Daddy's Guide to Surviving the Lead Up To Christmas With The Kids !!!

Daddy's Guide to Surviving The Lead Up To Christmas With The Kids !!!

A Stay-at-Home Dad prepares you for when Daddy has to take the charge!

Ahh! Christmas really is the most magical time of year isn’t it? There is nothing better than on Christmas morning being woken up at some ungodly hour by your kids to be asked if Santa has been yet. This may sound sarcastic, but I really do not mean it to be. One of the best parts about being a dad for me is Christmas I love it.

Daddy's Guide to Surviving The Lead Up To Christmas With The Kids !!!

With that being said Christmas day is just a small part of the Christmas experience. As much as I love the actual day of Christmas there is no denying the fact that the lead up to Christmas can be a royal pain in the backside. Sometimes the school holidays for whatever reason will result in the kids getting off school up to a week before Christmas day. That is a lot of time for kids to drive you crazy. Of course the whole week leading up to it they are crazily excited.

So how do I take care of the kids at Christmas?

And stop them driving me crazy and me then in turn having to lock them up in the garage? Well its not easy! I would be lying is I said it would be.
For me the best way to approach the lead up to Christmas day is to think of it like you are in the armed forces and this is a tour of duty.
Hey I know this may sound a little extreme, but its the best thing I compare it to. You need to have every little detail planned. If you give the kids a spare hour then prepare to be driven mad. To be fair its not as much a chore as I am making out as you can actually do some really fun stuff with the kids leading up to the big day.

Playing Outside

You may think that I am crazy here suggesting playing outside in December, but hear me out. If its snowing then you have it made as there is no end to what you can do. We have a great time making snow men or having snow fights. The best part about snow fights is building a snow fort.

If your family is anything like mine however, snow fights are great until someone takes it too far and it ends up with someone getting hurt.

On Certain Days…

Another thing we like to do and it may just be us being crazy is to play mud tackle football. We do this on years when we do not have much snow, but a bunch of rain.

Now my wife hates mud football, but we love it. I mean there is the downside of catching your death from cold and getting covered in mud, but these are just a small price to pay for some exciting mud football action. Now guys trust me when I tell you this. You wife or significant other will not appreciate you coming in the house after mud football.

A Stay-at-Home Dad's Guide to Surviving Christmas
The best part about snow fights is building a snow fort. If your family is anything like mine however, snow fights are great until someone takes it too far and it ends up with someone getting hurt.

Movie Days

Another thing that is great for keeping the kids occupied is movie days. We will either get a bunch of Christmas movies or we will take a trip to the cinema. I know you are thinking that these may sound like expensive activities, but they do not have to be. Most movie rental stores offer great deals where you can get like five movies for fives days for very cheap. And at the cinema I know my local ones during the holidays have a matinee showing of a older movie for only $2 per person including adults.

Little girls love to watch ballet and theater during Christmas and there is sure to be one in your city too. If too much snow if a problem, have her friends over and play one of their fairytale Christmas movies. Popped corn is the simplest thing to make and they are going to love it!

And lastly, it is fun to help mommy sometimes! Lead the gang into the kitchen to help cut out the cookies or take up a cleaning task somewhere (the kids own rooms would be the biggest help). Mommy definitely wouldn’t mind!

Overall the way I see it – the best way to survive the lead up to Christmas with your kids is actually quite simple. Have fun with them. I know that they can drive you crazy, but that is only because they are so excited for Christmas day. So channel that excitement in fun activities for you to do together.

How to Make the Best Christmas Ever

How to Make the Best Christmas Ever

Without a doubt, Christmas for most people has more to do with spending time with family, eating more than you need to and feeling the pressure that you need to get everything right than it has to do with remembering the birth of Jesus. It’s a little sad that Christmas is so commercialised that few people, especially children, would rather concentrate on material goods and over indulgence than sacrifice and living by the saying “it’s better to give than to receive”. However, if you are able to accept that Christmas is that way and there’s little we can do to change it then here’s my top tips for making your Christmas better than ever.

How to Make the Best Christmas Ever
Eating Christmas dinner together is the most important part of Christmas day

Start Christmas Properly

I’ve never been a fan of decorating too early because I think a month of Christmas decorations hanging around the home takes some of the magic from the actual Christmas period. I tend to leave trimming up until as late as possible because my kids know that when the trimmings go up, Christmas is upon us and the excitement is palpable.

