Overstuffed: November 2016 Overstuffed

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

27 Magical Gifts for Harry Potter Fans

We just took the girls to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them last week and we all loved it. The girls loved it so much that they chose to see it again over another very popular movie during their Thanksgiving break (it didn't hurt that they think Eddie Redmayne is adorable!). I personally loved the movie so much that I remembered what a devoted Harry Potter fan I am!

I thought it would be fun to put together a Harry Potter Gift Guide for the Harry Potter fans in your life. I have a few in my house, and I know that they would absolutely love any of these items!

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I focused on Harry Potter gifts that were a little more unique and I made sure that all of them can be purchased on Amazon. I know you will be able to find many more options elsewhere, but I like to make things easy.

Magical Gifts for Harry Potter Fans

Affiliate links are included for your convenience. Click on either the picture or the text link below each picture to see the item on Amazon. 

Harry Potter Books

Obviously, the Harry Potter lover in your life doesn't need the actual Harry Potter books. She probably doesn't even need the ones like The Cursed Child or Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them. But she might not know about some of these other Harry Potter books.

The first four are all books about the filming of the movies. Each one focuses on a particular aspect of the movies and then shows how those things were brought to life for the big screen. Fascinating stuff!

These new illustrated editions are coming out one per year until all 7 books have been done. Last year, I purchased the first one and I plan on getting the second one this year. The first one has lived on my coffee table all year long and everyone who visits my home loves looking through it—it's gorgeous!

Bria has this Unofficial Harry Potter cookbook and I can personally attest to the good recipes that are found within its pages. The Unofficial Insults book looks really fun, too! I think my girls would have way too much fun with it!

If your Harry Potter lover is a Kindle reader, this Kindle cover will make the perfect Harry Potter gift!

Harry Potter Jewelry and Accessories

I want all of this jewelry I found. It's all very pretty and doesn't look too cheesy or obviously fangirl. I especially love the time-turner necklace!

All of the following scarves, beanies, and gloves can be purchased in any of the house colors. Make sure you know which house your Harry Potter fan was sorted into so you can get the right gift!

Harry Potter Games

We love playing games at our house, and I know my girls would love all of these. Trivial Pursuit is always more fun to play when you are obsessed with the subject, right? My youngest daughter is currently obsessed with chess, so I know she would go crazy over the wizard chess set! 

Other Harry Potter Gifts

The rest of these things are just super cool Harry Potter gift ideas that are fun. I love the mugs that show the Marauders Map only when they are hot and I think the bookmarks are all so pretty. I'd use all of them—even the horcruxes!

A Harry Potter Vacation

Gift your children an experience gift for Christmas — like a vacation to Hogwarts at Universal Studios Hollywood!

Okay, okay. So you can't buy a visit to Harry Potter World on Amazon, but you can buy one from Get Away Today! For the past few years we have been all about the experience gifts and trying to purchase less stuff. A few well-thought out gifts and some sort of experience is enough to make Christmas totally magical. And if you have a Harry Potter fan living with you, maybe a trip to Harry Potter World will be the most magical of all gifts!

At the Get Away Today home page, choose "Universal Studios Hollywood" and find a great deal on a vacation to Hogwarts! Enter the code Overstuffed at checkout for an extra $10 discount on 2-night stays or longer.

If you're looking for more great book-related gifts, click here: 30 Unique Gifts for the Bookworm

Happy shopping!

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Organizing a Christmas Caroling Party

Thank you to Mormon.org and their #LightTheWorld 2016 Christmas campaign for partnering with me on this post! Going Christmas caroling can be an activity used for Day 15: Jesus Worshipped Through Song and So Can You! 

#LightTheWorld by praising God with song and planning a Christmas Caroling Party

I love to go Christmas caroling! My family used to go every Christmas Eve—I really looked forward to going around the block and bringing a little extra Christmas cheer to all of our neighbors. Singing Christmas carols is a huge part of what makes Christmas special to me, and since I love singing (hello—I sing for a living!), a Christmas Caroling party is the perfect way for me to light the world for the holidays.

