Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Shattered This Christmas

Decorating a Christmas tree is one of my favourite Christmas traditions. This year we have a new tree. It's spectacular. Probably more so because I didn't let the children decorate it. They watched me decorate it and were granted the privilege of hanging a few decorations in specific spots. Yes, I'm that type of mother.

To be fair, I did let them decorate their own tree (our previous tree), I even allowed them to put tinsel on it - I'm not a huge fan of tinsel on trees. You have to have a special knack to put it on a tree and still have tree look tasteful, so I prefer to adorn the tree in other ways.

What my tree is missing is some special ornaments. In our pre-children days we travelled throughout the world. Whenever I can while I was travelling, I would try to buy a Christmas ornament to remember that country. A bauble with a camel on it in Abu Dhabi, from China, little Chinese dolls in traditional dress or another bauble adorned with Parisian landmarks. Unfortunately the world momentos from around the globe are getting fewer on our tree. Last year a Canadian beaver in an Mountie uniform had his tail severed and his toes chipped off. Poor little dude.

This year it was this.

This once was my beautiful glass Union Jack baubles from Harrods in London.  I had seen the beautiful ornament and purchased it imagining how stunning it would look on my tree the following year. What I didn't think through at the time was it was very delicate and I was about to travel through Europe for the next 4 weeks. I hadn't thought it through, but I worked around it. With great care I carried it through 9 countries on trains, buses, underground and over ground. Then on the 2nd night before we flew out from Paris, I left it in a hotel in Holland. I can confirm; there were tears over this mishap.

Five years later I returned to Harrods at Christmas time hoping to find another Union Jack glass bauble. I did! In fact, I found a box with two in it! Once again, it was transported with the utmost of care and this time it arrived home. Hurrah!

They have been lovingly hung on our tree ever since. Except last year. There was no way I was going to let two year old triplets anywhere near them, so they remained in their boxes. Instead, I delayed it a year until three year old triplets would get them. I had left them in the boxes again this year, but then big brother unpacked them, hung them on the trees and then the triplets had their way with them.

Totally smashed.


But do you know what? Small things. They were pretty and sentimental. But only stuff.

In Sydney on Monday the peacefulness we enjoy in our country was smashed. Lives were lost. Other lives forever altered. For some people this will become a pivotal point in their lives. For them there will always a before and after point in their lives.

I pray for those people. I pray that the memory of what happened in that cafe on December 15 doesn't haunt them. That they continue to live their lives confidently and without fear. That our country protects them and our media is respectful of their experiences and their presentation the event.

I think of the two innocent people who were killed. Life can be as fragile as a glass ornament. A man and a woman woke up that morning with dreams, plans. With a future. Before the new day dawned it was smashed leaving the people who loved them weep in their absence. As a nation we mourn those innocent victims because stuff like this shouldn't happen. People should live life and be safe. In Australia, in all the world.

Peace at Christmas. Surely it is more than a lofty ideal. I'm proud that so many individuals in our nation are rising up and demonstrating love in combat of the hatred that dwelt in one soul.

After all the central element of the Christmas message is love.

It was the love of God for humankind that sent a baby to the world. Because God believed the world was worth saving. Even in that era, there were ugly people roaming the streets, within homes and in levels of government. Even back then the bloodthirsty Romans killed one another in the most brutal and public ways. Yet even so God loved the world that he sent the Divine to earth. Sunday school students learn those very words, "That God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16

So this Christmas, even though I know our world is filled with people who have evil in their hearts, I believe that if we keep love the central theme in each one of our lives, Love indeed will triumph. We shall continue our lives and live them displaying love and demonstrating peace. Because before there is peace in the world, there needs to be peace in each of our hearts.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Using the Advent to Develop Character Plus Christmas Book Giveaway!

How has the Advent season been progressing for you? I have to say, that it has been creating such excitement at our house, but it has also had the hidden blessing of assisting the children to develop valuable character traits. During this month while waiting for Christmas Day, not only have they been learning about the true meaning of Christmas, they have also been developing patience, self control, kindness, co-operation, forgiveness and joyfulness (in all circumstances, not just when things are going they way they desire).

