Family Advent Calendar 2015 : Family Tree Trimming Party

-2 Family Tree Trimming Party

The Lunchbox Season’s Family Advent Calendar Is Back!

This is our fifth and, perhaps, final year of Adventing! So, get ready for a wild ride!

Welcome to Advent 2015!

It’s the first Sunday in Advent. And, we’re starting it off in style!


Family Tree Trimming Party

Alright, lovelies, it’s time to get out the ornaments, fluff up the tree, freshen-up the holiday playlists [or get somebody to do all of these things for you!] and drink and eat your way through the next four weeks!  And, of course, we’ll be making two more of our Favourite Photo Ornaments [see below].

But first, just for you, here are 10 rather cheeky ways to prep for a Family Tree Trimming Party!

10 Ways to Prep for a Family Tree Trimming Party

10 Ways to Prep for a Family Tree Trimming Party

1. Light It Up 
Absolutely no indoor fires! The best way to prevent them? Make sure your tree is standing up sturdy in its stand. If that means calling in your neighbour Bill or hiring a bunch of scouts to do it for you, do it! Then, string the tree with nice, cool, LED lights ahead of time. Or, again, have someone do it for you! Or, Hey, Sparkles, why not just buy yourself a pre-lit tree?

2. Freeze The Dough
Not the actual cash money. Stock your freezer with classic cookie dough [or a tube of that dough-boy stuff] so that all you have to do is slice and bake for the party. Or, hit up a local bakery and get your cookie platter on. Buy cookies that look homemade enough that you won’t have to admit that you bought them!

3. Refresh Your Tunes  
Create a couple of playlists to have on hand all season long! Do it once, and you’ll NEVER have to do it again! Make a whole slew of itunes Holiday playlists, including kids music, free jazz, motown, choral, and holiday sock hop so that you can play them individually or shuffle like a mad-woman. This year, we might try some karaoke caroling, too! At least, after the egg nog… In a rush? Don’t want to bother? Pick a few cool lists on Spotify and stream your way into Santa’s heart! Or download your picks from Rolling Stone’s spot-on 25 Best Christmas Albums of All Time

4. Streamline the Drinks
Speaking of streamin’…have a signature “cocktail” on hand that both parents and kids will like. Oh, and have plenty of it. I’m talking, lay in enough cocktail fixin’s for the entire season. This way, you might not have to replenish your stock until sometime well into the second week of Advent. We like to keep hot cider on the stove and a few bottles of cinnamon whiskey on the side. Meredith Steele’s Best Eggnog In the World is also sensational. [When I drink eggnog in my house, I drink alone…So, hmm…a double batch for the party?] Now, all you die hard eggnoggers with families of eggnog lovers, you might want to be sure to label your bourbon pitcher and your alcohol-free batch! Unless, well…let’s not go there…


5. Curate the Bling
“Curate” [gosh, I dislike that word]. Okay, so “pick through” your existing ornaments. Before your party, go through your ornament stash and pull out all of the favourites, must-haves, and sentimental ornaments. Seriously? Seriously! Have a pre-party of your own! [Cue the eggnog]. Then, choose a theme or overall colour scheme and pick out the fillers of the year. If you do this on your own, you’ll likely avoid unwanted disagreements, unless you’re the split personality type and/or [gosh, I disklike the following “word”] a hoarder… If you do this with the kids, it will hone their decision-making and purging skills. [Sure, go on telling yourself that lie over and over again.] Or, set a few bowls or vases out for ornaments that don’t make it to the tree. Better yet, have an old busted broken ornament destroying party on the block. You know, set up a target over the recycling bin and throw throw throw. [Just remember the safety goggles and gloves.]

6. Choose a Signature Ornament
I’m actually serious about this one. Choose or create a “signature ornament” with which to “finish” the tree. It’s an easy way to make your tree look legit in a sea of overachieving-neighbours-who-always-have-to-have-the-most-freaking-amazing-tree-which-you-just-have-to-admire-and-feel-crap-about-yourself-because-you-can’t-resist-the-free-cocktails!  We like to [we really do!] have one particular ornament in multiples that we place on the tree as our finishing touch. Of course, our signature ornaments are our awesome Favourite Photo Ornaments [see the tutorial below].…This year, we’re up to 24 black and white photos of the kids that we hang on the tree! But we’re tempted to have a second “signature” this year...We’re loving these cheap and cheerful Mirror Ball Ornaments from The Hudson’s Bay Company. A Studio 54 Christmas? No, seriously, I like what these babies do against the light.

7. Keep Hands Busy
The focus is on the tree here, isn’t it? Isn’t it? Still, we like to keep little hands busy at all times. So, aside from supplying the cookies, we have people press cloves into oranges, or string cinnamon cookies onto ribbons. These bowtie pasta garlands from The Gold Jellybean are next on our list. If all else fails, take turns playing “secure the jailbird elf in the chair” with some extra garlands and an old wooden bench.

