2017 Advent plans

Here are our 2017 plans for Advent ~ my goal is to have one (sometimes more) seasonal activity to do each day, starting right after Thanksgiving. My aim with all of this is not to check boxes, but to make sure we are noticing and enjoying the season each day. Naturally, we will have days where the chosen activity just doesn’t happen, or has to be rescheduled, and that is okay! Even though it rarely happens just as laid out, I still love going into the season with a plan and any necessary supplies at the ready.

  • November 24th ~ Put together our gratitude chain and hang it up; start making a centerpiece for our dining table to include our Advent candle ~ I’ll share a photo once we have it together!
  • November 25th ~ Get out the Christmas CD’s and start playing them around the house and car
  • November 26th ~ Go see a local production of A Christmas Carol
  • November 27th ~ Set up the Christmas book basket
  • November 28th ~ Plant amaryllis bulbs to bloom around, or shortly after, Christmas time
  • November 29th ~ Watch the Rockefeller tree lighting on NBC tonight
  • November 30th ~ Take down any remaining Thanksgiving decorations
  • December 1st ~ Start chocolate and Lego Advent calendars; start reading Christmas picture books with Rose each day; make jam thumbprint cookies
  • December 2nd & 3rd ~ This is a busy dance weekend, but I hope to get a Christmas tree, put it up, and start decorating the house. We’ll also plan to have cranberry-orange pancakes one morning for breakfast and light our first Advent candle on the 3rd!
  • December 4th ~ Decorate a tree for the sunporch
  • December 5th ~ Set out shoes for St. Nicholas morning; make cherry cookies
  • December 6th ~ Happy St. Nicholas Day! We started celebrating this day years ago when doing a “Christmas Around the World” unit study and it stuck with us. The kids will find a few treats and surprises tucked inside their sneakers this morning.
  • December 10th ~ Light the second Advent candle; have eggnog pancakes for dinner (because it’s a horse show day and there won’t be time at breakfast!); hopefully make gingerbread houses
  • December 11thOrder calendars for the new year; the kids each pick one, but when they come I put them away until New Year’s Day)
  • December 12thDo the Christmas cards & mail them out
  • December 13th ~ A day off from Christmas preparations to celebrate Grace’s 17th birthday!
  • December 14thPeppermint Day! We plan to make peppermint cookies, peppermint bark, homemade marshmallows, and hot chocolate. Then, we’ll spend the afternoon watching a Christmas movie if we can and go see a local lights display
  • December 15thMake eggcup topiaries – a little piece of floral foam in the bottom of an eggcup can hold little holly and pine springs, or any other found greenery
  • December 16thBake fruitcake (I love the fruitcake kit from King Arthur Flour)
  • December 17th ~ Light the third Advent candle; have gingerbread pancakes for dinner (another horse show morning!)
  • December 18th ~ Go gift shopping for the pets
  • December 19thField Trip Zoom’s Christmas Traditions program; leave a gift out for our mail carrier
  • December 21st ~ Happy winter solstice! Make birdseed ornaments and drive around to look at Christmas lights
  • December 22ndMake pomanders with whole cloves and oranges
  • December 23rd ~ Set aside the day to watch Christmas movies and wrap gifts; catch up on any activities we didn’t get to
  • December 24thChristmas Eve ~ Prep a nice breakfast for tomorrow; bake & decorate sugar cookies; order Chinese food for dinner; kids get new pjs before bed:); light the 4th Advent candle
  • December 25th ~ Merry Christmas!
  • December 26th ~ Boxing Day ~ We hide a small gift box in the house for each kiddo to find. Inside: a big chocolate marshmallow, a package of special hot chocolate mix, and a small surprise
  • December 27th-30th ~ Spend time planning some fun food and activities for New Year’s Eve, and generally just try to relax as much as possible 
  • December 31st ~ New Year’s Eve ~ We’ll do a big appetizer spread and watch a movie or two, decorate “champagne” glasses, make a banner to welcome the new year, and countdown to midnight by popping one balloon each hour. This year, Rose is dancing in a local New Year’s event, so we’ll squeeze in our usual traditions around that
  • January 1st ~ Happy New Year! Everyone gets their new calendar today to hang in their bedroom (I like to wrap them up & put them at their place at breakfast) and we always eat red beans and rice, collard greens, and black-eyed peas (all supposed to bring good luck for the new year).
We’ll be trying to keep to a regular homeschool schedule until the week of December 18th ~ with our Christmas activity always taking priority each day. Then, from the 18th through New Year’s we’ll be on break. I hope to pop in often during Advent to share photos and thoughts about all of our doings. 

