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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

DIY Suitcase House for Travelling Elves

Today is the last day of the "All Wrapped Up" blog series for the year!  I really enjoyed it this year and found it much easier to do than last year when I did it during November.  The best part is that I still haven't run out of topics to write about!  I know I'll be doing at least a few more posts this year before Christmas.  But first, my magnum opus... an Elf Suitcase Dollhouse!

I have been planning this travelling elf house for over a year!  I had the wood case picked out since last December and waited all year until I bought it.  The wall pieces are held in only by their own friction, so I can easily remodel it next year (haha) or replace broken parts as needed.

I created the structures with 1/8 inch foam boards.  The left side is only 1 inch deep, so the the build-in needed to be only 3/4" deep.  The kitchen area isn't quite as detailed as I had hoped to make if the inset was deeper, but I'm pleased with it.  I started with the back piece and measured out the shelves and counter.

Next, I wallpapered the subway tile with scrapbook paper.  I cut the side and top pieces for the box and installed them, then cut the shelves and covered them with scrapbook paper.  Everything was hot glued together as I made them.

Using a doll, I measured for the counter height and used a plastic bowl to decide the depth.  I needed the counter to fold up because of the depth restrictions.  Clear tape on the subway tile and counter made the joint for folding it up.

For the cabinet doors, I used wood skinny sticks and hot glued them to a piece of computer paper.  Then, I painted them red with acrylic paint.  The main part of the cabinet was covered with computer paper, then I hot glued the doors onto the face.  The piece was attached to the counter top with a piece of clear tape on the underside to make a joint.  Another piece of foam board was measured and cut to go on the end.  When I need to put it away, the side piece can get stored elsewhere and the counter gets folded up.  Easy and magical at the same time.

The living room area of the dollhouse was a lot more complicated to make, but I can't give measurements since the sizes will depend on the box you use.  The bottom section has a storage bench made from foam board and scrapbook paper.  The top opens for storing the doll bedding and other accessories.

The top drawers are hiding built-in lighting made from mini Christmas lights.  I tried to take a picture, but the lighting made it very challenging.  The left handed drawer can slide all the way out to turn the lights on and off.  Both drawers can be used for storage.

The floating shelves are scraps of foam board covered in scrapbook paper.  The elf sign is a free printable I added to the blog last week.  Just like the cupboard doors, the picture frame is made from skinny sticks.  The drawer pulls are gum drop buttons (which I also used on my gingerbread onesie).  Now, I get to decorate and get it filled with accessories!

Other Props I've Bought
- spoons, forks, bowl, plates, and mugs from Miniature Sweet
- peppermint cane slices from Miniature Sweet
- craft scissors from Miniature Sweet
- cake pops from Sweet Pea Toys Mini
- Christmas Candy from Sweet Pea Toys Mini
- candy canes from Slime Supplies Craft

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tasty Food Miniatures Your Elf Can Make and You Can Eat

Miniature Foods, especially party foods are very popular lately.  If you search Pinterest, you can find miniature corn dogs, hamburger sliders, cotton candy, and more.  I have been thinking a lot about our Elf on the Shelf and how neat it would be if she could make miniature foods that we could actually eat!  This is what I've found....

Festive Mini Cakes // Snackworks
Layers of vanilla wafers and jam make up these tiny treats.  Dip them in melted chocolate for an easy miniature layer cake that's perfect for elves.

Gingerbread House // Uncommon Designs Online
I am in love with this adorable miniature gingerbread house!  What a sweet, petite treat to go with coffee or cocoa.  Decorate them elaborately, or leave them simply adorable.

Mini Cake Pops // Sweet Cheeks Tasty Treats
These cake pops were part of a whole elf party.  See the full spread by clicking on the link.

Caramel Apple Bites // My Litter
Although, we typically think of caramel apples as a Halloween food, these tiny sweets are perfect for anytime of the year.

Petit Fours // Craftsy
Pound cake and chocolate melts are the main ingredients in these adorable doll-sized cakes.  Make in Christmas colors with candy sprinkles to make them more festive!

Elf Donuts // Learning as I Sew
I debated whether to add this one to the list since it's almost an "official" elf food.  The idea is all over Pinterest and you can get printable donut boxes as well.  Of course, the best is if the elf also produces human sized treats as well.  Is he a good elf or a bad one for bringing donuts in the house?

