Friday, December 30, 2016

As the end of the year draws near

All the gifts have been unwrapped. The post Christmas sales have begun.  Mum has packed up the Christmas tree and hidden the gingerbread house.  The tinsel is not so shiny as it litters the floor. 

People are making plans for New Year's Eve. We will be going to bed early and getting up on New Year's Day at the same time we always wake. Unless we have a bad night.  One year, I remember trying to get to bed early on New Year's Eve only to discover that several of my neighbours were hosting parties to welcome the new year, so I didn't get much sleep. You can read about that night, here

In rather a nostalgic exercise, I'm going to recap 2016 here on AGT.  It was a big one. 

The year began with a new year's resolution: I'm going to publish one post on AGT every week.  Now it will end with a huge smiley face of success!! Including this post, I have published 56 posts this year, which is at least one a week and a few extras thrown in for good measure! 
Shelly thinks I deserve a high-five and I agree!

I seemed to catch some sort of crafting bug last year, and I have got a little more ambitious this year.  Making: toys for Shelly (and our other feline friends), cards for every occasion, gift bags and party decorations.  I even did some cooking which, for some strange reason, didn't make it to a post. 

Planning my niece's 10th birthday party (with the FROZEN theme) was a huge start to the year and was heaps of fun! Of course you didn't hear about all the fabulous Frozen Fun until March. 

The Awesome Aunty course was published this year too, way back in January.  I hope it has helped lots of ladies to be the Amazing Adult Pals that every kid deserves to have in their life.  The HOW TO BE A CARER series was started in October this year as well and I hope it is helping people who have taken on the huge responsibility of caring for a loved one. 

Dad's health deteriorated this year and doctors told us that he would not live past May.  He is lying in bed dozing peacefully, as I type this.  He is quite the fighter, my dad.  Dad has always had health problems and our family grows closer as we continue to ride the rollercoaster of his illnesses.  Our daily lives revolve around Dad and his health.  We are always grateful to our Heavenly Father, for the daily miracle of Dad's life.  Every moment of lucid conversation, every kiss, every smile, every hug, is a precious.  We are so blessed.

This year has been one wild ride.  I am happier than I have been for a long time.  Strangely! 
I really like myself, so much more than I ever have before.  Do I have goals for 2017?  Maybe.  Do I know what they are? Not yet.  Isn't that what January is for?

I hope you hang around to see what 2017 brings. I'm certainly looking forward to seeing it!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Two More Sleeps, Two More Sleeps!!!

I'm getting very excited about Christmas. 

We thought that last year was probably Dad's last Christmas and yet, only two more sleeps and he is still very much alive.  This year has been rough and we have had a few occasions when everyone thought the end was very near.  I promised to show you my wrapping for this year, if you want some inspiration, check out my wrapping posts from previous years: 2012, 2015 and a best ofOlder and Wisor has some great wrapping inspiration too! I didn't do anything too special or different this year, so I wasn't in a rush to show you.  Organising Christmas, going Christmas shopping and wrapping gifts is quite the juggling act when caring for a very ill person.  It must be tough for parents too!!

I put much less effort and time into the wrapping this year but the presents still look pretty good!  :D

Shelly was very helpful in the wrapping process as you will see by some of the photos below!

All the best wrappers will tell you to use what you have and get creative with it!
I used two different types of ribbon for this one.  Most of the others are using basic curling ribbon.
When we run out of every type of ribbon in the house, we can buy more.  I have quite a way to go!

Shelly helped me choose some of her toys that she hasn't played with since she was a kitten.
I put them in this small gift box, used some Christmas themed glitter tape to decorate and tied it with curling ribbon. 
This little gift will go to the newest addition to the family-
my nephew's new kitten from the local animal shelter!

I used green curling ribbon to make two basic bows.
Then,  cut the loops so they look more like leaves and tied in a few holly berries.
I love how this decoration matched the paper which has holly and ivy in a repeated pattern. 

The gift wrapping inspector is just checking to make sure this present  is wrapped properly!
I think it passed the test!

