Peppermint Marshmallows

Sunday afternoon, I made some peppermint marshmallows to give some of my co-workers. (The printable gift tags I used can be found here).

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Though I’ve had the idea for a while, I waited to make them as close to when I planned to give them away as possible.

I’ve made marshmallows before, but the recipe I used this time seemed both easier and less messy than the last time. I’ll be saving this recipe to use again.

The key is making sure the pan is completely coated in the powdered sugar-cornstarch mixture. Then, as each marshmallow was individually cut, dip each cut side into the mixture as soon as possible. It will make the marshmallows easy to handle. Otherwise, they’ll stick to your hands.

Next time, I’d add more than just 4-5 drops of food coloring too. I tried getting the red to cover as much of the marshmallows as possible, but all that did was fade the color to a light pink and lose more of the swirl pattern to more of just an all over pink color.

These marshmallows deliciously melt into hot chocolate and taste oh so much better than the kind that come from a store-bought bag. I highly recommend making some today to enjoy tomorrow and Christmas Day.

Christmas Neighbor Gifts

When we moved into our house last fall, one of our neighbors brought over cookies to welcome us to the neighborhood. Apparently, they had received cookies when they moved in a year or so before we did. The little girl in the family remembered that someone had done that for her, and when she saw Dan and I were the new kids on the block, she told her mother they had to bake for us. They gave us the cutest batch of cookies that had clearly been baked for us by the kiddos themselves.

During last winter’s horrible, never-ending snow, Dan got up early and shoveled our driveway every morning that it snowed overnight, which was pretty much every night. One day, a neighbor noticed Dan and brought over his huge snowblower. He made short work of clearing that driveway.

While my dad was over last summer supervising some contractors, a neighbor came over to introduce herself. She told him where she lived and to let us know that if we ever needed a tool, her husband had everything. Since then, we’ve borrowed a ladder and a wheelbarrow on more than one occasion.

Before we got our small victory garden going, and way before we had a completely functional kitchen, our neighbor would bring over tomatoes and dill from her garden. If we weren’t home, she’d leave it on our back patio table. She’d even rush to give tomatoes to my mother-in-law, who was outside doing some yard work, to make sure her homegrown veggies got to us.

I grew up in the city. My family has lived on the same street for over 30 years, and I can probably name only one or two other people who live on the block. We kept to ourselves then, and Dan and I did the same when we moved into our first apartment together in Roscoe Village. In fact, I intended to remain fairly anonymous to our neighbors once we moved to the suburbs. But as you can see, our neighbors’ kindness shone through from the moment the moving truck pulled into our driveway.

To repay even a small fraction of that kindness we were given, Dan and I decided to bake cookies and bring them around to our neighbors as a small Christmas sign of thanks.

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I found the cute red Ho Ho Ho boxes as the Dollar Tree, and the gift tags are adorable printables from here. You can even type in your own name without using Photoshop!

You can’t see the cookies very well, but I made classic spritz cookies (I love that spritz gun!), and chocolate crinkle cookies. If you do make edible treats for the neighbors, I always make sure to include a small description of any ingredients that people are most commonly allergic to, like wheat, chocolate, dairy, eggs, etc.

We delivered all but one gift today, and the smiles of our neighbors when they opened the door and saw us was what the Christmas spirit is all about.

Christmas Card Tree

I have a quick post for you today to show you my growing Christmas card tree.

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When we were at the apartment, we would hang our cards on a string over the bar area where there was an alcove. Unfortunately, I have no photos of it.

I’ve trying to figure out how to display all the lovely cards we’ve received this holiday season. The still blank wall in our entryway silently mocks me every time I walk by, so I thought I could do something with that space. Especially something not permanent for the holidays. Enter washi tape.

I used 2 different tape patterns – 1 to tape the star and as ornament “hooks” for the cards, and 1 to make the “branches” of the tree.

The tree could use a couple more cards, but I’m sure we’ll get more cards in the next few days. This Christmas card tree brings a smile to my face every time I walk in the door. It’s not too late to make your own!

Holiday Hygge

I was on pinterest one day, not looking for anything in particular, when I came across a pin for the word “hygge.”

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I loved the hygge concept, and quickly decided to make it the theme of my annual holiday party with friends.

To me, hygge meant being wrapped up in a warm cashmere sweater with a roaring fire going on the coldest day of the year, sitting in a well-worn armchair in front of our twinkling Christmas tree, reading a wonderful book, drinking a cup of tea, with Dan doing the same thing next to me, and Phoebe at our feet. It’s a feeling of coziness, contentment, and wellness.

I focused on the concept throughout my planning – from the food and decor to party atmosphere.

The decor would be simple – a small Christmas tree on the table, and candlelight everywhere – on tables, up the stairs, and on windowsills.

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For food, everyone brought a dish that was meaningful to them in some way. Dan and I each baked cookies that were reminders of childhood. I made befana, a Christmas treat my grandma used to make. Dan made big batch cookies, a dessert his mom still makes.

To my surprise, others brought food that ranges from cookies to fancy oyster crackers to Chinese food. I printed these little tags for everyone to write what each food item was. People would read the tag, then ask about what memories the food triggered, or why the food was special.

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Even though we’ve known each other for years, we all learned a little something new about everyone.

The party felt exactly as it was supposed to – calming, cozy, comfortable – a great night with great friends.

I loved the holiday hygge concept and think it will be in contention for next year’s party theme!

Chalkboard Tree

I found this Christmas tree cutting board at a garage sale earlier in the year.

