Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 12 - Peppermint Play Dough

Happy Christmas Eve!

We can hardly believe it is the day before Christmas. Like many of you we have been soooo busy with holiday preparations. You may have noticed this can be hard with small children excitedly running around. Earlier this week we whipped up a batch of our homemade play dough. We added a gave it a wintery touch with glitter and peppermint extract. It only took a few minutes to make, but it has kept the children entertained for hours! Not to mention, the house smells fantastic!

Because it is made with ingredients from your kitchen, it is safe for kids and you probably have all the ingredients in the house.

This recipe can easily be tripled.

The recipe:

  • 1 Cup of flour

  • 1/2 cup of salt

  • 1 cup of water

  • 2 tsp cream of tartar

  • 2 Tbl vegetable oil (we used mineral oil when we were making white play dough)

  • 1 tsp peppermint extract

  • glitter

  • a few drops of food coloring - optional

Mix all the ingredients - except the glitter - in a nonstick pot (it makes clean up so much easier).

Cook over medium high heat stirring constantly. Keep cooking and stirring until it forms a ball of play dough. It will turn a shade darker and is no longer gooey. Turn out onto the counter and let cool until you can comfortably touch it. Knead the dough a few times and mix in the glitter (as much as you like). Now you are ready to play!!

This will be our last post until after the new year.

Have a wonderful holiday and a happy New Year!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day 11 - Easy No Bake Thin Mints

These are the perfect treats for last minute gifts (nestled up in your Homemade Gift Cans) or a yummy snack for a family get together!

No Bake Thin Mints


  • 1 pkg (8 Squares) Baker's Semi Sweet Chocolate, melted and lightly cooled

  • 1/4 tsp Mint Extract

  • 1 sleeve Ritz Crackers (35 crackers)

  • 1 candy cane (6 inch) crushed

Mix Melted Chocolate and Mint Extract together until smooth.

Dip Crackers in chocolate, turning to completely coat each cracker. Carefully scrap off excess chocolate. Place crackers in a single layer, on wax paper-covered baking sheets, sprinkle with crushed candy cane.

Allow to cool, until chocolate is firm.

Some great variations: Use Oreos, Nilla Wafers, pretzels, or Nutter Butters. You can also omit the candy canes and use holiday sprinkles!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Day 10: Paper Christmas Tree

When we saw this cute idea on Allsorts (courtesy of Craft Gossip), we knew it would be the perfect addition to our Twelve Days of Homemade Christmas! Such a simple design and so easy to modify! So easy, in fact, that this is one the kids can definitely help with! And we think it would be a great addition to any holiday decorating! The original design is actually a printable version (so if you want, you can simply download and print it out), but we wanted to use the basic idea and make it our own using materials we had on hand.

What You Need:

  • Paper

  • Scissors

  • Glue

  • Wooden Skewer

  • Ruler (optional)

First, we found that making a template was handy. The base of our tree shape was about 6 1/2" wide. Making the template helped us make a uniform shape for our tree as well as make sure the loops of paper didn't get too long - the longer they are, the more they tended to droop and lose their tree shape.

Next, cut a few strips of paper. We made ours about a fingers-width wide (yeah, exact measurement isn't our thing), but play around with it and find what you think looks best! We were going to use wrapping paper for a festive look, but then decided that plain white would look elegant. Since the white paper we were using was from a ream of that continuous feed type computer paper with the holes up the side, we decided to use the holes as added decoration!

To make your tree,lay your skewer on top of your template and poke a hole at the end of one of your strips.Feed the strip down your skewer to about where you will want it to be (this can always be adjusted later). Bend your strip up and poke your skewer through again making a loop. Bend it up and poke your skewer through again on the opposite side of your skewer to make a second "branch" on the other side. If this sounds confusing, check the picture below to get a better idea of what we mean. Continue in this fashion until you reach the decided look and height for your tree, using your template as a guide for size and shape. When one of your strips runs out, simply use your glue to adhere the end of your strip to another.

