Elf on the Shelf 2015

Merry Christmas!!!  These are the adventures of our elf, Sparkles, this Christmas, 2015.  Enjoy!

Elf 12-1-15

Day 1 – Sparkles’ arrival

Elf 12-2-15

Day 2 – Sparkles made a Christmas fortune teller!

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Day 3 – Sparkles magically turned the water into marshmallows!

Note about Day 3 – Keri did not believe the magic!!!  When I pointed out what the elf was doing (you know.. using magic to turn water into marshmallows) – Keri’s response was “uhm, mom.. no.. she used toothpicks to stack up the marshmallows.”  Awesome.  REALLY!??  Can we not pretend for a moment magic is happening here?!?

Elf 12-4-15

Day 4 – Sparkles asked Keri for a picture for a surprise

Elf 12-5-15 collage

Day 5 – The surprise!

Elf 12-6-15

Day 6 – Homemade eggless donuts

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Day 7 – Make a Christmas tree out of scrapbooking paper

Note about Day 7 – Awesome idea.. never happened.  She never made the Christmas tree.  I asked her about it a few times, but she had no interest in making one herself.  Boooooo!

Elf 12-8-15

Day 8 – Sledding time!

Day 8 Note:  This sled was a pain in the booty to make.  Seriously.  Hot glue didnt work.  Regular glue didnt work.  Ended up using glue dots – they worked… barely.  I was sooo afraid the elf was going to break!  If you make this sled – use cardstock.  We didnt have any cardstock, so used regular paper.. and that may have been why it didnt turn out well!

Elf 12-9-15

Day 9 – Sparkles brought Keri slippers

Elf 12-10-15 collage

Day 10 – Sparkles changed all the labels on the bottled water to “Melted Snowman”

Elf 12-11-15 collage

Day 11 – Traveling in style.. Sparkles flew around in a hot air balloon!

Day 11 Note:  How cool is this hot air balloon?!?  LOVED doing this!  And it turned out sooooo incredibly cute!!

Elf 12-12-15

Day 12 – Santa came to our Christmas party.. Sparkles made a sign for him!

Elf 12-13-15

Day 13 – Sparkles with a mini Christmas tree and Santa gnome

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Day 14 – Sparkles swinging upside down from a swing

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Day 15 – Homemade snowballs.. and a snowball fight!

Elf 12-16-15

Day 16 – Sparkles hanging from bows in Keri’s bathroom

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Day 17 – Sparkles bought window markers and drew on the bathroom mirror!

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Day 18 – Sparkles put googly eyes on the items in the refrigerator!

Elf 12-19-15 Collage

Day 19 – Sparkles wrapped the dog up and took pictures. Awesome.

Elf 12-20-15

Day 20 – Sparkles playing in the blinds

Day 20 Note:  So, this was not part of the plan.  Day 20 was suppose to be Sparkles playing Snowflake Hopscotch.  I bought a bunch of miniature snowflakes, and was setting it up on her table downstairs.  Set up the hopscotch board.. and was cutting out the numbers to place on the table and who comes to the top of the stairs?  Yep.  Keri.  She saw all the snowflakes and exactly what I was doing.  Scrapped this idea, put the snowflakes with the wrapping paper, and moved elf here to the blinds.  So.. hence why it is not creative!  And nope.. she never asked what I was doing.  Ever.  Makes me wonder why.

Elf 12-21-15 Collage

Day 21 – Sparkles playing the piano

Elf 12-22-15 Collage

Day 22 – Sparkles’ Hideout

Day 22 Note:  This was neat.  I LOVED doing this.  Took me 45 minutes to build this house.  Daddy kept Keri busy and I built away!  Loved making!

Elf 12-23-15

Day 23 – Sparkles hanging her clothes out.

Day 23 Note:  The original idea here was to make it appear that Sparkles was doing her laundry.  I stayed up too late, couldnt get the setup how I wanted, so just ended up with this – a clothesline of the clothes for Sparkles.  Oh-well.  Maybe next year I can do the washer / clothesline idea!

Elf 12-24-15

Day 24 – Sparkles’ departing gift.. a Family Tree!

Day 24 – Goodbye Sparkles!  I found this Family Tree online, and just had to do it!!  Took a while, but it turned out soooo neat!  Love LOVE this goodbye gift for Keri!  (Especially since this is probably the last year she will believe.. if she hasn’t figured it out yet, ha!)

And that was the adventures of Sparkles for Christmas 2015!!  Hope you enjoyed it – I obviously did.

Just a note of how I put this together.  I had time in the early Fall from school to put together a few things.  I made a calendar of all the elf ideas I could find for 2015.  I wrote them all down on a calendar.  For Black Friday, part of my shopping included buying the items needed for the days.  I made several things a head of time, including the balloon, that week of Thanksgiving.  The only day that I changed was the slippers day – The elf was originally just going to hang from a stocking, but I found these slippers at Black Friday and changed that day.  All other days, I KEPT! I did not have any school at all the month of December.  And although I worked quite a bit the first 2 weeks – It was the prepping, the planning, and the calendar that made this work.  I was on my A-game with this elf this year, and so proud of everything!  And Keri loved the creativity behind the elf this year.  It was neat 🙂

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Teacher Gifts – Christmas 2015

Keri is in 4th grade!  That means new teachers for the next 3 years.  Yippie!  I had the time this semester to do something special for her teachers, Mr. Pettit and Ms. Savannah.  Mr. Pettit is the lead teacher, and Ms. Savannah the assistant.  So what was I going to do?!

I’ll start with Ms. Savannah.  According to Keri, she loves to read.  So I did something sweet and simple for her – $10 Barnes & Noble gift card, book marks, Bath & Body Works lotion with a cute matching Santa hat, peppermint bath bombs, and hand sanitizer.  Cute and simple!

