Giveaway, gifts, goodies, and great gadget

posted in: journal 49




The giveaway is the at the very end – you only have to leave a comment to enter to win a generous prize package from Third Day Naturals that would make a great Christmas gift!


~ 1 ~


Our Christmas tree is up, our stockings are hung, the advent calendar is partially consumed, and one lone candle on the advent wreath is waning.

For Advent for the last 5 or so years, I’ve wrapped 2-3 new Christmas books and had them on the table with the basket of Christmas books on the first Sunday of advent. It’s been a fun way to kick off Advent.

A number of years ago we owned no Christmas picture books, and I wasn’t ready to jump on in and buy 25 or more all at once to do the one-book-a-day thing I saw around the internet. So, I just did 3 and we filled in with library books – just having them laying around the house rather than wrapped and waiting. The new ones were wrapped and opened on the first day of advent to be added to our collection. When we started, our picture books were in a basket and I swapped out our normal collection for only Christmas books. That’s unfeasible now, but we still only have the Christmas books (and the Christmas music!) out from the first Sunday in Advent until January 1st.

This year our new books were While Shepherds Watched by Jenni Fleetwood, A Christmas Carol with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman, and A Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas with illustrations by Trina Schart Hyman.

I usually get some new Christmas music each year, too, but I have nothing on my wish list this year. Our family favorites are Kemper Crabb’s A Medieval Christmas and Maddy Prior’s A Tapestry of Carols (both of which were gifted to us by my brother – thanks, Geoff!). Have any recommendations?


~ 2 ~


pretty * happy * funny * real

~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~



round button chicken

Confection Selection – oh my goodness, how this takes up my kitchen and my week!

This is the 13th year of this fancy, elaborate, beautiful, fantastic bake sale I help put on at our church. We have a coordinator team of 4 to make it happen and helpers galore! It is amazing what can happen when everyone pitches in and does what they are good at. Dozens of women bake and craft and help and we raise thousands of dollars (last year it was $6,000) for the local Pregnancy Center.

This year we were featured by the paper and my mother-in-law (whose idea it was to start this whole thing 13 years ago) twisted my arm to be at the photo shoot with the paper. No pictures of me were chosen for the article. No, but my Periscope-speaking practice came in handy. I was the one nominated to do the short video for the paper’s website.

If you’re in the area, you should definitely come on Saturday and support the Tri-City Pregnancy Network!


~ 3 ~


The weather is extra-cold and icy and I have not been going outside at all, even to walk. This is very bad for my step count. Forget about health and fitness and weight loss and all that jazz – my step stats are plummeting!

My numbers would be even more abysmal than they already are if it weren’t for my latest greatest gadget: a portable elliptical.

I’ve had it for a couple months now and it’s great! I can sit and peddle while writing or browsing the internet – the only problem is that I have a tendency to use it as a foot rest rather than make it actually go.


~ 4 ~


I did a big chunk of my Christmas shopping last weekend – online, of course. It’s so hard because the last thing I actually want is more stuff in our house. But, if we can simply add fresh new pieces to current collections, then Christmas is much less of a stuff-overload problem.

Here are the collections we keep (that may or may not be added to this Christmas):

  • Books (of course – everyone always gets at least one book for Christmas and for birthdays)
  • Legos
  • Duplos
  • Playmobil
  • Loving family doll house
  • Wood blocks & BRIO train tracks
  • Lincoln Logs
  • Play kitchen <— cute handmade food link!

The best Christmas gifts we gave last year were Black-Friday-special basic Kindles (not Fires: no apps, no games, no internet browser) with covers to our older boys. They can grab those and have 100+ books at their fingertips. They have read the 100+ books (mostly free) I’ve put on them, but – thank goodness – they don’t mind rereading books.

If you’re still looking for some gift ideas, here are some of my older posts that might give you some ideas:


~ 5 ~


The Scholé Sisters Newsletter goes out this afternoon! We moved the list from Sarah’s account to mine, so hopefully that won’t result in any troubles with delivery or confusion over changed footer info. Now I can include a form to sign up right here for you:



P.S. We’re working on a Scholé Sisters project that you’re going to love! That’s all I can say about that, though, because it’s not my secret to tell. :)


~ 6 ~



On Tuesday I’m starting something fun, functional, and free!

Simplified Email: Work Your Inbox will be a short 5-day mini-training, delivered by email, all about how to reclaim your inbox as a useful space rather than a junk-collector. If you have hundred – or even thousands – of emails sitting in your inbox right now, I’ll help you get down to only a handful in 5 days and also show you how to keep your email inbox under control.

Simplified Email is no longer available, but you can find all my courses by joining Simply Convivial Membership!

~ 7 ~


Giveaway Time!