October Memory Making

Some fun things to notice and do this month…I’m a bit late with this, so we’ve already done some of the things, but we have a lot more to look forward to. October and November are my favorite months of the year!

Special Dates to Celebrate

*October 5th ~ The Full Harvest Moon*
There is just something so special about that October full moon, and I always make a point of noticing it and trying to point it out to the kids. 
*October 31st ~ Halloween*

Our Halloween traditions are changing a bit as the kids get older, but we still have one trick-or-treater this year, which I am grateful for! The older three enjoy handing out candy and I gift them with a little treat basket of their own when we are done making the rounds. I like to plan a fun activity or two for this day and keep it light school-wise. This year, we plan to make monster slime and spooky lava lamps. I like to have something Halloween-themed for dinner on the big night ~ this year I am thinking about spider pizza. On the Sunday after Halloween, we make monster pancakes (pancakes decorated with candy faces) to use up some of that candy.

Things to Notice & Do This Month
  • Dry cornstalks in fields along the roads ~ with so many crows 
  • Pumpkins everywhere 
  • Chrysanthemums for the front porch, to go with the pumpkins
  • Stock up on cranberries when they appear at the grocery store
  • Watch for the first birds to return ~ although we can’t hang the feeders till well into next month due to bears!
  • Watch for woolly bear caterpillars
  • Enjoy the foliage
  • Watch for that first frost 
  • Pumpkin everything ~ especially quick bread and muffins
  • Go apple picking and make an apple crisp
  • Make Halloween treats all month long ~ my picks for this month are linked below!
  • Make caramel apples 
  • Switch to flannel sheets on the beds
  • Get the fall clothes out; pack summer outfits away
  • Put up storm windows and doors
  • Rake
  • Get out the Halloween books
  • Start Christmas shopping
  • Purchase & stack firewood
  • Watch Halloween-ish movies, like The Addams Family, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and Hotel Transylvania
  • Carve pumpkins
  • Go trick or treating
  • Make pumpkin croissants ~ we made this recipe last week and they were fabulous! 
Crafts and Treats to Make
A few things I’d love to do with the kids this month
I probably won’t get around to doing all of these things, but we’ll have fun trying… Happy October!

March Memory Making

In keeping with my resolution to be more thoughtful and organized when it comes to celebrating the seasons… here are some plans and random thoughts for March (updated from last year’s post).

Special Dates to Celebrate

March 12th ~ Daylight Savings
Today we get to “spring” our clocks forward an hour….it will still be daylight at dinner time!

*March 14th ~ National Pi Day *

We celebrate Pi Day by eating pie and talking about Pi. Some years we make a pie, other years we pick one up on the way home.
*March 17th ~ St. Patrick’s Day *
We are not Irish, but we like to wear green today anyway. The kids set out a leprechaun trap Grace made years ago and a foolish leprechaun usually drops some gold (chocolate) inside.  We always have bagels for breakfast, with green cream cheese (one of the few times I use food coloring!). We try to eat something vaguely Irish for dinner, along with Irish soda bread and shamrock shakes for dessert. Sometimes on the weekend closest, Dad makes corned beef and cabbage for the kids who like it. 

*March 20th ~ First Day of Spring *

We don’t do anything special this day, but I like to notice it.
*March 12th ~ The Full Sap Moon *
It’s always nice to notice when the moon is full!
 James turns 12 this month, so we’ll be celebrating that. We also celebrate our older dog’s birthday this month. The kids like to make him a dog food “cake” and buy him a new toy for his big day. 

Things to Notice & Do This Month
  • Drink Irish coffee
  • Continue making maple syrup – a good month for pancake breakfasts, too!
  • Easter planning – outfits, crafts, shop for basket treats
  • Watch for the first robins in the yard
  • Buy pansies 
  • Organize spring toys ~ bubbles, jump ropes, bikes, etc.
  • Start planning for next year’s homeschooling
  • Take a trip to a local flower show
  • Watch for the first crocus in the garden – so nice to see that little green sprout!
  • Organize summer activities and calendar – camps, classes, practices
  • Notice the wind
  • Watch for the forsythia to turn yellow
  • Look for skunk cabbage by the brook
  • Begin yard work once mud season is over

Happy (soon to be) March!

February Memory Making

In keeping with my resolution to be more thoughtful and organized when it comes to celebrating the seasons… here are some plans and random thoughts for February – a month that can be a bit hard to love, yet has so many fun things to look forward to! This is an update to last year’s post. 

