Thursday, December 3, 2015

Advent Week by Week: Week 1~ Trees, Decorating, and Gingerbread

Going to pick out our Christmas tree!

For the weekend after Thanksgiving (the weekend of the first Sunday in Advent), we went for a hike by the Ocoee River, then went to a Christmas tree farm- per Stephen's request- to chop down our very own Christmas tree.  It was a lot of fun, and made even better by giving the kiddos lollipops as we drove all over Georgia. The hike itself was a bit of a mistake (too far for our kiddos.... there was no way we were going to make it the mile and a half to see the actual waterfall that we drove there for), but there were still some pretty sights and treasures collected along the way.

We picked out a beautiful, wonderful-smelling Blue Ice Christmas tree. That sounds like a song by Elvis, or something. Ha.  We decorated the house with our couple of boxes from the attic, and our house was so cozy with sparkle lights and candles when we finished.
Use what you have! Which in this case, was leftover candles from a sale last year at Tuesday Morning. All I had was red, but I enjoyed how they matched the greenery from our yard.

oh, and our children's Sunday attire!

We lit the first candle on our Advent wreath, and poor Molly got it mixed up with Lent, thinking she had to "give something up" or for Advent. I reassured her that she was thinking of Lent, but that little look on her face broke my heart!

After picking out our tree, we went to a used bookstore, and picked out several Christmas books to add to our collection. I am so excited about our collection, you guys.  Every year, I pick out (or let the kids pick out) a few new ones in honor of St. Nicholas day. This year, they got The Legend of the Poinsettia and St. Nicholas.

We try to make Gingerbread Man cookies every year. {Recipe here}  I used my food processor for the dough. I started in on the recipe, only to behold that I didn't have ground cloves, only whole cloves. I put the whole cloves in the food processor for about 2-3 minutes. I then picked out the pieces that were too big for the dough, and what I had left was about a teaspoon of ground cloves!

I then added the other ingredients to the food processor for easy mixing.  I did some researching on gingerbread dough, and ended up upping the butter and sugar quotient of my mix. The original recipe called for only a tiny amount, and it affected the over all flavor (a little too dry and not nearly sweet enough!). That worked- it baked up just the same as the original recipe.
Madeleine and I worked on some Christmas playdoh for fun times this week.  These are vintage (my Mom's old) cookie cutters... but here is a similar set on Amazon that comes with the playdoh AND rolling pin! My girl spent a bunch of time working on this!
We made and decorated snowman and Christmas trees, and then we made a white camel with a wise man (complete with a crown!) following "the star in the East." Madeleine was fascinated by this story, so we had to sing "We Three Kings."  She thought to add "a tail" to the star.

All of the kids joined in the fun the next day, and Molly thought to put glitter in the play-doh. We also mixed colors to make new colors, and we used cookie sheets to keep it from getting on the pretty tablecloth!

This Gingerbread House may not look like much, but making it almost did me in! We tried making the frosting without following the Royal Icing recipe, and the house just would not stick together! I tried holding it "until it dried" and an hour later, you guys.... yeah. :-) I think there is a metaphor for all of us in this: if you don't beat the eggs, it won't bond!!!! All in all, though, it was a fun Advent project. We did this with my Mom while listening to some awesome Christmas music - St Peter's choir "A Christmas Carol," and Andy Williams Christmas! So good!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! Here is a {pretty}, fun happy holiday Christmas list for you!  (This is my list from last year: new playlist coming soon, but this one is oh so good!)

(And I'll be the first to admit that I'm a Sufjan fan! I've seen him in concert at least twice. If you're in my generation, you attended a liberal arts Christian college, and it is December, nine times out of ten you're listening to Sufjan Stevens. Just sayin'.)

This Week's Advent Reflection

Advent is a time of joy.  As 2 Corinthians 2 1:7 says, "Just as you are sharing in our sufferings,  so also will you share in our consolations."  Just as Molly reminded me, there is suffering during Lent,  but also, so during Advent, we can enjoy the sights, the lights, the sounds, the songs, and the smells and the cookies. ;)  The molasses and cloves emanating from Gingerbread, Christmas lights sparkling behind our neighbors' house, piles of food around a table centered by an Advent wreath. So as you wait with a quiet heart, allow the joy to enter into your heart. This season only comes to our hearts, our country, and the world, once a year!

