Sunday, November 30, 2014

Prepping for the ADVENTure of Christmas - Day Four

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As we prepare for the final stages of prepping for our ADVENTure, we can focus on our faith.  To copy the intro paragraph to the attached Bible study tie-in...

Many Christians across the world look for ways to make Christ the center of their Christmas advent activities in an effort to bring their faith to the forefront of their holiday season. Sounds hard, right? I mean, we are inundated daily by sales catalogs, flyers, commercials and the ever-constant bombardment of advertisements for the newest, latest and greatest. The solution? Find a Christmas song everyone knows, find some printables online to coincide with the focus, incorporate it into your daily advent so that while your kiddos are engaged in the coloring, you can have meaningful discussion as to the deeper connection between the symbolism in the song and your faith. It’s proven that while kids are engaged, their minds are more open to dialogue than if you’re just standing there preaching to them. This is a great way to start that dialogue.

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To download a copy of the printable, click here.  There are two links at the end that will take you to two sources of an online printable coloring page for each of the 12 days of Christmas.  One is here.  The other can be found here.

This is just one of the simple ways to tie in, engage and discuss your faith this season.  Next year we are going to bring into play the Jesse Tree.  You just wait to see what that's about!

I hope you're enjoying the series and that your FA-LA-LA is in high gear!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Saturday 9

Saturday 9: Paint It Black (1966)

Not familiar with this week's song? Hear it here.

1) This song was chosen because yesterday was Black Friday, the traditional day of sales. Have you begun your Christmas shopping?  Usually, it's done.  This year, I haven't even started.  

2) Are there any Thanksgiving leftovers in your refrigerator right now?  Absolutely!  I'm going to make a lot of fun dishes to use up the leftovers!  Scalloped potatoes with ham and bacon.  Shepherd's pie to use up the mashed potatoes.  I'm fairly certain the stuffing has already been consumed.  Turkey will be made into turkey pot pie.

3) AAA says Thanksgiving is a big travel weekend. Did you venture far from home for your holiday dinner?  I ventured from the bedroom the kitchen to the laundry room.
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4) Keith Richards likes France but, alas, the French authorities haven't always been fond of him and his criminal record. Have you ever been to France?  No, but it is on my bucket list.  I promise not to do this, however.
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5) Mick Jagger jokes that, to be polite to fellow hotel guests, he always finishes trashing his room by 10:00 PM. What kind of hotel/motel guest are you? Are you rockstar rambunctious, or are you quiet? Are you neat? Have you stolen any towels, bathrobes, etc.?  I'm quiet.  Although, a group of six of us staying at The Gaylord Texan were asked by Rick Springfield's entourage to "keep it down" when we were all hyped up on Diet Coke after his concert.
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6) Mick Jagger got his financial savvy as a student at the London School of Economics. Are you good with money?  Yes.  
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7) In the early 1990s, a then little-known actress named Angelina Jolie appeared in a Rolling Stones video ("Anybody Seen My Baby?"). Name an Angelina Jolie movie.  Malificent.  It's sitting unopened on my desk.  I can't wait to watch it.

8) In the early 1960s, the Stones nearly avoided tragedy when their tour bus skidded off a bridge. Tell us about a near miss you're thankful for.  I was involved in not one but two near collisions in one evening.  I was traveling one direction on a 7 lane road (three lanes north, three lanes south and one turning lane).  I was in the far left-hand lane traveling south.  There was a car behind me DRIVING in the turning lane going south as well.  There was a car going north pulling INTO the turning lane (they were about to have a head-on colision.  Instead of EITHER driver turning back into their respective flows of traffic, the guy driving north pulls DIRECTLY into MY LANE about to cause a head-on collision with ME...then into the lane NEXT to me (two lanes into the opposite flow of traffic) and then back to the middle turning lane.  Same night, driving back from Target, I nearly get t-boned on the same stretch of road by some jack-ass pulling out of a strip mall trying to beat traffic.  He sped across three lanes of traffic, through the center turn lane and nearly hit me.
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After I got home safely, I refused to leave again.