When the kids break up from school for the Christmas holidays, that’s when I visit the attic to retrieve the decorations. I think decorating every room is essential too. I know some people think their living room and the kids’ bedrooms are enough, but I like everything from the front to the back door and up the stairs is the only way to let everyone know that Christmas is a real celebration in our home. I usually add some new Christmas decorations each year, because something is usually too tatty after collecting dust for eleven months and the kids like to see something new too.

Tradition is Everything at Christmas

For me, eating Christmas dinner together is the most important part of Christmas day because that’s when we are all in a good mood and feeling sociable. I’m really not a morning person, especially after a late night preparing the presents for the morning surprise. I resemble a zombie when the kids are ripping the wrapping off their presents, but by the time my potatoes have roasted (I cook the turkey the night before), I’m ready for a glass of wine and up for pulling a few crackers. Christmas dinner is my highlight of the day because I love to go over the top on everything from pigs in blankets (bacon wrapped sausage) through to Christmas pudding with the one-pound coin in it because we don’t use sixpence anymore.

The Queen’s Speech

I’m not a royalist per se, but I appreciate the Royal family have been born to their position and while than it something some resent them for, I prefer to take the view that they had no choice and they live a life in the spotlight that is intrusive to say the least. That’s why I believe that the Queen’s speech and the announcements she makes therein should be gratefully received by the people of the UK and the Commonwealth. I’m not actually from England, but I’m from a country that is governed to some extent by the English, but I love the tradition and sincerity of the Queen’s address to the nation.

About the Author

Karen Underwood is a mother to three and a full-time panic-bot for two weeks every December, but believes it’s worth every minute to see the looks on the little one’s faces and the belt-loosening on the older ones’ trousers after a great Christmas Dinner.

Top 10 Christmas Movies

Miracle on 34th street - Top 10 Christmas Movies

A great Christmas tradition is to watch some favorite Christmas movies. Need some help picking one? Check out the top ten movies from our poll:

Miracle on 34th street - Top 10 Christmas Movies

10. The Nightmare Before Christmas

Coming in at number ten with 773 votes is the Nightmare Before Christmas. This slightly darker film made in 1993 was nominated for an Academy Award. The movie is about the inhabitants of Halloween Town who decide to take over Christmas.

Interesting Fact
Boris Carloff was the voice of the Grinch, but did not do the singing

9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966 animated)

This classic animated version follows Dr. Seuss’ original story to the letter. It received 809 votes and is always a favorite because in all the stress of the holidays it reminds us that “Maybe Christmas, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!” to quote the great lines from Dr. Seuss.

8. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer came in at number eight with 939 votes. This classic tale tells the story of how Rudolph befriends other misfits of the North Pole like Hermey, an elf who wants to be a dentist. They find the Island of Misfit Toys, but are not allowed to stay. Rudolph returns home to find out that his family and a young doe name Clarice went looking for him and were captured by the Abominable Snow-monster (the Bumble). In the end Rudolph saves the day with the help of his misfit friends and Christmas.

7. A Christmas Carol

The original 1951 version filmed in Britain is the favorite version with 1,085 votes it earned seventh place. The movie follows Charles Dickens’s novel very closely, about and old man named Scrooge who gives up family and friends in the pursuit of money. He is given a chance to change when three ghosts visit him.

Funny Moment
“Aunt Clara had for years not only perpetually labored under the delusion that I was 4 years old, but also a girl….”

6. A Christmas Story

This movie is narrated by the main character (Ralphie) relating the holiday season when he was nine years old. It is set in the 1940’s and all Ralphie wants for Christmas is an official Red Ryder BB gun. Whenever he tells anyone this is what he wants he is told, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” If you’re in the mood for a comedy this one is a must see.

Quotable Quote
Little Elf Judy: “Seeing isn’t believing. Believing is Seeing.”

5. The Santa Clause

This comedy received 1299 votes and came in at number five. When Santa Clause accidentally falls off of his roof, Tim Allen’s career minded character gets the job.

Funny Moment
Ellen: Clark, Audrey’s frozen from the waist down.
Clark: That’s all part of the experience, honey.

4. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Coming in at number four with 1275 votes is this crazy comedy starring Chevy Chase as the head of the Griswold family. It pokes fun at some Christmas traditions and situations that everyone can relate to.

3. Home Alone

Home Alone gained the number three spot with 1506 votes. This holiday movie was released in 1990 and tells the story of Kevin a little boy who wishes he could live all alone. When his family accidentally leaves him at home while they go to Paris, Kevin believes he got his wish. For a while he enjoys his solitude, but there are bigger problems a couple of bandits plan to rob the home and Kevin must defend his possessions. He soon learns that maybe having his family around isn’t so bad.

