Home for the Holidays

by Wendy on November 29, 2010

Advent Calendar

We aren’t traveling for Christmas this year.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Big whoop!”

But to me, it is a big whoop. You see, we normally go visit my parents in Iowa for Christmas. And by “normally” I mean I have never woken up on Christmas morning anywhere other than my parents’ house. And because I tend to bring them with me wherever I go, my kids have never had a Christmas anywhere other than their Grandma and Grandpa’s house either. I’m pretty sad to be breaking from tradition this way and I’m really going to miss my family over the holidays, but I’m also looking forward to packing our December with lots of fun activities — some traditional and some brand new.

Activity Advent Calendar

One of the big things I’m planning is an activity advent calendar. I’ve started seeing these pop up on lots of blogs in the last few years and I’ve wanted to do this for awhile, but this is the first year I’ve had my act together in time to do one. This is the list of activities I’ve pulled together so far:

  • Assemble paper Christmas train.
  • Assemble paper Christmas village
  • Bake Christmas cookies and decorate them.
  • Have a family dance party
  • Go out to look at Christmas lights after dark.
  • Decorate the gingerbread house
  • Decorate the front window
  • Have a bubble bath
  • Have breakfast for dinner
  • Have hot chocolate with all the fixings
  • Make a card for a loved one and send it in the mail.
  • Make a small stocking. Drop it off on someone’s door as a surprise.
  • Make decorations for the tree (I’m thinking salt dough ornaments.)
  • Make gift tags.
  • Make gifts for teachers.
  • Make thank you notes before they are needed.
  • Purchase a present for Toys for Tots.
  • Read a Christmas book to your brother.
  • Recycle some toys to share with others.
  • Decorate the Christmas tree.
  • Go outside with blankets to look at the stars
  • Buy a REAL Christmas tree.
  • Donate to the school food drive.
  • Tell a friend at school you think they’re really cool.
  • Watch a Christmas movie before bed.
  • Write a letter to Santa.
  • Write a list of 5 things you are thankful for this year.

Some of these are things we do every year and I also pulled some of the ideas from Kiddley, Kid’s Craft Weekly and Ali Edwards.

If you were to count, you’d see that there are 27 items on this list which is technically too many for the advent. Originally, I had planned to get out a calendar and decide what we were going to do each day in advance, but now I think I’m going to be a little more loosey goosey with this project. It turns out that Augie is obsessed with our advent calendar (pictured above) and he loves to open the doors and put little objects behind them and take them out. I realized that if  I preloaded the entire advent calendar, it would be organized until approximately 7:35 am on December 1. So now, I’m planning to put a new activity behind the proper door every night after the kids are in bed. This will allow me to pull activities from my list according to what the next day’s schedule looks like and I’ll also be able to incorporate new activity ideas — like a trip to the library for story hour — as I learn about them.

Spritz Cookies

Christmas Cookies

I’m also planning to make a whole heck of a lot of cookies this year. Cookies are my very favorite kind of dessert and Christmas cookies are my favorite of all cookies! My mom usually makes all of our family’s traditional favorites so I just wait until I get to her house to eat them instead of making them myself, but that obviously won’t work out this year. My plan is to package most of them up and give cookie boxes to our friends and neighbors, but I’ll save some out for our family too of course. This is what I’m planning to make:

  • Frosted sugar cookies — These are my #1 most favorite cookie!
  • Cream Cheese Spritz Cookies
  • Caramel Graham Cracker Cookies
  • Roly Poly Balls — These are traditional Mexican wedding cookies with chocolate chips added. These are my brother’s favorite and they always make an appearance. It wouldn’t be Christmas without roly poly balls.
  • Mexican hot chocolate cookies
  • Eggnog Snickerdoodles — This recipe is from the current Cook’s Country magazine and they don’t publish their recipes online.
  • Fruit jellies — This recipe is from the current issue of Everyday Food but I can’t find it online either. I’m planning to make some using one of my many jars of home made jam.
  • Thumbprint cookies — Another way to use up home made jam!
  • Pistachio Cranberry Brittle — I’m going to try to recreate the brittle I sampled at one of the BlogHer Food parties. I’ve never make brittle before though. Anyone have a tried and true recipe?

Hmmmm…nine kinds of cookies seems like a lot. We’ll see if I get to them all.

Crafty Stuff

I’ve also got some crafty projects I’m hoping to complete. I still want to make the kids stuffed gingerbread men from some sweaters I felted last year and I have some ideas for some felt ornaments, too. I’ve also already finished a batch of  ornaments (tutorial coming tomorrow!).

