Monday, December 21, 2009

Sweet Treats!!

Every Christmas season our family has a tradition of baking Christmas goodies! We love to package them up and choose a few families and friends to share them with- and of course we love to save some for our own family! This year we are way behind on our holiday baking. Come to think of it, we are way behind on a lot of things this season. (I guess I didn't do enough editing of my to-do lists)
While the snow fell outside, we were able to get a few of our favorite goodies made! With a snow day today and the kids home from school, I'm hoping to sneak in a few more batches of sugary goodness!!
Marshmallows dipped in chocolate or white candy coating..then dipped in nuts, chocolate or sprinkles.

Chocolate covered Caramel

Caramels with nuts...and we did some white chocolate with chocolate on top as well.

And one of our new favorites, White Chocolate cherry shortbread cookies....dipped in white chocolate of course!!! (are you seeing a theme here?) We dipped them in white non-perils and red edible glitter. I ate three of these in the process of photographing them. Shameful, I know. I should have had breakfast first!

I'll try to get pictures of more goodies as we get them made.
Hopefully we'll get our caramel corn (with chocolate and nuts) and chocolate covered toffee done today.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Keeping the kids out of the Christmas gifts

I've learned, in my 17 plus years of Christmas' with kids, that the best place to hide gifts are under the tree. I've lost gifts in the back of closets, under beds, and hiding in the rafters in the garage..what a surprise it was to find them later in the year!

But how do you keep those gifts from being shaken, and their contents discovered, especially when some of the kids are old enough to know what a box of Lego's or video game sound sliding in a box sound like?

I've learned a few tricks that not only keep the gifts a surprise, but also build more anticipation.

If you see it, you don't get it! This one has worked more perfectly than I ever expected it to when the words first left my tongue. Honestly though, the first time I had to take a gift back to the store was a sad time. I was really excited to give my daughter a toy I knew she'd love, but she wandered into the closet before I had a chance to wrap it and dove right into the bag it was in. She was super excited- a look I had hoped to see come Christmas morning. After a few times of gifts being taken back, the kids run the other direction when they hear there are gifts entering the house for fear of accidentally seeing something and ruining their chance of getting it! For those of you who need to motivate your kids to clean their room- try this one "clean it before dinner or I'll show your your Christmas present" ;)

We do allow them to shake the gifts (carefully) and try to guess what's inside. That's part of the magic of Christmas!

Don't put their names on the packages. This has become a tradition that the kids really look forward to! Every year, I come up with a different way of marking the packages so they don't know who they belong to. Not only does this make guessing the contents more difficult because they don't know if the gift is theirs- .....; they also look forward to cracking my code!

Ways I've done it in the past:(be sure to have a key so you know how you've marked them)

1. Swap the kid's names around.
2. Give them a new name entirely- one year we did Wiseman, Shepherd, Angel, Star; or you can use regular names not associated with Christmas or your family.
3. Use a different wrapping paper for each person. All of Sara's gifts are in the red paper, while John's are in gold with green stripes.
4. Use a specific ribbon for each person
5. Use a specific gift tag- with nothing written on it
6. Write a number or letter on the package
7. Write their real names on the package after you've mixed them all up a few years- they'll never know you didn't switch

Even the little ones who can't read love trying to guess if it's their gift. They count on older siblings to tell them what the gifts say (or don't say). Christmas morning, before the gifts are opened, we open a small box that has the code I used that year. It may contain name tags with their new names, a ribbon to put on their wrist, or a swatch of wrapping paper to pin to their pj's. Whatever the code was, the answer is in the box. Having a visual for each person will help a lot when you need to pass out gifts. It makes it easier to remember who had what.

Change the packaging- We always put batteries in toys, and get rid of the impossible twist ties before wrapping to save us some sanity Christmas morning anyway, so taking things out of the box it came it or adding things to it to help conceal the contents is a pretty easy trick. We may put tissue paper in a Lego box to keep it from rattling as much, or tape a video game to the bottom of a shirt box so it won't slide. Extra large gifts that are hard to conceal (a bike comes to mind) are hidden in a nearby room or closet and a box with a paper giving it's location are put under the tree in it's place. One year, we even took a high chair out of it's box and replaced it with the new Wii console. The kids didn't even want to open the box, because they didn't care about the high chair. It was a gift for the baby....wasn't it?? We had to talk them into delving further. We used an old printer cartridge box for our daughters new camera lens. She didn't open the box...and was surprised when she didn't get a printer to go with the cartridge- until she opened the box at the end and was doubly surprised to find the lens! (she didn't want a printer anyway)

Hide large items at a neighbors home or other location If you don't plan on wrapping that bicycle (maybe Santa is bringing it??) and are planning to get it put together before Christmas Eve so you can sip eggnog and watch "It's a wonderful life" instead of wrestling with a wrench- you may need to stash it off location. We have asked neighbors to hid it at their home, or put the items in other locations not at our home (my husband's office, the trunk of his car..).

Give little ones gifts they CAN open I've learned that my young ones really just want to open a gift-and waiting until Christmas is a long time. They love to open a gift, and then want to put it back and open it again. I bought a set of nesting prefabricated Christmas boxes for them to play with, and it keeps them happy for the several weeks before Christmas. They fill them with gifts for each other- toys from their bins, books, socks, whatever. They are then gifted, and refilled. The magic of a secret gift is satisfied all season long with the gifts they are allowed to open. From time to time, I'll even put a little something in them, like fruit snacks or other little things so they have a real gift.

Above all, try to remember that you were once little and anxious for gift opening. It's better to have Christmas spirit than be stressed about your kids getting into gift before you want them to. Try to find ways to keep them excited about the secret of gift giving!!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Ornaments every year

We have a tradition in our family of giving our kids an ornament every year. They also get one from their grandparents. We try to select something that will have special meaning and/or is related to something which happened during the year. We have given a bus ornament for a child starting kindergarten, 1st Christmas to a new baby, Flute to our new flute player (who quit a few months after Christmas- now its a great story teller), new driver, braces, etc. There are a lot of places to get ornaments that have to do with events, places, etc.

We continue to give them to the kids until their 18th year. At that time, they are on their own to create their own memories- and may very well be out on their own. When they do leave the nest, they take their box of ornaments with them to decorate their own tree with lots of memories!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ruffled Apron- with handprints

While making homemade Christmas gifts this year, I ran across the instructions for a super cute apron. I loved it and decided would be perfect for our project. The site I got the idea from is this The instructions are simple to follow. I did tweak mine a bit to adjust not only the size, but to add a personal touch. The apron I made is for Jedi to give to his older sister Doodle. I wanted to do something with hand prints, but steer away from the fabric paint avenue. This is what I came up with. I'm really pleased with how it turned out!

The flowers are hand prints and can droop down or lay flat against the apron. I personally think it looks cute drooping. I used fabric I already had, but the flowers would be cute in different colors.
I love that the apron ties in the front! Doodle is a lefty- which is why the pocket is on the left.

The flower on the top is where the snap is and it has two snaps on the strap so the size can be adjusted.

I added the sheer ruffle to make it a little more fun.

Bottom ruffles
I am definitely making an apron for myself! I thought that it was a cute pattern for any recipient, but adding the hand prints would be a great gift for Mom's, Grandma's, Aunts, etc. I also thought it would so easy to secretly get hand outlines from children of a friend/neighbor too. Who would guess that you are doodling their kid's hands to make them a gift?
Let me know what you think!