Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Christmas Day: 12 Hour Photo Essay

We had great fun participating in Andrea‘s 25 Days of Christmas blog post. We sailed with Santa and ate with him too, did crafts and puzzles, even went to the symphony and many other things, some of which I just never got around to writing about. Instead of focusing on work and general household tasks, we actually took time to enjoy the days leading up to Christmas. I would definatly do it again.

Another activity Andrea did this year was create a photo essay of Christmas Day, capturing 12-hours of Christmas, one photo each hour, giving you a peek into what Christmas was like in her house. Christmas always seems to be over in a flash so what a great way to capture it all: the frenzy, the calm, the chaos. So I did the same thing, capturing one photo every hour on my iPhone starting at 7:12 a.m. and ending at 8:12 p.m.

Here’s a peek into our Christmas Day.

7:12 a.m. Bedroom Surprise, Puffle Gifts from Santa

8:12 a.m. The Token LOUD Gift from Relatives

9:12 a.m. Countdown Clock Christmas Greeting

10:12 a.m. Disney Princess Overdose

11:12 a.m. Chocolate and TV for Breakfast

12:12 p.m. Army Men Protect the Santa Train

1:12 p.m. Merry Christmas Greetings with Grandma via Skype

2:12 p.m. Enroute to Visit Nana and Gramps

3:12 p.m. Quality Street Chocolate just for ME

4:12 p.m. Driving Back Home

5:12 p.m. Tiki Inspired Rum and Eggnog

6:12 p.m. Turkey Dinner

7:12 p.m. What’s Left after Christmas Fun

8:12 p.m. Relaxing with a Christmas Vacation Moose Glass

I sort of thought I’d end up with a lot of photos of us sitting around but our day was actually pretty busy. I’m looking forward to enjoying this week and not doing too much. How was your Christmas?


Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Best Christmas Books

I love the holidays, especially Christmas. Last week I talked about our Top 10 Christmas Albums we love to listen too. This week I’m thinking about books. We have a pretty big library of children’s books at home. There are so many great books out there but I have a real soft spot for seasonal books. We have 2 shelves on our children’s bookcase devoted to these types of books. This last month we’ve been enjoying a few classics and some new favourites. I thought with Christmas approaching I would share as part of Oh Amanada‘s Top Ten Tuesday blog, 10 of our Favourite Christmas stories, some which we’ve reviewed and others that are just part of our personal collection.

  1. Ten on the SledThis is a fun counting book, counting from 10 back to one, based on the rhyme Ten in the Bed. You can’t help but sing this story instead of reading it.
  2. The Great Reindeer Rebellion –  A fun tale about striking reindeer set to the rhyme of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  3. The Nativity Story – This large sturdy board book is great for even little hands, with simply, rhyming text and shiny, uncluttered images.
  4. Peter Claus and the Naughty List – This is a great story illustrating that behaviour isn’t black and white and that doing something that might be deemed bad doesn’t make you an awful person (or child in this case).
  5. Olive the Other Reindeer – I love the work of J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh and this tale about a dog named Olive who offers to help Santa pull his sleigh is a delight to read and look at.
  6. Dream Snow – Eric Carle is another staple in a child’s book library and Dream Snow is a fantastic Christmas treat. The story is sweet, the illustrations in Carle’s trademark mosaic style and the surprise at the end is delightful
  7. Little Tree – Based on e. e. cummings’ poem, this is a beautiful story about love and belonging with wonderful whimsical illustrations.
  8. Santa Claus and the Reindeer Chase – This is a great interactive book as kids move a small cut-out Santa through various slots and openings on each page, trying to catch-up with his reindeer in time for Christmas Eve.
  9. The Present – Technically it’s about a birthday present but the concept of anticipation and charity hold true for Christmas also. Plus I just love this story.
  10. Christmas with Rita and Whatsit – Follow the adventures of Rita and her dog Whatsit as they prepare for Christmas as only a child (and child-like dog) would. I love the simple line drawing illustrations with just a splash of orange and green throughout.

Of course this is just ten of our favourites. There are so many other great Christmas books for kids out there. What are some of your favourites?

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Christmas Albums

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

I love Christmas. I love Christmas music. Some music makes me cry from feeling so happy. Some music makes me dance. Some music brings back memories of growing up. I love that about music. For Oh Amanda‘s Top Ten Tuesday this week I thought I’d share my Ten Favourite Christmas Albums.

  1. Mahalia Jackson, Silent Night. Holy Night
  2. Perry Como, A Perry Como Christmas
  3. Vince Guaraldi, Charlie Brown Christmas
  4. Squirrel Nut Zippers, Christmas Caravan
  5. Loreena McKennitt, To Drive the Cold Winter Away
  6. Danny Elfman, Nightmare Before Christmas movie soundtrack
  7. Boney M, Christmas with Boney M
  8. Bing Crosby, Merry Christmas
  9. Waverly Consort, Renaissance Christmas
  10. Various, Ultra Lounge Christmas Cocktails, part 1 and part 2.

