Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Santa brought ...

... a new house and kid-sized firetruck (that doubles as a book). The kids set to work decorating the house and began a full interior remodel by adding several homey touches including a fireplace, recessed lights, and a rocket launcher. The exterior still requires some TLC.

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gifts by Regina Fackelmayer - Book Review

In our home the Christmas tree stays up until Epiphany so we're still in full celebration mode here. We also have all of our Christmas books out and continue to read the stories during winter break. We recently checked out The Gifts by Regina Fackelmayer from our library and enjoyed it so much that we ordered our own copy to add to our Christmas children's book collection.

The Gifts by Regina Fackelmayer, illustrated by Christa Unzner. NorthSouth Books (October 2009); ISBN 9780735822658; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from personal library

A kindhearted and independent young girl named Mia finishes her holiday shopping on Christmas Eve and purchases a little Christmas tree in a pot. On her way home she encounters a bearded old man who has fallen on an icy patch, and she helps him pick up all of his packages. When she arrives home she realizes that she left her tree behind when she stopped to help the man. She goes back out into the snowy night to search for it but, instead of finding her tree, she meets a sad young boy who has lost his hat. With a smile, she gives him her own new hat. Her generosity does not go unnoticed. Later that night, she receives a very special gift of her own from two magical visitors (one looks a lot like Santa).

The Gifts made it on last year's The Horn Book Magazine's Holiday High Notes and rightly so. This picture book glows with holiday warmth and focuses on the spirit of giving. Through simple acts of kindness, Mia helps others and spreads Christmas joy. Unzner gives the illustrations a wonderful hazy and sometimes snowy feel by speckling all the pictures with small splatters of paint, and this technique adds to the fantasy. The mystery of what happened to Mia's tree had my kids on the edge of the couch wanting to learn the outcome. They also loved Mia's pets -- her dog wears a silly green sweater! The book was first published in Switzerland under the title Ein Weihnachtsbaum für Mia (A Christmas Tree for Mia).


Did your kids give any gifts from the heart this year? Every year my daughter paints special pictures to give as gifts. (See past creations: 2009 and 2008). This year she decided to paint Christmas trees. She used the glittery tree on the front cover of The Gifts as inspiration for her paintings and enjoyed learning how to make snow speckles like Unzer's by flicking the bristles of her brush with her fingers.

"If we have the opportunity to be generous with our hearts, ourselves, we have no idea of the depth and breadth of love's reach."

- Margaret Cho

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (12/27/10)

We're busy enjoying our winter break together so my posts will be sparse for the next week. However, this week's Full to the Brim should keep you busy in the meantime.

Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

Book giveaways:

Busy Working Mama - Book Giveaway Ends 1/9/11
The Classic Treasury of Childhood Wonders (National Geographic Children's Books)
Read Aloud Dad - Book Giveaway Ends 1/31/11
book of choice from New York Review Children's Collection Set
Susan Heim - Book Giveaway Ends 1/4/10
Amazing Cows by Sandra Boynton
You Have How Many Kids - Book Giveaway Ends 12/31/10
The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams by Rhonda Hayter (middle grade)
A Hen's Nest - Book Giveaway Ends 1/10/11
The Classic Treasury of Childhood Wonders (National Geographic Children’s Books)
Katie's Literature Lounge - Book Giveaway Ends 12/29/10
Flat Stanley: Stanley's Christmas Adventure
Mod Podge Rocks - Book Giveaway Ends 12/29/10
Every Day's a Holiday: Year-Round Crafting with Kids
Tight Wad Momma - Book Giveaway Ends 12/28/10
The Everything Kids Hidden Pictures Book
Obviously MARvelous - Book Giveaway Ends 1/9/11
set of 6 Alphabet Kids books and tote
Simply Stacie - Book Giveaway Ends 1/10/11
The Arabian Nights from Barefoot Books
The Itchy Homeschooler - Book Giveaway Ends 1/9/11
Publications Internation Ltd 6 book set give-away of interactive library, including SD-X Interactive Reader Pen
Escape Through the Pages - Book Giveaway Ends 12/31/10
A Porcupine in a Pine Tree: A Canadian 12 Days of Christmas by Helaine Becker & Werner Zimmermann
There's a Book - Book Giveaway Ends 12/31/10
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Washington, D.C.
Mommy B Knows Best - Book Giveaway Ends 1/3/11
LeapFrog Tag Reading System
Rockin Mama - Book Giveaway Ends 1/7/11
Chuggington Prize Pack includes book Delivery Day by Publications International
From the Mixed Up Files ... of Middle Grade Authors - Book Giveaway Ends 12/30/11
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass, Saraswati’s Way by Monika Schroder, The Case of the Crooked Carnival (Doyle and Fossey, Science Detectives) by Michele Torrey and illustrated by Barbara Johansen Newman, The Rise and Fall of Mount Majestic by Jennifer Trafton and illustrated by Brett Helquist

Several of my favorite blogs are hosting special iPad giveaways thanks to Target. Each iPad comes with a selection of children's books:

Go to Frugal Family Fun Blog to enter to win an iPad and an assortment of children’s books courtesy of Target! Ends 1/20/11
The Activity Mom Reviews and Giveaways is also giving away an iPad and selection of children's books thanks to Target. Ends 1/20/11
No Time For Flashcards has posted a Target Read With Me Prize Package, too. Ends 1/20/11

And ... Resourceful Mommy is giving away a NOOKColor. Ends 1/7/11

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer also has a new book giveaway linky with lots of YA and some other kid's books.

Have a children's book you are giving away on your blog? Let me know! I'll spread the word here!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Silent Night, Holy Night

It's a lovely sight to watch the snow falling softly outside this afternoon. Everything is calm & bright as we prepare for our Christmas Eve festivities and look forward to celebrating our Savior's birth. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Christmas Eve

"Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon,
Christmas hath a chillness
Warmer than the heat of June,
Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show:
For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low."

