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Ethiopian Christmas

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Tomorrow, January 7th the wonderful people of Ethiopia are celebrating Christmas. Our child if he is born yet might be celebrating too. Maybe he is wearing white, maybe he is playing ganna the field hockey type game (probably not though because he would be too little). Our dossier is finished we are just waiting to send it to get state sealed, so that we can have our agency make sure we didn’t mess anything up. Tonight we are all thinking of our other family member a 13 hour plane ride away and wondering if he is safe and healthy and celebrating today. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates Ganna (Christ’s Birth) on January 7th. The people fast the day before and wake up at dawn, dress in white and celebrate at church. There is usually a meal with meat (most likely in stew form)  that breaks the fast and they serve it on injera (There is a great tutorial on how to make this on Owlhaven). Twelve days after this on January 19 they celebrate Timkat (which means baptism in Amharic), this is a three day event celebrating Jesus’s baptism in the Jordan River and is huge in Ethiopia – please read witheyeslikemine to get the full story about Timkat.

We would like to celebrate today to be in unity with our child even if he isn’t born yet. I really want my daughters to continue to learn about Ethiopia and all the culture that we can absorb. So we had pizza tonight (the 6th) a vegetarian fast having no meat until tomorrow night and we’ll have a roast. This sounds easy but I don’t eat red meat and I’ve only made about 3 roasts in my life, but here goes nothing. We will serve it on pita bread and see if the kids will want to eat it with just the bread and no utensils. I think we’ll pray for Ethiopia and maybe hold candles and walk around the house once. According to iloveindia.com in modern day Ethiopia every person at the church receives a candle and they walk around the church.

Hopefully each year forward we will learn more and celebrate together with other Ethiopians to let our child know that with the joy of having him in our lives we are also thankful that we can share in his native culture too.

Making a Doll for my daughter for Christmas

We don’t usually buy our kids gifts for Christmas. They are the only grandkids of 6 grandparents and 1 great grandparent. They are beyond lavished with gifts during this season and my husband and I are always trying to curb it in anyway. We usually pick them something up at the kids thrift store by us and I usually make something. I made my older daughter a covered journal and I made Sassy Pants (age 5) a soft Lalaloopsy-like doll. It started by finding this amazing video from My Froggy Stuff. She is, in my opinion, the expert in all things dolls. Her tutorials are a elementary girls dream (with some help) and her videos of the dolls acting are hilarious. I watched about 10 while I was making “Buttons” Sassy Pants doll.

I couldn’t find any good socks while out and about so I bought fabric at Jomar (my favoirte store in the world). I got a tanish, grayish knit for a $1 a yard – score! The you tube video didn’t have a pattern so I just made up my own trying to follow Froggy Stuff’s information. If you look in the pictures Button’s head is a little lopsided but we love her anyway. I scanned in the fabric once I sewed it so that I can share the pattern with you ( you can see the head lopsidedness in the picture). I fixed the head and just copied one of the legs twice so you can have even legs unlike buttons. (Total side note – Sassy Pants got an handmade doctors kit from her sister for Christmas and she told me – “I’m glad I got this so I can fix Buttons messed up legs.” – By the way that is why she is nicknamed Sassy Pants.) Here is the pattern (dollpatterndigital). I hope it works for you – Remember you need to use a super stretchy knit!!!

I followed My Froggy stuff’s tutorial except for two parts. First off she is an incredible, seasoned seamstress… or at least she is just awesome… but I tried to sew the legs for 2 hours! Yes 2 hours! I couldn’t turn it inside out, I tried the tips and I tried to be patient but after ripping both of them I found this tutorial on turning spaghetti straps. If you look at the pictures below I actually sewed the ribbon onto buttons foot and then just used scissors to cut it as close as I could. Nobody has noticed yet and I made both feet in 20 minutes this time.

