Tag Archives: Christmas

The Manger Mission ~ a nativity book and activity set review

Disclosure: Many thanks to The Manger Mission for providing this product/product information for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive the product in exchange for this review and post.

Nativity sets are such a common and joyful part of the Christmas tradition for us. We enjoy having a number of these out each Christmas season and having a variety of styles. One thing we noticed when our girls were young is that playing with the nativity set is something they did almost daily and really enjoyed. We kept a kid-friendly nativity set where they could reach it and play whenever they wanted. The Manger Mission: A Family Christmas Tradition written by Kristin Vazquez and illustrated by Hannah Santi is just such an activity set with a hardback storybook to go with it.

The Storybook – The Manger Mission

This is a lovely little storybook about about 6″x6″. This hardback book is a fairly muted color scheme of teal, gold, grays, and white. It matches they activity set beautifully. The story introduces the three wise men, modeled on the story from the Bible found in Luke that tells of an unknown number of men, also unnamed, who traveled to Judea to find the king that was foretold in prophecy from the Old Testament. (This Bible account is noted at the end of the story.)

The story is of the three wise men recounting their journey to see the newborn Christ while they are being moved daily by the children of the home for their yearly reenactment of that journey with a nativity set.

The illustrations, of course, are modeled on the activity set. In the story, the three wise men figures are taken out of the box and are excited to start their yearly reenactment to get to the manger where Jesus lay. They talk about the different places the children place them, each day a little bit closer to the destination of Jesus’ manger. It is a sweet little story.

The Activity Set

The activity set contains 12 pieces. Each piece is comfortable suited for a child’s hand and is a piece of shaped wood. They wood is painted and the covered with a protective coating. They are coordinated with the storybook. The pieces include:

  • Shelter/Cover/Barn
  • Joseph and Mary
  • Jesus
  • 3 wise men
  • 3 animals
  • a shepherd (mine had 2 but the purchase site shows 1)
  • an angel


This is a fictionalized story that is based on the Bible, though it does incorporate a lot of the tradition of man. This includes giving names to the wise men, likely based in a denominational tradition, and noted a specific number of wise men, again based solely on tradition and not the Bible account. That does not men this is not an incredible activity set that can bring a lot of meaning to your family. This daily motion of the wise men can start at any time during the holiday season if you would like to use it that way. It could also be just a beautiful, fun activity set for the children to have fun with.

The story is fine but I did not find it super engaging. If my children were still in the age range for this, we would read the story at the beginning and then just have the activity set for the girls to play with whenever they wanted. Whatever works for you family would be just right.

This is a beautiful, engaging activity set that can add a lovely tradition to your holiday season or a play time for your children or grandchildren. It is definitely worth investment. Do remember that they are painted wood, though, so a teething child or one who likes to chew on things could damage the pieces.

This is a recommend from me. My girls are even excited to have this new nativity set to add to our collection this year and they are 17, 15, and 12. 🙂 Visit https://www.themangermission.com/ to purchase your own set or one for a gift and start a new tradition.

Lori, At Home.

Tastes and Smells of Christmas

Many people think of the holidays and their mind immediately thinks of the taste and smell of peppermint.

Candy canes

Red and white

Minty tastes and smells

And I’ll admit that much of Christmas does tend to have been enveloped by peppermint. We have read books about candy canes, studied gingerbread houses that are decorated with candy cane or peppermint drops, and made nutcrackers decorated with candy canes.

We have a nutcracker that is the peppermint nutcracker, holding peppermint drops. He’s a definite favorite.

We have candy canes on our tree and as part of some of our ornaments.

When I was growing up, I had a holiday countdown that had one mini candy cane tied to each day. I know I will have it but have not come across it this year. The girls wanted me to put it up but I just haven’t found it.

But, for me, cinnamon is as much a smell and taste of Christmas and holidays as peppermint, if not more. We have made suckers in our family for much longer than I have been around. It is one of our long standing traditions.

Bizcochitos are yummy cookies that tend to have a bit of a cinnamony smell to them and since they are a staple of the holidays in New Mexico, it is a cookie that I love to smell baking. Of course, I love to eat them, too.

making bizcochitos 2016

Cinnamon sugar nuts is another favorite to make. We make them any time but that cinnamon smell just permeates the house and makes it smell like the holidays.