- Christina Rosetti

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Share the Joy - Giving during the holidays with a little help from Lands' End

'Tis better to give than to receive. Have you taken the opportunity to give in some way this holiday season? Earlier this month I received an exciting email from Lands’ End. They offered my family the amazing opportunity to participate their Share the Joy program. We received a $100 gift card with the instructions to use it to "Share the Joy" and help those in need through charities and activities of our choice.

Throughout the year both my husband and I give of of our time and talents by volunteering with various organizations. We also give monetarily. But, up to this point, we really haven't discussed in detail with our children what it means to give - to share the joy. This year we involved them directly in the giving this holiday season.

As a family, we decided to use our gift card and share the joy locally by giving to a charity and sharing the joy with an individual. I obtained a wish list of items from our local violence safe program that helps provide assistance to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. My family went on a shopping trip together and bought several items off the wish list including diapers, toothbrushes and soap. My daughter spent quite a bit of time picking out a nice hairbrush. It was a wonderful bonding experience and a great way to help the kids think of others instead of themselves. The other half of the money we decided to share with a neighbor who recently lost her husband to cancer. Holidays can be so hard for those that have experienced the death of someone close, and we wanted to let her know that we are still thinking of her. We hope she enjoys "Sharing the Joy" in some way in memory of her husband. We made an angel card to accompany the gift card using this Candy Cane Angel Template.

Lands' End has a tradition of also giving a few of their employees the chance to Share the Joy. You can read about it on the Lands' End Facebook Page.

Thanks so much to Lands' End for this opportunity. I grew up near Lands' End headquarters in Wisconsin and can personally attest as to how much the company does for their community. They have a long legacy of giving. I also full-heartedly recommend their products because I know they strive for quality and everything comes with a full guarantee.


As far as reading about giving, this Christmas we found a Zonderkidz book titled, The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving. This particular book has a Christian message and talks about the birth of Jesus and the gifts given by the Wise Men. The cubs learn that it is "more blessed to give than to receive." The book includes a discussion page in the back and suggests ways kids can involve themselves in giving.

What are your favorite children's books on the topic of giving and gifts? Do you have a favorite charity or volunteer during the holidays? How do involve your children?

Wordless Wednesday - Keeping Christ in Christmas

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Root Beer + Reindeer = Root Deer: A Homemade Christmas Gift

Santa would certainly approve of this six-pack! With their red noses shining bright, this group of rootdeer makes everyone smile with delight. Creative and consumable gifts are the best choice for teachers, so this year I decided to have my daughter help me make a set of rootdeer for her teacher for Christmas. We added ribbon collars with bells so that the rootdeer jingle. Each set of antlers is made from one brown pipe cleaner. I first saw the idea for this Root Deer craft on naptime crafters.

My daughter wanted to put bows on the top of the bottles to make a few girls but I didn't think that girl reindeer had antlers. We found out otherwise after searching online. Both male and female reindeer grow antlers! Did you know that? Another interesting fact we learned is that male reindeer typically lose their antlers during winter but the females don't lose theirs until spring! So are Santa's reindeer female or male? has a good answer: Reindeer Games

If you like this gift idea, here's a great list of creative Christmas gifts to make for others: Gifts to Make in a Twinkling

What kind of gifts do you give to teachers?

Our Worldwide Classroom

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice - Blu-ray / DVD Combo Review

Science and magic combined packs a powerful punch. The Sorcerer's Apprentice contains plenty of wizardry, but, to my surprise, it also centers on science, namely the Tesla coil. The family-friendly film, released to Disney Blu-ray/DVD on November 30, 2010, merges the magic of Merlin's time with modern day technology. Adventure, intrigue, suspense and even a little romance - this action packed film is driven with plenty of eye-popping special effects, amazing sets, over-the-top props and an exciting car chase scene.

The beginning of the film is crucial in understanding the basis of the story. A short and complicated opening scene shows a war of the sorcerers set in 740 AD. Merlin fights for his life while trying to prevent the evil Morgana le Fay from obtaining a most dangerous spell, one that allows her to raise an army of the dead. Merlin's three apprentices, Balthazar, Veronica and Horvath, emerge in the fight, but Horvath betrays Merlin. Both Morgana and Veronica end up trapped inside a nesting doll called a grimhold. Before Merlin dies, he gives Balthazar (Nicholas Cage) a dragon ring and tells him that he must find the "Prime Merlinean," the only Merlin successor who will have the power to kill Morgana.

Balthazar's centuries long search ends in modern day New York, when a geeky, fourth-grade kid named Dave Stutler stumbles into an antiquities shop. Unfortunately, Horvath reemerges and Balthazar must wait another ten years until he is able to reunite with Dave and teach him the art of wizardry. By that time, Dave (Jay Baruchel) is an awkward, yet brilliant NYU physics student with an interest in Tesla coils. This interest in science ultimately comes in handy in the mission to defeat Morgana as Dave reluctantly realizes his destiny as the Prime Merlinean.

One of the film's strengths is the creative use of science together with magic. In his time, the famous scientist Tesla was often referred to as the "electric magician," a scientific sorcerer. The musical Tesla coil scene fascinates and makes science romantic and exciting (although it would have been nice if Dave could have been a tad less geeky). This scene is one of my favorite parts of the film and you can see part of it, along with a general synopsis, in the following YouTube video.

