2022 Countdown to Christmas #1: Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic Christmas-y Excuse to Read Books All Day

Wow, am I ever excited to hear about this! So yesterday I blogged that I was still basking in the glow of Thanksgiving. Well, I’m done with that. I needed to feel some Christmas cheer this morning as I drove away from seeing my dying mother-in-law, possibly for the last time. As I drove through the gray, dull city, I listened to this new Christmas podcast by Sarah Mackenzie. As I listened, I found about this amazing tradition that combines Christmas with books! This is just what this bibliophile, fan of chocolate, and Christmas-loving me wanted to hear! Go listen to the podcast here and then you’ll love the idea too! You can go to this page that has both the audio file and the transcript.

The basic idea is to set a time during the Christmas season where you read books, and eat chocolate or sip hot cocoa, or enjoy some other treat. Umm, yes! It’s called “Jolabokaflod” which literally means, in Icelandic, “Yule Book Flood” or “Christmas Book Flood.” It comes from Iceland during post WWII days. Paper was rationed in Iceland, so people waited until Christmas Eve to give books to each other, then stayed up all night reading them. (They must not have had many children to be exhausted after playing Santa.)

I’m totally doing this as many times as I can this Christmas season, just not on Christmas Eve! My mind is racing with the possibilities! I love Sarah’s idea to do it at a time other than Christmas Eve. Like Sarah, I already have traditions that fill up that Holy Night of All Nights. So, yeah, I’m thinking of doing this on St. Nicholas Day, and the night before New Year’s Eve (since I already have New Year’s Eve traditions), on the Feast of Epiphany Day (Jan. 6), AND on a night with just other book-loving mamas without any kids. Any excuse to gather, read, eat treats, and connect, right?

In the podcast, two moms share how they do this unique tradition. Sarah shares that one mom “gets Trader Joe’s variety pack of hot chocolate, and she lights a bunch of candles. She buys a used book for each of her kids, like a special book for each of them. And then on this night when she’s got the variety hot chocolate pack and the candles, she lays out all the books in the living room. And when the kids come out from the hall, there is a flood of books in the living room. And they sit together, and read for the evening, sampling all the different hot chocolate flavors.”

It sounds so magical doesn’t it? I only wish I had known about this when all my kids were home. The good news though is that it’s never too late to create connecting traditions and thanks to technology maybe we could have a Zoom Jolabokaflod with my older children out of the nest!

I don’t think you have to just read Christmas books for it to be authentic Jolabokaflod, but I’m going to do it that way for at least one of the times I do it. I’ll use the Christmas picture books below plus more!

Merry Jolabokaflod everyone!

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How Grateful I am for a Safe, Warm Home: Thanksgiving 2022 Recap

I’m doing one more Thanksgiving story before December starts. I just have to let Thanksgiving shine a bit longer. As a holiday, it’s kind of like a less flashy sister that gets passed over quickly for people to get to the attention-grabbing, full of thrills, older big sis Christmas. Even though Thanksgiving is just as beautiful. I am determined to let her shine in her own rightful, grateful modest glory, with even some days afterward.

So yes that means I haven’t put my tree up yet. I just love my fall decorations with my leaf garlands, found at Walmart on clearance for less than $2 each, right after Halloween. I can’t part with them decking my halls just yet.

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday with my parents, half of my children, and my sister. Her husband and son were both sick and couldn’t come. Also, besides their sickness, my husband’s mother took a turn for the worse by having a stroke just the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. We were sad she couldn’t be with us. One of my adult children flew in from out of state with a significant other to introduce to the whole family. Apparently, we passed the test because both individuals are coming back for New Year’s Eve. Whew!

I used my favorite roasted turkey recipe, over here. The turkey looked and tasted amazing. I made the keto/low carb layered pumpkin cheesecake dessert, from this blog, pictured below. I decided it needed more sweetener. I have a strong sweet tooth. I’m owning it and not feeling bad about that one bit. I’ve realized if I want to eat dessert, I want it to be sweet.

We played these games, shown below, and completed an Eric Dowdle jigsaw puzzle with wonderful conversation.

I’m a firm believer that jigsaw puzzles are only worth doing if you are listening to an audiobook, podcast, General Conference talk, movie, TV show, or conversation that accompanies them. My sister told some wonderful stories as we puzzled so that we all felt the Holy Spirit. The younger kiddos went sledding, just outside in the yard, so fun was had by all.

This Thanksgiving story comes from the New Era, the magazine for youth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from 1970 to 2020. It’s in the February 1999 issue, and it’s by Janna DeVore. The title is Please Bring Us Home.

