Howdy! (I can say "Howdy" since I live in the sort of south and I married a Texan. It gives me "Howdy" rights.) But I digress, and I haven't even started a topic yet. So back to my unspecified subject.
This is the time of year when my family likes to start slowing things down. All the presents are bought and wrapped. Anything that needed to be shipped has been shipped. School is out for the semester and our winter break has begun. The hurry-scurry of the holidays can slow down to a trickle and we can reconnect as a family. How do we get to this place by mid-December? I start planning for it in the summer. I have learned that the holidays are coming whether I am ready for them or not. But whether or not my family enjoys those holidays has everything to do with how ready for them I am.
If you are still caught up in the hurry-scurry panic that generally sweeps our nation right about now, let me say one word to you. Simplify! You really don't have to do it all. Look at your schedule and your shopping list and ask yourself how much of it really needs to happen in order for your family to reconnect and remember why we have the season in the first place. So much of the time it is our shopping list and schedule that actually keeps up from reconnecting and remembering. Who are we trying to impress, anyway? I have seen people snapping and yelling at their kids because they are under so much stress trying to have the perfect holiday. Is anyone really enjoying that?
And if the kids think they have to keep up with the neighbors in order to have a good holiday, then it sounds like maybe some retraining might be in order. :) At some point they are going to be adults and will realize how much all this stuff costs. Then they are either going to have to find a way to pay for it, do without and pout, or make someone else (like the government, or their parents, or somebody else) pay for it. Or they can learn now that they aren't the center of the universe and that selflessness is an honorable quality. They will be happier for it in the end. Just saying...
Back to my subject (again)...So what do we do with all this hard earned time? We make stuff. Yep. The kids and I try to do or make something "Christmasy" nearly every day until Christmas. We cut out snowflakes and make Christmas cookies and all kinds of things. Here are some Cinnamon Ornaments that we made this week:
May-May just put 2 stars put together to make this one.
This is a great project for kids, because it is very hands on, and really, anything goes. The older kids can get all fancy, but the younger kids can still make fun ornaments (even our 2 year old enjoyed this). The frustration level is fairly low and the satisfaction level is pretty high. At least thats how it works at our house. One year, we even used this dough to make figurines for a nativity scene. It was like playing with fantastic smelling play-dough. One caution, though. It takes forever to dry the figurines. Flat ornaments dry a lot faster.
So here's the recipe we used. It is the best parts of other recipes I have seen over the years, all rolled into one doable recipe.
1 cup cinnamon (check dollar stores for good prices. I got mine at Aldi's for $0.99/ 4.25 oz. bottle. I think we used about 3.)
1 Tbsp. ground cloves
1 Tbsp. nutmeg
3/4 cup applesauce
2 Tbsp. white glue (you can omit this if you have little ones that are likely to put this in their mouths. Without the glue, it would taste nasty, but it would be edible.)
Mix together the dry ingredients. Stir in the wet ingredients until well mixed. If the mixture seems too dry, add a little more applesauce. If it seems too wet, add more cinnamon. You want a moldable dough, kind of like cookie dough. Dust your work surface with cinnamon and roll out your dough to about a 1/4" thickness. I divided up our dough between all 4 kids and helped the younger ones roll theirs out. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the dough. Use a toothpick to make a hole at the top for the ribbon. You can get creative and make designs on the surface of the dough. When you are finished, place the cut-outs on a dry cookie sheet and bake at 200F for several hours until they are dry. Cool and hang with ribbon. Don't forget to enjoy how incredible your house smells while these are baking.