the LEGO Advent Calendars for many years. With 2 children, we decided that the kid with an even birthday gets the even numbers, the odd birthday with the odd. That has served us well! The great thing about the number 24 is it has a lot of factors! The tricky bit might be if you have 5, 7, or 9 kids, and at that point, you might just want to buy 2 calendars or offer special incentives to claim the remainder days.

If you start preparing for Christmas gradually now,
you will be able to relax and enjoy the holidays!

In case LEGO Star Wars isn’t your thing, here are a few different themed calendars:

30: The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition

We’ve all seen this little guy and wondered, “What’s the deal with The Elf on the Shelf?”

I’ve had a lot of friends adopt this new Christmas tradition and they all seem to be having a lot of fun with it! Some family members take turns hiding the elf around the house each day during Advent and letting the others find it, then hide it, again. If you have time, another hilarious activity is to pose the elf getting into Christmas mischief and mishaps around the house or classroom every day!

There is a whole line of related products and a variety of elves available:

The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition with Blue Eyed North Pole
The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition with Brown Eyed North Pole Elf,brown skin, black hair
The Elf on the Shelf – Girl Elf Edition with North Pole Blue Eyed Girl Elf and Girl-character themed Storybook

The Claus Couture Elf on the Shelf Skirt Collector’s Edition 2012
The Claus Couture Scout Elf Skirt
The Elf on the Shelf Girl Plushee Pal – Light
Elf on the Shelf: An Elf’s Story Elf Figurines, Set of 4
Elf on the Shelf: An Elf’s Story Santa Figurine
Elf on the Shelf: An Elf’s Story Sound Book

Baby Elf on the Shelf in Bag
The Elf on the Shelf: Activity Book – Great for teachers!
An Elf’s Story DVD

73: IKEA Madness

This post is for those of you who have never been to IKEA. If you have an IKEA near you, you have got to make this store a part of your holiday shopping and preparation. Not only is it a fabulous place to buy gifts, it’s a great place to update your housewares and textiles within almost anyone’s budget!

Worried about the kids while you shop? IKEA has a solution with their fantastic supervised children’s play area and ballroom. When it’s time for a break, the IKEA restaurant has a kids’ menu.

I just want to encourage you to give it a try.

Visit their website at http://ikea.com

Fabulous photo courtesy of Sarah606

37: Go on a Date (with your child!)

We’ve started a Mommy-Daughter date night in our family once a week after choir rehearsal. I pickup my daughter from choir and we have dinner together with lots of talking, then we go to a bookstore, then home. This has been a really wonderful thing for us as she gets older (9) and needs to have some one-on-one time with her mom. We make lists, have some “girl talk,” giggle and laugh, and sometimes even grab some Starbucks hot chocolate to finish the night off.

Today, I had a date with my son. We took a walk outside, watched a construction site, and shared a basket of fish and chips for lunch. We had a great time, and he got some time alone with his mom.

The kids love going on their “dates” and so do I!

Here are a few ideas for your date with your child:

  • Baking cookies
  • Christmas shopping
  • Wrapping gifts
  • Volunteering
  • Bowling
  • Dinner
  • Dessert
  • Coffee/Cocoa/Tea and Bookstore
  • Walk

I don’t recommend movies for dates because there is no interaction. If you do choose a movie, include time after the movie to talk about the movie together. Have fun with it, and post your kid “date” idea in the comments!

39: Christmas Caroling Party Action Plan

I asked my sister about her favorite Christmas tradition and she replied very quickly:

“My favorite tradition is caroling (Are you surprised?). I have done it every year with the kids and other friends on the Sunday before Christmas. We take the guitar, jingle bells, any other instruments on hand, and friends who can harmonize – what fun! I am getting in the Christmas spirit just thinking about it!”

Christmas caroling is really fun and with very little planning it can be transformed from a last-minute idea into a memorable occasion for family and friends. Here are a few simple steps to get you started.

  1. Get out your calendar and find a convenient early evening to have friends over. A great option is to limit yourself to 2 or 3 other families with kids, making sure to have buddies for your kids.
  2. Invitations can be as simple or elaborate as you like. For something very informal, a phone call is acceptable. I like to use Evite. You can always mail or hand deliver the printed or handmade variety of invitation.
  3. One week before the event, touch base with everyone and get a head count (RSVP).
  4. For the party, your house will hopefully be all decorated before then. For your menu, have plenty of cookies, hot chocolate, cider, etc.
  5. ALLERGY NOTE: Please find out from your guests if anyone has a peanut or nut allergy. Do your best to keep peanuts and nuts out of areas where allergic children will be. Enlist your allergy mom to provide a safe alternative for her child. She knows best.
  6. The focus of caroling is fellowship and spreading joy, not musical perfection!
  7. Make your own caroling booklets with the song lyrics printed in a booklet form. This is easy to do in Publisher or Word. Lyrics can be found for just about any song using Google.
  8. Have extra mittens/scarves/hats available. One fun thing to do, if you like giving party favors, would be to make matching fleece scarves for everyone. This is very simple to do without any sewing!

