Very Merry (and Busy)

The days following Christmas have always been some of my very favorite of the year. No more stress about getting ready, nothing much to do, activities on hold, and a husband off work usually means several days of hanging around the house relaxing. But we are a little bit busier this week than in years past, so things haven’t been unfolding quite as I envisioned. The kids’ activities are lighter (but not entirely pausing as in years past), and Grace is participating in her very first horse show this week. We are also trying to buy a new (to us) car, which has meant a lot of phone calls, test drives, visits to dealerships etc….all this to say that this week is not going to be quite as lazy and quiet as I anticipated.
I’m a little disappointed, to be honest, but mostly I am trying to seize quiet moments here and there to do something fun and/or relaxing. We aren’t homeschooling this week, and I am trying to keep chores to a minimum.  I want to bake muffins and get the kids to play Monopoly, or some other really long game. I bought a few new games today to play in the snowstorm tomorrow…or what we are really hoping we’ll be a snowstorm and not just rain. I want to cross-stitch, work on my new blanket, and read some wintry books with Rose. I want to watch some movies and a documentary or two, plan our New Year’s Eve, and figure out how to get Rosetta Stone working again. Nothing too lofty.  We’ll see.
A few pictures from days past….
Grace made these seriously cute snowmen out of socks filled with rice. We have several lined up on the mantel, and I think they’ll stay there all winter.

She made a whole little gang of them to give as gifts.

We tried Pioneer Woman’s christmas cherries one day. They were pretty good (and very pretty), but not my favorite cookie. I don’t think I’m much of a candied cherry person.

 The kids couldn’t wait to put their gifts under the tree, so we had gifts there for about a week before Christmas. Miraculously, the puppy wasn’t interested in them.

A couple of days before Christmas I remembered that I had gotten supplies to make a pompom wreath, so I set to working on it here and there and finished it Christmas Eve. Mine looks way puffier than The Paper Mama’s, but it is seriously soft and it was fun to make. I might leave it up until Valentine’s Day. It looks kind of New Year-ish to me.

We made sugar cookies on Christmas Eve, per tradition. I might halve the recipe next year, because we always end up with so many that people get sick of decorating them (and eating them).

Grace had the idea of making up a drink menu for our Christmas gathering, and she put quite a lot of work into designing one. We had margaritas and grinches for the adults and Shirley Temples for the kids.

The last of our amaryllis are blooming in the window.

And it’s just a few days left till the New Year! I am working on a January memory-making post to follow December’s and will have that up soon.

Enjoy your week!

Crafty Round-Up

We have been making a lot of stuff lately, which is just the way I like to spend December.   And December is marching on! We lit the fourth Advent candle this past Sunday, and as I type this up it’s just two days till Christmas. Definitely in the thick of things.

It’s pretty rare that all four kids are into making the same thing, but I usually have one or two that are interested. The others go off and do their own thing. A few things we’ve been making lately….

We didn’t exactly make amaryllis, but we did plant the bulbs a few weeks ago and they are blooming just in time for Christmas. I love amaryllis flowers at Christmastime; they remind me of my mom, who always gifted me with a bulb around this time of year.

 We make pomanders every year; they last for several weeks and smell wonderful. Nothing could be easier – just stick cloves in an orange. You can make a pattern or just stick them all over.

Cloves can be kind of expensive at the grocery store; we find ours for much less (and in bulk!) at an Indian grocery store.  And if the cloves hurt your fingers (they can be a little sharp), just use a toothpick to make the hole, then slide the clove in. I used floral picks from the craft store to hold the ribbon in place and allow for easy hanging. 

One day the girls and I made marshmallow garlands to decorate the kitchen. These are just marshmallows strung on baker’s twine. We used a blunt-tipped darning needle sprayed with cooking spray to do the stringing.

I  kept seeing cute chalkboard printables everywhere and knew I had to have one.  This one is a Merry & Bright printable, and I just love it. You can find lots more by googling “chalkboard Christmas printables”. I printed mine on white card stock, trimmed it a bit, and put it in an inexpensive frame. At only $4 to make, this is one of my favorite new holiday decorations.

Last Saturday afternoon was dedicated to gingerbread houses. 

Grace and I tried to make ribbon trees like some we had seen on Pinterest. They didn’t come out quite as nice as the photo we saw – as often seems to happen! But I still think they are charming, in a rustic sort of way.

