Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas centerpieces

I fell so deeply in love with our winter snow scene, that I made a collection of them for our Christmas Eve table centerpiece!

This simple idea, which I got from Donni of The Magic Onions, looked so elegant as a group.

This smaller grouping went on the kids' table, but waited patiently on the serving table (next to the laser printer. Doesn't that make for a nice Christmas atmosphere?)

Each jar will be sent home with a different family member, so no storage needed!

 The photos don't even express how pretty it was. I tried adding other elements on the table: More trees, more animals, live greens...but they all took away from the simplicity of the grouping and the sparkling glass.

With the formal table cloth and good china for Christmas, the table was even prettier. It was just magical, and I loved how the centerpiece didn't create a wall in the middle of the table that you couldn't see through.

I wish the pictures had shown more.

Grandma, Techman's mom, does great things with centerpieces and displays. I loved this side display, of the four Advent candles and the snowglobe that Starboy made for her.

This is Grandma's fairy garden. It's six months old, and it looks better now than ours did the day we made it. Sheesh.

Can you find the pewter lion? She has this by the front door to welcome visitors. She's always switching stuff around out there.

Grandma updated the garden for Christmas day. We had extra trees from the snow scene project (it was a pack of 21 trees!).

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Countdown — Dec. 24

We are excited to open the last, big door on the paper Advent calendar! The picture inside was of a decorated and lit Christmas tree. Starboy waited so long to know what was behind that door!

At breakfast, Starboy got to mix his own eggs with a new egg beater.

He requested heart eggs for this special day.

We went to Grandma and Grandpa's house, and he and Grandma were airplanes....

...and Techman set up Grandpa's 60-year-old electric train.

We didn't open many gifts, but Starboy was delighted to play endlessly with his new Magna-Tiles that Grandpop and Sitti sent from Michigan. Highly recommend.

Today's books:
The Story of the Snow Children
The Story of the Snow Children
by Sibylle von Olfers

The Night Before Christmas Recordable Story (Hallmark)
The Night Before Christmas (re-read)
by Clement C. Moore and Joseph Adolphe

Christmas Countdown — Dec. 23

The Spirit of Christmas
by Nancy Tillman
A lovely message of the specialness of Christmas—friends and family being together. Nice illos, too.

We've been spending December engaged in family activities while we wait for the fat man to bring all the loot for our special family day of togetherness.

I'll be honest, without a clear plan for each day, by the 22nd or so I was starting to burn out a little. I love the activities, but pulling them together on the fly was getting a bit challenging, especially as Christmas was approaching and I had some cooking to do. Luckily, I only had to do one dessert and one salad to make for the two days of festivities—if you're looking at this project for the future I'd make sure to weave in the family activities with your cooking chores for the holidays, or choose a very quick project like the pipe cleaner snowflakes so you don't overwhelm yourself.

Our big activity today was visiting some of my family nearby, while my cousins were in town for the holidays. Starboy got to go on two light-walks, and was thrilled to discover that one of their neighbors has an inflatable decoration that looks like a big, lighted snow globe. He also got to have half of a chocolate snowman that my other aunt sent from Vermont. Um, for dinner.

And he got to read the special story above with his second cousin. It all was great fun, we stayed too long, and accidentally kept Starboy up waaayyyy too late.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Countdown — Dec. 22

We're spending December enjoying some holiday crafts and activities, and reading special books!
The first craft: Pipecleaner snowflakes!
The idea came from S.O.S. Mom.

 First we snipped each silver pipecleaner into thirds. We placed one on each square of Starboy's placemat, then we added four more in. This is how we knew we had enough pieces (16).

 We gathered the pieces into a bundle, then wrapped piece number 17 around the center, tightly.

 Bend, and fluff. That's the whole project! I used silver thread to hang them from the chandelier, because the fishing line was too much work to hunt for.

This project is fast, easy, cheap and totally at a three-year-old's level. And fun!

