2016 Advent Plans

Here are our Advent plans for 2016…already in progress! I aim for one seasonal activity a day from the first Sunday in Advent through New Year’s. Naturally, I don’t always meet this goal! This week in particular has thrown me for a loop ~ but we just keep trucking along and I do what I can. I’ve added links to recipes and crafts if I had them, and also a few photos of some of the activities we’ve already done.

November 27th – First Day of Advent – Have cranberry-orange pancakes for breakfast, put up the tree (after a trek out to the tree farm!), & light the first Advent candle 💗

November 28th – Make gingerbread and have it for dessert with whipped cream

November 29th – Make seasonal, light-up mason jars (based on this tutorial) ) – I love how these came out! But, I keep forgetting to turn them on!

November 30th – Paint letters for the mantel – we chose to spell out PEACE; plant amaryllis bulbs

December 1st – Let the cookie making begin! Make jam thumbprint cookies

December 2nd – Make 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 3rd – Decorate a tree for the sunporch

December 4th – Have eggnog pancakes for breakfast, and light the second Advent candle

December 5th – Make Christmas jam (I use the linked recipe, but just freeze instead of processing); leave out shoes for surprises tomorrow morning

December 6th – St. Nicholas Day! The kids get a few surprises  (this year: a chocolate Santa, chocolate coins, peppermint chapstick, candy canes, and scented bookmarks) tucked into their shoes

December 7th – Make donut ornaments

I  love how these came out!

December 8th – Make cherry cookies & go gift shopping for our pets before heading out to see a nearby lights display

At our pet store, pets are allowed – of course, now she knows what she’s getting!

December 9th – Order calendars for the new year (when they come, I put them away until New Year’s Day)

December 10th – Make pistachio fudge ~ I didn’t photograph this, but it was so good!

December 11th – Light the third advent candle

December 12th – Bake peanut butter Rudolph cookies

a bit of a pinterest fail!

December 13th – It’s Grace’s 16th birthday!

December 14th – Do the Christmas cards & mail them out

December 15th – Bake fruitcake (I love the fruitcake kit from King Arthur flour)

December 16th – Make pomanders with whole cloves and oranges

December 17th – Construct gingerbread houses

December 18th – Make Christmas-shaped pancakes using cookie cutters; light the fourth Advent candle

December 19th – Leave a gift out for our mail carrier. Christmas homeschool break begins

December 20th – Peppermint Day! We plan to make peppermint cookies, peppermint fudge, homemade marshmallows, and hot chocolate. Then, we’ll spend the afternoon watching a Christmas movie

December 21st – Winter solstice – we’ll make a treat for our backyard chickens

December 22nd – Bake Mexican wedding cookies & drive around to look at holiday lights

December 23rd – Have gingerbread pancakes for breakfast; try to have all the wrapping done by today!

December 24th – Christmas Eve – prep a nice breakfast for tomorrow, bake & decorate sugar cookies, order Chinese food for dinner

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 and stay home as much as possible (probably not as much as I’d like!)

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

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).

Happy Advent everyone!  And as a side-note, I have finally gotten around to adding an instagram button to my sidebar and have set myself of a goal of capturing and posting an Advent moment there more days than not.

November 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 November

Special Dates to Celebrate

*November 1st ~ Begin gratitude project*

Each November, our family makes a gratitude chain.  You can read more about that here.  I absolutely love this little tradition and how it forces us all to slow down, at least for a minute, to record something we felt grateful for that day. Even if it’s just bedtime! And there are many, many days I am grateful for bedtime. 
*November 6th ~ Daylight Savings Time Ends*
Perhaps not something to exactly celebrate, but something to notice anyway. It will be lighter in the morning than it has been, so hopefully I will be able to coax myself out of bed! On the flipside, it will get dark earlier, which means lots of driving home in the dark. 
*November 8th ~ Election Day*

Given all the excitement over the election this year, the kids have asked to stay up until the results are in…I told them we’ll see how efficient the process is;). I have been looking around for an idea or two to add interest while we wait. One thing I plan to do is to print out a blank map of the country and have everyone take turns coloring the states red and blue as the votes come in. 

*November 13th ~ The Full Beaver Moon*
*November 18th ~ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them*

I do not think we will see this movie the very day it comes out, but we are very excited about it! I just requested a copy of the book from the library, since it is apparently currently out of print.

*November 24th ~ Thanksgiving*

We will be having Thanksgiving at home this year, so it will feel extra special. We even ordered our turkey already. The plan is to cook, watch the Macy’s parade, eat, and play games. I also have a few crafts lined up to hopefully complete in the weeks before.

