I hope you’re eating dark chocolate and have a view of flowers today! And I hope you have opportunity to hug loved ones in your life and shower smiles wherever you are. Love is contagious.
But if your glum for some reason, then I have a great idea for you!! (Even if you’re not glum at all, this is a good idea!)
Plan a Favorite Things Party!
This is such a fun girl party to put together. It’s not complicated, and it’s really sweet to grab a friend and collaborate on the cuteness! I have hosted three so far… my dear friend, Shelley, has teamed up with me twice and we combined our friends list, and my cousin Kate and I put one together for all the women in our family.
Okay, so the guest list can be any size of your choosing. You asked each guest to bring 5 of something that they love and use a lot! Put a cap on the price tag: we have told friends to spend no more than $30 total. It can be less if their favorite thing is cheaper. The idea is to share with each other the little things that we each love and use frequently.
The part that makes this party so easy peasy is that you also ask each guest to bring either one of their fave appetizers OR desserts!! The hosts provide a salad to balance it all out, plus drinks! Not much kitchen involvement but all the benefits of yummy treats! It really is financially easy to host a Favorite Things Party, and your guests will come and go with 5 new Favorite Things at the end of the evening! Win-Win!!
When your guests arrive, have them write their name 5 times on slips of paper for the drawing. Then ask them to place their Favorite Things in a brown bag until the “reveal”. It was fun to prep brown grocery bags with a cute saying on the front of each. Just staple a cute paper to it. (This doubles as their take-home bag for all the loot they will end up with!)
As the anticipation builds and the meal is winding down…a fun icebreaker intro into the “reveal” is to play a quick round of “favorite things”questions. The guests all receive a small tablet and pen to write with, and the hostess asks the questions: Fave color, fave season, fave hobby, fave superpower to have … Everyone receives a piece of chocolate as we answer them together.
The moment all have been waiting for has come! Each gal picks 5 names out of the bowl; making sure she doesn’t have her own or duplicates. One at a time, each guest will stand and share what her favorite thing is that she brought. A quick descriptive and where you can buy it and why she loves it so. The 5 names she drew are the proud recipients of the item. After all have had their turn, then trades are totally open depending on the friendliness of the crowd!
Shelley put together an awesome playlist for our party by using the song, “These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things” and finding it in every possible genre of music you can imagine! It played as our background ambience.
Kate and I put ribbons around all different shades of pink nail polish and set them on a silver platter for guests to pick from as a parting gift.
Women brought everything from lotions and hand towels, to cozy socks and bath salts, to car fresheners and hot cocoa sets…oh the possibilities!
Last weekend our two families had our 17th annual Gingerbread House baking session. Flour floated about in the air and candy sprinkles bounced to the floor as every cookie sheet I own was in action.
This year’s theme was “Jenks Trojans” since this is the one and only year that our combined crew of boys is attending the same school district.
Our boys range from Kindergarten to Senior year, covering the campuses of Elementary, Intermediate, Middle School, and High School. Several of us parents are Jenks Alumni, so it was fun to focus on our alma mater, too…and look through old yearbooks.
The photo of the completed project typically yields satisfied smiles and a well-tended gingerbread village, all neat and tidy. Yet it represents so much more.
We started this tradition when my oldest was 1 and Audra was newly married. An additional 1/2-dozen kids have joined the process since that first Christmas Eve when our only helpers were our reluctant husbands and one very enthusiastic mother-in-law.
We had no Pinterest to consult or Facebook to scroll for ideas. We had a generic gingerbread recipe from an old cookbook of Audra’s and my risky idea that melting granulated sugar until it became searing hot liquid could be the “glue” to fuse gingerbread walls together.
Each year we talk fondly of that first little house with its gaping roof hole and wonky proportions. We wince as we remember burning our fingers repeatedly with that molten sugar. We persevered that first night into the wee morning hours though because we were hopeful of starting a tradition between our two families.
Many versions of the Gingerbread House have been constructed since then, some more elaborate than others. Significant family events have been rolled into these Gingerbread gatherings just as consistently as we have rolled out the dough year after year.
We’ve made our Gingerbread creations in 3 states and 9 different houses. For several years running we added another child to the mix.
We’ve taken turns soothing hurt feelings and nurturing burned fingers. We’ve broken dishes, chipped rolling pins, and even taken a door off its hinges to move a super-sized gingerbread creation to another room. The one constant in all the candy chaos was the fusion of our families through this joint endeavor.
Throughout these annual Gingerbread adventures, cousins have connected in various ways, solidifying their family foundation just as our go-to cement icing strengthens the gingerbread structures firmly into place.
Each year we gather together with only a loose theme in mind and then begin the process of making large batches of gingerbread dough to see what the crew creates.
As ideas unfold, we reminisce about past gingerbread house successes and failures. Everyone seems to have a different “favorite” house based on a fun technique or unusual theme.
Our collective memories merge into heartfelt agreement that the sticky messes, the unforeseen challenges, the countless hours, and architectural frustrations are worth the sweet legacy kneaded into this culinary tradition.
As the boys have gotten older, they’ve become more involved in creating and constructing.
The adults have gradually learned to downshift into more supportive roles, allowing the smaller hands to manipulate the dough into their own unique concoctions.
Grandparents weave in and out of the frenzied activity, lending a helping hand or showing us how to pace ourselves.
Although we do like to “ooh” and “aah” over the completed gingerbread display, the true joy of finishing is seeing the individualized inputs synthesized into a cohesive creation.
As the dads set up tripods and arrange wiggly boys for a full team photo, the sugarload effect looms large as we grasp for one last “decent” shot with all eyes open. (Sometimes the photo sessions seems to take as long as the construction phase!) When the crew inevitably collapses into silliness and giggles, we shoo them out the door to run off their pent-up energy.
Each year we take a few moments to cherish the closure of another triumphant gingerbread round, wearily rejoicing and ignoring the crunchiness of my floor.
When I was a little girl, my mom and I would spend a week putting up Christmas in our home. It is a highlight in my childhood. We removed everything from table tops and hearth and brought in boxes of nativities, lights and garlands. We played carols and sipped on hot cocoa and apple cider the whole week. We reminisced about ornaments and even decked out the ceiling fan!! It was magical in every sense of the word for me. In the evenings, I would curl up with a blanket in the far corner of the room and bask in the glow of the lights from the tree; I dreamed grand dreams there. It still is one of my dearest places tucked within my heart.
Lean in, Linger, Listen to God’s voice. Let your Loved Ones Touch and Feel Christmas…it Touches Their Lives Forever.
We have these 5 Senses… and the Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to play up every single one of those beautiful gifts! It is vital to all of us; young and old, to engage with one another. There are traditions, memories, and new starts all tangled together. There are candle smells, crackling fire sounds, warmth of familiar blankets, and tastes of yummy baking all swirled together in our memory banks. There are joys and sorrows interspersed too… they’re captured in the promise of Redemptive Peace during this month!
So let the children decorate the tree. Give them a step stool so they can stretch on tippy toes to hang their ornament high. Pile books near so that you have the fun of catching them sprawled out by the tree reading in the glow of the twinkle lights. Set up an Advent Box and let the finishing touch of each evening end with something nourishing for the soul and a sweet treat for the taste buds!
Leave space on a table for a puzzle or crafts to be dreamed up. Decorate a Gingerbread House or Cookies and make a HUGE mess!! (And don’t stress about it in the process; let your loved ones AND you enjoy and play.)
As I grew up surrounded by cousins, we annually created a play to perform on Christmas Eve together. We dreamed up the story, wrote out the lines, created scenery even! When the big night arrived, we passed out programs and felt the excitement mount… All our senses were engaged. It was equally as fun preparing those plays to opening the presents. We lingered longer with one another and had so much fun.
As I write and reflect. I feel very blessed to have had so many Touch and Feel Christmases in my life so far. It’s become such a part of me, that I pass that on to my kids from my heart. Whether you share the same experiences or not, it is never ever too late to engage those around you in the same feelings. You can go whole hog, or simply linger in more intentional time with someone; both result from the same desire.
Oh good gravy!! I just love everything about the Fall season. Even when I was young, I have always been captivated by the trees changing colors. And I have forever been picking up fallen leaves and pressing them for projects. Even in college I was home on break and scavenging for these treasures with aspirations of creating wonderful things with them.
And I did! My sweet family members were the recipients of many leaf-pressed bookmarks and animals created with leaves. The whole process was enjoyable to me. Now that I have children, it has been passed down to them too. I asked them to make me some turkeys with leaves, and look what cuteness I got!!
As you go through this season, and are looking up into the trees with all their glory, make sure to take time to look down too. A friend dear to my heart once said that if you slow down and really look, you will see that even God’s “litter” is so beautiful.
When I pause to take a closer look at things in nature, it brings my focus back to God; a really great place to be!
Slow down with me, and enjoy all there is to see!
As our society begins its annual press-in of stress during our holidays, stay connected to the wonder and awe that is found everywhere, even in God’s “scraps”