12 days of December
BY KIMBERLY ELSHAM For Sun-Times Media
Here are a dozen off-the-beaten-holiday-path activities to try this winter.
1. Make your own snowshoes. A little bit “Survivor Man” and a little bit Boy Scouts, this step-by-step guide for making snowshoes from found twigs and branches comes from www.ehow.com. (www.ehow.com/how_5365551_make-own-snowshoes.html)
2. Apps for the holidays. Look for seasonal-themed apps for your smartphone to organize your shopping and meal lists. The Black Friday app from www.tgifriday.com lets you search Black Friday deals from a wide range of retailers. Want to make sure each dish comes out at the same time? Organize recipes and prep times with the iFeast app.
3. Take a break from all the screens in your life. Make a board game the first holiday gift your family opens, and then play it together.
4. Play in the snow. A great way to feel young is act like it. When the snow inevitably hits the ground, throw on a coat and gloves and start building a fort. Not so architecturally minded? Organize a friendly neighborhood snowball fight or snow angel-making contest. The kids get to judge.
5. Make a multi-user online holiday album. Tumblr is an extremely user-friendly website on which you can create a free blog and add users. Look at the easy-to-use appearance settings and find your design of choice. By adding users, family and friends from far away can share their holiday fun in words, video and photos on the same site as you for a permanent, online album. Bonus: You can password-protect your www.tumblr.com site so only those you want to can see it.
6. Add a recipe from your heritage to your holiday meal. If you’re of German descent, replace your grandmother’s German potato salad recipe for the standard mashed potatoes at your holiday meal. It’s a great way to add history, nostalgia and family in one tasty dish.
7. Wrap gifts with something surprising. Newsprint and comic pages make great non-traditional gift wrap, but try a different material such as felt, fabric swatches or even an old, clean scarf or table runner.
8. Start a wacky new tradition. Try something your family has never seen before, such as waking the family Christmas morning with a song. Mannheim Steamroller’s “Deck the Halls” blasting up the stairs or down the hall will get their attention. Or, add a new motif to your holiday decorations, like a light-up holiday farm animal instead of a tree.
9. Get crafty. Instead of buying new decoration, try a traditional craft such as bottlebrush trees. The shortcut: Buy a bottlebrush at a hardware store and wooden disc large enough to balance it and some spray paint of your color choice at a craft store. Trim the bristle to the desired tree shape, cut the wire end of the brush to make a trunk of any length. Then attach it to the disc with glue, floral tape or drill a hole in the base to insert the trunk. Spray paint the tree to work with your décor.
10. Add a game to a meal. Try the rice pudding game: Make enough rice pudding for each diner to have a dish. Portion out the rice pudding away from the table, and hide an almond one of the dishes. The game is that everyone eats and carries on normally, and whoever has the almond should hide it in their cheek (don’t eat it!). When everyone is finished, the diners speculate who has the almond, and the true holder of the almond finally reveals it. The winner gets a nominal prize.
11. Share the wealth. The holidays are a time for giving, but try giving your time instead of money. Look for a local soup kitchen, coat drive or shelter and devote a few hours to help those less fortunate.
12. Make a virtual holiday time capsule. Create a free email address like firstname.lastname@example.org. Have everyone email a memory or story from this year’s gathering to the address. Next year, the keeper of the email address’s password can open the messages and read them aloud at the next gathering.