Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve was sneaky this year.

New Year's Eve, New Year's Eve!

Quick meta nonsense/lame excuse disclaimer: After Christmas, I had a very busy work week (through Saturday afternoon) and then a second Christmas out of town Saturday night/Sunday, and now I need to get out the door to go back to work, so I apologize for the lack of New Year's posts.

I wanted to share this article, which is a list of 2007 buzzwords that made me smile.

I wish you all a very happy and very safe evening. How are you celebrating?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Auld Lang Syne

I've been wondering about this song. Mostly because I can never understand the lyrics when I've heard them slurringly sung at midnight on past New Year's Eve. It's a nice tradition, and the history/uses of the song are interesting.

English translation:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely you’ll buy your pint cup !
And surely I’ll buy mine !
And we'll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine ;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend !
And give us a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

The original:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind ?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stoup !
And surely I’ll be mine !
And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.


We twa hae run about the braes,
and pou’d the gowans fine ;
But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,
sin’ auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl’d in the burn,
frae morning sun till dine ;
But seas between us braid hae roar’d
sin’ auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere !
And gies a hand o’ thine !
And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught,
for auld lang syne.


Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday Blues

I don't know about you, but the whirlwind/pressure of the holidays combined with trudging back to work yesterday left me in a teensy bit of post-holiday funk. I thought I'd share some links, just in case I'm not the alone one feeling a bit run down/blah:

How do you deal with the post-holiday blues? For me, getting some fresh air helps a bit, as well as doing something I don't normally take the time to do (give myself a facial, go to bed at 8:00, etc). What do you guys do to feel better after Christmas?

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas

Just stopping in to wish everyone a very happy Christmas!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

More Cookies!

The ever lovely Heather wrote the following (and sent in these photos) (photos that made my stomach grumble):

"I have two staples when it comes to Christmas Cookies...Well, three if you count Sugar Cookies, which really everyone should. I hope everyone has good memories of baking and decorating sugar cookies when they were little. I've always loved sugar cookies... in theory. In reality, as an adult, I've never really enjoyed them. They're sticky and messy to make, and I've never found just the right cookie... most are either too crispy or too chewy. I have to say that PW herself has turned the whole sugar cookie experience around for me. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you should meet her here.

And then try her sugar cookies here. Awe. Some. Seriously one of the best cookies I've ever tasted. Hurry, make some before Christmas is over!!

Another really fun thing to do with sugar cookies... my kids had a blast making these for our neighbors last year: cut out different sized star cookies, frost with green frosting and stack them to make a tree.

I made ours last year with the Pillsbury Funfetti Holiday Cake Mix, using the directions on the box for the cookies. Talk about simple cookies!! I had many people ask for that recipe saying they were the yummiest they'd ever tasted!! They couldn't believe it when I had to tell them it was from a cake mix!

Alright. On to my never-fail-to-put-me-in-the

Chocolate Crinkles
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

1. In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa, white sugar, and vegetable oil. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the cocoa mixture. Cover dough, and chill for at least 4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into one inch balls. I like to use a number 50 size scoop. Coat each ball in confectioners' sugar before placing onto prepared cookie sheets.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Let stand on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to wire racks to cool.

These are so yummy... like soft little brownies with just the tiniest bit of crunch on the outside with the delightful "snowy" sugar sweetness around them.

Tips: The dough is sticky. Be sure you refrigerate or freeze long enough to firm it up. I use a little scooper to drop the balls of dough right into the bowl of powdered sugar. Then in the sugar, you can roll it easily and not ever have to deal with the stickiness. Also, be sure and use parchment or a silpat as the powdered sugar will stick and burn to the bare pan.

Peppermint Bark
white baking chocolate or almond bark
crushed candy canes or starlight mints

Simply melt the chocolate in a double boiler, then stir in crushed peppermint. Spread thinly the chocolate and peppermint on a cookie sheet lined with foil.

Refrigerate for an hour and then remove from cookie sheet and break or cut into pieces. Store in airtight container at room temp.

