Christmas Crafts: Embellished Wine Bags

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Published: 12/07/2013
These were such a fun craft for our Cookie Swap and Craft, and they can be done on the cheap! Dollar store frequently have the wine bag sized gift bags, and you don't have to use them for wine! If you prefer not to drink, these will dress up a bottle of sparkling cider just as easily, and they're a much more festive way of toting your drink to the next party you attend!

There's not much here in the way of directions- just snag a few embellishments and get going! We did cut out trees on the Cricut, which most people wrapped ribbon around since they have "indentations" between the tree layers, but other than that, you'll just need ribbon, stickers, cutouts and jewels.  Quick and easy!

Fun Idea: Make Your Own Candy Kits

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Published: 07/02/2013
I am a huge Mindware.com junkie, and while they're not paying me to write this, I would totally be okay it if they wanted to.  Our craft shelves are full of fun activities from them, along with puzzle books, manipulative sets and more.  Being a homeschooling family of 5 in a townhouse means that we can't do major storage of "stuff" without our house looking like the wrong side of an episode of "Hoarders" so we try to get our kits completed.

I actually really do love having things like this around.  They're perfect for a day when the weather makes you change plans last minute and you need something to distract your children from whining at you about how GROSSLY unfair it is that you can't go to the pool without severe risk of death from electrocution due to those pesky afternoon thunderstorms.  

On just such an afternoon, PwcGrammy pulled two make your own candy kits from our shelves.  I think they were actually part of a box that my mother-in-law sent at Christmas, but with all my health adventures, we hadn't gotten to these yet.  Oddly, the chocolate kit seems to have been completed separately.

If you'd like to pick up your own set, we got these, as I mentioned, from Mindware, although Amazon could probably hook you up, too.  The kits are $12.95 each or you can purchase 3 for $36.95.  As mentioned earlier, Chocolate is not pictured.
What's neat about these kits is their focus on ecology.  The gummies are made from fair-trade algae called Carrageenan, which my middle kiddo is holding in his hand in the picture above.  The brochure that comes with the book includes a story about how harvesting the particular red algae used to extract Carrageenan provides revenue for an island village, and how the harvest of seaweed is a sustainable agricultural endeavor.

I'm not sure how much of that they retained, though, because they were too busy noticing that the seaweed smelled like old ocean.  Bad.

The make your own gum kit also has a similar sustainable and eco-friendly slant, and uses chicle, which is the sap from a sapodilla tree in South America, rather than a chemical agent, to provide the appropriate level of "chaw" to your gum.
The actual age on these kits (does anyone with more than one kid actually listen to the age on packages?) is ages 8 and up.  I would go just a tiny bit higher on the gum, to be honest, because you have to microwave several items together and then flatten them out to roll (see daughter getting powdered sugar EVERYWHERE) and the mixture is incredibly sticky and really hot.  PwcGrammy burned her fingers trying to get it out and flat enough for the kids to handle before the whole thing just solidified in the microwave container.  The gum can be flavored mint or cherry, and while it doesn't hold its flavor for long, it does taste and chew just like gum, and has no artificial dyes, so if your child is sensitive, this might be fun for them.

As far as the gummies went, we had a little trouble using the "molding starch" provided in the kit- but you could just as easily use candy molds or cookie cutters from your house and skip the starch step.  Also, as bad as the seaweed smelled, the sour mix (your gummies are sour-patch style) covered up any "ocean" smell or taste.

The kids actually really enjoyed making these, and they especially liked learning about the tree sap and seaweed that went into the treats.  They weren't the best candy we've ever had, and I think that everyone just tried a piece and the rest, honestly, went in the trash a week later, but the process itself was really fun and enjoyable.  Both kits did have a white powdery component, the gum used powdered sugar for rolling and the gummies had "molding starch" which just seemed like cornstarch, but obviously no matter what kind of food-grade powder your slinging around your kitchen, you're going to make a bit of a mess!

We're giving these "Make Your Own Candy" kits 3 out of 5 stars.  The kids loved the process but didn't really eat the candy (not necessarily the worst problem on earth!) and the hot gum was a little hard to navigate without burned fingers.  We had a good time and learned something, but wouldn't probably buy the kits again.

Passport To Imagination 2013

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Published: 06/04/2013

This summer, Michaels Arts and Crafts will be offering their "Passport to Imagination" program where children ages 5 and up can learn about the 7 continents through crafting.  It's $2 per session, and a great rainy-day backup! Mark your calendar, and check the schedule if there's countries you want to visit! 

Preschool Busy Bag Exchange

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Published: 04/21/2013
 Preschool Busy Bag Exchange 
by Courtney Power

If you already have a Pinterest account I am probably not going to tell you anything you don't already know. If, like me, you still don't pin keep reading because I've got an exciting idea for you. Preschool Busy Bag Exchange Being a non-pinner I had to google the term when an interest thread was started on my local neighborhood mom's Facebook page. Basically, it is the same principle as a cookie exchange but instead of baked goods you swap games/activities geared at the preschool age group.


