My Christmasy Recommendations

The Best of Christmas

I’m in a festive mood today. I pulled out the holiday decor boxes and the tree we chopped down this weekend will finally get some trimmings tonight. The laundry I plan/hope to do later will most certainly be accomplished with Christmas music playing in the background.

Since I’m feeling so festive (and North Idaho is finally looking festive – aka, white), I thought I’d share a little Christmas recommendations round-up of my favorite holiday books, music, movies, and decor!

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Primitive Roads!

Books for Advent

The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping The Full Love Story Of Christmas by Ann Voskamp

A beautifully designed Advent devotional with daily readings, meditations, and reflection questions to turn your heart and mind towards our Savior during this crowded season. I was not familiar with the Jesse Tree concept before beginning this book, but I love how it focuses on the family tree of Jesus. My favorite part of each day’s devotional is the “Unwrapping More Of His Love In The World” section where Ann gives a simple and practical action step to be an extension of God’s love that day.

The Women of Christmas: Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna by Liz Curtis Higgs 

I love Liz Curtis Higgs’ Christian fiction but had yet to read any of her non-fiction before this Advent themed one. I’m enjoying her easy to digest thoughts about the different female perspectives of the Christmas narrative (though I haven’t quite finished it yet). There’s tons of Scripture throughout so it reads like a conversational commentary.

Books for Children (and Adults)

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I absolutely adore Amy’s first book, Cookies: Bite-Size Life Lessons, and the Christmas edition is more of the same, with a holiday twist: beautiful illustrations accompanying an ABC dictionary of sweet life lessons. I love keeping this on the coffee table during the Christmas season and will enjoy reading it to James next year (though he’ll probably just enjoy the pictures at that point…).

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Holly Hobbie

I’m pretty much enamored by Toot and Puddle, two adventurous pigs who happen to be best friends. They are cute and thoughtful and utterly endearing. Toot is a traveler, Puddle is more the anxious sort. This story will have you rooting for both as they try to spend the holidays together. Let It Snow is also a charming Toot and Puddle Christmas story.

The Greatest Shepherd of All: A Really Woolly Christmas Story by Holly Gerth

I must have a thing for children’s books with cute creatures because I’m a huge fan of the Really Woolly sheep. The combination of the Biblical Christmas story and the facial expressions on these chubby sheep make me cry every time I read this book.

Christmas With Anne by L.M. Montgomery

If you find a copy of this, snatch it up. A friend sent one to me a couple years ago and I love to reread the compilation of holiday stories every Christmas. Though not technically for children, this would be a great read aloud for older kids. There are new and old stories, all told with the same innocence and heart that Montgomery infused into all her Anne books.

Music

  • How Many Kings is my favorite modern, Christ-centered Christmas song. The rest of downhere’s album is stellar too.
  • I’m semi-ashamed to recommend Justin Bieber (I blame youth ministry), but I do really enjoy his holiday album, Under The Mistletoe. It’s fun and danceable – perfect for your December workouts.
  • I got Wrapped In Red, the new Christmas album from Kelly Clarkson, this year and was not disappointed. Her original songs are catchy and her covers are well-done.

Movies

  • For some people, it’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. For me, it’s A Garfield Christmas. My Gramma taped it one year when I was in elementary school and my brother and I have watched it every year since. I think we have the whole thing memorized. I now have it on DVD and make my husband watch it with me.
  • Who doesn’t get weepy when the General walks in on his Christmas surprise? White Christmas is a classic in every sense of the word.
  • I realize Frozen isn’t a Christmas movie, however, the icy landscape makes it feel festive and holiday appropriate. Disney scored with this one – great values, loveable characters, wonderful story and animation. My favorite line comes from Olaf, the snowman: “It’s so cute. It’s like a little baby unicorn!”. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to 1. go see it and 2. stay for the ALL the credits.

Fun Christmasy Extras

I love simple gift wrap, especially when the base is kraft paper or something else natural looking – like this and this. It’s even better when the natural substance is cheap – like a paper bag.

Card Collage

Paper bags aren’t just good wrapping paper. They make awesome Christmas cards. When you make them like this, they have a built-in little pocket. Perfect for a gift card or cash.