TDN banner

Third Day Naturals is a small, home-based business making scrumptious soaps and lotions. Sarah David, who runs TDN with her husband Robert, is now the person I email when I have a “Can I use this on my face?” sort of question, and she always graciously responds with good information. I buy the soap my son uses to wash his face from Third Day Naturals and I also use their vanilla lip balm approximately every single day. I love their lotion sticks, which is basically a giant lip balm stick you can apply anywhere.

So you can enter to win a prize package made up of

Each one in your choice of scent (except the jelly, which is always unscented).

To enter, tell me your favorite Christmas picture book or read aloud in the comments. I’m in need of ideas for next year. :) The winner will be announced next Friday.

If you can’t wait for the giveaway to end or you would like to choose your own products for gift-giving, through December you can use the discount code TDNgifts for 15% off your entire purchase at Third Day Naturals!

Disclosure: Although I am an affiliate for Third Day Naturals, I am not being otherwise compensated for this giveaway or review. They asked if they could give a Christmas package away, and I thought you all would love it, so I said yes. :)

Leave a comment and enter to win!

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49 Responses

  1. Kelly
    | Reply

    We just read The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg for the first time. The illustrations are beautiful and the story was fun to listen to while coloring a page that said Jesus loves me, using a candy cane for the J.

  2. Kortney
    | Reply

    What about keeping the Christmas books out till January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany? For us those few extra days after the rest of the world has moved on to the New Year are so sweet.

  3. I can’t pick just one favorite! Maybe “Christmas in the Country” or the Jan Brett Christmas books? I can tell you that my 2-year-old’s favorite this year is the Ezra Jack Keats illustrated version of “The Little Drummer Boy,” which she calls “the pompa-romp-pum book.” So maybe that’s my favorite, since we’ve read/sung it eleventy-twelve times a day since Thanksgiving and I’m not tired of it yet. :)

  4. Karen @ Living Unabridged
    | Reply

    I’m assuming you already have “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” because that is our must read favorite. James Herriot’s “The Christmas Day Kitten” is beloved here. And of all the “12 Days Christmas” books I love the one by Leigh Grant the best. (Close second is the Robert Sabuda pop-up)

  5. Kelly
    | Reply

    I just pulled out our boxes of books and movies and now I have LOTS of recommendations!
    1. Jotham’s Journey and the rest of the books in the series. We are reading the newest, Ishtar’s Odyssey this year.
    2. The Crippled Lamb
    3. The Three Trees
    4. Olive, the Other Reindeer. We don’t focus on Santa and that part of Christmas, but this book is fun, simply because of the play on words.

  6. Danielle Hardy
    | Reply

    Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes

  7. Wendy
    | Reply

    The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey is a favorite here! Christmas in the Trenches, too!

  8. Megan
    | Reply

    We love The Berenstain Bears First Christmas! Thanks for the giveaway.

  9. Heather
    | Reply

    The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey!

  10. Nicole
    | Reply

    I’m still picking a favorite. :) The Nativity, illustrated by Ruth Sanderson is very pretty.

  11. April
    | Reply

    Favorite is “Charlie Brown Christmas”, “The Grinch”, “Santa Mouse”, “Christmas Carole”, “Night Before Christmas” and a great beginning (Adam and Eve) to end (Christ’s Salvation) is “One Wintry Night” By Ruth Bell Graham.

  12. April
    | Reply

    Oops, forgot another favorite that you can sing along with…”Drummer Boy”.

  13. Alana
    | Reply

    There are so many great ones. The one I’m hoping to add to our collection next is Richard Scarry’s The Animals’ Merry Christmas.

  14. Lisa A
    | Reply

    My favorite children’s Christmas book, hands down, is A Small Miracle by Peter Collington. It’s actually a wordless picture book and its just such a beautiful story.

    A close second is Tommie dePaola’s Clown of God. I get all choked up every time I read it.

  15. Lauren Bassford
    | Reply

    We go with the classics – the Grinch is our current favorite!

  16. Jennifer
    | Reply

    The Crippled Lamb by: Max Lucado
    This book is so touching!

  17. Amber Brown
    | Reply

    We like Mortimer’s Christmas! :)

  18. Julia
    | Reply

    We always enjoy reading The Polar Express at Christmas.

  19. Leah
    | Reply

    We like “J is for Jesus” :)

  20. Heather Rivers
    | Reply

    My husband grew up with a selection of little books produced by Concordia Publishing House, Arch Books series. I searched for the “older” looking illustrations to bring back the nostalgia of childhood. Many Christmas books available.

  21. Melissa
    | Reply

    Saw the article in the paper. Great job! Our family’s favorite Christmas music: Hymns for All the Saints: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany (, Stuart Neill’s God in the Manger (Ligonier Ministries) and Selah’s Rose of Bethlehem.

  22. anna
    | Reply

    We love Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson

  23. Jessica
    | Reply

    My favorite Christmas picture book this year is “Song of the Stars” by Sally Loyd Jones.