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

This classic film is a must see for many people during the holidays and rightfully earned the number two spot with 1554 votes. The movie is about a man named George Bailey who is having a hard time and thinks that everyone would be better off if he had never been born. An angel named Clarence grants him his wish and he sees what his town would be like if he had never existed. The movie teaches that everyone no matter how insignificant they may think they are touches the lives of those around them.

Quotable Quote
Fred Gailey: Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”

1. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

This incredible classic comes in at spot number one with 1626 votes. The plot is centered around the question; “Is there really a Santa Clause?” A small girl and a lawyer must help prove to everyone even the viewers that yes, there is a Santa Clause.

Looking for some other holiday movies? Here is a list of honorable mentions:

  • Elf
  • Scrooge
  • Prancer
  • Scrooged
  • Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town
  • White Christmas (1954)
  • Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
  • The Family Man
  • Christmas With the Kranks
  • Jingle All the Way
  • Polar Express
  • The Grinch Who Stole Christmas
  • The Year without a Santa Claus
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol
  • Frosty The Snowman
  • A Smoky Mountain Christmas
  • Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
  • The Santa Clause 2

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.

Christmas Theme – A White Christmas (Decorating, Gifts, Food, Christmas Tree Decor etc.)

Line the pathway with ‘snowflake’ or ‘star-shaped’ lights available in most stores.

Christmas Theme - A White Christmas Christmas can be such a whirl of deadlines, decisions, budgeting and marketing, that it’s rare to find a bit of quiet reflection in it all. Some years, it’s nice to rest one’s eyes from the flashing red-and-green hubbub, and focus instead on the beauty and peacefulness of a White Christmas season. To make the most of this idea, you should carry the theme throughout the celebration — from tree decorations to gifts, dishes, and even food.

Decorating

Instead of holly berries and red amaryllis, use flowers such as narcissus, baby’s breath or a splurge of white French tulips; fill glass or crystal jars or flutes with seashells or anything else light in color — even a collection of white buttons can have quite an effect! Line the pathway with ‘snowflake’ or ‘star-shaped’ lights available in most stores.If you keep your eyes open, you will see opportunities all around you.

If you choose to go in for a complete cleanup, fresh paints for walls, new upholstery etc., keep your theme in mind and go in for soft whites and creams. If you are entertaining guests in your home, remember they will see most of the house, not just the living room and dining room. Break out the white or cream-colored sheets and towels; use a large, pearly seashell as a holder for fine soaps; place a glass container of sea salt for the bath, if anyone is spending the night. Use white lights for decorating. They give out a soft glow that brings the magic of white winters to your décor. Line the pathway with ‘snowflake’ or ‘star-shaped’ lights available in most stores.

The Christmas Tree

A delightful idea to take your theme outdoors is to decorate snow-covered trees outdoors with strings of holiday lights. Your main Christmas tree indoors can be decorated in beautiful whites. Use white lights, bows, garlands, ribbons, bead strings, Angels, stars, snowflakes, white painted baubles, white decorations etc. Start with these and you will soon find yourself getting many more ideas.

Food & Entertaining

At the table, treat your guests to party favors of silver-coated Jordan almonds gathered in a bit of tulle, tied with a white or silver ribbon. White candles in silver or crystal candlesticks will brighten the room; you can use several different sizes and styles. A white jacquard tablecloth is particularly nice, as the subtle white-on-white pattern will reflect in the candlelight. For appetizers, try oysters in the shell, served on a bed of rock salt. Serve any brightly-colored foods such as sweet potatoes individually in the hollowed-out shells of white pumpkins. Some of the traditional menu items, of course, will fit right in — the white flesh of a turkey, creamy White Christmas Decorationseggnog, whipped potatoes. For dessert, lighten things up with a Floating Island (fluffy spoonfuls of meringue adrift in a light custard sauce), or white chocolate mousse. You can even lighten a substantial meal with Angel Food Cake topped with white raspberries and zabaglione.

Gifts

For gifts, consider a winter-white sweater or scarf, crisp linen napkins, or a translucent porcelain tea set for two; a set of crystal tealight holders or a china picture frame, such as Lenox; or, if you really like someone, a cozy cream-colored new-wool throw for cuddling on a white winter’s night.

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.