Now to top your tree! We thought about making a star for our topper, but decided to go with a sparkly silver paper circle to compliment the polka dot feel of our tree. A red ribbon tied on top would have been cute, too!

To display our tree, we filled a decorative container (in this case a mug) with rice and simply stood our tree up. Then we displayed it amongst our other decorations and admired it's striking simplicity and design!
Another cute idea would be to display these as muffin or cupcake toppers, as in the original idea. Or maybe use pinking shears to cut the strips to create a fun edge to your branches! The possibilities are endless!
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Day 9 - Snowman Cupcakes

Wow, it is hard to believe we are already at our 9th day of Christmas post!! We couldn't wait to share these adorable snowman cupcakes with you!

Here is the back story on these little guys.

A Few weeks ago, Rebecca took her boys to the doctor's office for their flu shots. The boys were very upset at the thought of shots. So like any desperate mom, Rebecca bribed them with a promise of a trip to a nearby bakery if they were good.

After their shots, they stopped at the bakery and picked out two snowman cupcakes. The clerk boxed then up and then rang up the order. Rebecca about fell over when the clerk told her that it would be $10 for 2 cupcakes! After seeing that all these cup cakes were was a cupcake with a donut hole stacked on top we knew we had to replicate them!

We decided that a regular sized cupcake was a bit much so we made ours with mini cupcakes.

What you need:

  • a batch of your favorite mini cupcakes (white cake would look better, but we love chocolate!!)

  • a box of glazed donut holes

  • 2 or 3 containers of white frosting

  • powdered sugar

  • fruit roll ups for the scarfs

  • long orange sprinkles for the carrot noses

  • chocolate frosting, brown jimmies, or mini chocolate chips for the eyes

First we mixed about 1/2 a cup of powdered sugar into our frosting. This helped us make a stiffer frosting. Then we heated the frosting in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Stir, then dipped the cupcakes into the frosting.
Then we cut the donut holes in half and stuck them on top of the cupcake. If the frosting is starting to harden, use a little frosting to "glue" the donut hole on. We saved the thickened frosting for the snowman's heads.

  • We let the cup cakes set for about 15-20 min. Then we took another container of frosting and warmed it in the microwave for about a minute. Stirred, and then dipped the cupcakes and donut holes in the frosting. We were amazed, there was only one donut hole lost to the frosting.
    We put our stiffened frosting in a zip lock bag. We cut a large hole in the corner and piped on the snow man heads.

    Then we decorated the snowmen with stripes of fruit roll ups, long orange sprinkles and chocolate frosting. Our snowmen turned out just as cute, and we made 48 for $10-$12. The kids at school are going to love them!!!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Day 8: Gift Cans

Ok, so we know that we have been posting quite a few Christmasy food ideas so far during our Twelve Days of Homemade Christmas. But what can we say? Food is a big part of our holiday traditions around here! And we all know how much we enjoy receiving the tasty treats our loved ones make as well as making treats to give. So we have a super-cute and easy way to package these delicious gifts: Gift Cans! We've seen these all over blogworld and thought they would be a great addition to our Homemade Christmas.

What You Need:

  • Clean, empty tin cans (make sure when you remove the top of your can you use a smooth edge can opener)

  • decorative paper

  • craft glue

  • hot glue

  • ribbon
As we mentioned, this project is SO easy. Turn your can upside down and simply wrap your can in the pretty paper you've chosen, making sure that the open end of the can is on the bottom.

Then fill your can with your tasty creations. We have made cans filled with Homemade Candy Canes, Cranberry Sugar Cookies, and even filled a small can with our Homemade Cat Treats (you can't forget your furry friends this time of year!).

With your cans filled, hot glue the lid back on your can. Turn your can over and tie with pretty ribbon. With the glued side on the bottom, the lucky recipient of your gift can can use their own can opener to open it! It's a fun, unexpected, and adorable way to give the treats that have been made with so much love!
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Day 7: Gumdop Candy Tree

Are you looking for a fun and easy centerpiece for your holiday table? The Mamas have created a whimsical Gumdrop Tree, just from finding a couple of things at the dollar store!


