Thursday, July 30, 2009

Christmas Gift Ideas

As you can tell from reading all my posts about the Christmas Book activities, I'm really trying to plan ahead this year for gift-giving. It seems like every year during about the first or second week of December I start panicking about what I'm going to give people like Sunday School teachers, piano teachers, bus drivers, etc. This year I'm getting a big head start. I went to Hancock Fabrics the other day and bought a few fun Christmas cotton prints. I'm planning to make up some reversible cloth napkins. Then I'll package a napkin or two with a Christmas mug (I've picked up a bunch of cute ones at Goodwill for about 59 cents each), a package of Minty Hot Cocoa Mix (recipe below), a chocolate spoon, and a bag of homemade star-shaped peppermint marshmallows. Wouldn't that be a fun gift to receive? I'm also going to use Christmas fabric to make an apron for my sons' teachers. Oh, I am my youngest son's teacher, so I guess that means I'm getting a new Christmas apron this year. YAY! I have made several aprons as gifts, but don't actually own ANY myself.

Here are the three fabrics I chose. Not the greatest picture, however.

Here is the Minty Cocoa Mix recipe. I got this recipe from this awesome book that I own. I LOVE Gooseberry Patch stuff.............if you are into homemade, be sure to check out their website here and order a catalog. Fun, fun stuff!! for the recipe:

Minty Hot Cocoa Mix

1 1/4 cup powdered milk

1/4 cup hot chocolate mix

1/4 cup mint chocolate chips

2 T. powdered chocolate non-dairy creamer

1 t. cinnamon

Mix all ingredients; pour into a one-pint jar. Attach a gift tag with instructions. Makes 2 cups mix.

NOTE: I am going to give approximately half of this recipe in a Ziploc bag, but I HAVE given this in a pint jar before.

Instructions: Place 1/3 cup mixture into a mug. Add one cup boiling water. Stir until mint chips are melted. Makes one serving.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore

The book pictured above is the exact version of this story that we have at our home. I love the classic illustrations in it. There are many other beautifully illustrated versions of this poem. I thought this version which was featured on BellaDia last year looked really neat. For our ornaments, we will make these "sugarplums" that I found on CraftElf. When researching ornaments for all my other books I came across that gumdrop ornament idea and was hoping to pair it with a perfect book. Then I realized that the gumdrops looked like the "sugarplums" in the poem. I am looking forward to making these. (And maybe eating some real gumdrops alongside!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chicken Recess

Today we took our baby chicks outside for the first time. We transported them in our laundry basket with a towel over the top. (And yes, DH, they did poo in the bottom of it in transit.) I've since cleaned it up............we put our CLEAN laundry in this basket. Anyhow...........they were very cute. We have a dog kennel that our (spoiled) dog never uses so we put them there. We spread out our picnic blanket to sit on and watch them. At first, they were very unsure about exploring the grass. Instead, they wanted to sit on us. I told the boys that we are, essentially, their chicken mothers since they don't have a real chicken mother. They obviously felt very safe being near us in a new place.

Finally after we moved to the edge of the blanket and nearer to the grass, they felt more confident to explore. They were SO cute. They scratched and pecked. They hunted for bugs. Our most adventurous chick, Sarah, caught a big black ant. She took a bite and then wiped her beak back and forth on the grass as if she was trying to get the taste out of her mouth. It was really funny. Below you can see Abby (black with yellow spot on her head), Dixie (reddish brown) and Sarah. If you read this post and saw how they looked when we got them 8 days ago, you can see that they are already growing up and getting lots of wing and tail feathers.

Sarah got comfortable enough that she decided to take a nap on the picnic blanket.

My little boy is SO gentle with the chicks. He cupped his hands around Sarah (his chicken) and she closed her little eyes and dozed off for a while.

Here's the whole "flock" doing what chickens do.

There's my little firecracker chick, Dixie. Isn't she getting some beautiful wing feathers?

And there she is again, strutting around.

My little boy decided to pull his shirt over his knees and make a little "tent" for the chicks. At one point, four of the five were huddled under there as if he was their mother hen. It was darling. Below he is pushing one back into the "nest."

This is so cute............he stuck his head inside his shirt so he could peek at his little brood, huddled up under his shirt and legs.