If you want to throw a truly amazing Christmas Caroling Party that everyone will love, it will take a bit of planning ahead. Following these few tips will guarantee that your party is something that will be remembered—both by the carolers and those who are blessed to hear the Christmas carols.

How to Organize a Christmas Caroling Party

1. Send invitations early

The holidays are an incredibly busy time for everyone, so planning and inviting ahead of time is crucial. Send your invitations at least 2 weeks early for the best results—earlier if possible. Be sure to include an RSVP so that you have an accurate head count for your party. You definitely want enough singers—especially if you plan on singing harmony!

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I have created an invitation that you are welcome to download and use for your own Christmas Caroling Party. To download and use it yourself, enter your email into the form below. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

2. Plan music ahead of time

What music you plan will largely depend on the people who are coming to your Christmas Caroling Party. In a couple weeks, I will be going to a Christmas sing in (maybe we'll carol, too!) with several of my high school choir friends. All of us love singing and can read the parts on sheet music, so we will be singing some SATB Christmas carols. If I were going with a different group, I might choose something easier.

If you are hoping to sing music that is slightly more difficult and includes harmonies, you might want to send a list of the songs with your invitation. You could even include the sheet music with the invitation if you have it. There are several wonderful websites that offer free sheet music downloads, making it even easier to choose music—one of my favorites is Sally DeFord Music.

You could also purchase enough simple Christmas Caroling anthology for all of your guests to share. I have several copies of this one, which can be purchased for a couple dollars: A Classic Christmas Caroling Songbook. It would be kind of fun to wrap it up and include it with your invitation as well!

At the very least, be sure to print out song lyrics for your caroling friends. Not everyone knows the lyrics to every Christmas song, and it will make those who don't know them well feel much more comfortable singing for others.

3. Know your caroling route

Map out where you will be caroling ahead of time. You may just want to do a specific neighborhood, which is easiest, or you may want to hit particular people, which will take a bit more planning. If you will be Christmas caroling outdoors, plan a circular route that will lead you right back to the start of the party—that way you can be singing all the way.

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You could also plan to go caroling in a nursing home, retirement community, or hospital. People who are in those situations for the holidays are especially joyous recipients of Christmas carolers. Just make sure you have permission from the administration before you go.

4.  Practice beforehand

Part of your Christmas Caroling Party should include practicing together before the real thing. Gather around the piano (or just the Christmas tree) and make sure everyone is comfortable singing the music you have chosen. Since you'll be singing A Cappella, be sure to assign someone with a good ear the job of giving the starting pitch at each house.

5. Dress appropriately

This depends on the weather where you are, of course. Christmas caroling in California is going to look a lot different than Christmas caroling in Michigan (where I live)! But not only is dressing for the weather important, so is dressing for the event. Remind your guests to look festive!

One easy way to look festive is to simply wear Santa hats. You could even provide them for your guests for very little cost. Click the links below to see a few good options:

One dozen Santa hats and jingle bell necklaces for $21.95 (The jingle bell necklaces are a nice touch for carolers!)
One dozen Santa hats for $6.99
One dozen reindeer headbands for $9.80
One dozen Santa hats in assorted colors for $14.90

6. Give non-singers a job

Some people hate singing, so Christmas caroling might not be their favorite thing. Help them feel part of the group by giving them a job like ringing jingle bells or passing out candy canes. The best part of Christmas caroling is watching the reactions of the people who open their doors to you. You don't need to be singing in order to have your heart grow three sizes because you're spreading Christmas cheer—jingle bell playing loud for all to hear is just as good as singing.

Christmas caroling isn't just about singing—give a non-singer the job of ringing the sleigh bells and jingle bells!

Get jingle bells here: Hand held sleigh bells or here: Wooden hand held jingle bells

7. Provide something to light your way

You can't light the world with Christmas carols if you have no light! Bring glowsticks or flashlights or lanterns in order to see where you are going.

I think these cute mini-lanterns coupled with some battery powered tea lights would be perfect for Christmas caroling. A little throwback to Dickens, right?

8. Have a small gift ready to give

I know you will already be giving the gift of music, but it's nice to give a little treat, too. When I caroled with my family each Christmas Eve, we would also give out a bottle of Martinelli's Sparkling Cider to each home. You could do something as simple as candy canes, or request that each of your guests bring a couple plates of cookies to hand out.

