Simple Gift Idea

Christmas Gift Guide

 The older  I get the more the list of family members and people I know grows and grows and GROWS! While this is always a wonderful thing it also means that each year there are more people to buy gifts for or some that I need to not buy for any longer. This always makes me a little sad so I’ve been trying to come up with a simple gift idea that I can give those who I might want to let know that I’m thinking of them without giving them anything big or expensive.

Photo Calendar

This year I found the perfect thing! Like many sites CrinkleNose.com offers adorable personalized invitations, announcements, Holiday cards, and calenders. *Unlike* anywhere else, however, their products are all magnets!

I fell in love with their Photo Calendars — they are absolutely perfect for the simple gift I wanted to give!

Gift Idea: Use an artistic photo of your family to make an 8×10 Photo Calender and use it as a gift to give Aunts & Uncles, Cousins, or as a unique present topper!

 I got the 8×10 size and I love how big it is compared to other similar designs I’ve seen. I can’t wait to be able to give it to family members and since it’s a magnet it will be an adorable addition to their fridges! The picture quality came out great and I’m super pleased with it. I think the option to have your Christmas Card be a magnet is super fun too-it will easily become part of the recipients holiday decor and come out to go on their fridge each year!

Do you have a Simple Gift Idea? Please share it with me in the comments!

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Nicole Elliott

For Him

If you’re like me the very *hardest* people to buy for on your list are the guys! For me it’s always my hubby and my dad-in-law that I have an awful time buying for because they’re both the kind of guys who if they need or want something they just go out and buy it for themselves. They are also especially particular about what they like and will wear-so trying to get them anything in the clothing department is usually a flop unless they pick it out themselves!

All of this is why over the past few years I’ve developed an unconventional Christmas method for Bob that I talked about in my last post. This year I did know one thing I wanted to get him for Christmas– high quality ties! Because he’s going back to school and going into the field of science I know that there are going to be many occasions he’ll need to dress up–and he can’t just default to his military uniform anymore!

Gifts for Him

Bob is the kind of guy who likes to have really nice, high quality clothing items. High quality ties can be SO expensive though-so when I found out about Jack Franklin – a website that sells high quality ties online for around half the store listed price – I was so excited!

Gift Idea: Picky Hubby? Get him a gift certificate to a high end online store like Jack Franklin so that you have control over him buying ties-but he can pick out which ones he’ll actually wear!

I gifted Bob his present early and he picked out the Solid Light Green Tie, the East Coast tie, and the Brownie (slim cut).

I can’t express how impressed we are at the high quality of these ties! They are made on Italian Weavers, have 100% Wool Interlining, and are 100% Silk. Seriously NICE ties!!! And at only $34 a piece they are priced crazy low! When Bob opened them up he told me, “I think this is one of the coolest things you’ve ever done for me!” Now *that’s* the kind of reaction I want every Christmas!

Jack Franklin Brownie Tie

Our favorite tie is the Brownie (slim cut). It doesn’t translate into pictures well but the lighter shades shift and have just the slightest shimmer as the light hits it at different angles and the blues really blend so perfectly–you’ll just have to buy one so you can see how awesome it is in person!

These are such great high quality ties that you’ll be wanting to buy a gift certificate for every guy on your gift list this year! And I have some seriously AMAZING news!!!

A Jack Franklin Discount Code for 50% your entire order! That means that you can get 100% silk ties for a small fraction of what they would normally cost you-around $15 a tie for $100 ties!!!! Use Code: Blg50gvwy

Jack Franklin Ties

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Nicole Elliott

Create a Canvas

Holiday Gift Guide

What is your Gift Personality? According to Carla Anne I’m a The Prove-That-You-Know-Me Personality — and it’s really true! I love gifts that show that the gift giver knows me inside and out. I definitely tend to drop hints and give lists to see if they were paying attention! I also am this way when it comes to giving gifts–it’s important to me to give everyone a gift that they are going to LOVE and USE so I try to make sure it’s always something they will be thrilled with. I’m well known for giving amazing gifts (or so I’m told) so each year I feel the pressure to keep the awesomeness a’coming!

Wyoming Forest

One of my very favorite gifts to give is personalized canvas prints. We all have a smattering of photographic talent in my family (my dad was an artist–could have gotten a full ride scholarship but turned it down for a big money job and my mom was a newspaper photographer) As you know I love to dabble in photography but I think the real talent in our family landed in my younger brother Ryan (remember–the one who’s getting married??!!) He took the breathtaking picture above that turned into one gorgeous piece of art!