4th year teacher christmas gifts 2015 (1)

Now, for Mr. Pettit, I wanted to go bigger and better since he is the lead teacher in Keri’s class.  I wanted it to be creative that screams me, but I needed it to be practical for a man.  Uhm, HARD!  Sort of.  This is what I came up with:

4th year teacher christmas gifts 2015 (2)

Isn’t it adorable?!  I mean, manly?!  What all is in here.. lets see (going top moving toward the right):

  • Handmade card containing individual ice tea lemonade packets
  • Snowman covered Tic-Tacs that I made
  • Swiss+Tech 9 in 1 tool (looked manly enough?)
  • “You can’t scare me.  I teach” notepad (hahaha, loved this one!)
  • White pens (black ink – best pens ever)
  • $10 Barnes & Noble gift card
  • Candy look alike (white with red ribbon – but really a roll of $10 quarters – FUN!)
  • Lip balm wrapped to look like candy
  • Hershey kisses in a container
  • $10 gift card to Starbucks
  • Handsantizer
  • Red pens
  • Birdie envelope opener.

That A LOT!  Most of the stocking stuffers, the containers, and the actual box and ribbon stuff I got from The Container Store (LOVE that store!).  This was a lot of fun to make, but I personalized it as much as I could.  I knew from Keri that Mr. Pettit loves Starbucks and always gets tea.  Hence 2 of the gifts included.  And he is a teacher, obviously.  All teachers need pens, paper, and chocolate, right?!  I think this is an awesome gift for him!

Christmas 2015 Advent

I love being creative.  This semester at school was a light one.  I finished my 100% online class within the first week of the semester (BOOM!) – And so I really only had one class to focus on.  Lots of down time in that class.  Still hard, still lots of busy work, but with only one class.. I had lots of free time compared to other semesters!  Yay for getting stuff done early!

So I knew I wanted a really creative Advent calendar.  I have done books in the past, and that was really neat.  I started to scour the Internet (Google and Pinterest) looking for ideas for the perfect Advent.  I found it.  It was a post from 2012, the Mini Tree Advent Calendar – and I fell in love with it.  I HAD to do it!  Definitely visit that blog for professional-like pictures.  Below is my interpretation of this (and less professional-like pictures.. but still pretty neat!)

Advent Calendar 2015 (2)

Yes!  I loved it!  I bought the boxes and little trees off Amazon.  My daughter helped me hot glue the little trees onto the boxes.  The tags I got from the blog linked above, and I simply cut those out and stuck them in the trees (didnt glue those).

Advent Calendar 2015 (5)

Sooo cute!  And I had to get a little red car.  I knew CVS Pharmacy had a section of red cars.  I wanted the old, classic, red car that is often seen in TV ads and such.  But, my daughter said it was ugly.  Of course she did.  So we ended up getting a Prius.  Yep.  Why?  Because I have a Volt and all about the electric cars.. so a Prius seemed fitting.  Sort of.

Advent Calendar 2015 (3)

You may be asking.. what did I put in the boxes?   This was the fun part.  I do not believe in a lot of candy.  Sure, some candy is fine, but even the child expecting an itty-bitty tiny piece of chocolate EVERY SINGLE DAY bothered me!  Have a treat every now and then.. not every day!  So, I went to the most wonderful candy store in San Antonio and bought some candy, and put it in individual bags.  The rest of the items were found at various places including The Container Store, World Market, Bath & Body Works,  Michaels, and Hobby Lobby.  They were randomized in the boxes.  The only one that was not randomized was the silly putty (from Toy Werks) that included 5 $2 bills in the box – This one was last for December 24th.  (Money not shown)

Advent Calendar 2015 (1)

My daughter loved doing this!  She looked forward to seeing what craft, candy, or toy she would get every morning!  It was so much fun doing this Advent calendar and I’m thankful for other sharing their wonderful ideas on Pinterest!

Advent Calendar 2015 (8)

We will definitely be doing this next year.  I’m one box short now.. as the dog got a hold of a box, but I will probably order another batch of boxes because it is bound to happen again!  After Keri opened the box for the day, she would simply put the flag inside the box.  So at the end of December, only a few flags would be shown.  It made it so neat to look at!

2nd Grade Bento Lunches

Oh-My!  I’m so behind!  Short pathetic back story.. then I’ll get to the good stuff!

So, bento lunches for my daughter’s second year of Montessori – 2013-2014.  A couple things changed that year.  First, I switched regularly between the plant box and the yubo lunch boxes.  I enjoyed the variety!  Second, after Christmas, Keri politely asked me to stop making her lunches so “cute” – she wanted plain / normal lunches.  Ha.  She refused to let me use any cookie cutters – so all the sandwiches are incredibly boring!  She also wanted more hot lunches rather than cold lunches.  So.. okay.  A few changes had to be made along the school year.  But, I passed my NCLEX (nursing board exam) in September, and became a psychiatric nurse in October 2013.  By law, I had to work full time for the first six months.  So, from October 2013 – April 2014, I worked full time on the weekends – man, it was hard!  I thought it was perfect at first.. I work 16 hours on Saturday (7am – 11:00pm) and do it all over again on Sunday.  Physically, I worked 32 hours, but got paid for 40 (called the Baylor shift).  It drained me!  I was completely exhausted and drained by Monday, so Monday lunches were often very boring because I hadnt been to the grocery store all weekend due to working, and I was exhausted!  And on Friday’s, Keri eats pizza – so no bento lunches on Fridays.  And, to top it off, I started graduate school in January – so from January 2014 to April 2014, I was working full time AND going to graduate school part time (2 classes) – Ouch!  Those few months in particular were the hardest, by far.  Then.. school was kinda over!

Okay – there was the backstory.  So, this post is just going to show case the best bento lunches I made throughout Keri’s 2nd grade school year.  Enjoy!

