Thanksgiving Traditions

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Photo by Brian Tuttle (www.brianrtuttle.com)

I truly appreciate Thanksgiving and all the warmth, happiness, and blessings that it brings. What better way to realize how amazing life is than by counting your blessings and feeling satisfaction with all that you have? But it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, Thanksgiving wasn’t my favorite. It was sandwiched between two of the greats: Halloween and Christmas, and I really didn’t like turkey (call me crazy). So I’m trying to make it a fun and memorable holiday for my children. One that they will look forward to, not just one that we have to pass through to get to Christmas. Here are some of my family’s traditions, and some that I’ve rounded up from the interwebs.

Thanksgiving Plates

I’m super proud of this one because it sprang from my very own brain. It’s so cheap and so very easy, but it’s probably the one tradition that I will cherish the most. Record the things your family is most grateful for on a dinner plate. The next year, use the plate at Thanksgiving dinner. After a few years, you’ll have a good set of special plates to eat your holiday meal off of, as well as a record of Thanksgivings past. Boom. For full instructions click here.

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Tree of Blessings

Simply make a tree trunk from paper, cut leaves from colored paper or trace the little hands in your family and use those as leaves. Each day during November, write down one of your many blessings on the leaf/hand and stick it to the tree. By Thanksgiving you will have a full and beautiful tree of blessings! There are lots of variations of this activity like this garland, and this jar.

 thankfultreephoto credit OurGoodwinJourney.com

Service Project

What better way to show you are grateful than by serving someone else? The possibilities are endless on this one: make cookies for a neighbor, rake someone’s leaves, deliver a meal to someone in need, donate warm clothes to a local coat drive, provide Thanksgiving dinner for a needy family (or give them cash to help them provide their own), volunteer at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Find some way to bless someone else’s life in any way, large or small.

Write Thank You Notes

Express your gratitude to those you love by writing down your thoughts and feelings and sharing it with them. It’ll make their day, and yours too! Help your children with this activity and teach them the importance of a genuinely saying “thank you” regularly.

Gratitude Rolls

I’ve never actually tried this one but I think it looks fun and a little quirky (which translates to fun). I found it here. Basically, you write down what you’re thankful for on a little strip of paper and bake it into a dinner roll. Read them around the Thanksgiving table. It’s kind of like a weird fortune cookie of gratitude. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

Festive Cookies

There are so many cute ideas for Thanksgiving cookies out there. Here are some of my favorites (thank you Pinterest!): Pilgrim hat cookies, acorn cookies , turkey cookies (and a few other snacks), pumpkin snickerdoodles. Yum!

Story of the First Thanksgiving

I know this story isn’t really all that historically correct, but it’s traditional and nice. Gather the kids around and tell them about the pilgrims and the Indians, or better yet, don your best costumes and act it out with them! Finish up with a feast of your own!

Thanksgiving Books

You guys know this is one of my favorites. There are so many sweet little stories about blessings and gratitude, Pilgrims and Indians, turkeys and family dinners out there! Go get them! The Library has tons to offer and your little kiddies will love the time you spend reading to them!

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Turkey Crafts/Decorations

My kids love to make things, whether it’s drawing and coloring, or popsicle stick crafts, or art from construction paper. And I love it because I get to display it and show them how proud of them I am. Win win. Here are some ideas to get them going if they aren’t already bringing home a million pieces of artwork from school. This candy corn turkey is easy. Here is a whole slew of ideas including wreaths, hand print turkeys, and trees. And this one is just a fun fall tree if you’re all turkied (that’s not a real word is it…) out. I’m not sure where this collections of printables fits but it just seems helpful.

I hope these traditions help to make your Thanksgiving special and memorable! And I would love to add some new ones to the list. What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions? Please leave a comment!

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Simplify and Savor the Season

It’s almost Halloween (eek!)! The holidays are upon us and I couldn’t be happier about it! But I know the holidays also bring a lot of stress. Despite our best efforts and hope for making the season feel all cozy and warm and magical and fuzz-covered, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Am I right?

For me, holiday stress doesn’t come from a lack of ways to make memories, or feeling stumped on how to inject the aforementioned fuzzy magic into each day. I’m kind of a Pinterest Mom. Enough said (watch for a long list of holiday traditions to come in the future). My problem with this time of year is in the savoring part. I get so wrapped up in orchestrating it all that I forget to slow down and enjoy each moment as we’re making the memories. Good news, friends! I recently came across a book that is specifically designed to help alleviate holiday stress. It’s called Simplify and Savor the Season, by Connie Sokol.

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This book works like a step-by-step guide to helping you plan your holiday season. It focuses on simplifying by prioritizing activities and events, making a plan, and keeping the people that you love and the spirit of the season in mind. There are worksheets to help you stay organized (maybe my favorite part), and even sweet and funny stories to help you get into the holiday spirit.

