We have a lot of advent calendars in our house.  I know.  But they are all so different I can’t choose just one.  Yesterday I shared our list of advent activities for this year, which is fun, but sometimes a little time consuming.  This next idea is so easy, anyone can do it.

All you do is wrap up 24 Christmas books, and number them 1 – 24.  Then the kiddos get to unwrap a book every night leading up to Christmas.  I am sure most of you already read a few stories with your kids before bed, so this is so easy to fit into your day.  You might be thinking that you can’t do it because you don’t have 24 Christmas books.  Neither do we!  Over half of our books this year came from the public library (our favorite place).  With a 21 day lending period, I just made sure that the books from the library are toward the beginning of the month.  They can be opened and enjoyed for a few weeks and still make it back before they are due.  Last year, we didn’t have access to a library, so we just wrapped up some non-holiday books along with our Christmas books and it worked just as well.

Do you need some ideas to get you started finding some books?  Below is the list of titles in our line-up this year.  There are actually 27 because the library had too many great books and I couldn’t narrow it down.

best christmas books for kids

row 1:

The Polar Express
Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story
Bear Stays Up for Christmas
Room for a Little One: A Christmas Tale
The 12 Days of Christmas: A Pop-up Celebration
How Santa Got His Job

row 2:

How Santa Lost His Job
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree
Dream Snow
Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons
The Jolly Christmas Postman
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (picture book edition)

row 3:

Stick Man
A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Olive, the Other Reindeer
The Little Fir Tree
The Night Before Christmas
The Nutcracker

row 4:

A Christmas Carol (picture book edition)
The Animals’ Christmas Eve 
Gingerbread Baby
The Christmas Story
Christmas Day in the Morning
Gingerbread Friends
Snowmen at Christmas


  • courtney - Awesome once again Kaley…where do you find the time? I always love good book suggestions…so thank you! Have you guys read all these books before and do you recommend any particular ones to purchase?ReplyCancel

  • Advent Calendars | Cultivate - […] 5. Wrapped books, one for each day. (I really like this idea for a 12 Days of Christmas activity). From Kaley Ann Photography. […]ReplyCancel

  • The Advent Calendars…Continued - […] here to read more about our Christmas book Advent calendar and for a list of great Christmas books for […]ReplyCancel

Advent Activity Cards

Last year we started an Activity Advent Calendar, with a fun Christmas activity planned for each day of December.  It worked out great for us, so we are doing it again this year, with a few changes to our list.  While it seems like a lot to do, most of the activities on our list are things that we are going to do anyway (cut down the tree, wrap presents, mail Christmas cards, etc), or things that are pretty easy to fit into our day (movie night!).  The rest are things that I really want to do before Christmas (make gingerbread houses, christmas crafts, etc) but probably won’t get around to if they aren’t on my calendar.  A lot of my ideas never actually happen because I either forget, run out of time, or don’t plan ahead and lack key ingredients / supplies, so making a plan is perfect for list-loving me.  And I love that it makes even wrapping presents into something exciting.

Since we are back in San Francisco now, I added a few activities this year like ice skating, going out to see the neighborhood lights, and going to the Nutcracker.  These take extra time and planning, but I am just so happy to have the option to go out and enjoy the holiday season that I really want to take advantage of it.

Our activities are printed on little cards, and slipped into the pockets of our Santa Advent Calendar, so it is very easy for me to switch things up if our schedule changes last minute, or I forget to buy the graham crackers.  And if things get really crazy, no one will ever know if we skip going to Union Square and instead have an extra movie night.  :)

Here is what is on our list this year:

  • go cut down a christmas tree & decorate it
  • decorate the house
  • purchase gifts for a child / family in need
  • write a letter to santa
  • family movie night with christmas movies (like this, thisor this) and popcorn
  • sing christmas carols
  • go to the academy of science to see the reindeer
  • address and mail christmas cards
  • get all dressed up and go see the nutcracker
  • make gingerbread houses out of graham crackers
  • drive around to see neighborhood lights (and tom & jerry’s house in noe valley)
  • breakfast for dinner pajama party
  • get a new ornament for the tree (or 12 because these are so bright and cheerful!)
  • build a fort with christmas lights
  • donate old clothes / books / toys to a homeless shelter
  • make paper snowflakes
  • go see the christmas tree at union square
  • christmas craft day (more on this to come)
  • go visit Santa & take pictures
  • make christmas gifts for teachers
  • perform a random act of kindness
  • go ice skating (we don’t live near snow, but we do live near embarcadero Center!)
  • wrap presents
  • have a slumber party out by the christmas tree
  • make and decorate christmas cookies (and save some to leave out for santa)
  • The Advent Calendars…Continued - [...] *If you would like to see what is on our 2012 list, click here.* [...]ReplyCancel

  • courtney - I think you are going to need to sell these types of things for lazy moms like me!! I would love to do it, I am just not as crafty and can’t seem to find the time. Let me know your price! :)ReplyCancel

It is almost December…you know what that means.  Its time to get those advent calendars ready!  Judging by the amount of page views and pins on last year’s posts about our advent calendars, you all are just as obsessed as I am.  So this week is going to be dedicated to all things advent, starting with a roundup of some of my favorite DIY advent calendars.  I hope this gives you some inspiration as you put the final touches on your creations.  Links to the original sources are below.

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17

the best photo gifts
So you had your photo session, and got a ton of amazing images.  If you had your session with me (I hope you did!) you have all of your digital negatives. You love them all and have looked at them a hundred times. But do not let them just sit on your hard drive! Get them printed and into book so that you can enjoy them. And with the holidays right around the corner, put those beautiful professional images to good use! Get creative and turn your favorite images into gifts that your family will adore.