This first lunch is from 09/11/13 – puppy dog lunch.  I took biscuits, cut the dough into shapes of dogs, used black beans for the eyes and nose, and inserted a hot dog as the mouth.  There are also cut out cheese bones, and homemade potato chips in here as well.  For the fruit, it is peaches and grapes.  I loved how cute this lunch was!

 

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This next lunch is from 09/17/2013.  The sandwich may seem plain, bu I love the colors here and the little details – from the chicks, the hearts, carrot chips, and the homemade strawberry oatmeal bars.

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The next three pictures are in the month of October.. Halloween!  I was pretty creative this month – I wasnt at school yet, and was able to concentrate more in cuteness.  I love a lot of Halloween ones, but these three are my favorites.

First one is on 10/01/2013 – The first Halloween lunch of the year!  (Btw – Halloween is my favorite holiday, which is why I go so all for Halloween bentos!)  This is the Frankenstein lunch.  They are actually square chicken tacos (so.. take a tortilla, put in chicken and cheese, shape it in a square and hold it with a toothpick.. and tell the child there is a tooth pick in there and not to eat the toothpick!) – love this lunch!  (The green circles are cut up cucumbers and green yogurt).

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The next Halloween lunch is from 10/02/13.  This is the ghost lunch!  I have a thing for ghosts – I love them!  I actually did a few ghost lunches, but this is one of the originals, and Keri’s favorite.  It is a ghost cheese quesadilla, homemade ghost sugar / cinnamon chips with fruit salsa in the circle, ghost cheese sticks, ghost marshmallow, and ghost yogurt.  Love ghosts!

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The last Halloween lunch I’ll show you was from Halloween itself, 10/31/2013.  Yippie!  Tried to make this one fun and to emulate trick or treating – the fruit is suppose to be “candy” – get it?  Loved this lunch!

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Moving on.. to Christmas!  Have two bentos to show you from Christmas.. and I’ll stop there, b/c as I said, from January to April, the bentos are quite boring due to the issues listed up above (sorry!!).  This one is from 12/02/13.  Love the white and red colors!  And, I adore the mini little circle sandwich bites – I think they are so cute cut up this way.

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The last lunch is from 12/09/13. This is the Christmas tree lunch.  I wanted the pirates booty to be like snow – then you got the mini Christmas tree sandwiches, and the veggie straws as grass.  Then of course the cute little fruit in red / green colors.

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Check out the rest of the bento lunches on my Pinterest board:  Bento lunches for Keri

Elf on the Shelf 2013

She’s back!  Yep, Sparkles returned and we had so much fun with her this year!  I work now on weekends, so even my husband was involved with the elf!  Here are the adventures of Sparkles for 2013.  And, great news.. I have a picture of every day this year!  Yippie!

Day 1:  Sparkles Arrival.  Today Sparkles arrived.  I wrote a nice little arrival note (okay, I took a picture of the elf.. but not this note.. sorry!) – but again, the note is basically saying Sparkles is here to have fun with Keri, report back to Santa about when a good time for him to visit would be, what kind of lights we have on the house for the sleigh team to find us, what the weather conditions are like here, etc.  I do not do the whole “elf shows up and reports back to Santa if you have been good / bad” or using the elf has a weapon towards getting good behavior.  Dont do that in this house!  Elf is purely for fun here.. and we sure did have FUN!

Day 1 - elf arrival

Day 2:  Sparkles decided to get the Christmas bows, hang them on the cabinets in the kitchen.. and hang upside down from them!

Day 2 - Hanging Bows

Day 3:  And.. begins the weirdness.  Yes, I am weird; therefore, Sparkles is weird.  Ha!  This is one happy elf.. putting post it notes all over Keri’s door!  NOTE:  If you try this one.. you will need tape!!  We did this shortly after Keri went to bed, and about 1/3rd of the post it notes already fell off – Had to tape up several before I went to bed.  The stickiness is not enough to last the whole night.. much less a couple hours!  So, use tape to put them on the door.  And before you ask, yes, my very observant daughter notices there was tape on some.. and not others.  Awesome.  SO… double sided tape, use a long piece and loop it around on the back.. whatever you gotta do!

Day 3 - Happy Elf

Day 4:  Keri lost a tooth!!  This was an impromptu elf improvise because of that.  I made the little tooth box for her a long time ago, before she started to lose any teeth.  The box makes it a lot easier to find the teeth at night!  She also gets two $1 coins for each tooth.  So, Sparkles decided that she was going to help out the tooth fairy and cut out a bunch of teeth and put in the box to get more money.  Didnt work.  Nice try Sparkles!  (Whatcha think of the note the Tooth Fairy left under Keri’s pillow?  Loved it!!)

Day 4 - Elf meets tooth fairy

Day 5:  Sparkles hanging from Keri’s slinky from the top floor.. Just hanging around!

Day 5 - Elf hanging from slinky

Day 6:  Keri wrote a note asking Sparkles for eggless donuts from the North Pole again.  So, someone woke up at 5:00am to make eggless donuts for Keri.  (HINT:  It wasnt the elf!).  Even made a tiny donut just for Sparkles.. isnt it cute?!  They werent bad donuts – they were made from the refrigerator biscuits.. just fried, and chocolate frosting.  They would have been better to eat immediately after making – but about 2.5 hours elapsed before we had them.  She still loved them though.. thought they were the best thing ever – but, she doesnt know any better since every single donut place here has eggs in it!

