Friday, December 27, 2019

Family Christmas Traditions

This season has been my most favorite Christmas. We packed in so many fun activities, but most of all MEMORIES that will always be with us. Out of all the activities we did, my four and five year old said their favorite was having a sleepover by the Christmas Tree.


  • Decorate the Tree and turn on some Christmas Music.
  • Christmas Elf. Every year, my kids know that "Snowflake" is going to visit our home in December. She leaves us notes with activities we're doing in the day (like Grinch Night or Sinterklaas) and little surprises (like a box of lights to decorate our room, money to Christmas shop for siblings, or a lamb stuffed animal for our sleepover under the tree). 
  • 25 Days of Christ Advent Tree from New Tradition Crafts. This year, one of my main goals was to focus more on Christ. Starting on December 1, we read a scripture about Christ and added a corresponding ornament onto a small tree (you can sometimes find a small tree at the Dollar Store around Christmas time). We did this every night until Christmas. I love that this kit has everything done for me. Two years ago, we did a similar idea, but my kids made the ornaments. Click here to learn more: Stories of Jesus Advent Tree. This was my husband's favorite Christmas Tradition this year. 
  • Read Christmas Books & Drink Hot Chocolate by the Tree. Every year we add a Christmas Book to our selection. I usually switch off taking kids to Barnes and Noble to pick out a new book, but this year we chose a few winners from the library. My kids requested to read these three books daily - Samarai Santa: A Very Ninja Christmas by Rubin Pingk, Gingerbread Pirates by Kristen Kladstrup and When Santa was a Baby by Linda Bailey. 
  • Grinch Night. Click the link to learn more. This was one of my favorite traditions this year.
  • Decorate Room with Christmas Lights. Snowflake hid with a note that reminded us how Christ is the light of the world. We decorated my boy's room with their favorite color lights.

  • Sinterklaas Night. This is a Danish Tradition. You paint wooden shoes (or just grab a pair of regular shoes), eat Danish Pancakes and leave your shoes out overnight. In the morning, there's a surprise! Click the link to learn more about Sinterklaas. 

  • Donate Old Toys/Books. 
  • Buy & Wrap Sibling Gifts. Snowflake brought us money to shop for siblings. I took both my older boys together this year, and it was so cute watching them ask each other and discuss what they wanted. I think my favorite part was watching my older boys wrap the gifts and write each other's names and little hearts on the wrapping paper. 

  • Christmas Symbols Family Night. We learned about how Christmas symbols remind us of Christ and went on a scavenger hunt afterward. This was a lot of fun! My six gave a talk in primary and taught the kids all about these symbols.

  • Polar Express Night. My parents took us on a Polar Express train ride in Heber, Utah! You could also simply watch the movie together and eat popcorn/hot chocolate or read the book and give your child a bell afterward. 
  • Christmas Science Experiments. I absolutely loved these Christmas Science Experiments from Lessons for Little Ones. We built gumdrop towers, learned which liquid dissolves candy canes the fastest, practiced color mixing with Santa's Magic Milk and explored with jinglebells/magnets. There are recording sheets for each activity. My boys loved them!




  • Make a Christmas Craft. This year we made these huge 3D Snowflakes out of white lunch bags, hot glue and scissors. They needed some adult help, but they turned out so cool. We hung them on our wall to decorate!
  • Nativity Gingerbread Party. My boys and I made the dough together, cut out Nativity Shapes and hosted a Nativity Gingerbread Party. Click the link to learn more.
  • Invite the Missionaries Over to share a Christmas Message.
  • Indoor Snowball Fight. Read Santa Samurai: A Very Ninja Christmas and use these Soft Snowballs to have an indoor snowball fight!
  • Watch a Christmas Movie.
  • Play Christmas Music & Dance in the Kitchen. I had no idea how much my boys would love dancing with me in the kitchen. I'm going to start doing this more.
  • Make Cookies for neighbors or friends.
  • Lamb Stuffies. We read the Little Lamb of Bethlehem book and I bought all of my boys a stuffed animal lamb to remember Jesus. We opened the lambs right before our sleepover under the tree, so they'd have their lambs to sleep with. 

