The First Six Days of Advent Activities

>> Tuesday, December 7, 2010

December 1: Decorate your own Christmas trees

Princess Fierce and her pink tree

Thing Two with his black tree

Thing Three with his black tree as well

December 2: Ice cream sundae bar at home after dinner

The fixings


Recycle Old Christmas Cards into New Christmas Cards

A great Christmas craft for the kids and a wonderful way to recycle all the cards you receive from previous years. This was a favorite Advent activity last year and again this year.

The night before this activity I cut out all the images and messages from my stack of old cards. I also fold construction paper in different colors into cards.


Advent Calendar Activities

>> Wednesday, December 1, 2010

When my second was born my in-laws gave us this beautiful Advent Calendar Cabinet. However, it took me until last year to figure out the right way to use it. The drawers are too small to hold gifts for all three children; candy was the only fit. However, I did not enjoy counting down the days with only candy. Then last year I came across the idea of an activity Advent Calendar. Simple genius!

I set to making my list and writing it on curls of red paper to tuck in each drawer. Occasionally I'd stick three Hershey's Kisses in as well. I mean, I don't mean no candy, just wanted something more than candy. The activities were a huge success with all three of my munchkins. They're very anxious to start the tradition again tomorrow morning. While I was preparing this year's list I took a trip down memory lane. Here's what happened last year:


Second Annual Open House Thanksgiving

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2010

For the second year we've done Thanksgiving a little untraditionally. Instead of sitting down to a meal with guests at a specific time. We've created a Thanksgiving Open House Party. We put out food from 9am until the last person leaves, this year that was around 11pm. I was so happily preoccupied with cooking, eating and chatting with friends and family I neglected taking hardly any pictures at all. But I'm blessed to report we had more than 35 people come share part of their day with us.

For the second year I roasted a large maple-brined, bacon-butter rubbed, bacon-wrapped turkey.

I was able to snap a picture of my man slicing her, with the grain. Ooops.


Gingerbread Man Shaped Nutella Snacks

>> Monday, November 29, 2010

I had leftover refrigerated pie crust from Thanksgiving. I have no plans for pie in the immediate future. And frankly, if I make a pie I need to get busy with my Martha Stewart quest and bake hers complete with *cough*homemade*cough* crusts. So what to do with this crust? I decided to try and make a treat for the kids after dinner. I grabbed the dough, the Nutella and my gingerbread man cookie cutter.


Chocolate Butter Cookies with Umph!

>> Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The other week I made the super simple, super scrumptious butter cookies. I pondered in that post the results with chocolate cake mix. This weekend I found a box of Betty Crocker Chocolate Fudge cake mix in the top of the pantry and I just happened to have a pack of cream cheese in the fridge earmarked for a Martha Stewart Baking adventure. I could buy more cream cheese; I needed to find out if the cookies worked with chocolate.

I set the butter and cream cheese out to soften while I put the Christmas tree together. I then mixed the softened cheese and butter with a glob of creamy peanut butter, a pour of vanilla, one egg and the discovered box of chocolate cake mix. The mixed batter goodness that Thing Two and I had a sample of was then tucked into the fridge the requisite two hours while I figured out the Christmas tree lights.

With the lights aglow and Yoda watching over us I was now ready to scoop and bake. Twenty minutes later I was popping a warm chocolate cookie in my mouth and rolling my eyes back in pleasure. It was good. Very good. 

You couldn't really taste the peanut butter. I think I need to up that factor next time to really get a punch. Perhaps less cream cheese more peanut butter. I'll have to play around with it. Since the peanut butter wasn't overwhelming I thought the cookie could still use some umph to put it over the top.

I remembered my neighbor telling me the original butter cookies would be excellent with a touch of my buttercream frosting on top. I asked my man if he thought eggnog buttercream or Bailey's buttercream sounded better. He chose...

Bailey's! I'd never made such a buttercream so I just set to creaming the butter and Crisco, adding the powdered sugar then pouring in Bailey's a bit at a time until the taste seemed just right. I also added vanilla extract, almond extract and two drops of chocolate flavored oil.