If you have some paper plates on hand, this is an awesome site. The kids made a couple of different paper plate crafts. I absolutely adore this reindeer!

Today we have been making more cookies – Christmas cherries – watching a few last Christmas specials (Frosty & Charlie Brown), stocking up on groceries for the holiday, and just generally getting ready. I am going to take a few days away from the blog, but plan to be back early next week.

Thanks for stopping by, and Merry Christmas!

Peppermint Day

Yesterday was our 3rd annual Peppermint Day. We made peppermint kiss cookies, peppermint bark, and marshmallows.  And because that wasn’t enough sugar for the day, we had hot chocolate so we could try out the marshmallows properly. A candy cane goes really nicely in  hot chocolate, if you haven’t tried it.

 We made up little boxes of the treats to take along on a drive to a nearby lights display. It was a good day, not perfect, as I sometimes feel compelled to point out, since I don’t want anyone to get the impression that things always run smoothly and perfectly here. Do they ever?

So, a little reality check. Some of the kids didn’t want to help with much of anything, except crushing candy canes and unwrapping the kisses. They preferred to be in the living room playing a loud and boisterous made-up game that drowned out the Christmas carols I put on. We forgot to roll the kiss cookies in powdered sugar. Some of the kids fought over who got to crush the candy canes. The kitchen was a disaster area.  Someone had to be told several times to look out the window and stop arguing with their siblings during the drive. Someone else whined a lot on the drive home because it was dark and they were tired. I forgot to add the peppermint extract to the peppermint bark.

But I am getting better (I think) about not expecting things to go perfectly. It’s not easy to let go of expectations, to be okay with things being “messy” in more ways than one, and to still have a good time in spite of it all. I am finding that Christmas is a great time to practice.

Milestones

It’s done! Rose and I are finished with The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading! We worked on this book for over two years….so we are heading out to lunch this week to celebrate. It feels momentous! I took four kids through this book. It wasn’t always easy, but it always worked. She will definitely need practice with her reading, but she has a very solid foundation now. 

And on the same day, she finished Writing with Ease Level 1.  She’ll start level 2 after our break.

Speaking of which, since Grace just had her 15th birthday…which means we are officially on Christmas break! Our last day of school for the calendar year is usually the day before Grace’s birthday. With her birthday falling on a weekend this year, today was our first day of break. All the kids slept in – Rose, because she was tired out from all the visiting over the weekend, and everyone else because we were up late watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ~ Grace’s pick.

 Fifteen!

We did a lot of cooking over the weekend, including three different cakes. Grace is very much into food (we all are, around here).  I tried making slow cooker wassail – I thought it was good, but most of the kids thought it was too “wassail-y”.

I saw this cute idea on Pinterest and thought I’d make it for Grace’s party, but after a few attempts I had to call her in to make my mess look like a tree. I love this idea for a Christmas appetizer – easy and healthy!


Which is good, because we’re eating a lot of candy canes, too.

We lit the third Advent candle on Sunday. It’s flying by. I’m hoping the next couple of weeks will go really slowly.

Two of our amaryllis are blooming, one pink and one red.

And our little Christmas village is still growing.

I realized we are very far behind with our usual Christmas movie viewing, so I told the kids every afternoon we are home I’ll watch one with anyone who wants to. This afternoon we watched The Muppet Christmas Carol, my all-time favorite. 
 This week I am hoping to get our Christmas cards out, have Peppermint Day with the kids (post coming), and make fruitcake. I also have a couple of crafts in mind if we have time. 
I’ll see you back here soon – I need to go eat some leftover cake:). 

Seven Things in December

1. We received a fun package this week.

 

I try to add a book or two to our Christmas picture book collection each year. I am painfully aware that my days of having a picture-book loving child in the house are numbered, so it was especially important for me to add a few this year. I chose the The Carpenter’s Gift and Christmas Trolls. The first is a lovely story about the Rockefeller Christmas tree, which we learned is donated to Habitat for Humanity after Christmas. The second is a fun, classic Jan Brett story – Rose is a big Jan Brett fan. We also received three little stained glass coloring books – Rose loves these little books and requested that I find more.  I ordered them from Barnes and Noble because they seemed to have the best selection – just search for “Christmas stained glass coloring book” on the B&N website. I believe Rainbow Resource also carries them. They are inexpensive and fun. Plus, they look nice in the window.

