Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Advent Calendar: Days 5 - 7; Gingerbread House, Play in the Snow, Cookie Party!

After organizing Christmas advent calendar activities for our family for the past three years, I think I've finally discovered the recipe for success: low expectations. Not to sound bah humbug about it all, but this philosophy has been my unofficial motto for 2014, and it's served me well.

I have a beautiful holiday advent calendar that I adore, but I've learned it makes zero sense to plan and prepare activities assigned by day because LIFE HAPPENS and I'm always left feeling disappointed. This year, I dusted off a list of holiday activities, added in a few new ones and lightly penciled the events into my calendar -- truly expecting things to change. Guess what? They did. Life with little kids demands you be flexible and since I've set the bar low, I find myself enjoying the activities more and not feeling so stressed.

On my holiday bucket list this year:

Visit Minneapolis' Holidazzle Village
Reviews are mixed as to whether Minneapolis' newest holiday festival is worth the hassle, but I'd still love to check it out. Preferably alone with Andi for a date night.

Visit Minneapolis' downtown Macy's Santaland
I've yet to go in the eight years I've lived in Minneapolis, and I've heard it's not too crazy on weekdays. I think Tory would love it.

Go ice skating
I've never been, and I'd love to try it. I think it'd be fun to take Tory, too. 

Drive around and look at Christmas lights
We usually get to this one night during the holidays, but I have no idea if we'll find time again this year.

Will we put a checkmark next to all those things? Who knows. My goal is to complete one holiday activity per day -- big or small. So far, so good.

Andi, Tory, Aden and I were at the lake cabin on Day 5, so I brought along a gingerbread house to decorate. This pre-assembled gingerbread house from Costco is the way to go! Everything you need to decorate is included in the kit, and there's no set-up time or pre-planning involved. It's the perfect project for a preschooler (with a parent's help). I promised Tory we'd decorate it together after her nap, so that afternoon we set up shop at the dining room table. Of course, Aden woke up shortly after we started and demanded my attention, so Andi stepped in and completed the gingerbread house with Tory for the second year in a row. Their gingerbread house looked nothing like the one pictured on the box, but it's perfect because they worked on it together. Tory was delighted.

Day 6, I'd planned for our family to attend a holiday event in Luck, Wisconsin. We took the kids last year (when Aden was a teeny tiny baby!) and it was super low key and something festive to do together. We woke up on this day, checked the forecast and the weather was absolutely gorgeous outdoors. Suddenly, staying at the cabin and playing outdoors seemed like the perfect thing to do. Weather can be so strange; it was bitterly cold last year as Andi and Tory took a sleigh ride through downtown Luck, and this year we played outdoors in 30 degrees and sunshine.

This day was Aden's first time playing in the snow. He loved it, and immediately shoveled (clean!) white snow in his mouth as fast as he could manage -- something that is so characteristic of Aden.

Tory spent most of the day outdoors; no time for napping when the winter weather is this gorgeous! She was Andi's little fishing buddy and hung out in the Ranger ATV while he checked his ice fishing tip-ups on the lake. She even did some fishing of her own with her pink princess fishing pole.

The four of us went for a long Ranger ride around the countryside that afternoon, then came home and put Aden down for a nap. As the sun was setting, Andi started a fire in the backyard and I pulled together the makings for S'mores. This is one of Tory's favorite things to do at the cabin, even though having her near an open fire gives me heart palpitations! The three of us sat around the fire and enjoyed each other's company, with Aden's baby monitor in ear-shot. At one point Tory asked, "So, when are the fireworks?" Ha! The first time she joined us at a backyard bonfire was over Fourth of July this past summer -- with S'mores and fireworks -- and now she associates the two things together.

We had a fabulously fun advent calendar day!

On Day 7, we left the cabin early morning and drove back to the Twin Cities. It was my annual holiday cookie party day! Andi took Tory and Aden to a friend's house and I hosted eight of my favorite ladies at our house for an afternoon of food, conversation and cookie decorating.

This is my sixth year hosting a holiday cookie party, and every year I select a different theme (past parties: 20092010, 2011, 2012, 2013). This year, I baked 100 homemade sugar cookies beforehand and supplied frosting and sprinkles for friends to decorate cookies at the party. In addition, everyone brought two dozen cookies to swap with one another, and we all departed with a boatload of holiday cookies to share with friends and family. One of my favorite parts is seeing what cookies everyone brings. This year, we had traditional peanut butter blossoms, pecan pie cookies, peanut butter balls, rice krispie blossoms, homemade caramels, cardamon cookies, cocoa coconut oatmeal drops, chocolate blossoms with a peppermint Hershey's kiss, and I made white chocolate peppermint Oreos.

I kept the menu simple and served a meat and cheese platter, buffalo chicken dip with celery and hummus, candied almonds and homemade Chex Mix. Several of my friends follow special diets, so I tried to have something for everyone.

I've learned a few things about hosting a holiday party over the years (like a smaller, more intimate group is better, and incorporating kids into the mix makes things truly chaotic). I had several friends thank me for the "mommy's day out," so I think everyone really enjoyed coming over for the afternoon. It takes a lot of planning and effort on my part, but it's a wonderful thing to gather my friends together during the busy holiday season.

More Christmas advent calendar activities to follow!


  1. Im so impressed with your cookie parties every year. It's totally something I'd love to host, but I just can NOT imagine adding another thing to my plate during this time of year. Or doing it as well as you do, ha!
    Also, how have you never been ice skating?!!! Maybe it's time you ask Santa for a pair for you and Andi since you all live on a frozen lake in the winter! It's pretty fun :) Did you grow up roller skating? Sort of similar, but harder (I think).

  2. Yes, going in with low expectations is basically my motto for my entire life :) It does wonders, really! I think I had way too high of expectations pretty much up until Luke was born, and then chilled way out, and life is much calmer and easier now.

    Also can't believe you haven't ever been ice skating! I used to skate a ton when I lived on a lake as a kid, haven't been in about 10 years though. I want to take the kids, but it needs to go back to being real winter! (just between 25 and 35 degrees would be fine though)

  3. I love your cookie party as a mom's day. I bake with Callie all the time and it is fun but there are times I just want to do my own thing while baking. Such a fun day and looks amazing too! I've never been ice skating either - so glad it's not just me haha! I love your list of things you want to do and not having it on a set day. I was thinking next year I might put all the activities in a jar and draw them out but a list and do one thing a day might be easier :) Thanks for sharing the tip about pre-assembled gingerbread houses -- totally the way i'm going next year!