Here is the story:

About 15 miles north of Elko, Nevada, is a stretch of highway dotted with signs warning motorists not to pick up hitchhikers because of a prison facility nearby. To four college students traveling from Provo, Utah, to San Francisco, these signs were a bit unsettling. My roommates and I were certainly glad to cruise by them on our way to California’s Bay Area for Thanksgiving weekend. We didn’t think twice about the signs until four days later on our way back to Provo. It was then that our car suddenly stopped precisely 10 yards north of one of those ominous blue signs.

Our first instincts were to flag down another car and ask for a ride back to Elko. But images of escaped convicts kept us locked inside the car. It was four in the afternoon, it was snowing, and it would definitely be dark and very cold within the hour. We needed help fast but were too afraid to even get out of the car. We offered a short prayer, and 30 minutes later a man driving a snowplow stopped and radioed the police for us. A young officer piled us into his car, called a tow truck, and dropped us off at a motel in Elko.

We soon got over our fears and realized how blessed we were to get off the highway unharmed and be in a safe, warm motel room. Our only problem now was getting back to Provo. Each of us dialed home collect, expecting that our parents would wire money for bus tickets or a rental car. We were surprised when each set of parents immediately offered to drive to Elko and get us.

Even for the closest set of parents, this meant a three-hour drive to Elko and a four-hour drive back to Provo. It meant disrupting work schedules and finding baby-sitters for the other children. Eventually we decided that it would be best for Jenni’s mom and grandpa to drive down to get us. Relieved, we went to bed and expected to see Jenni’s mom by noon the next day.

Things didn’t go quite as planned. Overnight the snow storm had worsened, and the roads were terrible. Despite leaving Salt Lake City at 10:00 A.M., Jenni’s mom didn’t get to us until four that afternoon. The roads back were equally icy, and a typically four-hour drive took six hours. Still, Jenni’s mom and grandpa never uttered a word of complaint during the entire drive home. They were only happy to help and grateful that we would be home soon.

No matter where we had been stranded, any of our parents would have done all they could to bring us back home. The same is true of our heavenly parents. And our Heavenly Father will take us all the way home, not just to a safe resting place. No matter how lost or confused we may be, we need only to make a humble call to our Heavenly Father, promising to heed His words, and He will lead us back.

Unfortunately, our earthly parents are not always at the other end of the line when we call. Many parents cannot or will not answer their children’s cries. As I rode home from Elko in the safe confines of a warm van, I realized just how much my parents love me. Even more, I knew that my Heavenly Father would always help me. He does so without complaint, for He is happy just to know that I am on my way home and will soon be safe in His arms.

by Janna Devore, February 1999 New Era

How wonderful it is to come to a safe warm home after being caught in a storm. How wonderful it is to go back to warm, joyful heaven after the storms of life. As my mother-in-law has entered hospice care and is preparing to go back to her heavenly home, I am grateful for my knowledge of Jesus Christ’s plan of salvation. I know it is true, and that He is at the center of His plan. If you would like to know more about Jesus Christ and His plan of salvation, go here.

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11/22/22 Tree of Life Mama’s Family Movie of the Week: Funny Thing About Love (a Thanksgiving movie)

Somehow, I stumbled upon this movie last year, after Thanksgiving. I’m happy to introduce you all to it so you can watch it this Thanksgiving weekend with your family. It’s a good Thanksgiving family movie that the whole clan can enjoy, even Grandma. Nobody will be cringing at potty humor or any sexual innuendos in it.

In this movie, Samantha Banks, the main character, thinks she is in love with Bryce, played by Jason Gray of Studio C. She brings him home for Thanksgiving for her family to meet, only to discover that her sister-in-law has invited her brother to visit for Thanksgiving weekend as well. The trouble is, that brother is Samantha’s ex-boyfriend. On top of that, he’s a famous comedian whose #1 fan is Bryce.

I give this movie 3 out of 5 stars. The acting isn’t the best, and the end is SOOOO predictable. It’s good clean fun, however, with a family-at-home-during-Thanksgiving theme that is delightful. The grouchy grandpa who is constantly looking to eat forbidden food gets old, but I still like it. So, if you are wanting to watch a funny movie the whole family can enjoy, I recommend this movie. You can rent it or buy from YouTube or watch it in Amazon Prime.

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2022 Tuttle Twins Black Friday Sale!

Hey, it’s almost Thanksgiving, so that means it’s almost Black Friday! That means you can get all the Tuttle Twins books on sale!

Starting today, through midnight MST Friday November 25, you can save big on the Tuttle Twins books.

Connor Boyack, the author, has two deals for you.

