christmas happenings | part 1

Happy December! I didn’t mean to wait so long between posts but time has escaped me once again. It’s only December 8th but the Miller family has already done lots of fun things such as visiting Santa in pajamas, holiday crafting, donating toys, warm gloves and hats to various drives and of course, we have trimmed our tree and watched a whole bunch of our favorite Christmas movies, including Vacation numerous times. We also have many fun things left on our calendar including a gingerbread party at school, light-looking, visiting a second Santa (where you can bring your own camera), ice skating and the FDNY Christmas party.

There’s a handful of holiday memories so far.

1) The Miller family’s Christmas tree!

2) We have tons & tons of ornaments on our tree. There’s something to look at on nearly every branch. I am also a bit anal when it comes to displaying my ornaments and I try to keep my collections displayed in “sections”. =P The front-center of the tree are all fire ornaments, be it trucks, engines, Santas dressed as firemen, etc. Vin’s favorite is the black and yellow ornament you can see towards the top. That’s his gear and it actually looks like the FDNY gear. I add a few pieces to each collection every year. One of the newest this year is Santa driving and old-time fire truck dated 1985.

3) Just some colorful Christmas tree bokeh! If you aren’t sure how to get these pictures but have the camera to try, set your ISO to something like 1600, have your camera wide open (i.e. 1.4, 1.8, 2.8… whatever your lowest f-stop is), hold extremely steady (or use a tripod but I never, ever do) and use a very sloooooooow shutter speed. Have fun!

4) I took the kids to the mall this past Friday night. They were told they each had $10-$15 to spend on a toy but the toy was not for them (nor were they getting anything. I really wanted to stay focused on the meaning of my little task here). The toys were to be donated to a local toy drive for children who are either sick or less fortunate than us this Christmas season. Emily chose a nice-sized doctor kit, Andrew chose a Play Doh set and Grace chose a ball popper. We were originally going to drop them off at Friendly’s for the WBAB toy drive since the toys stay on Long Island, but that same weekend there was a note in their backpacks about the toy drive at school this week. All of the toys were being kept on the Island as well, and brought to local hospitals. I thought this was a really good option. I drove the kids to school on Monday so Grace could be a part of the final stage as well. She kept saying “I’m a good girl. I’m helping” when she picked out her toy. <3 All three kids left their toys in the box in the school lobby and hopefully, we brought a little cheer to some other children this holiday season.

5) Probably my most special gift and decoration this season – my 91 year old Grandmother’s nativity! I asked her for it last year but never took it because Grace was still too small to keep something like this out. I went to visit her the other day and my Mom found the box marked “Gina’s Nativity” in the basement. I was so excited to bring it home and set it up! I remember always searching for where she would hide baby Jesus when I was a little kid. I now own his original, little tattered red box. My Dad said that he could even remember setting up this nativity when he was little, so it’s at least 50 years old. That frosted tree with the red flower on it to the left is marked ’49 at the bottom. Not sure if that’s an accurate year or not but it could be. Before religion on Monday night, all three kids helped me set this up. It looks really pretty when it’s light-up at night and I smile whenever I see it. I think it’s knowing that it belonged to my Grandma plus all of the memories it has attached to it for me, who spent every Christmas Eve there. My Dad was really happy and surprised to see i set up when he stopped over yesterday too.

6) Just some colorful ornaments on my parent’s tree. My Mom invited us for dinner last night. I took this picture after we finished watching Christmas Vacation.

7) My snowmen! I have been collecting snowmen since 2001: the year Vin and I began dating. I have each of them dated and know the story attached to each one. Honestly, this is why I love my entire tree though. I don’t have any plain balls on it. Every single ornament has a special meaning behind it. Anyway, there are some special snowmen there including one of my favorites, the Crayola one (red hat) which is labeled “Baby Miller 2002” on the bottom. I found out I was pregnant with Emily one week before Christmas this year.

8) The Miller kiddies visit Santa! I actually have matching red sock monkey pajamas but they aren’t wearing them since this was a last minute Santa visit. We were at the mall and Emily asked if they could visit Santa. Good idea except 1) I didn’t have the pajamas with me (I know I am a little nutty. Go with it) and 2) I didn’t have my camera (what I did have on hand was an iPhone on it’s last breath of battery life). We ended up purchasing three new sets of flannel jammies and changing…. in the car! The kids thought this was so funny and it’s something we’ll probably always remember. Andrew yelled out “My Christmas underwear!” and we all laughed. At one point in the car, he was wearing red and gray striped boxers, a white tank top undershirt and black fingerless gloves. I dared him to go take his Santa picture like that but he wasn’t biting. We waited in line for an hour, got a crappy mall-quality photo and bam ~ another holiday memory was made.

