Take your kids around the world this holiday season by hosting an around the world holiday party! It’s the perfect way for a school club or a homeschool group to celebrate this festive season.
Host an Around the World Holiday Party for Kids
Last year we started a World Explorers Club in our homeschool group. Each month we get together to learn about a different country with the kiddos. Earlier this month the World Explorers Club put on our second annual around the world holiday party. Everyone had a blast!
Each family picks a country to represent and shows how a popular winter holiday is celebrated there.
At our party this year we learned about Christmas in Sweden, Russia, Italy, UK, and the Netherlands; Hanukkah in Israel; Diwali in India; Chinese New Year in China; and Ayyám-i-Há. (The Bahá’í holiday of Ayyám-i-Há was a bit of an exception, since it isn’t based in any one country).
For their chosen country, each family prepares 1) a craft or activity, 2) a traditional treat. So, for example, last year our family did the Philippines, so the kids made a version of a traditional star decoration and sampled some homemade coconut milk cake. For India (Diwali) this year we brought ladoos to share and helped the kids make paper diyas. For Sweden, the kids crafted some adorable Christmas gnomes and decorated cookies, while for Israel (Hanukkah) they played dreidel to win chocolate coins.
We have done this two different ways, so see which works for your group! Both times, we set up “stations” around the room, generally one country per table, and the kids could spread out and take turns visiting each.
Last year, the food and the craft were at each station, whereas this year we moved all the treats to a food table and saved them until the end. They were only able to get the food after completing a quiz about the countries they had learned about!
The holiday quiz! They had to work together to answer the questions before they could have their treats 🙂
Whichever way you do it, make sure to have their first stop by a station where kids decorate treat bags. They’ll need one to collect all the crafts they will be making! This is a great activity for them to do as people are arriving and setting up.
Next year, we definitely have to add a Mexican style piñata!
December 13, 2018Book Reviews, ChristmasComments Off on New Christmas Picture Books to Brighten Your Holiday
The holidays are the perfect time to snuggle up together and share some cozy moments over a good book. Well, I have not one but five wonderful new Christmas picture books to share with you, all of them guaranteed to brighten your holiday! So take a break from the hustle and bustle, grab your kids and some mugs of cocoa, and curl up with these new holiday favorites.
Disclosure: I was sent complimentary copies of the books below for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
New Christmas Picture Books to Brighten Your Holiday
My kids love ninjas! So why I was very excited to receive North Pole Ninjas: MISSION: Christmas! to review. Who would have thought there would be ninjas at the North Pole? But they are so useful to do all those secret jobs that need to be done to spread kindness everywhere! The pictures are adorable, and I love the rhyming text, but my FAVORITE part is that it comes with 50 top secret missions of kindness that kids can do, like donating food to the local food bank, or drawing a holiday picture for relatives. What a great way to have kids focus on the spirit of the season!
Another book that really helps kids focus on what’s important is My Little Gifts: A Book of Sharing (Growing Hearts). This is a beautifully done book with plenty of cleverly done flaps for little hands to open. It helps children realize that gifts don’t have to be wrapped under the tree, they can be hugs and kisses, or helping someone, or letting your sister decide which jam to try. I should mention that this book is not specifically for Christmas, but great for any time of year.
All Aboard! The Christmas Train is soooo fun for little readers! It opens up into a train, plus each car opens up to see the passengers inside! My kids love laying this book out on the floor to read it. As their mom, I love that it incorporates so many fun little learning activities, like counting the number of skiers, or looking for Santa’s missing boot! So colorful and fun!
Decked Out for Christmas! is a really cute board book to help younger kids get excited about Christmas time. A group of mice pull out all the decorations (included a cheese star!) fit for a wonderful Christmas tree, but soon it becomes obvious they aren’t decorating a tree! Great twist and a special appearance by a present-giving mouse at the end.
I love finding bilingual books for all occasions, so I was happy to review Doggy Claus / Perro Noel (English and Spanish Edition). It is a sweet story of a shelter dog who wants to bring some holiday cheer to the other animals. In the end he discovers that the best presents aren’t toys but rather friendship. Really cute book with a great message!
Looking for a fun, easy decoration you can make with your child this holiday season? Here is a festive DIY ornament inspired by the Philippines that is fun to do and also reinforces those fine motor skills!