9) In 1966, when this week's song was popular, CBS telecast How the Grinch Stole Christmas for the first time. What's your favorite Dr. Seuss story?  The Lorax.  I'm a tree hugger, what can I say!?  
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Join in the weekly fun at Saturday 9

Prepping for the ADVENTures of Christmas - Day 3 Printables

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In an effort to streamline your ADVENTure activities, I have created some printables for you to use.  All you need to do is simply print, cut and use them how you wish on your ADVENTure!  

The first thing you need are some countdown numbers to attach to whatever you are using to count down your days!  

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Printable Advent Numbers can be downloaded here.

The next thing you'll need to do is figure out what you want to attach them to.  What I like to do is to purchase the SMALLEST plain kraft colored gift bags I can find at my local craft store.  They're usually 3/$1 at Hobby Lobby.  I simply glue the number to the front, insert the activity cards inside and enclose a sweet treat for the day.  Sometimes I buy a big box of mini candy canes and put one in there for each kiddo.  I have all of our bags placed beside our second Christmas tree. 

Pin von Lucy Foerster auf „Ideas for when I have "time" - lol“ | Pint… ☺ ✿So, ideas for the advent presentation...I've seen some really cute ones, some elaborate ones and some that are just completely over the top.  Mine is so simple, doable in just a matter of minutes and voila. Complete.  Others are awesome but somewhat time/labor intensive.  However, if you're up for a crafty challenge, check out some of these:

I have no idea who to give credit for this (left) but I love the random, earthy feel of it.  Red, white and kraft colored display.  It's tied on a branch that looks like it's hung with baker's twine to two nails.  S-I-M-P-L-E and beautiful!  You can't beat that!

Parent's Magazine (below) posted this one that's a fun, easy and colorful way to celebrate.  Cardboard, toilet paper tubes that have been halved, tissue paper and glue.  You supply the inserts, obviously, and probably some stickers for the numbers.  again, another one that is easy and fun!  Don't overthink these!

Advent calendar
A Bubbly Life featured this advent calendar. I love how fun and whimiscal it is with the red pompom noses attached to the plastic animals that have all been painted white.  She gives step-by-step instructions on how to make this one.  Plain kraft boxes with stenciled numbers -- easy, yet impressive presentation.  Beautiful job. 

Another colorful way to use up some random colored envelopes means you're not only repurposing but also able to recycle when it's all over!  Stickers, envelopes, advent activity cards and a little painter's tape make this a quick and easy decoration for the wall -- always great when you're short on display space!  Find instructions here.  (Featured above).

For those awesome people out there that can sew (I sadly am not one of them), Smile and Wave created this adorable felt advent calendar (featured right).  Instructions can be found here.

IMG_1089I have to admit I get a little jealous seeing things like this... that green-eyed mom-envy monster rears its ugly head because it's SO DAD-GUM cute!  Trillium Design created a tutorial for this bad boy.  

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This one is absolutely adorable, doable and again, you're able to repurpose everyday items for an awesome experience.  Mindy Pitcher is the artist of this beautiful creation.  You can find it here. It looks like full sized toilet paper rolls that have been rolled in tissue paper and have the edges sealed after they were filled and then have a printed paper wrapped around and secured with a number attached.  This, too, doesn't take up a great deal of space.  Yay for that!

Christmas Advent Kit - - Created by Jill Olsen, Stampin' Up! Demonstrator
On the left is one of those advent calendars that would cause me to take major pause at the even remote idea that I could actually accomplish something so completely adorable.  Boxes, tags, stamps, texture and surprises!  It's a recipe for a winner!  Come check out Stampin  To the right is another Pinworthy creation made by Honey We're Home (HWH) and you can find instructions here.  Truly adorable. 

Advent Collage 2 500x500 Advent Boxes
I like the idea, too, of just a simple box to open as well.  I Can Teach My Child has this awesome advent creative box delivery method.  It does help keep everything universal which allows you to realize your limitations for size and such.

So as you can see, the delivery can be as simple as colored envelops or as elaborate as you want to make it!  We did envelopes the first year and graduated to the little gift bags.  They're just fast, I can reuse them and they're functional.  I see no reason to fix what isn't broken.  