9. Warm up after caroling

Invite your guests back to your home to warm up after caroling. Light a nice fire in your fireplace if you have one and have hot cocoa or wassail ready to serve.

I particularly love the idea of serving wassail since the word has two meanings:

1. A hot spiced cider drink usually drunk around Christmas time.

2. To go from house to house singing Christmas carols

"Here we go a wassailing among the leaves so green..."

Here is a great wassail recipe to use: Taste of Home Cider Wassail

There's something for everyone in this Christmas Caroling Party and it will definitely be a hit with your friends and family. Watch out, though, because it might also become a tradition—especially if your kids have anything to say about it!

Check out this post for cute caroling printables and recipes: Christmas Caroling Activity

Want to learn more about the #LightTheWorld Christmas campaign?

Click here to download the Light the World advent calendar: 25 Ways in 25 Days 

Watch the video below. I got to see this in September with several of my blogger friends and I admit to crying. I LOVE the way they show how Christ does something and a way we can do the same thing now in modern times. That is what this whole campaign is about—lighting the world the way Christ did. There are so many ways to do it, too! Be sure to click around Mormon.org and find the ways that work for you to #LightTheWorld!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

7 DIY Mickey Mouse Christmas Ornaments

This Christmas we are taking the girls to Disneyland as their big gift. We've never been to Disney together as a family—in fact, the last time I was in Disneyland was right after I graduated from high school! I have to admit that I am getting super excited about our upcoming trip and finding myself looking at Disney everything online.

I thought it would be really fun to start a Disney-themed tree in my house (I love decorating my Christmas trees!) and started looking at some DIY Mickey ornaments on Pinterest. I found a few favorites which will all be easy to make and something the girls and I can do together.

Incidentally—if you are planning on visiting Disney, make sure you book through Get Away Today. My readers get an extra discount on any Southern California vacation packages by entering the code Overstuffed at checkout.

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Here are my favorite DIY Mickey and Minnie Ornaments. Don't you think they'll all be fun to make?

Easy DIY Mickey Oranament | Will Cook For Smiles

These ornaments are hand painted red, green, or gold. Then you simply use a dauber to make the Mickey shape in black paint. The final product is really elegant.

DIY Mickey and Minnie Ornaments | Sweet Art

The blog post has plain black Mickey ornaments, Minnie ornaments with a bow added, and some adorable Mickey pants ornaments, too. Those buttons are just too cute!

Mickey and Minnie Felt Christmas Oranments | Disney Family

The felt ornaments here are super easy to make. All you need is felt, scissors, ribbon, and some hot glue and these adorable ornaments will soon be on your own Christmas tree,

Jingle Mickeys | The Goodlaff Girl

I love this twist on the Mickey ornament! What's Christmas without jingle bells—even better when the jingle bells are turned into cute little Mickeys (or Minnies)! Buy jingle bells in assorted sizes and colors in bulk from the Dollar Tree.

Sparkling Mickey Ornaments | The Disney Fashionista

I loved this idea. Nothing is much easier to do than sticking some gems on clear ornaments, and the final product not only features Mickey but pays homage to Disney princesses, too. You can get cheap clear ornaments at the Dollar Tree.

Cinnamon Mickey Ornaments | Mom Spotted

I remember making this type of cinnamon ornaments as a kid. Not only do they look pretty on the tree, but they smell just like Christmas. You can make them any shape you want, but these cute Mickey ones are perfect.

Mickey Christmas Balls | Dolled Up Design

These DIY Mickey Christmas balls look super fancy but they are made with Dollar Store ornaments. I am in love with their simple elegance and would totally decorate an entire tree with these Mickeys.

Fun Thanksgiving Gratitude Activity {free printable}

When I was growing up, one of our Thanksgiving family traditions was to go around the table during dinner and say what we were grateful for. I have tried to continue that tradition with my own kids in various ways. I usually have a Thankful Tree up for most of November and we have also done a Thankful Jar—both activities are done during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving Day, and then we read the gratitudes at dinner.

