Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent Day 24: The Night Before Christmas

Well we made through our bookish Advent Calendar! A collection of 24 beautiful Christmas books, old and new. I was so happy that James and Emily enjoyed this countdown and I loved the excitement of unwrapping the next book each morning and reading it together as we  ate our breakfast.

The Night Before ChristmasOn Christmas Eve, day 24 of our bookish Advent Calendar, we read The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by Mary Engelbreit.  Such a classic poem that many of us can recite by heart. It is a tradition in our house to read this book before the children go to bed.

The illustrations are divine! The vibrant colours and the intricate detail are just perfect for Christmas.

We have put out a bucket of water, some carrots and special flying food (rolled oats with glitter!) for the reindeer. We made a special batch of our Peanut Butter and Choc Chip cookies for Santa and we left him a glass of juice as well. Our sacks are set up in the lounge room waiting for Santa to fill them with presents (that’s if we have been good enough!) 

What do you leave out for Santa and his reindeer?

I would like to wish all my readers a Very Merry Christmas. Thank you so much for visiting, commenting and sharing ideas throughout the year. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas day filled with fun (and of course fabulous food) with family and friends.

I am having a short blogging break and will return in a few days with lots of new books and crafting fun.  Until then, stay safe and enjoy the festive season.

Happy Holidays!

Advent Day 23: Aussie Jingle Bells

After a very long 8 hour drive yesterday, we made it to Taree for Christmas with my family! Although the trip was a long one, the kids were really well behaved and they either read books, watched movies or blew raspberries!

So after the big trip and the fun of catching up with all the family, I didn't get around to posting this until now.

Aussie Jingle Bells [Board book]Day 23's story was Aussie Jingle Bells by Colin Buchanan and illustrated by Nick Bland.  As the name suggests, this is the Australian version of the Christmas Carol, Jingle Bells. A family are driving through the Australian outback in their rusty Holden Ute to get to their Christmas celebrations, which includes a barbecue, a swim in the pool, a game of backyard cricket and an afternoon nap. Sounds very familiar to what we have planned for Christmas day!
Oh! Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way!
Christmas in Australia on a scorching summer's day, hey!
Jingle bells, jingle bells, Christmas time is beaut!
Oh what fun it is to ride in a rusty Holden ute.
My Father decided to take all the grandkids for a drive last night to look at the Christmas lights. It is an Australian Christmas tradition for people to decorate their homes with a huge array of lights a and for familes to bundle themselves into the car after dark (which is now after 8:30pm thanks to daylight savings!) and ooh and aah over the beautiful light displays.

Here is one of the beautiful houses we saw.

Only 1 more sleep to go!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Advent Day 22: The Happy Elf

Only 3 more sleeps until Christmas! Our book for Day 22 is The Happy Elf by Harry Connick Jr.

This beautiful book is accompanied by a CD of the song by the same name by Harry Connick Jr. Eubie is the happiest elf at the North Pole. Eubie really wants to be chosen for the sleigh team but some of the other elves think he is a little too happy. He is put in charge of checking the naughty and nice list and notices that a whole town is on the naughty list, which means that no one will receive any presents this year. Eubie decides to help the town get back onto the nice list.

I asked James what elf craft we should make today and his inspiration came from a present that his little sister Emily had received. It is a gorgeous little pop up clown puppet type toy. Here it is:

James wanted to make one of his own with an elf inside. I asked James how we would make it and I was really impressed when he suggested that we use a cup and a sock.  So here is our little elf sock puppet in a cup:

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so far here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent Day 21: A Letter from Santa

Hooray, I am now on holidays! It's Day 21 of our Bookish Advent Calendar and we unwrapped A Letter from Santa by Yukiko Tanno and illustrated by Mako Taruishi.

A Letter from Santa (Picture Ladybirds)

Postman Mouse is in a hurry to deliver all the mail on Christmas Eve. While he is scampering around the forest, he slips on the ice and all the letters fall out of his bag.  One of the letters gets smudged in the snow and he is worried that he won't be able to deliver it.  Postman Mouse and his animal friends discover that the letter is from Santa, but who is it for?

The illustrations are adorable and we especially enjoyed trying to guess which animal the letter was for based on the pictures of the smudged letter. This is a sweet little Christmas story.

