Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homemade Ornaments

I was in charge of the activity for playgroup this week, so I searched for a fun activity on-line to do. I found a great one and was all prepared. But sadly, that morning everything was iced over and traffic was HORRIBLE!!! I spend 1 hour in the car and only got 10 minutes away from my house. Everyone else was in the same boat, so I guess we will save the idea for a playgroup next year. But I figured I had already spent the time cutting 18 wooden discs from a tree in our yard, so I let my kids do all of them.

I got the idea here. and I also searched google images for "Christmas thumbprint art" for some other design inspirations. There were some very cute ideas and projects there too.
This is how ours turned out

The project is easy to figure out just by looking at it
  1. cut up a tree/branch into thin slices. (Mine was a little moist on the inside so I put them in the oven for an hour or 2 on 350. It made the house smell nice and piney.)
  2. sand them
  3. drill a hole for a ribbon to go through
  4. write the kids name on the back with the year in a permanent marker
  5. and let those cuties go to town with the paint
  6. when dry thread some ribbon through and hang on tree

New recipe site

I have been feeling tired of all of our regular meals that we have at dinner time and I keep looking for something new. Here is one of my favorites that I found this week.

Easy Creamy Mexican Skillet from My Family Meal Plan

It is sort of like a mexican stroganoff. It also reminds me of hamburger helper, but a packet free homemade version. Anyway, 3 out of 4 of us liked it. Give it a try and see how your family might like it.

I also think that I will enjoy exploring the website a bit more. They have a long list in the side bar of all their labels, so you can click on chicken, or ground beef, or whatever you want to find the perfect thing for your dinner.

I'll add it to our favorite recipe link list, hopefully along with some more gems that I find here :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Gifts for Teachers-
Here are the gifts we are handing out to our Teachers this year.
We included 1 candy cane cookie, 2 squares of fudge and 2 sticks of our caramel. My oldest wanted to write notes to go with them. So we cut up some wrapping paper and she wrote on the back of it. She came up with the message herself "I am glad your my teacher." She signed it with a little heart sticker and her name.
Don't you wish you were her teacher now?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Bake-A-Thon

We have begun our holiday cookie/candy bake-a-thon. Every year I always tell myself I will make a bunch of treats, then package them up for friends and hand them out. I remember doing the same thing with my Dad when I was growing up. However, I don't think I realized then how hard that actually is to make, wrap and deliver so many treats to such a long list of people you want to spread some holiday cheer too. So most years, I start out with the intent to deliver holiday Joy to those I love but somewhere along the way i give up. I'm posting now to prevent that from happening this year. And to share this kid involved idea with those of you who might play this same game as me year after year.
We did Gingerbread candy cane cookies. The kid involved part was the candy cane dusting.
  1. I did the cookie cutting on my own
  2. While I did that I let the kids stomp the candy canes into dust. (I put the canes in a ziplock baggie and gave the kids something to hammer it with. Every once in a while there would be too many holes in the bag and we'd have to put it in a new bag.)
  3. When the candy canes were made into a small/fine dust I put it into a cereal bowl.
  4. Once the cookies were cool I striped frosting with a slanted icing tip (I used wilton #47)
  5. Then as soon as a cookie was frosted I gave it to one of the kids who dipped it frosting side down into the candy dust and then put it back onto the cooling rack.
It went great. I'm happy because they look so cute and the kids were happy because they got to help. You can see in the picture our first cookie (The one in the top right corner) has candy chunks that look a little bit too big. After we did it we realized that we needed to crush the candy up into finer pieces.

I also made homemade caramel and I gave fudge a try again.

Last year I made batch after batch of flops with fudge. I wanted to learn how to make it without just melting down a bunch of chocolate chips as part of the recipe or using marshmallow cream, I wanted to make "real" fudge. I had one that I think I burned, another that never set (like hot fudge for ice-cream) and one that was so dry it was just a bunch of crumbles.
Well this year my fudge turned out almost perfect (My Dad would be so proud :) my one and only problem was that at the very moment I turned off the mixer to pour my perfect fudge into the pan to cool, Gwen's school called to tell me that I missed Gwen's bus. In the 10 seconds it took to take that call the fudge began to set. I scooped it out of the mixing bowl and pressed it into the pan as fast as I could. I know that it will still taste great, but the top just doesn't have that beautiful look that fudge has when it is poured before it sets up.
So I guess next time I just need to pay better attention to the clock, otherwise Gwen's bus driver will hate me.

Happy candy making