What’s playing during your Christmas holidays?

25 Days of Christmas: Day 3 – The Chocolateria

I love chocolate and really good hot chocolate. I could enjoy these all year round but there’s something about the impending holidays that makes that mug of hot chocolate magical.

For Day 3 of our 25 Days of Christmas I met the kids after school and we all walked over the new chocolate shop in our neighbourhood, The Chocolateria (they were written up in Toronto Life recently for their chocolate dipped potato chips. Yum!). They make delicious hot chocolate which was a nice treat after the cold, windy walk. I also let the kids choose one additional chocolate item to eat with their hot chocolate. This was easy for my 4 and 6-year old, they went straight for the chocolate dipped marshmallow snowmen. My 8-year old was harder to please and who could blame her with the choice. There’s different types of bark, turtles (really good, soft caramel turtles, not the type that stick to your teeth), dipped pretzels and pretzel sticks, dipped fruit, truffles and of course their wonderful dipped potato chips. She grabbed some bark and I grabbed some chocolate covered jujubes. We sat in the small seating area at the front of the store and watched people walking by while we enjoyed our sugar high. That sugar kept all of us going all the way home. Boy do I wish I had some chocolate dipped chips now.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

25 Days of Christmas: Day 2 – School Night Christmas Movie

In our house we have a rule of no TV during the week. It helps that we don’t have cable so there’s no temptation but we do have movies and shows that we really enjoy on DVD. So what a treat to be able to stay up and watch TV, on a school night. That’s what our activity 25 Days of Christmas Activity was for Day 2 yesterday. The kids were able to choose one Christmas movie (they choose Santa Clause 2 since we watched Santa Clause 1 on the weekend), have 2 Christmas cookies and a glass of eggnog, all while snuggling under a warm Christmas blanket in their PJs.

I was amazed at how quickly the kids finished dinner and went through their bedtime routine so they could start the movie. It was a relaxed way to spend an evening, much more so then our 25 Days of Christmas activity the night before.

How are you celebrating the Christmas season with your family? See what we’ve been up to for our 25 Days of Christmas.

Write a Review Wednesday: Snappy Build Nativity

Welcome to another Write a Review Wednesday, a meme started by Tara Lazar as a way to show support to authors of kids literature. Last week we reviewed Counting on Snow. With the start of December and the Advent season we’re reading Silver Dolphin BooksSnappy Builder Nativity (age 3+) by Derek Mattews. I have to thank Crystal at Raincoast Books for my review copy.


In our house we celebrate Santa and Jesus during the Christmas season so a mix of both religious and non-religious stories are read this time of year. As you can probably guess from the title Snappy Builder Nativity, this hardcover book from Silver Dolphin Books is about the Christmas Story. Like most of the books in the Snappy series, the pages in the Snappy Builder Nativity are made from a reinforced cardboard making them durable for young readers to turn. The images fill the pages with strong colours and the story, though short, covers the main elements of the Christmas story in a fun rhyme. If you’re child is already familiar with the Christmas Story, they will enjoy participating in the story, telling what happens next. Snappy Build Nativity is also a great book to share with young kids who are just learning about the Christmas Story; the rhyme and illustrations help children to anticipate what comes next in the story.

Along with the actual story, the Snappy Builder Nativity also includes a 39 piece nativity scene you can build. The pieces are built from reinforced cardboard and use the same illustrations as found in the story. After reading the book or even while reading the story, kids can reenact the story with the nativity characters. My 8-year old built the nativity scene herself (it sits in her room) but younger kids will need some help putting it together. I love that all the main characters are all separate elements (the 3 kids are individual pieces versus being grouped together as one pieces), plus there are a number of barn animal pieces too. And each piece is printed double-sided so the characters can turn around. My daughter loved having the kings walk around and they could face either way. I also like how these detachable nativity pieces are included at the back of the book; it’s not even obvious they were attached and you can still enjoy the story. You will have to find a way to story these pieces when the Christmas season is over.

The Christmas Story is a central part of the celebrating Christmas and the Snappy Builder makes is accessible and fun for kids to enjoy and experience themselves. Other titles in the Snappy Builder series include: Snappy Builder Noah’s Ark, and Snappy Builder On the Farm,

To add a copy of Snappy Builder Nativity to your personal collection or to give as a gift, visit your local bookstore or visit Raincoast Books. For other great book recommendations for kids, read through the past Write a Review Wednesday post.