I just did a small pipe of the Bailey's buttercream on half the cookies.

It took an already great cookie up a notch. And they tasted even better the next day.

I have a lot of the Bailey's buttercream left in the refrigerator. I think I see some cupcakes in my future.


Repurposed Organization: Car Book Caddy

>> Monday, November 22, 2010

I had a problem in my Eurovan o' Fun. Books. We don't have electronic entertainment in our vehicle, choosing instead to give each kid a small bag of little playthings and a stack of books. The issue's been how to keep the books in easy reach and organized. I had a plastic magazine box from the dollar section of Target for the past year. In theory it worked. In reality it tipped over and the books slid across the floor. Plus since it had to stay on the floor my oldest would often complain about having to "bend over" and retrieve a book for his little sister. Drama! Then I was in the thrift store the other day and saw the perfect solution at the perfect price: 99¢!

A dishrack! It fits perfectly between the two boys on the bench.

The slots to separate dishes work like magic to keep the books neat. Big boys are no longer put out to find a book and hand it to their sister.

I ran the buckle across the back and thanks to rubber feet this basket isn't moving an inch. Added bonus is the boys can't argue over the space between them and who's encroaching on it.

It's been in the car three weeks now and all kids are still happy and there have been no books scattered across the floor.


Halloween Costume Recap: Catwoman

>> Thursday, November 18, 2010

Best laid plans and having children goes together as well as oil and water. Halloween is a great example. You may recall Princess Fierce wanted to be Darth Fairy for Halloween. Yet she needed the costume made in advance to also be worn while watching the Dragon*Con parade. She loved her Darth Fairy costume and was convinced it was still going to be worn again at Halloween...


well, until...

the boots.

These boots changed everything. Princess Fierce was given a nice $20 bill in her birthday booty. When we head off to Target to spend said money she sees no suitable toys. Instead her newly minted five-year-old self walks down to the shoe aisle. Wha? Did she just turn five or twenty-five? She tries on several things until she spies these black boots on a high shelf. From the minute they went on she was in love. She looks up at me hopefully to ask if she has enough money to buy them. Indeed she did. 

And indeed she did buy them. Then she said something else. Her heart bursting with future joy, her eyes lit up with excitement she says, "and now I want to be CATWOMAN for Halloween!"

But, but, but what about the Darth Fairy I made? *sigh* I had to admit the boots would rock as part of a Catwoman costume. And I couldn't forget her favorite person to find at Dragon*Con to be photographed with was...

Catwoman. However, I asked her if instead of being the Dragon*Con Catwoman I could persuade her to check out a much more child appropriate Catwoman.


Straight to Your Butt(er) Cookies

My man was out of town last weekend and my wonderful neighbors invited the kids and I to come over for dinner cooked on their new green egg. When I asked what I could bring she suggested something sweet. After a week on my own with the little ones I didn't have much energy to bake come Saturday morning. Step in this simple, yet delish sounding recipe for Gooey "Butt"er Cookies I saw last week in my facebook feed from My Effing Cookbook blog. The ingredient list was short: yellow cake mix, stick of butter, block of cream cheese, spoon of vanilla and an egg. I had all that. The directions were easy: mix all, chill a few hours, scoop, roll into balls, and bake a dozen minutes. It was a win-win.

You can find the recipe for her cookies here. Be warned she's fabulously irreverent and full of peppery language. She also tells you in real world terms how things should be. My favorite from this recipe would have to be her description to determine when the cream cheese is softened: "Take your index finger, poke the fattest part of your thigh and that’s how soft the cream cheese should be."

Here's the resulting plate of butter cookies. They were so yummy. I baked a lot more than the tiny amount on this little plate. These were just the only survivors left after dinner to snap a picture of.

I think I may try to see what happens if I bake them using a chocolate cake mix next time. And yes, there will be a next time. And a next. And a next...


