Stay warm and cozy

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Can’t believe how cold it is through out the country… great day to read a good book in front of the fire. Gather kids around for some board games and drink some hot chocolate. Get that fire going. For my friends in the south who don’t have a fireplace. Put on the Yule log video on the tv. It’s amazing how just looking at a fire with some crackling sounds makes the room feel warm and cozy.

Cool Drinks to Warm Up!

Nothing tastes as good as Hot Chocolate on a cold day. Instead of warming up some milk with mix or syrup, here are two of my favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Nothing tastes as good as Hot Chocolate on a cold day. Instead of warming up some milk with mix or syrup, here are two of my favorite recipes. Enjoy!

Hot Cocoa with Cinnamon and Raspberries

Hot Cocoa with Cinnamon and Raspberries

Ingredients

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup baking cocoa

pinch of salt

1/3 cup hot water

4 cups milk ( I like whole milk for a creamier drink)

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

handful of fresh raspberries

handful of marshmallow if desired

Directions

In a saucepan, combine sugar, cocoa, cinnamon and salt. Add water; bring to a boil. Lower heat and stir for 2 minutes. Stir in milk; heat to serving temperature (do not boil). Remove from the heat; stir in vanilla. Whisk until frothy. Pour into cups and add marshmallow and raspberries. Dust with cinnamon powder.

the cocoa flavor is very rich so if you don’t like your hot cocoa super strong I recommend using 1/2 cup more milk.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

3 cups whole milk

  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon

  • 6 ounces semisweet chocolate morsels

  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

  • ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Pinch of kosher salt

  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper ( adjust if you don’t like spicy)

  • whipped cream for topping

    Directions

    Bring milk and cinnamon to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and making sure milk doesn’t boil,

    cinnamon should be floral and fragrant, about 10 minutes.

    Stir in chocolate, sugar, vanilla, salt, and ¼ tsp. ground cayenne pepper (or less if you don’t like hot and spicy) and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture is smooth and creamy and chocolate is melted, about 5 minutes.

    Pour into cups, add whip cream and dust with cocoa powder and a touch of cinnamon



Mulled Please

How to make fabulous mulled drinks

How to make fabulous mulled drinks

Mulled means to take your time. What is more fabulous than warming up a wintery day with the smells of simmering spices filling your home with a toasting warm atmosphere?

Mulled means to take your time. What is more fabulous than warming up a wintery day with the smells of simmering spices filling your home with a toasting warm atmosphere?

Basically by putting aromatic spices and fruits into a pot simmering over low heat, brings out the flavors and aromas. Whether you simmer apple cider, wine or water…    Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer over low heat.    Don't let it boil: this can cause spices to turn bitter.    To really allow the flavors of the spices to infuse into the beverage, you should allow the mixture to simmer on the stovetop for at least half an hour. You can keep the pot warm for several hours or putting a slow cooker on low heat is the best choice.

Basically by putting aromatic spices and fruits into a pot simmering over low heat, brings out the flavors and aromas. Whether you simmer apple cider, wine or water…

Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer over low heat.

Don't let it boil: this can cause spices to turn bitter.

To really allow the flavors of the spices to infuse into the beverage, you should allow the mixture to simmer on the stovetop for at least half an hour. You can keep the pot warm for several hours or putting a slow cooker on low heat is the best choice.


Pizza and a Movie Night

Every Tuesday we have Pizza and a Movie Night. A different family member chooses the pizza and movie each week. The family member or “host” of the evening introduces the movie and tell why they choose it.

This teaches the kids how to express their thoughts in front of people

Teaches the rest of the siblings to try new things

learn how to be supportive and a gracious guest. The movie might not be something they are interested in but they learn to be a good guest, enjoy it because it makes another person you love happy. Respect others opinions and tastes.

It also give a great topic of conversion through out the week on everyone’s different opinions… learning to agree to disagree or find a common like it a great life skill

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The host gets to pick the pizza,  Believe or not they end up choosing something everyone likes…. again learning to think about others.

The host gets to pick the pizza, Believe or not they end up choosing something everyone likes…. again learning to think about others.

