Browsing the archives for the Christmas tag.

Christmas 2013 Rewind

Domestic, Kids

Oh my goodness, this Christmas season really seemed to fly by faster than others have! I think it’s that this year we are involved in more activities than ever before. Several years ago, when we lived in the middle of nowhere, I felt like I had a pretty good grip on being fully present and that helps to make time feel a lot slower! I’m going to have to think about that and try to work out a way to be fully present when there is so much going on. Challenge accepted!

This holiday season I made a knitted advent calendar and it was so fun to do the activities with the kids. Some of the activities were seriously time consuming like making homemade marshmallows and some activities were especially messy like making window clings, but they were all a blast. The whole reason we do so many countdown activities with the kids is to spend time together, add to the magic of the season and stretch out the anticipation!

We celebrate Eastern Orthodox Christmas as well, though the focus on our ‘little Christmas’ is to make things for each other and to bake traditional Greek Christmas treats. I’ll post some of the other Christmas treats we have made between now and then (January 6) because they were all so good! This year we made peppermint fudge, Oreo truffles, a holiday version of cowgirl cookies, checkerboard cookies, English toffee, two kinds of peanut brittle (the accidental kind was voted the best), red and green velvet Ferrero Rocher cupcakes, chocolate dipped pie crust stars, and date cakes baked in tin cans with caramel sauce. Our oldest had a Jiu Jitsu tournament where he placed second, and a promotion ceremony where he moved on to his next belt! Our second had a weekend of dance workshops to prepare for her competitions next month, she danced for a fundraiser and her dance company had a Christmas party. The littlest and I were just trying to make sure everyone was where they needed to be and that we managed to have a healthy dinner on the table every night. She’s playing around in the kitchen a lot more lately and loves when she makes something she can share with her friends.

Oreo truffles peppermint fudge
checkerboard cookies peanut brittle

My husband and my sister both got me the bulk of my kitchen wish list, and I could not possible be more thankful or more excited! Aside from the glass bowls and the stainless steel measuring cups and spice rack (thank you so much guys), I got cookbooks from my two absolute faves – Bobby Flay and Ree Drummond. I am really excited to cook and bake my way through these books. I think I will start with some of The Pioneer Woman’s finger foods for New Years Eve and work on some cute mocktails. Today though, today is for knitting and relaxing and maaaaaaybe making some lemon curd, because why not?

Merry Christmas!!

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Knitted Advent Countdown

Crafty, Kids

I’m late to the game on this one, but it was just too cute and too fun to wait till next year!

While stocking up on yarn in November for my annual knitting marathon (every evening in November and December) at Knit Picks, I came across this pattern for Smitten, a Holiday Garland and, naturally, I bought everything I needed for it that very second. So so so cute!


Rounds 1-8: *K1, P1 repeat from * to end of round (8 rounds of ribbing)
Switch to stockinette and begin the body of the mitten
Round 9: K3, M1R, K6, M1R, K6, M1L, K6, M1L, K3 (28 sts)
Round 10: Knit
Round 11: K12, M1R, K4, M1L, K12
Rounds 12-15: Knit (4 rounds)
Round 16: K12, M1R, K6, M1L, K12
Rounds 17-19: Knit (3 rounds)
Round 20: K12, M1R, K8, M1L, K12
Rounds 21-22 Knit (2 rounds)
Round 23: K12 and move them onto needle 1, K10, move the remaining 2 stitches on needle 2
onto needle 3 for safe keeping (12-10-12)
Work back and forth on the 10 stitches on needle 2 to make the thumb.
Row 1 (WS): Purl
Row 2: Knit
Row 3: P2TOG 5 times
Break yarn, leaving a 6″ tail.
Draw the tail through the live stitches of the thumb, pull up and secure.
The tail will be used to sew up the side of the thumb when finishing.
Continue Round 23 by attaching the yarn at the beginning of needle three and knitting all of
the stitches on it.
Rearrange stitches evenly on three needles and mark start of round if needed. (8-8-8)
Round 24-30: Knit (7 rounds)
Round 31: SSK twice, K6, K2TOG, SSK, K6, K2TOG twice (18 sts)
Round 32: Knit
Round 33: *K2TOG repeat from * to end of round (9 sts)
Break yarn, draw tail through the remaining stitches, pull up and secure. Hide tail inside.
Using the tail on the thumb, sew up the side of the thumb. Yarn can be knotted with the cast on
tail (mid-round 23) at the thumb joint to secure. Hide the yarn ends inside.
Fold the end of the i-cord to the mitten cuff and sew in place with the cast-on tail to form a loop
for hanging. Weave in (or hide) all yarn ends.

