Choosing a Word for the Year

Get #intentional by choosing a #word for the year to build your #goals around. A must-do for all #mamas. Includes a #quiz to help you find a word AND a list of more than 100 word ideas.

A few years in a row I have chosen a word for the year; a word to inspire me and to use as a starting place for creating my goals for the year. In the past, I have used words like “intentional” and “priorities,” both are have fairly similar meanings and worked for the season of life i was in at the time. For 2018 I’ve gone in a little bit of a different direction. 

My word for 2018 is flourish, meaning to thrive, succeed, be alive with, to be in one’s prime. 
With a third baby coming in May 2018, we’ll be back in that newborn survival mode for a little while but I want to go in with a plan so that we can flourish and thrive rather than simply survive. I want to make sure that I get to really enjoy this newborn phase (well “enjoy” as much as one can enjoy figuring out a newborn) and that the rest of our family doesn’t get pushed aside while I’m focused on the new baby. Having flourish as my word for the year is encouraging and inspiring me to plan and work ahead as much as I can and it’s encouraging me to grow in different areas of my life. 

I encourage all mamas to choose a word for their year, to give them something to work towards and to inspire them through the year. So how do you choose a word for the year? I’m glad you asked.

How to Choose a Word for Your Year

1. Think About What Events Are Coming Up

If you know you have something big happening next year, it can give you a starting pointing for your goals and word of the year. For me, the big thing happening next year is baby #3 coming. I knew we’d be in survival mode for awhile and I wanted to find a way to thrive rather than solely survive, which is why I chose the word flourish.

2. Think About What Areas You Want to improve

Think about some of the main areas of your life, your marriage, motherhood, your career, homemaking, relationships, etc. What areas do you want to improve? Maybe you want to start a home-based business to help bring in some money or maybe you want to improve your relationship with a family member, whatever area(s) you want to improve, find words that encourage you to do just that.

3. Think About Your Family’s Goals for the Year

a #quiz to help you find your word of the year #intentionalliving #intentional #momlife

Sit down with your husband and make a list of goals for your family. Maybe you want to take a family vacation, find a place to volunteer together, or get to know your neighbors better. Be sure to find a word that will help your family meet goals.

After completing those three steps, look for any common words or themes.
    For example: service, joy, friendship
Then, highlight or write down any of those common words or themes. Head to and look up the exact definitions and the synonyms for your favorite words on your list. Once you find a word that resonates with you, you’ve found your word for the year!

Once you’ve chosen your word for the year, come up with some goals for different areas of your life that will help you live out your word. The areas I focused on for my goals are relationships, faith, marriage, homemaking, personal development, motherhood, business, and health. You may have more or less areas, you just do you.

If you’re struggling to find a word for the year, I made a quick little quiz to help you find an area to focus on when looking for a word for the year. Try it out and let me know if it helps you!

And if you need some more word ideas, I made a list of over 100 (it’s really closer to 200) words that you could use for your word of the year. It’s available in the resource library under the “intentional living” section. The resource library is completely free, all you need to do is type your name and email address in the box below and once your email is confirmed, I’ll send you everything you need to access all of the goodies in the library, including the list of more than 100 word ideas. 


I’d love to know if you typically choose a word for the year or if it’s something totally new that you are going to try out this year. And of course, I’d love to know what your word is for the year! Pop a comment below or share it on Instagram and tag it with #iamajoyfulhomemaker (and tag me so I don’t miss it! @abbybarstow)

Mama's Ultimate Christmas Gift Guide

A seriously thorough #Christmas #giftguide! #Gift #ideas for everyone on your list! Ideas for yourself, your bff, your hubby, family friends, groups of people, parents/in-laws, babysitter, and your little kids!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my business and family!

Only one month left until Christmas, it's time to buckle down and finish up your Christmas gift shopping. If you're struggling to come up with gift ideas, not to worry! You have found the ULTIMATE Christmas gift guide. Geared towards mamas with little ones, you will find gift ideas for everyone on your list! To make it a bit easier to read through, I've broken it up into two sections; Part I is gift ideas for all the people and Part II is for all the kids. I've even included gift ideas for YOU to add to YOUR Christmas wish list. Sometimes it's hard for us to think of gifts to spoil ourselves but every once in awhile, it's a good thing to do. 

Not only are there gifts for every person on your Christmas gifting list, there are gifts in EVERY price range, I did my best to make sure there were all price ranges represented in each category because no matter what your gifting budget is, you can still find something adorable. Let's jump in and get started!

*Note that prices listed are subject to change as I have no control over the manufacturers' pricing.

Part 1: Gifts for All The People

Mama's Wish List

1. Mama Love Collective Box

Shower Her With Love Box | $45
I love the mission behind Mama Love, their goal is to spread joy to mamas with beautiful boxes full of goodies curated just for mamas. Each month I review the latest Mama Love Collective Box and I am completely obsessed, many of the goodies I've gotten in each box so far, I use on a daily basis. I recommend requesting the "Shower Her With Love" box for your Christmas gift as it comes with the most goodies.

2. Phone Case

[affiliate link] Mama Bear Phone Case | $7.99
A phone case is a fun, practical(ish) and inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer. If your kids are anything like mine, they are always stealing my phone to pretend to talk on it so having a case on my phone is a must.

