Monthly Archives: July 2012

Another Christmas in July idea

Now that Christmas is less than six months away do you find yourself getting stressed just thinking about it? I use to let the whole commercial part of it overwhelm the fun part of Christmas. After all, Christmas is supposed to be a time of family, fun and relaxation. All too often we forget that.

Years ago as a family we decided to simplify Christmas. Actually it was after one Christmas when I made up a strange game for my nieces and nephews to play, everyone had gone home and I got a phone call from one of my nephews, who was a high school student at the time, he suggested that we don’t do presents anymore for Christmas just play games and do the booklets.

The booklets were already an established part of our Christmas Eve celebration. I wrote about them in a previous post. As the kids got older I tried to come up with games for them to play. We played checkers using a quilt top as the game board and the kids as the checkers. We tied red or black yarn around their arms and they moved across the quilt just as you would on a checker board. If someone was kinged they got a piece of yellow yarn tied around their arm also.

The next year using the same quilt top, I used yarn and masking tape and made a “Snakes and Ladders” game. Both were big hits because all ages could play. Some of the games I came up with didn’t work but it was fun trying them anyway.

Over time the games that endured were any game involved hiding things. Over the years we’ve hidden everything we could think of. I had a bunch of small wooden oblong shapes cut for me. I was thinking maybe a dozen or so but my brother cut me 150 of them. I printed up Christmas pictures from different clip arts and glued them to the boards. One year I printed up a large picture, glued it to the boards and cut them apart and made a large jigsaw puzzle out of it.  The one smart thing I did was I numbered all the blocks so we would know if they had all been found. We still hide them every year. Some member of my family never give up until the last one is accounted for. We hide some easy ones for the little kids and some in harder places for the older ones.

Another popular game we play is, what the little ones call the stealing game. We make up a bunch of small gifts, candy, ornaments, whatever, the more the better. All the wrapped packages are put in the middle of the floor and we sit in a circle and pass a special dice around. I had painted a small wooden block. One side has a package on it, when you roll that one you take a package from the middle pile. One side has a Grinch painted on it, when you roll him you steal a package from someone. We also have a symbol for giving one away, the other sides just have random Christmas pictures on them. If you aren’t comfortable painting, you could glue pictures on the block to represent what you want. My ten year old great nephew likes the game so much he will often ask to play it just using candy from the candy dish. After all the candy is gone from the middle, he gathers it all up from everyone and puts it back in the middle so we can keep playing.

After we started playing the different games that I made up we also quit giving gifts to everyone. Now we just exchange Christmas ornaments, especially for the younger ones. All my nieces and nephews had enough ornaments by the time they went on their own to decorate a medium size tree. I wish someone had given me ornaments when I was young, when I moved out on my own I ended up stringing popcorn to decorate with. I couldn’t afford to buy enough ornaments. I would buy one or two each year but that was all I could afford.

These are just a few ideas that we do that have made our Christmases a lot more fun and stress free. Hope you enjoyed the ideas and have fun coming with your own ideas for an easy fun filled Christmas.

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Randolph the Duck Angel

A very long time ago I was given a small wooden duck made by my nephew. He was just learning to do woodworking and had made a bunch of small reindeer for Christmas. I immediately fell in love with the little duck which I painted like a Mallard. It still sits in a place of honor in a glass case.

That little wooden duck became the inspiration for Randolph. I had only intended to write a little Christmas story about that little duck for that year’s Christmas booklet. But! There was just something about that little duck that I just couldn’t quite forget after the first story. Soon another story followed, then another and another. I now have nearly 30 different stories about Randolph and all his animal friends. In each story you get to meet more of the critters that make up Randolph’s world.

Some of the more memorable ones are: Jarrod a very friendly, helpful black dragon.

Quirk Duck, a ordinary gray duck who is always looking for an adventure

Mylie Mouse, (named many years before Mylie Cyrus was on television) who is Quirk’s constant companion.

T. C. Cheetah- the chief of police

Mortimer and Miranda Monkey – mischievous adventurous monkeys.

There are many, many more characters and many more stories to be told about them. Thanks for taking a look, hope you enjoy Randolph and the Reindeer. The entire story is included on the page.

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Early Christmas ideas

I know it’s early to be thinking of Christmas, yet sometimes the best ideas take time to do and the earlier you start the better. Every year I make Christmas booklets for every member of the family the comes for Christmas Eve.  They are simple to make yet every year on Christmas Eve I start thinking about the next booklet.