You all know how I love finding the best new products…so here you have a guide to the very best photo products for this season, along with some pretty sweet deals. So on Black Friday, when everyone else is getting trampled at WalMart, you can be home in your sweats, making a photo book on your computer.  You’re welcome.  :)

Photo Books | I have tried a ton of different photo book companies, in all different price ranges. My favorite company, hands down, is Blurb.  They are beautiful books, great quality, at a very reasonable price. And they are so easy to make you will be amazed. There are a ton of different templates you can choose from, as well as a few different sizes and paper options. I really can’t say enough about how much I adore the books I have made from Blurb. Photo books are the perfect gifts for grandparents…or even yourself! The best part…you can save 15% off your entire Blurb order with code 15OFFBLURB.

Holiday Cards | I love getting mail. Especially when it includes photos of my favorite people. If you only do one thing with your digital negatives, make holiday cards. Or if you get super busy and forget until it is too late, make New Years cards. Heck, two years ago I was such a slacker that I did Valentines cards. Like with photo books, there are millions of companies you can order cards from, and I have tried most of them. Pinhole PressMinted, and Tiny Prints have the best quality and the cutest designs. I am especially loving the designs from Minted this year. All cards shown are from Minted, and again, the best part…you can save $25 off your first purchase of $50 or more from Minted.

Prints | I always recommend that my clients print their images through mpix. They have the best quality photographic prints of any consumer lab out there, a quick turn around and very reasonable prices.  A new product that I just discovered is the set of boxed prints from Pinhole Press.  25 beautiful prints on double thick paper, with personalized captions on the reverse of each photo, all in a 5×7 box perfect for the coffee table.  Definitely on my must buy list this year.

Wall Art | Print your images nice and big from mpix, then frame them in simple Ribba frames from Ikea. To make a big impact, group a bunch of framed images close together in a wall gallery. (check out pinterest for lots of inspiration) For a twist on standard framed prints, try a modern standout print from mpix. No framing or mounting required.

Calendars | I make calendars for each of the grandparents ever year and they absolutely love getting to enjoy their calendars for the next 12 months. This year I am ordering the Hanging Wall Calendar from Pinhole Press, because they are nice and big with very thick, sturdy pages. Last year I bought the Standard Photo Calendar from Minted, and was very impressed with the quality of the paper and their customer service. I have also tried Shutterfly and Lulu, but wasn’t happy with either.

Planners | For those who like to take their calendars with them, try the awesome planners from BlurbPinhole Press or Paper Coterie.

Journals & Notepads | Journals from Minted and notepads from Pinhole Press would both make a fun and useful gift.

Stationary | Personalized photo stationary is perfect for thank you notes after the holidays (and may even entice your kids to write their own!)

For Kids | I am in love with all of the fun new photo products out there geared toward kids. My favorites are the Memory Game and Flash Cards, both from Pinhole Press. They are made with thick sturdy card stock so they can withstand all the abuse your kids will give them. These will both probably end up in my little one’s stocking this year.

For Everyone | Personalize game night with photo playing cards from mpix or Shutterfly, and a customized puzzle from Pinhole Press. Not exactly a game, but definitely fun, are the Tiny Prints Custom iPhone Cases.


What do you think? Will you be making any custom photo gifts for your friends or family this year? Are there any other new and fabulous products I need to know about?

  • kati - it always cracks me up how alike we are! we’ve obviously done the same researching :)

    i agree with all of this! though i have also had great luck with paperculture.com for holiday cards. this year i went with minted, though, and they turned out great!ReplyCancel

    • kaleyann - oooh, I will have to check out paperculture. If you like it I am sure I will too. ;)

      And already done with your holiday cards? Impressive!ReplyCancel

pumpkin pancakes with apple compote

Within the last few days I have become obsessed with fall.  After 2 years in Honduras with no change of seasons I’m itching for everything fall.  Pumpkins and apple cider and boots and warm chunky sweaters.  I am loving it all.  And with my new found love of this season, I have a new food obsession – pumpkin pancakes.  With apple deliciousness on top.  Seriously, these are like fall on a plate.  And they are addicting.  I could eat them every day until Christmas and be happy.  Adding fresh pumpkin to pancakes and topping them with apples has got to make them healthy enough to eat every day, right?

INGREDIENTS (for the pancakes):

1 1/4 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons fresh pureed pumpkin*
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Butter for cooking

DIRECTIONS (for the pancakes):

1.  Mix together all dry ingredients in one bowl.
2.  Mix together all wet ingredients in a different bowl.
3.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.
4.  Melt butter on a griddle.
5.  Cook pancakes over medium heat for a few minutes until the edges start to dry.  Flip and cook another minute or two, until cooked through.

*To get fresh pumpkin puree, cut a “pumpkin pie” or “sugar” pumpkin in half.  (don’t use a big halloween pumpkin for this)  Scoop out the seeds and the stringy part.  Put it in a covered casserole dish in a 350 degree oven for 45 – 60 min.  Carefully remove the skin and blend with a few tablespoons of water until it is smooth.  You could also use canned pumpkin puree but it will not taste as fresh.

INGREDIENTS (for the apple compote):

2 apples, chopped or sliced
2 tablespoons butter
maple syrup

DIRECTIONS (for the apple compote):

1.  Melt butter in a small saucepan.
2.  Add apples and stir.
3.  Add as much cinnamon as you would like.  (I used a ton)
4.  Stir and cook over medium-low heat until the apples are a little bit soft.
5.  Add maple syrup and stir for another few minutes.
6.  Pour the apple compote on top of the pumpkin pancakes and enjoy your little taste of fall.