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Friday, November 30, 2012

How Does She Do Santa...

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Today I wanted to share what we do to make the Christmas season special and how we share the gospel principles behind it. For those of you who are of a differing faith or belief, I ask that you be kind. I try to keep things light and fluffy here on Blissful and Domestic, but today I want to share something close to my heart. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know my Savior lives and loves me. This post is for those Moms who were once like me, wanting to find a way to make their Christmas holiday more Christ filled, but not knowing how to go about doing it. This post is for my 20 year old self. 

Read on lovelies......

Santa Claus....That big, jolly man with his white beard and rosy cheeks. He is everywhere this time of year. We see him in commercials, in store advertisements, in Christmas TV specials, and even on food packaging. Santa Claus and Christmas go hand in hand every holiday season. As adults we can remember being a child and waiting to hear Santa and his reindeer on our roof tops. I can remember sneaking into my parents room and snuggling up to my Mom. I had to be around 5 or 6. I swear I heard hoof steps on the roof. I nudged my mom to tell her, but she grumbled for me to go to sleep and rolled over. I listened for more steps. My six year old self was just beaming with excitement. I knew I had heard Santa. He had come and brought presents for my brother and I. Santa is a part of all of us. He is a part of our youth. Eventually we get older and either learn for ourselves or from our friends that the jolly St. Nick is not real. I was dropped the “Santa Bomb” by my friend Stevie. Yes Stevie you crushed my Santa dreams with one phone call...haha :) Eventually I got over my No-Santa shock and moved on with my life. I still always loved Christmas, even though no more hoof steps would be heard on my roof. This is true today as well. Christmas holds a magic for me. It is like a big ball of glittery fun, which just has to be shared. I LOVE Christmas. The wrapping of presents, the jingle bell carols, the treats, and of course all the family gatherings. It just puts my heart in overdrive, happy mode.
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When I had children I knew I wanted to pass this love for the holiday on to them, but how would I do it? I wanted them to know the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Christ is the reason for the season.

After having my son, I talked to mother after mother. I wanted to know what they did to make the Christmas holiday special for their little ones. How did they teach them the true meaning? One sweet mother told me that they didn't do Santa. I was astounded. What? You can NOT do Santa? I didn't even know that was allowed. How does that even work? Well she enlightened me. Her children were hardcore Santa fans, until they decided one day to pray to him. Their little selves understood that they had been told that Santa could see them when they were sleeping and when they were awake, so he must be like God....Right? Well this Mother knew she had to do something fast. She sat those children down and dropped the “Santa Bomb”. You know the “He isn't real” bomb.The thinking of her little ones made sense. We teach our children the gospel everyday, and the holidays should be no different.

After hearing her story I decided what I would do. I would not discourage Santa, but I wouldn't encourage it either. Hubby was on board with my plan. We would do fun holiday things, string Christmas lights, give presents, but we would teach the gospel principles behind everything we did.

Anytime I discipline my children, I do it through the gospel. When they have made a wrong choice, I remind them that those are things that make their Heavenly Father sad. By learning how little things can be unpleasing to the Lord, they are able to understand how bigger, poor choices can be just as bad. They begin from toddlerhood to realize that everything has an eternal, spiritual consequence. We continue this teaching at Christmas time.
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Every year we do a countdown. When my kids were toddlers we used the Alphabet to help us countdown to Christmas. For 26 days we crafted, created, baked, sang, and skipped our way to Christmas. This was such a fun way to get my then 3 and 18 month old into the spirit of the season. We started off slow with the gospel principles we taught. We mainly focused on a cliff notes version of the Christmas story. We wanted to make sure they knew who Christmas was for.

As it gets closer to Christmas we start The Twelve Prayers of Christmas. We get out our book and the nativity. We read a poem each night and add one piece to the nativity. On Christmas Eve is when we read the whole Christmas story again and add Christ. I love this book because it breaks down the nativity so simply for us. We are able to talk about why we give presents. We do this when we add the wise men. We give presents to remember how the wise men brought Christmas gifts after he was born. We bake star cookies when we talk about the new star that shone in the sky. We make every moment count. I am going to write up a post with a breakdown of the 12 prayers of Christmas, just in case anyone is looking to start a new tradition with their family this year.
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We still have fun with Santa. We make Santa crafts, Santa treats, and watch The Santa Clause Movies. We do this because it is a fun, magical part of Christmas. I get to have fun with my kids and be one myself for the whole month of December. I look forward to it. By not “doing Santa”, you're really just taking the focus off the man in the red suit and putting it back on the Savior. Because after all, you can't have Christmas without out Christ.

