Things to Make - An Advent Calendar Full of Everyday Items


Every year around this time, the blogosphere fills up with wonderful "make your own" advent calendar ideas (click here for an example), which always make me feel like a slacker mom. Then this year, Modern Parents Messy Kids posted on making an advent calendar using library books and coloring pages. Genius! I didn't feel up to leaving the house, so instead I scavenged through our bookshelves and craft cabinets, trying to put together 24 things to read and make for our Xmas count-down. My goal is that all these projects will entertain the kids during the after school "witching hours" when nothing seems to make them happy. And that hopefully a lot of these forgotten cast-aways will appear new again once unwrapped. We will see. I tried to pick projects that are (for the most part) not weather-dependent so that I don't have to let the kids down if it rains. I left several of our books until the end because things tend to become busy in the last few days before Xmas, so I wanted to leave that time as uncomplicated as possible.

What about everyone else - any great advent ideas or traditions?

Here's what I came up with:

24 days til Xmas (Thurs) - Plant your own paperwhites kit from Trader Joes
23 days til Xmas (Friday) - Children's Bible book from the library (figured now is a great time to talk about the Jesus story)
22 days til Xmas (Saturday) - Sugar cookie mix with sprinkles from Trader Joes
21 days til Xmas (Sunday) - Family movie and popcorn night - Christmas Carol (via Netflix streaming)
20 days til Xmas (Monday) -
19 days til Xmas (Tuesday) - Santa's workshop sticker scenes from Oriental Trading Company
18 days til Xmas (Wednesday) - Family movie and popcorn night - The Nutcracker (via Netflix streaming)
17 days til Xmas (Thursday) - A stargazing book and glowsticks for checking out the night sky
16 days til Xmas (Friday) - Another set of sticker scenes from Oriental Trading company
15 days til Xmas (Saturday) -
14 days til Xmas (Sunday) - Disney Decorate a Picture Frame Kit from the $1 aisle at AC Moore
13 days til Xmas (Monday) -
12 days til Xmas (Tuesday) - Christmas stamping sets from last year
11 days til Xmas (Wednesday) - Land of Nod's I'm Not Bored Anymore Jar
10 days til Xmas (Thursday) - Disney Paint Kit from the $1 aisle at AC Moore
9 days til Xmas (Friday) - Family movie and popcorn night - Santa Clause is Coming to Town (via abc family's 25 days of Christmas)
8 days til Xmas (Saturday) - Make Your Own Christmas Book using Bare Books
7 days til Xmas (Sunday) - and Disney princess fashion activity set
6 days til Xmas - Hot cocoa and marshmallow snack
5 days til Xmas - Make Your Own Jewelry Kit (an old gift we've never opened)
4 days til Xmas -
3 days til Xmas -
2 days til Xmas - and mosaic kit from AC Moore
1 day til Xmas -


Things to Make - Paint-Your-Own American Girl T-Shirt



As a kid, I made an iron-on-t-shirt for my Cabbage Patch Kid, Cybil Lily. Nowdays when F plays with Cybil she loves to dress her in the t-shirt I designed. So I thought it would be fun to let the girls decorate t-shirts for their dolls. I purchased a pack of 5 American Girl sized shirts from Amazon for $22 (available here) and glitter fabric paint (similar to this). On the upside, all three kids LOVED this project. On the downside, the squirt paint was a little above their skill level. Both the girls started out making pretty designs, but then ended up smearing everything together. I thought this meant a failed project, but two days later the girls couldn't wait to dress their dolls in the one-of-a-kind homemade t-shirts. The paint ended up drying very hard and VERY sparkly (lots of bling), which made all three kids happy.


*25 Indoor Activities to Keep Your Toddler Occupied This Winter.

*My pinterest Xmas folder has several seasonal craft ideas. Click here to view it.

*This construction paper sculpture looks easy and fun.

*Interview your kids every few months and see how things change.



