Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Treats

I can't believe Christmas is only 2 days away! I just delivered some Christmas treats to my neighbors.  Got it to them just in time!  This year I made Rolo Pretzels - very quick and easy. Click here for the recipe.  I wanted to make Cupcake Bites again but I ran out of time.  Click here for the Cupcake Bites recipe.  They are so cute and yummy!

I found some fun candy tins at Hobby Lobby and a huge roll of red tulle.  Here's how they turned out.

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Handprint Ornaments

We bought a second Christmas tree during the after Christmas sales last year.  The main reason is that I wanted to preserve my "pretty tree" and let the kids decorate a "fun tree" filled with their homemade ornaments.  So far it's been a great compromise, but the fun tree is a bit bare.  We are using a mini-Santa hat in place of a tree topper! 
The fun tree has potential but needed some help so I thought we I'd make some ornaments. I found a very simple recipe for making handprint ornaments here.

What you need:
1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
7 Tbsp water
Parchment paper
Round cookie cutter (I used a bowl and cut around it with a knife)
1 drinking straw
Mod Podge (I used a matte finish but glossy would turn out great too)
Red Paint
Glitter (optional)

What you do:
1.  Preheat oven to 300°F. 
2.  Mix together flour, salt, and water. Knead with your hands until combined (~5 minutes).
3.  Roll out the dough to ~1/4-inch thick and press child's hand into dough.  If you’re doing this with really little ones, you may have to go back and make deeper impressions of their hands with your fingers or a kitchen utensil – the deeper the impression, the better your ornaments will turn out.
4.  Use the cookie cutter (or other tool) to cut out the circles around the handprints.
5.  Use a straw to poke a hole in each ornament (this is where the ribbon will go later). 
Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden.

6.  Wait for ornaments to cool, then paint as desired.  I also sprinkled glitter on the handprints while the paint was still wet.  Once dry, I wrote each child's name on the back and the year.  Then I covered both sides of the ornament with Mod Podge.

7.  When dry, thread a ribbon through each straw hole to create ornament hangers.

I was able to make 3 ornaments from the dough and had a bit of dough left over.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

"I Thank God" Crosses

My girls are typical kids who get caught up in the excitement of Santa and Christmas presents this time of year.  So I'm trying to be better about incorporating the true meaning of Christmas into some of our activities.  We have a lot to be thankful for in addition to toys. A little reminder never hurts!  

The girls and I made these crosses to hang on our Christmas tree to help us remember everyday.

To make your own cross, you need:
- Card stock for the cross
- Colored paper for the squares on the cross
- Ribbon

I'll be posting my "Christmas Traditions" list soon!  Then I'll be signing off until 2014 so that I can focus on enjoying the holidays with my family.  Happy Holidays!

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Lights in St. Louis Hills: Candy Cane Lane, Angel Avenue and Snowflake Street

Tim and I took the girls to the St. Louis Hills to see the lights.  If you live in St. Louis this is a fun (and FREE) activity to do with your kids.  They really go all out!  Here's the route we took:

Candy Cane Lane: 6300 - 6500 block of Murdoch Avenue
Candy Cane Lane starts at the intersection of Nottingham Avenue and Murdoch Avenue.

Angel Avenue: 4700 block of Prague Avenue
To get to Angel Avenue:
Continue down Murdoch and then turn right on Prague Avenue to see Angel Avenue.  The house in the picture below has a great light show set to music!

Snowflake Street: 6500 - 6600 block of Neosho Street
To get to Snowflake Street:
Continue down Prague and turn right on Nottingham Avenue.  Pass the park and turn left on Donovan Avenue.  The first street on the right is Neosho Street (aka; Snowflake Street).

And a trip to the Hill is never complete without a stop at Ted Drewes!
To get to Ted Drewes:
Continue down Neosho Street and turn right on Jamieson Avenue and then right again on Chippewa Street and Ted Drewes is on your right!  You can even pick out a Christmas tree here!

Merry Christmas!!!

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Traditions for Families

I love the weeks leading up to Christmas.  There are so many fun holiday traditions to create with your family.  Here are my family's favorites:

Elf on the Shelf – Elvis arrives with the Elf on the Shelf book the day after Thanksgiving and stays with us through Christmas Eve.  Tim and I love to come up with new places for Elvis to hide.  Pinterest has tons of great ideas.