So now that you have your calendar printed, dates blocked off for engagement you've already made, as well as class and work parties; you've created a list of books and movies that you want to incorporate into each day as well.  Now it's time to start narrowing down your choices by day so that you can have full action activity cards.  

You need some of those, too?  Well, the list that I created in this post, I made some printable activity cards for.  So you need only print, cut and add them to whatever you are doing for your advent container.

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You can get the full list here.  Print, cut, enjoy!

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Best Sweet Potatoes... EVER!

I have always been a side dish kinda girl.  Never in my youth did a turkey eeeeever take center stage at our Thanksgiving feast... it was always the sides!  I can't even begin to imagine the awesomeness that would be on a blog hosted by... say... my grandmother. Her cooking was SO epic!  Seriously, she'd give Paula Deen and The Pioneer Woman a run for their money!  The sides... oh man... the sides!  

Thus, in my never ending quest to make awesome, drool-worthy side dishes, I am thankful for Pinterest.  I am thankful for the amazing food bloggers and pinners that I have found through Pinterest.  

Have I ever mentioned how much I puffy heart LOVE Pinterest?  

Because, if I haven't, I need you to know... I do ever so much love love LURVE Pinterest.

Anyway, enough about that... onto the most awesome epic sweet potatoes like... EVER!  I have a no-fail method for delicious sweet potatoes with a sweet, crispy candied pecan topping, but I wanted something -- more.  

I found it!  (Thanks to Pinterest!)

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This recipe is found here on My Kitchen Escapades.  

Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to your newest addiction for Thanksgiving -- the oh so wonderful Praline Sweet Potatoes.  Please note, however, this dish is completely NOT for the health-minded individual.  These are the sinful once-a-year kind of over-the-top most-looking-forward-to kind of side dish.  These are the extra special tradition setting kind of sweet potatoes that will convert those weird NON sweet potato eating people INTO sweet potato lovers!  I tell ya, you'll wanna slap ya momma!

3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes 
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 pint heavy cream
1/4 pound butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 cup of chopped pecans


  1. Nuke your sweet potatoes until they're soft.  
  2. Spray a 2 quart casserole dish with nonstick spray.  
  3. If you're going to cook this now, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  If not, don't. (hee hee)
  4. Peel and cube the sweet potatoes.  I smashed them down into my 4 cup measuring cup.  (I actually used 4 cups instead of 3 of them because I wanted to use up all the sweet potatoes that I bought).  
  5. Once you've got your 3-4 cups of sweet potatoes, toss them into a bowl with the sugar, vanilla, eggs and cream.  Mix well. Spread into the casserole dish.  
  6. At this point, you can cover it with saran wrap and refrigerate it overnight.  Go ahead and make the topping and save it in a separate bag on the counter.
  7. If you're serving it now, you'll need to make the topping -- this is the good stuff!   With a pastry cutter (in a separate bowl), cut together the butter, brown sugar and flour until crumbly.  Mix in the pecans and sprinkle over the potatoes.  
  8. Bake for 30 minutes.
Serve.... enjoy... get seconds... YOU.WILL.THANK.ME!

Prepping for the ADVENTure of Christmas - Day Two (part 2)

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Prepping for the ADVENTure of Christmas today features two parts -- part one was books and let us not forget the other media source that is definitely considered entertainment for the whole family -- MOVIES!!!!

I have an extensive Christmas movie collection because... well, I love Christmas movies! However, if you don't, have no fear!  Set your DVR to record any of your "must see" movies and you're ready to go!  Have NetFlix or Amazon Prime?  Many are available for instant streaming!  Don't have a DVR?  No problem!  Borrow the movies from the library, your friends, family or, hey -- go start your own collection RIGHT NOW!  And, if all else fails, visit this site and check out their schedule - ABC's Family 25 Days of Christmas - they showcase the classics every year!  There used to be a printable schedule but I didn't find one this year.  They do, however, provide a list of Christmas movies from a-z and it's SCARY long!  Some shows just shouldn't be made into Christmas movies -- Kung Fu Panda's Holiday Special?  Yeah, I'll pass!  

