Need a new Christmas story?

Christmas Stories for Kids For many years when we had a whole slew of little ones, each November I would secretly gather together all our Christmas story books, wrap them up individually in gift wrap, and then let our kiddos open one story book each night during the weeks before Christmas.  Always I would sneak in at least a new book or two, so that along with rediscovering the old favorites, the kids were also surprised by a new book.  In case any of you are interested in such a tradition, I thought I’d share some of the stories we’ve enjoyed most over the years.  (Don’t tell the other books on the list but these top two are our very favorite!)        

This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click through and order, I will receive a few cents from Amazon.  This helps support all the free content here at Owlhaven, but doesn’t add a cent to your cost.  Thanks so much for purchasing!  And by all means, feel free to add your own book suggestions in comments, below.

Frugal holiday beauty

This weekend I have the fun of attending the Joy for the Journey adoptive mom retreat in Lancaster, PA. So instead of my usual frugality post, I thought I’d share some fun and frugal ways to decorate for the upcoming holidays.

thanksgiving-decor

 This silver and white decor could be lovely for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 

 

Christmas ball decor

Lots of pretty ideas for Christmas balls- A big box of glass Christmas balls is $10 at Target or Walmart.

 

Here are a couple of affordable and pretty ways to decorate pine cones.

Dip a pine cone in glue and dust with Epsom salts for snow-sparkled pine cones.sparkly pinecones

 

Or gather a bunch of pine cones with some red ribbon for a lovely alternative to a wreath.pinecone-cluster-collage

Did you know that you can slip ping pong balls over LED lights to make these lovely globe lights?

DIY_ping_pong_lights6

Then finally here’s a sweet craft you can make with some wood rounds and an etching tool.

Etched-Birch-Ornaments-7

 

Before you buy decor items at full price, be sure to look at your local thrift stores and craft stores. Often thrift stores seem to be the depository for half-done craft projects, which makes them a great place to look for ribbon, yarn, silk flowers, and many other craft and decor items such as knitting needles, beads, crochet hooks, baskets, tins, and wreaths.

If you have more ideas for affordable Thanksgiving and Christmas decor, I’d love to hear them!

 

Gifts kids can make for friends

Gifts Kids Can Make

If your kids are like mine, they enjoy giving their friends gifts at Christmas time.  The problem is, even a $5-$10 gift, multiplied by 3 or 4 or 6 friends, times whatever number of kids you have in your family, can add up to a lot of bucks.  But if you can think of fun gifts that your kids can make for friends, suddenly gift-giving gets a lot more affordable– and a lot more personal. Here are a few gift projects that might spark a kid’s creativity and help solve the dilemma of gift-giving on a budget at your house.

 

paper clip earrings1.  These paper clip earrings would be quick and fun to make, and could be done in any color, depending on the preferences of the gift recipient.

 

Decorating Mugs

2. These coffee mugs decorated with sharpies would also be cute.  Just make sure you follow the directions on the site and be aware that you’ll need to buy the right kind of sharpie.  Not all sharpies are created equal.

 

teacupcandles3. Fill a thrifted teacup with melted candle wax and add wicks (purchased at the craft store or on amazon) and you have a sweet delicate gift for a teen girl or maybe even a grandma.

 

paracord beaded bracelets

4. These paracord bracelets are completely awesome looking.  I wasn’t able to find an exact tutorial, but my son who has made quite a few paracord bracelets says it isn’t a complicated design.

 

 

licorice jar
5. What kid wouldn’t like to get a jar of his or her favorite treats?  If licorice isn’t a favorite, suggest mini Hershey bars, nuts or even beef jerky. (Tho that last option might put you back into the $10 range, depending on the size of the jar.)

 

Duct tape wallets

6.  Duct tape wallets have been a popular project at our house for years.  Here’s an easy tutorial.

 

iPhone wallet

Make Your Own IPhone Wallet

7.  A teen who knows how to sew and is game for a more challenging project might enjoy zipping out one of these I-Phone wallets.  You might even want to make one for yourself!

 

washers

8. For a fun and colorful necklace, just use nail polish to decorate a washer in bright colors.

 

Be sure to visit the bloggers linked above  to see the details of each of these great ideas!  And happy crafting!!

Christmas Halleluiah

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Prince Of Peace

Photocredit: InCourage

Wishing you a blessed Christmas with your precious ones!  See you in the New Year!

Little Drummer Boy

Conversation Starters for Holiday Dinners

Conversation Starters

Last night we were invited over to my parents’ house for dessert and a few gifts.  While we were visiting, my dad asked everyone to tell about a favorite gift they’d gotten a different year.  It turned out to be really fun going around the table and hearing what was most memorable to all the various people.