Since frames are a dime a dozen at thrift stores, I love this idea for an inexpensive and unique wreath that could be customized so many different ways (think spay painted white with snowflakes, or gold with book page ornaments).

DSC_0323

One of my favorite decorations to put up is the simple garland my mom and I made last year out of fabric scraps.

For other festive ideas, check out my Christmas and Celebrate boards on Pinterest.

 

What are your favorite Christmas books, movies, music, and decor ideas?

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Book Exchange Inspiration

Earlier this week I shared some how-tos for hosting a book exchange. Here’s some more inspiration for book exchange themes, invites, favors, and decor!

Theme

Book Exchange Ideas

Casual Evening Event || Birthday Party || Afternoon Tea || Back To School

INVITES

Invite IdeasHollowed out book || Letterpress || Vintage Library Card || Library Card Sleeve

Faux Book Covers || Book Page Pinwheel

FAVORS

Book Exchange FavorsBook Page Ornament || Book Cover Coasters

Book Page Covered Mason Jar || Paint Chip Bookmark

DECOR

decorBook Page Flowers || Table Runner || Wreath || Book Centerpiece

How To Host A Book Exchange

Ever since Lindsay told me about her family’s book exchange tradition for Christmas I’ve been jonesing to participate in one. And when I have a bee in my bonnet I generally can’t wait for long… Solution? Host a book exchange myself!

Last Thursday, 18 women gathered at my house to swap books and do life together, if only for just a couple hours. In a perfect world, the event would have looked like this, but even with its Facebook invites and commercial sized hot water pot, our book exchange was a great way to connect women of different generations and share some good reads.

How To Host a Book Exchange via Primitive Roads

There are plenty of ways to throw a book exchange. Here’s what we did:

The Concept: Show up with a book you’ve already read and leave with a book you’ve (hopefully) never read but is highly recommended by another guest.

The Method: Bring a book you’ve read and liked – preferably the kind you want to tell everyone you know to drop what they’re doing and devour immediately or the kind you stayed up all night to finish. We asked that books be wrapped along with a favorite quote from the book or an explanation of why you enjoyed the book.

The Exchange: Books were exchanged white elephant style, with a twist. In order to promote getting to know one another better, each guest listed three random facts about themselves which were read out loud (by the host). The first person to guess who the three facts were describing got to pick a book. Our group was pro stealing so we abided by the third steal stays rule (after the third steal, the book is out of commission).

The Invite: The invite could have been super cute, however, I went the Facebook route to reach a larger amount of people (pulling from two people’s circle of friends). If you know most of your guests personally, sending an actual snail-mail invite is a lovely option.

Book Exchange Food

The Food: A simple tea and cookies spread. I wanted to break out my tea cup collection, but after thinking about where a large amount of people would put a cup and saucer while balancing a plate of dessert and eating and chatting, I decided mugs would be a better option. I borrowed a large hot water pot to accomodate the guest list and set out a selection of decaf and caffeinated teas.

Several guests are gluten-free so I made Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Oat Flour Brownies (tasty, but a bit crumbly), and White Chocolate Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries. Plus, a friend volunteered to bring a pie which was delicious and rounded out the whole spread.

I could see many food options working for a party like this: savory appetizers, seasonally themed, or just fruit, cheese, and crackers…

book exchange 1

The Books: Used books were encouraged, though new was absolutely acceptable. Just in case you were curious, here’s a list of the books that were exchanged.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith
Once Blind by Kay Marshall Strom
Loving God With All Your Mind by Elizabeth George
Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers*
Forgotten God by Francis Chan*
The Grace and Truth Paradox by Randy Alcorn
Captivating by John and Staci Eldridge*
The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
Let Prayer Change Your Life by Becky Tirabassi
Stranger On The Road To Emmaus by John R. Cross
The Last of The Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper
Face To Face by Steve Wilkins
Phantom of The Opera by Gaston Leroux*
The Gift of Pain by Paul Brand and Phillip Yancey
Radical by David Platt
Candle in the Darkness by Lynn Austin

*I’ve read

Need ideas for your event? Check out this book exchange inspiration!