Elvey, our little Elf on the Shelf, has been a loved addition of the house again and the bigger kids are really being patient with the younger children helping them to find the elf. To be truthful, I feel like last year Elvey was put in a few more creative places. I just seem to be scrambling this year, jumping out of bed when I hear the children are up and rushing him off to a new shelf. Yesterday I heard the children were coming so I jumped out of bed and tried to untie Elvey from the tinsel he was bungee jumping from. The triplets walked out and I kind of chucked the Elf behind my shoulder and was standing there playing with the tinsel, as you do. In the true spirit of the toddler, they stood there staring, asked me 20 times what I was doing, then ran off. I managed to untie the elf and as they ran back stuff him under my nightie (poor elf) and run him to the Christmas tree and shove him up the top. Now the people who think the elf is creepy (he's not that bad, is he?) probably are also accusing him of looking up the angel's skirts.



The kids also have been enjoying the store bought Advent Calendars. I know, people are getting excited about non-chocolate advent traditions, and as you know, we are doing this also. However, I think one little chocolate is really not that harmful. The calendars are cheap, and it's just a little bit of fun. Turns out it's teaching self control and patience also. Mind you, two of my children have failed miserably with the self control, so now they are learning a lesson of consequences for your actions as they watch the other children eat a chocolate each day while they miss out because of their bulk consumption.

My favourite tradition has been the Advent books. Admitedly, it took me a little while to get going with this. I hurriedly had wrapped the first book, chucked it under the tree and explained to the children that I would be getting one child each day to unwrap a book in the lead up to Christmas. Because there was only one book, and three 3 year olds had limited understanding about what I had explained, it wasn't a happy moment around the Christmas tree. My 5 year old who is also learning that it is more blessed to give then to receive and my 8 year old managed better self control then the others, but I think he was a little disappointed he didn't open the present on the same day as well. The Accountant watched the proceedings, (it looked like we were exploring the book of Lamentations from the Bible rather than the Gospels), shook his head saying he didn't know why I had these hair brained ideas and walked off.

It then took a few more days before I got all the presents wrapped, and I chose not to do any more books until there was a pile and I could show the children that there was a label telling which day it was to be opened and which child would open it. Nevertheless, we had to repeat the process of protests and wailing and then we watched the next child open the book and we read it together. We then repeated the wailing and lamenting when the children discovered they had to wait for another day until they opened the next present. All the same, there were two children who unwrapped some books half an hour later when I was no longer policing the tree. (There was a common denominator with the Advent thief).

However, thanks to persistence and lots of explaining, they now mostly sit happily together and watch each other unwrap. I have been very clear that the books belong to the family, not the individual. The child is wrapping it for one another. I'm also strict that everyone sits together and watches it get unwrapped and listens to the story. It is a valuable lesson in being happy for one another and I think (and hope!) that it is actually setting really good groundwork for not being selfish on Christmas morning also.

The stories have also been wonderful in building the Christmas spirit. I'm very excited to let you know that five of those stories could be yours! Scholastic Australia is generously giving away five Christmas book packs. Each selection will include
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 5, 2014

Liebster Award

I've been nominated a few times now for a Liebster Award! Hooray! It's German word term of endearment and it's always nice to be loved recognised and it feels like people like my little piece of the blogosphere, which is such a comforting thought! I was nominated by Eva from The Multitasking Mummy, Sarah from Creating Contentment and then lastly by Bec from Styled by Bec. Probably because Bec's nomination came through when I was a bit less busy then the first two times, and because I love dabbling in fashion and styling, I immediately wanted to answer Bec's questions. So I did. It then took a bit longer before I could think of extra people to nominate. (I still didn't get the required 10, not because I couldn't think of people, but rather because they had already been nominated.) If I have time, I might try to answer the other two ladies questions, because it's a nice way to share about yourself. In the meantime, read on to hear my replies to Rebecca's questions.
What is your favourite piece of jewellery and why?
My engagement ring. Not only do I love the setting and the high quality diamonds, but it is so sentimental. Whenever I stare it I remember our picnic, my husband reading a poem on bended knee and then heading out to the show afterwards to find my family to show them the ring and being dazzled by it all day as it sparkled in the brilliant sunlight.
What are your three favourite shops?
I've just discovered "Flower", I adored shopping there, bought a lovely dress for Christmas and am itching to get back, The Accountant should be relieved I have to travel to the nearest capital city to find a store. I've enjoyed shopping at Sussan this season, and Myer is just a perennial favourite because it has so much variety of good quality clothing.
Dress or pants?
I like wearing dresses, although in winter I tend to favour pants for warmth, not having to put on stockings and hiding hairy legs. But I feel nicer in a dress generally. I'm loving a "Firefly" dress that I bought at Pure and Simple in Highfields at Jacaranda Manor. (Locals you should check out this shop, it's gorgeous.)
I wore my Firefly dress at Problogger earlier this year.
What is your favourite colour combination?
Do you know what? I really love red and green at Christmas! I love Christmas, and it's always fun dressing and looking Christmassy!
You have $1000 to spend styling your living room. Where do you go and what would you buy?
A rug and a coffee table. I got a rain check to get these for Christmas last year. I'm hoping that I can at least cash it in before December this year!

