Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions

Post by Nick & Aleah Valley of Valley & Co.

It’s hard to believe that we’re in the thick of the holiday season and that Christmas is next week! While we’ve sure savored every moment, we still have reindeer and Santa to visit, cookies to bake and movies to watch! As it’s Ava’s first Christmas, seeing the excitement and the magic of the season through her eyes has reminded us to slow down and enjoy the little things that make this time of year so special.

Creating new traditions for her has been so important to us for each holiday thus far, and we have made some great family traditions for this holiday season, like searching for our family tree in the snow, adorning a darling little Charlie Brown Christmas tree for her nursery, sewing satin stockings that will forever hang above our mantel, decking out our ceramic village, and throwing a cupcakes and ornaments party! Here are some scenes from our get together, complete with snow globes, wintry scenes, and lots of goodness from The Land of Nod.

Throw an effortless and festive kid-friendly cookie, cupcake or tree trimming party this weekend with our tips:

Make easy cupcake toppers with gumdrops and toothpicks – simply skewer two or three glittering gumdrops through the pick end of the toot pick and insert into a cupcake

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 39  Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 15

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 37Lay out soft ornaments atop each kid’s place setting for them to take home.

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 43 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 41 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 35 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 34 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 33 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 13 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 6Set place settings with jars, snow and little bottle brush trees and creatures for kids to make wintry scenes to take home.

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 1

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 7 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 3 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 12 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 32Aleah’s mom {Ava’s grandma} made Ava these beautiful floating houses {inspired by a Land of Nod display she saw earlier this year} and they’re perfectly dreamy for a table top focal point.

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 11Dress up glasses of milk or water with birch paper straws.

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 9 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 38Create a gorgeous {and easy} centerpiece with fresh cut evergreen sprigs and nestle in ornaments.

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 14Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 23 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 24  Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 10Happy Holidays!

Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 17 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 18 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 19 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 20 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 21 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 22 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 25 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 26 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 26 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 29 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 30 Creating Holiday Entertaining Traditions 42 Party design: Valley & Co. || Photos: Dennis Wise || Cupcakes and Party Room: Trophy Cupcakes

Nick & Aleah Valley are the husband + wife owners and operators of Valley & Co. Lifestyle, based in the beautiful Emerald City {Seattle}. They love to make life grand and believe that any occasion, whether small or large, is cause for celebration. They believe that entertaining at home welcomes memories and laughter. Follow them on their blog and Instagram.

O (Crafty) Paper Christmas Trees

Post by Rae Ann of Rae Ann Kelly.com

Christmas Craft: O (Crafty) Paper Christmas TreesIt might be a little late in the game to be making Christmas decorations, but there are lots of days ahead where a kid friendly craft will come in handy so I wanted to share this simple paper Christmas tree project. Here’s how we did it…

Christmas Craft: O (Crafty) Paper Christmas Trees SuppliesFirst download and print THESE TEMPLATES. Cut out and trace onto various shades of green card stock. You could also print onto white card stock and then have the kids paint or color in their trees.

Next, cutout along your traced lines, shape into a cone and glue or tape in place.

Finally, embellish with whatever decorative art supplies you have on hand (an artist’s surplus art jar would be perfect for this!). We used mini pom-poms, pipe cleaners, washi tape, buttons and a gold marker.

Christmas Craft: O (Crafty) Paper Christmas Trees 2Full disclosure, I was the main crafter of the trees pictured because most of my kids were in school. However, i left all of the supplies out for them to make their own when they got home and I have to say their trees were far more fun and creative than mine! Also an added bonus, the project kept them and a couple of their friends busy for a good hour which is always handy this time of year!

Happy crafting!

{Images by Stacy Jacobsen}

Rae Ann blogs at Rae Ann Kelly and is a kid wrangler, graphic designer, food & craft nut. Her blog features little tidbits about her day to day life & design projects, tutorials for DIY’s, free downloads, yummy recipes, lots of kid friendly ideas and outfit inspiration.