Store-Bought Miniature Foods // Where Do We Find the Time
It doesn't get much easier than store-bought food.  The contrast between the regular sized foods and the mini foods are so fun.  Lay them out in a buffet like the picture or build an Incredible Shrinking Machine to make the foods elf sized.

Petite Peanut Butter Blossoms // Hersheys
Did you know that Hershey's makes miniature kisses?  You can find them in your grocery store's baking isle!  How easy is it to cook up some tiny blossoms now that taste like the original?  Or you can do as the blogger in the picture and use chocolate chips.

Pizza Bites // Baked in the South
Has your elf been up late studying?  Are they on a first date?  Do they just really need some pizza? Make some for them and some to share with the humans.

If you're interested in tiny cooking or know someone who enjoys it, click on the pictures below to buy the miniature food cookbook.

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Monday, October 29, 2018

200+ Good Deeds for Christmas

Did you know that World Kindness Day is November 13th?  It's the day to focus on Random Acts of Kindness and other good deeds.  Advent (the time before Christmas) is another great time to practice giving to others.  I've worked with the Kid Blogger Network to bring you over 200 ideas for Christmas or any time.

Books to Jump Start Conversations

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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Christmas Fun with Buddy the Elf

Christmas Fun with Buddy the Elf // Life in Our Pond // Elf movie // Family Movie Night // Elf Culture

Buddy the Elf.  What's Your Favorite Color?

Christmas would not be the same without Buddy the Elf.  It might not even be Halloween yet, but I'm already playing Christmas music (did you know there was an Elf Musical), doing elf crafts, and a few days away from finishing up my All Wrapped Up pre-Christmas series.  I love the Elf movie, and wanted to share my affinity for elf culture with a blog post all about the Elf.

Christmas Fun with Buddy the Elf // Life in Our Pond // Elf movie // Family Movie Night // Elf Culture

Christmas Fun with Buddy the Elf // Life in Our Pond // Elf movie // Family Movie Night // Elf Culture

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Christmas Fun with Buddy the Elf // Life in Our Pond // Elf movie // Family Movie Night // Elf Culture

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Unique Ways to Give Gift Cards to Kids

Unique and fun ways to give gift cards to kids.  Make sure they have something fun to open on their birthday, Christmas, or any other gift-giving day.  // Life in Our Pond

Everyone loves the convenience of giving gift cards.  It's a super easy way to show someone you care.  It allows you to give a present, while allowing the other person to pick out what they want to buy.  Popular options include Starbucks (put it in a to-go cup), Amazon, or another restaurant.

More commonly, especially with children, gift cards are used to set aside money for a specific outing or experience.  For example, if the family is heading to a Disney park in the new year, the child may receive gift card to allow he or she to buy their own souvenirs.  You could just hand the gift card to the kid or put it in a cards, but that would be lame.  Here are some great ideas for unique ways to give gift cards to kids.  Click on the red links to visit the product pages.

This gift guide was inspired by a conversation that I had with my sister recently.  She is planning on giving one of my children an outing to Build-a-Bear, and was wondering how to wrap it so that the gift had value when compared to her brother's physical gifts.  I found this cute Design Your Own Teddy Bear sticker book and suggested that she add the gift card to the book.  My daughter will still have something to open on Christmas, the book will remind here of the imminent outing, and my sister will have only added $2 to her gift.  I think it'll be a win for everyone.

Movie Tickets
For years, I've been seeing the gift card idea of burying a movie ticket in a plastic mason jar of candy.  For a movie, you could put the card in the recipient's favorite movie-watching candy or provide popcorn kernels for a movie night at home.  If the movie tickets are for a specific movie event, then you could put the gift card with a small toy, storybook, or other novelty item from the movie.

Ice Cream
Wrap up your gift card with a set of ice cream bubbles from the Dollar Tree (you may only be able to find them in summer) or with a novelty squishy toy.  You could also slip the card onto a box of cones, put it with a pack of unique bowls, or tape it to the recipient's favorite toppings.  Another great option would be to buy a fun picture book and put the gift card between the pages.

Video Game Credits
Kids who enjoy playing video games often need gift cards for game credits or to buy a new game.  Why not make them work for it a bit with a mind-teasing puzzle box?  We're not gamers, so I'm not sure what other things to suggest.  Leave a suggestion in the comments.

