Christmas Tree Dolly

Our Christmas tree stays up for… you know, longer than socially acceptable… I was pretty impressed we made it until after Halloween this year!
We used to put our tree up in the front window but my kids love having it in our family room where we enjoy it more.  So the only spot is in front of our bookcases.. which we use.  So that means for 2 months it is practically impossible to get into them.
I was cleaning out the garage and came across an old table top and had an idea strike.
I added 4 small roller ball bearings (since they would be lower to the ground than regular casters). I found mine at Harbor Freight tools, these are the ones I used. 

Since the table top was all ready finished that was it! Now, we don’t have toddlers anymore and my girls are careful with things.  If you have rambunctious kids this may not be a good idea! I could see some kids riding it around the house!

And yes, we have a fake tree.  Since I’m allergic to pretty much every tree and grass it’s the best we can do.  But our kids don’t seem to care and love throwing 5000 homemade ornaments on it so you hardly see it anyways!

With a tree skirt you don’t even see it!

And now when I want to get to the bookcases I can easily move it out of the way! Problem solved!

The 25 Days Of Christ

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We try to keep Christmas less about presents and more about.. well, Christmas.  Traditions play a big part in that.  We really enjoy the little things during this season and my girls can’t get enough “light hunts”! (I pack a picnic for the car and we go for a drive and look for the best Christmas light display!)  A friend told me about The 25 Days of Christ in November and knew I wanted to do it.  While I thought about doing it myself, and making all the ornaments, I knew I wouldn’t get around to it in time.  Winter seems to be when chaos is cued around here.  Last year my husband cut his fingers on the table saw, this year our dog had to have surgery.  I’m pretty sure every year there’s been something!
I did do a little work to finish it, since we got the unfinished ornament set, but honestly, it took me a couple hours in total to do a little minimal painting of the ornaments.
I bought the muslin drawstring bags on Amazon, you can get them on etsy as well.  Stamped the numbers on the bags and tied a small bell to the strings and placed them all in a small crate.  We started on the first of December, and each night we watch a video (only a couple minutes long), read a passage of scriptures, a short quote, and place the corresponding ornament on a small tree.  You start with Christ’s birth, then follow his life after that.  I have it set up on our coffee table where we will all see it often.  There is a corresponding picture to go with most days so I set up an easel so we can display that each day.
I feel like our Christmas has been so meaningful and I know we will definitely do this every year.  I can’t think of a better way to keep the true Christmas spirit than by following the life of Christ through December.   I see that The 25 Days of Christ are sold out, but you can get on their waiting list for next year.

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Rudolph Wreath

Rudolph Wreath

 

One of my favorite things about the holidays, besides the baking, is all the fun crafts and festivities with my kids.  We made this last year and they had so much fun making it!  You can use an old hat and gloves (I picked up some at the dollar tree).    The other supplies were just things we all ready had.

RUDOLPH WREATH
Green wreath
Pinecones
Wire
Brown knit hat
Pom Pom’s, 2 large white and 1 large white
Black or brown felt or foam
Brown knit gloves
cardboard
Ribbon bow
stuffing for hat (I used a bunch of disposable plastic sacks)
Glue
Make antlers: trace hands on cardboard and cut out.  Insert inside gloves and set aside.
Make ears and eyes: cut 2 triangles from felt or foam for ears, make a pleat in the middle and staple.  Cut 2 circles for eyes.  Glue onto white pom poms.
Fill the hat with filler and cut a circle from cardboard.  Insert the cardboard circle into the hat and glue the edge of the hat to the circle to keep the filler in.
Wire pine cones to wreath, then attach ears and antlers by either gluing or using wire.
Do the same for the face, eyes, nose, and bow.

Packaging goodies

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When my husband and I were barely married a month, we both found ourselves out of work.  Since it was also Christmastime and we knew we couldn’t spend money on gifts for family and friends, I made candy boxes.
Everyone loved them so much, they became a tradition.
I wanted to share some tricks for packaging.  I prefer to use boxes over paper plates and such.  It’s easier to package and stack and makes for a nicer delivery.
I buy the boxes at restaurant supply stores pretty cheaply (United Grocers Cash and Carry or something like that usually has them.)
I also use jumbo or extra large paper liners for muffin tins.  You can also find these at restaurant supply stores extremely cheap.
I fill the boxes with the muffin liners filled with different treats and if I have sugar cookies I place those on top.
I have found that fudge works well to wrap larger piece tightly in plastic wrap instead of cutting into smaller pieces. It won’t dry out and people can cut how ever much they want off.
I make a document with multiple lists of the box contents, then cut apart into tags and tie to box.

