Monday, December 22, 2014

Reversible Pallet Sign--Christmas and Halloween in one!

Personally, I think I hit the jackpot with this idea. :) 
I had seen lots of pallet signs out there (who hasn't?), and I knew I wanted one for my front porch, but I just couldn't decide: Christmas or Halloween? Well, then I decided to do both, then I REALLY decided to do both on the same side--Christmas on one side and Halloween on the other. :)

So, here's my 'Joy' Christmas version.





And here is the 'Boo' Halloween version:



 

Yay! 
During the month of October I decorated my front porch with all those fun pumpkins (thanks to my mom's pumpkin patch) and the Boo pallet sign.

Then, for Thanksgiving I removed the sign and just kept the pumpkins out. 

Then, for Christmas, I turned the sign around to display the 'Joy' and replaced the pumpkins with some tree branches and red lights. 

AND I only have one honkin' pallet sign I have to deal with storing. :) 

It was a snap to make too. 
1) My hubby cut the end off of a pallet with a "sawsall" (basically a jigsaw). 
2) My father-in-law cut out the letters with a scroll saw. 
3) My kids painted the letters for me--the Christmas one red and the Halloween one black.
(Are you noticing I have yet to do any work for this sign?)
4) Then I finally did something and hammered the letters on with tiny little nails and painted over them with the appropriate color.

Hmmmm, maybe I'll make a 'Lucky' and 'Easter' reversible sign too???





Thursday, December 18, 2014

Handmade Craftstick Snowmen Christmas Ornaments

Here is a quickie post to show off our cute craft stick snowmen ornaments. 
These were super simple and fun for the kids to make. 


The kids painted a bunch of craft sticks white. While they were drying, the picked out buttons and "scarves" (strips of fabric the grown ups cut out) and pre-cut out black felt hats and carrot noses.


Then the kids glued on the buttons and such, painted little faces or glued on googly eyes, and we were done!


I think it was one of our most successful handmade ornaments for the kids to do. We made so many! I think we have about 15 of those ornaments hanging on our tree right now, which is especially fun for my 2-year-old because she LOVES snowmen. :)


Check out some of our other handmade ornaments here.



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hot Chocolate Bar and Hot Cocoa mix recipe


I recently hosted a dinner for my husband's work--dinner and dessert. We thought that it'd be the most fun to have a cookie and hot chocolate bar for everyone. 
We were short on seating and it was the type of event where we thought everyone would want portable food as they mingle, so cookies and hot cocoa worked out nicely.

It turned out great and was a lot of fun--yummy fun, what could be better?

It was also surprisingly easy to pull off. Even with making homemade mixes, the whole thing came together quickly, and my girls and I had a lot of fun testing out each of our hot cocoa flavors to make sure they were "good enough" for our guests. The of course all were. 
I think it took a whole 3 minutes to make each type of cocoa mix--cleaning up the mess my kids made was the labor-intensive part for sure. :)

It took me awhile of scouring the web and then sampling to come up with the type of mixes I wanted. 
I thought at first about just making a slow cooker recipe and having mix-ins, but in then I just wondered if it was going to make a mess with everyone (including kids) ladling it out. So, in the end I decided to have hot water and then mixes for people to use. Therefore, I needed my mixes to have dry milk in them and then I also needed a recipe that I could alter the flavors. I decided to achieve this with powdered coffee creamers. On the one hand, it seemed kind of pointless to me to make your own cocoa mix and then load them up with all the junk in the coffee creamers, buuuut flavor won out over being health conscious this time. :)


 So, here is the recipe I came up with. 

Hot Cocoa Mix
Makes about 2 cups
Use about 1/3 c. mix per serving

1 c. Nido milk powder (found in the hispanic food section at your grocer. It is whole milk powder rather than nonfat dry milk = creamier, yummier hot chocolate!)
1/2 c. powdered sugar (dissolves better and adds thickness)
1/2 c. powdered coffee creamer 
1/4 c. dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 c. chocolate chips (once I added mint chips for the mint flavor and it was wonderful, buuuut it was kind of greenish and weird)
dash of salt

Put all of this in your food processor and pulse until chopped and mixed well.

