Decking the Halls

DIY projects for the whole family to enjoy


Photography by Mara Kuhn

Dear Sandy,

You seem to be able to solve so many decorating and entertaining problems, and boy do I need some help!

My two sons and their families are coming for Christmas this year and while I am overjoyed, I am also overwhelmed with so much to do and so much planning. It is hard enough to just have the house ready and decorated but the menu planning and activity schedules are making me crazy.

I will have three grandchildren ranging in age from 3 to 10. Please give me some ideas of what I can do to get my grandkids involved and create lasting family memories for all of us.


Dear S.A.,

I am so happy for you that your sons and their families will be with you to celebrate Christmas. I also have two sons that bring their beautiful families and it is a priceless time for all.

First, why not create an ornament design party for the kids? Have pretty ornaments that are solid colors and let the kids do the decorating on them. They can hang some on the tree and some can be used as place cards and be a favor. Have them initial and date them.

Before they come over, print out the lyrics to favorite holiday songs and have a practice time for the whole family then pick a time to go caroling in the neighborhood. Have some hot chocolate and cookies for your return home and share the joy of your time together.

Photos are a must, and we are blessed to live in a very beautiful town that has so many backdrops for photos. Take a carriage ride, go to our landmarks that are filled with magical lights like the Christmas tree display and don’t forget Garvan Woodland Gardens. It is simply spectacular and they have hot chocolate for everyone.

I think that setting aside time that is quiet and not so planned is an important part of the visit. Find time to simply talk and get to really know each other. These visits are few and far between so you want to bond as much as possible.

Overnight Bananas Foster French Toast

4 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
2 medium ripe bananas sliced
2/3 loaf of French bread cut in cubes

4 oz cream cheese
6 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

Powdered sugar
Stir together butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, extracts and cinnamon.
Grease 9×9 inch casserole dish.
Pour butter sauce into pan. Place bananas over sauce.
Layer half the bread over bananas.
Place cream cheese cubes all over.

Cover with remaining butter and whisk the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

Pour mixture over bread cubes. Smooth it out so bread absorbs.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Let the pan sit outside the fridge to remove chill. Set on baking sheet, uncover and bake 30-40 minutes. Let cool in pan 5-10 minutes before serving.

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