Thank you all for always being such amazing supportive readers. I would love to hear what you do to make the season brighter for your family. How do you focus on Christ during this season?

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Countdown: Simple Activities to Make Your Holiday Brighter

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Every year I do countdowns with my kids. I think it is a great way to celebrate each day and do something fun with them. When I get ready to make a countdown, I look at what we did the previous year. I started when my kids were toddlers, Keagan was about 3 and Libby was barely walking. I keep the activities we really liked and then add a few new ones.

 I then check out my library's website. They have an activity calendar for each month posted there. I check and see what fun activities they have going on. We have a few libraries that are close to us, so I have a pretty good selection to choose from. I also check out my parks and recreation site. They usually have some fun, free things for families to do. I always look for free activities. Doing a countdown doesn't have to cost a lot. I choose simple activities, which I will usually have the stuff on hand to do.

Sometimes it is easy to browse pinterest and see all the fun countdown activities and such. This can leave you feeling like you have to rush out and buy craft supplies and what not. Resist that urge. Always base your countdowns around what you already have. When your kids look back, they will not remember the money you spent. They will remember the moments shared together. I always remind myself of this when the urge to spend rears its ugly head.

After the list is made, we make a countdown chain. All you need is construction paper and a pencil. Write your activities on the chains or the days till Christmas. It's a free, easy way to countdown to the Merry day!

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Now that you know how I make my countdown lists,
 let's check out this years Christmas activity countdown.

1. Visit Ethel M. Chocolate Factory
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Every year we have a tradition of visiting Ethel M. Chocolate Factory. You get to go on a small factory tour and then see all the lights they set up in the cactus garden. It is fun for the whole family. Makes for a great Family Home Evening too. Oh and did I mention it is FREE. Oh yes my favorite thing!

2. Make gingerbread houses
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3. Make reindeer pancakes
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I have some fun molds I found on Ebay. 
They are great for making festive pancakes. 

4. Deliver treats to friends

5. Go carolling

6.Drink hot chocolate

7. Drive around and look at Christmas lights
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This is an easy, free activity. Just pop some popcorn and go for a drive after dinner. It is a perfect time to check out all the fancy lights in your neighborhood

8. Watch Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas and have a "Grinch Feast"
Our Grinch Feast" will consist of who-roast beef sandwiches, fruit, and who-chocolate pudding. Simple and yummy! 

9. Bake Christmas Sugar Cookies and frost them

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10. Play pin the nose on the reindeer

11. Go Christmas shopping for siblings
This is where we give each of our littles $10. They then get to shop for their sibling. They have to stay within budget. We also have them earn the money by doing extra chores around the house.

12. Ice cream cone treat
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13. Elf Breakfast
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 We watch the movie Elf and have a special Elf worthy breakfast. Powdered doughnuts, marshmallows, and fruit. Not nutritional at all, but a lot of fun for the kids. Hey they are only this little once:)


14. Christmas mega movie night + living room camp out
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We bring the kids mattresses out into the living room, pile up the blankets and pillows, and have a camp out. We watch 2-3 Christmas movies, eat pizza, and snack on popcorn treats. We do this for Halloween too and my kids love it!

15. Christmas Story Time @ Library
I try to participate in as much stuff at the library as I can. It is fun for the kids and FREE. What more can you ask for? Just check out your library's website and see what activities they have going on.

16. Make a Christmas Star
When we do this activity we always talk about the new star that appeared in the sky when Christ was born. This is a simple way to do a craft with them and teach them as well.

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17. Make Snowflakes
They love making simple paper snowflakes and hanging them throughout the house. These stay up till after January. They double as winter decor as well.

18. Set up the manger and read Room for a Little One


19. $5 Crazy Dinner
I write "main course", "side dish", "drink", and "dessert" on slips of paper. We each pick a slip from a hat and then go to the store together. We each pick something to go with our type of dish, but we can only spend $5. Once we get all our food, we come home, cook it, and do a movie night. My kids love this one. We do it each year.