Cinnamon candles, cinnamon brooms, cinnamon pinecones – these are all smells that bring me right back to the holidays at my parent’s house, tucked up by the fire watching the snow come down. We don’t get to enjoy that this year but the cinnamon smell will take me back there. And my middle girl made me cinnamon sugar nuts today while I was doing the grocery shopping so I came home to that beautiful smell of the holidays.

Happy holidays. Merry Christmas!

Lori, At Home.

This post is being linked up at the Homeschool Review Crew December Challenge. Head over to read more posts about what peppermint brought to mind for other bloggers. Merry Christmas and may you have plenty of beautiful tastes and smells this holiday season.

Christmas Time = Sucker Making Time

Holiday traditions are special. This is just another one of them because it has a long-standing history in our family, dating from my mother’s childhood. Enjoy the pictures of making cinnamon suckers.

Lori, At Home.

December Book Club – Celebrations

So, what to do for December for the Book Club? I know – we are already over a week into December. The theme is celebrations and I have tried to focus that down and bit and have been completely unsuccessful. So you know what? I’m going to share a number of books that we read this month. For years, we have wrapped 24 children’s books about the holidays and unwrapped one each night. I’ll share those with you at the end of the month or you can follow along day-by-day on the Instagram or Facebook page. I post those (almost) daily.

For myself, I am reading a number of holiday short stories and books that I have downloaded to my Kindle. Again, I did this years ago but have never ready them. So I am doing that this year. I started Dicken’s A Christmas Carol last night. Previous to that I had looked up some of the short stories like The Gift of the Magi, The Birds’ Christmas Carol, and The Christmas Cake. I will be reading others. Most of these are free to download since they are in the public domain. An excellent way to do some enjoyable holiday readying.

The other thing I am doing this month is reading with my youngest. We are going to work hard on The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe next week as part of our holiday studies. Something different. And of course, we will include some baking of some sort.

What are you reading and doing this month for celebrations?

Lori, At Home.

Beauty Of Memory – Christmas Ornaments

Memory comes rushing at us in all directions sometimes and I think the holiday season is one of those times. We find memories in all sorts of places and things – a song (or a complete series of songs), an experience, a decoration, a smell, or more. Some of the things that bring back the most memories for me, and makes new memories every year that I cherish, is our ornaments.

Our tree goes up when everyone is home and can help. We get it up and check lights. Getting the lights on is always an adventure and we laugh and enjoy it. Then we bring out the ornament box. We have ornaments from when At Home Dad and I were tiny wee ones and we have ornaments that we have bought since last Christmas. Each ornament is a memory – a place visited, a time together, someone we love, a book we enjoy, and it just goes on and on. It is too hard to name a favorite ornament and we are constantly adding to them.

Every year we add an ornament for the girls and try to make it something special. We add the girls’ initials and the year to each ornament added to the collection. This makes each one special.

When At Home Dad and I got married, we were blessed with two boxes of Christmas ornaments – one from each of our parents of ornament from different times of our childhoods. Many were handmade. Some were purchased. All were special and each year the girls ask about each one and enjoy hearing the recall of the time or place. I love sharing that, too. We will be passing the girls’ ornaments onto them when they are adults and decorating their own places. A tradition too special to skip.

So, what are some of the favorites?

This post is being linked up with the Homeschool Review Crew weekly blogging/social media challenge.

Lori, At Home.

Preparing for Christmas ~ book reviews

Both of these books are available from New Growth Press.

A Better December: Proverbs to Brighten Christmas by Steven Estes

Many of us know just how insightful the book of Proverbs in the Bible is to our daily lives. But have you ever thought about how much it applies to the holiday season? to Christmas time? 