The “savoring the season” section of the book is exactly what I need! The book defines savoring as “reclaiming the magic of the season, to experience a mature version of what our young children instinctively feel”. I think that’s something we all want, to feel that magic again. Connie gives you three questions to ask yourself in order to keep things simple and to make sure you’re actually enjoying yourself (imagine that!):

  • Am I doing this to create family memories, or for show?
  • Am I making this because I love my family, or to check if off the list?
  • Am I being present in the moment and enjoying this event or am I thinking ahead to when it will be done, or planning the next thing?

This book was just what I needed to help me handle the stress of the season so that I can spend more time enjoying it! I can’t wait to get planning!

Ready for the part with the free stuff? There’s a GIVEAWAY! Please enter below for your chance to win a FREE copy of Simplify and Savor the Season as well as the Simplify and Savor Planner!

Or, if you don’t have your patient pants on and can’t wait for the giveaway, you can purchase your copy of Simplify and Savor the Season right now by clicking here. If you purchase the book any time during the month of October you will receive a FREE Simplify and Savor Planner. It’s the perfect way to keep your holidays on track. There’s even a gift set version available for purchase here if you’d like to share this wonderful book with your friends!

And for all you book club ladies, join Connie for her first “Virtual Book Club”. You can work personally with Connie to set goals, get feedback and read her book together! Email Connie (http://conniesokol.com/about-connie/contact-connie/)and put BOOK CLUB in your message. She will be choosing 8 women to participate! Fun!

I hope this helps you as you start to think about the upcoming holiday season. Good luck on the giveaway! I’m going to turn on my Christmas music now. Just kidding (but seriously). Happy Holidays!!

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Traditions: Halloween!

I don’t think we can place too much importance on family traditions. They give the family roots, stability, and a reason to come together. Each season has its own traditions, and at our house, Fall and Halloween are brimming with them. The following list includes my own family traditions and things I’ve gathered from good ol’ Pinterest. So get some inspiration, pick and choose, or cram them all into your October! (Check out this countdown chain idea here to organize all these fun traditions!)

Witchy Apple Carving

Carve a witch’s face into an apple, add rice for teeth and raisin or chocolate chips for eyes. Let it sit on your counter. The longer it sits, the uglier and witchier it gets! This activity is for adults to do and kids to watch. It doesn’t take a lot of time and barely any money, and it’s something the kids will be excited about for as long as you can handle watching an apple get disgusting on your kitchen counter. You’re welcome.

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Dollar Store Decorations/Make Your Own

We spend a few days/weeks earning this one. If the kids have done a good job keeping their rooms clean, or getting along well, or whatever it is you want them to do, they get to pick out a few decorations from the dollar store for their rooms! Everybody wins! My kids also love to draw, color and make decorations. We display them around the house and the kids love to see their work!

Jack-O-Lanterns

This one doesn’t need an explanation. Carve or paint, light them up, and display!

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Visit a Pumpkin Patch

Let the kids get dirty trying to find their perfect pumpkin. Buying pumpkins this way is so much more fun than picking them out at the grocery store (and can be a lot cheaper, too!).

Get Lost in a Corn Maze

You might get lucky and be able to combine this one and the pumpkin patch! There are different kinds of corn mazes nowadays: easy ones, ridiculously difficult ones, ones shaped like famous people, haunted ones…. pick the one that best suits your family and get lost!

Read Scary (or not) Books

My kids love this one, so we’ve built up quite a collection of Halloween/Fall books (you could always go to the library for this activity). We read one book as a family each night before bed. With my older kids, we choose a spooky chapter book and I read it aloud to them throughout the month. What better way to end your day than snuggling and blankets and books?

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Fall Food

The food this time of year seriously rocks: soups in bread bowls, caramel apples, mummy dogs, hot chocolate, pumpkin everything, chili, apple cider, caramel popcorn, spiderweb soup….this list could get really long. Run to Pinterest, people!

Rake Leaves as Service

I think traditions built around service are the most meaningful and memorable ones. Growing up, the people across the street had huge trees. Their lawn would get absolutely covered in all the leaves. My mom would send us out after it got dark to rake and bag them up. We loved being sneaky and trying to not get caught.

“Boo!” Your Neighbors

Who doesn’t love finding a plate of goodies on their porch? This tradition involves printing out a few of  these fun little things, whipping up something yummy, and leaving it all on a few of your neighbors’ porches. Then watch as everyone shares the love! But keep it a secret!!

Movie Night!!!

