Category Archives: Holidays

Teaching Gratitude on Memorial Day

Memorial Day GratitudeIf you want to celebrate Memorial Day with more than a barbecue, you should be sure to thank a vet or service member for their hard work and support.  You can teach this Memorial Day gratitude to your children in a number of ways.

Read a Book

There are many books out there that explain what Memorial Day is and why we celebrate it.  One such book is Memorial Day Surprise, which takes young kids through a celebration of Memorial Day through a parade where the main character gets a surprise.  Another is Let’s Get Ready for Memorial Day in which a girl learns about Memorial Day in school, then goes to a war memorial.

For older kids, there are several good books including the classics The Red Badge of Courage, Catch-22 and A Farewell to Arms.  More modern books include Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel and Fobbit by David Abrams.  These books can go a long way to bringing home the reality of what our service people go through.

Send a Service Person a Thank You

You can download a printout to color and mail to a service member with the address provided, or you can send a thank you card to a relative or friend’s relative who served in the military.  You can even find pink or green camo Thank You cards!

Memorial Day is one of the best holidays for teaching your children about thankfulness and being grateful. It can help connect them to the older generations of their family as well.  We are always looking to share ideas on how to teach your children gratitude! Please contact us if you have any you would like to share.

Thanksgiving Activities for Kids: DIY Painted Glass Plates

If you’re looking for Thanksgiving activities for kids, how about glass painting? It’s so simple you can decorate dinner plates for all your guests in a single afternoon. In fact, you and your kids will probably want to extend your collection once you see what you can do.

Supplies: Glass painting looks impressive but requires no drawing skills or fancy equipment. All you need are cheap clear glass plates or glazed ceramics you can find in crafts stores or discount shops. Any small paint brushes will do. Depending on your design, you may also want to get stencils and sponges. Many different kinds of paints will work including oven-bake acrylic enamels or regular acrylic paints.

Painting and Design: Wash everything first so you have a clean surface for paint to stick to. Draw your design on paper or use a stencil. Then, tape it to the back of the clear plate. You can paint in the outline directly or trace it onto the front of the plate temporarily with a grease pencil so you can fill it in. Even small children can stamp on animal shapes or geometric patterns with shaped sponges and stamps. Let kids choose their own favorite pictures like turkeys or trains. They may even want to put each guest’s name on their plate.

Safety Tips: Read paint labels carefully to check if your paints are food safe. If not, it’s still easy to keep the paint surface away from food. Paint the back side only of clear glass pates so you can see the design when you look through them. If you’re painting vessels like pitchers and glasses, decorate the outside only and stay an inch below the top edge.

Make holiday gatherings and everyday family dinners more fun. Set your table with beautiful and easy crafts you make yourself. You and your children will enjoy the time you spend together, and kids will love showing off their masterpieces.

Rainy Day Activity – Create a Fruit Bouquet

Fruit bouquet crafts are rainy day activities that are good enough to eat. See how easy it is for you and your kids to have fun designing beautiful creations for your table or for gifts.

Materials: For containers, you can use just about anything with a wide mouth. That could mean a wicker basket, ceramic vase or plastic tub covered with pretty wrapping paper. For a tropical look, how about a hollowed out melon or coconut?

To keep your flowers standing upright you need a soft base where you can insert their stems. Buy some florist foam or make your own lining by chopping off a section of iceberg lettuce big enough to fit the bottom of your container. Speaking of stems, you can make them out of bamboo skewers available at any craft shop.

In addition to knives, cookie cutters are a nice touch. They’re very convenient for making all kinds of shapes.

Design Options: Encourage your kids to play around with shapes and colors. These are a few ideas to get started.

Use cookie cutters to slice a pineapple into a flower, give it a melon ball center and stick it on a skewer. Skewer a row of small fruits like berries or grapes and arrange them in a circle. Dip green apple wedges in lemon juice to prevent browning and cut them with a rippled potato cutter. Line them around the inner rim of the container for a pretty layer of leaves under your flowers.

You can also use colored marshmallows or gumdrops for extra pizazz and to hold your fruit in place on the skewer. For extra nutrition, try working in some vegetables like grape tomatoes and broccoli florets.

Fruit bouquets brighten up rainy days. Eat your creations on the spot or use them for gifts and party decorations.

