Monday, November 25, 2013

"The First Christmas Night" Book Review & GIVEAWAY! (12/8)

*Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the following book in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.
About the book:
The First Christmas Night is a beautiful retelling of the birth of Jesus on that joyous night in Bethlehem so long ago. The poem begins with the arrival of Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and winds though Christ’s birth, the angels’ appearance to the shepherds, and the visit by the Wise Men. The simple, yet elegant, verses will appeal to little ones and are accompanied by the rich acrylic illustrations of Christine Kornacki.
 
About the Author:
Keith Christopher is a composer, arranger, orchestrator, and educator, and he has served as editor and producer for several major music publishers. In addition to writing and studio producing, Keith is on the faculty at the Blair School of Music of Vanderbilt University in Nashville. He lives in Hendersonville, Tennessee, with his wife and two children.



About the Illustrator:
At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life. After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape, including illustrating the best-selling The Sparkle Box for Ideal's Children's Books. Christine's recent work also includes illustrating the six-book series for the American Girl historical doll characters Marie-Grace and Cecile. She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafe in New Haven, Connecticut.
 
My Review:
I actually had Morgan read The First Christmas Night to Blake for this review.  Blake used to complain when Morgan would practice reading and now he enjoys her reading to him...on occassion.  ;-)  This was one occassion where Blake thoroughly loved it! 

The First Christmas Night is written in a similar style as The Night Before Christmas, which makes it a fun and enjoyable way to hear, and read, the story of Jesus's birth.  On top of that, the large, beautiful illustrations really grab your attention pull you into the book.

If you're looking for a fun, new way to share the story of our savior's birth, I highly recommend The First Christmas Night!  I know this book will be a favorite book to read each Christmas in our home from now on.
 
 An excerpt from The First Christmas Night:
 
Twas the very first Christmas when all through the town
not a creature was stirring—there was not a sound.
 
The moon shining bright in the heavens so high
gave the look of midday to the Bethlehem sky.
 
The animals were nestled in warm, cozy places
with looks of contentment on each of their faces.
 
 
 
Buy It!:
The First Christmas Night is 32 pages and the hardcover book can be purchased through Ideals Books for $16.99
 
GIVEAWAY!
 
Congratulations to comment #30, Zuzu!!
 
One of my readers is going to win their own copy of "The First Christmas Night"!
 
To enter to win, please leave a comment below. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so that I can contact you if you're the winner!

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Open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. Giveaway will end Sunday, December 8th, 2013 at 11:59 EST. Winner will be chosen shortly after and contacted via e-mail. The winner will have 48 hours to respond otherwise I will have to choose a new winner.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Garden Harvest 2013

Our little garden did quite well this year.
The one thing that I wish did a little better was the zucchini, but I still got all sorts of zucchini salsa and ate way too much zucchini bread and zucchini brownies...SO YUMMY!
 
The apple tree made up for last year and was bursting with apples.  Last year we had a warm week in March causing it to blossom early, then frost came and killed the blossoms.  We think there were maybe 10 apples on the tree. :-/
 The kids loved climbing the ladder and finding the best apples to make applesauce out of.  We canned about 8 pints.  I think the tree could have given us hundreds of pints-LOL!
These are the tomatoes we had when we cleaned out our garden.  It felt so good to have the garden cleaned out, but the amount of tomatoes from just 9 plants was beyond overwhelming!  My sister ended up with most of them because I had canned all the salsa, tomatoes and spaghetti sauce that I had wanted.  We gave more away to my dad and my mother-in-law, but ended up throwing out the rest.
 We planted about the same number of potatoes this year, but they flourished in our cooler, wet summer!  I bet we had double to triple the potatoes and they were HUGE!  They'll last us most of the winter and we'll replant what's left.

These pumpkins started off so cute!  The kids really wanted to carve them and I thought I'd probably cook up one or two.  Unfortunately, when we set them out as decorations, the chickens decided they looked tasty and pecked away at them. At least the fed and made the chickens happy. ;-)
The end of the day we cleaned out (most of) the garden.  Our picnic table is quite big and it was FULL!
Morgan and Blake are awesome helpers when it comes to picking and husking the Indian popcorn!  This is a small portion of what we got.
It's currently hanging up in the mudroom to dry.  It's all across the sliding glass doors and the window.  We'll shell it soon and then have some tasty popcorn to eat through the winter.
We also planted 2 sweet potato plants that produced more than we could have imagined.
They turned out quite big.  From our experience last year, the big ones didn't have as much flavor, but I hope that's not true this year...
 ...we have A LOT of them! :-)

 I'd say I can't wait for next year's garden but, to be honest, I'm glad...ecstatic actually...to be done for the year.  The work from the garden in the Spring, Summer and Fall sure makes me look forward to winter!  ;-)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Blake's Fall Art Class Projects

Blake enjoyed another art session this fall once soccer and cross country were finished.  There is another session going now that we decided not to do.  We've been going nonstop with activities, appointments, etc, since school started and just needed a little break before the holidays.
 
