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The Adventure family is getting ready for the holidays! Every year, Mr. Adventure turns on the Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, and at about the same time, I start stressing about providing holiday fun for the family.
There have been holiday seasons that I have driven myself crazy trying to cram in all-of-the-holiday-stuff. One year, I had a dinner party two weeks before Christmas for more than 20 people for which I made three (three!) different kinds of homemade pasta. Plus meatballs and sauce. And the next day was the church preschool Christmas program, the neighborhood holiday get together, and one other holiday event that I can’t even remember right now. I wonder why. 😉
Not this year fellow adventurers! This year Mama Adventurer gets to enjoy the holidays too.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am the Queen of Lists and Planning Things Out in Advance. As soon as we got home from visiting family for Thanksgiving, I sat down with my Pinterest boards, Facebook, and bullet journal to figure out what holiday events and activities should be on our must-do list.
This may seem like the opposite of what you should do if you’re going for “simple”, but planning ahead allows me to choose only those things that are most enjoyable for our family, and focus on things that are really important.
Yes, Fellow Adventurers, this year I will not allow myself to get caught up in the holiday madness. In the interest of having a simpler holiday than in years past, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 family adventures for the holidays. Many are free or cheap, and some are things that can be done at home.
1. Check out a train garden.
What is a train garden, you non Marylanders may be thinking? Why, a train garden, I have learned, is a very detailed miniature railroad display that is apparently a holiday tradition. And usually is free. There is a very cool train garden at Marley Station Mall, one at the old train station in Severna Park that is maintained by the Severna Park Railroad Club, and one at the Fire Museum of Maryland in Towson, just to name a few.
The one I am most excited about is the Clayville Railroad Outdoor Train Garden in Pasadena. We didn’t get to go last year because the exhibit does close when it rains, but this year I’m determined that we will make it! Most of the above locations do not have webpages, but I was able to find them on Facebook. Also check out this fantastic guide to all of the train gardens in the DMV!
2. Bake cookies.
I come from a large Italian family, where dozens of cookies at all family gatherings (including weddings) are expected. I sometimes do a cookie exchange with friends, but I have quickly learned that having dozens of cookies laying around the house when you don’t have 40 cousins who drop by your house unannounced three times a week like I did growing up is not a good idea.
In my quest for a simpler holiday season, I have narrowed it down to three types: Chocolate Chip (from the back of the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip bag, sugar cookies to keep the kids happy, and pizzelles, a fancy Italian cookie with both the recipe and the pizzelle iron passed down from my grandmother. (I’ll share the recipe this year as soon as I make them!)
I may or may not make more cookies/desserts than this, but if things get busy, I think we will be happy with just these three.
3. Look at lights.
How to find the best Christmas Lights when you’re new in town? Last year was our first Christmas here, so I posted on our community’s Facebook page asking where the best holiday decorations were. I put a list of the addresses in my phone to save for this year, and will probably post the same question again this year in case there are any we’ve missed.
We also enjoy going to Lights on the Bay, and I know they have similar displays at Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County, and also in Howard County. Keep in mind that most lights displays offer a Groupon this time of year.
4. Attend town tree lighting.
When we lived in Minnesota, we attended the town tree lighting once. Yes, once. There was one winter evening in the six years we lived there that it was warm enough to consider standing outside with small children!
Last year I decided that since we lived in a more temperate climate, we would add our town’s tree lighting to our bucket list. I am so glad we did! There were performances by local artists, cookies and hot chocolate, and even a visit from Santa. Go to your town’s Chamber of Commerce website, or Google (your town name) tree lighting to find yours!
5. Visit Santa.
This one is pretty obvious, but I loved tracking down the best places to visit Old St. Nick in our previous home. Some places we have visited Santa are downtown department stores, which usually have an awesome display to walk through, a botanical garden (Santa was inside the visitor’s center), the Mall of America (which had an awesome Santa whom you had to make an appointment to see) and, the year we moved, at our real estate office, which had a Christmas party for clients. (Hey, I was busy and had to be creative!)
Last year, we attended a Christmas party for our local Mom’s club, but this year we will be on the lookout for a new place to go. I’m thinking Homestead Gardens, but would love to hear more suggestions in the comments!
6. Christmas Carol Karaoke!
This is a holiday activity that I stumbled upon completely by accident. Mr. Adventure was traveling for work last year, and I was at a loss as to how to entertain my wound up children. I searched on You Tube, and found Christmas carol recordings with the lyrics so that the children could read them and perform Christmas Carol Karaoke! They absolutely loved this, and we did it several more times before Christmas. We have a Roku Streaming Device, so I was able to get the You Tube channel directly on our TV!
7. Build a gingerbread house.
This was a tradition we started with our neighbors in Minnesota. One mom (the host for that year) would either buy a gingerbread house kit (one with a few houses in it) or some graham crackers and icing. Everyone else would bring bring some type of candy to decorate the houses with, and we would have a Gingerbread House Decorating Party.
Last year, my mom bought the kids this Nativity Scene Gingerbread Kit, which we did ourselves, but this year I may try to revive the Gingerbread House Party idea.
8. Some kind of service project.
Since my youngest is now in preschool, I’m thinking we may be able to do some sort of service project this year. I have wanted to for years, but the Three Little Adventurers were always too, well, little. I have been looking at the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery.
I’m considering just taking the older children, but if I think that we can’t pull it off, I will try to research some other way to serve our community, either in our neighborhood or our home.
9. Watch Christmas movies/read Christmas books.
This is of course on everyone’s list. Years ago we received DVDs of all the classic Christmas movies, such as The Grinch, Charlie Brown, and Frosty the Snowman. Last year, I completed our collection with The Polar Express. (Which my oldest was always terrified of in the past, and my youngest is terrified of now. At least one of them likes it.) Friday night is movie night at our house, and we will watch one of the above movies every Friday in December.
Being a former teacher, I have many many Christmas books. I have seen quite a few suggestions on pinterest to wrap them up and open one each day to read until Christmas, but I don’t think we have quite that many. We will just read (and reread) them as much as we can between now and Christmas. This will help add to Matilda’s total of 1000 books before Kindergarten!
10. Find at least one new thing to do that we didn’t do last year.
I have done a lot of research on the best Christmas traditions to do with your kids, and although we love our traditions, we try to do something new each year. Last year, I took the older adventurers to see The Nutcracker at the Annapolis Children’s Theater, (their first ballet!) and it was wonderful. I would love it if you all gave me some suggestions of something new to do this year.
Help me out, dear readers, I’m new here!
What are your favorite things to do with the family during the holidays? Leave me some suggestions in the comments.