Make it a Memorable Christmas
No holiday tugs at the heartstrings like Christmas does. This time of year our hearts are a little softer, a little more open to what those around us are feeling and experiencing.
Sadly, it’s also a time of year when we’re tempted to compare ourselves to others. There’s a ton of pressure to make sure everything measures up. That our kids and grandkids have a Christmas time that is as perfect as possible.
We buy stuff our kids don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like. And we stress about whether it will be enough.
This Christmas the team here at Riverwood Cabins and I invite you to unplug from all of the stress and striving. Let’s do it differently this year.
The only things that will remain in the hearts of our loved ones after the tree has been taken down are the memories we’ve made and the relationships we’ve built.
Whether you’re already enjoying the cabin life, or plan to do so in the coming years, here are some suggestions for creating a Christmas time that everyone will remember fondly forever.
It’s been said that there is no bad weather, only bad gear. If you’re in an area where you get a white Christmas, you may want to consider giving a gift that can be enjoyed immediately.
Snow Shoe Hike
Post-holing your way through fresh powder up to your knees is no fun for you, the kids, or the dog. But floating along on top of the snow with some snowshoes? That’s the kind of hike you’ll remember for years, and can become a tradition!
REI has a great blog post about how to choose the best snowshoes for the whole family. Check it out and be inspired to start a new tradition!
Winter Bonfire w/ S’mores
Whether or not you have a white Christmas, you can change things up a bit by having an outdoor winter bonfire and make some s’mores with the family. I can speak from experience and tell you that sitting around a big old fire when it’s below 10 degrees is exhilarating and memorable. It changes the whole dynamic of a campfire somehow, with the fire crackling and cutting into the icy air. It’s beautiful.
Another benefit of having an outdoor winter bonfire? Everyone is probably wearing gloves, so they won’t be poking away at their smartphones, and will actually enjoy spending time together!
Start at the edge of the woods, and find animal tracks in the snow. Follow them, and try to figure out what kind of animal left the tracks. See if you can spot the animal, or it’s habitat.
Professional tracker Tim Smith runs the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School in Maine. He says “You’re not always able to figure out what the animal you are tracking is, but you can usually figure out what it isn’t,”
Here are some tips Tim gives for tracking with kids:
- Prints: Look for size, claw marks, and depth. Look for the number of toes or toe pads. Then use a field guide to identify them.
- Feather Marks: One of the most dazzling clues you can find—feather prints in a snowy field. This might be the track of some turkeys, or the full wing imprint of an owl or hawk that swooped down to grab a mouse or mole it heard through the snow.
- Gait patterns: Often the easiest way to identify an animal, the track will show parallel, diagonal, bounding, or galloping foot patterns. Field guides are also helpful here.
- Scat: Kids will get a kick out of breaking scat open to find what the creature has been eating. Just grab a stick and start breaking it apart.
- Browsing marks: Deer, moose, rabbits and others are forest browsers, constantly nibbling on twigs and branches as they walk. Deer only bite from the bottom and their dull teeth leave the ends of the twigs torn and rough. Rabbits make clean 45 degree cuts with their sharper teeth. In the springtime, look for rabbit chew 3 to 5 feet high. No, the rabbits don’t get that big in New England—but it will show you where the snow came up to in the wintertime.
Cozy Indoor Memories
Maybe braving the elements isn’t your idea of a good time and you’d rather make memories indoors. Here are some suggestions to keep everyone off of their smartphones and unglued from the television:
Fast Paced Card Games
I have a short attention span, so a long, drawn out game loses my attention really fast. One of the best card games for short attention spans is Dutch Blitz. It can be played by 2 to 8 people, and each round lasts only minutes. You can play to 100, 500 or 1000 points, and keep things moving fast.
It’s a game all my kids can beat me at, and have fun playing, from my 7 year old to my 14 year old. I like that it tests my skills and my hand-eye coordination, and provides a fun competitive environment right in the comfort of our living room.
Another game that’s easy for older kids and the adults to get into is Rook. You can play a game of Rook in 30 minutes or less, but you’ll probably have so much fun you’ll keep playing.
Bonus point: Set up a folding table in front of the fireplace so that you can enjoy the fire while playing card games.
Sit and Talk After Dinner
Pfff… I know what you’re thinking. My grandkids don’t want to sit around the table and talk after dinner. I disagree – you just need the right prompts to get the conversation going. First rule? No smartphones at the table!
Here some conversation prompts sure to get things rolling as you sit around sipping coffee or tea.
- What made you laugh today?
- If you could have a conversation with anyone in history, who would it be?
- If we could go anywhere on vacation, where would you want to go? Why?
- Would you rather live in a castle, or on a boat? Why?
- Do you think there’s a difference between being smart and being wise? Why?
- Tell me about the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen.
- If you could trade places with anyone in the world, who would it be, and why?
- What’s the best song ever written?
Board Games That Aren’t Bored Games
Let’s be honest:when you say board games, I think bored games. My attention span just isn’t that long, and I suspect there are others out there like me. However, when I do get over my initial resistance to the idea, I always seem to make a ton of memories and have fun times with my kids and friends.
Here are some board games that get good reviews from fans of all ages:
Ticket To Ride
Some have described this newer game as a combination of Monopoly and Risk. I’ve not played it myself, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but it’s garnered an eye-popping 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com with over 3,200 reviews so it must be amazing. If you’re a fan of TTR, drop a comment below and tell me what you love about it.
Settlers of Catan
Here I can speak from personal experience. This gameplay typically lasts about an hour, which is long enough that if you’re losing badly early on it can seem an eternity. However it does get 4.7 out of 5 stars that indicate that the strategy and thrill make it a fun game for a broad array of players.
Hasbro Pie Face Game
Decidedly more base fun than the strategy games above, you either get a point added to your score, or you get pie in the face. As a bearded man, I can imagine that repeated pie in the face could get a little messy, but I bet it’s fun!
More than 2,500 folks have left glowing reviews for this game with a 4.4 out of 5 star average, which makes me want to try it this winter!
Merry Cabin Christmas!
There’s no question that having a cabin gives you opportunity to make great memories any time of year. If you’re already happily enjoying your cabin – maybe these suggestions will spark new discussions and adventures. On the other hand, if a cabin is still in your future, perhaps these suggestions can whet your appetite for the kinds of memories you’ll create in your Riverwood Cabin!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Riverwood Cabins!