Sunday, December 1, 2013

Nature and Art Walks + Small Town Holiday Festivities - Countdown to Christmas - Day 1

Today's countdown is actually a combination of two days - Saturday, November 30th and Monday, December 1st since some of our holiday traditions were scheduled for November 30th - before our Advent calendar begins.

On Saturday, we went to Eichtens and sampled some of their food - mostly locally-made cheeses which were delicious. Sophia and Olivia wanted to sit on the large buffalo statue.

Olivia on the buffalo statue at Eichtens.

It's a bit of a challenge to get up there, and this was the first year that I couldn't lift Sophia up. Next year: we're bringing a ladder.

Sophia and Olivia by the buffalo statue at Eichtens.

We headed onto the Lighting Festival in Taylors Falls where we went to the arts and crafts fair at the community center. Then we headed over to the Town School House and see the doll castle there.

This is one section of the dollhouse.

The castle is modeled after a real castle in France.

The music room had a piano and a harp.

A father and daughter worked on it together for over 30 years.

This is the dining room with a fireplace that glowed.

We went to the bead shop and then to the bakery for a treat. Then we went for a walk through Interstate State Park.

Sophia and Olivia on the rocks overlooking the St. Croix River.

We enjoy climbing on the rocks there and seeing the river.

The girls on a rock by the river.

We went to see the train exhibit at a Christmas tree farm while enjoying some hot chocolate and cookies.

One section of the model train.

Then we headed onto Franconia Sculpture Park. The girls ran to their favorite exhibit: a swing set.

Olivia and Sophia on the swing set.

We explored other sculptures.

One of the sculptures at Franconia Sculpture Park.

The girls climbed onto ones that were meant to be walked upon or through.

This sculpture is one that people can walk on.

And then they found a new sculpture they ran towards: another swing set and climbing structure.

A new swing set + climbing tower. The girls had fun on this one.

On Sunday, December 1st, Sophia and Olivia had play practice at church followed by a soup lunch. They each received an Advent calendar with chocolates.

In the afternoon, we visited Gammelgarden and looked at the Swedish decorations.

Front door of Gammelgarden.
I like the color of the door against the black ironwork. 

There is always a display set up as you enter the front doors.

A Christmas tree decorated with Swedish decorations.

The predominant colors used are red and white in the decorations. It's simple...yet beautiful.

This is display that features the book "The Tomten." 
We have this book and read it each December.

After getting a candle crown for St. Lucia Day, we took the annual picture by the gnomes eating a meal together. When the girls were younger, they liked sitting by the gnomes. Last year, Sophia picked one of them up. This year...I almost couldn't take the picture fast enough before Sophia was ready to escape out that front door.

Sophia and Olivia by the gnomes. 
They're ready to dash off because they can hear people 
in the lobby and don't want to be caught standing by the gnome display.

We went to Target to get a child gate to block off the Christmas tree from Cooper. We also found the foiled-wrapped chocolate coins for St. Nicholas Day that we'll be bringing to the nursing home this Friday when we do a presentation about St. Nicholas and give the seniors treats in paper shoes that Olivia has been coloring.

We saw the movie “Frozen” later that afternoon which we all enjoyed.


Advent reading: 

Luke 1:5-7 - In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.


Christmas joke: 

 What is green, white, and red all over? (A sunburnt elf.)


Holiday Fact:

This year, one of the new things we're going to be doing each day is learning about different things that relate to the Christmas and holiday season. The idea came from a pin on Pinterest that led to The Things I Love Most. Some of the 25 items on the list, we'll be exploring; and others I have replaced with other things that I want us to explore.

Today's focus is on learning about Advent calendars:

The first calendar counting down to Christmas dates back to the 19th century. People counted down 24 or 25 days until Christmas (with the last day being Christmas Eve or Christmas Day), but using chalk lines to mark off the days. Later on the tradition of lighting a candle each night was born.

Nowadays, Advent calendars vary. Some have drawers or doors that are opened every day to reveal a religious icon, piece of candy, or you may even find ones with cartoon characters.

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