  24. Debbie
    | Reply

    Tomie de Paola books
    Jotham’s Journey, Tabitha’s Travels, Bartholomew’s Passage and Ishtar’s Odyssey by Arnold Ytreeide (haven’t read that last one yet)
    My 8 y.o. is loving the daily page of a library book called Advent Storybook by Antonie Schneider
    Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (goes with daily Jesse Tree ornaments, but make yourself a list to work from because, of course, they don’t match any set you already have or are making! ;))
    The Advent Jesse Tree by Dean Meador Lambert (again, make a post-it list and stick it in the front of your book for easy reference)
    Plus, several already mentioned; it’s a fun season!

  25. Leisa
    | Reply

    One of my favorite Christmas books is “Red Ranger Came Calling.” I also love “Gift of the Magi.”

  26. Loranelle Lockyear
    | Reply

    Since I was a little girl, I have always loved Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree. It’s (obviously) not a newer title, but it’s a cute story anyway. :-)

  27. Terri S
    | Reply

    Our favorites have been the Arnold Ytreeide series for Advent – “Jotham’s Journey,” “Bartholomew’s Passage,” “Tabitha’s Travels,” and new out this year we are reading “Istar’s Odyssey.” Really fun with historical information and people you can relate to.

  28. Judith Martinez
    | Reply

    I really love The Christmas Carol.

  29. J
    | Reply

    My ALL-TIME FAVORITE Christmas read-aloud is The Christmas Doll by Elvira Woodruff. I read it every single year. It’s one of those books that leave you feeling rich because you have a warm place to sleep. (Don’t be fooled by the word doll in the title, this not a girls-only book.)

  30. Catie
    | Reply

    We love ‘The Last Straw.’

  31. Laura Leigh Vickers
    | Reply

    My girls always enjoy “The Cajun Night Before Christmas” by “Trosclair” and Howard Jacobs. They also love “Mooseltoe” by Margie Palatini. Both books cause a case of the giggles.

  32. amy
    | Reply

    I really love ‘Who is Coming to Our House?’
    and Polar Express, and Song of the Stars.

  33. Molly
    | Reply

    ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas!

  34. MaryBeth
    | Reply

    Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs is a great one for younger children. And Jonathan Toomey or A Christmas Carol are great read aloud and discussions with a little older age.

  35. Julie
    | Reply

    My family’s Christmas picture book collection has developed buy the generosity of Aunties and Grandparents. One of my favorites is a Little Golden Book “Nativity Story”

  36. Amanda Roby
    | Reply

    I just bought (and had signed for my kids!) the new book Just Nicholas, by Annie Kratzsch and Tessa Janes. It’s the story of Saint Nicholas in picture book form, and has a parent resource section in the back to help guide discussion with kids. Thanks for the chance at a great giveaway, and thanks for the list of books in the comments from all your lovely readers!

  37. Mama Rachael
    | Reply

    Goodness, I don’t have a favorite Christmas read aloud. Wish I did, and I’ll find one some day… just gotta keep looking!

    Though, perhaps right now its just Luke 1 and 2.

  38. Arenda
    | Reply

    I’d recommend “B is for Bethlehem” by Isabel Wilner (although it’s for younger children). It’s a Christmas alphabet book, but with pretty wonderful rhyming couplets like, “A’s for Augustus, emperor of Rome / Who decreed, ‘To be counted, let each man go home.’ “

  39. sharon fogelman
    | Reply

    The Night Before Christmas!

  40. Jeni G
    | Reply

    We really like The Magical Christmas Horse at our house!

  41. Susannah
    | Reply

    We’re reading Ishtar’s Odyssey because we have enjoyed Ytreeide’s other advent stories over the past few years. We are also reading Bible passages as suggested by a free Jesse Tree resource I have had for a few years. The children made polymer clay ornaments for it several years ago and are still using those.

  42. Susannah
    | Reply

    Oh, and last year we read A Tree for Peter, which just recently came back into print. It’s a lovely story.

  43. Wendi S
    | Reply

    It’s so hard to choose by if I have to…my favorite would be “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree”.

  44. Zoae
    | Reply

    We just read the Story from Luke, over and over…

  45. Rebekah
    | Reply

    We like The Legend of the Candy Cane. I like checking out many different Christmas books from the library and discovering new favorites.

  46. Dani M.
    | Reply

    We enjoy Hilary Knight’s Twelve Days of Christmas. The illustrations are pretty and the story happening in the background is so clever.

  47. Bethany
    | Reply

    The Nutcracker! We had a beautiful version of it when I was a little girl and I was mesmerized by the pictures.

  48. Amy
    | Reply

    I love The Story of Little Christmas by George MacDonald. My almost 3-year-old daughter was born on Christmas day, so I can’t wait to read this story to her :)

  49. Jennifer
    | Reply

    I have a big stack from the library that I’ve wrapped to open one per day; many of the titles have been recommended here. We haven’t got through them all yet, but one that I read before I wrapped it made me cry: The Christmas Tapestry. Beautiful story. My favorite fun book is The Grinch. :)

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