3. Mom T-Shirt

[affiliate link] Mom Life T-Shirt | $24.99
Adorable mom-themed graphic tees are all over Instagram and are the perfect addition to your Christmas wish list. I always recommend going a size up so you don't end up with a skin-tight tee because #momlife 😬

4. Fancy Makeup

[affiliate link] Lorac Pro Palette 3 | $44
One of my favorite things to ask for for Christmas is fancy makeup. I went through a phase in high school where I basically only bought makeup at Sephora (and I had like no money so anytime I got a little bit, it was immediately spent on makeup 🤷🏼‍♀️) and I do still have a love for fancy makeup. The Lorac Pro Palette is a great one for your Christmas wish list because the colors can be worn literally every day!

5. KitchenAid Mixer

[affiliate link] KitchenAid Tilt-Head Stand Mixer in Empire Red
I love my KitchenAid, I've had it for about five years now and it's still going strong! And the attachments that you can get for the mixer allow you to do all kinds of fun stuff like spiralize veggies or make applesauce without peeling/coring the apples.

6. iPad

[affiliate link]  Certified Refurbished Apple iPad Air | $264.79
My husband works in IT and he's bought certified refurbished Apple products before, the work just as well as brand new ones but tend to be a bit cheaper. I love my iPad, and the boys both have one too (Daniel, my 1-year-old has a pretty old, slow one) that they play educational games on and I use mine to watch Netflix/Hulu/Amazon in our bedroom because we don't have a TV and it's great to pull up recipes on when you're cooking in the kitchen.

7. Spa Gift Card

You can look up spas that are local to you if you're not sure where to get one to, on Spa Finder. Treat yourself to a massage or a facial or simply get your nails done and take some time to relax. 

8. Mom-Themed Necklace

Personalized Mom Bar Necklace | $28-$45
These dainty mama necklaces are also super popular right now and for good reason, they are adorable. Etsy has a ton of amazing options and this bar necklace is just one of the many adorable options, take a browse around Etsy (try searching "mom necklace") and you are sure to find a pretty necklace to ask your hubby...I mean Santa...for for Christmas.

9. Notebook or Planner

[affiliate link] But First, Coffee Notebook or Planner | $16-$26
Ya'll know how much I love Minted! Did you know that Minted sells more than just cards and invitations?! They have so many amazing, customizable products like this adorable But First, Coffee Journal is adorable. You can have it made as a journal ($16), an address book ($20), a monthly planner ($23), or a weekly planner ($26). 

Best Mom Friend

10. Bucket of Chocolate

[affiliate link] KIRKLAND Signature 2lbs Chocolates of the World Assortment | $16.95
What mama wouldn't love to receive a bucket of chocolate!? 

11. Lip Balm Set

Young Living's 2017 Lip Balm Gift Set | $22.04 retail/$16.75 wholesale
Yummy lip balms with no yucky ingredients, yes please! This lip balm set is the perfect gift for your BMF (best mom friend) to pamper herself in a practical way. Don't know much about Young Living? Join my Facebook group Oily Not Crunchy to learn more about all of Young Living's products (there's more than just oils!) and learn how you can get the awesome wholesale pricing.

12. Mug

[affiliate link] Funny Target Mug | $12.95
This mug says "I like long romantic walks down every aisle at Target." It's too funny and so true for most mamas I know. Throw in some coffee beans or k-cups or tea to complete the gift for a fellow mama. 

13. Lotion

[affiliate link] The Body Shop Body Butter in Satsuma | $5.70
Pampering gifts are my favorite things to give to my mama friends, we don't take enough time to take care of ourselves so I like to make sure I give mamas something that allows them to take even just a few minutes for themselves.

14. Candles

Lindbergh Candle Co. Travel Tin Candles | $11
I received the December Morning travel tin candle at an event I went to a few years ago, the owner of Lindbergh Candle Co., Savannah, was one of the even hosts. The December morning candle is absolutely amazing. It legit smells like Christmas, making it the perfect Christmas gift! Another great candle brand is my friend's company, Bright Side Candle Co. All of her candles are hand poured, are paraben, petroleum and phthalate free, and are 100% soy, there's no fillers or additives. 

15. Natural Nail Polish

[affiliate link] BONTIME set of 6 natural nail polishes | $14.99
I'm trying to switch over to natural nail polishes and the colors in this set look really pretty and it's not super expensive.

16. Phone Case

[affiliate link] Watercolor Flowers iPhone Case | $9.99
I'm obsessed with these watercolor flowers! I may just have to nab this case for my own Christmas wish list.

17. Mama Love Collective Box

Sprinkle Her With Love Box | $25
I've already talked about how awesome Mama Love Collective boxes are, grab the smaller, Sprinkle Her With Love Box for an affordable and adorable gift for your BMF. 

18. Gel Pens

[affiliate link] 100 Coloring Gel Pens | $13.99
Is your BMF creative? Gift her a huge set of gel pens so she can get her coloring on!

19. Scarf

[affiliate link] Lightweight Scarf | $12.99
Who doesn't love pretty, colorful scarves? This one would be perfect year-round and would match pretty much every wardrobe.


20. Beard Oil

Shutran Beard Oil | $19.41 retail/$14.75 wholesale
Young Living's Shutran Beard Oil moisturizes not only the bear but also the skin underneath and it's perfect for everyday use. If your husband has a hairy face, this natural beard oil would be perfect for him! Again, to learn more about Young Living and how you can get wholesale pricing, join my Facebook group.

21. Headphones

[affiliate link] Mpow Over Ear Bluetooth Headphones | $33.99
My husband is all about bluetooth/wireless headphones (he actually likes [affiliate link] Apple's AirPods but they are not cheap). Grab some bluetooth headphones for your music loving hubby.

