Thursday, December 23, 2010

Chairback Wreaths

I wanted some extra greenery in my dining room, but I didn't want to spend much on new decorations this year.  So I came up with a simple, inexpensive way to add a little special touch at each person's placesetting:  Chairback Wreaths!  

I bought a strand of wired garland at the Dollar Store,  cut it into approximately 8, 14" lengths, wrapped each length into a wreath shape and twisted the wire to close the circle.  Then using leftover red ribbon that I had on hand, I tied simple bows onto the wreaths - tying them onto the chairs.  I slipped a sweet candy cane into the ribbon loop to finish :)

Now each guest not only has a pretty placesetting to sit by, but also a sweet treat to enjoy after dinner!

Quick Simple Cute

On another note...

While {I hope} most of you are done with your Christmas prep and planning, this mom is busy hustling and bustling!  My dining room at the moment has been turned into a cookie factory!  I'm happily baking away with the delightful scents of gingerbread, cinnamon, and chocolate wafting throughout the house.  My Kitchen Aid mixer humming away :)

I just wanted to take a moment to say how thankful I am for all of *you*.  I've met some of the most special people through this blog, been inspired by your endless creativity, your zest for life, cried along with your struggles, and rejoiced at your blessings.  

I hope this is your Merriest Christmas ever!   

Wishing all of you peace, joy, and love this Christmas. 
~ May your days truly be ~
Merry & Bright!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas fun for Kids

As I was trying to finish up some last minute Christmas cleaning and prep, my 4-yr. old son was bouncing off the walls with holiday excitement.  It's so hard to contain the joy of little ones this time of year!  

So what's a mom to do?! 

Out came a little kit that I bought and tucked away! 

It's a Draw Your Own Tree Christmas cookie decorating kit! 

It comes with pre-baked, pre-iced Christmas tree-shaped cookies
and a set of food-safe {flavored!} markers

so little ones can happily color away
eat the fruits of their labors!

My little peanut busy coloring away!

This is a fun and easy activity - even for the smallest kids.  
If they can scribble, they can decorate a cookie! 

Can't find a kit?  
No problem! 

Just bake your own cookies 
(I'd recommend something fairly sturdy so bake a little longer than usual or use a store bought cookie dough - they hold up to handling better than homemade).
Use royal icing and let the cookie completely dry before allowing kids to color their cookies.

Food-safe markers are all the rage now!
You can use them to paint on cookies, write messages,

Christmas is a time for the simple joys,
little ones so excited...
filled with the wonder of the season.

Little moments like these are the ones that we, as parents, cherish in our hearts.

Watching him hard at work, deep in concentration is pure bliss to this mommy!
I hope you and your family 
are taking time to savor these moments.
They are all too fleeting...
and soon
Christmas 2010 will be just a {beautiful} memory :)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not a Creature was Stirring {pets and the holidays}

Holidays aren't just for the kids!
Our furbabies enjoy the excitement and fun of the Christmas season, too!

Just like their human counterparts,
our pets wake up to find goodies from Santa, too!

So they each have their own stockings...

 (and we always hang the stockings of the ones that are gone 
but remain in our hearts)

I've always loved this photo of Oliver and his sister Angel waiting to open their gifts!

They enjoy the hustle and bustle...
the lights and sounds of the season.

For the cats, it's the joy of sleeping under a freshly cut tree,
the crinkling of wrapping paper...
ribbons and bows to playfully bat at.

Randy waits every year to sleep under the tree throughout December.
Odie waits for his turn to nap under the Christmas tree!

 For our dog, Oliver, it's the smells of good food roasting in the oven,
waiting for a sugar cookie {or two!} to make its way under the table,
the fun of having something to open Christmas morning, 
and pulling dog biscuits off of his homemade 

 doggie advent wreath

I love to bake,
and baking for my pets is no exception!
I make kitty treats and  
homemade doggie biscuits, too!

wrapped in cellophane bags with cute little bows :)

Personalized with their names, of course!

 Just like us, the animals can sense the excitement in the air!
having family and friends over to visit with,
lots of delicious cooking smells emanating from the kitchen...

But the holidays can be a potentially dangerous time for pets.
It's important to adhere to basic safety rules to protect our furry family members,
so they, too, can get the most of this joyous time of year!

