Welcome to Penny Pinching Mom

Throughout this blog, you will find meal plans, date night ideas, daily routines, preschool activities, natural cleaning products, crafting and so much more. Essentially, I want to share how I make "everyday tasks" into something to look forward to - except for mopping floors, you're on your own for that one!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Book Reviews

Every night in December, we unwrapped a book.
I had wanted to review books as we go along but our computer was out of commission for a couple weeks and then the holiday season caught up with us! I will try to keep the reading short and sweet but I really wanted to share a few of our favourites. 

The first one:

This book brings together all the most common traditions most families will celebrate throughout the holidays.  It counts a couple days for each page. "Days 1,2, and 3 i paint, cut and paste.  Days 4 and 5 I write, stamp and send..."  There is large print and large illustration with just a little detail.  Our three year old seemed to be drawn to this book because she recognized all the activities the story had.  Our one year old seemed to loose interest around day 21.
Next up we have:

Both little one's loved this book.  I also used it at story time at Little Bird and all the children seemed to enjoy it.  One little girl even wanted her mom to read it afterwards!  The illustrations are clean and bright with just a little bit of text on each page.  This story also focuses on the traditions of Christmas.

The next one has such beautiful illustrations.
Who Was Born This Special Day? by Eve Bunting and Leonid Gore
This wonderfully illustrated book is set in the stable where baby Jesus was born.  It asks "Who was born this special day? Was it you, little lamb? I was born back in early May when the breezes of spring chased winter away." This was perfect to snuggle up and read beside the light of the tree.  To be honest, I think I liked this one more the kids! They sat and listened to it but they didn't ask for it to be read again.  I wonder if the "hazy" illustrations were to difficult for the kids to understand.

Finally, a story with a CD.

The Night Before Christmas by Performed by Peter, Paul and Mary.

You can guess how THIS story ends!  What makes this a great read is the illustrations and the CD.  The story is sung with a guitar being played.  Our littlest one was in bed when we unwrapped this one so I'm not sure how he would have liked this one. 
Daddy snuggled up with this one and Ginger asked "Why aren't you reading it?" Daddy: "Because the CD is singing the story." Ginger: "But I want you to read it!"
So, the CD was turned off and Daddy finished it.  She certainly liked it because she asked for me to read it after Daddy was done!

A couple honourable mentions include:

And now Christmas is over and the wrapping paper is cleaned up and put away. But I really want to keep this up. We have added a basket to the living room that holds all our library books. I think I will try to sit down with the 2 of them and have them choose a book to read altogether, before bedtime.

Did you start any new traditions this year?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Merry Christmas Stinky Face

As a part of our Coutdown to Christmas, we read Merry Christmas Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and Cyd Moore.  I didn't even need to read through this one before we got it because I had already read I Love You Stinky Face by Lisa McCourt and I loved it.  To be honest, I feel like you can't go wrong with a book that has been published by Scholastic.

A child with a wild imagination comes up with plenty of questions about Christmastime. "What if a big wintry wind blew our Christmas tree away?   What if Santa's boot falls off while he's driving the sleigh?" Mama comes up with plenty of creative solutions!

Both Ginger and Red enjoyed this book.  The interesting and bright illustrations really caught Red's eye! He would point to something on every page, look up at me and say "da?" (What's that?). Ginger would giggle at all of the mama's solutions.  She also was able to "re-read" the story to me  right away.  Her favourite phrase was "But Mama, but Mama...".  I think this story was extra special because we use silly nicknames like stinky face all the time!

I would recommend this story for all ages.  You can always shorten the sentences on each page if your little one's attention span is still developing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

Growing up, my brother and I had the classic chocolate Advent calendar. Even as a child I remember thinking the chocolate wasn't very good and I never remembered to open a door every day. It was kind of a little bonus to realize I forgot 3 days and got 3 chocolates in one day! But it didn't really build any excitement. 