The movie is partly inspired by the classic Disney animated short, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, starring Mickey Mouse. The live-action film retains some of the charm of the classic by incorporating out-of-control cleaning supplies into one fun and crazy water-logged scene. There are marching mops and a large-scale indoor flood that rivals the original. In another impressive scene, the massive eagle on the Chrysler building springs to life and flies away. New York’s Chinatown is featured in one part of the movie involving an incredible dragon and a street filled with people. Thankfully, since this is a Disney film, there's not a ton of violence, although the film does contain some scenes that might not be suitable for children younger than eight. The wizards fight using all sorts of weapons and kill with electrifying plasma bolts that shoot right out of their hands.

My automobile-loving husband immediately became interested in the car driven by Balthazar. The 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom is a one-of-a-kind model, owned by, you'll never guess...Nicolas Cage. Apparently they created an exact replica for the stunt sequences during the car chase scene. I'll admit, it's a pretty nifty car.

Viewers can learn more about the car and other fascinating facts about the movie in the Blu-ray bonus features:

"Magic in the City" - Discusses the use of NY as a backdrop for the movie
"The Science of Sorcery" - Describes plasma bolts and illustrates how the sorcerer's ring is a transducer used to focus energy
"Making Magic Real" - Covers the special effects in the film including the mirror world in the car chase plus the bull and dragon that come magically to life
"Fantasia: Reinventing a Classic" - Shows how the mops and brooms come to life on screen
"The Fashionable Drake Stone" - This showcases the character of Drake Stone (Toby Kebbell, quite possibly one of the most ridiculously over-the-top characters ever.
"The Grimhold: An Evil Work of Art" - Description of the nesting doll prop used in the movie
"The Encantus" - An enormous amount of time and skill went into producing the Encantus, the book of spells used in the movie
"Wolves & Puppies" - The film features a scene with wolves that turn into puppies. They are a lot less ferocious than they look in the film.
"The World's Coolest Car" - A short piece about Nicolas Cage's 1935 Rolls Royce Phantom
Deleted scenes and outtakes

Truly electrifying, this film is flashy and fast-paced, rather like a magical version of the National Treasure movies. The impressive sets, special effects created with computer-generated imagery (CGI) and strange but charming characters make this fantasy an enjoyable film to watch.

(DVD Source: 2-Disc Combo Pack provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (12/17/10)

Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

Book giveaways:

Happy Birthday Author - Book Giveaway Ends 12/19/10
Autographed drawing by Jez Alborough, author of "Hug"
The Children's Nook - Book Giveaway Ends 12/31/10
The Twelve Bots of Christmas by Nathan Hale
Becoming Sarah - Book Giveaway Ends 12/12/10
Little Hoot by Amy Rosenthal
Single Mommyhood - Book Giveaway Ends 12/23/10
Todd Parr - three-book package giveaway: The Mommy Book, The Family Book and The I Love You Book
The Elliott Review - Book Giveaway Ends 12/18/10
The Gift by Carol Ann Duffy; illus. by Rob Ryan
Mommies With Cents - Book Giveaway Ends 12/18/10
Candlewick Press Christmas Eve Ghost and The Christmas Giant
Journey Into Unschooling - Book Giveaway Ends 12/17/10
Janice VanCleave's Guide to More of the Best Science Fair Projects
Every Mom Has Her Day - Book Giveaway Ends 12/21/10
The complete Llama Llama Series (“Llama Llama Misses Mama,” “Llama Llama Mad at Mama,” “Llama, Llama Red Pajama”) and a signed copy of the newest book, “Llama Llama Holiday Drama” by Anna Dewdney
Reviewed by Mom - Book Giveaway Ends 12/22
Jingle Jingle by Nicola Smee
Sugar Pop Ribbons - Book Giveaway Ends 12/26/10
My Amazing Pop-Up Train from Carson-Dellosa Publishing
Two Writing Teachers - Book Giveaway Ends 12/22/10
Xavier Garza’s Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid from Cinco Puntos Press
I'm not the Nanny - Book Giveaway Ends 12/18/10
Lee and Low multicultural books gift pack
Book Dads - Book Giveaway Ends 12/31/10
Mrs. P’s Four Favorite Fairy Tales & Funny Stories by
3 Garnets & 2 Sapphires - Book Giveaway Ends 1/3/11
Guinness World Records 2011
Mommies With Cents- Book Giveaway Ends 12/23/10
More Bears! by Ken Nesbitt
The Book Chook - Book Giveaway Ends 12/19/10
one year home subscription to One More Story
Mozi Esmé - Book Giveaway Ends 1/10/11
The Baby Bible Christmas Storybook
A Mom's Take - Book Giveaway Ends 12/23/10
Ten on the Sled by Kim Norman
There's a Book - Book Giveaway Ends 12/31/10
Lee and Low multicultural books gift pack
Through the Looking Glass Book Reviews - Book Giveaway Ends ?
Santa’s Eleven Months Off by Mike Reiss

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer also has a new book giveaway linky with lots of YA and some other kid's books.

Have a children's book you are giving away on your blog? Let me know! I'll spread the word here!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Small Medium & Large by Jane Monroe Donovan- Book Review + Letters to Santa

Our local newspaper this week was filled with letters to Santa from area kids. While most are the usual, "How are your reindeer" and "I would like this" variety, I came across one VERY hopeful request from a little girl. She doesn't want much:

Dear Santa:
I really want a real horse. I have been a very good girl this year. I also would like a dog, bear, kitten and a bunch of toys. I love Santa. I want a big bedroom with a big toy box to put all my toys in. I would like some new clothes also. Thanks. Also a present for Santa.

She has big dreams! I love how she doesn't hold back with her wishes and how she asks Santa to bring a gift for himself, too! I wish I knew who this little girl was because I would send her a copy of the book below. The little girl in the book asks Santa for a very similar gift.

