Saturday, 20 December 2014

Easy Christmas Memory Making

1. Have a snowflake-cutting party.

Items needed: Coffee filters (I used the smaller ones), scissors, and imagination.  This happened quite spontaneously at my house one day.  My friend was over for tea, with her four kids.  My daughter had spent a previous evening googling snowflake cutting patterns and cutting snowflakes, so I thought she and her BFF would like to cut a few together.  I gave them each a pair of scissors, and taught them how to fold for six points.  Before we knew it, all six kids, were blissfully snipping away around the table.  Making a big mess, but having a great time.  I only had four pairs of scissors, which they all shared, and the two moms were kept busy folding for the littler ones.  We went through half a pack of coffee filters Then we taped them all to our windows.

2. Wake the kids up with Christmas music.

I've been doing this all December.  I pick a station on Songza, turn it up, then go upstairs to wake up the kids.

3. Let them bake.

These pretzel kisses/hugs are so easy, and my kids (aged 7 and 5) did all the work except for getting them in and out of the oven  I also substituted the smarties on some with Skor pieces.  My daughter excitedly said, "Can we make these cookies every year?"

4. Snuggle up by the Christmas tree and read Christmas stories.

I actually haven't done this, my friend did.  Her kids fell asleep by the tree while their Daddy read to them.  What a sweet memory!  I must do this sometime in the next five days before The Day.

I'd love to hear some of your favourite ways to make memories with your kids during the holidays.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Bits of a Pretty Christmas

We have had our Christmas tree up for over a month now.  That's one of the benefits of having a fake tree...and being Canadian.  Our thanksgiving is in early October, so we don't have to worry about mixing holidays.  I love having the tree up, and turning on just the Christmas lights when I get up each morning.  I'm not getting sick of it at all.  A huge part of Christmas for me is the anticipation and preparation.  That said, I am still looking forward to packing it all away.  I'd rather have my decorations up early, and take them down on Boxing Day than put them up late, and keep them up later.  I love starting the new year with a fresh clean start, and the house seems so much bigger when a 7-foot-tall tree is suddenly removed from it.  I may keep the white lights on the kitchen trees up longer.

(Don't forget: Today is the last day of the ScentSicles giveaway. Let me know if you're having trouble commenting on the blog.)

She woke up at 6am one day and said that she "needs" a costume for that same day.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Smells like Christmas - ScentSicles Review and Giveaway

When I was a kid, we didn't have a Christmas tree most of the time.  Or stockings.  So when I got married, I was determined that each Christmas we would have a REAL tree!  For our first Christmas we went to a garden centre and spent an arm and a leg (or it felt like that at the time with peanut-sized household income) on a cute little tree.  As unprepared as I was for the cost and the mess of needles, I reveled in the scent of pine (or was it spruce?) that filled our 400 square foot apartment.

The next year, we had a couple hundred more square feet of space in a different apartment, but we weren't allowed to to "store combustibles."  Meaning, no real tree for us.  So we reluctantly bought a fake tree to use for the two years we lived there.

Then we bought a townhouse, and as we were the owners, we could do what we liked!  Around the same time, we discovered Ikea's parking lot full of trussed-up trees for $20 each.  So I got my real tree smell!  Sure, the Ikea trees weren't exactly the most picturesque, but they were full, sturdy, cheap, and—most importantly—real.

Last year, my husband got fed up with the light stringing.  I don't blame him, it's an arduous job!  We put off even setting up our tree until mid-December because I wanted a real one, and he wanted a pre-lit one.  Eventually I relented and we started looking for a tree.  Long story short, we ended up getting a display tree that someone had returned because the lights on the middle section were coloured, while the top and bottom where white.  So we paid $30 for the mis-matched pre-lit tree and then discovered when we got it home that the only problem was that they'd put the plugs in the wrong way.  I think we got a deal.

But alas! It sure didn't smell like Christmas around here, and I coldn't find a tree-scented candle that didn't remind me of floor cleaner.  When I lamented that fact on Instagram, several people suggested ScentSicles to get the scent of a real tree in the house without having to burn a candle.
I have to admit, I'd seen ScentSicles in the stores, and rolled my eyes, thinking, "Why don't people just get a real tree? I bet those smell like chemicals."
Funny thing: the very same day I was complaining about my scentless tree, I got an email offering me the chance to review ScentSicles products.  So I said sure, why not?

My box of tree-scented items quickly arrived quickly, and the first thing I saw when I opened it up was an autographed picture of Lumber Jack.  I thought that was hilarious, and quickly snapped a picture to send to my chick-lit-author friend, and another friend who I knew would get a kick out of it.

So, I loaded up my tree with the recommended number of ScentSicles ornaments.  My first impression when I opened up the bottle was "Whoa!"  The scent was pretty overpowering, and I worried that it would be too much for our little house.  I was rather dubious that this experiment would be a success when I left to pick up my daughter from school.

Luckily, 30 minutes outside walking to and from school cleared my head, and as we walked in the front door, I was hit with the perfect Christmassy smell of White Winter Fir.  It's not overpowering, and—in the absence of any real greenery to compare it with—smells completely natural.

We also tried the Autosticks, and both myself and my husband really like them.  Rest assured, they don't smell like those tree-shaped car fresheners!  I get into my car and get hints of pine and maybe citrus, and it has certainly made Christmas shopping feel more Christmassy.  My favourite scent of the three they sent me is Snow Berry Wreath.  But I'm lacking any wreathes to tuck the short scented sprigs into.  I'll have to find somewhere discrete to stick them.  Like on top of the door casings in each room.  Overall, I was pleasantly surprised to find I like the ScentSicles products.