As a mom of a 4yr old and 21 month old with self-professed "paint by numbers" crafting ability, I jumped at the idea of making multiple copies of a kid's game in exchange for getting back all new games in return. Our exchange was the Wednesday before Spring Break and the activities were lifesavers on vacation. A special thanks to Kelly who organized our neighborhood exchange and to all the other Montclair Moms who participated, you ladies ROCK!


We had 16 moms participate in our exchange. This may seem like a lot, especially when you’re in the throes of making 16 copies of a game, but when you walk away with 15 new games it is totally worth it. Below are pictures of the different games made. [Note: there are 17 items listed because two were bundled together] Some are overtly educational (alphabet match-up), some are just for fun (I-spy bottles) and some build great fine motor skills (anything with clothespins). While this was titled as “preschool” busy bag exchange the games really fit a spectrum of ages. My youngest one uses the I-spy bottle as a shaker and loves the pool noddle threading with no concern for following a pattern whereas my older child can easily do color matching but has been stretched by letter and sound identification.



A picture of my haul!



1) Counting/Shaking Eggs: match egg top and bottom, insert lentils or candy to match the number
2) Connect the Dots: a laminated flip book of connect the dots puzzles and a dry erase marker
3) Color Match: grab color card with appropriate clothespin
4) Number Tracing: trace numbers with monster finger puppet using rhyme to help remember
5) I-spy Bottles: small water bottles filled with rice and assorted treasures to find
6) Pool Noodle Lacing: pool noodle segments of different colors & numbers, pattern cards to replicate




7) Double Trouble: use the loose shapes to recreate the patterns
8) Felt Puzzle: match felt puzzle pieces to outline on background
9) Magnetic Fishing: wooden dowel fishing pole, felt fish with shapes and numbers
10) Color/Number Wheel: grab color or number with appropriate clothespins
11) Popsicle Shape Makers: Velcro dots allow creating of shapes with Popsicle sticks




12) Popsicle Stick Puzzle: line up popsicle sticks to create the puzzle image
13) Lacing Cards: practice lacing shoelace in the holes
14) Playdough Gingerbread House Mats: use playdough to make assigned number of decorations
15) Pipe Cleaner Threading: thread appropriate color and number of beads on the pipe cleaners
16) Colored Animal Sorting: use tweezers to sort animal figurines by color or animal type
17) Alphabet Match Up & Beginning Word Sounds: match uppercase letter bottle cap to lowercase letter or to picture that matches the beginning word sound



If you are interested this would be great to do just before school ends, in the middle of summer when boredom sets in or anytime really. Some thoughts on successfully executing a busy bag exchange. -- 16 participants were a lot and more than probably a high threshold level. You want to have enough participants to make the crafting effort worth your time and money, especially since it is generally more cost effective to buy materials in bulk but not too many that it becomes overwhelming and you run the risk of repeat or extremely similar activities. -- we used a Facebook event to organize our exchange. This way each participant could post a link to or describe what they planned on making (avoiding repeats). You could also feasibly use a Facebook group to coordinate as well. The communal forum also allowed for sharing of supplies that participants might have had in excess or weren't using. -- the exchange date should be set a couple of weeks if not at least a month from the initial setup time. This gives everyone time to browse for ideas, shop the sales and make the game/activity. -- Pinterest and Google are great places to get ideas. There are a ton of very crafty mom bloggers out there. -- for all you military mommas out there we had a participant from out of state who mailed in her contribution. If you were organizing for a geographically separated group you could either share addresses or ship to a single POC who would then separate, collate and ship.


The school year is drawing to an end of if you are going to host one of these with your child and classmates, now’s the time to start organizing!




Courtney Power is an Air Force wife and mom to two crazy kids. She lives in Montclair and can’t say enough good things about the Prince William County community and Montclair Moms in particular. 





(C/K)Han(n)uk(k)a(h) Craft

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Published: 12/08/2012
However you like to spell it, here's a fun Hannukah craft that's super easy!  You'll need some candy canes, a baking sheet, and an oven. 




Break the candy canes into pieces and make equilateral(ish) triangles on a greased cookie sheet and bake them for 2-5 minutes at 300 degrees. Take them out, stack one on the other, back in for one minute to set them together, and then out to harden. Use a metal spatula or board scraper, the plastic ones are too fat and roll the candy. These are SweetTart candy canes, and they're pretty yummy :) Blueberry ones would be cute and the right colors :) When they're hard, you wipe any non-stick spray residue off with a napkin, and then you can hang them up or eat them after you light your candles :) You can use little pieces all put together, too- actually my favorite one was all the different leftover colors together!"

