Monday, December 29, 2008

All I want for Christmas

We had a wonderful Christmas. It was not a busy rush rush try to fit everything in kind of Christmas. This year due to some snowy weather and then rain we ended up spending much of our time at home. I couldn't have wished for more. Their vacation began with the big bang of a snowstorm. That first weekend of vacation is a blur of playing in the snow, drinking hot cocoa and watching Christmas specials. We managed to squeeze in some gingerbread crafting and cookie making as well. The surplus of snow and ice did however, cancel our planned Christmas celebration with Joe's family. We usually go to see the Festival of Lights at Edaville every year but Christmas Eve was rainy and windy so we reluctantly decided to skip it this year. Instead, we pulled out our Polar Express Brio train set and Thomas Christmas set and built up a little Santa's village on our train table and the kids played with it all evening. They read Christmas stories with us and each other. They played with the Jesus sets and bid adieu to Max William our Christmas Elf. Christmas Eve ended with a nightcap of cookies and milk for themselves and some set out for Santa as well. It was a quiet Christmas, a simple Christmas, and while I do love all the parties and extras we missed out on this year due to the weather, I like this kind of Christmas too.

As long as I've got these smiling faces under my tree each year...I've got all I could wish for. Or as Katie so eloquently put it after opening her Alexa and Liana Barbie dolls, "My heart has it's wish come true!"

Friday, December 19, 2008

rolling on the floor laughing probably wasn't the response she was looking for

We are in the midst of a spectacular snowstorm. My kids couldn't wait for the blizzard to hit and at the first hint of flakes they were begging to go out and play. Joe was heading out after dinner to shovel and told them they could go out then. They were frothing at the mouths with excitement. Not only were they going to go out and PLAYINTHESNOW!!! But they were going to go out and playinthesnow AT NIGHT!!! I gathered up snow pants, coats, gloves, hats, and boots. Teresa got herself dressed and then came to me for help with her boots. I had to put the kibosh on her choice of footwear. She wanted to wear a pair of pink suede boots that are adorned with pom poms and elaborate stitching. Pretty? Yes. Practical? No way. So I sent her to get her ugly but warm and functional snow boots and put them on. Sam and Katie danced out the front door and there was still no sign of Teresa. I called her and she came trudging down the stairs dragging her snow boot clad feet. She did not look happy and when I asked her what was wrong she asked me, "Mumma, do these boots make my toes look fat?"

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

craft extravaganza

We are still busy crafting away here in our corner of the world. The elves will be hard at work until Friday and then it's all systems go for Christmas. Here is a sampling of some gifts the kids made with their two little hands.

This snowflake requires adult assembly ahead of time and it involves glitter. So, if that hasn't scared you off read on for what you'll need.

six no roll wooden clothes pegs
two wooden discs about the size of an American silver dollar
glue gun
white paint
silver and iridescent glitter
lid to a shirt box

I assembled the snowflakes ahead of time and it goes together very quickly. Lay one disc down and dab some hot glue on the end of one of the clothes pegs. Press it onto the disc. Continue gluing the pegs to the disc until all six are glued on. You should only be able to fit six. Now run glue along the edge of the second disc and sandwich it on top of the pegs and first disc. Done. That wasn't too bad.

The kids can now paint the snowflake. I had them paint one side and place it in a box lid. They could then shake glitter all over the snowflake as it's in the box lid and the glitter will be somewhat contained. Let this dry. Once dry, the other side can be painted and glittered and presto! These would look very pretty grouped together.


Isn't this one of the cutest little Rudolphs ever? It's super simple too. Once again I assembled the little guy ahead of time using my trusty glue gun. What did crafters do before glue guns were invented? You will need
2 no roll clothes pegs
2 teeny gogglely eyes
one teeny red pom pom
brown paint
a paint brush
white glue
paper clip
and the glue gun of course
I glued the two clothes pegs head to head. The kids painted little Rudy with the brown paint. Once he dried they glued on the eyes and nose using white glue. After the eyes and nose have dried I hot glued a paperclip to the back so he can be hung from the tree.

This little guy is even easier than his brother. No glue gun required here folks.
brown construction paper
craft sticks
gogglely eyes
pom pom nose
white glue
I traced the children's hands and cut them out. They will become the reindeer's antlers. I then had the children make a triangle with their craft sticks and they glued them together. They then glued on the eyes and nose in the appropriate places. Once it had dried, they could glue on the antlers. And that's it. It'll be a sweet reminder in years to come of how tiny your little one's hands once were.