  • Sleepover by the Christmas Tree. We brought a mattress downstairs and all snuggled up by the tree. It was really sweet. I already mentioned that this was both of my boy's favorite Christmas Tradition this year. 
  • Waffles & Santa. We did this last year, and knew we had to do it again. We invited friends over to eat Belgian Waffles for dinner, sing Christmas Songs, and visit with Santa. This was magical. Click the link for more details.
  • Play Board Games. For Christmas Eve, we open up a new board game and play games together. We played Bingo last year and Pie Face. This year we got Clue Jr. and Ticket to Ride Jr. 
  • Cake for Baby Jesus. For Christmas Eve, we made these Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes. Christmas is to celebrate a birthday, right? And all birthdays have cake. 

  • Christmas Thank You Letters. And after all the gifts and kindness shown from family and friends, we are going to draw/write Christmas Cards. I found these really cute ones from Fantastic Fun & Learning.

The BEST Cinnamon Rolls

One of my favorite instagram accounts to follow is Amber's Kitchen. She posted this cinnamon roll recipe I've been meaning to make for a while now. I halved the recipe below and made them for Christmas morning and they were incredible. I added in the almond extract in the frosting, and it made them over the top delicious. This will be my go-to cinnamon roll recipe from now on.



INGREDIENTS:

3 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
3 eggs
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1 Tablespoon salt
10 to 11 1/2 cups unbleached flour


FILLING INGREDIENTS: (double if you like lots) 
10 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 1/3 cup brown sugar, divided
2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided


DIRECTIONS:

1) In a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine sugar, warm water and yeast. Give it a quick mix, cover and let yeast dissolve for 10 minutes.
2) Remove cover and add eggs, oil and salt. Mix together. Then add the flour cup by cup while mixing in between. You have enough flour when 1- the dough doesn’t stick to the side of the bowl 2- the dough is tacky but doesn’t stick to your fingers. (Be careful not to add too much flour!)
3) When there is enough flour added, knead for at least five minutes, or ten of kneading by hand. If using a mixer- cover the dough while kneading to keep the heat inside. 
4) Cover the dough and let it rise 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375. 
5) Remove the dough from the bowl and dump into a floured surface. Divide in half and roll out each half into a large rectangle, about twice as long as it is deep. 
6) To each half, spread 1/2 of the butter, and evenly sprinkle half of the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture. 
7) Tightly roll dough up into one long snake. Using cinnamon dental floss, or a thin piece of thread, cut the dough (as shown in video) into 16 even slices per dough snake. (Discard the very ends) 
8) Onto two greased jelly roll pan, evenly lay out all cinnamon roll dough rounds, 16 per cookie sheet. Cover and let rise 10-30 minutes. 

9) Bake at 375 for 14-15 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes before spreading on frosting.



Frosting:
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
6 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
*1 tsp almond extract, optional
1/8 tsp salt 
1/3 to 1/2 cup milk depending on how thick you like your frosting. 
Beat together well until frosting is fluffy. 

*** if you prefer cream cheese frosting, add 4 oz. softened cream cheese to this recipe***

Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes

For Christmas, we make a cake to celebrate the birthday of Jesus. This year, I made our first Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes. I couldn't wait to see the "lava" come out of the cake when I cut my fork into it. And then, nothing happened. I learned I baked them for too long. Haha. They still tasted amazing, and I am going to redeem myself soon. 


Ingredients:
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
  • 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 Tablespoons flour

Directions:

1) Preheat the oven to 450°. Butter and lightly flour four 6-ounce ramekins. Tap out the excess flour. Set the ramekins on a baking sheet.

2) In a double boiler, over simmering water, melt the butter with the chocolate. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the egg yolks, sugar and salt at high speed until thickened and pale.

3) Whisk the chocolate until smooth. Quickly fold it into the egg mixture along with the flour. Spoon the batter into the prepared ramekins and bake for 12 minutes, or until the sides of the cakes are firm but the centers are soft. Let the cakes cool in the ramekins for 1 minute, then cover each with an inverted dessert plate. Carefully turn each one over, let stand for 10 seconds and then unmold. Serve immediately.


Note: The batter can be refrigerated for several hours; bring to room temperature before baking.

Makes four 6 ounce (or 8 ounce) cakes. These are the ramekins I used.