Buddy the Elf has also been up to his usual silly antics when we are fast asleep. We’ve found him hanging from the dining room light fixture, perched on top of Andrew’s airplane lamp and holding a toothbrush in the bathroom. He’s gotten into our sugar bowl every night and has occasionally helped himself to the syrup, munchkins, candy corn, sprinkles and mini chocolate chips. The kids love eating his scraps the next morning. A few of the gifts he’s left include Skittles, mini M&M tubes, chocolate coins and a new copy of Christmas Vacation since ours went missing (interesting how much Buddy knows!)

One of the kids’ favorite mornings was waking up to see that Buddy was wearing a new green scarf, had hung up some beautiful silver snowflakes by our tree and was holding a note that said “Sorry my friends. I thought they were real snowballs.” Buddy got into our cotton balls and made a mess!

We’ve also put up our outdoor lights (still need a picture of them lit-up in the dark). Grace and I ran lots of errands last Friday so we decided to surprise Vin with a McDonald’s lunch as he put the lights up.

Grace is really cute with the Elmo lights that we’ve had since Emily was a baby. They are strung around our tiny maple tree and every time she sees them, she yells “Elmo’s World!”

And of course, we’ve crafted! On Sunday, we had Christmas Craft Day and we invited my cousin’s son Anthony over to join in the fun. He got to leave with a little box of homemade ornaments. We crafted for probably a solid 4 hours with a pizza and movie break in between. Here are a few ideas.

First we worked on some pretty yarn ornaments. I figured they would need the most time to dry and I was right ~ nearly 24 hours! Don’t expect to finish these in one sitting. Here’s how we made them:

1) Blow up some water balloon-sized balloons.

2) Empty out a bottle of Elmer’s glue into a bowl and add enough water to thin it down a bit. I used two full bottles of glue for four kids and we made about 6 ornaments. You will need more if you plan to make more ornaments. We cut thick yarn into long strands; each maybe 3 or 4 feet long. Drop them into the glue and then this is where it gets fun for the kids (kind of messy and not-so-fun for Moms): the kids stir the yarn in the glue mixture.

3) Find a yarn end and pull it out of the glue. You are going to want to squeeze down the entire length of yarn to re-use a good amount of glue. When your yarn is all squeezed out, start wrapping one end around a balloon. We then let the kids use an alternating color and wrapped that strand up as well. Tuck in the ends as best you can.

4) I sprinkled them with glitter dust while still wet.

5) Let dry on waxed paper overnight, rotating occasionally.

6) This is the real fun part: popping the balloons! I assumed they’d give a loud, quick pop but instead, they sort of fizzled in slow motion as they pulled away from the glued yarn. It was very neat to watch. Then I took some hot glue and secured the edges and a few loose areas of yarn to make the ornament a bit sturdier.

7) Tie on a pretty red ribbon (burn the ribbon egdes so they won’t fray), tie on a dated tag if desired and voila- pretty kiddie ornament complete!

Next up we started painting tons and tons of flower pots that we’d later turn into Christmas trees.

You could probably make these cute & festive trees with 3 pots instead of 4 but if we were going to make them anyway, we were going to make a statement with them! Ours looks really nice sitting on a living room shelf. Here’s how we made them:

1) Peel stickers and price tags from your flower pots. Put some green paint into a cup or on a paper plate and paint pots in 4 assorted sizes. Make sure to lift each pot up and get under the rim so no terracotta is showing. Our pots each took 3 coats to look really nice. Allow pots to dry.

*note: You will only need to paint the the bottom (flat part) of the smallest pot since the others will be covered.

2) Using a hot glue gun, I assembled everyone’s trees. Anthony’s I kept in a set since he was bringing his home. When it came to assembling my kids’ trees, I mixed and matched from each of their “sets” so they would have a hand in the creation of each tree (one we kept and we gifted one to each Grandma).

3) When assembled, decorate! We used pompoms as “ornaments” and smaller, sparkly pompoms as “lights”. Our gold glittered pompom was the “star”. You could decorate these with wooden decorations from the craft store, ribbons, buttons or beads. Anything goes!

