Tuesday, December 28, 2010

25 Years of Christmas

I just had to share this cool video I found that documents 25 years of one family's descent down the stairs on Christmas morning. In under three minutes you see two children grow up before your eyes. It's heartwarming to watch how the kids change and grow as the years progress. I love the idea and I think it would be a fabulous tradition to start in any home with kids.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Traditional Holiday Drinks... Yummy!

Every year when I was young we'd celebrate Christmas at my Grandma's house. Besides a whole spread of delicious food and cookies, we'd have special holiday drinks to top off the evening. After the dinner was over my two aunts would spend time in the kitchen blending delicious ice cream drinks for all the relatives. The two drinks that were made every year were Brandy Alexanders and Grasshoppers. Of course being a kid I didn't get to taste the alcoholic version, but I would always get some special ice cream drink made just for me. I clearly remember everyone ooohing and aaahing over the wonderful drinks and I always looked forward to the day when I could have the "real" stuff.
The days of celebrating at my Grandma's house have long passed now and my family hasn't blended a delicious ice cream drink as part of our Christmas celebration in many, many years. This year John and I decided to resurrect the tradition at our house and make the drinks for John's family celebration. After dinner was over, we got out the blender and made the Brandy Alexanders and Grasshoppers. Of course, everybody loved them. Who wouldn't, they're like alcoholic candy. I truly enjoyed the drinks, but I even more I enjoyed the memories that sipping the drink brought back of Christmas celebrations from my youth.
Do you have a special drink that you associate with the holidays? Warm hot chocolate with a peppermint stick and marshmallows, Tom and Jerry's? We'd love to hear about your holiday drink traditions.
And if you want to make Brandy Alexander's at your next celebration, I've included the recipe below. I highly recommend the ice cream version as opposed to many of the recipes that simply include heavy cream. How could anyone go wrong with ice cream?

Brandy Alexander

  • jigger Brandy
  • 2 ounce Creme de Cacao
  • 1 pint Ice Cream
  • 1 cup of crushed ice
Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a martini glass. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Love Christmas Cards

One of my favorite things about the holidays is getting Christmas cards in the mail. I very excitedly look forward to getting the mail every day to see what cards we received. I love looking at the photo cards to see how everyone has changed since last year and I love, love, love reading Christmas letters, poems and notes. Some catch me up, some make me laugh, some absolutely crack me up, some make me cry and some just make me shake my head. No matter what the response though, I love reading them all. With that said, I've only done my part in entertaining others by writing a letter just once a few years ago. This year things just got too hectic (as always) and it seemed too late to craft a letter. I promise I'll do one next year though! (Please remind me in November!)

For the last several years I've taped all the cards we receive up on the dining room windows so I can look at them through the holiday season. I figure, I enjoy the cards so much, why would I just simply throw them in a basket so I can't see them. I want them to be part of my holiday decorating. I truly enjoy looking up at the cards as we sit a tthe dining room table. This year I discovered that there is someone else in our household that enjoys the Christmas cards even more than I do. Little Miss Stella LOVES looking at the cards. She especially likes the photo cards and particularly focuses on cards with babies and small children. She gazes up and studies the cards and always notices when I add more to the mix. It's so fun to watch her admiring all the beautiful cards and sharing in one of her Mom's favorite traditions.
How do you display your Christmas cards?

I Have the Best Neighbors!

I am so lucky to have wonderful neighbors. I am even more lucky to have wonderful neighbors that know how to bake AND like to share. This year we were lucky enough to be the happy recipients of delicious baked goods from three of our neighbors! We received an entire assortment of cookies, chocolate dipped goodies, granola, savory nut mix, chex mix and caramel corn that was absolutely to die for (and to diet for later). I'm savoring every delicious morsel of the home-baked goodies because with such amazing neighbors, it will certainly mean a New Year's Diet Resolution again this year.
Do you have any special home-made goodies (baked or otherwise) that you share with your neighbors, friends or co-workers?

You've Been Elfed!

I've been in love with the "You've Been Elfed" tradition ever since I learned of it. I've been promising myself that I was going to start "elfing" in my neighborhood for years and this year, I finally did it! I bought some cute little goodies at the store and a inexpensive Christmas stocking to put them in. I jump-started the neighborhood "elfing" by doing 4 elf gifts for neighbors in different sections of our neighborhood. I planned on starting earlier in December, but only got the stockings delivered very very late on Sunday night. I hope the recipients enjoyed their surprise and I hope they pass on the joy that comes from "elfing" your neighbor. I think it's a fun neighborhood tradition that will be exciting for both kids and adults.
Here's more information on CafeTraditions.com about the You've Been Elfed tradition.

