Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The Best Christmas Calendars for Kids

I don't recall this being a big thing when I was a kid although my husband grew up with a Christmas countdown stocking and a mouse that moved from day to day. It was a big deal in their house and each kid had a turn getting to move the mouse. If the wrong kid moved the mouse that day, mouse had to be put back so that the correct child could move him.  It was a Big Deal in their kid world.
All kids love traditions, it helps them make connections with their family and builds a feeling of safety and unity.  One thing that we've added to holiday family traditions in the last few years is doing an advent calendar.  One year we DIY'd Lego advent calendars.  Numbered 25 envelopes from 1-25, bought a mini Lego set, and put in a few pieces into each day's envelope.  Sounds easy.

It wasn't.

We had to go through the instruction manual and make sure we were putting the right pieces in order. We didn't want our kid to open the last possible piece to the Lego set on day 4 when he couldn't use it and would have nothing to do.

We've also bought commercial sets.  They cost more but save time.  If you don't want to go the DIY route *shudders*, here are some pre-made countdowns that your children will love!

#1, 2, & 3. Playmobil Advent Calendars: $22.20 - 24.99

Our house is a big fan of Playmobil toys. They allow open-ended imagination and the toys are well made. In addition to Santa's Workshop they also have Construction Site Rescue and Horse Farm!

#4. Crayola Christmas Countdown: $19.49

This looks super cute for any kid who likes to color, draw, and doodle!

#5. The Wonder of the Greatest Gift: $24.48

This set from Ann Voskamp has very high ratings: 90% of reviewers gave it 4 stars or higher! I like that this one is a focus on the faith foundation of Christmas and also seems to have a very positive message of Jesus' love.

#6. Melissa and Doug Magnetic Countdown: $14.99

Melissa and Doug products are always good!  The advantage of this advent calendar is that it can be reused year after year!

#7. Christmas Stable Sticker Advent Calendar: $5.95

I love this cute sticker scene as a Christmas countdown!  Affordable and faith-based!

#8. O Christmas Tree Treasure Box: $19.95

The O Christmas Tree Treasure box combines the best of both style of advent calendars! It is both reusable AND able to offer a treat each day.  The boxes are empty, it's up to you to fill them!  Put in a piece of candy, a small toy, a little note/coupon ("Redeem for a cup of hot chocolate!"), etc.  It is up to you!  The versatility of this one makes it a top contender for our advent calendar this year.

#9. Lego City Advent Calendar: $23.99

We've had Lego advent calendars before and the kids always loved them!  Each day you get another little Lego piece that goes with the set.

#10. Hatchimals Advent Calendar: $19.99

While my kids are not much into Hatchimals, this calendar looks adorable if you have a Hatchimals fan at home!  83% of reviewers gave it 4 stars or higher.  It comes with 10 figurines and then the child also gets to craft the winter scene.  Not going to lie: my adult self would think this was great!

Do you have a favorite that I missed?  Let me know!  

Friday, November 15, 2019

Friday Funnies

I'm back this week with 3 more funny pictures for you!  Which one can you most relate to?

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

What's in my bathroom drawers?

Are you the type of person that opens people's bathroom cabinets when you're visiting?  I mean, I hope not, because that's kind of weird.  BUT if you are that type of person, you're going to love today's post.  Here's my current fave beauty and skincare products (that you'd see if you opened my cabinets. But don't because, and I can't stress this enough, that is weird.)


It's a never-ending search for perfection but here are my current front runners.

Neutrogena Hydrogel Moisturizer (This should be $20 or less at your local drugstore, Target, etc. Of course Amazon also carries it.  The price seems to go up from time to time as people discover this great moisturizer!)

Hada Labo Foaming Cleanser.  This gently cleanses without being harsh. Plus, it's under ten bucks. Win/win.

Biore Watery Essence. This has a sunscreen.  My generation doesn't seem to be very big on sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure but I try to be!  Under $20. This goes on before your makeup.

Murad Intensive C-Radiance Peel.  I use this about 2ce a week to help my getting-older-skin regenerate and look fresh.  This runs close to $60 and is the most expensive facial care product I use.


Jane Iredale primer.  I'm not sold on this being perfect so I probably won't re-purchase when the tube runs out but darn it smells amazing. I'll miss the scent!

For coverage I rotate between Jane Iredale Glow Time BB Cream or Cover Girl true match foundation or MakeupForEver foundation (yes that's a wide range of price points).  I've not found the "holy grail" item here yet.  I've used mineral makeup like Laura Mercier and Bare Minerals but the powder just doesn't quite do it for me.  If you have a foundation recommendation, please share!

Benefit Brow Zings.  I'm not a fan of the tiny thin brows OR the overly drawn and monochromatic ones.  I just like to add a little filler in sparse spots to define my face.  The brow zings do a good job.  Sephora doesn't seem to carry the one I still have but Macy's does.  It's listed at $32. I must have gotten mine as a sample or something because I don't love my brows enough to pay thirty bucks.