Christmas Theme – A Southern Christmas (Decorating, Gifts, Food, Christmas Tree Decor etc.)

The beauty and grace of the South is legendary, and these attributes permeate Southern Christmas festivities as well. With just a little effort, you can bring this feeling into your own home — whether you live in the Southern states, are homesick for your down-south home, or want a break from a relentless winter.

Christmas Theme - A Southern Christmas (Decorating, Gifts, Food, Christmas Tree Decor etc.)

Food

Unlike most themes, which begin with decorations, in the South we are all about the food. Thankfully for those who aren’t southern, many of our recipes have become popular around the world; what family, for instance, doesn’t have a favorite recipe for pecan pie? For a Southern Christmas, you can spike it with bourbon to make it really sing, and embellish it with bourbon-laced whipped cream. Or you can add oysters to your traditional stuffing recipe for a Charleston-style treat.

But I’m ahead of myself; we must begin with hors d’oeuvres and dinner first. Southerners love seafood, and it’s often incorporated into our Christmas festivities. For appetizers, you can include miniature crab cakes, shrimp, or smoked trout (applewood-smoked fish is worth finding). As a delectable first course, try she-crab soup, enriched with cream, sherry and crab roe.

If you want to get really southern, deep-fry your holiday turkey in peanut oil. For this, you will need to buy or rent a turkey fryer, and for heaven’s sake don’t do the job on the wooden deck unless you have good insurance. But the danger is part of the delight, and once you taste fried turkey you’ll never be the same. See our directions and recipe for making a true Southern-style Deep-Fried Turkey.

Baked ham, of course, is another classic; an authentic Smithfield from Virginia is the top of the heap. Soak a country ham overnight in apple juice to remove the salt; you may need to change the juice once or twice, otherwise you’ll just be soaking the meat in brine. Before you cook the ham, rub it with an orange, stud it with cloves and during baking baste it with cider. Once the ham is cooked, you can deglaze the drippings with brandy on the stove, and reduce it to a wonderful sauce. As an alternative to mashed potatoes, try a calorie-ignoring macaroni-and-cheese casserole.

Peas accented with cashew nuts are also a classic, as is sweet potato soufflé. For the latter, whip eggs into warm mashed sweet potatoes, transfer into a buttered casserole dish, top with copious amounts of dark brown sugar or molasses, and add marshmallows. Bake it until the marshmallows are toasted and the soufflé is fluffy. (This is not a true soufflé that will crash at the first draft; it’s just a light, fluffy version of sweet potato casserole). For a more “upscale” experience, combine whole string beans with chestnuts candied in a bourbon and brown- sugar glaze. Jarred whole chestnuts can be costly, but if you try to save money by shelling them yourself you’ll regret it.

The Christmas Tree

For decorations, be sure to focus on the Christmas Tree — southern celebrations revolve around it! To begin with, you can choose a southern breed of Christmas tree. While the

popular spruce is widely grown in North Carolina, there are also the Leyland Cypress, White Pine and Carolina Sapphire Cypress (an attractive blue color without the razor-sharp needles of the Blue Spruce).

Many people like to decorate a tree with bows rather than tinsel or garland; simply tie large bows out of red velvet or plaid ribbon on the branches, and intersperse with your other decorations. Because family is such an important theme in a Southern Christmas, one of the favorite traditions is to display different kinds of nostalgic or meaningful ornaments on the tree.

These might include the crude little trinkets your child made in 1st grade, or even the baby’s first set of mittens, along with favorite southerners are collectors, so a tree can be swathed with only glass ornaments, or mercury glass, or silver and pewter ones.

Natural Decorations

The poinsettia was discovered and named by a native of Charleston, South Carolina, so it is the most southern of decorations. Decorate with plenty of this plant to give your home a southern look.

Citrus fruits also can accent garlands or even be placed in a silver or crystal bowl to enliven a room. Lemons and oranges studded with cloves make a wonderful scented accent. Limes, pomegranates, kumquats and pineapples also can be added to centerpieces. And magnolia leaves are triply beautiful — the glossy green is highlighted by glimpses of the leaves’ bronze underside, and the greenery can last for weeks with only dusting.

Gift-Giving

Plaid patterns in red, green and even blue are popular in the South, due to the high population of Scotch and Irish descendants. For a traditionally southern gift, simply wrap in a high-gloss red paper and tie with a wide, wired silk plaid bow. The simplicity and elegance of this look bespeaks the southern way of life.