Happy Elfing Everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Smells of Christmas

I love Christmas for so many reasons, there's the sounds, sights, and even the smells. The delicious smells of cookies baking, cranberry candles burning, and last, but not least, the beautiful smell of a fresh Christmas tree. I've had a fresh-cut tree my whole life and even with the nuisance of the dropping needles, the sap, and the constant need to water, I'm sure I'll continue that tradition for many years to come. For me nothing compares to the smell of a real tree. The smell always brings back many happy memories of holidays past. What's your favorite holiday smell?

Christmas TV Specials, Movies and More

I love watching many of the same Christmas specials that I watched when I was a kid. For me no Christmas season is complete without watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and a Charlie Brown Christmas. I remember when I was young my Mom would have to check the TV listings so we didn't miss the one time each year the shows were on television. I remember anxiously looking forward to those special nights so I could watch the shows with my family. Of course, now things are a bit easier, we have DVDs, on Demand and DVRs so all the planning that went into the schedule to ensure we were home that one night a year doesn't exist. Now, we simply pull out the video, hit a few buttons and the show is there whenever we are ready to watch. It's a nice luxury to have the shows at our fingertips, but I have to admit the old way felt more special and added to the tradition of Christmas.

What are your favorite holidays movies? Do you have any special traditions that you celebrate when you watch them? I'm still waiting to watch a few more of my favorites before this Christmas season is over. I can't wait to see White Christmas, Miracle of 34th Street and Elf.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas Breakfast Tradition

A new tradition was just posted at CafeTraditions.com involving a special Christmas morning breakfast tradition. Georgette posted that she has been making the same yummy gingerbread pancakes with warm maple applesauce since she first got married and it's the only day of the year when she serves the special pancakes. First, I have to say I'm a bit intrigued with gingerbread pancakes so I found a recipe at Food2.com.

Second, I love the idea of serving a special Christmas morning breakfast. While I don't know that mine will be gingerbread pancakes, I'd like to find a special recipe that we could make part of our Christmas morning.

Do you have special breakfast that you serve on Christmas morning? I'd love to hear your ideas.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cookies for Santa

Stella is still a little young to understand leaving treats out for Santa and his reindeer, so I haven't participated in such a tradition in quite a few years. In fact, it was probably at least 20 years or so ago when my younger sister and brother still believed that the Jolly Fat Man snuck into our house and not only left us presents, but also ate the snacks we left out for him. I don't remember very vividly, but I think we only left a few cookies and a glass of milk. I don't think we left anything for those hard-working reindeer of his! One of the traditions on CafeTraditions.com features one family's take on leaving out a treat for Santa. Read about it here and feel free to leave a comment below on what tradition you have for leaving a treat for Santa.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions, Crafts, Snacks and More!

I never really paid attention to all the fun and cute Thanksgiving crafts that were out there until I had a child. I always just thought Thanksgiving was about stuffing my face full of too much food, hanging out with family and being thankful for all of my blessings. Don't get me wrong, all three of these traditions are wonderful, but now I've discovered there's even more fun to be had.

While I might not get a chance to try all (or even any) of these ideas this year, I wanted to share with you some of the Thanksgiving crafts, snacks, and generally cute things that I've found. I'll make my best effort to bring some of these ideas to life this year, but I'm making no promises. (It's already late on Tuesday and Thanksgiving is only a little over a day away.) I'll report back on my success after Thanksgiving. There are absolutely tons of great ideas for Thanksgiving crafts, desserts and more available, but these are some of my favorites:

1) Handprint Turkeys - Not a new idea, but a good one. I remember making handprint turkeys as a kid myself and I think the idea is just as good now. Send a simple Thanksgiving card featuring your child's handprint turkey, decorate a plate (paper or ceramic), make an apron or a table-runner to use year after year. This instructions for this cute turkey plate, can be found on Kaboose.
2) Cute Turkey Snack - Stella loves fruit and I'm sure when she's old enough to appreciate it in the shape of a turkey, I'll be happy to make her this adorable healthy and delicious Thanksgiving-themed snack. This recipe is compliments of Family Fun Magazine.
3) Thankful Tree - There are so many ways to celebrate your gratitude on Thanksgiving. You can write in a journal, craft a paper chain, simply go around the table and announce your gratitude, or you can make a Thankful Tree. With all the ideas out there, this is my favorite because it doubles as a beautiful and unique centerpiece for your Thanksgiving Day feast. I found this idea on PBS Parents.

