Christmas lights activity

Christmas activity looking at lights.  free printable.  Lovely Matters by Heather Walker

Last Thursday our "Gifts of Togetherness" was looking at lights and leaving little notes (below photo) at our favorite decorated homes in the neighborhood.  The kids had so much fun running door to door giggling as they hung candy canes and messages on doors without getting caught.  My friend sent me a funny video from her Ring app that caught my kids in action.  

Christmas lights activity.  Handmade notes for decorated homes.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker

Since then I've had several friends mention that their kids now want to do this.  To encourage this I've created a printable for the little ones who can't write their own notes, or maybe those who would like to simplify this activity.  I created it with the ideas that the lights could be colored.

Click here to print your Christmas lights note cards! 

 
christmas activity while looking at lights.  Lovely Matters by Heather Walker
 

I hope you are enjoying this special time and are finding the time to create memories with your loved ones.

New Note.jpg

Camping is not a vacation.

Camping is not a vacation.  It's deeper than that.  Different than that.

Camping is simply a time for connecting. 

I camp to connect with people, nature, and myself.

camping is not a vacation.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker

When we disconnect from the modern technology-filled world and join the outside world it makes one realize how simple life really is.  Once your basic needs are met - food/water, shelter, and love - you realize how focusing on the basics makes everything else seem insignificant.  

I also appreciate how camping naturally makes us exercise.  The best type of exercise, in nature, unaware that we are even exercising our body because we are having fun.

camping is not a vacation.  lovely matters blog by Heather Walker

Problem-solving, team work, mentally present in the moment, social atmosphere, the benefits are endless - you get the idea!  

There's something about camping that makes me crave it again.  Even though I sleep miserable and miss taking a shower and don't love bugs.  I plan our next trip because I crave the closeness.  We can hear each other thinking.  There's a calmness in our souls.  There are moments while camping I think to myself "maybe this isn't for me" but then there's something much bigger than that as we sit under the stars sharing food, stories, and songs.

camping is not a vacation.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker

If you aren't sure if camping is your thing just give it a try for one night somewhere nearby.  Just make sure you bring a good sleeping bag (we use two of these zippered together for additional body warmth) and a camp pad is a MUST.  Or you could go glamping in a cabin or rent an RV.  I think gifting someone with camping supplies and a scheduled date to go camping would be such a thoughtful Christmas gift idea!  And if you still need convincing here is scientific proof on the benefits of camping.  

camping is not a vacation.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker
why we camp.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker
 

Finding my simple living to simply live

7 years ago I was so interested in living a simple/minimalism life that we moved out of our traditional sized home and renovated a 1,600 square foot home.  Several garage sales and donation pick ups later, we moved into our tiny home where everything we owned was either useful or beautiful.  That was my intention. It was lovely.  Then baby #3 came and we got the itch to renovate another home, and another and with it our 4th baby.  Our current home is a perfect home for making roots and someday having 4 teenagers that will want their own space.  We still talk about our "tiny home" as our favorite.  We had very few places to put stuff, therefore less stuff.  It forced us to live with our minimum needs.  This gave us more time and space to make room for the people and life experiences that were important to us. 

The subject of minimalism is, of course, quite subjective.  I think of minimalism as less is more. But it's also a mindset.  For instance, if we are talking about clutter in the home...  I can live with the rooms on our second floor cluttered, but my mind will feel cluttered if my kitchen counters and master bedroom is cluttered.  I have found this as my personal balance.  The spectrum of minimalism is extremely wide.  Like everything, we each need to do what is best for ourselves.  

Isn't life all about balance.  I balance my consumption of chocolate with my consumption of greens.  And I balance my splurges with my frugality and thriftiness.  Balancing a life of living with less helps me live with more intention.

I don't have this lifestyle mastered, nor would I want to.  The words "simple and balanced" are simply a reminder to keep myself in check with all the temptations life brings.  What to wear, how to discipline, what to feed my family, how to decorate my home or my child's birthday party, the list goes on.  These words have taken the pressure off mothering and have allowed me to focus on my top priorities.