I helped James write a letter to Santa today. He wanted to let Santa know where he is going to be at Christmas, so Santa can deliver the presents to the right place.  He dictated the letter to me and I wrote it for him.  He then drew a picture of Santa to accompany the letter.

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so far here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent Day 20: Stick Man

We unwrapped Stick Man by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler for Day 20 of the Advent Calendar.
Stick Man

This is another wonderful story by the brilliant team of Donaldson and Scheffler.  Stick Man decides to go for a walk one day leaving his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three in the tree home. On his adventure he is unfortunately mistaken for a normal stick and is thrown to a dog, used for a game of pooh-sticks, added to a swan's nest and finally finds himself in a fireplace. While in the fireplace he hears a noise! Someone is stuck in the Chimney.
A Stuck Man? A Stuck Man?
Now who could that be?
"Don't worry!" cries Stick Man,
"I'll soon set you free."
Of course the Stuck Man is Santa Claus and Stick Man manages to help him get out of the Chimney. Santa in turn helps Stick Man find his way home back to his family.

The language is fabulous, with rhythm and rhyme and catchy repetition. James loved the story and I had great fun reading it aloud. Scheffler's illustrations are magnificent, as usual and we had a great time searching for the hidden image of the Gruffalo. We will never look at a stick in the same way again!

We just had to make our own Stick Man! We used brown cotton to hold the sticks in place while the glue was drying.

Stick Man came out of his tree, walked into the house and made himself comfy on our Christmas tree.

Stick man is another great homemade tree ornament to add to the collection. I love our special decorations because they not only look great but also hold lovely memories of the fun we had making them.  I am looking forward to adding to our collection each year.

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so far here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Day 19: The Aussie Nutcracker

It is day 19 of our bookish Advent calendar and we unwrapped The Aussie Nutcracker by Heath McKenzie.

A magical and well loved Christmas story is given an Aussie twist! Mckenzie follows the original timeless tale, however, all the characters are native Australian animals. The heroine of the story, Clara, is a Koala and the nutcracker is a Kangaroo and I especially love the little sugar glider possum which plays the Sugar Plum Fairy. 

McKenzie's illustrations are cheerful and filled with movement and bright colour. This is another great Australian Christmas book for our collection.

Do you go away for the Christmas holidays? We are travelling to see my family this year, which means an 8 hour car drive. While we are very fortunate to have kids who are good travellers, I wanted to make sure both kids are fully occupied during the our drive. 

I have included:
  • Some great books to read, including Grug and some little golden books
  • A small exercise book that he can use as a journal to draw some of the things he sees on holidays
  • A few paper plates and some space stickers, which I thought he could made into a space collage
  • Colouring-in books and pencils.
  • The trusty portable DVD player. 

Do you use a DVD player when you travel with your kids? I remember way back before I had kids that I vowed never have a DVD player in the car. I was going to be a great parent that always played games and sang songs to entertain the kids on long car trips. When I had kids, though, everything changed. On such a long drive I have found the DVD player essential for the sanity of all of us. They usually only watch one movie but that is usually a suitable amount of distraction time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Day 18: Santa Visits Australia

Can you believe that this time next week it will be Christmas day? Until then, here is Day 18's book, Santa Visits Australia by Maryann Pfeifer and illustrated by David Van Asten

I love Christmas books about how we celebrate Christmas here in Australia! It's a nice change from the traditional Christmas stories that are full of snow and all things winter. For us, Christmas is in Summer and it is hot! 

This is a sweet little story about Santa delivering presents throughout Australia to children, adults and even animals at the zoo. Santa makes his way around Australia stopping to look at the sights and enjoying some of the delicious treats left for him. My son enjoyed this little story because Santa visits Canberra, which is where we live! 

Today was a wonderful day for us with two Christmas parties! The first was a BBQ lunch at our house with some close friends and the second was a neighbourhood Christmas get together. Good food and good friends! What better way to celebrate the festive season?

Inspired by yesterday's story with a little toy train, James decided to make a train as well. He used a cardboard box, which he cut in half for a carriage, a toilet roll for the engine and lots of red and orange paint. We filled the carriage full of chocolates and lollies and used it as the table centrepiece for our lunch today. Our guests were suitably impressed!