Next it was time to make some snowman heads. These turned out really cute!

We were in Target a few weeks ago and I saw a set of these ornaments packaged up. I said to the kids “Put those back. We could totally make those!” And so we did. Here’s how we made them:

1) You will need plain glass balls which can be found at your local craft store. Fill each ball with white pompoms. We used a mixture of plain and sparkly. I actually was originally going to fill them halfway so the pompoms could shake around a bit but when we made a sample last week, Grace filled hers to the brim and I thought it looked cuter. So there you go. My two year old has better ideas than me at times.

2) Put the ornament’s top back on and attach a ribbon for hanging.

3) Glue a gold pipe cleaner (cut down in size) for the ear muff top. It’s going to pop-up and not want to lay flat so I ended up taping the ends of ours down until they dried. If you can leave it like that for a good hour or so, that’s best.

4) Once the pipe cleaner is adhered, remove the tape from each end and glue on colored pompoms for ear muffs. Add googly eyes and a felt carrot nose. I contemplated adding small black dots for a coal mouth but ended up leaving them as-is. These make a cute, fairly quick, nicely made ornament. Date them with a thin sharpie and attach to a package or give as a little gift from the kids.

I’m a big fan of snowmen and these adorable little cupcake snowmen turned out to be really cute!

They were actually an Oriental Trading kit that I purchased a few months ago but you can easily make them yourself. Here’s what you would do:

1) Find some sort of sturdy “cupcake” liner for the bottom. A true baking liner is way too thin and I don’t recommend it (unless you have one of those thicker, grease-proof ones). I would recommend foil or better yet, some of those individual paint cup ones (something else I bought in bulk from O.Trading years ago. Great to have on-hand). Glue a larger pompom down into the liner as the base and one that’s slightly smaller on top of that for the head.

2) Twist brown and white pipe cleaners for the arms. Cut tiny mittens from felt: two for each mitten. Sandwich the pipe cleaner between them and glue mittens shut. I had to let ours dry for a bit between waxed paper and a heavy book.

3) You will need brown (or black!) felt for the hat. Cut a circle for the base. Cut a long strip for the top part of the hat – about 12″ long by .5″ wide. Run a line of glue down the center and roll the strip up. Secure with a glue dot and glue to the base. Trim with some ribbon and glue the entire thing to the snowman’s head.

4) Add small black beads for eyes and a felt carrot nose. You could add tiny buttons where our candy pieces are.

5) Last is the scarf. I didn’t like the scarf they gave us (felt that was too stiff) so I made some with our chunky yarn.

Cupcake snowman without a kit = complete! Grace keeps squealing “I made that!” when she passes hers on our living room shelf.

I hope your holiday season is off to a festive, creative start as well!







6 responses to “christmas happenings | part 1”

  1. Tanisha Avatar

    Great ideas! I’ve been waiting to see those crafts ;-)

  2. Melanie Avatar

    Oh, this post is fabulous!! I am totally doing some of these crafts with the kids. Adorable! :) You guys always have so much fun and really live every moment of life. I love it! Enjoy a whole month of celebrating! :)

  3. Diane Enarson Avatar

    OMG! You are so darn crafty and creative G!!! Can I send my kids to your house next year? LOL!! I always try to do the Christmas Crafts but the best I do sometimes is the prepackaged foam kits…(GASP!! I KNOW!!!) :)) But these are great ideas!! Maybe I’ll be brave and do some with the kids soon! :) Love your photos as always! So festive and pretty! :))

  4. Shannon B. Avatar

    I love the craft ideas!!! They’re all so pretty but totally easy for little hands. I almost didn’t want to come read this post because our house is just a disaster of a moving zone right now. You know how torturous it is to feel inspired when you can’t do anything about it! I may have to pick just one of these ideas at least to do this year. But which to choose, which to choose?!?!

    LOL how hilarious would that Santa photo have been if Andrew went in his boxers? P.S. We had the kids change in the car too. Many underwear and tushie jokes. And since we’re a house of girls, they had a grand time making fun of their boy cousins tightie whities.

  5. Darcy@Somewhatmuddledmusings Avatar

    Gina – those crafts are precious! It’s great to see how big the kids have grown, too!

  6. […] If you missed last year’s Blogged projects, make sure to check both THIS entry as well as THIS one for even more kid-friendly Christmas […]

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