I saw a cute gratitude game on another blog recently and the idea popped into my head to adapt it for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead of using sticks, I thought it would be fun to use fun-sized M&Ms candy.

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1. Frame the printable guide and place it in the center of the table. I plan on using a cheap 5x7 frame from the dollar store, but you can just as easily print it out and place the paper in the center of the table.

2. Give each person at the table a fun-sized package of M&Ms.

3. Each person opens their M&Ms and dumps them onto the table.

4. Each person takes a turn naming their gratitudes based on the color of each M&M in front of them. If you get a brown M&M, you have to name all 5 gratitudes!

That's it! It's a nice game to play before dinner while waiting for everything to finish up, or between dinner and dessert. Regardless of when you decide to play it, it's a fun twist on the traditional Thanksgiving activity of going around the table and saying what you are thankful for.

To download:

Enter your email address into the form below and your printable will be sent directly to your email inbox. If you are on a mobile device, click here to see the form.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving to you!

Friday, November 18, 2016

How to Choose a Christmas Card Design

This post is sponsored by Minted—my favorite place to design and order Christmas photo cards. 

Christmas card design tips

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love Christmas cards. Sending and receiving Christmas cards is one of my favorite things about the holidays. Last week I talked about how to get a great photo of your kids for the Christmas card, and today I want to talk about how to choose the right Christmas card design for that photo (or multiple photos!).

This year, I knew I wanted a card with a landscape orientation, simply because I've done portrait orientation for the last several years. I went to Minted.com (my favorite photo design site) and chose landscape oriented designs that I liked.

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I really liked one design in particular, and since I looked at designs before I took the photo, I ended up choosing my girls' outfits based on one of those card designs. I have never had my heart set on a particular design before I had a concrete photo before, and I learned that it is much easier to choose the design after you have chosen a photo.

Because, guess what?

I didn't end up going with that first design (even though I loved it!) because it just didn't work with the photos I had taken. The truth is, the photo is the most important part and you need to find a design that can feature your photo or photos in the most beautiful way. Here are 4 tips to choosing the best design for the photo that you love this Christmas:

How to Choose a Christmas Card Design

1. Choose your photo or photos

Whether you are using a professionally taken family portrait, snapshots you've taken throughout the year, or photos you did yourself, decide which picture or pictures you want to share on your card this year.

Don't worry about how it will look on a card—honestly choose your very favorite photo. You will be happiest with your final product when you truly love the photo.

I had a lot of good choices this year, but the photo that I ultimately chose was this one:

How to choose the best photo and design for your Christmas cards.

The fall background didn't look right in the card I had originally chosen. But now that I knew which photo I was using, I could easily go on to the next steps and get the perfect card for my favorite photo.

2. Find card designs with the right photo orientation/number of photos

If you want to use multiple photos, you will be limited to the cards that have the correct amount of photo slots. Same with photo orientation. If you have a portrait oriented photo, you'll want to find card designs that can accommodate that.

Minted allows you to narrow the card selection by number of photos and photo orientation

Minted has an easy way to eliminate all designs except the ones that will fit the photos you have chosen. Simply check the boxes for number of photos and orientation, and it will then show only the card designs that will work for you.

3. Choose card designs that have similar colors to your photo

The whole reason my original pick didn't work was because of the fall background. The colors in that card design were too bright—they would have been perfect if the background was snow or a very light backdrop. I knew I needed something more muted, so I started looking at cards that had gold color schemes.

Minted allows you to see your photo in all cards at once.

Again, Minted has a way to make this process as easy as possible. You can see your photo in all of the cards at once! Also, each card has several options for colors, so even if the default doesn't work, one of the other colors might. In order to see your photo with another color in the design, simply click on it, choose "personalize," and choose a new color.

After several pages of beautiful card designs, I finally made my decision! One of the other things I thought about was displaying it in my home. I love to frame the cards from previous years and put them out at Christmas time—you can see that I have framed the cards from the last two years in the photos above. One of the things I loved about this particular card and message is that it will be perfect to display at Thanksgiving!