And there's Clara peeking out of the nest.

At one point, I had all five babies roosting on my legs. They all independently hopped or flew into my lap. It was so awesome!

The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell & Guy Porfino

There are many different versions of this book. I decided to order this one for us. I think the little boy looks so adorable. This is such a sweet story. I remember my mom reading me a version of this when I was little. We will definitely make an angel ornament to go with this book. I am thinking about these clothespin angels. Here is another possibility. Or maybe we'll make this version using white felt and doilies.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Santa's Snow Cat by Sue Stainton & Anne Mortimer

This will be a new book for us this Christmas. I think we'll all love it since we love cats around here. The illustrations look beautiful. For this book I think we'll make popsicle stick star ornaments. I chose this book and activity directly based on the idea presented by BellaDia (The Crafty Crow) last year.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Snowmen At Night by Caralyn & Mark Buehner

Technically this book is more of a winter story than a Christmas one. However, we already have it and it's a favorite. There are SO many cute snowman activities and crafts out there too. I looked at several and I THINK we will make these snowman craft stick ornaments to go with this story.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

This story by Max Lucado has such a powerful message about tolerance and acceptance conveyed within the context of the Nativity story. This is one of the new books I've ordered from Amazon for our Christmas book project. We have several other Max Lucado books and they are among our very favorite. I am pretty sure this book will leave a lasting impression on my sons. I hope so. For this story we will make wooly sheep yarn ornaments. I think they will be SOOOOO cute. They may turn out to be my very favorites from all our projects this year.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Coop is (almost) done!!

Well, I'm really happy to show you all how our chicken coop is coming along. Since I last posted about the coop, I've painted the front wall red and framed it out with white trim made from 1X2s. Also, we added a white cabinet pull to the people door so we could actually open it.........very helpful. Today, DH cut a chicken door in the left front wall. Then we used plywood to make a large panel to hang over it. I framed out the panel with white 1X2s just to make it look pretty. I did all the angle cuts myself with a handsaw and my little mitre box. I also painted out the trim. As DH hammered it together for me I asked him if he knew all this hard work was just to make it look cute. He said he knew that. The panel is hinged at the bottom and latches at the top. That way, when opened, it doubles as a chicken "ladder" so the chickens will be able to get out of the coop into the chicken run (which we haven't built yet). It is a pretty steep slope, so it may be more of a chicken slide (ha!). We'll probably nail a few strips to the inside of it so they have a little traction. We also added a 2X6 to the bottom of the front of the coop (below the door and wall) because the wood was all yucky and rotted out. To give you a perspective of what we've accomplished, the first photo shows the shed BEFORE it became the poultry palace that it is today.

Here you can see the front panel opened and the little chicken door for the chickens to "pop" out of on their way outside. They are going to love it!!

Here's what is left to do on the coop: finish outside window frames and add plexi-glass inserts for cold weather, add ventilation to the roof, reshingle the roof, build roost, build nesting boxes, and cover the back shelf inside so the chickens can't fly up and poop on it. And we also have to build the chicken run. BAWK!!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May

I love the original version of Rudolph. We have a hardcover copy of the original book that looks just like the one pictured above (photo courtesy of Amazon). However, I couldn't find an Amazon link for the actual book we own. There are many versions available. We will definitely make a reindeer ornament to accompany this story. We may make these clothespin Rudolph ornaments. These candy cane Rudolphs are also really easy and cute. And these popsicle stick Rudolphs may be the easiest of all........and still are very cute.

Friday, July 24, 2009

If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

This is a fun holiday book in the "Give a Mouse" series. We already have this book but I don't remember ever reading it to the boys! I just love the little mouse in these stories. He's so cute. I think an obvious "ornament" to go with this book is stringing popcorn for our "book" tree. I haven't done that yet with both boys and I think by this Christmas my youngest (who will be 4 1/2) will be able to do it without too much frustration. This link has a recipe for an edible popcorn wreath that would be fun to make.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown

I bought this book a few years ago after seeing it reviewed on someone's blog. It is THE most beautifully illustrated book. I'm serious. The little boy in this book is so precious and reminds me quite a bit of my oldest son. The story is so touching as well. It is about a little boy who cannot walk so his father digs up a little fir tree each year to bring into the house for him. My oldest son wept when I read him this story for the first time. It is such a sweet story. I won't tell you how it ends though! Since we are making pipe cleaner Christmas tree ornaments to go with another one of our books, I thought we would make pine cone Christmas trees for this story. Last year we made glitter pine cones as one of our Advent activities and those would be great with this book as well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Meet the girls

We are still enjoying getting to know our new baby chicks. The boys and I spent quite a bit of time in the chicken nursery (AKA our bathroom) this morning with the chicks. One very cute thing about baby chicks is that they easily fall asleep. They will fall asleep right in your hands if they get relaxed enough. Below you can see my oldest son's chick, Clara, in his lap. As she became more comfortable, her little eyes closed and her head gradually drifted down until she was completely sacked out. It was adorable.

Our little Barred Rock chick, Abby, was trying to fall asleep in my little boy's lap.

This is my oldest son's chick, Clara. She is a Buff Orpington. (NOTE: That is her reflection, not another chick!)

This is Sarah, my little boy's chick. She is a White Leghorn.

This is Abby, our dog Buzz' chick (ha!). She is a Barred Plymouth Rock so she will have black and white feathers just like Buzz has black and white fur.

This is my husband's chick, Reba. She is an Australorp and will have black feathers when she is grown up.

And this is my chick, Dixie. She is a Rhode Island Red and will have brownish black feathers when she is fully grown. My favorite chicken from when I was a little girl was a brown chicken.

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

This is one of the books I ordered especially for this year from Amazon. Tomie dePaola.........what more can I say. He has so many, many wonderful books. And now that I think about it, we don't actually own very many of them. (MOM.....................GIFT IDEA ALERT!!) This is a sweet, sweet story about a little girl's very special gift on Christmas. We will make felt poinsettia ornaments to go with this book. Luckily, I probably already have all the felt we need. I save all my scraps of felt from other projects and can finally put them to good use.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

It's Quintuplets!!

Yay!! We got a phone call from the local post office at about 8:45 today. I was still in my PJs as were the boys. I wasn't getting my hopes up since we were disappointed last week, but I was planning to call the post office by 9:00. After I hung up I flew into my oldest son's bedroom where my two boys were playing and told them to hurry and get dressed because we were going to get our babies!! It is a rare occasion that my oldest son gets dressed without distracting himself and needing many "reminders", but today, that kid was dressed and ready in no time. We plugged in the heat lamp over the brooder box, filled the waterer, brought the food jar upstairs and headed out. It was SOOOOOO exciting! When we entered the post office we had to wait as there was someone ahead of us in line, but we could hear peeping coming from behind the counter! I wish I could show you the look on my boys' faces as they waited in anticipation for our chicky box to be revealed. My littlest boy was standing with both hands over his mouth, eyes wide, listening for the peeping box to come out. We kept the box closed until we got home.

Our chick nursery is our upstairs bathroom. I took a plastic tub that I had and cut out the center of the lid. We used nuts, washers, and bolts to attach hardware cloth to the cutout area. Then we used scrap lumber from the chicken coop to throw together a stand from which to hang our heat lamp. You can see the setup below.

Here is what we saw when we opened the box. Five little chickies all huddled together. The white rectangle is a heat pack that was in the bottom of the box. The green glob is gro-gel that is there for them to eat if needed during their transit time.

Oh my goodness! They are so tiny and cute. I snapped this photo of me holding the one that I think is a Rhode Island Red. It is a really pretty brownish red color. My oldest son's chicken is a Buff Orpington which is tan and my youngest son's is a White Leghorn (pronounced leggern) and it is yellow now but will be all white. So it was easy to tell them which chicks are "theirs".

Here are some of the girls getting used to their new home. I have paper towels on top of cotton hull bedding right now. When they are so little it's hard for them to walk through litter, so they'll have paper towel bedding for a week or so. It will be easy to pull out and change when it gets soiled.

I was very happy that they quickly figured out eating and drinking and are all doing it frequently.

It will be so fun to watch them grow and change. I'll keep you "posted"!!