But before you wrap, you must buy — or, if you’re southern, make. Homemade pound cakes, jams and cookies are very popular gifts for friends and neighbors, and are not considered “cheap”. If you have ever tasted anyone’s prized relish or praline recipe, you know such gifts are indeed priceless, and the labor involved is part of the present.

Another traditional southern gift is a bottle of good wine or liquor, something in a price range a little above what the recipient would likely spend on himself. This is particularly popular with men, but be sure the person you are giving it to is neither an alcoholic nor a religious teetotaler!

If you are not southern and simply want to experience the way of life for a season, you can treat your friends and family to southern-themed gifts. There is a world of possibilities here — how about a pair of tickets to a jazz concert, or a small selection of jazz or blues CD’s? or, you can give a finely wrought iron garden decoration or a Portuguese painted porcelain flower pot with some forced bulbs in it.

French and Spanish influences are widespread in the South, so both of these are items found in many Southern homes. A beautiful hat or pair of gloves is a wonderful gift for a lady, or a fine pocket handkerchief or cravat for a man. Southern gentlemen are top-notch dressers, so a set of beautiful brass, enamel or silver buttons can be given to adorn his favorite suit jacket. Or you can stretch the imagination a little and give just about anything made of cotton!

Southern Christmases are about relaxing, spending time with family and friends, and worshipping. So don’t wear yourself out on the details, or you’ll miss the whole point!

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.

Christmas Theme – Secret Garden Christmas

A Secret Garden Christmas

Whether you want to celebrate your love of gardening, or are looking for ways to honor a friend’s passion, a Secret Garden Christmas is a beautiful and unexpected treat in the midst of winter.

Everyone knows at least one person who is an avid gardener. If you are such a person, no amount of explaining can quite communicate the delicious feeling of dirt-covered hands and a damp hat-band. If you are not, trust those of us who are — it’s the best hobby in the world!

For what other pastime centers around the creation and sustenance of life — and what else could be a more perfect representation of Christmas?

The Christmas Tree

The center of any celebration, of course, must be the Christmas Tree. You want to lavish your “guest of honor” in the finest garb it ever dreamed of.

Use raffia or fresh ivy as a garland, loosely circling the tree. Tuck dried flowers, such as hydrangeas, goldenrod, roses or herbs, into the branches. Fresh juniper or misteltoe berries are welcome here, and you can add bunches of nandina or holly as well.

Place a tree skirt around the bottom, and cover it with straw as if it’s mulched — or, with a couple weeks’ preparation, you can have new grass beneath the tree! Simply sow grass seed in flower pots about two weeks before you’ll need them; keep them watered and you’ll be rewarded with an unexpected flash of spring green in the middle of winter.

A local hardware or home-improvement store can sell you tiny white picket fencing just a few inches tall; place the pots of grass around the tree, and the fence around that, add a few pots of forced bulbs (anything from paperwhites to hyacinth will do, or white amaryllis) and it’s springtime for Christmas.

You can decorate the tree or fill stockings with the small but welcome essentials of gardening; push ornament hooks through packets of seed; a pocket-sized gardener’s journal with a spiral binding can hang from the tree; even a pair of small, fine pruners or goatskin gloves can dangle from a sturdy limb.

Decorations

Use nature’s bounty to decorate every nook and corner of your house. But add some creativity to the usual garlands and swags by adding surprise elements like fresh or dried flowers, fruits, foliage etc.

Ornamental peppers are making inroads as holiday plants because of their brilliant colors. Decorate inside and out by planting these peppers well ahead of time.

Gifts

Gifts are the most exciting part of a ‘Secret Garden Christmas’. You an choose from gardening supplies, tools, natural products and decorations, birdhouses – almost anything that has got something to do with nature to keep your gifts in sync with your Christmas theme.

For all gardener’s on your list (you are sure to have many if you plan to celebrate on this theme, I am sure!), a cart laden with Gardener’s tools and favorite plant saplings from the local nursery will make an absolutely delightful gift. Give your gift a festive look by adding a big red bow on one of the cart edges or any of the tool handles. Sprinkle some confetti or streamers in holiday colors amongst the plants to complete the look.

For another great gift idea, round out the stocking with pumice-laced gardener’s soap, good-quality sunscreen, brick clips for attaching trellises to walls, packets of cut-flower food, and other items.

Or, you can do a “gift basket”, using instead a tall bucket perfect for carrying cut flowers, or even a rubber or plastic muck bucket. To this you can add foam bricks of Oasis, stem holders, and a really great handcream, preferably shea butter-based and scented nicely with lavender or almond. You can also make little gift baskets using terracotta pots as containers.

