Creating our holiday traditions

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I don’t know about you, but every holiday season seems to whiz by in a tornado of full calendar days, overplayed Christmas music, too much sugar, and good intentions.  As my daughter gets older, we are trying to be more intentional about our holiday traditions.  It takes thought and planning to create your family’s unique traditions.  Each partner brings their own experiences and expectations to the table. One key to having a satisfying and meaningful holiday is to share what’s important to you both and decide what to carry on in your own family.

Last year it all went by so fast, and I felt like something was missing. So this year we’re trying to be more intentional and plan a few key things into the month.  A couple of weeks ago, the wife and I sat down and brainstormed up a list of holiday must-dos.  Things that help us feel the gratitude, splendor, and sugar rushes of this time of year.

There’s more on this list than we’ll ever get to in a month.  But it feels so good knowing all these ideas are in one place!  I know I’m probably not going to be facilitating making homemade play-doh after a busy day at work.  It’s okay!  Being realistic and keeping expectations flexible is key.

I thought I’d share some of our family activities in case you’re looking for inspiration:

Go pick out a tree together.  Decorate tree.  Write our letters to Santa.  Make cookies.  Go to zoo lights (or other local festivity).  Go to dinosaur show (or local choir, theatre, or other performance).  Go Xmas shopping with Mommy.  Go Xmas shopping with Mama.  Watch a holiday movie.  Wrap presents.  Make candies for neighbors.  Practice Christmas songs (Silent night, jingle bells).  Make hot cocoa with marshmallows.  Drive around to see Christmas lights.  Make festive play doh (glitter, scented).  Read seasonal books daily.  Shop for and prepare food bank donation together.  Call grandparents and sing a Christmas song. Make gingerbread house.  Put up Christmas decor/lights.  Eat dinner under the Christmas tree.  Go for a walk around the neighborhood to see lights.  Family game night!  Make/decorate ornaments.  Make or decorate our Christmas cards.  Play Christmas bingo.  Do holiday mad libs.  Put out treats for Santa and the reindeer.

Here’s a link to my holiday inspiration board on Pinterest for more ideas!

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So far the calendar has helped us structure our weekends to make sure we’re making time for the things we really want (and need) to do.  The weekdays have been filled in with simple pleasures that can mostly be accomplished any time that day.  Or the next day.  I even left some days blank so we can plan to be spontaneous!  Flexibility is key here, otherwise you may end up feeling like you’re failing and that’s not good!

That’s great, you say.  But how’s it really working out?

We invested in a beautiful handmade advent calendar from this shop.  There’s a pocket for each day with room for a small treat: chocolate, a sticker or toy, and a slip of paper with an activity.  I also made a master calendar of the month’s events, just to keep me feeling on top of things.

To give you an idea of how it’s working so far: it’s working beautifully, even when we forget about it completely.  G never forgets about the treat, and when there’s an activity she’s excited about, she won’t let us forget about it.  It’s good to see what activities float to the top as being important or exciting for each of us.  My idea of a great holiday isn’t the same as my wife’s or daughter’s.  I’m accepting that and letting go of what I thought might be fun but is not really important to me.

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{photos by miss G}

Last year I bought a gingerbread house kit and we never got around to using it.  I tossed it, along with a heavy dose of self-induced guilt, sometime in the summer.  Still regretting that, I had “scheduled” in Decorate a Gingerbread House for Sunday of this past weekend.  Had I not put it down on the calendar, we probably would have skipped it.  We were tired, and lazing around in pajamas sounded like a better use of time.  But once we got started and I saw the excitement and joy in my daughter’s eyes, I remembered why I wanted to do this in the first place.  Encouraging her to decorate the house however she liked (and eat all the candy she wanted) delighted all of us.

I want the whole holiday season to be a time we connect in extra ways.  A time of magic and joy, playfulness and togetherness.  We’re all busy; this season of life and this month will go by so quickly.  Taking some time to feel organized and thoughtful seems to be helping us find more meaningful moments together.

What activities are special to your family this time of year?

These Special Moments

This holiday season we have had the enjoyable opportunity to spend a lot of time with my mom (aka The Granny Nanny).  She is in town for an extended stay, and it has been wonderful seeing she and PB getting to know each other in a whole new way.  Living apart from family often means short visits spread throughout the year; with small children it takes a few days to get familiar with all the relatives again, and just when people are getting into their groove it’s time to leave.  Since we live in a small space and Granny planned on being in town for a few weeks, we collaborated to find her a place to house sit in our neighborhood.  A place with chickens, rabbits, and a fireplace.  I almost wanted to go stay there myself!

Some special moments with Granny and the menagerie:

Happy weekending! I hope you have a safe and fun New Year weekend.

