November 18, 2015


Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays! I love it's simplicity...just give me a big meal and that's it. No gifts, no fussy planning, just a meal and good friends and family. I rounded up a BIG list of terrific posts from around the interwebs to help you get ready for the big day of thanks. I've got it sectioned into Thanksgiving tips, reads, meal, school, fun, and projects.

AND if you have a great post to share, I would LOVE to see it! Keep scrolling for the link tool at the bottom of the post.

Need ideas for fun Thanksgiving ideas for homeschooling or projects, or just great Thanksgiving tips? Read on for a BIG list of terrific Thanksgiving posts.

Thanksgiving Homeschool Ideas

Thanksgiving Fun

Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving Tips

Thanksgiving Craft Projects for Moms and Kids

Thanksgiving Booklists

30 Favorite Thanksgiving Books for Kids

November 13, 2015


There's a lot of reading going on in the Hutchinson home right now. Everyone seems to be immersed in some book or another. Some of us more than one book at a time. I can't pretend it doesn't make me childhood was always blanketed with a cozy book. I would love nothing more than to see my kids do the same thing. It hasn't always been like this though, one of my kids was a reluctant reader, but we're all pretty happy with the luxury of a good book these days.

Here's what we're reading this month:

Alicia's Reads

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles: This book started out a wee bit slow for me, but I ended up loving it! It was different than a lot of other historical fiction. The characters were brilliant, and it had interesting twists and I love that.

If I'm Diapering a Watermelon, Then Where'd I Leave the Baby? by Carol Barnier: I love Carol and her information is always so rich and valuable. I haven't always been a highly distracted mom, but I'm fessing up--I am now!  This book is no different than any other time I've heard from Carol. Don't judge this book by it's overly long title or it's somewhat dated illustrations, it is a fabulous book, and just what this distractible mom needed! So many great tips and insights.

Hemingway's Girl by Erika Robeck This book is about halfway underway and I really like it. It's not grabbing me as much as Call Me Zelda, another favorite book by Erika Robuck, but it's good. I'll let you know what my final verdict is next month.

Noah's Reads

The Adventures of Robinhood This was a history required read for Noah and he really liked it. I think the language was a little tricky at times, but he said it was really good.

The Magna Charta This is another required history reading, and from a history buff's point of view it looks so good! I plan on reading it with him. There's so much information in this book; little biographies on figures that were prevalent during the time of the signing of the Magna Charta and so much great information surrounding the signing of it as well.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Ok, so Noah's struggling with this one. I think he's a little overwhelmed by it--maybe just plain uninterested?? I told him he could shelf it for a while and come back to it later.

The Fellowship of the Ring This one he is not struggling with. He loves this series. He's booking through it again...I'm sure it's not the last time he'll read this series.

Jack's Reads

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Jack is a huge Harry fan. He just finished the fifth book and he's decided he wants to take a break because he doesn't want to "waste them all" too fast. I love his strategy. There's nothing worse than flying through a terrific series and trying to find something else to read.

A Long Way from Chicago This is one of the books I chose for him at the beginning of the year. It looks super funny and interesting from my point of view, he says it's a little hard to get into. We'll see how the rest of it goes.

Family Reads/History Reads

The Royal Diaries: Eleanor of Aquitaine We love using this series where we can in history. We're almost done reading about Eleanor. There's been a few things I've had to ad lib because it was a little inappropriate, but this is the first book in the series I've had to do that with and I think it's mostly because of the rough and rugged times they were living in. Eleanor's is a fascinating story.

Knights, Nobles, and Knaves This book is just beautiful. I love the illustrations too. It's a collection of stories from the Middles Ages. Some of them we have read before and some are new. It's a great book to page through every once in a while and read a few stories.

The Mysterious Benedict Society on Audible We are all but finished with this one. It's a great series so far. Very different and fun. We've been listening to it and I think it was a very fun way to read this book.

What have you been reading this month?

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November 12, 2015


Years ago, we started a tradition with our kids--advent activities for each day of December. If you think this sounds like a lot of work and preperation, let me explain. There's things we do every Christmas season that are necessaries like wrapping gifts, baking cookies, and everything between. My smart mom move was to write down all these little things and assign them to days--each day in December. 

Let me show you a little more detail.

Big list of advent activities and ideas.