22. Mug

[affiliate link] Pac-Man Heat Change Mug | $10.12
This mug is so fun! My husband loves sort of nerdy coffee mugs to take to work and this one is lots of fun! Even if your husband is young like mine and wasn't even born when Pac-Man came out, he'd still love this heat change mug.

23. Book

[affiliate link] Kingdom Man by Tony Evans | $16.09
Get your hubby a book that will inspire him and help him grow in his walk with Christ. Tony Evans is a great speaker so I'm sure his books are just as good!

24. Grilling Set

[affiliate link] 19-Piece Grill Tools Set | $29.99
The weather may not be super great for grilling over the Winter so it will be like a double gift when your husband gets to pull out this grill set once the warmer weather arrives.

25. French Press

[affiliate link] Caffeina French Press | $14.95
We now have [affiliate link] a Keurig at home because my husband drinks most of his coffee at work so when he has it at home, it's easier to just throw a K-cup in quick but we used to have a French Press and my husband loved it. He found it relaxing to take time to brew coffee using the French Press. Be sure to pair it with freshly ground coffee that is ground for French Press (regular grind will NOT work). If you need a tutorial for how to use a French Press, this is a great one on YouTube.

26. Funny T-Shirt

[affiliate link] Shrute Farms Tee Shirt | $11.95-$24.94
I am legitimately thinking about getting this shirt for my own husband, we are big fans of The Office. Your husband will love a t-shirt related to his favorite TV show, Amazon has tons of options if you type in the title of his favorite show + t-shirt.

Family Friends

27. Movie Theater Gift Card

Gift Card to Your Local Movie Theater
The perfect gift for a family would be a fun night out! Bigger families don't get to things like go to the movies very often so a gift card, even if it only covers some of the cost, makes a big difference! You can pair it with some candy and treats for them to take with them to the theater.

28. Family Portrait Ornament

Custom Family Ornament | $20-$30
Give your friends a gift they can enjoy year after year. I'd kind of like to get one for my family each year so we can see how our family has grown and changed. These custom ornaments from KT's Canvases on Etsy are just beyond adorable.

29. Essential Oil Diffuser

[affiliate link] Essential Oil Diffuser with Color Changing Light | $17.95
Give a gift that the entire family can enjoy and benefit from! Pair an essential oil or two with the diffuser (Peace & Calming, Lemon + Peppermint, and Christmas Spirit would be great options) to make it a complete gift.

30. Family Board Game

[affilate link] Apples to Apples Junior | $12.99
Apples to Apples is such a silly game and the junior version is perfect for the whole family. If your friends have older children there are even more board game options. 

Groups of People

31. Ornaments

Wood Slice Ornaments Set | $20
Grab a set of ornaments for a group of people, then everyone is getting the same gift and you spend the same amount on everyone. I don't know anyone who doesn't like receiving ornaments so they are perfect for any group of people whether it's your husband's co-workers or your neighbors. 

32. Box of Candy

[affiliate link] Clear Chinese Take-Out Style Containers | $8.99
For a super quick and affordable gift for a group of people, make each person a bucket of candies and chocolates. 

33. Mini Succulents

[affiliate link] Set of 5 Mini Cacti | $5.99
Tie a little Christmas ribbon around the pot and voila! You don't even need to wrap it if you don't want to.

34. Notepads

[affiliate link] Set of 6 Notepads | $12.99
Add in a fun gel pen or two and you have a cute little gift! 

35. Tin of Cookies

[affiliate link] Set of Christmas Cookie Tins | $11.99
This is a classic Christmas gift for a reason, cookies are yummy and it's an affordable gift to give to a large group of people. 


36. Custom Photo Calendar 

[affiliate link] Sincere Year Grand Calendar | $39
A calendar full of photos of your kids is PERFECT for the grandparents! You may even want to create one for yourself because it is just adorable! And it's from Minted so you know it's going to high quality.

37. Frame Your Children's Art

[affiliate link] Your Drawing as Art Print | $32-$98
Scan your kiddo's line drawing into Minted and they will create a beautiful art print with it including your child's name and the year. Then, Minted will put it into a fancy frame, making it the perfect gift!

38. Ornament with Your Children's Photo

[affiliate link] Bright Overprint Holiday Ornament | $54/15 ornaments
Grab a pack of these adorable ornament cards and hand them out to your parents and in-laws and other family members. Your family will love pulling out the photo ornaments each Christmas.

39. Photo Art

[affiliate link] Heart Snapshot Mix Photo Art | $29+
How adorable is that photo art!? I'm kind of obsessed. It's the perfect way to give family members lots of photos of your kids and show them you love them.


40. Starbucks Gift Card

Starbucks Gift Card
Your babysitter is probably in high school or college and probably obsessed with Starbucks. Yes, I'm stereotyping a little bit here but it describes all of our go-to babysitters, ha! 

41. Gas Gift Card

Sheetz Gift Card
Really everyone would benefit from a gas station gift card but a full-time student would especially appreciate it.

42. Travel Coffee Tumbler

[affiliate link] 20oz Stainless Steel Tumbler | $13.99
See #40 as to why your babysitter would appreciate this gift. In fact, you could throw the Starbucks gift card inside the tumbler!

43. Square Photo Frame for Instagram Prints

[affiliate link] 6x6 Frame for 4x4 Instagram Photo | $9.99
If your babysitter is active on Instagram, they will love a square photo frame. And if your babysitter has taken photos with your kiddos, you could throw a photo of them with your kids into the frame.