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The other thing I did differently was the hair. Hopefully the picture below helps. I sewed the hair all along the back (note that in the picture the stitches go through the neck… it really means behind the neck there) and then I left about an inch and a half piece of fleece and sewed along the forehead (the brown stitches. Then I flipped that back for bangs and then gathered up two pony tails and stiched them to be permanent. My Froggy stuff is brilliant, I think I would have tried felt for the hair – don’t. The fleece is so soft and flexible and folds on itself to really look like hair – don’t be afraid to sew a whole bunch of it on for hair – those dolls have lots of hair. I then wrapped them to make little hair poofs you can see in the picture.
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Then the coolest thing happened. Sassy Pants took Buttons on our trip to Virginia and in the car she undid her hair poofs and started styling the hair. Her favorite is the fancy updo where she takes the pigtails ties them together and then tucks in the other pieces. Here are some of the styles. You can also see the elegant evening gown that Sassy Pants and I made for Buttons.
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Ornament Making Success

This was our second year to hold our Ornament Making for a Cause. This year we were raising money for an orphanage in India. To get the word out we made a facebook page event, handed out flyers and asked our friends to tell their friends. It relaly helped that we had a positive experience last year so there were a lot of repeat guests. I made this flyer and cut it up and handed it out to all our friends early in December and many moms I know made it part of their advent calendar. Here is the flyer I used ( ornmakingflyer) email me if you would like me to send you the word version. I also printed out these ornament sheets (ornamentpictures)  to give everyone an idea of the ornaments we were making. I also printed out and laminated the instructions for the harder ornaments… I won’t post that, but I will have email links to all the ornaments we made and how each worked.
All I did to prepare is :

  • have the whole day available. The flyer said 10-4 but the last fmaily left at 6pm.
  • get all the supplies for the ornaments. I have a huge crafting supply. Some from homeschooling some from my joy of crafting. I only probably spent about $10 on supplies. There were a couple of ornaments that required some ahead prep, but I did that over a month time with my daughters so it didn’t seem like too much.
  • prepare some easy food. Luckily I have awesome friends and they brought munchkins, cookies, popcorn and some other finger foods. I made hot chocolate, white chocolate trees (the easiest treat ever to make and it was a huge hit), and I bought some fruit at costco. I probably spent another $20 in food.whitechocolatetrees
  • prepare the stations. I have a hot glue station, a table in the basement with paint and the salt dough ornaments and some ribbon, and a table upstairs for the other ornaments. I then put out all the supplies in groups with a sample ornament.
  • put out a jar with the informaiton about the donation on it.
  • put on some holiday music.

Then people come. We had over 60 people come to our house but since it is an open house even the house didn’t get too too crowded at any one particular time. This year I had the salt dough painting down stairs which was different then the previous year and I think that helped make room.

