Friday, October 24, 2014

31 Days to a Peaceful Holiday Season: Favorite Children's Books

Welcome to Almond Place! I hope you've been enjoying this Write 31 Days series where I've been focusing on small ways of making our holidays stress free! You can find all of my posts from October HERE.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is one that takes place every night starting on December 1st.  I have 25 books wrapped up and the kids take turns opening one every night before bed. We read it together as a family and then the books get placed in a basket in our living room where they can read them from there on out.  These books are ones that I've collected over the years and have swapped a few out here and there as our interests have changed or I've found others I love even more.

I won't list all 25 books, but these are a few of my kids' favorites.

**Disclaimer: These links are affiliate links. All opinions are my own and I was not asked to review or promote these books.  I appreciate your support if you choose to purchase any of these linked items.

That's Not My Reindeer by Fiona Watts & Rachel Wells
That's Not My Snowman by Fiona Watts & Rachel Wells

These books are so sweet and all three kids have loved them! They are touchy-feely books with various textures for the parts that are "wrong" on the reindeer/snowman.  They have held up well and I love that each book eventually gets to the "just right" snowman/reindeer.

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe is a beautifully illustrated story about a tree who so desperately wants to be picked as someone's Christmas tree.

His animal friends help him realize all he does for them and they ultimately end up showing him what  a beautiful tree he is even though he never got chosen.

It's a lovely story and I like the message behind it.

Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell tells the story of all of the "little ones" who come to the barn.  With the overall message being that "everyone is welcome", I love the way that Baby Jesus is the last "little one" welcomed into the barn.  It's beautifully illustrated and my kids love hearing about all of the animals coming together.

I love the language in this book and the recurring sentence: "There's always room for a little one here".

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a classic.  I adore this book and we read it many times over the course of the holidays.  I love any book that encourages kids to believe in childhood.  We get to experience the real life Polar Express every Christmas as we head up north and get on the train.  It's an amazing little trip if you've never done it with your family in Arizona.  I love the excitement in my kids' eyes when they ring their Santa bells and they remember. My Mama heart melts every time.

The First Night by B.G. Hennessy is a simple story of Jesus' birth.  Another beautifully illustrated book carefully explains the night Jesus was born. It's a beautiful book and this year, I'll be upgrading it to the hardcover edition from the soft cover book we have.  It's a definite keeper!  I think I bought ours through Scholastic a couple of years was very reasonably priced!

The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman.  I ADORE this book.  The images are stunning and complex.  There is so much to look at and discover on each page.  Every time we read this book I notice something different.  It's message is powerful...that our families are the best gift we could have under our tree.  I love that this book helps reinforce the message of thankfulness and love we have for our kids and helps to drive home what we value.

Snowflakes Fall by Patricia MacLachlan holds a special place in my heart. This book was written shortly after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012 as a message of healing.  It's a beautiful story using the uniqueness of snowflakes and the cycle of life and renewal with the changing seasons.  This tragedy still breaks my heart and I think of it often with my own little 6 year old at home.  This book to me serves as a beautiful reminder of our fragile lives, our uniqueness, our specialness and the way the world continues to flourish and grow in beauty even after we gone.  It's a touching story and while my children don't yet know the meaning behind this book, it's an important story to read.

There are of course so many more books to love and read.  This is just a small sampling of the ones we will be unwrapping starting December 1st.  I hope you enjoy some of these with your families.

I'd love to hear your suggestions and favorites!  Leave a note in the comments for me to check out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

31 days to a Peaceful Holiday Season: Painted Pumpkin Giveaway

Welcome back to Almond Place! I am having so much fun with this series. I can hardly believe the month is already coming to a close! 

One of my favorite things this time of year is pulling out my fall decor. I love the things I've purchased for our home over the years. I have a spot for everything and I honestly haven't purchased anything new in several years. That being said, I had this idea brewing for a project that I wanted to try and I finally got around to doing it!

I hand painted a wooden slice into a pumpkin. I also added a wooden stem, some burlap leaves and some ribbon.  I think it turned out so cute! 

Do you have your fall decor out yet? If not, when do you get yours up? I pull mine out the first of October and decorate mostly for Halloween until November1st. Then, I put the Halloween stuff away and focus on fall. Christmas decorations usually come out Thanksgiving weekend because that's when we kick off our Christmas holiday traditions. 

I'm giving this little pumpkin away today!! This is a quick giveaway! It's simple...leave a comment with your name and city here on the blog, or on the post on Instagram. Either one will get you an entry. The giveaway will end TONIGHT at 6pm Mountain time and I will pick a winner. Spread the word! #almondplacegiveaway

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

31 Days to a Peaceful Holiday Season: Christmas Cards

Welcome back to Almond Place! This month, I'm focusing on ways of planning for our holidays so that we can be prepared before they get here!  You can find another 1600 writers focusing on their own topics for the month of October at Write 31 Days.  You can find all of this month's previous HERE.

So, do you remember when we talked about those perfect Christmas card photos?  Well, just as I imagined things would go, we've not actually gotten a photo done. But I don't want to wait anymore. There are a ton of great deals out there right now from the various card shops and I'm ready to get my card designed, addressed and ready for mailing.

Yes, it's early. Yes, I technically still have time to take a family photo. No, I'm not really in a rush. But, this is one thing I can very quickly cross off my to-do list and I'm ready to get it done!

I've ordered cards from many different places over the past few years. I used to painstakingly hand make every single card.  I LOVED that process but due to the volume of cards we send out, I just don't have the time to devote to that anymore.

Persnickety Prints Card 2013
As the years have gone on, I've gradually updated my process for Christmas cards.  I send out significantly less cards than I used to.

My favorite places to get cards now are from Minted and from Persnickety Prints.  The Minted cards are a bit more of an investment but I have loved the quality of their products and the many different designs.  The Persnickety Prints have a very fast turnaround time and I ADORE them.  I use them for all of my photo printing needs and I ordered all of our Christmas cards from them last year.

So, my action item for today?  Pick out that card and get those photos in. You'll have them back in plenty of time and you won't be scrambling to get them done!