 
I believe he used an ornamental pear leaf to make this out of clay.
This one is a jar with lightening bugs/fireflies.  The paint on the bugs glows in the dark! :-)


Monday, November 18, 2013

Regarding Giveaway Entries

I have to apologize to all those who entered my giveaways over the weekend.  I accidentally deleted your entries this morning instead of publishing them.  Those two buttons are just way too close together! :-/  I feel terrible, because I know it takes a good deal of time to type out and do all the entries. 

If you'd like to re-enter, please just type out something quick for each of your entries...for example: "tweeted".  There is no need to tweet again or leave links.  Also, you are more than welcome to take an extra enry...you can just type in "oops entry" if you'd like. ;-)

I plan to turn the comment moderation off as well, so hopefully I don't lose any more entries in the future.

Thank you so much for following Kristie's Notes!  And again, I'm very sorry for inconviencing you. :-(

Friday, November 15, 2013

Melissa & Doug Terrific 25 List and Giveaway

*Disclosure:  By sharing this post, I have a chance to win Melissa & Doug toys.  I have not been compensated in any other way.  All opinions are my own.
http://www.melissaanddoug.com/Promos/Terrific+25+Holiday+Gifts+for+2013/Terrific+25+Holiday+Gifts+for+2013/36605


Melissa & Doug have come out with another great list, their Terrific 25 List, that compiles Melissa & Doug's greatest Christmas gifts for the year.  To celebrate this gift list they're having a “25 Days of Terrific 25” Giveaway on their Facebook page.  They'll be giving away a toy from the list each day and one lucky winner will receive ALL 25 toys on Black Friday!  Be sure to check out the list and enter to win some awesome prizes! :-)

"Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas" DVD Review & Giveaway!! (12/1)

*Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the following movie in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.



About Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas (From the Press Release):
Top-rated reality television star, Si Robertson, is transformed into a loveable and wise okra janitor named Silas. Silas narrates the adventures of the holiday flick, which stars Larry the Cucumber, the vibrant Head Elf of the mall who will stop at nothing to assist a compassionate young girl on her quest to help a neighbor in need for Christmas. Bob the Tomato co-stars as Phillip Fleagle, a harried mall employee who takes some time to realize that there is more to the holiday season than material gifts and light displays.


The uplifting theme song, “Light of Christmas,” from radio hit maker Owl City, featuring multi-Grammy award winning artist, TobyMac, brightens the release and is certain to be a holiday hit among children and music lovers of all ages.

My Review:
I've enjoyed VeggieTales since I was in high school and "Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas" is just as great as the first ones.  This DVD not only made me laugh, but also shared a wonderful message of helping others at Christmas. 

Those who enjoy Duck Dynasty will love that Si Robertson is featured as the narrator!  I have yet to see Duck Dynasty, but I have a feeling I'd love watch and see how God is central to their family and their lives.

"Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas" is definitely a great show to watch with the family this Christmas.  Be sure to buy it, watch it, and then do some of the fun activities that I mention below! :-)

Fun Activities:
First of all, check out the featured song from the movie!

The kids and I enjoyed listening and dancing to this several times!  It carries a wonderful tune and a wonderful message.  Start this up and dance with your kids...or by yourself, because I did that too. ;-)

Besides dancing to to "Light of Christmas" be sure to check out some of the other activities to go along with the "Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas" at the Veggie Tales website.  Here's a direct link to a Merry Larry Activity Pack.  The kids had fun coloring their coloring pages we found on the site.

Most importantly, to follow the message of this movie, take time to help others in need this Christmas.  Each year, the kids pick out gifts for children their age to put in a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.  Our shoe boxes are already wrapped and waiting at our church to be dedicated, but this is a post from a previous year if you'd like to see a little of what Operation Christmas Child is about. Also check out the Operation Christmas Child site for more details.

Buy it!
"Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas" is currently only $8.99 at VeggieTales.com!!

GIVEAWAY!
 
Congratulations to comment #13, Daniel M!
 
One of my readers is going to win their own copy of "Merry Larry and the True Light of Christmas"!

To enter to win, please leave a comment below. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so that I can contact you if you're the winner!

Extra Entries:
(1 extra entry per method. Leave a comment for each.)
*Subscribe to my blog in the upper left hand corner.
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*Leave a comment on a non-giveaway post and let me know which post.

