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A Christmas memory ~ Christmas book review

A Christmas Memory front ocver of Capote's A Christmas Memory

by Truman Capote
Perfection Learning, USA, 2000
(original 1956)

Age group

5-9 year olds, and above really


36 page book

Whilst I have not read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, this Christmas book by the same author intrigued me so I got a copy and read it.

The story

Two cousins live together amongst unwelcoming relatives but make beautiful Christmas memories together.


My review

The story is surprisingly short (I ordered it online and was surprised at the thinness of it when it arrived!) but it is beautifully written and heart warming.

Written in the first person by a seven year old boy known as Buddy, it tells the tale of a simple life for Buddy and his sixty-something cousin. We do not get her name, nor Buddy’s real name in the story, nor do we get any background as to why they are living in this large house with other nameless relatives.

Their Christmas traditions are central to their lives – they work at making money all year to be able to buy fruitcake ingredients for some people they fancy (including Mrs Roosevelt!) – and they spend many hours preparing the fruitcakes, making gifts and decorations,  and gathering a Christmas tree.

The book is full of love and warmth, even if their lives aren’t. There is the generosity of the scary Mr Haha, the friend’s longing to give Buddy something special, Buddy’s comfort when his friend gets in trouble, and their appreciation of spending time together. The story is not all happy, but it is peaceful and I finished it feeling good despite the sadness.

Very young children will not follow the story, and there are no pictures, but there is nothing inappropriate so the book can be read to all ages without concern.

The version of the book I read includes some exercises afterwards. Focussing on vocabulary and themes within the story, these are interesting to review or could start some family discussions. Or use it as a Christmas themed homework activity for older children!

Although originally published in 1956 in a magazine and then within Breakfast at Tiffany’s, this story has not dated or gone out of style. It is autobiographical so Buddy’s name is therefore Truman!) and his cousin is Miss Sook Falk.

Would I recommend A Christmas memory? Yes, this is a lovely story from Capote. And it is a quick read for those not wanting a long book.

Gifting money

Image of some presents istting on some Australian dollars with a toy SantaGiving money as a gift can be very practical, but looks a bit boring.

Teenagers, people setting up a new life, someone moving away, being unable to shop easily (hello lock downs and remote living!) are all good reasons that giving money may be a suitable gift choice.

Making cash more fun!

Here are some ideas for making a money gift more fun…

  1. Add a sticker to the notes to create Santa dollars! With our plastic notes in Australia, a sticker should peel off easily enough (but you may want to test it!) for actually spending the money so it’s just a little extra cheer. Australian currency with Santa stickers over the numbers
    In the USA, Santa Dollars are accepted as legal tender – special Santa stickers are added to notes (and look like they are part of the note) and sold for a bit above their value so charities raise funds with a little Christmas fun.
  2. Put it into an explosion box – these are boxes that basically form layers so it looks like a gift and is fun to open! They can be simple layers or fancier with messages and notes attached as well. You can buy them, make them from kits or make them from scratch. open and closed images of a Christmas explosion box
  3. Create an origami box to make it a bit more personal and pretty.
  4. Put the money inside a frame as part of a display
  5. Fill a jar with lollies or chocolates, and pop the cash in the middle. If you can hold a secret, it may take them a while to realise the gift was more than the lollies!
    Cash hidden in a  jar of red and green sarties with A Santa ornament near by
    Tip – you can use a toilet roll holder to keep the cash separate to the money
    Idea – instead of a generic jar, you could fill a drink bottle or a vase instead so the ‘jar’ is also a gift. Or you could get a clear bauble and fill it with tinsel or lollies and the cash.
  6. Hide the money in between the pages of a book – make sure the recipient is likely to read the book soon though! Or you could even cut out holes inside the pages to hide more money without bulging the covers
    Australian $20 note in the pages of a book with an elf picture
  7. If the money is for a specific theme (eg to help someone saving for a house or car, or to buy a new backpack or clothes), package the money in with something relevant. So wrap some dollar notes around a bottle of car polish, inside a pair of hiking socks, or in a bag from their favourite clothing shop.
    Australian notes tucked into the folds of a pair of blue hiking socks

What other ways can cash be presented as a fun gift?

Actually, we have a heap more ideas and will post them soon!

Blue Peter advent crown memory

collage of photos showing a tinsel covered Christmas decorations with candles

I remember watching the TV show Blue Peter as a kid. That was in England – I’m not sure if you watched it in Australia.

I always knew it was almost Christmas when Blue Peter started lighting candle on the candle garland (or maybe it was called  an advent crown?) It was made of metal coat hangers and tinsel, and so many kids I knew made one at least once!

