Is there anything more exciting than seeing the look in your kids’ eyes when they see something new and magical? Do you remember that feeling from when you were a kid (or even from yesterday)? That’s the reason behind the elaborate events and special crafts in our house. The look in their eyes – when you get it right. Cam is the most amazing sport, builder, cleaner, picker-upper, level-setting expectation mitigating, partner – in order to make some of these crazy ideas work (or set me straight on what is not possible – we all know i get a little nutty with these things). He definitely gears up for this month with the double header of Matty’s birthday and our Christmas party.
Nothing compares to the magic of Christmas. So, it’s been with excited anticipation that we’ve hosted a Christmas party for the last nine years – each year with a rhyming email to invite our pals. We’ve walked into ‘grown-up’ world with most of these friends. The parties have moved from martini mixers and late night dance-offs to secret Santas to kid-friendly open-house style events. The start time moving earlier and earlier with each passing year. One constant has been an appearance by the big guy himself (did you know he once asked me to marry him? a story for a later date…). This year the Christmas magic was amazing. Family and friends came from near and far, their kids were all adorable and excited, and we shared an evening of festive fun that our whole family won’t soon forget. There were twenty adults and 23 children this year.
It started with an invitation from Santa’s elves to visit the workshop for a pre-Christmas party. That was the theme for this year – the workshop. From there I took our old standby sign (remember this?) and turned it into a signpost from the North Pole. At the back of our house we placed some Reindeer who were munching on grass and a directional sign to the workshop.
I got a few plain shirts and used fabric paint to create “sparkle”, “twinkle” and “jingle” elf attire for our kids to wear with Santa hats.
Inside there were 3 separate craft stations for the kids: one with bead making candy-canes, one with reindeer and tree candy canes, and a Christmas colouring station for independent fun. There was also an elf-snack station with cups dressed as snowmen filled with popcorn, and mini-bags of fishy crackers and juice boxes.
The families were invited to make gingerbread houses and decorate cookies throughout the night. My nephews are pictured below, along with Mario and our kids.
We loved the marshmallows from Butter recipe book so much on Cam’s birthday that I made them again for this (and for a hot chocolate party we’re having next weekend) – we made them into snowmen and reindeer – decorative credit goes to my sis Kelly who applied the faces! A labour intensive dessert – but worth it in the end for sure.
Between the kids, Cam and I we baked up a storm leading up to this weekend (this made for many of our holiday family craft activities each night last week) including Gloria’s famous ginger cookies (secret recipe), my mom’s shortbread (3/4 c icing sugar, 2c flour, 1C butter – 350 for 13 min), my sister’s famous mini-chocolate chip shortbread (also made by someone named Tina on all recipes), an awesome new chocolate chip oatmeal cookie I found in the new Lesley Stowe baking cookbook, sugar cookies, a lemon square from the same cookbook, dream bars that are amazing if you love marzipan but don’t like the intensity of it, also from Butter, and super easy fudge from all-recipes.
All of that except the marshmallows could be frozen so we made them 3-7 days in advance of the party. That left the last couple of days in the evenings after work to make baked brie, and awesome little brie-cranberry phyllo bites, spicy shrimp, bruschetta, my take on Rob Feenie’s flat bread (personal weakness), and a fun cranberry cocktail that I found on the Real Housemoms blog. Also grabbed lots of easy ready-made appies from M&M meats and some cheese, fruit and veggies. Oh. And I made poutine at the end of the evening so soak up any lingering munchies. SO easy (frozen fries, St Hubert’s gravy and real cheese curds in mini-cups with works on the side) and it flew off the plate – I’ll do that one again. It all sounds like a lot – but with two very distinct audiences each composed of over 20 people, at a party that spans the dinner hour – dessert is not enough.
The evening was made, for me anyway, but two very special appearances. The first was an absolutely awesome sing-along by our wonderful friends Bobs & Lolo – who have just put out the most incredible Christmas album. Mario brought his guitar and Robyn and Lorraine started an awesome dance party in our living room with holiday classics old and new. Then they sang in Santa Claus. The man behind the suit does not dance, or prance, or act crazy silly most days – but in that suit he was dancing at the door waiting to be let in, and he dazzled the kids with his high fives and hugs and candy cane Christmas wishes. Christmas magic. And a very special appearance. Even our daughters were fooled and stood with their mouths open staring (not Matty though – he spotted Daddy’s eyes).
Our friends and their kids left with an ornament we’d made (using my cricut to cut out the letters with the girls, and then some spray glue, a hole punch and glitter) – the first initial of each child’s name. And some of the reindeer food from the recipe our elf, snowball, brought back from Mrs Claus (this was thanks to an idea last year from Kate – an awesome mom-blogger across the ocean).
It was an absolutely amazing evening.
Followed by a horrific clean-up job (holy Dina!) – but we powered through, and by 1am Cam and I ended the night in the hot tub with a glass of wine and beer toasting a wonderful evening, and wonderful friends.