I’ve always been into the magical spirit of the holiday season. That being said, after running a busy bakery for 10 years during the peak season; I’m left feeling tired and deflated trying to meet all of the holiday expectations – both personally and from a business perspective. Slowly and consistently, though, our incredible children are bringing the magic and joy of the holidays back into our lives (plus it really helps that we now get to sleep consistently through the night).

Their wonder and joy for the season is absolutely infectious. This fall, when Sadie and Asha started to show their excitement about the prospect of winter coming (aka Christmas), I was struck by a show-stopping realization.

Here’s my story: One day in early November after Asha had been endlessly talking about her love of all things Christmas – I caved and asked her the question that I really didn’t want to ask her so early on in November.

“Ok love – I hear you. You love the holidays. What do you want for Christmas this year?”

I was expecting her answer to be some sort of special toy or craft. Her answered floored me.

“Mom – I really want dried mangos and decorations”

Then, Sadie chimed in and said:

“Oh yes – that is exactly what I want, too!”

I sat down and finally got it. Finally, really heard them. They don’t need or want presents. They want the wonder and magic in the lead up to Christmas. They want to see the lights, hear the music, go to the parade, bake special cookies, have cozy family time and decorate everything. They want our time. And they want our time together to be focused on the wonder of Christmas.

From that day on, Aidan and I decided that this is what we are going to do this year – deliver the wonder and magic of the holiday season with the most fun lead up to all things Christmas. Now – I’m not saying there won’t be any presents on the big day. But, I’m thinking really basic – a stocking, a book, a holiday dress or pjs… and of course dried mangoes. No toys or excessive presents. We’ve decided to spend our time, effort and money beforehand on the wonder.

So, my blog this week focuses on preparing for the joy and wonder of the holiday season without the overwhelm. My first goal is to finish all of my Christmas shopping by the end of November. I am going to keep it as simple as I possibly can. Then, I will let the consumerism part of the Christmas season go and focus on experiencing wonder and capturing joy for the month of December.

Aidan and I have done a ton of brainstorming and planning for our holiday activities list, and we wanted to share it with you to spread the wonder (without you having to do all the work). Poof! Done. My suggestion is to tape this list (or make your own) on your fridge (or wherever it is front of mind). If you have kids like us, you are always looking for an activity to do on the daily (and usually more on the weekends). So, why not use this sweet little list of holidays activities and knock them off? One magical moment at a time!

Our sweet ‘little’ inspirational list of potential holiday activities:

  • Have family Christmas baking nights (make extra and deliver to your neighbours)
  • Make suet cakes for the birdies for the winter season
  • Attend a holiday themed art class in your community
  • Take a family drive at night to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ at the xmas lights
  • Make dried orange garland (recipe at the end of this blog!)
  • Have a hot chocolate party with “special cups”, marshmallows and sprinkles
  • Make a gingerbread house together
  • Decorate your home and tree with as many homemade ornaments as possible
  • Let the kids have their own special xmas tree/lights/fort in their bedrooms
  • Attend a wreath-making class
  • Attend your community’s annual tree lighting ceremony
  • Buy the annual Amos Pewter ornament
  • Make popcorn string garland with cranberries OR a construction paper chain garland
  • Go see a Holiday/Christmas play or concert
  • Make holiday family cards from scratch
  • Go to Ross Farm for their traditional holiday weekend (December 6th – 8th)
  • Have weekly holiday movie nights followed by an impromptu dance party
  • Go on a family walk in the woods to collect pinecones/acorns to make decorations/garland with
  • Go to the Father Christmas Festival in Mahone Bay (Nov 30th – Dec 1st or Dec 7th – 8th)
  • Go to the library and borrow a bunch of xmas books to read
  • Create a family service project to complete (ie. sponsor a family, make a donation, work at a food bank/soup kitchen together)
  • Have a sleepover under or by the Christmas tree
  • Insert kindness activities/appreciation in your daily life (choose a weekly star in your family and give them lots of compliments)
  • Send a sweet holiday text message to someone new each day as a family
  • Get your picture taken with Santa (and laugh really hard when it never ends up working out)
  • Find really funny Christmas sweaters at a second-hand store and wear them all the time
  • Go see the lighting of the vessels and yuletide fireworks in Lunenburg on December 7th

Perhaps my list is unrealistic? Regardless, I sincerely hope at least a few items inspire you rather than make you feel overwhelmed. You don’t have to do it all, but feel free to take what you need from it. You will notice that it doesn’t include holiday parties that you’re ‘supposed to attend’ or presents you ‘need to buy’. I feel like our priorities are set as a family this year. We are going to choose to focus on our holiday activities list and not get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the rest. We will search out wonder, magic and joy wherever we go!

I’m also going to remind myself each day that burnout is caused by:

  • Not knowing when to say no
  • Not knowing how to say no
  • Prioritizing others over myself
  • People pleasing
  • Having unrealistic expectations (including completing the entire list above)


Trying to keep it all in check. Sustaining the magic and wonder for the month is the key! The Schoolhouse as per usual will have an unbelievable and endless list of delicious holiday specials, products and market treats. We will supply you with wonderful baking recipes and ideas each week to help you through the gluten-free holiday season. We have got all of your holiday needs covered!

In the meantime, here is a sweet little recipe for a dried orange garland to bring some nature and lovely citrus smells into your house:


  • 2-4 navel oranges
  • Serrated knife
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Scissors
  • Paper towel or linen cloth   


  • Heat oven to 250 degrees;
  • Line cooking sheet with parchment paper;
  • Slice oranges crosswise 1/8“ to ¼ “ thick using a serrated knife;
  • Place slices on cookie sheet and pat down with linen cloth or paper towel;
  • Bake roughly for 2.5 hours (flip slices over after an hour and a half);
  • After 2.5 hours, remove any slices beginning to brown and slide the rest back into oven until they are all slightly browned;
  • Once slices have cooled, use scissors to poke hole through pith in middle;
  • Thread oranges onto twine;
  • Hang and enjoy!

Happy Holidays, friends! May your season be magical.


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