If you would like to create an advent crown of your own, the Blue Peter site has the instructions.

Lighting the candles at school

When I was first teaching, the school had an advent crown which the Head would light during assembly.

One year she lit the candle nearest to her then reached to light one further away, setting her sleeve on fire in the process. She was TOTALLY unaware of what she had done!

The pianist leapt up and patted her sleeve fire out, only to be greeted by the Head saying indignantly, “Mrs ***** what on earth are you doing. Stop it!!!!”

Such was the children’s fear/love (or whatever it was) of the Head, not one of them laughed, gasped or did anything – unlike the staff who were biting their cheeks! True story – one of many!!!

December and summer have arrived!

It is the first of December and that means summer and Christmas!

We woke this morning to find a wreath on our door, with a Christmas mat in front of the door and the excitement that only December can bring!

Christmas elves

Christmas elf and baby with a letter from Santa on a Christmas tree

Do you think they giving us a hint by bringing the Christmas tree and decorations down and sitting on them? Of course, now we can’t put up the tree until tomorrow when they get off it!

Tinkles and Ginger are back out of quarantine!

There was also a letter from Santa and a gift for each of the children, including a silver bracelet for my daughter (the relevance of which is revealed below!!)

Advent calendars

Of course, it also means the start of advent calendars. This year, we have a simple chocolate calendar for my son (who also got a special gift) and a combination of calendars for my daughter. She is getting a bracelet advent calendar and a 12-day candle calendar – each candle has another element of her bracelet.


Strawberry condensed milk biscuits

With the glut of strawberries this year and their bright red colour, it seemed a good ingredient to try baking with this Christmas… I hope you enjoy these easy-to-make, no-egg strawberry biscuits.

Red & white summer Christmas biscuits


228g unsalted butter, softened
1 tin (395g) condensed milk – about 2 cups
4 teaspoons vanilla essence
2 cups plain flour
4 teaspoons bicarb soda (or baking powder will work)
3 drops red food colouring (optional)
225g strawberries
3/4 cup white chocolate chips/bits
3 tablespoons green sanding or sparkling sugar (optional)


Cut up the strawberries into 6 to 8 chunks:

Turn on the oven at 160°C, and grease a biscuit tray.

Cream the butter until it is a light yellow colour.

Add the condensed milk and vanilla, then mix thoroughly.

Stir in the flour and bicarb soda.

Gently fold in the strawberries and chocolate chips. Then add in the food colouring and mix lightly so you get a marbled effect. Alternatively, to have all red biscuits, add in the food colouring before the strawberries and chocolate. And add more food colouring if you want brighter red biscuits!

Put tablespoons of biscuit dough onto the tray.

Sprinkle green sanding sugar over the biscuits to complete the Christmas colours. However, simple red and white biscuits are just as pretty if you don’t have any sanding sugar or don’t want the added sugar!

Pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Cool on a baking tray for about 5 minutes.

I hope you enjoy these Christmassy biscuits! If they work out well, we’d love for you  to share some photos.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas – Christmas book review

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas

picture of a lighthouse with a star on top - cover of the picture bookby Ronda Armitage
illustrated by David Armitage
Scholastic Ltd, London, 2014 (first 2002)

Age group:
Format: 32 page picture book

Have you read stories about Mr Grinling, the lighthouse keeper? It is a popular book and this Christmas addition to the series is welocme for many fans!

The story

Mr Grinling is about to retire from being a Lighthouse Keeper so he and his great-nephew George clean and decorate the lighthouse for Christmas, only to get trapped there by a storm.

My review

For those who have read about Mr Grinling the lighthouse keeper before, this is a lovely Christmas addition to the series started over 30 years ago. In all, there are 8 lighthouse keeper books by Ronda and David Armitage.

The pair write letters to Santa, even a last minute one which stuck to a window, and see a response. As an adult, I did wonder if it would be safe enough for Santa to visit the lighthouse in that storm, or if it perhaps would have been better to let George know they would get stockings when they go back to the mainland if Santa didn’t make it to the lighthouse.

Boy looking out of a lighthouse window as a seagull flies pastMrs Grinling discovers they are trapped and does her best to bring Christmas to them. Even the seagulls got into the spirit of Christmas by helping the Christmas lunch arrive at the lighthouse!

I can’t avoid mentioning there were some inconsistencies we noticed – one basket produced two roasts, a dish of vegetables, bonbons and more; Mrs G sent food over twice, but didn’t notice one load was lost so there was little food overnight (made it more exciting though!); the seagulls were altruistic for Christmas but mindless when they took lost food. Children won’t worry about these details and they didn’t detract from the story, but I did notice them.