Letters to/from Elvis – The girls always have a lot of questions about Elvis (How old is Elvis? Does Elvis miss his Mommy and Daddy when he’s at our house all day?).  So we started writing him letters to get our questions answered.  He always answers back on fun Christmas stationary!

Decorating the House – We bring up the Christmas tree and decorate the house over Thanksgiving weekend.  We bought a second Christmas tree at an after Christmas sale last year.  We wanted the kids to have a fun tree to decorate with all their homemade ornaments and the ornaments they receive as gifts.  So far, the tree only has lights, a tree skirt and a few ornaments, but the kids LOVE it.  The especially love that they can take off the ornaments and play with them all the time.  Needless to say, it's a pretty bare tree!  We're hoping to get some more decorations after Christmas this year!

Mini Christmas Trees  I bought the older girls mini Christmas trees for their rooms this year.  Click here to see how they turned out!

Wrapped Christmas Books each day during Advent – Each child takes a turn opening a Christmas book each night for 24 nights that we read before bedtime.  The first book is The Story of the Nativity.  Each day during Advent, we read a new passage from this book.  The last book we open is The Night Before Christmas.

Good Deed Manger – During Christmas-time, anytime the girls do a good deed we write it down on a piece of paper attached a piece of yarn and the girls can put it in the "manger" (aka; a Christmas basket).  By the time Christmas comes, we have a nice, soft manger for the baby Jesus.

Christmas Music – I absolutely love Christmas music.  I have TONS of Christmas CD’s that I downloaded to my iTunes library so I can play my Christmas music all day long!  Some of my favorite songs are:
- Ave Maria by Chris Cornell
- Baby It's Cold Outside by Dean Martin
- Carol of the Bells from the Christmas Carols for Children album
- Children Go Where I Send Thee by Natalie Merchant
- Please Come Home for Christmas by the Eagles
- I Saw Three Ships by Sting
- It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Andy Williams
- Jingle Bells by The Brian Setzer Orchestra
- O Holy Night by Josh Groban
- Santa Claus is Coming to Town by The Pointer Sisters
- Silent Night by Stevie Nicks
- Star of Bethlehem by The Judds
- God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings by Barenaked Ladies & Sarah McLachlan
- 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser
- Bells Will Be Ringing by Kelly Clarkson

P.S. - My guilty pleasure is the Jessica Simpson Christmas Album, Rejoyce - don't judge!

Christmas Shows – I love to record all the Christmas shows that come on TV between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Click here for the 2013 programming guide.

Christmas Events around town  There are always fun things to do around town.  Click here for a list of events around St. Louis.

Christmas Cards – I love to send out Christmas cards to our family and friends.  And I love to receive Christmas cards (hint, hint)!  We display all our Christmas cards in the kitchen.

St. Nick’s Day (December 6th) – The kids leave their shoes out before bedtime on December 5th in the hopes that St. Nicholas will come and leave them some money to buy a gift for a child in need (see “Toys For Tots” below).  They may get a special treat too.

Gingerbread Man Cookies – We make gingerbread man cookies and while the cookies cool we read the book The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School.  Sure enough, our gingerbread men cookies escaped while they were cooling just like the gingerbread man in the book.  We searched all over the house looking for our gingerbread men and finally found them on the kitchen table ready to be decorated.  Phew!

Visiting Santa – The kids love to color pictures for Santa so that we have something to give him when we visit him at the mall.  Getting their picture taken with Santa is special too.

Toys For Tots – A couple of years ago we started the tradition of having the girls pick out a toy to donate to Toys for Tots.  This year, the girls have earned money by doing chores around the house that will go toward the purchase of the toy.  They will also contribute their St. Nick's Day money.  There is usually a Toys For Tots donation bin at the mall by Santa.

Letters to/from Santa – Before Christmas, we help the girls write a letter to Santa about how they've been and what they've been up to over the past year.  When the girls wake up on Christmas morning, there is a letter from Santa waiting for them.  Click here for a link to some cute, free Santa stationary.

Portable North Pole Video from Santa – Santa sends video letters to the kids (and sometimes to Mom and Dad) before Christmas.  Click here to make your own video.