For a rosarian, tomato afficionado, or the person who trims his lawn with manicure scissors, a tremendous gift is a carton or two of milky spore (a microscopic critter that kills Japanese Beetles for oh, a decade). You will be bathed in gratitude for years.
You could also gift something from your own garden. Plant saplings, fruits and veggies – preserved or fresh and add freshly made bouquets if you have flowers in your garden.

Potted plants and Herb Gardens make lovely gifts for everyone. Place lots of potted plants tied with a red bow tied to the pot, in rows on a side table or mantle and ask your guests to take one when they leave, as a party favor.

Decorate your gifts with touches of nature. Use dried flowers, sprigs of evergreens, tiny flowers in holiday colors from your garden etc. to enhance your gift packages.

The key to shopping for a gardener is to remember: the stranger it looks to you, the more likely they are to love it!

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.

Celebrating a Romantic Christmas for Two

Ideas for Celebrating a Romantic Christmas for Two

Not going to the family home for the holidays? Then it is a great time to plan a romantic Christmas for two.

Ideas for Celebrating a Romantic Christmas for Two

Really the most romantic ideas are those that are based on special moments from your relationship or on certain hobbies or interests of your significant other, so sit down and think about what would truly make the other person happy. To get you started here are a few ideas:

Spend some quality time together putting up the decorations. Keep it simple, play some favorite holiday music and enjoy some favorite treat together when you are done. However if decorating is something you know will cause tension or is something one of you doesn’t particularly like it may be a good idea to skip this idea.

Make a special ornament together. Many different types of ornament kits are available at craft stores from intricate to simple. You could also decorate stockings together while sitting in front of a cozy fire.

Have a special dinner together. Set the table for two and be sure to keep the centerpiece short so that you can see each other. Something as simple as some beautiful ornaments in a glass bowl would be perfect.

Light some candles, get your favorite candies and snuggle up together on the couch with some romantic holiday movies. A few good movies are “The Family Man,” “While You Were Sleeping,” and “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

The holiday season is a great time for rides. Book a limousine ride, sleigh ride or carriage ride for you and your special someone. Be sure to bring blankets to keep warm.

Many cities also have light displays that you can drive through. Gather some romantic holiday music hop in the car and spend some time together.

Attend a seasonal concert or see the Nutcracker.

Spend an evening together making a Gingerbread house.

Of course no romantic Christmas would be complete without a gift. The best gifts are ones that took time and show your love. So why not write a love letter or poem? You could also surprise them with breakfast in bed or candles and a soak in the tub. Another idea is to give them a small gift for the 12 days of Christmas. Surprise them by sending the gift to their office or hiding it someplace they would find it during the day.

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.

Making Christmas Special for Your Toddler

Making Christmas Special for Your Toddler

Christmas can be a trying time for a toddler. There are presents that can’t be opened, ornaments that can’t be touched and multiple shopping trips, but the holiday season can be a time of wonder and joy for your toddler too if you make a few adjustments to involve them in the festivities.

Making Christmas Special for Your Toddler

Maintain their Schedules

One thing that often happens during the holidays is parents add extra rules and restraints to their children because there are more things going on. Adding more rules all at once can make a toddler cranky and hard to deal with. Try to maintain your child’s normal schedule and avoid bribing them with extra gifts.

Decorating

When decorating consider your child; if you have lots of delicate ornaments, you may want to keep them in their boxes this year and instead decorate the tree with edible ornaments, stuffed toys, or other items that can’t be broken by little hands that want to touch them.

Decorate with large stuffed Christmas toys like Santa, snowmen and elves that your toddler would love to make friends with. Use some of your toddler’s favorite toys in the décor so that the child feels more relaxed and comfortable among the decorations.

Let your toddler be involved in the decorating too. Play some of their favorite music and let them hang some of the ornaments. They will enjoy helping.

Gifts

Your child may be old enough that they want to get gifts for others. Most parents want to encourage this spirit of giving, but a trip to the store is often stressful for a toddler. Get a few small gifts that you know other members of the family would enjoy and then allow your toddler to pick out some items and wrap them.

If friends and family come to visit before Christmas and bring gifts, you may want to consider letting the child open them while the visitors are there. This way the toddler will get to enjoy the spirit of Christmas much longer than just Christmas morning and the guests will get to see them open the gift and enjoy it.