44. Journal

[affiliate link] Illustrated Faith Canvas Travel Journal | $12.99
A journal is a great gift for most people and I love this one from DaySpring because it has Bible verses at the bottom of some of the pages.

A seriously thorough #Christmas #giftguide! #Gift #ideas for everyone on your list! Ideas for yourself, your bff, your hubby, family friends, groups of people, parents/in-laws, babysitter, and your little kids!

Part II: All The Kids


1. Activity Gym

[affiliate link] Wooden Pirate Baby Gym | $101.69
This activity gym is a bit pricey but it looks like because it's wooden it would last through more than one kid. It's also just seriously adorable.

2. Puzzle

[affiliate link] Custom Wooden Name Puzzle | $17.95
These custom name puzzles are absolutely adorable and would make a great gift that would last them a few years.

3. Books

[affiliate link] Indestructible Books | $5.95
We have two Indestructible books and they are so cool! They are legit indestructible! Your kid can spit up on them and you can wipe it clean, the pages are impossible to rip (I've tried because I didn't believe it and they wouldn't rip), and you could even throw it in the washing machine if it gets really gross.

4. Soft Blocks

[affiliate link] Infantino Squeeze & Stock Block Set | $8.88
Little ones can still play with blocks, I would just stick with softer, easier to chew ones.

5. Wooden Teether

Donut Wooden Teether | $15
I am kind of obsessed with how cute this wooden teether is! I am totally going to get one for Baby #3! This Etsy shop offers many different shapes for wooden teethers, I just loved the donut the best.

6. Bath Time Toys

[affiliate link] Boon Chomp Hungry Whale | $7.99
I think I am going to get this for 1-year-old for Christmas because the whale is just too cute! 

7. Fun Onesie 

[affiliate link] Let's Taco Bout It Infant Creeper | $24.99
Isn't this so fun!? Your baby may not understand why it's a funny onesie but you will and I bet when your kid looks back at photos they'll think you were a super cool mom for getting them a funny onesie like that!

8. Wooden Rattle

Wooden Personalized Elephant Rattle | $19.99-$35.99
This is such a high quality rattle and teething toy and just an absolutely beautiful gift. It would also make a great baby shower present. 

Baby Boy

9. Toy Truck

[affiliate link] VTech Drop and Go Dump Truck | $11.89
We have this toy and the boys love it, Daniel started playing with it when he started sitting up and big brother William still plays with it! It's a great learning toy and lots of fun.

10. Bow Ties

[affiliate link] Set of 6 Pre-tied Bow Ties | $13.99
Little baby boys in bow ties are adorable, you can't go wrong with this gift. The bow ties would also be great as a stocking stuffer if you are looking for ideas.

11. Toy Lawn Mower

[affiliate link] Little Tikes Gas 'n Go Mower | $24.99
I found a cheap plastic lawn mower for William when he was maybe 2 and he still loves it. I just wish I had gotten a higher quality one like the Little Tikes one that is pictured.

12. Plastic Keys

[affiliate link] The First Years Keys Teether | $5.99
My boys are obsessed with keys and these would make a great stocking stuffer for your baby boy.

Baby Girl

13. Headbands

[affiliate link] 5 pack Baby Girl Headbands | $8.99
If you're looking for inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer, these cute headbands would be perfect.

14. A Pretty Dress

[affiliate link] Nautica Girls Dress | $8.99+
I love buying my friends' girls adorable clothes since I don't get to buy girls' clothing. You can never go wrong with a pretty dress from your baby girl.

15. A Plush Doll

[affiliate link] Baby Starters Plush Sugar n Spice Doll | $17.82
Even at young ages like this, a little girl's motherly instincts can be seen, she'll love taking care of this plush doll. 

16. Shoes

[affiliate link] Soft Soled Moccasins | $5.99
These little moccasins are too sweet and all girls love to receive shoes, young and old alike. 😉

17. Play Food

Soft Play Food | $7+
This Etsy shop has seriously adorable and realistic looking soft food that is perfect for baby to play with and they can continue to play with them through Preschool when they are big into pretend play.=


18. Board Game

[affiliate link] Hungry, Hungry Hippos | $11.97
Toddlers will love feeding the hippos in Hungry, Hungry Hippos and it's a fun activity the whole family can enjoy.

19. Big Building Blocks

[affiliate link] Melissa & Doug Jumbo Cardboard Building Blocks | $31.99
The 2- & 3-year-old classroom at our church has cardboard blocks like these ones and they are always a big hit with all of the kids. Most of the time we end up building the tallest tower possible and then they have knocking it down.

20. Color Wonder Supplies

[affiliate link] Crayola Color Wonder Gift Set | $22.98
We love Color Wonder markers because they are 100% mess free! The markers only work on the special paper so your toddler cannot color the walls, furniture, their young siblings, or themselves!

21. Pajamas

[affiliate links] The Best Never Rest Boys' PJ Set | $8.99 and Glitter For Breakfast Girls' PJ Set | $13.92
If your toddler is anything like mine, they grow like crazy and quite suddenly. Grab them one of these cute PJ sets from Crazy8 in the next size up so you have them on hand.

22. Matching/Memory Game

Animal Wooden Matching Memory Game | $15.00
My oldest had a matching/memory game that he enjoyed for awhile but the flimsy cards kept bending or were easily lost. This wooden game is absolutely beautiful and would last well!

23. Plastic Animals

[affiliate link] Terra Wild Animals Set | $12.24
These plastic animals are good quality and are great for both playing and learning!