The Legend of the Candy Cane & Candy Cane Cocoa - One of the books that the girls open during Advent is The Legend of the Candy Cane.  We drink Candy Cane Cocoa while we read the book.  Click here for a yummy Candy Cane Cocoa recipe.  Click here for a free printable PDF that tells the Legend of the Candy Cane story.  Also, if you need a dairy-free hot chocolate, Target sells Archer Farms Dark Chocolate hot cocoa mix that is dairy free!

Baking Christmas Treats for Family, Neighbors and Public Servants – I love to bake Christmas treats but I can’t (or rather, I shouldn't) eat them all by myself.  So we give plates of treats to our neighbors or bring them to our families’ houses that we visit over the holidays.

Neighborhood Lights – We are so lucky that there are many families in our neighborhood that decorate the outsides of their houses for Christmas.  We love to drive around at night and admire all their hard work!

Public Light Displays – We love to drive through Tilles Park to see the Winter Wonderland lights display.  Santa’s Magical Kingdom is a bit more expensive, but still lots of fun!

Gardenland Express – The Missouri Botanical Gardens has a great indoor holiday train display that the girls love to see each year.

Magic Reindeer Food – We sprinkle reindeer food and glitter in our lawn the night before Christmas so that Santa’s reindeer will spot our house from the sky and stop to drop off the girls' gifts.  Click here for a recipe for magic reindeer food.  You can also print out a free poem and tag for your bag here.  Also, Ava made this cute container for our magic reindeer food when she was in preschool.

Milk and Cookies for Santa/Carrots for Reindeer – We put milk and cookies out for Santa the night before Christmas on our “Cookies for Santa” plate.  We also put out carrots for Santa’s reindeer.

A Christmas Story – After Tim and I put the girls to bed on Christmas Eve, we start watching A Christmas Story while we wait for the girls to fall asleep so that Santa can come.

Stocking Stuffers – Kids love those little junkie toys that make great stocking stuffers.  I go to Dollar Tree or the dollar section at Target before the holidays to find our stocking stuffers.

I also found some more fun traditions that other families do to celebrate Christmas:
- Write out a Christ-centered goal to start early for the New Year
- Bake a cake for Jesus’ birthday
Advent Calendar – Do a special family activity each day during Advent
- Adopt a Child / Adopt a Family
- Special Christmas morning breakfast
- Christmas crafts and Christmas coloring pages
- Take the whole family ice skating
- Host a White Elephant gift exchange
- Hang Mistletoe around your house
- Go see The Nutcracker or another Christmas-y production
- Make Thick Hot Chocolate and watch a family Christmas movie
- Host a Christmas Sweater Party
- Donate canned goods to a food pantry
- Make a Christmas wreath
- Make a Gingerbread house
- Open one gift on Christmas Eve (i.e.; Christmas pajamas)
- Decorate Christmas sugar cookies
- Attend City tree lighting event
- Have breakfast with Santa

What is your family's favorite Christmas traditions?

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Monday, December 2, 2013

Mini Christmas Trees

I wasn't sure if we would be able to put up our Christmas tree this year.  Clara is going through the phase where she tears everything apart - my desk drawers, the kitchen cabinets and drawers, bathroom cabinets, the pantry.  Anything that is not child-proofed is fair game for Clara.  She is her own tiny path of destruction.

So I bought Ava and Sidney these little Christmas trees to decorate and keep in their rooms. They LOVED having a Christmas tree all for themselves!
The trees came from Micheal's.  All of their holiday stuff is marked down 30-40% off and they've had a lot of addition 25% off coupons on sale items lately.

Then the girls got down to decorating.
I found the ornaments in the picture above at Dollar Tree - they came 4 to a pack.

Most of the other decorations came from Hobby Lobby.  All of their Christmas stuff is 50% off! I bought tiny jingle bells and 1/16" red ribbon to use as ornaments.  They also had cute mini tree lights strung together (the lights don't actually work).

I found the tree skirts in the dollar section at Target and the little presents under trees came from Hobby Lobby.  They were meant to be ornaments so we just cut off the strings.

Here's one of the decorated trees!  I think this will become a new, fun Christmas tradition! Check back soon to see my Family Christmas Traditions post.

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