Small, Medium and Large by Jane Monroe Donovan; Sleeping Bear Press (September 2010); ISBN 9781585364473; 32 pages
Book Source: Review Copy from Publisher

In this nearly wordless picture book, a little girl named Sammy writes Santa a letter. Christmas morning arrives and she finds three wrapped gifts (one small, one medium and one large) under the tree. The gifts contain three living animals ... a cat, a dog and a miniature horse! Lonely no more, Sammy and her new animal friends spend their winter days making snow angels, throwing snowballs, building snow creatures, sledding, and baking cookies.

Donovan's book is a fun-filled, imaginative read about a very special Christmas wish that comes true. The adorable scenarios depicted in the painted illustrations are pure fun and kids will delight in the whimsy. For instance, all the animals sleep nestled together under the covers in the little girl's bed. And, my kids loved the cookie baking scene where the horse makes horseshoe-shaped cookies while the cat cuts out fish shapes. For toddlers, the book provides an opportunity to discuss sizes and because it is wordless, they can make up their own story to accompany the pictures. The author based the animals in the book on her own pets, a Siamese cat named Maylee, a Chesapeake Bay retriever named Grizzly and a miniature horse named Fern.


We still haven't made it to see Santa yet this year! Taking into consideration last year's tear-filled visit, I'm not so sure we'll make an attempt this year. Here's photographic evidence of the traumatic experience. My daughter looks as if she's hoping with all her heart that Santa won't hold her accountable for her brother's actions.

When you can't see Santa in person, writing a letter is the next best thing. Both kids took the time to write Santa a letter last week. My daughter spent a lot of time designing her letter and added several decorative touches. Here's her wishes (she gets right to the point - we'll have to work on the niceties of please and thank you next year):

Dear Santa,
I would like Peek-A-Boo Puppies, Zhu Zhu Pets, Glass Ornament, Horses and Stamps.
Love, (Little Brimful)

My son only wants one thing from Santa. He told me to write this:

Dear Santa,
I would like a Christmas Choo-Choo. I love my Choo-Choo.
Love, (Another Little Brimful)

❖❖❖❖❖❖❖❖ stArt Craft - Plastic Lid Snowman ❖❖❖❖❖❖❖❖

To reinforce the concept of small, medium and large and as a tie-in with the cover of the book we read above, I helped my toddler son build a snowman out of plastic lids. We added a felt scarf and hat, buttons, and pipe cleaner arms to complete the craft.

abc button

A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Brrrrr ... It's Cold!

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Graham Cracker Gingerbread Houses & Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett

Someday, when the kids are a little older, we'll try whipping up a batch of gingerbread and building a real gingerbread house. For now though, they are perfectly happy to build their own graham cracker "faux" gingerbread houses. It's less cooking for mom and a lower stress craft because there is always another graham cracker available if one of the cookies crumbles in construction.

Before we built our houses, we read a couple of instruction guides including Tiny Christmas Craft: Graham Cracker Gingerbread House and Martha Stewart's Cookie Cottages How-To.

I decided to stir up my own recipe for frosting, using a couple cups of powdered sugar, a couple tablespoons of milk, a few tablespoons of soft butter and a little vanilla for flavoring. I don't measure, I just dump and add until I get a smooth enough consistency so it pumps easily out of my frosting decorating gun. (I know, the no recipe thing drives my friends up the wall, but that's just how I operate.) We pre-cut our graham crackers, and I piped a rectangle outline of frosting on a plate to serve as a foundation. From there, we built the four walls (place the two ends on the inside of the longer walls -- otherwise the roof will not cover the entire top of the house). Our frosting held the walls together well right away, but, just to make sure, we let the frame dry up a little before placing the roof on top. While we were waiting for the walls to dry we decorated the two roof panels with candy. We attached the roofs, fully decorated to the top of the wall frames with frosting and used a length of fruit roll-up to finish the peaks of the houses. Our leftover Halloween candy came in quite useful for decorating the houses. This little activity kept the kids busily occupied for over an hour, and they both were very proud of their finished homes. Now they are waiting for little gingerbread babies to move in!


Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett; Putnam Juvenile (October 1999); ISBN 9780399234446; 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from our personal library

If you're looking for a book to go along with gingerbread houses, I don't know of a better one than Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby. The book is a twist on the classic story of the Gingerbread Boy and has a much happier outcome. Matti and his mom bake a gingerbread boy together, but Matti, unable to wait any longer, steals a peek at the baking cookie and out jumps a baby gingerbread cookie. Instead of running after the Gingerbread Baby along with everyone else, Matti stays behind in the kitchen and whips up a fancy plan to catch the runaway cookie. Jan Brett's illustrations and decorative borders are fabulous, like always, and my kids absolutely adore the lift-the-flap gingerbread house on the final pages.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Book on Every Bed - Give the Gift of Reading

Last week Amy Dickinson, in her newspaper advice column, presented her readers with a challenge. She wants every child to wake up Christmas morning and a find wrapped book on his or her bed. The goal of this homegrown campaign, "A Book on Every Bed," is to spread the word about the importance of reading together. The gist of the campaign? If you have a child in your home, she hopes you'll consider placing a book on his or her bed this holiday season. That's it! Simple enough, isn't it?

Even though our home is filled with books, we always make a point to always give a special book to each of our children on Christmas. We try to pick one high quality hardcover specifically handpicked for each of our that will appeal to their interests, a book that they will want to read over and over and treasure forever. Placing the books right on their beds sounds like a splendid idea. It will be the first gift they see!

This is a also good time of the year to consider giving books to others. Playing by the Book - List of Book Charities Around the World is a wonderful resource for those wishing to discover charities that support and encourage literacy. Additionally, with budget cuts looming in most communities, now is the perfect to donate to public and school libraries so that they are able to update their collections.


