“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in." - Rachel Carson

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Advent is by far my favorite part of the Christmas season. From the time I was a little girl, and before I was even born, my dad's family set aside time each Sunday afternoon/evening for advent activities on the four Sundays leading up to Christmas. When I was younger we used to go to my grandparents house for advent and sometimes my aunt's family and my cousins would be there as well, and then as we got older we started having advent at our own house. My parents assigned each member of the family a certain Sunday of Advent. My brother always had the first weekend in December because he was the youngest, then I had the second, then my mom the third and my dad the fourth.

Our advent activities usually began by lighting the appropriate candles on the advent wreath and reading a passage of the Christmas story from the bible, followed by something fun together. If it was your week of advent, you got to plan what that would be. We did everything from making ornaments to putting on Christmas plays to playing homemade board games to flashlight capture the flag in the snow. Advent always included drinking my dad's homemade eggnog, having some tasty dessert, and usually ended with watching a Christmas movie. We often invited my grandparents to join us, and some advents have been spent decorating their hospital or nursing home rooms as they've aged. I remember even making it a priority in college to try to get home for advent as much as possible, because in our family, it doesn't feel like the Christmas season unless advent is involved.

Once I married Aaron and started own family I was very eager to carry on this tradition. Aaron and I have been doing this for years, but this year is the first that Rowan seems old enough to begin to get the concept. On the first Sunday I explained the wreath and which candle will be hers to light, and let her choose the special activity. She picked making Santa ornaments, and she and I baked a coconut butter cake together to have for dessert. Now every morning she wakes up and asks me if it's advent yet, and if she gets to light her candle again. What fun it is to share these traditions! Last Sunday we made paper snowflakes and then for a snack we folded tortillas just like the paper and used kitchen shears to make edible snowflakes. We drizzled melted butter, sugar and cinnamon over them and baked them in the oven.

Making Santa ornaments

Rowan with her finished ornament

Biting into her tortilla snowflake

Hot cocoa with heart shaped marshmallows, for drinking by the fire while reading Christmas books

In addition to Sunday advent activities, we always have an advent calendar, usually of the chocolate variety. I remember receiving chocolate advent calendars from my aunt and uncle as a child and thinking, "Could there honestly be anything better? For a whole month I get to eat a piece of chocolate every day!" This year, however, with the massive sewing kick that I've been on, I was excited to make the girls an activity-oriented advent calendar, something nice that they could have for years to come. When I was a kid, we had this cloth advent calendar with pockets, with a little mouse that you stuffed into the pocket of the appropriate day. My brother and I had an ongoing annual argument about who got evens or odds on the calendar that year, because the person with evens would get to put the mouse in it's pocket on Christmas Eve, the most special day on the calendar. I wanted something like that for our house, and my friend Nitasia came across a cute idea of making 25 mini-stockings and stringing them up. That way you can put a treat or a piece of paper with a fun activity for that day in each one. She graciously shared a bunch of her wool and cashmere scraps and while recovering from my recent hospital stint I spent a lot of sedentary time at my sewing machine making all these little stockings. We're having a lot of fun doing the activities in each one. Some of the highlights so far have included going for a drive to see Christmas lights, making frosty sundaes, singing Christmas karaoke, and going to the Nutcracker. Things on tap in the next couple of weeks that I'm excited for: ice skating at the rink in town, a night hike up Mt. Battie to see the Christmas star lit up on top, going to the Live Nativity, and a Grinch puppet show.

The finished advent calendar

For me, advent is not only about getting ready and counting the days, but it's about setting aside time from our busy schedules to enjoy each others company, to play together, making memories, and of course, drinking your yearly quota of eggnog.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Hello December

I was so happy to flip the calendar to December this past weekend. This is my favorite month- I love that for one month of the year I have a free pass to geek out over cheesy heart-warming songs, drink way more hot cocoa than a person should, and that it's perfectly legitimate for this brief period to suggest that we all hold hands, snuggle and watch Christmas cartoons. Everyone is so much nicer to each other this time of year, and I love that a lot of Christmas activities center around making gifts, crafts, ceremonial activities and traditions-- all things that I love! Basically, I hope to be reincarnated as an elf in my next life. So hang onto your Santa hats folks, and prepare for a mega-injection of Christmas cheer on this blog for the next month!

First I want to post some cute photos of our family on our yearly balsam tip collecting expedition. We go into the woods behind our house and collect a giant bag of balsam branches for wreath making and also cut a little Charlie Brown tree to put outside in front of the kitchen window. Of course, we also bring a thermos of hot cocoa and have a picnic in the woods together. This year, Rowan thought we also needed to bring a compass to be on the safe side. Then we return home to make wreaths and do some exterior illumination. Making the wreaths always takes Aaron and I back to the winter we made wreaths and garland for Piper Mountain Christmas tree farm, and it smells so good!

Also, here's a happy list of things I'm loving right now:
  • Rowan calling Retta "Miss Cutie Megquier"
  • The dangerous nightly ritual Aaron and I have fallen into of drinking Trader Joe's Sipping Chocolate--it isn't really hot chocolate, more like hot melted chocolate in a cup
  • Waking up to Rowan running into our room saying, "I wonder where Jingle is today?!" (our Elf on the Shelf)
  • Buying gifts for an angel tree child and volunteering at the animal shelter
  • Rowan's self-proclaimed Christmas nook in the space behind the tree and next to the couch. I see she's leaving her Hello Kitty slippers in there now. Sometimes I look over and just see two legs sticking out from under the tree as she lays in there looking up at the lights on the tree.
  • And this cute picture: