Gingerbread Drop By

Gingerbread Drop By Collage

14 years ago we thought we’d have a small, little, wee holiday party for our toddler’s playgroup. Little did we know this wee party would mushroom into a much anticipated community holiday event:
The Annual Gingerbread Drop By!

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During this event we have appetizers available, but the main focus of the event is decorating gingerbread people. I bake many, many dozens of gingerbread people (refrigerated dough and parchment paper make this possible) a few days before the party. I always make sure we have more than we need so I can say, “Of course you may decorate another one!”

Wax paper “work stations” are placed on the dinning table and oodles of decorating items are set about in plastic shot glasses. (Plastic shot glasses won’t break when dropped and because they are relatively small, spills are not overwhelming.) Decorations run the gamut. Sunflower seeds, small candies, dried fruit, baking chips, whatever! (This is also an excellent use for left over Halloween candy!) On the table are bags of different color icing to “glue” the decorations on to the gingerbread. And because the sticky factor is high, wipes and damp cloths are also available.

EVERYONE decorates at least one gingerbread person (The adults are usually shy at first, but end up using the most candy!) For those guests who decorate more than one we have foil on hand to wrap up gingerbread and Sharpies to write names on the foil.

And of course we have a Gingerbread Hospital where the broken gingerbread people (I always manage to break a few in the baking process) are placed for either decorating or eating or both!

On the invitation we ask that each person or family attending bring a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly, which we donate to the local food bank. It is always a fun and sticky event and an easy way to stock a food bank shelf.

A Holiday Meal Everyone Likes

everyone's favorite in one meal

Growing up our traditional Holiday meal was: roast beef, Yorkshire pudding (with gravy of course), green beans, and a selection of holiday cookies. I remember this meal fondly (Thanks mom!) and if I think about it really hard I can even smell the dill seed on the roast beef.

At some point my mom passed the holiday meal planning and preparation to me. What to prepare? I wanted to make sure that the holiday meal was special to everyone. But not everyone in my family eats red meat and Yorkshire Pudding without a gravy is just kind of sad. There were so many suggestions that the meal began to consume the holiday. Until… I came up with the holiday meal voting.

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A few weeks before the holiday we all get together (usually it is for a meal of course, but it has also been done via email for out of town guests) and we vote. On slips of paper each person secretly writes their top one or two requests for the holiday meal. It truly can be whatever they really want.  Everyone who will be dining at our house for the main holiday meal gets a vote. I take the secret requests (one from each person) and turn them into a meal.

Some years we have more than one main dish or dessert. Some years I get to come up with the main dish or dessert. Some years I have to add items to make the meal well rounded. But the holiday meal is never the same two years in a row and I know that when the holiday meal is placed on the table there will be at least one something that each person is pleased with- and it is always a surprise!

Our unique holiday meal tradition has become a bit of lore in our community and during the holiday season I often have people ask: “Have you voted for your Holiday meal yet?”

A Museum Tasting

museum tasting
Taking children to a museum can be daunting. There is much to see and attention spans are short, but it can be done- without tears! Admit you cannot see everything in the museum in one visit. Have a Museum Tasting. It is just the right amount for everyone.

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We began having museum tastings when our children were young and it is still our preferred method of exploring a museum. Here is how it works: When we visit a museum we always head directly to the gift shop. There we look at all the postcards for sale and each person selects a couple which appeal to them. These postcards now become our museum guides (and souvenirs). After grabbing our museum map we plot our route through the museum hunting for our postcard subjects (a great activity for brain development). We stop and enjoy things along our route, but our mission is to find the subjects of our postcards. Sometimes there are particular items I want my children to see so I am sure to select those postcards myself. Everyone gets to see things of interest to them, I get to show them things I find important, and we get a museum tasting before attention spans wear out. Just the right amount.

Try a Museum Tasting and grab a few extra maps for a follow up project at home. Create a souvenir that is good for the brain.

photo credit: marcp_dmoz via photopin cc

Wear a Sand Hat!

wear a sand hat
Q: I know that playing in the sand is important for young children, but I can’t stand trying to get the sand out of my child’s hair! Should I tell the teacher my child is not allowed to go in the sandbox.

A: If you already know that playing in sand is important for young children (which it is), why would you take away the opportunity for sand play? I understand that sand in the hair is not easy to deal with, but there is a compromise: a hat. Simple idea yes, but it works.

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Make sure your child has a “sand hat” in his or her school bag and let the teacher know that you would greatly appreciate if you child would be allowed to wear the hat when she goes out to play. (Hopefully, your child will be responsible for remembering the hat and it is not one more thing for the teacher to remember.) This hat can be whatever type of hat works for your child, but call it a “sand hat” so that its role is clear. Once your child gets the hang of remembering the hat and peers understand its purpose it may be trend setting!


photo credit: theirhistory via photopin cc

Okay, maybe not the best choice for a sand hat, but I think this is a great photo!


GI Joe would leave his phone in the car

GI Joe on phone

I remember the first mobile phones. They were gigantic GI Joe sized phones. A phone case was more like a suitcase-with a shoulder strap! But as such they were less than mobile. Maybe that was a good thing. Okay, I admit I do like my phone and when my children start high school they get a phone of their own, but we are making an effort to not let the phones take over our life. It is family law that phones may not be answered while we are eating together or reading together. The message is you are more important than whatever the phone call is about. And the messages we give our children are more important than we realize.

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As a teacher I ask (perhaps you might even say beg) my classroom parents to leave their phones in the car when picking up their child. There is nothing about a parent on the phone at pick up that sends a child a message; “I’m glad to see you. You are important to me.” Sometimes they heed my request, but not always. Sometimes I say to the child, within earshot of the parent, “Why don’t you slide one more time so your mom can finish her call and greet you properly.” It usually only takes a couple of times for the parents to figure out my leave your phone in the car reasoning. But every year I think: If GI Joe was one of my classroom parents he would most certainly leave his giant phone in the car!

photo credit: andres musta via photopin cc

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