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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Smarty Picks

By Rachel H

Welcome to Smarty Picks! This is a list of some of our favorite Triad Businesses who have been featured on Triad Smarty Pants. They are mom-approved and in our opinion, very Smarty! Click any of the links below to read more about these sponsors. We would love for you to give them a call, stop by, and show them some TSP love.

Adventure Guides and Princesses

Aladdin Travel Consultant, Martha Nichols

The Beanstalk

Brixx Wood Fired Pizza

Brenner Children's Hospital

Burkhead United Methodist Church Preschool

The Club at Oak Branch

ERG Kids - Education Resource Group

Evy's Gifts

High Point Museum

Kathy Dollyhigh Photography

Lyndhurst Gynecologic Associates

New Balance Winston-Salem

Paper Sassy

Perfect Playspaces

Portraits, Inc.

Soccer Tots


Summit School

Triad Academy

Upscale Resale


The Year of the Mommy Blogger

By Katie M

This New Year is not just about celebrating a new resolution, but rather a new REVOLUTION that has taken social media by storm. The emergence of mommy bloggers online - and their influence on advertisers - has made quite an impact on the Internet this past year (see statistics below). And here at Triad Smarty Pants, we have had the pleasure of (virtually) meeting a number of fantastic local moms who - in addition to their everyday responsibilities as mom and wife - manage to run a succesful blog about their own life experiences. So to celebrate these mommy bloggers, we are featuring their blogs below. It's all about viral marketing here in the blog world, so please log on to their blogs and tell your friends about their sites!

We received this list of local mommy blogs from readers and mommy bloggers, themselves. Some have been guest bloggers on our site and some have been featured as Smarty Moms. If you know of other Triad mommy blogs you'd like added to our list, email us here and we'll get it listed. Additionally, if you are a blogger (or just a writer or just a parent) who would like to submit a blog to TSP, send it on! Just be sure to read our guidelines first before you craft your work.

Here's to all you mommy bloggers (and mommy blog readers). Congrats on your coup d'etat! Now go check out these mommy blogs and add them to your daily reading lists:

A Is for Beautiful

Classic Campbell

An Art Family

The Willis Family

The Chappels in NC

Connor Mcguire

Little Llamas

Pickles and Cheese Blog

Patrice and Matt Williams

One Nutty Girl

Blake and the Girls

BK Marshall

Rouse Adventures

Phil and Stephanie Moore

The Black Family News

Fierce Beagle

All on a Summer's Day and Summer School Daze

Expanding the Albertsons

Quick stats on mommy blogs. Did you know?

- More than one-half (53%) of the US female Internet population of 79 million actively participated in some type of social media at least weekly. Of the female social media participants, 75% took part in social networking and 55% used blogs.

- A survey by Razorfish and CafeMom found that Websites, referrals from friends and family, and information from search engines were the most common sources online moms used to make a purchasing decision. They were less likely to use TV, magazines, newspapers or radio to make their purchasing decisions.

- Women are so enthusiastic about reading and writing blogs, they are stealing time from other media to spend more in the blogosphere and on social network sites.

- There are now more women on the Web than men.

- Women’s community was the most visited and fastest growing Internet category, tied with politics. The number of unique visits to women’s community sites jumped 35% to almost 70 million from 52 million.

- Women outnumber men on Facebook in every age group

- 36.2 million American female Internet users actively participate in blogs every week. You get 15.1 million women publishing at least one post a week and 21.1 million reading and commenting at least weekly.

- More than 8 out of 10 U.S. moms go online at least once a month.

- 88% of mothers said the Internet has helped them stay connected to the world

- 85% believed technology has made their life as a mother easier

- 66% said they relied more on technology since they became a parent

- Because of blogging, 24% of surveyed women watch less television, 25% read fewer magazines and 22% read fewer newspapers.

How have mommy blogs changed your world? Add a comment below!

*Stats sourced from a recent 2009 Social Media survey published in emarketer, and (a lifestyle and entertaining expert and speaker on social media trends).