How to Remove Nail Polish from Clothing

>> Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Princess Fierce wanted to paint my toes the other day with her dark blue glitter nail polish. Her first attempt at giving a pedicure resulted in my having blue nails and toes...and nail polish on her pretty new-to-her dress. Oy.

The polish couldn't have been red? Nope blue polish that dried practically black.

Close up on the polish.

I didn't even attempt nail polish remover fearing it would take the color from the dress. I was planning to cover up the spots with some type of new embellishments on the dress. But before I did that I thought I'd just google my problem to see if there were an answer. And I found an improbable one.

But one that lots of people swore worked.

So I gave it a try.

And check it out. No spots!

Look closer. Can you see the polish?

Look as close as you can. I can't even tell where it was. Amazing.

And what exactly created this miracle?

Bug Spray!

Yep, this bug spray right here did the trick. I didn't believe it until it worked. I first tried with pump bug spray and nothing happened. I didn't give up after so many interweb comments said it would work. I bought aerosol bug spray and tried again. A spray. A rub with a white wash cloth. BOOM! Immediate lightening of the TWO WEEK dried nail polish. All in all it took me about five minutes of spraying and rubbing. A toss in the wash to remove the buggy smell and all was new again. Unbelievable. I absolutely had to share. Next time you have nail polish land on your favorite fabrics give it a try.


Halloween Costume Recap: Medusa

>> Thursday, November 11, 2010

The week before Halloween I decided to go as Medusa. Then I was in a mad rush to find the components. First the dress. I didn't have time to peruse the thrift stores for the perfect gown in my size so I just purchased a "Greek Goddess" dress from the Halloween store. White would not work, however. The dress was 100% Polyester and everything I read told me it would not dye. 

I took my chances. And it worked! One box of black Rit Dye, in my front load washer no less, gave me a perfect and evenly dyed gray dress. 


Thanks for the Spooky Leftovers in the Pantry

>> Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Leftover candy creation time!


Witch's Cupboard Halloween Game

>> Monday, November 1, 2010

For the third year I've done this spooky table of gross things for the kids to touch at our neighborhood Halloween party. I try to include new icky things each year. It's always a hit with the kids. They do love gross things. 

The entire table display is done kid height. I throw an old black sheet over the table then top with a torn piece of cheese cloth. For the cauldrons I cut cheese cloth in half, fold diagonally, lay across the cauldrons with a gap at the front. Next I fold up the corners loosely and stretch a rubberband around to hold them in place It's supposed to imitate fog coming out and leaves place for the kids to reach inside and also peek at what they touched.

The sign reads: Welcome to the Witch's Cupboard. Reach beneath the fog within the cauldrons and touch if you dare. I created the sign by doing a google image search for old paper. I chose the font from the free Halloween fonts at dafont. I do a cheap laminating job by using strips of packing tape. And I created the stand on the back from leftover cardboard. It's hard to see what's next to it in this picture but those are "Dried Bat Wings." I bought the dog treat pig ears and painted them black. Totally creepy.


Candy Corn Pudding Cups

>> Friday, October 29, 2010

I think this will be my last Halloween inspired goodie of twenty-ten. *sniff* I do love Halloween so much. However, every moment of Autumn is awesome, my favorite season of all. This morning I decided to whip up one last surprise for the kiddos before the onslaught of CANDY!

I stood on the pudding aisle earlier this week and thought of all the layered Jello candy corn inspired treats I've seen. Why not pudding? French Vanilla has a yellow hue.  And Butterscotch is in the orange family. I knew there was a tub of cool whip waiting at home already.


Candy Corn Brownies

>> Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The candy corn must be gone by the end of October. I thought baking some of them in brownies would be a festive and yummy thing to do. The kids were obviously in full support of this plan. I did regular candy corn on top of mini brownie muffins and caramel candy corn on top of a pan of brownies. While I do have several brownie recipes from scratch, these were from a box. But not just any box, Ghirardelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix.  Love this brownie mix! If you've never tried it you need to change that. It's so tasty on its own but if you have Heath toffee bits, you should throw a handful in the brownie batter for a truly mouth altering experience. But I digress; this is about candy corn!