Christmas/Advent (Or whatever) Countdown

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Published: 11/26/2012
Quite possibly the easiest craft you'll ever do! You could easily alter this project to be a countdown to Hannukah (use blue and white peppermint patties!) or Easter (pink, yellow, and green wrapped candy), or even a child's birthday. If you prefer not to use candy, a small toy or trinket would fit, too! You could also easily dress this craft up (Look at THESE!!), but we planned this craft for our CC friends to come over and do, so I wanted it to be easy enough for the kids to do fairly independently.

Here's what you'll need:
Ribbon (curling or fabric, either is fine), number printouts, quotation printouts (optional, but included at the end of this post.  You could also just use the numbers), scissors, a one-hole punch, plastic wrap, mixed Christmas wrapped Hershey Kisses. I like using my ironing board for this craft so that I can lay the plastic wrap out, but a long kitchen table would be fine, too! If you have a stampin up circle cutter that can fit around your numbers, all the better!!

This process could not be any easier! Spread out your plastic wrap. I've found that for 3-4 kids (so 3-4 kisses in each bundle) I need about 5.5 feet of plastic wrap. If you need extra, it's easy to add by tying it into a bundle and it sticking to the other piece, so no worries if you're short. For 2 kids I think 4.5 feet is enough. At the top of your wrap, use several colors of ribbon to tie a bow, using one piece to tie a loop so you can hang your countdown up!
Next, bundle in one piece of candy per child per night, tying securely under each bundle with ribbon. For an Advent countdown, you obviously need to have enough "bundles" to get from 1-25!
Next, cut out your numbers. I got mine from HERE and I think they're so cute! (Plus it's a free download!) You could mount these on Christmas paper, or you can put them on top of folded scripture cards, or you can just use them alone. Hole punch each card once so that you can thread it onto the ribbon between each section. The number goes under the candy it goes with so that when you untie it to take the number off, you get the candy above it, and then next number and its candy stay securely tied!
I love how it looks for two kids because you can put the kisses in a diamond shape and they fit so nicely!! For more kids it's a little harder to bundle nicely, but it works out!!
Fun! Some other versions that work, too, include printing numbered cards with quotes on them, or glueing your numbers onto folded scripture verses (we did these at a church I worked at):
After this post, you can get versions of my devotional scripture readings to go along with the countdown, or a more "meditational" version I designed with some quotes, carol verses, and a little less scripture. I printed these using a 4.5 inch margin on the left so that they could be folded over into cards with the number on the front. Again, you could also just use the numbers. I'm including these because it'll save those of you that want them tons of time trying to pick what you want to use.  If you don't think you're interested, then just don't keep reading :)

Happy Crafting!


Less scripture, more quotes and carols:
"Maybe Christmas", he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!" Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:9-11
O holy Child of Bethlehem Descend to us, we pray Cast out our sin and enter in Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell O come to us, abide with us Our Lord Emmanuel
The simple shepherds heard the voice of an angel and found their lamb; the wise men saw the light of a star and found their wisdom. - Fulton J. Sheen
What can I give Him, Poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part. Yet what can I give Him? I give Him my heart.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6
Joy to the World, the Savior reigns! Let men their songs employ; While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat the sounding joy, Repeat, repeat, the sounding joyWise Men Still Seek Him
And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2: 7
Away in a manger, No crib for His bed The little Lord Jesus Laid down His sweet head The stars in the bright sky Looked down where He lay The little Lord Jesus Asleep on the hay
If we could condense all the truths of Christmas into only three words, these would be the words: "God with us." -John F. MacArthur
And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find
a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." Luke 2:10-12
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15 God rest ye merry, gentlemen Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour Was born on Christmas day To save us all from Satan's power When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy, Comfort and joy O tidings of comfort and joy
Christmas gift suggestions: to your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a
friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect. Oren Arnold
You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received his Christmas gift. John R. Rice
What if December Looked different this year What if we all just Give this Christmas away If there's love in your heart Don't let it stay there Give this Christmas away And your life will be changed By the gifts you receive When you give this Christmas away -Matthew West
More than a child born in the hay,Jesus, my Lord, on that first Christmas day. More than the son of a carpenter man; You carried the weight of the world in Your hand. For You are the Hope of my soul, All that I see, and all that I know.
-Larry Holder
Happy Birthday, Jesus! I’m so glad it’s Christmas! All the tinsel and lights, and the presents are nice, but the real gift is you. -Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir
We all get so hung up on material things at times it seems like we forget what Christmas really means It should be thanks we’re givin’, that’s why I wrote this tune Happy Birthday, Jesus, this song is just for you.
-Teddy Gentry
Come on, what have you got to lose -- only
everything -- by considering this greatest of all stories? Maybe you believed the story as a child, but with maturity came skepticism and later unbelief. It truly is the ultimate gift and it has your (and my) name on it. It fits all who try it on and has the additional benefit of having been paid for by someone else. This gift never wears out.
-Cal Thomas
Teach them the true meaning of Christmas, for it is that which has been forgotten. “Letter from Santa”
To think of how it could have been If Jesus had come as He deserved There would have been no Bethlehem No lowly shepherds at His birth But Joseph knew the reason The love had to reach so far. -Jump5
This, this is Christ the King whom Shepherds laud and angels sing! Haste, haste to bring him praise, the babe the son of Mary.
 


