Sunday, December 7, 2014

Classic Children's Gift Guide

Since my children don't read my blog, I thought I would share some fun gifts we have purchased for this upcoming Christmas.  I'm also including some gifts we have purchased in the past and ones that we would love to purchase in the future.  We love classic gifts that educate and that encourage open play and we love it when they are free of plastic (though I make an exception on some things.)

So here is a gift guide of classic gifts for the kiddos in your life.

These and these are such fun baby toys.  Play silks also make such wonderfully versatile gifts.

We purchased this balance bike in black for my 2 year old on his last birthday.  It has been a favorite.  Don't forget a helmet to go along with it, this one has fit him well.

The Cozy Classics books make lovely stocking stuffers.

We are getting a wooden alphabet set for our littlest this Christmas.  I would also love to get a number set for my little guy in a few years.

We have had this kitchen in red for years now and it has gotten a lot of play.  We bought plastic food and dishes to go with it and they have all been used up and thrown out.  I would love to get these or these to take their place.  Someday I would also love to get a little shopping cart.

We bought this Playmobile nativity for the kids this year.  They love to play with my decorative nativities, so I'm excited to gift this one to them this year.

We have a collection of wooden train tracks that we purchased new for Jakob when he was little and all of our kids have played with them.  We have added used tracks to it through the years.  This set looks like a great one.

My girl loves stuffed animals and wanted a stuffed snake for Christmas.  We have liked the Ganz animals.  We have also liked the Aurora brand and we purchased this snake for her for Christmas this year.

We purchased these building blocks last year for our 11 year old engineer and they were a success, all our kiddos enjoyed playing with them.  He has also loved models that he can put together like this plane.  We also bought him this raft a couple years ago and it has been fun.

This crossbow was a fun gift that our 6 year old loved this last year.

We love listening to stories on CDs and these Radio Theatres are some of our favorites.  We also love any stories on CD from Jim Weiss.  We would love to have the Little House and the Chronicles of Narnia on CD.  We also loved getting the Liberty Kids on DVD this last year.

We are a huge fan of legos, I would choose the architecture sets, but this is the one my 11 year old wanted this year.

This was also a fun stocking stuffer for our oldest guy.   We always do a toothbrush, floss sticks, and toothpaste in stockings.  We love adding art supplies and some fun treats.  We usually do an orange and  miniature box of cereal.

Hoping you have finished or are close to finishing your shopping adventures this year.  I have one more store to go to and a few gifts to wrap and I should be done.  I love being done early.  Not so fun to stay up late Christmas Eve wrapping gifts.

Any classical gifts you have purchased and love for your kids?

Check out my gift guide of favorite books, movies, and TV series here.

This post includes affiliate links.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Simple Christmas

A few years ago I found Christmas to be overwhelming and a bit chaotic.  There was too much shopping, crafting, wrapping, and busyness.  I decided it needed to change.  I wanted to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and feel the magic and peace of the season.  Here are a few ways we keep Christmas simple.

||  I prepare and plan early.  This is so helpful.  It is a joy to prepare and finish early, it can be drudgery to work on something last minute.  I try to start preparing and planning in late September or early October.

||  I go through my children's items and let go of toys and other stuff before the holiday gift giving begins.

||  I focus on 4 main things.  My main concerns are gifts, christmas cards, the 12 days of Christmas, and food.  I try to  keep these as simple as possible.

||   We keep important traditions and let go of others.

||  We realize we don't have to do the same things each year.  If we decorate gingerbread houses one year, we don't have to do it the next year.  It can still be a tradition, just not a yearly tradition.

||  We limit gift giving tin our immediate family.  I started gifting stocking stuffers and one big gift to each of my children.

||  I plan a set period of time to accomplish holiday task.  I try to decorate for a couple days.  We make Christmas treats for a day.  Whatever I haven't completed in that set amount of time, I just don't worry about completing.

||  I let a lot go.  If it feels like too much, I ask myself if it is needful, and it usually isn't.  If it is something we need to do, I try to let something else go from my list so I have time to do the activity or task at hand.

||  We limit the amount of activities we attend.

||  I indulge in simple self care.  I let myself hunker down with a book, a piece of chocolate, and some herbal tea.  I cuddle with my kids and watch a Christmas movie.  I take a hot bath.  I try to be present in the moment.

||  I keep it simple by adding holiday decor to my existing home decor.  In years past I have removed my home decor items and replaced them with holiday decor.  It has taking a lot of time and effort.  Now I focus on a couple main areas where I decorate a lot, then I just add little touches of items, tucked into my everyday decor.

||  I have collections of Christmas decor.  It seems simple for me to collect a set of items.  I group them together when I decorate and it keeps the process super simple.

||  I limit my trips to the store and order most items and have them delivered to my home.

||  I limit my purchases of new holiday decor to 1-2 new items a year.

||  I take off the week after Christmas.  Even when we keep it simple, we are still very busy at this time of year, and a long break helps ground and rejuvenate us.