When it comes to “around the world” celebrations, I normally have a very hard choosing which country to research and present. This year, however, when it came time for our World Explorers Club holiday party, I knew exactly which country I wanted to showcase: the Philippines are known for their incredible holiday spirit and amazing Christmas celebrations, which start as early as September! That’s right, while the rest of us are thinking about back to school shopping, Filipinos are already busy decorating for Christmas!
One of the most iconic Philippine decorations is the parol, the gorgeous star lanterns originally used to light the way to early morning mass in the 9 days leading up to Christmas. (For those that speak Spanish, notice the similarity to the word farol, or lantern! This dates back to the Spanish colonization of the Philippines).
Welcome to our fifth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016) plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest!
This month we’ve been learning about Haiti, and in particular Christmas treats from this beautiful but beleaguered country. We really loved the sweet potato pudding, so we were looking forward to trying pineapple nog, a wonderful kid-friendly holiday drink. The flavors are quite different than eggnog, but it has a similarly creamy consistency. It is traditionally served at Christmas time, but these tropical flavors would also be well suited for summertime.
Christmas in Haiti
But first we took a step back to learn about Haiti and how they celebrate Christmas there. For our character-building classes at home we’ve been focusing on courage, so we talked about how the people of Haiti have incredible courage. First, because they successfully waged one of the first revolutions in the Western Hemisphere, which was also the largest successful slave rebellion in modern times. Haitians today also demonstrate incredible courage in the face of widespread poverty and repeated natural disasters. (For information on charities that operate in Haiti, see the end of this post). For those that want to delve deeper, you can read about how in many ways Haiti’s current suffering stems from its incredible victory more than two centuries ago and the fear it invoked in Western powers.
But back to Christmas! Here is a wonderful first hand account of how Nwèl (Christmas) is joyfully celebrated in Haiti despite the lack of material wealth. One beloved tradition mentioned there are the Christmas fanals, paper lanterns made in the shape of houses, churches, or animals and lit with candles or Christmas lights. Celebrating with family and friends is at the heart of the festivities, and most families attend midnight mass together on Christmas Eve.
While the cocktail kremas is very popular at Christmastime, a kid-friendly holiday drink is pineapple nog. It is light and creamy, with a blend of tropical flavors that all ages will enjoy. Plus, it literally takes 2 minutes to make! It honestly took me longer to write the recipe here than it did to actually make it.
The original recipe does not call for any sweetener, but for my crowd I knew I needed to sweeten it up a bit. (It is actually really refreshing just as it is, so try it before you add any sugar!) To keep it relatively healthy, I used a banana for much of the sweetener, which was great because it’s in keeping with the tropical flavors.
I also wanted to make it dairy free for my son, so instead of the traditional mix of coconut milk and regular milk, I used all coconut milk. If you prefer you can make the traditional version.
1 can of coconut milk
20 oz can of crushed pineapple
1 ripe banana
2 T sugar (optional)
sprinkle of nutmeg
Put all ingredients in blender and mix thoroughly. Delicious as is but even better chilled!
Makes 3 large servings or 4-5 small servings
What is your favorite kid=friendly holiday drink?
He is a little suspicious of those brown flecks. It’s just nutmeg!
Organizations to Support in Haiti
There are many charities operating in Haiti. Here are two of my favorites:
Lidè: An educational initiative in rural Haiti that uses the arts and literacy to empower at-risk adolescent girls and help them transition into school or vocational training. Established by Author Holiday Reinhorn, Actor Rainn Wilson and Executive Director Dr. Kathryn Adams in response to the devastating earthquake of 2010, the Lidè program seeks to uplift women and girls who have been denied equal access to education.
New Horizon School, Mona Foundation: Recognized as one of the best in Haiti, New Horizon School is educating the next generation of graduates trained as agents of change in the sustainable development of Haiti through its focus on academic excellence, personal transformation through building moral capabilities and commitment to community service.
Welcome to our fourth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (2013, 2014, and 2015), plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest!
The holidays are fast approaching, and this year I decided to try a new treat: a Christmas pudding from Haiti. It is heaven, a sweet combination of flavors we typically associate with the Caribbean, like coconut and banana, with those we associate with the winter holidays, like cinnamon and sweet potatoes.
