Decorating For Thanksgiving

Ready for this week? Are you like so many of us and you have been busy today cleaning up and getting ready for the big week? Need some fun and inexpensive ideas for those last touches? Let us help!

Decorating for Thanksgiving adds an element of warmth and fun to your home. The best thing is you don’t have to go overboard or put a lot of time or effort into this. Use a few of the suggestions below, add some fall colored throw pillows or blankets to your couch, light a pumpkin scented candle and your whole house will have that special Thanksgiving feel to it.

Yard Display
Decorate the front yard with a wooden scarecrow, turkey or sign. For a little color, plant a few mums, either in the ground, or in pots and planters.

Mantle Display
The mantle over your fire place is the perfect place to decorate for Thanksgiving . For a simple display, arrange some pumpkins or decorative gourds on the mantle along with a few candles. A fall garland or wreath is a nice touch above the mantle.

Fall Flower Arrangement
Stop by your local florist for some flowers in yellow or orange. Arrange them in a vase along with some greenery.

Pumpkins and Corn
You can make a beautiful fall arrangement by setting out some miniature pumpkins and ears of corn. Look for yellow and purple varieties of corn for an authentic Thanksgiving feel. Scatter them across your dining table, or arrange them in a bowl for a nice centerpiece.

Thanksgiving Wreath
Purchase or make a simple grapevine wreath and decorate it with fall leaves and miniature pumpkins. Add a nice bow and hang it on the front door. A Thanksgiving wreath is a great way to welcome your guests in.

Display Kids Artwork
Not only will your home be beautifully decorated, but you’ll be building your children’s self-esteem at the same time. Buy a few inexpensive frames and set them out or hang them on the wall. This is of course also a great way to display your child’s artwork year round.

The First Thanksgiving
There are quite a few ways to incorporate the first Thanksgiving in your decorations. Create a small scale version of this special occasion by setting out a few figurines of pilgrims and Native Americans. Complete the scene with a small table, some turkeys and miniature trees to show that the first Thanksgiving took place outside.

Why Not Make a Memory This Week???

Cindy2015Oh! Anybody else in holiday bliss this week?

We have changed the pace for the week. A nice welcomed break after a very, very productive season. This week, we are cutting back all of our life to just make sweet memories. What about you? Why not make a memory this week? Want to?

Here are a few ideas of things that might make your Christmas special while you make sweet, sweet memories. Ready? Let’s dig in…

* Make Christmas gifts and goody baskets… Christmas does not have to break your budget, especially if we will use some of those extra craft supplies around the house to make gifts or goody baskets. A big batch of cookies in a cute basket makes an adorable gift. Give it a try! Great gift…plus you make sweet memories along the way! [Read more…]

Let’s Make a Memory…Over Books! by Cindy Rushton

Cindy2015Hummm…was it the giggles the whole way through adventures with Pooh? My constant sobbing through every page of The Little Preacher? Our total addiction to every single page of Pilgrim’s Progress? The giggles and strategy as the children would run off to “play” every single bit of Daniel Boone’s life—with stiff warnings from Mom that NO ONE really got the hair-cut! Peeking outside to see the hard, hard work as forts were raised and mud pies “baked” for our beloved “soldier.” Oh, the precious, precious memories! Precious memories that are OURS forever!

Why not make it a priority to curl up as a family over the pages of a great book each day? Get the water going…pull out some nice snacks…settle down for tea (or hot cocoa!!)…and dig into great books! Game? But have no idea where to begin?? Come home with our family and get a picture of how easy AND awesome building a memory—over a great book—can be!

Decide a Good Time for Read Alouds…

Over the years, I have found that even though I LOVE great literature and believe passionately in the power of a great book to inspire us toward greatness, teach those facts in a palitable manner, and feed our hungry minds with great ideas, there has still been a constant battle with distractions from our beloved typical family reading time. Constant phone calls…friends dropping by…never the same day to day family life because of constant interruptions…the list could go on and on! I found that we needed a more consistent time to read, study, and cuddle. A time that was just ours!

The best time for this was at the end of our busy day. Our family reading tradition began years ago when my husband worked as a State Trooper. We found ourselves up until very late hours. Those last few hours before he came in seemed perfect. They were not likely to be times for calls, errands, or drop-by guests. They were the easiest to preserve for our special time whether we were on the road traveling or cuddling on our sofa or snuggled in my bed for a nice, long read aloud! Those moments were the perfect ones for our family. Now, since the children are almost grown up, the schedule is more complex than ever, and dad is now retired and running the family business the ONE constant that we all cry out for in the midst of busy or chaotic or even the most hum-drum day is our evening family read aloud and pow-wow time!

So, the first things to decide–what time would work best for your family? Look at your schedule? What time of the day is the most constant…the most uninterrupted…the easiest to settle down? Set that time aside—you have a treasure house of memories coming your way!