I went to dollar store and got popcorn bags and buckets to add some extra fun.   I also added some topping for people to mix in

I went to dollar store and got popcorn bags and buckets to add some extra fun. I also added some topping for people to mix in

I also got some movie style candy to have while watching the movie.

I also got some movie style candy to have while watching the movie.

Get an 8x10 frame to print out little movie poster and put on table.  Same frame different movie… I actually keep all the “poster” in a scrapbook so we can see what movies we’ve watched….

Get an 8x10 frame to print out little movie poster and put on table. Same frame different movie… I actually keep all the “poster” in a scrapbook so we can see what movies we’ve watched….

Whether you go all out or just order a pizza and pop in a movie…it is a nice tradition that your kids can look back on that they watched it with their family.

Whether you go all out or just order a pizza and pop in a movie…it is a nice tradition that your kids can look back on that they watched it with their family.

Bake All Day

A simple way to keep warm in cold and snowy weather is to bake. The oven actually heats up your home. Plus what says warm and cozy more than the fragrance of chocolate chip cookies or freshly baked bread? Invite your neighbor over to enjoy, another added.bonus, the more people in the house- the more heat generated. It’s a win win


A simple way to keep warm in cold and snowy weather is to bake. The oven actually heats up your home. Plus what says warm and cozy more than the fragrance of chocolate chip cookies or freshly baked bread? Invite your neighbor over to enjoy, another added.bonus, the more people in the house- the more heat generated. It’s a win win

It’s all about planning ahead. If the weather outside is frightful, making inside so delightful is all a matter of having the essentials on hand. Eggs, flour, sugar and always always chocolate chips— you can never have enough chocolate

It’s all about planning ahead. If the weather outside is frightful, making inside so delightful is all a matter of having the essentials on hand. Eggs, flour, sugar and always always chocolate chips— you can never have enough chocolate

I start out in the morning with some breakfast muffins. You can make from scratch or have a muffin mix in your cupboard. Just add eggs, water and you’ll start warming up your home while waking up the kids with a yummy scent filling up their rooms. What a fabulous way to start the day by watching the snow fall with some fresh coffee or milk and a hot from the oven muffin?

I start out in the morning with some breakfast muffins. You can make from scratch or have a muffin mix in your cupboard. Just add eggs, water and you’ll start warming up your home while waking up the kids with a yummy scent filling up their rooms. What a fabulous way to start the day by watching the snow fall with some fresh coffee or milk and a hot from the oven muffin?

Bread is next. I make a few loaves to share with neighbors. I like that I can put the bread in the oven and have a hour to do something else while the house fills up with a cozy, warm feeling.

Bread is next. I make a few loaves to share with neighbors. I like that I can put the bread in the oven and have a hour to do something else while the house fills up with a cozy, warm feeling.

whether you have a snow day or you have these fresh from the oven on cooling racks when the kids come home from school….. is there anything better than warm chocolate chip cookies?

whether you have a snow day or you have these fresh from the oven on cooling racks when the kids come home from school….. is there anything better than warm chocolate chip cookies?

remember the best way to warm up your home and make your life fabulous is to share the love with family and friends. “The warmest homes have the biggest hearts”

remember the best way to warm up your home and make your life fabulous is to share the love with family and friends. “The warmest homes have the biggest hearts”

there's no business like SNOW business

For all my friends up North, don’t let the snow stop your weekend party. here are some cool ways to use the snow to actually help with your entertaining.

For all my friends up North, don’t let the snow stop your weekend party. here are some cool ways to use the snow to actually help with your entertaining.

Put a sign up to set the mood

Put a sign up to set the mood

Free up refrigerator space by putting your champagne and wine outside.  I’d put a table out on my deck the night before the snow fell and wake up to an instant “snow” chest.  It was simple and looked pretty too.

Free up refrigerator space by putting your champagne and wine outside. I’d put a table out on my deck the night before the snow fell and wake up to an instant “snow” chest. It was simple and looked pretty too.

Make some snowballs to put in your drinks

Make some snowballs to put in your drinks

use some jello ring mols to make beautiful ice rings that double as outdoor candle holders.

use some jello ring mols to make beautiful ice rings that double as outdoor candle holders.