 

I also have used this printable here, along with a list of the box contents.
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I like to use some Christmas paper or washi tape to attach the two tags.
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As for what to put in the boxes, I prefer to stick with some more old-fashioned sweets and candies.  Also, things you can make in larger batches helps as well, like fudges and caramels.
Look under my confections category here for more ideas.

Have a Heartfelt Christmas

Are you ready for T DAY?! 
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Some of my favorite holiday memories from my childhood involve service.  Giving or receiving, it is the gift of yourself that is most special.
I want to make sure my daughters learn well the importance of being kind and giving service, like I did in my childhood.
So this year we made a bunch of heart ornaments (I made mine from wool felt, but even simple paper hearts would do).   I filled a box to go under the tree and we after we decorated placed it under the tree and had a family discussion about what it means to be kind to others, and the importance of having a kind heart.
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When someone has done a kind deed, they get to put a heart on the tree.
My little Lucy has made it her mission to have a kind heart and I love seeing her focus on service this Christmas.
It is easy to over think kindness and service.  While taking a sick friend dinner or buying gifts for a family in need are important, for a little 6 year old, realizing that all the little things she does with kindness matter too.  Helping her Nana with something, helping me help an elderly person load their groceries at the grocery store, sharing with her sister.
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And yes, I did all ready decorate for Christmas.  🙂  I love Thanksgiving, and we will celebrate it well.  For my dears, Christmas season is about the decorations and lights even more than the presents.  So I gifted them an extra couple weeks to enjoy it this year.
If you feel stressed or overwhelmed this holiday season just remember that the most magical moments happen when you simplify and share your heart with those in your life, and those you come in contact with.
May you have a heartfelt Christmas!

Angela’s Gingerbread Houses

What’s better than a great friend?  How about one that shares their great recipes? 🙂
My dear friend Angela makes the most beautiful gingerbread houses and she was nice enough to share her recipe with me.  My previous recipe didn’t come out very well, the dough usually spread during baking too much, but this one always turns out wonderful.  The picture is of one Angela gave our family last Christmas, since our houses are still in pieces until we decorate them tomorrow night, and besides, I can guarantee ours won’t be as pretty as hers. 😉

I’m sure there will be a flurry of frosting and sprinkles and candy and the dog will be covered in frosting by the end, but all the more fun. 🙂

Gingerbread:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 T baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup molasses
1 egg

Royal Icing:
1 lb powdered sugar
3 egg whites (you can substitute 2 T meringue powder and 6 T water alternatively)
1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Make the gingerbread:
Mix everything together well in a mixer.
Divide dough into half and roll out to 1/4 inch thick directly on a lightly floured silicone mat or parchment paper.


Cut out desired shapes, and lift off excess.


Slide onto a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 25 minutes.
If your silicone mat curls a little during baking, right away slide it onto a counter while warm and make sure everything dries flat.
Let cool.  Makes enough for 2 small or 1 large houses, about 2 large cookie sheets.

Make royal icing:
Mix all icing ingredients together until stiff peaks form when the beater is pulled out.  Decorate as desired!

PS. I bought some gingerbread house cookie cutters, LOVE them!  Makes it so much easier!

Angela’s Gingerbread Houses

Ingredients

    Gingerbread:
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
    Royal Icing:
  • 1 lb powdered sugar
  • 3 egg whites (you can substitute 2 T meringue powder and 6 T water alternatively)
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Instructions

Make the gingerbread:
  • Mix everything together well in a mixer.
  • Divide dough into half and roll out to 1/4 inch thick directly on a lightly floured silicone mat or parchment paper.
  • Cut out desired shapes, and lift off excess.
  • Slide onto a baking sheet and bake at 300 degrees for about 25 minutes.
  • If your silicone mat curls a little during baking, right away slide it onto a counter while warm and make sure everything dries flat.
  • Let cool. Makes enough for 2 small or 1 large houses, about 2 large cookie sheets.
  • Make royal icing:
  • Mix all icing ingredients together until stiff peaks form when the beater is pulled out. Decorate as desired!
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    Mailing Treats

    My friend Tracy gave me some great tips for mailing treats and I thought this would be a good time to share them, when some of you might be wanting to mail some homemade treats to loved ones for the holidays.