More scripture and reflection devotional:
 


The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned. Isaiah 9:2 We call Jesus the light of the world. In the winter, days are shorter and darkness seems to last longer. Just like the Christmas lights and candles that light our streets and churches in December, Jesus can light our lives all year.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
Talk to your children about the circle of evergreen branches in an Advent wreath. The circle reminds us of God's never ending love, evergreen branches represent faithfulness as they remain green, the center Christ candle reminds us that Christ is the reason for Christmas.
“You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37 Red and green are used for Christmas, but the traditional color for Advent is purple to remind us of royalty. Purple was a royal color, worn mostly by kings. The color reminds us that even though he came as a baby, Jesus was still a King.
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him. Psalm 40:1-3 Advent is a time of preparation. We prepare our homes, our presents, special meals, and we also prepare our hearts for Christ. As you prepare your home, remember who you’re really preparing for.
It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done Psalm 92:1-5 Music and worship are important parts of Christmas!When we sing carols like Away in a Manger or O Come O Come Emmanuel, we are praising God and remembering why we celebrate Christmas.
Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and had in mind to divorce her quietly. But an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. Matthew 1:18-22, 24 Sometimes, trusting God can be hard, but he always keeps his promises, which Mary and Joseph must have learned first hand.
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1 Gifts have become an important part of Christmas, but we give them to remember that Jesus was the best gift of all. Sometimes it’s hard to remember Jesus’ gift is real- but remind your children they are confident there will be presents Christmas day, even if they have to wait without seeing.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17
God showed us His love by sending His Son as a gift to the world. Think of ways we show each other we love each other, and how much greater still God’s love is.
They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him Mark 15:17 Advent is a time when Christians reflect on Christ becoming human in order to sacrifice himself for the salvation of all people. Purple is the color of royalty, but also of suffering. Just like trees remind us of Jesus’ birth (Christmas trees), and his death (on the wooden cross).
Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you. Deuteronomy 32:7 What are your Christmas traditions? Do you decorate with the evergreens and holly used in older European traditions that represent the ongoing life? If you don't have traditions, start one. Traditions help us remember things in the past as we celebrate those things today.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Psalm 19:1 Every day, God decorates the world with sunsets, stars, and nature. When you decorate this season, reflect how God makes our world beautiful each day.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel
said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12
The angels' announcement of the birth of Christ was the first proclamation of the good news that Jesus was born. We proclaim things all the time- “It’s time for school!” or “Dinner!”, but this proclamation might have been the best in history!
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:15
The shepherds were the first to hear about the birth of Jesus. Though they were not highly regarded by, God chose to share the Good News of Jesus with these people first. Jesus came to save everyone, not just the rich or the famous.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34 When we celebrate with things like cards, we can love other people by remembering them. Sending a card to someone in a nursing home or a soldier overseas is a great way to show your, and God’s, love.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 The third week of Advent is about joy. If you are using an Advent wreath, the candle for this week is pink. Our joy comes from our faith in Christ Jesus, and we should share that joy with others!
The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:45- 46 Jesus is the Light of the World. He makes it easier for us to experience God by being present with us. This week, we rejoice with those who were able to see the Father's light through Jesus and anticipate Jesus' return.
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy. Psalm 126:2-3
Christmas is a time that is full of joy. The angels brought abundant joy to Bethlehem with their announcement. Remember their joy as you continue preparing. Try making angel sugar cookies
Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105
As Christmas day draws closer, more and more lights appear on houses and rooftops. As you walk around these lights, talk about Christ as the Light that guides their steps through every season of life.
Sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. The LORD has made his salvation known and revealed his righteousness to the nations. He has remembered his love and his faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Psalm 98:1-3 "Joy to the world! The Lord is come!" As you sing this song be sure to remember that the real joy of Christmas is found in the birth of Christ.
After Jesus was born Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied....On coming to the house, the Magi saw the child with his mother, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Matthew 2:1-5a, 10 The wise men, also known as the Magi, are some of the most familiar characters in the Christmas story. Today, we remember that Wise Men Still Seek Him.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11
Because Jesus was a king, He could have been born in a royal palace with many servants, but He chose to come among regular people in a shelter meant for animals. What does this tell us about Jesus? How does it show Jesus' humility? How does it show the Father's love?
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 The final week of Advent is to remind us of peace. Jesus brings peace into our lives, and if we trust God, he will not let the fear or stress of the world rule our lives. Any holiday can become stressful, remember to invite Christ’s peace into your home this season, and all year.
And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. Luke 1:26-38,46-55 Mary, the mother of Jesus, chose to suddenly give up her life and her body to God. In Luke, however, we
read "Mary's Song." Mary is joyful! We, too, can work to have hearts full of love and obedience, just like Mary's. You can read the full version in Luke 1:46-55.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect 1 Peter 3:15; Many people are confused about Christmas. Advertisers say it’s about buying. Linus from the “Peanuts” has another idea, and so does Charles Dickens in “A Christmas Carol”. "Twas the Night Before Christmas" says it’s about Santa. How would you answer someone who asks what Christmas is about for you?
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:2-4
Children are special to God. Jesus could have come any way he wanted to, but he chose to come as a baby. He grew up as a child, and he even told his disciples to become like little children. That means even the smallest person this Christmas season is hugely important to God.
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:16- 18
After seeing Jesus, the shepherds went and told the good news of the birth of Christ. Christ commanded all Christians to go and share the Good News of His salvation. Christmas is a great time for us to share the Good News, too.
Luke 2:5-32 In years past, Christmas Eve was the traditional night for the hanging of the greenery in the church, though nowadays most congregations and families decorate long before Dec. 24. This delayed decoration represented the transition from a time of waiting and preparation to one of exuberant joy. Tomorrow morning, be sure to celebrate before you start anything else. Read the Christmas story or sing “Happy Birthday”, and remember what the presents and tree are all about.