Wyoming Canvas

My other brother recently remolded his entire downstairs himself and they painted their new master bedroom a gorgeous blue shade. I knew that they will be needing decor for the room so I thought that this picture from one of our camping trips together would be the perfect gift this Christmas! I adore wrapped canvas and I love how high quality this one from Printcopia is–and the fact that they had the option to do a mirrored image on the sides lends an extra beautiful feel!

Wyoming Canvas

The reason canvas prints are my favorite is because they have such a gorgeous textured look to them that really turns a regular picture into a piece of art. I hope that this will be one of those LOVE it gifts for my brother–but I’m sure that it will!

Another great personalized gift to make would be a fun car magnet promoting a beloved cause or a custom banner sharing an inside joke!

What is your favorite personalized gift to give? What is your Gift Personality! Let me know in the comments!

Nicole Elliott

Personalized Stories

Holiday Gift Guide

 Personalized Stories

 No Christmas would be complete without some kind of books making their way into the pile of presents! My favorite books to give as Christmas presents are personalized stories. I love that these days you can put your child in books when I was little that would have been super difficult or too expensive to do!
Personalized Stories

 If you have little ones you probably already know how much they love books where they are finding something hidden in a picture–now imagine how much more fun it would be if they were looking for themselves! That’s the whole premise of Find Me If You Can!

Bammco Find Me if You Can

Personalized especially for your child they take your child’s face and hide it in a “sea” of other cute kiddos. There are 30 pages each with their own cute rhythms at the bottom of the page. Amber “helped” me with the pictures while Tyler was sleeping and she (very carefully) “inspected” the book for quite a while. She had so much fun finding her brother that I can only imagine how much he’ll like it!

Personalized Stories
Found him! (I added the arrow so you could find him easily too!)

One very cool option is that you can actually include up to 5 faces in a book so that if you have more than one child you don’t have to buy multiple books! As you can see it is put together in a binder-type style. That’s because it helps the book to lie completely flat so that it’s easy to look at the full pages and the hardback keeps it sturdy and durable.

Personalized Stories

The backgrounds are bright, fun pictures and are different for each set of pages. The books are $29.99 with one image and then go up in increments of $5 for each additional face. I love that this book encourages fun, reading, and concentration now–and will become a perfect keepsake to pass along to Tyler for his kids when he’s grow (how fun would it be to find a baby picture of your daddy??!!)

Bammco Discount Code: buckethead for 10% off! Valid through 12/17/2012

Visit the Bammco website for more information!

One Lucky Winner will receive their very own personalized story from Bammco!

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Nicole Elliott

Christmas Literature for Children

Christmas Literature for Children

Since I’m a huge book lover-along with my kiddos-it’s no surprise that we also love Christmas books-reading them is a great tradition and they also make perfect gifts. Here are my very favorite books you’ll find in our personal Christmas Collection-we love them all and I’d highly recommend them-you can click through on the titles to read others reviews on Amazon and add them to your own collection!

The Snowman's Song: A Christmas Story
(you might remember My Review a few years ago!)

 

The Usborne Christmas Treasury (Usborne Miniature Editions)
A super fun hodge-podge of a Christmas book that includes a sweet version of Biblical Christmas Story, the story of the (real) St. Nicholas, Twas the Night Before Christmas, the story of Cinderella (though I’m not sure why that’s in there?), The Little Fir Tree (a sweet little story about a tree who becomes a Christmas tree) and a condensed version of the Nutcracker. It’s just right for Amber at 4 and it also includes several fun, easy craft ideas (shown step by step) and Christmas songs! Right now at $5.50 it’s a steal and definitely worth adding to your collection!

 

