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Christmas Memories

My favorite memories this year:0271. The last week before Christmas, Andrew slaved over Isaac’s present, up in his locked room.  He was so motivated to finish his project, there was a day when he wouldn’t stop to eat breakfast or lunch.  Isaac had received this Lego set for Christmas last year but didn’t have the time to work on it.  Andrew thought it would be a great gift to surprise him with the finished car…even though the age range on the set said 16+, Andrew, being only seven, knew he could do it.  It was quite a feat and he was SO excited to give it to Isaac Christmas Eve when the kids exchange gifts.
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2. I’m so glad my friend Pam talked me into this new tradition.  I have to admit I was quite nervous about it…the tooth fairy has never been consistently reliable around our house, and I doubted the Elf on the Shelf would be either.  I didn’t want to set him up for failure, with his forgetfulness and all.  But he did a wonderful job, and only once was he just too tired to move and sat in the same spot.  (Although there were quite a few days when I think he cut it close and made it back into our house from the North Pole within minutes before he was noticed.)IMG_2731
3. The Night Before Christmas…when all is said and done, and I can breathe a sigh of relief when I know that Santa really did show up, and I feel peaceful and calm, and SO blessed to have all my children tucked in their beds, safe and warm.IMG_2710IMG_2717IMG_2726

Caramel Corn

I love caramel corn.  I became addicted to it when my BF’s mom made us up a batch years ago, and I haven’t stopped eating it since.  Thanks Pam, I owe those extra pounds all to you! Smile
Here’s what you need:
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6 quarts of popped corn  (I fill my air popper twice…about two large bowls worth)
1 cup butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. soda
2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla

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In heavy saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in sugar and salt; bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Boil for about five minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in soda and vanilla.  (Keep stirring after this till you see it foam up and “grow”.)  Then gradually pour over popped corn.  (I pour it over the popcorn while the popcorn is IN the bowls.)  Mix it up to coat the popcorn.  Put the popcorn in two turkey roaster, or shallow baking pans that have been buttered.  Bake 1 hour in a 250 oven, stirring every 15 minutes.  Cool completely.  Break apart.

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You can order cute personalized labels like this from Good Gravy Designs.

Butterscotch Rolled Cookies

103I’ve made these cookies since I was a little girl.  They are, I think, the perfect “cut-out” cookie.  Not teeth-hurting sweet, with gobs of shortening, and not so spicy like gingerbread.  Just the perfect in-between.
Here’s what you need:
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2 2/3 cup (or one bag) of granulated brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Make sure you buy granulated brown sugar!  It’s quite different from plain.024
Mix sugar, salt and butter in a large mixing bowl. 
Beat eggs and vanilla into mixture until light and fluffy.
Sift together flour, baking powder, soda and cinnamon, and gradually blend into sugar ingredients.
Chill well.  (About an hour at least.)
Roll dough out on well floured surface.  Cut into shapes.
Bake on lightly sprayed cookie sheets at 350 for 8-10 minutes.
Yield: 4-8 dozen depending on shapes.

Here’s the glaze I like to use:
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Blend until smooth:
3 cups confectioners sugar
2 slightly beaten egg whites
2 TBS melted butter
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
Add a little water if you want it thinner (my favorite), or add more sugar for thicker glaze.
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Elf and Owl Pinecone Ornaments

We had so much fun making these:059And these:088
Here’s what you need:042
1. Pinecones
2. Felt
3. Ribbon or string for hanging.
4. A glue gun (This is a necessity and only a couple dollars at the craft store if you don’t already have one!  I don’t think there is a glue in a bottle on the market that would stick to pine cones.)
And just for the owls:
Feathers
Googly eyes

And just for the elves:
Tiny pom-poms
Pipe cleaners
Crayola Model Magic in Skin Tones

We found pine cones in our backyard and then put them in the oven for 2 hours at 250 degrees to kill any bugs and dry them out a bit.  Of course, you can just buy them at a craft store.


For the owls:
1. Cut a beak from felt.
2. Cut a string to hang.
3. Wide part of the cone on top, using a glue gun (for little ones I let them choose  the color of beak and the feathers they wished to use), glue the string, beak, feathers and eyes on.  It’s that easy.  Abbey added a bow for a girl owl.
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For the elves:
Using the Crayola Model Magic.. 037
…roll into head shapes, and dry.  To speed up drying time I set them near a heat duct.
1. Using Sharpies or other thin markers, draw a face on the hardened modeling clay.004
2. Cut a wide triangle out of felt for the hat.029
3. Cut a string for hanging.
4. Glue the string or ribbon into the triangle, and then glue the triangle into a cone shape.
0325. Glue pom-pom on hat.
6. Trim hat if necessary.033
7. Glue hat on elf head.039
8. Cut and tie scarf. (You can use fabric like picture above, but we mostly used pieces of felt like below.)
0099. Cut arms and legs out of pipe cleaner.011
10. Cut mittens and boots out of felt and glue onto the ends of pipe cleaner.
11. Glue appendages onto pine cone.018
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Need gift ideas?
Here's a list of our favorite, most-played with, delivered-to-your-doorstep, Mom-approved toys.

And here are our favorite games.
Here are some great teen gift ideas.
By age and interest here.

An Easy Shortbread Christmas Cookie Recipe

If you are not in the mood for cut-out cookies, (and seriously, don’t you have to be in the mood to even consider those?) I have a great standby for easy, kids-in-the-kitchen, delicious melt-in-your-mouth Christmas cookies.

And when you package them up so nicely, (thank you SO much Lelan, from Good Gravy Designs), they make easy little gifts!

Here’s what you need for Easy Shortbread Christmas Cookies:
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1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
red and green sprinkles

Cream together butter, sugar and vanilla.
Add in flour, baking powder and salt.
Mix together and divide into 3 equal portions.

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Roll each of those 3 portions into about an 8” roll.007013

Cover and refrigerate.
After cool, (about an hour), slice each roll into 15-20 slices.

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Take each sliced, unbaked and press into sprinkles.049

On lightly greased cookie sheet, bake at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes.  (Get them out before they start to brown…they will look undone!) 
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This recipe makes about 50 cookies...I always double it, because they go so fast.

I installed a button below to print the recipe if you'd like.



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Christmas Card Display Idea

I’ve been searching for a quick, easy way to display the Christmas cards we receive.  I’ve always just set them on the window sill in our kitchen, but this year I created a cheap, easy garland like I did for Halloween.  If you don’t have a bank of windows, you could use this idea over a sofa, or the mantle, or an entry way.

Here's my old window sill display:  (The cards would constantly fall down.)
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Here's my Halloween photo display garland:

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I just used the same supplies.  I found them all at Hobby Lobby (all for 50% off.)

1. Lanyards. In the jewelry section. You will string these on the beaded ribbon before you hang it.066

2. Ribbon of your choice.  The beaded string is found in the ribbon section also and was just $1 for an entire generous roll.  The other ribbons I use to hang down on either side of the window purely for decorative purposes.
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3. You DO have to be willing to punch a hole in the card.  (Or I suppose you could just paper clip the cards up if you so desired, and forgo the lanyards.)
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Now I just need the postman to start delivering those cards!