Bit-By-Bit…

Perhaps a set time is not the problem. Perhaps the greatest need is dealing with the struggles that make read-alouds an utter impossibility. An ideal! Certainly not a reality! You know…settling down the children…containing the messes long enough to finish one small part of a story…getting their interest? The habit that becomes a treasured tradition begins bit-by-bit! Here are a few ideas that may help:

* Get to know YOUR family and their interests. Each and every family is completely unique. What we love to read as a family, your family may not like at all! Our children may be completely different ages as yours. Our family preferences may be completely different than yours. In fact, our choices for read-alouds now that our children are at these ages are very different from the choices we made in the early years. The key to a sizzling read aloud program rests with getting to know YOUR family and their interests and then basing your choices upon where you are.

* Use a reading list! Have no idea which books to begin with? TOTALLY confused with all of the options? We have a couple of recommendations. First, we recommend our book The Never-ending Rushton Reading List (soon to be re-released in ebook format after being TOTALLY revamped–working on that now!). It is very reasonable, compact, simple, and easy to begin using today. It includes suggestions that are perfect for teaching every subject with great books AND it has a basic list of recommended read alouds that EVERY (smile!) family should read through! As they get older, another recommendation that we have is our book Inspiring Our Children Toward Greatness Using Great Literature (also, out of print right now–look for it to be re-released in ebook format very soon too! One powerful book!) which has an extended list of recommendations for life-transforming literature and great books that you won’t want to miss. You can also find great recommendations in other books, catalogs, and at your local library.

* Make it FUN! Reading need not resemble the drudgery from our school days. Rather, it can be a great big family party! We have a daily “tea time” with our read alouds. When the children were little, I found very soon that our children were much more attentive if their bellies were full and their hands busy. Being a “tea-time addict,” it was almost the “given” thing to do! This may seem a bit artificial to your family. Find what works. Some families settle down with snacks like our family. Others entertain the children with play-doh to keep their hands busy while mommy reads. Other families give their children sketch books to “draw” what they imagine while mommy reads the book. Just make it a FUN family time! You will be amazed at how much the children will learn while making a memory!

Choose the BEST! Great Literature!

The still, quiet spirit of our home was only the first part of this special family tradition! Great books were musts! My children love to read. We have a library just for them filled with books that they can choose during their free time. They cover a wide-range of studies just by using whole, living books full of ideas and great information. For our read alouds, I did not want a repeat of those books. Instead, I wanted life-changing literature. Because of this heartbeat, I am extremely selective to choose the very BEST books for this special time.

I have a very simple test for discerning if the books are life-changing. I ask myself, “If these were the last moments that I had with my children, would this be the book that I would want to be the LAST ONE?? Would this be the memory that I want for them to carry with them?” “Is this book capable of teaching those life-lessons that they need to carry them through life?” This limits my choices to those books that are absolute MUSTS for my children. Those books that all well-educated children should dine upon. Those books that feed the spirit…challenge the soul…and encourage us to keep on persevering through it all!

I have been amazed at the way the Lord has led us by His Spirit to each book that He has wanted for us to read as a family. From The Hiding Place to Basket of Flowers to The Elsie Series to Hedge of Thorns to Passion and Purity to great poetry to Christmas stories to a multitude of biographies…God has had specific direction for us right when we needed to know His next choice!

Once I know which book we will read next, I usually hunt for a nice, large print edition, if at all possible. These are wonderful for helping us take turns. My son used to be so intimidated by small print in books. The large print editions are easier for him to read comfortably from. They also make great texts for copywork lessons. I saw the advantage to the large print as we read from Corrie Ten Boom’s The Hiding Place. There were so many wonderful quotes that I felt were important for the children to copy into their copybooks. While we read aloud, I simply marked them with a highlighter. On those mornings that the children were drawing blanks for copywork ideas, all they had to do was open that book to find a plethora of excellent choices! I found that to be helpful for my writing and speaking as well because I could easily find those great thoughts that had been planted in my mind while we read!

We usually take turns reading. This is the perfect way to help beginning readers ease into reading aloud for others. Their work can be so mundane if they practice with readers or insignificant reading lessons. A great book invites children to read with expression. When I would notice them tiring out, (you probably know that time because that is when they get REAL monotone…AKA boring!!) I would join in and read for a little while. That usually brightened up the pace so that when they would begin again, they would sound expressive and enthusiastic. Now, I absolutely LOVE to listen to them read aloud. It is neat to hear them stress those words that I would stress…or pause as I would pause! What a treasure!

Well, that is only part of the treasure! One thing that I love about this precious time with my children is that I find out just what they think, feel, and believe. We have tremendous discussions almost nightly about great ideas. I remember this being a goal for my children as they matured into adulthood. I never dreamed that I could have this blessing with little children! It is during these quaint moments of reading while sipping our tea, that I get a peek into their heart! I see their heart’s desires…their struggles in their character…the depths that God’s Word has worked in their lives…and their instant choices when faced with adversity (through the pages of the books). I can also help them trouble-shoot making decisions that may prevent them from irreparable errors later in their lives! Yes, those are the gifts that come with serving up great literature to our children.