The Littlest Christmas Elf (Little Golden Book)
I’ve mentioned before that I Don’t Like Santa and that post still rings true. However this is one of my very favorite Christmas books ever! We had it when I was little and it brings back such nostalgia that I just had to find and purchase a copy! The story of Allister the little elf with big dreams who finds that he gets in the way and “can’t do anything right” once he arrives at the North Pole. Luckily he makes friends with a nice old elf named Nicholas and well…I won’t ruin the ending! A great story that helps teach that you’re never too small to be a big help! Used copies (like the one I purchased in great shape) start at a penny!
I actually received this book as a present when Amber was born. The gift giver explained that although she knew it would be years till I could use it she just loved it so much that she felt every family needed to have a copy. Of course that got my attention! This is the story of 2 little children who go to visit their Grandpa during Christmastime. While looking for decorations they end up finding all sorts of different items and the Grandpa describes how each item portrays an aspect of Jesus character (the manger, the door, the vine, the giver of living water, etc). This book is beautifully illustrated and I’ve never seen a book with such depth and truth written in a way that a younger child could understand-now I know why I was given it and I’m excited as this is the first year I’ll get to read it to Amber!
christmas backdrops
 There are so many great Christmas books but it’s hard to find many board books. I love this one because while it includes the well known Away in a Manger the rest of the lullabies are either English Traditional or Czech. They have poem like rhythms that are fun to read and that toddlers love-the CD (if included) is pretty fun–a little tinkly and “baby nursery music” sounding but over all sweet and nice. You can get a used copy for .99 cents!
Tonight You Are My Baby: Mary’s Christmas Gift
When I became a mother myself Mary’s role in Jesus life became so much more real and special to me! How would it have felt to hold the King of King in your arms? This book dives into those kinds of thoughts with beautiful phrases like, “I swaddle you in cloth, safely nestle you in hay. The sheep and cows are calm as I bow my head and pray. The precious donkey that brought us safely here Nuzzles you so softly, sensing God is near.” Deep enough in thought that it touches my heart with each reading the sweet rhythms also keep Amber & Tyler’s attention. I love that it easily also draws out discussion of how the babe in the manger is the King of Kings!

The Littlest Angel

Another beloved Christmas story from my childhood–this book is one of my all time favorites and as soon as I saw the new version I snatched up a copy for Amber! The story of a young Jewish boy who is sent to Heaven when he is only 4 years old it is a charming tale of God’s unconditional love and the power of a pure child like heart and faith and how the Christmas Star that lead the way to Jesus came about. Definitely should be read as an allegory/fable (as, no, I don’t believe people become angels when they die). This new edition has different pictures than the one I grew up with-and while they are beautiful I will still always have a soft spot for the 1980s version!

So there are all my favorites! What are your favorite Christmas Children’s Books? Please let me know in the comments!

Nicole Elliott

Creative Ideas With Pictures

Christmas Gift Guide

*Spoiler Alert* If you’re on my Christmas Gift List this year stop reading this post unless you want to find out what I’m giving you for Christmas! That is all…for the rest of you….please read on!!!!

 As I mentioned I love using photos for gifts! These days there are so many creative ideas with pictures that you can use as gifts for those in your life. Think outside of the box and you might be surprised at what beautiful, creative, and meaningful gifts you can give your family this year! MailPix is an awesome new photo site that has a huge variety of fun high quality gifts-in fact due to their generosity and amazing deals I’m giving one for most people on my list this year-as you’ll see below! One really cool thing about MailPix is that you can sign in through Facebook with them and they will sync your FB and Instagram pictures so you can actually get all those fun shots printed out!

TIP: Check out MailPix Deals and Free Items pages for some a*MAZ*ing deals!!! Plus get 100 free 4×6 photos just for signing up!

Picture Glass Cutting Board

Photo Glass Cutting Board

If you’re looking for something really unique why not give a glass cutting board?! This makes a perfect gift for someone who cooks a lot or who loves unique presents. When giving a gift like this I like to go for more of an artistic feel rather than a “cheese at the camera” kind of shot. I feel like this picture of the kiddos makes a gorgeous cutting board! I’m super happy with the high quality textured look of the glass and it comes with little rubber feet to keep it from sliding-so it’s actually practical and well as fun!

Creative Picture Ideas #1: Look for opportunities to take artistic photos (back, side, unusual angels, scenery shots, etc) throughout the year-then turn them into fun gifts!

Ornaments

These days  creating beautiful, meaningful gifts is easier than ever with Facebook! Hubbies sister lives in Tennessee and we don’t get to see them often so we don’t have many pictures of them other than the ones they send us. I knew that she would love ornaments of her own family, however, so I’m giving her these two beautiful snowflake ornaments this year! They’re very durable feeling and I love the glossy look and speckled photo border that give them a touch of whimsy.

Creative Picture Ideas #2: Use someone’s Facebook profile photos to create a one of a kind personal gift they’re sure to love!

Photo Magnets

Perfect as stocking stuffers, gift toppers, or just a little something special to throw in with the main gift magnets can be used with artistic photos or to showcase your favorite family photo!

Creative Picture Ideas #3: Instead of topping a present with a bow place a photo magnet on top of ribbons for an extra special twist!