Easy Advent traditions

We've done this many ways, but these are my favorite. Years ago I created these tiny boxes. All you need is assorted boxes, 25 in all, and scrapbook paper. You could even stencil or marker the number into the boxes. Set them up some where in your home or put one on the breakfast table each morning. 

You could put little candies in on the days when you don't have an activity planned and write down your activity for the day on the rest. It's so simple, but your kids will love this! 
Big list of advent activities and ideas.

Here's another version of the same idea. I gathered a pile of papers and stamps and created these little messages to give to the kids every day of the month. Here's a list of what I used: 
Just have fun with it! Your kids will love waking up to a fun activity every morning. 

Simple ways to make advent more fun with your kids and a list of ideas!

Simple ways to make advent more fun with your kids and a list of ideas!

Big list of advent activities and ideas.

Advent ideas to get you started

Go see the lighting of your communities Christmas tree
Shop downtown at local shops
Go to a Christmas festival
See the Nutcracker ballet
See the Christmas Carol
Attend a holiday parade
Visit a live Nativity

Visit a tree farm
Go see Santa at the mall
Go caroling
Write letters to Santa
Make a gingerbread house
Go ice skating
Bake cookies
Go sledding
Make Eggnog

Serve at a soup kitchen
Ring bells for the Salvation Army
Sing Christmas carols at a nursing home
Take some canned goods to a food shelter
Fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child
Visit an Angel Tree and buy gifts for kids in the community
Donate toys to a local shelter

Have a Starbucks night and go get hot cocoa together
Drive around and look at Christmas lights
Read a Christmas storybook and do a craft to go along with it
Make a nativity
Read a Christmas read aloud together
Eat breakfast for dinner and watch Elf as a family
Cut out paper snowflakes and create a winter wonderland in your house
Paint pottery with a Christmassy theme
Visit a bookstore and buy a new Christmas book
Learn about Christmas traditions around the world
Make snow globes
Camp out on the living room floor and sleep under the tree
Make caramel corn and watch a Christmas movie together
Make a paper chain to decorate the tree
Celebrate St. Nicholas Day together (December 6th)

Make handmade gifts together
Go shopping for each other
Take treats to a neighbor
Wrap gifts all together
Make cards

Big list of advent activities and ideas.
For a little extra inspiration, here's a recording of a Periscope all about advent activities. Have fun planning! 

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November 10, 2015


Yesterday we talked about five things you can do now for a smoother holiday season. Today, I'm going to add to that a little bit. Christmas brings so many things for our brains to hold; gift lists, checklists, addresses, recipes, dates to remember and so much more. Post-It notes are not going to cut if for this occasion. We need a place we can hold everything in on place. I've always had a holiday planner, but this year I decided to create a Christmas bullet journal. 

What's a bullet journal, you ask? 

I am NO bullet journal expert--and they are out there--but it's a pretty simple concept that can be created however you want really. A bullet journal is basically a notebook that you modify to suit your needs. In the front, you create a table of contents and you number your pages as you go, adding the pages to the table of contents. If you'd like to see a little tour of my Christmas bullet journal, you can check out my Periscope on it to get a better visual. 

How to create a Christmas bullet journal for an organized holiday.

How to create a Christmas bullet journal 

Start with a plain notebook. I am using a basic Moleskine notebook, but you probably have something on hand that would work just fine.

Add a title page.
How to create a Christmas bullet journal for an organized holiday.

Start creating your table of contents. First you'll have to think about what you need to include in your notebook. Here's a few things I am including in mine: 
    • November and December calendar
    • a to-do list
    • menus
    • a pocket for receipts
    • Christmas budget
    • gift list
    • list of handmade gifts you want to make
    • crafts to do
    • advent ideas
    • Christmas cards
    • notes for next year (things like how many cards to order, how tall to buy your tree, how many feet of garland to buy, things that worked and things that didn't)

How to create a Christmas bullet journal for an organized holiday.

How to create a Christmas bullet journal for an organized holiday.

  • Choose a notebook that can easily fit into your purse so you can take it shopping or add it while you're waiting at piano lessons.
  • Make this be your landing spot for all things Christmas--NO Post-It notes flying around.
  • Create this journal now, so you can utilize it early before those great gift ideas slip away.
  • Make your planner work for YOU, don't try to copy and paste someone else's organizational techniques. Take the idea and shape it to fit how you'll use it.

