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my first advent calendar!

Oh Joy! Advent Calendar

Growing up in a Thai family, Christmas wasn't a thing. But as a Thai-American kid who wanted so bad to be "American", I made my parents get us a Christmas tree and celebrate because I just thought that's what people did! My parents happily obliged, but we never grew up with things like Santa and stockings on a chimney or advent calendars. Regardless, I didn't miss a thing because my parents still made it special in their own way.

Fast-forward to today, I have been slowly defining what the holidays mean to me and my now young family. I don't have Christmas traditions passed down from generations, so this year I tried to work on beginning what our traditions could be going forward. Especially since we can't travel to Philadelphia for the holidays to see our parents like we always do, I wanted to start something new that felt special for my kids with all this extra time at home. So, this was our first year having an advent calendar!

My friends at Gathre so kindly send me this beautiful advent calendar which began my journey into thinking about what I would create for my kids to discover every day. I fielded questions on Instagram stories to see what you all do (or did when you grew up) and got a TON of suggestions. In the end, I decided to focus them on a mix of: family experiences/activities, acts of kindness/service, and small gifts that could be used again. I didn't want to add candy because my kids get plenty of treats, and I didn't want crappy throw-away junk toys (unless I already had them laying around :P).

Here are the things we did this year in case it inspires your future advent calendars...or even simple activities to do with kids at anytime. I've noted ones that were big hits and ones that I would skip next time!

1 - Wave this around and tell us what you're grateful for!
This had ribbon wands for them to dance around with which made a fun start to the month of activities.

2 - Use this to create something you want for Christmas!
This one included a jar of play-doh (which I already had) and was a fun way to get excited for Christmas with an item they have used tons of times but they loved the activity attached to it!

3 - Use these for a solo activity with Mommy and Daddy!
This one was a fail. Not that they didn't enjoy the idea but it wasn't as immediate as the others and anti-climatic. Plus, they usually get solo time with us anyway, so I realized I didn't need them to have a coupon for it!

4 - What would you do if you were home alone?
We watched Home Alone which I haven't seen in years. It was probably too intense for my 6-year-old but my 9-year-old loved it.

5 - Let's drive somewhere to see some sparkly lights!
This one was a drive to an outdoor, drive-through light show. This was fun because it got them out of the house and was a surprise adventure!

6 - Let's see if you can build a house without eating it!
These were a clue for gingerbread house kits which we do every year and they love.

7 - Create a picture with these showing ways to be kind!
This came with a couple sheets of stickers and they had to create a scene using the stickers where the characters or objects needed to show kindness. Then they presented the drawings to us which were VERY sweet.

8 - Use these to write a letter to your sister!
I included a couple new, fun pens here. This was super sweet and made them think about each other. We needed this especially this year with them spending the most time together ever (and bickering the most ever, too!).

9 - Pick a friend you miss to send these to with a letter!
This one included fun patches and they could choose which one(s) to send to a friend. This was about not keeping the gift for themselves but instead choosing someone else to send them to.

10 - Find a spot on the tree for these!
This one included an ornament for each of them to hang on the tree.

11 - Let's make some fancy nails!
We had some fun doing mini manis with nail stickers.

12 - Who wants some hot cocoa like an Elf?
Hot cocoa and movie night! Elf, of course!

13 - Let's wrap some presents for kids who need our help!
Every year, we get matched with a family through Baby2Baby and shop for them for Christmas. It's a mix of clothes, toys, and basic necessities. The kids get to know a little about them and their interests, and then they help wrap their gifts. In past years, we have met the families we were matched with but this year we couldn't obviously, so the gifts were dropped off at Baby2Baby who would then distribute to the kids. I always love this as a way to show our kids how much joy it can give to think of others first.

14 - Tie up your hair and do the craziest dance!
This one included scrunchies which they can use again and again.

15 - Use these to play your favorite Christmas song!
I put in two kazoos which were the closest to a "junk toy" but I already had them so I was okay with it. The kazoos didn't work SO great, but the kids still had fun with it!

16 - Create a mini restaurant!
I had some mini food toys and used them for this activity. It was fun for pretend play, but wasn't anything over-the-top special.

17 - Tell us why you love your name!
This includes a C and R iron-on patch I collected a while ago. It gave them a chance to think about their name and chose a fun place to add the patch to iron-on.

18 - Let's celebrate the beginning of Winter Break!
This includes a small bag of confetti to toss in the air.

19 - Life is sweet! Decorate some cookies!
A clue for a cookie decorating kit!

