We've made it a family tradition to watch a Christmas movie every day (or evening) during December since we had littlies in the house.
This is the list for this year, in no order. The choice is random, the movie that comes out of the box on the night is the movie we watch. Sometimes we all sit down to watch, sometimes it's just Wayne and me.
Over the years the theme of the movies has changed to reflect how the kids have grown up. Now we're all adults, most of the movies are more suited to adults, but some of our favourites will always be suitable for even young children. I guess Christmas brings out the child in all of us, even if it's just for a movie.
Here's a list of the movies in the box for this year (if we don't have the DVD, I've made a card with the movie name on it and where to find it on Netflix). They're not all necessarily actual Christmas movies, but they are favourites that we enjoy watching at this time of year.
1. Miracle on 34th Street - remake
2. Christmas with the Kranks
3. The Santa Clause
4. The Santa Clause 2
5. The Santa Clause 3
6. Dear Santa
7. Holiday Inn
8. How Sarah got Her Wings
9. Love Actually
10. The Holiday
11. Angels in the Snow
12. Miracle on 34th Street - 1947 version, and a favourite of mine
13. Home Alone
14. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
16. Christmas in Connecticut -1945 version with Barbara Stanwyk, another Christmas favourite of mine
17. A Christmas Prince (the Royal Wedding) - this is a new addition for 2018
18. One Magic Christmas
19. High Society - not srictly a Christmas movie, just a favourite
20. Bridget Jones Diary
21. Little Women - it's not Christmas if we don't watch Little Women
22. 7 Brides for 7 Brothers - this is one of my mother's favourite movies, it's a sentimental inclusion
23. A Holiday Engagement
24. It's a Wonderful Life - this is always reserved for Christmas Eve, before we watch the Carols by Candlelight
I know my children are well and truly grown up, but this cloud dough is so much fun we've all been having a little play with the batch I made to see if it works. Cloud dough is mouldable, just like playdough, but it feels like flour and you can run your fingers through it and it will be soft and silky.
The kids (big and little) that played with this batch had a ball drizzling it through their fingers then making shapes with it. The boys even had a cloud dough castle competition!
Best of all, unlike play dough, if you forget to put the lid on the container it doesn't dry out!
Cloud DoughYou will need:
1kg plain flour
1 cup of baby oil
Put the flour and baby oil in a large container. I used a four litre ice cream container to mix in so that it could also be the storage container. Mix the flour and baby oil together with your hands until the dough will hold a shape when you squeeze or pack it together. This will take a long time - about 5 minutes so don't give up. Just keep on mixing and squeezing.
This dough uses baby oil so make sure your littlies aren't tempted to eat it. Baby oil is used in this recipe because food grade oils tend to go rancid - eww! If you want to use a food grade oil go ahead, just remember that you'll need to store your cloud dough in the fridge and it will only keep for about a week before you'll need to make a new batch.
You can colour your cloud dough. The easiest way to do this is to either add liquid food colour to the baby oil before you mix it into the flour or if you have them, add powdered food colouring to the flour before you add the baby oil.
I found the easiest (for clean-up anyway) way to play with cloud dough was to put it into a 7 litre tub so it didn't spill over the sides. Or just take it outside. Or put down a plastic tablecloth. I had dozens when my kids were little - they saved the furniture and the floors and made cleaning up messy play a breeze. You can find plastic tablecloths at $2 shops and every home with littlies should have at least one for messy play.
It's spring. The weather is slowly improving and spring weekends are meant for fun. However, it’s easy to fall into a weekend rut. This is especially the case if you work all week and use the weekends to catch up on household chores and errands. And if your budget is tight then weekend fun may seem impossible. Here are a few tips, ideas, and strategies to have more fun this weekend without having to spend a fortune.
1. Get Outside
Getting out into the fresh air almost automatically puts a smile on everyone’s face. And guess what - nature is free. Walk to the park and play a game of Frisbee, football, or cricket. Head to the beach or pool and splash around. Take a nature hike or explore a new outdoor area in your community. Pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it.
2. Make a List
Make a list of the things that you want to do and can do on the weekends. This way, when you’re stumped for ideas you can simply turn to your list and make a choice.
3. Put It on the Calendar
Many museums, zoos, and other community facilities offer discount days, free days, and special events. Make a list of these and put them on your calendar. Then when you’re trying to decide what to do this weekend you can see all of the possibilities and take advantage of local events.
4. Fairs, Fetes and Festivals
Most fairs, fetes and festivals are free to attend and they can be a lot of fun. Add them to your calendar and choose one or two to attend. Set a budget in advance and pack your lunch so you stay on budget. It’s easy to spend a fortune on food and snacks. Find the best of the fairs, fetes and festivals by asking the people you know. They will be able to recommend the best school fete and the best retirement village or church fair and the very best music and historic festivals for you to enjoy.
