Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Advent ~ Days 23 & 24

#23: Wrap gifts with mommy

This one went off without a hitch. We had already made a bunch of gift bags and had ideas about our wrapping so we wrapped quickly and easily this night.

#24: Have a gnome bonfire with s’mores

Having gnomes over for Christmas eve is a bit more crafty. There was a special on pizza at a local place and so I got that and we spent the whole evening watching "Elf" and crafting away... I love how our little Christmas gnomes turned out!


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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Homestead

We had so much fun playing with this yesterday! The house has taken on a distinct 'loved' patina that I am thrilled to say I think is even more beautiful than when it was new, and the barn and chicken coop will probably have that very same hue next year.

I am really honestly not sure who enjoyed playing with it more... me or Cyan. lol! But what a fun Christmas gift it was for all.

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Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent ~ Days 19 - 22

#19: Skating at the roller rink

Didn't do this one. We have it on our list, but I would have had to take the kids by myself and I was beat from all of the cooking, cleaning, and shopping that also had to be done. It is now in the 'to do' list for Jan.

#20: Fantasy lights with hot cocoa

What a fun show this year! The drive through was especially nice. :)

#21: Christmas cookies for the neighbors

This was a fun treat! We finished up all the packages and got the neighbors their sweet treats while getting most of the sugary stuff out of the house. Of course, I had forgotten about the next days craft:

#22: Fruit and Nuts dipped in Chocolate

So much for the no sugar thing.... we tucked most of these fruits dipped in chocolate into gift and care packages, but we still got a dose of sugar that day... and it was good! I followed it up with a nice big dinner salad and some homemade lentil soup with fresh bread for dinner.

Logan was THRILLED with his job of putting on the sprinkles. He would get ahead of the dippers and say "Hey guys... I got no more to sprinkle!"

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

All done...

...with sugary Christmas foods.

Along with the emphasis in baking cookies and goodies for Christmas has been this major shift in our household sugar intake. Already this season I am finding myself really wanting to get back to what we usually eat. We normally are very careful with our refined sugar (even organic, unbleached, fair trade refined sugar) intake. It just plain isn't good for you. The highs and lows alone can make you feel horrible! I have started to see some changes in my kids that come from more than just cabin fever... so the other day, with the last delivery of neighborly cookies now out the door, I decided I would send the last of the cookies and baked goods with Don to work and get all the sugar out of the house.

However, it has been a whole month of this stuff available WAY more often than normal, and so I have been doing a few little things to keep the switch more gentle for my kids. Esp for my sugar eater and my least likely to understand, 3 yr old Logan.

Many of these things just trade complex natural sugars for simple refined sugars. But even that can drastically change what your body can do with these starches and makes the highs and lows much less dramatic than when white sugar is eaten. Also, they give your body that sugary flavor with none of the roller coaster side effects and addictive qualities that come along with a high refined sugar diet. Making them easier to NOT eat... once the sugar cravings have passed.

These are some things I will do until the sugar monsters have passed:

  • I have bought dried dates, crasins, and dried apricots. Those will pass as sugary snacks in the days to come.
  • I have refilled the jelly bean machine with organic juice-sweetened jelly beans (on sale at Trader Joes right now). The kids get a penny of them after a meal once a day (which is usually 5 or 6).
  • I have made sure to up every ones protein intake. The chickens have helped in that. Free range, organic eggs for breakfast each morning really helps with the cravings and the mood swings that come with sugar highs and lows. When that isn't on the menu, we have creamy farina or oatmeal with dried fruit.
  • I have started baking bread again. I was on a baking kick anyhow... so I figured it was a small jump from gingerbread cookies to Artisan WW/Spelt flour bread. A slice of hardy homemade bread and a little honey and you have a sweet snack that will actually keep you going.
  • Trail mix (which in our house, is mostly raw almonds and lightly salted cashew bits) with dark chocolate chips and dried fruit is a hit, and works very well for adding some protein along with complex sugars, and also making the kids not feel deprived.
  • Making sure everyone gets their vitamins is essential this time of year. It is SO dark and wet here right now that it is easy to feel depressed just looking outside. Vitamins give us that much needed boost that we don't get from foraging from the garden.

What are somethings you do to get over the Christmas sugar blues?

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy Solstice everyone!

Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse from William Castleman on Vimeo.

Check out this amazing Timelaps video of last nights Solstice Eclipse. The world should stand still for stuff like this....

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent ~ Days 15 - 18

Day #15: Gingerbread houses

Due to being 8 mos pregnant right now, I opted for kits for our gingerbread houses this year... you would think this would be an easy project, but two dropped box kits later and us two mamas were pulling out the glue gun to put back together the beautiful gingerbread houses so the kids could decorate them. It was quite the adventure and I am SO glad I planned to do this one with friends! :)

They turned out pretty cute anyhow and the Alex added the origami stars at above each house. I think they added a wonderful touch. But eatable? These houses were NOT! lol...

#16: Paper snowflakes and bake something YUMMY!

Since we had already done snowflakes, this day was another way to get my kids to help with the holiday treat making! They had a lot of fun (as you can see from the rainbow that Alex made out of these yummy treats).

#17: Poptop can gifts for friends

These are the cutest gifts I think I have ever seen. Made out of recycled cans, each of these little treats have a diecast car (boys) or a Littlest Pet Shop critter (girls). Click over here for a tutorial!

18. Special chocolate and surprise!

These last two go together... we spent the evening going around to all of our friends houses and bringing some surprise cheer to all the children. We decided to take the long ways through the neighborhoods to scout Christmas lights (of which, there are surprisingly few this year) and pick up hot chocolate and hot cider to keep warm along the way.