Footnote: Since writing this I bought a coffee table! Yippee! I really wanted a very sophisticated French coffee table, but in the end, I chickened out and bought a cheaper more solid functional one. I'm so glad I did, so far it's already stood up to substantial abuse, including, but not limited too, being danced upon, hosting games where you use your fist to violently hammer a plastic spinner, being licked and on the first day one of the triplets used it as a urinal.
What is the most expensive piece of clothing you own?
I think my knee high Camper boots. I hardly wear them anymore because the zip has turned in and rubs uncomfortably on my ankle. I bought them in London on Kensington High Street when I was living there and pregnant with my first child. I was actually tossing up between a blue pair with heels and and a flat brown pair. The brown pair were the practical choice, but the blue pair were such fun! I was just about to choose the blue but went to try the brown pair one last time when I saw that the shop assistant had taken them away even though they were under the chair I had been using and put them on hold for an out of town customer who had just rung through. I then had a squabble with him and bought them on principle. (If the customer walked into the store, she wouldn't have snatched them off me after all!) I've often wished I bought the blue pair as well though!

Where is your favourite shopping centre or favourite shopping destination?
In Toowoomba it's Grand Central. In Brisbane I'm loving Chermside at the moment. Worldwide shopping destination that I have actually loved shopping most would be Abu Dhabi, although some Christmas markets in Austria on Christmas Eve were very magical also.
About to go shopping in Abu Dhabi in 2005.

If money was no object, where would you go on holiday?
Scandinavia and Russia. I will get there one day! It's possible I may be retired before I do it though!
What’s the best present you ever received?
I loved the Christmas present my husband gave me at the end of our first year of marriage. I had given him a list of present ideas, just like our family used to give my mother. I was excited to see the present all wrapped up, it was obviously the suitcase I'd asked for. But when I got it, it was really heavy. I opened the case and it was full of wonderful things, I was in 7th heaven and overwhelmed with how extravagant Alex had been (this was in the days before he was an accountant, but he still had an accounting mentality with our finances!). Alex looked worried and said, "I couldn't find two things on the list. Is that OK?" It turned out Alex's family didn't do lists and he thought that I wanted to get him every single thing on the list! It was tempting not to tell him I didn't expect everything on the list, but I had compassion! Best present(s) ever!
Do you prefer online shopping or bricks and mortar?
I love online shopping, but I much prefer to do it in person, especially with clothing. It's hard to find good fits online and when I'm in a store, I will often get shop assistants to recommend clothing, and they will often pull something out that I would ignore while it is on the hanger, but actually it looks spectacular on. 

I nominate

Renee at Mummy Wife Me
Danielle at Miss Chardy
Juanita at Wife Mumma Life
Karen at Tales of a Twin Mum
Maria at Mummy Goes Mad

My questions:

1. What do you hope people say about you at your funeral? (I thought I would just start with a deep question!)

2. White or Red Wine or other? (Let's have an easy question after the first one!)

3. What is your favourite activity to do with your kids?

4. Can you remember when you discovered the truth about Santa?

5. What was the last book you read and would you recommend it?

6. Do you follow recipes or do you prefer to make it up as you go?

7. Your favourite flower?

8. Are you a messy person or a tidy person?

9. If I gave you $1000 and said it needed to be spent before the morning, what would you buy today?

10. Can you sing in tune?

Can you share any of your own answers to the above questions? (My questions or Becs?)


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pitchi

This post is brought to you by Pitchi

Pitchi is a cool new online video selling platform, designed to help people sell and buy online. I have recently been introduced to this website and I thought it was worthwhile sharing with you, especially in the lead up to Christmas. It is an innovative way for people to buy and sell products. What I loved as I watched the videos is that they were short and punchy being only a minute long each, so I didn't feel like I was wasting heaps of time looking at things I may not buy, but if there were products that piqued my interest, I could keep examining them further at my leisure on the product's website.

