Wednesday, November 30, 2011

christmas traditions

december first is tomorrow and already we've started moving into the holiday season. i don't know about you, but i grew up in a house where each holiday was celebrated with gusto. we had green cookies for st. patrick's day, made ridiculous amounts of valentines for valentine's day and christmas, well, there was no comparison.

having kids of my own, i wanted to start some traditions that would become a part of their christmas celebrations. here are five we've adopted over the years. we'll continue sharing our ideas (and some we've borrowed from friends of ours) over then next couple of weeks. if you have amazing christmas traditions you would love to share, let us know. we'd love to do another post featuring your best ideas.

the elf on the shelf: this little wonder is pure genius. he "hides" all over the house and watches little boys and girls to report back to santa. i only wish he could stick around all year long!

christmas cookies: my kids and i make a ton of christmas treats and cookies over a weekend in december and then deliver them to friends and neighbors nearby. my kids love to be a part of this process and it teaches them a bit about giving during this holiday season. check out our mmmmm, mondays this month for some great christmas treats.

sibling gift giving: along the same lines as the christmas cookies, my kids are a part of shopping for christmas. i didn't like how christmas had become a day all about "i want" lists. so, they are now fully a part of the shopping process. each of the kids gets one special present from their siblings. the kids have to help pick out the present, help wrap it and usually work on a card for their sibling. surprisingly, the kids are usually more excited about seeing their brother or sister open their gift to them than they are about opening some of the presents of their own.

gifts for parents: this same principle continues as they shop for their parents. each child gets a $10.00 budget to buy something for their each of their parents. the hope is that at some point, they will use their own money to purchase these gifts. mind you, these gifts may be pretty random and you'll have to put on your best academy award winning performances come christmas morning but the kids love to be a part of the shopping for christmas gifts for their mom and dad. it's also pretty amazing to see them get excited about something besides receiving.

operation christmas child/angel trees/other charity: we as a family do something for those less fortunate each christmas. we love operation christmas child and the kids are always a part of putting together the shoe boxes to send to needy kids in foreign countries. operation christmas child has online shipping payments as well where you can register your christmas box and then follow it on it's journey to another country. this is an amazing opportunity to show your children how fortunate they are and to put things in perspective. there's nothing like packing up a bar of soap and a toothbrush to give your children some perspective. angel trees can be found in various locations and you can adopt a family member or just purchase a gift for someone in your own community who has some extra needs this holiday season. regardless, check these charities out.

happy christmas preparations. we know this time of the year can be crazy and full of activity. we hope this gives you some ideas for making the season memorable for you and your family.

Monday, November 28, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: easy peasy lemon bars

easy peasy lemon bars

1 1/2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. butter, softened

3 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 c. sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 c. lemon juice
extra powdered sugar


preheat oven to 350 degrees.

combine flour, sugar and butter. put in greased 13x9 inch baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

meanwhile, in a bowl, beat eggs, sugar, flour and lemon juice until frothy. pour over the hot crust.

bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until light golden brown.

cool on a wire rack. dust with powdered sugar and cut into squares.


Friday, November 25, 2011

friday fun finds: advent/countdown calendars

can you believe that it is already almost december? one of my favorite traditions growing up was the advent calendar---there is something magical about counting down to christmas day. here are some of my favorite advent calendars of the season. if you don't already have one, get one before the 1st so you don't miss a day. enjoy!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

gobble gobble and grub

happy thanksgiving to our internet family. we are humbled by all of the love and support that we have received from all of you since starting on this blogging adventure 6 months ago. we are so very thankful for all of you and wish you a day filled with love, laughter and thankfulness.

gobble. gobble. 

chach + nellie

wondering what to do with all of those amazing turkey day leftovers? try this super yummy casserole. you won't regret it. love.

thanksgiving leftovers casserole

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cups of leftover vegetables (whatever you have: peas, green beans, mushrooms, etc.)
2 cups of leftover stuffing
2 cups leftover turkey (you could also make this with honey baked ham, or another meat)
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1. preheat the oven to 350 degrees f.

2. melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute the onion until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. stir in the remaining vegetables and the turkey. mix together and remove from heat.

3. in a casserole dish (9×13-inch), spread the stuffing over the bottom. add the turkey and vegetable mixture and spread evenly on top of the stuffing. in a medium bowl, mix together the mashed potatoes and the eggs until thoroughly combined. spread this on top of the turkey and vegetable mixture. top with the shredded cheese.

3. bake for 25 to 30 minutes. let stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: turkey rice crispy treats

i'm always looking for cute things to make for or with my kids for the holidays. i saw a picture of something like this and thought i could duplicate it. here's what i did...

you'll need to make two batches of the following so shop accordingly.

4 tablespoons butter

1-10.5 oz. bag of miniature marshmallows

6 cups cocoa crispies

melt the butter and marshmallows over low heat in a large pot until smooth. add the rice crispies and mix until well blended. pour into a 11 x 14 rectangular dish sprayed well with non- stick cooking spray. using wax paper stayed well with nonstick spray, press the mixture firmly into the rectangular dish.

repeat this entire process but instead of pressing into an 11 x 14 dish, press into a large flat jelly role pan. you won't have enough of the mixture to completely fill the pan. that's okay. you will still have plenty to complete the turkeys.

allow both trays to cool and harden.

using round objects from your kitchen (i used a donut cutter and a round cheese shredder), cut the rice crispies into two different sized circles. use the larger pan to cut about 3 inch circles and the smaller pan to cut about 1 and 1/2 inch circles. i was able to get 24 circles of each size cut from the pans with some treats leftover.

here's what you'll need to decorate your turkeys:

1 bag small pretzel sticks

1 bag small pretzel twists

1 can vanilla frosting (this can be in a tub)

1 container of decorative chocolate frosting

1 bag of candy corn

stick the two circles together with the vanilla frosting. use two straight pretzel sticks in between the two pieces to become the turkey's legs. using more vanilla frosting, attach the twisted pretzels around the top edge of the larger circle to form wings. add another layer of frosting to attach the candy corn. using the chocolate frosting, attach one more candy corn for a beak and a little bit at the top for some brown feathers. it's not exactly the snack of champions but it is very cute and a wonderfully fun addition to your thanksgiving traditions.


Friday, November 18, 2011

friday fun finds: top practical winter must-haves

the temps are dropping and snow is starting to fall around the country. time to face the's winter folks. here are my favorite winter must-haves for the season. enjoy!

when i first moved from sunny southern california to the snowy northwest i was told by a friend to get this coat. it is the best. love.

what are your favorite winter items? please share with us in the comments would love to hear what you have to say.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

'tis the season

there's no denying it. the holiday season is upon us. as soon as halloween wrapped up, the country seemed to shift gears instantly and holiday mayhem was upon us. i, myself, prefer a more organized, systematic approach to the holiday season...there's less shock to the system that way. still, the other day, i was thrown into the "fun" of the holiday season like a child taught how to swim by being dumped in the deep end of a pool.

i had to go to the large, upscale mall with two of my children. this adventure alone i wouldn't recommend. there are certain malls that are made for moms and dads...the kinds with playgrounds, mcdonald's in the food court, strollers for rent. this mall is decidedly the opposite. nordstroms sits next to louis vuitton, which is next to tiffany's, which eventually brings you back around to neiman marcus and so on. there is nothing about this place that invites children. still, i trudged on with my four and six year old and hoped for the best.

besides the frequent looks of contempt from shoppers passing us by, the trip was uneventful...until we got to our car. holiday parking is one of my least favorite things about the season. driving a large mom-mobile makes this prospect even less enjoyable. as i was working to get my kids snapped in their car seats around their large winter wear, a man in a pricey, two-seat car pulled up next to me and honked at me several times to get my attention. i thought my head was going to explode. as i pulled my pregnant self out of the third row seats to go and talk to the man, i'm pretty sure he had no idea what was coming.