Day 6 - North Pole eggless donuts

Day 7:  The Cats Will Not Eat Me.  Oh yes, we brought the cats into the elf shenanigans.  You have probably seen the notes by now.. Yep, I used notes this year to communicate with Keri!  Well, this day the elf came was a very very bad mistake.. You see, Keri had a beautiful picture of Santa, her elf, etc. on the chalk board.  But, it was so early in December.. I didnt think she made it for Santa!  I thought she was drawing, so didnt think twice about erasing it.  So.. I erased it.  When Keri woke up and saw this, she broke out into tears!  She was very angry and sad at Sparkles for erasing her drawing.  Oops.  I felt so bad!!!  I tried to make light of the situation with the cats will not eat her thing.. kinda helped, but note to all parents out there.. if your child draws a picture on the chalk board.. do not erase it!

Day 7 - The cats will not eat me

Day 8:  So this note has a lengthy P.S. about being sorry about erasing her picture.  Anyways – so Sparkles decided that she wanted to take all the candy canes to feed to the reindeer at the North Pole!  Guess she didnt get out in time!

Day 8 - Elf taking candy canes

Day 9:  Sparkles returns back from the North Pole.. with all the candy canes, plus more, stating that Santa sent her back refusing to give the candy canes to the reindeer b/c they make them hyper.  Ha!

Day 9 - elf returns candy canes

Day 10:  Sparkles wraps up the TV!  It was all great and awesome.. until after she went to bed when I had an hour to waste until I could take it down and move Sparkles around!!

Day 10 - wrapping the tv

Day 11:  Okay, this one.. I have no idea what is going on here.  I was bored, didnt know what to do with the elf – so.. just set up a bunch of shoes and put Sparkles in the front.  What she is doing with the shoes.. I have no idea!  Being weird!

Day 11 - doing something with shoes

Day 12:  Sparkles raided Keri’s socks and hung them on the counter.  What, what?!  Weird little elf.

Day 12 - got bored hung socks

Day 13:  Sparkles had a rough day.  She fed the cats catnip.. and they chased her all night long due to being hyper.  Oops.  The note also mentions how awesome Keri was for helping to clean her room.. made it easier to put the socks away!

Day 13 - Sleepy Elf

Day 14:  We had a Christmas Party this day, so I needed Sparkles to be out of the way and hidden.  The only way I knew how to do this was to have Sparkles in daddy’s office!  The elf decided that she would have fun in daddy’s office making copies of herself and hanging them on the wall!  Silly elf!

Day 14 - elf making copies

Day 15:  So this one had a note that accompanied it.  In case you cant read it.. Santa came to that Christmas Party yesterday!  So, Sparkles is explaining how hard it was to keep it a secret that Santa was coming, that she was proud of Keri for sitting on Santa’s lap (Keri first cried when Santa came over!!).  She also told Santa that Sparkles is weird and crazy.  So, Sparkles is defending herself saying she is not weird.. the cats are weird.. she is not.  Love this little elf!!

Day 15 - elf in lemonade dispenser

Day 16:  We had a problem with sharpened pencils.  Seriously.  We had soooo many pencils in this house.. and not a single one was sharpened!  So, I bought a brand new pencil sharpener, and Sparkles (i.e. me) decided to sharpen every single pencil in the house for Keri.  Problem Solved.  Except for Sparkle’s little toe.. dont poke yourself with a sharp pencil, that hurts!

Day 16 - Sharpening Pencils

Day 17:  Photo shoot with bunny!!  Bunny is Keri’s stuffed animal she has had since she was about 13 months old.  She has loved this little bunny and she sleeps with it every single night.  Well, Sparkles decided to do a little photo shoot using my photo back drop of bunny!  You can see my awesome photo back drop.. sort of.  The photo back drop was there to take pictures when Santa was here a few days ago.  And yeah, the camera actually had pictures of bunny on it when we reviewed it!  Sparkles is a good photographer!

Day 17 - Bunny photo shoot

Day 18:  Seriously, what does the fox say?!??  I love this song.  I can’t get enough of this song!  When I found out there was a book coming out of this song, I knew I had to get it!  I had this planned out in a month in advance.. just waited for that book to come.  Also bought a little stuffed animal fox, of course.  Although, to set the record straight, I disagree with the elf’s lesson.  The fox really does say “ring a ding ding” – why else would there be a song AND a book about it if the fox didnt!?

Day 18 - what does the fox say

Day 19:  Do you know how hard it is to make paper airplanes?  No?  I gave up.  Yep.  I cant make them.. at all!!  I watch a YouTube video.. made one.. and immediately forgot how I made it, and gave up.  Here comes husband.. he made all the rest of the paper air planes – I wanted them all different!

Day 19 - airplane circle

Day 20:  I knew they had an elf coloring book.. and I wanted it!!  So, I used this opportunity to say “good job” to Keri for reading her book, and to get her this coloring book.  She has done quite a few activities / coloring pages in it – so yay!  (Even after Christmas, she still continues to color in it.

Day 20 - Elf coloring book

Day 21:  Talk with Furby.  Furby is annoying.  Seriously.  (And, to top it off, she requested (and got) a Furby Boom for Christmas.. b/c this Furby – the older version – was “lonely”.  Awesome.)  So of course the elf was trying to decipher what Furby was saying.. I dont think the conversation went anywhere.   All this Furby says is “blah blah blah!”

Day 21 - elf talking to furby

Day 22:  This one my husband did b/c I was at work.  At least it is a picture.. but not the best picture (sorry!) – so let me describe what is going on.  In my daughter’s art room, we have a huge bulletin board that she can pin all her artwork to.  (You can see that in the background here).  I copied 8 selfie pictures of the elf and told him to hang them on the bulletin board and have the elf look at them.  You can see one in the picture.. I promise there are 8 of them hanging!

Day 22 - elf admiring self

Day 23:  Husband did this one again.  Needed an easy one since I was going to be at work – so he set up Sparkles fishing with the fairies.