Holiday Mugs

Years ago I got some cute holiday mugs on sale and switched them out with my regular coffee mugs. They really set an instant mood when neighbors come over for coffee or we are watching a holiday movie with hot chocolate. So every December, I put my regular cups in the holiday mug storage box and place the holiday mugs in the cupboard. At the end of December I replace my regular mugs and put the holiday mugs back in the their storage box until next year.

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All that Glitters ---Teen Drink Station

At your next holiday party, don’t forget the teenagers. Pull out all the stops with a glittery non-alcoholic specialty drink station. Make sure you use real glass to give it a more sophisticated look. They really enjoy being junior mixologists and creating their own drinks.

PICTURES BY CHLOE BAKER

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Decorate your Bubbly station with gold and silver. Here we have a gold sequin runner and specialty glasses on silver tray

Decorate your Bubbly station with gold and silver. Here we have a gold sequin runner and specialty glasses on silver tray

I obtained all the glasses and silver trays from the Dollar Tree store.

I obtained all the glasses and silver trays from the Dollar Tree store.

Placing a beautiful silver ice bucket with some gold paper straws always adds glamour to any drink station.

Placing a beautiful silver ice bucket with some gold paper straws always adds glamour to any drink station.

Stock your station with more sophisticated juices and holiday favorites such as cranberry and pomegranate.

Stock your station with more sophisticated juices and holiday favorites such as cranberry and pomegranate.

As for the bubbly part of the station, add glass pitchers filled with ginger ale, sparkling water, and 7-up.  We printed out the names on regular white paper, cut them out and glued them to black card stock. We attached the custom signs to pitchers with glue dots .

As for the bubbly part of the station, add glass pitchers filled with ginger ale, sparkling water, and 7-up. We printed out the names on regular white paper, cut them out and glued them to black card stock. We attached the custom signs to pitchers with glue dots.

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Add orange slices to rim the glasses with gold and silver sugar crystals.  You can find these at Michaels or grocery stores in baking section.

Add orange slices to rim the glasses with gold and silver sugar crystals. You can find these at Michaels or grocery stores in baking section.

Finish off the drinks with fresh fruit garnish.

Finish off the drinks with fresh fruit garnish.

This has been a great success at my parties in the past. Adults and teens alike enjoy all the added touches that let them know you are happy they are joining the celebration!

This has been a great success at my parties in the past. Adults and teens alike enjoy all the added touches that let them know you are happy they are joining the celebration!

Kid’s Juice Bar

I’m always looking for ways to include the children in whatever occasion we are celebrating. Our kid’s juice bar is a family favorite and always a bit hit. It’s a simple idea that the kids love and delight in making custom “mock”tails through out the party.

PICTURES BY CHLOE BAKER

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Make this kid friendly by putting on lower table (so kids can reach). Make everything plastic and easy for the kids to help themselves.

Make this kid friendly by putting on lower table (so kids can reach). Make everything plastic and easy for the kids to help themselves.

Start by putting out plastic cups and a bowl of ice with scoop. I like to put a cloth on the table to absorb anything little hands spill. They can start by putting ice in their cup.

Start by putting out plastic cups and a bowl of ice with scoop. I like to put a cloth on the table to absorb anything little hands spill. They can start by putting ice in their cup.

Cut up some oranges into slices with slits in middle and put on tray with small bowls filled with colored sugar from the baking section of local grocery store. The kids can rub the rim of their plastic glass with orange then dip rim into sugar (just like you do with salt for a margarita)

Cut up some oranges into slices with slits in middle and put on tray with small bowls filled with colored sugar from the baking section of local grocery store. The kids can rub the rim of their plastic glass with orange then dip rim into sugar (just like you do with salt for a margarita)

I like to use different colored fruit juices for the kids to pour into their sugar rimmed glasses. Make sure to encourage them to mix different flavors together to create their own speciality drink but don’t fill all the way to the top.

I like to use different colored fruit juices for the kids to pour into their sugar rimmed glasses. Make sure to encourage them to mix different flavors together to create their own speciality drink but don’t fill all the way to the top.