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Smarty Scoop on Weekend Events

By Katie M

Welcome to the last Wednesday of 2009! In case you missed our event scoop last Wednesday, clear your calendar today because Big Bang Boom! is playing at the Greensboro Children’s Museum TODAY at 11:45 am. There will also be a countdown to “Noon” Year’s Eve Eve. All this is free with museum admission. The Children’s Museum of Winston-Salem is also holding a Noon Year’s Eve Party tomorrow –see details below.

And if you’re lucky enough to have scored a babysitter for Thursday night, I’ve also included a couple of “date night” ideas below.

We’re excited to ring in the New Year here on Triad Smarty Pants. Stay tuned for another year of fun and useful blogs, Smarty Moms, and fantabulous contests and give-aways. In fact, we already have a great give-away lined up for you in early January –be sure to watch for it. Enjoy the weekend, and please be safe this New Years Eve!

Noon Year’s Eve Party
Thursday, December 31 at 11:30 a.m.
Children's Museum of Winston-Salem, 390 S. Liberty St., W-S
Countdown to the New Year Children’s Museum style! Free with museum admission, $7.

Kwanzaa - Creativity
Thursday, December 31 at 2 pm
Central Public Library, 660 West 5th Street, W-S
Join us as we celebrate the 6th Principle of Kwanzaa: Kuumba - Creativity. The North Carolina Black Repertory Company Teen Theatre will be featured! Mabel Robinson, NCBRC Artistic Director. Sponsors: NC Black Repertory Theatre Company and the Forsyth County Public Library. Free and Open To the Public

New Year's Eve at Noma!
Thursday, December 31 beginning at 5 pm, DJ at 10 pm
Noma 321 W. 4th Street, W-S
Celebrate New Year's Eve at Noma! Champagne and martini special all day with food specials galore! Club Noma DJ starts at 10pm with a $5 cover charge.

Cirque de la Symphonie
Thursday, December 31 at 7:30 pm
Reynolds Auditorium 301 N. Hawthorne Road, W-S
Visit web site link for details. $15 - $55

New Years Eve Champagne Dinner
Thursday, December 31 at 8 pm
Meridian Restaurant 411 S. Marshall St., W-S
Meridian Restaurant is hosting a New Years Eve Champagne Dinner starting at 8 pm. The Five course dinner is $55 per person and will include 5 different types of bubbles from France, California and Italy. Complimentary hors d'oeuvres and champagne toast at midnight. Live music! $55 per person.

DADA First Friday Gallery Hop
Friday, January 1 from 7-10 p.m.
Sixth, Trade and Liberty streets, W-S
Join the Downtown Winston-Salem's Art District for a night filled with the downtown arts community, artist demonstrations, music, dance and more. Free.

First Friday in Downtown Greensboro
Friday, January 1 from 6-9 p.m.
Elm Street area, Downtown GSO
After the champagne toasts, horn blowing and revelry of New Year’s Eve, Downtown Greensboro is poised for another party on New Year’s Day. January’s First Friday, the monthly exploration of creative expression, will feature a community bonfire, fine painting and craft demonstrations and an avant garde musical performance. First Friday is a free, self-guided tour of Downtown Greensboro’s shops, galleries and alternative arts venues that participate with specially programmed events and extended hours (until 9pm) on the first Friday of every month. The event is an opportunity to explore the center city’s local artistic community and encourages commerce and support of locally-owned, independent businesses located in Downtown. First Friday is promoted through a partnership between Downtown Greensboro Inc. and the United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro. Check for future updates and a downloadable map/guide at the First Friday Web site. Free.

Peter and the Wolf
Saturday, January 2, at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Gray Auditorium inside the Old Salem Visitor Center, Winston-Salem
Take a break from the hectic pace of the holidays and enjoy a fairy tale classic with family and friends! The Carolina Chamber Symphony Players and Old Salem Museums & Garden will present Peter and the Wolf. Each character in Peter and the Wolf has a particular instrument and musical theme. Tickets for Peter and the Wolf are $9 general admission and $5 for students/children. For more information and to purchase tickets, please call (336) 721-7350. Tickets also will available at the door on January 2.

Three Kings Day Celebration
Sunday, January 3 from 10 am to 2 pm
Children's Museum of Winston-Salem, 390 S. Liberty St., W-S
In honor of Three Kings day, CMWS is open to the public for just $3 admission. Children will be able to meet the Three Kings and receive a gift, listen to a Three Kings-themed storytime, play games, taste traditional Three Kings Day treats and make crafts.

What did we forget? Please add your events below!


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Travel Safely With Toddlers This Holiday Season

By Marjorie Wrenn, a Child Safety Expert

When children first begin to crawl, their curiosity about the world around them triples as they explore any and everything. Pre-schoolers develop motor skills but they have poor impulse control and judgment. Children don’t have the strength, coordination nor maturity to avoid injury and their curiosity is a powerful force. As a result, they enter one of the most dangerous times of their lives when they are at the highest risk for injury. Preventable injuries in the home are the number one cause of death of children. These injuries also transfer to any environment where you are with your infant or toddler. That can be a hotel room while on vacation, grandma’s house, a rental property, etc.

The same precautions that you take at home should be taken at any of these temporary locations as they all have dangerous sliding doors, toilets that can cause drowning, doors that should not be opened by a toddler and sometimes access to toxic products that can cause a poisoning.

Child proofing needs to travel with you. I suggest you have a travel kit filled with door knob covers, electrical outlet covers, sliding door blocks, toilet seat locks, a first aid kit, a poison antidote, etc. to ensure the protection of your small children.

Also, should there be an accident while your child is with a caregiver, be sure you have a Medical Authorization form completed and notarized so that caregiver can authorize medical care should you not be available. If, for instance, there is a poisoning and your child is rushed to the hospital while you are finally out for that long awaited romantic dinner, the grandmother cannot authorize care without a Medical Authorization form. You don’t want the physicians just standing by waiting for you to arrive when they could be saving your child’s life. An emergency telephone list with details of your child’s blood type, allergies, etc. should also be with each caregiver.

There is absolutely no greater devastation than losing a child and certainly that devastation is compounded when the loss is due to a preventable accident. Your question is not will your child find hazards, but when. Take the extra precautions today to prevent a trip to the emergency room tomorrow.

For a Travel Safety Kit perfect for protecting mischievous toddlers, contact Marjoie at

Did you travel with your toddlers this holiday season? If so, share your stories, advice and lessons learned!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Congrats to our Winners!

By Rachel H

Congratulations to the following readers who won tickets to Barnum's Funundrum Circus this coming February! These readers registered to win by simply becoming fans on our NEW Triad Smarty Pants Facebook Fan Page. If you are not yet a fan of our new page (not to be confused with the old friend page), click the Facebook icon at the top of this website to sign up!

The winners are ...
Jenny Boneno
Jitka Helmus
Cabell Edmundson
Susan Anderson
Allison Nolan
Shelley Holden
Jodi Stephens
Melissa Maltzahn
Maria Money
Kay Smith

Stay tuned for another giveaway in January!


Smarty Christmas Card Display

By Jen P, Charlotte Smarty Pants

The holidays may be over, but you can still sit back and enjoy the season. And what better way than to bask in all of your beautiful Christmas cards?!

I live for Christmas cards, and I mean L-I-V-E for Christmas cards! I love the process of staging that perfect photo (and trust me, this is no small feat with four wiggly ones who have never warmed up to my camera!), finding that festive card design to complement that near impossible photo, hand-addressing my envelopes (I'm old school on this one!) and dropping them off in the mailbox for a December 23rd delivery. My absolute favorite part of the Christmas card process is receiving the cards. I never throw any away - I keep them in a special box and display what I can on my refrigerator, rotating them periodically throughout the year. One of my Smarty friends, Tanya, came up with the most presh idea for displaying your family cards throughout the years - a hanging Christmas card ribbon that you add to year after year.

Here is what you need:
-8 feet of holiday wire ribbon - maybe 2" wide and keep it simple since your cards will be elaborate. I chose red ribbon with white trim.
-green wire - (2) 6" pieces
-Your family Christmas cards throughout the years
-Either a hot glue gun or a stapler, your choice

First make your bow by looping and folding your wire ribbon into a bunch of loopy folds. I made mine with 6 big loops that folds into 12 small loops to make a big bow for the top of your display. Secure tightly in the back with a green wire. Arrange the loops by twisting and folding to make a bow, adjusting along the way. This is hard to describe, but not that difficult to do once you play around with it.