The end result of this project is one of my favorites we did this year but the actual process to create sends shivers down my spine. It involved my using fabric paint and I hate the way that paint feels on my hands. I strongly recommend gloves for the adult helpers with this one. But maybe that's just my weird hangup. I did do this with all my kids from one year to 4 years. It was a breeze with the two preschoolers but much more work with the little ones. will need
green and red fabric paint
fabric (I bought plain white bandannas but you can use fabric from the fabric store, old sheets or pillowcases, or what have you)
straight pins
wire rimmed ribbon
safety pin
paper plate
paper template
old towel or some other drop cloth
wet paper towels or wash cloth
This project is fairly easy with the older kids but very messy with the little ones. Have lots of paper towels on hand because they get the paint everywhere. I also stripped them down to a diaper so the fabric paint didn't get on their clothing. It would be a good idea for the adult helpers to wear an art smock or old tee shirt too. Just a friendly little tip. Unless you like your clothing smeared with red and green fabric paint.
Lay down the towel on the table and put the paper template down. I use a template because I can't make a circle without. We'd end up with wreaths in the shape of blimps or eggs. Okay, moving on...I also taped the template to the towel so it wouldn't shift around. Next lay the fabric on top of the template and use the straight pins to pin it to the towel. Squirt some green paint onto the plate and using a paint brush paint one of the child's hands. Starting at the top make a print onto the fabric. Continue painting and making prints along the edge of the template. I started along the top then turned the towel so the fingers of the prints are all facing in the same direction. Just keep turning the towel until you've made your way around the circle. Wipe the hand off. You probably won't get all the paint off but as long as you get most you're good to go. You can do a thorough cleanup afterwards. Now squirt a little bit of the red paint onto the plate and have the child use his pointer finger to dip into the paint and make little berries all around the wreath. I also used the red paint to write the child's name and date. My oldest preschooler was able to write her name on her own. Now's the time for cleanup. It doesn't take long for the wreath to dry and once it's dried you can pin on a bow made with the wire rimmed ribbon.

Monday, December 15, 2008

An observation

Katie: Mumma, where's Daddy? (asked early Sunday morning)

Me: He went to get some coffee.

Teresa: Daddy looooooooooves to drink coffee. He drinks it all the time...except when he's drinking beer.

Nothing gets by these little monsters....nothing.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

snowy Sunday afternoon

Sunday morning we woke up to snow blanketing the ground and it fell fast and furious all morning long. The kids went out around midday (that's how long it took me to track down snow pants, winter coats, hats, gloves and boots to fit everyone). I don't always go out with them but I decided to head out with my camera and take some pictures and we had the time of our lives. I remember one of my favorite things to do after a big snow was be the first one outside and make tracks all over the yard. The snow seemed to muffle everything and the world was so quiet and I felt like an explorer making strides into a brand new world. This was the first order of business for my kids too. They wandered all over the yard discovering how the snow transformed their toys and the world around them; delighting in the snowy footprints they left behind. Teresa, true to form, walked around with a handful of snow from which she nibbled. Every winter, since the first one she enjoyed as a toddler, she has sat and munched on snow. I think she looks forward to her wintertime treats. This year she ate her snow off a stick. Okay, probably not the most sanitary way to eat snow, but it's fun and it certainly won't hurt her.

The snow lay so thick on some of the pine branches they were bent way down to the ground. This inspired a new game called avalanche, where the kids took turns standing under the branch and the other shook it to cause heaps of snow to dump on their heads.

They made snow angels too. Poor Katie doesn't quite get the concept. She lay there on the ground and flailed her arms and legs (her head too for good measure) and sat up quickly and whipped around to look. Each time she wailed "There's NO angel!" I'm not sure what she expected. But quite obviously, her little snow angels were not living up to her expectations.

A snow ball fight to beat all snowball fights sprung up out of nowhere. The kids really don't make snowballs yet, they just pick up handfuls of snow and fling them at each other and Joe and I. We were all breathless when a truce was finally declared.

And then, out of nowhere we were attacked by a rampaging coyote and we had to fend it off with snowballs. They did little to stop his advances but gave us time to regroup and form a strategy.

I decided to feed the kids to him, which would give me plenty of time to make it indoors and save myself.