20. Watch Charlie Brown Christmas and have a treat

21. Make a hand print Christmas Tree

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22. Make a new ornament for the tree

23. Donate toys to charity
We let the kids each pick out a new toy at the store. We then donate it to a charity. We also have them go through their old toys and donate a few as well. This is a great time to talk to your kids about how some children may not get toys this Christmas. I try to do this, so that my children know how important it is for us to help others. We started this with them as toddlers and now they look forward to donating items at Christmas time. They are happy they are able to make someone's holiday brighter.


24. Read the Christmas Story and have a family brunch
We do this every year with my husbands family. We all exchange our secret Santa presents and have a Christmas Eve brunch. It is always so fun. We also talk to the kids about the Christmas story (birth of Christ) BEFORE presents are opened. It is a great reminder for them and me. I never want to forget why this great holiday is celebrated.

25. Christmas Day!

Each day we do one of these activities. I always try to chose simple things that we can do, even when busy schedules occur. I always try to remember it is about my littles enjoying the holidays. It has to be fun for them. That is the most important thing for me. We also do a Christmas Book List (I will post this year's list soon).

Some other fun Christmas activities are

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Cookie Wreaths 

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M and M Syllable Trees

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Addition Christmas Tree

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Make Snowman Pancakes

Are you ready to make a Christmas countdown for your family? Go on...you will have such a fun time celebrating this joyous month with your littles!. Let me know what you all do to help celebrate the season. I love hearing what others do...it is a great way to get some more ideas :)

Have a wonderful day lovelies!

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10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards

10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards via The Thinking Closet Greetings! My name is Lauren, and I am th-th-th-thrilled to kick off my first guest post {ever} here on Blissful and Domestic. Thanks so much, Danielle, 
Lauren from The Thinking Closet 
This is my thrilled face

To introduce myself to you, dear reader, these are a few of my favorite things: laughing, theatre, cookie dough, fabric stores, Downton Abbey, chai lattes with whipped cream on top, zumba, sailing with my hubby Mark, and blogging! Nearly three months ago, I dove head first into creating my blog, The Thinking Closet, a space for letting creativity to splish, splash, and spill. Suffice it to say, I'm having a ball (and making a lot of messes). My projects tend to fall into one of five categories: DIY, home decor, sewing, journaling, or all of the above. I hope you stop on by!
Visit My Blog, The Thinking Closet!
So, let's talk Christmas cards. I don't know about you, but the thought of compiling address, stamping envelopes, and signing 70 Christmas cards during the busiest time of year makes me break out into hives. It feels so overwhelming! And I know it overwhelms our landfills. Christmas cards usually have a pretty short life span during the holiday season. Most get tossed by the new year...unless you're my Mom and save them for always (love you, Mom). Two years ago, my husband and I got inspired when we received a digital newsletter from our college friends, Ryan and Kelsey, and decided that we, too, wanted to go green and send a digital Christmas letter to our family. We still wanted to maintain a personal feel to our correspondence, so we started off by handwriting our letters. Then, we scanned them to the computer, added digital photos and text in PowerPoint, converted the file to pdf, and with the click of a button, emailed our Christmas letter to our closest family and friends. All for the cost of: $0.00. Here are some glimpses at the pages of our letters to give you a sense of the marriage between the digital and handmade:10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet 10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet So, there you have it! #1 on our list: #1) Digital "Handmade" Letters. We have made this an annual tradition and aim to get our letter out in November before the holiday mayhem descends. Our recipients also have more time to read our letter! It works out well for all.

Here are nine other ways that you and your family can go green with Christmas cards this year.