 So yummy! I think I'll have another cup right now. :)

Using this method, I made the following flavors:
original (used vanilla coffee creamer)
dark (used a little extra cocoa powder, dark chocolate chips, less coffee creamer)
mint (used vanilla coffee creamer and mint chips. next time I might just try adding mint extract?)
caramel (lots of people liked this best--used caramel coffee creamer
mexican (added 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and a dash of cayenne)
almond (used amaretto coffee creamer)


 I had little jars of coconut, red hots, crushed candy canes, chocolate chips, mint chips, and of course marshmallows.
In the end, it was a success. Tasted good and it was fun.
I think I will do it again this weekend when family comes for our annual gingerbread house making party!

And maybe neighbor gifts? so easy!







Wednesday, December 10, 2014

DIY Wood Gingerbread Houses

This is a tradition on my husband's side of the family. Years ago his dad made these great re-usable wooden "gingerbread" houses. Each year, often on Christmas eve, they bring out a little box of little sheets of wood, line up the notches and slide them together, and then decorate them like you would a regular gingerbread house...only it's great because they don't fall apart. :)


I have to admit, when I first partook of this tradition, I was highly skeptical to say the least. It seemed quite un-holly jolly to use wood and not real gingerbread. But I am now completely on the wood gingerbread house bandwagon. It is so easy to get them out, slide them together and decorate. Gone are the days of trying to get your own homemade gingerbread to stick together properly! And once decorated, they look perfectly like real gingerbread--the right color and everything. 

Last year my father-in-law decided that all of his kids' families needed their own set, so he surprised us with some. Yay!

The kit is cut from 1/8-inch tempered hardboard that can be purchased at any local home improvement store/hobby store. Each house consists of 6 pieces: a front and a back, two sides, and roof panels.
The wood for each house costs about $1-$2, so not only are they sturdy, convenient and always available, they are also less expensive than a kit and even cheaper than baking ingredients to make your own. Win-win.

Here is the FREE TEMPLATE. Just print, trace, and cut!
(remember not to resize before you print)



Once cut and notched, they slide together really easily like this.



We find it easiest to decorate the houses without the roof, then add the roof last and decorate it.


When the holiday season is over, we simply scrape off all the stale candy into the garbage and wash them in warm soapy water, dry them, and pack them away for next year. Easy peasy.

We have loved having them. The kids always get super excited when they see the little box we keep them in.

It is one of our most favorite Christmas traditions--some years we even do it twice.


So cute!



When we decorate them, we always place them on a tinfoil-covered piece of cardboard so that we have room to add lawn ornamentation if we're feeling in the mood.



Sometimes, we even make healthy versions. :)

Thanks Papa for making us these great wooden gingerbread houses! We will be loving them for years to come.



Friday, December 5, 2014

Outdoor Birdseed Ornaments


I was cleaning out the garage a few weeks ago and found a bag of birdseed leftover from when my girls and I made pinecone bird feeders with my mom. 

That was such a fun activity, we decided at once to make another type of bird feeder.

We decided on these fun cookie-cutter shaped "ornaments" and followed this recipe.


Recipe
1. Dissolve 2 packets of unflavored gelatin in 1/2 cup of boiling water.
2. Stir in about 3 cups of birdseed.
3. Press into cookie cutters. When the cookie cutters are about half full, place in some string or twine to use to hang up the "ornaments" then fill in the remainder of the cookie cutter. I used my silicone baking mat, but wax paper would also work.
4. Let sit overnight. Un-mold and hang up!














 I was surprised how quickly this little activity went. Maybe 10 minutes to dissolve the gelatin and get the birdseed-gelatin mixture into the cookie cutters.
Then a few minutes the next day to un-mold and outside we went!

I'm hoping to see all sorts of lovely little birds in our yard.





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