Amazon Gift Card
There is an unlimited amount of things that can be bought with an A-Z Amazon gift card.  Many of the ideas that I've already listed would work for Amazon cards.  Perhaps a jar full of gumballs?  Or a cute storybook?  Or a blind bag?  Or maybe put it in the middle of a yarn ball and have the recipient unravel it to get the toy (it would make a good gift for a knitter or crocheter too).

Other Ideas
- disposable cup from restaurant
- Saran Wrap ball
- make a snowglobe (see the idea in action here)
- pack of gum
- mini gift basket (see the idea in action here)
- reuse an old playdoh container
- bury it in slime (see the idea in action here)
- put it in soap
- stack of boxes inside of boxes
- freeze in ice
- scavenger hunt

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Unique and fun ways to give gift cards to kids // Life in Our Pond // Cause just handing it to them is lame

Friday, October 26, 2018

Embrace the Cuteness with Calico Critters

Embrace the Cuteness with Calico Critters // Life In Our Pond // gift guide // christmas list // toys for kids // doll house

Dragonfly (age 7) enjoys watching doll unboxing shows in Youtube and has become very interested in Calico Critters recently.  The toys combine classic doll house and family play with adorable anthropomorphic animals.  For kids who don't enjoy doll play, Calico Critters can be a good option.  Dragonfly has a bunch of CC stuff on her Christmas list, so I thought it would be a good time to make a gift guide with all the cuteness.  Click on any of the red links to add the toys to your Christmas list.

Embrace the Cuteness with Calico Critters // Life In Our Pond // gift guide // christmas list // toys for kids // doll house

The Calico Critter toys would be nothing without the actual critter families.  The adults and kids have the basic five points of articulation (head, arms, legs) while the babies only have one (head).  All of the animals are 1:24 scale and fit the accessories, which means their not scaled for each other (aka the mice and the elephants are the same size).  The animal families break into three basic groups: woodland animals, pets, and wild creatures.  Dragonfly (age 7) is hoping that they'll add fantasy creatures one day too.  Click on the red links to buy the animals for the kids in your life.

In the woodland animals category, you'll find the Pickleweeds Hedgehogs and their twin babies, who have awesome thick hair for combing.  The Hazelnut Chipmunks and their twin babies have huge fluffy tails, while the Buckley Deer family has pointy ears.  Lastly, the Cuddle Bears have a non-threatening teddy bear appearance.

The pets group is the largest.  There are dog families like the Chocolate Labradors (and their triplet babies), the Golden Labradors (and their twin babies), and the Toy Poodles (and their twin babies).  The Hopscotch Rabbits are unique in that they come with Grandparents, parents, kids, Baby Twins, and Sweetpea Rabbits aunts, uncles, and cousins.  There are lots of feline families, too, like the Sandy Cats (and their babies), the Persian Cats (and their twin babies), the Silk Cats, the Maple Cats, and the Tuxedo Cats (and their Baby Triplets).  For rodent families, you can chose between the Marshmallow Mice (and their triplet babies) or the Fluffy Hamsters (and their twin babies).

The newest line of creatures comes from the wild!  From Africa, you can get the Ellwoods Elephants (and their twin babies) and the Mango Monkeys.  The Hopper Kangaroos and Outback Koalas hail from Asia, while the Wilder Pandas (and their twin babies) and the Red Pandas come from Asia.  Although they're not the most realistic version of those animals, you can still these wild animals to talk about geography, habitats, and conservation.

Which one of these animal families is your favorite?  Comment down below and tell me.

Embrace the Cuteness with Calico Critters // Life In Our Pond // gift guide // christmas list // toys for kids // doll house

All those families need places to live!  The koala, monkeys, and bears can live in the Adventure Tree House.  Everyone else can live at ground level in the Red Roof Country Home, the Luxury Town House, and the Cozy Cottage.  For first time Calico Critters buyers, I recommend the Cozy Cottage since it is reasonably priced and comes with a rabbit girl and some furniture pieces.  During the day, all the kids can attend the Country Tree School, unless they're homeschooled.

For family vacations, it doesn't get much cuter than Calico Critters.  The Caravan Family Camper folds down for so much play potential.  It even has a tiny toilet.  The Cruiser Houseboat has lots of accessories and extra play areas.  Vacation housing includes the Lakeside Lodge and the Secret Island Playhouse.  Click any of the red links to view the products on Amazon.