Pain patate is a traditional treat in Haiti, served throughout the year but particularly at Christmas. It is sometimes translated as sweet potato cake or bread, but in other places as sweet potato pudding, which is more how ours turned out.
The recipe is very easy, but it does require quite a lot of cooking time, since the sweet potato are not cooked ahead of time but instead grated and cooked in the batter itself. If you decide to use orange yams like I did instead of the white sweet potatoes traditionally use, be warned that your pudding will take much longer to set, as the white sweet potatoes are much drier and so hold up better in the batter.
2.5 cups of sweet potatoes (I used one large sweet potato)
½ cup raisins
1 cup evaporated milk
1 ¼ cup coconut milk
1 cup brown sugar, packed
¼ cup butter
½ tsp of salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 ripe banana
1 lime (zest only)
1 T ground ginger
2 T vanilla
Soak the raisins in boiling water. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes. Grate them with a box grater or (much faster!) cut into pieces and grind in a food processor.
Put the grated sweet potatoes in a pan, along with the evaporated milk, coconut milk, brown sugar, butter, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
Cook on medium heat for 45-50 minutes, stirring frequently. As it cooks, mash the banana and add to the pan, along with the raisins, lime zest, and ginger. Continue to stir frequently.
Add the vanilla then stir and cover. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the batter begins to thicken.
Pour into a greased 8 x 11 baking pan and cook at 350 degrees for 1 to 1 ½ hours. The dish is done once the pudding has set and turned a golden color.
For a more cake like consistency, refrigerate for 24 hours.
You’ve heard of the holiday cookie swap – here is a virtual swap, hosted by Crafty Moms Share, with recipes from around the world! Visit the linky below to find new multicultural recipes to try this holiday season, and link up your own!
This is a time of year I savor spending with my family. There are so many special traditions we’ve built up over the years. One of my favorites is making gingerbread houses with my kids. I love to vary the ingredients each year, such as by making a healthier version of this holiday classic. One year we even did a pizza bread house!
I always buy some special ingredients for decorations, like candy or dried fruit. This year we used one of our new favorite cereals, which we picked up at Target (Save when you use this coupon)!
Honey Bunch of Oats® (Honey Roasted and Strawberry) were the perfect addition: the flakes make great leaves for leaves and tiles for roofs, while the granola clusters can…oh, let’s be real! We may never know because they always get eaten before they can be used!
In his mind, a gingerbread house is anything you can put sprinkles on!
I love how creative the boys are with this project, which always goes differently than I imagine it will! This year my oldest built a skyscraper, while my youngest built a factory (which looked suspiciously like a big mound of ingredients, since he didn’t have the patience to fool with any actual engineering).
The trees, unfortunately, were eaten before I could snap a picture!
To fuel my little architects, I made these absolutely scrumptious crunchy chocolate peanut butter balls. I’ve made peanut butter balls for years, but this year I wanted to do something a little different and, well, fancier. I also know that my kids get bored with eating the same old snacks all the time, and these crunchy, chocolate peanut butter balls were just the ticket to shake things up a bit.
Mix peanut butter, cocoa powder, and honey. If you would rather skip the chocolate (really??), add coconut flour to help absorb the liquid and give it a milder flavor. If, on the other hand, you want more chocolate, you can also add mini chocolate chips once the first three ingredients are blended together.
Form the mixture into balls (any size will do, but larger balls will hold up better in the next step).
Roll the balls in the crushed cereal. Enjoy as is or stick in the refrigerator for a (slightly) neater treat!
These are a great, healthier treat for kids and moms! They are a balanced, bite-sized source of energy, plus they make a great midnight snack, moms! (Although be careful, because they are so crunchy you might wake up the kids!)
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‘Tis the season, and families everywhere are gearing up to buy, create, and lovingly wrap presents for their loved ones. While you’re at it, why not have some fun with all that extra wrapping paper? It is so great for crafts! We had fun with some of our own upcycled crafts recently, so I’ve gathered together some creative ideas for you. Share your ideas in the comments!
Disclosure: I received complimentary packages of wrapping paper from Tuttle Publishing for review purposes; however, all my opinions are my own.
Do you have a stash of wrapping paper sitting around at the end of the holidays, odd scraps that you’re not sure would actually fit a present but you can’t bring yourself to get rid of? Or perhaps you’ve found some really beautiful wrapping paper that is like artwork all by itself? Here are some fun and creative ways to use it!
