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.

Weekend recap

Every year as December approaches I make big plans in my head on how I want to decorate our home.  Then I end up quickly putting together a few decorating details so it can be done and we can focus on spending time celebrating the season with our Gifts of Togetherness.

I'm using fresh garland this year indoors and out with this 3" ribbon

I'm using fresh garland this year indoors and out with this 3" ribbon

This past weekend my parents were visiting from Chicago so the kids got the very best gift - quality time with them. 

We played games and my parents gifted them this new game that's been on our list for a long time.  I look forward to many family nights playing this one.

We decorated gingerbread houses.   I love making gingerbread, and follow Martha Stewarts Ginger Bread recipe, but in the past few years, I've learned that our houses are best store bought because we tend to leave them up for decoration.  This Gingerbread Village has been requested by our kids for the past several years.  Each child gets their own house and they collectively put it together to make a village.  I now save the homemade recipe for the cookies we can consume while still warm.  

We also witnessed the sweetest live nativity, looked at Christmas lights, and consumed an appropriately significant amount of sugar.  Hubby and I snuck in a couple dates!  One was attending his company Christmas party and then we finished up our Christmas shopping, went to brunch, and visited the fancy new Starbucks Reserve.

Christmas Party Attire: Pleated Velvet Top   Lipstick  Free people skirt, Banana Republic earrings and Stella and Dot clutch no longer available.  

Christmas Party Attire: Pleated Velvet Top   Lipstick 

Free people skirt, Banana Republic earrings and Stella and Dot clutch no longer available.  

Loved this Plaid Blazer my hubby wore so well!  

Loved this Plaid Blazer my hubby wore so well!  

More photos of our Holiday look on Instagram.  

Back to decorating... My favorite place to decorate for Christmas is our kid's rooms.  It's the last and first thing they see every morning and I want them to feel the magic!

I spoke about these cozy sheets here and my little one selected this snowflake pattern on one of our Target runs.  Tin can Christmas tree from Hobby Lobby with our favorite twinkle lights.  Reindeer from Pottery Barn years ago that he immediately grabbed from the storage box and placed in his room.  

I spoke about these cozy sheets here and my little one selected this snowflake pattern on one of our Target runs.  Tin can Christmas tree from Hobby Lobby with our favorite twinkle lights.  Reindeer from Pottery Barn years ago that he immediately grabbed from the storage box and placed in his room.  

Our fridge chalkboard is always a simple place to decorate for the different holidays.

Our fridge chalkboard is always a simple place to decorate for the different holidays.

Greenery, as you can see, is my favorite way to decorate for Christmas.

Greenery, as you can see, is my favorite way to decorate for Christmas.

My hubby's office is now complete with winter attire ;)

My hubby's office is now complete with winter attire ;)

I believe a home should tell the story of a family - this is a little indication of "us" as you enter our home this Christmas.  

I believe a home should tell the story of a family - this is a little indication of "us" as you enter our home this Christmas.  

 

I plan on sharing more on my Christmas decor soon :)

 

Christmas tree traditions

Christmas tree Traditions. Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker

We made time for one of our favorite traditions, cutting down a Christmas tree.  All our kids get a turn at helping cut and then we always cut a few slices of the trunk to make ornaments or gift tags.  My older son holds the honors of dragging the tree back to the tractor.

Christmas Tree Traditions.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker

My daughter/first born has always had the honors of placing the angel.  Pictured is our Kids' artificial tree in the playroom where Santa will leave their gifts.  Everything on the tree is homemade by the kids - except for the Angel topper which was from my childhood.

Christmas tree Traditions. Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker

Christmas is such a great time to get a similar photo to record your child's growth.  I have the same picture of my son and daughter year after year doing the honors of dragging the tree and placing the Angel.  

The artificial tree in our entryway is mostly decorated from the stairs and shoulder rides because it's so tall.  

Christmas tree Traditions.  Lovely Matters by Heather Walker

This first weekend of December was mostly spent at home celebrating our gifts of togetherness as a family and also included some friends.  Lights in our backyard were definitely called for.  

Christmas Traditions.  Decorating for Christmas.  Lovely Matters Blog by Heather Walker

We hosted our monthly Mother/Daughter Book Club meeting at our home and shared our Christmas morning tradition of monkey bread.  Our book this month was Mango Shaped Space and my daughter mentioned it as her favorite book of 2017!

Mother Daughter Book Club Christmas. Lovely Matters Blog by Heather Walker

And here's where we snuggled up on Sunday night next to our farm cut tree to watch Frosty the Snowman.  Our Advent Calendar really reminds us to live in the moment with these simple gifts of togetherness.  And I especially love that most of these gifts are at home -   where our favorite memories are made.  