(don't worry, no children or coyotes were harmed in making of this blog post)

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Virtual Cookie Exchange

Jen over at Mommay's Mayhem is having a virtual cookie exchange. I am squeaking in under the wire to get in on the action. I adore the Holiday season and mostly because I absolutely adore all the goodies baked and exchanged this time of year. Well, maybe there's more to it than that but honestly sweets rank right up there with Christmas trees and Christmas music for me. My cookie is technically not a cookie. There's no baking involved but there is chocolate...lots of chocolate...and marshmallow...and that's about it. This cookie is one my Mom always made for her cookie plates. Crazy isn't Mom had all these lunatic kids running around and yet she still managed to bake like 17 different kinds of cookies every single Christmas. I really still have no idea when she baked...maybe at night? I don't even know what she called them, but I call them Stained Glass Window cookies. Alright, enough blather, here's the recipe.

Stained Glass Window cookies

1 pck semi sweet chocolate chips
1 and 1/2 sticks of butter or margarine
1 bag colored or white mini marshmallows (I do some with white and some with the colored..they're equally delicious)
2 cups confectionery sugar
shredded coconut (optional)

Melt butter and chocolate chips together. Let cool. Pour chocolate into a bowl and add the marshmallow and confectionery sugar. Mix well. I lay wax paper on the counter and using a measuring cup dump half the mixture onto a piece of wax paper. Shape the mixture into a log. I just use a silicone spatula to push the chocolate mix into a log shape so I don't even get chocolate on my hands. Ooops! I forgot to mention, if you want to use the coconut you should sprinkle it on your wax paper before you put the chocolate mix down and then sprinkle it over the top and sides once the logs been shaped. I don't usually use the coconut myself. Wrap the wax paper around the log and fold the ends. Then wrap it again in aluminum foil and refrigerate it. This will yield two logs. Refrigerate for 24 hours then you can cut each log into rounds. The true beauty of these cookies doesn't reveal itself until you cut them. This is more like a fudge I suppose, than a cookie but for me it will always be a cookie.


Friday, December 5, 2008

a simple handmade gift from the kids

All throughout December my resident elves will be crafting items to give to their families. We kicked off our crafting season with this simple project. The end result can be modified for a number of uses. We are planning on making magnets with ours. All you will need are small cookie cutters, a rolling pin, some acrylic sealer and some sculpy clay. Depending on what you make with them you'll need other supplies. I have my hot glue gun and magnets for the backs for our magnet project. You can make them into pins, ornaments, pendants...the possibilities are endless.

I start off by breaking small bits of the sculpy clay and kneading them until they are very soft. And when I say small bits, I mean really small bits. We went for lots of colors but you could pick and choose colors to suit your recipient or holiday.

The children can then take the soft bits of clay and mash them together in any way they like. Let them mix, knead and smash the pieces together for as long as they like.

Once the pieces are mixed to their satisfaction hand out the rolling pins and show the kids how to roll over the clay to smooth it all out. I have them roll it out to about a 1/4" thickness.

Now it's time for the cookie cutters. I used a very small heart cookie cutter but you can use whatever size and shape your heart desires. We managed to cut out three small hearts from our little blob of clay and after rerolling it got another bigger heart.
They are now ready to be cooked. They should cook in a 275 degree oven for about 12-14 minutes but I start checking them about 10 minutes in. I also line our cookie sheet with aluminum foil. No need for vegetable spray or anything. I line it because I don't like to mix something I use for food stuff with non edibles. They will continue to harden up as they cool.

Once cooled down I paint them with a layer of acrylic sealer. It really shines them up and makes them look so glossy. Once the sealer is dry I hot glue the magnet to the back and they're finished.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

letters to Santa

Our letters to Santa have been mailed and the kids eagerly await Santa's reply. Do you know that many post offices here in the U.S. have special elves that make sure Santa gets your children's letters and Santa sends back a postcard too? And you don't even need a stamp to mail a letter to the North Pole...that's elf magic at work!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

must be a harmonious Holiday

I am happy to report my kids are equitable in their butchering of religions. Yesterday Teresa came home so excited her words were stumbling over each other as she attempted to tell me what she'd learned that day. She was full of news about candles and presents and food. Once she settled down she was able to talk more coherently and she told me "Not everyone celebrates Christmas, you know? People who are Jewish light candles for eight days. And give presents for eight days. And they eat special dinners too. It's not Christmas...they celebrate Harmonica"