DIY Stocking Stuffers

Post by Michelle Sterling of Avery and Augustine

DIY Stocking StuffersIf you’re stumped on stocking stuffers this year, here’s the good news: I’ve got two DIY stocking stuffer ideas for you, inspired by one of my all-time favorite blogs, Lovely Indeed.  And you might have some of the supplies for them in your house already!  The first is a collage kit, which can be used for making art, and the second is a mini jewelry kit.

DIY Stocking Stuffers - Reindeer Cups DIY Stocking Stuffers - 1 DIY Stocking Stuffers - 3 DIY Stocking Stuffers - 4The collage kit includes blank tags, bits of ribbon, ric rac, twine, washi tape, solid and patterned paper, a couple of pages from an old letterpressed calendar, pom poms, mini cupcake liners, feltfetti, round labels and leftover label frames.  The jewelry kit contains beads of different shapes, sizes and colors, beading cord, twine and ribbon, so the gift recipient can make whatever strikes their fancy.  Packed in cute reindeer cups (sorry! They’re all sold out at The Land of Nod!) and finished off with cellophane bags and striped twist ties, the kits are ready to go.  These kits can serve as party favors or party activities as well.  We had so much fun putting together these stocking stuffers and hope they inspire you to create a few of your own!

You can see Michelle’s work and read about her two young children and their first forays in cooking, art and everything in between at Avery and Augustine.

Festive DIY Holiday Projects

Post by Courtney of The Chirping Moms

Festive DIY Holiday Projects - Reindeer Milk Bottles The holidays are here and it’s time for some festive ideas for DIY holiday projects. I always enjoy decorating the house for Christmas and doing fun crafts with the kids. This year, with a brand new baby, my time for DIY projects has been very limited. I decided to order a few holiday items from The Land of Nod for both inspiration and a head start on supplies. Below are four projects I came up with using my Land of Nod picks. They are all quick and easy but still fun and festive!

Land of Nod items I started with:

DIY Holiday Project – Reindeer Milk Bottles 

Supplies: glass or plastic milk bottle, brown pipe cleaners, google eyes, red pom poms, red and white paper straws and glue

Directions: Glue the google eyes and red pom pom onto the milk bottle to make a face. Cut a brown pipe cleaner in half. Then cut about an inch off each half. Use the small piece to twist around the top of the large piece to create an antler. Glue the 2 antlers to the bottle. I used hot glue for this project, but if you want to let the kids help, use craft glue instead. Fill the finished reindeer bottle with chocolate milk and your reindeer is complete!

DIY Holiday Project - Reindeer Milk Bottles 2DIY Holiday Project – Paper Straw Garland

Here’s a fun one that the kids can help with!

Supplies: Red yard, paper straws, green loop cereal (we used Apple Jacks) and a small piece of tape.

Directions: Cut the paper straws into pieces that are about 1 to 2 inches long. Cut the yarn to the length garland you’d like. Wrap the small piece of tape around one end of the yarn to help you thread the garland. Then, string the pieces of paper straws and the green cereal in a pattern you like. Last, hang on the tree and admire you’re work!

DIY Holiday Project - Paper Straw Garland DIY Holiday Project – Personalized Stockings

Supplies: Stockings, felt, scissors and fabric or masking tape

Directions: Cut the letters out of felt and use rolled pieces of masking tape or fabric tape to stick the letters to the stockings. This is the fastest, easiest way I know to make personalized stockings! If you have time and like to hand sew, you could stitch the felt letters onto the stocking instead. This will ensure they last from year to year. A tip for cutting out the letters: print out the letter you need in block font. You can make the letter as large as you want before printing. Drawing letters and cutting are not my strong point, so I asked a friend to help!

DIY Holiday Project - Personalized StockingsDIY Holiday Project - Personalized Stockings 2DIY Holiday Project – “Deck the Halls” Instagram Banner 

I wanted a new holiday decoration to hang in our hallway. I had also been trying to think of something to do with all of my 2014 Instagram photos. I came up with a “deck the halls” banner for the hallway with some of our favorite photos. To make it really come together, I added the star ornaments. The gold and glitter really light up the hall!

Supplies: Christmas Wishes Mini Garland set (or twine and cut out own gold letters), Nightfall star ornaments, gold card stock paper, square photos printed from Instagram and tape

Directions: Cut squares out of the gold paper, slightly larger than your square photos. Tape the photos to the gold paper. Cut or punch holes in the top of each gold paper square. Thread the photos, gold letters and stars onto the string. Hang and enjoy seeing your favorite moments of 2014!