My mom and dad both have memories of getting Christmas bikes that were joint gifts to them and a sibling or two or more. One of our kids declared gummy bears to be the best gift ever. :)Of course my fingerprint Christmas was my very favorite, but I also remembered getting the gift of piano lessons one year as a child, with a prelude of dozens of cryptic clues smilingly supplied by my mom, none of which helped me guess a bit. John remembered the lengths to which his dad went to ‘prove’ to the kids that Santa did exist.  (Tape recordings of the jolly elf saying ‘ho, ho, ho’ and rattling packages pretty much seal the deal, right? :) )

Anyway, the conversation was so delightful that it got me thinking about other conversation starters that a family could employ at a holiday meal that would provide interesting conversation and leave everyone knowing a little more about each other.  So I did some thinking and some looking at similar lists and compiled one of my own:

1. Tell us about a favorite gift from a different Christmas.

2.  If you could eat only three foods for the rest of your life, what would they be?

3. What was a job you hated when you were younger?  One that you like now?

4. What is one thing you wish had more time to do during the next year?

5. What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done in your life?

6.  What is one adventure you’d like to have in the future?

7. What is the hardest thing about your current age?  The best thing?

8. What is your earliest Christmas memory?  Your best?

9. What’s the best compliment you’ve ever gotten?

10.What’s one thing you got better at this year?  What would you like to get better at next year?

Have any questions you would add to this list?  I’d love to hear them.  And here’s hoping holidays with your family will be treasured memories!

 

 

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Time to make Christmas goodies!

Most of the year I am quite happy leaving the baking to my daughters, but around this time of year I usually spend a few afternoons in the kitchen making goodies.  Here are some of the ones we tend to make year after year.  To be favorites at our house they have to come together quickly, because I just don’t have the patience for long involved recipes.
Jam Thumbprint Cookies mix up in five minutes flat and are very easy to do with little children.

Quick Christmas Goodies

 

Candied Almonds are another super-easy recipe.  I like to put these in pretty containers and given them to Sunday School teachers.
Candied Almonds

 

Mrs. Tigani’s Cookies have been a favorite at our house since our big kids were tiny.  I was surprised to find this video showing how to make them.

 

Peppermint Bark is another uber-easy recipe.  The only tricky part is finding a good way to break the (rather-hard) mints.  We tried the food processor, but it sounded like it was going to break apart, so we ended up putting the mints in a heavy zip-top bag and hitting the bag with a hammer.
Peppermint Bark

 

 

Almond Bark is another easy thing to do with almonds.  (I have a brother in law who is an almond farmer, so we get these babies a dab cheaper than at Winco.  :)
Almond Bark Haystacks

And here’s a treat from a friend that my daughter insists we NEED to make for ourselves very soon:  Monkey Mocha Smoothies

Monkey Mochas

And finally, here’s a link to a new treat I want to try this year:  Gumdrop Fudge.

gumdrop-fudge-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What have you found that’s easy and fun to make with little children?  I’d love a link to a recipe in comments if you have one.

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Angels we have heard…

Ways to honor loved ones this Christmas

If you’re like most people, a few people on your Christmas list are extra-hard to shop for, either because they already have so much, or because you want to give them something extra-wonderful, extra-meaningful, extra-special. Compassion International is one of my favorite causes year in and year out, and is a great way to honor a loved one while helping a vulnerable child.

But here are a few other absolutely FABULOUS causes begun by folks I am proud to call friends.  ( I honestly believe I have some of THE most interesting friends in the world!) I hope that you will consider honoring someone on your Christmas list by supporting these causes in their name.  Adoption is only ONE small part of the solution to the orphan crisis.  These folks are on the ground, living in the countries they are serving, providing vital support to families on the edge of calamity, allowing them to KEEP their children.  THAT is what we need more of in this world!

Maybe you’d like to sponsor BringLove.In’s Great Big Dreams to provide families for widows and orphans and to support vulnerable families in Ethiopia.

Bring Love In – Uniting widows and orphans to create new families in Ethiopia .Donate here.

Or perhaps the Charis project to create an (eventually) self-sustaining orphanage in Thailand is more to your interest. (video is NEAT!)

Click here to donate and get a handmade doll tree ornament to give the person you are honoring.

Or maybe you’d like to support my very own sister Sophie, who is currently working in the Wollaitta area of Ethiopia doing medical mission work with the focus of providing medical care with pregnant women.  Keep those mommas alive and there will be fewer orphans in the world!  Exciting stuff!Sophie at work in Ethiopia

You can make a donation on her behalf with her sending agency Equip Ministries.

I would be so honored if you would consider honoring loved ones by supporting one or all of these ministries.  I can personally vouch for the heart and integrity of the folks doing this work in the name of Jesus.  And whether or not you have the means to contribute, I hope you might consider sharing a link (or a tweet or a pin) to this post so that more people can know about the awesome work these folks are doing. Thank you so much!