Pick a flick and hit the lights! We have so many favorite shows that this one happens frequently at our house. Here are some ideas: Hocus Pocus, Nightmare Before Christmas, Ghost Busters, Addams Family, Casper, Haunted Mansion, Paranorman, Frankenweenie, Harry Potter, Corpse Bride, Young Frankenstein, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. OR if you have very young kids, you can always depend on The Disney Channel, Nick Jr, and PBS to supply you with at least one Halloween special from all of your favorite shows.

Halloween Cookies

This one came from my husband’s family. They love their sugar cookies so they make them in all kinds of Halloween shapes and decorate them! This would be perfect to use if you “Boo!” your neighbors (see above). I also pinned these cute monster cookies. So fun!

Mad Scientist/Witch’s Potions

I just found this one this year and I can’t wait to try it! Let the littles “experiment” with water and food dye in this totally kid-friendly version, or have them watch as you make a few potions and experiments that require a little more work. Your kids won’t even realize they’re learning with this kind of fun!

Haunted Gingerbread Houses

Lots of grocery stores (Wal-mart and Target to name a few) carry kits (about $10) to make gingerbread houses, Halloween style! The parents assemble them, and the kids decorate! Once you’re finished, display it for the rest of the season!

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Local Halloween Festivals

If you live around here (Wasatch Front, Utah) I’m sure you’ve heard about Gardner Village. They have so much fun going on over there. WitchFest is a must. They have scavenger hunts, darling witch displays, a petting zoo/pony rides, all kinds of fun with witches. And this year they’ve added Wee Witch’s Playground, and Wee Witch’s Weekend just for the kids! But if you don’t live around here, find something near you and get out of the house for some Fall fun!

Halloween Night Dinner

Of course, all this fun is building up to the big night! Both my mom and my husband’s mom did a good job of making traditions for the 31st. We combine their traditions and have homemade chili and breadsticks (my mother-in-law’s tradition) before going trick-or-treating. And when the kids come home, we warm up with hot apple cider and donuts (my mom’s tradition). Yum!!

Help us add to the list! What are you favorite traditions for this time of year??

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Firecracker Suckers

Firecracker Suckers 1

Who doesn’t love the 4th of July? Fireworks, barbeques, parades the list goes on. If you’re looking for a festive treat to share with friends and family look no further. These suckers will give your 4th of July party a little extra POP!

Ingredients:

  • Blue/red jolly ranchers
  • Blue/Red poprock candy
  • Sucker sticks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place jolly ranchers (one red one blue) side by side on baking sheet leaving enough room to insert the stick later. Place in oven for 5-10 min or until candy is softened. Take the bottom side of a glass cup and press down on candies until flattened. Insert sucker stick immediately and let cool until hardened. Once cool, remove suckers from the parchment. Fill a bowl with water and dip a sucker into it and then into the poprock candy. Place back on parchment paper until dry.

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Taco Tuesday and The Lego Movie

taco tuesday

The Lego Movie came out today so you know what that means…MOVIE NIGHT! And what better dinner to go with our movie than Taco Tuesday (this is a movie reference for those of you who haven’t seen it yet. I’m not that random)! I used the crock pot because, well…for so many reasons, and it turned out great! So here’s what we had…

Shredded Chicken and Black Bean Tacos
Ingredients:

1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 jar (24 oz) salsa (I used black bean and corn salsa)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
lettuce
cheddar cheese, shredded
sour cream
tortillas

Directions:

Spray crock pot with non-stick spray. Place chicken in crock pot. Pour salsa over chicken. Cover and cook on high 4-6 hrs, or until chicken is done. Take chicken out, shred it and return to crock pot so it can absorb the salsa.

We used the fixings I listed, but you could also add corn, avocado, and tomatoes….do your own thing, they’re tacos!!

P.S. I loved the movie! My kids wanted to watch it again as soon as it ended. I highly recommend it!

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Traditions: Movie Night!

My husband grew up in a movie-loving family. They’ve seen them all, they can quote them on demand, they just love them. And I think it’s genetic; my kids know every movie under the sun. I like to play to my family’s interests, so whenever a new movie is released we have a MOVIE NIGHT! (You have to say it in an exciting, fabulous way)

Now, just watching a movie isn’t really a tradition, at least not one worth writing about. I try to make it just little bit more special with food (food improves everything, right?). I’m not fancy in any way, and my themed party-throwing abilities are seriously lacking. That’s really Allie’s department. But I am mildly creative so we usually do some kind of treat or dinner to go along with the movie. For example, when watching Frozen, we would have ice cream for dessert. When we watched The Lego Movie, we did Taco Tuesday for dinner (you can read more about that here). The Sandlot…hot dogs. You get the point. Nothing over-the-top, just easy stuff that makes it more than just a movie.

We don our pajamas and round up every blanket in the house. We snuggle on the couch and enjoy the feature presentation. My kids look forward to our movie nights like they’re a holiday, and it makes for some pretty good family time!

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