Pitchi is a new method to look for really unique products without having to trawl through crowded markets or search through elusive boutiques. I loved how it felt more personal. You got to see the person behind the product, and I found that very engaging, because after all, that personal feel is often missing when you shop online.

Take for instance this pitchi for a funky wooden Christmas tree. I now have an image of this family who created the Christmas tree. It's comforting to know if I were to buy it my dollars wouldnt be heading to a faceless corporation. At the top right hand corner of the video on the Pitchi page, it tells you how much the product will cost. ($349 for this tree in case you were interested.

video

I also love that Pitchi is a platform for young businesses or people with an entrepreneurial dream to sell their products to a mass audience at no cost.

Pitchi is very easy to navigate around the website. I found it was straightforward to save or like videos that I particularly enjoyed or was interested in. You can also easily share things that capture your attention on social media also. For example, this very fun esky. Quite frankly, it's above my price range for a gift for my nephew or brother-in-law, but I know they would also love having a cooler and cricket wickets in one, so I shared it on my personal Facebook page, easily tagging the guys.

video

You can buy or sell anything on Pitchi from artwork, fashion, craft, home wares, tech, food or things that are just lots of fun! Jump over and check it out - but let me know if there was a Pitchi you particularly liked. (Gavin made me smile! Find him in the Home section selling his Teddy Bear plates or in the Design category selling pottery. Funny guy - clueless - but funny.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

24 Books About Christmas



The Advent is upon us. If you don't have a plan, here is an idea for you. (It's still early days, you can totally start today or tomorrow, or later, if you want!) Wrap up a book for each day until Christmas, and every day your child can unwrap the book and you can read them together. A friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that she did this last year, and I thought it was a fabulous idea so we are doing it this year. I'm not buying 25 new books. We already have several Christmas books, I packed them away with the Christmas tree so they feel new at Christmas time, so this will work perfectly for me. The few new books we have in the mix this year were given to me by Scholastic to review.

1. The Nights Before Christmas (24 Classic Stories Illustrated by Tony Ross)

If you were going to choose one book from this list, (and you have children 6 years and older), choose this one. The stories are quite long, so it's not the best book for toddlers. If you got it while the children are under 8, it will certainly be a keepsake to treasure in years to come. I think the stories would be suitable right through to upper primary. The reason I would recommend it so highly is that I suspect most households would have a selection of modern Christmas books in their libraries.  This book is literary extension for the modern day kid and has classic tales, which sometimes take longer to tell, but also develops the child's literature appreciation as well as extending vocabulary and gaining literary knowledge. Many of the stories are age old classics that our grandparents would have read or listened to during their childhood. With the wealth of children's books available these days, sometimes the classics that have been passed down the generations are being overlooked for some of the newer stories and their bright glossy covers. This book has a story for each day in December (a perfect advent alternative) and includes work by authors such as Leo Tolstoy, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm, Charles Dickens and The Bible. Titles include The Snow Queen, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, The Little Match-Seller, The Story of the Christ-Child, Good King Wenceslas and The Nativity.

I love that the lavish images depicted by Tony Ross bring these golden oldies to light.

2. My First Countdown to Christmas (Dr. Mary Manz Simon)

If you have a toddler and you were choose one book from this list, choose this one! I bought our copy years ago from Koorong, they are still selling it, click here if you are interested. Each day has an explanation about Christmas traditions or the Christmas story, followed by a simple activity for children to do which will channel a young child's anticipation for Christmas and help them celebrate the birth of Jesus. There is also a simple prayer and Bible verse for each day.

This is a board book, so it really is suitable for little children, but my lower primary child still engages with the text and it's a great springboard to discuss the significance of Christmas each day.

3. There Was an Old Bloke Who Swallowed a Present (P. Crumble & Louis Shea)

My boys love this crazy old bloke. We enjoyed The Old Bloke Swallowing a Rabbit at Easter, so there is no doubt that the boys are going to once again be laughing at this silly old codgers antics, starting with its amazing lenticular moving image cover! There are funny elements to look for on each page, which always engrosses them following the sub-stories contained in the illustrations.