Would I recommend The Lighthouse Keeper’s Christmas? Yes! This is a lovely story, with positive lessons, happy pictures and some Santa magic so I think it is great for many ages.

Elves are back… in quarantine!

They’re back! It’s one week to December and that means 7 day quarantine starts today!

Our elves, Tinkles and Ginger, arrived overnight and are isolating in our family room. They brought their own sanitiser, tissues and toilet paper, plus a sleeping bag to stay comfy.

Two CHristmas elves in a clear box for quarantine

Even though there are no COVID cases in the North Pole and our borders are opening up, Santa and our elves decided a quarantine period was still a good idea. Or maybe Tinkles and Ginger just wanted an excuse to spend another week watching us!

Obviously, quarantine is not an easy word so Tinkles struggled spelling it before giving up and writing they will be alone for 7 days! Here is her note:

Childish handwriting on red paper says "7 day alone then we play. Love Tinkles & Ginger" Also has two failed attempts to spell quarantine!

“7 day quarantine (alone) then we play! Love Tinkles & Ginger”

Has your elf made an appearance for 2021 yet?

The crayons’ Christmas ~ Christmas book review

The Crayons’ Christmas front and back covers of The Crayons' Christmas

by Drew Daywalt
Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
HarperCollins Children’s Books, Great Britain, October 2019

Age group

5-10 year olds


32 page hardcover book

I have enjoyed reading The Day the Crayons Quit and the Day the Crayons Came Home, so I loved the idea of watching the crayons at Christmas as well – and I wasn’t disappointed!

inner page of Crayon's Christmas with a puzzle in an envelope

The story

Duncan’s box of crayons are having fun in the lead up to Christmas and receiving letters and parcels. In each envelope for a crayon is something for readers to find and play with…

My review

Our crayon friends are enjoying December. They make Christmas cards, sing Christmas carols, put up Christmas decorations, wrap presents and even put on a Christmas play. All activities children may be doing at home and school as well, which makes it relatable for them to read. Although a day playing in the snow is not that common in Australia just before Christmas!Game board and pages of The Crayon's Christmas picture book

The envelopes and parcels include things like a paper crayon with clothes (this one made me laugh), a game board, some Christmas decorations to hang, and a dreidel.

I love the hidden bits of humour throughout the book and activities. For instance, in the Great Crayon Holiday Race, you could loose your wrapper, melt to underwear or have Picasso admire your artwork! Not to mention melting away from stress and an aged candy cane. I did cringe at a dad joke or two though…

There are actually a few reminders about being nice to each other as well – gaining moves in the game through being considerate, giving gifts, and sharing gifts.

The world tour map from some travelling crayons is, ah, interesting! Who knew the Great Wall of China was in Africa? But the continents are correctly labelled so it can be a useful map for discussions around the world and where landmarks actually belong.

Pop up Christmas tree within The Crayon's Christmas picture book

{Spoiler alert} At the end, the crayons gave Duncan a special Christmas gift in the form of a Christmas tree pop up

Would I recommend The crayon’s Christmas? Yes, I heartily recommend this book for a range of ages as it is fun, made me laugh and has additional activities and surprises within. A great Christmas gift or addition to your Christmas bookshelf.

Deck the halls ~ Christmas movie review

A cold night called for a movie so we tried a Danny De Vito Christmas movie and had a few laughs.

movie cover for Deck the HallsDeck the halls

Movie duration:  1 hour 33 minutes
Movie made: December 2006

Buddy Hall (played by Danny De Vito) and his family move next door to a small town optometrist, Steve Finch (Matthew Broderick).

Steve is a quiet man who likes things just so. Steve is the local Christmas day, helping the ton run their Winterfest each year. Buddy is more extraverted and gets bored quickly.

Buddy’s daughters discover you can see houses on Google Earth – but buddy’s new house isn’t showing. So he reacts by adding some Christmas lights to his house so it becomes more visible! Of course, it becomes extreme and attracts a lot of attention to their street. Steve predictably doesn’t appreciate the lights nor the attention…

The house really was lit up, using 14,300 LED lights! They made a digital skin over the roof. Yet, the satellite still couldn’t pick up the house… Light covered house from Deck the Halls movie

There are a number of incidents between the two men, and they become very competitive including a Stephen Bradbury moment to amuse us Aussies! Their wives, meanwhile, become friends and get annoyed with their husbands’ behaviour. A family Christmas is now threatened for both Buddy and Steve.

Would I recommend Deck the Halls? There were some funny moments and some sweet bits. Despite the big names in the cast, it’s not the greatest Christmas movie but is fun to watch. And the ending is really pretty. In the words of my 11 year old, it was ok but not really a big plot to it.



Food Christmas wreath

I wanted to share the Christmas wreath I made last year.

COlourful food-themed Christmas wreath

I like bright colours, as you can probably tell, and love Christmas so I had a great time making this.

It is food themed so there are lots of gingerbread people and macaroons (shop bought decorations) with some candy cane twists, cherries and red, green and candy cane striped ribbons. I also added a red bell at the bottom. And, of course, the words Merry Christmas across the middle.

I am really proud of how it turned out – what do you think of it? I haven’t decided yet on my theme for this year – any ideas?

What is a Hanukah Dreidel?

In Australia, Christmas is well known (and yes we’re slightly biased about that at Love Santa!) but there are other significant events and traditions in December.

One such celebration is Hanukah.


Also spelt Chanukah, Hanukah means dedication. It is a Jewish celebration of lights that lasts for 8 days. While not the most significant Jewish celebration, it has increased in prominence in recent years in response to Christmas celebrations in the western world.

Hanukah dates back to the second century BC (so about 2,200 years ago) when the Jews reclaimed their holy temple in Jerusalem back from the Greeks. There was little oil left after the Greeks left but they managed to light candles in the menorah for 8 nights. After 8 days, they had prepared a new batch of oil with appropriate rituals.

hanukkiyah - 9 candles in a menorah for HanukahTraditions include lighting one candle a day for eight days in the hanukkiyah (a nine candle menorah – something like a candelabra), often putting the candles in a window or doorway, and saying certain prayers. Dishes cooked in oil are common in honour of the limited oil available at the temple – the most well known being latke (potato pancakes) and sufganya (jam filled doughnuts). It is also a time of many songs and singing.

Children were once given gelt or gifts of coins to reward positive behaviour and devotion to studying the Torah. The gelt was also to encourage children to give tzedakah (charity). Over time, this resulted in foil covered chocolate coins and the giving of gifts more like Christmas presents since the late 1800s.

Hanukah is part of the winter solstice – although it is summer for us of course! It can start on any day except Tuesday, and is on the 25th of Kislev. Kislev is a month in Jewish calendar which is lunar based so Hanukah start anytime between 28 November and 26 December in a western calendar. This year, Hanukah begins on the evening of Sunday 28 November and ends on Monday 6 December 2021.


A wooden dreidel (spinning top) showing SHIN

Another Hanukah tradition is playing with a dreidel.

A dreidel is a four sided spinning top. On each side is written a Hebrew letter – nun, gimmel, hei and shin. Together, these letters represent nes gadol hayah sham, “a great miracle happened there”. It is played by placing a bet on which letter the top will land on – the winner getting a pot of coins, nuts or similar.

Alternatively, children may have spin offs to see who can spin their dreidel the longest.


Cut out pattern of a dreidel (spinning top) in bright colours

The crayon’s Christmas includes a cut out dreidel to make. You can see all four sides here

Writing to Santa

This time in 7 weeks it will be Christmas Eve!

Get those letters started!

A child's hands and hair as she writes a letter to Santa (asking for My Little Pony)One of the most special Christmas activities or traditions is writing a letter to Santa. And if you and your children have not yet thought about these letters, now may be a good time to start…

With COVID-19, postal deliveries are much slower and that is likely to be more so as more items are posted and delivered in the lead up to Christmas. So getting letters to the North Pole (and back again if you’re lucky enough to get a reply) may take longer this year.

And if you use Santa letters for ideas on children’s gifts as well, the sooner you get those ideas the better as, again, delivery of online orders may be slow and shops may not stay fully stocked with supply chain delays.




Writing Santa’s letter

Little girl writing on a Love Santa letter template

What is so great about writing to Santa? Well, mostly it is fun!

It also teaches kids letter writing skills, literacy, and gives them something constructive to do while they wait for Santa to actually arrive!

I also find that Santa letters are a great way to lookback on your children when they were little. I have copies of their Santa letters in an album (along with letters signed Love Santa!) and my kids love looking back at what they used to want and how their writing has improved.

If you’re not sure how to start writing to Santa, you can use our Santa letter template and our writing to Santa tips. We also have some tips on making the letters extra special with colour and drawings.

Remember that the letter is from the child. so let them help – whether that means they write most of it and you can’t read it, they dictate and you scribe, you write for them and they sign in, or some combination, just let them feel some ownership of the letter. And you can set the example by writing your own letter to Santa – it’s a great family activity to write letters together.

Love Santa - www.lovesanta.com.au

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