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Enchanted Acres Celebrates 10th Season with Commemorative Corn Maze

Enchanted Acres, 1071 250th St. in Sheffield, is celebrating its 10th season with a commemorative corn maze. The maze, in the shape of the farm’s Cinderella pumpkin-shaped logo, is just one of the attractions to this North Iowa pumpkin patch. It also offers hayride, campfire s’mores, pumpkin decorating, Books in the Barn story time, homemade lunches and a store filled with homemade jams and handcrafted home décor.

“Each year we strive to offer our guests something new and different to enjoy,” says Shannon Latham, who purchased an abandoned dairy farm on this site in the spring of 2012 with a vision of turning it into a magical pumpkin farm. “In year one, my parents and I began offering educational field trips to school children. We also offered pumpkin decorating workshops under a tent, so it was exciting in 2013 when our Jolly Red Barn opened. Each year we made improvements to the barn until it was finished. Today the temperature-controlled barn houses a café and a retail store downstairs and story time upstairs. We enjoy cooperating with local librarians, who offer Books in the Barn during October, which is National Book Month.”

Latham says Books in the Barn story time evolved from her love of reading. As a child, she counted down the days to her library’s story time. She wants to encourage literacy and share her love of books with others. She also is passionate about promoting ag literacy.

“I grew up caring for animals and knowing that most of the food on our table was raised either by my family or my grandparents,” says Latham. “Sadly, today many kids and even their parents don’t know where their food comes from. It’s astonishing that about 16 million people think chocolate milk comes from brown cows! Orange juice is our nation’s most popular ‘fruit,’ and French fries are among American’s most popular ‘vegetable’.”

Enchanted Acres provides experiences for the whole family to interact with agriculture. Farm guests may pick their own pumpkins from the field our choose from pre-picked and washed pumpkins displayed on pallets. They can purchase feed for goats. Special on-farm events allow guests to interact with newly hatched chicks, miniature pigs, and ponies. (Note: These events vary by year, and a Schedule of Events is published before the start of each season.) Children who participate in field trips visit three stations that include animal encounters and a walk through the pumpkin patch. They also hear a story time about pumpkins followed by a pumpkin snack, so they learn pumpkins are a fruit.

“It really takes a village to make Enchanted Acres come to life each fall. I am so grateful to my family and friends for their behind-the-scenes support. There are so many people who play an important role from designing marketing materials and helping me plan the schedule of events to making labels and stocking store shelves,” says Latham. “I can’t thank my brother enough because he spent early morning hours before his workday began, watering pumpkins during this year’s drought. He tends to whatever needs tending. My mom works harder than people half her age.”

Latham’s mom, Shirley Fesenmeyer, has been leading pumpkin decorating workshops since Enchanted Acres began. She also makes homemade jams and crafts, including seasonal wreaths, which are sold inside The Market at Enchanted Acres.

“They say time passes quickly when you’re having fun. We have certainly had a lot of fun! Like the guests who visit our little farm, my family has made so many magical memories here throughout the years. We especially enjoy seeing how much our guests grow from year to year. It’s heart-warming to be part of these families’ annual fall traditions.”

Join Us Sept. 26 for a Good Time and a Good Cause

Enchanted Acres to Host Food Pantry Fundraiser

Join us for inflatables, face painting and homemade pie on Sunday, September 26, at Enchanted Acres pumpkin patch, 1071 250th St., Sheffield. Money from gate admission collected that day will be donated entirely to the West Fork Food Pantry. Proceeds from a pie baking contest and pie sales also will benefit the local food pantry. In addition, Anthony Martin of Logs4Heroes in Meservey will be crafting chainsaw carvings on site. One unique carving will be auctioned at 3 p.m. by Cory Behr of Behr Auction Service of Rockwell to benefit the West Fork Food Pantry.

“Each year our pumpkin patch hosts a fundraiser for a local non-profit organization,” says Shannon Latham, who has owned and operated Enchanted Acres since 2012. “When I heard the West Fork Food Pantry had a capital campaign underway, I thought this would be a great way for many people in our area to contribute to the cause.”