4. Child of Bethlehem (Elena Pasquali)

This story very closely follows the Biblical account of The Nativity, yet uses simplified, (but not dumbed down) easy to understand language with bright and colourful illustrations. It is so important to our family that the children understand the real reason behind Christmas, so it is imperative that The Nativity features in this list.

5. My Merry Christmas (Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley)

This is a particularly good book for very small children. Even older babies would be able to engage with much loved illustrator, Bruce Whatley's, illustrations of friendly animals on each page. There is only a few words on each page, so their attention should be maintained the duration of the book. I've had 5 babies though, and know there is no guarantee when it comes to babies and attention! The book describes some of the traditions we follow at Christmas, so toddlers are quick to engage with the content and relate it to their own experiences.

6. Santa's Busy Reindeer (Ed Allen, Nathaniel Eckstrom)


It's nearly Christmas! The presents are wrapped and the sleigh is packed, but ten of Santa's reindeer still have lots to do. This rhyming story can be sung to the tune of 'Ten Green Bottles'. Personally, I see the benefits of these counting/subtraction stories, but singing them to my kids often bores me to tears, even though the child isn't bored in the slightest. This particular book has got enchanting illustrations in it though, so I quite enjoyed it. Trent also loved finding the hidden number to look for in each scene. So I have to admit, even though these are not my favourite books, there are great reasons for reading/singing them. (It must be helping, Trent already recognises all numbers 10 and under. Subtraction isn't an easy concept to learn either, so this is a good into. He will be well and truly ready for Prep next year!)

7. Santa Koala (Colin Buchanan & Glen Singleton)

Our children are a little bit in love with Colin. Any book that accompanies a CD of Colin singing is bound to be a winner in our house. Feature Santa in the story … and well, you can't lose! (We also love have a Christmas DVD with Colin outlining the Christian elements of Christmas which brings a bit of balance to all the fun also!) This song is to the tune of Waltzing Matilda and very Aussie, particularly with the real Santa calling Santa Koala a great galah for delivering the presents early!

8. A Snugglepot and Cuddlepie Christmas (Mark Mac Leod, illustrated by May Gibbs)

This is a Christmas story based on May Gibbs' best-loved characters, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie introducing the timeless artwork of May Gibbs to a new generation with illustrations capturing the beauty of the Australian bush. I hadn't realised that when May Gibbs died in 1969 she bequeathed the copyright of her bush characters to charities.

In doing so the sale of May Gibbs products have supported thousands and Australian children with disabilities and their families. Royalties from this book goes to Cerebral Palsy Alliance and Northcott Society.

9. The Twelve Days of Christmas (Alison Jay)

It's a song that must be sung every Christmas, never mind that it makes no sense that a man would give a woman bizarre gifts like geese, milk maids, jumping lords and swans. (The five golden rings of course are not bizarre, that is a dazzling good choice.)

Alison Jay is a graduate of the London College of Printing and a critically acclaimed illustrator of many children's books. (The Nutcracker, Welcome to the Zoo & Nursery Rhyme Rainbow.) The old style illustrations in this book are simply enchanting, and have been presented in such a way that much of the gifts happen around an 'olden days' couple, rather than turning up on her doorstep, so it doesn't feel so silly, but instead quite beautiful.

10. My Christmas Crackers (Bronwen Davies)

This book contains a host of funny Christmas jokes that are sure to delight any child. My children loved this book last year. (Read about that here) I am positive that it will be a popular book again this year.
Why didn't the lobster share its toys at Christmas?
Because it was shellfish.

11. Deck the Sheds with Bits of Wattle (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)

A hilarious Australian take on Deck the Halls performed by Colin Buchanan and with gorgeous Aussie illustrations by Glen Singleton.
Deck the Shed with bits of wattle,
Whack some gum leaves in a bottle
Syd Echidna's feeling chipper,
It's Christmas Eve - my shed's a ripper.
FA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA LA


12. Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker (Gina Newton & Christina Booth)

Children's book character favourite Blossom Possum is involved in a Christmas adventure as she goes along the bush track to find her old friends Rocky Cocky, Echo Gecko and Toey Joey to try to wake Koala Claws so the Bush Christmas is not ruined. They need to find other friends to help and on the way halt By Jingo Dingo from eating a duck. (I feel a bit sorry for the dingo in this book, his family is hungry, and I'm with the dingo on this one, duck really is delicious.) In the end it was lucky they saved the duck (the Christmas Quacker) since it was able to wake Koala Claws and Bush Christmas is saved.