These are just a handful of ways I keep it simple.  The season is about celebrating the birth of the Savior, it is about service, and spending time together.  Letting go of the excess stress and focusing on what is most important creates space to truly enjoy this season of peace.  I can't believe the difference simplicity can makes.

What do you do to simplify the season?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gift Guide: My Favorite Movies, TV, and Books

Recently I wrote a letter to a friend and gave her some recommendations for books, TV series, movies, and blogs that I love.  I thought I would share it here with you!  Lots of good ideas for things to gift to others or yourself!  I know I have already shared many of these on the blog, but I thought an update would be fun.  So here are my current all time favorites.

I have loved Kate Morton and my favorite books of hers are The Forgotten Garden and The Secret Keeper.  I absolutely loved Peace Like a River by Leif Enger.  I loved Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequest.  I recently read The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and loved that!  I also just read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, an intense read, and I highly recommend it.  I also love the classics, Jane Eyre, anything by Austen, the Little House books, C. S. Lewis, and the Anne of Green Gables books are still favorites.  I also loved Little Women and the Harry Potter books.  My all time favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  The movie was also wonderful.  

For TV series I have loved Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, Downton Abbey, 24, and  Bones.  I just finished Call the Midwife and loved that!  I love the BBC Sherlock Homes.  I also have loved the old Little House on the Prairie series.  I loved Larkrise to Candleford.  Most of the movies I adore are BBC.  All the Jane Austens, especially this one and this one.  Also the  Jane Eyres, especially this one .  I loved The Young Victoria.  I also love the new movie The Hundred-Foot Journey , The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and Julie and Julia.  The LakehouseThe Magic of Ordinary Days, and The Scarlet Pimpernel with Jane Seymour are also favorites.  I love While You Were Sleeping, You've Got Mail, The Holiday, Dan in Real Life, and The Family Stone, especially at this time of year.  

Any of these would be perfect to check out during some downtime this season.  Cuddle up on the couch and check out a few of my favorites.

I'll share my favorite blogs in another posts.  What are your favorite books, tv series, and movies?  I would love any recommendations!

This post contains affiliate links.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Simplicity Now and In The Coming Year

I have been thinking so much about simplicity this last year and experimenting with what simple living looks like in our lives.  I can see so much improvement as I'm moving forward, learning and deciding what it really means to let go of the excess and focus on the most important.  I'm learning this is so much more then just getting rid of stuff, that it is also what we choose to do and participate in each day. It is what we choose to include in our to do lists.  I'm learning through trial and error what excess is.  It feels so good to let go.  To just say we are not going to do that anymore, or we are not going to hold on to that items or these collection of items.  I don't want to let go of everything, but I want to let go of a lot, to refine our lives to the most important.

The holiday season is magical.  It can grounds us in such simple ways.  I have worked hard to focus on what is most important during this time of year and let go of what is not.  In the last couple years I have simplified the way we celebrate the birth of Christ, scraping away the excess to focus on Him.  It has brought back the joy of Christmas into my life, leaving behind the stress and worry that sometimes can envelop this season, and helping me to let go, to celebrate fully.

I'm thrilled for this coming year.  I've been thinking a bit about goals as I'm looking forward to one of my favorite times of the year.  I love January and the start of a new year.  I love setting goals and while this year is no exception, the way that I'll be setting goals will change.  I have a few ideas on simplifying my approach to goal setting and am thrilled to moved forward and let go of the goals that have been weighing me down for the last few years.

I'm also experimenting with sharing this concept on my blog.  I have so many thoughts and ideas to share, that I'm finding it hard to focus.  I have written a few posts on simplicity, some that I have shared and some that I have yet to share.  I'm hoping to share a lot more.  This is a journey.  I feel I have taken a solid step into simple living, but there are many more steps to take.  I hope that you will join me.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Lovely Yarn Wreath

I thought I would share this lovely yarn wreath with you.  I actually decided to make this with a group of friends, one of my favorite ways to work on crafts.  I kept it simple, with neutrals  yarns and flowers.  I started with a straw wreath, wrapped it with spray adhesives and the softest ivory yarn, and topped it off with fabric flowers.