Saturday, December 13, 2008

Happy St. Lucia's Day!

Today (December 13) is St. Lucia's Day! This feast was originally established to remember a Christian Martyr named Lucy who was persecuted and killed during the reign of Diocletian. This feast day is especially celebrated in Scandinavian countries with some nice traditions and in Syracuse (Sicily) where she was born.

There is alot of information on the internet and in books about St. Lucia and her feast day. I can't begin to cover it all in this article, so I thought I would highlight a few items and give you some ideas on how to celebrate this "feast of light" with your family.

In Sicily, torchlight processions and bonfires mark her day. The special food for the day is cuccia. Cuccia is made of wheat grains that are soaked, cooked and then eaten like oatmeal. It can be eaten any time of the day. Here are some recipes for cuccia:
(This one mentions it as a dessert.)
(This one is called a soup -- has fava beans in it)

Northeastern Italy (especially Lombardy and Verona)
On the eve of December 13 St. Lucia travels on a flying donkey to deliver gifts to good boys and girls. The children leave carrots and hay to attract the hungry donkey so it stops at their home.

This is one of the favored holidays in Scandinavia. One of the daughters in the family brings coffee and lussekatter, or saffron rolls, to her parents in the early hours of the morning. She is wearing a white gown, a candle-wreath crown on her head and singing a special song for St. Lucia.

Throughout the day, there are also public processions in many Swedish cities, where one girl is selected to be St. Lucia. She goes to malls, nursing homes, churches and other places singing songs and handing out lussekatter or ginger snaps. She is sometimes accompanied by the Star Boy, a young boy also dressed in white, wearing a white cone-shaped hat with stars on it, and carrying a star-shaped wand.

Some ways to celebrate this holiday:
In our home, my husband is always up earlier than everyone, so there is no opportunity to surprise him with breakfast in bed. Instead, my daughter will surprise him after supper with a dessert of lussekatter. (We will turn off all the lights and she will process into the dining room carrying the lussekatter and wearing a simple white dress and her candle-wreath crown.) (Her crown is made of battery operated candles.)

During the day, we will also be doing some Scandinavian type crafts, learning to sing the St. Lucia song, and reading some books and articles about St. Lucia.

There are many articles about her on the internet. Here are just a few links:

Some craft ideas for this day:

Make a St. Lucia wreath:

Another wreath craft:

Make the Star Boy's cone-shaped hat:

Make small St. Lucia dolls out of clothespins:

St. Lucia Coloring Sheets:

Woven Swedish Heart Ornament
(Instead of the pinks and reds listed in this article, make it with red and green construction paper. Fill it with holiday candies and hide it in the tree for the children to find!)

Make a Dala Horse Puppet

Make a special centerpiece for your table, using an evergreen wreath and white candles. Or use one of the wreaths in the craft projects listed above.

Some recipes:

St. Lucia's Breaded Bread (from Family Fun magazine)

A more traditional recipe. Note the interesting shapes in which to shape the rolls:

Gingerbread cookie (Luciapepparkak) recipe

Glogg (Swedish Mulled Wine)

Some favorite books:

How to Make a Swedish Christmas

Lucia Morning in Sweden

Here is a link to the song traditionally sung on St. Lucia's Day. It includes lyrics in English and Swedish, sheet music for the song, and a midi recording:

More resources and blog articles on celebrating St. Lucia's Day:

Happy celebrating this feast of light!

Creatively yours,

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A review: My Twinn Dolls

As promised, this blog (and the website at will occasionally include reviews of great gift items. Today I would like to tell you about the My Twinn Dolls.

Like many families, we will be cutting back on gifts this Christmas. My husband and I decided to get one main gift for each child -- something they can keep and cherish. For our daughter, we have purchased a My Twinn Doll.

My Twinn dolls are personalized to look just like the child who receives them. Same color hair and eyes, same hair style, same complexion, etc. They will even add birthmarks, freckles and other customized features.

