12 Days of Holiday Books: Too Many Tamales

December 9, 2013

Too Many TamalesMaria wants to act grown up and help her mother knead the masa for the traditional tamales for her Mexican-American family's Christmas feast. Poet and author Gary Soto's Too Many Tamales! (32 pages, Putnam Juvenile, 1996) tells the story of a Christmas Maria won't soon forget with charm and warmth, helped by the vivid illustrations of Ed Martinez.

Maria will feel really grown up if she wears her mother's sparkling diamond ring. Needless to say, mom's ring is at the center of why the book is titled Too Many Tamales!. We won't give anything away, but everything ends just fine as Aunt Rosa declares to a relieved Maria that the second batch of tamales always tastes better than the first!

Too Many Tamales is a fitting addition to your holiday read-aloud repertoire. It's got suspense, a happy ending, and joyful celebration of family and a delicious Mexican holiday tradition. Our kids love the story, and they're bugging us to make tamales this Christmas. I just hope my daughter doesn't try to wear my ring while she's mixing the masa…

12 Days of Holiday Books: The Night Before Christmas

December 24, 2012

The Night Before ChristmasClement Moore's poem The Night Before Christmas has been a holiday staple since its debut in 1823, and there are countless picture books depicting this timeless classic. So what makes this latest version (26 pages, Peter Yarrow Books, 2010) so special and different from all the other versions out there? It's a combination of things really. First, the enchanting paintings of illustrator Eric Puybaret capture the magic of the tale and offer a colorful, fresh take on the poem. More importantly, though, this version of The Night Before Christmas includes a CD that features performances by the iconic folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary.

Featured on the disc are three tracks: a version of the poem set to music by Noel Paul Stookey (the "Paul" of Peter, Paul and Mary), a charming reading of The Night Before Christmas by Mary Travers with musical accompaniment by Peter and Paul, and bonus rendition of A 'Soalin, a classic Peter, Paul and Mary holiday favorite.

What makes the performances especially poignant is that they are the last from Mary Travers, who passed away from leukemia in 2009.

12 Days of Holiday Books: It's Christmas, David!

December 19, 2012

It's Christmas, David!"No peeking!"

"Those are not toys!"

"Be patient!"

"Santa's watching!"

Sound familiar? It's common dialogue in our house around this time of year, and it's a big part of the hilarious It's Christmas, David! (32 pages, The Blue Sky Press, 2010).

It's Christmas, David! is part of author and illustrator David Shannon's series of David books, which feature poor little David and the litany of mischievous things he's told not to do (based on the author's real-life childhood experience, no less). With all the admonitions directed toward David in It's Christmas, David!, it might seem like he's an awful kid; but he's not—he's just doing what most children do and feeling the way most children feel around the holidays. OK… maybe David's behavior is a little worse than most kids'—but then that's what makes the book so funny!

12 Days of Holiday Books: Llama Llama Holiday Drama

December 15, 2012

Llama Llama Holiday DramaEvery parent knows that while the holidays are a magical time for children, they can be a difficult time to be patient, too (heck, many adults we know feel that way). Anna Dewdney's Llama Llama Holiday Drama (40 pages, Viking Juvenile, 2010) addresses the joys and frustrations felt by children during the holiday season in a heartfelt and humorous way.

Llama Llama, the eponymous protagonist of Anna Dewdney's popular series of books, finds it hard to wait until Christmas is finally here, especially with all the shopping, activities, cookie baking, decorating, and more. Finally, it's up to Mama Llama to set things right and help her child understand not only the need for patience but what's really important during the holiday season.

Unique Personalized Holiday Cards from Tiny Prints (and Coupon Codes!)

December 11, 2012

Tiny Prints cardWith the holidays upon us, now is a good time to think about ordering those custom photo holiday cards. Our favorite source for personalized Christmas cards is Tiny Prints. Tiny Prints' holiday cards feature stylish professional design and high quality, as well as really fast production and shipping time. We've been really happy with the cards we've ordered from them, and they're definitely on our list for this year.

You can still get your holiday cards to send by Christmas! Right now take 20% off your any order or 25% of orders of $149 or more with code 25DEC.