“Community support for the West Fork Food Pantry has been amazing,” says Pastor G. Kim Wills, chair of the West Fork Food Pantry Board. The original partnering churches include Zion St. John Lutheran, West Fork Methodist, First United Methodist of Sheffield, St. Paul Lutheran of Thornton, and St. Peter Lutheran of Rockwell. Regular donations come from First Grace Baptist in Sheffield, United Methodist of Thornton, Sacred Heart Catholic in Rockwell, Open Bible Church of Clear Lake, and Zion Reformed of Sheffield. 

These communities are amazing and together we will work to make sure no one goes hungry!” says Pastor Wills. “Local residents and regular food pantry volunteers are certainly living our mission of ‘working in unity to serve our communities’.”

“Thank you to everyone who contributed to our fundraising goal to date,” adds Pastor Wills. “We are continuing our fundraising efforts, so we can work to achieve our goal of more service hours. We need to make a few more improvements to our building, including cement for better access to unload trucks. We also need to remodel bathrooms and replace doors for wheelchair accessibility.”

Every contribution – even a quarter – makes a difference. As a partnering agency of Food Bank of Iowa, the West Fork Food Pantry purchases food at an amazingly low cost.

“A quarter can help us purchase one pound of food, which is nearly one meal. One $5 gate admission to Enchanted Acres on September 26 will provide enough food for 17 meals!” says Diane Wills, site coordinator for the West Fork Food Pantry. “The need for people to access quality food throughout the pandemic has doubled! We currently provide meals for 60 to 80 families, or around 250 people, per month.”

Rain or shine, there will be activities to enjoy at Enchanted Acres in support of the West Fork Food Pantry. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, September 26!

Supporting the West Fork Food Pantry is “Easy As Pie”

Whether you enjoy baking or eating, supporting the West Fork Food Pantry is easy as pie! Join us during our 2021 season opening celebration on Sunday, Sept. 26, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for a good time, supporting a good cause.

Enchanted Acres will host a pie baking contest and pie sale to support the West Fork Food Pantry. Pie entries must be submitted between 11 a.m. and noon on Sunday, Sept. 26, at Enchanted Acres, 1071 250th St., in Sheffield. 

Amateur bakers and home cooks are being called to submit entries for a pie baking contest. One piece of each pie will be judged, and the other slices will be sold individually that afternoon with proceeds benefitting the West Fork Food Pantry.

Meet our pie baking contest judges:

 

  • Dubbed Iowa’s Storyteller, Darcy Maulsby believes anyone who eats has a connection to the things she’s most passionate about, including food, farming and history. This fifth-generation corn and soybean farmer from Lake City, Iowa, graduated from Iowa State University (ISU) with degrees in journalism/mass communication, history and marketing. She is a published author of several books, including the “Culinary History of Iowa” and “Classic Restaurants of Des Moines and Their Recipes.” An avid home cook, Darcy has cooked with “American Idol” winner and restauranteur Taylor Hicks during the Iowa episode of the national TV program “State Plate.” She has also been featured the Iowa State Fair episode of “Bizarre Foods: Delicious Destinations” on the Cooking Channel. Darcy has won numerous blue ribbons at the Calhoun County Expo, the Clay County Fair and the Iowa State Fair for her molasses cookies and mixed-berry jam. She's also a certified Kansas City Barbecue Society judge, an ISU Extension Master Gardener, and a University of Illinois Extension Master Food Preserver.

 

  • Known as Hodge Podge Hippie on social media, Thena shares useful information about traveling, camping, cooking and homeschooling. This Missouri native enjoys tandem biking with her husband, Matthew, who also is their blog’s photographer. They are published authors and enjoy exploring states to find new family fun adventures. In their spare time, they love trying new foods, visiting state parks, and touring the states in their new RV. On any given day, you'll find them out and about enjoying nature and finding new ways to make forever memories with their two children. 

