As our four kids grew up, left home, and started their own households and traditions, preparing for Christmas geared down a lot. We carried on with our traditional Christmas Eve dinner for the whole family, but the Christmas season was lower key. Gifts shifted to more practical items, and overall, it seemed that  Christmas lost a bit of its sparkle. But all changed again when the grandkids began to appear!

For our eldest granddaughter, Madeline’s first Christmas we gave her a wooden advent calendar. Little did we know that Maddie would be rapidly succeeded by Emlyn, Juliana, Hannah and Riley, delightful additions from three different branches of the family. Only five years separate eldest from youngest, and to make things even more interesting, the three middle ones all arrived within six months of each other. That was a busy year! We added two more advent calendars so that each family has one.

We purchased our calendars from a small store in Cape Cod that has now gone out of business, so I’ve provided the links to Replacement’s inventory. We also saw them at Fortnum & Mason in London.

Fortnum & Mason have one fashioned after their own iconic storefront. It’s quite splendid!

Here’s the original one we purchased for Maddie, Fireside. It’s now shared with Juliana.

Hannah and Riley have Santa’s Sleigh:

And Emlyn has Christmas Tree (picture Courtesy of Replacements):

The detail on the doors of all of the calendars is charming. There are stockings…

…milk and cookies (the cat that looks strikingly like Dundee, don’t you think?)…

…Teddy bears…

…balls and toys…

…and a snowman, among many other enchanting “handles”.

Each year I delight in filling the two calendars for the four little ones who live locally. To date, I’ve used Playmobil Advent Calendars as the starting point and augmented with chocolates from the local Lindt outlet store. That will change as the girls get older and their interests shift, but it’s worked so far. This year the Playmobil  “starter”, as it were, is a Snow Queen theme.

The first task is to open up all the doors on the wooden calendars to see what space we’re working with. The alcoves in Santa’s Sleigh are all the same size, which can sometimes be challenging.

The Fireside has differently sized doors, which is very useful if you’re using something like Playmobil, as you’ll see in a minute.

The Playmobil filler is a real mixed bag of sizes! See how some of the stuff is quite chunky? Plus, I like to put two similarly sized and themed things inside each opening, as two little girls are sharing and we don’t want any upsets.

Here are some of the unwrapped animals. I’ll put the big deer and the fox into one opening and the little deer and the owl into another. That’s about equal, I think.

Then there are the animal packages: racoons, bunnies, foxes and birds. Two and two for those, as well, will do nicely.

These are kind of weird. If I were four I wouldn’t be too excited to get a tree stump or a pile of snow. Oh well, you win some and you lose some. No doubt they’ll fit into the overall Snow Queen tableau as it emerges. Besides, I”ll sweeten the deal with some small chocolates.

This one is definitely an awkward shape. A tree limb, some snow and some icicles. And to make it “even”, I have to stuff in another package of similar gravitas and size. This could prove difficult 

Lastly, the stars of the tableau, complete with their hefty plastic outfits. Definitely a logistical challenge.

Fireside was no problem, as you can see. Shove the big stuff in the big openings. Stay tuned for Santa’s Sleigh.

Next, we add the chocolate. I use a variety of things from the Lindt outlet. Their offerings vary from year to year;  I especially love the hollow Teddies and Santas. 


The elves are pretty cute, too.

In you go! Two Santas, Teddies, Elves or coins in each of the empty openings and two small chocolate balls in the spots that already have toys (because it’s not the same if you don’t get a chocolate, right?)  You can see that a couple of the boxes in Santa’s Sleigh are quite crammed, I did a bit of fiddling around to get the doors closed, but let’s just say that #16 is going to prove quite enticing. Hmmm – the space in the upper left seems to be empty. Good thing I took a picture; I’ll go back and fill that with a couple of coins.

And now, the piece de resistance. Surprise! My new “helper” was exhausted by the whole process. She deserves her own introductory post; it’s coming, never fear.

But in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at Clementine, new little sister to Churchill (aged 5), Burton and Taylor (both 12, from the same litter). She’s finding Christmas preparations to be very nap-inducing.

Of course, she is NOT allowed on the couch, But Nana, she’s so little! And so lonely!

She will be very good. I promise I’ll watch her. Oh! She’s awake now. All ready to play. Come on, Clemmie!

In case anyone is wondering how Dundee took the news, see for yourself.

Let’s just say he wasn’t as thrilled as the rest of the family. The older dogs and the two older cats didn’t bat an eye or turn a hair. Poor Dundee was not as sanguine. If that face doesn’t say  WTF, I don’t know what does:

Upon seeing Clementine for the first time, he did an excellent imitation of a Halloween cat. Judging from past experience with puppies and kittens, I suspect they’ll wind up the best of friends. In the meantime, though, it’s hysterically funny watching him cautiously circle Clementine as though she were an unexploded bomb.

By the end of the evening of the first day, he was back in his favourite place on the window seat in the kitchen and things had settled down considerably. He does love his naps!

Well, what can you expect from a household that chooses Advent calendars because they feature a cat and dog,

And a Teddy bear.

Christmas is coming! It’s so exciting. And how much work can one more Golden Retriever be? 

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.