Christmas Tree Traditions.  Gifts of Togetherness.  Lovely Matters Blog by Heather Walker

Christmas music is filling our home with this Pandora station being my favorite and my little ones request this children's station

 

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
 

Make your Thanksgiving table personal

I get more excited about special touches in table decor than I often do about the food itself.  Wouldn't it be sweet to sit down with a photo of you and a loved one in front of you?  A good place setting makes up for a dry turkey or cold potatoes in my opinion. This is a photo of my sister and I.  I think digging up old family photos would be such a fun treat for your guests.

I do so many last minute projects like this one with my Instax printer.  I love to decorate with photos any chance I can get.

There's so much great inspiration for adding personal touches to Thanksgiving and I pinned several of my favorites here:

Do you have your stretchy pants ready?  All the velvet is calling my name!

I'm hearing this hashtag will be all the rage and I hope to see some funny stuff: #WeirdThanksgivingTraditions 

And this podcast might be helpful to listen to before you enter into Thanksgiving with your family.  Fascinated by this podcast series.  I grew up in a family who loved to debate politics over the holidays.  To this day I avoid talking politics, but I'm happy to listen in on your debate for nostalgic sake.  

 

 

 

Gifts of Togetherness - Advent Calendar

Gifts of Togetherness - Advent Calendar Christmas Tradition ideas.  Lovely Matters by Heather Walker
 

I've been so excited to talk about this!  Because THIS is my favorite Christmas tradition!

Every December we fill our advent calendar with what we call “Gifts of Togetherness”.  These are simple, nonmaterial moments we share together.  Many of them only take a few minutes, and some we can spend an entire afternoon with.  

I was inspired 9 years ago when I was a hungry nursing mama and I saw this tiny stocking and mitten advent calendar at World Market (I see similar ones every year like this).  I purchased it thinking I’d put chocolate in each date and it would be mine all mine.  Then I came to my senses and thought it should carry more meaning and help us slow down the hustle and bustle of the season.  December can be a stressful month for many.  This is a great way to slow things down and put the focus on family.

"dancing around the Christmas tree"

"dancing around the Christmas tree"

Here’s my simple way how…  We are all already doing many of these things, but sometimes just being intentional in setting aside time feels different and special.  Every year we print our list and cut each “gift” into a strip.  The children decide which ones they want to include.  I casually put them into the numbered dates and as the days pass I adjust as needed.  Meaning, the day we visit a live manger can be adjusted, vs. printing this on a calendar.  Simple and flexible planning.

viewing our city's lights from the moonroof.

viewing our city's lights from the moonroof.

Feel free to copy and paste our ideas below and get your kids involved in some additional ones.  I’d love to hear what you come up with!  

 

GIFTS OF TOGETHERNESS

Drink hot cocoa under the tree

Make paper snowflakes

Take a drive to look at Christmas lights

Walk the neighborhood to look at lights

Bake for neighbors

Go Ice skating 

Wrap gifts together

Go Caroling with friends

Make a paper garland

Write letters to Santa

Build gingerbread houses

Have a fireside circle chat

Fill a box with items to donate 

Hang candy canes on neighbors’ doors

Make salt dough ornaments

Make a card for a soldier 

Bake with friends

Fill a stocking for someone less fortunate

Take a walk in nature

Leave a $5 bill with a Merry Christmas note on a strangers car

Have a dance party around the Christmas tree

Hot tub party (this will be our first year for this one!!)

Sing Christmas songs

Face Time Family 

Family band night (everyone chooses an instrument and gets silly)

Dance lesson night (choreography done by my daughter)

Visit Santa

See a Christmas play

Visit a live manger

Snowball fight (yes you can do this if you live in TX with these! Serious fun!  We were gifted these years ago after leaving the Chicago snow.)

Choose a friend to join us in our Gifts of Togetherness

Facetime cousins

Game night 

Look through family albums (Thank you Chatbooks for keeping me up to date!)

Watch family videos 

Read Christmas stories in Mom and Dad’s bed

Watch a classic Christmas movie

Sleep under the Christmas tree (this is our Adam’s Eve tradition)

And I’ll also share a “gift of togetherness” favorite my husband and I do together.  We always set aside a date night to do some shop together and follow it with dinner out.  His company also hosts an amazing Christmas party that we always can count on as a fun night out to celebrate Christmas together.  

Gifts of Togetherness - Advent Calendar Christmas Tradition ideas.  Lovely Matters by Heather Walker

Happy Advent Season!

 

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 to wear (part 4 of 4)

4 thoughtful gifts.  Something to wear". Part 4 of a 4 part post.  Lovely Matters blog by Heather Walker

If you haven't read our "4 thoughtful gifts", you may want to read this blog post first. 

"Something to wear" is now my 11 year olds favorite category in our gift giving.  Here I'm going to showcase a few of our favorite apparel brands.  Click on images to link to site.