I knitted them up over the course of a few nights at the end of November. You just knit 24 tiny mittens, feel free to use whatever colors go with the room you’re putting this in or just whatever makes you happy. I used six different colors, so I made four of each. I used Knit Picks worsted weight yarn Swish in Serrano (holly red), Rouge (pink), Honey (yellow), Gulfstream (bright blue), Dublin (green) and Amethyst Heather (purple). Each mitten has it’s own little i-cord knitted into the cuff to hang! Then you knit a long i-cord to hang them all from, I also used Split Rings to mark the countdown.

Knitted Advent Countdown
Knitted Advent Countdown
Knitted Advent Countdown Knitted Advent Countdown

Instead of putting candy or toys inside (we have a few advent calendars, our kids are big on counting down and we didn’t want to add any more trinkets or candy to our lives), my husband and I dreamed up 24 fun activities and opened these cute little characters in Photoshop and got to work. We printed them, cut them out, rolled them and tied them with red curling ribbon. Then we stuffed each mitten with an activity! The kids have such a blast picking out the activity for the day and since we know what they are, we can make sure we are prepared for them!

Knitted Advent Countdown
Knitted Advent Countdown

When we’re done, I’ll post pictures of all the activities we did! Here is the list:
1 – write letters to Santa
2 – make paper snowflakes
3 – make paper chain dolls
4 – bake bread
5 – make cinnamon ornaments
6 – read Christmas stories
7 – Christmas movie marathon
8 – make homemade marshmallows
9 – paint Christmasy pictures
10 – make hot chocolate balls
11 – have an M&M race (more on this later)
12 – make Borax snowflakes
13 – decorate a gingerbread house
14 – play minute it win it games
15 – make snow globes
16 – make botttlecap snowmen
17 – make gifts for each other
18 – make window clings
19 – make gingerbread and star garland
20 – try a new recipe
21 – make a huge blanket fort in the living room
22 – watch The Polar Express and drink hot chocolate
23 – play reindeer games
24 – read The Night Before Christmas


Peppermint Meringues


Here we go, let the countdown to Christmas officially begin! We have 23 sleeps to go and my little family is packing a whole lot of Christmas insanity into this month. Our elf on the shelf has been bringing us treats and making messes since last Tuesday, in our family the elf shows up the day after we put up our tree and we’ve been putting up the tree on the same day for about 14 years now so it’s a neat addition to a family tradition.

These little meringues are so simple and so good! I love how pretty and festive they look with minimal effort, and I really love how many little stars you can make in few hours! They look so pretty on cookie platters and they dress up assorted cookie tins too! I wish I knew where I got this recipe from, but I clipped it from a magazine years ago and have no idea which one. I am fairly sure it is from one of those holiday cookbook magazines by the checkout at the grocery store, probably either Good Housekeeping or Better Homes and Gardens.

Peppermint Meringues

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
red paste food coloring

Peppermint Meringues Peppermint Meringues

The meringue itself is fairly standard. Just beat your egg whites and cream of tartar until it magically transforms from goo into this big, billowy, fluffy cloud.

Peppermint Meringues Peppermint Meringues

Next, prepare your pastry bag with a Wilton star tip and, using a fine paint brush, paint on four stripes of red food coloring before you spoon your meringue mixture into the bag. Then add the meringue and pipe sweet little stars on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake at 200 for about an hour and a half.

Peppermint Meringues
Peppermint Meringues
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Christmas Cookie Roundup

Domestic, Kids

There was a whole lot of baking going on around here this month but most of it was so pedestrian it wasn’t worth posting recipes of! I let the kids choose what we baked every time they asked to, so we ended up with A LOT of chocolate chip cookies and we did sugar cookies over and over and of course we made gingerbread maybe half a dozen times. They teamed up and decorated a gingerbread house together and there was much decking of halls and wrapping of gifts and watching of Christmas movies while I knitted on Christmas socks (as in, gift socks for Christmas, not Christmasy socks).