one of my close girlfriends says that every now and then "hurricane nellie" starts a brewing and when it does, everyone should get out of it's path. somewhere between the comments, "in what world has honking at someone become socially acceptable" and "i'm pretty sure your mother didn't raise you to be rude and disrespectful to others," the well dressed, easily 250 pound man switched from asking if i was leaving or staying to, "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am." i'm sure a pregnant lady in her seventh month and wearing yoga pants had never been more scary. after a thorough apology, i eventually turned and walked off with some comment about him perhaps using his manners next time. he may have just thought i was completely crazy...which there may have been a good argument for. i think i saw him trying to stifle a grin at some point in the conversation but i'm pretty sure he'll think before he honks at someone in a parking lot again.

i was officially inaugurated into the holiday season. somewhere in this time of peace on earth and good will toward men, we've lost our ability to extend common courtesy. during this season, i have to explain to my kids why people cut in line, rip things out of one another's hands, steal parking spaces, argue extensively with sales representatives and generally throw all manners out of the window. just wait until black friday rolls around. if you ever questioned whether or not the book "lord of the flies" is realistic, observe black friday rituals.

maybe we should come back to the meaning behind the season. we've become so wrapped up in the shopping for the season that we have managed to miss the message of it entirely. maybe i overreacted to the man in the parking lot. maybe i just saw the writing on the Christmas wall. regardless, i'm going to try to take this season a little slower. i'm going to try to smile more and hold doors open more often...even if that means standing in line five minutes longer. i'm going to say, "merry Christmas," and mean it. most of all, i'm going to try to show my kids that this season isn't just about how much stuff we can buy, but about how much joy we can spread.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

once upon a class project

let me first just say that i really appreciate public education. before i had my gaggle of kids, i taught high school. as a general rule, teachers are underpaid and under-appreciated. they work tremendously hard to teach and help raise our kids and i truly am thankful for all they do.

that being said, i now must share a frustration for mothers across the world over. for some strange, incomprehensible reason, teachers feel the need to assign class projects to school kids that only a parent can complete. i am currently in the process of creating a catawba indian wigwam diorama for my third grader's class. let me just tell you how much fun that is. don't get me wrong, my son is working with me every step of the way, cutting out papers, helping glue, painting, gathering sticks...still, there is no way he could get this project put together without the help of a grown-up.

what ever happened to coloring a picture? does he really learn more sitting for hours creating a three dimensional project instead of just drawing a wigwam and labeling the parts? he could do that on his own and i have a hard time imagining that he learns more doing a longer, harder project. i, on the other hand, feel like i've retaken third grade social studies. i know more about an indian wigwam than i think i ever learned in elementary school. while i appreciate the extra knowledge, i'm pretty sure i completed third grade many moons ago. i really have no desire to repeat it and the thought of doing this same project five times as each of my kids eventually hits the third grade is enough to push me over the edge.

i know i can't be alone in this frustration. maybe we should organize a revolt...a mommy strike, if you will. who's with me?

Monday, November 14, 2011

mmmmm, mondays...cheesy baked mashed potatoes

continuing on the thanksgiving theme, i'm going to throw out another recipe to add to your thanksgiving or any day repertoire. my general stance on thanksgiving food is that it's one day where things don't have to be healthy. along those lines, here's a mashed potato dish that has more cheese in it than potatoes. enjoy!

cheesy baked mashed potatoes

6-8 large potatoes, peeled, chopped into cubes, boiled until soft in salted water, mashed

1 8-oz block of cream cheese, softened

2 cups sour cream

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

salt, pepper to taste

2 t. or more of garlic powder and onion powder (or more to taste)

extra grated mozzarella and grated parmesan cheese for topping

crispy bacon, crumbled

once the potatoes have been mashed, mix in the above ingredients with a hand mixer. pour into a large baking dish and cover with extra mozzarella and parmesan cheese. bake at 300 for 30-45 minutes.

this recipe can be made in advance and baked on the day of. if refrigerating overnight, increase your oven temperature to 350 degrees, cover your potatoes for 30 minutes and then uncover for another 30 minutes.