 

  • Val Plagge, a fifth-generation farmer, graduated from ISU in Agricultural Communications. She and her husband, Ian, are raising corn, soybeans, pigs and four kids on their family farm in Franklin County. Val’s passion for farming, family, food and her community give her a variety of opportunities to share about her life with consumers from across the country both in person and online through her blog, “Corn, Beans, Pigs and Kids.” Her blog gives her the opportunity to work with groups like CommonGround, Iowa Food & Family Project, Monsanto’s Rooted in Conversation, and Iowa Farm Bureau’s F.A.R.M. Team. On her blog, Val shares some of her family's favorite recipes, which naturally includes several pies. Val appreciates how pie brings people together for a community fundraiser or for a celebration or holiday. She enjoys carrying on the traditions passed down from her mom and grandmas when making pie at home. Val also uses her culinary experience to help 4-H members and serves as a 4-H judge at county fairs.

Pie Baking Contest rules follow.

FALL PIE BAKING CONTEST
to benefit West Fork Food Pantry
on Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021
at Enchanted Acres pumpkin patch
1071 250th St., Sheffield, Iowa

  1. Entries must be submitted between 11 a.m. and noon on Sunday, Sept. 26.
  2. Bake in a standard disposable aluminum 8½ – 9” pie tin. 
  3. The entire pie must be submitted for judging. 
  4. Entries must be made from scratch. Mixes are not acceptable ingredients and will be disqualified. Pies with pre-made or store-bought crusts will be disqualified. Pie crust and filling must be prepared and baked by the person submitting the pie for judging.
  5. All pie ingredients and decorations must be edible. 
  6. The recipe for the pie and pie crust must be submitted with the entry. Recipe must list all ingredients, quantities, and the preparation instructions. It should be submitted on one side of 8 ½” by 11” paper. (All pies will become the property of Enchanted Acres.)
  7. Entrant’s name, address and phone number must be printed on the back side of all pages submitted with the recipes. Be sure to also include “Division,” such as Junior Youth, Senior Youth or Adult. 
  8. This contest will include both youth and adult divisions. The two youth divisions will include Junior, ages 8 to 12, and Senior ages 13 to 18. Anyone over the age of 19 will be considered an Adult.
  9. This contest is open to any individual amateur baker. 
  10. A baker may enter a total of three pies: one apple pie, one pumpkin pie, and one fruit pie.
  11. An Apple Pie entry must include at least 60% apples in the filling. It does not need to be a “traditional” two-crusted, apple pie; it can have a variety of fillings. 
  12. During judging, one slice will be cut from the pie. The remaining slices will be sold individually to raise funds for the West Fork Food Pantry.

Judging will be based on the following criteria:

•    30 points    Flavor
•    25 points    Filling: consistency, doneness, moistness & flavor 
•    20 points     Crust: color, flavor, texture doneness 
•    15 points    Overall Appearance 
•    10 points     Creativity 
TOTAL 100 Points

Decisions are the sole responsibility of the judges and are final.

Special Awards:
1st Place Junior Youth
1st Place Senior Youth
1st Place Adult

Fun Facts about Birds and Bees, aka Pumpkin Pollinators

They say farm kids learn plenty about the birds and the bees while they’re growing up, but I was in my 40s before I fully understood the importance of bees. 

When I planted my first pumpkin crop in the spring of 2012, I had no idea what I was missing! (I was missing pollinators.) My dad tilled up about a half-acre of the field. Then my mom and I made rows with a hoe and planted each seed by hand. After all, this is how we had planted gardens for years.

 

Native plants like coneflowers attract pollinators like butterflies and bees. That’s why we have planted several native species around Enchanted Acres. Monarchs especially enjoy the blossoms in our alfalfa field.

 

Today the pumpkin patch at Enchanted Acres is more like a small field than a large garden. We have gained tips for increasing the number of pumpkins we can produce each season. Pollinators, including bumblebees and honeybees, are key to increasing the yield of our pumpkin plants. After all, pumpkin plants set fruit only if pollinated by insects!

Who knew each pumpkin plant has both male and female flowers? Male flowers produce nectar and pollen. Female flowers produce higher quantities of nectar but no pollen. The first female flower opens about one week after the first male flower opens, but flowers only live for hours.  

