tips

Creating positive messages for Christmas

So you’ve decided to do an advent activity based on positive messages, whether just for the kids, the family or maybe even a group of people you see regularly.

It’s a lovely, positive way to celebrate Christmas, and can be very colourful, too, but sometimes, writing the messages may seem a little daunting.

Writing the messages

getting set to write…

Apart from the obvious need to get materials ready to write the messages, how do you prepare to write positive Christmas messages?

The reality is you may have to push yourself and do it when you’re tired or grumpy, but as much as possible try the following ideas to make writing easier:

  • remember it’s going to be fun seeing them read what you write
  • think of the lasting impact this December could have
  • give yourself some time to do this – rushing just makes it harder (and makes mistakes more likely)
  • sit somewhere comfortable so you can relax
  • make it fun for you – have a nice drink and a snack beside you, play some music you like, burn a candle to encourage your sense of smell, etc
  • have some props around you to help – maybe photos of the kids doing things, your diary so you can remember things you’ve done together, a print out of the tips below, and so on.

When to write…

You could write the messages each day, for example write them out each evening in preparation to be read the next day. I like this as it will be fresh and relevant to the day, and is probably easier to do than writing 24 messages at once. But I would have a few spare ones written in advance in case you don’t get to it on any particular day (like when you’re out at Christmas functions or carols by candlelight!)

Or you can write out all the messages in November so they’re all done for the count down. How you’re going to present them will also impact on when you write them!

What to write…

What to actually write in the messages is the biggest hurdle for some people. So here are a few tips:

  • keep it simple – “I love how kind you are” or “Your smile brightens up my day” are short but meaningful
  • remember the good deeds done throughout the year, not just recently
  • focus on the good, don’t try to change anyone. For instance “well done for setting the table this week” is much better than “remember to set the table every day”
  • don’t give the same message to everyone in the family, at least not everyday
  • use sentences (“generous” isn’t as nice to read as “you are so generous, Jane!”) but one sentence per message will usually be enough
  • stick to things they can control – so make it more about behaviour and attitude than appearance. It’s much more affirming to be told “you are friendly” and “you are good at helping people” than “you have nice hair”
  • add their name to at least some of the messages – it has more power that way

And if you’re really struggling, here are some actual message ideas:

  • I love your smile
  • you make me laugh!
  • you are very kind to animals
  • you’ve worked really hard this year
  • thanks for making me so many dinners
  • you are a great friend
  • I am proud of you
  • you are a great big sister
  • your integrity makes you beautiful
  • you are a great cook!
  • I’m proud of you trying hard at school
  • you give great hugs!
  • I appreciate you saving water when you can
  • you are very artistic
  • you have a great fashion sense
  • I love your laugh
  • you make good choices
  • it’s great watching you play sport
  • you are a great team player
  • you are good at thinking about things
  • I’m pleased you are loyal
  • I’m grateful you’re always there for me
  • You show me the way, even when you’re scared of the path

Cheerful cake pops to make with kids

I made my first cake pops today.

cake pops iced in green with red decorations added

Some red and green Christmas cheer via cake pops

I may be a bit behind the trends but at least I bought the trays a little while ago!

My son’s birthday is next month and I am planning some themed cake pops for his party so I figured I should have a trial run or two first. Thus, I made some cake pops today.

Of course, as a test run, I didn’t touch his birthday theme and gave them a Christmassy touch instead!

They were fun to make and easy enough with my children so this could be a fun activity to build up the Christmas excitement during December.

My cake pop tips…

So here’s what I learned today…

  1. fill the holes to about level. On the plus side, if you over fill them you simply get cute little mushroom caps that easily come off the tin to leave perfect cake balls.
  2. they cook quickly which was great for my three year old helper. She wasn’t so keen on the waiting-for-them-to-cool-down phase though! Use that time to prepare any decorations. If you want lots of cake pops, the quick cooking time would be a bonus.
  3. make sure your icing is quite thick (and maybe even starting to set). Mine was pretty thick I thought and it covered the balls well but as they sat to set, much of the icing slowly dripped away…

    Cake pops iced in green - and dripping!

    Initially, the icing stayed put but after a few minutes it pooled onto the plate…

  4. think ahead of time and have a means of standing your cake pops upright as they dry. An old bit of packaging could do the trick or some firm cardboard with holes poked through. Although you can lay the cake pops on a plate or some greaseproof paper, the finished result is less even.
  5. a little icing on the stick will hold it in place better than just putting in the stick. This is almost instantly better actually.
  6. you will not be able to have the stick placed to best show off each ball (ie seams will be amongst decorations at the top) if you have little people helping you insert the sticks… My four year old was very proud to help but he couldn’t care less where he shoved the sticks!

