Monday, November 29, 2010

Books For Christmas

In case you're interested, I thought I'd share what books we're getting for our kids this year for Christmas Eve.

For our first grader, the first book in a series of ten. He's a really good reader, and I'm sure he could muddle his way through this and be fine, but I had in mind me reading it to him every night before bed. It's about two orphans on a deadly quest to find treasure and save the world. It talks a lot about historical figures and places, and takes them all over the world. I've only read the first book, but I think it's really great and I think he'll love it. I bought this book at Walmart. They have the best price around, including online.

For our almost-kindergartner, a book about knights. He's been way into knights lately, and I think he'll really flip when he sees this book. It's a book with maps and diagrams that fold out, great illustrations, and lots of information. I bought it from Barnes & Noble's online marketplace. I got it new for $4.99.

For our almost three year old, an ABC book about pirates. He LOVES pirates, and I think he'll have fun learning the alphabet with this book. It's a fun book with a cute story that rhymes. Each page is devoted to a letter, and there are illustrations hidden on that page that start with that letter. I got it from Amazon.

And for our one-year old, a board book with flaps. I think she'll have fun peeking under all the flaps to find the barnyard animals. I also got this one from Amazon. This book, along with my husband's book and the Pirate ABC book qualified for free shipping.

When I shop online, I try to get free shipping when I can, but even if I can't, shopping online is usually worth it to me in the gas that I save, and my sanity in not having four kids begging for my attention the whole time :)

Any good books on your list this year?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Favorite Things Friday: A Handmade Christmas

With Thanksgiving next week, I've been thinking more and more about what we're going to do for our kids for Christmas. So, here are some of my thoughts on toys and such:

We don't like to go overboard with Christmas presents, and since my husband is still looking for a job, we have to stick to a budget. The funny thing is, as my husband and I were finalizing the gifts we wanted to give, we realized that even if we had a lot of money to spend, we probably wouldn't change what we had on our lists. I've found that you don't have to spend lots of money or buy lots and lots of gifts to make kids happy. In fact, I've found that with my kids, more is just more, it's not better. With that in mind, a couple of years ago, I bought a big blue tub from Target, and we keep ALL of their toys in it (with the exception of their Tonka trucks). If we get to the point where their toys don't all fit in the tub, I go through it with my kids and we decide together what to keep and what to donate/throw away. It makes cleaning up much easier and faster, and they play a lot more with the toys that they do have. And you know what? It makes them grateful for what they do have, which is a big deal to me.

So....I'll post a different day some of the things we're doing for our boys, but today, I thought I'd share what I'm doing for our 12 month old daughter.

1) Felt food. Have you seen what's floating around on the web in the way of felt play food? It's amazing! And, it doesn't break the bank, which is especially important this year :) You can find free tutorials HERE and HERE, and you can find lots of inspiration HERE. You can also do your own google search and find lots more tutorials, or just come up with your own ideas. For my daughter, I bought enough felt for grapes, fried eggs, bananas, donuts, corn on the cob, broccoli, strawberries, kiwi slices, tomatoes, pears, peas in a pod, cauliflower, tomato slices, pineapple slices, cookies, heads of lettuce, and enough leftover to make whatever else I can come up with. I bought EcoFelt off the bolt in several different colors, and only spent $4.50 total (sweet!!). It's on sale at JoAnn's until tomorrow. There's a big debate over which is better: wool felt, wool blend felt, or EcoFelt. For me, it came down to price and availability. The EcoFelt off the bolt (which seems a little nicer than the sheets) is good enough quality for me, and I could find it in a lot more colors than the wool felt. I already have batting, polyfill, and an assortment of embroidery floss, so it's a great "make it do" Christmas present.

2) This Black Apple doll. I think it's adorable, and I can make it using fabric from my stash. Though, it wouldn't be terribly expensive if you had to buy all the fabric. The pattern is free! Click HERE.

3) And, if I have enough time, I'll also make alphabet beanbags, also using fabric from my stash. Click HERE for instructions.

In addition to these gifts, my husband and I give each of our children (and each other) a new book on Christmas Eve, and as our big "splurge" we bought each of our children a Pillow Pet. It's really the only thing they asked for this year, and since our other gifts are costing us very little, we thought we could indulge :)

In this economy, I think a lot of people are trying to make do with less, and do a little more handmade. And you know what, I think it's fun :)

Have a happy weekend!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Service Sunday

Today, I'm going to tell you a little bit about Operation Smile. I think most of us have heard about this organization - they provide reconstructive surgery to children born with facial deformities such as cleft lip and cleft palate. What I didn't know is that over 200,000 children each year are born with a severe cleft problem, and it's more than a simple cosmetic problem. Many children born with this aren't able to eat, communicate or smile. And too often, the parents aren't able to pay for the surgeries. Which is where Operation Smile comes in. Since 1982, they've been providing these life changing surgeries for those who can't provide it for themselves. Operation Smile has a presence in over 50 countries, and they provide hope for a better future for thousands of kids each year.