Pumpkin pollen is relatively large and sticky, so bees are usually the best pollinators. When a bee lands on a flower, the hairs on its body attract pollen through electrostatic forces. (Isn’t science cool?) Hairs on a bee’s legs allow it to transfer pollen from the male flower to the female flower. In addition, fruit quality is enhanced by intensive pollinator activity. 

Speaking of fruit… Honey straight from the hive has a unique flavor based on its location and season. For example, you can purchase Wild Blueberry Honey from Maine or Cherry Honey from Door County in Wisconsin. The characteristic of honey – color, texture, viscosity, taste, smell and how quickly it crystalizes – varies based on the nectar collected by the hive’s bees. 

Placing uniquely flavored honey on an Iowa-inspired charcuterie board could become a topic of conversation. Fresh Fruit Salad with Honey Lime Dressing is refreshing on a hot summer’s day as is Honey Lemonade. You could enjoy all three during a Fourth of July picnic!

Iowa State Fair Honey Lemonade
(recipe courtesy of Iowa Honey Producers)

  • 1, 30-ounce carton of Sunkist frozen lemon juice
  • 3 cups of honey

Combine lemon juice and honey. Add cold water to make 2 gallons. Mix well.

Make Mom “Happy” in May

My mom says she really doesn’t need anything… or does she?

While taking a walk recently, I was thinking about what I could give my mom this Mother’s Day. Then thought occurred to me, “Don’t just spend money. Spend time together.” 

I believe time is more precious the older our children become because their lives become busier. If my two kids were to ask me what I want for Mother’s Day, I would answer with “family dinner.” My son and daughter are both in college now, and I miss sitting down at the table and enjoying dinnertime conversations. Plus, I always enjoy a good meal with good company!

This led me to think about how “The 5 Love Languages” by Gary Chapman could be applied to moms this Mother’s Day:

  1. Words of Affirmation – show appreciation with a heart-felt note; write Mom a poem
  2. Acts of Service – unload the dishwasher; pick up the yard
  3. Physical Touch – give Mom a back rub or rub her feet; little ones can cuddle during story time
  4. Gifts – bake Mom her favorite dessert; make a handmade card or another craft
  5. Quality Time – take a walk together; do chores together 

“Acts of Service” is definitely my love language. Working together equates to spending quality time together for me because that’s how I was raised. I truly enjoyed working at Enchanted Acres with my parents and treasure so many memories from our hears here together. I hope someday my kids will look back at the memories we’ve made here and treasure them, too.

Perhaps you can make your mom “happy” this Mother’s Day with a craft or a recipe. Because I tend to show my love for others with the food I make, I’m sharing with you a few of my favorite delicious, yet simple recipes:

CONFESSION: I remember my mom clipping recipes from newspapers or magazines when I was a kid. She would have a stack of recipes she wanted to try. Well… this apple didn’t fall far from the tree. I have a digital folder with links to hundreds of recipes that I want to try “someday.” Perhaps Mother’s Day will be “the day” for one of these:

Seriously, what could be better than dessert for breakfast on Mother’s Day? A couple of these recipes legitimize it! Holidays and special occasions call for recipes that you only make a few times each year.

Celebrate Earth Day in Fun Ways!

When a polluted river caught fire about 50 years ago, Americans were called to into action and vowed to take better care of our natural resources. We have been celebrating Earth Day annually on April 22 since 1970. 

Why should YOU celebrate? Why should you CARE? 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax

“The Lorax” is one of my favorite books to read when I’m hosting fall field trips for school children because it reminds us that everyone, no matter how big or how small, has a role to play in protecting our environment. I had characters from the book made into signs, which are hidden throughout the Enchanted Forest. I lead groups on nature hikes as we search for characters and other items on a “scavenger hunt” list.