Halloween Frankenstein Pops

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Published: 10/31/2012
Since you guys seem to enjoy craft and food ideas, I've been trying to share more of them since I really like to Martha Stewart it up as much as possible.

I especially like it when it's REALLY easy.  The Frankenstein Pops I shared on Facebook? They're so easy a four year old can do it.

Assemble your troops.  You'll need frosting, sugar bones, sugar eyes, lollipop sticks, and black sugar or chocolate jimmies, oh, and marshmallows.
 Step One: Get a bag of frosting out of your freezer.  Here we have cream cheese frosting, vanilla buttercream, and hot pink lemonade buttercream.  What's that? You don't make a double batch of frosting every time and freeze the leftovers for emergency cake-frosting? You don't MAKE your own frosting? Sigh.  Yes, go ask Betty Crocker for a can of white frosting...that'll work, too.
 Step Two: Plop your frosting into a bowl and microwave for about 30 seconds if it's room temperature, or about a minute if it was a popsicle when you put it in there.  You're looking for fondue-consistency frosting.
 Step Three: Curse yourself for not getting green food dye at the Walmart when you were JUST THERE.  Remember that yellow an blue make green.  Mix well. (These are Wilton gel dyes, which I love because they don't water down whatever you're tinting.  However, for this, you could use the liquid dye you get at the grocery store, too.  Wilton gels are sold at craft stores like JoAnn Fabrics and Michaels and Walmart stores)
Step Four: Pop a marshmallow onto a lollipop stick and dunk it in your frosting.  Tap gently on the side of the bowl to remove any excess and then set the stick into a heavy glass cup set over a plate to let the frosting set just slightly (a minute or two, tops).
 Step Five: After your frosting has had a minute to settle and drip off and excess, give your marshmallow a roll in the black sugar or chocolate jimmies to add hair.
 Step Six: Add eyes (you could pipe these on, but this whole treat was inspired by the sugar candy eyeballs being on sale for $2) and imbed a sugar bone on either side of your Frankenstein's head.  You could also pipe on a mouth, but if I was creating a monster, it would do my bidding without talking back.  I'm just saying.
Optional Bonus Points For Step Seven: Pop some floral foam covered in a seasonal napkin inside your Frankenstein Can and go on a shock and awe campaign at your preschool party.  Winning.

You could also do these heads with cake pops, you'd just want to form them into squares instead of balls.  Witches would be cute, too, with purple frosting, a mini green m&m nose, and just the cookie part of an Oreo with a Hershey's Kiss glued on top with some melted chocolate.

Have fun!

What To Do During a Frankenstorm, Day 1

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Published: 10/29/2012
As of right now, it's not so bad out there.  Better safe than sorry, of course, but that fans that you're probably at home with some kiddos who need some entertainment.  While TV and video games are definitely an option, here's a few fun plans to try, too.

My kids spent the night with PwcGrammy on Saturday night so that we could go to a Halloween party.  Being the awesome grandma that she is, she had a whole night of fun planned for the kids including pumpkin carving, seed roasting, caramel apple making, and crafting.  I thought the crafts were adorable, and could be adapted to use what you have at home (or you could pop out to Walmart before the wind gets bad, but that's a personal judgement call).