2. I am slowly cross-stitching again. 

I am such a slow crafter these days, but I tell myself over our break I’ll have a bit more time – maybe. I am planning to work my way through Country Living’s cross-stich patterns one at a time, starting with this apple, which I started this past fall. With any luck, it will be finished by next fall!

3. And slowly knitting during movies.

The blanket I started knitting years ago is big enough to need a tote bag now, and I am on my last skein of yarn. I just need to watch a few more Christmas movies with the kids and it will be done!

4.  Rose did her last lesson in The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.

She still has a few trouble words to review, but we have gone through each lesson! This is a major accomplishment that we are planning to celebrate by going out to lunch next week.

5. We made a little Christmas village.

One morning this week was spent coloring and assembling a little Christmas village – such fun! The pattern came from Taproot Magazine, but they have the downloads at their website. We printed ours on cardstock and everyone colored their own. Rose didn’t want to make one; she was too excited about her stained glass coloring books, but I made one and I kind of want to make another.

So cute!

 6. We made an eggnog cake.

I felt like baking today but wanted something non-fussy. Our eggnog carton suggested replacing the water in a yellow pudding-in- the-mix-cake with eggnog, so we did just that. Now I prefer baking from scratch when possible, but some days it is decidedly not possible, so this was an easy and fun dessert. I tossed some Christmas sprinkles on the eggnog glaze for a little sparkle.

7. We finished the snowmen. 

The last of our bottle cap snowmen are complete and hanging on the tree.

This was such a fun craft and a great one to do with kids of varying ages. Now if we could just get some real snow around here….Rose is hopeful every day, but it has just been too warm!

Well it’s time to get the kids off to bed, so I best be off.

Crafting & Making

The crafting and making days of December are well underway here. Grace remarked the other day that she is getting hardly any school done. I pointed out that it’s December and my standards for schoolwork are extremely low. There is just too much else going on this time of year, and I have finally figured out that I can’t just shove a bunch of Christmas activities on top of everything else we are already doing and have anything resembling a good month. Instead, some things – like school work- have to take a backseat to the holidays. This is our last week to homeschool somewhat normally before our break. I have been starting most homeschool days by reading aloud a few pages of  A Christmas Carol, then setting up a Christmas craft or baking activity to do.

Last week…

We made coconut macaroons one morning.  These were so easy, and very good. I have several requests to make them again. We decided to put maraschino cherries in them because we had them on hand.

Another morning I had the kids help me make Christmas jam. This has become tradition around here. I had kind of lost interest in canning, but it was nice to do it again with people helping.

And another morning we made bottle cap snowmen. Actually, these stretched over a couple of days because they needed several layers of paint, and some of the kids will still be finishing them up this week. I love how they came out!

Last Sunday we lit the first Advent candle and today we lit the second, which I forgot to photograph.

We put up the tree today and the kids found chocolate, candy canes, and lip balm tucked into their sneakers because it’s St. Nicholas Day. And we watched our first two Christmas movies: Elf and Home Alone.

This week’s homeschool plans include continuing with our Christmas plan and finishing The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Reading with Rose, who is very excited as we have promised to take her out to dinner to celebrate. She has worked very hard ~ we have been using OPGTR for over two years ~ so a celebration is definitely in order.  We also have a few crafts planned, some more cookies to bake, and Grace’s birthday to get ready for and celebrate. I’ll hopefully be checking in here this week with a Cranberry Thanksgiving FIAR post, some thoughts on the Life of Fred elementary series, and to share some more of our Christmas doings.

Till next time!

Our 2015 Advent Plan

Plans for each day of the season…always subject to change, interruption, rearranging…and life! I’m a bit later posting this than I wanted to, since we have already begun.

November 29th ~ Today is the first Sunday in Advent! We will have cranberry-orange pancakes for breakfast and start decorating for Christmas indoors and out. At dinner we will light the first Advent candle. Our Advent candle set-up is a simple wooden tray with craft store holly sprigs and four candles. The colors vary each year, but usually the first three candles are white or green and the fourth is red. We light the first candle on the first Sunday of Advent, then relight that candle at each dinnertime that week. The following Sunday the second candle gets lit, and so on until all four are lit.  This is one of my most favorite, simple, peaceful activities during the season.

November 30th ~ Make Christmas Jam and get out all of our holiday books, movies, and music.

December 1st ~ Time to start the Advent calendars! This was one of my favorite Christmas activities as a child, and my kids love it too. Today we will also bake our first batch of Christmas cookies (macaroons) and begin a Christmas read-aloud.