You can also swirl white and dark/milk chocolate, or layer them by refrigerating just to set first layer and then adding a second layer."

Thank you so much, Heather! These look awesome!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Winter Solstice Links

I had a request to talk a bit about the winter solstice, so here we go! I've found lots of links.

First things first: good old Wikipedia's article about it. It seems the winter solstice can refer to "when the Sun's position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane as the observer," the day of or night before the solstice, or the beginning or middle of a hemisphere's winter. The article outlines several cultures' winter solstice celebrations, including Christmas. Historically these festivals feature food and companionship, welcome breaks from the inactivity and hardship of winter.

This site has quizzes, activities, and fact lists.

Some more sciency stuff.

National Geographic article.

Instructions for making a solstice wish candle.

Solstice crafts, including a Yule log.

A link with recipes and more history.

I hope this is a decent introduction--I didn't know much about the solstice other than knowing it was the basis for winter holidays, and it was fun to read about where so many traditions originate.

Anything you want to add?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Song Article

Just a little article tonight about the top 25 most performed holiday Christmas songs. Also, Wikipedia's article on Christmas songs; the Wikipedia article on Christmas carols; and a list of Christmas hit singles.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Buckeyes + Reindeer Cookies

Kelsey sent the following, and I am happy, because this candy? This candy is gooood:

"Here is our family recipe for buckeyes, which are a huge holiday treat here in Ohio. I'm sure people make them in other parts of the country as well, but might use a different name. (Teams from Ohio State University are The Buckeyes, and the buckeye is the state tree of Ohio.)

We miss these terribly in our house since discovering my daughter's peanut allergy. But they are too good not to share.

Buckeyes with a Twist

2 sticks melted butter
2 cups peanut butter (we used creamy, you'll see why)
1 box powdered sugar
3 cups rice krispies (That's the twist!)
12 oz. chocolate chips semi sweet chocolate chips, plus 1/3 bag milk chocolate chips
1/4 bar paraffin

Mix top ingredients with hands. Form into balls. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Melt 12 oz. chocolate chips and 1/4 bar paraffin fully in a double boiler. ( I have also used a small crock pot for this part.) Use a toothpick to dunk the buckeyes in the chocolate. Refrigerate or freeze.

Some tips:

Mix the peanut butter and butter first, then add powdered sugar, and finally the cereal.

Try not to overwork the mixture once the cereal is in, you want the pieces to stay crispy.

Don't skimp on refrigerating the buckeyes before you dunk them!

You can melt the paraffin in the microwave and then put it into a warm crock pot, then add the chocolate chips and mix well.

Working in the crock pot lets you take your time without worrying about burning the chocolate!

Wash the pots/bowls (whatever held the chocolate and paraffin) right away because it will get yucky as it cools and be more difficult to clean.

You can put nine or a dozen of these in a little gift box for neighbors, friends, etc. We used to eat them right from the fridge. The rice krispies make them nicely crunchy and cut down on the richness a bit, so you can eat more!!!"

And then, here's a post about making reindeer cookies with three-year-olds.

Thanks, Kelsey!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Adult Holiday Beverages

I thought maybe some *adult* holiday beverage recipes might be in order, just in case we need a little help feeling toasty/merry. Of course, on most of these it's pretty easy to substitute something or skip on the alcohol all together, and the drinks will still be yummy and merry, while being alcohol free.

Here's a basic recipe for wassail, alcohol-free. When I make mine, I omit the orange juice and lemon juice, dump in a bottle of red wine, add slices of oranges, and probably add more cinnamon, because I like cinnamon. I also usually get too excited to wait ALL DAY. My version is more like mulled wine. I've heard it called wassail, however.

Wassail Punch

2 quarts apple cider
2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup lemon juice
12 whole cloves
4 cinnamon sticks
1 pinch ground ginger1 pinch ground nutmeg

In a slow-cooker or a large pot over low heat, combine apple cider, orange juice and lemon juice. Season with cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer. If using a slow cooker, allow to simmer all day. Serve hot.