Idea 1: Frankenstorm Can
 Alright, he's really supposed to be Frankenstein, but it's kinda funny to call him Frankenstorm :) This one is made with a #10 (Food Service Size) can painted green.  The "knobs" are wooden pieces that were painted silver.  You could just as easily use game pieces that have lost their home or empty prescription bottles.  Don't have silver paint? Glitter would work, too.  The smile is sharpie marker, the nose is another painted wooden piece, but you could substitute for a button or draw the nose, too.  The hair is sparkle felt cut to be pointed on one side and folded over the top of the can, but you could easily swap that out for construction paper if that's what you have at home!

Idea #2 Halloween Bat
 This little guy is also made from a can, but this time it's standard soup-can size.  (I don't think I mentioned this on Frankencan, but obviously you're going to want to wash your can thoroughly and dry it well before starting). Our bad is covered with glitter felt, but you could use black paint or black construction paper.  The smile is made of tiny jewels, but you could use pony beads or crayon.  I think googly-eyes should be a household staple if you have kids, but you could also do the eyes in paint or crayon.  My 4 year old made this craft, so you can see she added lots of pink using a crayon or chalk, and both showed up well on the black felt.  For the wings, use a black pipe cleaner (or you could use a wooden skewer, pencil, or other straight object) and roll it under a piece of cut felt or construction paper and then glue the wings to the back of your can.

Idea 3: Caramel Apples
We've always got apples in our fruit drawer.  That used to be because they were a cheap fruit option, but I refuse to say that about anything that's almost $2 a pound, so I guess it's just a habit at this point.  If you don't have craft sticks, you can use a turning fork to dunk your apples in caramel and then cut them into wedges after they dry.  If you still want the stick, use a toothpick on the wedges you cut.  Caramels are super easy to melt following the package directions, or, if you are a baker and keep the ingredients on hand, you can make your own caramel:
1 cup butter
2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a large pot, combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and 1 cup heavy cream. Heat mixture to a boil just over medium heat stirring frequently. Once it boils, stir the other one cup heavy cream. Then without stirring, bring mixture to exactly 239 degrees then immediately remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes before dipping apples.

The kids decorated their apples with fall M&Ms and sprinkles, but if you really want to go all-out, melt a couple of Hershey bars or chocolate chips in the microwave (30 seconds at a time, stirring frequently) and after you dip your apples in caramel, dip them in chocolate and then add your decorations.  Yum!

Also, you can engage your kids in some fun learning online about the storm! Try the Weather Channel for Kids or Oklahoma News 9s Interactive Weather Tracker, which even offers streaming video.

Stay Safe and Have Fun!! (And no matter how bad it gets, don't bring out Monopoly! That never ends without a fight!) 

Pinterest Challenge Party

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Published: 10/21/2012
As I shared on Facebook, last night I hosted a Pinterest Challenge Party.  The rules were very simple.  We'd meet up on the chosen night, and everyone would bring either a new Pinterest recipe or a new Pinterest craft prepared for everyone to make.  The theme was fall including Halloween/Thanksgiving/Leaves and Pumpkins.

Now I actually enjoy party planning, but if you don't, you'd love a Pinterest Challenge Party because I barely did anything! I provided the venue, and some minor decor, but everyone brought everything else, and then left with it, too! Cleanup was only about an hour!

To get ready, I did make a few quick and easy things:


 These are Mason Jar Sippy Cups (Pinterest Straws optional) and goody bags for everyone to tote home their creations and recipe cards.
 And this is just a board for everyone to "Pin" up what they made from Pinterest so we know who to blame when we're having our 4th helping of White Pizza Dip or Pumpkin Pie Dip....or Frito Salad....or apple crisp.  So really everything was good.  Then came the crafting.  PwcGrandma always likes to be an over-achiever, so she prepped fence post pumpkins.  Everyone's turned out different, but they all came out super cute!!  I love how each one has a unique personality. If your neighbors ever replace their fence, you should snag their posts to do this craft!
 My "girlfriend in law" Lauren (she's been dating my brother forever) is a huge candle fan and brought her Mia Bella Candles for everyone to smell, along with bringing a cute votive craft that was SO simple! We used clear votives and mod podge to create designs with fresh leaves.  The one on the far left is just the leaves, the two closer to the right have torn tissue paper, too.

 The very fabulous Keisha Herbin Smith came with a Stampin Up card project that made everyone want to run out and buy a big shot to cut and emboss their paper with.  Luckily, Christmas is coming.  :)  If you're feeling a little craft envy reading this post, you can click on the link attached to Keisha's name and head over to her blog for details on her stamp camp for this month, which is on Tuesday- $15 covers all of your supplies and this month she's making scrapbook pages! Super cute!

Keisha also brought a crafty friend to the party, who I instantly recognized from Recollections.  Sigh.  I miss Recollections so much!! Tessa brought these adorable turkeys, which I need to make more of so that I can use them as place cards for Thanksgiving Dinner!!