Toddler Boy

24. Drum Set

[affiliate link] Electric Kids' Drum Set | $54.98
My aunt got William a little plastic drum set for Christmas one year and I have to say that even though his pounding can get annoying, he really does love playing his little drums.

25. Wooden Toy Cars

[affiliate link] Melissa & Doug Wooden Car Carrier Truck with 4 Cars | $13.59
All little boys love anything with wheels and this wooden truck/car set from Melissa & Doug is too cute!

26. Play Workbench

[affiliate link] Foldable Wooden Pretend Play Workbench | $39.99
William used a birthday gift card to get a little tool box with some plastic tools in it and he loves it! This wooden workbench is like the next step up and I bet it would last through more than one kid.

27. Baseball Tee

[affiliate link] Baseball T-ball Set | $16.95
My dad and brother are big baseball fans, my brother played all through his school years and is finishing up playing in his senior year of college. Needless to say, because Pop Pop and Uncle Nate love baseball, William does too. My dad keeps a t-ball tee at his house for William and Daniel and they just love it and have so much fun with it. And you'd be surprised at how well they can both hit the ball!

Toddler Girl

28. Baby Doll + Stroller

[affiliate link] 16" Princess Doll with Pink Stroller | $30.95
This baby doll and stroller are just too cute! Any little girl would be thrilled to get this baby.

29. Doll House

[affiliate link] Melissa & Doug Classic Heirloom Victorian Wooden Dollhouse | $135.99
This would probably be best for an older toddler/a preschooler but they would love playing house with it. Like most Melissa & Doug toys, this is a wooden toy and it's built to last so it could be passed on and on, definitely a good investment.

30. Tea Set

[affiliate link] Hape Wooden Tea Set for 2 | $23.97
This is perfect for your toddler who is really into pretend play! And it's a wooden set so it should last for quite awhile.

31. Wooden Peg Dolls


Classic Disney Princess Peg Dolls | $24.33-$34.06Peg dolls are so great because there are no random, small pieces to break or lose and you can buy peg dolls of pretty much anyone you can image. Some Etsy shops even do custom peg dolls that look like you.


Combined Gifts

32. Play Kitchen

[affiliate link] KidKraft Uptown Natural Kitchen | $104.99
Play kitchens are fun for both boys and girls and can be used through just about every stage, once they start pulling themselves up and all that

33. Train Table

[activity link] KidKraft 2 in 1 Activity Table | $70.48
We got our boys a train table for Christmas one year and it has been awesome! William loves building a fun train track on it or they both just like to play with cars on the table.

34. Zoo/Aquarium

Tickets or a Season Pass to a zoo or aquarium near where you live
If you are more into gifting "experiences" rather than "things," then this suggestion is perfect for you! I wish we had a cool aquarium in our little city because we would totally be there all of the time.

35. Water Table

[affiliate link] Little Tikes Waterpark Play Table | $29.99
Depending on where you live, the weather may or may not be warm enough to play outside with a water table so this may end up being a better birthday gift if their birthdays are in a warmer month.

36. Pretend Play Grocery Store

[affiliate link] Wooden Grocery Store Stand | $69.99
For part of William's birthday last year I turned a little built in shelf in the basement playroom into a little grocery store. The boys have so much fun playing with the food and going shopping for food to cook in their play kitchen.

Whew that was quite the list to put together. I'd love to hear what you end up getting your kiddos for Christmas this year! Pop a comment down below with their age(s) and what you plan on getting them for Christmas. Have a Merry Christmas!

Christmas Bucket List

Try out the #Christmas #BucketList #Challenge! I love all 25 activities on the list -- they are perfect for bringing JOY to the Christmas season! 
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my business and family!

In just a few days, the Fall season will be over and we will be in full-on Christmas mode. With my kids growing as fast as the seasons change, it can be hard to feel like I’ve had the time to savor every special moment. Since we cannot slow down time, I want to be more purposeful in everything I do this Christmas season, and I would love for you to join me!

I have put together a list of 25 family-friendly activities that will allow you to savor time with your little ones and bring some extra Christmas-spirit into your home. I’ve made it super easy for you to keep track of your activities! You can “pin it” and save it for later, click on the image and save it to your computer, or you can grab the free printable version in my free resource library. 

As you complete each activity, share a photo on Instagram using #joyfulchristmasbucketlist and tag me @abbybarstow so we can all see what you are up to this Christmas season. 

Now that you are excited to join the fun, let’s take a look at what activities have made the bucket list this Christmas-season. 

Family Christmas-Season Bucket List

1. Attend a tree lighting

You don't need to go all the way to Rockefeller Center to see a Christmas tree lighting! Most cities and even small towns have little Christmas tree festivities. In our little city, there is a big lighting ceremony every year with some sort of performance (usually run by a local theater company), Lancaster Central Market opens up in the evening for everyone to warm up and get treats, there's a traditional tuba concert, and of course the Mayor and usually some other important person pushes the button to light the tree. There's also an appearance by Santa!

2. Decorate a gingerbread house

I am so excited to make a gingerbread house with my 3-year-old this year (gulp...he'll be 3 1/2 the week of Christmas! 😱) although I do predict that he will be mostly interested in eating the candy and there may not be enough to actually decorate the gingerbread house. 

You can make your gingerbread house the good 'ol fashioned way with graham crackers and homemade icing acting as the glue or you can get a handy kit!

3. Bake + decorate sugar cookies

How can you not make and decorate sugar cookies at Christmas time?? My all-time favorite roll-out sugar cookie recipe is from Design Eat Repeat.