Books don't have to be expensive. Ideally it is best to support your local booksellers and help out the indie booksellers in this difficult economy. They often offer special deals if you watch carefully. There are also many good deals online. Watch for coupons. If you shop around, you can even find really nice hardcovers for affordable prices.

As far as what books to buy, a good place to start is with the recommended lists.
This roundup on Chicken Spaghetti is wonderful: The Best Children's Books 2010: A List of Lists and Awards. It includes lists like Publisher's Weekly Best Children's Books 2010.

Hardcover Book Deals under $10 (Keep in mind that sometimes bargain books have remainder marks & often don't come with a dust jacket. However, it is nice to have hardcover books in the home and buying the bargains is an affordable way to add to your home library.)

Amazon's Bargain Books section usually has some great deals. Also, they often offer deep discounts on bestsellers. Some worth mentioning right now (For some reason the bargain prices aren't appearing in the widget. If you click on over, you'll see the bargain price for many of the titles (i.e. Pout Pout Fish $6.80)):

Barnes & Noble Bargains:
Wonder Bear by Tao Nyeu $5.38
Fancy Nancy: Explorer Extraordinaire! by Jane O'Connor $5.38
Boats by Byron Barton $5.38

So, what books will be on our kids' beds on Christmas morning? Shhh...don't tell. It has been rumored that Bink and Gollie and Shark Vs. Train will be the newest additions to our home library.

Are you buying books for kids this Christmas? If so, what titles are you planning to wrap?

(I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Flying Santa Floating Paper Clip Experiment - Science Sunday

We always try to eat together as a family at our dining room table. Some days the dinner conversations are more interesting than others and one time we ended up talking about the topic of outer space. We explained to the kids that things float around in space due to the low-gravity environment and that if we were eating in space the food would float around.

Our table conversation must have made an impression. The next week my daughter's teacher presented the class with a science experiment - a floating paper clip. She asked the class to form a hypothesis about why the paper clip floats. My daughter answered "no gravity." Well, her hypothesis was incorrect, but I was surprised and pleased that she took something away from our conversation. She was so excited about her school science experiment that she asked if we could repeat it at home. It's a simple experiment to perform and kept the kids occupied for some time.

How does Santa fly through the sky? We really don't know. But, we had fun making a miniature Santa and his reindeer fly. We added a little holiday twist to the floating paper clip experiment by attaching an image of Santa and his reindeer to the paper clip with some tape.

Flying Santa Floating Paper Clip Experiment

Scientific principles and topics:
Magnetic forces
metals vs. other materials


Light string
Paper Santa image (optional)


Tie the paper clip to a piece of string and tape the other end of the string to a table.

Hold the paper clip up. Position the magnet above it so the magnet and paperclip are close, but not touching. Let go of the paper clip. The paper clip should float.

The magnetic force travels through the air, attracting and suspending the metal paper clip so that it floats in mid-air.

This is a nice beginner experiment for helping children understand magnetic fields. Our kids enjoyed making the paper clip float as if by magic and loved making Santa fly. My daughter decided she wanted to make a snowflake dance and drew a snowflake to attach to a paperclip. My son found out that his Thomas the Train engine has magnets on the ends and discovered those magnets were strong enough that he could make the engine hang from the end of the paperclip attached by tape to the counter. We also talked about how magnetic fields can go through materials like paper (demonstrate by hanging a piece of paper on the refrigerator with a magnet). We used ordinary circle shaped magnets for our experiment, but since the kids liked this so much, we're considering buying some stronger, scientific magnets with clearly labeled poles, so that we can conduct more experiments using magnets.

Related links:
The Magic School Bus - Suspend Metal in Mid-Air!

If you enjoyed this post you can find more Science Sunday experiments involving kids at or even join in the weekly meme. Science is Fun!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fantasia & Fantasia 2000: 2-Movie Collection Special Edition - DVD Review

Fantasia is one of Disney's most interesting ventures. His concept of "seeing music and hearing pictures" originally came to life in 1940 with the release of the revolutionary animated film Fantasia, a series of classical music works interpreted in animation. Walt Disney intended for Fantasia to be an ongoing, evolving venture, with new segments consistently released and combined with the older musical segments. However, even though the film is now a classic, Fantasia did not initially perform as well in the box office as the studio was hoping and they tabled plans for future releases. Finally, in 1999, Disney released a sequel, Fantasia 2000. Just recently, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment combined both films in a special edition package. On November 30th, 2010, they released Fantasia and Fantasia 2000: 2-Movie Collection Special Edition.

In a general sense, Fantasia is basically a series of animated videos inspired by various pieces of classical music. However, it is also a true masterpiece and an amazing technological endeavor, especially if one takes into consideration the time period during which the film was developed. I recently had the chance to watch the 4-Disc Special Edition Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack. After viewing some of the bonus material and documentaries included in the special edition, I gained a new appreciation for the original film. By today's standards, especially with the advent of computerized animation, some of the effects don't exactly look groundbreaking. But, as shown in the bonus video, "The Shultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure", the special effects weren't only made through the magic of hand-drawn animation, but were accomplished using large-scale mechanical means including rotating gears and mirrors and intricate camera techniques. The innovations made by Disney and his crew are truly astonishing, and I will forever view these remarkable early Disney videos with new eyes and a better understanding of how the images were produced.

The Fantasia sequences bring classical music to a wider audience, including children, and also bring the symphony right into your home. Although the actual musical pieces are not mentioned anywhere in the packaging (much to my chagrin) both Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 feature eight separate musical works. Short live-action segments introduce each work.