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So, what movies do we watch?  When should we schedule them?  That's entirely up to you.  I have a tradition in my home, however, that we watch certain shows on certain days. But, like I've said, I'm ridiculously anal like that.  For instance, Christmas Eve -- every year -- we watch The Polar Express and we READ Twas the Night Before Christmas.  The shorter movies I try to schedule for the weekdays and the longer movies for Friday, Saturday or Sundays when we have more time.  

Here are the movies to add to your rotation and/or collection!  Our Christmas movies that have made the cut:

It's A Wonderful Life - This is probably one of my favorite movies of all time.  James Stewart and Donna Reed -- it doesn't get much better than that.  This movie is timeless, perfect and teaches so many life lessons.  And yes, I cry, every.single.time! It isn't officially Christmas season in my house until this one has played.  It has to be in black and white, too.  No remakes.  No colorized version.  The original is the only way to go!  James Stewart is just endearing as is his doting wife and children.  It's a story of family and forgiveness ad love and bring the Christmas spirit alive.  If this doesn't warm your heart, you may have no pulse.

Home Alone - You will have Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree stuck in your head for days after watching this! Everyone (including me) loves Macaulay Culkin and Joe Pesci in this movie.  My whole family still laugh at the antics of KEVIN (you have to say that as the mom when she realizes he's missing) as he defends his home when he is left... "Home Alone" -- see what I did there? Clever, no?  John Candy always cracks me up singing polka music and Kevin's mom just cracks me up as she proclaims she will sell her soul to the devil himself just to get back home to her son.  The lengths she goes through to get home is something any mother can relate to!  A definite on our play list.
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National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - I can't say enough about this movie other than... if you haven't seen it, I'm not sure we can be friends.  This personifies the angst of every Christmas!  The lights, the meal fails, the obligatory get together, the crazy relatives and... lest we forget -- Cousin Eddie!  I'm not always one for stupid humor (though, knowing I'm a fan of Dumb and Dumber might make you think otherwise), but this movie is just... epic!  If you tell me you haven't seen it, I'm going to ask you "You serious, Clark?"  

Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas - Another timeless Christmas movie that brings the words of Dr. Seuss' book to life.  James Earl Jones' deep baritone provides the perfect narration of this seasonal favorite.  Everyone in our home just adores it.  "San-tee Clause, Why?  Why are you taking our Christmas tree, why?"  The lines will be forever tattooed to your soul... especially "Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more."  One of my favorite sayings.  

Elf - I have to preface this selection by stating that I am not a fan of Will Ferrell movies.  Like most other SNL cast members make it big -- for me, the schtick gets old.  Quick.  REEEEEALLY quick!  However, Elf.IS.EPIC!  I laugh my butt off EVERY.SINGLE.TIME!  I quote this movie over and over again!!  If you haven't seen it -- you just gotta OR again... I'm not sure we can be friends.  Elf.  Do it!  Now! (No excuse to miss, it's on ABC's list multiple times!)

A Christmas Story - Bunny suits, leg lamps, Red Ryder bb guns, bullies, over-zealous layering-for-the-snow mom, what's not to enjoy?  ALWAYS at the top of my list.  Ralphie just warms your heart with his plot to secure a bb gun for Christmas.  Not just any, bb gun, mind you.  He wants a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model air rifle which everyone knows "you'll shoot your eye out" with.  If you haven't seen this one, I will pray for you because you've obviously had a really shitty life.  

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Jingle All The Way - The typical workaholic procrastinating dad waiting until the last minute for the hottest toy in town means that all moms can totally relate to, and thus, get a real kick out of this. The multiple shenanigans that Arnold Swarzenegger (the dad) and Sinbad (a pissed off postal worker) get into on their no-holds-barred quest to secure the last of the hottest toy in town are hilarious.  I also enjoyed Phil Hartman's performance as the smarmy neighbor. 

Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas (Disney Gold Classic Collection) Movie PosterMickey's Once Upon a Christmas and Mickey's Twice Upon a Christmas - I love both of these movies because... well... I'm a Disney fanatic.  Both DVDs feature several small movies each. Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas has three small stories.  The first one has Mickey and Minnie reminiscing how each gave up what they treasured most for the sake of the other's happiness.  Selflessness in a way children can understand.  Then a story of Goofy and his son Max and how faith in something (even Santa) is important.  The last story is like a Groundhog Day of the worst Christmas for Donald until his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie learn what the spirit of Christmas is really all about.  The second disk is equally awesome, has great animation and face it, if you're a Disney fan, you can't help but like it!  

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Miracle on 34th Street - While the DVD image may be colorized, please note that I'm a true lover of black and white classics, so make no mistake that my movie is not the colorized version!  I love this tale of how an old man going by the name of Kris Kringle fills in the Macy's day parade because their Santa showed up drunk!  Kris gets hired as he is (obviously) perfect for the job.  Unfortunately, his sanity is called into play because (GASP!) he believes he IS "THE" Santa Claus and law suits ensue.  In the end he makes a believer out of everyone.  Treasure for your collection for sure!

Frosty the Snowman - We sing the songs and love the tale!  We read the books and exclaim "Happy Birthday!"  Frosty is a super cartoon classic of how a magician's hat brings a snowman to life and melts the hearts of everyone around.  It's Frosty!  How can he NOT be on your Christmas movie list?  Our DVD has the sequel as well.  It usually gets played immediately after.  

The Santa Clause Trilogy  - The moment I saw the first Santa Clause I was sold.  I'm a huge fan of Tim Allen.  The movie is about the clause you assume once you don the red suit.  The "clause" is that you BECOME "the" Claus.  It's also a great story of how the magic of the North Pole brings a father and son back together.  The second and third are sequels... they're obviously not as good as the first, but they each have a fun spin... and I do love Martin Short as Jack Frost.  

Disney's Oz, The Great and Poweful
Santa Buddies - This really isn't my favorite movie, however, my boys have always loved it so we keep it in rotation.  Talking dogs -- what's not to like, right?  I have another dog movie in rotation that I enjoy so this one is generally one that the boys watch without me while I'm doing something equally as important as listening to talking dogs.

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The Grinch - Yes, I realize that we already have Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas in our list but Jim Carrey brings this character to life!  He is absolutely amazing.  I love and completely relate to Cindy Lou Who.  She doesn't buy into the whole idea of doing just as everyone says just because that's what they all do. She befriends The Grinch and... well, if you haven't see it, you just have to.  Christine Baranski is awesome as Martha May Whovier!  Molly Shannon is always fun to watch, too!  But, again, the real winner in this movie is Jim Carrey.  He completely steals the show!

12 Dogs of Christmas - I added this movie to our list because while it seems just like your standard run-of-the-mill Christmas special, it touched a special place in my heart.  You see, I love animals.  More specifically, I love dogs.  This is the story of a girl who uses dogs (which are actually banned in this specific town), to teach people about love and acceptance using a Christmas pageant featuring... what else.. canines.  

 photo CBC.gifA Charlie Brown Christmas - If only we saw all of humanity as Charlie Brown saw his Christmas tree!  I have always loved this show and looked forward to watching it every year!  I would scope out the TV Guide and highlight the days when the Christmas shows came on so that we would NOT miss them! This was well before the days of DVRs and actually OWNING movies!  If you didn't catch it on tv, you didn't catch it at all!  Snoopy is awesome!  Lucy is obnoxious.  What's not to love?  This musically animated movie created for television in 1965 still (and always will) hold a place on our viewing list.  It touches on commercialism, secularism and then focuses on the real meaning of Christmas.  

The Year Without a Santa Claus - Another stop motion animation that I have loved since childhood.  My boys, obviously, don't "get it" but that doesn't mean it's not on our list!  Santa wakes up with a cold and decides to take the day off instead of delivering presents because he doesn't believe there really is much Christmas magic alive anymore.  In the end, he is proved wrong and Christmas comes to every town.  It makes me happy. I have to see it!  