Open to U.S. residents 18 years and older. Giveaway will end Sunday, December 1st, 2013 at 11:59 EST. Winner will be chosen shortly after and contacted via e-mail. The winner will have 48 hours to respond otherwise I will have to choose a new winner.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halloween Activities 2013

Our Halloween activities started at the beginning of October.  Some friends invited us to camp with them at a nearby campground during one of their Halloween Weekends.  It was a warm weekend for October which made it nice to be outside.  It was rainy too, but only at night while we were sleeping.  The kids enjoyed a scavenger hunt, looking at the campsite decorations and trick-or-treating.  There was a haunted hayride too, but we figured they were too young.
Morgan as a fairy and Blake as Hulk.
The kids with our young friends.
 
***********
 
The following Friday night we had made plans with another friend of mine to go to one of Greenfield Village's Halloween nights.  It had cooled off a bit, but was a pleasant night and perfect for being outside.
 
The kids just outside the gates waiting for our time to go through.
The amount of carved pumpkins was AMAZING!  There must have been hundreds lining either side of the walking path, plus more stacked in places and the neatest was seeing several decorating a tree!!  (Bottom left picture is the tree with the jack-o-lanterns.)
There were several 'spooky' sites, but nothing really scared us.  Some of our favorite spots were a covered bridge that was full of smoke, the carousel with ghosts riding, the mad scientist lab where all the glassware glowed neon colors and the headless horseman!  The kids thought for sure the headless horseman must have been fake.  We reassured them that he was alive.  His costume was just so good that you couldn't really tell that his head was in it...we didn't tell the kids that though ;-)
 
There were also treat stations along the way with people in really neat elaborate costumes.  The whole experience was really quite awesome!  The only thing I wished was different is that it wasn't so crowded!  Keeping track of the kids, in the dark, in shoulder-to-shoulder people, was a tough task!  Thankfully they're really good about sticking with me.
 
************

We didn't make any new decorations this year, but we enjoyed the ones we already have.  The kids absolutely LOVE the decorations that glow and had me take pictures of them all.  They thought it was fun to turn them all on and shut the lights off to make it 'spooky' in the house. :-)
 
 
***************
 
We also took advantage of the library's Halloween activities this year.  They had a Halloween Origami night this year.  The kids were able to make some neat origami pumpkins and bats!

 The library also had a movie night where they showed Monsters U with snacks, a treat bag and a costume contest.  Blake was still the Hulk, but Morgan changed her mind the week before and said she wanted to be a vampire.  When I asked her why, she said her teeth made her look like a vampire anyway!  LOL!  (She was missing her 2 front teeth.)  I didn't think it'd happen, since we didn't have anything to make her look like a vampire, but she found a cape at her grandma's, she wore her own black pants and white shirt, Blake's vest and some orange teeth he got from his teacher, we pulled her hair back and she inherited her pale skin from her mom.  ;-)   She was all set!  She won 2nd place ($2) in the costume contest! :-)
 
 
***********
 
Halloween day was busy!  I didn't even stop to take pictures...how bad is that?!?  The kids had their Halloween activities at school that I went to to be with them.  They went at separate times to see a magician who was quite good and it was all Halloween themed tricks!  They would typically parade through town and the businesses would hand out candy to them, but it was rainy and our town's main street was torn apart, so someone from each of the businesses lined the hall of the school to pass out candy.   Then they'd usually enjoy donuts and juice outside, but they had that in their classroom instead.
 
I then took them out of school early, so I could run them over to meet up with my mother-in-law and go to Rich's great-grandmother's nursing home were they handed out candy to the kids.  Afterwards we had dinner with Rich's family, then spent the rest of the evening driving around visiting family.
 
That was the gist of our Halloween this year.  Very fun times that I'm sure we'll always remember. :-)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Coming Home for Christmas" DVD Review & Giveaway!! (11/27)

*Disclosure: I was provided a copy of the following movie in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any other way. All opinions are my own.

About Coming Home For Christmas
After their parents separate, two estranged sisters who haven't been on speaking terms reunite in hopes that having a family Christmas all together for the first time in years will bring their Mom and Dad close again. They plan to do this in their old family home... the only problem is someone else lives there now.


Director: Vanessa Parise
Cast: George Canyon (Christmas Miracle, Dawn Rider, Man of Steel), Aaron Pritchett, Britt McKillip (Dead Like Me), Carly McKillip (Hot Rod)
 
The DVD includes a limited edition Norman Rockwell print!  Who is Norman Rockwell? Rockwell was famous for his famous American culture illustrations and artwork. He was born in the late 1800’s and died in the mid 1900’s.