Photo Fleece Blankets

It seems like my sweet Grandma’s are always cold so I decided to give them a practical gift with a sentimental twist. Like me they both had their honeymoons to my Grandpa’s in Jackson Hole, WY so I made this gorgeous picture that I snapped of the Grand Tetons last summer and turned into a cozy fleece blanket! I spread it out on our queen size bed so you could get an idea of the size–it is just perfect for a couch throw or could even be turned into a unique wall hanging that would give the room a softer feel.

Creative Picture Ideas #4: Turn a practical item into a treasured gift by including an artistic picture with sentimental value to it.

Custom T-Shirts

Photo T-Shirts might not be on the runways but that proud Grandparent won’t believe it! My Dad can never have enough t-shirts and love bragging on his Grandbabies so I figured I’d make it easy on him with a shirt that proclaims their love for him!

Creative Picture Ideas #4: Take a favorite photo and turn it into a declaration of love with adding text in an easy to use photo editor like PSE or PicMonkey

Photo Brag Books

Speaking of bragging, it doesn’t have to be limited to t-shirts! Brag books are just perfect for proud grandparents! My Father-in-Law works out of state 90% of the time so I thought in order to make his travel trailer a little more “homey” he might enjoy a little 4×6 Brag Book that contains pictures of all his kids and grandkids-I grabbed current pictures of his other granddaughters from Instagram! I’m sure he’ll love it!
Another fun idea is to use this to make a “My Family” or “People Who Love Me” book as a Christmas present for kids-especially those who have family and close friends who live far away!

Creative Picture Ideas #5: Put together a mix of pictures of people the recipient loves and turn them into a brag book of their favorite people!

Framed 5×7

 In striving for a fun, unique present don’t forget the power a beautiful framed photo has! Since I loved this Christmas photo so much I’m giving all the Grandparents and Great-Grandparents a 5×7 with their Christmas gifts! (see–I told you I was using it on *everything* this year!)

Creative Picture Ideas #6: Pick a fun, fanciful frame that pulls out a vibrant color in the picture to create a gift that’s anything but boring!

Photo Greeting Cards

And of course-any photo gift post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning including a photo Christmas card! If you have any non traditional colors in your family photo (like the pink we have) play that up with a fun and funky card design!

Creative Picture Ideas #7: Save yourself some postage! Instead of a To/From sticker on top of a gift place your Christmas Card there instead!

Do you have a favorite photo gift? Are there any great ideas that I missed?!

 One lucky winner will win a Photo Gift Box is 5.5 x 5.5 x 2.25″ with a glossy wooden finish from MailPix! (pictured above $30 Value)

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Nicole Elliott

Hillsong We Have A Savior Review

Since up until now I’ve attended more traditional churches that mainly focus on hymns I’m not super familiar with Hillsong. Once I found out that they are responsible for many of the Worship Song Books in church We Have a Savior made perfect sense. They sing many traditional songs but they all have a definitely “worship” feel to them with extra bridges and phrases added in and various twists on the song. The music is done in a choir/group type style with a few lead singers and backup. With 12 songs that are all considerably longer it goes against the “short and sweet” trend of the other new Christian Christmas CDs I’ve received this year.

Overall I enjoyed this CD but when stacked up with the many others in my collection there wasn’t really anything super special about it that jumps out at me. One track that I really do love and found beautiful was Emmanuel. We Have a Savior makes for great background music and I’ve enjoyed having it on while the kids play and I work– so my overall opinion is that this CD is worth purchasing but not a favorite. I must add that I’m not a huge fan of worship CDs so that is a big part of what plays into my opinion! If you love worship music to listen to at home then you will love this Christmas CD–be sure to read the other reviews on Amazon-4.5 stars so far also listen to the snippets on Amazon so you can get a feel for yourself of the CD!

Don’t forget–I’m giving away a copy of We Have a Savior–but hurry and enter because it ends in just a few days!

Nicole Elliott

Decorating Idea

Holiday Gift Guide

For your Bathroom!

It seems like we deck the halls just about everywhere but our bathrooms so here are 5 decorating ideas to make your bathroom “merry & bright” along with sweet & functional for guests!

Dial Hand Wash

1. Jazz Up the Plain. Hand soap is a bathroom essential so  why not have a little fun with it? The new Antibacterial Foaming Hand Wash from Dial is as functional as it is cute! The pump is super easy to use for Amber and I love how it smells! These are a perfect, practical and inexpensive pick me up for every sink in the house!

Charmin Freshmates


 2. Accommodate the Little Ones. Amber’s in that “just past the” potty training stage–you know, the point where she wants to do *everything* all by herself? Charmin has these great new Freshmate flushable wipes that a step up from the “little kid” kind. More durable and in a whole lot prettier of a package-these are great to have for your little one or any coming for Christmas. You could dress it up by putting a bow on top!