4) Wild Turkey - This looks like a great craft to make when Stella is a little older. Not only does it involve a little nature hunt to gather sticks, bark, seeds and more, but it's just plain cool-looking. I'm sure it would keep a child busy for a long time as they glue on all the various pieces to design their own turkey masterpiece. I can't wait to make one! Idea courtesy of Better Home and Gardens.
5) Paper Pilgrim Hats -  These are just too cute and I think Stella and her cousins would make some adorable pilgrims. Not to mention, if I could pull off getting the cousins to all wear pilgrim hats, it would be a nice photo op. While I might be able to manage making the hats before our get-together on Saturday, it will take an act of God to get all six kids to sit still, smile and look at the camera. Wish me luck and thank Martha Stewart for providing the instructions and templates for the female bonnet and the male hat. Thanks Martha!

6) Give Thanks Banner - Banners seem to be all the crafting rage lately and this Thanksgiving Day banner is right up my alley. I don't have a lot of Thanksgiving Day decorations, and I think my dining room could use a little sprucing up for our dinner on Thursday. We'll see if I can pull it off before then, but if not, there's always next year. This banner idea comes to us from Parents.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sharing Easter Traditions

I've been hosting the family Easter lunch at my house for the last several years. I love having the family and all the kids around to celebrate such a fun holiday. It's the perfect time for a celebration. The weather is finally getting warmer and there's a feeling of excitement as the days are getting longer and the grass is finally greening up after a long winter. Even more importantly, the kids are excited for the arrival of the Easter Bunny. I love to decorate the house and get it prepared for the family to visit and even more, I love all  traditions that we've created over the last several years that make our celebration special. One of the traditions that we started is making, decorating and then finally eating bunny cakes. I bought a pan with six bunny-shaped molds perfect for making our individual bunny cakes. Whoever is around on the Saturday before Easter is usually in on making and decorating the bunny cakes that we then serve for Easter dessert. It's a big job, but a lot of fun!
Another tradition that we have is the family Easter egg hunt. It's so much fun to watch all the kids run around the yard looking for eggs. We have eggs hidden in all sorts of places. For the wee little ones, we simply throw the eggs in the middle of the lawn and watch them crawl through the grass. For the bigger kids, we get more creative with our hiding places. (The kids usually participate in one of the local Easter egg hunts on Saturday too!) We always make a visit to one of the area malls to get the kids' pictures taken with the Easter Bunny and this year we also added an Easter bonnet to the mix. This year only the three littlest girls had Easter bonnets, but I think all the girls (of any age) need to wear a bonnet next year.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Shenanigans

Have a little fun with this St. Patrick's Day with a visit from a naughty leprechaun. Your kids will get a real kick out of some of these creative and silly ideas for celebrating March 17th:
  • Dye the container of milk green with a few drops of food coloring. To prove that the leprechaun really visited, leave green footprints from the door to the refrigerator. Depending on how serious you are, the footprints can be made out of mud, glitter, construction paper or flour.
  • Dye the water in the toilet green with food coloring.
  • Dye the food of your choice green. Consider making green pancakes or green eggs for breakfast. Or even try to eat green food all day long.
  • Bake up a batch of rainbow cupcakes topped with whipped cream frosting (for clouds) and a gold coin. To make the rainbow cupcakes, divide white cake batter up evenly between six bowls and add a generous amount of food coloring for vibrant colors in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. Layer the batter in order (remember ROY G. BIV) in the cupcake liners and then follow the regular baking instructions. Visit Family Fun for more detailed instructions.
  • Leave green post-it notes throughout the house with notes from your friendly leprechaun. 
  • The leprechaun has a hole in his money bag and drops gold coins throughout the house for your little ones to find.
  • The leprechaun leaves clever clues throughout the house that eventually lead to a small pot of "gold" or other small gifts.
  • Leprechauns love to play tricks. Consider swapping your child's sock drawer with the underwear drawer. Rearrange the furniture. Turn the kitchen stools upside down. Move the cereal bowls to a different cupboard. Leave the kitchen cabinet doors open. Fill the tub up with green balloons. Write a message in green soap (Irish Spring) on the bathroom mirror. Put a pair of shoes in the refrigerator.
  • Leave a small gift of food or pennies out for the leprechaun before you go to bed. In the morning, a coloring book, crayons and gold coins appear in there place.
  • Build a leprechaun trap together to try to catch the mischievous little bugger.
  •  Put a few drops of food coloring in the bottom of the glass and cereal bowl your kids will use. When they pour in the milk or drink, it magically turns green.
  • Serve a traditional Irish meal. Listen to Irish music. 
  • Let everyone in the family know why you're lucky to have them in your life. Read more here.
  • Of course, make sure everyone dresses in green.