Many of the hands-on activities we host at Enchanted Acres also have the same goal in mind. Today I’m sharing with you three ideas:

  1. Recycling Relay
  2. Nature Walk
  3. Growing plants from seeds

As a Girl Scout leader, I looked for ways to make caring for the environment relevant to kids of all ages. One year I set up a recycling relay. Girls were divided into two teams. There was a series of containers at the end of each “racing lane” for: (1) Trash, (2) Recycling, and (3) Compost. Each team was given a box of the same items to sort: newspapers, plastic milk jugs, aluminum cans, banana peel, etc. Even if you don’t want to do a relay, you can help your kids get into the habit of recycling by having them help you sort the recyclables. Kids can learn how to reduce waste in the landfill while practicing fine motor skills.

Nature walks also are a popular Girl Scout activity. As a lifelong Girl Scout, I guess it’s only natural that I would make them apart of the activities offered at Enchanted Acres. We host group Nature Scavenger Hunts when groups request them, but you can easily do this on your own. There are so many great parks to explore across North Iowa! A few of my favorite include MacIntosh Woods State Park by Clear Lake, Lime Creek Nature Center near Mason City, and Beed’s Lake State Park in Hampton.

You can find lots of ideas, and you can even print many adorably designed Natural Scavenger Hunt Lists online. Here are a few ideas for those of you who want to create your own list:

  1.  Acorn
  2. Pinecone
  3. Unique rock
  4. Wildflower
  5. Stick shaped like a letter
  6. Animal tracks
  7. Nest
  8. Feather

There is so much to see in nature! We will soon be planting flowers and pumpkin seeds at Enchanted Acres. Your kids can discover the magic of watching seeds and plants grow, too. Here’s a link to a blog post about planting seeds in a clear cup and watching them sprout and grow into seedlings.   

April is National Gardening Month, so you can celebrate that by starting a few seeds inside your house. Many local greenhouses and nurseries will be opening soon, too. Perhaps you and your family will be inspired to plant a tree this year in celebration of Earth Day. 

Food Brings Everyone to the Table

Who’s up for an Ice Cream Road Trip? I took one this week in celebration of spring. 

During the first official week of spring, our nation recognizes the contributions of America's farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses. This year’s Ag Day theme is “Food Brings Everyone to the Table.” (I appreciate a good play on words. As a state representative, FarmHer and agribusiness owner, I especially appreciate the 2021 Ag Day theme.)

National Ag Day is celebrated annually to encourage every American to:

  • Understand how food and fiber products are produced
  • Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products
  • Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy

Hands-on activities at Enchanted Acres help our farm visitors understand how food is produced. For example, we offer educational and fun field trips each fall for school groups. We also hold public events, such as “Peeps in the Patch,” to teach little farm hands and their families about chickens. Iowa farmers raise more eggs than any other state in the nation. Our state also ranks #1 in corn and pork production. Depending on the year, we rank first or second in soybean production and fourth in cattle production. In addition, taxes generated from local farms and agribusiness help fund schools and libraries in our local communities.

Although most Iowans are no longer full-time farmers, one in five Iowans goes to work because of agriculture. Biochemists, biophysicists, veterinarians and environmental engineers will be the agricultural jobs most in demand, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There is a need for agricultural engineers and food scientists, too. 

Speaking of food scientists… The Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at Iowa State University in 2009 hired Dr. Stephanie Clark, who holds a Ph.D. in Food Science. Dr. Clark teaches dairy food science courses and conducts dairy research. In 2020, Dr. Clark re-established the Iowa State University Creamery. The Creamery offers hands-on training for students and short courses to entrepreneurs. Signature flavors of ice cream are sold four days weekly: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from noon to 4:30 p.m. Starting Saturday, April 10, The ISU Creamery Retail Store will be open every Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Each Day is Getting Warmer and Lighter… Hurray!



Although the temperatures were bitterly cold during the Polar Vortex, it also was beautiful.
My friend Kristi Johnson captured these sundogs on January 28 in rural North Iowa.

Who else breathed a sigh of relief when we turned the calendar from January to February? January is historically the snowiest, coldest and darkest month of the year. This January was downright pleasant, however. I was looking forward to experiencing even warmer temperatures in February.