DIY Holiday Project - "Deck the Halls" Instagram Banner For more fun, festive holiday ideas, visit The Chirping Moms. Happy Holidays!

Courtney Byrne is a mother of three little children. She has two girls that are 3 and 4 and a brand new baby boy. Courtney is the Co-Founder of the popular blog, The Chirping Moms. The blog share adventures in motherhood along with great activities for kids, crafts, recipes and ideas for family travel. You can keep up with them on Facebook, Pinterest and as @TheChirpingMoms on Twitter and Instagram. In addition to writing The Chirping Moms, Courtney is also a contributing writer to the Four Seasons family travel site Have Family Will Travel and has been featured on The Huffington Post and What To Expect.

Family Tradition | Ornament Advent Calendar

Post by Becca of CAKE

Family Tradition | Ornament Advent CalendarThe Christmas before we got married, people began giving my husband and I the ‘special’ ornaments. I’m sure you have them in your family too.  The ones that include photos, engravings and old favorites- added to some of our own, which in our case involves a wide variety of special woodland critters.

Family Tradition | Ornament Advent Calendar 2So several years ago when looking for an advent calendar for my daughter, I decided to begin a new family tradition and create an ornament advent calendar.  I gathered up our most special ornaments and placed them in the pockets of our advent.  I bought this advent calendar a few years ago from the Land of Nod because it has nice roomy pockets –  it’s been a perfect addition to our holiday home.

Family Tradition | Ornament Advent Calendar 3At the beginning of the month while decorating the tree, I fill each pocket with our special family ornaments and each morning until Christmas my daughter (and eventually my son when he’s old enough) pull one ornament out to place on the tree.  I help her with the fragile ones, but also try to fill it with some of our softer critters, like these new ones I just ordered from Land of Nod.  So darling.

Family Tradition | Ornament Advent Calendar 4Caitlin loves this tradition and never lets me forget a day. It makes her feel so special to add the favorite ornaments to our tree, and it’s a great family conversation starter, sparking memories of where each ornament originated.

Family Tradition | Ornament Advent Calendar 5In the past I’ve been a bit particular about our tree decor, but starting this tradition has a been great for me too – I’ve loosened up and allowed our tree to become the cozy hodge podge it is (colored lights and all). Someday when the kids are older I’ll probably revert back to my minimalist ways, but if I’m being honest, I’ve become sentimental about the added character that comes with having a family friendly tree and the traditions to go with it.  Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Becca Gorski lives in the SF Bay Area, is a working mother of two, and moonlights as an occasional designer / blogger / celebration maker. You can find her creative ideas on CAKE. | events + design, and her line of merry happy party printables on Etsy.

Decorating for Baby’s First Christmas

Post by Corri McFadden of Glitter & Bubbles

This year’s holiday decorating took on a new life with the arrival of Baby Zelda! From a festive ombré Christmas tree to whimsical plush toys, I wanted every corner of this house to be mesmerizing with holiday cheer for baby’s first Christmas. As this was our first Christmas as a family of three, it was so important to create a festive atmosphere filled to the brim with bright colors, fun accents, and tons of toys. Having Zelda makes Christmas so much more special and I wanted to capture that this year with the amazing décor and new traditions (Who doesn’t love an advent calendar?)

ChristmasTree_1 ChristmasTree_2My tree is this year’s prized possession; I can’t stop obsessing over the ornaments! I chose to use hand-painted round ornaments in a rainbow of colors and created an ombré effect by sectioning off each part of the tree with a designated color.

ChristmasTree_3 ChristmasTree_4I couldn’t resist adding in the cutest plush ornaments in between layers to fill out the tree – these are so adorable for Zelda! These plush toys also double as great stocking stuffers and gifts, too. The mixture of textures from the different plush ornaments creates an eclectic tree that is a super fun for the family to decorate. I love how the tree capture the spirit of the holidays while still remaining completely my style, so it fits perfectly into the rest of the house.