    Tracy’s husband has served overseas so she has had a lot of experience mailing baked goods!   My dear friend Carrie was serving in Afghanistan this year for a bit so I knew just who to ask for tips!  Carrie said everything got there in great condition, so I think I’ll stick to using these tips every time now.
    I packed cookies in stacks as high as my disposable containers (which you can get at the dollar tree pretty cheap here).  I could 4 stacks for each square container.  I double wrapped each stack in plastic wrap and fit snugly inside the containers.  Then for added protection I double wrapped the containers tightly with plastic wrap in case the lids popped off.  If you are sending to a particularly hot area you may want to stay away from chocolates and such that melt easy, but baked goods are usually safe.

     

     

     

     

     

     
    Line the bottom of the box with  candy, magazines, etc (or some bubble wrap) then place the containers on top.  Line the top again with bubble wrap or candy or whatever.

     

     

     

     

     

     
    The disposable containers seem to do quite well in keeping things from being crushed or crumbling from the jostling about.  I think also having things fit snug so they don’t have room to jostle about in the box is important.
    I shipped using the flat rate Priority Mail, this was the cheapest, and also the easiest to me since I didn’t have to worry how heavy the box got.  I actually measured the box before buying the disposable containers to make sure I got ones that fit well.

    Easy Buttercream Frosting and Frosty the Snowman Cake

    I know, I know, it’s almost summer. But my baby just turned 3 and she is the world’s BIGGEST “Frosty the Snowman” fan! Well, pretty much any generic snowman makes her heart sing.
    So there was no question what cake she would get for her birthday. I realize that most of you won’t need this until December, but I couldn’t resist sharing him!  And even if you don’t have the need
    I made three round cakes, one 6″ round, one 8″ round, and one 10″ round.
    (I used one cake recipe, just made them a little thinner to go for all 3 pans.)
    I used the 6″ for the head, the 8″ for the body, and cut the hat out of the 10″ round.
     I colored marshmallow fondant pink for the hat flower and cheeks,
    blue for the flower center, red for the nose,
    black for the hat band, eyes, and mouth, yellow for the scarf,
    and brown for the “hands”.  For the hat band and scarf just roll it out and use a knife to cut the shape you want. (I made a bunch of cuts on the scarf ends to look like fringe.)
    The flower was rolled out and cut out with a cookie cutter, the flower center, eyes, nose, and cheeks were a rolled up ball flattened.  To make the mouth and arms just roll a snake into the shape you want.
    I sprinkled some silver sanding sugar and white edible glitter over everything to give him a “snow” effect.
    I used my go-to buttercream  to frost him, coloring some grey for the hat (I used a small amount of black gel coloring.)
    EASY BUTTERCREAM FROSTING
    1/2 cup shortening
    1/2 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
    2 T milk
    Cram butter and shortening together with a mixer, then add vanilla.
    Add sugar, one cup at a time on medium speed, until well blended.
    Add milk and beat until light and fluffy.  Cover and refrigerate, rewhip if needed before using.
    Keeps for about 2 weeks in fridge. Makes 3 cups.
    For Chocolate Buttercream: Add 3/4 cup cocoa or 3 oz unsweetened chocolate squares, melted along with an additional 1 to 2 T milk. Mix until well blended.
    SOURCE: Wilton
    Easy Buttercream Frosting

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup shortening
    • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • 1 lb. powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
    • 2 T milk

    Instructions

  • Cream butter and shortening together with a mixer, then add vanilla.
  • Add sugar, one cup at a time on medium speed, until well blended.
  • Add milk and beat until light and fluffy. Cover and refrigerate, rewhip if needed before using.
  • Keeps for about 2 weeks in fridge. Makes 3 cups.
  • For Chocolate Buttercream:
  • Add 3/4 cup cocoa or 3 oz unsweetened chocolate squares, melted along with an additional 1 to 2 T milk. Mix until well blended.
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