Day 23 - elf fishing with fairies

Day 24:  Sparkles said good bye!  Except, it wasnt the good bye that we had planned.  Keri caught the flu!  On the 23rd, we went to go see the nutcracker, and between intermission and the time we came home, she spiked a fever.  I knew it was the flu b/c two other kids from her class had confirmed cases of the flu just a few days prior.  So, she went to bed on the 23rd with a fever and feeling horrible.  Sparkles left her a goodie bag on her last day there and a nice little good bye letter.  Keri took it much better this year compared to last year.. no tears!  But, I think it may have been b/c on Christmas Eve when she woke up and saw this, she was still running the fever and felt horrible all day!  Nevertheless, we will miss you Sparkles – Thanks for the awesome and amazing times!

Day 24 - Elf says goodbye

As always.. I shall leave this post with a couple pictures of my beautiful little girl and her elf.  She loved the adventures of Sparkles – and I loved every moment of planning to improvising to last minute changes with this elf.  We love you Sparkles!

photo 3Keri with her eggless donuts.  Mmmmm!

photo 2

Keri coloring a page for Sparkles – Loved this moment!  She sat and spoke with Sparkles for quite some time and colored a bunch of pages for her!

photo 1

I wanted a picture of Keri with her beautiful Christmas outfit and Sparkles.. this was all she gave me, ha!

<Have one more picture of Keri and Sparkles.. on another camera not downloaded yet.  Will get that on here soon!>

Fudge-Mania!

Mmmmm.. FUDGE!  I had a Christmas party for a few friends of mine with a special guest (SANTA!) coming, and I wanted to do something special for them.  Normally, cupcakes are my specialty, but I just wanted to do something different.  So, I made 12 different kinds of fudge.  Yep, you heard that right.. 12.  (12 days of Christmas.. 12 types of fudge.. get it?  No?  They were all delicious!)

1.  Chocolate Fudge – This is my fool proof chocolate fudge recipe that I use every single year from Eagle Brand.  It is the best chocolate fudge, hands down!  I make it with Hershey chocolate chips, and it is so delicious!

fudge - chocolate

2.  Cookie Dough Fudge – This recipe took me a while to find.  I wanted to find an eggless cookie dough fudge recipe that my daughter could have.  Was so happy to find this one!  It tasted like cookie dough too.  It was a little difficult to make, but Keri liked it!

fudge - cookie dough

3.  Peanut Butter Fudge – This fudge was my favorite out of all 12.. it was so delicious!!  Initially, I wanted to make White Chocolate Reeses Fudge, but I searched everywhere and couldnt find any white chocolate peanut butter cups!  So.. searched for a new recipe, found this one, and so glad I did.  Only change I made was using Reeses peanut butter instead of Jif.  This was seriously some of the best fudge I’ve ever had – Try this recipe!

fudge - peanut butter

4.  Strawberry Fudge – This is an extremely simply recipe!  It was good, but it was very frosting-y.  Yes, I know that strawberry frosting is the main ingredient in this fudge.. obviously.. but still, it was a little over the top to me – I still ate it, dont get me wrong, I love the taste of frosting, but it wasnt really fudge fudge.. it just tasted like hardened strawberry frosting!

fudge - strawberry

5.  Butterscotch Fudge – If you like butterscotch.. you will really like this fudge!  This fudge is rich – it has a very rich butterscotch flavor to it.  It was a little overpowering for me, but good nevertheless.

fudge - butterscotch

6.  Chocolate Mint Fudge – This fudge was a huge hit.  I changed it slightly.. didnt do 3 layers (b/c this fudge is a lot of work to actually make), only did two layers.  I did the bottom layer of chocolate, the top layer of mint.  It was very good!

fudge - chocolate mint

7.  Cookies And Cream Fudge – My daughter loved this fudge!  It was her favorite.  And, it really did taste like cookies and cream!

fudge - cookies and cream

8.  Egg Nog Fudge – We really like egg nog in this house!  Well, we dont drink it all the time, but on Christmas and special occasions.  Lets just say I really like egg nog on occasion – non-alcoholic though!  So, I really wanted to make egg nog fudge.  The recipe just intrigued me.  This fudge is rich.  You can definitely taste the egg nog in this fudge!  My husband, who is also an egg nog fan, didnt really care for this fudge – he said there was something “off” with it.  Yeah, I can see what he means.  You are use to drinking egg nog.. not eating it.  Still pretty good fudge though, if you like egg nog!

fudge - eggnog

9.  Vanilla Bean Fudge – This was another fudge that was good.. but just a little “off” tasting wise.  It wasnt that huge of a hit with my guests either – they all liked it.. but I think with the huge variety of fudge, it just wasnt one they were navigating towards!

fudge - vanilla bean

10.  Chocolate Salted Caramel Fudge – My husband really enjoyed this one.  Me?  I thought it was just okay.  It was very easy to make – one of the easiest out of the 12, but I think of caramel of having that gooey texture – this is fudge, obviously.  So, just didnt set well with me!

fudge - caramel

11.  Buttercream Fudge – This fudge is delicious!  I have made it for a few years now, and love it.  It uses frosting as well, but it is very, very good!  The only thing I do differently is use vanilla instead of the butter extract.  Very good fudge!

fudge - buttercream

12.  Peppermint Fudge – Mmmm!  Peppermint!  Loved this fudge – it was very delicious!  Just note that this fudge will only keep for a day or so until the peppermints start to “melt”.  Very delicious fudge!!

fudge - peppermint

Now – I had 12 different kinds of fudge.  I had to organize them in some way!  But.. how?  Well, I tried very, very hard to have a variety of fudge that my daughter could sample.  There were only 3 out of the 12 that she could not have:  peanut butter, eggnog and vanilla bean.  So, I put all three of these on the same plate – also notice how the cards also have a little green brad instead of red.  Keri was told that these three she could not have – but the ones with the red brad, she could have.

fudge - spread 1

Spread 2 consists of peppermint, cookies and cream and salted caramel.  As mentioned, the cookies and cream fudge was a hit with the kids!

fudge - spread 2

Spread 3 was the basics – this was honestly my favorite fudge (in addition to the peanut butter!!).  Had to combine the best fudge all on one plate!!  Below is Chocolate, Strawberry and Buttercream fudge.

fudge - spread 3

Spread 4, the last spread consists of cookie dough, chocolate mint and butterscotch fudge.

fudge - spread 4

Notice the little cards that I made for each fudge?  Thought they were cute too 🙂  Love doing this sort of stuff!  You can compare all my pictures to the pictures of the actual recipes all in one spot on my Pinterest Board:  Fudge.  Probably wont make any fudge until next Christmas.. so, until then, enjoy all the delicious recipes wrapped up in one post!

