Merry (belated) Christmas! Yikes, it’s almost the new year. I hope you and yours had a simply joyful holiday, whatever it is you celebrate. Though Christmas is officially over for 2012, you probably still have your tree up. So, while you’ve still got the holidays on the brain, I thought I’d share my very Pinterest-y Christmas with you.
Last year, I put together my very first homemade advent calendar. This year, I wanted to add a twist. I found a puzzle with 20 pieces that depicted a manger scene. I wanted to add a piece to each day’s surprise (well, the first 20 anyway). The puzzle wouldn’t fit in the matchbox calendar, so I had to come up with a different design.
I was totally strapped for time, so I have a confession. Doc Sci actually did most of the work on this advent calendar. I just arranged the envelopes, slapped on the numbers, and strung them up in an old IKEA mirror frame. The man’s got skills beyond brainiac physics, thank God. He’s also got some pretty rad muscles, but luckily we didn’t need those for our Christmas-y arts & crafts.
Along with the puzzle pieces, I slipped in short devotions for each day. These were designed to be quick (and they were), but I found some of the questions to be a smidge over the heads of my three and five year-old boys. I just altered several on the fly and kept my expectations for deep, thoughtful discussion very low. Perhaps next year T-Rex will be ready for more. I plan to keep these inserts around and reuse them.
My favorite part of the advent calendar, however, are the fun things we get to do. I don’t have the time or energy for something amazing every day, but I was able to pull off some memorable activities.
For starters, we decorated our new Christmas tree. Last year, we had a real tree. But, on a clearance hunt after Christmas, I came across a small, pre-lit artificial tree… for 2,50 euro! We hung the cheapie ornaments we bought last season as well as these 3D stars which I made out of photocopied sheet music.
It snowed for the first time this year in late October. That quickly melted, but we received another decent dumping around T-Rex’s birthday in early December. It seemed fitting to decorate the windows with paper snowflakes. I folded the paper and sketched the patterns. T-Rex cut (with Doc Sci’s help), and Screech smoothed out the finished flakes.
I had planned to make these fun Christmas cards that feature easy paper strip Christmas trees, but I ran out of time. I was too busy preparing for a cookie swap party. I do not know what I was thinking, hosting such madness while juggling two preschoolers and a four month-old baby.
I invited at least 25 people, thinking most of them would not come. Wrong! Many of my guests had never heard of such a thing as a cookie swap and just so happened to think it was a fabulous idea. I had more than 15 adults plus kids in my teeny tiny apartment.
The boys and I decorated sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies. I put the nice ones out for the party and sent the crazy-looking creations to the boys’ kindergarten Christmas fest. I also served this show-stopping Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Bread. And then I prayed for leftovers.
And, of course, we had to bake our own cookies for the swap. Since I asked each guest to RSVP with their cookie choice, I was forced to choose a cookie that no one else was making. In the spirit of our Florida roots, and since citrus is plentiful this time of year, I went with Creamsicle Dreams. If you make these, don’t skimp on the orange zest or the white chocolate, and double the amount of orange juice for some really punchy pucks.
Just between you and me, I really wanted to make these Cafe Coffee Cookies. But Doc Sci gags at the taste of coffee, and I thought they might not be as universally pleasing as the Creamsicle Dreams. Maybe I will be bold and go for it next year!
Since I didn’t want guests to just go home with a zillion cookies, I made several batches of Gingerbread Popcorn to give as party favors. Disclaimer: this popcorn is totally addictive. Especially if you decide it should have some salty pretzel sticks added in and melted white chocolate drizzled all over. I probably ate as much of this stuff as I gave away… and I enjoyed every calorie-laden bite.
Gingerbread houses are not just fun to make; they’re great party decorations, too. I originally thought it would be a good idea to deck it to the 9’s with the kids. Then, I came across a much better idea – have the boys decorate ice cream cone “trees” and then put those up around the house. Genius!
My boring front door needed some pizzazz to welcome guests, so I whipped up a toilet paper roll wreath. I gave it my own trash-to-treasure touch by adding newspaper flowers.
After the party, we had a family Christmas movie night. I made veggie Christmas tree pizzas (although this snowman pizza is adorable, too) to snack on while we watched Elf. It also seemed a fitting time to devour the gingerbread house while Will Ferrell poured maple syrup on his spaghetti and sprinkled it with M&Ms, chocolate syrup, and Pop Tarts.
Thanks for taking a tour of my Pinterest Christmas. I’d love to hear about your Pinterest-inspired Christmas experiences too, so leave a comment below to share!