Yes, I’m Crazy!

Do I sound completely crazy to you? I kind of feel like I am! This is a lot of stuff, but I think it’s manageable. And if I get too busy, I can just drop some things off my list, right?

So what do you have planned for the holidays?

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  • Pappy

    Don’t stray too far from our snickerdoodle recipe. It’s MY very favorite and I would love to see it’s recipe survive intact. And also don’t forget cherry winks. Your mother also makes oatmeal cookies and chocolate chip cookies, but they are just traditional, not especially Christmas traditional. I also like graham cracker “Heath” cookies and while not a cookie, a reasonable imitation of Heath bars themselves. Maybe I’ll think or more or maybe your mom will.

  • Whitneymoss

    I’m moving in with you. It sounds like so much fun. I think tonight I will figure out an activity advent system. Julian is obsessed with calendars.

    Hanukkah starts on Wednesday and usually my stepmom sends up all the fixings, but nothing has arrived yet. So, I’m not sure how big a success it will be.

  • http://anotherlunch.blogspot.com/ Melibee

    Not crazy at all!
    We love doing fun Advent activities. I am loosey goosey with them. I have the activites all written out on pieces of scrapbook paper, but I don’t schedule them ahead of time. I like having some flex. I would have to have a “big project” like doing gingerbread houses scheduled on a day all my kids are whining, cranky and tired, for example. So knowing my activities but choosing each day which one best fits our schedule and moods works best for us. If we are all tired and worn out then it’s Polar Express and popcorn in our jammies! Feeling rambuctious and full of energy? Then lets head out to hunt for pinecones and make bird feeders with them. Got Cabin Fever? Then load up the van and go sight-see Christmas lights around town. :)

    I can’t wait to make your spritz cookies again! Those were a big hit last year. I’ve already bought the cream cheese. :)

  • http://www.amillionideas.etsy.com Christina

    Sounds like an awesome way to spend December! I love the activities list and will totally be stealing several of them. As the busy month goes on it would be easy to forget what you actually did but with your handy dandy list you can look back and say, “Wow” even if everything is checked off, you’ll have a great reminder of all the fun you had.

  • http://www.stop-drop-roll-rachel.blogspot.com Rachel

    I have the exact same advent house! Last year I just put a tiny chocolate candy in each window/door, but this year they will also have activities inside. :)

  • http://www.wendolonia.com/blog wcopley

    I’ll probably slip a little candy in too some days.

  • http://www.wendolonia.com/blog wcopley

    Don’t worry about the snickerdoodle recipe, Dad! I also love those and I even make them outside of December sometimes. I’m just going to try shaking it up a little this year.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GD2DAA37MMHNCXTM3NQ23YP77U Clark

    I like to have a cookie-decorating party for Sam and Stella – they will each get to invite several friends, and we will decorate for hours. I have had one of these since we got home with Stella, but I have a feeling that she is going to be pretty fired up for it.
    We also have our advent wreath with candles and devotions that we do each night- any excuse to sing and light candles makes for a fun time!

  • Allison

    Maybe you’ve seen these before Wendy but before I forget – you need these (or maybe Wyatt does):

    http://www.amazon.com/Fred-Friends-Ninjabread-Cookie-Cutters/dp/B003YUBQHO/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1291182646&sr=8-1

    xxx ooo

  • http://www.wendolonia.com/blog wcopley

    OMG! Those are so cool!

  • http://hitchhikingtoheaven.blogspot.com Shae

    Crazy in a good way, Wendy. I love your advent house! Eggnog Snickerdoodles! I subscribed to Cook’s Country and then canceled because I also get Cook’s Illustrated and I thought, heck, that’s just too much. Do you get both? Do you like Cook’s Country better?

  • http://www.wendolonia.com/blog wcopley

    I’ve subscribed to both magazines over the years, but I finally settled on Cook’s Country because I tend to make those recipes more often. I love Cook’s Illustrated, but I often find their recipes to be a big pain in the butt to make. The recipes in Cook’s Country feel like they have a little more wiggle room so they fit my cooking style better.

  • Ginny

    The Advent Activity Calendar idea was so awesome that I stole it! My 3-year-old and I (and Daddy at times – it’s a busy time for him) had a great time. I started out with 24 activities written down but we ended up switching things out from time to time and even had a few days when 2 activities were completed. I kept a photo journal of our antics and posted to fb for friends and family … everyone was impressed but I was thrilled to begin a tradition for my little guy that included fun and food along with a few “good deeds” that will hopefully help him understand that it’s not all about the “I wants”.

  • Pingback: Advent Crazy | Wendolonia

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