Creative Valentine Ideas for Kids

We are always impressed with our customers creative Valentine ideas for kids. Here are a few ideas using Amy’s Valentine flat cards. These are perfect for kids or adults!

It’s O”Fish”al – Package some fish crackers or gummy fish into clear bags and tape onto this card.

 

BEE-U-TEA-FUL – A perfect gift for a teacher, friend, or coworker! Enclose a tea bag with a sugar stick for a sweet treat.

Valentine Tea Bee

Meant to “BEE” – A thoughtful gift for kids to give to teachers! Any lip balm is good, we chose Burts Bees as a fun play on words! 🙂

 

Valentine bee chapstick

How to make New Years Eve Rock for the kids

New Years Eve is well known for the champagne, staying up late, kissing, and glamorous outfits. But what about those who are a bit younger? They definitely want to be able to ring in the new year with just as much fun and pizazz as their parents and older siblings! So here are a few Holiday Party Ideas to make their night just as memorable as your own.

  • Sleep over party! If you just so happen to have young ones of your own and a lack of plans for NYE, why not offer to host a sleep over for the neighborhood kids. Other parents may be appreciative of the night out, or may even offer to help you out! As a result the kids will have a safe and fun place to be for the night. Have the kids get dressed up and provide themed snacks like cupcakes bedecked in glittery sprinkles, cookies decorated like clocks, or dip sugar cones in chocolate and then decorate to look like NYE hats. Hand out noise makers and bubbles to celebrate and plastic glasses of sparkling cider. If you want to avoid the sugar of cider and the possible mess, seltzer or sparkling water adds the bubbly without the extra sugar.
  • Karaoke party! If your kids are a bit older and still want to have their friends over, try busting out the karaoke machine or singing video games. Everyone can take turns belting out their favorite tunes between munching on finger foods and dips. Kick it up a notch and offer prizes for a contest. Set up a rotating panel of judges (so everyone gets to sing and everyone gets to judge) to pass out scores. Just make sure everyone stays nice with their comments! Just Dance! and other dance related games can make a fun addition to a karaoke party. Contestants take turns getting in front of the television and trying to match their own smooth moves to the avatar on the screen.
  • Glam it up! If you have teens living at home who want in on the fun but you want to make sure they stay out of harm and out of trouble, let them invite their friends to the house. The kids can dress to kill for the night. Set up appetizer tables and a “bar” with virgin mixed drinks (just make sure they stay unspiked!). A photobooth can add a fun element as well. Set up a glitzy backdrop with 2014 or “Happy New Year” and leave out props like boas and masks for the guests to use. Either set up a point and shoot digital camera with a remote on a tripod or a webcam on a laptop. Guests can take their own pictures to be posted to a social media site or party website later. Have your kids make a fun playlist of music and offer games like Apples to Apples to keep the laughs coming and everyone actively having a good time.

The most important part of New Year’s Eve is to have a good time and make sure that everyone stays safe, happy, and healthy so they can enjoy the coming year.

Christmas Tradition-Thinking Outside the Gift Box

Some Christmas traditions are passed down through generations.  Others are established intentionally to preserve the part of Christmas that is important to a family.  Sometimes though, traditions rise out of the ashes of human tragedy.

In 1999, a family of six was involved in a tragic car accident.  Three of the four children who were injured in the accident would not have made it had it not been for the heroic actions of the rescue personnel who arrived at the scene.  Several months after that awful day, the children, having finally been released from the hospital, traveled back to the rescue service stations to personally thank the men and women who had so bravely fought for their lives but it just didn’t seem to be enough.

In their hometown, the fire company has a tradition of putting hundreds of lights on the fire trucks and rescue vehicles on Christmas Eve.  Santa Claus climbs aboard the ladder truck and the vehicles travel from one neighborhood to the next blowing their horns with sirens blaring. The firefighters walk alongside handing out candy canes and toys to the children who come out to see them.

The family who was saved by the firefighters decided that one year they would turn the tables on them and instead of receiving candy canes from the fire company would instead give goodies to the fire station for those working on Christmas day to enjoy.  They set to work.  They baked cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and put  them in a gift box along with cookies, caramel corn, candy, hot chocolate, microwave popcorn, hard tack candy and a thank you card explaining how appreciative they were for people who risk their lives to save the lives of others.  (After all, that is what happened the first Christmas when Christ came to earth with the sole mission of selflessly giving his life for the world.) The children stood anxiously along the road awaiting the fire trucks arrival and were delighted when the firefighter received their gift with a surprised, but appreciative smile and a tear in his eye.  From that time on, they asked every year to do it again and it soon became a Christmas tradition.