Tony Stark and Abby Sciuto Halloween Fun

>> Monday, October 25, 2010

This weekend we had some early Halloween fun. My man and I had double Halloween parties on Saturday night and Sunday we took the kiddos to Boo at the Zoo. For the Halloween parties my husband thought it'd be fun to go as Iron Man. Since he's grown his hair out and sports a goatee I thought Tony Stark would be better. Plus I'd seen this instructable earlier in the year on how to make an inexpensive arc reactor and I'd been wanting to make it.

 One strand of battery powered LED lights and a 3" styrofoam disc. Total cost: $7.27

I cut the disc in half so it could be as thin as possible, then poked small holes where I wanted the lights to go.


Creating Catwoman's Necklace

>> Thursday, October 21, 2010

Princess Fierce has changed her mind about wearing Darth Fairy costume I made her again on Halloween. Apparently she really only wanted it for the Dragon*Con parade, or at least until she found a pair of knee high faux black leather boots at Target. She bought the boots with her birthday money choosing the footwear over aisles and aisles of toys. And the same afternoon looked at me and said, "I want to be CATWOMAN for Halloween and wear my boots!"

I considered the more recent catwoman incarnation but really determined that's not fitting for a five year old. We're going old school, Julie Newmar style catwoman. I've got the boots, the black pants, the black shirt, the black ears but I need the gold belt and most importantly the gold necklace to pull this off.

I couldn't find a lion button or charm so I cut the head off a toy lion.


Painting Pumpkins

As I mentioned before, I do not like to carve pumpkins. I only did a carved jack-o-lantern and expensive trip to a "pumpkin patch" one year with all our kiddos. I was disappointed the pumpkins weren't on a vine in this so-called patch but instead we were carried by tractor pulled hay ride across a field to yet another field where pumpkins were scattered about. The kids enjoyed the day, our wallets did not. And the resulting carved pumpkin became a stinky, rotting mess on the front step.

The one and only year in a large Pumpkin Patch, October 2007

The next year I switched gears and instead of spending too much on one day in a crowded field with strangers to buy one expensive large pumpkin, we visited our friends that run a pumpkin patch in front of their church and let each kid pick out their own pumpkin to PAINT.

The first painted pumpkins, October 2008

My goblins with their creations year two of painted pumpkins in 2009

This year the kids started asking very early in October when we would be going to visit our friends' pumpkin patch to buy the pumpkins. And I suppose by year three I can call this a tradition, right?


Snakes on a Plain White Carpet!

>> Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Last night started normal enough, for our household. My man grabbed the best thrift store find from last week, a full size Optimus Prime helmet with voice changer for only 99¢, and ushered the kids to bed.

Then a few hours later while my man and I were enjoying NCIS and a glass of red wine we heard a scream, followed by our 7yo son running downstairs yelling,




Candy Corn Bark

>> Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I had the unoriginal idea to make candy corn bark. Seems from a quick search on the Internet this is done often when the love it or hate it October candy is aplenty. Nonetheless I gave it a go from my own pantry.

I had a couple bags of white Wilton candy melts, a bag of candy corn, some festive orange and black sprinkles and a bag of Halloween colored Oreos.


Painted Glass Pumpkin Luminaries

>> Monday, October 18, 2010

I do not like to carve pumpkins. The one year I did it with the kids it was not a pretty result, the face or the following ant invasion and rot. Eww. Ever since that fateful Halloween, I've been taking the kids to a local pumpkin patch to pick out their own pumpkins to bring home and paint. I adore the way the decorated pumpkins adorn my front porch, but I miss the flickering glow of a jack-a-lantern. Now I miss it no more. Several weeks ago I came across this great project on Crafts by Amanda for Halloween Painted Jar Luminaries. Go look at them; they're awesome. 

That same week I found a bevy of floral glass vases for one dollar each at a local thrift store. When I saw their shape I thought they'd make great pumpkins.

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