Set up a festive photo backdrop behind the mistletoe Holiday Party Ideas
8. Mistletoe Photo Booth

Be savvy, or chic-tyrant, and hang the Mistletoe in a camera-ready spot. Go crazy and line the wall behind the kissing zone with holiday wrapping paper, red and green streamers, or lengths of tinsel, as above, to create a mini photo-studio. Take pictures, or have the kissers take affectionate selfies! That’s right, get people used to showing their love or, at least, used to embarrasing themselves early on in the season by calling it a “Smoochy Selfie Spot!” Come on! At least they’ll dis you less than if you just hung up that piece of green and white plastic in the hall and kept pushing them into Uncle Stinker. Out and about? Try this Mistletoe Selfie App.

9. Take-Out? Give-Back!
You’ve already made cookies and mixed drinks. For God’s sake, don’t cook! Arrange for take-out or delivery in the middle or at the close of the party. Lay out a few menus for folks to choose from, or make a secret call to “Take-out Santa” for a surprise delivery of Thai Food, Pizza, Chinese, or Fish & Chips. If you’re having a larger party, or even if you’re not serving a meal, ask everyone to donate money to the “take-out jar” which will go not to your own meal but to a food bank.  

10. Pick a Movie
Get ready to close the party [or, if it’s really boring, to keep people occupied] with a holiday favourite. Turn off all of the lights except those on the tree. Turn on the fire [I mean, with your fireplace remote. If you need to bother with wood, you might skip this step or pick up one of those easy logs.] Eat more! Drink more! And watch a movie! You might go funny with Home Alone or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, traditional with The Holly and the Ivy or It’s a Wonderful Life, or alternative with Die Hard or Brazil. Here’s a fun 50 Best Christmas Movies list. There’s always Wes Anderson.

Okay, folks? So, are we still besties?
[And, no, kids, smoking is not OKAY because Judy was doing it. In general, I’d take my cues from Grace.]


Favourite Photo Ornaments 2015

Favourite Photo Ornaments 2015

What are Favourite Photo Ornaments?
Each year, we print a small black and white photograph of each of the kids labeled with the year the photograph was taken. We place it in a small clear plastic frame strung on a silver sparkly ribbon. They are always the last ornaments we put on the tree! And, they are gorgeous!!! I mean, seriously, they are gorgeous..and not because they’re my kids…alright, maybe because they’re my kids and I love them…But ALL OF YOU can have this! What? Don’t have any kids? Don’t like the ones you have ? Why not post a bazillion black and whites of Fred and Ginger, or Grace Kelly, or heck, the cast of Klute?

This year, we will have twenty-four Favourite Photo Ornaments for our tree!! WOWZA!
Here are this year’s pics, all ready to go:
tobyfavornamnet2015 beafavouritephotoornament2015

And here’s a little recap of the Original DIY. My goodness, aren’t they larger?

Favourite Photo Ornaments



Clear Plastic Frames (we use 6cm x 9cm)
Hot Glue Gun
Hot Glue Sticks

Photo Paper (plain will do in a pinch)
Computer & Printer

Note: If you can’t find plastic frames, use self-laminating business card holders, and instead of hot glue, use a hole punch to attach your ribbon!


  1. Let ‘er rip!:  Our frames came packaged as “magnetic” photo frames, so our first step is to rip the magnet off of the back of each of the frames. It’s easier than removing a bandaid, and there’s no one screaming back. 
  2. Cut and paste:  Next, we cut a 10in [25cm strip of ribbon], and hot glue both loose ends of the ribbon to the back of the frame so as to form a hanger or loop for the ornament.
  3. Workshop: After we browse our photo files for our favourite shots [btw, we tend to limit ourselves to portrait shots, as opposed to landscape], we use our favourite free online photo editing software [ipiccy or picmonkey] to turn the pictures into black and white shots, to round the corners of each photo [or no, according to taste] and to add text [the year the photo was taken] below or towards the bottom of the photo. This year, using picmonkey, we added a little pizzazz by using a funky font for the year and by printing it in red rather than our traditional black…
  4. Size & Print: Using photo editing software [resize or crop to 600×900] or simply by inserting a photograph into a document in MSWord, we resize the photo with added text to fit into our 6cm x 9cm frame. And we print the photos on glossy photo paper. [One could just as easily print an all black and white photo on plain paper. It woud be hard to tell the difference.]
  5. Display:  Since we have so many of these ornaments now, we hang them at the end of our tree trimming party. [Call them the photographic equivalent of tinsel?]. I try to get the kids to hang the photos from the top to the bottom of the tree so that the baby photos are near the tippy top and the later photos are further down.

Here they are on the tree!
“Well, well, let’s ring bells! Let’s send up skyrockets! . . . let’s turn on all the lights in the house!”

-Linda Seaton, George Cukor’s Holiday [1938]

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