 

Crafty Countdown to Christmas

With just 11 days until Christmas (is that right?!), we are in full holiday mode.  There has been decorating and tree trimming, a couple of shopping excursions, and some crafts made.  Naturally there is a lot more I’d like to create and make before the big day, but I’m taking care to not let my expectations run away from me.  I want to enjoy this time, not try to cram so much into the days that by the time Christmas arrives I am a harried wreck.

A few of the things on my crafty holiday wish list:

I’d like to make and decorate sugar cookies.  There are still a couple of knitted gifts on the needles, and I think of new projects on a near-daily basis.  I saw this tutorial on making vintage paper medallions and can’t get it out of my head.  Then there’s a slew of sweet felt decorations (garland, wreaths, ornaments) I’d like to try.

Then there’s all the domestic stuff that also needs attention.  We’re hosting Christmas this year, so naturally I need to think about meals and making beds and all of the other details having house guests entails.  Something will inevitably slip through the cracks, and I accept this.  But I’m still going to try to get as many fun and tasty projects accomplished as I can in the next 11 days (while remaining peaceful and never breaking a sweat–wink wink).  How about you?

Thankful.

This has been a wonderful year.  Not only has it brought our family the most wonderful, sweet, funny gift of Peaceful Baby, but we have also been blessed with the opportunity to live closer to our extended families.  This means that for the holidays this year, Sweetie and I didn’t have to choose between either of our families.  We get to spend time with everyone for the first time in years!

I am feeling thankful for a lot these days, including all of you!

Here’s hoping you have a wonderful day and weekend!

 

A Jolly Fix

It’s taken a nearly month-long hiatus from knitting at my usual pace to make me realize how much knitting affects my life.  I knew that it was a meaningful, expressive activity for me.  And without it, I feel a distinct lack of creativity in my daily life, not to mention an increase in fidgetyness!  This isn’t a complete negative.  After all, if I’m not knitting, I can spend more time on other creative pursuits like reading an actual book, baking holiday goodies, and finally getting around to hanging some pictures.  And yet…

Somewhere along the way, I got the idea that knitting up a couple of small, quick ornaments could be just the fix.  Not too much time or strain, a wee project could help lift me out of this no-knitting funk I’ve been in.  I also caved and put up our mini tree, decorated only with some twinkle lights and a spray of berry garland.  It looked a little lonely and in need of some crafty baubles!  When I stumbled upon a wreath ornament pattern on Ravelry that contained just 3 rows of knitting on size 15 needles, I knew it was a project my achy hands could handle.

I knit a couple as written, then I doubled the amount of stitches cast on and knit a few more.  Pretty soon I had a nice little stack of wooly rings ready for felting.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felted anything, but I have had past success with felting small objects in my Kitchen Aid mixer.  Remember these?  I simply boiled some water and filled up the mixing bowl about halfway.  Then you turn it on to the lowest setting (you don’t want to splash yourself) and let the mixer do the work.

The little wreaths sat like this for several days until I had the inspiration and time to pull out some decorating action.  The mood hit last night, and me and my glue gun had a great time.  Buttons, mini jingle bells, ribbon…how could you go wrong?!

  • Pattern: Felted Wreath Christmas Ornament by Moppity, free here (Ravelled here)
  • Yarn: Wool scraps from my stash, 2 strands held together
  • Needles: US size 15/ 10 mm
  • Mods:  Some were knit starting with a cast on of 30, then a plain knit round before binding off.

These wreaths were the perfect antidote to my knitting blues.  Like eating a bag of chips or cookies, they were fast, fun and easy to do.  You could probably whip up a few today if you’re in need of a little last-minute holiday cheer. Go on, check your stash…

Happy Holidays!

Holiday on Hold?

I’ve been feeling the holiday spirit coming on bit by bit, slowly but surely this year.  We decided early on to save ourselves the energy (physically and financially) of putting up exterior lights.  Then that restraint worked its way indoors when we decided not to put up a tree.  The reasoning behind that was we would be too tired with new baby activities to take down the tree later.  I’m not a total Scrooge, though.  There’s some greenery and twinkle lights up on the mantle, the holiday music is playing continuously, and Sweetie and I joined forces to make some delicious holiday cookies.

Citrus Sugar Cookies from Everyday Food, December 2009 (minus the citrus)

As the weather turns colder, and Christmas draws near, I am second-guessing the whole not putting up a tree business.  We received a nice package of gifts yesterday from Sweetie’s parents, and there are more on the way from my side of the family.  Just where do you put beautifully wrapped gifts if not under a glowing evergreen?  They just look sort of sad piled on the floor or a table.  Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to snuggle with a new baby in the glow of a nice tree? (can you tell I’m getting anxious to meet the little one?!)

Let me go make some tea, eat one of these gorgeous cookies and think about this some more.