2022 Countdown to Christmas: Hallmark Christmas Movie Bingo and Trading Christmas Movie Review

Image Credit: BYU Daily Universe Magazine

I love me a good, cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie. You too? I recently found out one of my male relatives has a secret addiction to them. Hee-hee. I’m excited to trade notes with him the next time I see him, maybe on Christmas Day. I can find out all of his recommendations, and he can get mine.

But I’m not showing him the video above. When my son showed it to me on Thanksgiving Day, we all laughed out loud. It’s hilarious! The guy in the video is playing both the male and female leads of a typical Hallmark Christmas movie. Just a hint when watching: when he has the scarf around his neck, he is playing the female lead. It all rings so true! The above-mentioned relative wasn’t there, and his wife advised I not show it to him, as it might offend him. She said he’ll have to be in the right mood to appreciate it. So maybe we can catch him in the right mood on Christmas Day.

In the meantime, I’m having fun indulging in the cheesiness of these movies and using the above image to play bingo, even if it’s all mentally as I don’t really have time to sit down and watch the movies with hands solely playing bingo. At this point, so close to Christmas, it’s multitasking all the way (meaning I’m listening to movies as I wrap gifts or do other chores).

Anyway, this video is the most recent Hallmark Christmas movie I’ve seen. It’s delightful! I highly recommend it! 5 out of 5 stars. It’s clean, funny, devoid of bad language, and the acting is great.

Here’s the plot summary from scribd.com:

“Emily Springer, widowed mother of one, decides to leave Leavenworth, Washington, to spend Christmas with her daughter in Boston.

“Charles Brewster, history professor, curmudgeon and resident of Boston, wants to avoid Christmas altogether. He figures a prison town should be nice and quiet over the holidays – except he’s thinking of the wrong Leavenworth!

“Through an internet site, Charles and Emily arrange to swap houses for the holiday. So Emily goes to Boston-and discovers that her daughter has gone to Florida. And Charles arrives in Leavenworth to discover that it’s not the prison town – it’s Santa’s village! The place is full of Christmas trees, Christmas music and…elves.

“Meanwhile, Emily’s friend Faith Kerrigan travels to Leavenworth to visit her and instead finds Charles the grinch. Then Charles’s brother, Ray, shows up at his home in Boston to discover that he isn’t there – but Emily is.

“Through all the mix-ups and misunderstandings, amid the chaos and confusion, romance begins to emerge in unexpected ways. Because everything changes at Christmas!”

It’s based on the book below, which I’m currently listening to in scribd as an audiobook. If you want to learn about how you can use scribd to listen to all the Christmas audiobooks you can, go here.

Image Credit: scribd.com

So far, the book is much better than the movie! As usual! I hope you enjoy both!

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Two Christmas Tamales Stories

Image Credit: pinterest.com

I read aloud this picture book a few years ago and loved it. I didn’t realize until I read it that eating tamales on Christmas Eve is a Latin American Christmas Eve tradition. I love it! I love having traditions, and traditions that involve food are even better. Come to think of it, when we lived in southeastern AZ my husband’s co-worker, who is Hispanic, always sent him home with a box of tamales on Christmas Eve. She was such a sweet lady.

Here’s a video read aloud of the book down below so you can enjoy it right away. So be sure to watch it and go put the picture book on hold at your local library.

Then here is a great story involving two missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Christmas, and tamales. It is such a sweet story. I just love it. It’s a wonderful story of love and sacrifice. I hope all involved are blessed and prospering because of their sacrifice.

Here’s the beginning of the story:

“I had about two months left on my mission in Costa Rica, and I was serving with an American companion, Sister Nguyen. We were excited to be celebrating Christmas and were preparing small bags of sweets and cookies to deliver on Christmas Eve to friends and families in the small city where we lived.

“I had spent most of my mission in very poor areas, and I was grateful. The Lord had blessed me by allowing me to teach people in humble homes, to live among them and learn of their kindness, their humility, and their spirit of sacrifice.

“The last family we visited to drop off some treats was the Carmona family, a large family that was one of the poorest in the ward. They all—parents, children, in-laws, and grandchildren—lived in a small wooden hut covered with sheet metal, lacking electricity and any other modern comfort. They were preparing traditional tamales that they would eat during the holidays…

Go here to finish reading it.

If you want more Christmas stories, and if you are like me, you can’t have too many! I am obsessed with them, whether they be picture books or stories that stand alone in print with no illustrations.