You can see the card design I chose here: Sweeping Blessings Card

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If you can't find a design you're happy with because of photo colors, try changing your photo into black and white and see if that works better for you.

4. Don't forget to customize!

Once you've chosen your design, don't forget to check out the available customizations. Minted has several options such as rounding the corners, making different shapes of your cards, adding more photos or a Christmas message to the back, and more.

Minted has awesome card personalization

I love the idea of adding a simple Christmas message to the back, but since The Maestro always writes a holiday newsletter, I chose to add another of my favorite photos to the back.

My favorite part of using Minted for my holiday cards is the free envelope addressing. It is such a HUGE time saver that I don't think I will ever go without it. I love that each card has its own address design for the envelopes—you can use that or choose a different one.

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I got my cards and envelopes the other day and I love them! That isn't a surprise at all, because Minted uses such high quality paper and their printing is always perfect. I can't wait to bug The Maestro to write his letter so I can start mailing them out after Thanksgiving.

Because Christmas cards are my absolute favorite.

Want to relieve your Christmas card stress? Click here: A Stress-free guide to sending Christmas cards

Even More Christmas Books to Read With Your Family

One of the most beloved Christmas traditions we have in our home is reading a Christmas book together each night before bed. Even though the girls are getting older and busier during the Christmas season, it's something we all look forward to. Some of the books we read are absolute favorites and they look forward to reading them all year long, but I also like to add new books into the mix each year to give us even more wonderful stories to look forward to.

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Right now, I have 35 Christmas books to read—which is more than enough for one a day beginning December 1st, so now we can just begin right after Thanksgiving, right? We also like to double up and read two books on the evenings we aren't too busy.

You can see the 35 books already in our family Christmas collection by clicking below:

24 Christmas Books to Read With Your Family
11 {more} Christmas Books to Read With Your Family

This tradition is really wonderful for bringing the Christmas spirit into our home and helping us focus on what the holiday is truly about. For that reason, I try to choose only books that focus on the birth of Christ, helping and serving others, Christmas traditions in other countries and times, and spending time together as a family during the holidays.

I'm a little sad because we are on a sabbatical for this Christmas season and it wasn't exactly practical to bring all of our Christmas books with us. Nor is it practical to buy a bunch to take back home when we're finished, but I did decide to buy a few that are available on Kindle—traditions must go on, after all! Still, while I was on Amazon perusing my options, I found a bunch of newly published Christmas books and a few that I have missed over the years that I am putting on my wish list for next year. We'll just have to read four every night, I guess.

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Here are all the new books I want—if only the Christmas season lasted for 60 days! (affiliate links)

16 More Christmas Books to Read With Your Family

Ornaments of Love by Sharlin Craig. The author kindly sent me a digital copy of this book to review and I really loved it. It's the story of Ayana, a little girl eager to decorate the Christmas tree with her parents. They turn out to be too busy to participate in the normal family Christmas traditions that year, but then something happens that helps them remember the importance of those traditions and doing them together as a family. It's a sweet story and I highly recommend reading it before you decorate your Christmas tree! There is also a companion coloring book to go along with the story. I'd say it was for younger children, but with the extreme popularity of adult coloring books, it will be something the entire family can enjoy! Ornaments of Love Coloring Book: Slowing Down With the Family at Christmas Time.

When Jesus Was Born in Bethlehem by Joseph Brickey. This one is already in my collection, but I am featuring it again because my mom has a copy in her house (we are living with my parents for the sabbatical) so it is the book featured in the photo. It has special meaning to our family because my brother was the model for Joseph, but it is also a beautiful telling of Luke 2 with gorgeous paintings as illustrations.

16 books to read with your family at Christmas time.

Asleep on the Hay: A Dust Bowl Christmas by Ben Sowards. Food is scarce during the height of the dust bowl, and a family with a broken down truck knocks on the door of Paul's family home. Paul does not feel charity towards them because there isn't even enough to go around for his own family. He angrily retreats to the barn where he dreams of the original Nativity and learns the true meaning of Christmas.

Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. I love Max Lucado's books, as so many do. Because of Bethlehem is his newest publication and I am so excited to read it. In this book, he explains why he loves Christmas and answers the questions about the birth of Christ that he receives from people every year. You can also by a Because of Bethlehem Coloring Book or a Because of Bethlehem Study Guide.

Sam's Christmas Wish by George Durrant. Sam Edwards lost his job six months before Christmas and isn't sure how he can give his family a nice holiday. He receives unexpected (and unwanted) help from an anonymous stranger. Years later, he wants to pay it forward and is given an opportunity to do so. He learns that Christmas is not just an event but a spirit that has the capability to transform lives.

The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans. Thomas needs a candle for his lantern so he can make it home on Christmas Eve. The candle he purchases turns out to be magical and helps teach him about the importance of family and the Christmas spirit.

Christmas in the Trenches by John McCutcheon. You may have heard the story of the Christmas Eve truce of 1914 during World War I. For two days the German and English soldiers find peace together and put the war behind them because of a simple Christmas song. The book comes with a CD featuring the story and a recording of "Silent Night/Stille Nacht."

The Christmas Eve Tree by Delia Huddy. On Christmas Eve night there is only one scrawny tree left in the Christmas tree shop. It is saved by a little boy and the following events bring the entire city together in Christmas love and unity.

Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect by Richard H. Schneider. A perfect pine tree is selected by the Queen as her Christmas tree, but becomes damaged by giving small animals shelter. Luckily, the Queen's idea of what makes a perfect Christmas tree isn't what the little tree originally thought.

The Christmas Boot by Lisa Wheeler. Hannah discovers a black boot while gathering firewood in the forest. She is lonely and cold and was delighted to find it, and hoped she would find its mate. The next day she discovers a perfect pair of boots next to her bed, followed by even more extraordinary gifts. Later, Santa himself shows up at her door, wearing only one black boot and Hannah learns the magic or Christmas from him.

Stars Were Gleaming by Greg Olson. Greg Olson is one of my favorite religious artists. I have several of his paintings of Christ in my home. This book features some of his newer paintings about the birth of Christ and each artwork is accompanied by a lovely quote about Christmas. Not really a story book, but a lovely addition to any Christmas book collection.

The Last Magi: A Christmas Tale by E. A. Sharpe. I have always been intrigued by the story of the fourth wiseman, who somehow misses his three companions and spends the rest of his life searching for the Savior so he can give his gifts to Him. He ends up using his gifts to help those in need, which is the ultimate gift to the Christ child.

A Christmas Bell for Anya by Chris Stewart. Anya lives in Siberia, Russia in 1917. She is chosen to ring the Christmas bell on Christmas morning in her village. This is a book which includes a DVD and CD version which is read by actress Claire Bloom and features the music of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. We have the book Christmas from Heaven which also features the DVD of the MoTab, and I had no idea there were even more books in this format! I'm so excited to not just find one, but THREE more! Having the DVD available is a nice alternative to reading the book, and a lovely tradition in its own right.

Good King Wenceslas by Jane Seymour. I have always wondered about Wenceslas. We sing the carol, but I was never really sure what it was referring to. This book finally tells that story and we learn how the good Kind Wenceslas brought the spirit of Christmas to his entire kingdom. The DVD features actress Jane Seymour's narration of the story, accompanied by music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Silent Night, Holy Night by Walter Cronkite. Another story about the Christmas Truce of 1914 featuring a CD (no DVD with this one) narrated by Walter Cronkite and accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

God Bless Us, Every One!: The Story Behind a Christmas Carol by John-Rhys Davies. I'm super excited about this book and I just might cave and buy it—it won't be a big deal to take one book with us back to Michigan, right? Watching the movie A Christmas Carol is another of our beloved family Christmas traditions and I love the idea of learning more about Charles Dickens and how he discovered the Christmas spirit for himself as he was writing the now famous tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. The included DVD is narrated by British actor John-Rhys Davies and accompanied by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

I hope this list helps you to find a few books to add to your own family Christmas collections! If you aren't finding exactly what you're looking for, be sure to check out my other two posts featuring even more Christmas books to read with your family during the holiday season!

24 Christmas Books to Read With Your Family

11 Christmas Books to Read With Your Family