Black Friday Deal #1: Get only all the Tuttle Twins books (shown above) for 75% off, along with some bonuses. The regular cost is $370 but you can get them for $93.88! That includes a paperback copy of all the 13 books, plus 13 read-along audiobooks, 13 activity workbooks, and 13 parent guides.

Black Friday Deal #2: (Shown below.) Get all the Tuttle Twins books shown above, PLUS some of the other books, and a card game, that the author, Connor Boyack has written. This includes his liberty-based toddler board books, his America’s History Part 1 book (1215-1776), and his teen and young adult fiction and nonfiction books. The sale price for that package is $238, 75% off the regular retail price of $826! What a great deal!

Here are all the contents of the Get it All Deal:

  • 13 paperback Tuttle Twins children’s books
  • 13 Tuttle Twins activity workbooks (PDF)
  • 13 Tuttle Twins audiobooks (MP3)
  • 13 parent guides for the Tuttle Twins books (PDF)
  • All 6 toddler board books
  • All 4 teen fiction novels
  • All 4 teen non-fiction guidebooks
  • Our new 240-page American history book
  • 200 pages of history curriculum (PDF)
  • American history audiobook
  • American history bonus videos
  • Tuttle Tales family card game
  • All of our Tuttle Twins e-books (PDF)

Remember, the sale ends on midnight MST Black Friday November 24. So don’t delay and go here to get the sale prices!

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2022 Thanksgiving Picture Book #2: The Thanksgiving Door

I just love this picture book! It’s probably my all-time favorite Thanksgiving picture book, although it’s super hard to pick just one, they are all so good! It captures the spirit of Thanksgiving so well, of immigrants, as the Pilgrims were immigrants, kindness to strangers (like the Pilgrims and Native Americans had for each other), hospitality, and gratitude to God. If you love stories of friendship and surprises, you will love it!

How delighted I was to find that my friend Melanie Hartzell has a YouTube with her reading it aloud! See below!

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2022 Countdown to Thanksgiving Story #2: Thanks for Football, Friends, and Faith in Jesus Christ


Today’s story as we count down to Thanksgiving is about football. What would fall or Thanksgiving Day be without it? I have a love/hate relationship with the sport. I appreciate the strategy and infinite ways the game can go, but I don’t like the injuries involved. Son #3, in the photo above at our weekly homeschool co-op, got 4 concussions from playing it. He’s all recovered and serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’m so thankful for his healing. Anyway, despite my dislike for the pain and permanent damage the game can create, I love the way football can bring people together, at least when they are rooting for the same team, LOL!

When we lived in Layton, Utah, it was a tradition for my oldest son’s friend to organize a football game with as many boys and men he could round up the morning of Thanksgiving Day. They had a ton of fun! Today’s story involves a football game on a Thanksgiving morning that changed a young man’s life. He enjoyed a football game without cursings, anger, or fighting. Then he learned why, and that changed his whole life! You can read it here.

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Fall 2022 Thanksgiving-themed Picture Book #1: Thank You, Sarah

Here’s a delightful picture book about Thanksgiving that I just discovered a few years ago. It tells the story of the power of one woman, Sarah Josepha Hale, who fought to make Thanksgiving a national holiday.

Did you know that states in New England celebrated Thanksgiving as a holiday every year, but the erst of the United States did not?

Did you know that Thanksgiving was a day often celebrated in the late 1700s and early 1800s as a way to give thanks to God for blessings received after days of fasting and prayer were called for by government leaders?

Did you know that Sarah Josepha Hale wrote letters to U.S. Presidents for decades, pleading with them to make Thanksgiving a federal holiday? She never gave up and finally got her wish when Pres. Lincoln responded.

Not only was she a crusader, but she was a ladies’ fashion magazine editor, a mother of five, and the writer of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.”

You will know all these things after reading this book! Check it out from your local public library or listen to the read-aloud below. Thank you, Sarah for saving Thanksgiving for us!

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Countdown to Thanksgiving 2022 Story #1: A Catalog of Events, an Unofficial Relative Race Story

Last night was the premiere of the final episode of Season 10 of Relative Race. It was full of surprises! The people, the challenges, and the winner! If you didn’t watch it, go here, then find Season 10 Episode 10. Every single episode is so fun to watch, but the final season is even better. All the fans are intensely wondering about who is going to win the race.

I always feel a letdown after the season is over, because I have to wait for a new season, which takes months. In the meantime I just watch old seasons while I wait. We watch them on Sundays and I work a jigsaw puzzle while I listen/watch. I always catch tidbits of information I missed the first time I watched. I’m including in this post some videos showing where some of the contestants are now. The videos show clips from the show with people meeting their relatives. Those moments when they find their relatives are pure, golden tearjerkers.