Fantasia's playlist includes (Deems Taylor introduces each piece):
"Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" (Johann Sebastian Bach)
"The Nutcracker Suite" (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Paul Dukas)
"The Rite of Spring" (Igor Stravinsky)
"The Pastoral Symphony" (Ludwig van Beethoven)
"Dance of the Hours" (Amilcare Ponchielli)
"Night on Bald Mountain" (Modest Mussorgsky)
"Ave Maria" (Franz Schubert)

Fantasia 2000's playlist includes (various famous individuals introduce each piece and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" is once again featured):
"Symphony No. 5" (Ludwig van Beethoven)
"Pines of Rome" (Ottorino Respighi)
"Rhapsody in Blue" (George Gershwin)
"Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102" (Dmitri Shostakovich)
"Carnival of the Animals, Finale" (Camille Saint-Saëns)
"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (Paul Dukas)
"Pomp and Circumstance - Marches 1, 2, 3 and 4" (Edward Elgar)
"Firebird Suite - 1919 version" (Igor Stravinsky)

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" sequence is probably the most well known Fantasia work. It's a hilarious animation about an apprentice (Mickey Mouse) whose enchanted broomstick goes out of control. This segment inspired the new Disney action-adventure movie, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, also released to DVD on November 30th. My children also really enjoy watching "The Nutcracker Suite" which is actually an unusual, nature-inspired interpretation of a number of the pieces from Tchaikovsky's famous ballet. It does not feature a Nutcracker, but instead fairies, plants, mushrooms, and fish all make an appearance. In Fantasia 2000, our favorites included "Rhapsody in Blue," a cartoon sequence about the daily lives of people living in New York City in the 1930s. The "Piano Concerto No. 2, Allegro, Opus 102" sequence tells the story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier. We also love "Pomp and Circumstance" as Donald Duck plays Noah and rounds up the animals on the ark.

Fantasia bonuses (Blu-ray): Besides the "The Shultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure" the collection contains several other bonus features worth mentioning. The audio commentaries are extremely enlightening. The Fantasia audio commentary is not a discussion but more of an informative lecture. A short segment, "Disney Family Museum," introduces viewers to the tourist attraction.

Fantasia 2000 bonuses (Blu-ray): "Destino," an Academy Award Nominated short, was developed from the unusual collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. The full details are presented in the 82-minute-long feature, "Dali & Disney: A Date With Destino." The "Musicana" documentary tells about a Fantasia sequel project from the 70s that never made it to production.

The Library of Congress has classified Fantasia as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” I wholeheartedly agree with this analysis. Both films are a delight to watch, a true testament to Disney's genius, and they also make excellent musical teaching tools. Some may find a few of the selections in the original Fantasia to be a bit too serious for young children to appreciate and understand, but on the whole, the balance of information, music and animation art in the Fantasia films is inspiring and incredibly moving.

(DVD Source: review copy provided for review purposes by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. All opinions expressed are my own. I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Full to the Brim - Kid's Book Giveaway List (12/10/10)

During the holiday season the number of children's book giveaway contests increases substantially. I've highlighted a few that I've found, but there are many more blog contests currently underway. If you have a children's book giveaway you'd like listed, please let me know.

Please check out my other "Full to the Brim" posts as well. Many contests are still underway. I publish "Full to the Brim" every Friday. Thanks for visiting my blog and come back soon!

My Giveaways:
Chronicle Books Celebrate the Haul-idays $500 Book Giveaway Promotion - Ends 12/13/10
Despicable Me Prize Pack (includes books) - Ends 12/13/10
The Night Before Christmas Book Giveway - Ends 12/15/10

Other Book giveaways:

DustinNikki Mommy of Three - Book Giveaway Ends 12/23/10
Barefoot Books Giveaway
Becoming Sarah - Book Giveaway Ends 12/12/10
Too Many Toys by David Shannon
Deal Wise Mommy - Book Giveaway Ends 12/12/10
Little Star by Anthony Destefano
Reading to Know - Book Giveaway Ends 12/13/10
Little Rabbit's Christmas by Harry Horse
Cool Baby Kid - Book Giveaway Ends 12/12/10
Disney Toy Story 3 Record-a-Book & Playbox and Princess Dreams Record-a-Book & Tangled Music Player
The Ahotaeiloa Family - Book Giveaway Ends 12/27/10
Perfect Piggies Book and Plush by Sandra Boynton
Freebies and Much More - Book Giveaway Ends 12/11/10
Choice of a book from Silver Dolphin Books
My Mink Betty - Book Giveaway Ends 12/10
Set of children's Christmas books
Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves - Book Giveaway Ends 12/12/10
Great Holiday Give Box of Books
Obviously MARvelous - Book Giveaway Ends 12/29/10
The Classic Treasury Of Childhood Wonders
Shawn's Sharings - Book Giveaway Ends 12/15/10
A Christmas Carol Pop-Up Book
Mommy Kat and Kids - Book Giveaway Ends 12/21/10
Klutz® Kids Cooking
Mommy Kat and Kids - Book Giveaway Ends 12/21/10
The Truth About My Name and Doodle Journal from Scholastic
Boos and Rawrs - Book Giveaway Ends 12/15/10
Make Your Own Sock Puppet kit
Boos and Rawrs - Book Giveaway Ends 12/13/10
World’s best origami book
Mommy PR - Book Giveaway Ends 12/10/10
Sleeping Bear Press Holiday Book Set
Bookin With Bingo - Book Giveaway Ends 12/27/10
Olivia Goes To Venice by Ian Falconer
Bookin With Bingo - Book Giveaway Ends 12/16/10
Angelina's Christmas, Tip-Top Crafts, Donald's Christmas Gift
Simple Kids - Book Giveaway Ends 12/12/10
Cooking Fun, Crafting Fun, and Homemade Fun by Rae Grant
Booking Mama- Book Giveaway Ends 12/16/10
GREEN EGGS AND HAM Prize Pack sponsored by National Pork Board
Simply Stacie - Book Giveaway Ends 12/24/10
It’s Christmas, David! by David Shannon
Debbie's World of Books - Book Giveaway Ends 12/25/10
$20 Amazon gift card
Sarah Jane Studios - Book Giveaway Ends 12/12/10
Signed copy of Christmas is Here illustrated by Lauren Castillo
Just Another Review Blog - Book Giveaway Ends 12/15/10
Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann
Tight Wad in Utah - Book Giveaway Ends 12/16/10
Ammo Books: ABC is for Circus