if you don't think there's enough fat in the recipe...go ahead and throw on some crumbled bacon for good measure.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

thanksgiving crafts, part 2

i don't know about you, but i'm always looking for something for my kids to do during the three days they have off for thanksgiving break. it is especially difficult to keep them busy when i'm trying to cook in the kitchen and can't be their personal cruise director. i need something that will keep them entertained for an hour or so while i'm trying to get the turkey business taken care of.

this craft is super easy. the kids can do all of this themselves and you will probably have most of these materials in your house.

here's what you need:

paper plates

brown paint

construction paper

glue sticks


1) paint the paper plate with the brown paint. this should be done in time for it to dry before you continue with the rest of the project.

2) trace your child's hand on different colors of construction paper. have your child cut these out.
3) have your children cut out the turkey body, beak, legs, etc. if you make one of these projects in advance, they can copy the design you have done.

4) allow the kids to write down what they are thankful for on each hand. if you have an older child, this is a great way to get them involved in helping their siblings to express what they are thankful for.

5) allow your children to glue on all the pieces.

6) have your children bring their turkey's to the dinner table as placemats. as you are eating your thanksgiving meal, they can share all the things they are thankful for.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

thanksgiving craft: the thankful tree

i was in a store yesterday and the christmas music was already blaring. really?! what about thanksgiving?! you know......that silly little holiday between halloween and christmas? ugh. personally, i really enjoy the spirit of thanksgiving. couldn't we all use a little reminder of what we already have before jumping into the "don't haves", "needs" and "wants" that surround christmas? this thankful tree is going to do the trick in our home this year.

supplies needed: 
fall colored construction paper
ribbon, twine or leather cord
hold punch
a branch of a tree (no leaves)--this can be as large as you like it to be, just remember to scale the size of the leaves accordingly.
tall vase or pot 

step 1:
use template to trace leaves onto various fall colored construction paper colors (enlarge with copier, if needed)
step 2: 
cut out leaves

step 3:
use a hole punch to make a hole at the top of the leaf

step 4:
tie small loops of twine or ribbon through hole in the top of the leaf for hanging

step 5:
write "is thankful for....." in the middle of each leaf.

step 6:
have each of your family members write their name and what they are thankful for and hang their leaf on the tree.

this would be a wonderful daily project for a small family to write daily what they are thankful for during the weeks leading up to thanksgiving. this would also be a fabulous activity for a large thanksgiving family celebration.

do you have any fun holiday crafts that you do with your family to remind you of being thankful for the blessing in your lives?

Monday, November 7, 2011

mmmmm, mondays: sweet potato casserole

whether we want to admit it or not, the holiday season is upon us. thanksgiving is right around the corner and, i don't know about you, but i'm thankful for some amazing thanksgiving recipes. here's a great one. i'm not a huge fan of sweet potatoes but this recipe is mostly butter and sugar with a little bit of sweet potato mixed in so i'll eat it. it's definitely not something you want to feed your kids every night but for thanksgiving, you won't have any leftovers...and that's something else to be thankful for!

sweet potato casserole

3 cups mashed sweet potatoes

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)

1 tsp. vanilla

Mix the above ingredients together. Put in a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Make the topping:

1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

1/2 stick of butter (1/4 cup)

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flour

1 bag miniature marshmallows

add a layer of marshmallows over the sweet potato mixture. mix together the chopped nuts, butter, brown sugar and flour. crumble evenly over the sweet potatoes and marshmallows. bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes uncovered.

this can be made the day before thanksgiving and reheated on thanksgiving day. enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

friday fun finds: music for kids

call me crazy, but i actually *like* listening to kids music. i have so much fun singing and dancing along with my kids.....and may or may not have (on occasion) been known to listen to it when i am by myself in the car (insane. i know. i am fully aware.)

here are a few of my favorites, but i would love to know what your kids love and (secretly) maybe even you. (wink. wink.)

what did i miss? please, support my slight addiction love of children's music and let me know who/what i am missing! (please leave a comment below).