ChristmasTree_6 ChristmasTree_5I also let my decorations trickle onto the shelves! I’m obsessed with this fun, colorful advent calendar that is created out of small houses and buildings. It fills out the top shelf perfectly and continues to carry the holiday spirit throughout the house.AdventCalendar_1 AdventCalendar_2I knew I had to have an advent calendar, it’s a Christmas must! I created this fun vignette in my hallway to show off the Sterling Advent Calendar, which has gold & silver winter accents. I chose more of those amazing plush toys for the calendar along with other trinkets and goodies that Zelda would love.HolidayHallway_3 HolidayHallway_1 HolidayHallway_2This little space wouldn’t be complete without another tree! This miniature tree is super whimsical, complete with multi-colored felt ball ornaments and a fun tree skirt. I also used the Holiday Suitcases with silver stars and placed toys on top of the cases and around the tree.HolidayHallway_4 HolidayHallway_5Our first Christmas with Zelda wouldn’t be complete with a decorated nursery. As a new mom, I had so much fun decorating this space with another small tree, a festive holiday garland, and her favorite holiday plush toys.Nursery_2 Nursery_1I’m completely crushing on this candy cane guy and adore the little tree, but how cute is her gingerbread girl?! I added a sequins headband that is so Zelda! These plush toy options are a great way to keep your nursery festive without over cluttering or going overboard on the decorations.Nursery_3 Nursery_4 Nursery_5Corri McFadden is the owner and founder of eDrop-Off Luxury Consignment. As a style expert and successful blogger, she hosts a weekly fashion segment on Chicago’s “You and Me This Morning” and features more tips and tricks on her website and her site for Mom, Glitter and Bubbles.

Holiday Wrapping with Paper Source

Post by Michelle Kohanzo, Managing Director of The Land of Nod

When it comes to the holidays, there’s nothing more fun than getting the family together for a bit of gift wrapping. Sure, it’s not always the most helpful, but it definitely makes the best memories. And there’s no better time to get into the wrapping (or unwrapping) season than now, since we’re partnering with our great friends at Paper Source.

A few of my favorite hands-on wrapping ideas are:

Personalize wrapping paper with heat embossing. These alphabet stamps are perfect for ditching gift tags and creating a package that’s as unique as the gift inside.

Paper Source Heat Embossing ToolOne of my favorite things about going to Paper Source is the amazing goodies they keep up at the register (finger puppets, nostalgic candy like these Candy Cane Pop Rocks and jewelry). They’re the perfect gift toppers.

Pop Rocks: Candy Cane

 

Shop Paper Source’s collection of gift wrap, greeting cards and more, and you’ll save 20% with promo code LON20 through December 24th.

Plus, the Nod Tour Bus will be stopping by Paper Source in Naperville, IL on Sunday, December 14 from 11am-1pm with tons of games and giveaways. Paper Source will even be hosting a fun activity for the kiddos. See you there!

Aside from being the Managing Director of The Land of Nod, mother to four kids (yes I said FOUR!) and a gourmet cook, Michelle is a retail junky. From Zara to Marc Jacobs, Target to Nordstrom, she doesn’t discriminate, there’s room in her heart and closet for them all. And the addiction doesn’t stop at fashion, she’s painted her dining room at least 5 times, and changes rugs like most women change their sheets. Retail isn’t therapy for Michelle, it’s more like oxygen.

Play With Your Food – Christmas Tree Food Art

Post by Selena of How About Cookie

Play With Your Food - Christmas Tree Food ArtThe holidays are magical; the dreary weather, not so much. It’s been overcast for several days here, and keeping my kids entertained is no easy feat. When I laid eyes on this adorable plush Christmas tree, though, I had a light bulb moment. Sometimes a fun snack inspired by your kids’ toys is all it takes to make the day a little merrier and brighter.