  • Styrofoam cone

  • Gumdrops

  • Glue (we started with craft glue but ended up using a hot glue gun)
For our size tree, we used about 2 small bags. We wanted the multi-colored gumdrops but you can also find bags of just red and green right now. Starting at the base of the tree, hot glue and place the gumdrops around the bottom. Work in rows around to the top of the tree.

For the top - we just used additional gumdrops but you could get creative, add a small star topper or whatever embellishments you have handy! We displayed on a decorative charger (again - found at the dollar store!) and you have the perfect centerpiece for your holiday meal...and for only about $4 dollars!

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Day 6: Christmas S'mores and Homemade Hot Chocolate

While at the grocery store the other day we came across gingerbread graham crackers from Honey Maid. We immediately thought S'MORES!!! Yum! Of course what could go better with Christmas s'mores than homemade hot chocolate. Rebecca and her boys have been perfecting their recipe for weeks!

For the s'mores you will need:

  • gingerbread graham crackers

  • chocolate santas

  • marshmallows (sometimes you can find red and green Christmas marshmallows - we couldn't)

We stacked the grahams, santas and marshmallows like this. Then we microwaved them for 15-20 seconds. The boys loved watching the marshmallows expand in the microwave. Next each was topped with another graham.

Next mom whipped up a batch of hot cocoa.

This recipe will make 3-4 servings depending on the size of your mugs.

For the hot cocoa you will need:

  • 3 Tbs unsweetened cocoa

  • 1 cup powdered sugar

  • 1/3 cup of water

  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • dash of salt

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 3 cups of milk

    In a sauce pan we mixed cocoa, sugar, cinnamon, salt and water. We heated it to a boil, stirring often. Then we whisked in the vanilla and milk. We heated it to a temperature our kids would like. Finally we served the cocoa and s'mores. We were feeling so nice we even topped off the cocoa with a little light whip cream. (needless to say, the boys did not eat much dinner that night)

    Ben says, "This one is definitely a keeper!!"

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Day 5: Cranberry Sugar Cookies

Let's get out our homemade aprons because it's time for some holiday baking! These cookies are not for the faint at heart - YES - it has 2 sticks of real butter, but the cranberries give them that holiday flair. They are so rich and delicious - perfect for cookie exchanges, family gatherings, or just to keep in your own cookie jar! This made approximately 12 large cookie sandwiches (you can do smaller, eyeball the size of the rounds before flattening). You can even frost single cookies and skip the sandwich step!

What You Need:

1 (15.6 oz) pkg cranberry or cranberry orange quick bread or

muffin mix
3/4 cup butter, softened

1 tsp almond extract


2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tbsp butter, softened
2 - 3 tbsp milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all cookie ingredients in large bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until well mixed. Shape dough into 3/4 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Flatten balls to 1/8 inch thickness with bottom of glass dipped in sugar (we like to sprinkle a little extra sugar on them after flattening). Bake for 8 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 2 minutes;remove from cookie sheets. Cool completely.

Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar, 2 tbsp butter and enough milk for desired spreading consistency in small bowl. Beat at medium speed until smooth. Spread bottom side of 1 cookie with 1 tsp filling; top with another cookie, bottom side down. Press down lightly. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling.
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Monday, December 6, 2010

Day 4: Making Christmas For Others

Last week we shared some great and simple ideas for creating a little Christmas for you, your friends, and family. But we also know that there is more to Christmas than making cute decorations and tasty treats for your loved ones. We also need to remember those in this world who help us everyday but don't always get the recognition they deserve.