We just received my daughter's doll, and I was pleased with the likeness to my daughter. Granted, they can't make the doll to look exactly like her, but it does bear an uncanny resemblance to her. I think I even seem my daughter's mischievous glint in the doll's eyes!

A few specifics about the doll: It is 23" tall and has 18 points of poseability for more lifelike movement. In other words, it can be posed in many ways; it can even do the splits! The doll is made with high-quality vinyl using natural-looking skin tones, eye color and hairstyles. The vinyl can be cleaned with a warm washcloth or baby wipe. Each doll is crafted to the specifications you indicate on the order form on their website.

The My Twinn website also sells matching doll/girl outfits and pajamas, doll accessories, doll-sized furniture and more. Some of this can get a bit pricey, but I've found some deals on Ebay. I will probably get out my sewing machine and do a bit of sewing, too. (The sewing machine is begging me to use it again!)

The dolls are not inexpensive, but they are made very well and considered heirloom quality. Yet they are durable enough to be played with on a daily basis by a little girl.

I decided to go with a My Twinn doll (instead of the better known "American Girl" dolls) for several reasons. I thought it would be nice for my daughter to have a doll that looked like her. In addition, throughout the years, I plan to write some stories for my daughter, featuring her doll in various adventures. I also thought that the stories behind the American Girl dolls would be a bit too complex for a 6-year-old to understand.

If you would like more information on My Twinn dolls, check out their website by clicking on this link: (eToys Direct, Inc.)

St. Nicholas Eve in Holland, Michigan

Hi everyone,

Back from Holland, Michigan! Thought you would like a brief report.

St. Nicholas (also known as Sinter Klaas), rode into town on Friday evening. He was on a white horse, accompanied by his helpers, who are named "Black Peter." He rode down the main street in Holland, accompanied by a large group of children carrying lighted paper lanterns. In front of the parade was a town crier telling everyone that Sinter Klaas was coming! He rode down the whole street (which was lined with people on both sides) and greeting children. The parade ended at the end of the street, where there is a summer outdoor market (that is now a holiday market called Kerstmarket--similar to the markets held in Germany.)

At the market, there was a little stage set up, and the children who were carrying lanterns got up on the stage and sang songs to welcome Sinter Klaas. Then the mayor of Holland welcomed Sinter Klaas. The Black Peters were walking around the group, giving lollipops to the kids. (My kids were delighted with this, as they think that Black Peter only gives out coal and switches!)

Sinter Klaas said hello to everyone and wished them a wonderful holiday season, and then kids could come up to him, talk to him and have their photos taken with him. Got a great shot of my son and daughter with Sinter Klaas!

We hoped to visit some museums and go the Sinter Klaas story time on Saturday, but awoke that morning to discover that they were predicting a snowstorm during the day, with up to 8 inches of snow! So we left in the morning. I've promised the kids we will go back in the spring for Tulip Time.

It was a nice trip, even if it was short!

Friday, December 5, 2008

There's quite a bit of excitement around my house

Because tonight is St. Nicholas Eve! In our home, we celebrate St. Nicholas Eve, which is a custom that originated in Europe. (St. Nicholas is the predecessor of our modern Santa Claus.) St. Nicholas was a 3rd century bishop known for his kindness and generosity. It is said that his red miter and red robes eventually evolved into the stocking cap and long red coat worn by Santa, and his deeds were the impetus for the kindness associated with Santa.

In Europe, the children put out their shoes on St. Nicholas Eve. The next morning, they wake up to find little treats and goodies in them, and often a letter from St. Nicholas praising them for their good works throughout the year, and encouraging them to improve in their weaknesses.

St. Nicholas is especially popular in the Netherlands. He's known as Sinter Klaas there. He is accompanied by a little elf known as Zwiet Piet (Black Peter) (who hands out coal and switches to children who haven't been good.)