5. Take Advantage of Short-Term Travel Packages
One of the best ways to see the world on a budget is to have an open schedule and open-minded approach to where you go. If you want to get away for a long weekend, visit the discount travel broker websites and review the last-minute packages or tune in to the TV travel shows. You can often save more than 50% on a trip and the spontaneity is fun. You don't even have to leave town. Be a tourist in your own town and see the sights like a visitor, going to the tourist information office and finding out all the free sights and places to visit, then go and enjoy them.
6. Imaginative Projects
What do your children love to do? Do they enjoy building things? Do they like putting on shows? Let their imaginations run free and spend a weekend with a creative project. Put on a play in the back yard and film it. Build a playhouse and paint it. If your children love volcanoes then have a science fair. If they love to cook then stage your very own Cupcake Wars in your kitchen.
7. Try Something New
Have each family member make a list of something they want to learn or do this summer. Give them a few examples so they don’t write down things like “Go to Paris” or “Ride a camel.” Children can get carried away. Take a look at their list and then create a plan to address one item on each person’s list. You may find that you’re rock climbing one weekend and shopping for vintage clothing the next. Check your local paper.
Cheapskater Lee found a "help wanted" ad in her local paper that was fun, educational and helping the local wildlife. She took her partner and children and they put together and painted little houses for an endangered possum native to their area. Then they went to the park and helped put them into the trees.
All work and no play makes weekends dull and the work week even harder. Teach your children to take time away from the television and computer, and the shopping centre, to have relax and just have fun. And enjoy your family time together – it’s precious.
From Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing
We want our homes to look the best they can over the holidays. Before the end of November we are pulling out the yuletide decorations. While we spruce up the inside and outside of our homes with bells and whistles, don’t forget about the Christmas tree.
I believe that decorating a Christmas tree is a family affair (and if it's not, it should be). Now, the husband and the kids may not want to go around the house hanging Christmas banners and Christmas cards with you. You may not enjoy climbing on the roof of the house to hang lights either. But every family member gets in the Christmas spirit with the Christmas tree decoration. Your tree says a lot about you as a family - your choice of ornaments, tree topping, and tree skirt - yes, tree skirt, and I'll talk more about these useful items later on.
First choose your tree. Many go for artificial trees because there are no dried pine needles to pierce the bottoms of tender feet or vacuum up, I do too. We've had our big Christmas tree for 20 years and it's still going strong. I consider it an investment in our marriage, but that's a story for another day.
What? You can't wait for "another day"? OK, here goes.
The first year Wayne and I were married, we spent Christmas here in Melbourne with my family, and didn't have a Christmas tree, although we did hang a wreath on the front door and display the cards.
The second year we were married was AJ's first Christmas and even though he was only 4 weeks old, we again came home to Melbourne for a family Christmas. I was so exhausted (it's a good thing no one tells you just how exhausting new babies are) that I didn't bother with a tree again.
But the third year we were married AJ was one year old and come hell or high water I was having a Christmas tree, and it was going to be a real tree. We were dirt poor, having just moved into our house and it was a very tight Christmas. I had been to town and viewed the Christmas trees on offer and decided ours would come from Legacy. It would be beautifully decorated and look exactly like the Christmas trees in the picture books (we all have to have dreams).
December rolled on and every night Wayne would come home treeless. I'd ask about the tree and he'd tell me he didn't have time to stop or came from the other direction - he always had an excuse for not bringing me home that Christmas tree.
Finally Christmas Eve arrived and I consoled myself with the thought that at least AJ was too young to understand the meaning of the Christmas tree, or really of Christmas for that matter.
Around 5pm Wayne pulled into the driveway and straight away I could see some greenery (if only I'd it THE ONLY GREEN on the tree) poking from the back of the van. He'd bought our very first Christmas tree!
Oh how very wrong I was.
Picture the scene if you will.
There's me at the front door, babe on hip, almost jumping with excitement.
My darling husband is slowly, slowly pulling on a tree trunk, dragging it out of the back of his work van.
As he pulls, I get more and more excited.
Then the excitement turns to confusion, then amazement and then complete and utter disappointment.
My very loving, very hard working, very frugal husband had waited at the Legacy tree stand until they were closing. He bought the last three - yes - three trees they had left, for the grand price of $5. They should have paid him the $5 to take them off their hands!
He'd bought three rather large sticks. With a couple of twigs hanging off each one. They were the most miserable looking examples of Christmas trees I had, no have, ever seen. To this day I haven't seen anything quite like them.
