Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Advent Calendar with Activities & a Creamy Hot Cocoa Recipe

The Christmas Countdown Begins...

It's that time of year again!  I can't believe it's been a year since I posted about our Advent calendar last year.  So much has happened but it feels as if the time has passed so quickly.  Things are definitely different this year and, for once, I'm on time with my Christmas Calendar Countdown post!

If you read last year's post, you saw our adorable advent calendar that I (somehow) sewed for the kids a couple of years ago.  This year we're doing something simpler.   If you're worried it's too late to start this tradition with your family this year, it's not.  Since we just moved a few months ago (and as embarrassing as it is, I'm still unpacking) I went with a simple solution.  I labeled Christmas envelopes with Scrapbook numbers 1-24 and then slipped our advent activities cut outs into the envelopes.  We hung them from some beads left over from decorating the tree and different lengths of ribbon.  Super easy and just as fun!

For the activities, I drew some easy pictures on labels and then stuck them to construction paper and cut them out.  Easy-peasy!  The kids could do it for you! 

To start the year off right and get everyone in the holiday spirits, I always begin playing Christmas music in the house and in the car (when we're not listening to our literature on CD).  Don't have a lot of Christmas CDs laying around?  No worries, I've been spoiled the past couple of years by Pandora radio on my laptop.   Simply type Christmas in the search box and you'll be blessed with tons of Christmas tunes.  There's just something about Christmas music that gets me in the mood- I even feel happier cleaning! 

Then it's time to get the Advent calendar out and begin our countdown!  Here's my basic plan of activities, since I was unsure of the dates on some activities, the great thing about using the slips of paper is I can always switch them around before the kids open them!

Day 1: Sip Hot Cocoa (recipe below) while we decorate the tree.
Day 2: A Family Game Night
Day 3: Elf some friends and family & a little box of Christmas chocolate as a surprise for the kids while we went to the houses.
Day 4: Snowman Ice Cream Deserts
Day 5: Make Ornaments
Day 6: Grinch Floats
Day 7: Local Christmas Parade with my Sisters, Brother, & Their Families
Day 8: Bake Cookies & Decorate them Together
Day 9: North Pole Breakfast- Santa Pancakes & Hot Cocoa
Day 10: Make Gingerbread Houses
Day 11: Write Christmas Cards and mail to friends and family.
Day 12: Christmas Skate with our friends from our local home school co-op group
Day 13: Christmas Pez containers & Pez candy
Day 14: Drive around the area and look at Christmas Lights (Scavenger Hunt?)
Day 15: Hot Cocoa & Christmas Chocolate
Day 16: Put up their small trees in their rooms
Day 17: New PJ's
Day 18: Bake Cookies & decorate to give away
Day 19: Ring Pops
Day 20: Camp out in the family room under the Christmas tree
Day 21: Visit the Washington, D.C. Zoo & the National Tree with my sisters and their families.
Day 22: Christmas candy treat
Day 23: Watch a Christmas Movie together with popcorn & drinks
Day 24: Christmas Eve!  Open 1 small gift!

As you can see, I've used Christmas chocolate or Christmas candy treats a couple of times in there to give us (me!) a break on those hectic, busy shopping days I know I'll face.  Since I don't allow them to have candy often, it's a real treat for them.  I'm hoping to cut those down by a few as the month goes on and I have a better idea of my time.  Again, those are the easy days for me so if I happen across a tough school day or event that gets moved around, I can move those slips of paper in and switch things around.  They're my little saving grace when the day gets crazy as can easily happen!

We're going to try to photograph the fun and share some of it.  Of course, in the midst of the glorious holidays, we're still running the farm, homeschooling, taking care of each other, and getting the day to days done.  I also won't forget the reason for the season and we'll be celebrating our Lord and praying constantly throughout the season!

My Creamy Hot Cocoa Recipe
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa (we used the Hershey's Dark cocoa)
Dash salt
1/3 cup hot water
3 cups milk
1 can (15 oz) sweetened condensed milk
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Mix sugar, cocoa, and salt in saucepan and stir in water.
2. Cook and stir over medium heat until it boils and boil (stirring often) for 2 minutes.
3. Stir in milks and heat (still stirring often)
4. Add vanilla
5. Remove from heat and top.  We used whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles to top ours.

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