Next attach your bow to a long strip of ribbon. I made mine long enough to hang in a doorway or on a pillar. I'm guessing that it was maybe 6'. I stapled the back of my bow to the center of my ribbon and tested it before hanging to make sure the bow was centered and laid flat. I also cut the bottom edge of my ribbon into angles for the Martha effect.

Next either hot glue or staple your cards to the ribbon. If you staple, make sure you staple from the inside so you can still read them.

Lastly, enjoy for years to come! It took me a while to backtrack the last 10 years of Christmas cards that we've sent. I'm happy to report that I have all of them, even my wedding Christmas card! My children enjoy looking at our family from the beginning and watching it grow each year. We are now on our second ribbon and it's perfect in my living room with 2 pillars.

Thanks to Smarty Tanya, or shall I say Martha, for the cutest tip ever! Merry, merry!


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday Traditions from our Smarty Moms and Dads

By Rachel H

Today is our final day of sharing Smarty Traditions. Thank you to all the Smarty Moms and Dads who we have profiled over the past year. We thank you for sharing your traditions with us this week! If you missed them, scroll back through this week's posts to see all of the wonderful traditions these families share throughout the season.

Jessica Robb - My grandmother started this tradition. I am guessing it is because the kids in our family tend to be early risers - especially on Christmas morning. We were not allowed to get out of our rooms until we heard Santa's bells. Later I learned that my grandmother has bells that resemble (by look and sound) something that Santa could have on his sleigh. My sisters and I would wait for what seemed like forever until we heard the bells and then we would run to open our presents. As a child the sound was magical. For parents, it gives us a few extra minutes to do the last minute things to make the morning special.
* Photo taken by ZoeZen photography.

Katie M - It’s funny that we are writing about holiday traditions because this will be the first year our family will not be traveling to either New Jersey or Minnesota – trips that have been tradition for years. Combined we have a large extended family, and it’s always been important for us to be close to family over Christmas – more than any other holiday in the year. In New Jersey, it was always tradition to go to NYC and see the big tree in Rockefeller Center (see picture). In Minnesota, it’s always been tradition for us to go sleigh riding or ice skating (on real frozen ponds outside!) since we can’t do that in NC. So, this will be the first year we create traditions of our own and we’re really excited about it. We’ve already decided that a trip to the Nutcracker at the Stevens Center in downtown Winston-Salem is a must tradition each year. And we’ve already had family discussions around the dinner table about other things that should be tradition. Top of the list is opening one gift on Christmas Eve (a tradition my husband always followed growing up). Plus the downtown holiday parade. Attending the children’s mass at our church on Christmas Eve. Making my mom’s yummy breakfast casserole on Christmas morning. And just hanging out in our pajamas all day on Christmas. Those are our plans, and we’re hoping they’ll become tradition!

Chanel James - I would say that our family definitely has some holiday traditions... some that the kids are aware of, and some not so much. For example, my parents always had us pick one lucky gift to open on Christmas Eve. We do the same with our boys now-- and they amazingly always pick the same one we used to as kids; the pj box. And I give the traditional response, "Oh my Gosh! You get to wear cool new pajamas to bed tonight!" Can't have the boys wearing old, faded, Race For the Cure t-shirts on Christmas morning while the cam is rolling!

The tradition they know about... which is rather new; they get to decorate a gingerbread house sometime after Thanksgiving-- thanks to allergen free Gingerbread house kits, this is one I hope they will continue to enjoy for years to come!

Jenna Guldberg - Our family tradition is something that
I assumed every family did...until we moved to the south. On the night of December 5th, we place our shoes next to the door in anticipation of St. Nick's arrival. If we have been good, St. Nick leaves small gifts in our shoes for when we wake. If we've been naughty, there is only coal. After mentioning this to several friends in the triad, and no one having any idea who St. Nick was, I decided to do some investigating. Turns out that many cities with strong German influence (like Milwaukee, where I grew up) still celebrate St. Nick's. I know it is one tradition my family will celebrate wherever we live!

