Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

We hope the new year brings you health and happiness and lots and lots of FUN!

All the best,
Kristen, Mike, Sprout and Tater

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

You are My Miracle

Tater brought this sweet poem home from school.  Once I stopped sobbing, I thought I should share it.

You are My Miracle

I am your parent.
I am your child.
I am your quiet place.
I am your WILD.
I am your hot chocolate.
I am your marshmallow.
I am your nutcracker.
I am your cookie dough.
I am your gingerbread.
I am your frosting and goo.
I am your paper.
I am your glitter and glue.
I am your wrapping.
I am your surprise.
I am your "Don't peek!"
I am your wide eyes.
I am your "Bundle Up!"
I am your dash outside.
I am your uphill pull.
I am your fast sleigh ride.
I am your fortress.
I am your snowball fight.
I am your decorate.
I am your tangled lights.
I am your helper.
I am your "do-it-myselfer."
I am your Santa Claus.
I am your Christmas elf.
I am your glass ball.
I am your popcorn string.
I am your pageant.
I am your angel's wings.
I am your steady hands.
I am your rising star.
I am your stocking.
I am your chocolate bar.
I am your caroling.
I am your jingle bell.
I am your favorite song.
I am your First Noel.
I am your old stories.
I am your make-believe.
I am your "Go to Sleep!"
I am your Christmas Eve.
I am your "Hush now."
I am your lyrical.
I am your peace on earth.
I am your miracle.

And there I go again with the sobbing...what a sap...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jingle Bell Wreath

I was trying to remember why I had jingle bells lying around, and then I realized that it was because we made this cute little wreath last year.

Jingle bells are crazy cheap at craft stores, I think a bag of them was about $2.  Or maybe I am deluding myself into thinking they are cheap.  I am still firmly convinced that greeting/birthday cards cost about $1.  I am always surprised that they are closer to $4.  For a card!!

Anyway, maybe jingle bells cost more than $2 a bag.  But they aren't very expensive.

We already had this and I thought, "How hard could it be to make that?"  And really, not hard at all.  Although ours isn't exactly the same.  This one is on wire, the one we made is on monofilament (fancy name for fishing line).

To make a little jingle bell wreath you need:

Jingle Bells - ours are all silver, but a mix of colors could be fun.
Monofilament - like heavy fishing line, you can find it in the beading section at a craft store.

1) Cut a piece of the "string" about a foot long.
2) String the bells on.  They will cluster up as you go.  You want them all packed together as tightly as possible.  We used about 26 bells.  But depending on the size of the bells and what you want to do, you could use more or less.  The kids love to do the stringing.
3) As you go, try circling the threaded bells into a wreath shape, when it holds the shape appropriately, stop stringing.  If you make it too big, it will be all floppy and unwreathlike.
4) Tie the string tightly.  Double knot.  Heck, triple knot.
5) Tie the ribbon in a nice bow (hardest part, I think).  I used the wire-edged ribbon, which is really pretty, but a PITA to tie.  You are probably better at it than I am.
6) You can either tie the ribbon right onto the little wreath, or use the "tails" from stringing the bells to tie the bow on.  Whatever works for you.  We used the tails.
7) Trim the ends of the string.
8) Hang up your cute little wreath.

I like to put these on doorknobs so they jingle when you open the door.

Next up - I am going to figure out how to make one of these.  I have no clue where to start, but I love the "grape-iness" of the way they are clustered up.

But right now, I have to go get gift tags, deliver a cello to school, and go for a LONG walk to unload some of the cookies that have jumped, unsolicited, into my mouth in the last few days.

Jingle on, my friends!  (Like "Rock On"...but jingly...)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Teacher Gifts - Candy Pretzels

This week we are still deep into preparations for Christmas.  Sprout had her Winter Concert on Thursday night and she performed brilliantly in the chorus and orchestra (cello).  The layout of her school "cafetorium" is such that about 10 people in the front row can actually see anything, so my pictures of the actual performance are awful.  But she sure was cute!

Saturday brought the "Storm of the Century" to Southeastern PA and we spent the day alternating between shoveling the driveway and working on our teacher gifts.  As my shoveling technique leaves much to be desired (mostly I desire not to have to use it!) I will tell you about the gift project instead. 

Candy-covered pretzel sticks!

I found a cute little Christmas Tree candy mold at Michael's for $1.99 and figured that melting couldn't be all THAT hard. 

So I also got these little melty candy things. 

We dumped a bunch of these into a plastic bowl and melted them in the microwave, following the directions on the package.  About 2 minutes at 50% power seemed to do the trick for us.  The result was this stuff that looks very much like melted crayons.  Yum.

I always thought that the candy resulting from melting and forming these things would be completely gross - like white chocolate, which I hate.  But it is actually quite delish if you can get beyond the color factor.  Much less waxy than I would have expected.  And with something crunchy and/or salty...mmmm....

I put the kids to work putting little dots of the different colors into the molds to make "ornaments" on the trees.  They used toothpicks to drop the red and green into the molds and did a very nice job.

They are a good work crew.  And very cute.  Especially in their jammies.

The melting and dotting of the red and green took a little while, especially since they were also (of course) watching something on TV.  But it seemed like on a jammie day in a blizzard, you should be allowed to take your time.

See how un-control freaky I was being?  Good, right?

Once the dots were done and had set for a little while we melted some white (with speckles in it...fancy!) and filled the mold about 1/3 of the way up.  They each did three and didn't even fight about it.  I love this project.

Then we took pretzel rods and rolled the ends in some of the melted candy. 

After the first batch I just started dipping them in the little bowl, which was actually a little easier.