At this time of year I start wondering which Teams from Relative Race are meeting with their newly found relatives for holiday gatherings. May they all spend the holidays with who they really want to spend it with it. I wish that for all of you as well!

Speaking of relatives, here’s an organic, unofficial “Relative Race” story that involves so-called coincidences to bring about some people finding relatives. This story happens without any DNA testing, race, or TV cameras. It was all orchestrated purely by God! It is sure to warm your hearts this Thanksgiving season, especially if you love Relative Race. It involves some mixed-up mail, a common surname, long-lost twins, and reunited cousins and siblings. It all happened in November time, culminating in a joyous family reunion on Thanksgiving Day! All from a catalog sent to the “wrong” address! God definitely works through mysterious ways, even with catalogs and the postal system! The story is called “A Catalog of Events”, by Janet Kruckenberg. It appeared in the June 1994 Ensign. Here’s the beginning of the story (copied from the June 1994 Ensign):

When I answered the phone, a man’s voice on the other end of the line asked my name and told me his, saying that a mail order catalog with my name on it had arrived in his mail. He asked if I had ordered the catalog or if I wanted it. I told him I didn’t and that I had no idea why my name was on it. We would have hung up then if the caller hadn’t said something else.

There’s so much more to the story! Please see the rest of the article here. I have more posts about Relative Race listed here. The awesome feels of Relative Race never have to end!

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11/17/22 Tree of Life Mama’s Book of the Week Just for Moms: Mothering by the Book by Jennifer Pepito

This is one of the most amazing books for mothers! Oh my, I am loving it so much! The subtitle says it all: “The power of reading aloud to overcome fear and recapture joy.” I am listening to it in scribd. (Scribd is an app you can put on your phone so you can listen to or read from, as many books as your heart desires and your time allows. You get all this magic for one low monthly fee around $10. Go here to learn more.)

The author, Jennifer Pepito, tells her story of how fear took over her life as a mother. She found healing in journaling and reading aloud. She then goes into exactly how reading aloud certain books helped her overcome fear and in turn how they can help you. She goes into very specific fears, common to most mothers, such as fear of being alone, fear of the baby years (personally, that’s not one I relate to), fear of not having enough, fear of your children being behind in school, and many more. I’ve listed them at the bottom of this post.

You can listen to Jennifer discuss this beautifully healing book in an interview with Pam Barnhill in this podcast over here.

You gotta love a book for mothers that focuses on lessons learned from Pride and Prejudice right away, in Chapter 2. Mrs. Bennett gives the author plenty of fodder to analyze and dish up wisdom to us readers.

Here are all the books Jennifer, the author, shares lessons from:

Pride and Prejudice


Charlotte’s Web

Understood Betsy

All-of-a-Kind Family

The Railway Children

Little House on the Prairie Series

Little Britches

Freedom Train


The Hiding Place

 The Door in the Wall

Then here are all the fears she addresses:

-fear of being alone

-fear of the baby years

-fear of failure

-fear of children getting behind

-fear of children leaving the faith

-fear of failing your own children

-fear of the future

-fear of not having enough

-fear of not being able to manage

-fear of being a leader

-fear in general

What the author, Jennifer, does, is use each book listed above for a chapter. For each chapter she uses each book to show a lesson she learned from it to overcome one fear from the list above. I’ll leave it to you to see if you can match up the book with the specific fear to be overcome. I love book-themed challenges and games! (One of these days I will blog about my favorite book-themed tabletop games.)

As a homeschooling, read-aloud mom myself who has faced many fears, I concur with the author. Reading aloud has been therapy for me too. It has given me pleasure in the moment, brightened many a dreary day, and kept me from getting too depressed when I was going through tough times. I mean, I did get depressed, but the reading aloud helped the depression be manageable. Reading aloud has and continues to give me many delights! It makes any homeschooling day magical.

Listen to. or read this book when you want to feel a hug and validation for all your mothering efforts. Moreover, listen to it when you want encouragement to either start reading aloud to your children, or to continue reading aloud. If you are a Christian mother, especially a Christian homeschooling mother, you will love it! (P.S. if you subscribe to scribd, you can read it as an ebook, and listen to it as an audiobook too!)

Image Credit above: thepeacefulpreschool.com. All other images credit: scribd, amazon, and goodreads.com.

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11/16/22 Tree of Life Mama’s Song of the Week: Simple Praise

I love this song! Starting in October, my church congregation started having choir practice to prepare for performances. Yay! We will perform this song this Sunday. It’s such a great Thanskgiving song. Listen below and get sheet music here.

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