When I had a little time to steal, like say after they went to bed and before they got up, I tried out these recipes and they were all winners. Usually, I make batches and batches of cookies starting in mid-November so by Christmas I have a stockpile of 6 or 7 different kinds of cookies. Then I make assorted tins and bring them around to our friends and family as gifts. This year, I didn’t do that because while I had a handful of people that I could have brought assorted homemade treat tins to, it wasn’t enough for a the amount I end up with when I bake so many different kinds.

The funny thing is, the closer it got to Christmas, the more treat tin-worthy friends we were all making and by Christmas week, I easily could have given away as many as we would have had if I had just done my Christmas baking as usual. Oh well! Next year I will make lots!!

Here is the roundup of the four recipes I used this year.

White Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies
White Chocolate Pomegranate Cookies
I made these one afternoon for a ‘bring a snack’ style mini potluck with some mommy friends at Silly Goose. They went over well with both kids and parents, which surprised me because I didn’t think the kids would be into it. (read)
Butterscotch Triple Chip Cookies
Butterscotch Triple Chip Cookies
These were originally intended and baked up for my father and my dear friend’s brother. The kids always get to try new cookies even if the batch is destined for someone else – they liked these cookies so much they ate almost the entire first batch and once my husband discovered them, it was game over. I didn’t have enough left to send a decent package! Hilarious but nice to know when I have a winning recipe on my hands like this one. (read)
Cookie Dough Bites
Cookie Dough Bites
This is not a recipe, it’s 5 things you have on hand mashed together and rolled into balls. Oh and you can drizzle them with chocolate but I was taking them to the park and they are not very mobile once they’re covered in chocolate. This is the kind of treat I’ll whip up before bed for the next afternoon when I know I’ll have no time but the kids will be asking for something. Be careful though, the part of you that is still 6 years old will want to eat as many as you can get your hands on and if you have a 6 year old, you’re going to want to keep a close watch on these babies. (read)
White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
I usually only do one cookie for Christmas that involves white chocolate, but this year I was so smitten with two recipes I went for it. This is the second of the two. I’ve never used maraschino cherries in a recipe before so it was a first and it totally worked out! Definitely drain the cherries well after you chop them, too much liquid will ruin the recipe and the cookies wont hold together as well. (read)

More little pieces of our Christmas, this time, kitchen edition.

-decorating a gingerbread house in your Hello Kitty pearls and Tink costume is a must (duh)
-making fondant from scratch and letting your kids attack gingerbread people with them makes for a seriously fun afternoon
-gingerbread houses can never have too many teeth breaking candies stuck to them
-pancakes taste better when they have seasonally appropriate shapes
-everyone loves festive treat boxes (I’m glad I haven’t met anyone who hates them, anyway)
-cakes should be baked in tree pans, painstakingly decorated with homemade buttercream and handed over to the little ones for dessert
-3 year olds are seriously into baking (another duh)

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Christmas 2012

California, Kids

Here are a few pieces of our Christmas this year. Much excitement. Much fun. My husband and I LOOOOOVE playing Santa, absolutely one of the best parts of Christmas with kids! <3 Back soon with more recaps and fun recipes!

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Elf on a Shelf- Week Two


This elf of ours (Sparklez, for those of you following along) has had another busy week!

Day Eight – She was riding Barbie’s horse in the kitchen, and there were little pieces of carrot all over the place!
Day Nine – Sparklez was caught going for a ride on our ceiling fan in a paper cup!
Day Ten – She brought us a board game – Candyland of course! Right after breakfast we played three games and each of us (myself and Wee Ones #2 & 3 each won a game).
Day 11 – Playing a game of cards with one of her new Barbie friends! I wonder who won?!
Day 12 – She was trying to roast mini marshmallows over a candle using a barbecue skewer! Day 13 – Clearly, she’s been watching Daphne’s journey though potty training!
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Red Velvet Fireplace Cookies


I have wanted to make these little darlings since I first read about them last year! So cute! Since I was bringing mine to a park date with my favorite mommies ever, I skipped the chocolate and royal icing fire in the fireplace and opted to just decorate the mantle. They were a hit with everyone we shared them with because they were equally as tasty as they were adorable! True story!