One mindset I have changed to encourage minimalism is eliminating the word "busy" from my vocabulary.  Busy is a choice.  In our daily life I don't want my family to be busy - but rather productive.  Intentional on how we go about our day.

If you are curious about adding more simplicity or minimalism in your life try writing down all the areas in your life that feel cluttered.  Physically and emotionally.  Start small.  Few people have an entire day they can spend organizing their closet.  Start with your shoe collection and pull everything out.  Make 3 piles.  Sell. Donate. Keep.  Then move on to your jeans.  repeat.  Then see how you feel.  Maybe the minimalism balance doesn't start in your closet but in your head.  Write down what's making you feel "busy" and cross out everything that's not important.  Then tackle the rest.

Now that you know my story I plan to share many more thoughts on how I use simple living to simply live.  Follow your own path and don't let anyone tell you how to live your life according to theirs.  

On simply living to simply live.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker
 

On gift-giving: Something you want (part 2 of 4)

4 thoughtful gifts for Christmas - something you want (part 2 of 4).  Lovely Matters Blog by Heather Walker

Want want want! 

The "something you want" is the gift category I'd probably let get a little out of hand if I didn't stick with the one gift rule.  If you didn't read about our "4 thoughtful gifts", you may want to read this blog post first. 

I have a good idea well before December what's on my kids "want" list.  When I hear them talk about something, or I see something I think they'd like I immediately add to my amazon wish list so I don't forget.  The other "wants" go on their Santa wish list.

I'll start with my favorite,  Kiwi Crate!  Currently my 9 year old and 4 year old receive monthly boxes.  I can't say enough good things about this company and the products they develop.  My 9 year old gets their "Tinker crate".  It's this perfect combination of STEM education and creative tinkering.  Ironically, he dressed as a Rocket Scientist for Halloween and the week before he received a crate with a rocket project inside.  What's been most incredible is how much he tinkers and creatively explores on his own since starting the subscription.  As for my 4 year old, he receives the "Koala crate".  This is filled with hands on learning and crafting.  Last month he put together a working xylophone and wrote his own music with ink stamps.  Art is extremely important to me and this is such a fun way for me to explore learning through art with my littlest.  So, unknown to my 11 year old daughter, her "want" will be the "Doodle crate".  She loves art and never has much of a wish list so this will be a fun surprise.  Here's last month's Doddle crate below.

all-inside-doodle1.jpg

I think this is also the perfect gift from Grandparents.  They can choose how many months to subscribe and will be thrilled they are giving such a unique and educational gift.  AND, using this referral link you'll get $10 off your first crate.  They set the bar high on finding other gift ideas... moving on:

Family Gifts for all ages (post-toddler stage)

My younger two are the vocalists in our family band.  We have a cheap toy microphone that barely works, but used often.  It's time for an upgrade to this portable Singing Machine with a bluetooth speaker.  Shocked by the low price!

All my kids play with these.  Time after time, one of the most played with toys in our home.  We only have a small set and can be limiting when more than one child is playing, so I'm thinking we add to this great toy.

Between our love of music and our kids' curiosity on how things work, I think we'd all love one of these.  

Kids and adults love playing with darts, but this one has impressive reviews with its magnets.  Hmm, maybe another idea for my hubby?  Men are just big kids who still want toys.  I'm reminded of this every year at Christmas time.

Legos are always high on the wish list for almost 8 years now in our home.  It's still at the top of my 6 year old's wish list, therefore new sets are hard to come by.  I purchased this set because I don't believe we've ever seen it.

I think my active 9 year old boy would love a fitness tracker like this so he doesn't need to share my old one with his sister anymore.  It's practical and almost a "need" because he's constantly asking me what time it is.  He'd also love this computer kit!  When did being a kid become so awesome!

Gifts for Hubby:

I asked if there was anything on his wish list and he gave me this.  We've had a Toddy for several years but, it's gotten old and this would be less expensive than buying cold brewed coffee. 

