Activities

Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Advent!

We’ve all been doing it.  Pouring over Pinterest hour after hour prepping ourselves for this very month(ish) of holiday wonderment.

We’re all putting our Elves on our Shelves next to glazed donut cheerios.
We’ve all seen three million different ways to decorate cone forms as tabletop christmas trees.
Everybody and their mother’s got the family initial in an evergreen wreath on their front door.

But move over, burlap stocking DIY.  There’s one showstopper we’ve ALL got on our list.  That my friend, is the glorious DIY Advent Calendar!  Remember when those things were just fancy packages for candy and trinkets?  Oh Pinterest!  You laugh at such an antiquated notion!  Now instead of treats, each pocket is supposed to be filled with holiday themed activities.  24 of them for each December day before Christmas.

If you’re like me, at first you lit up at the idea of packing every magical December day with a fresh new memory for the spouse and children you love so dearly!  Hot cocoa and popcorn and Charlie Brown Christmas one night.  Tickets to “The Nutcracker” the next!  Holiday light viewing another night!!  A Christmas tree slumber party the next?!!!

Then reality sets in.  You don’t even know how you’re going to get your Christmas shopping in, let alone make time for the graham cracker snowman craft you’ve had pinned on your “Kiddos” board for the last three months.  Not to mention, like, the boring normal life stuff.  Work, laundry, exercise…  Oddly, the stuff that makes you busy and behind schedule in September is still there in December, no matter how much holiday magic you’d rather cram in instead.

So, call me a realist.  I know I can’t actually do everything I pin.  But at the same time, I now have this amazing Advent Calendar ready to hang, and nothing to put inside it!  (Giving my kids chocolate for breakfast every morning just doesn’t thrill me.  What can I say?)

Today, however, I had an epiphany.  My house isn’t ready to decorate yet.  I forgot to get out my Elf on a Shelf yesterday.  We’ve yet to officially ENTER the holiday season at this house, and frankly, the to-do list, albeit most enjoyable, can be a bit overwhelming when I think about my other responsibilities.  Exactly what all is even on my holiday to-do list?

Hm…  Well, for sure I’ll want to

  1. Put up the tree
  2. Light the tree
  3. Decorate the tree
  4. Take pictures of the kids next to the tree
  5. Hang the stockings
  6. Put out our nativity
  7. Read Elf on a shelf
  8. Make something pretty for my dining table.
  9. Decorate our windows.
  10. Wrap gifts
  11. Buy or make cards
  12. Sign and send cards
  13. Christmas baking

    AND THEN there’s the scheduled Christmas activities through various groups we’re involved in…

  14. Christmas Kids (and Parents) Night Out
  15. Christmas Groove Concert
  16. Pre-K Christmas Program
  17. Church Christmas Pageant
  18. Oh!  And Church Christmas Pageant Dress Rehearsal!
  19. School Christmas Party
  20. Work Christmas Party (Which for us, happens to be kid friendly!  Yay!)
  21. Christmas Eve Church services

    Hm… Well, those are interesting numbers.  At some point, we’d probably also like to

  22. Go for a drive to look at lights.
  23. Watch a Christmas movie with the kids
  24. Read a Christmas story book
  25. Make a craft or present with the kids
  26. Play in the snow
  27. Volunteer or donate to a worthy cause
  28. OR stay in our pajamas all day…

What do you know! There’s nothing on this list that my three year old (or even 1 year old) can’t participate in on some level!  And that’s way more than 24 items… all of which we’re intending to do ANYWAY!  Advent activity countdown, or no!

So, get smart people!  You CAN have it all… okay maybe not it all, but if you approach the classical Pinteresty advent activity thing as an organizational tool, rather than just another way to overextend yourself this holiday, it can actually REMOVE holiday stress from your month rather than compound it!

Sure, it’s a simple notion, just write everything on slips of paper and stick it in your advent countdown device thingy of choice.  Sync it with your calendar, and keep a few simple substitutes on hand in case you need to switch out a big plan for a simpler plan one day  (Heck!  Maybe that’s where the candy comes in!).  But then your Christmas to-do list is organized, broken down day by day, and done in a slow and steady way that involves your kids!  What could be better?

Did I miss anything on my list?  What are some of your absolute HAVE-TOs during the holidays?

 

Categories: Activities, children, Christmas, DIY | 1 Comment

Soak Your Kiddos with a Cool Pool Anemone!!

“Go ahead and take my picture mommy but I’d run if I were you!”

By Bectoria Crandall

As I may have mentioned (see “Hello Dark, Dead of Winter. Meet Winter Wonderland” and “Host a Winterfest!”) I tend to get a little bummed out during the winter months. To counteract the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder my husband and I often whisk the family away for a weekend hotel stay. We find that these mini vacays are the perfect way to give us back our mid-winter spunk. Since we have kids, staying at any hotel for any length of time means lots of swimming!