So for the fourth day of our Twelve Days of Homemade Christmas, we wanted to share what we are doing to help the American soldiers who serve and protect us all year round. So many of them will not be spending Christmas with their families and friends this year, and we wanted to see what we could do to help make a happier holiday season for them. Homemade Nana turned us onto Soldiers' Angels, an organization that has dedicated itself to their motto, "May No Soldier Go Unloved". They have many projects that you can get involved with, whether it's making blankets for deployed or wounded soldiers, making up care packages, or donating baby items for Operation Top Knot (they make gift baskets for families of soldiers who are expecting or have an infant - they even send pink or blue bubble gum cigars to wherever Dad is stationed!).

For our part, we are participating in both their "Blankets of Hope" program, where you make handmade blankets for wounded soldiers, as well as the "Angel Bakers" program. This is a great way for the kids in your family to get involved, as well as learn the real meaning of Christmas.

Jill also found out about a program through the Walter Reed Army Medical Center where you can send holiday cards to veterans, soldiers, and their families all over the world (now through December 10th)! This would be another great way for your kids to get involved - just have them make a holiday card. It would certainly make the holidays brighter for someone! Just send them to:

Holiday Mail for Heroes
PO Box 5456
Capitol Heights, MD

So this Christmas, while you are getting ready for your own celebrations with your families, remember those who cannot be with their loved ones because they are have dedicated themselves to serving all of us.
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Friday, December 3, 2010

Day 3: Homemade Candy Canes!

When we found this recipe for homemade candy canes in our Gooseberry Patch cookbook, Christmas in the Country,we knew we had to try it. The recipe is very simple. Even novice candy makers can make them. They turned out so pretty. Our pictures don't do them justice. They look like they are made of glass. Best of all they taste as good as they look!!

What you need:

  • 2 cups of sugar

  • 1/2 cup of light corn syrup

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

  • 3/4 tsp. peppermint extract

  • 3/4 - 1 tsp. red food coloring

In a heavy saucepan, blend the sugar, corn syrup, water

and cream of tartar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook over medium heat until your candy thermometer reaches the hard-ball stage - 250 - 269 degrees. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat. Then add the peppermint extract.

Divide the candy in to 2 equal portions by pouring them into 2 microwave safe bowls. Be very careful the candy will be very hot!! Stir the red food coloring into one of the bowls.

Let the candy the candy cool until it is cool enough to handle, but not too hard. It will be like a stiff dough. Spread a sheet of wax paper on your work surface. Spray your hands with a little cooking spray. Using a heavy spoon, scoop out a blob of each color and roll into two ropes.

Twist them together.

Then form your candy cane shape.

Let your candy canes finish cooling and then enjoy! If the candy gets too hard to shape, put the bowl in the microwave for 20 - 30 seconds.

These candy canes would be very pretty wrapped in cellophane and tied onto a package. Your family and friends will love them!

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day 2: Homemade Bread Mix

What a great homemade holiday gift - for YOU and your loved ones; a basic bread mix that can be festively packaged for creative homemade gifts or made for upcoming holiday gatherings. We decided this is a great "foodie" gift and have put together the mix and package.

Basic Mix:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley

  • 1 Tbsp. dried basil

  • 2 tsp. baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp. salt

CHEDDAR-HERB BREAD: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly
grease an 8x4x2-inch loaf pan. Place Basic Mix in a bowl. With a pastry blender, cut in 1/4 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 4 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded. In a bowl combine 3/4 cup milk and 1 egg, slightly beaten. Add to crumb mixture all at once. Stir quickly with a fork to moisten. Spread in prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn loaf out onto wire rack; cool completely.

The ingredients for the basic mix were all ON HAND and with some gift bags, holiday paper, some fun scissors, curling ribbon, and glue - not much to making this great gift!

After stirring the ingredients of the basic mix together, we packaged in a fun Christmas bag and tied with matching curling ribbon.

Directions were printed and then pasted on the back of holiday paper that was cut into a square with wavy scissors. The fun thing about this is that you can get really creative - try different herbs and cheeses with your recipes. Or you can get fun containers to package your mix in. What a yummy Christmas!
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