Basic alcohol-free eggnog recipe:

2 eggs, beaten well
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp nutmeg, ground
2 1/3 cups milk

Blend all ingredients together and serve chilled.

(Or, you know, buy the stuff they've been selling since Halloween at grocery stores everywhere.)

Version with alcohol:
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup brandy
  • 1/3 cup dark rum (Captain Morgan for best flavor, but Myers is fine)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 2 cups milk
All liquids should be very cold. Refrigerate in advance.

Beat the eggs for 2 or 3 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed until very frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Turn the mixer off and stir in the cold brandy, rum, whipping cream and milk Chill before serving. Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg.

Makes about 2-1/2 quarts.

I'm not really sure how you can make hot buttered rum non-alcoholic, so forgive me for this one (also, hot buttered rum is rich, rich, rich):

Colonial Hot Buttered Rum

2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 pinch salt
3 sticks cinnamon
6 whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups rum
heavy cream -- whipped
ground nutmeg -- for topping

Put all ingredients, except rum and cream, and nutmeg into crockpot. Add 2 quarts hot water. Stir well. Cover pot and cook on LOW for 5 hours. Add rum; stir to blend. Serve from pot in warm mugs with a scoop of whipped cream and a dusting of nutmeg.

The infamous hot toddy:

1 oz (2 tablespoons) bourbon
1 tablespoon mild honey
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup boiling-hot water

Put bourbon, honey, and lemon juice in a 6-ounce mug. Top off with hot water and stir until honey is dissolved.

(You can also use Scotch or brandy. Some people also use hot tea, lemonade, coffee, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, or butter. A non-alcoholic version would be more like a hot cider or hot lemony cup of tea, but would still be warming and cozy!)

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Add peppermint schnapps to a cup of hot cocoa; garnish with a candy cane. You can also rim the mug with crushed peppermints/candy canes. This is also delicious without the schnapps, of course!

Any holiday drinks you like to cozy up with?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gift Idea Mish Mash

I've noticed about a billion gift idea posts when I've buzzed quickly through my Google reader, so I don't feel toooooo guilty about not doing more gift idea posts. Surely we are all feeding off of each other, right? I thought I'd collect some of the gift idea comments that were left here (I agree with those of you who suggested we shouldn't let good ideas 'die' in the comment box), however, along with some sites and ideas I thought were neat. PLUS a few ideas I've had, and some other posts I've seen that I liked about gift ideas. Maybe if you're still struggling to find a gift for someone, we can fill in the gaps.

Gift Idea Mish Mash!

On the photo gift idea post, we had these comments:

"Another idea we're doing (that we started on my daughter's first birthday but have now migrated it to Christmas gifts) is a photo montage on a DVD for all of our family members. We do it so that each year of each of the kids is broken into a "chapter" on the DVD, and it's just a bunch of photos set in motion to a bunch of songs we've picked out. You can download free photo montage software online and you just plug in the pictures you want to use and wha-la! Everybody loves getting these...especially now that we live long distance. And our kids of course, love to watch themselves on TV as we look back over the years!" --Heather

"We're burning DVDs of our home movies from the year, for the grandparents and great-aunts. Easy as pie. Good idea, Heather, to make it all fancy with music (and free software)!"-- el-e-e

"Thanks to MO Mommy's posting about this, on her site as well as here, I have been inspired to create a book for my (year old) nephew for Christmas. I got my brother to secretly burn me a copy of their photos on DVD and I've sorted through them to find pictures of his grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides (we have a small family). On one page is a picture of the relative (either with him or alone) with a caption like "Here's Auntie Chraycee" then on the next page a pic of him doing something (like sitting with a book, or in his highchair with food all over his face) and a positive caption like "Auntie Chraycee loves reading books with Max" or "Auntie Chraycee know that Max will grow up big and strong because he eats his vegetables."

