Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Opening Christmas Presents

One of Zach's Favorites = Cookie Monster Letter Lunch Play Doh

Uncle Hugh's girlfriend, Isabel, helped with the Play Doh

This is the Little Tikes Workbench and will take some assembly

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing You Joy, Courage and Vision

Dear Friends,

I wish all of you a joyous holiday season and a blessed New Year. This holiday letter is being posted both at Marion Conway – Nonprofit Consultant and The Grandma Chronicles.

Especially as I am getting older, Christmas is a time of reflection for me.  It is a time to be thankful for all our blessings, for appreciating family and friends, and for sharing with others.  It all brings joy.  I have turned down the lights in my office, lit candles in the window and am playing Christmas Chant. It is my routine for writing this Holiday message.  I can feel the peace of Christmas as I let go of the busyiness of the day filled with grocery shopping and cooking for Christmas Eve and Day.

This year has again been filled with the joy of grandparenting.  Our grandson is now 2 1/2 years old and he brings new energy to our lives every day.  I enjoy writing about him at The Grandma Chronicles and “shouting out with joy” about all of our adventures together.  This year Zach helped bake Christmas cookies for the first time and he is already a pro – enjoying all the tasks from slicing cherries, breaking eggs, using the electric mixer and spooning cookies on the baking sheet.  My husband had the courage to let him use a knife with supervision and Zach had the courage to use the electric mixer by himself. These pictures show how he approached this all with thoughtfulness. I had a vision of him enjoying baking cookies with Grandma and experienced total joy at the way he jumped in.  In less than two weeks Zach begins pre-school and both he and my daughter Fran, will have to show some courage as they let go of each other.

This past year has been another difficult one for the nonprofit community. Funding continues to be a challenge while demand is strong.  2012 may be the time for nonprofits to take a serious look at their vision and how they can get where they want to be.  I have seen in the last few months a new interest in strategic planning.  I wish you success with your planning – keep it focused on your mission and realistic and also have the courage to try new things.  How nonprofits deliver services, how they build relationships with all their constituents, how they fundraise – it is all changing.  Just as families and businesses are changing how they deal with a changed economic climate, it is time for nonprofits to think beyond a “make it through” mentality and look at fundamental changes that may be in order. 

This year my consulting work expanded to include quite a bit of speaking and I found that I really enjoy it.  Need a speaker in 2012?  Let’s talk.  I worked at blogging at three blogs and hope to blog more often in 2012. I have lots of other goals for 2012 but I’ll write about that at a later date.

Last year I wished you all joy, pride and a spirit of action.  This year, I wish you joy, courage and vision.  It is time to look beyond the coming year and visualize your path to the future.  Have the courage to take some big steps.    

Grandparents, parents, nonprofit friends and the nonprofits you work for will be in my prayers as I attend services on Christmas Eve.

May You Have a Blessed and Joyous Holiday,


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Enjoying the Holiday Season with Grandchildren

Grandparents - Will you be babysitting during this holiday season?  Make the time something special for both you and your grandchildren.  Here are some ideas.

Holiday Craft Project
Christmas ornament featuring a picture of your grandchild.  If one of you is a photography buff and you print out your own picutres of various sizes this is super easy to do.  My husband has put two 2x3 pictures back to back in laminate.  A whole at top with a ribbon and we have beautiful tree ornaments.  You can also cutout felt shapes with a cutout for a picture.

Bake Cookies
I had a wonderful time baking Christmas cookies with my grandson.  Why not bake up a batch of cookies, put them in a holiday tin with a ribbon for you grandchild to give to parents on Christmas morning.

Holiday Performances, Music, Special Events
Whether it is a holiday sing along, a living nativity, the Nutcracker or the Radio City Music Hall Show there is nothing like attending something musical or "spectacular" to put both young and old in the holiday mood.  In our area the Turlte Back Zoo is featuring a "Holiday Lights Spectacular" with free admission every night until New Year's Eve.  Many museums have special children's programs and holiday exhibits.  The Newark Museum has special activities next week for families and the Ballantine House is decked out in traditional Holiday splendor.

Reading Holiday Books
There are wonderful Christmas books for children at various ages.  Reading about Christmas with a grandchild is an excellent way for them to grow to understand its true meaning and to share traditions across generations.

Especially if you have older grandchildren, this is an excellent tradition to begin.  Volunteer activities can be delivering presents collected for needy children, visiting elderly people in nursing homes and more.

Be Physical
If you're up to it how about ice skating or skiing or even taking a winter hike to enjoy nature at Christmas.

If you will have time alone with your grandchildren this season,  celebrate and find something special to do together.  It doesn't have to be costly but it may just become a new tradition.



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Cookie Baking Day – This Year with Zach

Yesterday was the annual Christmas Cookie Baking Day at our house and it was the first time that my grandson has participated. I really don’t bake much, but once a year I do bake cookies for Christmas. I make toll house cookies with a secret ingredient – maraschino cherries and its juice. This is  a recipe from my father’s family and I think of him and his family whenever I make these cookies. When my kids were small I also made sugar cut out cookies that we decorated and of, course, they were on the baking plan this year.  I had bought Christmas tree and star cookie cutters because I thought Zach would like both of them.  Fran dug out our old angel and snowman cookie cutters because they were her favorites.

Cookie baking day was always something that my kids loved and participated in. I still have the aprons I bought for them and Zach wore one of them when he helped yesterday. He is so cute that I can’t hold myself back from gushing about him.  Zach is 2 ½ and you can never be really sure if a 2 ½ year old will be as interested in something as you are, but he loved baking and in fact, he wanted to do all the jobs.