For this fun food art plate, you’ll need:

  1. honeydew
  2. two banana slices
  3. two blueberries
  4. fruit leather

First, cut three thick wedges of honeydew of different lengths; the smallest wedge should be a triangle to be the treetop. Feel free to leave the skin on: it makes munching on them later a lot easier! Use the rim of a large mug to smooth and shape the top of each wedge so that they stack snugly in the shape of a Christmas tree.

land of nod christmas tree step 1Next, cut two slices of banana and lay them on the bottom wedge. Take the two biggest blueberries of the bunch and place them on top of the banana slices for the eyes.

land of nod christmas three step 2Cut a couple inches of fruit leather and place just under the bottom of the tree. For the mouth, use a measuring tablespoon to cut a semicircle from the remaining fruit leather. Use kitchen scissors to cut a thin smile, using the curve of the semicircle as a guide.

land of nod christmas tree placematAnd you’re done! Have fun guessing with your kids what the tree is looking at, or maybe Plush Christmas Tree and Honeydew Christmas Tree might fancy a friendly conversation. My three-year-old called them “mommy and baby twees” saying “what do you wanna eat” to each other. They keep it real!

land of nod christmas tree step 3Keep those adorable googly-eyed toys coming, Land of Nod!

Take a peek at Selena’s food art on her blog, How About Cookie, and follow her creations, crafts, and—once in a while—actual cooking on Instagram.

Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book

Post by Michelle of Avery & Augustine

Milk and Cookies, and a Giant BookWhat’s more cozy than an enormously good book with a side of milk and cookies?  This story is not only sweet, but incredibly gorgeous with hand appliquéd and embroidered artwork by Michelle Romo.  Avery enjoyed this special story time with I’m So Glad You’re Here along with a glass of milk and Speculoos cookies.  We changed things up a bit from the usual snack routine and dipped the Speculoos in semi-sweet chocolate and finished them off with a sprinkling of salty pretzel bits.  There is one added bonus with this work of art: if all that milk makes you a wee bit drowsy, well, you have a blanket for a short snooze!

Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book 2Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book 3Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book 4Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book 5Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book 6Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book 7Milk and Cookies, and a Giant Book 8Thanks to The Land of Nod for sending us this giant book.

You can see Michelle’s work and read about her two young children and their first forays in cooking, art and everything in between at Avery and Augustine.

DIY Holiday Syrups

Post by Rae Ann of Rae Ann Kelly.com DIY Holiday Gift: Homemade SyrupsWith the holiday season in full swing, we’ve been indulging in everything warm and cozy. Snuggly blankets, homemade soup and flavored steamers to name a few. Below are recipes for three of our favorite syrups to get you feeling warm and festive! Simply add a tablespoon or two to warmed milk or coffee for a yummy treat. To make it extra special top with whip cream and sprinkles, cinnamon or shimmer sugar. As a fun bonus, I’ve included cute drink syrup labels so you can package them up and give to friends!

DIY Holiday Gift: Homemade Syrups 2Recipes & how-to’s are below.

White Chocolate Syrup – also delicious as a topping on ice cream and other desserts.

You’ll Need:

  • 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
  • 12 oz. white chocolate chips
  • 1 tbsp. pure vanilla extract

Here’s How:

  1. Stirring occasionally, heat milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. When hot add white chocolate. Remove from heat and stir until chocolate has melted. Stir in vanilla.
  2. Allow syrup to cool and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks.

Cinnamon Dolce Syrup 

You’ll Need:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Here’s How:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisking frequently, heat through until sugar has dissolved (about 5-10 minutes). Remove from heat.
  2. Allow syrup to cool and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several months. Stir before using!

Vanilla Syrup

You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise and seeds scraped (optional, but delicious)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Here’s How:

  1. Combine sugar, water, vanilla seeds and pod in a small saucepan. Heat over medium, stirring frequently until sugar has dissolved. Let simmer, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Discard vanilla bean pod. Remove seeds using a strainer if desired.
  2. Allow syrup to cool and then store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several months. Stir before using!

Print out the drink syrup labels, cut & add to mason jars for an easy gift! Hope you indulge, enjoy and share!

DIY Holiday Gift: Homemade Syrups 3DIY Holiday Gift: Homemade Syrups 5DIY Holiday Gift: Homemade Syrups 6{Images by Stacy Jacobsen}

Rae Ann blogs at Rae Ann Kelly and is a kid wrangler, graphic designer, food & craft nut. Her blog features little tidbits about her day to day life & design projects, tutorials for DIY’s, free downloads, yummy recipes, lots of kid friendly ideas and outfit inspiration.