The holidays are full of beautiful, fun, symbolic and sometimes wacky traditions. Where else can you find a military Santa tracking operation and an elf hidden on a shelf? Read on for the origins of these traditions, and more.
What’s with that Elf on the Shelf? It seems like it’s been around forever, doesn’t it? That little elf, sitting on the shelf, watching (and taking notes on) your behavior so he or she can report back to Santa. But Elf on the Shelf sprang into this world in 2005, when Christa Pitts and twin sister, Chanda Bell, joined forces with their mom, Carol Aebersold, to market their own childhood tradition: Elf on the Shelf. It was a hit, to put it mildly. Today, the incarnations of elf include multiple elf dolls, figurines, elf clothing and accessories, books, a DVD and more. It’s become a multi-million dollar franchise, wowing people as much as—if not more than—a certain flying reindeer with a glowing nose.
When did NORAD start tracking Santa? Nothing says Christmas like watching the military track Santa. The origins of the NORAD Santa tracker are actually quite sweet. In 1955, a Sears Roebuck ad inviting kids to call Santa Claus had a typo in the phone number. Rather than routing them to a man with a belly like a bowl full of jelly, they routed them to a top-secret air defense emergency phone at The North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs (at the time it was called CONAD). After a few disarming calls from earnest children wishing to speak with Santa, the guys in uniform decided to create a Santa tracker, showing Santa’s path across the world. Follow on Twitter at @NoradSanta.
Why is this the season of eggnog? This drink of merriment and richness dates back to the 14th century. Back then, it didn’t contain eggs. Rather, “hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or the like, often sweeten and spiced,” according to Mental Floss. In the 17th century, “nogs” were a drink for celebrations, hence, the ties to the holidays. The recipe morphed through the years, making its way over to the American Colonies, and eggs were added for that drink-able custard goodness we know today.
Strolling through your hometown mall, it’s easy to forget that the holidays aren’t just commercial. This season, be sure and remind your kids that the holidays are a time of gratitude, giving back and embracing family. Want a season to remember? Here are 12 ideas to get you in the true holiday spirit.
- Volunteer. Take the family and spend a few hours at a non-profit that’s meaningful to you. Homeless shelters, kitchens, family-centric charities and others could all use a helping hand this season, and throughout the year.
- Make a meal—or even just muffins—for another family. We all have someone in our lives who could use a little extra TLC. Let them know they’re on your mind by baking a spontaneous treat.
- Shop local. When you’re checking things off your list, keep your money in your community by shopping at an independent, locally owned store.
- Host a card party and help a hero. Have some friends over and get crafty, making holiday cards to spread cheer to servicemen and veterans. Learn more about Holiday Mail for Heroes here.
- Shop with a heart. Look for buy-one-get-one-free deals when shopping for holiday gifts, and donate the bonus gift to charity.
- Try something new. Always wanted to check out that Ethiopian/Indian/Chinese/Fondue restaurant? Curious about a new park or shop? Excited to sign up for one of those girl’s-night-out painting classes? Make a list of all of the places you’ve wondered about and start checking them off.
- Phone a friend. We’re all so preoccupied with texting and email these days, it’s easy to forget how touching it is to have a real, live conversation. Call someone you’ve been thinking about and catch up.
- Put your skills to use. Do you have a knack for knitting? Are you keen on quilting? Think about your talents and put them to use by donating the fruit of your labor to a local charity. Or offer to teach a friend or family member how to do the craft you love.
- Unplug and enjoy family time for a full day. That’s right, we said it. No TVs, no iPads, no phones. Just you and the kids for a whole day. What will you do? Whatever you want, as long as it’s centered around humans, not technology!
- Visit a museum. When’s the last time you visited your town’s art/history/children’s/science museum? Holiday break is a great time for an educational outing.