Me, either. But Steven Estes did. And his humorous application of the Proverbs to the holidays is a joyous read. This is a short 80-ish page read and is broken into chapters focusing on things like gifts, children, longings, others, and disappointment. Each of the chapters seems to be right on target for so many of us as the holidays can 

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed by the holidays, the commercialism, and the “stuff”, take a peek at this book. The insights will help you grab hold of what is important, what is necessary, and the joy that should be fueling our holidays. As we are brought into “Someone greater than Solomon is here”, the beauty of the plan of God is revealed and Jesus is introduced. This easy to understand transition is the perfect way to introduce Jesus to those who don’t yet know him. 

The pen-and-ink drawings that add whimsicality to the book. This neat little book would be a great one to share with others this holiday season.

Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski

Are you looking for a series of family devotionals to guide you through the season approaching Christmas? Some folks call this time Advent. I didn’t grow up using that term and we don’t use it with the girls but the time approaching Christmas is still a time that hearts tend to be open to hearing more about our Savior. This book is a series of family devotionals for the 4 weeks of Advent to celebrate the birth of Jesus. 

Broken into 4 weeks, this series of studies looks at the prophecies the foretold Christ’s coming and the fulfillment of those prophecies. Each week has three family devotionals and a chapter of a Bartimaeus story that unfolds one week at a time, concluding in week 4. Each family devotional includes a list of supplies needed (so you can be prepared ahead of time), a warm-up activity, reading the prophecy scripture, and a written out series of thoughts about the prophecy. Another section is titled Talk About It and it related to the scripture read. There is at least one carol included in each devotional for some singing and you can get a companion CD if you wish. Then there is a family activity to close the devotional. 

The time required for each devotional will vary depending on if you choose to use all of the activities and how much discussion you include. You may even wish to include a significant amount more scripture to really bring the impact of the message home to your family. In this case, you will need to go digging and that will take some additional time but I find that when we open up that kind of discussion with the girls, we all learn a whole lot more and can understand scripture more. 

This is a simple way to add some meaningful Bible time to you holidays.

At Home.

A Holiday Thank You Note

A Holiday Thank You

Thank you. 

Thank you to everyone who took the time to put something up outside your home to share the joy of the season.

It doesn’t matter if you just put up a single strand of lights or just a few candy canes that could only be seen during the day. It doesn’t matter if you were the brightest house in the nation (really, that house the won The Great Light Fight was right here in our city and it was BRIGHT!!!) or the one that felt dwarfed by what others did around you.

Each thing you put up brightened someone’s day or night. It brought smiles, even if you didn’t see them. It helped someone find a bit of joy.

Perhaps that joy came just when it was needed most or perhaps it topped off the best day of the year. Perhaps it was seen by someone traveling across the city or across the state. Maybe even across the country.

Whatever it was and however it occurred, your efforts made a difference and I want to say thank you.

We don’t always recognize that what we do for ourselves can affect others but your holiday decorations? They did. And I just want to say a great big huge





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Homeschool Review Crew Weekly Link Up 

Gingerbread Village Creation

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Each year, we make a gingerbread village in some way or form. This year, we were blessed by a sweet lady at church who gave us a kit for a gingerbread village. We had so much fun putting it together. There were five little houses so each of us made one. Here is our finished village.

Gingerbread Village

We have been using some links and activities from SchoolhouseTeachers.com. This site is one we have been using for several year and have found a whole lot of wonderful resources on. The Christmas Corner on SchoolhouseTeachers is a great page where all the resources on the site that relate to Christmas are all listed together with a link to the class page. This makes access really easy. When I look on The Christmas Corner for gingerbread, here is what I found:

  • Christmas And Gingerbread from Adventures with Books: This resource lists a number of books related to gingerbread and gives activities with links for them.
  • Christmas Architecture from Introduction to Architecture: This resource is a lesson from the Architecture class. There is information about the architecture of building a gingerbread house, links to videos and competitions with gingerbread, and the challenge of baking and building your own gingerbread house.
  • There are a couple of resource pages found in the daily writing and the spelling courses.


When I did a search on SchoolhouseTeachers for gingerbread, I came up with even more!

  • Additional Holidays has an activity for December with a gingerbread house. It includes a printable with some facts, hints, and a gingerbread house picture.
  • In Hands-On Design Fun, there is a lesson on moving pictures in books that uses The Gingerbread Man story. It looks like a fun lesson that I am going to have Miss J try out.
  • Preschool In A Box has a gingerbread theme in lesson 12. There are several gingerbread related activities that week.