You know, I'm trying to reinforce good behaviors. Only trouble is that I don't have a one year old myself, so am a little short for positive messages........I went with what they have pictures for...

1. helps do chores around the house
2. is kind to animals
3. eats all his dinner/eat veggies
4. enjoys taking his bath
5. knows the value of a good nap
6. is an excellent snuggler
7. loves reading books
8. uses his imagination to invent fun games
9. is brave and ready for adventure
10. plays well with others
11. is always making new friends
12. is a good friend"--Chraycee

Reader Jennifer sent in this fun idea for themed stockings/gifts: "Every year I try to fill my son’s Christmas stockings using some sort of a theme, for example last year was school/office supplies (tape, markers, highlighters, post-it notes, pens, pencils, etc. – and dude, they loved the tape!). They are now seven and nine years old and I was having a hard time thinking of something this year. I’ve finally decided to do gift cards for them. One thing they love to do is shop so I’m collecting five and ten dollar gift cards from places they love to go (McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, Borders, Meijer, Gamestop, etc.) and that will be their stocking stuffers for this year. I may also throw a few dollar lottery scratch off cards in there for kicks.

I was trying to think of how to apply this to adults since we always have those difficult-to-buy-for folks. For my brother-in-law and his wife who recently closed on the purchase of their first home, I’m going to buy some sort of drawer organizer (which I highly recommend for all junk drawers across America) and fill some of those spaces with gift cards from homey type stores (Lowe’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target). Gift cards may not be that creative an idea, but I thought this was a creative way to present them."

I liked this list by Princess Nebraska.

SundryBuzz reviews products, and there are some great gift ideas there. Another of Sundry's blogs contains various posts of ideas, as well.

Swistle recently posted a list of reader shops, along with lists of ideas here.

I know I'm leaving about sixty trillion gift idea posts out, so if you have one you want to share, do it! Now!

Now I'm going to list some things that I've thought would be nice gifts for someone, as I've stumbled in and out of stores over the last few weeks. Some of these are things I would love to get myself, but am always too embarrassed to ask for. Or I forget that I would like them until it is too late.

--Magazine subscriptions (I always love getting magazine subscriptions, because I am too cheap/forgetful to buy them for myself--especially the nice arty ones.)

--Tea (I drink a lot of tea. I love good tea. I imagine providing any caffeine addict with a basket of their favorite coffees/teas is NEVER a gifting failure.)

--Digital photo frames

--A gift card to a pet supply store (but only for the way-too-pet-obsessed, like me)

--Art, if you know what sort of art the recipient likes. Including but not limited to: originals, prints, photos, vintage labels, antique postcards or photos, and so on.

--Gift subscription to Netflix

Okay! That was a mish mash, wasn't it? What am I leaving out? What do you have to share with us?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Teacher Gifts

Thanks to el-e-e, who put together this post!

An Apple-Free Teacher Appreciation Season

Are you like me, and cheerfully (ahem) check family members and friends off your holiday shopping list… then remember the "incidentals" and "peripherals" very late in December? Like stocking stuffers…great-aunt Susie who's finally coming to dinner this year… and the teacher gifts? OH, the teacher gifts.

I think we can all agree that kids/parents should give whatever they want to a teacher, or shouldn't *have* to give anything if money is tight, or they just don't want to. But it can be a nice gesture -- everyone likes to feel appreciated, right? We've collected a few ideas from around the helpful Internet.

Did you know there's a National PTA? Yikes. Who wants to serve on a committee for that? NOT ME, that's who. But! They have written a handy little article about this very topic.

Reader Kelsey taught elementary school for four years (bless her!) and shared a great list of gifts that will be appreciated and loved (and some that might not). Read carefully -- some good, practical advice here.

Family Fun
magazine -- one that we probably all should be reading if we love the High Arts and Crafts -- has a huge collection of ideas, sorted by category. For the Book Lover, For the Desk, etc. There's a funny anecdote about a male teacher who received… well, just go read it. My favorite idea from all of these was a classroom recipe booklet -- each kid contributed a recipe from his/her family, and someone, the willing PTA volunteer no doubt, bound them up neatly. The recipient says she still uses the book -- sounds to me like the perfect gift that really does keep on giving!

