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  • Welcome to our family blog site! This is where we keep all our family and friends updated on all things Tonkin. We will also post, recipes, fun family ideas, recommended links and much more!

2nd Annual Hot Coco Stand to help a family in need


Today, we hosted our second annual Christmas hot cocoa stand with many friends to raise money for a family in need. When the day started, we had a string of seemingly bad luck, or at least the devil not wanting us to succeed with the hot cocoa stand in order to help a family in need. We raced around trying to get all the last minute items as sprinkling rain started coming down on us. Everything eventually came together wonderfully as the sprinkling only came and went after a very short time. We feel so blessed to have an opportunity to do this fundraiser for the second year now. We are so thankful that so many people reposted the flyer on Facebook.  So many givers came because they read the post somewhere on Facebook. Thank you to KSBJ for mentioning the cocoa stand on air.

We continue to be amazed by the number of complete strangers that donate money to help a good cause.

I want to encourage you to find a way to serve with your family throughout the year. We truly feel like it is not Christmas until we do a service project together. But remember, the service project can be simple and small.  As small as helping someone take their grocery cart back, giving a waitress or grocery clerk a small gift, and writing a short note thanking them for their hard work.  Give the gift of patience by letting someone into your lane while driving (especially in holiday traffic) I am sure you can think of many other ideas. Serving together helps create lasting memories and simply exemplifies God’s command for us to love one another.

So now for the big announcement of the grand total…

Thank you to all who came by or encouraged someone else to come by the hot cocoa stand in Eagle Springs. Thank you to all who donated toys, food, money, gift cards, or home essentials to help the family in need. We are so excited to go provide essential items for this family. The cash amount raised was $696.50.  After counting the donations, our 10-yr. old son ran upstairs to his room and quickly came back down. He put a few dollars on the table and said, “I would like to make it an even $700.” So the grand total is now $700.50.

What is even more amazing is that a handful of people have called and still want to help by donating additional items to the family in need. This experience is so awesome and amazing! We LOVE how God uses all of us to bless others in need.

Merry Christmas and may God bless you!

Christine & Jeff Tonkin and family

It’s Official we are taking DigiSmiles Full Time!

DigiSmiles Photography is now our full time family business. Jeff left the corporate world to join me full time. The amount of growth we’ve experienced the last two years has truly amazed us.

After several years of marriage, having kids, Jeff working full-time while attending college, we needed to find a hobby we could do together because we started to become each other’s least favorite person. (okay, not really, but we needed to do something that we both enjoyed to help us reconnect). In 2006, we upgraded our hobby camera and bought a professional camera. And that is where it all started!

We love working with each other on photo shoots. What started as a hobby together, quickly became a growing part time business and has now turned into a full-blown business. Over the past two years, our client referrals and online presence started bringing us more jobs than we could accept as a part-time business. After a couple years of consistently being booked out three months in advance and turning away over forty jobs each year, we really started contemplating if we could take a leap of faith and work for ourselves fulltime. Well, after a year of back and forth pros and cons and many prayers, we have finally decided now is the time.

We are so grateful that God blessed us with this opportunity to pursue our dream. We are excited for the direction God is leading us and are thrilled for the adventures that are upon us…

Thank you to all of our awesome clients who have shared your DigiSmiles adventures with your friends and families and to our unbelievable circle of friends that support us in many different avenues. Your referrals and support have launched our side job into a full-on, frenzied success!

Christmas Family Ideas and traditions

It is so fun having children and developing Christmas traditions. With Zachary now 9 and Alexis 7 we now have lots of traditions in place.

A few of our traditions include. Setting up the tree and getting all our Christmas music out two weeks before Thanksgiving. Alright last year it was the week after Halloween. We were so excited! We know that most people think this is a bit early but we just love the ambiance that the tree and music bring. Each year we purchase a new singing animated toy or music box etc.. The kids never get tired of these. We also have a big countdown calendar that has a pocket for each day. We put a note in each pocket and each morning the kids pull the note and see what festive thing we have planned for that day.