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It had scratches, but otherwise, was in pretty good shape.

I thought it would look neat as a Countdown to Christmas chalkboard. I debated stenciling the board with paint or paint marker and adding a little square of chalkboard paint to write in the changing number of days for the countdown. But then, I thought the whole tree could become a message board of sorts for the holidays. I ended up asking Dan to use chalk board spray paint on the whole thing.

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I loved it! You could still see some of the scratches, but I thought it made look vintage.

To make the tree stand, Dan cut down the trunk a bit and nailed a couple scraps of wood to the bottom to make a base.

I’ll probably change up where it lives in the house and the holiday message throughout the rest of the Christmas season. For now, I’m quite happy with the way it looks.

Pizzelle Cake

Last week, Dan and I hosted my parents over for dinner on the day after Thanksgiving. The tradition started the year we were married as a way to get to spend some time with my parents before the holiday season got too busy and time got away from us.

I love throwing dinner parties, and I go all out with a formally set table. I even make place cards.

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Fancy.

The real star of the evening was dessert. I made a pizzelle cake.

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The reason was sentimental. When I was a kid, my grandma would make pizzelles every Christmas. She made them her own way, using real anise in the batter and rolling the still warm pizzelle into a cone shape. We’d then eat it filled with whipped cream.

With the recipe and stovetop pizzelle maker for these special kind of pizzelles gone, I thought I’d try to start a new way of making and serving the Italian treat. The idea for red and green pizzelles, along with the recipe, came from here.

I’d recommend making this cake the day you want to serve it, as close to the serving time as possible. Due to the wafer thin pizzelle, by the next day, the whipped cream had turned the cake a bit soggy. Still tasty, but not quite what you’d be going for in this dessert.

 

Grown Up Advent Calendar

On Monday, I shared the Winter Wonderland Advent Calendar Village I made for my nieces.

Now, I want to show you the advent calendar I made for Dan and I this season.IMG_8420

The tree is from Target a few years back. I picked it up after Christmas when it was on clearance. Dan spray painted the back and edge green for me. The little doors open and you can put a small item in each cubby.

When it came to filling the calendar, I decided to come up with a bunch of activities that were Christmas-y. I looked online for some ideas, but I found most, if not all, advent calendar activities were for children. Things like “Stay up past bedtime to watch a movie” or “Slumber party around the tree.”

So, much like I did a couple years ago, I came up with a bunch of more age appropriate activities like “Write your spouse a letter to give them on Christmas.” Of course, there are still some activities that are fun whether you’re 5 or 95 like watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Here’s a printable for you with some of the activities I came up with for the calendar.

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Special thanks to Dan and his mad printable-making skills.

 

Kids Winter Wonderland Advent Calendar Village

When I was growing up, my mom always gave me an advent calendar at the start of December. Some years, it contained candy treats. Other years, there were little toys each day. No matter what small prizes the calendar contained, it was fun to count down the days to the most anticipated holiday for a kid – Christmas!

I’ve continued the Advent calendar tradition for Dan and I by filling a calendar with small, non time-intensive activities to complete each day to get us into the Christmas spirit. (Here’s how I made an advent calendar, and here are some of the activities we have done in the past). I plan on having one for us this year as well, and I’ll share that one with you later in the week.

This year, I decided to share this tradition with my two lovely nieces by making this Winter Wonderland Advent Calendar.

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I started by trying to figure out what kind of advent calendar I wanted to make. Would each day have a piece of candy, a toy, an activity to do to get into the Christmas spirit? I threw out the activity idea pretty quickly because we live so far away and there was no way we’d be able to be with them even some of the nights to complete them. Ultimately, a mix of candy, stickers, lunchbox note jokes, lip gloss, temporary tattoos, and a few other little odds and ends made it in there.

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Then came the task of determining what I wanted the calendar to look like. Type “advent calendar” into pinterest and a million different kinds will pop up! They ranged from the not-so-crafty of using toilet paper rolls to super duper difficult creations that required the use of jigsaws. I settled for somewhere in between, once I saw these absolutely charming printable houses.

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The idea is that you create a Christmas street with each house being a day of the countdown calendar. I was pleased that the color scheme was bright neons, a departure from the much more common red and green standard of Christmas. Plus, with the houses being made of paper, it was more kid-friendly than any wooden options.

Putting the village together was pretty easy. I just downloaded the printable, cut each house out,  folded them as directed to make them 3-D, and secured with tape. I bought a piece of foam board, glued down some green neon paper for the grass, and created the roads with black cardstock and neon yellow paper for the lane lines.

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When I glued down the houses, I didn’t fully close them so I could put all the little trinkets inside them at once, making a point to space out some of the items I had more than one of to give. I gathered up the small treats, and added something to each house – making sure I put 2 things in there (one for each girl).

There are three fillers that really were something special.

For one of them, I included a note for the girls to have their mom and dad call Uncle Dan and I, so we could read them a Christmas story that night.

In another little house, I put handmade finger puppets of Olaf and Elsa. (I hear Frozen is in with the pre-school/kindergarten crowd these days). I forgot to get a photo of them, but here’s where I got the idea.

Finally, for Christmas Eve, I wanted something special. I’d made the girls reindeer food before, so I didn’t want to do that again. Instead, I made Grinch dust, to keep the Grinch away.IMG_8302

I found the printable explaining what Grinch Dust was here,  filled a small tube with green sugar sprinkles, and voila – Grinch dust!

I hope the girls have as much fun opening each little house as I did in making this.