Give-away winners & a few gift ideas


Congratulations to Erica, Kim, and Elaine, the winners of one of Natasha's beautiful placemats.

Last year I posted about a few books and toys that make wonderful holiday gifts. I haven't thought much about gifts this year since we are going practical, with things like long underwear, mittens, and lunch boxes. But Santa will bring a few small "fun" treasures... 


Advent spiral & ornaments
Everyone has a favorite advent tradition - glittery paper calendars with windows to open, pockets with little surprises for each day leading up to Christmas, advent candles... We always have a glittery calendar (I love glitter) and it is great motivation for kids to get ready in the morning ("Girls who are dressed with teeth brushed can open their window!"), but we also love our advent spiral. It is a simple tradition of moving a candle around the spiral. If we are feeling extravagant, we'll put in 25 candles on Christmas Day and the entire spiral will glow. The kids spend a lot of time moving their ornaments around and counting the days until Christmas. Each year, Santa brings a new advent ornament.


Alexandra's book of choice these days is I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen, who also illustrated one of our all time favorites, Extra Yarn. I Want My Hat Back is a story of a bear looking for his missing hat - with a twist at the end that adults will appreciate. Excellent artwork, of course.


For those of you with kids in the young adult bracket, check out The Conspiracy Game. It was just released last week and the author, Adam Holt, is a phenomenal writer. I had the opportunity to interview him about his book and will be posting that on Wednesday!

I'm not really one for crafts since I have no crafting ability and no patience to help kids with any form of organized project. So my strategy is to put out a few supplies and walk away. A few weeks ago we bought a box of 1000 craft sticks to boost another order up into the "free shipping" category. Huge success. All three kids have spent hours and hours creating little log houses, towers, piles glued together or to paper, dream catchers, and Christmas tree ornaments. A few sticks, some glue and paper and they are off - and they can do it without my help.

What favorite toys, books, crafts do you recommend for holiday gifts? Please share! 



Welcome to the second annual placemat giveaway!


Natasha has created a beautiful and fun world of gnomes and painted it onto placemats. Everyone who passes by our table admires them, and my kids never tire of examining the details of the underground scenes, complete with trains, swings, slides, poles and ladders. I love the placemats because they are easy to clean and, three years later, they are still as good as new.  

This year, we are offering a placemat to three winners. To enter, leave a comment by Sunday, December 8th. We'll randomly select and announce the winners on Monday, December 9th. 

Happy December!


If you would like to place your own order, you can email Natasha at: tashebe79 at yahoo dot com.

Gift Guide: Hailstones and Halibut Bones


Here is another book my kids love: Hailstones and Halibut Bones. As it states on the cover, it is best described as “Adventures in Poetry and Color.” It is a collection of Mary O’Neill’s poems about colors, illustrated by John Wallner. Katherine and Clara love for us to read from this book before bed, and we usually let them each pick one color. 

The last poem in the book gives a nice summary of what the color poems express.


And because I can’t chose which color poem I love best, I’ll share “White.”


This book would make a perfect gift for anyone of any age. 

Gift Guide: Shooting Stars

I am not a crafty person (in either skill or desire). I tend to like the idea of making things more than the reality of it. But every once in a while I’ll come across a project I think I can handle and give it a try… and sometimes it turns out.

My latest project has been shooting stars and they have been a big hit. Katherine made one in her kindergarden class last year, which is where I got the idea (and if a five-year-old can make it, then that usually means I can too). They are great for birthday party favors, and they would make a perfect stocking stuffer. 

Here is my attempt at a tutorial.

Step 1: Gather materials (two felt circles and a star, 3-4 strands of ribbon, split peas, needle and thread).


Step 2: Sew star onto one cirlce


Step 3: Sew two circles together (inside out) leaving a 1-2 inch opening; tack ribbons to circle at opening


Step 4: Turn right side out and fill with split peas


Step 5: Sew together


Quick and easy!

You can also leave off the ribbons and just make bean bags. My kids love to fill bags with bean bags - I think they like the weight. There must be something about hauling around a heavy bag that is satisfying.

Gift Guide & Give Away!

A few years ago our friend Emily gave Katherine this placemat for her birthday. (I should note here that every year I ask Emily what she is planning to get for her kids, then I copy her)

The next year, we ordered several more for Christmas. The kids love the artwork and often spend those last few minutes before dinner is served absorbed (and quiet!) in the scenes. Plus, the placemats are easy to clean and, two years later, they are still as good as new. 

This year, Natasha (the artist) and I are hosting a giveaway. To enter, leave a comment with one of your favorite holiday traditions. On December 1st, I will randomly select two winners to receive one of Natasha’s placemats.

Here are some of her other designs:

If you would like to place your own order, you can email Natasha at: tashebe79 at yahoo dot com.

Rocker Board

[Part of a mini-series on gifts for the holidays]

Santa brought this rocker board for the girls last year.

I’d say it gets more play than anything else in our home. In addition to the wild rocking across the room, here are some of the ways the kids play with (on) it.

I’ve also seen it used as a boat, puppet show stage, wall for a house, seesaw, cradle, checkout counter at a grocery store, and car racing track/jump. The possibilities are endless. 

It makes a great gift, and because kids of all ages will enjoy it, it can be the gift, as in, one gift for all kids. What could be better?!

We got ours through Bella Luna Toys, a wonderful store with beautiful, natural toys. (Also a great place to send relatives during the holiday season!)

Gift Guide

In total defiance of my “Pacing the Holiday Season” post where I claim to ignore all things Christmas until December 1st, I am starting a mini series on simple gift ideas. I justify this by acknowledging that most people (a) enjoy looking ahead to Christmas/Hanukkah in November, and (b) don’t wait until the last minute to go into a Christmas/Hannukah shopping/making frenzy. 

Each week for the next several weeks I will post about a toy, book, or homemade something that we ourselves have enjoyed receiving/giving. I will even offer my first ever “giveaway”!

The first gift idea is a book my children enjoy all year round: A Child’s Calendar, with John Updike’s poems and Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations. The poems capture the essence of each month of the year, and I’m pretty sure the pictures depict Vermont.

I especially love November:


The stripped and shapely 
     Maple grieves
The loss of her
     Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
     As hard as stone.
The year is old,
     The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
Displays a certain 

The beauty of 
     The bone. Tall God
Must see our souls
     This way, and nod.

Give thanks: we do,
     Each in his place
Around the table
     During grace.