13. One Night (Penny Matthews & Stephen Michael King)

On the first Christmas Eve, so the story goes, the animals were given a very special gift to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Since then, at midnight on Christmas Eve the animals remember. A beautiful retelling of an old Christmas folktale. A magical story about how very Christmas Eve at midnight the animals can speak and they relive a Christmas Eve long ago when Jesus was born.


14,15. Where's Santa? and Where's Santa Around the World? (Louis Shea)

These are two wonderful search and find books. I don't know why boys are particularly attracted to these search and find books, but they are. My boys are no exception, and I blogged about how much the loved these books last year here. These are perfect books for getting children preoccupied with hunting through the colourful images and humorous sub stories to find Santa. Particularly good if you need your children to sit in a corner quietly during a festive occasion!

16. The Busy Christmas Stable

This book will be perfect for my three year olds. It's a robust board book which is sure to entertain with tabs that make animals and people move in the stable throughout the story. A wonderful way to share the story of Jesus' birth with the little ones.

17. Aussie Jingle Bells (Colin Buchanan and Nick Bland)

I absolutely adore this book (and CD) which ought to be no surprise, how could you go wrong with Colin and beloved children's author Nick Bland? The illustrations are so very Aussie, and it captures a lot of an Aussie larrikan family Chrissy with kids jumping in pools, swinging on clothesline, Grandpa dozing, and driving in a ute on a scorching summers day in singlet, shorts and thongs.

Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way! 
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer's day, hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.

My particular favourite is that the family packs the car and shoot through before the washing up! (We are all so tempted to do this, are we not?) I've actually bought a few copies of this book to send overseas as gifts this year.   

18, 19. Thomas and Friends books

These are just little books I have picked up at the supermarket, but nevertheless the children really do love the stories. I mean, you can never go wrong with Thomas, can you?

20. The Nativity (illustrated by Julie Vivas)

The text in this book is straight from the Bible, however the illustrations are in the contemporary style of Julie Vivas. Julie Vivas is became famous when she illustrated Mem Fox's Possum Magic  in 1983. Since then her illustrations have continue to enchant and delight children. This account of the nativity is no different, the illustrations draw you in and make you examine them carefully and contemplate what life really was like during that first Christmas.


21. We Wish You a Ripper Christmas (Colin Buchanan & Greg Champion)

Yes, I know, another Colin book, but seriously, it's impossible to overdose on Colin. If you are going on a road trip, it would be an even better reason to own all these books and CD's (yes, there's a CD again!) to play throughout the trip while the children delight in the wonderful Aussie illustrations in the back.
OK, so this is the CD for one of the above books and I was too lazy to go and take another photograph, so be inspired anyway. CD's and road trips, a perfect Christmas combo!
This time the book is illustrated by Roland Harvey and his funny and distinctive Australian flavour.

22. My First Christmas - Magnetic Adventures

This has been a much loved book in our family that I bought quite some time back at our local Koorong. (Brilliant Christian bookstore) I actually need to go hunting a little bit before I put this book out this year because I realised when I unpacked it that the baby Jesus plus Joseph and Mary are missing (and perhaps a few other key characters from the Nativity.) I hope I can find them, because the children adore moving the magnetic characters through the various magnetic scenes and telling the story together.

23. My First Story of Christmas (Tim Dowley)

The Christmas story told in a child friendly manner with cute illustrations.

24. 'Twas the Night - The Nativity Story (Melody Carlson)

I thought on Christmas Eve it would be good to pause and remember it's not all about Santa coming, but rather that the arrival of baby Jesus would be the beginning of salvation for mankind. This is a beautiful book and a wonderful retelling of the nativity story to the cadence of "The Night Before Christmas".
Twas the night before Christmas when all through the stable
Not a creature was stirring, though plenty were able.
The ox and the cow and the goat and the sheep
All comfy and cozy, had drifted to sleep.

A perfect book the night before the big event!

Do you have any favourite Christmas stories/books in your home? Are you counting down the Advent this year and if so how?

I am linking with Essentially Jess for IBOT

* I was gifted some of these books by Scholastic Australia. All opinions are my own, and I wouldn't make a recommendation unless myself and/or my children enjoyed the books.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Elf on the Shelf - Easy Peasy Ideas!