Even though those children are now young adults, you will still find them standing along the side of the road on Christmas Eve with their box of goodies in hand.  Some of the neighbors who have seen them do this every year have also jumped on board and offer their own gifts and thanks to the firefighters.

For them, Christmas is a time to remember how much they have received through the sacrifice of others.  It’s their Christmas tradition. And I might add, it’s their favorite one.

Christmas Decor: Benefits of LED Christmas Lights

Each December families all across America decorate their homes with beautiful, colorful, decorative lights for the Christmas season. Traditionally, large incandescent light bulbs were used for this purpose. However, in recent years LED Christmas lights have grown in popularity, and they are being used more commonly each year. If you have not yet switched out your traditional incandescent Christmas lights for new LED lights, you may be wondering what benefits can be gained by using LED Christmas Lights. These Christmas light decorating tips will help you to see why you should switch from incandescent Christmas lights to LED Christmas lights.

 

Cost and Efficiency

Cost is perhaps one of the most motivating factors that lead people to switch to LED Christmas lights. While LED Christmas lights will cost you roughly the same to purchase and replace as incandescent lights, their operating costs are significantly lower. The cost of running LED Christmas lights is about 90 percent lower than their incandescent counterparts. This equates to substantial savings over the course of one Christmas season. So while it may seem like it will be expensive to replace all of your incandescent Christmas lights with LED’s, you will make back that money quickly in energy savings.

 

LED Christmas lights will also save you money in that you won’t have to replace them as often. LED Christmas lights last three to four times longer than incandescent Christmas lights, which means that you will not have to worry about strands burning out for a few years.

 

Easier Storage

Another fact that makes LED lights more cost effective than incandescent lights is that they store better. Incandescent Christmas lights are very fragile, and for this reason they often break while they are in storage causing them to need to be replaced. LED lights are much more durable and are able to withstand a fair amount of abuse without breaking; this helps to keep replacement costs down.

 

Safety

Many people know that incandescent Christmas lights can be dangerous since they give off most of their energy in the form of heat. However, many people do not know just how big of a problem incandescent lights are during the Christmas season. Due to how hot they can get, incandescent Christmas lights start many fires each Christmas season. LED lights on the other hand do not heat up, which makes them the much safer option for you families Christmas lighting.

 

As you can see, many benefits can be gained by switching to LED Christmas lights, the most important benefit being improved safety for you and your family. This next Christmas season, help to ensure your families safety by switching to LED Christmas lights.

How Eight Famous Christmas Traditions Began (Part II)

In the last blog we looked at some fascinating tradition beginnings…let’s explore four more, shall we?

Santa Claus

How can you have any Christmas traditions without having a child’s favorite? Santa Claus! The legend of Santa Claus begins in the fourth century when the generous Bishop of Myra, located in today’s Turkey, gave gifts to others, especially to children. According to stories, Saint Nicholas, the bishop, could also perform miracles which made people even more devoted to him. He passed away—coincidently in December—in the year 340 and his popularity increased all over Europe when his body was moved to Bari, Italy. In Russia, St. Nicholas was made a patron saint of their country and was well-known by his white, flowing beard, red cape and bishop’s cap. In France, St. Nicholas was the patron saint of lawyers; the patron saint of sailors in Greece; and he was the patron saint of travelers and children in Belgium.

Even though European devotees of St. Nicholas decreased after the Protestant Reformation, the spirit of St. Nicholas remained alive in Holland. There, his name was converted into Sinterklaas and the Dutch kids left their wooden shoes by their fireplaces; if the children had been good, Sinterklaas would put goodies in their shoes. In the seventeenth century, Dutch immigrants came to America and brought with them the legend of Sinterklaas; the name was changed once again into the American English version, Santa Claus.

Many other countries celebrate Christmas and each one calls St. Nicholas something different. In England he’s known as Father Christmas; Puerto Rico, Spain and Mexico have The Three Kings; Pere Noël, Christ Child or Father Christmas is what they call him in France; he’s La Befana in Italy; In Austria and Switzerland he’s called the Christ Child or Christkindl; and other countries call him Kris Kringle.