Then the dipped pretzels went into the molds, so that they were about 3/4 of the way up the little trees, and then we covered them the rest of the way with melted candy.

We had to prop the ends up so the pretzels weren't flipping out of the mold while the candy hardened.  The Brookstone catalog worked nicely.

We waiting about an hour to make sure they were really and truly dry and hardened and then carefully (oh so very carefully) popped them out of the molds.

Not bad, right??

I figured out later that popping them into the fridge briefly made them a little easier to get out of the molds.  I am guessing that you could put some kind of non-stick into the molds to make them come out easier.  But then wouldn't the candy be greasy??

We also made green ones and red ones, with the other colors for the "ornaments".  

Then there was some extra melted candy stuff leftover so I hunted around for something to put it on.  I came up with graham crackers. I think potato chips would have been quite fab.  Wish I had had some.

I dressed them up with some sprinkles.  I also tasted a few to make sure they were good.  I am all about quality control.

I had purchased some cute little candy boxes, but once I realized that there were more teachers requiring gifting than I had originally planned, we moved on to plan B - some cellophane bags that I had left over from last year.

I put one of each color tree in the bag, and then two of the graham cracker squares (which filled in the bottom nicely, I thought).  I tied the tops with gold ribbon, but then I remembered that I had some jingle bells left from some other project from years ago.

And then when I was digging out the jingle bells (and dropping them all over the floor, scaring the dickens out of the dogs), I found some silver pipe cleaners, which were also left over from some other project.

So I put the bells on the pipe cleaners and made these funky little twisty things out of the pipe cleaners (wrapped them around a pencil).  I think the final embellishment is quite Martha.  Even though I am so totally NOT.

These are all packed up now for the kids to take to school tomorrow.  I am so hoping that there is no droppage or breakage.  But I know that taking them in myself is way too control-freakish.

Awareness is the first step.  Right?

This candy-molding thing was fun.  I would totally do it again - but it would need to be for some occasion where we give the results away.  Because really, yummmmm!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's Beginning to Look (and Sound) a Lot Like Christmas

My name is Kristen and I have an addiction to all things Christmas.  Candles scented like pine (since we have the fake tree, they are necessary), sparkly ornaments, Santa hats...and the music.  Oh, how I love the music.

I am not allowed to listen to Christmas music until Thanksgiving.  And I have to stop on New Year's Day.  But in between, it is playing on the iPod at every opportunity.

The Taylor Swift Holiday CollectionEvery year we add a new CD to the collection.  This year, because my kids are big fans, we added The Taylor Swift Holiday Collection.  This wasn't as painful as you might think.  Taylor is OK.  A big upgrade from The Wiggles and Hi-5, which were staples of Christmases past.  Although I have to say I kind of loved Hi-5.  I am sad to see them moved out of the rotation.

Awesome 80's Christmas Party Starter / Last Christmas by Wham! / Jingle Bell Rock by Daryl Hall & John Oates / Christmas in Hollis by RUN DMC / 12 Days of Christmas by BOB & Doug McKenzie / Please Come Home for Christmas by Pat Benetar / Christmas is the Time to Say I Love You by Billy Squier / Santa Claus is Coming to Town by The Pointer Sisters / Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses / (Rockin') Winter Wonderland by Fabulous Thunderbirds / Silent Night by The Hooters / Sleigh Ride by Air Supply / Zat You Santa Claus by Buster Poindexter & His Banshees of Blue / Rock and Roll Christmas by George Thorogood & The Destroyers / Hazy Shade of Winter by The Bangles / This One's for The Children by New Kids on the BlockLast year we added the Awesome 80s Christmas collection.  Sprout is a huge fan of Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses and both kids are perplexed by Christmas in Hollis by Run-DMC.

A Brad Paisley ChristmasAnother big winner in our collection is the Brad Paisley Christmas album.  The kids love Penguin, James Penguin and request it regularly.  They also enjoy Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy...although somehow it doesn't seem to be triggering any suspicions.  Ah...the innocence of youth.

One of my favorites, which is not even remotely appropriate for kids is Merry Christmas from the Family.  Anything that starts with "Mom got drunk, and Dad got drunk..." is probably not quite right for the kiddies.  But it sure is funny.

So that covers the music side of things.

The day after Thanksgiving we also get out our big box of Christmas books.  We've been adding to the box every year.  The books don't even really fit in the box anymore.

We started with classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas (of course), and The Night Before Chrismas (this is an amazing pop-up version).  Then we expanded to include things like Olive The Other Reindeer, The Longest Christmas List Ever, How Santa Got His Job, and The Chicken Who Saved Christmas.

The kids love the interactive nature of Dear Santa Claus (I can't get the link to go to the hardcover edition - but that's the good one!) Each page has a letter to Santa in a real envelope and there is a little book of reindeer jokes, an advent calendar, etc.  We always have to negotiate who gets to read what and who gets to open the envelopes.  Good times.

The Jolly Christmas Postman is a similar deal with letters in envelopes.  So fun.

The Christmas CrocodileMy favorite Christmas book has to be The Christmas Crocodile.  "The Christmas crocodile didn't mean to be bad.  Not Really."  The pictures are hysterically funny as the crocodile eats his way through Christmas.  Love it.

Santa ClausAnd then my most recent favorite is just called Santa Claus.  This is an amazing pop-up book that is presented like an encyclopedia of information about Santa.  It is really well done and even my older kids think it is completely factual.

So there you go - our Christmas media list.  Fun music and books that mark the season for us.  Hope something in there rings a bell (jingle jingle) for you and helps make your holidays as merry as they can be!

Do you have a book that you love that you can recommend?  We are always looking for good ones.  Any songs I need to add to my collection?  Let me know!