Of course, 2021 is anything but typical! The average temperature in North Iowa averages 29 degrees during February. Twenty-nine degrees ABOVE zero would have been welcome, especially compared to the subzero temperatures we experienced for about two weeks during the 2021 Polar Vortex. Windchills were 40 BELOW zero on Valentine’s Day. Did you know a person can experience frostbite within 10 minutes at such temperatures? (NOTE: It takes longer than 10 minutes to do chores.)

This is the third Polar Vortex we have experienced in three years, including January 2019 and February 2020. Thankfully, every one of our animals survived this month’s frigid temperatures. I am so thankful for warmer temperatures that I’m not even going to complain about the snow we received on Sunday, February 21. (A BIG thank you to my brother for moving the snow and creating a path for my goats to get to their water pail.) Although it created extra work on the farm, Sunday’s snowfall was quite pretty. I felt like I was stuck inside a snow globe as I watched the large, fluffy flakes fall.

The extremely cold temperatures, as well as the copious amounts of snow that we’ve experienced in 2021, have prompted to spend less time outside and more time in my kitchen. I recently talked with a dietician at Hy-Vee who reminded me how important it is to get enough sleep, practice self-care and fuel one’s body with nutritious food. Because we are in the season of Lent and many people are looking for ways to enjoy fish, I’m sharing this delicious recipe for Walnut-Crusted Salmon Winter Salad.

Winter salad seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? I’m ready for Spring Salad. Now that we’re about to turn the calendar from February to March, the countdown to spring is on!

“Community” is Our 2021 Word of the Year

Rather than set New Year’s Resolutions, each year I pick a word on which to focus. A couple of years ago I focused on “experience.” I am passionate about creating hands-on experiences, so families can create wonderful memories when visiting our pumpkin patch in North Iowa. 

Another year I focused on “engagement.” To make the most of your experience at Enchanted Acres’ pumpkin patch, one must engage in the activities. You must actively participate in activities whether by painting a pumpkin, taking a hayride, roasting s’mores over an open fire, feeding our goats, walking through our field to find the perfect pumpkin, and/or listening to our Books in the Barn story time. Purchasing our delicious apple cider and homemade goodies inside The Market only enhances the experience, in my opinion.

I truly enjoy seeing families take their annual photos in front of our “How Tall This Fall” photo board. I know our life-sized tractor keeps many kids coming back year after year, too. The corn pool and our friendly goats are other highlights of a visit to our little North Iowa farm. 

After reading the Winter Issue of the beautiful “Fresh Pickings” magazine from the Iowa Food & Family Project, I’ve decided my focus word for 2021 will be “community.” Editor Kelly Visser, writes, “Nine months into a global pandemic marked with grief, frustration, uncertainty and many indescribable emotions, it’s easy to turn sideways on our goals and lose sight of the bigger picture… I’m a work in progress but finding new ways to connect with my community has helped me remember my bigger picture through this isolating time.”

Let’s make 2021 the time we come together for the benefit of the North Iowa Community!

Here are a few ways in which Enchanted Acres – and YOU, our farm guests – have contributed to the North Iowa Community for the past nine years:

 

  1. Fall Ball” to benefit Make-a-Wish Iowa. Enchanted Acres presented the Fall Ball for five consecutive years. Click here to see how wishes come true for people in our own community.
  2. Embarked on a Mission to help a local veteran raise funds for his service dog. Gate proceeds plus two generous anonymous donors helped Andrew O’Connor of Sheffield, Iowa, surpass his $7,500 fundraising goal. 
  3. Paws in the Patch to benefit the Humane Society of North Iowa. Although we sponsored this benefit in 2017, the pet supply donation list is still relevant. 

Each year we host at least one fundraiser. This year I’m asking you to help me choose our cause. This spring we will start accepting nominations. I want our 2021 charity benefit to be bigger and better than ever. It feels good to do good, so let’s do some good! 

Donations will be collected for the winning charity during the 2021 fall season opener. More details will be forthcoming. 