Celebrating Christmas in 25 Days

December 1st is tomorrow! That means it’s time to start our advent calendars. In the past we’ve had all sorts of different advent calendars to mark the days leading up to Christmas: chocolate, toys, magnetic, colouring, even a storybook that builds a nativity scene. This year, thanks to Andrea at Quiet Fish, we’re looking at our advent calendar a little differently. Instead of just counting the days down to Christmas we’re going to celebrate them as a family.

This year we’re participating in the blog meme 25 Days of Christmas. We’ve been working on this at home for a while now. Remember my Top Ten Tuesday post a few weeks ago? Well we’ve added to that list of things we want to do during the Christmas season and I’ve added them to our calendar.

Wait, the calendar. First we needed a calendar. At first I almost made the calendar images myself but they I thought since the idea behind 25 Days of Christmas was doing things as a family I changed my mind. Instead I gave up the design to my 3 kids. I found index cards that we could use and hang on the kitchen wall. I would write the activities on the back, in secret, so the kids would still be surprised as to what Christmas activity we were to do that day, but I had them write the numbers and design the front of the cards.

Turns out this was harder than I thought. Not on the kids; they loved colouring and drawing and using stickers. I had a hard time not letting my controlling personality take over. Like when my 6-year old son wrote the number on his card small and in the corner versus big and in the center, as I had envisioned. Of when my 3-year old daughter used big stickers from the library’s Summer Reading Club to decorate one of her cards, not very festive. I wanted to offer suggestions, make corrections, but I didn’t. I realized this advent calendar was for them too. And they had fun working on, no fighting no yelling, just 2 hours of co-operative creativity.

Now it sits on our wall, ready for the first day to be revealed tomorrow. As part of the 25 Days of Christmas I’ll try to post each day’s Christmas activity, though it may not be daily.

How are you enjoying the Christmas season with your family?

Catering Christmas

One of the things I look forward to during the holidays is that holiday meal. You know, the one with turkey and stuffing and potatoes and squash and cranberries and gravy. Yum, just thinking about it makes me hungry. In the past we’ve cooked the big turkey dinner but it always seems like so much work and so stressful, this coming from a non-cook.

We’ve tried cooking our big dinner Christmas Eve so we have all Christmas day to enjoy, but Christmas Eve seems to be just as busy. We’ve tried making something else, like ham or steak, but you still need all the extras. And somehow Christmas dinner without turkey isn’t Christmas dinner in my mind.

So this year we tried something different; this year we had Christmas dinner catered. Now before you jump to conclusions I’m not talking personal chef in my kitchen preparing things that a wait staff serves us on fine china, not that kind of catering. I’m talking about someone else preparing all the dishes and just having me reheat and serve. As it turns out, I’m not the only one looking for an easier Christmas dinner; there are a few places in the city that will prepare your Christmas dinner for you so you don’t have to.

We tried an old favourite, Summerhill Market, a fine foods grocery store/catering company. From their website I could order a full Christmas dinner that included sliced-free range Turkey (white and dark meat), apple sage dressing, turkey gravy, orange cranberry sauce, buttermilk mashed potatoes, maple roasted butternut squash and fresh green beans. I could order as little as 48 hours before I wanted my meal and I could pick it up Christmas Eve, which is exactly what we did, for a cost of about $24.99 per person (we order for six people to ensure we had a lot of lovely leftovers).

Boxed for transport

Ready to pop into the oven

We indicated on our form we would be picking up 10 am Christmas Eve but my husband and seven year old daughter were there at 9:30 and our order was waiting for us. They were in and out before the holiday crowd arrived. Everything was prepared and pre-packed in oven-ready containers and it was all stored neatly in a box, making it easy to transport home.

So come Christmas morning, instead of running around getting turkey and fixings ready, we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas morning with our kids (did you see my Think Geek Christmas post). I didn’t think about dinner until about an hour before we wanted to eat. Then all I had to do was pop the various items into the oven. Each container had preparation instructions on them: oven temperature and time required for re-heating. The only cooking item I had to pull out was a pot to reheat the gravy.

Within about an hour and a half we were ready to sit down to our full meal.

Let's eat!

And clean-up was a breeze meaning we could move on to more important things like pumpkin pie and a family board game.

So I may have taken the easy way out, but I think my family appreciated more time hanging out together then cooking in the kitchen. And since Summerhill Market makes their food fresh, it wasn’t as if I was skimping on a healthy meal. I think catering Christmas might become another family tradition.

It’s been a Think Geek Christmas

If you haven’t figured it out by now I’m a little bit of a geek. So it comes as no surprise that some of my geekism has rubbed off on my family. Take this past Christmas for example. Under our tree we had our share of movies and chocolates and toys and clothes, but we also had a high number of items purchased from the virtual store Think Geek.  If you love weird cool techie stuff and Internet culture, then you really need to check them out.