Places to Go - Ballerinas at the Phillips Collection and Tea at the Ritz (but the highlight, as always, was the metro)


A few weeks ago, Grandma M and C, the children's cousin, came to town for a girls' day of Degas' ballerinas at the Phillips Collection and teddy bear tea at the Ritz. Of course, such a big event demanded fancy dresses, so we broke out the Xmas outfits a little early this year and the girls couldn't have been happier.


We parked at Pentagon City and took the metro to the museum. Never underestimate the power of a train ride to enthrall kids, I love how, when you're young, the excitement of the journey equals the thrill of the destination. Regarding the Phillips Collection's Degas exhibit the girls saw one painting and became so excited that they danced through the crowd. As cute as this sounds, when people pay $12 for admission to an art museum, they ARE NOT amused when preschoolers bump into them. Luckily the exhibit also includes a movie of a ballet and a mirror with a ballet bar, which helped keep my twirling children away from other museum patrons. If you're interested the exhibit runs through January 8, admission is free for people 18 and under.

After the museum, we hopped back on the metro and headed for afternoon tea at the Ritz Carlton Pentagon City. As soon as we entered the hotel, P said "mom, this place is beautiful, imagine if we lived here." This sense of awe and wonder penetrated the rest of the "meal" - sparkling wall paper, cups full of hot chocolate, sandwiches and beautiful sweets. I've never seen the girls so well-behaved. They loved every minute of it. And Grandma M and I loved our bellinis. At the end of the meal we surprised P with special birthday cupcakes (5, she is 5!!). If you want to visit, the Ritz Pentagon City serves tea on weekend afternoons. Children's tea only costs $16, adult prices range from $29 to $42 per person.



*Melanie Rodriguez. Beautiful.

*The difference between nerd, geek, and dork graphed through venn diagram. This explains a lot.

*Kid-Friendly DC's WONDERFUL LIST of DC's Best Holiday Events. So much to do.

*I love these watercolors by Tobias Tovera.

*A trench bridge (via Miss Moss).


5 years old. Wowsers.


Things to Read - DC-Based Blogs that I'm Thankful For

october5 (92 of 114)

Last year for Thanksgiving I posted on some of my favorite mom blogs. One year later and that list still contains my daily reads. So this year I thought I'd post on my favorite local blogs. Here goes:

1. KidFriendly DC - the absolutely best resource for things to do in DC with kids. I especially love the Friday lists, full of so many great activities that it often necessitates a change in plans. Plus I love reading the funny headlines and well-written reviews.

2. Go Out and Play! - very similar to Kidfriendly DC, except that Melissa, the blog's author, tends to concentrate on events in the Northern Virginia/Arlington area. She's especially good at finding nature center classes and storytimes, a must read.

3. Not-So-SAHM - This relatively-new blog has tons of great crafts and places to go. Plus the writing is funny. I love that the author always "keeps it real" by demonstrating how messy (and fun) kids can be, especially when it comes to crafts.

4. But I Do Have a Law Degree - I don't actually read many blogs, I usually just skim them and look at the pictures. But I do read this blog. As a former big-firm lawyer turned stay-at-home mom I can relate to Shannon's stories about leaving a high-pressure work environment. But most of all I love her funny sketches of daily life.

5. Snoburbia - Funny. Snarky. And true.

6. The Natural Capital - A great resource for days spent outside. I especially love the posts on "things to look for" by month, which make "nature exploring" all the more fun.

7. The Meanest Momma - Playground reviews. Menu plans. Crossfit. Lost of fun places to go with kids. And info about daily life.

8. This is Marzipan - Tons of creative inspiration, making me wish I knew how to sew. Plus beautiful pictures. Lots of beautiful pictures.



Things to Do - A Wedding!!


You know how the story goes, two people meet, they fall in love and one day they - have a commitment ceremony? Wait, that's SO 2008. Let's try again - two people meet, they fall in love, they pledge their love in front of family and friends, they have two kids together, their love grows stronger, 10 years pass, and FINALLY DC says they can marry each other too. What a great day to celebrate, actually aren't most weddings great days to celebrate? Especially ones where you know the couple is in it for the long haul?