20 - Let's make some balloon magic!
Our friend gifted the kids (for Christmas) a zoom show with a balloon artist, so I saved it for one of the days later in the month.

21 - Splish splash! Let's take a bath!
Bath bomb! They now take showers so baths are a rare treat.

22 - Pick a treat you want to eat!
This included a couple pins with cotton candy on them to symbolize treats to let them pick something special for the day.

23 - Take photos of things that make you smile!
I included a pack of Instax film so they could take some photos on their instant camera. These will be fun to save as memories of this year as well.

24 - Wear these for movie night!
This last one has reindeer headbands to wear for our last night before Christmas while watching a movie, Jingle Jangle.

I was super proud of myself for coming up with a mix of things that felt both fun and heartfelt. Overall, I saved the bigger activities (cookie decorating, gingerbread houses) for the weekend and left the weekday ones more simple and something we could all do together after dinner. The kids looked forward to it every night and never forgot about it. There were some things I thought my kids would think weren't that exciting because the object wasn't anything new (like Play-doh) but I found that because it was reframed through a very specific activity, it felt fun and new to them! In some cases, we (the parents) also participated—like why we like our name or something we're grateful for.

I hope that was helpful (and interesting!) for you. Next year, I'll start a little earlier and share my new ideas with you before it's time to get them started for December 2021!

delicious holiday delights...

Oh Joy Neapolitan Cookies

If you're looking for some fun treats to make, eat, or gift this holiday season, here are a few of our favorites!

Oh Joy Frozen Hot Chocolate

1. Frozen Hot Chocolate—If you're not expecting a snowy white Christmas, create your own cool and frosty treat and make frozen hot chocolate. It's perfect as a dessert or as a treat all on its own. Here's how we made it...

Oh Joy Snack Mix

2. Holiday Snack Mix—The best part of the holidays is munching on delicious snacks throughout the day, getting cozy with a bowl full of treats watching a movie, and basically finding any snack opportunity! Our mix is sweet and salty, just perfect. Find out how right here...  

Oh Joy Charcuterie Board

3. Three-Dip Charcuterie Board—For those that prefer savory treats, we have you covered! Try some homemade dips on your charcuterie board this year, which can even turn it into my favorite kind of meal ;). Our three dip recipes are right here...

Oh Joy Confetti Cookies

4. Confetti Cookie Bites— Bite-sized, colorful, and delicious! Find out how to make these perfect (and perfectly giftable) cookies right here... 

Oh Joy Spritzer

5. Holiday Spritzer—How gorgeous does this drink look? And it tastes even better! For elevating your table or sidebar, try this non-alcoholic refreshing spritzer this holiday. Here's how...

Oh Joy! Neopolitan Cookies

6. Neapolitan Cookies—We combined regular sugar cookie dough with matcha on one side and strawberry on the other. The cookies are delicious and beautiful and make the perfect festive combo. Find all the steps right here...

May these treats bring you (and your bellies) some happiness this year! Be sure to tag us if you make them so we can see!

(Photos by Lily Glass and Casey Brodley, styling by Ariel Fulmer and Julia Wester, Production Assistance by Jess Hong.)

oh joy gift guide: kid's gifts that will last!

oh joy gift guide: kid's gifts that will last!

Our last holiday gift guide is here! When it comes to gifts for kids, we know kids LOVE the junky, plastic toys that they may only be entertained with once or twice. But, if you're looking for gifts that will last beyond that and serve a more functional, educational, or longer-term purpose, here are some of my faves...

1) The Typeset Co. Letters and Boards (from $25); 2) Hazelvillage Dolls (from $44); 3) Oh Honey Child felt garlands (from $15); 4) Clixo building sets (from $30); 5) Oh Joy x Clover pajamas ($34); 6) Rainbow Mug by THISISTISA ($18); 7) Ahimsa plate set ($64); 8) Tiny Deer Studio Knit Blanket ($120); 9) Chelsea and West play tent; 10) SkyHugsShop tee; 11) Still Novel prints (from $60); and 12) The House That Lars Built Class art classes for kids ($99).

oh joy gift guide: things to do, make, and eat!

oh joy gift guide: things to do, make, and eat!

If one amazing thing has some out of 2020 it's that we all discovered new hobbies or took more time to pick back up on hobbies we neglected before. It's been the year of bread baking, growing plants, gardening, board games, and cooking more than ever. If you or someone you love has discovered a new passion or wants to keep exploring new things, here are all gifts to encourage making and engaging—food, crafts, how-to books, conversation starters, and more...