Just This Easy…

Our daily read aloud time is just this easy. We don’t make it complicated by tests…by book reports…by written narrations on all we read. We are not even legalistic that our time be limited to books. We have been known to cuddle up with art prints JUST like we do our books. When we include art prints, we simply cuddle up to “listen” to the artist as he or she communicates through the canvas. My little ones have been known to sketch or paint the recent art print with their own style while I read a section from a great book. We also LOVE biographies, so we have enjoyed reading sketches about artists or the latest composer that we are getting to know! Each day, we use this time to also read through the Bible together as a family. This only takes minutes, yet the results have been overwhelming in our lives. Just a bit here and a bit there has helped to carry us into our world with a little bit more understanding about the worldviews of our culture! Not to mention, great art and music feed our minds with ideas that keep us growing into the vessels that God can really use in our culture!

Well, why not put on a little Classical Music in the background. Warm some water…EVEN if you prefer to use it for hot chocolate with fluffy marshmallows! 🙂 Dust off those poetry books or that book you keep putting off for another day. Curl up with your little ones…there is NOTHING quite like the memory that can be made over a great book!!

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Teaching Your Kids to be Thankful

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach your kids about being thankful. Here are some ideas to teach your children how to appreciate the blessings in their lives.

Giving Thanks Placemats
The goal of this craft is to create a collage filled with drawings and pictures of all the things your children are thankful for. Cut photos from magazines, or print some photos from your computer. Older children can write captions under the photos or draw their own. Be sure to put the child’s name and the year on it.

If you make this collage from two standard letter size pieces of construction paper taped side-by-side, you can take the completed collage to a copy shop when you’re done and have it laminated. It then becomes a placemat that you can use every Thanksgiving for years to come.

Thankful Paper Chain
Another way to remind your children of their blessings is to create a paper chain. This is similar to a regular paper chain – where you cut strips of paper and connect them together as loops, but there’s one difference. You write on the strips of paper before you connect them. Write the things you are thankful for with your children. For instance, “Grandma plays games with me” or “My teacher is nice.” The fun part of this activity is to make the chain as long as possible – showing all your blessings. If you’d like to keep this up during Christmas, just use green and white paper.

Thanksgiving Tree
This is another take on the idea above and works really well if you have several kids in the family. Get each child to trace their hand on yellow, red, or brown construction paper. Cut out the hand shapes and write (or have the child write) what they are thankful for on the hand shape. Cut a tree trunk shape out of brown construction paper. Glue it on a large piece of poster board. Let the kids add their hand shapes as leaves above the tree trunk, turning it into a beautiful fall colored tree.

Thankful Book

This idea is similar to the others, except it’s more of a keepsake. Purchase a photo album or scrapbook kit and make a “blessings” theme. Add photos of loved ones, including stories about why they are special to you. Also, include pages of your favorite foods, favorite stories, favorite movies and all the other things that make you happy. Any time your kids feel down, you can open your blessing book to see all the reasons you have to be happy – and thankful for the blessings in your life.

Setting the Table for Thanksgiving

When hosting Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family, the food is of utmost importance. However, if you serve the most decadent meal on paper plates –your delicious meal will taste less than spectacular.

It works both ways. If you invest some time and effort into decorating your Thanksgiving table –your overcooked turkey and undercooked beans will be less noticeable as well.

Tablecloth
Bring out the good linens for your guests. If you don’t have a Thanksgiving tablecloth, you can use some Thanksgiving or fall themed fabric. There are even some very nice looking fall and Thanksgiving themed disposable table cloths available.

The Dishes
The type of dishes you use is up to you. If you are mostly entertaining adults and this is a fairly small get together, it may be a good idea to use your fine china.

On the other hand, if you are entertaining a large crowd and have lots of kids in the mix, opt for disposable dishes, cups and cutlery. Clean up will be much easier and you don’t have to worry about dishes breaking.

Buy some orange, brown, deep red or green cloth napkins. You can find these reasonably-priced at most discount stores. They will add a nice “holiday” touch to any table.

Thanksgiving Themed Centerpiece
If you don’t plan on putting all the food on the table, and you have the room, create a Thanksgiving themed centerpiece. This can be something as simple as a bowl of miniature pumpkins, gourds and native corn, or a fall flower arrangement. If you have a cornucopia, fill it and lay it on the table, allowing some of the corn and pumpkins to roll out of it.

Little touches make a big difference. You could scoop out a pumpkin and serve dip in it. Use mini pumpkins with names written on them as place cards.

Turn an apple, some toothpicks and a few miniature marshmallows into a turkey

Start by setting the apple on a flat surface. Insert a toothpick with a large marshmallow on one side. Add some raisins as eyes. For the turkey’s tail, add four toothpicks with a miniature marshmallow on each end to the other side of the apple. Voila – a turkey for each guest that also makes for a fun and healthy snack.

Set the table the night before to free up time during the big day.

If you set a nice table, arrange for most of the food to be set out on a separate table, buffet-style. Consider getting hotplates, crock pots etc to keep food warm while it is sitting out.