Marybeth Barrett - Our first tradition is making my Great Grandmother's Sugar Cookie Recipe. Yum.
It’s a process, but a fun one. I have memories of making these with my Grandmother as far back as I can remember. My Grandmother made these into her 90’s. She was right there with us frosting, sprinkling, etc. It was always a fun and welcomed family project. I personally like the decorating of the cookies better than the baking, but that is the artist in me. Be sure to get plenty of sprinkles to create your one of a kind cookies. We always put one cinnamon candy on each one. They get hard, which is why we only were allowed to put one so we wouldn’t break our teeth, or maybe that was intended more for the older folks!

Here is the Sugar Cookie recipe:
Buttermilk Mixture: Combine 1 cup buttermilk with 1 tsp baking soda. Set aside to rise.
In large bowl add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar (I did mention these were sugar cookies didn’t I?) & 1 cup shortening (Crisco or Margarine).
Blend until smooth
Mix in 2 eggs

Flour Mixture: In a separate bowl, Mix 4 ½ cups flour with 2 tsp baking powder & ½ tsp salt
Alternate adding the buttermilk mixture with the flour mixture
Add 1 tsp vanilla
Mix until well blended
Roll dough to about ¼ thin (or thick depending on whether you are a half full/half empty type of person)
Use cookie cutters of choice
Bake at 375 for 7 minutes until a light golden brown.

2 TBS soft butter (I never said they were healthy!)
¼ tsp vanilla
Alternate adding milk and confectionery sugar
Beat until creamy and spreadably smooth
Separate into two different bowls.
Tint one bowl with red food coloring and the other with green.
Decorate with holiday sprinkles until your heart is content.

Note: We make these for all holidays and cookie cutters appropriate to the season.

My other favorite tradition is trimming my tree with the Hallmark Ornaments given to me each year by my belated Grandmother. Since her passing, they mean even more to me than ever. It is a stroll down memory lane as each ornament is lovingly placed on my tree by me or my boys. Gram would give each of us a Hallmark ornament that somehow reflected who we were at that time. We always knew it was coming and saved the best for last to open each year. It was a mad dash to see who could rip open the paper to see which one we got! Hallmark Ornaments are great because they come in a box to protect them and all have a date. I have everything from Curious George, Fairies, Dr. Seuss, etc. It is fun to review them each year and see “what I was into” at that age. In 1999 I dressed up as Cat in the Hat, so guess what ornament I got that year? My boys love it because they always want to know how old I was when I got each one. My mom gave me my personal ornament collection when I moved out on my own so I could have it displayed on my own tree. She has already started the tradition with my boys! So, tell your parents to listen up. Suggest that they start giving their Grandchildren a collectible ornament and trust me, it will be a gift that keeps on giving many years to come.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Holiday Traditions from our Smarty Moms & Dads

By Rachel H

We hope you all had a Merry Merry Christmas! If you missed Tuesday's and Thursday's posts, be sure to go back and see the holiday traditions shared by our Smarty Moms and Dads from the past year. Today we are continuing on with more wonderful traditions ...

Edward Reese - Each Christmas Eve we celebrate by going to midnight mass at church (Saint Benedict the Moor Catholic Church)! The family tradition is afterwards, our entire family and several friends (20-30 people) meet at our house for breakfast which usually begans about 2am XMAS morning! Everyone exchanges and gets to open one present during this event and the midnight mass family breakfast celebration usually winds down at about 4am....

Wendy Piazza - Our favorite Christmas tradition is that of baking breads, muffins, scones, or cookies for our teachers. I feel it is very important to show appreciation to our hard working teachers, and I want my children to show that appreciation as well. Christmas is a great opportunity to teach the importance of giving. I hope that my children learn that it doesn't need to cost a lot of money to give a beautiful gift. It is actually all the more beautiful when time and effort is put into something being given from the heart. So, every year before school lets out for Christmas, I get the kids together to bake for a day. We make an event out of it and they all wear their aprons! The kids really enjoy this and I hope as they get older we can extend the tradition to include baking for the local nursing homes as well.

