The Open Home

living with an open heart


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{Cranberry Buttermilk Cake}

The Open Home 255

 

I have a wonderful group of gal pals here on the island most of whom I’ve know since my teenage years. In recent years life has gotten busier for us all so it’s become somewhat of a tradition for those of us that are on the island in December to meet for a festive brunch. This year it was my turn to host and I baked this seasonal Cranberry Buttermilk Cake especially for the occasion. It was much more zesty than I imagined, but I was not at all disappointed with the results. This is another recipe that is definitely going to become a regular at the Girard family’s fancy breakfasts.

Recipe {HERE}.

What have you been baking this month?


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Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

The Open Home 253

 

The Open Home 254

 

It’s St Nicholas Day today and at the start of this Advent season we like to use this day in particular to remind ourselves to embark on this festive season with a reflective attitude and a spirit of generosity that will enable us to prepare our hearts for the arrival of baby Jesus on Christmas morning.

Our day started with the traditional visit from Sinterklaas, reminding us of the heritage of St Nick, a man of faith whose love of Jesus fuelled his generosity to the poor. The rest of the day was then spent making plans for ways in which we can bless others in the lead up to Christmas, taking the focus off ourselves and what we get and onto Jesus and what He gives.

Below are some of the ideas we came up with for blessing others and preparing our hearts this advent season. Some are rather obvious suggestions and I’m sure you can think up many more on your own, but hopefully these will get you started.

Ideas to bless others this Advent:

  • Make Christmas Cards
  • Send Letters and/or parcels to friends and relatives overseas
  • De-clutter your home and donate good quality clothes and toys to charity
  • Volunteer at a local charity or shelter, distributing food or gifts to those in need
  • Donate food to a local food bank. Here in Guernsey I recommend The Guernsey Welfare Service
  • Buy a Tree of Joy gift for a child
  • Make a Christmas Shoebox
  • Send a care package to a missionary family serving overseas
  • Visit elderly or lonely friends and relatives
  • Invite guests round for Christmas dinner
  • Join a church or charity that are hosting Christmas dinner
  • Tip generously – your hairdresser, the friendly waiter at your go-to restaurant, etc
  • Leave an anonymous and surprise food hamper for someone
  • Host a festive brunch/lunch/afternoon tea/dinner party
  • Bake Christmas treats for friends/colleagues/neighbours
  • Surprise Daddy or Mummy at work with festive treats
  • Buy fairly traded gifts for friends
  • Care for God’s creation by sponsoring an animal through WWF
  • Remember the birds and make them a homemade bird feeder!

 

Ideas for preparing your heart for Jesus:

  • Follow an advent devotional like The Greatest Gift, either on your own or with your partner
  • Do a simple devotional with young children, I recommend The Truth in the Tinsel
  • Make an Advent Jesse Tree with older children, I recommend using The Jesse Tree
  • Follow a family devotional, I recommend Unwrapping The Greatest Gift – this is what we are using!
  • Read a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible each day
  • Create an Activity Advent Calendar that spreads out the festive fun
  • Celebrate St Nicholas Day, giving more focus to Jesus on Christmas Day
  • Make and/or display a nativity scene at home
  • Display an Advent Wreath and light a candle on each Sunday in Advent
  • Surround yourself with Christmas carols and hymns
  • Bake Jesus a birthday cake
  • Join in with some Christmas carollers
  • Attend a Candlelit Carol Service
  • Take part in a Nativity service
  • Take the children to a Christingle Service on Christmas Eve
  • Attend Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve
  • Take time out on Christmas morning and join with others at church to celebrate Jesus birth
  • Give Christmas gifts that symbolise gold, frankincense and myrrh

Happy St Nicks! How do you prepare your hearts for Christmas?


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A Humble Thanksgiving

The Open Home 249

The Open Home 251

 

As of last year we added the holiday of Thanksgiving to our repertoire. Our reasoning behind this was simply that a holiday that encourages you to stop, reflect and give thanks can’t be a bad thing.

It may seem a bit odd for a British family with no connection whatsoever to the US to be celebrating Thanksgiving? However, we don’t really draw on the history behind American Thanksgiving, we simply set aside the day in our calendar so that as a family we can stop to give thanks.

It’s actually also a great way to prepare your heart in anticipation for the reflective season of Advent that is ahead.

Last year we invited friends to join us for our first Thanksgiving celebration, but this year with a baby due in 5 weeks time the Husby suggested we keep things a little more low key. Very wise.

So this year our humble Thanksgiving celebrations simply involved a small family feast of vegetable soup, red onion and chestnut tart, roasted veggies, roasted potatoes and of course, my first ever homemade cherry pie for dessert. Scrummy!

As we gathered together as a family to celebrate life, we were once again reminded that God is good and that we are blessed! This is the reason why we continue to keep a family gratitude journal together throughout the year, a simple practice that really brings us together as a family and encourages us to count our blessings. I’d highly recommend you start one too.

What have you been thankful for over this time of Thanksgiving?