1) Lady & The Larder DIY Kit ($195), 2) Camp by JW Ice Dye Kit ($60), 3) You Think You Know Me: A Conversational Card Game ($30), 4) Junbi Matcha (from $21), 5) Eggloo at Home Bubble Waffle Kit ($60), 6) Folia Collective Plant Book - Houseplants for All ($18), 7) Boba Cookbook by Milk and T ($20), 8) The Pastry Project Chocolate Cake Kit ($35), 9) Girl and The Goat Cooking Kits (from $89); and 10) Loop Canvas Needlepoint Kit ($88).

a tie-dyed tree skirt!

ACS_1089_tree_skirt

For some reason, I can never find a tree skirt that has ANY personality to it. Or, if they feel somewhat special, they are SO expensive. Our OG Oh Joy! Alum, Julia Wester, recently made this super fly tree skirt by ice dyeing some quilted fabric and I am in LOVE. Julia made an unexpected-to-her pivot this year from freelance prop styling to starting her own business and shop called Camp by Julia Wester. I never liked tie dyed pieces until Julia started her business, and now I'm obsessed because her style is like a modern update on the traditional look of tie dye. You can make your own tree skirt using her new kit OR find some gifts for your loved ones that she's already created for you! Either way, we hope this shows you that your tree skirt can be just as cool as the gifts it will hold!

(Tree skirt by Julia Wester. Photo and styling by Joy Cho)

oh so kind is here!

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

Just in time for the holidays, I'm so excited to announce our third Oh Joy! Story Book is now available. Oh So Kind! is a big-hearted, lift-the-flap book about being a kind friend, neighbor, and family member! Our main character is a lovable Llama in a wheelchair making way throughout the day who brings warmth and demonstrates kindness. 

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

Written by me and illustrated by Angie Stalker, our newest title will keep little ones entertained with messages that resonate with children of all ages. It joins our series of three Oh Joy! Story Books that launched this year.

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

OH SO KIND! by Joy Cho

You can buy all three now or add the third one to your already-started collection. I hope you love these stories and messages as much as I do! You can find Oh So Kind! now at: Amazon, Target or Indiebound. (Did you know you can find Be Curious! and You're Okay! in select Target stores, too?)

(Photos by Lily Glass)

oh joy gift guide: home decor

oh joy gift guide: home decor

We've all spent a lot of time at home this year, so here are a few things to make any space shine brighter for your loved ones...

1) Eliana Bernard dinner plates ($120), 2) My Someday is Now print by OK! by Angie Stalker (from $25), 3) Maison Rainbow print ($65), 4) Lily Glass ceramics tumber ($30), 5) Otherland Candles ($36), 6) Haand mug ($37), 7) Beelight Candle Crafts candles ($4), 8) Ceremonia Beaded Chandelier ($188), 9) Oh Joy! pillow ($53), and 10) The Neighborgoods dish towels ($45 for set of 3).

it's giving tuesday...

Oh Joy Flowers

This year has been very difficult financially for many of our neighbors, community, friends—and maybe even our own families. We've had a year we never imagined, but we've also seen the incredible generosity and kindness of communities and neighbors coming together and helping to meet each others' most basic needs. Donating to non-profits can seem hard when our own finances may not be their best this year, but I have been trying to find creative ways to give and support.

For example, I had an IG closet sale recently where all profits went to The Loveland Foundation...we raised $1500 in one weekend! And, for this upcoming holiday, instead of gifting our colleagues and clients with physical gifts (the way we normally do), instead we're going to use those funds towards giving to one of the below organizations instead. We know that everyone is okay with foregoing getting a gift from us for a great cause instead.

So this Giving Tuesday, if you're in a position to give or donate in any capacity, I wanted to highlight some great organizations that could use your help to keep meeting the needs of our communities in need...

1) Baby2Baby - provides children living in poverty, ages 0-12 years, with diapers, clothing and all the basic necessities that every child deserves.

2) Feeding America - The Feeding America network is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization, working to connect people with food and end hunger. Donors, staff, and volunteers all play an important role in our efforts to end hunger in the United States.

3) No Kid Hungry - No Kid Hungry is working to end child hunger in America today by ensuring that all children get the healthy food they need every day to thrive.

4) Covenant House - Covenant House has helped transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway and trafficked young people. They offer housing and support services to young people in need – currently reaching 74,000 youth every year.

5) Boys and Girls Club - It takes an army of people, a safe environment, high-quality programs and unique experiences to level the playing field for all kids. Boys & Girls Clubs helps to build great futures for America's young people.