I was so pleased to receive several packages of gorgeous wrapping paper from Tuttle Publishing (shown above are the Blue and White set, Indonesian Batik, Japanese Kimono, and Chinese Silk). With gifts, so much is in the presentation! These premium wrapping papers are so beautiful and artistic that I knew our loved ones would feel very special receiving presents wrapped with them.
I also realized that we could also use it to make wonderful crafts! Here are some of our favorite creative uses for wrapping paper.
10 Creative Uses for Wrapping Paper
When I was a kid, at the start of every school year we would pull out the paper grocery bags to make covers for our new textbooks. (Here is a tutorial that is exactly how we did it when I was a kid). It kept the books in better shape, plus it personalized them a bit. I hadn’t done it for years, so I thought it would be fun to do again. Since we had such beautiful material to work with, I made a cover for my prayer book using a sheet from the Chinese Silk set. Isn’t it beautiful?
Line Your Drawers
Add a little beauty to your everyday by lining your drawers with some beautiful wrapping paper! Featured here is a sheet from the Blue & White set. The photo really doesn’t do justice to the pretty dark blue color I used.
Decorate your house or trim your tree with some festive paper chains! These are also great to use in a simple advent calendar. This gorgeous wrapping paper will definitely be a step up from the construction paper we usually use!
One thrifty way to use wrapping paper is to make simple gift tags for the presents you are wrapping. Simply take some of the excess paper, fold it over and trim to make a small rectangle. (If your wrapping paper has a nice design, you could also follow the shape of the images on the paper). Write your note inside and tape it to the gift, and that’s it! Simple, but it does look cute because of course it matches!
Here are some other fun wrapping paper ideas for you:
November 11, 2016ChristmasComments Off on 6 Tips to Keep the Holidays Special
Does the Christmas season feel like a marathon for you, as you attempt to fit in all the shopping and special moments for your family before you collapse on Christmas Day? Here are 6 tips to keep the holidays special for your family, so that you are creating cherished memories together instead of rushing to finish an overwhelming to-do list.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Ornaments of Love for review purposes; however, all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission.
6 Tips to Keep the Holidays Special
1. Make a plan. Don’t want to be rushing around at the last minute? Take some time (ideally before the holiday rush) to outline what you’d like to get done and when. Even if you haven’t had a chance to do this ahead of time, it is worth a breather to write down exactly what it is you are trying to accomplish. Break it down into small pieces so that as Christmas nears you don’t feel overwhelmed. Keep in mind that this does not have to be an elaborate plan! It can be a simple list that helps you keep your focus on the items you don’t want to forget.
2. Simplify. Have 20 items on your list? See if you can get it down to 15. Have 10? Try to get it down to 8. Be realistic about what you can accomplish given your other commitments and the age of your children. Don’t keep something on your list just because you’ve always done it or because that’s what everyone else in your mom’s group is doing (!) Focus on what’s right for you and your family, even if that seems like a simple, non-Pinterest worthy list. Remember that people only post those holiday photos that show the best of what they’ve done, not the dirty dishes or the tantrums, so don’t envy anyone else’s Christmas but focus on your own.
3. Throw out the old. Sit down with your family and share your list. Have each person (yourself included) choose one or two items that are most important to them. You may be surprised! Maybe you didn’t realize how much your daughter cares about decorating the tree together, or that your son really loves Christmas carols. Once you know what is really important to everyone, make those items the focus, so that you can really keep the holidays special for everyone. Let the other items on the list be extras that you get to if you are able (or eliminate altogether!)
4. Try something new. Once you’ve simplified your list, pick something new to try as a family, like going to see a show or taking in the Christmas lights downtown. It’s easy to get into a rut and follow the same routine each year, so everyone will have fun trying out something new together.
5. Don’t reinvent the wheel. At the end of the holidays, hold on to your list, along with any notes you may have made along the way, so that next year you already have a good focus. I actually have checklists on my computer for holidays and birthdays, so that I don’t forget anything that’s really important to me and it’s easy to update each year. Why throw out a good plan after all that work?
