things to do with your kids this christmas

  • Healthy Treats For The Kids

    lightsWith kids still on Christmas break from school, I'm wondering if your kids are getting a little antsy? All the excitement of Christmas Day is done, and while it's wonderful to still be all at home together, it is a definite shift from the ordinary schedule. As much as we never really relish the idea of going back to work or school after a vacation, there is a certain comfort in doing so as we slip back into our familiar routines, the house gets back to it's pre-decorated state and, of course, New Year's resolutions are pondered.

    fruitsnacksfeatured-770x403_jpg_pagespeed_ce_WZR8WRvEX2While all of that is happening, the kids still want to eat! I found a healthy treat from a local wellness center that I think is sure to please. These healthy fruit snacks are pretty cute too, aren't they?  They are made with fresh berries, a bit of honey, lemon juice and gelatin from grass-fed cows. There is nothing not to love about these....sweet, healthy, cute and just the right size for little hands You can check out the recipe here.

    And, while the kids are nom nom-ing on those, you can grab a cup of coffee or tea and make your plans for the new year. Sound good?


    Photo courtesy: Lights, Snacks

  • 42 Things To Do On Christmas Eve

    socks by the fire

    One of the questions I love to ask people around Christmas is what their Christmas Eve traditions are. The answers are often things you might expect while others are pretty  unique. Here are some of the answers I've gotten over the years:

     Make paper snowflakes

    Watch Christmas movies


    Deliver baked goodies

    Sing together


    View Christmas Lights in the neighborhood

    Ornament exchange

    Read the Christmas story

    Wrap presents

    Play games

    Exchange gifts

    Put cookies and milk our for Santa

    Act out the nativity

    Attend midnight mass

    Make reindeer food and sprinkle on the front lawn.

    After the kids go to bed, string Christmas lights from the tree to their bedrooms.

    A family outing of midnight caroling in the woods with candles.

    Have a Jerusalem Dinner…simple, finger foods by candlelight.

    Dinner out and a drive to look at Christmas lights.

    Have a Star Trek movie marathon.

    Enjoy peppermint tea with a peppermint stick.

    Spray the bottom on your shoes with fake snow, then walk from the chimney to the table where the cookies and milk are, eat and drink most of what’s there, then track to the fireplace and take off your shoes.

    Open one gift.

    Go to bed early!

    Dance around the tree.

    Kiss under the mistletoe.

    Drink egg nog.

    Go ice skating.

    Have a treasure hunt

    Stay up all night.

    Volunteer at the homeless shelter.

    Take photos of your Christmas Tree with all the unopened gifts beneath.

    Play board games.

    Go to a movie.

    Read Christmas books.

    Snuggle up by the fire with cozy slippers and a blanket.

    Host a Christmas Party.

    Make a gingerbread house.

    Write a Christmas story

    Invite close friends over for a little egg nog or cocoa or coffee.

    Have the kids open a present of new Christmas jammies for super cute Christmas morning pictures.

    What would you add to this list?

  • Kiss Pies, O My!

    Kiss-Pies-6There is a cookie exchange party running through my brain, I'm even dreaming about it at night! I know lots of people have heirloom cookie recipes that have been passed down through the generations, secret recipes for the most delectable goodies. I love doing the cookie exchange thing, one where there's about 6 people participating. That way I end up with 6 different varieties while only contributing the work of 1. I think they call that leveraging your friends, but shhh, don't tell anyone I said that. :)

    These cute little Kiss Pies will be a huge hit this year. Best part? You don't have to make the dough yourself! Using the ready-made pie crust from the refrigerated section of your grocery store, you're going to truly love this unique but super easy cookie, err pie, recipe!