Christmas Bath Towels

 3. Swap Out the Soft. Bath and Hand Towels. Probably the easiest change to make-just swap out your normal towels for something subtly Christmas related that matches your existing decor! I love these Red Christmas Tree Holiday Bath Towels on Amazon

DIY Holiday Night Light
Source: instagr.am via Nicole on Pinterest

4. Bring on the Sparkle. How great is this idea from Pinterest? I love reusing things and this is a beautiful, fun decoration that would be super easy and inexpensive to put together!

Ornaments on Candlesticks
Source: bhg.com via Nicole on Pinterest

5. Think Outside the Bathroom Look to other rooms for ideas on how you can jazz up your bathroom pretty. Using this as inspiration take 3 candlesticks, top them with ornaments, and place them on your bathroom counter–beautiful, simple, and unexpected!

Do you decorate your bathroom for Christmas? What are you tips for making it pretty & practical?

Nicole Elliott

Josh Wilson Noel Review

Christmas Gift Guide
Josh Wilson Noel

 This is the first cd of Josh Wilson‘s that I’ve ever listened to and after hearing it I will definitely be checking out his others! Noel has reach my top 3 Christmas CDs in my collection! Overall I love the fact that each of the 10 songs is faith based and he avoids the cliche and annoying main stream secular Christmas songs so many Christian artists include on their CDs. Noel includes two instrumentals–The First Noel & Carol of the Bells–both are just gorgeous! What I love the MOST is when artists write new Christmas songs and Josh has several. The title track–Jesus is Alive–is now one of my very favorite Christmas songs! It’s absolutely beautiful and the lyrics are just amazing! Here are some of them:

Noel, Noel, Jesus is Alive
Emmanuel, Hope is Here Tonight
So go and tell the world that death has died
For Jesus is Alive
Yes, Jesus is Alive

Goosebump worthy!!! Seriously–this track alone would be worth purchasing the cd for!

The rest of the songs are equally moving-in his version of O Come Emmanuel he sings a few phrases in Latin(?) that are just amazing! His other renditions of the traditional carols like Angels We Have Heard on High (my favorite) are done perfectly as well!

In a sea of hurried up and same songs over and over and over again Christmas CDs this one shines bright!

Don’t forget–I’m giving away a copy of Noel of these-so hurry because it’s almost over and enter to win!

Nicole Elliott

Bebo Norma Lights of Distant Cities CD

“Now, I’m not saying we’re going to be dancing in the aisles–but if when you were singing or listening to music and you didn’t want to just raise your hands to God in praise–well then maybe you need to stop and think about why that is for a minute.” ~ Dan Winnberg Pastor of Church of the Open Bible*

I’ve always attended very conservative, very formal churches. You know–the kind where you sing hymns out of hymnals and everyone is dressed in their “Sunday best”. Since growing up my ideas on music have grown and expanded, and as you can tell on this blog I love current Christian music and cds (though I still love hymns and piano music too!)

I thought of the quote above while I was listening to Lights of Distant Cities as I was cooking dinner one night–because I turned around and saw this:

With no knowledge that I was watching her or that raising hands is something that you would do to worship–Amber just automatically did this while listening to the CD. She stood like it long enough for me to snap a quick picture (also having no clue I was) and then after a few minutes just put her hands down and went on about her business. This just touched my heart so deeply–to see the pure faith like worship of a little child. I do believe that the music I should listen to should be scripture based–but that it is wonderful if and when it elicits an emotion towards God that just compels you to raise your hands in worship!

If that wasn’t reason enough for you to want to check out Lights of Distant Cities then I’ll mention that I too loved this CD! I had never heard of Bebo Norman before and I really enjoyed this CD. It was written through a difficult period in his life and that shines through with a candidness and raw edge that I really feel makes the album ring with authenticity. He also has a very fun upbeat vibe that makes his cd great to listen to. It’s hard to pick a favorite song but I do love the title track.

I’m including this CD in my Christmas Gift Guide because I feel that it would make a wonderful gift! I love giving music as a Christmas present. I save up my Swagbucks throughout the year to cash into Amazon Gift Cards and then I use those to buy great presents like Lights of Distant Cities to give to my family!

Go listen to the songs on Amazonand check out the rest of the reviews-it has 5 stars so far!

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*(discussing what kind of music he felt was appropriate for church services while he was a pastoral candidate for COB quote may not be exact as I’m going off of my memory and it’s been several months now)

Nicole Elliott