Anyway, if you want more, go get my FREE family devotionals ebook here. Check out Christmas picture book recommendations here. Merry Christmas and God bless you!

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Fun, Not Boring Educational Gifts for Christmas

You know us homeschoolers, we are always wanting some excuse to get more educational toys and games. Christmas is the ultimate opportunity!

Check these videos out for some ideas.

Here are the show notes for the above video, copied and pasted from YouTube. I don’t receive any compensation from these links. I just like them.

𝐈𝐭𝐞𝐦𝐬 𝐌𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐨𝐫 𝐅𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞𝐝 – Find the Items Mentioned here: https://www.amazon.com/shop/waldockway

𝐑𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐁𝐥𝐨𝐠 𝐏𝐨𝐬𝐭𝐬 𝐘𝐨𝐮’𝐥𝐥 𝐄𝐧𝐣𝐨𝐲 :

100+ Educational Gifts

100+ Educational Stocking Stuffers

Here’s another video from a friend of Jessica (the mom who is in the above video). This one is done by Abby of Rooted in Rest.

The Ultimate Reading Challenge looks so fun! I’m getting it for a few of my people!

Image Credit: amazon.com

Have a merry, educational Christmas!

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2022 Countdown to Christmas: Picture Book about Jingle Bells Story and Paper Snowflakes Craft

Book Cover Image Credit: goodreads.com

Have you ever wondered how the holiday classic song Jingle Bells came to be? The author of this picture book above came up with a reasonable story about it. He took some historical license in guessing the details, but the license makes a fun story. It involves John Lord Pierpont, who was the music director of a Unitarian church in Savannah GA in the mid 1800s. I love that it shows how he fought racial prejudice and hate with a joyful song to lift the spirits of the congregation after being a target of those ills.

I read this aloud to the class of 6-7 year olds that I teach at my weekly homeschool co-operative. Every week my friend Stephanie and I like to do a picture book, a craft, and then free play for this group of cuties/rascals. This week, to go with the snow theme in the book we made paper snowflakes, out of coffee filters, decorated with washable markers.

The kiddos had a little bit of a hard time understanding how to fold the paper and where to cut for it to turn out to look like snowflakes. It’s hard for more than one to watch at a time. It’s like herding kittens! In the future I will show them a video first like this one above and maybe they can all see a screen better than my hands on the table. I’m thinking we will do this activity again in January and pair it with the Snowflake Bentley picture book. Then maybe they’ll get the hang of it. Some of their snowflakes looked like misshapen masks with barely recognizable holes for eyes and mouth, lol.

Anyway, this is a fun picture book and craft pairing that I recommend if you need a fun picture book and craft activity to do with kids, say ages 8 and up, without any help.

Here are some of the snowflakes I made below. I love that with coffee filters, you don’t have to do as much cutting as you do when you use 8 1/2 by 11 inches paper. Coffee filters are cheap too! A bag of 100 is less than $2. I and we in the class will be making more of these! This is something I’m adding to my January list of things I’m looking forward to, in order to avoid the post-Christmas letdown that I’ve sometimes had. I’m looking forward to filling up our windows with these.

I used paper plates for them to work on because I don’t have one cookie sheet each for 10 kids. I also used a spray bottle of water and heated them to dry in a 200 degree oven. That worked just great. Before I let them loose with the markers I pulled out all of them that weren’t blue, purple, or pink. You can see that the markers’ effect is this pale coloring that kind of looks like iridescent snowflakes reflecting light.

If you want more Christmas picture book and craft match-ups, go here.

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2022 Countdown to Christmas #4: A New Movie About the Christmas Carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day”

Have you heard? A movie that tells the true story of why and how Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the carol “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is playing at a theater near you!

Here’s a mini-synopsis told by Edward Hermann below, with music by the Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

If I were feeling ambitious, I would show the video above to a bunch of children who have a love of learning, and we would then make a bell ornament like over here (easy) or here (not as easy). Since I’m not feeling ambitious in that way, I’ll just admire the efforts of those of you who are.

I love learning about the stories behind Christmas carols and traditions. I hope you do too! A review of the movie is over here. If you want to read the backstory of the carol, go here.

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2022 Countdown to Christmas #3: Bingeing on Christmas Picture Books

As I mentioned in my blog over here, about my Christmas Morning Basket for homeschool, I am reading aloud two Christmas picture books a day to my son. Then during the rest of the day, I’m binge watching YouTube videos about Christmas picture books. Here are a few of my favorite Christmas picture books I’m loving this year plus a few videos to give you ideas for books, beyond my list over here. Christmas picture books give me such joy! I hope they give you joy too!