Karin Head - The week before Thanksgiving our family makes the annual trek to Blowing Rock for our family Christmas tree hunt. We load up and prepare for snow, rain or sunshine and make the trip to the mountains. As soon as we arrive, we get our hot cocoa and cookies and start the search. Usually the dog comes with us and bounds around searching for creatures to chase. The kids run and play among the evergreens and mom takes lots of pictures of this family memory. Once we find the perfect living room tree we then move on to find the Charlie Brown trees. This starts us all off on the right foot and gets us into the spirit. That said, Christmas music plays at our house year round. Mom's really love Christmas!

Another tradition is each Christmas eve we have the great family event including dinner, church, the story of Christ's birth and of course Twas the Night Before Christmas. We follow it up with prep for Santa's reindeer and the big guy himself. We open a special gift, enjoy fresh hot cocoa and the kids hit the bed early. Sometimes they even hear Santa's sleigh bells outside and then they go right to sleep. Christmas morning is all the rage of opening gifts and eating. At noon we then try to think about others and begin the meal for the Ronald McDonald House. We eat sandwiches on Christmas night, play basketball and relax with friends. I usually enjoy a glass of wine!

Summer Riley - We have three traditions that we always do at Christmas ...

1) We always get pajamas--usually matching for the kids for their christmas eve present. We have a whole series of pictures now of the kids in their christmas eve outfits.
2) We do an advent calendar with the doors, each door has a little bible lesson or craft on a small slip of paper and there is candy for each of the kids. (now four!)
3) This one is new... I wrapped 24 of our favorite holiday story books and labeled them 1-24 so we can open one each night. We tend to read and reread these stories throughout the month, but it is like a little bit of Christmas excitement every night. (Also when I pack up "Christmas" to go in the attic, I might even take the time to wrap them as I store them.)

Rachel H- My favorite Christmas tradition took place at my Aunt’s house in Pennsylvania each year. We always had at least 25 relatives in attendance for Christmas Eve. We would have a huge meal with lots of great Italian food, lots of loud music & dancing, and lots of children running around the house. After dinner we would patiently await Santa’s arrival. We would spot Santa crossing her front yard, usually in the snow and all the children would freak out as expected. (Sometimes Santa even carried sparklers, but that started to get a little dangerous!) Santa would come in the house and call each child on his lap to give a special Christmas Eve gift. Then the children would leave the room to go play with their gifts and Santa would then call each adult up to sit on his lap and receive a gag gift! My aunt worked hard all year buying the perfect Santa gag gift for each adult and every gift had a humorous poem to go along with it. Some were naughty, some were nice, but all always got a good laugh! Then we’d send Santa on his way because he’d have to go deliver toys to all the girls and boys that night!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the Newborn King!

Merry Christmas Smarties. We hope that you are enjoying a wonderous holiday and that the spirit of the season is abundant in your homes. In the middle of the chaos of new toys, finding batteries, fixing meals or rushing to the next destination, take a minute to enjoy it all. Too often we get caught up in all that has to be done and we don’t stop to enjoy what has been done. Take the time to enjoy!

Thank you for allowing us to share a little bit of ourselves everyday and in turn sharing your lives with us.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Mankind!


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Holiday Traditions from our Smarty Moms & Dads

By Rachel H

Merry Christmas Eve! (My favorite day of the year!) Today we are continuing on from Tuesday's post, which shared traditions from this year's Smarty Moms and Dads ...

Julie G - Years ago when Owen was four (he's now eight), I had a student, Conley, who was in the High Point Ballet's production of the Nutcracker. Several of my students, Owen and I got all dressed up and attended the production. For Owen, this has become one of his favorite traditions. In years that followed, Conley continued to have roles in productions of the Nutcracker and her family invited many people to their home for a pre-party. Owen just loved running through their home and counting the many nutcrackers - over 50 of them if I recall. We would then board the bus that would take us to High Point to watch the show. He loved watching "his ballerina" dance across the stage gracefully and beautifully. Sadly enough like all children do, Conley grew up and last year, she had moved on to Wake Forest and was no longer in the production, so we visited the NCSA production. Owen was disappointed, and this year, we'll be returning to the High Point Ballet's production. The High Point Ballet's production is more intimate, with prettier sets and costumes, and much funnier in my son's opinion. They also have a children's performance where the audience can actually meet the dancers. Owen feels that his little brother, now four, is finally ready for the big show. I highly recommend it.