- Learn a new skill. It can be anything. Maybe you always wanted to ice skate or ski. Perhaps it’s time to teach the kids to cook or make their own lunches. Maybe that old harmonica needs dusting off. Use this time to master a task together.
- Host a movie marathon. No holiday season is complete without viewings of “A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” “Miracle on 34th Street” and the list goes on. Pop a tub of popcorn and settle in for a night of holiday cheer.
We will close at 5:00pm on Friday, October 31, 2014 so that our staff can enjoy Halloween activities with their families. Happy Halloween!!
If you’re old enough to remember the “Brady Bunch,” then you probably remember the episode when Marcia made it a point to brush her hair 100 times before bed. Well guess what? Marcia was in overdrive with her beauty routine. The idea that brushing, brushing, brushing your hair will make it softer and more manageable is a myth! Our Pigtails & Crewcuts stylists share their favorite myths (and truths) when it comes to hair.
Myth: Lather, rinse, repeat will make your hair shiny and more healthy.
Truth: One wash at a time is plenty. The “repeat” directive is a hair fallacy perpetuated by, you guessed it, shampoo makers.
Myth: The more you cut your hair, the faster it will grow.
Truth: You hair will grow at the same rate, no matter how many times you trim it.
Myth: Going outside (or going to sleep) with wet hair will make you sick.
Truth: Whether your hair is wet or dry has nothing to do with whether or not you’ll catch a cold.
Myth: You should switch shampoos every couple of months to keep your hair healthy.
Truth: Your hair doesn’t develop a tolerance to shampoo. Find one you like and stick with it, or switch it up if you like. It’s up to you—not your hair.
Myth: Pulling a gray hair will make more grow in its place.
Truth: Gray hair will grow at the same rate, whether you’re pluck-happy or not.
Myth: You can repair split ends with styling products.
Truth: The real solution to split ends is regular hair trims. Once those ends crack, there’s no going back.
Myth: Cold water brings out the shine in your hair.
Truth: Cold water won’t make much of a difference on your hair. If you’re looking for added shine, you’ll find it in conditioners and styling products. Talk to your Pigtails & Crewcuts stylist about which ones are best for you.
Going from the relaxed setting of summer to the rule-filled classroom can be challenging for a lot of kids. One day, you’re staying up late and sleeping in, the next, it’s up at the crack of dawn and rushing out the door. Whether your kid is going to school for the first time, or is an elementary veteran, these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics can help ease the transition from from summer to scholar.
Make the first day easier.
- Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. Teachers know that students are anxious and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible.
- Point out the positive aspects of starting school: It will be fun! She’ll see old friends and meet new ones. Refresh her positive memories about previous years, when she may have returned home after the first day with high spirits because she had a good time.
- Find another child in the neighborhood with whom your kid can walk to school or ride on the bus.
- If you feel it is appropriate, drive your child (or walk with her) to school and pick her up on the first day.
Choose a safe backpack.
- Choose a backpack with wide, padded shoulder straps and a padded back.
- Pack light. Organize the backpack to use all of its compartments. Pack heavier items closest to the center of the back. The backpack should never weigh more than 10 to 20 percent of your child’s body weight.
- Always use both shoulder straps. Slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles.
- If your school allows, consider a rolling backpack. This type of backpack may be a good choice for students who must tote a heavy load. Remember that rolling backpacks still must be carried up stairs, and they may be difficult to roll in snow.
Develop good homework and study habits early.
- Create an environment that is conducive to doing homework. Kids need a permanent workspace in their bedroom or another part of the home that is quiet, without distractions, and promotes study.
- Schedule ample time for homework.
- Establish a household rule that the TV stays off during homework time.
- Supervise computer and Internet use.
- Be available to answer questions and offer assistance, but never do a child’s homework for her.
- Some children need help organizing their homework. Checklists, timers, and parental supervision can help overcome homework problems.