Pet Holiday Safety

1. Decorate with carewhile the tree can be an attraction for pets, make sure it can't topple over on them.  Use garland instead of dangerous tinsel that pets can digest.  Don't hang breakable ornaments on lower branches where curious pets might reach them.  Be careful of fallen ornament hooks on the ground, and keep electrical cords and lights out of reach. Stagnant tree water can harbor harmful bacteria.  Be careful about adding tree preservatives to it, too.  If your pet likes to drink from it, consider purchasing a cover to limit their access.

2. Dangers of holiday food: ingesting highly fatty foods is extremely harmful to pets.  Rich, fatty foods can cause stomach upset, or even predispose pets to life-threatening pancreatitis or bloating. Poultry bones can splinter and get stuck in a pet's mouth, obstruct his throat, or perforate his intestines.
Most pet owners don't know that such foods as chocolate, macadamia nuts, raisins and grapes, coffee, alcoholic beverages and even bread dough can be fatal if ingested in quantity by a dog. Be careful not to leave these foods on coffee tables in reach of pets and be sure that the lid on the trash can is well-secured.

Warn family members and guests not to feed holiday foods to your pets. Instead, have a supply of your pets' favorite treats on hand and offer them when others are enjoying all those delicious smelling holiday goodies. 

3.  Choose plants carefully: The poinsettia, though typically thought of as poisonous to pets, is fairly low in toxicity, but can cause digestive upset and irritation to a pet's mouth and stomach.
Holly berries, on the other hand, are extremely toxic when ingested. Just a few berries will cause vomiting and diarrhea. Mistletoe also causes digestive system upset as well as irregular heartbeats and possibly cardiac shock. Plants like the hibiscus and those in the lily family, which are not toxic to people, may also be harmful to pets, causing digestive system problems and even renal failure.  If you must have these plants in your holiday décor, choose artificial ones to protect your pets. 
4. Other holiday hazards: Children's toys can present a poisoning or choking hazard. Be sure small toy pieces, plastic model cement, crayons and paints are put away or out of reach when not in use. Wrapping paper, ribbon, and tape also represent potential dangers. Remove them as soon as possible.
Never leave lighted candles unattended and be sure they are securely anchored so they won't be dislodged by the swat of a paw or tail. Better yet, only use candles with domes or cylinders that enclose the flame (flameless candles are an excellent pet and child-proof choice!)

5. Preventing the great escape: With holiday guests coming and going, the front door will be opening and closing more than usual. An open door may be too tempting for some pets to resist. Be sure your pets have collars with identification tags - and wear them at all times - in case of an escape.
IF your pet DOES slip out, resist the urge to chase - which will turn it into a game. Instead, encourage him to come back to you by enticing him with a favorite treat.

With a little thought and care, 
you and your pets can enjoy a fun {and safe!} holiday season. 

For more information on keeping your pet safe during the holiday season, visit the ASPCA's website at or the American Animal Hospital Association's website at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Frosty, Merry, and oh so Sweet!

Want a quick, adorable, and satisfying little treat for the kids this season?

I whipped up these  
frosty little smiling snowmen cupcakes
for my son's preschool class last week.

Using snowman cupcake liners,
I baked simple chocolate cupcakes
and frosted them with decadent buttercream frosting,
and dusted them with icy sugar crystals.

I added chocolate chip eyes (or you can use M&M candies)
gumdrop noses cut like carrots,
gumdrop earmuffs,
licorice whip bands,
royal icing smiles,
and I sprayed their little cheeks with food coloring spray
to give them rosy cheeks.

So simple,
so cute,
and so sweet and merry!
Your little ones will positively adore these jovial, 
colorful little snowman cupcakes!

For more Christmas Cookie ideas,
visit my 2009 post:

Christmas Cookies!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Visit from St. Nicholas

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there..."

Clement C Moore 
A Visit from St Nicholas

On the eve of St. Nicholas Day (December 6th), children leave their shoes {or slippers} outside their bedroom doors in hopes that St. Nicholas will leave treats such as {Speculaas or windmill} cookies, candies, nuts or apples.

My son's slippers waiting to be filled.

Speculaas cookies

1 Cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, at room temperature
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the lemon rind.

Sift the spices and salt with the flour and baking powder, and stir gradually into the butter mixture. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight. (If you are in a hurry, start the chilling process in the freezer: leave the dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)

On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch, or for larger figures to about 1/4 inch. Cut out with cookie cutters, or trace around a heavy paper pattern with a sharp knife. This dough can also be used with a cookie mold, or can be molded by hand.

Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. If you like you cookies soft, remove them from the oven when they are just set -- the longer the baking time, the crisper the cookie.

Filled with little gifts and candies!

The little "wish" pouch 
(which I got years ago as a Starbucks gift card holder) 
holds a little Matchbox car 
and a card from St. Nicholas... 

 Chocolate gold-covered coins are a traditional St. Nicholas Day treat!
I bought these at Target.

It's a fun tradition that precedes Christmas and keeps the religious aspect of the holiday season.  We simply explain to our son that St. Nick visits to check in on him to see if he's being good, and also to scope out where to leave his presents! 

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

♫ Christmas Caroler Cookies ♪

Bundled up for the cold to spread their Christmas cheer....
these cute little Christmas Caroler Kid Cookies are ready to sing your favorite carols!  

Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle All the Way...

The perfect holiday cookie for children,
(particularly preschoolers)...
these cookies can be customized to resemble your children and their little friends.
 The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

Imagine a welcoming platter of these adorable cookies,
served with mugs of piping hot chocolate
after a frosty evening out caroling in your neighborhood!

* Tip:  Any basic sugar cookie recipe will work for the dough.
You can add food coloring or cocoa powder to give the children different complexions. *
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • Paste or liquid food coloring
  • Small candies for decorating (optional)
  • royal icing


In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half of dough into a 6 inch roll. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap. Chill for 1 hour or until dough is firm.

Step 1.) Once the dough is made and chilled for about an hour, 
roll it out, and using a biscuit cutter or round cookie cutter,
cut the shapes for the children's faces.

Step 2.)  Roll small bits of dough to form a nose.
Press the nose gently onto the center of the cookie.

Step 3.) Using a straw, create a little oval-shaped, open mouth on 
each unbaked cookie to give them the appearance of singing.

Step 4.)  Once all of the mouths are done,
the cookies will look something like this.

Step 5.)  Using paste food colorings,
tint smaller batches of sugar cookie dough for hair, scarves, earmuffs and hats.

Step 6.) Using a clean garlic press,
force a tablespoon of colored dough through to make hair.

I have a new garlic press that I use only for this purpose.

Step 7.) Once the "hair" comes out,
gently lift it and press onto the heads of the cookies.
Use other small bits of tinted dough to form earmuffs, scarves and hats.

Like this...

Now your carolers are ready to be baked!

Step 8.) Pop the cookies into a 375 degree oven for 6-8 minutes.

Step 9.) Let the baked cookies cool on the cookie sheets
for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Step 10.)  Once the cookies have cooled,
you can finish decorating them with royal icing and candies.

Step 11.) To give their cheeks a rosy appearance as if they've been out in the cold,
fill a small cup with a couple of tablespoons of water 
and add a scant drop or two of red food coloring or paste.

Step 12.) Use a clean paintbrush to lightly apply the diluted coloring 
to the cheeks of each cookie.

* Tip: the brush should be nearly dry.  
Keep a paper towel nearby to rub off the excess before applying to the cookie. 

Step 13.)  Attach mini chocolate chip eyes using royal icing
or other candies as you'd like!


Individually packaged with musical note tags,
or set on a platter or in a box wrapped in sheet music,
this little cherubic chorus of one-of-a-kind faces is sure to be a crowd pleaser!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christopher Pop-in-Kins

It's that time of year!
Christopher Pop-in-Kins is making his daily surprise visits!

Have you heard of this little elf?  
He is of one of Santa's elves that wants so much to see children at Christmas,
so Santa grants his wish to "pop in" to children's homes,
appearing in a different location each night after they've fallen asleep,
and then he reports back to Santa.

If you have little ones that can barely contain their excitement during the Christmas season,
this is a fun and adorable little tradition!

Each morning my 4-year old wakes up in eager anticipation of finding where Christopher Pop-in-kins is hiding!
It's so fun!
Another December tradition is to set out our Advent House.

Time is a hard concept for little ones to grasp...
a day can seem like a week...
a week like a month...
and it can seem like FOREVER until Christmas!!

An Advent calendar can be a fun way for the littlest members of your house
to countdown the days until Santa arrives.

For more early holiday ideas,
visit my previous post:

The countdown to Christmas has officially begun!