What book would you bring to a book exchange? Have you hosted or participated in a book exchange? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Disclosure: This post contains my affiliate links. Thanks for supporting Primitive Roads!

photo credit: Silvia Sala via photopin cc

The Best Way To Preserve and Present Photos

Preserving and Printing PhotosThe way we preserve and present photos has changed significantly in this digital age. I remember spending dollars upon dollars on scrapbook material and then spending even more hours snipping photos, creating embellishments, and gluing like there was no tomorrow.  I love all the pretty papers and the creative process of scrapbooking, but I don’t like the price tag or the time it takes.

In order to simplify while still preserving and presenting those photos in a pretty way, I turned to Blurb, a company that specializes in helping you create beautiful photo books.

I’ve been using Blurb since 2007 when I made a photo book {Cheers} of my semester in Oxford. My book had thousands of photos and infinitely more memories splashed across 200+ pages. It would have cost me more to print each of those photos out at Walmart than purchase my $60, hardcover book. I have since created Full Bloom, a coffee table book of my flower photography, Eight Twenty Seven, a memory book of my Gramma’s house, and several photo books from different vacations.  I’ve also made wedding and vacation photo books for a couple friends.

I recently rediscovered Blurb after a year hiatus. Now, in addition to Booksmart {their stellar – and FREE – bookmaking software}, Blurb has rolled out with Bookify, an online book-making tool that streamlines the process even more. Both Booksmart and Bookify are drag and drop interfaces with wonderful pre-made layouts. They are also totally customizable if you want to invest more time into the design of your book.

Making a book is as simple as uploading your photos, dragging them into a layout, naming your book, and hitting the checkout button.

I have three Blurb projects going right now:

  1. Another study abroad photo book of my semester in Italy {half done and long overdue}
  2. Wedding book {I guess our first anniversary is as good a time as any to get this started}
  3. A collection of my favorite Instagram photos {getting printed as we speak – more on this project later…}

Blurb books are one of those Emily creative obsessive things, but I truly see so much value in preserving photos in a simple, yet fun to make, fashion.

Mother’s Day is a perfect opportunity to try Blurb out. Make a special commemorative book of your mom or present your momma with a compilation of your favorite photos of her with your kids. Plus, you get 20% off until May 10th!

This post contains my affiliate links. Thanks for supporting my blog!

photo credit: martinak15 via photopin cc

Transforming Dollar Store Earrings

How To Transform Dollar Store EarringsAfter writing about the 5 essential earrings every gal should own, I realized my {somewhat massive} earring collection was lacking in the neutrals category. Mind you, I have plenty of browns and blacks, silver and gold, but I have a major gap when it comes to white/cream.

earringsSince I already have such an abundance of earrings, I try not to add to my collection unless I’m traveling {earrings are some of my favorite souvenirs}. I wanted to re-imagine a pair I already had to fill in this hole in my neutral repertoire.

As I scanned my earrings I kept coming back to a pair that I bought at a dollar store and hadn’t worn in a while. I’ve noticed that as my personal style has gotten more casual {jeans and a t-shirt with accessories}, I wear more understated earrings. I still love dangly, chandelier earrings but I wear them far less frequently than simple hoops or shorter drop earrings. So, I thought this inexpensive, longer pair of earrings would be a good candidate for transformation. They were neutral enough but I wasn’t a huge fan of the cool silver paired with the warmer toned brown beads.

BeforeMy first task was removing the beads. Luckily, I didn’t have to whip out wire cutters. The wire was flimsy enough for me to bend and stretch the loop holding the beads enough to slip right off. Just detaching the beads was a big improvement!

I really liked the design of the silver piece, but, as I said, I was missing white in my earring wardrobe. Spray paint seemed like an easy fix. It was! I happened to have some glossy white Krylon spray paint already. After taping over the part that would be in my ear, I gave the earrings two coats of paint. You could absolutely do this with acrylic paint and a brush, I just liked the convenience of spray paint. Less clean up…

AfterThe spray paint doesn’t give perfect coverage, which I happen to love. A few more coats and I could have gotten an opaque look, but I like the patina that my transformed earrings now have.

Since it’s so easy to transform earrings with spray paint, I may start hunting dollar stores and thrift stores for earrings that just need a little color change.

Have you transformed a pair of earrings? I’d love to hear what you did!