Operation Smile makes it easy to give. By visiting their website, HERE, you can peruse several different ways to help. You can look through their giving catalog and choose to buy supplies for an operating room, post-op kits for the kids, comfort gifts for after surgery, or donate enough money to pay for an entire surgery, just to name a few. You could also set up your own website where you publicize Operation Smile, and collect donations. They give you all the tools to do this. You can also donate your time in a variety of ways.

By helping Operation Smile, you're helping to give a brighter future to children whose lives would otherwise be pretty bleak. If you're interested, check them out, and find a way that you can give. Because really, is there anything better than the smile of a child?

Happy Sunday!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Favorite Things Saturday

Oh my goodness, life has been busy!! Between the flu being passed around and around and around between my kids, and my husband being gone for job interviews, I haven't had much time for blogging. Actually, my husband was only gone for two days, but he interviewed with a company on the east coast that we would love to work for, and I've been so anxious waiting for an answer that I haven't gotten much done. My very first college roommate had a good term for it: analysis paralysis. It's when you're so overcome with thinking about things that you're incapable of doing much else. That's been me. Ugh. Hopefully we get an offer :)
Anyways, here are a few of my favorite things from this week:

I love fall. I love wearing sweaters, and slippers, and comfy pajamas. I love drinking hot cocoa and curling up under a blanket and being cozy. On a recent trip to Target, I saw lots and lots of cute cold weather things. Including this fabulous cloche:
This hat would be fun to wear if you had somewhere fancy to go this fall or winter.

And these slippers are so cute. I tried them on and they are the softest, warmest, most completely awesome slippers my feet have ever been in. Love them. You can find both the cloche and the slippers HERE.

This dress coat is pretty perfect. Long. Clean lines. Feminine ruffle detail. You can find it HERE.

I also really like this non-dressy coat. It looks so warm and comfortable, and slimming. How can a puffer coat be slimming? I'm not sure, but it definitely looks slimming. You can find it HERE.

Do you have any cold weather favorites?

Have a happy weekend :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Favorite Things Friday

Whew, what a day!! James is out of town (hopefully I'll have some good news to share about that soon), and two of my little Hatchlings are battling stomach flu. Ugh. Stomach bugs are so hard on little ones, and there's not much you can do about it. So, I've been doing load after load of laundry, and consoling and cuddling the day away (that part I don't mind so much :) ). Anyways, I'll keep it short in my stolen moment of blogging.

I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago that I love Louisa May Alcott's Little Women series. And since I have three boys, I feel like I can really relate to the second book in the series: Little Men. It talks all about Jo and her husband and the boarding school that they start for boys. I like many things in the book, but one part in particular details how Jo recognizes the need that little boys have for collecting treasures. This tendency, if left unchecked, can get totally out of control (don't I know it!!). So, Jo gets a big chest of drawers, and each boy is given a drawer for his very own. A place to deposit anything he deems worthy. The only two rules are that you can't fill it with anything that can escape (live bugs, frogs, snakes, etc.) and you only get one drawer, so you have to pick and choose what will fit.

Brilliant. Simply brilliant. I am totally adopting this idea. My boys (and girl for that matter) would love to have a space all to themselves that they could fill with whatever they want. I love it because it satisfies their need to collect things, and it satisfies my need for an orderly, attractive home. Which brings me to this picture:

(Image via A Life of Blue)

I am really loving this painted sideboard. Something like this would be a perfect host for little boy and girl treasures, and I love that it's beautiful and funky and you could put it anywhere in your home. I'm totally doing this. People sell old furniture like this all the time at garage sales, for cheap. Usually because the finish is ruined, but that makes it a perfect candidate for painting. And the stripes? LOVE. It works because the color difference is subtle. Fun, but elegant. The process of refinishing this sideboard was blogged HERE.

As always, Happy Friday, and weekend!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Service Sunday...A Day Late

How is it even possible to get two colds back to back? When my family all came down with colds a couple of days ago, I thought I had just passed on what I had the week before (I'm nice like that). But no, last night I had a massive sinus headache (like a bajillion on the pain scale), a scratchy throat, stuffy/runny nose...argh. My awesome husband rubbed my neck for me, as I was writhing in pain and complaining because the pounding in my head was so bad that I couldn't watch Psych with him on Netflix. He must have hit some sort of pressure point because all of the sudden, my sinuses cleared, the pressure was relieved and my headache was gone. Just. Like. That. Thanks, babe :)

Anyways, the service op this week is with United Way. If you visit their website HERE, you can click on "volunteer" over on the right (big orange button) and it takes you to a page where you can type in your zipcode. Then, it pulls up a list of local oppurtunities. For my area, it pulled up several things, ranging from putting together "kid care packages" for children who have been pulled out of dangerous situations, to volunteering at a local retirement home.

If you don't live in a big enough city, you may not get any hits, but it will list the contact info for your local United Way. You can then contact them and see if they have anything you can help with.

This is a great opportunity to get the whole family involved in service :)

Happy Monday!