A few more helpful links.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


A quickie tonight: I just made my favorite fudge, and nearly made myself sick licking the beaters. I never really liked fudge until I had this fudge, because the texture/not-chocolatey-enough-ness of all the fudges I'd ever had displeased me. I'm weird with textures.

And chocolate.

I always liked the idea of fudge, and wanted to like it, but always was disappointed when I bit into a piece. A few years ago my lovely mother started making fudge (or maybe longer, I can't remember) and for some reason I think she got the recipe from a cream cheese box or something. I could be wrong. But it seems like that is where it came from.

It doesn't matter!

What matters is, my mom makes fudge that is SO GOOD and a bit cream cheesey and not at all hard or weirdly flaky. It's sort of firm, sort of gooey, sort of amazing and I'm going to share the really easy, really simple recipe with you now:

Chocolate Philadelphia Fudge
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
4 squares Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
Beat cream cheese in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until blended. Add remaining ingredients, mix well. Spread into buttered 8-inch square pan. Refrigerate several hours or until firm. Cut into 1-inch squares to serve.

Note: if you are melting the chocolate, do not briefly forget that the chocolate is unsweetened, and lick the spoon. You will want to rip your tongue out, or possibly stand there with your mouth open going, "EEEHHN. EEEEHHHN!!!!! BLLLLLLRGGGGH." And then possibly you will spit unsweetened chocolate into a paper towel and grab the closest diet Dr. Pepper and you will wish you were not such an idiot. Because: UNSWEETENED, even if it looks like the most luscious chocolate pudding in the world.

Now forget that mental image/mental taste, and go make some fudge that has just a teensy hint of chocolate cheesecake flavor.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Okay! I'm back from our little no-power-for-thirty-six-or-so-hours break, due to an ice storm. I feel very lucky that our power was restored tonight, because some people are going to have to wait a week. Other people didn't lose power at all. Funny thing, ice.

Moving on!

Trena has sent me her first awesome crafty post, all about oranges. Here we go!

"Usually when you think of oranges and Christmas, it brings to mind something you might find in your stocking on Christmas Morning. I’d like to share two easy projects (both are great to do with your kids too) that use oranges as more than a stocking filler.

For the first project, we’re going to make a wonderful smelling pomander ball. I can remember making these with my mom when I was younger and the smell still reminds me of Christmas from when I was a little girl.

You will need:

*fairly large-ish firm oranges (or any other citrus fruit—you can even use apples if you would like)

*whole cloves (I highly recommend buying store brand because you can usually get a better price for more cloves than the name brand)

*ribbon (I used 5/8” on my example)

*permanent marker (optional)

*sharp pointy implement (like a small paring knife or ice pick, also totally optional)

Here is how to make your pomander:

1) Measure out some ribbon (enough to go around your fruit, top to bottom, with enough extra to make a loop to hang it with)

2) Knot ribbon (leaving ends long so you can make that hanging loop) close to orange, preferably at the top of the orange.

Now tie ends of ribbon together to make a loop.

3) (This step is optional, but it might be helpful if you want your design to be really exact or you’re doing this with small children.) Take your permanent marker and make dots on the orange in the pattern you want. These dots will give you a visual on where you will put your cloves. (Also optional—you can use your sharp pointy implement to just barely-DO NOT POKE ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE ORANGE-poke through the skin of the orange everywhere you put a dot to make it easier to push your cloves into the orange peel.)

4) Poke cloves, using the long pointy end, into your orange in the pattern you want.

5) You can keep it really simple or go a little more ornate—whatever you like!


When you’re finished poking cloves in, you can then hang your pretty (and oh-so-good-smelling) pomander ball somewhere. Some people like to hang them in their tree, others in various places around the house. Regardless of where you put it, as the orange dries out, it will smell amazing (in a good way).