    Here's what you'll need:
    1 refrigerated pie crust, thawed
    14 Hershey Kisses of choice, Mint Truffle is pictured
    1 egg white whisked with 1 Tbsp water
    Powdered sugar for dusting

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
    2. Unroll pie dough onto a lightly floured counter top, and let set for about 20 minutes to allow the dough to come to room temperature.
    3. Place 10 kisses around the edges of pie dough, about 2 1/2-3"  apart
    4. Cut out the dough with a juice glass around each kiss.
    5. Fold half of the circle around top of the kiss and seal by pinching closed.
    6. Now fold up the other sides to the tip of the kiss, and press the edges together, forming an x.
    7. Brush the cookie pies with egg white, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.
    8. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.
    9. DONE!

    Talk about the perfect cookie exchange recipe, this one is fun and festive and easy. These would also be great served at a Christmas party or as dessert for Christmas dinner. The possibilities are endless. :) What's your favorite cookie exchange recipe?

    Merry cookie baking!


    Photo and recipe source:

  • Snowman Treats

    donut snowmanFrosty the snowman was a jolly, happy soul....and I'm guessing it's because he included sugar (in limited amounts of course) in his diet. We all crave a sweet now and then (some of us more than others), and today's little treat will not only satisfy that desire but also deliver an adorable feast for the eyes. Aren't these donut snowmen just so fun to look at? They make me smile.

    There have been several variations of this floating around the internet, but I liked Dukes & Duchesses idea the keeps vegetables off my donuts (I  mean, seriously, who wants a carrot in their donut?) and still limits the amount of candy used to decorate. And simple. Doesn't get much simpler than donuts.

    You'll need:

    • 3 donuts per stick
    • Mike & Ike candies (orange and green)
    • Fruit roll-ups
    • Wooden skewers
    1. Thread three donuts onto the skewer, and decorate with the Mike & Ike's candies as shown.
    2. Cut a small strip from a fruit roll up for the scarves, and wrap around the "neck".
    3. Dip a toothpick in black food coloring, and just touch the donut to form the eyes and the mouth.

    So cute. So easy. So you. Will make for much merry making, stress free, during one of the busiest seasons of the entire year.

  • Christmas Mice Cookies

    Christmas MiceOreo cookies. Completely, utterly addictive! We had a thing for oreo cookies at work, and were some of the first to hop right on board for all the variations by bringing a bag into the office to share. The bag didn't last long for sure!

    Today's post gives you yet another "use" for this classic, irresistible store-bought cookie; what could be better than another excuse to buy Oreo's?

    These little guys are so cute, aren't they?! See the bottom half of the oreo in the picture? So clever. So SUPER simple too!

    You can practically see everything you'll need from the picture,  but here is a list of the ingredients:

    • Oreo cookies (make sure you save some for later!)
    • Hershey's kisses
    • Chocolate covered cherries with stem
    • Slivered almonds
    • Icing

    The icing is the glue that holds these guys together as well as gives them their ridiculous charm! If you are concerned about a nut allergy, replace the slivered almonds with banana chips. These are perfect for the kids to help with, to bring to a party or even as part of a cookie exchange. So fun.

    I'm a little squeamish when it comes to mice, but not these merry mice! Enjoy!

    Photo courtesy

  • Frosty the Snowman Treats | Easy and Fun!

    FrostyYou know how it is at Christmas time. We spend loads of time shopping for our littles, wanting them to have the latest and greatest cool toy. With overflowing love in our hearts, we usually spend way too much money, and we know we're spending way too much money but we do it anyway. Then Christmas morning comes, and what happens? They are simply fascinated with the box!

    It's true, kids can entertain themselves for hours with a cardboard box, and this tells us something about how they see the world.....simply! Let's transfer that information into the Christmas treats we make for them, too. I can remember spending countless hours making adorable sugar cookies, icing them, decorating them, and I'm definitely not saying this tradition should be abandoned. But, I present to you today a very simple and yet classic treat that the kids are going to love.

    I found this idea, dubbed as Frosty the S'more-Man (isn't that clever?!), at a very fun and crafty website. These make perfect little packages for all the littles in your world . . . classmates gift, neighborhood friends, and any other place that your littles gather in their little worlds! Here's what you'll need to do these up right, and you're going to be surprised at how simple and affordable it is. You know, kinda like the cardboard box every kid loves to love.