4. Watch Elf

I cannot believe that it has been THIRTEEN years since Elf came out! It was an instant classic and a must-see Christmas movie.

Grab the [affiliate link] DVD here or purchase/rent it on iTunes.

5. Watch The Polar Express

William watched The Polar Express for the first time last year and I have spent the rest of the year trying to convince him that the DVD only works at Christmastime. 😂

Grab the [affiliate link] DVD here or purchase/rent it on iTunes.

6. Read The Night Before Christmas

A classic Christmas book to read your kiddos at Christmas time.

[affiliate link] Here is a really pretty illustrated version of The Night Before Christmas.

7. Give a gift to a stranger

The gift doesn't need to be big, it could simply be handing out candy canes to neighbors you don't know or paying for someone's coffee in the Starbuck's drive thru.

8. Decorate a Christmas tree

Even if you don't have a full-on, huge Christmas tree, you can still decorate a tree! Help your parents decorate their tree or set up a small windowsill one for your toddler to decorate. Or you could make a felt Christmas tree for your little one to decorate with felt ornaments!

9. Read about the birth of Jesus

The Santa stuff is fun but be sure that you teach your little ones the true meaning of Christmas. You can find Jesus' birth story in Luke 2:1-20 in the Bible. Or you can read a Children's version of the story in one of the Children's Bibles or books below.

[affiliate link] The Birth of Jesus and other Bible stories, $2.89 (available on Kindle)

[affiliate link] The Birth of Jesus and other Bible stories, $2.89 (available on Kindle)

[affiliate link] The Jesus Storybook Bible, $13.90 for hardback

[affiliate link] The Jesus Storybook Bible, $13.90 for hardback

[affiliate link] Baby's First Bible Stories, $7.99 for padded board book

[affiliate link] Baby's First Bible Stories, $7.99 for padded board book

10. Make a snowman

Even if you don't have snow where you live leading up to Christmas, you can still make a snowman! 
You can make 2-ingredient snow dough
You can make a fluffy cotton ball snowman
▸ [affiliate link] You can go crazy and use SnoWonder Instant Artificial Snow to make some fake snow! We used this at church before but I can't remember if it is thick enough to make a snowman or not.

11. Watch It's a Wonderful Life

Fun fact, when I was in middle school I was in our high school's production of It's a Wonderful Life. I was just a background/townsperson but I had lots of fun! And I love classic, black & white movies and It's a Wonderful Life is not exception. 

Grab the [affiliate link] DVD here or buy it on iTunes.

12. Make 100% homemade
cinnamon rolls

There really is nothing like homemade cinnamon rolls! Even if you're not a big baker, don't be scared, they are much easier than you'd think and lots of fun to make! Here are some yummy recipes:
Quick 45-minute Cinnamon Rolls from
The Recipe Critic
The Best Cinnamon Rolls Recipe from Foodie Crush
▸ The Best Gluten-Free & Vegan Cinnamon Rolls from Fork & Beans

13. Drink egg nog

My husband loves egg nog. It doesn't even appeal to me. But I know it's a big Christmas "thing" so I am willing to try one of the dairy-free versions, just for you guys (as long as the baby lets me because so far I'm not able to eat/drink a big range of foods in this pregnancy).

14. Drink hot chocolate

Even if you live in a warm climate, you need to drink some hot chocolate at Christmastime, even if it's actually "lukewarm" chocolate. Add in marshmallows for an extra sweet treat. 

You can get a hot chocolate mix, like [affiliate link] Starbuck's Classic Hot Cocoa Mix, or a [affiliate link] k-cup hot chocolate, or you can make it from scratch (try: Six Sisters' Stuff recipe for Disneyland's Hot Chocolate or The Glow Fridge recipe for Homemade Vegan Hot Chocolate).

15. Play in the snow

Even if it doesn't snow in your area, you can make some DIY snow to play with (like when you make your snowman). Here are some more options for DIY snow.

Homemade Snow Dough from The Imagination Tree
Snow Dough from Modernly Morgan
DIY Play Snow from Two Sisters

16. Hang mistletoe

Can't find the real stuff? No problem! You can DIY some mistletoe or [affiliate link] buy some inexpensive but pretty fake mistletoe! It's sure to spice up your Christmas season. 😉😉

17. Send Christmas cards

I looooove Christmas cards! Even if you don't have a big budget, order just a few for family, they will love getting some Christmas cheer in the mail. I recently shared our Christmas cards along with 5 ways to make your Christmas cards stand out, in this blog post.

18. Donate to charity/volunteer

Teach your little ones how to bless others during the holidays. If you have the time, many charities need volunteers to help serve Christmas meals or help with other Christmas-related events. Or you can simply donate a few dollars to your favorite charity to help bless others during the Christmas season.

19. Do an advent calendar

I haven't decided which calendar we are going to use this year, it's our first year doing one with the boys, but I know William will be all about it! Below are some fun ideas for your advent calendar but first, here are a few DIY advent calendar ideas:

Advent Calendar from a Shoe Organizer 
Muslim Bag Advent Calendar
DIY Christ-Centered Advent Calendar

20. Make a Christmas-themed music playlist

Even if you don't own a Christmas music on iTunes, hop on over to Spotify and create an epic playlist. A few of my favorite Christmas albums include:

▸ That's Christmas To Me by Pentatonix
▸ Unto Us by JJ Heller
▸ A Pentatonix Christmas by Pentatonix
▸ Christmas by Michael Buble
▸ Let it Snow Baby...Let it Reindeer by Relient K
▸ A Very She & Him Christmas by She & Him
White Christmas by Bing Crosby

Yes...I do have an extremely eclectic taste in music.