For months, the kids have played to their hearts’ content, watched movies, frolicked at the pool and done anything and everything but, well, math (with the possible exception of counting change at the lemonade stand). Now that school is just around the corner, it’s time to exercise that brain again. These apps for reading, math, science and more are a great place to start.
My First Day of School. First day of school jitters? Prepare your kindergartener or preschooler the best way you can: with a story. In this iStoryTime book, “My First Day of School,” Charlie is a little bit nervous about the first day of school, but with a little preparation and a lot of questions, he does a great job. And he can’t wait for day two! (99 cents, for iPhone and iPad, ages 4 and up.)
MeeGenius. For those nights when you just can’t find the energy to read “just one more” bedtime story, MeeGenius can do it for you. This virtual library gives you and your child access to hundreds of audio e-books, and with the read-along feature, your children can highlight words and continue their own quest to read. The site offers a few free books to try the service out, or your can subscribe for a monthly fee. (The MeeGenius app is available through the iTunes and Google Play stores.Recommended for kids up to age 8).
Math Academy. Hopefully, your kids have gotten lots of practice adding and subtracting the spoils from their lemonade stands this summer. If you’re ready to kick that math up a notch, download Math Academy, a math app aimed at elementary school aged children, which rewards kids with a virtual sticker collection. Free in iTumes. (Recommended for ages 4 and up).
Chicktionary. It’s easy to understand why Chicktionary, a spelling game of the chicken variety, was named Top 25 iPad App for Kids by TIME and a Top iPhone and iPad App for Grade-Schoolers by MSNBC, Mashable and Tecca. It’s just so darned cute! In the game, each chicken has a letter on it. Arrange them to make words and earn “eggchievements.” (Available for Apple and Android, $1.99, recommended for ages 4 and up.)
Ansel & Clair with Little Green Island. Does your little ecologist want to save the world? Ansel & Clair with Little Green Island is a great place to start. Kids can create their own island, plant their own trees, clear trash, clean up oil spills, replace pesticides with natural methods and more. This is the best kind of learning a kid or parent could ask for: it’s a blast. (Available for iPad and iPhone, $1.99-$4.99, recommended for ages 6 to 8.)
Having a frizzy day? Apply some avocado. Feeling oily? Sprinkle some cornstarch on your scalp. Spend too much time in the sun? Honey is the cure for dry and sun-damaged locks. While many of us have spent a fortune on hair and skin products over the years, it seems that most of the answers to our beauty questions are actually right at our fingertips—and in our gardens and pantries. Here are some recipes you can try at home.
Mix your own sugar scrub. All it takes is sugar, essential oils and scents that you and your kids love! Visit Wellness Mama for recipes that create pumpkin pie scrub, lemon hand scrub and lemon lavender facial scrub.
Create your own facemask. Facemasks you buy at the store are expensive and often filled with ingredients you can’t even pronounce. We found a variety of masks for all skin types at Stylemom.com, and learned a lot in the process. Did you know that turmeric and yogurt will help brighten your skin? Lemon, honey, milk and cucumber will soothe, and yogurt and oatmeal are great for sunburns. Dark chocolate, which is high in anti-oxidants, is even great for your skin!
Blend your own conditioner. Your refrigerator could actually be storing your next hair treatment. Avocado, mayonnaise, rosemary, coconut milk, soybean oil—they’re all ingredients (although not necessarily together!) in these DIY hair care products. The site EverydayRoots.com even offers recipes for homemade dandruff treatments.
Round up your own remedies. From conditioning dry and damaged hair to drying up that greasy sheen, Woman’s Day pulled together a number of home remedies to address the most common beauty challenges. Read more here.
We’ve all heard that natural ingredients are better for our hair. Items that aren’t natural often include chemicals that are potentially harmful. While Europe and other areas are stringent about banning potentially damaging chemicals in beauty and food products, the U.S. is far more lax in what’s allowed. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the following products, which are found commonly in hair items, could be associated with potential health risks.
