Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Advent is Upon Us

It's hard to believe it is already December 1st!  I am having a hard time with how quickly this year is passing. 

Every year for Advent, we count down the days to Christmas with our Advent activity bags.  Several years ago, I made 25 fabric bags.  I've always intended to add felt numbers to the front of each bag...but cutting so many numbers out of felt has never felt like something I want to spend hours doing.  Each year, I put a slip of paper in each bag with an activity to do together that day.  You can see the activities we have done in past years here and here.

My goal with the whole experience isn't to make our holidays more busy.  My hope is that by planning one activity, craft, or experience for each day, we will spend more time together on these activities and less time rushing around.  Life has felt much more busy than I would prefer lately, so I tried to keep this in mind when selecting activities for each day. 

And in case anyone is interested, here is this year's list of activities!

1 - Make cinnamon applesause ornaments - We use these to make mobiles to hang in the kids' room.
2 - Make orange, apple, and cranberry garland for the tree
3 - Hot chocolate with Christmas marshmallows in Christmas mugs!
4 - Christmas Parade!
5 - Make gingerbread pancakes for breakfast
6 - St. Nicolas Day - We celebrate by making St. Nicolas cookies, leaving letters for St. Nicolas in our shoes before bed, and reading our St. Nicolas books repeatedly in the days leading up to this day.  We talk a lot about who St. Nicolas really was and what he did for others.
7 - Make candy cane ornaments
8 - Popsicle stick Christmas ornaments like these, these, or these
9 - Make Christmas soaps (annual tradition for us)
10 - Make snowman ornaments from popsicle sticks
11 - Open Christmas watercolor books - These are cheap $1 books I found last year at Michaels.  They are cheesy and cheap, but my kids love them.
12 - Make Christmas cookies
13 - Make a snowman shaped pizza and watch a Christmas movie
14 - Decorate gift bags to use for Christmas gifts
15 - Make peppermint candy ornaments
16 - Make teacher gifts
17 - Drive around and look at Christmas lights - We usually make a box of mac and cheese for the kids and let them eat it out of mugs while we drive all over town looking at lights.
18 - Make gingerbread houses
19 - Visit the live nativity
20 - Make salt dough hand print mittens
21 - Make pinecone and birdseed bird feeders
22 - Make Christmas snack mix and watch a Christmas movie
23 - Zoo Lights - this date may not be one that works and I may have to make something up on the fly - such as hot chocolate or a quick craft. 
24 - Feed the Reindeer and make cookies for Santa
25 - CHRISTMAS!!!!  (I know there should really be only 24 bags, but the kids love having one to look inside on Christmas morning also.)

Every year we have days we miss the activity or things get switched around.  It's not always a set-in-stone plan, but it's fun and not meant to be a cause of stress.  I keep $1 crafts from Michaels and/or holiday treats on hand to fill in on the days when life is more crazed than anticipated.  Because no matter how much you plan, life doesn't always go according to our plans.

I hope this season brings lots of time together for your family also!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Turning Inward

I have a confession.  I love this time of year.  I love setting the clocks back an hour.  I love calling my children inside at dusk for baths and dinner - rather than having to call them inside while the sun is still up.  I love the extra darkness.  The draw towards cozy blankets, candlelight, and comfort foods.  I love the cooler temperatures, the need to draw inward - into our homes, into the comfort of family and friends. 

We spend so much of our time outside in the warmer months.  Around this time of year I start to get the itch for cold weather.  I relish the cooler temperatures and a new found desire to spend time indoors.  Long forgotten toys resurface - all the toys and hobbies I considered parting with suddenly find new life in our home. 

Soup returns to our weekly menu.  Monday is soup day in our house.  After months of salads for dinner on Mondays, soup is a welcome change.  This time of year leaves me longing to be a better gardener next year, so I can feel the shift in our diet that much more.  I long for the days when I will be a proficient enough that our diet in the warmer months will consist of mostly produce we grew ourselves.  I romanticize about shifting from fresh food we grew, to stored/preserved food we grew.

And perhaps one of the coziest ways for me to welcome this season is with a renewed love for baking.  It is this time of year that I get back to bread baking - forgetting it's not that I've given up baking for good, just for a the summer season.  There is something so nostalgic about the smell of the molasses and sprinkle of cinnamon, the yeasty smell while kneading and the rising, and the mouth watering aroma of baking bread.  And yet, as much as I love it, I just can't get excited about it in the summer.

I've been baking bread for four years now.  Every time I make my "tried and true" weekly bread, I reminisce on the hectic season our family was in when I first starting making bread for us.  I was just beginning my first (failed) attempt at graduate school, the kids were both toddlers, and we were in the midst of learning how to make and eat real food.  I remember the dim light of the kitchen in the evening as I finally made my first successful loaves of bread.  I would get so frustrated with how small that kitchen was, but now thanks to the filter of time, I enjoy thinking back on how busy that little space was and all the love that flowed from it.

So, as the days grow shorter and the temperatures grow cooler (soon, hopefully!), I hope you too find excitement in the warm comforts of this time of year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Apple Picking!

Around here, we love to eat our way through the seasons.  Berries, apples, pumpkins - all of it!  Add to that, my preschool class spent several weeks discussing apples and apple trees.  So naturally, when my mom told me there was a new orchard open close to us, we had to go.

We picked a perfect fall day to go!  The warm weather really seems to be hanging around this September, but the day we picked apples the temps dropped and it was invigorating.  I love those cool temperatures this time of year.


Apples are just beautiful to view on the trees.

The orchard we went to is a young one.  I believe the trees are only four or five years old.  They are dwarf trees - perfect for the kids!

Apple picking cutie pie.

Two apple picking cutie pies.

These two ate their way through the orchard.  It was a lot of fun to try all the different types.  I think we ended up with ten or eleven different varieties and 31 pounds of apples!  Trust me, we've been creative with how to consume all those apples before they go bad.  We've had apple crisp, apple muffins, apple sauce, and apples with lunch every single day.  Now that we're almost out, I'm wondering if we can get in another trip before the end of the season!


We live in a beautiful place.

Stunning.  Just stunning.