Special Dates to Celebrate

*February 2nd ~ Groundhog’s Day/Candlemas *

At some point we pop over to Punxsatawney Phil’s official website to see if he saw his shadow or not (or we find a video on You Tube). Someone always points out that even if he does see his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter, that that would still be an early spring around these parts! We often have a fun Groundhog’s Day dessert that night, like these little pudding cups (this year we made these).
Historically, according to Mrs. Sharp, Candlemas Day was the day that the household would make an inventory of the household candles and replenish them as necessary. We take this day as an excuse to light a lot of candles at dinner. We light candles most nights for dinner, but on Candlemas we like to go all out and light every single candle we can find in the house. It makes quite an impressive display during dinner. 
*February 5th ~ The Superbowl*

We aren’t big football fans in our house, but we always watch the Superbowl and make an evening of it. Everyone picks a team to root for and we make a lot of fun food – nachos, sliders, 7-layer dip, a veggie tray, and boneless chicken wings. We watch the game while we eat.  For dessert we often do a “football field” cake – just a rectangular chocolate cake with green frosting “grass”. I have the kids print out little clipart team flags to decorate it with. And yes, we do stay up late to watch the whole game, no matter how long it goes on for….always past my bedtime!
*February 12th & 22nd ~ Lincoln’s & Washington’s Birthdays*
I know President’s Day is for celebrating all the presidents together, but we like to do something a little special for Lincoln and Washington on their special days. So we make a Lincoln’s Log (a jelly roll) for Lincoln’s birthday and a cherry pie for George Washington. Or we purchase either or both, again, it all comes down to what else is going on that day. 

*February 17th -20th ~ Great Backyard Birdcount*

The Great Backyard Bird Count is an annual event that we participate in whenever possible. I try to get at least three of the four days of counting in. We count birds in our own backyard, which means we don’t usually see anything too exciting, but it is time well spent to find out who is visiting our yard each year.  
*February 14th ~ Valentine’s Day*

We start our Valentine’s Day celebration the weekend before by making valentines for each other, plus a few to mail to some special people. The ones made for our family go into an old hat box until the big day, along with any cards we may receive in the mail.  On Valentine’s Day we have waffles (frozen or homemade) with strawberries and whipped cream. Everyone gets a small cup of pretty candy at their place that morning, and we all look at our cards. Then, the kids compete to see who can make the highest conversation heart tower.  This is a tradition they invented on their own, and I buy an extra bag of candy each year for them to use.  I try to make something just a bit fancier for dinner, and dessert is always a heart-shaped cake
Things to Notice & Do This Month

  • Hope for snow – we haven’t been able to sled or make snow ice cream yet!
  • The days getting longer…slowly but surely
  • Those wonderful days when the sun starts feeling warm again
  • Songs of the chickadees
  • The Full Snow Moon on February 11th
  • Tap our maple trees towards month’s end
  • Decorate for Valentine’s Day and make a craft or two
  • Put away all lingering Christmas decorations
  • Buy flowers – primroses lined up on a window are so cheery this time of year
  • Buy a box of chocolates to share
  • Make homemade candy
  • Try out some new board games
  • Continue planning for spring and summer fun – daytrips, hikes, camping trips, etc.
  • The National Mythology Exam
 Now I am sure we will not get to everything on this list; we’ll see what we can fit in!

January Memory Making

In keeping with my resolution to be more thoughtful and organized when it comes to celebrating the seasons… here are some plans and random thoughts for January.

Snowy garden
Special Dates to Celebrate

*January 1st ~ New Year’s Day*

It’s the beginning of a new year! We make a french toast casserole the night before to have for breakfast – it’s nice to have something a bit “fancier” yet still easy enough to get together after staying up until midnight! The kids each get a wrapped calendar at their place at breakfast – they pick out their own several weeks earlier, then I order them and hide them away when they come. We hang up our lunar phase calendar, which was under the tree Christmas morning and set up our page-a-day calendar for the year. We also have a traditional dinner with black-eyed pea salsa, red beans and rice, collard greens, and cornbread.  