Please ignore the sick child in the background and focus on the Turkey.  So Cute!!  I hope that everyone had as much fun as I did- this was the strangest party I've ever thrown because everyone was so QUIET!! They were either busy eating or busy crafting! The party was supposed to run from 6-10, but almost everyone was late because they were pulling something out of the oven, so I'd say that 7-10 works just fine for the number of crafts we did, although the pumpkin fence posts do require drying time, and so did the votives.

Have you ever had a Pinterest Party? What's your favorite new pin? And, most importantly, are you following PwcMoms on Pinterest? 

Easy Crafts- Marble Painting

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Published: 09/14/2012
I actually used this technique with my homeschool class yesterday, and it worked so well that I thought I'd share a little indoor-inspiration for the next time you need some!! (Hopefully that day will not be today because we are supposed to be going apple picking and I would like for the weather to stay lovely!)

Our kids are studying abstract art right now, and art is really not my thing.  In college, I had to take a fine art class and I took 3D art since I like crafts, so I thought working with materials would make the class more bearable. The only A I received in that class was for an assignment where we had to make a tower for our imagination to live in out of balsa wood sticks and string (this was after making animal combinations out of clay and shoes out of wire).  The night before our projects were due, mine was knocked out of my cubbie and shattered on the floor.  Figuring there was nothing I could do to impress the teacher anyway, I just turned the assignment in broken.  When I presented it, I said that it represented my complete and utter lack of imagination, and the professor ate it up.  It was so frustrating!!

Anyway, I had a very long-reaching memory of making these marble paintings, but in an upside-down Tupperware cake carrier.  Mine wouldn't work for the task because it's not flat-topped and has holes where the handle goes, but a cookie sheet did the trick! 

All you do is find some marbles and dip them in paint.  Then, lay a piece of paper down on your jellyroll pan (I call these cookie sheets- but they need to have sides to keep the marbles in!) and then drop the marbles all over the paper, and let your child gently shake to create designs.  When the paint has all rolled off, you're done! Remove the marbles and let your creation dry.
 I used primary colors because they make nice colors when mixed (unlike purple and green make brown) but you could use anything.  Pros of the project include that the kids can't glob the paint on, so they dry in a fairly quick amount of time.  I think that back in Kindergarten we also did this same process on green paper and then cut out Christmas Trees to make a card for our parents.  Easy, quick, and a way to get the paint out without destroying your house/child's clothes.  This takes literally 20 seconds per child, and while it's not high-level, the kids had fun! 

Stampin Up "Creative Escape" Crop

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Published: 08/02/2012

PwcMoms.com reader and Stampin Up Demonstrator Keisha (you can follow her creative exploits here)  has a great end of summer invitation for you!! I love Stampin Up crops, and while I haven't attended one with Keisha personally, check out this example of her past stampers' work!
Be ye not intimidated!! There will be plenty of tools and inspiration to keep you going, or, if you're already crafty on your own, bring your own projects and get out of the house for awhile!! Nothing like not having children tugging at you to increase your productivity!!
You're invited to attend the Creative Escape Crop. 
Saturday August 25, 2012
 
Save the Date Now! 
Westridge Swim and Racquet Clubhouse
12764 Quarterhorse Lane 
Woodbridge, Virginia 22192
Time:  12:30pm - 11:30pm
Cost:  $45

Bring your own projects to work on, or choose from the many samples we will have plus 2 optional classes that you can take while you are there.
 (optional classes will be announced after August 1)

Get away for a day of crafting, bonding and relaxing.  Whether you prefer to spend your time stamping, scrapbooking, sewing or any other creative pursuit, you will love what I'll have in store for you!
  • Plenty of table space with free wifi
  • Goody bag filled with Stampin' Up! Goodies
  • Little gifts made especially for you throughout the day
  •  Plenty of samples to copy
  • Raffles
  • Punch station, tons of stamp sets, sizzix station, ink station, all of the tools and accessories, and more!
  • Optional classes
  •  Two make-n-takes 
Fun Atmosphere with games and prizes to keep you motivated! 

    2 meals (lunch and dinner)  included!

  Coffee, sodas, tea and snacks throughout the day!
 
Space is limited to the first 15 people, RSVP now!
simplyalon@yahoo.com

Meet Hallabolou

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Published: 07/18/2012

Hallabolou is a full service Children’s Enrichment and Event Company.  I first met their owner, Vanessa, at the Chick-Fil-A Fire and Rescue Fest.  I instantly decided that I needed to know the woman with the purple apron and approximately 75 pounds of Legos.  Bright, enthusiastic, and passionate about engaging and enriching children's lives, Vanessa instantly won me over on Hallabolou (a secret message saying hello to her children) and her work there.  Read more about them below, and be sure to check them out on Facebook and their Website, too! They offer classes, after school enrichment, camps, and more!