Belgian Waffles

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is to invite some friends over for a waffle bar (breakfast for dinner), sing Christmas songs and enjoy a visit from Santa. Santa brings the kids a box of cereal and shares a short message of the Savior. This year, I bought a Belgian Waffle Iron and we topped them with whipped cream (see recipe below), fresh fruit, caramel, and buttermilk syrup (see recipe below)/maple syrup. I quadrupled the recipe and it made 22 big waffles. The kids mostly ate 1/2 a waffle and the adults averaged 1. Recipe from The Salty Marshmallow



Ingredients:


  • 2 1/4 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 Tablespoon Baking Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 2 Large Eggs Separated
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Cups Milk
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Instructions:


1) Preheat your waffle iron, spray with non stick cooking spray and set aside.
2) In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.3) In a medium bowl beat the egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
4) In a separate medium bowl mix together the egg yolks, vegetable oil, milk, and vanilla extract.
5) Add the egg yolk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix well.
6) Fold in the egg whites.
7) Pour the batter onto your hot waffle iron and cook according to manufacturer's directions**
8) Serve immediately with butter, syrup, powdered sugar or any other favorite toppings.



Whipped Cream: Beat 1 pint heavy whipping cream + 1/4 cup powdered sugar + 1 teaspoon vanilla until peaks form.


Buttermilk Syrup: 

1 cube (1/2 cup) of butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1) Heat butter, buttermilk, and sugar in a saucepan. Heat until boiling, stirring often. Boil for about one minute. Remove from heat.
2) Add vanilla and baking soda (will bubble up a bit). Stir until combined.






Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Nativity Gingerbread Party


This year, in efforts to focus more on Christ, we had some friends over to decorate a Nativity Gingerbread Scene. I loved the TIME spent with my kids making the dough, cutting out shapes, baking, taste testing (apparently my six loves baking soda plain), and decorating together. Whether you make gingerbread men or a nativity scene, the gingerbread cookie recipe from 


Gingerbread Recipe
3 cups flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 Tablespoons butter, softened (and cut into 12 pieces)
3/4 cup molasses
2 Tablespoons milk



Mix flour, brown sugar, baking soda and spices together in a large bowl (I used our Bosch). Add butter pieces. Mix until it looks sandy. Gradually add molasses and milk. 




Scrape the dough onto the counter on a piece of parchment paper. Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick (it will roll out to be about the size of a large cookie sheet). You can either freeze the rolled dough until firm, 15-20 minutes or chill in the fridge for 2 hours (or overnight). 




Preheat the oven to 350. Remove dough from the freezer/fridge and cut out gingerbread people. Transfer the shapes using a metal spatula and space them an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes. Allow to cool before frosting.



Note: We made four total batches of the recipe above (2 batches will fit in the Bosch at a time), which made enough nativity scenes for 8 children. The triangle that comes in the Nativity Cookie Cutter Kit (from Amazon) is huge, so we made a smaller version from cardboard to cut out around.


My little helpers.
















Friday, December 13, 2019

Sinterklaas Night (A Dutch Christmas Tradition)


Sinterklaas is a Christmas Tradition in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas had a long white beard, wore red and loved giving gifts to children. On 5 December, Sinterklaas rides his white horse across rooftops at night, listening through chimneys for the good children and leaving them treats in their shoes. Last year, we left our regular shoes out. A few months ago, I bought some wooden Dutch shoes from a Scandinavian Festival. And last night, we painted the wooden shoes, ate Danish Pancakes (Ebelskivers) for dinner, and left our shoes out for a special surprise in the morning. The focus of this tradition is on "GIVING" and how it brings happiness to others when we give.


2 eggs 
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup melted butter 



Separate the eggs and beat whites until soft peaks form. Set aside. 
In another bowl, combine egg yolks and buttermilk and mix together. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar all at once. Add melted butter and mix. Fold in egg whites. 

Heat Ebelskiver Pan over medium heat. Spray with cooking oil. Fill the cups 2/3 the way full and use two skewers to flip the pancakes when the bottoms are golden brown. Continue cooking until the other side is golden. You can check for doneness by breaking a ball in half. 

Serve with powdered sugar and maple syrup or jam. Makes about 30 pancake balls.


A few pictures:

Snowflake brought us wooden shoes and a note about our plans for the day.
We used acrylic paints to paint our shoes.





We left our shoes out overnight and woke up to find Chocolate Gold Coins!
We're going to continue this tradition every year!