As a gift for his children, Clement C. Moore wrote a poem in 1822 that was called “A Visit from St. Nicholas”. When it got published, it was changed to “The Night Before Christmas” and became famous. Moore describes Santa Claus in this way:

“He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.”

This description of the red-suited man is how everyone—adults as well as children—identifies Santa Claus today.

Holly and Greenery

Christmas was celebrated in the middle of winter in Northern Europe. This was right during the time that those cold, winter winds howled so loud that people thought the winds carried demons and ghosts with it. It was thought that, because it stayed green all winter, the holly must be magical. So the Europeans hung this holly above their home’s doorways to ward off evil spirits. The Europeans also used greenery inside their homes to enliven the mood and make the air fresher through the long, harsh, boring winter.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Robert L. May, a 34 year old copywriter for Montgomery Ward, was asked to help with customer’s Christmas gifts in the year of 1939 by writing a book; instead of giving out coloring books to children as they had every year prior, Montgomery Ward wanted to save money by doing something different. So Robert May sat down and wrote a book that was based on his own childhood experiences of being teased as well as the story of “The Ugly Duckling”. He originally thought of Reginald or Rollin for the name of his main character but ended up choosing something else and entitled his story, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, a tale about a misfit reindeer. As he wrote the fable, he chose his four year old daughter to be the guinea pig—is it any surprise that she loved the story?

In 1947, May’s book was commercially printed and then the next year a nine-minute cartoon was shown in theaters. But when Johnny Marks, songwriter and brother-in-law to Robert May, wrote the music and lyrics to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” the wonder of Rudolph came alive. The song was turned down by many singers because they didn’t want to grapple with the Santa Claus legend. But in 1949 Gene Autry’s wife encouraged him to record the song and it sold two million copies that same year! Second only to “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” quickly became one the best-selling songs of all time. In 1964, a television cartoon was made of Rudolph and was narrated by Burl Ives. Rudolph the reindeer has developed into a beloved Christmas idol and this 45 minute Christmas cartoon is still a Christmas favorite.

Mistletoe

During winter festivities 200 years before Jesus’ birth, Druid priests utilized mistletoe. In fact, they were in awe of it because this plant stays green through the entire winter without having any roots! The mistletoe was viewed as a sign of peace and it’s claimed that enemies of the Romans would put down their weapons and hug if they met underneath the mistletoe. It was also considered to have magical healing powers by the Celtic people. They used it to treat infertility, poison and to keep away the evil spirits.

In Scandinavia, the people related mistletoe to the goddess of love, Frigga. Maybe this is where the ritual of kissing under the mistletoe stems from. It’s said that anyone who kiss underneath mistletoe will have good luck and happiness during the next year.

There are many more Christmas traditions but they’re too numerous to list here. I’m sure you and your family take part in at least one of these eight Christmas traditions—maybe you’ve even started one of your own. So enjoy your traditions and family and have a very Merry Christmas!

How Eight Famous Christmas Traditions Began (Part I)

Christmas is such a joyous time of year and soon your children will be hanging their stockings and anxiously waiting for Santa to arrive on what is, to kids, the longest night of the year—Christmas Eve. Christmas brings family together to share good food, laughter and traditions—new ones as well as the old ones. But while you’re sharing in those Christmas traditions, did you ever stop to wonder where they began?

Christmas Stockings

As the tale goes, a nobleman became very depressed after the passing of his wife and foolishly spent all of his money. This left his three daughters unable to marry as they didn’t have dowries and it looked as if they would grow into old maids.

St. Nick—or Santa Claus as he’s known today—had heard of the daughters unfortunate circumstances. One night he anonymously rode to the nobleman’s house, entered and dropped a bag of gold into each of the newly washed stockings that the girls had hung to dry by the fireplace. The following morning, the three ladies and their father were quite surprised to find the bags of gold in each stocking. Now the nobleman had plenty of money for his daughters to get married—and they did! Kids have been hanging stockings on Christmas Eve ever since then.

Many years ago, Christmas stockings were usually hung by a fireplace; but since most homes today don’t have fireplaces, just about anywhere you can find to hang your stocking will make a good spot. The stocking is supposed to be filled with gifts from Santa Claus. For those children that are naughty during the year, it’s said that these children won’t find anything in their stocking on Christmas morning.