This is the Norman Rockwell print that came with my DVD...sorry the picture turned out a bit blurry.
 
My Review:
 The kids and I had a little movie night at my mom's house to watch this movie.  The kids enjoyed it and made us laugh at their comments and reactions throughout the movie.  Morgan would get squirmy each time there was a romantic moment...there wasn't even kissing!  It was too funny!  Blake had a really hard time keeping the sisters straight in the movie.  I couldn't blame him, since they're real-life sisters they do look A LOT alike!  Every scene change he was asking, "Is that the big one?", meaning the older sister.  He had a hard time sitting still and paying attention, though, so he may have been a little young to watch it.

As far as the movie itself, I think the storyline was cute and fun.  I think the acting was quite good for a lower budget film, but the actor's lines, or script, didn't seem to flow well all the time.  All-in-all, it was a very enjoyable movie though.  A nice movie to watch with the family this Christmas season and remember how nice it is to have loved ones together sharing traditions on Christmas. :-)
 
Buy it!:
 "Coming Home for Christmas" can be purchased at Wal-Mart for $14.99.

Thank you to FlyBy Promotions and Wal-Mart for providing a copy of Coming Home for Christmas for me to review and another to give away!
 
GIVEAWAY!
 
Congratulations to comment #6,  Debby@JustBreathe!
 
One of my readers is going to win their own copy of "Coming Home for Christmas"!
 
To enter to win, please leave a comment below. Please be sure to leave your e-mail address, so that I can contact you if you're the winner!

Extra Entries:
(1 extra entry per method. Leave a comment for each.)
*Subscribe to my blog in the upper left hand corner.
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Open to U.S. and Canadian residents 18 years and older. Giveaway will end Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 at 11:59 EST. Winner will be chosen shortly after and contacted via e-mail. The winner will have 48 hours to respond otherwise I will have to choose a new winner.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cross Country 2013

Morgan and Blake ran Cross Country for the first time this year and I couldn't be more proud of them!  The elementary school offered a club for them to join and they were able to practice two to three days a week after school and then run at three meets.  The grades ranged from 1st to 6th grade that ran together at the meets.

Meet #1

They ran 1.5 miles and Blake had a time of 16:58
 
 Morgan ran at a separate time and ran the same distance in 16:32
 
Meet #2
 
The kids before they ran 1.75 miles.
 
Blake's time was 19:52
 
 Morgan came in 23rd for girls at this meet and received a medal!! She had a time of 17:45.

 My mom got a nice picture of us after their race.  I was so glad it was sunny and I could wear my sunglasses to cover the happy/proud tears. ;-)


Meet #3

This last meet was cooler and they had 2 miles to run on a golf course.  (Lots of hills!)
 
Morgan had a time of 21:29

 
 Blake ran the 2 miles in 24:34
 
 Happy to be done!
 
The cross country season was fun for Morgan.  She had some great runs and seemed to be very consistent.  She paces herself well and didn't need to walk much.  She thought it was pretty awesome to get a medal too, like her uncle always used to. :-)
 
Blake, while he ran and did well, didn't seem to like it as much.  I think it was a bit scary for him to be running around on his own with hundreds of kids...a bit intimidating.  He usually started or ended the races in tears.  He says he doesn't want to do it again at this point, but there were times that he was excited to run and he likes to be outside with me when I run...we'll see!
 
All-in-all an amazing experience!  I would have never imagined my kids running those distances at the ages of 7 and 6.  Again, very proud of them for finishing each of the races.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Soccer Season 2013

Blake finished up soccer for the season a few weeks ago.  With Morgan not playing, he was actually put into his age group this year, which happened to be mostly younger kids than him due to the birthday cutoff.  It was kinda nice to just enjoy watching the kids run around and play without worrying about what position they were playing.  (There wasn't even a goalie.)  I think Blake enjoyed it more too. :-)
 
 
 

Blake was able to score a few goals and was super excited!  He is looking forward to playing again next year. Morgan even says she wants to again as well...it doesn't seem to be her type of thing, but she liked Blake's medal, so we'll see. ;-)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Apple Orchard 2013

I am WAY behind on posting happenings around here, so I'm going to do my best to catch up over the next couple weeks.
 
Towards the end of September, we got together with a group of friends to pick apples....and eat apple cider donuts (the best donuts EVER)...and drink cider.
 (I chose bees to cover the kids faces this time...if youve ever been apple picking, you know about the bees!)
Everyone was busy finding the best apples they could.
Morgan and Blake stopped long enough to show me their toothless and cheesy smiles. :-) 
We had a wonderful time that day!  Of course I forgot to get pictures of the kids enjoying their donuts and cider...I'll let you imagine the deliciousness. ;-)
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