Each year, I prepare gifts for the pets owned by my family and friends. 
The two wrapped gifts are for dogs (from Shelly),
one belonging to the BFF and one to my Brother in Law.
The boxed gift is for my nephew's cat.
There is a gift under the tree somewhere for a guinea pig
called Chi-Chi, who belongs to another nephew. 

I can't wait to celebrate Christmas with my Dad this year!
From Shelly, Hagrid, all the gang and ME: we wish you a very merry Christmas and a Joyous New Year! 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gift Guidelines: Kids 6 to 12!

In 2011 I wrote a gift giving guide for kids 0-5 years.  I ended the guide by saying that once a kid turns 6, they are able to articulate their favourite things and their likes.  A relatively short conversation on a regular basis will keep you up to date with their changing view of the world. This could include, but is not limited to, any of the following: favourite colour, Superman vs Batman, Cinderella vs Elsa, Dolls vs Construction, Craft vs Paint, Video Games vs Sports.

Admittedly, there may be times when you need to buy a gift for a young person you don't know very well. Being the one who buys the perfect gift, even when you don't know them, can often be a way to win over a little person. Don't get me wrong, the adult who always shows up when it counts is loved far more than the flaky adult who brings the perfect gift. On the other hand, it's great when you can be consistent AND buy the perfect gifts!  :D 

Here are some tips for you...

While I'm a relatively enlightened person and I don't believe in pushing gender stereotypes onto children, I'm also a realist.  Trying to keep your gifts non-gender specific is a nice idea, however by the time a child has reached the age of 6 years, they will probably already be conforming or not.  When in doubt, check with the parents.  Use some common sense when it comes to choosing which of these gifts are more suitable for boys or girls, I'm going to stick with ages this time. 

Ages 6yo-7yo
Some background: the average 6 or 7 year old will be attending school and learning to read.  They will be curious and (at the same time) they will know what they like and don't like. They will have their very own personality that is developing all the time.  Don't assume the "it" toy or movie character will be the favourite of the 6yo or 7yo kid.  Anything on this list should please any child in this age group.

  • Eye Spy/ Spot What (find it in the picture) books
  • Picture Books (Mem Fox and Jackie French are two authors that you could check out).
  • Colouring/ Simple Activity books
  • Colouring in Pencils/ Felt tip pens (Scented ones are fun too)
  • Puzzles (simple to medium difficulty, no more than 100 pieces)
  • Stickers (transport, reward stickers, fairies, animals)
  • Simple/ Basic sporting equipment (e.g. tennis balls, velcro grip paddles, spiky balls in various sizes, a set of quoits, a small goal, ping pong balls/ paddles).
  • Hula Hoops, Skipping Ropes.
  • Water Bottle or Lunchbox for school
  • A bottle of bubbles with bubble wands or a bubble machine (Personally, I think this is a great gift for anyone who has 'everything' no matter how old they are, but perhaps that's just me).
  • Sand or Water Toys (e.g. bucket and spade, measuring jug, moulds such as sea animals).
  • Playdough and Accessories.
  • Small handbag or backpack for toting toys and treasures.
  • Junior Monopoly or Junior Scrabble
  • Board Games that don't require advanced literacy or numeracy skills e.g. Connect Four, Operation, Trouble, Chinese Checkers, Snakes and Ladders.
Ages 8yo-9yo
Some Background: The average 8 or 9 year old is starting to develop their own interests and will be curious about their specific areas of interest.  For example: Dinosaurs, Craft, Cars, Dancing, Dolls, etc. If the "it" or "in" thing is unlikely for a child who is 6 or 7 years old, it is even less likely to be loved by an 8 or 9 year old.  These children are expanding their horizons, most will be independent readers (although it's a good idea to check this parents), and may be reading a series.  Gifts that should win over any child of 8 or 9 years.
  • Activity and Puzzle books
  • Start a new book series such as Netball Gems, Big Nate, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (or check with parents and add the next book in a series the child is already reading).  Roald Dahl and Andy Griffiths are good authors that have published a range of books any kid would love to receive.
  • Some Picture Books are still appropriate for this age group, you could look at books with more text or mature themes.  Authors to check out include Graham Base, Jackie French, Jeanie Baker, Shaun Tan.
  • Board Games as above and you could add more challenging games such as Pictionary.
  • Card Game packs such as Uno or Skipbo; a deck of standard playing cards is also great.
  • Sporting Equipment as above, or check with parents to find out if Mr or Ms 8/9 is involved in any team sports or sporting clubs and purchase relevant equipment.
  • Water bottle and Baseball Cap (or bucket hat)
  • Treasure Box, Tote bag or Small Backpack (kids at this age love packing all their toys and books into a box or bag and carrying it to another room).
  • Playdough and Bubbles are still great items to add to the Christmas Stocking
  • Art and Craft Supplies such as poster paint, glue and scissors, felt tip pens, glitter, large scrapbooks.
  • Small notebooks or Journals with erasable pens (these are still considered magic for kids right up to 12 ad 13 year olds). 
Ages 10 - 12 year olds