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{November Gratitudes}

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For our affectionate girl and these kissable lips!

 

 

For generous gifts and a buggy made for two.

For generous gifts and a buggy made for two.

 

For our Thanksgiving day feast and simple celebrations.

For our Thanksgiving day feast and simple celebrations.

 

For awesome bed head and sleepy snuggles.

For awesome bed head and sleepy girl snuggles.

 

These are some of the inserts from our family gratitude journal during November, reminding us that God is good and that we are blessed!

What have you been thankful for this month?


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{Cherry Pie}

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I love pies, pretty much every flavour too. It’s another reason why I look forward to the arrival of autumn. The nights draw in, the temperature cools and it’s the perfect time of year to reintroduce the scrumptious comfort food that is the pie. As part of our Thanksgiving celebrations this year I made my first ever cherry pie. I had to order a pie dish in especially and finally got to use my pie bird too! It’s a whole lot of pie for only two people to eat, but the Husby and I will do our very best over the next few days!

Recipe {HERE}.

What have you been baking this month?


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12 Board Books for Christmas

As mentioned in my last post, little ones, particularly babies really don’t need very much for Christmas. If you want to make an investment with your gift giving in the early years then books really are the perfect place to begin as babies and toddlers sure do love them!

The books you buy now for your little one will bring enjoyment for many years to come, which is why it is also important that these books contain quality stories and illustrations that are enjoyable for you to read as an adult numerous times a day.

Here are some books that we happily read to our daughter again and again and again… and again!

 

1. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

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This is my personal favourite from my daughter’s board book collection. This book is a celebration of babies from all over the world and highlights that although babies are different in many ways, they all have one thing in common, their ten little fingers and ten little toes. The rhythmic poem by Mem Fox is delightful to read and the illustrations by Helen Oxenbury are truly beautiful, as always. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes definitely deserves Ten out of Ten!

 

2. Night, Night

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Written and illustrated by Petr Horacek, Night Night is a simple and beloved bedtime story in our home. The shaped pages are really enticing to little ones and take you through various forest animals as they snuggle up ready for bed. The wheel mechanism at the end of the book makes the stars twinkle and always leads on to a humble rendition of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ in our home. A really sweet and interactive book for little ones.

 

3. Dogs

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This is my daughter’s absolute favourite book and a must have for all dog owners and lovers! Emily Gravett’s delightful watercolour drawings catch my eye every time and this book celebrating dogs of all shapes, sizes and temperaments is truly irresistible! Our little one woofs along with glee and loves to pick out her favourite dog at the end, which is more often than not the soppy dog – she is so much more girly than her mummy!

 

4. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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An utter classic, which after 45 years in print really needs no introduction. I love Eric Carle’s imaginative illustrations and the clever cut outs in this book are particularly appealing to little ones. At 18 months old, my daughter is now the perfect age for this book as she can now sit still long enough for me to actually finish reading the story!

 

5. Baby Bear, Baby Bear What Do You See?

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Another of our favourites by Eric Carle, who has produced an impressive selection of childrens books, all of which are worth a read. This one is a wonderful celebration of nature in North America and follows Baby Bear as he meets many different animals until he finally finds the one he is looking for, his mama bear. A sweet little book with simple repetition and vibrant pictures.

 

6. The Elusive Moose

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I’m a big fan of Barefoot Books and how they help children to explore nature and different cultures. The Elusive Moose was the first Barefoot Book that we discovered and we must have had it on loan from the library for absolutely ages! Partly because The Husby found the poetic story so amusing and partly because I simply adore the hand stitched felt illustrations created by Clare Beaton. Plus it’s jam packed full of animals and a moose that is playing hide and seek so naturally our little one also loved it!

 

7. Peepo!

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Peepo! has been a favourite amongst babies and adults for many generations now, it really is a modern classic of the baby book world. Subtly set during the second world war the charming illustrations are action-packed and generate plenty of discussion all by themselves. The sing-song rhyming verse and peep holes are incredibly interactive and excitedly build littles ones up to the much anticipated ‘Peepo!’

 

8. Guess How Much I Love You

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‘I love you right up to the moon – and back’ has become a much loved quote and rather unsurprisingly the book that it is quoted from has become a cherished childrens classic. This sweet story follows Little and Big Nutbrown Hare as they playfully try to measure their love for one another in tangible ways. Paired with a cuddly Nutbrown Hare toy, the book makes for a really special gift.

 

9. On the Night You Were Born

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The sentiments in this book will bring a tear to many a parent’s eye as it expresses the joy and celebration that each new child brings to the world. This truly beautiful book reinforces for littles ones just how special, unique and loved they are and will be enjoyed well into the preschool years and beyond, especially at times of change when their self esteem may need a little boost.

 

10. Global Babies

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This simple little book produced by The Global Fund for Children presents babies from diverse settings around the world and is great for promoting and celebrating diversity from a young age. The images highlight differences in culture and race whilst the simple narration demonstrates just how loved and special all babies are. Be warned though, you may need to replace this book regularly as if your little one is anything like mine the babies in the book will be subjected to a LOT of kisses!