Christmas Decorating for Toddlers/Nurseries/Kids Rooms

Party Foods

Think about your toddler when preparing party foods too. You can include some festive finger foods just for them that others would enjoy as well; such as carrot sticks, mini sausages and apple slices. Make smaller portions of main course meals and desserts that your little ones can enjoy as well.

Movie Theatre

Christmas Eve can be especially hard for youngsters. Make it a special time by having an at home movie theatre. Let them pick their favorite Christmas movie, darken the room and have everyone enjoy the movie. You could find a Christmas movie featuring their favorite cartoon character or play some of the popular animated ones.

An added bonus is that it will help them calm down and make it a little easier to go to bed.

A Party for Them

Christmas is the time for parties and fun. Don’t let your toddler miss out on the fun. Invite your child’s playschool or preschool friends for a small party. The party does not need to be elaborate. Just keep it simple with lots of fun for the kids.

Make the Day Special

Get your child a special dress to wear for Christmas. It could be a Santa or an Elf costume or any other Christmassy dress.

You may also want to keep one small gift hidden during Christmas morning. Then let your child open it at the end of the day. It gives them something else to look forward to and if you choose a present such as a book or movie it is something they can enjoy just before bed time.

Christmas for Toddlers

Your toddler is now able to understand a lot of things. Explain to them that Christmas is a very special birthday. Use nativity sets to explain them the story of Christmas in as simple words as possible.

Make or buy stockings for them and make them hang it. Stuff them with gifts they will love and tell them about Santa. Teach them about being good all their life to be able to be in Santa’s good books.

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.

Christmas Storytelling – Add Magic To Your Child’s Christmas

Christmas Storytelling - Add Magic To Your Child’s Christmas

It may be easy to forget it in the flurry of shopping, cooking and revelling, but the essence of Christmas is a timeless story about the triumph of good. For children presents may loom large in the season’s charms, but the feel of this special day is created by the telling of Christmas stories, in carols, classic movies and songs and through the symbols of Christmas, from decorated trees to traditional food. With creative storytelling, parents can give children the gift of the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas Storytelling - Add Magic To Your Child’s Christmas

How to tell a story

The essence of storytelling is atmosphere. There can be no better setting for a story than a cozy room, a sparkling Christmas tree, and candles or flickering firelight creating a special ambience. This is the first step to unleashing the imagination.

You don’t have to be a pro actor to tell a story well. The basics are simple. Make sure your story is neither too long nor too short for your listeners. Know what you’re saying and pace it accordingly. Know where the suspense comes in and work it for all you’re worth with dramatic pauses. Use your voice – pitch and volume – to add emphasis at key moments. Eye contact with your listeners helps to draw them into the story. If you’re reading the story, this is especially important. If you’re not, that’s great – but stories need fluency, so sometimes having a book at hand is worth sacrificing some spontaneity for.

Props and sound effects can underline the action of your story and engage children. You can dress yourself or the kids in appropriate accessories before you start. If you’re telling the story of Mary and Joseph and their donkey traveling wearily from inn to inn, get the kids to make the sounds of the donkey’s hooves. If you’re re-telling Dickens’ Christmas Carol, inject spooky noises when the three ghosts of Christmas make their appearance. If the story characters are sitting down for their Christmas dinner, hand out a chocolate each to accompany the action in the story – just make sure that it doesn’t break the flow and the audience’s concentration.

Effective storytelling is not just about the imagination that the original author endowed the story with. It’s about how you imagine it as you tell it – that comes across in the narration. If you enter into the world of the story, you can take your audience with you.

Christmas Stories

There are thousands of Christmas stories out there and they don’t have to be solemn religious parables. Kids may respond with awe to the story of the First World War’s Christmas Truce, when soldiers on opposing sides emerged from their respective trenches to exchange greetings and goodwill. It doesn’t even have to be about Christmas as long as it captures the spirit of giving and peace on earth.

For story inspiration, get a kid’s book out of the library. Or, instead of plonking the kids in front of the DVD player, get the plot of a funny Christmas movie off the internet, adapt it and tell it yourself. Alternatively you can tell stories about aspects of Christmas – about how people around the world celebrate it, or the history and meaning of Christmas symbols and songs. If you want to create a true family heirloom, tell a tale from your own family history or better still, make up your own story. There’s a storyteller in everyone. That includes the kids. You could get them to make up their own Christmas tales and tell them to the family.