Tiny Prints offers a wide variety of holiday cards, from general winter and holiday themes to Christmas and Hanukkah designs, as well as personalized gift tags, holiday party invitations, and address labels. Cards are available in a variety of price ranges, too from 69¢ and up, and prices vary—as with any custom made product—depending on how many cards you order.

12 Days of Holiday Books: The Magical Christmas Horse

December 5, 2012

The Magical Christmas HorseThe Magical Christmas Horse (40 pages, Paula Wiseman Books, 2011) by author Mary Higgins Clark and illustrator Wendell Minor tells the heartwarming Christmastime tale of a young boy, Johnny, who travels to his family's ancestral farm on the East Coast to spend the holidays with his grandparents. While Clark is mostly known for suspense novels, here she tells a simple and charming holiday story for young children

Johnny's favorite memory of his grandparents' farm is of a beautiful, hand-carved wooden horse, and Johnny promises his younger brother Liam that this year will be his year to ride the horse. Unfortunately the wooden horse is nowhere to be found, and much Christmas wishing ensues.

Of course a little miracle of sorts happens on Christmas Day, and all ends well. While the story is a bit simplistic, it's charmingly written and includes a refreshing message that's all about giving rather than receiving. After all, that's what the holidays are supposed to be about, right? And of course Wendell Minor's (The Last Train, Night Flight, and Christmas Tree!) beautiful luminscent paintings evocatively bring the story to life.

Celebrate Kwanzaa with Free Admission at the Bay Area Discovery Museum Today!

December 26, 2011

Come mark the beginning of Kwanzaa, the African-American celebration of family and community, at Sausalito's Bay Area Discovery Museum on Monday, December 26 from 10 am–4 pm, with art projects inspired by the African continent, live performances, and a Kwanzaa altar in the museum’s Entry Pavilion.

Also, enjoy a performance by renowned jazz drummer E. W. Wainwright and his ensemble: The African Roots of Jazz, takes you on a musical journey that traces African-American musical forms, such as jazz, gospel, and spirituals, from their earliest beginnings in African cultures to today at 11 am and 1 pm in the Discovery Theatre. The program features instrumental music, songs, theater, and audience participation. Seating for The African Roots of Jazz is limited; pick up free tickets at the front desk when you arrive at the museum.

December Family Happenings at Novato's Rolling Hills Club

December 14, 2011

If you haven't had a chance to visit Novato's Rolling Hills Club lately, you might want to this holiday season. This month, this family-oriented fitness club in Novato's San Marin neighborhood offers fun events and programs for the entire family.

This Saturday from 11 am to 12:30 pm, Santa Claus arrives at the club by sleigh, and little ones can climb aboard and tell him their Christmas wishes. Cookies and hot cocoa will be provided and the San Marin High School Choir will entertain with Christmas carols. This festive community event is free to everyone, and all ages are welcome.

Rolling Hills is also offering a holiday Polar Bear Camp for children ages 5–10 during the weeks of December 19–22 (Monday–Thursday) and 27–30 (Tuesday–Friday). Kids can spend their winter break with fun, active, and exciting activities, including tennis, racquetball, swimming, basketball, and arts and crafts. Make some new friends and have a great time before heading back to school.

Who's Nibbling at My (Trader Joe's) Gingerbread House?!

November 27, 2011

Trader Joes gingerbread houseIn case you miss out on one of the gingerbread house workshops (at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, for example) this Holiday season and still want to get in on the action, you can head down to your local Trader Joes and pick up one of their bargain priced gingerbread house kits.

For $7.99 you get a nice quality, German-made gingerbread house kit that includes the house parts, base, a tree, and enough chocolate buttons, gumdrops, and pink and white candy sprinkles to decorate a house worthy of being devoured by Hansel and Gretel. Speaking of them, the kit also comes with a little sugar Hansel and Gretel and a witch, as well as a little candy cat (or is it a pig?) that sits on the rooftop or anywhere else you like.

They also throw in a half-pound box of powdered sugar with which to make the royal icing that glues the thing together. You supply an egg white, lemon juice, and imagination. It's also helpful to have a pastry bag to pipe the icing, although a garden-variety ziplock bag with one of the edges snipped off makes a dandy substitute. It's not the most architecturally complex gingerbread house we've seen—it looks kind of like a Tahoe A-frame—but it's a lot of fun to put together. Just watch out for little nibblers who try to eat the candy and cookies before they have a chance to go on the house!

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