Wednesday, December 9

It's Beginning to Look alot like Christmas....

And that makes me so happy! I love driving around and seeing everyone's houses decorated, and I especially love how excited my kids get if we are ever out at night. The gaudier the displays, the better as far as they're concerned. We're making hot chocolate daily and listening to quite a few Christmas tunes, too.... who cares if it's 70 degrees outside.... we're gonna get in the spirit anyway!

I thought I'd share a few photos of our house decorated..... I'm still planning to add some real greenery along with the fake stuff but somehow I haven't gotten around to it yet. It always looks so much prettier with a few magnolia leaves and holly branches thrown in. The Christmas tree, on the other hand, is quite real and just about to do me in..... 5-6 hours of stringing lights! I'm more ready than ever to cash in those evergreen branches for a beautiful plastic replica! I've always sworn I never would, but I guess you should never say never.

Here's the tree.... I had to move a bunch of furniture to make room for it, but I like it so much better in the den than when we used to have it on the front of the house in Jonathan's office.
Most of the gifts are ready, but of course, that makes the "PLLLLEEEEEEEASE can I open just ONE?????" from Jacob a wee bit annoying..... not to mention the puppy seems to like to eat frilly ribbons and bows.... ALOT.

Here's a shot of the dining room

The den mantle

The kitchen chandelier

The dining room mirror

Another display..... I love my angel

More dining room.....

And the girls opening another days' advent calendar surprise

And our favorite tradition..... decorating the gingerbread houses. This year I went a little crazy and decided to do 2 houses, a train and a village of little houses, too. Yikes! It was 2 FULL days of work, but I love coming into the kitchen and seeing it every day. It reminds me of all the great gingerbread houses my grandmother made when I was little.

Here's Maddie after her shower adding a few touches to her house.

And Ta-dahhhh!
The finished gingerbread village. Macy's designated each one as the school house, the playhouse for all the kids, the library, the church, the dentist's office, grandma's house, etc. I really love Jacob's train..... we've never done that one before, although I felt a little queasy smelling the black licorice train track. Oh, how I loathe licorice.

Here are Maddie's schoolhouse and Macy's playhouse for the kids.... they actually did quite alot of it themselves. But I have to admit.... I just can't give up full control. I wish I could let them do whatever they want but I'm just not there yet.... Mama's too much of a perfectionist I guess.

Here's a shot looking down the road through the little village

Jacob did alot more eating the candy than he did decorating with it.....
But, really.... should I expect anything more from a 4 year old?

And here's a close up of Jacob's gingerbread train..... Isn't it cute? Choo! Choo!

And this is what you find after a day's hard work making Christmas goodies,
yes.... Jacob asleep in Madison's toybox in her closet!
I couldn't find him anywhere and Madison went to help me.
She passed by her room and heard snoring.....
when she followed the sound, this is what she found.
How precious is that??

We're off to the mountains of North Carolina for a 4 day weekend..... can't wait!
I'll send some pictures.

Monday, December 7

An Advent Calendar

When I was a child, Christmas was truly my very favorite time of year. I loved everything about it.... especially how it seemed to make my family come together. My parents divorced when I was 10, but there were many, many years of turmoil between them before they split up (and many years after they split up, too!). Somehow though, the holidays always had a way of bringing them together and encouraging a temporary cease-fire. And therefore, I guess it brings back lots of great memories for me.

My mom was creative, and we had lots of traditions like making gingerbread houses and sewing special ornaments. I loved the music and the anticipation of opening all those gifts under the tree, and I especially loved the story my sister would tell me every year of waking up one night and hearing something on top of the house, and when she looked out, she saw Rudolph's nose shining in the black of night. I sooooooo believed her! I can remember waking up at 5:00am much to my parents' dismay..... back then it was so special to receive any kind of gift, and I could hardly wait to tear open the first package.

Ever since I've had my own children, I've tried to make the holidays a special time of year for them, too. This year I worked really hard in November to come up with lots of fun projects for them. And I created a little project of my own, too..... well, maybe not so little. It's an advent calendar for the kids to count down the days until Christmas. When I was a child, we would visit my mom's aunt every year for Thanksgiving, and there was a Christmas store in her town. I would buy an advent calendar there each year, and it was such a treat to open those little doors to find a new prize each day.

For years now I've wanted to make my own children an advent calendar to pass down and use each Christmas. So this year I got serious about it and came up with an idea to make a large countdown to display in the house. I scoured the stores for neat things I could cover with felt and hide prizes inside. Then I strung them all up on ribbons and attached a number to each of them. It was definitely ALOT more work than I anticipated, but now that I'm almost done, it was well worth the 100 hours or so it took to make. Here's a picture of the final result (well, except for day 21 which I still haven't gotten around to making!). If you click on the photos, you can see the a larger image.
Here it is hanging in the den. The kids wake up each morning and can't wait to find their prizes. Sometimes it's just a piece of candy.... sometimes it's a small prize....
and sometimes it's a piece of candy with a note about an activity we'll do that day.
It's been fun, and of course the kids are loving it.

Here are Maddie and Macy on the first morning about to open their prizes

There are stockings and ornaments, gingerbread men and houses, drums,
books, gifts and more all with prizes hidden inside.

Here are some close-up shots. I loved making all the gingerbread houses.... especially the church. The roof lifts up on one side to open the house up so the kids can find their prizes.

It was a huge project, but you could make it a little easier if you wanted to make one. I've seen small stockings at the Dollar Store or small gift boxes that you could string up, put a number on, and fill with treats. I even saw some cute knitted mitten ornaments that would be great to string up -- the possibilities are endless so have fun making one of your own -- your kids will LOVE IT!
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