 

11. Hello, World!

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I’m not usually one to buy Disney merchandise, however when it comes to the It’s a Small World books I have been rather pleased with my purchase. This particular book is a book of few words simply stating ‘hello’ in various languages but the bright cartoon images, which are very appealing to little ones, offer much to talk about. Just be aware that the images do lean towards country stereotypes and as your child grows it would be important for you to point out that the images portray traditional or historic dress.

 

12. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter 

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Technically this is part of a set of four seasonal picture books, but you can buy each one individually if you are after a specific season – the Winter one alone would make a lovely Christmas gift. We have all four books illustrated by Gerda Muller and pull them out at the set time each year to help us celebrate the new season. These picture books are so full of detail that the absence of words is not even missed, you will soon find yourself making up your own little stories.

What are your favourite board books for little ones?


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12 Baby Gifts for Christmas

When it comes to Christmas gifts for babies I honestly believe you don’t need to spend very much! You likely stocked up on all the necessary baby equipment before the birth and have already been showered with plenty of gifts in the months that followed.

Although babies don’t really need very much it is fun to buy for their first Christmas and it is possible to keep things simple! Here are a few cheap but cheerful ideas for those of you buying for babies, all drawn from experience with my little one who for last Christmas was only 7 months old.

 

1. Jellycat Toys

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As mentioned in my 12 Toddler Gifts for Christmas post, I’m a big fan of Jellycat soft toys as they make really special keepsakes and comforters. The Super Softies and Pocket Pals collections are perfectly sized for small hands and prices start from £7.50.  “Pippin” the donkey has been a big hit with my daughter since she was a newborn.

 

2. Soft Ball

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Even now as a toddler my daughter still enjoys playing with this soft ball! It jingles delicately and as a young baby she just loved holding, squeezing and waving it around. As she got older she then started to push and crawl after it and now as a toddler she enjoys kicking and throwing it. Thankfully this is the sort of indoor ball that doesn’t cause damage!

 

3. Soft Blocks

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Soft blocks like these are great for babies that are becoming more alert. Like the soft ball they are able to be held an squeezed by the younger baby and as they grow they will delight in knocking over towers. Soft blocks are easily found within local stores, these ones here are from the Blossom Farm collection by Early Learning Centre. I like the bright colours, varied textures and noises they make.

 

4. Rattle Snake

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I adore the fairly traded knitted toys by Pebble, handmade by women in Bangladesh. This rattle snake is my favourite of theirs and makes for a beautiful gift. It comes in a selection of attractive colours, all available on Amazon for around £10.00. My daughter loved flinging her snake around to hear it jingle, it brought her many smiles and was a great incentive during tummy time.

 

5. Stacking Cups

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A bit of BPA and PVC free plastic for you from Green Sprouts on Amazon. Even before baby is able to stack them, these cups are fun to hold and chew and will be enjoyed during bath time play for many years to come.

 

6. Activity Ball

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Really love this bright activity ball from Bigjigs. It’s suitable from 3 months and rather mesmerising to the small baby who is beginning to explore with their hands. Available on Amazon for under £8.00.

 

7. Clutching Toy

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Haba have a wide range of beautiful wooden clutching toys that double up perfectly as teethers for gummy babies. This one is available on Amazon and prices for their clutching toys start from around £5.00. You can also find Haba toys online at Babipur, a site that offers ethical shopping for kids.

 

8. Wiggly Worm

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My daughter received this wiggly worm by Bigjigs in her boot on St Nicholas Day last year and it was a big hit! I found it to be a really handy toy to stash in my bag and pull out when she needed a bit of entertaining. I have seen these in a few stores locally on the island, but of course you can also get them on Amazon for around £5.00.

 

9. Rainbow Stacker

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For the older baby who is sitting and beginning to explore more, a colourful stacking toy like this one from Bigjigs will prove popular. My daughter received one for Christmas when she was 7 months old and has played with it pretty much every day for almost a year now! Plus at only £10.00 it will be popular with the parents or buyers too.

 

10. Hammer Bench

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A hammer bench or pounding toy as they are sometimes called is great for the industrious type. They are made by so many trustworthy brands, the cheapest ones I can find are made by ELC and Melissa & Doug, available for only £8.00. My daughter started playing with her Bigjigs one (as pictured) when she was 9 months old and I was amazed at how quickly her hand-eye coordination developed through using it.

 

11. First Puzzle

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A simple lift out puzzle is a great gift for the older baby over 9 months old. Although it will be a few months before they can put the shapes in place they will still enjoy pulling out, holding and looking at the pieces. I particularly like the bright ones by ELC that are available in Boots each year for only £7.00. What a bargain!

 

12. Board Books

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Board books should really be at the top of the list as babies really do love books! I won’t list any of our favourites here as that can wait for a post all of it’s own coming later this week! Honestly, if you only buy board books for your baby this Christmas, you’ll be making a wonderful investment.

 What are you buying for the baby in your family this Christmas?

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