A bit of Background: if a young person is going to conform to gender stereotypes or completely break free of them, this is probably when it will happen.  It is hard to buy gifts for this age group even if you do know them well.  Girls at this age will be especially difficult as they approach puberty as little earlier than the boys and will be very confused about what they like.  Lots of the items on the lists above could be a winner as well. Try to do a bit of research and if you are really desperate, give them some cash! As the gap between genders is so much bigger at this age group, I'm going to mention some gender specific items. 
  • Non-Fiction Books are usually a winner in this age group.  Titles such as Ripley's Believe it or Not and The Guiness Book of World Records are great for the boys.  Instructional Books such as recipe books, art and craft or even how to build a tree house are great for girls. 
  • Boys and Girls will also enjoy the Where's Wally Books as these are a more difficult version of the Eye Spy books. 
  • More difficult puzzle books, dot-to-dot and find a word books could be appropriate for both boys and girls.
  • iTunes vouchers or a top 100 album for the year (works for both boys and girls)
  • A calendar (themes could include sporting teams, cars, teddy bears, animals etc)
  • Hair clips/ ribbons, headbands, hair brushes, bobbi-pins, lip gloss and nail polish will be loved by the girls (and maybe even some of the boys).
  • Earrings, Bracelets, Bangles, Necklaces, Rings,- any costume jewellery (mostly for girls).
  • Socks and Shoelaces (they don't have to be boring).
  • Water bottles, Hats, Backpacks,
  • Handball (this is still a huge past time in this age group at school)
  • Key rings for attaching on the bag or holding house keys.
  • A wallet or purse
  • Art Supplies,
  • A journal, note book or scrapbook (for writing down feelings or keeping notes about people).
  • Earphones (opt for novelty or high quality for extra bonus points).
  • Anything you can personalise can be cool too, it makes it unique and kids like to feel special as long as they don't stand out from the crowd!
I hope this helps everyone with their Christmas Shopping. 

Bear in mind, that cash is something that most 6 year olds know all about.  I used to love receiving my birthday card from a certain uncle because it always had a $5 note in it.  :)

Your time is also a great gift!! After giving the gift, stay a while and play with the toys or make something together using the art supplies, play handball or listen to music together. 

It's almost time for Santa to come!! Next time you will see my handmade Christmas cards and 2016 Christmas Present Wrapping.  Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Best of AGT: Christmas Shopping Survival Tips!

Gift shopping is one of those exhausting, sometimes terrifying, activities that could be classed as an extreme sport! 

Here are some tips for surviving (and even enjoying) A Christmas Shopping Expedition.

1.      BE PREPARED  Take a page from Santa's book and make a list.  Include all the information you could possibly need.  Include: people you want to buy gifts for, what you are planning to buy them, where you will buy each gift from (if you know) and expected price.   Have alternative gift ideas just in case your plan goes awry.  Consider all possibilities.

2.      HAVE A PLAN This may sound the same as the first tip, but it isn’t.  Before you go anywhere, answer the following questions and decide on the best plan for your circumstances. 