**Disclaimer: I would not put this somewhere moist as there is the possibility that it could grow fungus if not completely dried out—a dry place is best.**

The other idea I have for oranges is something I picked up from a swim team Christmas party from when I was much younger.

You’ll need:

*Ripe firm oranges

*Small paring knife

* Peppermint candy canes that have a hole in the middle of the candy cane (I can’t tell you a precise brand—I am pretty sure that most candy canes are made this way)

First, take your paring knife, barely inserting it into the orange (we just want to cut the peel, not the actual orange flesh) and carefully cut a small circle out of the peel.

Unwrap your candy cane from the tip of the hook part of the candy cane until just where it starts to straighten out:

Break off the hook part, leaving as much straight candy cane as possible.

Bite or snap off the other ‘sealed’ end (bottom) of the candy cane and then insert the candy cane into the hole you made in the orange.

Proceed to suck out the orange juice through the candy cane ‘straw’. I know it sounds like it probably wouldn’t taste good, but really it does taste good and is a different and fun way to enjoy oranges!"

Card Signing

Cute and fun Christmas card idea from MoMommy:

"This year for our family Christmas cards, I traced both boys' hands on cardboard (I used the top of a shoe box). Then I cut out the hand prints and traced them on the Christmas cards as "signatures" from the boys. I used color gel pens; they look festive. That way I can add something personal from the kids, but they don't have to sit through me tracing their hands 70 times. They just get one handprint on cardboard, and I'm set!"

And now, if you'll all send me photos of your tree/decoration/lights/pets dressed as Santa/whatever you want, we'll have another photo extravaganza close to Christmas. Just like here, only more holly jolly and less spooky. Share whatever you want!

I've got lots more fun ideas/posts coming; thanks again for participating!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Photo Gift Ideas

Okay, here are some AWESOME gift ideas, sent in by MoMommy!

Perfect for grandparents!

This is an easy and cheap (maybe too cheap) gift for grandparents: a "year in retrospect" photo album. You can buy a small album and include photos of your year's major events -- the trip to the zoo, the birthday parties, the Easter bonnets, the day you went sledding at Old Man's Hill... This is also good for out-of-town relatives who can't make it home for the holidays. Or, here's a twist: put together a small "Christmas Day 2007" photo album, with pictures just from that day. If you're really ambitious, you can include little quotes (famous quotes or quotes from the day) along with the photos. Write them out in calligraphy, or just print them up in a pretty font. This is good for any damn day! Like "A Day At The Park," or "A Day Making Cookies," or whatever. Grandparents *love* this stuff.

Perfect for grubby hands!

This is a clever, very cheap idea for toddler-age nieces & nephews -- or even for school-age kids and pre-teens who are into "decorating" their own rooms/walls/bulletin boards. We print extra photos of everyone in the family, cut them out and make collages on construction paper. Then we laminate the sheets and give them to the kiddos. They can carry them around, bend them, drool on them, crumble graham crackers all over them, and the pictures remain unharmed. The kids in our family have always loved looking at photos of people they know. They cherish these sheets (at least for a few months)!

Not necessarily a Christmas gift, but perfect all the same

This is a good gift for a wedding or a housewarming, as well as a unique and inexpensive Christmas idea. Take the recipient's last name (e.g., "Shank"). Go around their/your hometown, preferably to famous sites, and take photos of each letter (e.g., the "S" in the Busch Stadium sign; the "A" in the Gateway Arch in St. Louis). Print them out and put them in a frame with the appropriate number of spots.

And let's all be grateful to el-e-e, who is pretty and helpful and prepped this for posting. I love all of the bloggy help!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Advent Calendars

Heather sent in a link to her thoughtful blog post about her very fun advent calendar, which can be found here. I've liked advent calendars since I was a kid--there is something so magical about counting down the days, finding out what waits in each compartment, learning little things about Christmas, fighting with your twin brother over who gets to eat each day's candy (if you were in my family, anyway).