My two kids don't know it, but we are driving over to Holland, Michigan this afternoon (about a 3-4 hour drive). Holland has a little celebration on St. Nicholas Eve. St. Nicholas rides into town on his white horse, accompanied by Zwiet Piet, to start off the holiday celebrations. They also have story time with St. Nicholas at one of the stores in town, and other holiday events and happenings. So I've decided to surprise them with a visit to see St. Nicholas!

They are a bit worried that St. Nicholas won't find them at the hotel where we are staying, but I've assured them that this is "no problem." So they will put out their shoes tonight in the hotel.

Traditionally, St. Nicholas gives little sweets and treats to the kids (not big presents). Each item has some significance. Some treats may include:

- candy cane (represents the bishop's miter and also a "J" upside down)
- bag of gold chocolate coins (he is known for giving a bag of coins to a poor family)
- a book or DVD on St. Nicholas (the bishop, not Santa Claus)
- a St. Nicholas cookie or treat (I make them myself)
- a St. Nicholas ornament or icon
- a homemade gift or game

You can find a ton of terrific resources and information, including some "shoe stuffer" downloads, at this website:

Creatively yours,


Saturday, November 29, 2008

The new website is now working

Hi everyone,

As promised, I'm sending you this note to tell you the new website is now working! We had some technical issues but all seems to be okay and functioning well now. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

The URL is the same but I'll repeat it:

Right now, I've got articles on it about:

1) Book themed gift baskets (we picked a few of our favorite holiday books and then gave you some ideas on how you can create gift baskets built around those books).

2) This year's best personalized gifts (and there are some wonderful ones!)

3) Our favorite Advent Calendars to count down the season

4) The gift of a newsletter -- writing holiday newsletters that your recipients will love to receive

I've got more great articles cooking in the oven now (sorry for the metaphor; I've been doing alot of holiday baking lately!!!) (smile)
So please keep checking back.

Don't forget to check this blog, too, as I will publish some articles and ideas here, too. I hope to publish something nearly every day during the holiday season. Some slated entries include:

- ideas for celebrating St. Nicholas Day on December 5
- ideas for celebrating St. Lucia's Day on December 13
- reviews of various hot gift items this holiday season, including the MyTwinn doll

and much more

So please keep your eye on both the website and the blog.

Creatively yours,
Cheryl Schroeder

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Even more Black Friday and Cyber Monday Deals--Toys

I'm listing even more deals -- be sure to look at the blog entry before this one for other deals!

Magic Cabin
From now until 12-18-08, use code MCH and receive $4.99 standard shipping on Magic Cabin orders $65 and over.

My Twinn (We ordered one of these dolls for my daughter for Christmas and they are truly lovely, and it really looks like her! I hope to write a review about it soon here on the blog or on the website!)
My Twinn: $20 off Personalized My Twinn Doll! (ends 12.8)

My Twinn: Play Room Sale: Save Up to 25% Off Select Furniture! (ends 12.1)

My Twinn: 20% Off Select Accessories, Shop Now! (ends 12.1)

My Twinn: Save 10% on Matching Girl & Doll Clothing! (ends 12.1)

My Twinn: Buy one baby doll and get 25% off your purchase of a second baby! (limited time offer)

Just in time for holiday shopping! Hearthsong offers this fun kid's tent at an incredibly reduced price of only $19.99!

From now until 12-18-08, use code HSHL and receive $4.99 standard shipping on Hearthsong orders $65 and over.

eToys --'lots of offers here!!
eToys: Thanksgiving Specials: Up to 60% Off Select Items. (ends 11.28)

eToys: Free Standard Shipping On 500+ Items! (limited time offer)

eToys: Dreamtime Baby Sale Up to 30% Off Select Items (ends 12.2)

eToys: Electronics Sale Up to 50% Off Select Items (ends 12.2)

Nikelodeon Shop - through 12/22
Order Dora Saves The Snow Princess on DVD and get 15% off your order at the Nick Shop! Use Promo Code QDSDVD at Checkout. Expires 12.22.08

Lego Store - through 12/1
Feast Your Eyes on These Savings with the LEGO 'Black Friday' Offer! Save $10 on your order over $100, Save $20 on your order over $200, or save $30 on your order over $300! This promotion is valid 11-28-08 through 12-01-08.