Another of our favorite traditions is attending the annual Santa Parade in our neighborhood. Two families have been hosting this annual parade since Owen was a baby. One of the hosts shared that her family used to put this on for neighbors when she was a child. Now that she is a mom, she has invited other families to do the same. Neighbors come out on a chilly Saturday evening around 5:00, typically the Saturday before Christmas. Canned food is collected for one of the local food banks. At 5:15, the sirens from the local fire department are heard rounding the corner. Santa follows the fire truck in his white convertible adorned with Christmas lights. It is truly a sight! A step ladder is plucked from the car and the children line up to share their deepest desires with the best Santa in town. Other children visit with the firemen and actually get to sit in the truck. What three year old doesn't love that! It is a simple, fun way to ring in the holiday that my children (and I) have grown to love. I certainly appreciate the tradition for our family and I know my boys do.

Kristie Touchstone - A few years ago, we wanted to start our own tradition at Christmastime with our triplets Adam, Abby and Andrew, now age 7. We wanted the tradition to focus on the reason for the season so I went on a hunt for an Advent calendar or something similar. What I finally found after two seasons of searching became our tradition. It is a wooden box with a nativity scene on it with 24 tiny doors around the perimeter of the box. The nativity ‘scene’ itself is a painted magnetic surface without any people or things on it. Behind each door is a wooden figure (with a magnet on the back) that belongs in the scene: the star of Bethlehem, Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, three wise men, sheep, etc. In addition to taking out one figure each night in December and placing it on the scene, my husband came up with a sentence or two explaining the significance of each figure. The kids take turns each night opening a door, reading about its significance and then placing the figure on the nativity scene. At first, my husband or I did the reading, but last year they started doing the readings themselves. It is a special time for our family each night leading up to Christmas and it reminds us all what the season is all about.

Julie Wagoner - Each year, we take the girls shopping and they each pick an ornament for our Christmas tree. We encourage them to pick something that will help us remember their year, but really the choice is theirs. Their ornaments are marked with their initials and year and are stored in their own special box. They love being given their box each year to hang their own special ornaments as we trim the tree. It is always a wonderful trip down memory lane as we take out each ornament from previous years. This year my eight year old could hardly believe that in 2002 she chose a Blue’s Clues could she have ever been into Blue’s Clues? Her ornament choice this year was a sparkly peace sign. The four year old chose a Belle ornament this year, which is ironically the same thing the oldest chose when she was four. Four must be the height of the Disney princess obsession! And our two year old chose a Santa ornament this year to help us remember how she literally ditched us all and ran to get to Santa’s lap. I am sure we will laugh about that all over again each year as she takes out her ornament to hang on our tree.

Maythi Calvert -
Our favorite holiday tradition is making a gingerbread house. Growing up, my Mom made one every year - from scratch!! She made homemade gingerbread that we would then cut out using a pattern she had. We did bubble gum tiled roofs, stained glass windows with melted candy, snow-covered trees, and a mailbox! I don't have the time or energy to do it quite the same way, but regardless, we make one each year. I just usually buy the boxes that come with gingerbread, icing and candies and then we add a little special touch here and there. We play Christmas music & drink hot cocoa. We look forward to doing it every year.

Sarah Hahne For the past 6 years, our family has visited Lil' Grandfather's Christmas Tree Farm in Laural Springs, NC during Thanksgiving weekend. Our friends introduced us to the farm back when the group of families only had 3 children. Six years and 7 children later, we still visit Lil Grandfather's with friends and family. In addition to picking out the perfect tree, we always look forward to the beautiful drive to North Wilkesboro and the horse rides, hot chocolate and a hay ride once we arrive. In recent years we have stopped for lunch at an adorable coffee shop/restaurant/book store Talia in downtown North Wilkesboro. I look forward to continuing the tradition with our friends and family over the years.