December 2nd ~ Make some cute snowmen and decide on gifts the kids can make for family. We may also watch a Christmas movie in the afternoon.

December 3rd ~  Paint ornaments for the tree (the kids picked out some wooden ones at the craft store).

December 4th ~ Make some more cookies, then go on a special holiday outing.

December 5th ~ Get our Christmas tree at the farm. Bring candy canes for the ride home. Tonight is also the night to put out a pair of shoes for St. Nicholas Day. We have been doing this for a few years, ever since one of the kids picked Germany for a Christmas-around-the-world study.

December 6th ~ St. Nicholas Day! The  kids generally find their shoes filled with candy canes, chocolate coins, a chocolate Santa, lip balm, and a small gift. Today we will have eggnog pancakes for breakfast, decorate the tree, and light the second Advent candle.

December 7th ~ Make jam thumbprint cookies and possibly drive out to see a Christmas lights display in a nearby city.

December 8th ~ Shop for Christmas gifts for the pets.

December 9th ~ Make a fun garland out of red and white baker’s twine and marshmallows. I saw this in a magazine and thought the kids would get a kick out of it.

December 10th ~ Make paper plate crafts (Rose’s request).

December 11th- 13th ~ A bit of a break from Christmas as we prepare for and celebrate Grace’s birthday. On the 13th, we light the 3rd Advent candle.

December 14th ~ Make fudge and order calendars for the new year. I used to pick out a calendar for each child and surprise them with it on New Year’s Day, but now they prefer to pick out their own. I still wrap them, though.

December 15th ~ Do up the Christmas cards and mail them out.

December 16th ~  Peppermint Day! Today we will make peppermint bark, peppermint kiss cookies, homemade marshmallows, and peppermint hot chocolate (hot chocolate with a candy cane stirrer). We will also watch a Christmas movie in the afternoon.

December 17th ~ Make pomanders and work on gifts and wrapping.

December 18th ~ Make fruitcake (we love King Arthur’s fruitcake mix) and ribbon trees.

December 19th ~ Make gingerbread houses and put a small gift out for our mail carrier.

December 20th ~ Make Christmas-shaped pancakes with cookie-cutters. Later, make biscotti and have it with hot chocolate. Dinner tonight will be latkes and we will light the 4th Advent candle.

December 21st ~ Try to finish most of the wrapping today!

December 22nd ~ It’s the winter solstice. Make treats for the birds and hang them outdoors.

December 23rd ~ Make cutout sugar cookies and have a movie afternoon. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights.

December 24th ~ It’s Christmas Eve, which means eggnog French toast for breakfast and Chinese take-out for dinner. I also put out Christmas crackers at dinner and everyone gets new pajamas before bed. We try to prep a festive breakfast for Christmas morning (usually cinnamon rolls). Naturally we also put out cookies and milk and read Twas the Night Before Christmas. And it’s tradition after the kids are in bed to watch A Christmas Story while we wrap.

December 25th ~ Merry Christmas!

December 26th~ Boxing Day…I take Mrs. Sharp’s suggestion to hide a small box of gifts for each child the day after Christmas. It makes that day still feel special. This year I am using inexpensive tins from the craft store and filling them with a packet of fancy cocoa, a Peeps marshmallow tree to float in it, and one very small gift each. Then we hide them and make the kids find them:). Other than that, today is a nice lazy day spent at home.

December 27th – 30th ~ We don’t usually have much planned for these days and they are some of my favorite days of the whole year. We might see a movie or go out to lunch or take walks. The kids sometimes wear their pajamas all day. We will make gingerbread pancakes at some point and plan our New Year’s Eve feast.

December 31st ~ New Year’s Eve! I usually put out craft stuff for everyone to make a silly paper crown and the kids like to decorate fancy glasses to drink sparkling cider from. We have a balloon pop countdown starting at noon….we blow up 12 balloons and the kids take turns popping one each hour. We watch a movie or two, play a lot of games, and watch the ball drop at midnight.

Now as I said, I fully expect this plan to not go according to plan! But having a list like this to refer to makes it much more likely that I will do fun things with the kids. I can also easily look ahead to see what we might need to get at the craft or grocery store. We have been doing our Christmas activities first thing, then using the time that is left for our normal school stuff . No one necessarily feels like doing math after making cookies, and we are certainly not “getting it all done”, but we do what we can. It’s December!

Till next time!