The Donkey's Dream by Barbara Helen Berger

I am not sure where I got this book, but it was in my stash. I don't remember reading it to the boys yet either. This book tells the Nativity story in a new way with the donkey as a central figure. Umm............finding a donkey ornament idea is kind of hard. However, I found a cute idea at Danielle's Place (scroll WAY down again to see it). It is listed as an Easter craft, but will work well for our purposes. It's a pretty unique craft idea in that it uses tea leaves from tea bags to make the donkey's fur. I think my boys will get a kick out of that aspect of this activity.

Monday, July 20, 2009

And the winner is............

...........Amy from Occupation: Mommy. I was surprised that only 9 people commented on my giveaway post to be included in the drawing for a copy of Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett. I guess that could mean that many of you already have the book OR I don't have many readers!! Oh, well! I'm happy to be able to send my extra copy to Amy. Amy, please email me at and give me your snail mail address and I'll get your book in the mail. Thanks to all of you for playing along. Hope you're enjoying the Christmas book posts.

Dream Snow by Eric Carle

I bought this book at Barnes and Noble for 50% off after Christmas last year. I think I even used a gift certificate to buy it. I love Eric Carle. His illustrations are just so amazing. I haven't read this to the boys yet so it will be another new book for them this year. Our ornaments for this book will be white felt snowflake glass ornaments that I found on the Michael's website. I think they will look awesome on our tree along with all the other ornaments we will make. These ornaments are so simple but so beautiful. They would make great Christmas gifts.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

I ordered this book from Amazon last year in anticipation of this year's Advent book activities. I didn't even read this one to the boys last year, so it will be fun to have a "brand-new" story to fall in love with. This is an adorable story about a tree that is too tall for its intended location. Each time the top gets lopped off and discarded, another creature is waiting in the wings to nab it for their own Christmas decoration. As the story progresses, the tree gradually gets smaller and smaller. It is such a sweet story.

I found the cutest pipe cleaner Christmas tree ornament on Danielle's Place. Scroll way down on the link I provided to see it. It is SOOOOO cute and I'm excited to make it with the boys.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Great thrifted finds

Friday and Saturday were great thrifting days for us! The boys and I hit up several garage sales on both days. Sometimes we go and don't come home with much. And that's okay! But it's always fun to find "treasures" for a great price. Our best find of the weekend was a tabletop water fountain. My oldest son has been wanting an outdoor fountain, but we've had to explain that we don't have an extra $200+ to buy something like that. Imagine our surprise and excitement when we walked into our first garage sale on Friday and saw this little tabletop fountain for $2. It works just fine. My sons love it. Later on the same day we found the copper tray it is sitting on for $1. It makes a pleasant, peaceful sound, although I have caught myself looking around to see who left the water turned on!!

I am NOT a very good photographer, but I was pleased to find the wicker chicken basket below for $1. I also bought the 8 green floral napkins inside for only $1.50.

I bought this cute "farm-themed" plate for 25 cents. I have been collecting different plates to hang on my soffit, but haven't hung them up yet. Just one of MANY to-do projects yet to be completed.

We bought this Ker-Plunk game for 75 cents. I love getting new games for the boys at garage sales. They can be so expensive to buy new at the store. Today we bought the game Elefun (not pictured) for a quarter. It is so cute. It has an elephant who blows butterflies out of its trunk and you have to try to catch them in little nets. The boys LOVED playing that many times today.

All summer long my oldest son has been hoping we could find a snowcone maker at a garage sale because I had told him we couldn't buy a new one as they are too expensive. A few weeks ago we found a manual ice shaver for 25 cents. It has worked pretty well. However, today we found this totally cute snow-cone maker for $1. I LOVE this little guy. He is so cute. We tried it out today and used some homemade snow-cone syrup I had made using a super easy recipe from Skip To My Lou. Honestly, it is fairly difficult to crank the ice with this. I did it, but it would be too hard for the boys. Still.......I love the retro vibe and really love the and aqua look so awesome together.

Here's a close-up of Mr. Snowman's tummy. :0)

The Christmas Hat by A.J. Wood

This book was a gift to my boys from my mom either last Christmas or the one before. It is a cute story with really beautiful illustrations. The pages are really heavy and embossed so it is a very tactile reading experience. After reading this book, we will make little Santa hat ornaments to hang on the tree. A great thing about these ornaments is that they are very easy and we'll be able to use materials that we already have.