Swimming means swim toys. And yes. When toys and fun are concerned, I am always going to be the one to give permission to look like you’re on some sort of National Lampoons vacation. I’m talking floaties, swim Barbie’s, boats, diving sticks and the like. I do, however, recommend against squirt guns. That is, unless you want other guests and hotel management all up in there trying to ruin your fun!

During one of our now infamous hotel stays a friend of mine and I made a mental note of a toy made by an obvious genius! While I am not the original inventor I will tell you how to hack the idea for your own little guppies.

The genius invention was a water bomb made out of sponges. Given their shape and that their very function is to be in the water, I prefer to call them Pool Anemones. Here’s how to make them…

What you will need…

One sponge (sans the scrubby pad)

One zip tie

Scissors

Method…

Use scissors to cut the sponge lengthwise into even strips (approx ½ inch wide)

Once all pieces are cut, gather them with the zip tie to secure them in place. (I used a twist tie for the demo pic because I’m too lazy to hunt through our Christmas stuff for zip ties).

Well, that’s it! Now all that is left is to give them to the little ones. Before doing so, I recommend getting them soaking wet and then claiming dibs on the first throw. I further recommend throwing the first water bomb at the kid who complained the most in the car ride to the hotel. Have fun!!

Categories: Activities, Crafts | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Host A Winterfest!!!

No one was safe from the snow war!

By now we’ve all had our fare share of winter weather. Some
have spent the last few months trying to plan a social life whilst accounting
for cooler temperatures. Others have spent what I am sure by now seems to have
been countless days battling icy cold temperatures, unable to make a move
without defrosting automobiles and toes. Wherever our location I think we’re
all due for a little winter fun.  I recommend we take the advice I gave in my post

“Hello Dark Dead of Winter. Meet Winter Wonderland” . Let’s host a Winterfest!

Allow me to ask the question for you… “Okay Bectoria,
what on Earth is a Winterfest and why do I need one?” Winterfest is a
celebration of a season most wouldn’t mind living without. It’s a way to look
the cold, darkness of winter directly in the face and dare it to do its worst.
Intrigued? Here’s what to do.

First, choose a date. Outdoor winter fun is most enjoyed
during the daytime. To get the most out of this special event I recommend choosing
to host your Winterfest on a Saturday or Sunday.

Next, choose a venue. While some might opt to host a Winterfest
at their residence, others might prefer a local park, ice rink or toboggan run.
Once a venue is selected, make sure all administrative details, like
reservations, are made prior to sending out invites.

Now you’re ready for the invites. I recommend including a
short explanation with what to expect and what to bring (including extra socks
and clothing, camping chairs, sleds, shovels, etc.)

No party would be complete without a menu. Let’s just skip
the nostalgia of chestnuts roasting over an open fire and get real about
comfort food. When I think about what comforts people in cooler or even
freezing weather I think cookies, hot donuts, cocoa, cider and coffee. If this
type of menu is what you’re after, there are a number of businesses and coffee
houses that have disposable containers that will easily suit your purpose.  If you’re going for a heartier menu, soups,

Everyone got a kick out of shooting kids down the snow on different sleds

small sausages, meatballs and other such fare can be easily transported in
disposable containers purchased at any party store or in your trusty slow
cooker. (NOTE: Alcoholic beverages are not recommended for this event).

Okay, kids! Time for the fun! Take a moment to plan the flow
of your event. For instance, you could plan to greet your guests with a warm
beverage. After partygoers have had time to visit, you could recommend any
number of activities you have planned for the special event. Some activity
ideas include snowman building or a snowball war (for snowy weather), soccer
(on a smaller-scale field), and finally, sledding. And NO sledding does not
just have to be in snowy weather. Doubt me? Just take two sleds, plop a person
in each one then add another person (one for each sled) with a case of the
sillies to pull each one and watch the hilarity ensue.  (NOTE: If you’re planning a bonfire, open
flames are dangerous and not recommended).

Finally, it’s time to make a list of needed supplies. Many
of the venues suggested above will have tables and seating available. If not,
you can rent or borrow whatever you might need so that your Winterfest can go
off without a hitch. Take special note of any paper supplies you will need to
accompany your menu. Ooh! And don’t forget the camera!

Now that we have a fool-proof plan for an awesome event, go
ahead, strap on your boots and host a Winterfest of your very own.  So what’ya say?

My 5 year old being "in charge" of my 1 year old! (Mother of the year, I know!)

Let’s shake it up a bit and let all the fun fall out!

Categories: Activities, Entertaining, Party Planning, Social Life | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Hello Dark, Dead of Winter. Meet Winter Wonderland!