My Christmassy Cake Pops…

I made a batch of my usual easy cake and had left overs from the cake pop tray.

Simply mix 1 cup self-raising flour, 1 cup sugar, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons milk, 125g butter (melted is easiest) and 2 tablespoons of cocoa.

As cake pops, cook for 15-20 minutes at 180.

Remove from oven and trays. Let cool.

Insert stick.

Coat in green icing (I used yoghurt, icing sugar and green food dye) – best results by tipping the bowl on its side and rolling the cake around.

Decorate with small pieces of red lolly snakes.

Voila!

 

Give resources for Christmas

Giving a resource sounds a bit strange, I’ll grant you that, but I think it is a good idea.

As a gift, it will cost you little but time yet it can be a highly prized gift to receive.

giving helpful tips and resources

A resource is simply offering help

What is a resource gift?

We’re not talking about a bucket of coal or a drum of oil here! A resource is a useful reference so I’m suggesting providing useful information as a gift.

Examples of resource gifts I’ve thought of are:

  1. a list of good books for a certain age group – many parents would love to have some guidance with choosing books
  2. information about a piece of technology (eg a computer, smart phone or mp3 player) for someone who is struggling with the lists of features and prices in choosing what to buy
  3.  a list of great websites on a specific topic – such as places to visit on their planned holiday to Europe, where to find equipment for their new hobby, facilities in the area they are moving to, and so on
  4. tips on dealing with a parenting issue – for instance, if parents are looking for a school give them a list of local schools’ websites along with tips  from parenting and educating experts and your own tips and experiences. Even better if you can add feedback from other parents on the relevant schools
  5. information and tips on caring for something – as a mechanic you could give a new driver a guide to basic car care or a gardener (professional or otherwise!) could give a calendar of tips (eg what pruning and planting to do each month) to someone moving into their first home

Where’s the value?

From one point of view, a resource may not seem to be an impressive gift – let’s face it, it’s just a piece of paper or two.

But it has so much more value than the paper it is written on 🙂

  1. you are giving your time and people appreciate that
  2. you are sharing your knowledge and skills – this may be simple information to you but could provide real insights to others who don’t have your expertise. There is value in knowledge and people pay good money for consultant’s advice so don’t undersell the value of this
  3. you are showing an interest in the person if you give resources relevant to what they are doing or planning – it shows care and thoughtfulness on your part
  4. you could make a huge difference to someone. If your gift saves the person time and worry they will consider it a highly valuable gift.

Adding more value

You can make the resource have a greater impact if you wanted to. Again, these are just a few of my ideas to get you started…

  1. decorate the page and make it actually look nice. If the resource is long enough, present it as a small book and even add cardboard covers with photos or other images to brighten it up
  2. add a relevant item to the present. So add a spanner with the car care tips, some packets of seeds with the gardening tips, a password tool subscription with a list of website or a drink bottle for the new sportsperson
  3. include a voucher for you to spend some follow-up time with the person – maybe an hour teaching the new driver to change a tyre, going with parents to look at new schools or helping your friend pack before they move house.

 

Can you think of other examples of resources to give as gifts?

What resource would you like to receive?

 

Christmas entertaining tips

Entertaining people is one of the delights of Christmas – socialising, seeing those you care for, relaxing and being hospitable. But it comes at a price – preparing to entertain.

Entertaining can mean a lot of cleaning up, buying food and supplies, cooking and planning which can add up to a lot of stress for many people. Especially if you’re on a tight budget and try to minimise expenses.

Here are a few tips to get your entertaining preparations under control this Christmas:

  1. delegate – most Australians are used to ‘bringing a plate’ so don’t be afraid of asking people to help with the food
  2. ignore ‘unseen’ parts of your home for December – don’t bother dusting, vacuuming or even tidying the study, ensuite, garden shed, etc if no one will be going in those areas. Stick to public areas and go for clean and presentable rather than perfect
  3. use short cuts in the kitchen. For example, buy packets of fruit mince pies or fruit cake and just ice them yourself, buy tartlet cases, prepared custard and fruit to make fruit tarts, use an electric mixer or blender instead of stirring or chopping by hand, and cook in advance and freeze food to reduce cooking on the day
  4. get the kids to make paper chains as a cheap decoration that helps keep them busy while you work, too
  5. flat red sheets make great tablecloths – easy to wash, can be reused as sheets and are big enough for large tables. They’re generally cheaper than tablecloths, too. You could decorate them with fabric pens and paints, or leave them plain so you can brighten them up in different ways for each event and following Christmases – pretty runners, tinsel, Christmas balls, scattered popcorn, ivy and other greenery, glitter and paper chains are all ideas for adding interest to the tableRed and white setting for a Christmas table
  6. put some candles around the room and house – they give a lovely light in the evening and can smell beautiful at any time. Candles are much quicker to set out than  a lot of other decorating ideas yet look classy
  7. give yourself permission to relax and enjoy the events you host – people are there to see you and celebrate Christmas, being together and the end of another year so relax and be with them instead of running around aiming for an impossible target of perfection
  8. consider using plastic cutlery and plates so you can set them out in advance without interfering with your daily needs. Before you worry about the low quality plastics or the financial and environmental cost of disposables, think about using some good plastic plates and cutlery such as from your picnic set. The bright colours will just add to the festive atmosphere and plastic takes away any risk of broken dishes hurting people
  9. set yourself a schedule for cleaning so it doesn’t become so overwhelming. For example, sweep and mop the floors on Monday, clean the bathroom on Tuesday and dust on Wednesday. On the actual day you then only need to do a quick once over everything to be ready
What other time and cost saving tips can you add?

Good deeds

We all know that Santa is watching to see who are the good boys and girls, and he loves to acknowledge some of children’s good deeds in his letters, too. But I got thinking – does everyone know what counts as a good deed?

I’d be here all year if I tried to type a complete list of good deeds, but I can give some tips on what makes a good deed and will post some examples one day soon.

Boy in Christmas elf costume

Making someone smile makes you feel good too

So a good deed is:

  • something that makes someone else smile
  • anything you do that helps another person (or more than one person) or the world
  • something ‘out of the ordinary’ – that means not just doing what you have to do or what Mum and Dad tell you to do
  • having a go and doing your best – it doesn’t have to be done perfectly as long as you are working hard at doing something nice

What else do you think makes something count as a good deed?

PS There are some examples of good deeds here and here 🙂

Writing to Santa

Santa loves getting letters from children around the world, and they come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colours – some even come with pictures. Santa is very generous and clever enough to read all sorts of writing and languages, but I thought some tips might make it easier to write as well as easier for Santa to read.

two children writing letters to Santa while wearing Santa hats

Dressing for Christmas makes letter writing even more fun!

Letter writing tips

When writing to Santa

  • remember to start with Santa’s name – maybe Dear Santa or Hello Santa
  • ask for things nicely – even Santa gives more when people use please and thank you
  • finish with your name – Santa has too many children on his lists to know who wrote it without your name on it!
  • let Santa know you’ll leave him a snack
  • ask Mum or Dad to make a copy of your letter as you might like to read it again when you’re grown up or someone might make a beautiful scrapbooking page with your letter and Santa’s answer
  • use your best writing and maybe get mum or dad to draw some lines for you to write on
  • have fun! You can write in red or green, or use lots of colours – it’s Christmas after all!
  • think about writing something that isn’t about presents you want – maybe ask Santa how he is, tell him about your Christmas plans, thank him for last year’s gifts, ask what his favourite colour or book is, or tell him a joke (Santa does love to laugh!)

If you have a little brother or sister, maybe you could write a letter for them, too.

And on behalf of Santa, thank you for writing to him!

 

PS  We have a free template you can use to help write a Santa letter 🙂

Tips on ordering Santa letters

Santa is such a busy man, especially leading up to Christmas, that he sometimes gets other people to help him. I feel very lucky and honoured to help Santa write his letters for Australian children.Girl eading Love Santa letter to baby

So I can do the best job ever for Santa and for his children, here are some ideas on how to best tell me about your special child(ren).

  • only use capital letters for things that need them – names and places need capitals but most toys don’t
  • write to the child rather than about them (you were kind to Mary, trying hard with your writing, playing nicely with John and Betty, and so on)
  • use a nickname if you want – Santa isn’t formal!
  • list presents the child really does want (and you’re happy for them to have! Santa DOES pay attention to requests remember) rather than what you want for them
  • think about the whole year but remember young children won’t remember as much from months ago
  • order a different background design than last year – it’s more fun and brightens up the scrapbook or wherever the child keeps their letters
  • asking for the same letter wording for siblings may make the letters feel less personal, so let Santa write something different for each of them

Remember, Santa letters are about fun and acknowledging children’s achievements and improvements so make sure you have fun and enjoy the process, too!

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