To make the drinks bubbly, they can add some sparkling water or soda.

To make the drinks bubbly, they can add some sparkling water or soda.

Include some festive toothpicks, peppermint sticks and fresh fruit for garnishes on a plastic tray. I cut colorful paper straws to fit the smaller cups for the kids.

Include some festive toothpicks, peppermint sticks and fresh fruit for garnishes on a plastic tray. I cut colorful paper straws to fit the smaller cups for the kids.

This is a fun and easy way to make the kids feel like they are part of the party. It’s great to see their excitement as they make new drink creations. It’s wonderful to see how creative they get and they love sharing their recipes with the other kids.

This is a fun and easy way to make the kids feel like they are part of the party. It’s great to see their excitement as they make new drink creations. It’s wonderful to see how creative they get and they love sharing their recipes with the other kids.

Santa Hat Brownies with milk

with all the holiday parties coming up, why not bring something with some extra holiday spirit? These easy brownies are a big hit. Adding red and white paper straws to your drink table, sets a holiday mood.

Use your regular brownie mix but instead of putting in pan, grease and coat mini cupcake pans with cocoa power.

*TIP. I always use cocoa powder to coat any chocolate cake or brownie pan. It acts like flour and doesn’t leave that white powdery look.

Fill the bins 2/3 full and bake at 350 and bake for 10 to 12 minutes depending on your oven.

* TIP watch the 1st batch, because these are small they bake quickly.

while brownies are cooling on rack, prepare strawberries, wash and pat dry. Cut off green stem and cut a bit of point (better for putting that final dab of frosting for hat.) You can either use the strawberry like this or hull (remove center)

After brownies cool, use your favorite white frosting and either pipe on white M1 tip or smooth on a layer with knife.

Place strawberry on top and dap frosting on tip of strawberry to finish off.

For added holiday fun. Put milk out with a pretty red ribbon, red and white paper straws. I get small glass milk containers at the dollar store in the glass section and put those out for added fun.

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Christmas Traditions

Every season, my mom would put out our Advent wreath on our dining room table to light every night while preparing for Christmas Day. In the middle of the wreath, she would place a small wooden crib. During advent, instead of saying our bedtime prayers in our rooms, we would gather around the dining room table, pray and then put a piece of straw in the crib for every good thing we did or thought we had that day. By the end of advent, the crib was filled with our good deeds and intentions. Before we went to sleep Christmas Eve, my parents would get the beautiful porcelain Baby Jesus out of his box. My Dad would give us long tapered candles, and turn of the lights. All six kids and my parents, would make procession into the living room singing Silent Night, lighting the way for Baby Jesus, before placing him on our crib of good deeds. this is a wonderful way to remind everyone the real reason for the season.

I know that wooden cribs and porcelain Baby Jesus figurines are still available on line. Or make the crib yourself out of popsicle sticks (picture below post) This is something to bring the joy of the season back in your hearts.

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You can even have the kids make a popsicle stick crib.

You can even have the kids make a popsicle stick crib.

Take a Break with a Good Book

It’s always essential to remember to slow down and just be. Sundays are great for taking the time to sit back with a cup of your favorite tea or some sparkling water and enjoy a good book. Here is one that I just finished and really enjoyed. It’s well written and an easy read.

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Christmas Card Display

What do you do with your old family Christmas cards? Why not frame them and display them every year? I took some frames that I got on sale and painted them red to enhance the holiday feeling. I have christmas cards from George’s 1st year on… Lovely memories and instant holiday cheer.

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Easy Champagne Glass Set

Why drive yourself crazy if a glass breaks. By having different glasses in a group, if one breaks it doesn’t matter. You can get individual glasses on sale and add on at your leisure. Not only do your guests get to pick their individual style but everyone knows which glass is theirs.

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Chocolate Peppermint Martini

After spending time decorating for the holidays, what is a better way to keep the holiday spirit going than preparing this easy chocolate peppermint martini. Don’t have a martini shaker? Use a large glass or jar. Want a less filling cocktail? Use almond milk instead of regular milk. Cheers!

Holiday Spirit- Cheers!

Holiday Spirit- Cheers!