*November 27th ~ First Sunday in Advent*
We will begin decorating for Christmas, light our first Advent candle, and put together our gratitude chain. I hope to have plans up on the blog in the next few weeks about our Advent plans.
Things to Notice & To-Do this Month
  • Ease into the shorter, darker days ~ it’s definitely time for candles at dinner
  • Take a photo for the Christmas cards and order them. Get Christmas stamps too!
  • Stock up on cranberries. Use them to make cranberry sauce and cranberry bread (my all-time favorite recipe is the one in the back of Cranberry Thanksgiving!)
  • Start having “oatmeal mornings”. Typically, one morning a week we cook a big batch of plain oatmeal, then set out toppings (chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, cinnamon, maple syrup)
  • Put the bird feeders up
  • Stock up on tea
  • Decorate for Thanksgiving (after taking down the Halloween decorations)
  • Plan the Thanksgiving menu, and try to prep as much as possible ahead
  • Make Advent plans
  • Get as much Christmas shopping done as possible!
  • Attend lots of horse shows with the equestrian in the family- ’tis the season
  • Purchase new throw blankets – we never seem to have enough of these
  • Enjoy the last foliage – brassy oaks and bright scarlet Japanese maples
  • Purchase Advent calendars for the kids
  • Check on everyone’s winter gear (coats, shoes, hats, snowpants, boots)
  • Make placecards for Thanksgiving day
  • Plant amaryllis bulbs for Christmas

Happy November!

September 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 September

The puppers, last fall
Special Dates to Celebrate

*September 6th ~ First Day of Homeschool*
I have been hard at work the last few weeks pulling together plans for our new year. I hope to share lots about our homeschooling and how it’s all going in the next few months. 
*September 16th ~ The Full Harvest Moon*

Fall full moons seem especially lovely, so I try to make a point of noticing them.
*September 22nd ~ First Day of Autumn*

We don’t typically make a big deal of this day, but I do like to point it out to the kids and plan a seasonal dinner – a stew or chili, something nice for a cool night. I also try to plan a Sunday outing around this time to pick apples, have a picnic, buy chrysanthemums for the front porch, and maybe try a corn maze. These things get harder to fit in as the kids get older and busier, but I already have a proposed date penciled in on the calendar and I plan to guard it jealously. 
Things to Notice & Do This Month
  • Get back into a routine of school and activities (easier said than done!)
  • Pick apples and make a crisp, pie, and applesauce
  • Sort fall clothes and purchase any necessary new items
  • Begin planning Halloween costumes (some of my kids have already started)
  • Register for the National Mythology Exam
  • Take a fall hike
  • Have an outdoor picnic
  • Do art projects outside when possible – in fact, do as much schoolwork outside as possible!
  • Encourage the kids to choose a fall-theme poem for memory work
  • Pick the last tomatoes from the garden – we did not have a good tomato year, but there are still a few out there
  • Look for whirling maple seeds, fluffy milkweed pods, and acorns
  • Clean the woodstove and light the first fire
  • Put up fall decorations
  • Start lighting a candle at dinner again
  • Buy apple cider and cider donuts
  • Put the swimming pool to bed for the year
  • Plant spring bulbs
Happy September!

August 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 August ~ one of my very favorite months.

Special Dates to Celebrate

*August 5th – 21st ~ 2016 Summer Olympics*

We are especially looking forward to the equestrian, diving, and gymnastics…lots of DVR-ing will be going on as we attempt to keep up with even a small part of it.
*August 11th-12th ~ Perseid Meteor Showers peak*

We have had fun watching this meteor shower the past couple of years – it does involves staying up late or getting up well before dawn, but it is always worth it (though not easy to do at the time!).
*August 18th ~ Full Green Corn Moon*

It’s always nice to notice when the moon is full!

Things to Notice and Do This Month

  • Declutter the kids bedrooms ~ we started this in June, but have not made much progress! I would love to start the new school year with neater bedrooms, so I’m going to try to make it happen.
  • Declutter and organize our school shelves; note supplies needed & stock up
  • Begin any nitty-gritty planning needed for the new homeschool year.  Complete curriculum orders and decide on a rough schedule for our week, including outside activities and time for errands and appointments.
  • Sign up for fall activities 
  • Refresh chore charts
  • Backyard campfires – make s’mores!
  • Go blueberry picking and make a blueberry pie
  • Try to get to the lake as much as possible; maybe even visit the ocean if we can work it in
  • Tomatoes are finally in season!
  • Zucchini is everywhere – make zucchini bread and zucchini chocolate cake
  • Enjoy these last few weeks of summer

Happy August!!

July 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 July a few days late!