Burt's Bees Ultra Conditioning.  Just got this at Ulta a few weeks ago. I always suffer from chapped lips and this is the best balm I've tried so far (and I've tried nearly all!). I paid a little over $4 for my tube but you can get 2 tubes for less than that on Amazon!

Nars Blush. This one is my favorite! The color is just perfection on me and no others quite live up to it.  This is pricey but does seem to last a long time (6 mos-a year).

Bronzer. I first got a Hoola bronzer as a free sample and loved it so much I bought another little one.  I do not do a heavy contour...just a bit of cheek and forehead definition.  So my little bitty bronzers have lasted a long time!

Hair Care

AG Hair The Oil.  My hair stylist uses this (Ulta Link) when she does my hair and it comes out amazing. I use it and "meh."  I'm not sure I'd re-purchase it because I like the following oil better.

Moroccan Oil Treatment.  An old stylist gave me a little free sample of this. When I'm out of hair oil, I will purchase more of this one!  The website sells it for around $15 although I'm pretty sure I've seen smaller bottles for around $3 at Kroger in the hair section.  So that's a great option if you want to try it a few times before committing to spending $15.

Hairspray.  I bought a trial size of a more expensive brand and hated it.  Zero hold. So back to my trust Garnier I go!  $3 a bottle and it holds better than that high end brand! 

Rusk Thermal Serum.  This purports to help protect your hair from heat damage.  I do like how it feels and Rusk is a well-known brand. I found mine at TJ Max.  I've only used it a few times and will have to use it consistently for awhile to see if I want to buy it again.


Who are we kidding?  My bathroom cabinets also have assorted eyeshadow (none that I adore right now), random hair pins and ties, and a few other lipsticks.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

DIY Self-Care Gift Set (on a budget!)

Tis the season to be....stressed out! Fa la la la la, la la la la!

Self-care is the practice of taking care of one's self physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Like the old saying goes, "You can't pour from an empty cup."  I'm trying to be better at caring for myself in ways like getting to bed on time, getting semi-regular massages, staying connected with my faith, etc.

As a teacher, I happen to know that the rest of the staff at the school is just as busy as I am!  Though we all have different roles, everyone is giving it their all.  Sometimes we need encouraged to recharge.  Our family tries to do a gift to all of the office staff each year at Christmas.  This year's gift is a self-care kit.  

I've been gathering things for several months in preparation.  Not only is a self-care kit a great gift but you can also do it within a reasonable budget.
what to put in a self care gift basket

Here is the breakdown of what is in each kit (and what it cost):

  • wax melts  These were from Kohl's and were $5 each.  I bought 6 but used Kohls Cash and a promo code.  Total cost: $0.
    caramel wax melts, how to make a self care kit
  • face masks  These are also from Kohl's and were $3 each.  I bought 6 but like above, used Kohl's Cash and and a promo.  Total cost: $0.  Amazon has the Earth Therapeutics masks right now ($13 for 5 masks).  A fair price if you're out of Kohl's Cash!
  • candles  These were from Kirkland's and I had paid $3 for an entire container of 20 candles. Total cost: $3.
  • mini notebooks     These are from a recent trip to Dollar Tree. Total cost: $6.
    self care gift basket, what to put in a self care kit
  • candy   I used 2 bags of Dove Promises and 1 bag of Hershey Kisses. I bought 3 packs from Dollar Tree and divided it up. Total cost: $3.
  • magnets I only had 4 of these so the 4 office workers will get one but the 2 specials teachers will be out of luck (I don't think they'll mind).  These were list price $6 but on clearance at Barnes and Noble.  Total cost: $1.50.
    Bible verse magnets, magnets barnes and noble, self care kit, self care gift basket
  • tea  It turns out that the sampler box of tea has easily gift-able packets inside. There are 5 flavors, so 5 packets. You can't open them up to further divide because the tea  bags themselves are not marked/labeled (learned that the hard way).  So again our office staff gets tea and the specials teachers will not.  Total cost: $2.tea bags, self care kit, diy self care 
  • cellophane bags  These are from Dollar Tree. Total cost: $1
  • ribbon I will add wide ribbon around each one before gifting them.  The ribbon will come from Dollar Tree. Total cost: $1.
  • gift tag I used Canva to make a label with a little poem I wrote.  Canva has a free and a paid version. Of course I use the free one. ;)  If you're crafty you could make your own tag. Bottom line: the gift tag is free. Total cost: $0.
    Christmas self-care gift
Grand Total: The kits have a value of $11.50 each but with sales and coupons I spent just $17.50 for all 6 self-care kits!  That means just $2.92 spent to give a gift worth over $11!  Not only did these turn out super affordable (less than the cost of a $5 gift card) but also they are promoting care and compassion to their recipients.  I can't wait to give these little self-care kits out next month!

Christmas self care gift, teacher Christmas gift

Of course we are giving these to school staff but the little DIY kits also make great gifts for: teachers, tutors, coaches, Sunday School teachers, nurses, secret pals, moms group friends, neighbors, coworkers, and stylists!

Need an easy to follow/remember guide for making a self-care kit?  I've got you covered!  Check out the infographic below:

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