*January 6th ~ Twelfth Night* 

Even though we are not a religious family, we enjoy celebrating this night as the official end to our Christmas season. This is traditionally the last full day we keep the tree up (this year, the needles are falling everywhere, so I’m not sure it will make it!), and we put three small gifts for each child under the tree that evening. We have everyone plan a performance of some sort – we have had puppet shows, magic tricks, craft demonstrations, poetry recitations, special Lego structures unveiled…whatever everyone feels like contributing for entertainment. We make a Twelfth Night cake (just a simple bundt cake) into which I place a foil-wrapped coin. Whoever gets the coin in their piece is the king or queen of the night (which means we make them wear a paper crown for the rest of the evening;))
*January 12th ~ The Full Wolf Moon*

It’s always nice to notice when the moon is full!
*January 28th ~ Chinese New Year*

We typically make fortune cookies as a family project and make or order Chinese food for dinner, depending on what else is going on that day. This year is the Year of the Rooster, so I found a neat coloring sheet to print out and we may make some easy lanterns, time permitting. 
We also celebrate Christopher’s birthday this month – he’s turning 14!
Things to Notice & To-Do 
  • Snowshoe, sled, and just generally enjoy the snow; maybe try some snow painting
  • Keep the feeders full – there are so many birds this time of year!
  • Make orange marmalade
  • Make snow ice cream after a big snowfall 
  • Make paper snowflakes to decorate the windows
  • Take down all of the Christmas decorations 
  • Jot down notes for next Christmas (things we need to restock, updated Christmas card list, etc.)
  • Purchase supplies for Valentine making for next month
  • Eat lots and lots of citrus – I have a craving for this salad right now
  • Make sure kids send thank you notes (or at least emails) for holiday gifts
  • Purchase new sleds (ours never seem to see more than one or two seasons)

I am sure that, like most months, not all of these things will get done! But I do enjoy having a list to refer to. Have a wonderful weekend and Happy New Year!!

The Day After

I really love the day after Christmas; it is one of my very favorite days of the year. It’s quiet (usually), everyone has new things to play with, and of course, we do our little Boxing Day celebration. This year, we hid trinket boxes with a packet of cocoa, a big marshmallow, and a Lego mini-figure for the kids to find. They had the cocoa and marshmallow for afternoon “tea” and we played a new game we got (Holiday Fluxx), watched a documentary about the Grand Canyon we’ve had sitting around from Netflix, and did some vacation planning for the upcoming year. So, it was just a really nice day. 
 Some pictures from the last few days….some of which will be “repeats” if you follow me on Instagram….

Our new cat, Smokey, home from the shelter for the holidays :: our mantle, with Grace’s snowmen and penguin creations :: making pomanders with oranges and cloves :: gingerbread houses :: a Christmas treat for the chickens ~ we followed these directions, but ours fell apart – the chickens didn’t mind :: sugar cookie decorating :: Christmas Eve Chinese order :: pretty tree :: Christmas morning :: happy dog :: special gifts :: and a box that’s just as much fun.

Hope your week is as wonderful and relaxing as it can possibly be….ours will be a bit busier than usual since we have a couple kids gearing up for competitions who still have practice this week ~ but I am hoping to make the most of the quiet moments we do have. I’ll see you back here soon!

It’s Enough

Just popping in to say that I added a few photos to our Advent plans in the post below. We have been having a lot of fun this month, focusing on doing one or two holiday-related things each day. I try to prioritize these little activities, usually doing them right after we finish morning chores. So far, everyone has wanted to participate, which I consider a win, but I do feel compelled to point out that all is not calm and bright over here as we go about these plans.

 I don’t want anyone reading this to think my kids are happily rushing through their chores so they can sit down and compliment each other on their crafts before peacefully baking cookies in front of a roaring fire. Because that is not what is going on. There is squabbling, there is spilled paint, there are kids who wander off in the middle and leave newspaper stuck all over the table, there are days that get messed up and we can’t seem to get started on anything at all. There have been kids who stomped off in the middle of cookie baking due to some perceived slight, and who fought over which Christmas tree to get. In short, it is never quite the peaceful process I envisioned, no matter what “it” is.
 I say this not to complain (well, maybe a little;)) but just because I know how easy it is to get frustrated and overly busy at this time of year and to feel like whatever you do is not enough. Yet everyone else’s instagram posts seem to be full of full of smiling, cooperative children. And all the while yours are arguing with you about when they last showered and spilling chocolate chips all over the floor. Just know there is more than meets the eye here, like everywhere. Most times we still have a lot of fun, and the thing is, when we look back on everything later, the kids will probably only remember the fun. Do what you can. It’s enough. I repeat this to myself every day. 
And did I mention my oldest just turned 16? She’s studying for her learner’s permit, and we gave her a copy of the car keys for a gift. Yikes.