Note: some of the books mentioned are actually chapter books, not picture books. Also, if you want some short stories to read aloud to the whole family, check out my Family Devotionals Ebook in the December section.

Don’t worry about not being able to buy them all, just head over to your public library’s site and put them on hold, or request through interlibrary loan. If you don’t know what that is, then ask your friendly librarian. Reading picture books aloud to your children is the biggest perk of homeschooling. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done/continue to do for homeschooling (29 years and counting) and it brings me so much joy! If you haven’t discovered the magic of picture books, whether or not you homeschool, I invite you to start today! Go get picture books from the public library if you don’t have any at home, cuddle up on the couch with a youngster, yours or a borrowed one, and enjoy!

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Countdown to Christmas 2022 #2: My Christmas Morning Basket

I love the idea of the “morning basket” for homeschooling. If you don’t know what that means, go here. It’s basically morning gathering time where you share things you are excited about with your children. For me, that means read aloud time! You can get lots of ideas from Pam Barnhill’s website that I just linked, plus her podcast about it. The above photo is not of my pretty Christmas morning basket, but that of Abby Stone from Rooted in Rest. It’s a screenshot of her video down below. I don’t even have a basket and you don’t need one either to do Morning Basket time.

I also love the idea of rotating out what we use for morning basket according to the season and/or month and the needs of my children. Especially for Christmas! We’re taking a break from most of the basket materials we’ve used for fall. We will do mostly Christmas stuff for December and the first half of January. I just love reading about and immersing ourselves in the history and lore of Christmas!

Here’s what we are doing:

  1. The book above. I’m reading a few pages a day from it. When I was a kid, I got a jigsaw puzzle about Christmas traditions around the world. I’ve been using it ever since, every Christmas. It’s fun to see some of the traditions explained in the puzzle in this book.
  2. The material from Pam Barnhill’s free Advent Morning Basket over here.
  3. Two Christmas picture books a day from my list over here, and Sarah Mackenzie’s list here.
  4. Our only non-Christmas item is Connor Boyack’s American History textbook which just came out.
  5. We’ll keep listening to the Action Bible, a chapter a day. I got the hard copy book last summer while thrifting. What a great treasure find! I’m counting that as Christmas-y since the first story of Christmas comes from the Bible. We listen to the book in Audible while we look at the pictures.
  6. A story a day from a Christmas storybook that I got at Deseret Industries years ago.
  7. A few factoids, a poem, or some other tidbit or trivia from the Christmas Almanac, shown above.
  8. We’ll continue with a board game a day, not necessarily Christmas themed. My 13 year-old-son and I are currently in the middle of the missions for the game called The Initiative. Each mission lasts about 15-20 minutes, with 16 missions and more post-missions.

Want more morning basket ideas for Christmas? Here are some videos below, and something to read here. If you don’t have much money to spend, never fear. You can find lots of Christmas trivia and folklore videos on YouTube, ideas on Pinterest, and books at your public library. Happy homeschooling and Christmas morning time to all!

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A Joyful Reunion

So last week I blogged that my mother-in-law was dying. She passed away peacefully early this morning with most of her children around her. I am so grateful that for this last week, she always had at least two of her children with her at all times, round the clock, keeping her warm and comfortable and pain-free. I was able to say goodbye to her and facilitate a goodbye over the phone with my missionary son and my married daughter who both live out of state right now. Two springs ago, I took this picture of her with my son right before he left on his mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I like to think this is the same kind of embrace dear Grammi is having today with her parents, her seven older brothers, her husband, and other loved ones who have been waiting for her in heaven. She has left a legacy of faithful gospel living and a testimony of Jesus Christ.

I just love this Book of Mormon verse from Alma 40:11:

“Now, concerning the state of the soul between death and the resurrection—Behold, it has been made known unto me by an angel, that the spirits of all men, as soon as they are departed from this mortal body, yea, the spirits of all men, whether they be good or evil, are taken home to that God who gave them life.”

I am grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ who provides healing and resurrection for all of us. Truly he provides grace and mercy for all of us too. Oh how I know how much we all need this grace and mercy. I am so grateful for Him. He is the Redeemer, the Savior, the Light, the Life, and the Hope of the world.

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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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