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so far here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Day 17: Father Christmas's Last Present

I stumbled upon today's little Christmas gem when rummaging around a local op-shop. I was immediately attracted to the illustrations by one of my favourite illustrators, Quentin Blake! So Day 17's book is Father Christmas's Last Present by Marie-Aude Murail and Elvire Murail.

Father Christmas's Last PresentJulien is getting older and is not sure he still believes in Santa any more. On Christmas Day, after all the presents are opened, his mum spots one last gift. Nobody knows who it's from. It is a simple toy train, which Julien calls Juliette. He spends all his time with the little train, even bringing it on holidays with him.

This is a heartwarming story of a boy growing up and beginning to question his belief in Father Christmas. Father Christmas has one last surprise for Julien and this rekindles his connection to the magic of Christmas.  Blake's illustration are wonderful (as always!)

Today it was Mummy's turn to do some crafting. I wan to give my colleagues at work a little gift for Christmas but I didn't want it to be too expensive, so of course reindeer poop was the obvious choice!

I had wrapping paper with a reindeer pictures on it, which I was able to cut out and add it to the little poem I found in a variety of places on the web, but my favourites are Procrastistamper and Parties4me.  The 'poop' is chocolate covered strawberry liquorice!

The Poem:
I've hear that you've been naughty.
So listen ... here's the scoop,
I'm running low on coal this year,
So you get ...
Reindeer Poop!
This is a fun little gift that doesn't break the bank.

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so far here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Advent Day 16: Paddington and the Christmas Surprise

It's Friday and we are moving quickly towards Christmas (a little too quick for my liking!). I thought the thrill of opening a book each morning might have worn off for James by now, but the excitement is still there. Today's book is Paddington and the Christmas Surprise by Michael Bond and illustrated by R.W. Alley.
Paddington Bear and the Christmas Surprise

Paddington has been saving his money to take the Brown family to Barkridges department store to meet Santa Claus and enjoy a sleigh ride through a Winter Wonderland. Paddington, unimpressed by the sleigh ride, disappears to make some minor adjustments! He finally gets to meet Mr Claus and receives a wonderful surprise.  Somehow Santa knew the perfect present for the bear from Darkest Peru! A fun and festive adventure that only Paddington can provide.

It's been a little while since we had the play dough out and today we added a Christmas theme. Equipped with a Christmas tree cookie cutter we set about decorating our play dough tree.

I also tried another Christmas ornament using recycled materials. Today I used the ever versatile toilet paper roll to craft a snowflake. I cut the rolls into small rings, which I then pinched at each end. I then positioned the pieces to make a snowflake, glued them in place and then painted it white.

From the humble loo roll ...

... to a classy tree decoration!

You can find all the Christmas books we have read here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent Day 15: Jingle Bells

Welcome to Day 15 of our Christmas book Advent Calendar. Today's book is a Little Golden Book called Jingle Bells by Diane Muldrow and illustrated by Joe Ewers. 

Jingle BellsBear is woken from his winter hibernation by the jingly jangly noise of bells, and he is not impressed. He goes to investigate and finds horses pulling sleighs full of happy animals. The animals convince Bear to take a ride with them on the sleigh where he has a wonderful time dashing through the snow. 

The Jingle Bells song is woven through the story and includes the music and lyrics at the back of the book.  A fun story with beautiful illustrations which gave us the Christmas spirit with many many renditions of Jingle Bells.

Thursday mornings are usually spent at our local library for Storytime. I love our local library, not only Storytime and of course the wonderful books but also for the Food for Fines initiative where you are able to pay your library fines through food donations during the month of December. The food is then distributed to a variety of Charities within the local community.

Here is our donation which paid for my $3 fine!

Another highlight for today was meeting Santa Claus! James was beside himself with excitement and talked poor Santa's ear off. Emily, on the other hand, was not at all happy to see the man with the white beard.  I thought it would be better to just have a photo with James only!

How do your kids react when they meet Santa? Are they excited or do they run in the opposite direction?

You can find all the Christmas books we have read here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Advent Day 14: Six White Boomers

Another day closer to Christmas and we read Six White Boomers by Rolf Harris and illustrated by Bruce Whatley.