Even though this simple, beautiful ceremony didn't really create anything new between Julia and Tracie - they'll still go home, raise their children, look forward to an occasional date night - it did remind everyone present what "marriage" really means, the commitment and the love. And how lucky two people are to find each other in this world. Especially when those two people continue to grow better together, year after year.


F clapped and clapped at the ceremony's end, she's such a romantic. My children have attended two weddings in their short lifetime - one interracial and one gay. I can't help but reflect on how different their experiences are from my own childhood, not that my parents wouldn't have supported such celebrations, rather, during my childhood my family just didn't know any gay or interracial couples. When I think about all the bad things in the world, it makes me feel better to think that some things seem to be improving, that as a society we're starting to accept the idea that love is love, regardless of sex or skin color.



Things to Make - Make-Your-Own Pizza


Last February, when we visited Denver, my friend C put together a make-your-own pizza dinner. My kids loved it, then (as often happens) I forgot about it. But a few weeks ago Not-So-SAHM posted on her family's make-your-own pizza night, reminding me that Trader Joe's sells pre-made dough. So we tried it ourselves last week and the dinner had unanticipated benefits. F loved making her own pizza so much that after she added the cheese she seemed sad that the process was so fast ("it needs more color mom"), so we raided the fridge for broccoli, prosciutto, and even a tiny bit of cauliflower. If we had ordered pizza, F NEVER would have eaten such toppings, but apparently when you make your own the more veggies the better - she ate every bite. I think make-your-own pizza night will become a regular "event."

Just a reminder that the Land of Nod giveaway ends tonight at 8 pm eastern time. So you still have time to enter.



Places to Go - Autumn at Great Country Farms (Bluemont, VA)

(It's the worst group picture ever, but at least we have a group picture)

I've posted about Great Country Farms quite a few times (click here to view past posts), mostly regarding our visits in the summer and spring. But GCF also makes for a great day trip in autumn - no mosquitoes or bees, cooler weather, and hayrides to wonderful pick-your-own fall crops. A few weeks ago we picked swiss chard and kale and in October you can pick pumpkins off the vine. The playgrounds keep getting bigger and bigger - they now have a "castle" with slides and several haystacks for running, jumping, and climbing (or sneezing). The grounds are open daily from 10am to 5 pm through Sunday, November 27th (closed on Thanksgiving day). I can't think of a better way to celebrate the end of the season (esp. since relatively warm weather is predicted through the weekend). Click here for more info.


*In the Make - Lovely pics and interviews with all sorts of artist equals lots of inspiration. I can't stop browsing.

*New pics up on my other blog, Because It Is a Holiday.

*A gorgeous set of photos.



Picking kale confused T somewhat. He kept carrying his bag by the wrong end.


Everybody loved the play castle with slides.


She's actually six years old. Wow. Where do the years go?


Things to Do - Grateful List (October 2011)


1. Ken Burns' Prohibition
2. Dan reading and loving my Banksy book (Wall and Piece)
3. Alexi Murdoch in concert (so mellow)
4. The New York Times' profile of Murakami
5. Listening to Justice Breyer's talk at the I Street Synagogue
6. Dancing with Lughnasa at the Irish Repertory Theatre in NYC


7. Silver Diner's local menu
8. Trader Joe's mint tea
9. A bowl of grapes (I find that if I leave a huge bowl of grapes on the table in the morning that the kids will snack on it throughout the day)
10. Date night dinner at Jalelo
11. Brussel sprouts at the Green Table, NYC


12. Riding the dinosaur slide with all three kids at Cox Farms
13. The fire station's open house and watching T drive the fire truck
14. The tightrope walker at Claude Moore Colonial Farm's Market Fair and watching the girls run through the fields playing "What Time is It Ms. Fox?"
15. Blocktoberfest
16. Walking the High Line and drinking in Times Square with Sarah