(Note: I am not a salesperson for any of the companies listed below...just an avid fan eager to share some great resources.) #2) E-Cards: One of my favorite sites for electronic cards is Paperless Post. I've used them before with e-vites, and they maintain the feeling one gets from opening an elegant card, all while remaining paperless! You even receive the e-card in an e-envelope that opens when you click it (that's my favorite part of the whole process). You have a barrage of options to choose from when it comes to format, including 66 templates to which you can add your own photos. They range with price, some of them being free, and others costing a few cents. Some other e-card companies include Blue Mountain & Egreetings.
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
#3) Audio Postcard: This option is about as simple as it gets and is absolutely free. I created an audio postcard with a birthday message for my husband, and it took less then five minutes. Just visit www.Postcard.fm, upload a picture, upload an mp3, enter email addresses, add a message, and you're done! You could even record your family giving verbal updates using a digital voice recorder in lieu of a song. 10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet #4) Mobile Postcard: Red Stamp is my new favorite iPhone app. First of all, it's free! Secondly, it's a great way to send a holiday greeting straight from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch directly to your loved ones via text or email. They have a wide variety of Christmas and Hanukkah templates, many of which allow you to upload up to four photos. Include a personal message and with a few clicks, you're done! It's very user-friendly. We first learned about this app from my bro-and-sis-in-law who sent Mark a Red Stamp birthday message via text. It really made his day! justWink is another free app with similar features that boasts compatibility with Android smart phones, as well.
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
#5) Send a Song!: Gather the family around to sing a song to email to your recipients as an mp3. My former boss from New York, Suzy, nannied for a little boy named Sam. Each Christmas, they would record a "rough cut" rendition of their new favorite holiday song and email it to friends and family. It was such a personal and delightful message to receive! (Their cover of "Baby it's Cold Outside" is about the cutest thing ever.) If you're not feeling musically inclined, consider delivering a spoken message or holiday poem. The sound of your voice is sure to warm the hearts of your loved ones. Wondering about cheap and easy ways to record your voice? Mac users can use the Garage Band application; smart phone users can record a "voice memo" on their phone and email to themselves; and here's an article on how to record your voice on a P.C.
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
#6) Photo Collage: A picture is worth 1,000 words, right? So, why not send 16,000 words with a photo collage! Smilebox is the way to go when creating a free photo collage online. They give you a plethora of options when choosing your own background, font, layout, and photos (up to 16). You also have the ability to add your own music. Share your photo collage with friends and family via email or through a post on Facebook. 10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet #7) Video Slideshow: There are several sites that now offer services for creating video slideshows, and Animoto is one of them. You can easily make a video commemorating the events of your year with music, pictures, and video. All you do is upload your pics/vids and select a song (the site does all of the editing and arranging for you). Then, send it to your friends via email or embed it to your Facebook page or blog. It only costs $2.50 - $5, pennies compared to what you'd spend mailing out Christmas cards. You can also use Smilebox to create a very professional looking slideshow with text, photos, and video. 10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet

If you're set on sending paper cards in the mail, here are some green ways to go about it.

#8) Postcards: Not only do you use a quarter less of the amount of paper when opting for postcards over cards-and-envelopes, you also pay less in postage! (The current postage rate is 32 cents.) Here are some sites that allow you to create customized Christmas postcards: Minted, Tiny Prints, & Zazzle.
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
#9) Buy Recycled Cards - Consider buying recycled or handmade Christmas cards from your shop down the street. Or explore the wealth of options at your fingertips online. Cards Direct, Cards for Causes, and Pear Tree Greetings all offer recycled paper options for your holiday cards.
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
#10) D.I.Y. Cards - Craft time! Create your own cards using paper you already have on hand (old holiday gift-wrap, brown paper grocery bags, wallpaper samples, scrapbook paper...you get the picture). Bust out stamps, glitter, and glue, turn up the Bing Crosby Christmas tunes, and make it a family affair!
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
With these supplies: grocery bag, once-used gift ribbon, zig-zag scrapbook scissors, alphabet stamps, stamp-pad, hot glue, and buttons...
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet

...I made this holiday card!
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
10 Ways to Go Green with Christmas Cards by The Thinking Closet
So, there you have it - - 10 easy, inexpensive, and stress-free ways of going green with your Christmas cards this holiday season. Turns out, it doesn't have to be a hives-inducing event for you or the environment. (What a relief.) Thanks again to Danielle for having me here today. And I hope you stop by The Thinking Closet to check out some of my D.I.Y. projects and tutorials such as my Felt Flower Wreath, Wedding Invitation Ornament, and Anthropologie Wallpaper Coasters. The Thinking Closet: Projects Happiest of holidays to you and yours. 
 This is Lauren, signing off.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

School Days


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School days....
Left over turkey crafts, Cherrios, Arthur chapter books, Social Studies, stars on our book wall, and a new How Does She post on Christmas budgeting. My past week in a nut shell. How is your week going?

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