To give you an idea about the kind of neat things Think Geek carries (and just how much of a geek family we are), here are a few of the Christmas items found under our tree this year:

Tauntaun Sleeping Bag

If you’ve seen Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back, you’ll probably remember the Hoth planet scene where Han Solo saves Luke Skywaker’s life. The scene where Han slices open his tauntaun’s stomach and shoves Luke inside to keep him warm in the animals steaming innards. It’s a classic scene. So when Think Geek advertised a tauntaun sleeping bag on their site I was originally excited, only to find out it was one of their mock products. Well I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. It turns out a number of other Think Geek shoppers were keen on the tauntaun sleeping bag and somehow Think Geek was able to pull off making some real versions. So guess what my five year-old son received from us for Christmas. You guessed it, his own tauntaun sleeping bag.

This thing is huge, obviously meant to house a large person (or Luke Skywaker). No details were forgotten and all were appreciated by our son. He loved the tauntaun head as his pillow and the outline of the tauntaun’s innards on the inside material of the sleeping bag. He even loved the lightsaber as the zipper pull. Every time my son opened his sleeping bag he pretended like he was Han cutting open the animal.

My son loved his sleeping bag so much he opted to have a nap in the middle of the day, Christmas day! Right now the tauntaun sleeping bag resides on my son’s bed and he has been sleeping in it every since.

My son preparing for his Hoth Planet campout


Okay, maybe my husband wasn’t really thinking this gift through when he bought it for our seven-year-old daughter. I think the warning on the box freaked everyone out: This product emits an electric shock. Keep out of reach of children. Not suitable for those under the age of fourteen. At first no one wanted to touch it after my husband turned it one. Eventually we convinced our daughter to try it and even our three year-old got sucked into handling it. However, my adventurous five year-old son wanted nothing to do with it (smart boy). My daughter swears it doesn’t hurt, kind of tickles, but she hasn’t played with it since. Might be fun to pull out on the next birthday party for a game of hot potato.

Bluetooth Retro Handset

I love my iPhone but sometimes talking on the phone can be cumbersome, especially if you’re trying to use your phone for other things like checking your calendar or email. I’m not a big fan of those earpieces either. But this Christmas my husband found the perfect solution: Think Geek’s Bluetooth Retro Handset. This is awesome. After charging it for the initial six hours, I was able to make and answer calls from my iPhone using this handset. I can even use my voice recognition to dial through the handset. Now I can talk on the phone and check my email, add items to my calendar or even send a tweet. And now if family calls on my phone it’s easier for my kids to talk too without having to explain how to hold my iPhone.


Stylophone Retro Pocket Synthesizer

My husband originally tried to get one of these Stylophone’s when they were sold during The Raconteurs tour earlier in the year. Then he discovered the same thing on Think Geek. We gave this to our seven year old music lover. Of course we thought it was cools, but it was great to see how much our daughter loved it too, actually all the kids love playing with it. Beyond just playing songs (some music sheets came with it), you can plug-in headphones and attach an MP3 player and play along.  This is what my daughter enjoyed, playing her own back-up music to the music on my iPhone.

Dum-dee-dum playing my own music da-dee-dum

Think-ets Imagination Game

This little bag contains 15 small, random items used to generate creativity. This will be great will stimulating creative storytelling with the kids (tell a story based on an item pulled from the bag or maybe fill-in a story gap caused by writers block). This will be fun for all of us and maybe it will help kick start a few of my own story ideas.

And if the items Think Geek sells aren’t enough to convince you to shop with them, then their customer service will win you over; it did for us. The Live Chat came in handy and the people on the other end actually know what they’re talking about. And when we ran into a shipping problem, Rob, the customer service manager, bent over backwards to rectify everything and our packages arrived before Christmas. I love all the cool things Think Geek sells and wouldn’t hesitate in purchasing anything from them, especially after being treated so well by their customer service department.

Flip Friday: Merry Christmas

I’ve been trying out my Flip Mino HD from Mom Central Canada and Flip. Christmas is a perfect time to use it too. How else would we be able to share this Christmas greeting with you:

The built-in FlipShare software enables me to edit and share my video anywhere there’s a computer (home, the office, the in-laws house). The Flip Mini HD also has a place to attach a tripod which comes in handy if you want to avoid camera shake.

This Christmas I’m looking forward to catching some of those surprised looks and squeals of excitement you just can’t capture in still images. And as it’s Christmas, I have a gift for you too. Thanks to Mom Central Canada and Flip I have one Flip Mini HD to give away this month. To enter visit my first Flip For the Holidays post. For a bonus entry, come back and leave a comment on this post with a Christmas greeting. That’s it. But hurry, contest ends December 31, 2009 (Canadian residents 18 years and older only).