The magic of Christmas is in the message and in the togetherness of the celebrations. The Christmas spirit, rather than a new playstation game, is what they will remember fondly and pass on to their own children.

Favorite Christmas Stories to Read to Your Kids

Favorite Christmas Stories to Read to Your KidsLooking for ideas for stories to read to your children this Christmas eve? You can never go wrong with these classics and new favorites. You will find something for all ages in this selection.

1. Nutcracker
2. A Christmas Carol
3. The Night Before Christmas
4. Polar Express
5. Snowy, Blowy Christmas (The Little Engine That Could)
6. A Christmas tree
7. The Bird’s Christmas Carol
8. The Corgiville Christmas
9. The Christmas stocking
10. How the Trees kept Christmas
11. The Fir Tree
12. Old Father Christmas
13. Jimmy Scarecrow’s Christmas
14. The Doll’s Christmas Party
15. A Christmas Fairy
16. Santa Claus Does Not Forget
17. The Christmas Masquerade
18. How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats
19. Christmas Under the Snow

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine 2008‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.

Christmas Theme – A Colonial Williamsburg Christmas

A traditional Colonial Williamsburg Christmas wreath decorated with fruits

We all have our favorite Christmas traditions, whether they were formed in early childhood or are ones we’ve made up for our own relatives and friends. This year, with many Americans overseas for the season, many hearts are turning toward the nation’s founding principles and how we can use them in our modern lives. What better time to celebrate a Colonial Christmas?

A traditional Colonial Williamsburg Christmas wreath decorated with fruits

Some of the earliest Christmas celebrations in America took place in Williamsburg, Virginia. This is the heart of what most of us think of when the word “Colonial” comes to mind. Simple elegance, generous hospitality, and the use of natural elements are the hallmarks of this style.

Decorations

To bring this atmosphere in your own home, begin with your decorations. Many people equate Williamsburg decorations with lots of fruits — wreaths and evergreen garlands accented with apples, oranges, pineapples and persimmons, even limes and artichokes.
Our original forefathers would not have dreamed of such a thing — their religious sensibilities would have recoiled at such waste! In those days, Christmas decorations were more spartan, making use of natural materials at hand, such as magnolia leaves, holly berries, milkweed pods, sumac berries, cotton bolls, rosemary, laurel, boxwood and pine.

Common was the practice of “sticking the church” with green boughs on Christmas Eve.
Garlands of indigenous evergreens were hung from the church roof, the walls, the pillars and the galleries. Sometimes even the pews and the pulpit were included. Private homes were much more modestly adorned. However, the use of these items is so closely associated with the region now, that of course you can use them without fear of the Decorating Police citing you.

Just be aware that even the freshest fruits will probably have to be replaced every week or two to look their best — and birds and squirrels may plunder tasty outdoor decorations. Rather than using edibles, you can add berries, dried flowers, magnolia leaves, oyster shells or even dried okra pods to give your wreaths and garlands shape, texture and color.

Food

Williamsburg revelers were greeted by lavish feasts, and many people were welcomed to each one. Turkey, roast beef, cured ham and venison were popular meats, often accompanied by oysters, shellfish and lobster. A frothy, eggnog-like drink called Syllabub, and the requisite hard cider, lent warmth and cheer to the guests. For dessert, mincemeat pies joined new Southern delicacies, such as pecan tart and oyster dressing.

The Pineapple

The pineapple was known as the symbol of hospitality, so it featured prominently in Williamsburg architecture, decor and cuisine. can incorporate this theme throughout your celebration; carefully hollowed-out pineapples make beautiful candleholders, or you can place a whole one atop a symmetrical circle of glossy magnolia leaves for a classic centerpiece.

Gift Giving

Keeping gifts in the Colonial theme may seem daunting, but it is worth the small effort to see the surprised delight on your loved ones’ faces. Men will appreciate a luxurious shaving brush set or a pewter beer mug; women will enjoy linen hand towels or a lovely tea set. Wood, pewter, brass, leather, pottery and iron were some of the most-used materials in this era, so consider a pair of candlesticks, a beautiful bowl or even a finely-crafted door knocker engraved with a family’s monogram.

Activities

You can complete your theme by incorporating readings from some of the nation’s founders, singing madrigals together, or having your family and guests reflect on which “old-fashioned” ideas still apply today. You may be surprised how modern and refreshing a Colonial Christmas can be!

This article first appeared in the ‘Celebrating Christmas PDF Magazine‘ which is a FREE magazine that you can download and even print out.