From the owner:
Our enrichment programs and camps are dedicated to creating an atmosphere that fosters each child’s feeling of autonomy and positive self-image.  From a young age, children are fascinated with the world around them.  Hallabolou uses this fascination to teach life skills and assist children in understanding and expressing their emotions through a creative technique known as the Five Points of Discovery. These points are Imagination, Determination, Commitment, Self-Confidence and Cooperation. Through our offerings of bRiK Programs or Learning Levels we teach STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. We enrich their experiences by also providing a Dance and Movement program, Educational Cooking for Kids, Theater and Art.


May 2012 Library Special Events Highlights

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Published: 05/03/2012
Instead of inundating you with 2,000 status updates, here are a few of the library events for this month that look kid-friendly and fun! Note the ones that require you to pick up free tickets or passes!!  Prince William County Library events do fill up quickly, so mark your calendars now!  These events are also on our calendar at the top of the page!

May 3rd Signing Storyhour at Chinn Park Library 10:30-11:00am
May 3rd Mother's Day Craft at Potomac Library- Arrive by 4pm to get free passes for the 4:30pm program

May 10th Shenanigans- Make Mom a Charm Bracelet at Central Library, Must Preregister in Person. 4:00pm
May 10th Family Craft Night at Chinn Library 7:00pm

May 12th Mad Hatter's Tea Party at Potomac Library- Free Tickets Required 2pm-3pm

May 13th The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Bull Run Library 2pm-3pm

May 16th Fire! Fire! Storyhour at Chinn Park Library 10:30am

May 17th American Girls Book Club at Bull Run Library- Must Preregister 7pm

May 23rd Animal Adventures at Central Library, Free Tickets Available May 16th 10:30am or 11:15am

May 31st Crafty Critter and Insect Exploration at Chinn Park Library 11am-1pm

Business Review: Color Me Mine

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Published: 04/17/2012
Over Spring break, we had the chance to visit Color Me Mine in Fairfax.  It was free Ben and Jerry's day, and Fairfax Corner was opening their fountain and having several other events, so we met up with PwcGrammy (who's a student at George Mason- super proud of her!) and decided we'd burn some time before B&J's opened by painting pottery.  We've done this before several times at various studios and have some very precious keepsakes from going with relatives who have since passed on.  Having their handprints and my babies' handprints is a very sweet memory. 

The studio is long and narrow, and table space is not necessarily easy to come by if you go on a vacation day (I'd imagine weekends are tough, too).  I felt like their fees were slightly higher than some of the places that we've been to that charge a flat rate, as they charge a per item rate and a studio fee per person. 

They do have some fun looking events like Kids Out Nights where parents can drop their children who are 6 and older off and go spend some time in the shopping center.  There are amazing Great American restaurants in this shopping center, so it could make for an awesome date night!  They also do fundraisers and parties.

While we had a decent time, I have to say I didn't love the experience here, and I'd probably not opt to go here again if I had the option of going somewhere else.  Unlike other studios that let you get your own glaze, the attendants here give you a sample palette and you are allowed to pick 6 colors which they get for you.  You aren't allowed to get your own.  (This of course means that there is a tip jar, so you should tip your attendant on top of the studio fee for their fetching of things you could easily get yourself).  It wasn't packed to the gills when we first got there and the "don't touch the glaze" policy was really annoying as my 6yo was painting an entire vase one color.  That tablespoon of glaze? Yeah, that ran out every 4th brush full and then we found ourselves waiting for an attendant, who got pretty huffy with us by the 4th refill.  Hint: if the kid is obviously painting the entire piece a base color, why not get a second glaze container and just do that one color?

We didn't get much of an explanation, which is fine since we've done pottery before, but should have at least been offered.  When we finally got started really painting one of the staff came over and said "So, how are you going to want to pay?" in an annoyed voice.

Seriously? You need to know upfront? Why didn't you charge me before I got paint all over myself thanks to the kids?

She apparently didn't actually want me to pay, she just wanted to know I was using my Visa (it's everywhere you wanna be). We continued for about eight minutes and then another attendant came over and demanded I go sign in on their computer system.

Really? I'm here.  Does it matter?

The computer ticked me off, too.  You don't need to data collect my home address, email, home phone and cell phone for me to paint something.  At the end, it asked for me to answer some survey questions, which seemed ridiculous.

The kids still had fun, and it's possible we just caught the staff (all high school or early college aged) on an off day, but if I'm going to spend $150 on an activity, I want to leave feeling darn happy, and that just didn't happen.

Overall, I'd head somewhere else based on this experience, but if you've had a great time there, I'd love to hear about it!

Color Me Mine Fairfax:
Recommended For: Ages 5 and up.  Younger children could be taken for handprints/footprints, but you need some fine motor skills to make anything worth taking home and with items being so expensive, your younger ones are better off with a kit from Michaels.
Pros: Creative outlet, nice shopping center, pieces are keepsakes
Cons: Expensive, unfriendly/unhelpful staff, studio seemed to get hot


This is an unsolicited review.  All opinions are my own.  Your experience may vary.  
daytime playtime - a fun place to Learn.... a great place to Grow