It’s beginning to look a lot like…Christmas?

Well it is inside our home at least! I’ve been checking the weather forecast obsessively regularly, in the hopes that at least a small snowstorm will head our way, but no such luck. It looks like the view out my window will stay…green.

It’s pretty, but it’s not a white Christmas, you know? Those are the start of our Christmas cards hanging in the window. I have another stack I have to put up. I just stretched a ribbon from one side to the other, securing it to the sides of the window frame with pushpins, which are neatly hidden behind the curtains. I will be putting up another ribbon strand along the top of the window, and probably a couple more in the window across the room. Every day when we open our cards, we will just use a clothespin to attach the card to the ribbon. Easy and pretty.

These are the sesame seed cookies (or benne wafers) that we took to our homeschool group’s “holidays around the world get-together”. We were in charge of brining items to represent Kwanzaa. Now I have to admit that I knew nothing about Kwanzaa before this little project- and it is a really wonderful holiday! I am planning on incorporating a few traditions into our celebrations next year. So we brought along the benne wafers, and this Kwanzaa bingo game, along with a printout of Kwanzaa symbols.

In other random news….Grace turned 11 last week! I can’t belive we have an 11 year old. She’s such a great kid- and so very artsy. For her birthday party this past weekend she wanted a Christmas tree cake, so Daddy oblingingly carved one from a 13 x 9 yellow sheet cake. We topped it with green icing (because frosting is too sweet, she says) and mint red and green M & M’s.

We got her a bead ring kit for her birthday which has kept her quite busy. I requested a Christmas ring from her, and she finished it today…

Isn’t it festive?

The Week Ahead

I just cannot believe this is the last week before Christmas! December has flown by. Naturally, my first instinct is to pack this week full with tons of crafts, lots of baking, and a dozen other things….but I know from experience that that will just make for a frazzled mom who can’t wait for Christmas to be over.

Instead, difficult as it may be, I am forcing myself to pick and choose from my list- to decide what is reasonable to accomplish this week while still allowing plenty of time to sit by the fire and read Christmas stories, play a game or two with the kids, and take a walk (or three) in the woods. And maybe, just maybe, a few stolen minutes here and there to just sit and take it all in. Too much rushing is not conducive to getting in the Christmas spirit.

So this week…

We have to make cookies of course. I have committed to making jeweled coconut thumbprints and peanut butter mice cookies.We will also make cut-out sugar cookies Christmas Eve afternoon for ourselves and Santa.

On the solstice,  I plan on making a lemon “sun” coffee cake to celebrate the gradually lengthening days. We will also decorate a tree for the birds on this day, and possibly drive around after sunset to look for Christmas lights.

If there’s time, I’d love to make fudge or some other kind of candy. But only if the mood strikes and there’s time. Fudge can be made after Christmas just as well, I must remind myself.

Of course, we will be playing lots of Christmas carols and wrapping gifts. I have had to relax my standards a ton with the gift wrapping. Now I just let the kids wrap gifts, regardless of their (decidedly severe) lack of skill in this area.  I have decided that a perfectly wrapped gift is just not important to me, as long as it isn’t hanging too much out of the paper. Horrors, I know! But it really simplifies life. I sometimes even write a little note on the tag, specifying which child wrapped the gift. That way, the recipient can’t blame me for the roll-and- a- half of tape my three year old put on it.

 We have to make gingerbread houses. Nothing fancy here, I just picked up a kit at the store. I was lucky enough this year to find a kit with four miniature houses, so everyone can have their own. Gingerbread house decorating has causes many disagreements, to put it mildly, at our house! I am happy to have each child have their own. Or I was, until Grandma showed up today with a single large gingerbread house, bringing our total number to five. Five gingerbread houses to decorate…oh, dear.

We have a few gifts to finish. We are making a memory game for Daddy, and Grace is working on catnip mice for the cat’s Christmas gift.

If there’s time, I have a few crafts I’d like to squeeze in with the kids, but again I am trying to remind myself that simpler is better.

We will watch The Polar Express one night, probably while eating dinner.

And on Christmas Eve we will bake our cut-out sugar cookies, finish up the wrapping, order take-out Chinese, and get the kids to bed early! We have a tradition, after the kids are in bed, of putting on TNT’s A Christmas Story 24 hour marathon while wrapping, setting things up, and drinking eggnog (with just a little peppermint schnapps added).

I am sharing a photo here of our advent candles, including the fourth and final one- which we just lit last night! This is a super easy set-up. Just a shallow wooden tray, four glass votive holders, a few springs of holly leaves bought at Michael’s craft store, and of course, the candles themselves. We did the first three weeks with white candles, the fourth and final week in red.

Poinsettia Cookies

Today’s Advent activity: making poinsettia cookies! For detailed directions go here. I did follow the instructions  pretty much exactly, including buying the sugar cookie dough- a first for me! I much prefer to make cookie dough from scratch and my Yankee frugality was hollering the whole time…but these cookies were so easy. And a breeze to clean up.

First, we mixed the sugar cookie dough with red food coloring (using the mixer made this much easier than combining the food coloring and dough in a resealable bag, as suggested in the recipe). Then we rolled 1- inch balls of the dough in red sugar….

placed the balls on a cookie sheet…

And then used a knife to cut each ball into wedges, being careful not to cut all the way through…

The wedges separate very nicely when baked and they really will look like flowers! Pop the cookies in at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes, until just set and lightly browned. Quickly press a large gumdrop in the center of each….

and there you have them! They just need to set up for a minute or two on the baking sheet before you transfer them to a cooling rack. I think they’re just so darn cute.  And of course the kids are anxious to try them out for our dessert tonight. I’ll be sure to let you know how they came out:)

Snowman Bagels

Continuing in my effort to do something festive with the kids each day this Advent….. today we made snowman bagels for our morning snack. This idea was inspired by a recent issue of Family Fun magazine.

We used plain mini bagels for this project, plus baby carrots, sliced black olives , and diced tomatoes. First we spread each toasted bagel half with cream cheese (for “snow”). Then we added personal touches with care…

Each one ended up a little bit different….

I didn’t take a picture of my bagel snowman, but I did make one! And it tasted great! We are already planning to do this project again next year.