ScentSicles has offered to send one of you a gift pack containing the scented ornaments, and the Autosticks.  It'll be a quick 2-day giveaway since Christmas is coming quickly.  Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: While I received free product in exchange for writing a review, the opinions expressed in this post are mine alone. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Good Mornings = Good Days

Yesterday, the kids' school had a PD day, so we didn't have to get up in the morning at any specific time.  I didn't have to make any lunches.  And I got up even earlier than usual.  Sleeping in does not make me feel good.  It sometimes gives me headaches.  What does make me feel good, however, is the quiet peaceful house early in the morning.  Just me, a mug of tea, and a twinkling Christmas tree.

It has taken me years to get back to this point of being able to wake up before my kids.  Even after they consistently slept through the night—even twelve or thirteen hours—they would wake up the instant I set foot outside my bedroom door.  Talk about frustrating!  All I wanted was half an hour of quiet time to myself, yet every attempt I made resulted in kids waking too early, and possibly being cranky all day.

Now, though, they can both read a clock.  At least well enough to determine what hour it is.  My 5-year-old sometimes gets the minutes and hours mixed up.  On weekends, when they are told to sleep, or play quietly in their rooms until 8:00, he'll sometimes come out at 6:58 or something, saying, "There's an eight on my clock!"  So I shoo him back to bed and he goes reluctantly.

Since the start of the school year, I've begun to add purpose and routine to my early mornings.  The first thing I do, after (usually) making my bed and coming downstairs, is put the kettle on (just call me Polly), then make my daughter's lunch for school.  I have only missed this on one day, and then I had to scramble to throw something together last minute before we ran out the door.  I don't intend to forget again.

Once my tea is steeped, and the school lunches and snacks are all packed away, and any homework or other school paper signed, I sit down with my bible and my hot tea—next to the Christmas tree these days.  A couple of months ago, I joined the Hello Mornings challenge. The purpose of the challenge is to build habits around three things: spending time with God, planning your day, and exercising.  I still haven't worked out the daily exercising habit, but the other two are going well.  When the 6-week challenge was over, I wasn't sure I would keep it up.  But my motivation now comes from a different source: an audience.

You see, when I finish my tea-making and lunch-packing, my husband is still home.  He likes quiet in the mornings too, so he doesn't interrupt the peaceful start of the day I need.   Unless he needs his shirt ironed, which I actually love to do for him.  But when the challenge ended, I had a choice.  It was the first Monday after, I had my tea in hand, and since he was using the computer, my choices were to grab my iPhone or grab my bible.  Well, I couldn't have Kevin seeing me slacking off, after six weeks of devoted devotions, now could I?

I'm still working on building other habits into my routine, because when I have a good, productive, peaceful early morning, I have a much better day.  I'm much less cranky.  And I have more patience for my kids, who seem to take positively forever to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush their teeth, and put on their outdoor gear.

And apparently, judging by today, I'm much more motivated to put my thoughts into a blog post when I've had an early morning.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Soaking it in

I have no words.  Nothing to share.  I'm empty.  At least that's how I've been feeling lately.  Not empty in a depressed and despondent way, but more in an "I need to be filled" way.  Which is a good place to be.  So I've been soaking in good things.  As if I'm dying of thirst.  I listen to back-to-back episodes of the Inspired to Action podcast as I fold laundry or cook dinner.  I just can't get enough of the advice and experiences shared by host Kat Lee and her guests.  I want to be a better mom.  I crave this.  And so I soak it in.

Have you ever been there?  So desperate to learn, to grow, that you feel you need to absorb as many good things as you can?  My column for FellowScript was a struggle to write this time, because I feel that right now I need to fill myself up before I can share and write.  But I wrote about my long-proven obsessiveness—voraciousness, I called it.  And at the moment, I'm obsessed with motherhood and marriage encouragement.

Podcast episodes I've been listening to:
Inspired to Action Episode 60 - Automating Motherhood with Kellye Peters
Inspired to Action Episode 57 - Learn to Say Your Best Yes with Lisa TerKeurst
Inspired to Action Episode 40 - How to Harness the Power of Habits (This one made me tear up...simply because I feel so lost in this area, and for a second I felt like I'll never be able to form the habits and routines that will help me get the most out of each day...or because of hormones)

Music I've been listening to:
Jen Stanbro, and my extensive collection of CCM Christmas CDs that I won in a giveaway one year.
(more about music in another post, maybe), and my daughter's christmas play.  She has speaking roles in both the church play and the school play.

What I've been reading:
Hello Mornings Challenge
Mom in the Mirror, by Dena Cabrera and Emily Wierenga (Emily Wierenga lives in the same province as me! And from what I've read and listened to from her on podcasts, she seems to be so sweet and caring, and I kind of hope I bump into her one day.)

What I've been watching (admittedly, not as edifying as it could be):
The Bletchley Circle
Midsomer Murders
All eight Harry Potter movies.  Yep.  I'm a nerd.  I actually didn't get the eighth one watched before my husband got back from a week visiting family on the other side of the country, so it's still on my to-do list.  And don't be surprised if I start speaking with a British accent.  I'm already thinking in British slang.  No one can beat the British for slang!