Christmas Trees

In Germany in the sixteenth century, outdoor and indoor fir trees were adorned with colored paper, apples, gold-covered candies and roses. It’s claimed that while driving home one December night, a theologian got the idea to place candles on his Christmas tree after seeing the bright stars shining through a fir tree’s branches. By the seventeenth century, decorating a Christmas tree was very popular in German towns and spread to other areas of Europe.

Prince Albert of Germany brought the Christmas tree home to England and his wife, Queen Victoria, where, in 1848, a portrait was made of the royal family around their Christmas tree in Windsor Castle; thus causing the Christmas tree to become famous in England. This portrait was then brought to the United States in 1850 and by the late nineteenth century Americans favored decorating the Christmas tree in their homes—and that tradition is still going strong today.

Candy Canes

A modern story of the symbolism of the candy cane is the colors represent Jesus Christ: white signifies His purity, the three stripes are the Holy Trinity and the red color of the stripes is for the blood He shed for us. However, there isn’t any proof that this story is fact. The true legend of the candy cane dates back to the sixteenth century when Europeans started decorating Christmas trees. The people mostly decorated the trees with food—like cookies and candy. One of those candies was a white, straight candy stick. In the seventeenth century, it was suggested to craftsmen by a German choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral that these sticks should be made into the shape of a shepherd’s staff.

At ceremonies such as a Nativity scene the candy canes were handed to the restless children in hopes that this treat would keep them calm. It must’ve worked because it soon became popular at ceremonies through all of Europe to pass out candy canes to the children.

In 1847, a German settler of Wooster, OH decided to adorn his Christmas tree with candy canes. It’s said that over fifty years later, a resident of Albany, GA created candy cane goodies to give to local shops, family and friends. Then his brother-in-law designed a machine that would produce candy canes at a much faster rate automatically; this removed the tedious work that was involved with making the candy canes and because of this inventive machine, the candy cane became a favorite treat.

Christmas Wreath

Like the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath began in Germany many centuries ago. The circular wreath represents a life that doesn’t have an end and they were made of evergreens. The wreaths were set on tables with four violet-colored, evenly placed candles put in the wreath; a fifth candle was set in the center and this inner candle was pink. Once a week one of the four candles was lit and a prayer of hope was recited. On Christmas Day the inner pink candle was lit to symbolize Jesus’ birth.

Many wreaths are ornamented with red berries and thorns, both of which are the image of Jesus’ journey. The red berries are His self-sacrifice and His blood; the thorns stand for the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Jesus’ head on the day He was crucified. Berries and thorns are the two most popular items to have on a wreath but there are many other things that can be put on a wreath as well such as bows.

Many Germans started hanging their Christmas wreaths on their front doors and in the sixteenth century, Christians adopted this tradition and it continues to this very day. Wreaths are even hung over fireplaces, on walls or in windows.

There are more of these interesting Christmas traditions to come in part two—so stay tuned!

Holiday Gathering Activities

It’s wonderful to have family staying over during the holidays. However, after the traditional meal is devoured you might wish you had a list titled holiday gathering activities. Memories are made when you are active together, laughing and having fun, and when all are included from little cousin Jimmy to great grandma Betty. Here are a few suggestions for activities that will get the fun rolling and make for treasured family memories.

Watch Home Videos

Ask each branch of the family to bring some of their favorite home videos to share. Simply pop up a big bowl of popcorn, throw pillows on the floor for the little ones, and have a family movie festival.

Do Something Outside

It can be as simple as a walk in a park, or you can plan an ice-skating party complete with hot chocolate and mulled wine. If there is snow, maybe have a snow man making contest and get everyone involved.

Win it in a Minute

These games are based on the hit TV show, Minute to Win it. It is easy to do a web search and find just the right games for your family to play. Most of the materials are things found around the house or can be found at a dollar store. Find five or six games to play and take turns pitting age groups against each other.

Talent Show

Your family is filled with talented folk and those that just like to show off. With a little planning ahead (so they know to actually bring their clarinet), you can organize a family talent show that may just become a yearly event. Set up an area as a stage and advise your family that it’s just for fun and is to be a safe place for family to express their interests and talent.

It doesn’t take much for a family to have fun together. Sometimes they just need a little leadership, encouragement and a push in the right direction. That’s where you come in.