Then we had Ginger. At first I was excited for her to have her own cardboard cavity creator calendar.  Then I became "crazy mom" and didn't want her eating chocolate every day so the calendar would get "forgotten"  This year, Big Spender (Daddy) was determined to remind her to open a door every day. So far... well it's only day 4, so... :)

But onto more exciting Christmasy activities:

1. Activity filled (rather than chocolate/toy filled) Advent calendar

Envelope style Advent calendar
2. Open a wrapped Christmas book, every day.
All neatly stacked

I first came across these ideas from Pinterest (of course!).
The first one I saw was this one: http://pinterest.com/pin/82120393174911042/
I though, "Psht, I can make that!" I was sorely mistaken! First, I painted the cardboard instead of covering it with paper - that bit me in the butt later!  Then, I cut my cardboard the wrong size, in proportion to the envelopes. So I glued all the envelopes onto the cardboard and decided to cut the cardboard once they were glued - then I would cut the cardboard to fit.  This was a bad idea because all the paint was flaking around the edge.  I let it be and moved on.  Now I have all my enveloped glued down, all my cards (to write the activities onto) created and I started to decorate the envelopes with numbers. I punched out 24 big circles and 24 little circles and added all the numbers.  As I started to glue all my numbers onto the envelopes, I realized that I only put 20 envelopes on my board!  I didn't need to cut the cardboard - I just can count!  After cursing and staring at the board for 5 minutes, it was tossed into the recycling bin!!!

Now it is November 29th and back to Pinterest I go... I found this idea of using envelopes http://pinterest.com/pin/82120393174956575/.  During this past summer, I received about 100 red and green envelopes and got to work.  I strung a ribbon along the length of our hallway, punched out 24 big circles and 24 little circles and prayed I had enough number stickers to do it all again. I am happy to say that I love it this way!  I was SO simple and it is hard to forget because we walk past it every morning and about 50 times a day!

Coming up with the activities was easier than I thought.  Most of our activities are things we would always do so it was a matter of plugging in the dates.  Wednesday night are really busy for us so i chose activities like "colour a picture" and "drink hot chocolate".  If I can't manage to organize that then I think that is a sign that we are too busy (a valuable concept I learned from Tsh over at www.simplemom.net) I wanted to make really fancy cards (like these: http://letslassothemoon.com/2011/11/21/stock-your-stash-week-2/) to add to the envelopes but it was down to the wire so I just printed them on gold card stock and cut them into strips.  Would you like to see what out December is going to look like?

1. Write a letter to Santa.
2. Visit Santa.
3. Chop down a Christmas tree.
4. Grandma’s Christmas party.
5. Make Christmas cards.
6. Make an ornament.
7. Make hot chocolate and stir with candy canes.
8. Make Christmas gifts.
9. Sleepover at Nanny and Dido’s
10. Family photos.
11. Visit Nanny and Dido.
12. Give toys to those in need.
13. Make Christmas Cookies.
14. Choose a special treat.
15. Call Grandparents and sing a carol.
16. Watch a Christmas movie.
17. Have a camp out in front of the Christmas tree.
18. Sign carols at church.
19. Bake cookies with Grandmama.
20. Make a treat and bring to a friend.
21. Colour a Christmas picture.
22. Go out for a Christmas treat.
23. Build a snowman.
24. Read the story of Jesus’ birth.  Set out cookies and carrots.

94 paper circles later...

My next Pinterest adventure was in the form of books (yea!  http://pinterest.com/pin/82120393174919047/).
The concept was simple and like most things I do, it wasn't ready until the very last minute!
I went online and put 50 Christmas books on hold, with the library. December 1st I received a phone call that I had some items to pick up at the library.  Lo and behold... 21 books! A couple were just to advanced for a 3 and 1 year old so we left with 17. I found 7 more Christmas/wintery books at home and got wrapping!

Temporary home, until the Christmas tree arrives.

A nice collection

No fancy business, just a quick and dirty wrapping job.

I used every scrap I could find!

The only time you can use paper that looks like this!

Day 24: The Grand Finale
Let's just say, Ginger LOVES it!  I am quite impressed with Red's attention span too!  I hope this tradition sticks around!  As I was wrapping though, I wondered how I could transform this tradition when the kids are, say, 10 and 12? hmmm.... I think I have a couple years to enjoy this though!  I will try to do a couple reviews of the Christmas books we found and share with you. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!