We also really want to focus on teaching our children that Christmas or life in general is not all about them and when they can get.  We so desire them to grow in blessing others and also focus one being thankful. We do this buy trying to bring a focus on serving others. We so far serve others by visiting a assisted living home, serving food at the Angel tree banquet, bring a meal to someone in need. We also have made up lunch bags of food to hand out with hot coco and blankets to the homeless. We have also tried to notice the fantastic service of waitresses, grocery store checkers and any other service worker. When we get amazing service from someone we try and gift them with a small token gift , and a card. We like to do this sometimes without them knowing. We also like to do the same thing on the flip side. When we see a employee that is having a bad day, or bad attitude etc… then we also try to gift them with a card and word of encouragement. We also try and think of things to do for friends, family members, and people who give serve in the church or elsewhere.  If any of you have any other great ideas then please send them to us.

When thinking back to my childhood memories, it isn’t so much the gifts I  remember most about the Christmas season, it’s the experiences.

During Christmas one of our favorite traditions we do is called the “Countdown to  Christmas”. We count down the days by doing daily holiday activities. A few examples are: decorate a tree, make cookies, sing at an assisted living home, ice skating, Christmas crafts, movie night etc… Many of these are activities you already do with your families. We are just creating a little more Christmas excitement.

Below are 40 ideas to make this season fun for your family!
Read and see how they work for us “here” or search the word “Christmas” on my site.

  1. Play Christmas music the whole month of December, or if you are like me, from November 1st on.  Create a CD, Spotify, Pandora station, or iPod playlist with your favorite Christmas songs. Have it ready as background music for all the other fun stuff you’re going to do!
  2. On Thanksgiving afternoon, start a new tradition of making Christmas ornaments. Imagine trimming your tree when your kids are teenagers and looking back at those little ornaments you made so long ago! Pinterest has great ideas!
  3. Make gingerbread houses with friends and family
  4. Have a Christmas movie night with Kettle popcorn. Watch your favorite Christmas movie together. My personal favorites are “ELF” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
  5. Drive around your neighborhood to see houses decorated with lights for Christmas. Our kids pile in the back of our truck. We play Christmas music and drink Hot apple cider.
  6. See a Christmas musical, concert or a live theater production. Two we plan to attend are “The Story” and The First Christmas and
  7. Christmas caroling at a nursing home. (Be sure to call ahead to arrange this.)
  8. Plan a Christmas party and gift exchange.
  9. Game night: invite people over to play games and eat dessert (love gestures, moods, charades and catch phrase!)
  10. Go visit Santa Town WE love this place!
  11. Each day start your morning by writing something you are thankful for and placing the note in a box. On Thanksgiving and on Christmas you can share what everyone wrote.
  12. Go Christmas shopping and go out for donuts and hot coco and coffee.
  13. Visit Moody Gardens to see lights and watch Polar Express on Imax!
  14. Ice Skating   $2.00 coupon –
  15. Make a Christmas castle or igloo with sugar cubes and cookie decorations! This one the kids will love!!! Our example HERE
  16. Go see the lighting of the Christmas Tree in downtown Houston.  The Galleria Mall puts on a great show with Olympic figure skaters and usually a American Idol finalist for entertainment. Ice Spectacular
  17. The Woodlands Christmas celebration
  18. Read a favorite Christmas story to your kids. We always pack our Christmas books away with our Christmas decorations. This way they only see them during Christmas. The local library has many to check out for free.
  19. Have a Christmas countdown calendar that makes each day special! (this one is one of our favorites! Click on the categories Christmas to see how this works.)
  20. Make cookies and gifts for others and drop them off at people’s homes. My Favorite is GORP – Recipe found here
  21. Make a few cute elf yourself videos or
  22. Have your kids pick out a gift for a child or family in need. Help them think of ways they can give of there own time and money.
  23. Bring blankets and hot coco to the homeless.
  24. Message from Santa – my kids don’t think Santa is real but they still have fun with this!
  25. PJ day! Give a new pair of PJ’s to the family and wear them early in the day or all day! Take a PJ photo.
  26. Eat dinner by the tree picnic style! We also like eating our morning cereal by the tree.
  27. If you like having a real Christmas tree, take your family to a tree farm and pick out that “perfect” tree together. this farm is in Spring Texas!
  28. Set aside a specific time each year to decorate the Christmas tree. Enjoy some hot chocolate and yummy treats. Set aside a whole day of uninterrupted time for making this memories. Our kids love unpacking the boxes and reminiscing about each Christmas ornament that is special to them.
  29. Every year buy a special ornament for each person in the family. Something that reflects them that year. Then write a note about why the ornament was purchased for them. Keep all the notes packed in the decoration box.
  30. Make a special ornament each year for each child. Include somewhere on the ornament the child’s name and the year. These ornaments can be passed on to the children when they marry. Here is a Pinterest list of Christmas I love and want to try. *****************
  31. Visit or be apart of a live nativity. HAFB church is doing one this year! December 1, 2012
  32. Have a snowball fight but with all the socks in your house. Roll them up in balls and get on two teams and have at it. It is fun and does not hurt.
  33. Serve hot cider or sparkling apple cider with dinner a few nights a week.
  34. Go visit Santa for a photo at Chick-fil-a
  35. Let your kids decorate their bedrooms with Christmas lights and a mini tree!
  36. Have a special, traditional Christmas breakfast that your family will say, “It’s just not Christmas unless we eat……” For us, this breakfast is cinnamon rolls, a egg dish, and fruit salad.
  37. Play video games with your kids. Kinect or Wii Night!
  38. Give to others – Serve food at the Angel Tree banquet. HAFB church is hosting this on December 8, 2012
  39. Visit Old Town Spring – it is decorated so cute and with all the cute stores it creates a fun Christmas atmosphere for an afternoon.
  40. Wrap gifts WITH YOUR KIDS they love to help!
  41. See the Crazy Christmas show at Second Baptist – fun puppet show for kids of all ages! Free  for for info ~
  42. Have a special restaurant that your family attends for holidays For us it is The Chocolate Bar Great lights in the same area!
  43. Have a “sleepover” around the Christmas tree. Our kids love sleeping next to the christmas lights.
  44. Have a Happy Birthday Jesus party for your kids, friends and neighborhood children.
Please remember to make each day special and to truly remember that JESUS is the reason for this wonderful season. Remember anything can be fun especially when a little effort goes into making it a tradition.

