Hot chocolate, marshmallows, sprinkles, and candy canes make a perfect set up. I didn’t have a cute antique tray, like my BFF, but I did have a pretty silver platter that my Mother-In-Law gave me. The Christmas tree mugs were from my Sister-In-Law.
I don’t know about your family, but my kids make hot cocoa just about every day in the winter. I think a pretty set up, rather than the the plastic containers that these items are sold in, is much more inviting and makes hot cocoa seem like a special tradition. (Pssst…. the mugs only hold about 6 ounces, rather than the 12 ounce cups they normally use. Don’t tell the kids!)
Do you have a hot cocoa station in your kitchen? Send me a picture. I’d love to see it.
Happy cocoa making!
the first Christmas cookies of the season at our house!
Recipe for Spritz Cookies
1 cup butter (room temperature)
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
Mix butter and powdered sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Mix in flour and salt.
Use a cookie press to shape cookie dough on a lined baking sheet. (I use a Silpat liner.)
Bake at 400 degrees for 6 minutes.
Frost with a powdered sugar and milk glaze.
Let the Christmas baking begin!!!
Happy baking, Friends!
Today was Christmas Tree Day. It’s been a tradition for as long as I can remember. Of course, I brought my camera along. I’m still learning how to take clear, sharp, pictures and I am in the very, very beginning stages of learning about Photoshop.
I tried to add a little glow in this picture to capture the sun trying to break through the fog.
I didn’t have my big, zoomy, lens but wanted to try some close ups of the water drops on the trees.
At this point, my mother started laughing at me. “Why are you taking pictures of cob webs again?” I think I need to work on the whole dew-on-the-spiderweb look, because you can hardly tell there is a spiderweb there.
In the end, we found the perfect tree. The kids always want to help cut the tree. My hubby is so patient and lets them try as long as they’d like. The tree is up, but we snuggled on the couch and watched a movie instead of putting the lights on and decorating. Maybe tomorrow.
This is the fake tree that we put up in the family room. This one is for the kids. It’s the messy tree, but it’s the favorite tree to decorate. Every year the kids each get to pick out a new ornament. The goal is to have a good collection started, when they are ready to move out and decorate their own tree someday. This tree is filled with the ornaments I receive as teacher gifts, the paper handprints the kids made in preschool, and a few family favorites. I let the kids choose everything about this tree. This tree is all about the memories.
There are two favorite ornaments, the Santa and the Mickey Mouse ball. The kids have worked out a system where they trade off years for whose turn it is to choose the spot for the favorites. (This year, Mickey had a little mishap and is in need of some superglue.)
Most ornaments hold a memory for my kids. Some are just pretty. Some are not so pretty, but always seem to make it onto the tree anyway. It’s ok. This tree is their tree.
This is a SUPER easy cookie. We bought the chocolate covered Oreos from the grocery store and drizzled a little red frosting over the top. I also love to use the white fudge covered cookies. They look very pretty with green frosting drizzled over them. These are kind of my “filler cookie” to fill up the plate without a lot of extra work.
These are a favorite of my kids’.
You can’t go wrong with classic M&M cookies.
We’ve eaten our fair share this season. New Year’s will bring a little less baking and a little more healthy cooking. If you are looking for any of the recipes for these cookies, you can type the cookie name into the search box on my blog. It will take you to the blog post with the recipes.
We finally made it to Christmas Break! I’m one happy teacher!!! There is nothing better than being able to focus all of my attention on my family, especially at Christmas time. Next week we’ll invite a few family members over for our annual “Gingerbread House Day” and my house will be filled with sugared up kids and lots of fun!