Special Dates to Celebrate

*July 4th ~ Independence Day*

This is always a fun day. We do pancakes or waffles with strawberries, blueberries, and vanilla ice cream for breakfast, then head out for a day at the lake with family. We have a cookout and swim, fish, canoe, and/or play yard games. We head back home for a quick dinner, then out again to see the fireworks!
There aren’t a whole lot of special dates in July, which is probably a good thing what with summer camps and summer practices. There are, however, a whole lot of things to notice and do!
Things to Notice and Do This Month

  • Make sure our American flag is in good shape; replace it if needed
  • Enjoy the daylilies that seem to pop up everywhere this time of year
  • Sit on the screened porch during thunderstorms
  • Install air conditioners in the upstairs windows 
  • Pack a bag for summer fun
  • Remember to water the garden during dry spells – we’re having one now!
  • Wait for that first tomato from the garden
  • Finish homeschool plans for the fall
  • Jot down notes about this past homeschool year (transcript-style) for my high-schooler
  • Listen for crickets and cicadas
  • Grill as often as possible – it’s too hot to cook inside!
  • Enjoy raspberries from the garden – it looks to be a bumper crop this year
  • Corn-on-the-cob season begins
  • Get a bunch of fun toppings and have a “make your own sundae” night
  • Try to remember to deadhead the flowers
  • Watch movies with popcorn and lemonade when it’s too hot to be outside
  • Make time for the kids to use the pool whenever possible
  • Catch fireflies in jars (then release them)
  • Make popsicles
  • Make homemade ice cream
  • Eat every dinner on the back porch
  • Try to spend some time just sitting outside and soaking it all in – it’s summer!

Happy July!

June 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 June a few days late!

Special Dates to Celebrate

*June 11th ~ The Belmont Stakes*

We have been keeping up with the big horse races this year, so we’ll be watching this, the final race of the Triple Crown.
*June 14th ~ Flag Day*

We don’t normally “celebrate” this day, but this year I am planning to make a flag cake.
*June 19th ~ Father’s Day*
A day all about Dad; today usually involves some gifts, some grilling, and some outdoor fun. 
*June 20th ~ Summer Solstice*

I am thinking this would be a good day for a nice summery dessert – maybe strawberry shortcake (it’s also the full Strawberry Moon)? 
Or homemade ice cream?
We also celebrate Rose’s birthday this month; she is turning 8!!

Things to Notice and Do This Month

  • Pick strawberries and make shortcake & strawberry freezer jam
  • Take time to admire the flowers this month – especially the peonies and rhododendrons, which both look so nice right now
  • Plant flowers. I don’t go overboard with flower gardens, but I like to plant a new perennial or two and get a hanging basket of geraniums for the porch
  • Enjoy the birdsong that starts so very early in the morning
  • Watch for fireflies on warm nights
  • Keep an eye out for nesting birds in the yard – right now we have a phoebe nest tucked under our swingset
  • Enjoy rhubarb, arugula, and garlic scapes from the garden…plus our farm share begins!
  • Submit year-end reports to school district 
  • Have backyard fires and make s’mores
  • Finish up schoolwork for the year!
  • Go out for ice cream at every opportunity
  • Make a list of things we want to do this summer – and start doing them!
Happy June!

May 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 May.

Special Dates to Celebrate

*Cinco de Mayo ~ May 5th*

We try to eat Mexican on this day and do it “fancier” or simpler depending what day of the week it falls on. This year will be a quick taco bar night because it falls on a busy day.

*The Kentucky Derby ~ May 7th*
Grace and Rose are big horse fans, so we plan to watch the race – yep all two minutes of it, with a side of (non-alcoholic) mint juleps. We will also watch the Preakness Stakes on May 21st. 
* Mother’s Day ~ May 8th*
This is usually my day to pick something fun for everyone to do. This year though, it falls just two days before our big trip, so it’s going to be a simple day at home. 
*The Full Flower Moon ~ May 21st* 

It’s always nice to notice when the moon is full!
*Memorial Day ~ May 30th* 
Traditionally our first full cookout of the year. We may go to the lake to canoe if the weather is nice, also at some point over the holiday weekend we visit the cemetery to plant flowers on loved ones graves.

Things to Notice and Do This Month
  • Keep the hummingbird feeders full
  • Begin to work out a routine for summer learning and activities
  • Plant the garden – I’m keeping it simple this year, but I do want to get a few tomato plants in, and possibly some pumpkins
  • Enjoy the lilacs, which bloom early this month
  • Start mowing the lawn
  • Make a cake and decorate with edible violets
  • Stock a summer bag for the car – with things like sunscreen, bug spray, a picnic blanket, and a few toys
  • Hang up our American flag
  • Put up the screens on the sunporch
  • Buy a state park pass for summer fun
  • Purchase a few flowers to plant in beds – I like to get a few colorful annuals, a hanging basket, and maybe a new perennial or two
Happy May!