Since this party was all about a Christmas Party.. and Santa.. I think it is appropriate to include a picture of my beautiful little girl with Santa himself!  And yeah.. she eventually came around after seeing all her friends and talked with Santa for a bit 🙂  Was able to get some amazing pictures of Keri and Santa together!

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Christmas Books Advent Calendar – 2012

We have never really done Advent Calendars  the traditional way for Christmas.  I think the most traditional way to do it is to each day open up a little flap / box / etc. that contains a piece of chocolate or candy.  Well, I just didnt want my daughter to have a piece of chocolate / candy every single day for for the month of December!  So, it has been a challenge finding advent calendars that work.  In 2011, we did the Play Mobile advent calendar.  This year, I decided to do Christmas books.  It was an investment, that is for sure, but I think it was well worth it..  because now we have so many Christmas books to read year after year, and this is something that can be passed on to my grandchildren (a million years from now!)  –  I was very excited to do this.

So, what I did was take 24 books and wrapped them up in brown packaging paper.  I used Christmas ribbon to decorate the books and made handmade tags.  It took a lot of work, and something I am so proud of.  I took a picture of all the books – but it was hard to get them all in the picture.  So, what I decided to do was take a picture of Keri holding the book every single day – and there is the advent calendar 🙂

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What books did I choose?  Oh my, this was so hard!  There are hundreds of Christmas books out there, and to limit it to just 24 was so rough.  These were the books I chose (and why I chose them).  Also linked to Amazon so you can see the reviews (or buy them yourselves!).  I bought almost all of them off Amazon – just a few I had gotten elsewhere (eBay, book store, already had, etc.)

1.  The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree:  An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston, Barbara Cooney – This story is about a family giving a Christmas tree to the townspeople.  Papa was sent away to war, and Mama and the daughter were worried he wouldnt be home in time for Christmas.  They decided to go get the Christmas tree and bring it to the townspeople themselves.  The daughter was dressed up as an angel (nice touch to the story – signifying the angel at the top of a tree) – and Papa shows up on Christmas back from the war.  It is a heartwarming story!

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2.  Santa’s Reindeer by Ron Green, et al – I loved this book because it goes page by page with every single one of Santa’s sleigh team.  It describes the history of each reindeer, why they are on the sleigh team, what their attributes are, and is an excellent book to get to know the reindeer.

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3.  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, Laura Cornell – This one is a classic, I had to have it in our collection, enough said!

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4.  The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman – I chose this book because it is a beautiful story about what Christmas is all about – the spirit of Christmas.  It is a story about what the Christmas season means and everything that comes along with the season.

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5.  Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner, Mark Buehner – This is just a fun book about what snowmen do at Christmas time!  (I have a thing for snowmen, so had to have this book!)

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6.  Santa Claus – Rod Green, et al.  –  This book is written by the same author as Santa’s Reindeer and has the same concept – it is one of my favorite books!  It describes in length all about Santa Claus.  It gives his history, information about his workshop, how Christmas works, etc.  It is an awesome book that gives a biography version of Santa Claus!

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7.  Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect by Richard Schneider – This one is such a great story about Christmas trees!  It is about a Christmas tree that is perfect in the Queen’s eyes because it is slumped over, branches are missing, the leaves are disheveled, etc. – all because the tree was providing food for a reindeer, shelter for a bunny, and a branch for a bird.  The Queen saw all of the Christmas tree’s imperfections and saw it wasnt imperfect at all.. but the little tree’s heart was indeed what made it the most perfect Christmas tree of all – very empowering story of what kindness will get you!

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8.  The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski, P.J. Lynch – I chose this book to go along with my daughter’s age level.  It is meant for lower elementary kids (reading wise) and I thought the story was a nice one – a boy who is being mentored by an angry wood carver to learn how to carve himself, and in the end, the angry wood carver really is a good and true person – awesome story.

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9.  The Gift of the Christmas Cookies by Dandi Daley Mackall – This is a heartfelt story about how a family baked some cookies for the church service.  There was one cookie left, but then a stranger appears at the door very hungry.  The boy gives the cookie to him, without having a cookie at all.

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10.  The Light of Christmas by Richard Paul Evans, Daniel Craig – This story is one that touched me – a little boy goes to the town for the lighting of the Christmas tree.  Once the gate is closed, no one can get in.  He goes to town and sees what appears to be a homeless man lying on the ground.  Everyone else walks past – the boy stops and helps out the man.  The story is one about hope, and the the lesson of helping out others – loved this story!

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11.  Santa’s Favorite Story:  Santa Tells the Story of his First Christmas by Hisako Aoki, Ivan Gantschev – Santa tells a bunch of animals about the very first Christmas – Christmas isnt just about gifts, it has a much deeper meaning.

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12.  The Twelve Days of Christmas by Laurel Long – Having this book was vital!  This book was given on December 12th, obviously.  I chose this version because I loved the illustrations.  They are so beautiful and really captured the twelve days of Christmas.