Tiger Tales Christmas Book Giveaway:
The collection includes two classic tales: Twas the Night Before Xmas and Jingle Bells, and three original tales: The Very Snowy Christmas, I've Seen Santa, and Shhh! Ends 12/14

Second Annual Inkies Giveaway Extravaganza:
The Enchanted Inkpot is giving away two huge sets of books perfect for MG/YA readers. Ends 12/17 Full details at

Lerner books contest
: Set of either three new lower grade series OR three new upper grade series. See blog for entry details. Ends 12/19

Ivy + Bean Giveaways:
The Children's Book Review Ends 12/31
There's A Book Ends 12/12

Scholastic Holiday Prize Pack Giveaways:
Mark it with a B Ends 12/18
The Bragging Mommy Ends 12/16
Grandbabies 101 Ends 12/16

13 Words by Lemony Snicket Prize Pack Giveaways:
The Shopping Mama Ends 12/17
Busy Working Mama Ends 12/17
Simply Stacie Ends 12/16
My Four Monkeys Ends 12/20

Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories Giveaways:
Mommy Enterprises Ends 12/19
The Charmed Mom Ends 12/15
Army Wife Life and Reviews Ends 12/10
It's Me Melbie Ends 12/16

Fish for more children's book giveaways at Lori Calabrese's Fish for a Free Book linkup each Friday

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer also has a new book giveaway linky with lots of YA and some other kid's books.

Have a children's book you are giving away on your blog? Let me know! I'll spread the word here!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Homemade Advent Wreath Craft + The Time of Christmas Book Review

We started our Advent Wreath craft in November, and I was planning to post it earlier this month but then my son ended up in the hospital. Since we are still in the middle of the Advent season, I thought I'd post it today.

The season of Advent is a little harder to explain to a child than Christmas. Involving kids in the season by using an Advent wreath is one way to help them prepare for Christmas and learn about God's promise to send His Son. The word "advent" comes from the Latin word for coming - "adventus."

An advent wreath helps us prepare for the coming of Jesus. The four candles, one for each Sunday in Advent, help remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World. In our wreath, there are three purple candles (signifying royalty) and one pink (signifying joy). The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday of Advent. Some wreaths include a white fifth candle in the center, the "Christ candle," lit on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, the four colored candles are replaced with white candles. The circular shape of the Advent wreath reminds us that God's love is unending, and the evergreens represent everlasting life.

❖❖❖❖❖❖ stArt Craft - Paper Advent Wreath Craft ❖❖❖❖❖❖

My kids are too young to light real candles so this year we decided to make a flameless paper Advent Wreath that they would be able to "light" with removable paper flames.

2 paper towel tubes
large circular paper plate
construction paper

1. Cut the two paper towel tubes in half to make four "candles." Paint three of the rolls purple and the remaining roll pink.
2. Cut a large circular hole out of the center of the paper plate to form a wreath shape. Cut four half-circle notches the size of the paper candle diameter in the 3, 6, 9 and 12 o'clock positions so that the candles can be easily arranged in the wreath. Paint the wreath green.
3. To make the candle tops, after the paint has dried, cut out four 3-inch diameter circles from construction paper (three purple and one pink). Place a paper towel roll in the center of each circle and trace around it. Use a scissors to cut notches up to the circle drawn on each of the paper circles. Place glue around the rim of each candle and center the paper candle top on the candle and glue down the candle top to each candle, bending the notched cuts around the side of each candle.
4. Make four flames out of yellow construction paper. The bottom of each flame should include a long segment to insert in the candle top. Cut a notch in the top of each candle to make a place to insert the flame.
5. Add decorations to the green wreath. We added green holly leaves and red berries made out of construction paper.
6. (Optional) Paint a fifth tube white and place in the center of the wreath. If the candles are unstable, use play dough on the bottom to help stabilize.


The Time of Christmas by Suzanne Richterkessing, illustrated by Susan Morris; Concordia Publishing House/Thrivent (2005, originally published 1999); 32 pages
Book Source: Copy from our personal library

I couldn't find a children's book that dealt specifically with the topic of Advent wreaths, but we do own a picture book that uses fictional mouse characters to discuss the seasons and symbols of Christmas in the church. The Time of Christmas follows two little mice, Smidge and Smudge, as they try to find a warm home as winter approaches. They decide to make their home in a church and learn all about Advent, Christmas and Epiphany from an older mouse. While the book doesn't cover the topics with as much detail as I would like, it briefly discusses Advent wreathes, the nativity, chrismons, candles and the Magi in terms that young children can understand. The hymn, "Jesus, Our Good Friend," is printed in the back cover.

"Do you see the four candles?" The two mice nodded. "There is one candle for each of the four Sundays in Advent. A new candle is lit every Sunday. When they are all burning brightly, Jesus' birthday will be very near. Indeed, indeed!"

The Time of Christmas is part of an out-of-print children's book series published by Concordia called The Mouse Prints Journey Through the Church Year. It's a nice series to use to help teach preschoolers on up to early elementary ages about the different church celebrations throughout the year and is intended for Lutherans, but the topics apply to many Christians. Other books in the series include The Time of Easter and The Time of the Church.

abc buttonOur Worldwide Classroom

A Mommy's Adventures hosts the "stART" meme (Story + Art) each week. Add your kids craft post to the Kid's Get Crafty linky at Red Ted Art's Blog. Join in Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. Show off your ideas at ABC & 123 Show and Tell. Don't forget to link up your Christmas posts to the Christmas Fun Party at Our Worldwide Classroom.