Embrace the Cuteness with Calico Critters // Life In Our Pond // gift guide // christmas list // toys for kids // doll house

Of course, all those creature families need a way to get around their play land.  All the children can go on the School Bus, while the babies go on the Sunshine Nursery Bus.  The working parents can drive off in their Convertibles and Cherry Cruisers.  Soccer moms and homeschoolers can pack out the Family Van and drive to their errands or field trips.  After the shopping is down, the Hot Dog Van will be waiting to feed everyone lunch at the park.

There is so many more amazing Calico Critter things that I could talk about, but I'm going to have to save those for another gift guide.  Be sure to check out the adorable shops for the downtown center and all the cute and practical furniture to fill the houses.  Calico Critter always is adding new things, so the collecting never has to stop.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

18 Alternatives to the Elf on the Shelf

The Elf on the Shelf is famous (infamous?) for his nightly antics during December.  His official story is that he spies on children for Santa and leaves reports for them to mend their ways.  Some people find him a bit creepy.  Others don't like how common he is and how he can be found in every store around Christmas time.  Some parents want to focus more on the religious part of the holidays, which others just wish for a storyline they can write themselves.  Whatever your reasons for hating on the elf, this is the blog post for you!  Click the red links to learn more about each idea.

18 Alternatives to the Elf on the Shelf // In Our Pond // Christmas Countdown // Advent // Toys and Books for Christmas

Si the Christmas Elf- I laughed aloud when I saw this Duck Dynasty inspired elf doll.  He's not a spy for Santa, but he does have lots of redneck advice to share.

Shepherd on the Search- The shepherd moves around your house and does different prescribed things every day that point to Scripture and introduce aspects of the Nativity.  The line has also expanded into Christmas.

Angel on Assignment- This official angel is very similar to the shepherd, except she encourages kids to be "angels in disguise" for others.

Kindness Elves- I love the idea of encouraging children to do good deeds at Christmas.  Although you can use any elf for the project, the official Kindness Elf website has lots of great ideas and official dolls and books.

Santa's Lazy Gnome- This grumpy looking gnome reminds me of the servant of Narnia's White Witch.  Except his main job here is to literally sit on a shelf and not move.

North Pole Ninjas- Parents who are looking for something a bit cooler will appreciate these ninjas.  They remind me of the elf rescue "SWAT" team in the first Santa Clause movie.  The master is huggable and also encourages good works.

Hide and Hug Olaf- Disney had to get in on the action of creating an elf alternative, so they have us Olaf.  Everyone's favorite snowman is hanging out this winter and giving you lots of Disney magic fun.

Reindeer in Here- Instead of being a spy for Santa, the reindeer is supposed to be carried around with your child so he can learn more about him or her.  The companion book focuses on each child's uniqueness and celebrating those differences.

Mensch on the Bench- For those who celebrate Hanukkah, the elf alternative is a mensch (a good and righteous man).  The companion book talks about the elements of Hanukkah and points children to giving rather than receiving.

18 Alternatives to the Elf on the Shelf // In Our Pond // toys for Christmas countdown // Advent fun

Christmas Mouse- I love this elf alternative, since it has some cute crafting potential.  Read about the adventures of Montgomery the Mouse and see how one family uses him for their homeschooling too.

Build a Nativity Scene Day by Day- Hide or wrap up the pieces to your family Nativity set every day and follow Bible verse clues to discover the meaning of the piece.  Check it out on the blog, Premeditated Leftovers.

Silver Jingle Bell- For a Christmas game that doesn't need to happen every day, this jingle bell hide and seek game is perfect.  Unlike most of these elf alternatives, the bell game can be played inside or outside.

Christmas Elf- Our Joy (Jesus Others Yourself) elf was just a generic doll that I bought and created into our Elf on the Shelf alternative.  Since you, the parent, are the one introducing the game, you can make up our own rules.  Our Joy elf is part of our family every winter.

Lamb of Bethlehem- The little lamb is one of the latest elf alternatives.  It's also designed to tell kids about the Nativity story.

Christmas Angel- Another way to point kids to the Christ of Christmas is with an angel doll that leaves notes about Jesus every day.

Melk the Monkey- A Christian mom wrote a devotional book for Melk the Monkey.  Since she doesn't include a toy with her book, I decided to add it to this list.  You can read more at her blog.