I was so upset I started to cry. He was so thrilled with his bargain it took him a few minutes to realize I wasn't crying with joy.
Those three sticks were stuck in a bucket of sand and my handmade tree skirt hung over it. Unfortunately there weren't enough twigs, let alone branches, for too many decorations, but they were a Christmas tree and I still remember the absolute wonder on one baby boy's face as he looked at all the sparkly baubles and the glittery tinsel.
I can tell you, if we hadn't had that baby to coo over that tree…..
We still talk, and nowadays laugh together, over the three for $5 Christmas tree.
And the next year I saved up, a little every week from the grocery money, and bought a lovely artificial tree in November!
And that's how we came to have an artificial tree.
But now, back to the main topic of conversation, decorating the Christmas tree.
Some artificial trees come pre-lit so that eliminates the need to buy strands and strands of lights. Artificial trees are available in many different colors, white, blue, black, pink, as well as green and are of varying heights and types. Coloured Christmas trees just don't seem like Christmas too me, I'm much more a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas, but whatever floats your boat, or rather decorates your tree.
For a real tree, some families get theirs a couple of weeks before Christmas. Tree farms and tree lots usually have a nice selection of Christmas trees with hearty branches. Be sure that you can’t see through the tree. If you can, then it will be too thin to hold heavy ornaments. Also make sure to water real trees frequently once you’ve brought them home and placed them in their stand. This will prevent drying out of needles and possible fire hazards or a brown tree on Christmas morning.
And this is why you need a tree skirt. A tree skirt is just a circle of fabric that slips around the base of your tree. It's there to cover the stand but more importantly it's there to catch the pine needles that drop, and drop they will. No matter how much you water your tree it will drop needles. If they drop into the tree skirt then all you do is gather it up and take it outside to shake every couple of days. No more messy pine needles on the floor, getting into everything and clogging up the vacuum.
Here are some decorating suggestions no matter which type of tree you choose for your family this year.
1. Start with the lights. It’s going to be hard to put strings of lights on the tree after you’ve put all of the other goodies on the tree. For kids, it’s fun to put a strand or two of running lights so that they blink instead of staying on all the time. Depending on the size of your tree you may only need a couple strands of lights.
2. Add a touch of garland. There are many different kinds. Most people shy away from traditional icicles because they are a fire hazard especially on a live tree. The garland that has icicle like strands are just the same. Some opt for homemade popcorn garlands (fun for kids!), colored beaded garland, or snowflake garland made of plastic. Wrap the garland loosely so that it doesn’t strangle the tree. Let some of the length hang between the branches so it can be seen.
3. Now for the fun – the ornaments. Some families use a colour scheme of two or three colours for their ornaments. Others may purchase pre-packaged ornament sets with a certain theme. Kids can hang ornaments they created in school. You could end up with quite an eclectic looking creation. Space ornaments so they surround the tree and leave no bald spots.
4. The tree topper goes on last. There are angels, stars, and even bows. Some have a plug that fits into your string of lights. Just remove one light on the strand and plug in the tree topper. Others have their own plug that can be connected directly into the top strand of lights or the wall outlet. Some still don’t have a light at all. Our tree topper is an angel that Hannah made at after school kids' club when she was 5. It is a little worn and battered but it looks lovely on our tree.
So that's basically how you decorate a Christmas tree, family style. Everyone pitches in and hangs decorations, checks the lights to find the blown bulb and untangles the tinsel.
Stories are told of Christmases past, present and to come, of who gave which decorations to whoever and why, and memories are made.
* Wait until dark and go for a walk around your neighbourhood to see all the Christmas lights.
* Attend the Carols by Candlelight at your local school, even if you don't have children there.
* Check with your local church for their holiday program. Many churches will have recitals and carols during the lead-up to Christmas and this is a lovely way to celebrate and be involved with your community.
* Go to midnight service on Christmas Eve, then come home and let everyone open one gift before going to bed.
* Have a Christmas movie marathon and watch one Christmas movie a night. Some favourites are Miracle on 34th Street (the original in black and white and the remake), It's a Wonderful Life, Holiday Inn (White Christmas) and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (for a little off-beat humour).
* If you have little children, let them bake and decorate a special cookie or cup cake to leave for Santa on Christmas Eve. And don't forget the carrot for Rudolph!
* Turn the TV off, gather the family around and read a different Christmas story every night, ending with the second chapter of Luke from the Bible, on Christmas Eve.
* Start a new tradition and only play Christmas music in the car during December. It's a great way to teach kids favourite Christmas carols and for you to learn some of the newer songs. Christmas CDs can be bought from dollar stores and come in a great variety.
From Debt Free, Cashed Up and Laughing