Starboy was still itching to craft, so he also made some stickered thank you notes. Holiday / winter wonderland stickers would have been great....but he demanded cars.

And, totally strangely out of place, long after Hanukkah, today's book:
The Ugly Menorah
by Marissa Moss
A little girl learns there's more to beauty than meets the eye. A lovely tale.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Countdown — Dec. 21

Happy Solstice!
Winter came by our nature table.

The moose doesn't mind, and neither does the reindeer. I don't generally like to put plastic on the nature table, but we're a little light in the wintery wooden animal department, and I think the reindeer is pretty majestic.

There also are some glass stars, which the mice go looking for, as part of holiday junkyard traditions, in Junkyard Tales.

Don't miss Miss Molly's winter nature display here.

We didn't get to a unique craft or activity today. Starboy and Grandma were going to make some cookies, but they didn't get around to it. Before we went visiting, I was busy creating some centerpieces for Christmas, but I thought I'd save those photos for another post when I can do a "big reveal." 

I have to get to the library! Today's readings were great stories from two online sources. Perhaps not true to my theme here, but a good solstice children's story book is a tough thing to find.

The Winter Solstice Tree
by Allen Morgan, online here
A story about the seasons, a wolf, and solstice. Very nice.

The Candleberry Elf, online here
A Candleberry elf breaks with tradition to show some winter spirit—then finds that his friends show him some, as well. A thoughtful and enchanting story.

Christmas Countdown — Dec. 20

We're waiting for Christmas and keeping ourselves busy with a series of crafts, books and activities!

Today's craft: Snow scene ornaments!

 The globes from Mary Jane's fairy ball came four to a pack. And they're big! I'm inclined to gift them away, rather than store them to gift next year. Make sure yours come with tops.

An evergreen tree from the Missions collection at the craft strore, with some hot glue on the bottom, is the point of focus. This is much easier with some long tweezers or forceps. I didn't have any, so getting it in there straight was tricky. I used glitter hot glue, since it could be seen from below.

 Add epsom salt to desired level. That's it! We added a string to the top for hanging.

This one was a gift for Starboy's mommy-n-me Waldorf teacher. She loved it!

Starboy added a greeting card to complete the gift.

Today's book:

The Shortest Day
by Wendy Pfeffer and Jesse Reisch
Great information about winter solstice. I paperclipped some of the pages together to simplify the story—we'll read the rest when he's a little older.

Christmas Countdown — Dec. 19

We're spending mommy-n-me time together throughout December as we wait for Christmas! Every day we are reading a special book and doing a seasonal activity.

Today's project: Candy making!
 We made fudge together, and I made toffee later on. This really wasn't the best kitchen project, because everything is done on the stove—Starboy wasn't able to participate much. He poured some stuff into the (cold) double boiler, and buttered the pan. He wasn't complaining, though, after licking the spoon.

The toffee wasn't for him at all. You have to stand at the stove, stirring constantly, for 35 minutes. These were great, easy gift candies to make, but I don't recommend either of them as a child-involved project. The child just doesn't get to do much—except eat.

Then, since I haven't been able to get back to the library, the book doesn't match the project. Ah, well. Next year. Today we read a children's biography:

Snowflake Bentley
by Jacqueline Briggs Martina and Mary Azarian
A story about the man who strived to photograph snowflakes. The book has a few real pictures that he made, but they are printed too small! Wilson Bentley made thousands of amazing images under incredibly restraining conditions—starting with his glass plate negative camera.

You must check these out, they are stunning! Here are a few of his photos. Check out his book and website for more.

The Fairy Ball

Not exactly Glinda the Good Witch, but hey, who's going to complain when you get to travel in a bubble?

Starboy LOVES Sparkle Stories' Martin and Sylvia. He has heard all of them (since around Labor Day) probably ten times, maybe more. He especially likes the Halloween audio book, the three-parter. In this story, Martin and Sylvia prepare for the annual Fairy Ball costume party. The stories together run about an hour, and he will play quietly while listening to the whole thing.