Gifts for Me (aka Mama):

10 coupons to sleep in over Christmas break would be the best gift!  Followed by breakfast in bed of course.

But if my family insisted I make a wish list, jewelry from Anthropologie and Madewell would be on that list (click on photos below for links).  I explored the jewelry at both these stores today because jewelry is something, in my opinion, that needs to be seen in person.

I would love to hear the top gifts in your family!

 

This post contains affiliate links.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.  Learn more here.  

 

On gift-giving: Something to read (part 1 of 4)

If you aren't familiar with the 4 gifts, you may want to read this blog post first. 

Thoughtful gift ideas with 4 gifts ~ something to read ~ Lovely Matters by Heather Walker

The "something to read" is my favorite to shop for!  My kids love books, and I love previewing books.

7-15 YEAR OLD

I was recently at Costco and spent a great deal of time looking at books.  I found two books for my older two and I was glad to know that my Costco membership is beneficial since these were less expensive than amazon.  I just love feeling the energy of children's books as I pick them up.   Good finds for my 9 year historian and my 11 year old artist.  And this author has several different topics of interest.  

5-7 YEAR OLD

My older son read The Book With No Pictures at school, and just hearing him talk about it made me want it.  It was his idea that we should get it for his younger brother.  I can't wait to hear them laugh as they read this one!

2-7 YEAR OLD

I'm still searching for a book for my 4 year old.  Considering one of these below after looking through amazon reviews.  I hope to visit a book store to preview these.

HUSBAND

My husband is often reading about business and leadership so he'd probably choose something like this.  But I'm thinking something more unique and leisurely.  Before we see Hamilton the musical (I hear it's coming to Austin people!!!), I think my husband would be interested in reading the book... and my older two would probably fight him for it with their obsession of the soundtrack.  I've never done a magazine subscription so this is also a runner up.  

Me (aka. Mama)

The problem with Christmas shopping is I find stuff I want... normally I don't give my husband many hints.  He's naturally an amazing gift giver and gifts are the only surprise I like.  However, two years ago he gave me a cookbook and I've never opened it.  Wishful thinking on his part - there's always hope.  This book would be practical for me right now.  Or I know I'd enjoy this book on raising my wonderful wild children.  And this one I also flipped through at Costco and is of interest to me because I often try focusing on eating the seasons.

This is my top pick! I know our entire family would enjoy.

This post contains affiliate links.  The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.  Learn more here.  

 

giving matters - make it thoughtful

4 thoughtful Christmas gifts ~ lovely matters blog by Heather Walker ~ Christmas simplified

The first year we celebrated Christmas as a family (11 years ago) we decided to keep the focus of gift giving with four thoughtful gifts; something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.  This has not only simplified our Christmas shopping, but it follows the "less is more" reminder.  This allows for more time and thoughtfulness as we choose each gift.  This also allows for more time spent as a family, celebrating our "gifts of togetherness" in December - another post to come explaining this. 

These are the gifts they get from us and then Santa fills their stockings and brings a gift or two for each and or a group gift.  This varies year to year and just depends on what they are asking for.  

My husband and I also give these 4 gifts to one other, but we simplify it even more.  The "need" is often a kitchen utensil that needs replacing, or a tube of toothpaste to show the kids just how practical we are. ha ha.  One year I wrapped lipstick as his "something to wear".  And you can use your imagination on what he wraps for me each year as my something to "wear".  There was 1 or 2 years my husband and I skipped doing this for one another (somewhere between the thick of parenting and birthing and nursing 4 babies), but now especially as the kids are more aware, It's important to us that they see us sharing these thoughtful gifts.

I involve the children as much as possible in shopping for all members of our family.  They've come up with some very creative ideas - like how to give Daddy a gift that they actually want.  Family board games have work well in this category.

The next 4 posts I will share my read, wear, want and need gift ideas for my family.  I hope you'll follow along and find some new ideas for your family and I'd love to hear your gift ideas also!