(And of course, I'm pleasantly reminded of the crass-but-heart-warming Bad Santa, when in a drunken fit the bad Santa, played by Billy Bob Thornton, rips apart a kid's cherished advent calendar to eat all the chocolates in one sitting, but then feels bad and does a pathetic job of taping it back together, filling the compartments with candy corn and aspirin.)

Here's a link to an article of advent calendar history on Wikipedia.

Here's a link to advent calendars you can make at home.

And some advent calendars you can buy:

Quilted cat advent calendar on Etsy
Stocking advent calendar on Etsy
A ton of advent calendars on Amazon, including this one, or this one, and this one
Calendar on Pottery Barn Kids website
Online advent calendars of all kinds
Even good old Target gets in on the advent calendar love

Do you guys use this tradition?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


So, yesterday I was reminded that we have three weeks until Christmas. Three!

If there are more gift ideas floating around out there, send them in! Because some of us (including me) have not started shopping yet, and need some help. Gift idea post soon!

Meanwhile, to quell the panic, I'm just going to think about Santa Claus.

(My laptop cord fell apart, my laptop battery is now dead, and I've ordered a new one. Just wanted to let you know I might be a bit slow responding to emails in the next couple of days.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


(First of all, you guys are all awesome. Thank you soooooo much for all the kind and generous responses to my request for help--I'm getting through your emails/offers and will be in touch soon, if I haven't responded already. I appreciate each and every one of you! A ton!)

I had a request to explore other winter celebrations, such as Hanukkah, which starts tonight at sundown. I want to learn more, too, and was happy to comply. I found more information here, along with a handy little list of traditions and activities. Guides, texts, prayers, a video about lighting the menorah, answers to FAQ's can be found here.

Recipes? Okay! I pulled some from


2 cups peeled and shredded potatoes
1 tablespoon grated onion
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup peanut oil

Place the potatoes in a cheesecloth and wring, extracting as much moisture as possible. In a medium bowl stir the potatoes, onion, eggs, flour and salt together. In a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Place large spoonfuls of the potato mixture into the hot oil, pressing down on them to form 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick patties. Brown on one side, turn and brown on the other. Let drain on paper towels. Serve hot!

Applesauce Noodle Kugel

1 (16 ounce) package wide egg noodles
1 cup reduced fat margarine
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1 1/2 cups egg substitute
2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 (16 ounce) jar applesauce
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Cook noodles in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain. In a large bowl, mix together margarine, sour cream, egg substitute, sugar, lemon juice, vanilla extract, and applesauce. Stir in noodles and raisins. Spread graham cracker crumbs on the bottom of the prepared dish. Pour the noodle mixture over the crumbs. Sprinkle top with cinnamon. Bake 45 to 60 minutes in the preheated oven, or until set. Cover with foil if it browns too quickly.

Raisin Rice Stuffed Chicken

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 (2 to 3 pound) whole chickens
3 cups cooked white rice
1 cup raisins
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a small skillet, heat two tablespoons of olive oil. When oil is hot, saute the chopped onion. Add turmeric and raisins. Saute. Add cooked rice and salt. Mix well. Butter the outside of both chickens and sprinkle a little pepper on both. Stuff the rice mixture into both chickens. Place in a greased 9x13 inch baking dish and bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour (or until chickens are nice and brown and the juices run clear).

Hopefully these links give some insight into this celebration. I've learned a lot reading through the articles, but know there is so much I'm not touching on...does anyone have more to share?

Edit: Also, hey, I have to admit that I'm a little, um, deficient in some areas, and perhaps (perhaps) I am a bit mystified by "feeds" and "RSS" and people have been asking for my feed, and...what am I doing wrong?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Regional Foods

I saw this article on, and enjoyed reading about favorite regional holiday foods. It has a smattering of links to regional recipes, and lists some favorite festive foods by region. Some survey results are here.

Do you have any regional fare that's a tradition during the holidays?