Have you ever wondered how Santa and his reindeer manage the heat when they deliver presents to Australian children in the middle of Summer? Well the reindeer get to have a rest and six white boomers (another name for male Kangaroos) pull his sleigh.  This story follows the original song sung by Rolf Harris and a CD is included with the book so we all got to sing along too.

This story was a wonderful trip down memory lane for me. I remember when I was in kindergarten and we were performing this song for our end of year concert. I was absolutely devastated that I wasn't playing one of the boomers. I had to play one of the ordinary brown kangaroos instead - just not good enough! It's funny how little memories like this stay with you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent Day 13: Merry Christmas Stinky Face

Well here we are at Day 13 of our Bookish Advent Calendar! Merry Christmas Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and illustrated by Cyd Moore is today's book.

Merry Christmas, Stinky Face [Board book]

Christmas is almost here and Stinky Face has plenty of questions for his Mama! Stinky Face's Mama is an amazing woman! Such creativity in responding to some very imaginative (and never-ending) questions! How would you respond to questions like what if our Christmas tree blew away? or what if Santa loses a boot? or perhaps what if a Christmasaurus came to help put up decorations? I'm exhausted just thinking about it!

We raided the ice-cream sticks today to make some more tree decorations.  The first task was to paint them. Once dry we glued them into triangles for Christmas trees and also stars. The stars were then covered in glitter to give a lovely sparkly effect and we decorated the trees with buttons!

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Day 12: Spot's First Christmas

Spot's First Christmas [Board book]Another day closer to Christmas and we read Spot's First Christmas by Eric Hill.

It's Christmas Eve, there is lots to do and Spot is helping out his Mum! From wrapping presents and decorating the Christmas tree, it's starting to feel a lot like Christmas for Spot.

If you like Christmas and love Spot, this is the book for you! A classic lift the flap Spot story with vibrant illustrations. My little 18 month old girl loves dogs at the moment and woofs at anything that might look something like a dog. When she saw this book and the adorable little Spot, she woofed until she could woof no more. She then discovered the flaps and would say 'boo' every time she lifted one. She found it very entertaining!

A paper plate Santa was our Christmas craft for the day!

A very happy Santa indeed!

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Advent Day 11: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Day 11 saw us read a Christmas favourite: How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss.  All I can say is fabulous, just fabulous!

While the kids loved this fun Christmas story, I particularly enjoyed reading it this morning. It was a poignant reminder that the joy of Christmas does not come from presents and all the trimmings! It comes from spending time with family and friends. 
"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
"Maybe Christmas ... perhaps ... means a little bit more!"
We went to a shopping centre today to pick up a few essentials and have now vowed to steer clear of any major shopping centres until Christmas is over. I am always amazed at how Christmas can bring out the worst in people. It really isn't like it is in the movies is it? Apart from the fact that crowds were intolerable, everyone seemed to have scowls on their faces, they were rushing around like it's the end of the world and their trolleys overflowing. Why do we always seem to over complicate this holiday? Not fun, especially with two little children.

On a crafty note, I stumbled upon The Wicked Stepmom's light bulb Grinch tree ornament and just had to give it a go. 

Using an old light bulb, James painted it green. Once it was dry I drew on the face using a sharpie pen. I had a few practice goes on paper before hand.  We used cotton wool and red crepe paper for the hat and stuck it on using a hot glue gun.

I think it turned out wonderfully! A great addition to our Christmas tree!

What have you been doing this weekend? How are your Christmas preparations going? 

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Day 10: Wombat Divine

Well it's another Wombat Christmas story today for our 10th day of our Advent countdown.  It is Wombat Divine by Mem Fox and illustrated by Kerry Argent.

Wombat's favourite part of Christmas is the Nativity play and this year he is old enough to take part in it, but none of the parts seem to be the right fit. Wombat starts to lose hope until Bilby comes up with a great idea, he can play the most important part of all - baby Jesus. 

The story, like all of Mem Fox's stories, is fun to read aloud and the illustrations bring the Australian animals alive! A story about finding where you fit within the group and not giving up your dreams. 