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13.  Merry Christmas Splat the Cat! by Rob Scotton – Keri loves Splatt the Cat books!  Had to get this one, plus, we always have a big discussion at the end of what exactly is in the big box.  What is in there??

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14.  God Gave us Christmas by Lisa T. Bergren, David Hohn – This is a story for young children, but the story is wonderful.  It is about God creating everything in the world and how we should be thankful for everything – Christmas is a time where we should be thanking God for everything he has done.

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15.  The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg – Keri has seen this movie before, and I loved the lesson behind it – believe.. just believe.  Had to get the book for her! 

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16.  A Bad Kitty Christmas by Nick Bruel – Keri loves cats!  More importantly.. Keri loves the Bad Kitty books, she thinks they are funny.  We had to add this one to the Christmas book collection – she loves the pictures, and the story!

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17.  A Wish to be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe, Michael G. Monroe – This is a beautiful story about a pine tree in a forest that wishes to be a Christmas tree year after year, but the wish never comes true.  Soon, the tree grows too big and becomes very sad.  So, the forest turns the tree into the most magnificent Christmas Tree ever – a very nice story about how the animals of the forest come together to cheer up a friend.

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18.  Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne, et al – This is a story about how the Christmas stocking came about, which is why I bought it.  I wanted a story to show the history of the Christmas stocking since it is an important tradition in our family, and this was perfect!

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19.  Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry – This is an awesome story about one Christmas tree becoming many Christmas trees for many different families – one of my favorite stories out of her collection.

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20.  Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by James Dean, Eric Litwin – Again, another cat Christmas book b/c my daughter loves cats!  She actually saw this at Barnes & Nobles, loved it, and so I knew I had to get it for her.

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21.  The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers – Every year, I take my daughter to see the Nutracker at the theater (or, have been since she was old enough!) – so I had to have this story to read right before we went to go to the theater.  I chose this version because of the illustrations – they are really beautiful.

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22.  How Santa Got His Job by Stephen Krensky – This is a cute story about all the jobs Santa had before he became Santa.  Cute story!

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23.  How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss – We have a Christmas tradition that every year on Christmas Eve, we watch this cartoon on the TV.  It has been a long family tradition, and one I cherish!  So, I got this book for her so we could read it before we watched the show on Christmas Eve.

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24.  The Night Before Christmas by Clement E. Moore –  I had to have this story to read on Christmas Eve, it is my favorite story of all and one that all children should have.. point blank!  I chose this version because of the illustrations – they are so beautiful.

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And.. that is it!  It was a pretty awesome way to celebrate each day by opening up a new book and reading that book before bedtime.  A tradition that we started this year and will continue every year – I look forward to the day when Keri is reading me all these books when she is older!  

Elf on the Shelf 2012

This is our first year to do the Elf on the Shelf thing with Keri.  Last year was the first time I heard about it and was thrilled about the idea.  And elf that reports back to Santa every night, really?  Seemed a little too far fetched!  Well, obviously I fell into the trap.. we have an elf.

Keri came home from school before Thanksgiving talking about the elf – she had heard from her classmates.  Now, I dont know exactly how much she believes of this elf gig.. as the 3rd years in her class have mentioned the “Elf on the Shelf” and such.  Also, we were at Barnes & Nobles doing some Christmas shopping over the Thanksgiving break, and she can read.. they had so many of them out!!

But, I thought I would give it a try.  This way she has something to converse about at school with her friends – I wanted her to be included in the conversation and not left out, so.. an elf visited our house!

Day 1 - Elf Arrives

Meet Sparkles.  Yep.. Sparkles – I’m okay with that name!  Hey, it’s better than “Bunny” or “Other Bunny” – I’m perfectly okay with that name!  Sparkles is a girl elf, sent from the North Pole (i.e. bought at Barnes & Nobles..) – Notice the note with her  Yeah, I couldnt read the book to Keri.  Call me crazy (I am!) – but, I did not like some of the wording in the book.  In particular, I did not care for the verse that mentioned the elf reports back to Santa when Keri does something bad.  Kids aren’t bad – they aren’t.  They may make poor choices, but kids are never bad!  We do not use that word in this house, and I did not want to read that.

So, what to do?  Google of course!  I found this link with a letter and little sign that was more appropriate to read to Keri.  So, I went with it.  Here is that link if you want to check it out:  Arrival Letter.

Keri’s reaction to the elf?  She wasnt sure.  Think the firs thing she said was “I have an elf!” – and we thought of the name Sparkles – she did that all on her own too.  I was busy thinking of Elf on the Shelf ideas.. and oh, I thought of quite a few!!  My awesome husband helped me out with a few, and has been amazing in helping me out every night – so I owe him a lot for thinking of some ideas and helping me with Sparkles!

On to Day 2 – Eggless Donuts.  To set this up.. Keri has a very severe egg allergy.  Well, there use to be a donut place here in SA that had eggless donuts.  They have since switched vendors and no longer offer eggless donuts.  I have yet to find another place here in SA that offers them, and Keri so wanted eggless donuts!!

So, with a little help from daddy planting the thought in Keri’s mind, Keri politely asked Sparkles for some eggless donuts fro the North Pole.  So, Sparkles baked some eggless donuts (i.e. Mommy woke up at 6:00am on a Sunday morning to make these and was very tired the rest of the day!!)

Day 2 - Eggless Donuts

Keri loved the donuts!  Day 3, Sparkles decided to play angry birds with Keri’s fairies!