More holiday planners for an organized Christmas 

Last October I did a series on living simply. I did a post on how to create a holiday planner that is super simply--just a binder and dividers, really. Here's more on creating a holiday planner...psst...there's a video included. 
How to create a holiday planner with a binder.

N E V E R   M I S S   A   P O S T--

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November 9, 2015


I know, I know, the title of this post gives you tremors. I get it. It's not really my thing to jump into Christmas on November first (or before) and start playing the carols and stringing up lights. It's totally understandable, and I completely respect your feelings on this--BUT there is one thing we cannot deny...Christmas can be crazy! We have this desire to create memories with our families, take it slow, enjoy every moment of the season, make handmade gifts, and bring our neighbors fresh baked cookies. But by December 6th, we see our days filling up and our Christmas dreams are being discarded at a frantic rate. Like it or not, I have discovered something about Christmas...

Christmas planning early makes December SO much smoother.

That's the secret, folks. I'm NOT suggesting you get your tree out and start breaking out the Christmas carols--please wait on that. For the sake of the pilgrims, please wait. What I am suggesting is that we do a few little things now that will make our lives so much easier a month from now. Trust me, you will be so pleased with yourself, you'll be drinking your eggnog with your feet up, patting yourself on the back.
Christmas planning doesn't have to be a huge chore. Start doing a few little things now to help your December go smoother.

Here's five things you can do now for a smoother Christmas season

1. Plan your Christmas greetings.

I love sending out Christmas cards, but I admit, they can be a lot of work. Start thinking about it now. Have it be your goal to get them ordered before December 1st.  Here's a little checklist to get you started:
    • Either book a photographer or write a date in your calendar when you will take a family photo OR
    • Pick a family photo from the past year for your card
    • Choose a Holiday Card on a site you love to pop your photo into when your photo is ready or chosen.
    • Update your address list. I love using because they have the option of storing your address and printing them for you. SO easy!
    • Order early!
Last year, I did a super fast photo shoot with they kids and we had a Christmas photo in about ten minutes. It doesn't have to take a ton of time to get your Christmas greetings done.

2. Write out a list of gift recipient list.

I love Christmas shopping in December, so I don't think I'll ever be the person to be finished with Christmas shopping in August, but I do think it's wise to think ahead on what you need to be looking for. Make a list of all the people you buy for--not what you're going to buy, but just WHO you need to buy for. Make sure you don't forget people like youth group leaders, the piano teacher, etc. Lest you are the mom running to Wal-Mart at 10pm for a thrown together something the night before you need it--ask me how I know.

3. Clear the calendar for December!

I know we can't clear every single thing, but for things like check-ups or dental appointments--those can wait till January. December is all about the magic and spending time together and enjoy the season--don't fill it up on things that can wait.

4. Plan handmade things early.

You might be dying to create some creative handmade gifts with your kids. Trust me, those things don't just happen. Mostly if we create something like that, we are scrambling to get them done OR just scrapping the idea altogether. Neither of those are great, so plan now.
    • Make a list of projects and handmade gifts you'd like to make
    • Start gathering supplies now. Watch sales and use coupons to get everything you need before December hits.
    • Check out the Handmade Gifts Series the kids and I did last year--it was really fun!

5. Deep clean kid areas.

If you have a play room or toy closet, now is the time to go through it and purge. Discard or donate anything broken, has missing parts, or doesn't get played with. Make space for new things and it will give you a great idea of what your kids are actually playing with.

Deep clean bedrooms too. Take this time to vacuum under the bed, put on some flannel sheets, and sort through clothes to make sure you have proper outfits for holiday gatherings or concerts.

Bonus idea: Start planning Advent activities

We'll be talking about this more in detail later this week, but start thinking about the activities you're going to want to do with your kids. Check out the local activities going on. Search for fun recipes you want to make. Gather all your fun ideas and make a good list. You might not get to do everything, but at least you'll have a plan.

Taking these little steps now will definitely help with your holiday spirit next month. We'll have cleared the clutter and gotten things down on paper so we can remove the brain drain that comes with all the craziness of December. Start thinking about Christmas now so when it's here, we can just enjoy...and that's what it's all about.

Here's a Periscope that I did last week talking about getting ready for Christmas now:

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