I do try to avoid using food coloring when I can, though I admit that I always add it to my frostings. To me, it’s just one of those ‘time and a place for everything’ kind of things and I think the time for artificial food coloring is anytime you’re making royal or buttercream icing (though I will also say that I’d never use anything other than Wilton food color gels – if you’re going to do it, you may as well do it right). So in this case, I thought about using beet puree in place of the food coloring, but it would change the texture of the cookie completely and possibly make them unusable. So, food coloring it is!

Loads more cookies coming your way this month, pinky swear.

Red Velvet Fireplace Cookies – via Diamonds for Dessert

1 1/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, cubed
1 tablespoon food coloring
green, yellow and red gummy bear hands and feet (just cut the nubs off with kitchen scissors)

You don’t need me to tell you how to make these, but I will anyway. Ha! Just mix the flour, sugar, salt and cut in the butter with two knives. Usually, like with red velvet cake I strive for beet puree instead of red food coloring but it totally messes with the texture of the cookies. Just use let this be the day you throw food coloring caution to the side, k? Thanks!
Now roll out the dough to about 1/4″ thick, give or take a little and trim off the edges, then cut into 3″ x 2″ rectangles.
This part is a little tricky, so pop the dough in the fridge for freezer for a few minutes first. Then cut out a smallish square in the middle of the bottom of each rectangle to make a fireplace opening. I made some bigger than others to see how different they’d look after I decorated them! I baked them at 325 for about 15-20 minutes.
I had some extra dough so I rolled it out and cut out some candy canes!
Once they were cool, I dipped the tops in melted white chocolate and then piped melted green chocolate to hang like a string of lights! You could use royal icing, but they’d be a little more delicate that way. I dusted the entire cookie in sanding sugar and attached the gummy bear nubs to the still-wet green chocolate.
Super, super cute right?!
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Elf on a Shelf – Week One


The kids are over the moon with excitement that Santa has sent us an Elf on a Shelf!! Wee One #2 has been hoping and wishing for one since she first heard about their existence in the fall. The girls have named our elf Sparkle and she’s up been to all kinds of hilarity the first week she’s been here!

Day One – we woke up to a breakfast of teeny tiny pancakes! She tried her best to make us a feast, but I made some bigger pancakes for us.
Day Two – She was spotted on the kitchen counter reading a new storybook with some Barbie friends!
Day Three – Sparkle loves being in California, here she is sunning herself with a makeshift umbrella she made from a barbecue skewer and a cupcake liner! She also filled my favorite pie plate with graham cracker crumbs for her own personal beach!
Day Four – Sparkle got up early and tried to make coffee, but she made a mess instead!
Day Five – This was the day before advent began, so Sparkle brought us a lovely wooden advent project! The girls painted the wooden Christmas tree and cabinet and all 25 of the little ornaments! They had a lot of fun getting it ready, we do a few different advent countdowns and the kids really get into it (ok, ok, we all really get into it).
Day Six – Sparkle brought her own tree from the North Pole to decorate! It now has it’s own shelf in the living room!
Day Seven – We woke up to a very odd scene on Sunday morning. We found Sparkle crammed in a mason jar in the kitchen, with Wee One #3’s Cinderella doll suspiciously sitting beside it. Did Cinderella get jealous of Sparkle and stuff her in the jar?! *gasp* or did Sparkle get scared of Cinderella and hide in the jar? We’ll never know!!
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Little Updates and Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix


Much, much business is happening around here lately, as I have no doubt is happening at your house as well!

First a quick homeschooling update. When we started this journey a little over eight months ago, I was really excited to do it but I honestly wasn’t sure how it was going to work out. I had the best intentions and the best books, but that alone will only take you so far, right? Well, I am very happy to report that since we have started working with a local independent study program and doing a fairly even mix of Canadian and American curriculum, the kids are doing even better than expected! Wee One #2 started 2nd grade this year, but at the rate she has been going, she is fast tracking through it and will end this school year finishing 3rd grade. Next fall, she will likely be challenged enough by the 4th grade work to keep working at a steady pace through it and not fast track again. Our 7th grader is progressing ahead of schedule but instead of fast tracing through to 8th grade, he is spending his extra time exploring some of his lessons more in depth than the textbooks go. It’s been a really amazing to see how they learn at home and with each other.