Athleta

I love the company's motto: SHE is the root of power. So, more power to you.  My daughter and I both appreciate the simple and comfortable style of Athleta.  It's our favorite brand to work out in and our favorite brand for school and work.  Here are some new items we have our eyes on.  The fun part for me is there are a few pieces that we share given some of these layered styles can go both ways, fitted or oversized.  

Zara

This is my go-to when I need something unique for a special event or photo shoot for the kids.  Love the clasic feel of the pieces I find at Zara.

Toms

All 6 of us love Toms.  It's a hard brand to pass up when you know every purchase has a purpose.  I think I've had mine for over 10 years and although they have holes I still can't toss them because there's something that feels okay about wearing Toms with holes.  Just me?  And the collection of sunglasses are beutiful!

Here's some random "something to wear" that I think could help with ideas. 

Have you seen this ring?  My active and handy husband could use one of these!  I think my daughter will love this nail polish color.  I recently saw this brand at a salon and it labeled itself as the "big 5 free nail polish" (a safer toxic free option).  Shouldn't all socks be fun like these or these!  Here's a bargain - for $6 I'll give the purse organizer concept a try.  Yes, technically in my eyes that last one you do "wear".

That completes my shopping guide on "4 thoughtful gifts", Something to read, something you want, something you need and something to wear (the post you are on).  I'm hopeful that Santa Clause is reading this blog because I'll be giving some ideas for stocking stuffers as we get closer to December.  

This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing through them help support this website.

 

On gift-giving: something you need (part 3 of 4)

Thoughtful gift ideas: something you need (part 3 of 4).  Lovely Matters Blog by Heather Walker

If you haven't read our "4 thoughtful gifts", you may want to read this blog post first. 

The "something you need" category is of course, the most practical.  Every year we take a different spin on the word "need".  My "rule follower" child commented that everyone should get a wrapped water bottle.  And my out of the box thinker tries to convince me that this is the category for a rocket launcher.  Here are my ideas:

4 year old 

I truly think my 4 year old would appreciate a special set of flannel sheets for his bed this winter.  We are short a backup set so this becomes his "need".  Love all the target options of flannel I'm seeing this season. *click images to link*

6 year old

A few extra pairs of underwear are in need right now.  So to keep the practicality in gift giving he'll get his favorite package of undies.  All my boys say the Calvin Klein Briefs from Costco are the most comfortable. They aren't online for me to link, but you Costco shoppers know where to find them.

Here's a "needed" solution for getting out the door quick.  We don't wear shoes in our home so this makes the constant on and off very helpful.  

8 year old

This hair gel for my long haired boy keeps his hair under control with the "I'm not trying too hard because I'm a free spirt wild child" feel.  It's a very safe brand (it's made with quinoa and smells like orange peel for goodness sake) and leaves no flaking or crunchy hair.  I originally found this at whole foods and never thought to see if Amazon had in stock until now.  Win!

11 year old

The advantage of my oldest having a phone is that I can contact her when I need to, but only if she has her phone with her.  I think this would be the easiest way for her to take her phone when she goes for a run or a bike ride.

My daughter is at the age where I'm sharing lots of self-care tips and she mentioned her interest in this when she saw at a friends house.  Caring for skin is something that needs to become a habit at a young age.  I was only familiar with the Clarisonic brands but they are over $100!  This one has amazing reviews and is only $22.  

Hubby:

Most men really don't take the time to shop for themselves (especially Dads).  Shopping for my husband's clothing is simple but when it comes to beauty products and self-care it's trickier to know what he might like and actually use.  I found Birch Box, a beauty box subscription for men!  This is a better idea of a gift than my normal toothpaste or wrapped up toilet paper as his "something you need".  Isn't this what a gift should be, something unique that you wouldn't normally purchase for yourself.  Undecided on starting a subscription for him (only $10 a month!) or choosing one of these two gift sets (one-time purchase).

Me (aka: Mama):

My favorite bowls keep getting dropped by my little kitchen helpers.  Bowls definitely fall under the "need" category.  They are only $6, the perfect size, and more durable than most, so I keep replacing them.  

Okay, saving the BEST for last again!  I know you all rushed off to Anthropology after my post yesterday, but this one you just need to click a link!  At the TOP of my wish list is a subscription box to FabFitFun!  I recently saw a friend's box and my mouth was dropped open at all the fun and unique goodies that I'd never seek out for myself.  The box is filled with fabulous finds in beauty, wellness, fashion, and fitness, hand-picked by the FabFitFun team, delivered once per season.  Each box is limited edition and contains $200+ in retail value. The starter box is only 19 dollars!  What??!! Seriously!  Sweetie, if you are reading... hint hint hint FabFitFun has lots of my "needs" inside.  

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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. Purchasing through them help support this website.