Recently I asked Starboy: What do you think Mary Jane would like for Christmas this year? Is there something we could make for her?

Starboy replied: She would like a Fairy Ball.

Me: .....

Me: ... A fairy ball? Liiiike....a ball? With a fairy in it?

Him (matter-of-fact): Yeah. Like in the Sparkle Story. Martin and Sylvia.

Me: .... (processing)... (wondering how he could have heard that story 10x and not know that the fairy ball is a party.)

Me: Okay, we'll go to Michaels and see if we can find anything. I bet she really would like a fairy ball.

Him: O-kay.

Me: (Note to self: Offer scaffolding for next retelling of fairy ball story.)

Well, luck would have it. Giant glass ornaments for cheap enough. And a pipe cleaner flower fairy fits in, if you don't mind an extremely frustrating process of cramming, bending, tweezing, cursing, marveling at ship-in-a-bottle nutcases, and ending up with a small bent fairy with broken wing gossamer hanging only slightly oddly by the neck. During this process, the ball spins, attracting the same fervor and interest as a Kong toy with treats in it, that your favorite mutt is de-puzzling.
But on the upside, with some testing for wings and technique, what a great craft idea for any holiday faire.

And I imagine MJ will like the fairy ball.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Miss Molly's shop display has had a visit from Mr. Frost!

A deer wanders through the frosty land, as snowflakes sparkle above (snowflake lights, and Waldorf kitepaper stars, not in picture, sorry!).

 A snowy owl keeps watch over the village, as the ice crystals glitter.

 The gnomes bundle up in their icy woodland homes. Don't you feel chilly just looking at them?

See more of Miss Molly's window nature tables here (Autumn) and here (Summer).

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Countdown — Dec. 18

We've been doing a special activity or craft every day throughout December as we wait for Christmas!

Today's project: Winter night sky ornaments!

Starboy has been asking about a project that celebrates the "winter night sky" since he heard Miss Molly's story about the lantern carrier. Why not?

This is a very simple project I saw online recently, and forgive me but I can't find the link now. Likely via The Crafty Crow or Artful Parent.

I cut out simple shapes from construction paper. I cut them on a fold so they would have two pretty sides, but wouldn't have to be aligned again later. If you do them one-sided then the back looks pretty sloppy.

I had planned to use black construction paper, but couldn't find any around the house. So we used dark blue.

We used the star hole punch. The hole punch required more power than Starboy really was able to offer, so as an independent project, this was a bit of a flop. We punched the stars together. You punch through both sides as though it were one paper.

We opened up the cloud, then applied glue stick all over. Starboy covered the holes with bits of pre-cut tissue paper. I kept the palette to purple, red and white, but had I had a better arsenal, I would have added more colors.

Then we closed the sandwich back up again, sealing the tissue paper inside. An extra hole allows for a thread hanger.

Stars and a cloud in the night sky. Starboy really was happy about the cloud, since Martin's daddy is an avid cloud painter in the Martin and Sylvia stories on

It didn't take me long to realize this would be a much better project on the light table. So we put Starboy's work tray right on top. It definitely increased the fun factor, and after four ornaments, he was gunning for more.

For some reason, he really wanted some ships for the night sky. We made two. I utterly vetoed the train he wanted. What, I'm a scherenschnitte expert? Not.

I really recommend this activity. It was a lot of fun, high interest, super cheap to put together, and with stuff you likely have around the house already. These would make great gift tags!

I could have paired this project up with Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, or myriad other books, but frankly, I felt a little burned out today so I grabbed an oldie but a goodie, because it was within arm's reach:
The Night Before Christmas
by Clement C. Moore and Joseph Adolphe
Apparently the "'Twas" is too complicated for today's family to handle and it's been dropped.
The classic story, with decent illos.
Ours includes a recording of Starboy's grandpop reading the story, but we need to find some batteries to make it work.