21. Mail a letter to Santa

Have your little one write a letter, draw a picture, or dictate a letter to mail to Santa. Here are instructions from the USPS for how to write a letter AND how to write a reply from Santa to your child that will be mailed to them, complete with a North Pole stamp! I had no idea that the USPS went all out to help your kiddos get a letter from Santa, but they do! They request that the letters you wish to have mailed back to your child "from Santa" be received by the Anchorage, AK Postmaster no later than December 15th. 

22. Take a drive to see
Christmas lights

Do some Google-ing or ask your local Facebook friends for places to see epic Christmas lights. There are many paid drives you can go to or you can simply take a drive through neighborhoods to find houses decorated with lights.

23. Make homemade Christmas ornaments

Keep them for your own tree or gift them to friends and family. My Christmas board on Pinterest has lots of DIY ornament ideas as well as other fun Christmas-y pins.

24. Watch Rudolph

You can find Rudolph on TV throughout the Christmas season because it is classic!

Grab the [affiliate link] DVD here or buy it on iTunes here.

25. Make and Give Cookies to Your Neighbors

You don't have to do anything fancy, just make some yummy cookies and arrange them on a paper plate and give them to your neighbors.

Which activities are you most excited to complete? Decorating a gingerbread house is going to be so fun with my 3 1/2-year-old this year and both boys will love going to see Christmas lights. 

Try out the #Christmas #BucketList #Challenge! I love all 25 activities on the list -- they are perfect for bringing JOY to the Christmas season! 

Don't forget to grab your printable checklist from the resource library. If you're not already subscribed to my email list, I've made it super easy for you! Just pop your name and email below and you'll get all the info for how to access the resource library and get your printable Christmas Bucket List (and tons of other freebies!). 

5 Ways to Make Your Christmas Card Standout

Tips for making your Christmas cards stand out from the crowd! #Christmas #Christmascards #Minted #letterpress
This post is sponsored by Minted. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the sponsoring company. This post also includes Minted affiliate links, which mean that I make a small commission if you make a purchase using my link, at no extra cost to you. I only share brands and products with you that I truly love and have used in my own life.

One of my favorite things to give and receive at Christmas are Christmas cards. I love seeing how friends, near and far, are doing and receive a little bit of cheer in the mail over the Christmas season. When I was growing up, I loved getting the mail and helping my mom hang Christmas cards on the entry between the living and dining rooms. Now, I’ve passed that same tradition into my own home. Getting Christmas cards in the mail is like receiving a little hug from friends and family, even if you don’t see them regularly. Hanging them up is like a constant flow of Christmas cheer and love in your home. 

So yeah, I love Christmas cards.

I am so excited to be partnering with Minted for a third year in a row on my family Christmas cards. You can check out last year’s cards here and the cards from our first partnership, here.  

Why do I love Minted? They create the highest quality cards I have ever seen, their designs are unique because they are created by independent artists, and they really are just a pleasure to work with. 

This year I’m partnering with Minted to bring you 5 ways you can make your Christmas card standout. It’s not about making cards that are “better” than everyone else’s, it’s about creating a family Christmas card that you are proud of and cannot wait to send out to friends and family. 

5 Ways to Make Your Christmas Card Standout

1. Pick something that represents your family

If you choose a card design that is super elegant and fancy but your family is more about being loud and crazy, it is going to look way out of place and it won’t represent your family well. Minted has hundreds and hundreds of designs to choose from, so you can definitely find a design that shows your family’s vibe. 

I went back and forth between a few designs and ultimately ended up choosing the [affiliate link] Holiday Lettering Letterpress Card designed by Little Print Design. I loved the color options, we have a similar shade of blue in our living room, the script font reminded me a little bit of my blog branding, and I loved the playful atmosphere of the card. 

When searching through all of Minted’s card design options, you can click on “more” on the menu/filtering options and you can actually look through cards by style (watch the above video for how to search and find the perfect card from Minted). Search by Simple + Minimalist, Modern + Edgy, Classic + Elegant, Vintage, Bold + Typographical, Botanical, Funny, Bohemian, and Painterly. You are pretty much guaranteed to find a Christmas card that matches your family’s style.


2. Use a bright, clear photo

This doesn’t so much have to do with choosing your card but it is essential to making sure that your Christmas card looks super awesome. You can totally take a great photo with your iPhone, just make sure your kids/family are (mostly) still and that there is plenty of natural lighting. If you want to have a professional family photo taken, it is totally possible, even if you don’t have a huge budget. Many photographers offer special mini sessions in the Fall, leading up to the holidays, so you can get a few family photos for a lower price. Yes, you do get fewer photos back than you would in a full session but you really only need one card for your Christmas card. If you still can’t find a photographer in budget, can you trade for the photos? Do you have a special skill that you could offer in exchange for Christmas card photos? It never hurts to ask!

My sweet, sweet friend Lindsey Rossman took the photo I used on our Christmas cards. It’s actually from a little mini-session she did for our pregnancy announcement photo.

3. Add a special effect


To make your Christmas cards extra, extra special, you can add a special effect to your card. Minted offers many designs that are Letterpress or Foil-Pressed. Or you can pick a unique shape for your card, most of Minted’s cards can be made into a few different shapes, or you can choose a unique type of card. The card varieties that Minted offers includes: a card that includes [affiliate link] a picture drawn by your child (or you), [affiliate link] a booklet card like we did a few years ago, [affiliate link] an ornament card, [affiliate link] a postcard (a cheaper options since there are no envelopes!), or [affiliate link] a petite sized card

This year I chose a letterpress card, I’ve never made a letterpress card or invitation and since the design is adorable, it seemed like the perfect time to order a letterpress card for the first time.

