Monday, November 22, 2010

Christmas Favorites

I refuse to put up my Christmas tree until the day after Thanksgiving, and I am completely annoyed by the retail world's insistence on hauling out the Christmas- (er, holiday-) themed merchandise as soon as the Halloween candy is on markdown, but it's never too early to line up your Christmas reading! So I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Katherine Paterson, a two-time Newbery winner and a fellow King College alum, is also the wife of a Presbyterian pastor, and Angels and Other Strangers is a collection of stories she wrote over the years to be shared at the Christmas Eve service. Definitely not your run-of-the-mill (read: sappy) Christmas stories, each one explores what the incarnation means to us fallen humans. Also see her second collection, A Midnight Clear.

I am Christmas by Nancy White Carlstrom, a picture book with beautiful oil paintings by Lori McElrath-Eslick, is sadly out-of-print, but it's worth tracking down a copy. The simple, brief text is profound, using the different names of Jesus to illuminate the Christmas story. The conclusion always makes me tear up: "I am beginning, I am end/the message foretold/scratched in sand/ etched in gold -- / I am the story, I am the song." Definitely not just for kids.

A sweet picture book to share with kids is Christmas Cookies by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, charmingly illustrated by Jane Dyer. A holiday-themed entry in the Cookies series, it defines Christmas terms like "celebrate" and "hope" in relation to cookie baking. It's sure to be at a Borders (or independent bookstore) near you.

A new picture book I'm anxious to get my hands on is Christmas is Here, with words from the King James Bible and illustrations by Lauren Castillo. It got excellent reviews and reportedly connects a modern family with what happened in Bethlehem all those centuries ago.

What are your favorite Christmas books? Anything you read year after year? I'm looking forward to starting Christmas book traditions with Evan!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Coupon Clippin'

My favorite sport is saving money. (Those of you who know me well know that athletics are not my thing.) I come by it naturally; my grandpa Stadtmiller was a coupon clipper and often got paid to buy things! Having a baby is obviously expensive (actually, the actual giving birth was free; since I almost died, insurance covered 100% instead of 80% of the cost -- looking on the bright side here), but I'm saving money by doing things like cloth diapering and buying store-brand (organic) formula. (Oh, and by not decorating a nursery since we actually don't HAVE a nursery...)

But lately I've been doing even more than cutting out (and printing out) coupons and checking the Kroger ad. I've discovered a number of blogs that find the bargains for me. My favorite is Money Saving Mom (thanks, Amy O.!), but I also like Passionate Penny Pincher and Saving Naturally. I also print a lot of coupons from and Target.

By doing all this I feel less guilty about the fact that I am a Starbucks Gold Card Member.

What are your favorite penny-pinching tricks?