Here are a few photos to give an example of how we run our “Countdown to Christmas.” This is our 8th year doing it this way and boy do our kids love it. They have been waiting for it to start for over a month now.

We start the day after Thanksgiving. Then end on Christmas eve. Each morning at before breakfast the kids go to the “countdown calendar and pull a note from the corresponding day. The note reads what the special day will hold. Sometimes the festivity are big and sometimes it is very small but they are happy for them all. Each year I type up the little notes as seen below. Then I cut fold and place in the countdown calendar. If you do not have a countdown calendar then there are many options you can use. we first started with a special Christmas chest and each morning I would place the note it the chest. You could also wrap individual  jewelry boxes with notes in it, or Hang little envelopes on a garland. Ideas are endless.


Paloma - October 3, 2012 - 9:48 am

This is sooo cool! I love Christmas too! These are great ideas! Thank you for sharing!

[…] has begun and as always we are excited to enjoy every minute of Christmas and will continue our Countdown to Christmas […]

Our Family Photo session 2012

This year we have been so busy with photo sessions that we did not think we would get a chance to take our own photos. We happen to have a session that needed to be postponed so we with a few hours notice decided to take our own photos. I was so thankful we had some outfits that coordinated well. Even if I had to resort to wearing Zachary’s grey shirt. I am actually excited that I can now wear his shirts and shoes. In this situation it totally helped  LOL!

For the last few years we have been so use to using a tripod and  holding our smile for 10 seconds as we countdown the shot and run into place. It was  great having one of our interns Juliann be able to hold the camera for us for a few shots.

The Christmas season has begun and as always we are excited to enjoy every minute of Christmas and will continue our Countdown to Christmas traditions. Click the link to view many ideas! Countdown to Christmas

In a few days I will update this post with our 2012 Christmas letter. 🙂

Hot Coco stand for KSBJ Giving Tree

We wanted to write an update from yesterday’s Hot Coco stand.

We really hoped that we would make $30-$50 to contribute toward helping a single family. Well, we are so excited to report that we are blessed to collect a grand total of $322.89!!!
This is amazing! We are now able to give a special CHRISTmas to more than one family. Thank you to everyone who stopped by. I was almost brought to tears by the
generosity of so many. We were amazed by how many people stopped by because they heard it talked about by the KSBJ DJ’s. Some said they just kept driving around with their kids until they found us!

Thank you everyone! Our kids and us adults had so much fun and can’t wait to make this our new Christmas tradition every year!

Christmas is the time for giving. YOU can give also!

There are still families in need. Please consider helping make someone’s Christmas extra special by giving to any one of them with your family.

It was such a blessing and awesome memory to raise money with our family today. Here is the web link for more information.

Many blessings,

Tonkin Family

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