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Handcrafted Gifts ~ Pop top can treats

We have many kid friends whom we exchange birthday and Christmas gifts with, and it is always a challenge to see what everyone would like and play with, and also what is within our budget. This year I got lucky. Many of our girls are into Littlest Pet Shop, and it just so happened that Littlest pet shop was 2 for 1 and I found several that had 2 in each box. 4 gifts for the price of 1... couldn't pass it up.

For the boys, I knew that Littlest Pet Shop just wouldn't do... but die cast cars are always a hit and were also on sale, so that is what we picked up for them:

I set out to find the most interesting and personal way to package these gifts for the youngest in our group. Meet the inspiration:

I have seen these pop top can tutorials pop up all over the Internets this year. They are SO adorable and I love the idea that recycling can turn into such a fantastic gift!

What you need:
Pop top cans. The smaller ones are better. (We had to search for cans that would work. We have eaten quite a bit of fruit cocktail, pineapple, and mandarins oranges in these last few weeks. We even opened a few and put them in glass mason jars in the fridge just to get the cans. lol... We don't eat much that comes out of cans normally. Husband brought that up while I was getting the stuff for this. This 'free' craft cost us quite a bit. But if you actually use these cans often, then this craft would be even more perfect for you!)

Safety can opener

Small gifts

Decorative paper

Glue gun

Ribbon

Tissue paper

1: First take off the bottom off the cans with the safety can opener. This leaves a nice little 'lid' for the bottom of your can... which, even in testing, will go back on pretty easily. Eat or otherwise use the contents and clean and dry the can thoroughly.

2: Then pack the toy in the pop top can upside-down so that it will appear right side up when opened. (I put in a couple little Christmas candies along with it to fluff up the contents.)

3: Put a piece of tissue in it to fill the rest of the tin. (I have seen these with nothing but Skittles in there or M&M's but I thought that although the cans are food safe, the hot glue may not be, so just to be safe I used individually wrapped treats instead.)

4: Glue the bottom of the can back on the can with the glue gun. You only need glue in a couple of places around the bottom for it to stay put. Press down on the bottom of the can HARD to get the bottom to sit correctly on the can and stay there.

5: Flip the can over and Decorate! We used scrapbook paper that was cut to the height and width of each can. Just in case you want to use the same cans we did, the 8 oz Dole Pineapple can paper was 1 3/4 X 11 inches and the 11 oz Mandarin Orange cans were 3 X 9 1/2 inches.

The variations we found (with mostly things we had on hand) was endless and SO cute!

Tonight is our advent 'surprise' night and so we are going to look at Christmas lights, get a spiced cider from the coffee shop, and drop off little surprises to all of our friends!

Some learning curve tips:

  1. The larger cans can easily be used for larger gifts... think gloves, scarves, Lego sets, play mobile, wooden critters, etc... they all would fit beautifully and still give that same thrill that these smaller gifts make.
  2. Make sure the lid that you are working with fits on the specific can you are working with BEFORE you try to glue it down. Glue guns burn. I'm just sayin'.
  3. Place a book on the can just after gluing (use wax paper to keep the book from sticking to the hot glue) and this will help hold it down. It will also help your hand from getting a permanent impression of the bottom of a pineapple can. Again... just sayin'.

Have fun crafting!!!


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Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent - Days 10 - 14

This week got thrown off a little by the absolutely amazingly horrible weather and baking hundreds of cookies. We have had downpours nearly all week long, and at night, we get wind storms that have now blown down most of our fence between us and the neighbors. It's crazy! Today we were all excited that it wasn't actually raining, but it was just drizzle and cloudy. lol!

Day 10: Watching Christmas movie with popcorn and a treat

I rented The Sesame Street Christmas Story for the kids. They loved it!

Day 11: A surprise outing!

We went to see Narnia in the theater! (We don't ever take the kids to the theater so that was super special and the gesture got lots of squealing and bouncing as we pulled in). I even bought Turkish Delights for the occasion and we sat in the theater, happy as clams and watched my favorite childhood book turned movie. It was wonderful!

Day 12: Go shopping for mommy with daddy

I didn't get pictures of this one, cuz I couldn't be there. ;) But the kids and Don went out and got me 'something'...

Day 13: Zoo lights with hot cider

Skipped this due to not wanting to end up soaking wet walking through the zoo in horrible weather, but Alex is keeping track of what we are not doing and we will do it after Christmas. Instead, we got another Christmas movie, It's a Wonderful Life, and I let them eat in front of the tv, another rare thing. Then we had a cookie from the batch I was baking. They were very happy about it all and said it felt like camping.

Day 14: Paper hearts and bake something yummy!

I lined this event up perfectly with having to send all the cookies out. My willing helpers were HUGE help, and honestly, they bake better than I do already.

Logan was sweet and helpful too, in his own sweet toddler way:

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Zombies got loose for Christmas (ie: making gift baskets for boys ages 14 to 25)

All was well in Storybook land. The snowflakes were falling and the gingerbread men had on the plastered smiles that spoke of Christmas time!

But then! A batch of flesh eating zombies came to town!

The carnage was amazing! Limbs and bloody stumps were everywhere (much to my teens delight).


Quickly, to stop the slaughter, I packaged these up for the boys I know who would love them... although I left a zombie in each cookie tin... so who knows, they may never get there.

("Nothing says 'love' and 'merry Christmas' like flesh eating zombies!" - Don)

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