Formaldehyde – Found in some shampoos and bleach, formaldehyde can cause allergic reactions and, according to the EPA, has been tied to cancer.
Lead – A common ingredient in hair dye, the EPA states that lead can be harmful. If you’re going to dye your hair, find a product that is non-toxic and chemical-free.
Sodium Hydroxide – Found in perms and relaxers, sodium hydroxide can be damaging to the skin and lungs if overexposure occurs.
Dibutyl Phthalates– Used as a fragrance in hair products, overexposure has been tied to digestive issues in humans, and has posed greater health risks, including cancer, in animals.
Hydantoin DMDM – Found in children’s conditioners and detanglers, this “antimicrobial formaldehyde releasing agent” can be damaging to kids’ developing systems.
DEA/MEA/TEA – These three-letter acronyms put the foam into many shampoos, and can be irritating to the eyes, skin, nose and throat.
To avoid exposure to unnecessary chemicals, we suggest that you always talk to your Pigtails & Crewcuts’ stylist about what products are best for your child’s hair. We’re constantly researching the latest items and are happy to share our expertise.
The snow is melting, the flowers are blooming and the sun is shining. Spring is here! Let’s say it again (it’s been a long winter): Spring is here! Whether you’re looking for ideas to entertain the kids on spring break or just day-to-day crafty fun, these suggestions will help you celebrate the most vibrant of seasons.
1. Plant a garden. Get down and dirty with your kids by planting your own fruits and vegetables. Whether you’re ready to dig up a portion of the yard, or prefer to keep your bounty in containers, gardening teaches kids about food, nutrition, biology, nature and responsibility. Want some easy “starter” experiments? Try tomatoes, strawberries and herbs. For tips, visit the National Gardening Association’s kid-centric site, www.kidsgardening.org.
2. Make your own kite. All it takes to create a kite is a plastic bag, string and tape. This page by National Geographic Kids can show you how. It’s up to you to cover the kite with colors and creativity, and dazzle everyone who watches as you make it soar.
3. Make your own play dough. Those little containers full of mushy modeling material are great, the first time you open them. Then, they have a tendency to mix into ugly colors and dry out, losing all kid appeal. What a waste! Why not make your own instead? It’s easy to do using all natural ingredients you have in your kitchen. You’ll need the following:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
scented oils (your choice, vanilla and peppermint work well)
Put all of the ingredients into a pot and stir over low heat. As you cook, the dough will thicken. When it begins pulling away from the sides of the pan, and resembles the consistency of the dough we all know and love, remove it from the heat and let it cool. If, after it cools, it’s too sticky to play with, simply cook it a bit longer until it has the consistency you want.
4. Build a bird feeder. You know what they say: birds of a feather stick together. And if you’re inviting enough, they just might stick together in your yard. You and your kids can build bird feeders of all levels, from simple to incredibly complex. One of our favorite feeders is actually a wreath made of seeds that you can mold and then hang in a tree. Here’s the recipe if you want to try it at your house.
5. Take a picnic to the park. It sounds so simple, but a picnic with you and your kids’ favorite foods is, truly, the perfect way to spend an afternoon. Especially if there’s a playground, lake, beach or other place to run around and get the wiggles out.
6. Make art out of Peeps. Every year, the Washington Post and other papers sponsor “Peeps diorama” contests, and every year, we get inspired to buy mass quantities of the fluorescent marshmallows…. and proceed to eat them. Still, we love the idea and encourage you to build your own Peeps project. Feeling extra inspired? You can even make your own Peeps! Martha Stewart shows you how, here.
7. Spring cleaning. We could all benefit from emptier closets and cleaner houses. Make it into a game so the kids will get into it. Dress up like maids or butlers, or try a game of “Cinderella” to get them to play along. If all else fails, assign a dollar amount to each task to sweeten the deal. A little bribery never hurt anyone. Then, turn it into a teaching moment and have your kids accompany you to charity to donate the items you no longer need.