So here we are. The middle of January. For many living in North America and parts of Europe this time of year can be described as dismally dark and miserable. Unless we are willing to relocate by taking a permanent vacation somewhere exotic, we’re stuck with the icy-grey hand father winter has dealt us. We can endure this time of year as we always have, bumbling and grumbling our way through the wet, the cold and the grey, but why not, instead, celebrate it? I know what you’re thinking. “Whimsygirl’s at it again with her hairbrained delusions! Where to now, Captain Crazypants?!” Allow me, for a moment, or at least for the remainder of this post, to shine a new light on the darkest time of year.

If you’re like me, and you live in the type of  climate described above, you probably already make lifestyle changes during the winter months that you may not even realize. You might change your eating habits or the way you spend your time. The cold weather and lack of light tends to keep most indoors. Being the comfort-seeking creatures that we are, we also tend to eat more hot meals to warm us through. We savor this hearty comfort all the while swearing we’re going to eat more salads. The list of changes we make during the winter months can go on and on. We can go ahead and blame ourselves for everything that’s wrong with this practice, but I recommend that instead we embrace these changes as coping mechanisms.

As a way of coping through the winter months, I make every effort to celebrate all aspects of inclement weather. No, I don’t go driving around hoping icy accidents will happen! I do, however, make it my personal mission (obsession, if you will) to make the types of changes that will bring optimal wintertime comfort to myself as well as all those gracing my doorway. How does a smartypants go about accomplishing such a task? Glad you asked!

For me, adding the whimsy of wintertime is a happy marriage of cozy bed and breakfast meets winter wonderland. I put this philosophy into practice first by decorating my home by making it as warm and inviting as possible. I use scented candles, warm quilts and other decorations to make my home a winter retreat (dare I say lodgey-minus the road kill hanging from the walls!). My kids get into the spirit of making our home a winter wonderland by cutting out snowflakes and making white, paper chains to hang throughout the house. These decorations help fill up the emptiness felt once the Christmas decorations are taken down.

SELF DISCLOSURE ALERT!: It is just in my nature to go overboard with any theme. This is why I do my best to make not every common area cozy but I make each bedroom a warm and cozy retreat as well. I do this by placing bottled water and an extra soft blanket next to every bed. Warm slippers can also be found at the foot of each bed for extra cozy comfort. My little ones like finding extra books to snuggle up to so I am sure to leave a new printed adventure each day on their pillow accompanied by a stuffed animal that somehow fits the theme.

With the main living areas all warm and welcoming and the bedrooms equally as cozy, all that is left for inviting wintertime comfort is the kitchen. To stage my kitchen for this time of year, I delve back into the ski trips I took in my yesteryear. Remembering how welcoming it was to come back to a ski lodge loaded with hot chocolate and munchies, I am always sure to incorporate these favs when stocking my own home.

While I’m always sure to have plenty of hot chocolate and homemade cookies prepped and ready to go, I also have a number of healthy options ready for the taking. I keep the fridge stocked with munchies like veggies and hummus, cheeses, yogurt and fruit combos. I also always have a big bowl full of the easy-to-peel citrus that my kids go for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for the laziness that often accompanies the cold weather cuddlies. Which is why I keep my freezer stocked with a few ready-made meals on hand, in the event we feel too cozy to flex our culinary muscles. We also have popcorn ready to be popped at a moments notice for those inevitable wintery movie nights.

Wintertime meal planning in my home embraces the season while also making attempts at health and wellness. There’s something to be said for tucking in to a meal of a nice hearty soup, cheese and baguette on those nights that are cold and unwelcoming. For other great menu options that include the use of vegetables and less fats and starches, I recommend visiting www.foodnetwork.com or www.thetastespot.com.

How will you show off your smartypants in coping this winter? Chances are, the more saavy you use in this cold, dark weather, the more you will savor it!

 

 

Categories: Activities, children, Family, Food, Home, Home Decor, Uncategorized, Whimsey | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make Soap Art!

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Now, lets just humor me and everybody pretend you don’t see the dirty corners in this picture, but my messiness does not negate the super awesome funness of this project!

Got a bar of Ivory soap lying around your house somewhere? (or even better, a partial bar!) Pop it in the microwave and stand by to see what happens. It will only take a few seconds before things will start to get crazy!!! Just be ready to stop it before it cascades right out of its dish!

Ivory is near and dear to my heart because it’s whipped together with lots of air. This makes it famous for its buoyancy, and makes it kind of just explode when those microscopic pockets of air are heated till they expand!

This project is nothing less than life altering for two reasons:

1. That fluffy soap mass beside your sink will be so much more convenient for hand washing than a bar. Just break off a piece! Remember what it was like the first time you washed your hands with the foaming soap instead of the normal liquid stuff. Yeah. It’s kinda’ like that.

2. All the kids in your house will think you’re a crazy awesome insane mad scientist!

Categories: Activities, children, Home, Home Decor | Leave a comment

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