Here are the links to the ornaments we make:
Felt ornaments – I just got the idea from this site. I cut out the ornament shape from felt and the kids glued sequins, beands and buttons on.
Sled Ornament – This was the big hit this year, but it requires hot glue so there needs to be parental guidance. We did have one hot glue burn – ouch. To prepare for this ornament I spray painted the small and large popsicle sticks red, cut some to the size for the underneath piece, cut up twine, and provided sandpaper.
sledornamentsetupSnowman Ornament – These are always a hit. Last year we did them on tongue depressers this year I changed it up and used this idea. I cut out the hats and my friend Kerin cut out scarves while our kids played and then I provided googly eyes and minibuttons. These are easy and can be done with hot glue or regular glue.
Snowflake Ballerinas – These were also a huge hit and easier to make then the sleds. My awesome friend Amy of the amazing ACPPA art center gave us the print outs to use. I just used coffee filters for the skirts instead of cutting card stock, it worked out well and you could layer 2 or three of the snowflake coffee filters to make a poofy tutu.
Reindeer Ornaments – These are adorable. They need hot glue to put together but then you can regular glue the nose and eyes. I even made a little holder with tiny red pompoms that says noses… it was cute. We made these in the big and small clothespin size… my friend kelly made one for everyone in her family.
reindeerornamentSnowflake Ornaments (felt) – I prepared everything to make these, they are really easy with the fabric cutter. But they require sewing so only Amy was brave enough to try one – and it was gorgeous! But definitely not for kids This would be great at a moms get together or something.
Snowflake (pipe cleaner) – These are easy for everyone, they all look different, and they don’t use glue! I just cut the pipe cleaners to size and premade the snowflakes and then left them with a whole bunch of beads for the kids to make them
Snowflakes (origami like) – These are actually my favorite Just cut up a whole bunch of 6in x 6 in scrap paper, glue and scissors. It is too hard for a kid under 7, but the older kids loved them. You can make them in all different sizes if you use different size squares and if you use hot glue they are done instantly.
Snowflake foam – These I just got at JoAnns a couple of days before the ornament making. They were on super sale so I got 30 for $1. The kids used them all – mostly with gems glued on.
snowflakefoamFelt Wreath – These adorable ornaments are not for the faint of heart. These ornaments take about 100 felt squares to make. We used florist wire to put through each of the squares. I had 4 brave souls attempt to make the wreaths and they came out terrific even if it did take them each about 20 minutes to make them.
Salt Dough Ornaments – This year I made 6 batches of salt dough there were over 100 ornaments to be painted. We only had 15 left so they were definitely a big hit. I cut out the dough into all sorts of different holiday shapes but I made a lot of the snowman faces like the link and lots of trees. The kids love to paint the trees because then they can paint on decorations. I also took special orders for letters. We have large letter cookie cutters so it is a great way for people to make specific ornaments for their friends and family.

We also put out little red tags that I cut on the cricut and also put out little strips of paper that said “This ornament helped build an orphanage in India.” I love this part because it helps the kids understand that gifts that give to others are even more special then just regular gifts that you buy. I also think that family members enjoy getting this kind of alternative gift.

Here are some more pictures from the day.
ornamentmakingMy kids love this day. They totally don’t mind all the cleaning and preparing it takes. They love crafts and they love that at any point in the day they can go apint some ornaments or play with their friends…. so many of their friends come in and out all day long that it is just such a fun different kind of experience.

I love that this is a way for us to host somethig during the holiday time. I’m not a great cook and often hosting makes me nervous, but somethign like this for a cause centering around crafts… it’s my jam.

We love the way the donation works. We just leave the jar out and people put in whenever they want. My favorite are the kids that have been saving up and bring in all their change. That is an awesome lesson.

I didn’t realize how much my kids would be into counting the money. Sassy Pants (my younger one) organized the bills into piles while Miss Thing counted all the change and then we counted the checks and bills together. We raised $274.15. I was in awe of the generosity of those that came that often paid $20 for 10 salt dough ornaments.
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The whole event was a blessing and a fun time. If you are looking for a way to volunteer with your kids during the holiday season and you like crafts this maybe the event for you. If you do something like this I’d love to hear about it and hear what ornaments work well.

Might as well use it

I really loved my new advent calendar that I made. The frame matches the decor and I seriously can’t get enough of those little mini clothes pins even though about 25% of them break. To stretch out how long I can have the frame up and to keep the faces of my wonderful friends up for longer I’ve decided to cut out the pictures of my friends from their holiday cards and then I stuck them up where the advent pictures went. The whole project was done in about 15 minutes and I’m pretty excited about how it came out.
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Ornament Making for a Cause