20 Ideas to Make Winter Break Festive & Fun

Most school-age children countdown to Christmas, eagerly awaiting a visit from Santa Clause and relishing time more time to play at home. I always looked forward to my kids’ winter vacation, so our family could enjoy outings and activities that we otherwise didn’t have time to do in the midst of school and extracurricular activities. So what’s a parent to do when a worldwide pandemic prevents you from enjoying many traditional holiday activities like ice skating, watching the latest blockbuster movie or taking a mini vacation?

My answer is to return to the basics.

Although my children are now young adults, they’ve been home since Thanksgiving Eve. My daughter had to finish taking her first semester of college classes online, and my son’s college accelerated the semester and he’s making the most of a nearly two-month break from studies. Honestly, this creates a lot of downtime for kids who are used to being busy and active.

20 Ways to Brighten Your Holidays:

  1. Raise the bar. Make your own hot cocoa charcuterie board because they’re hot this season! I got inspired to make one after watching Hallmark Channel’s “A Little Christmas Charm.” Last weekend my daughter and I enjoyed a festive cup of cocoa and enjoyed a holiday movie on Netflix.
  2. Make paper snowflakes. Snowflakes can decorate your windows and refrigerator through February, so cut away!
  3. This season is for the birds. When I was a Girl Scout leader, we would simply spread peanut butter on a bagel; dip it in bird seed; then use yarn to hang it on trees.
  4. Trim the tree. When I was a kid, my mom and I made ornaments from pinecones. My Girl Scout troop made cinnamon ornaments. Click on this link for one Iowa farm family’s recipe to make adorable ornaments that look like gingerbread men and women.
  5. Picnic around the Christmas tree. When my kids were young, they enjoyed special times when I would put the “picnic blanket” on the living room floor for lunch. They also enjoyed sitting in the living room while the only lights on were on the Christmas tree. Why not combine the two ideas and make a fun memory?
  6. Bake and/or decorate cookies. You could buy cookie dough and help younger kids frost and decorate cookies. For easier clean up, have kids sprinkle sugar and candies over a 9x13 pans.
  7. Decorate a gingerbread house. You can make simple houses out of graham crackers. After all, Tiny Houses are in! All you need are candies like red hots, gum drops and candy canes.
  8. Deliver the goods. If you don’t like to bake, support one of our local bakeries and then make special deliveries to family members and special friends
  9. Make the holidays sweeter with homemade Christmas candies like peppermint fudge
  10. Take a drive. Drive around looking at holiday lights and lawn displays. Make the evening more festive by packing snacks like party pretzels or Dot’s pretzels.
  11. Fill the holidays with fun and games. You can download everything from coloring sheets and crossword puzzles to BINGO game cards.
  12. Give to others. Demand has doubled at food pantries, even in Franklin County Iowa. Consider donating a few non-perishable items. Click here for items in demand.
  13. Write before Christmas. Cards don’t have to be fancy or expensive. Encourage your children to draw pictures for special friends or neighbors. Send a letter to someone in a nursing home, even if you don’t know them. My daughter wrote letters for eight weeks this spring and delivered them to our local care center. I think it’s time she provided them with an update!
  14. Build a snowman.
  15. Read “The Polar Express” or your favorite Christmas book.
  16. Go caroling. Carolers can stand outside a person’s home and bring joy from a safe distance!
  17. Call a friend.
  18. Watch classic movies like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”
  19. Make homemade stew on Christmas Eve. When I was growing up, we always enjoyed homemade oyster stew and chili on Christmas Eve. Last year we made the switch to chili and homemade chicken noodle soup. Why not adapt traditions to suit your tastes?
  20. Take a walk under the stars. A rare celestial event will help mark the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere on Monday, Dec. 21. Jupiter and Saturn will appear very close together from an earthly vantage point, forming a Christmas star. These two gas giants are in conjunction, an occurrence that happens every 20 years or so.

Very few of the ideas above must be done by Christmas. For example, you could deliver cookies or muffins any time to special friends and neighbors. If you don’t get letters written in time for Christmas, wish people a Happy New Year. Adapt and change. Birds don’t know Christmas falls on December 25, but they enjoy your homemade treats throughout the winter.

I would love to hear what ideas you have to make winter break fun, so feel free to share them in the comments on our Enchanted Acres Facebook page.