I have been asked about our littlest one, and what she gets up to while the others are working. Truthfully, I have folders and folders of neat activities I have been saving to post about. We make play doh every other day, we conduct a lot of mini science experiments and she is learning her letters and numbers by sight. She is learning something that is normally an epic problem in households with a busy toddler – she is learning patience! Since I spend so much time working and crafting and reading and just being with her, she knows that if I need to step away for 5 minutes and help one of the other kids, that I really will be right back. She used to be on the verge of a fit every time I had to walk away from her and now? She just continues on with whatever it is we were doing until I get back (not that I’m ever really more than across the room during school time anyway), but it’s nice to see.

Thanksgiving in Vegas was such a blast we have all decided it’s our new go-to for a random family weekend getaway. If we can’t hop in the car and visit our family, we may as well hop in and have a super fun weekend (& visiting our friend Nichole and all her kids is a serious plus too)!

This year we were lucky enough to be sent an Elf on a Shelf from Santa himself!! The girls have been so excited each morning when they get up to see what she has been up to! I will devote a blog post this week to our first week or so with her. This of course has meant a lot of silly late night insanity with my husband preparing for our little elf’s arrival! Hilarious.

There’s also been more holiday baking going on between Thanksgiving and today than ever before in previous years – I even started on my crazy complicated cookies. You know how much I love to bust out the ruler and egg wash, right?! Usually, I have my girlfriends around to sample new cookies and plenty of family members on both sides and even kids and teachers at school to pawn the sweets off on. Here though, there is considerably less and I am eating waaaay more than I should. However, I have joined a local mommy group and they have been the happy recipients of some treats already so it’s looking up. 😉

Years ago, I came across a recipe for homemade hot chocolate mix and then last year my girl Sammie made homemade instant cake mix and I’ve been searching for just the right recipe this season. Mason jars filled with hot chocolate mix and tied with a cute ribbon are a simple but still sweet gift to give to people you might not know well but see ALL. THE. TIME. Like the FedEx guy (even though he’s always kinda surly) or the UPS guys (who is always super nice). This recipe is crazy rich – which is perfect for the holidays, right?!

This recipe filled 6 15oz mason jars, we saved one for home and we are keeping the other 5 around for gifting.

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix – via Just a Pinch

7 cups non-fat powdered milk
1lb confectioner’s sugar
2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups powdered non-dairy creamer*
2 cups mini marshmallows
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/2 cups mini white chocolate chips
*you can choose a flavored version but it might compete with the chocolate unless it’s hazelnut

Sift together the powdered milk, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, and non dairy creamer.
Now add the mini marshmallows and chocolate chips! See? So easy! Now just fill your jars and voila! Prepare a cup the same as you would any other cup of instant hot chocolate, by warming up a cup of water or milk and adding more or less scoops to taste.
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Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles


These are among my family’s top 10 favorite Christmas cookies, which is a list that will be rundown at some point next month and even though I’m up to my neck in festive Halloweeny fun right now, these were just begging to be made and posted about! Sometimes, you just have to veer off track and bake a batch of Christmas cookies in the middle of October surrounded with orange and black construction paper and pumpkin seeds. Amiright?! No? That’s just us?

These cookies are good whenever, honest. They are slightly crunchy on the outside (hence the ‘crinkle’) but they are soft and chocolaty on the inside. They are hella addictive though so be sure to share!

Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles

Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles – via Betty Crocker’s Best Christmas Cookbook

2 cups sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup cocoa
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar (for rolling)

Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles
Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles
So first up, mix the sugar and oil and then add in the cocoa until totally combined. Now add the eggs, and vanilla. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt and then stir that into the cocoa mixture. Now pop it in the fridge for a few hours.
Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles
Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles
Once the dough is solid enough to form into balls, do just that! Make them each with about a tablespoon of dough. Of course you can make them much smaller or bigger depending on what you are making them for and how you want to package them, but you’ll have to adjust the baking time.
Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles
Chocolate Cocoa Crinkles
Now, whatever size your balls are, roll them in the powdered sugar and place them about 1″ apart (the bigger the balls the more space you need hehe) on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Smoosh them down with the bottom of a glass before you bake them – for 11-13 minutes at 350 (more or less of course if they are smaller or bigger than a tablespoon each). I am making these for the base of a Halloween cookie so I’ll have festive versions of these babies up soon!
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