Today marks the first day in the Countdown to Christmas. This will be the third year that we have been doing the Countdown, and it is something that we all look forward to doing.
Each day - from December 1st to 25th - there is a hand-embroided, wool-felt envelope with a number on it than hangs from a ribbon.
Advent calendar on the staircase.
Sophia and Olivia take turns opening the envelopes and reading about the activities for the day.
Close-up of what the envelopes look like.
Today's focus was doing holiday activities in small towns. Along the way, we made some additional stops to places we enjoy visiting.
Our first stop was Gustaf's Galleries in Lindstrom (Minnesota). There are three galleries within the building; and we enjoyed seeing the variety of art there.
The galleries have a combination of work from artists who live in the Midwest as well as from Northern Europe (e.g., Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, and the Czech Republic). Olivia enjoyed looking at the Dala horses in particular while Sophia liked the jewelry.
We headed east and stopped at a church craft sale in Center City. We've gone to this craft sale for a couple of years now, and there are always many crafters there. There also was an ensemble of musicians playing in one room, so we heard some violin, bass, and guitar music.
In another room, we met a wood carver from the Lakes Area Woodcarvers group. Olivia has been wanting to learn how to do chip carving, so he took my name and number and will have one of the men who does chip carving call me. Before we left, he offered Olivia a free toy he had carved. She chose an owl. He also talked to her about wood carving a bit which was nice.
Then we headed onto Eichtens where there was a holiday open house. We sampled some of the food and cheese; and purchased a couple of items to make at home.
Before we left, the girls climbed onto the buffalo statue as they've done in the past. Someone from Eichtens must have moved the buffalo closer to the road because this year we didn't have to walk through tall grass to get to it.
Olivia and Sophia on the buffalo statue at Eichtens.
The girls didn't want to do the craft activity at the public library, so we headed to the Senior Center as we did last year for lunch. The Senior Center was decorated and they had holiday music playing inside. There was a bake sale also going on.
We ordered lunch - grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. The girls each had a cup of hot chocolate as well.
Olivia and Sophia eating lunch at the Senior Center.
As we were eating, a group of Christmas carolers and Santa came in. They sang a few songs while we finished eating lunch. It was nice to hear familiar songs sung well.
After that, we visited a quilt shop down the street that also was having an open house. Olivia found a 1,000-piece puzzle she liked, so that was purchased for one of her Christmas gifts. Last year, she was doing 500-piece puzzles. She is at the 750-piece puzzle level now, and feels like she's ready to be challenged by the 1,000 piece level.
After spending time in St. Croix Falls (Wisconsin), we crossed back over to Taylors Falls (Minnesota) and stopped at the bead shop there. The girls and I enjoy looking at the variety of beads there. Sophia picked out a pendant and chain to make a necklace.
Then we headed over to Interstate State Park and went on a short hike. The weather was beautiful - in the 40s. Even though it was overcast, the park and views were still spectacular.
Sophia by the edge of the cliff
overlooking the St. Croix River.
The girls enjoy climbing on the rocks and were surprisingly quick given that they weren't wearing hiking boots or tennis shoes...just regular flats.
Olivia climbing onto another section of rocks at
Interstate State Park.
We recalled animals we saw and things we did during the summer - naturalist-led classes, hikes, and rock climbing. It's one of our favorite state parks... and it's nice that it is only about 20 minutes away from home.
We began to head home and stopped at a Christmas tree farm on the way. We visited the farm last year as well and everyone wanted to go back since it had a model train.
Olivia by the train as it went by her.
Our last stop of the day was Prairie Restorations where we chose a Christmas tree. We've purchased a tree from there for three years now. We like supporting local businesses; and feel its important to help sustain the community.
Sophia untangling the Christmas lights.
During the unpacking of holiday decorations, there is definitely a period of chaos. It's always nice when everything is in its place, and the tree is up and decorated. That will come tomorrow. Already it was a full and fun day!