    For each little package you'll need:

    • 2 graham cracker squares
    • 1 mini Hershey bar
    • 1 snowman peep
    • 1 - 4" x 6" cello bag (available at Michaels)
    • 1 free printable bag topper (available here)
    • stapler

    Load up the goodies in the bag, print your topper, fold it in half around the top of the bag and staple. I told you it was easy!

    Happy S'more-Man making!


    Photo courtesy




  • What Do You Give to Santa?

    Here in the United States and Canada, a plate of cookies with a glass of milk is the usual snack left out for Santa on Christmas Eve. Just in case you don't have all your cookies baked (or bought!), how about one of these cute reindeer options? A friend of mine made the peanut butter cookie version, and they are just as cute as the picture shows. The second option would be quicker if you're pressed for time, or if you want a kid-friendly project.

    Blogger MamaLisa describes a few other global traditions for Santa's treats. In England it's a piece of minced pie with a glass of sherry. And no big surprise, but in Ireland, the big guy might get a pint of Guinness!

    You could modify that Irish tradition with these "reinbeers". They would make a cute gift for anyone but please use the root beer version for Santa. He'll be driving the sleigh all night, after all!

    When I was growing up, we usually left out a few carrots for the reindeer. Kelle Hampton shares a tradition of making a special mix of oats, bread crumbs and other ingredients to sprinkle on the driveway for the reindeer to enjoy while Santa is inside (definitely check out the entire post for her magical kids' Christmas party!).

    It's always fun to leave a little note for Santa - try a chalkboard version this year. I remember loving the return note that we would receive, thanking us for the cookies. It was even better when I was old enough to recognize my dad's handwriting, but could keep the secret for my youngest siblings.

    And no matter what you're giving to the big guy, make sure you've got the stockings ready for him to fill! Wednesday, December 19 is the 2012 ordering deadline to receive your personalized stockings from Merry Stockings in time for Christmas Eve.

  • Christmas Service Projects

    While driving with my four-year-old today, he wanted to tell riddles. Given his age, I wasn't expecting a high level of humor, but thought maybe I'd get some cute material for the family Christmas letter that I'm struggling to write. I suggested a Christmas riddle and he responded:

    "What do a gun and bullets have in common?"

    (pause) "That's your Christmas riddle?"

    "Yeah, remember how I want a Nerf gun for Christmas?"

    Hmm, very festive, buddy! Time to pull out the box of books about Jesus' birth, and perhaps also a few activities to teach him that it's better to give than receive...

    I'm realistic, and know that my kids are excited about their Christmas wish lists. But that also means it's easy to talk about those whose families can't afford presents. Consider a special shopping trip to choose some gifts that will be donated to Toys for Tots. Another option is an organization called Angel Tree, which connects children of prison inmates with people that can provide Christmas gifts on their behalf.

    Thinking globally, there are obviously needs that are much deeper than those of gifts. The World Vision Christmas Gift Catalog allows you to "shop" for items that can transform impoverished lives.  For instance, $100 can purchase a goat and two chickens, providing a steady supply of protein to nourish a family. A gift of $85 provides a bicycle for a girl that couldn't otherwise attend school safely and consistently.

    Another wonderful resource, all year long, is a website called Big-Hearted Families. Whether it's helping your family nurture attitudes of kindness and compassion, or contributing to your community with a service project, you'll find great ideas here. I appreciate that there are ideas for kids of all ages, and they really make it easy to jump right in.

    Here are some other helpful sites related to service:

    VolunteerMatch - matches up your interests and location with volunteer opportunities

    Do Something - teens are connected to service in ways that "[don’t] require money, an adult, or a car"

    United We Serve - a government resource to link volunteers and causes, encouraging users to register their own projects

    How do you encourage a giving spirit during the holidays?