This all started years ago when my nieces and nephews were still very little. Now they are all adults and I have great nieces and nephews and am still making booklets for every Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Eve everyone showed up at our house like usual. The poor Christmas tree was almost buried beneath packages. We ate, the adults chatted, the kids waited impatiently to open their presents. We opened the mound of packages and then I heard a small voice say. “I’m bored, can we go home now?” It was 7:00 on Christmas Eve and Christmas was over. I vowed to myself that I would never hear another kid say they were bored on a holiday as long as I could do something about it. It took me months to come up with the idea of the booklets. Since then I have never missed making them for a Christmas and I have never duplicated them. It’s been over 20 years now and I still love making them.

I make roughly between 30 and 35 booklets every year. Everyone from the youngest to the oldest gets one. Every year the younger kids get to hand them out. I also find different Christmas themed pens or pencils to go with them each year. Each year I come up with a theme for the booklets, last year’s booklet was Christmas songs. I’ve repeated some themes but usually far enough apart that no one remembers, besides some themes like Christmas songs have enough material to come up with a ton of questions.

The only real rule is to make the booklets for the youngest member of your family. Older kids and adults can easily answer easy question, do simple puzzles but younger ones can NOT do questions and things geared for older kids. Then the book will not be a success because if they can’t participate they will be bored.

My earliest booklets were mainly pictures ripped out of coloring books. I didn’t have a computer, internet or printer at that time. I would find a half dozen or so pictures that I liked, some simple activities and then I would go to one of the stores that offered a copier. When I started you could make 2 copies for .10.

After I got my first computer and printer it was much easier, I still used pictures from coloring books for the pictures but I started adding a few questions as the kids got older. At first they were simple questions with no right or wrong answers. The first themes were also simple, SAnta, Snowmen, etc. with questions like “What color are Santa’s eyes?”  As the kids got older the questions became more difficult yet still age appropriate for the youngest ones.

Last year I actually, for the first time made two different booklets. The main one had about 15 pages of questions and only a few coloring pictures. The other booklet had more pictures, some simple Christmas themed word searches and other simple games like that. With the internet it so easy to find tons of questions, word games, crossword puzzles and coloring pictures all free to print for personal use. Makes making the booklets a lot more simpler now. The reason I did two booklets this year is because the age range is now so far apart that it is harder to make one booklet. The youngest of my great nieces and nephews is 3 years old and all my nieces and nephews are in their late 20’s and early 30’s so it made more since to do two, but I made them connected by using some of the coloring pictures and a few of the word games in the adult pictures. I just added more pictures to the little kids books and none of the questions.

The booklets run anywhere from 8 to at the most 20 pages. I make my original book, get the pages in the order I want then make enough copies of all the pages for each person coming on Christmas eve. I make a front cover either using clip art pictures and typing each person’s name and the year on them. Sometimes I use a coloring picture for the front cover or something that works for the theme. I always personalize each book so they are very special, everyone gets their own booklet. Putting the year on them is a must, especially once it becomes a family tradition. Some of my family have every one of their books since I started making them. Lately because everyone is older and no longer bored many of them wait until they get home to actually do the booklets. I also include all the answers to the questions at the back of the booklet. When the questions were for the little kids and didn’t have a definite answer, the answer pages weren’t so important. After I started using question that had answers I use to make seperate pages with the answer but I always forgot to give them out as everyone was leaving. After a few years  of getting phone calls from each family wondering about answers to some of the question I started including the answers with each booklet.

When I have all the pages copied out I punch holes in all the pages. The best thing I ever bought myself was a three hole puncher where you just press the handle and it makes all the holes at once. I started out using a hand punch and my hand would ache for days after doing all the booklets. After the holes are punched I tie them with Christmas colored yarn.

After I got a printer and several card making programs it has been much more fun making the booklets each year. Also the internet is a great help, no matter what time of the year it is you can find all sorts of fun free Christmas questions, coloring pages, children’s word games, crossword puzzles on just about any theme you want.

I hope you like my idea of a Christmas booklet, you can personalized them any way you want to fit into your family. Several years ago I decided to quit making them because all my nieces and nephews were getting older and there weren’t any new little ones so I thought it was a perfect time to stop making them. All I heard from the college aged ones was “You can’t stop, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the booklets!” So after all the whining I continued making them. I still have fun doing them. I usually start thinking about the next one on Christmas morning. I make notes, write down different themes, ideas whatever. Then usually in July or early August I start printing up the different pages that I like. I usually end up 3 or 4 times more pages than I need. Then I start weeding through all the stuff and narrowing down to what I want to include. After that I make all the copies that I need and get them in the order I want. Then it’s just a matter of tying them together and hiding them until Christmas Eve.

I don’t let anyone see them until Christmas Eve but you could make doing them a family project or keep them a surpise.

You can personalize them any way you want to fit your family’s Christmas. You can include a poem, a story, write your own story, make them just coloring books, or all questions. The booklets are a fun tradition that I hope your family will enjoy as much as mine does.

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