Today was James' last week of Soccajoeys pre-school soccer program, which is always exciting! So we didn't get a chance to do much in the way of craft. We did, however, make some gorgeous hand print snowmen for our handmade Christmas cards.  Here are two of my favourite:

I also attempted to make a magazine tree today. I only made one half but it actually fits really well on a wall in my kitchen so I think it will stay like that. It was so easy to do. For full instructions, check out Green Eyed Monster

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Advent Day 9: The Watchmaker Who Saved Christmas

Well here we are at Day 9 of the Bookish Advent Calendar and our book is Bruce Whatley's The Watchmaker who saved Christmas.

The Watchmaker Who Saved ChristmasThe Watchmaker is an expert in his craft and one day a mysterious old man comes into the shop asking him to repair an extraordinary watch.  This is a complicated job and he must have it completed by Christmas Eve.

Peter, a young deaf boy who lives with his mother in a rented room above the shop is also eager to help the Watchmaker fix the watch. So much so that he offers his hearing aid's earpiece to mend a a broken wheel made of a strange material. Christmas Eve arrives and the watch is lovingly repaired. When the owner of the watch arrives we discover that it is indeed Santa Claus and the watch is essential to helping Santa deliver all his presents in just one night.
Suddenly the world around him seemed to grind to a halt. Birds froze in the sky. Traffic stopped in the street. They moved effortlessly through the night as the rest of the world slowed to a snail's pace.
Whatley's illustrations are magical and and the detail adds another dimension to this beautiful Christmas story. I think this book is a must have for any Christmas collection!

One of my favourite things about Christmas is the food and I today was perfect for making some yummy festive treats. James found the recipe for marshmallow puddings in yesterday's Christmas book and wanted to give it a go.

Our ingredients were: 
Marshmallows (we used large white ones but the normal size would also work)
Chocolate chips (approx half a cup)
Red Glacé Cherries cut in half 
Green Frog lollies to cut into leaf shapes

After you melt the chocolate, you then assemble the puddings by pouring a small amount of chocolate on the marshmallow. Then place half a cherry in the middle of the chocolate and arrange the leaves. Place the puddings in the fridge to allow the chocolate to set.

They were lovely! 

With the leftover chocolate we covered the ends some candy canes and popped them in the fridge to set. 

Once they were set I warmed a cup of milk and used the choc covered candy canes to make an absolutely decadent hot mint chocolate drink! So delicious I am making more to package up as gifts.

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Day 8: Magical Christmas

Welcome to Day 8 of our very booky Christmas Advent Calendar!

Like most mornings now, the first thing we did when we came down stairs was open the next book.  Today's book is Magical Christmas by Meg Clibbon. This book is a little different to the other books we have opened so far because it is not a story book. It is a lovely book that explores Christmas, from the origins of the holiday to the traditions that are celebrated all around the world. James (and myself for that matter) found the Christmas customs from around the world the most interesting. He loved the idea of leaving shoes by the fireplace and having them filled with lollies by Saint Nicholas.  

The book was also filled with craft ideas and Christmas recipes (some of which I plan to try tomorrow!)  The illustrations by Lucy Clibbon are enchanting with gold blocking on the cover, making the book seem even more magical. It is a wonderful way to introduce children to the origins of some of the Christmas' popular traditions and customs.

Our Christmas craft today was all about hand prints. James loves tracing his hands (and feet) and he certainly got a lot of practice today.  He traced and I cut the hand prints out.  We then assembled them into an hand print wreath.

We used the leftover hand prints to make a Christmas tree with pom pom decorations.  I love the effect and this little tree is going to look great on the wall.

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Day 7: Christmas Mice

Day 7 is here! This week has just flown by. Our Advent Calendar book for today is a Little Golden Book, Christmas Mice by Richard Scarry.

Santa remembered to bring lots of lovely presents for the children of the house, including a puppy, but did he remember to bring the two little mice a Christmas present?  Of course he did!

A simple story that is easy to read aloud and the delightful pictures make this little Christmas story perfect for toddlers. 

Inspired by these gorgeous little mice by Martha Stewart, we made our own Christmas Mice! Our version used construction paper rather than felt (mostly because I didn't have any!) and mini candy canes.

My husband thought they were so cute that he's asked that I make a few more to add to his work's Chrissy decorations! Looks like I'm going to be busy tomorrow night!

You can find all the Christmas books we have read so here and please visit again tomorrow to see which book we read next.