Disney Shopping - deals on Friday, December 28 and Monday, December 1
Shop for great gifts on Friday, November 28th and get magical prices at

Go to for great Cyber Monday specials. December 1st only.

Deals and Steals on Games for Kids

Crayola Store
Get a custom created box of crayons -- order by December 7 for Christmas gift giving.
Create Your Own Custom Box of 64 Crayola Crayons Exclusively at

Free Shipping on ALL orders over $75 at the Crayola Online Store!

Stuff Kids Like
Deal Of The Day!

Back to Basics Toys - through 12/5
Free Ground Shipping on Orders Over $85! Use Promo Code EDISC83. Exp. 12/5/08

10% Off Zoobooks Products - Coupon code: ZOOBOOKS (magazine subscriptions do not apply)

Kazoo Toys - through 12/25
Save 10% on your purchase of $50 or more with coupon code: CJ50B at Expires December 25th, 2008.

Save 15% on your purchase of $100 or more with coupon code: CJ100B at Expires December 25th, 2008.

Little Tikes Online Store
Free Standard Shipping on order $200 or more. Use code AFFS2008

Red Wagons - Sales & Specials!!

Save up to 75% on Art Supplies at

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Black Friday Deals!

No, you don't have to get up and out the door at midnight on Thanksgiving evening (Friday morning) just to get hot deals! You can get all those great deals while you are in your 'jammies and drinking mulled wine (or another favorite drink!) We surfed the internet and found these deals. Click on the specific link to take advantage of these bargains.

Tool King - through 11/30
Free ground shipping. Click here

Craftsbury Kids - 10% off any purchase - 11/27 - 12/1 Click here
to take advantage of this offer.

Things From Another World - these offers from 11/26 - 12/31
25% off designer vinyl toys
25% off collectibles
Click here to take advantage of this offer.

San Francisco Music Box Company - through 11/30
$10 off orders of $50 or more. Click here

HighBridge Audio - save 30% on orders over $75 - 11/25 - 12/18
Click here to take advantage of this offer.

Jones Soda - customize your own Soda for the holidays. 25% Off All MyJones Orders from Jones Soda. Offer good until 12/5/08. Click here for info.

Nest Entertainment - offers through 12/31
Bargain bin - items under $10

Free shipping on orders over $39. Click here.
All books and music 15% off - Click here

Great Russian Gifts - offer ends on 12/1
20% off entire order. Click here

Kimmy Shop - offer from 11/27 - 12/1
83% off High School Messenger Bag. Click here

A Gift Personalized - offer from 11/27 - 12/5
25% off any item and free shipping. Click here

Journal Engraver - offer from 11/27 - 12/15
$5 off any item Click here

Ornament Shop
Free shipping on orders of 5 or more ornaments. Click here

eBeanstalk -
Free shipping on all gift series orders Click here

Russian Legacy
$10 off best-selling 7 piece nesting dolls. Click here

Jewelry Impressions - through 12/1
20% off purchase of fine finished jewelry. Use coupon code cj20 at checkout, and use this link

New blog and new website for the holiday 2008 season

Hi everyone,

I know that things have been very quiet on the Creative Gift Giver website ( I've been busy working on a new website to make it easier for you to navigate and find the information you need to give the world's most imaginative gifts. I am waiting for the website to propugate (I guess that's what they call it), or be updated on servers around the world, so it may not be showing up in your browser yet. But it will be soon! However, I thought I would also use a blog to provide another method of communicating with you. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure you receive a notice when this blog is updated.

The first "real" post in the blog will be about Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. After all, we're all looking for a good bargain this holiday season, aren't we?

Creatively yours,
Cheryl Schroeder