  • Christmas on a Budget

    December is an expensive month, is it not? Christmas gifts are the most obvious expense, but there are often clothes to buy for the parties, at which there is food. Or photos (in possibly a different set of clothes) for holiday cards. Decorations, a tree, charitable giving, etc. - it adds up quickly!

    Whether you need to cut back on spending, or just want to rein in the madness, there are many ways to do so without feeling like Ebeneezer Scrooge. Here are a few angles that you may not have considered.

    Writing at Simple Mom, Tsh reminds that planning ahead is the key to staying within a budget at Christmas. That includes setting money aside each month for the bigger bills in December, and also being mindful of the many little expenses that come up in this season. She offers this free Christmas budget printable to help you plan.

    A Christmas tree is another big expense. I realize that some of you just questioned my promise of non-Scrooginess because cutting down your own tree or picking the best one from the corner lot is your very favorite Christmas tradition. But for others, this may be a fun way to change up your holiday decor. I was definitely looking for tree alternatives in the years when my boys were toddling around precariously! Check out these creative options for inexpensive Christmas tree alternatives.

    This is probably my favorite list, and I may accidentally leave a printout where my husband will find it...10 Holiday Dates. There are a couple of splurges like tickets to the Nutcracker, but most of the options won't put a dent in your bank account. Brett at The Art of Manliness puts the list in a romantic context, but nearly all of the options could be adapted for a group of friends, a family or even an office get-together. Another bonus is that most of them are interactive, perfect for forming lasting memories.

    Remember that you can start with just one or two areas to cut back your holiday spending - Pinterest is a great resource for this. Try entering a search like inexpensive Christmas gifts or whatever suits your holiday budget style. You're sure to find a way to save a few dollars this season!

    What are your best money-saving tips at Christmas?




  • Best Christmas Movies - Ever?

    What are the best Christmas movies of all time? Obviously the answer to this is subjective, and each person's favorites may change over a lifetime.

    Nostalgia plays a part. Consider the slightly tacky Santa decoration that you love because it reminds you of your great aunt, or the too-sweet candy that you have to buy because Grandma always had a bowlful during the holidays. For the same reason, many Christmas movies are viewed because it's tradition, part of enjoying the season.

    And would you agree that Christmas movies are a category not always judged under the same rules as other movies? Many of our favorites do not have the best acting, plots, character development, etc. We're sometimes willing to give a little extra credit if a film puts us in "The Christmas Spirit", right?

    Having said all that, many would put It's A Wonderful Life on any Top 10 list. It was nominated for 5 Oscars in 1947, and won the Golden Globe for Best Picture, after all!

    While not in the same category of cinematic greatness, another favorite for many is A Christmas Story. The 1940s flashback film endowed pop culture with not only the leg lamp but also the phrase "you'll shoot your eye out!" What's not to love?!

    Or there's the animated How The Grinch Stole Christmas, based on the Dr. Seuss book of the same name.

    Three Christmas classics, each a vastly different style. But what do they have in common? All have been updated in some capacity.

    Have you seen It Happened One Christmas? It was a 1977 remake of It's A Wonderful Life, made for TV, starring Marlo Thomas in the title role. An update of How The Grinch Stole Christmas cast Jim Carrey as the Grinch, and brought the Whos of Whoville from animation to live-action.

    And this year, we'll have the opportunity to judge a direct-to-DVD sequel of A Christmas Story. Apparently a teenage Frankie has his sights set a little higher than the Red Ryder BB Gun this time. Check out a little preview:

    Is this a wonderful tribute to a much-loved film, or a travesty? Let's be honest, movie-making is a business, and money is the driving force behind all of these remakes. So are you willing to shell out a few bucks to see a movie remake? Maybe the right question is, are you willing to risk having your favorite Christmas movie tainted by a less-wonderful version?

    What are your Christmas film traditions? Do you love to see the same movies year after year, or do you love the new ones that come out?

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