Last year The Elf on the Shelf joined our household. Our elf was named "Elvey" by the children and each day they would seek him out to find out where his new spot for the day was. For those who aren't familiar with The Elf on the Shelf, (it's a newish concept for most of us in Australia, even though it's firmly established in the US.), our elf, like all other Elves who sit on shelves, is a scout elf. He sits and watches the children all day and at night magically flies back to Santa where he tell Santa what's been happening in our household. (Oh yes, there were some naughty moments last year where I did point to the elf and then witnessed a miraculous behaviour shift.) There is a story book which arrives with the elf outlining all of this, and the book also makes it clear that to retain the elf's magic you cannot touch the elf. (Sheer brilliance, it's clear the author was familiar with children!)
Elf on the Shelf from Amazon

During December, we really had so much fun with Elvey. Mind you, I wasn't always creative with his placement, (Hello! I had two year old triplets!) There was some mornings that I was secretly hiding the elf behind my back and scampering through the house to shove the elf in a new spot for the day. Thanks to the innocence of childhood, my children were delighted to see him even if he was doing nothing exciting, the thrill of finding him was enough for them. Exhibit A & B below!

Trent discovering The Elf on the Shelf
Trent discovering The Elf on the Shelf was hanging from the fan.
Jonty discovering The Elf on the Shelf
Jonty looking at the elf simply sitting on a shelf!

Elf on the Shelf Hanging Underwear from the Ceiling Fan.
Elf on the shelf on a ceiling fan
 Oh yeah. That cheeky elf looked very comfy hanging in the kids pants. Trent was a little disgruntled, but happily saw the joke eventually.
Elf on the Shelf in undies

Sitting on a Shelf With Candy Canes looking Christmassy.

Hanging Out in the Bathroom and Plastering the place with Bows.
This was actually more complex then I expected! The bows just would not stay on and were dropping off everywhere! By the morning there was basically a pile of gift bows on the bench top.
 Elvey was hanging on the shower screen, but kindly offered the children the candy canes for a Christmas snack.

He also left a letter giving them some feedback!
Luckily the boys thought it was cool!

Hanging out with the Nativity crowd.

Getting spicy in the spice rack.
It took forever for the boys to find the elf this day, and the needed some substantial clues before they could locate him. Another example of how simplicity did not disappoint.

Hanging around Drawing
I gave my sister the honours of elf placement one night when she was visiting and this was what he ended up doing.


 Mixing it Up.
The elf on the shelf was in the playroom mixing an invisible something in the toy pots and pans this day. Trent 'wrote' (it was dictated) a letter to Santa and got us to put it on the Shelf with the Elf so he could deliver it to Santa when he flew back to the workshop that evening. (He got one thing on the list, Santa can't deliver everything it turns out!)

Checking out the Aussie Animals Cards
Turns out even elves can get sucked in by Woolworths brilliant marketing ploy.


Wise Old Elf on the Shelf
Once more Elvey is on a shelf. This time hanging with the owls.
Elf on the Shelf with owl

Reindeer Loving Elf
Last year I bought these gorgeous white reindeer from Coles. Elvey loved the little guys as well. Must have made him homesick for the reindeer back at the North Pole. So he fed them carrots. This was actually my favourite elf position that I did, even though the poor little guy needed to be roped in as well. It can be hazardous hanging on to a carrot that is more than your body weight.
Elf on the shelf feeding a reindeer.

Another morning Elvey was riding the reindeer. As you can see, the boys thought this was funny.
Elf on the Shelf riding a reindeer

Elf on the Shelf riding a reindeer

Toilet Paper Mischief
It seems that scout elves often end up creating mischief in the toilet. Trent was aghast. Personally, I  would not be hanging out in our loo if I were an elf. Trust me. Little boys have bad aim. Our WC is not always a pleasant place to be.
Elf on the Shelf in the toilet

Elf on the Shelf with toilet paper


In any case, The Elf on the Shelf was a lot of fun for our family last year and I'm looking at finding more places for Elvey to hide this year. It will be more fun for the triplets this year also I think.

I've got a Pinterest Board full of ideas of where Elvey can hang out - but would love to hear a suggestion if you have one! Have you heard of Elf on the Shelf? Do you have a scout elf at your home or do something similar? Are your kids starting to catch the Christmas spirit yet?

Linking with Essentially Jess

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