4. Customize It

One of the reasons I love Minted is because there are so many options for just about every single card to make it truly unique. [affiliate link] Even if you ordered the same card as me, you can make it totally your own. Because I chose a letterpress design, there’s a few less design options but take a card like [afiliate link] this adorable Hello Christmas card and you can choose from five different color options, four different Silhouette™ shapes, 6 paper options, and you can choose a horizontal or vertical photo layout. Many cards, like the Hello Christmas card, also offer various options for the back of the card. Choose from a solid color background or a patterned background, add text, or add photos in various layout options.


5. Do up the envelopes

Get people excited to open your card by doing up the envelope all cute and fancy. White envelopes come at no additional cost from Minted but you can switch it up and choose a kraft paper or silver envelope and you can can even choose to add a slip-in liner inside your envelope. If you’re like me and have terrible handwriting, no need to worry! You can upload your addresses to Minted and they will print the addresses on your envelopes for you, for FREE! Each design has a matching design for printing addresses but there are many different options if you’re not a huge fan of the matching design. It’s kind of a life saver for people like me whose handwriting looks like a small child’s. I ended up choosing the address design called “confetti song,” it says “FALALALALA” above the address and it’s adorable. You can also choose to have your return address printed on the back of the envelope or for a cheaper option, you can get a Skinny Wrap sticker with your return address printed on it, which is the option I went for. 

And new this year, Minted now offers custom postage stamps! Choose a an artist’s design, add a custom holiday greeting to your stamp, or even use a photo!

Whatever options you choose, you can create an adorable envelope that builds anticipation for your even more adorable card. 


I’d love to know your thoughts on Christmas cards, drop a comment below and tell me! I would also love to see your family’s Christmas cards! Share a photo on Instagram and be sure to tag me (@abbybarstow) and Minted (@minted) so we can see your beautiful design. 

5 Tips for Hosting a Joy-Filled Thanksgiving

These #tips for #hosting #Thanksgiving are so helpful! It is totally possible to have a JOY-FILLED #ThanksgivingDinner if you plan, ask for help, accommodate all diets, have a clean plan, and keep it your style. #HappyThanksgiving!
This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase using this link, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my business and family!

Anyone else love hosting holidays and events? Anyone else love hosting because they have an OCD need for control? No? Just me………
I do like to make sure that everything is just right but I’ve also learned, after hosting a few holidays, that typically, something doesn’t go “quite right.” Things may not go completely wrong per say, but there’s usually something that happens that’s not how you pictured it. 

With Thanksgiving coming, it’s important to prepare yourself that not everything may go absolutely perfect. But there are things you can do to help keep things JOY-FILLED this Thanksgiving.

5 Tips for Hosting a Joy-Filled Thanksgiving


1. Plan, plan, plan

Less things are bound to go wrong if you go into Thanksgiving with a plan. A few years back I put together a big ‘ol Thanksgiving planning guide and it’s totally free. The guide walks you through planning your menu, creating a prepping calendar, and even has decor ideas! If you’re looking for more, Country Living has some great Thanksgiving tips for you, as well. 


2. Ask for help

This is a lesson I have learned well since becoming a mom, it’s a good lesson for all of the time, not just at holidays. Save yourself some stress (and time) over Thanksgiving and ask for help. Ask a friend or family member to come early to dinner to help you with the cooking and prepping, ask your dinner guests to each bring a dish to share, and/or be sure to ask your guests to help with some of the clean up (sometimes people to really think to ask but they mean well and just need to be told that you need help). 


3. Accommodate all diets

I know, it gets annoying to deal with all of the fad diets and what not, but if everyone can eat, everything will be much more JOYFUL. I’m one of those people who eats gluten-free even though I don’t have Celiac Disease or anything, I just feel better without gluten in my body. I’m also allergic to dairy so I do my best to stay dairy- and gluten-free which can make me an annoying dinner guest. Luckily, I have the sweetest friends and they always go out of their way to make sure there is at least something I can eat. Do you have a guest coming who is on a special diet (whether it’s an allergy or just a preference)? Make their day and be sure to have something they can eat. If you’re not sure of your guests’ diets, just ask!

4. Have a Clean-Up Plan

Will you load the dishwasher directly after your Thanksgiving meal? Or will you just ask guests to pile them in the kitchen? Go in with a plan to make your clean-up more efficient so that you can spend more time with your friends and family. I recommend trying to have the dishwasher completely empty so that when you finish your meal, everything can go directly into the dishwasher. And you can get super cute Thanksgiving-themed paper plates for dessert to save on clean-up. [affiliate links] Paper plates for your Thanksgiving table: Fall Leaf Plates, Thankful Plates, Thankful & Blessed Plates, Leaf Plates, Pumpkin Plates


5. Keep It Your Style

If you have a more relaxed personality and aren’t big on color coordinating all of the decorations, that is totally okay! Don’t feel pressured to put together a fancy dinner table if that’s not your style, it will only end up stressing you out. If you’re stressed out, your guests will be stressed out. On the other hand, if it stresses you out to not have a perfectly set table, then go ahead and get all fancy! You do you, mama!

What are your Thanksgiving plans? How are you going to keep your holiday filled with JOY?