We have been talking about baking cookies for a month. When he got Elmo’s Merry Christmas book - it has a flap with cookie monster and cookies (duh) and I told him that he would bake cookies with me for Christmas. Since then, if you asked him what he and Grandma would do for Christmas he would tell you “Bake Cookies.”

My husband was the official recorder of the event, and except for this one that he is in, he took most of the pictures. Here is Zach hard at work in a variety of jobs.

One of Zach’s favorite activities is playing with play doh and cutting it with a plastic knife. When he arrived on Wednesday morning, the preparation work was already underway and he got to choose what he wanted to help with. First up – helping Pop chop cherries. I posted this picture on facebook yesterday and got some comments about the knife. Rest assured that my husband is super safety conscious and watched attentively during this task.

Next Zach was ready to help Grandma.  And I was more than ready to have his help.  He already knew how to break an egg like an expert because he does this when he helps Mommy make blueberry pancakes:

Zach wasn’t content to watch Grandma with the mixer, so first we held it together and then he mixed on his own.

Zach got to empty the bag of chocolate chips into the cookie mix:

Zach and Mommy (Fran) enjoyed putting the cookie dough on the baking trays together:

No pictures but Zach also helped Grandma cut out the sugar cookies and hand them over to Mommy to put on the baking tray.  He liked all four of the choices but I think the star was his favorite.  At this point he wanted to see Bob the Builder and the adults finished up the baking at an accelerated pace.

Cooking and baking are wonderful activities to do with a grandchild. And even very young ones will enjoy and learn from it. You learn about measuring and counting, using knives and an electric mixer carefully and safely. And you get to sample the cookies just minutes after they come out of the oven. Nothing beats that.

More than gifts, I really enjoy our holiday traditions. We have lots of them. As my children are adults and I have to share them with other families some of our traditions are being modified. I am glad that cookie baking with a child is a tradition being revived rather than modified.

Do you bake or cook with children? Please leave a comment and tell us about it.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Cookie Baking day

I'll post the fuill story - maybe tomorrow - but I could not wait to post these pictures of Zach on Cookie Baking Day.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Elmo’s Merry Christmas – A Flap Book for Young Children

I don’t remember my kids having flap books thirty years ago, but today they are very popular. My grandson, Zach, is two and a half and I’d say for about “half his life” flap books have been his favorites. They were a key way he learned his early words. Elmo’s Merry Christmas is a wonderful Christmas season flap book for young children. And the flaps demonstrate “actions” and not just things. Zach and I had quite a conversation as we went through the book.

The day it arrived, I opened the package when Zach was here not knowing what was in the package. As soon as he saw Elmo on the cover, he was immersed in it. It has over 60 flaps – sized from very large to very small. Each flap has a Sesame Street character involved in a winter or Christmas activity. Some of my and Zach’s favorites include: Murray putting the Christmas tree on top of the car, Abby and Big Bird ice skating, Bert with a birdhouse and bird, Mr. Hooper bringing hot chocolate out to carolers, the star going on the tree-----and our favorite – Cookie monster with a plate of cookies. Wednesday is cookie baking day at our house and Zach is looking forward to being part of that for the first time. I have his Christmas apron all ready – used by his Mom, Fran and Uncle Hugh many years ago. If you ask him what Grandma and he will do together for Christmas, he says “Bake cookies.”

We were babysitting last night and I finally took these pictures then. I couldn’t decide which to use so that’s why there is a bunch of them.

When my nephew visited with his family several weeks ago, Elmo’s Merry Christmas was on the coffee table, and one year old, Leela, soon saw it and began to flip through. Like Zach, she enjoyed the flaps and all the familiar characters.

Check back later in the week for my Cookie Baking Day report. I am so excited about it!

Be sure to look for this book when shopping – it will be a favorite with so many flaps and familiar characters or order today at Amazon – just a click away below.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Today Only - Melissa and Doug at 50% off at Amazon

This is Holiday Flurry Deals Week at and there is a  "Gold Box Deal of the Day" offer every day this week. Today the deal is 50% off selected Melissa and Doug toys.  There are some great buys and I've already taken advantage of this offer. Check it out.  There are many items included - many of their food items which are particulary popular.  I am getting the pizza one for my grandson and the birthday one as a gift.

**Special Amazon Toys GoldBox Daily Deals Leak** - Up to 50 Off Select Melissa and Doug Toys

Shop Amazon's Toys - Holiday Flurry Deals Week

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

Today is Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and many bookstores - especially small local ones - are featuring special events.  Of course, there will be storytelling but many more creative activities are planned.  The Watchung Booksellers, in Montclair, NJ near where I live will also be featuring a cookie decorating demonstration from Little Daisy Bake Shop and giveaways.

Visit the Take Your Child to a Bookstore website and find a participating one near you.

Here are a  few of my favorites that you might want to check out while you are there.

Of Thee I Sing - A Letter to my Daughters by Barack Obama features profiles of thirteen great Americans.  This is a beautiful book that should be in every middle age child's home library.  See my full review here.

Elmo's Merry Christmas - For younger children this holiday book is lots of fun.  It features over 60 flaps with Sesame Street characters involved in ice skating, a snowball fight, and trimming the tree.  My grandson loves it.

One Hen - How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway, illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes(a favorite of mine) - This beautifully illustrated book inspired by true events tells the story of Kojo a small boy from Ghana who turns a small loan into a thriving farm for many and is able to return to school. This book is perfect for this time of year - inspire a child with the spirit of giving.

Enjoy the day and if you don't find these in your local bookstores, check them out here by clicking onto Amazon below.