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When we were homeschooling last year we had time to plan ways to give back. We really wanted to do something fun and meaningful in December. So we decided to have an ornament making party. We had everything needed to make ornaments and then the people that came would make a donation. The girls and I made samples of all the ornaments and even a couple of direction sheets for the more difficult ornaments. We had the party the second Saturday of December from 10-4 – and told people to come anytime. I didn’t stress too much about food – cookies, fruit, real homemade hot chocolate (that was so incredible even weight conscious friends of mine drank their whole cup), and hot apple cider. Lots of people wante to know how much it cost per ornament but we said give what you want. Some people came and made 10 ornaments and paid $4 and some came and made 25 ornaments and gave a $20. Very few people made less than ten ornaments. It started to become a factory in here. We were turning out ornaments left and right. It was bizarrely fun, I thought for sure it might be overwhelming, but it wasn’t everyone there was so happy to be there and loved the fact that their kids got to craft and make a mess but it wasn’t on their dining room floor. Oh… I almost forgot – we made little tags that said this ornament helped buy fruit trees for a family in Africa and we put on a cute little symbol I found on the internet of a tree with hearts. Its a great gift for kids to give to family – it’s a fun ornament that they made as well as a donation for a good cause. We were able to plant 5 fruit trees… actually I think we got 10 and gave the rest to Food for the Hungry. I think we collected around $120. Here are some pictures.
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I made the turquoise spice thing just for the event and I loved it. One of the holders even says snowman noses and is filled with foam carrot noses for the snowman ornaments we made. The biggest hit was the salt dough ornaments. They are so cheap and easy to make and the kids love them because they get to use paint. A side note – when making my salt dough ornaments they always come out best when I let them sit in the stovev after I’vev turned off the heat and let them stay in there over night.

We are doing it again – but this year we are raising money for an orphange in India. I’ll let you know how it goes.
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Gifts for kids in class

I never really realized how much stuff we got out of by homeschooling – no teacher gifts, no bus driver gifts, no small tokens for each kid in the class. Since Miss thing has been going to a real brick and mortar school this year I had to ask around to find out what is expected. I don’t want to miss out on something that all the other kids do – my daughter is definitely the sensative type that would be scarred by that, but I don’t want to over do it.

We are really trying to not be crazy about sugar. We are still bad, but I’m trying to get away from out and out candy for my kids. So when it came to think of a gift for her to give hr classmates I nixed her idea of goodie bags. So in comes the Christmas Tree Shoppe. I absolutely love the store. It’s 40 minutes away but well worth it and we try and hit up a local art outreach center that is right near there so it’s not a one and done kind of trip.

I found a basket of 18 cookie cutters for $3.99. They are the nice aluminum ones not plastic. So we firgured we would make ornaments out of them. I had taken a lot of pictures in Miss Things classroom and then thought… hmmm picture ornaments are cool… and 2nd graders are probably too old to make them themsleves. I had Miss thing pick out the 14 she wanted to use (yes she is in a class of 15 – awesome right?) then she outlined  them on two sheets of paper with pencil. Make sure your child outlines the outside of the ornament not the inside. Next I scanned those in and upped the contrast so the lines were pretty dark. Next step is where either Photoshop or elements or some photosoftware is required. I dragged a students picture to the outline and then decreased the opacity of that picture and erased around the edges. So you can totally just use real pictures for this and totally skip this step, but I like doing it this way so that I can put their head right where I want it. You don’t actually have to erase around the edges, but I like to save ink.
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Then increase the opacity back up again and print out the ornaments on card stock. Then take the ornament again and place it right over the picture and outline it with a marker and cut it out. Tie a string around the ornament first and then tape the cut out to the back. It has an adorable little shadowbox affect.

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Sharing Christmas

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This is my first link up (thanks Megan for suggesting it!)… It is a little intimidating having a certain topic to post on…  well here goes.
These are a couple of shots of the Christmassy stuff around our house.
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1. This is our super simple advent calendar. I took a frame that I used to put the girls art work in and hammer finishing nails into the side and connected with craft wire. I then use little clothespins that I got at Michael’s to hold up printable cards from 1-24. I got the printable at the Sanvie blog (so simple and beautiful). Then I used post-its on the back so that I can use the calendar over and over again. I think I saw the idea somewhere last year but I can’t find where it was. We usually use our sock advent calendar, but it tends to get so messy and droopy by the end, this was a nice clean calendar!
2. This is our little online advent activity that has some fun interactive thing for my kids to do everyday. If you leave it open there is a little snowglobe that is constantly snowing in the lower right hand corner of your desktop. It makes me smile. A big bonus is the kids played with it for an hour the first time we uploaded it – $3 well spent.
3. This will be our second year hosting an ornament making to raise money for a cause. It was super fun last year, and I’ll write a post about it soon. But at the moment, our living room looks like the staging area for craft wars.
4. This very unique gift that we received two years ago is a nativity from China. It is hard to determine the characters and it had 4 wise men but my kids love that you can spin it from the top.
5. This buffet top is our most decorated space. The whole scene kind of happened by accident. I wanted to make a space for our very awesome new nativity from Azizi Life, but the rest was a mess. Our dining room has a bunch of random hooks left over from teh previous owner so I hung the star ornament on one and then centered the nativity under it. The garland goes up every year some p;ace random and the frame was an after thought to cover up another unsightly hook. I have to admit I really like it – happy accident. It is kind of like our family – cute and quirky – not perfect but can make you smile.
6. That is our jesusnotes printable. The girls have been working on trying to think of “gifts” they can give Jesus and writing it down on paper and putting it in his stocking.
7.This was a random buy two Christmases ago. It’s just nice to move the ornaments onto the little hooks.