Day 3- Angry Birds

Day 4 – Marshmallow snowman!  This was a cute day.. as Keri decided to draw her own marshmallow snowman to have Sparkles send back to the North Pole to give to Santa.  I felt horrible throwing them away…

day 4 - marshmallow snowman

Day 5 – Sparkles gathered up the zhu zhus to fight off a spider invasion!  Thank goodness!!

day 5 - elf vs. spiders

Day 6 – Gangnam Style.. Yep, had to do it.  Keri enjoys watching the video, and every time the song plays on the radio in the car, she does the dance.  So.. Sparkles spent all night on daddy’s iPad to learn how to do the dance!  I think she nailed it.

day 6 - gangam style

Day 7 – Zip line time!  How fun 🙂

day 7 - zip line

Day 8 – airplanes!  Keri has a pretty extensive airplane set since daddy travels a lot for work and is also a private pilot.  So, Sparkles decided to get the airplanes out, make a run way and play with them!

day 8 - airplanes

And.. close to a year later, I am just now finishing this post – My apologies!  I am missing one day.. probably the best picture out of all the days I did this, which made me so frustrated that I gave up.  I still can not find that picture.. but I am looking – I know for a fact I took pictures, but they are missing in my hoards and hoards of digital photos!  I wont give up though.. I’ll describe it to you guys and continue to look for that picture.  Meanwhile, enjoy the rest of the Elf on the Shelf 2012 🙂

Day 9 – Dinosaur Hats!  Sparkles made little hats for all the dinosaurs and put them on them.  It was really cute!

day 9 - dinosaur hats copy

Day 10 – Sparkles decided to write a message with Keri’s magnetic letters and hang from her magnetic wall.  Silly elf.

day 10 - magnetic wall copy

 

Day 11 – Sparkles disheveled all our Christmas cards on the line and hung from the line.

day 11 - christmas cards copy

 

Day 12 – Elves pray to.. you know!  Sparkles gets down and prays alongside baby Jesus.

day 12 - praying nativty scene copy

 

Day 13 – This one was a rough one to do.. b/c we couldnt want TV the entire day, but TV is overrated anyways 🙂  Sparkles got a bunch of paper.. and started to color a picture on it – hung it up on the TV, but didnt finish the picture.

day 13 - picture on tv copy

 

Day 14 – This is one of my favorite ones.  Keri absolutely loves this song – so I took it and ran with it.. Sparkles decides to write a little message to Clarice the reindeer to recruit her for Santa’s sleigh team.  Wonder if it worked?!

day 14 - call me maybe copy

 

Day 15 – Sock puppet time!  Sparkles gets creative and makes a sock puppet using Keri’s sock puppet book as a guide.

day 15 - sock puppets copy

Day 16 – Sparkles makes an airplane, hangs it from the ceiling fan in Keri’s art room and flies!

day 16 - airplane copy

Day 17 – Keri’s comfort items from the time she was 13 months until now are her prized bunnies.  So, I found this book called “Santa Bunny” and had Sparkles sneak into her room at night, bunnies came “alive” and listened to the story that the elf read to them – (the book is about the Easter Bunny wanting the attention so decides to become Santa Claus on Christmas to get attention, and how the real Santa makes the Easter Bunny realize how important it is to be true to yourself – really cool story!)

day 17 - santa bunny copy

Day 18 – Keri took an origami class the entire 2012 year after school one day.  Sparkles decided to use her origami book that Keri made and create her own Christmas origami too.  (P.S. – making that Christmas tree and Santa hat was harder than it appears – took a while for me to make those.. ha!)

day 18 - origami copy

Day 19 – I was in nursing school at this time, and we had to do a lot of vision screenings on kids as part of a class.  So, the elf decided to do vision screenings using the Snellen Chart on the horses!  (Retrospectively – I think I would have done the Snellen chart differently – instead of using a real one, as pictures, I would have made my own with a Christmas saying / poem instead – would have been cuter!)

day 19 - snellen chart copy

Day 20 – Sparkles snuck into Keri’s room while she was sleeping and put a picture of herself on her pictures frames!

day 20 - elf pictures copy

 

Day 21 – Elf running a lemonade stand.  This is the picture I am missing.  I am so angry, disappointed, and so incredibly sad I am missing this picture!  I know for a fact I took pictures of this idea, because it was the best idea.. ever!  So, let me describe the concept to you.. and I will continue to look for that picture – It has to be here.. somewhere!!  The idea:  I took a shoebox, cut a square hole out of it, built a “table” that came out and spray painted it all yellow.  I used my cricut (scrapooking machine) to cut out the word “lemonade” on there, and made some little lemons.  So, I had a full blown lemonade stand that Sparkles was standing in to serve lemonade to all of Keri’s little pets from her Littlest Pet Shop figurines.  It was so cute, and I thought it was the best idea out of all of them!!  I’ll keep looking for this picture!

Day 22 – This idea was a last minute idea by my husband of all people!  I was running low on ideas, and he mentioned that the elf should try to catch a cat.  So, I built a “cat trap” out of a shoe box, bought a new stuffed cat that Keri had never seen before, and… wa-la!  Sparkles caught a cat!  Note:  There was a cat treat actually under the cat trap.. but one of our actual alive cats ate it.  Ha.  Keri thought this idea was adorable.

day 22 - cat trap copy

 

Day 23 – Magical Candy Canes.  Sparkles left a bowl, oatmeal, and crushed peppermints out with instructions on how to create magical candy canes.  Keri was to follow the instructions, and in the morning, magical candy canes would appear!  It worked.. magic!

day 23 - magical candy canes combined

 

Day 24 – Goodbye Letter.  Sparkles said goodbye today.  Keri was so sad – she actually started to cry when she read the letter, she didnt want the fun with Sparkles to go!  Sparkles brought a goodie bag for Keri and wrote her a letter.  It was a sad day.. but she quickly forgot in the morning after Santa arrived 🙂  (Although.. she has mentioned Sparkles, probably every month since then.. she cant wait for her to come back!!

day 24 - goodbye letter copy

 

And.. that is the adventures of Sparkles – our Elf on the Shelf 2012!