Santa Claus Is Coming To Town:  Another stop motion animation classic from 1970 has been one of my favorites since childhood.  It's the story of how Santa originated as Kris Kringle fought to get toys in the hands of needy children at Christmastime.  And face it, who can not like a movie with a blue eyed mailman (Fred Astaire) singing Santa Claus is Coming To Town? His voice is truly swoon-worthy.  I never would have pegged Santa as a ginger, however, but ya know... whatever.

The Polar Express:  This has always been one of my most favorite books to share with my boys.  Having this movie brought to life -- I knew it was a not-to-be-missed feature on our list.  Tom Hanks is just AWESOME as the conductor.  The computer animation is out of this world beautiful and the story is... and yes, I realize I'm using the hell out of this word -- but it IS... TIMELESS!  This will be one that stays around for ever and ever and ever!

 photo PAL.gifPrep & Landing - This is a new addition to our list but we enjoyed this movie so much when it initially aired, it was immediately purchased and added to the rotation. This is the story of Wayne, a Christmas elf, who has the job to prep millions of homes around the world for Santa's visit.  Wayne wants a promotion.  His trainee got it.  He is bummed.  He is given an new trainee but since he is still really butt-hurt about getting passed over (again) for the promotion, doesn't take his job seriously, lets his trainee take the lead which ultimately gets them both BUSTED by a kid!  Couple this with a snowstorm and Santa is about to cancel delivery at this house.  Wayne has to fix everything and save the day.  

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The Muppet's Christmas Carol - What's not to love about Kermit playing Bob Cratchit?  Charles Dickens holiday classic tale as it's never been told before.  I mean, Miss Piggy???  Gonzo?  Fozzie Bear!  Come on!  It's THE MUPPETS!  If you don't know the Charles Dickens tale, it's a must read.  Go buy it now.  The ghosts of Christmas past, present and future help Ebenezer Scrooge see the errors of his ways in true Muppet fashion.  

These are the favorites on MY list.  There are ALWAYS others you may want to add to yours.... such as...

Jack Frost.  I don't watch it because it's about the boy's dad being dead and that isn't happy.  Fred Claus... because it just wasn't happy enough to make my cut.  Jim Carrey in A Christmas Carol because frankly, there were some rather "dark" times and it kind of creeped my kids out when they were younger.  Since my boys' ages vary, I'm not adding it to the cut because I want to keep it kind of light.  And, Santa Paws.  I haven't ever seen it but... it looks like it would be cute.
 The Search For Santa Paws 

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Honorary mentions

White Christmas - This one isn't on the list of my advent, but it's a favorite of mine that I watch alone.  I am the only one in my home that is a sucker for the old classic movies (The Bishop's Wife, Holiday Inn, etc.)  The movie itself is from 1954 and takes place in a lodge in Vermont where it is almost always a white Christmas.  I luff it.  It's awesome. End of story!

The Nightmare Before Christmas (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

The Nightmare Before Christmas - Personally, we watch this one all year round because it's just AWESOME!  All the songs get stuck in my head.  "What's this? What's this? There's color everywhere!  What's this?  What's this?  There's white things in the air"

Arthur Christmas


Arthur Christmas - I actually just learned about this movie yesterday so this is going to be my new one to watch this year!  Synopsis is that it reveals the incredible, never-before seen answer to every child's question: 'So how does Santa deliver all those presents in one night?' The answer: Santa's exhilarating, ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole. But at the heart of the film is a story with the ingredients of a Christmas classic - a family in a state of comic dysfunction and an unlikely hero, Arthur, with an urgent mission that must be completed before Christmas morning dawns.

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Bad Santa - I'm just not a fan.  Sorry.  It's not for kids... bleh.  No thanks.

So, your job is to now go through and get your movies on your calendar!  Some are great for 30 minutes of dinner prep, others are great for family viewing.  Pick and choose what you want to watch when and get it on the calendar!  If you don't own them, find out when they're airing on the networks, schedule your DVR or find out if they have live streaming from Netflix or Amazon Prime!  Do it now!  

(Oh, and don't forget the popcorn!)

Getting in the spirit!  Yes, I am!