Before I tell you about the day itself, I need to share a little history. Fifteen years ago, when I was doing my student teaching, my cooperating teacher coordinated a gingerbread day for the first graders. They each brought in a candy item to share with the group. She made the house bases in advance and the kids had a ball decorating the houses with all the candy they had collected. It was the perfect fun and festive day for the kids, without being too Christmas-like for public schools. When I finished my student teaching, my cooperating teacher gave me a packet filled with everything I’d need to coordinate my own Gingerbread Day when I had my own classroom.
image from funroom.com
So, at my new school, I became the Gingerbread Queen. Not only did I coordinate Gingerbread Day for my class, I was the coordinator for our entire primary staff. It was such a terrific day! Every class from kindergarten through third grade participated on the same day and we had a walk through tour at the end of the day. Each year the houses became harder and harder to build. By third grade, the teachers had the kids “purchasing” their candy items after writing a detailed plan for building.
Fast forward a few years, and now I’m back teaching at that original school. It’s still a first grade tradition at this school, so we don’t get to do Gingerbread Day in kindergarten. But, I still get to be the Gingerbread Queen. You see, when my son was 2 (7 years ago) I started hosting a gingerbread party for my kids’ friends and cousins.
I ask every family to bring a candy item to share. My favorite candies for gingerbread house decorating are Lifesavers, Neccos, small candy canes, red hots, red and green M&M’s, Twizzlers Pull Apart licorice, gumdrops, and pretzel twists. (Pretzel twists make great fences.)
I usually cover the entire table with craft paper. Michael’s sells rolls of craft paper. It makes cleanup a lot easier.
When the kids were little, I prepared the house bases ahead of time. Now we just build and create! Sometimes the candy houses turn into candy fortresses.
Here’s how I build the bases when young kids (first grade and under) are decorating with us. The only reason I do the base for the kids is that it is very frustrating when you are 4 years old and your house falls apart every time you try to add candy. Royal icing needs time to dry and harden. Patience is hard when you’re 4. Building the house bases is really easy. I start with foil covered cardboard. They make simple platforms for the kids to create their “yard”. I cut the graham crackers with a bread knife and assemble the house base with royal icing. I always use the royal icing to “glue” the house base to the platform. This is what an assembled house base looks like when it is ready for the party to start.. I make one for each child and a few extras in case we have an accident.
I let the kids add the two pieces for the roof and all of the decorations. Royal icing is best for assembling houses and decorating. I usually make several batches of Royal icing and put it into individual quart sized freezer bags. When it’s time for decorating, I just snip off s small corner of the bag.
The recipe for Royal Icing is included in the package of Wilton Meringue Powder. I buy my meringue powder at Michael’s. If you can’t find meringue powder, I’m sure you can google a recipe for a similar icing that calls for egg whites. I’ve always used the meringue powder recipe because raw eggs freak me out. (Unless, of course, I’m eating cookie dough.)
3 Tbsp Wilton Meringue Powder
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
5 or 6 Tbsp warm water
Beat all ingredients, with heavy duty mixer, until icing forms peaks. (7-10 minutes)
Here’s a finished house. (Many of these photos were taken by my friend Diane’s hubby. Diane’s blog is Perfectly Imperfect Life.)
Scone mix with a recipe card.
We’re ready for Home and Family Friday… my headache got the best of me last week, which is why there was no party. Thanks for understanding and coming back this week. I’m trying Linky Tools for the first time. I hope it works well for you!
We’d love to see anything you have done around your home or with your family. I’d love it if you’d become a follower and grab my button.
I made plain round sugar cookies. If you don’t bake often, I’m sure those slice and bake cookies would be fine too. There is nothing better than homemade sugar cookies. If you need a great recipe, click here for my favorite sugar cookies.
The thing I loved best about these melting snowmen is that they are supposed to look melty and messy. Messy is perfect for my kids.
After adding some sloppy frosting, it was time for marshmallows. We put some marshmallows on a plate and microwaved them for about 50 seconds. When they were all puffy and smooshy, we sprayed a little Pam Cooking Spray on our fingers and plunked the marshmallows onto the cookies. The Halloween sprinkles came in handy and became eyes, buttons, and a nose.
Super cute and super easy! It’s so nice to make cookies that I’m not stressing about decorating perfectly. Quick, easy, cute, and kid friendly… can’t ask for much more than that!