We will make gingerbread cookies after we go to the store this week. We don’t have any molasses at the moment. And we are going to go through several of these activities. They will be lots of fun and make our gingerbread village building into a fun unit.

Experiential learning is lots of fun! Enjoy it!

At Home.

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Can You Feel It? – Christmas Is Coming ~ Christmas Around The World review

Christmas Around The World giveaway

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you choose to purchase through one of these links, our family will receive a commission. We received a copy of this product in return for our opinion. All opinions expressed in this post and review are our own. Thank you for supporting our homeschooling family.

I don’t know about you but I can feel it creeping ever closer, sneaking up on me. Christmas is coming and I love it, though it would be nice if Texas would begin to feel a little more Christmasy. But as December approaches, I begin to look for studies and activities to change up our routine a bit. It is hard to stay focused on the normal things when very little around you seems to be normal.

Because of this we have done various things through the past few year to make December a fun year. Some of our studies?

But absolutely one of our favorite things to do is to study the various holiday traditions of other cultures and countries. We have been blessed to get this neat study to take a look at and review titled Christmas Around the World. This unit study has been created by Awe Filled Homemaker.

When you purchase this electronic product, you get an immediate download so you can get started right away. Other than the purchase, you will need paper to print the activities on, a computer to view the parts to read on (if you aren’t printing them), and basic supplies like pencils, crayons, or colored pencils.

The PDF file comes in full-color and is over 70 pages of information, activities and images to ignite the imagination and interest of your students. You can print the pages in black-and-white and they do just fine, especially if you are viewing it in color on a tablet or computer for the flags and fun images. I printed it as a booklet, two pages per side, and double sided. It took half as much paper and still allows plenty of room for my girls (ages 8, 11, and 13) to write.

In this study, you will cover holiday traditions and activities from 21 countries. There are also sections devoted to Advent, St. Nicholas, and the Birth of Christ. Each of the 24 days of study include a three-page set up. Page one is the written information. Page two has some questions to answer and a sentence for the student to complete. Page three is an activity for the student to do, right there on the page, related to the reading. For example, in South Korea they traditionally have a Christmas cake. The activity page has a cake for the student to decorate.

This study will work well for elementary aged students just as it is. For middle school students, they would easily be able to complete it on their own and if you supplement an activity or two, it would be a very rich study. For high school, they could do as the middle school students do, or perhaps, they could be the teachers for the younger students with this study. This is actually what I am considering for my 8th grader – having her find corresponding stories from our holiday book stash or borrowing from the library to go along with each day’s study and being in charge or presenting it each day.

We will probably also enrich the study with a hands-on component for each country, as my girls are very much hands-on learners. We will print a map for each girl to mark the countries on it as we study them, because it is really important for us to know where places are in the world. It helps us to relate. So Christmas Around the World will form the basis of our work and be a large part of it. In fact, this e-product has saved me tons of time in research and correlation of materials. I am really excited to go through this with the girls and traveling the world.

Christmas Around the World is a fun, simple study that you can keep simple or enrich and enhance in a number of ways. If you are looking for something highly effective at keeping some fun in your holiday while continuing on in your schooling this holiday season, this Christmas unit study fits the bill.

And now – win your own copy of this Christmas study. Just click on the word Entry below to be taken to the Giveaway Tools entry page for this giveaway. And don’t forget to share!


At Home.


River of Lights


We were treated to a visit to Albuquerque’s River of Lights this year. It was absolutely breath-taking in so many ways. The sheer number of lights was amazing but the delicate lines and shapes they were able to create with the lights was unbelievable.

Millions of lights lit up the night and smiles were seen on every face. With family surrounding us, we explored and enjoyed. From life-sized dinos to delicate butterflies that flew out of flowers, it was a night filled with wonder. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip and the lights were so very special.

My phone camera is not very good so these pictures do not do justice to the beauty of the light filled night. Just the same, here are just a few of the many, many wonderful scenes we were able to view.

What a wonderful night it was for all of us.

At Home.

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