17. Our new front room rug from Katie
18. Fresh black tea eye cream


19. Swim lessons for P and F (which are going surprisingly well)
20. The girls surprising me by making my bed
21. A glowstick explorer walk around the neighborhood followed by a glowstick bath (thank you, Not-So-SAHM for the idea!)
22. A 6th and 60th birthday feast
23. T always drawing "fireworks"
24. P's new nickname, Tigs (for Tigger because she bounces everywhere)
25. Religious and philosophical discussions over wine during playgroup
26. T's laugh (it's this full-bodied sound that fills a room)
27. The tree on the corner
28. P's social calendar (full til December)
29. Listening to the students say the countries they are from during Hispanic Heritage night at F's school (Madagascar, Kurdistan, Bangladesh, etc.)
30. Painting a cardboard castle with T
31. Sleeping in and napping while it snowed during our NYC girls' trip
32. Coming home from NYC to a wonderful roasted chicken dinner (thank you Dan!)
33. 40% off everything in the store sales at Ann Taylor Loft and Banana Republic
34. Elmo, Snow White, and a "princess who nobody has ever heard of" for Halloween
35. P telling everyone about her peanut allergy while trick or treating.

F's List
- the morning news (at school), hot cocoa, making blanket forts with P, kindergarten, coming home from school and seeing my family, Cybil Lily, My American Girl doll, turning 6, "a sister like P", Silver Dollar night [school fundraiser], looking like Snow White, trick or treating, giving people candy

P's List
- My family, L's birthday party, my best friend P, Cox Farms, the dinosaur slide, my cousins, the National Arb, Silver Dollar night, Blocktoberfest, watching a movie outside [during Blocktoberfest], dollies

T's List
- cooking apples with dada [using our apple peeler], bulldozers ["I want to ride that, mommy. now."], build house, drive car upstairs, good guys



Things to Read - Kids' Books IV

10.20.11 (44 of 46)
(Of course in the above photo, NONE of my children are reading the following recommended books. In the photo, F tries to read about Banksy because Dan finds his antics/art so funny (despite the effort obvious in her expression I don't think she quite understands "street art" humor) as P thumbs through a Barbie coloring book. Only T peruses an actual children's book. So go our days.)

I haven't posted on kids' books in a while. Now that F goes to school all day, we no longer spend our afternoons reading books on the couch. And at night we've been reading Harry Potter as a family (until now neither Dan nor I have ever read any of the books in the series). All that being said, in the last few months we've found a few children's books that we all really enjoy. Here goes (clicking on the book's icon takes you to Amazon):

I really like this book, the prose is simple and short, with details that bring to life the author's memories, such as "[w]hen I was young in the mountains Grandfather came home in the evening covered with the black dust of a coal mine. Only his lips were clean, and he used them to kiss the top of my head." A great bedtime read and a great conversation-starter about your own childhood.

P's sort of obsessed with Madeline lately (and a little TOO excited about the possibility of appendix removal). Anyways, it's nice to have six of the different stories in one volume. Plus the book includes "Madeline's Christmas", which is seasonal (despite a magician and magic carpets instead of Santa).

We recently discovered children's author Allen Say and I really like his writing style, very crisp with the perfect amount of detail. This book tells the story of a boy and his workaholic father taking a backpacking trip through the mountains. The illustrations are gorgeous, so hopefully, if we read the story enough, my own children will soon want to go backpacking with me. Hopefully.

This is probably the Dr. Seuss book that I remember the most from my own childhood, especially the terrifyingly big house with "your bedroom up here and your bathroom up THERE" (perhaps this alone explains why I've always been okay with living in a small house). Though as a former attorney, I now sympathize the most with Mr. Potter the "T-crosser, I-dotter" because he "has to cross t's and he has to dot i's in an I-and-T factory out in Van Nuys!" Anyways, it's a great book to read pre-holiday shopping, as sometimes we all need to remember exactly how lucky we are.

This story about a pet snake makes my kids laugh out loud. I don't totally get why it's so funny, but I don't get a lot of their humor lately. And at least it's short.

This is a great take on an oft-told tale. A group of monks comes to a poor depressed town and make "stone soup" in the market square, using only rocks and water. As the townspeople see the monks' efforts, one by one they each bring out ingredients they have been hoarding, and ultimately the huge feast bonds the whole town.


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