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Pink Ballerinas All in a Row

Find more of this week's Wordless Wednesday (or Wordful) posts at 5 Minutes for Mom

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Robert Ingpen - Book Giveaway + Cotton Ball Santa Beard Countdown Calendar

Did you find your shoes filled with treats yesterday? December 6th marked St. Nicholas Day. While many of us leave stockings out on Christmas Eve, the origins of Santa Claus can be traced back to the real Saint Nicholas, a bishop that lived from 270 to 343 A.D. in what is now Turkey. Bishop Nicholas helped the poor through giving generous gifts and was a miracle worker. Later on, around 1820, the legend of Santa Claus started to become popular. Clement C. Moore's poem, "The Night Before Christmas" helped popularize this familiar figure and the gift giving on Christmas Eve. Time Magazine published an informative two-minute bio of Santa Claus, if you're interested in reading more about St. Nick and Santa. Also, the VeggieTales movie, Saint Nicholas: A Story of Joyful Giving, is a great way to introduce children to the story of the real Saint Nicholas.

While we don't own a book about the real St. Nicholas, we do own several copies of The Night Before Christmas. Thanks to Sterling Children's Books, we had the chance to read a newly illustrated version of Clement C. Moore's beloved poem.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore; illustrated by Robert Ingpen; Sterling (October 2010); ISBN 9781402781827; 48 pages
Book Source: Review copy provided by publisher

For those that celebrate Christmas, owning a copy of The Night Before Christmas is almost a requirement. On Christmas Eve, many people read the poem, in addition to the Biblical story of Jesus' birth. Robert Ingpen's gorgeously illustrated picture book is an excellent interpretation of this familiar poem and makes a wonderful addition to any Christmas book collection.

The incredible paintings in this version balance the fantasy of the story with realism. Ingpen creates a warm, idealized Christmas with highly textured illustrations full of feathery brush strokes and depth. A traditional, classic Santa Claus with a wrinkled, weathered face, full beard, rosy cheeks and fabulous red suit takes center stage in the book. He visits a simple manor house adorned with a tower and several chimneys, a house that could have very well existed at the time the poem was first written. Ingpen's interpretation does not include whimsical touches, like showing sugarplums dancing, but instead the images display the magic of the night in a subdued way.

The book works well as a read-aloud, and is set with an easy-to-read, large font, perfect for low-light environments on Christmas Eve. A short biography of Clement Clarke Moore in the beginning of the book explains the origins of his poem, a story originally intended as a Christmas present for his children. I especially love the well-crafted design and detail displayed in this book. Underneath the dustcover is a bright-red, fabric cover with a simple, classic inset. The endpapers show a starry sky and if you look closely, it almost looks like St. Nick has magically disappeared into the night.

Robert Ingpen has also illustrated several other classics including The Christmas Carol. He's an accomplished Australian author and illustrator and has won several awards for his works.

❖❖❖❖❖❖ Cotton Ball Santa Beard Countdown Calendar ❖❖❖❖❖❖

It's not too late to start counting down to Christmas. My daughter made an adorable Santa Claus out of construction paper. His cotton beard marks the days until Christmas arrives. She started by gluing on 24 cotton balls onto her red-nosed Santa and each day she removes a cotton ball from Santa's beard. I've seen other versions of this craft, but they all usually involve gluing on a cotton ball to mark the days instead of taking one off. I like the idea of removing rather than adding because you don't have to keep a supply of cotton balls and glue handy to use every day.

For other versions of this fun craft, visit the following websites: Santa Advent Calendar Craft Santa Craft Calendar
Oopsey Daisy Santa Beard Countdown with accompanying poem

Sterling Children's Books has graciously offered to giveaway a copy of this lovely, classically styled version of The Night Before Christmas to a Brimful Curiosities reader.

To enter, leave a comment relevant to this post.
• For contact purposes, if you are a non-blogger or your email is not accessible in your blog profile, please leave a valid email address within the comment section.
• Contest is open to US
• Contest ends on Wednesday, Dec. 15th, 2010 at 11:59 PM CST.
• Winner will be chosen at random and sent an email notification.
Three ways to gain extra entries (Maximum total entries is 4; please leave a separate comment for each entry):
1st extra entry: Blog about this contest then post your link in the comment section.
2nd extra entry: Follow me on twitter (iambrimful) and tweet about the contest.
3rd extra entry: Follow Me! or subscribe by email or RSS reader

I am an Amazon affiliate and may receive a very small commission for products purchased through my Amazon links. (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Friday, December 3, 2010


************** Update 12/6 - Thanks so much for all your thoughtful comments and prayers. Our little guy is back at home and feeling much better. He was admitted to the hospital for low oxygen levels and dehydration caused by a fever and croup (swelling around the vocal cords). We are thankful that he does not have pneumonia. He has the tendency to get croup when he gets sick, but this is the first time that it became so severe that he needed hospital care. He was not at all happy having an IV inserted in his arm at first, but I was surprised how well he adjusted to staying at the hospital and how well he behaved the two days he was there. Not once did he try to get out of his bed.

I'm still a bit sleep deprived, and we are trying to keep things low-key for a few more days. He still has a lingering cough and runny nose. We hope that his body can fight the illness off quickly so that he can breathe easily again.


My son was admitted to the hospital with a respiratory illness on Thursday morning. I'm not sure when I will resume blogging. Right now my attention is focused on him and my family.