6. Focus on what’s really important. Don’t be a slave to your plan, but let it be a guide. Plans are helpful to remind us about what we’d like to accomplish, but remember that what’s most important isn’t checking items off a list, it’s spending time with those we love. So if your child is asking you to play with them, maybe those Christmas cards can wait. Perhaps building an elaborate gingerbread house that you can display isn’t so important if it’s becoming a source of tension between you and your child, who just wants to have fun with a messy creation. Remember that you are making memories, so what kind of memories do you want those to be?
This year I was so pleased to have been contacted by author Sharlin Craig about reviewing her book Ornaments of Love. It is a lovely story about a family discovering what is really important during the holidays. 10 year old Ayana looks forward to her family’s Christmas traditions every year – decorating the tree, enjoying hot chocolate together in front of the fire – but this year it seems like her parents are just too busy. Her mother is always baking or shopping while her father struggles to finish his work at the office in time for Christmas Eve. It isn’t until a mishap threatens to ruin their Christmas that they come together to celebrate what is truly important.
This is a story that every family can relate to! The parents aren’t cruel or neglectful, they are just busy, like so many of us. The irony, of course, is that they are busy with things that are seemingly important to their family – like sending gifts to loved ones or baking for a holiday party – yet actually keep them from enjoying the simple moments. There are plenty of tender moments that help you realize just how close the family is yet how often they can lose sight of the importance of spending quality time. Author Sharlin Craig is a wife and mother herself, so she understands the struggle to maintain balance. This book is her gift to other families as they seek to keep the holidays special for themselves and their loved ones. I love the gentle illustrations, which match the tone of the story beautifully. (The illustrators for the picture book and coloring book are from Nigeria and The Czech Republic, now living in Germany).
With the arrival of our newest bundle of joy last month, we are keeping things simple in our house, especially when it comes to cooking. At the same time, however, we don’t want to sacrifice taste or comfort, which is why I love this creamy avocado salsa recipe. So easy, but a real treat for all of us!
This recipe is special because it also celebrates Las Posadas, the wonderful Christmas tradition from Latin America that recreates Joseph and Mary’s search for shelter before the birth of Baby Jesus. This festive time is one of joyous gatherings of family and friends, filled with laughter, song, and – of course – great food!
This tradition is especially poignant for our family this year, as it celebrates community and family, two things that are of particular importance when a child is born. We live far away from our families: mine is scattered throughout the US, while my husband’s is in Costa Rica, distances that seemed even greater as our due date drew near. And while our families did their best to support us (last minute plane trips, Skype, packages of presents), we knew we would be leaning heavily on friends when our little girl arrived.
And so it was. Friends and neighbors babysat as we went to the birth center: one dear friend responded to a desperate text at 5 am, while another cheerfully spent all day with our boys. In the days that followed, women from my moms’ group – some of whom I had never even met before – dropped off hot meals, while other friends offered to take our older children out for play dates. Blogger friends sent guest posts and gave my articles extra love. My personal inbox and Facebook page were flooded with well wishes and offers of help.
In short, our family – including our new little one – was surrounded with love and support, at a time when we sorely needed it. And that is what Las Posadas represents to me: a celebration of community, as people come together to provide shelter and support to those in need.
December 7, 2015Christmas, craftsComments Off on DIY Gifts: Christmas Tree Bookmark Craft
Thanks to Colleen of Sugar Aunts for this wonderful tutorial for a bookmark your kids can make. These are fun to do and make great DIY gifts!
Kids love to create handmade gifts for friends and relatives! This Christmas tree bookmark craft is a fun and easy craft idea that kids can make. And the best news is, that they can create a bunch of these at once. Everyone will love to receive these DIY gifts this Christmas!
This craft is super easy to make. You’ll need a sheet of burlap and green paint. Cut the burlap into strips. Next, cut the burlap into bookmark sized strips. Older kids can do this part, or an adult can do the cutting.
To make the Christmas tree shape, fold the burlap strip in half and snip a triangle near the top of the bookmark. Snip a second and third triangle so you have a string of triangles. When you flatten out the bookmark, you’ll have a tree shape. You can snip a small trunk, too.
Have the kids paint the burlap, evenly covering the burlap. When the paint dries, turn the burlap over and paint the other side. Allow the paint to dry again. You can make a bunch of these bookmarks by painting a sheet of burlap and then cutting them into strips. Cut the tree shape out after the burlap has been painted if you are making several bookmarks.
Pair this bookmark with a favorite book for a gift that anyone will love to receive!