Wise Men Follow the Star- Although no special book would be required for you to move your Nativity set Wise Men closer to the stable every day; the book of Advent lessons is called The Travelling Wise Men.  Alternatively, you could do the 12 days of Christmas with them, since Epiphany is typically the holiday for the wise men.

Christmas Bear- I made this one up (inspired by the Coco Cola polar bears).  But. there is absolutely no reason why you can't make over your child's forgotten teddy bear into a Christmas bear.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Elf-Sized Mini Books

I'm addicted at all things ELF!  I have about five printable projects and ten blog posts in the works.  Even though Christmas has passed, I can't stop working on Elf stuff!

One of my current projects is a suitcase house for our Elf, so I've been working on decorations and accessories for it.  I had a lot of fun making the mini books.  I made some shaped books that can cover cardboard to make books that don't open.  I also made some slightly over-sized cookbooks with "real" recipes for winter Elf baking.  Lastly, there are two groups of coordinated, uniform books for a bookshelf.    I've already started assembling the books, and the kids think they're so fun.  These tiny books would be perfect addition to your Elf library or reading scene.

For assembly instructions, I recommend checking out My Froggy Stuff's book making tutorial video.  In case you haven't heard the news, I love Froggy!  She's super creative, almost everything I do is inspired by her.

Elf-Sized Mini Books from In Our Pond #miniatures #christmas #elfontheshelf

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Elf-Sized Mini Books from In Our Pond #miniatures #christmas #elfontheshelf

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen

Best Play Food for the Toy Kitchen // In Our Pond // Gift Guide for Kids // Fuel the imagination // Pretend Play

Growing up, I loved playing with my toy kitchen!  It was so awesome to be able to cook up anything I wanted without the limits of resources, time, ingredients, or ability.  I think every child should get some time playing pretend before their grown.  Companies like Melissa and Doug make it very easy to find play food options that will engage your child's imagination and storytelling skills.  I think I write about play food every few months, but here's another collection.  For this year's All Wrapped Up series, I'm focusing on the best play food for the toy kitchen!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Children's Books about Christmas Elves

I've been sick all week and it's been tough to keep up with my self-imposed 31-day blogging blitz.  I had hoped to be further along with the crafting and have more to post.  As I was working on elf housing and elf crafts and thinking about my favorite Elf movie, I decided to do a post on Elf children's books.  I wrote a post about Nativity books last year and one about Christmas classics a few weeks ago, but I haven't done anything with Santa or Elves.  Click the red links to add some new elf books to add to your Christmas collection.

Elfie the Elf- A lonely girl meets a elf and begins a heart-warming tale of friendship and learning to accept our differences.  Originally written in 1990 and only just now published, this book will soon become a classic.

Memoirs of an Elf- Take a look at a day in the life of a Christmas elf as he helps Santa deliver presents on Christmas Eve.  When a wiggly surprise shows up at the North Pole, who will save the day?  Contains math and writing tie ins, which make this a great book for homeschoolers or teachers.  The author has a whole collection of Memoir books that looks so interesting and fun- check them out by clicking the link.

Pig the Elf- Pig is a pug dog, who gets tangled up helping Santa.  There's a whole series of Pig the Pug books, which young readers will enjoy if they like this elf story.

The Littlest Elf- Many parents commented that this is the book they had their Elf on the Shelf bring to the kids.  It's a sweet story, which reminds kids that no matter how small they are, they can still bring joy to someone else.

How to Catch an Elf- Many kids want to catch Santa in the very act of giving them gifts, but he can be tricky to snag.  Instead, this book tells you how to capture a smaller prey.  From the author of great books like How to Babysit Grandpa and more, this fun, rhyming book is sure to become a favorite.

Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf- Families that celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas will appreciate this blend of dreidels and Santa.

The Twelve Hats of Christmas- Some elves make cookies in trees and some make toys, but this elf makes hats.  With the rhyme of Dr. Suess and the colorful pages of a Disney movie, the 12 Hats tells kids that the best gift of all is themselves.

The Christmas Elf Countdown- A lift-the-flap board book for toddlers, this book goes through how elves get ready for Christmas.

How to Build an Elf Trap- Although this looks like a sequel to "How to Catch an Elf," they're actually written by two different people.  The book give you twelve ideas for building a trap and has lot of STEM connections, which makes it a sneaky way to teach planning, engineering, math, and more.

I am actually surprised that there aren't more available since the Elf on the Shelf is so popular.  Did I miss any?  Comment below.  What's your favorite elf book?

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