Now when I'm tempted to get discouraged, I remember that this season is for joy...and how could I not be joyful? There is so much joy~ it is the most wonderful time of the year, indeed.

I think we had a rich and full first week of Advent. A hike, a venture to chop down our very own Christmas tree, decorating the house, lighting the first candle, used bookstore shopping, and baking gingerbread cookies and gingerbread houses!

To culminate this series, I have a prize pack* of things to giveaway, waiting for my wonderful readers! To enter my December giveaway, leave a comment telling me : What is your favorite holiday music? (It could be an artist, an album, a mix, or anything. Leave it in the comments!)
*PDF of my e-book
Wonderful-smelling candle from Anthropologie
Adorable Christmas ornament
2 pretty Christmas kitchen towels
gourmet treats!

adding my link to some of my favorite link-ups!


Anonymous said...

We play Jazz Piano Christmas around here, a lot! It just makes a beautiful gentle but festive mood. Enjoy! Lizzie

Chere Mama said...

My favorite Christmas album has got to be Harry Bellefonte's Merry Christmas. I have been listening to it since I was very little and my brother found the CD for us!! I also love anything by the group Chanticleer and also Shape Note Christmas Carols.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tacy,

Actually, Advent is a penitential season. We are to be preparing our hearts and minds for the infant Jesus. It is reflective of the 2nd coming of Christ at the end of time. Save the tree, music, cookie eating and other celebratory events for the Christmas season and celebrate Advent for what it is: a season of penance but also of anticipation and wonder. Actually, Christmas Eve used to be a day of fasting. That's very difficult to imagine nowadays!

Happy Advent,

Tacy said...

I respect that, but I also believe that American customs are not all bad.

Leslie Sholly said...

My very favorite Christmas album is called We Wish You a Merry Christmas. It's an old one that we had when I was a little girl and it feels like Christmas to me the moment I hear it! I finally found it on Amazon last year after years of looking (I'd had it taped but our house burned down.). I love playing actual records on my record player at Christmas time and actually bought several for 25 cents at Goodwill last year!

altphi said...

Advent isn't a penitential season. See the Code of Canon Law here:

Corinne said...

Advent is definitely anticipatory. We should be preparing our souls for the coming of our Savior, but we should be doing so in a joyful manner, I think, as we should look forward to the Second Coming with joyful anticipation, but keep our souls prepared so that we aren't caught on the wrong side of the judgement at that time (For example: we made sure to go to confession during the Advent penance service at the Basilica, and we decorated our tree the next evening - it's easier to be joyful about such a thing when you have so many things to be joyful about at the same time! (Thanks be to God for His gift of Reconciliation!))
I feel like Advent perfectly embodies that. I refuse to let my husband put the tree up until Advent, and he (sometimes begrudgingly) waits just until then to do so. That's okay, though. I like to dress my tree in a way that, to me, feels like a very simplistic type of beauty - not overly gawdy or too colorful. White lights, blue ornaments, gold accents. It feels Advent-y to me, and my 4yo says every day how much he can't wait til Christmas. We have plenty of Christmas presents, but those definitely won't be wrapped and put beneath the tree until MUCH closer to Christmas.

Anyway. Joyful Anticipation. That's what Advent is a season of - but of the coming of Christ, and not just of a fancy, gift-giving "holiday."

And though I refuse to ever "do" Santa Claus with my kids, or get the notion that he's real (they think of him as a cartoon character, because that's the only way they've seen him), I think that perhaps it's a Christian Advent for a secular world.
Children are to be on good behavior (and will sometimes even call their parents out for what might not seem to be good behavior), and do good works so that they get the good reward at Christmas time, and not the "lump of coal" (perhaps indicative of hell fire?). Just a thought.

By the way, my favorite thing to listen to at Christmas/Advent time is the Troika from "Lieutenant Kije" by Prokofiev. It isn't necessarily a Christmas piece, but it's beautiful, and makes me long to have a sleigh ride and go ice skating.
For my children, their favorite thing to hear is what they call "Jingle Bells," but is actually Leroy Anderson's "A Christmas Festival."

It looks like y'all had a lovely first week of Advent. That's always good. =)

Tacy said...

Thanks altphi (aka Stephen). :-)

And yes to you Corrinne!

Becky Goerend said...

I love all you're doing to make this a fun time for your kiddos! So many memories! Thanks for linking up with Tuesday Talk. My favorite Christmas music is the big band style!

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