Photo courtesy of Doug Floyd.

58: Craft Gifts for Kids

Inexpensive projects to do with kids can also make great gifts! Here are some ideas:

  • An unfinished wood item (initial, birdhouse, stepstool, etc.) with set of acrylic paints and brushes
  • Knitting needles or crochet hook with yarn and a free scarf pattern or knitting instructions
  • Bracelet Beading supplies
  • Stamping set
  • Scrapbooking materials or creativity book
  • Crafting kits of all kinds from JoAnn’s or Borders (lots of these are very inexpensive!)
  • Sewing notions, fabric, easy pattern

Even better than all of the stuff, would be a bonus of a lesson or crafting time with the child. All kids love attention and one-on-one time with their favorite adults. If you paint, sew, knit, crochet, scrapbook, bead, or any other crafty thing, make up an invitation to spend some crafting time with you! They will love it!

A more technical version of this gift would be a radio building kit or other electronics project! Geeky fun!

Beautiful photo courtesy of James Jordan.

69: Collecting Christmas Tree Ornaments

Collecting Christmas tree ornaments is a fun hobby that anyone can manage. Our family collects ornaments from family vacations. We have a lot of Disney ornaments, in particular. Do you collect ornaments, and if you do, do you have a theme? Here’s a list of some interesting themes if you want to start collecting.

  • Disney – anything Mickey-related
  • Family Vacations
  • Homemade – knitting, crocheting, tatting, cross-stitch, carved, painted
  • Super Heroes – logos, colors, miniatures
  • Lego – a variation on homemade ornaments
  • Music – instruments, symbols
  • Heritage – Irish, German, Russian, Norwegian, etc.
  • Nature – pinecones, cranberries, feather ornaments, birds
  • Collectibles – Waterford, Swarovski, Kinkade, Lenox, etc.
  • Kids – paper chains, dough ornaments, etc.
  • Collegiate – if you want a Crimson Tide tree, here’s your chance
  • Color theme – specific color palette
  • Style theme – Victorian, ’50s, Country, Modern
  • Photo theme – frame ornaments
  • Children’s books – mini-books, characters, decoupage balls

There are certainly many more Christmas tree themes out there. If yours isn’t on this list, post it in a comment! We all love to hear new ideas! Ornaments make great Christmas gifts, too!

Great photo courtesy of Monica D. (CosmoPolitician)

90: Try a New Cookie Recipe

Last week, I asked you to review your cookbooks and look for cookies you’ve always wanted to make. Well, today, think about making one of those new cookie recipes. You can do it today, or this week some time, but try one out! Your kids will be so thrilled to get them in their lunches this week! I’d like to hear about everyone’s cookie adventures, so post a note in the comments when you’ve completed this mission! Happy baking!

Here’s one of my favorites for fun! These are easy!

Lemon Snowflakes Recipe (pdf)

Lemon Snowflakes

INGREDIENTS

1 package lemon cake mix
2 T lemon juice (or 1/2 T lemon extract)
1 egg
2 1/4 cups frozen whipped topping, thawed
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the cake mix, lemon juice, egg and whipped topping together. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until well blended (batter will be sticky). Drop batter by teaspoonfuls into the confectioners’ sugar and roll to coat. Place cookies onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

TIPS

  • Using a small scoop makes scooping out the batter much easier.
  • Use parchment paper or they will stick.
  • Making sure the cookies are lightly browned is the key to their doneness.
  • You can make modifications to this recipe such as using chocolate cake mix and chocolate whipped topping, or any other flavor cake mix. It’s so easy!



92: Custom Christmas Cards

Holiday Cards
I love to get Christmas cards! I’m not so great at sending them every year, though. I think the motivator to actually sending them out is to have a great card that you are proud of. My favorite option is to upload a photo somewhere and get cool stuff printed using that photo.

One site that I love is VistaPrint. They have all kinds of crazy specials all the time and lots of templates. If you want to try something out, you might only have to pay for shipping!

I’ve used them for printing save-the-date magnets (these were awesome!), post-it notepads, and TONS of postcard projects. They also have yard signs, car magnets, t-shirts, business cards, notepads, and notecards just to name a few. Get a custom yard sign for your next party or a car magnet for your kid’s high school band!

Give VistaPrint a try! The price is right!