·         How much do you have to spend? (enough to buy it all in one day)

·         Which stores are you visiting? Are they all in one location?

·         How much time do you have to shop, the whole day, a few hours, half an hour?

·         How big are the gifts? Will they all fit in the car?

3.      BE SPECIFIC Don’t fall into the trap of buying 15 boxes of shortbread biscuits in the hope that you are covering everyone and then realise you have forgotten ten people.  A personal gift that considers each person will be more appreciated.

4.      TAKE TIME Don’t wait until Christmas Eve!  Purchase some items as you see them.  Allow extra time so that if you can’t find the perfect gift you were planning to get you are not forced to give them a box of biscuits!

5.      EAT FIRST When we are shopping we spend far too much time in the food court.  We are also likely to spend money purchasing unnecessary snack foods or drinks while shopping for gifts.  So eat a proper meal and take some crackers in your handbag.   Alternatively, schedule time for meals and budget for them too. 

6.      STAY HYDRATED If there is a time you are likely to get a headache, Christmas Shopping is one of them.  Crowds, Christmas Music, Children, Sales, long queues!  AAAHHHH! Take some bottled water along with you.  Dehydration is one of the most common causes of headache and prevention is better than cure!

7.      DITCH THE KIDS If this is one time a babysitter is worth it, this is it! 

8.      STAY FOCUSED You are shopping for gifts, not for clothes or shoes or hats or jewellery.  You are not shopping for yourself.  The quicker you get in and tick each item off the list the quicker you can get home and relax.

9.      SMILE and RELAX Don’t let yourself be sucked into the stress of Christmas Shopping.  Yes, you have set goals and you want to get in and out as quickly as possible, but you can do all this without turning into a Grinch! You have done the hard work by making a list of people and gifts, planning which shops where and when.  You can afford to relax and enjoy the experience.  Smile at shop assistants and thank them for their help. Be polite to fellow shoppers, no matter how greedy and cranky they may seem.  Remember that Christmas is a time of goodwill and peace on earth. 

10.  WRAP IT UP Know when to call it a day.  If you are starting to get Grinchy, it might be time for a break. Have a coffee and reset before getting back into it.  If that isn’t working, go home and save the rest of the list for another day. 

There you have it. Get listing and enjoy the experience. 

Friday, December 2, 2016

So it's December..

Okay, NOW you can decorate the Christmas Tree and get wrapping (gift wrapping not rhyming).  It wouldn't hurt to get singing those Christmas Carols too. 

I have been a bit of a bah humbug this past two months.... you could have heard me saying things like.......

"It's October and far too early for Christmas Decorations on sale in the shops."

"No, I don't want to 'like' the photos of the Christmas Tree you have already erected in your living room."

"You shouldn't put tinsel around your dog's neck at any time of the year, but especially at the BEGINNING of November!"

"No, thanks! I don't want to participate in the Secret Santa." 

It isn't that I don't love Christmas!  In fact, if you have ever read this blog in December, you will know that I devote the entire month to being 'festive'.  I love Christmas! There are some aspects of Christmas celebrations that I don't enjoy.  I look back on how I used to behave around Christmas time and I feel a little sad.  You see, Christmas was all about the decorations, the gifts, the various events and activities.  I'm a regular churchgoing Christian and while many of the Christmas events I attended were affiliated with church, I rarely attended for the right reasons.  I attended because I was expected.  I attended to see people I knew would be there.  I attended because that's just what we did.  I also bought gifts for messed up reasons too.  We won't go there. 

I don't want to dampen anyone's Christmas Joy and I don't want to criticise your Christmas Traditions.  I do, however, want to say that Christmas is a special time for followers of Jesus and we need to be mindful of our attitude and motives behind our 'celebrations'.  My advice on this point is this: don't feel pressured into participation in any of the commercial activities associated with Christmas. 

As of today, I have managed to publish one post every week of the year so far.  That means that I am so close to meeting my posting goal for this year!!  WOOHOO to me!! I finally chose a realistic goal!  Only 4 more official posts to go!  We will see what the coming days bring.