 

Other than that we’ve done a couple little crafts and Christmassy snacks as well as some little services. Mostly we’ve been enjoying eachother in a joyful way.

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Some Christmas things that I might do next year

  1. I definitely will sign up for this Online Advent activity in November and send it as a gift to my far away cousins. This adorable advent countdown by Jacquie Lawson is precious. You have to download it to your computer but it doesn’t take too long and everyday the kids click on the ornament with that number and a new scene in the village opens up. To be totally honest the first day was kind of boring, but the next day they got to build a snowman, and in one they made stockings and a wreath. It held the attention of my 5 and 7 year olds for over an hour the first day because we had to catch up. It’s also adorable that there is a little snowglobe on the corner of your desktop to remind you to use it. It was an easy inexpensive way to get things rolling.
    Hallmark website
  2. I found Hallmark’s advent calendar of activities (through Nurture Store)  with downloadable and adorable pdfs too late into December so I’m hoping that they will have it again so that we can do it, especially on advent days where our activity is not as interactive. Some of the days are more for adults with the recipes and some videos but there really are some cute printables.
  3. For the past 4 years we have stopped sending out traditional Christmas cards and instead use the money that we would send out to buy a gift through World Vision. This year it was a goat. We do send out a year worth of pictues through Smile Box. It’s a cute, free and easy way to send a slide show with music, you can even add short videos. There are a couple of ads if you do the free version, but it is still really well done. I highly recommend it. Since we’ve been sending out ours lots of our family members have been sending out their own. Some of the slide shows allow up to 100 pictures so it’s great if you have people on your list that will actually look through that many – ours has about 40 pictures and I always wonder if people really look through the whole thing.wvgoat
    All that to say since this is our fourth year doing it and deservedly so we hadn’t been getting as many picture Christmas cards in the mail so I was telling a friend and she did an amazingly wonderful thing. She sent us a card everyday for like 7 or 8 days. Everyday it would be signed by someone else… The little Drummer Boy, Frosty, Rudolph etc. My girls adored it. We would get other cards but we always opened their first. They knew who it was from but that just made it all the better they felt very loved and cherished. I would really like to do that for someone next year. By the way,  we sent her the online advent activity… not as cool as what she did but we were hoping to return their outpouring a little bit.
  4. Small Notebook is one of the blogs that I subscribe to through email. She often just makes sense. She does a list of things to make Christmas easier and there are several I had never even thought of.. check out her post here. But one thing that I will definitely be doing next year is to read the Jesus StoryBook Bible Advent Reading plan from The Mommyhood Memos. We love our StoryBook BIble and even though we will never stop doing our Luke 2  reading during Christmas time I think this will be a nice addition to our nighttime routine.
  5. And finally I’d love to have more sit down time with my girls – just more still time – we tend to jump, run, play and generally bounce around. This year I showed them both how to embroider… real simple stuff. But I would like us to try and sew an ornament together a little each night. I don’t want to try and make one a day, but that we would work on it everyday. I love these simple shapes from Homemade by Jill.Maybe your days and nights be Merry and Bright.