Everyday Life, Recipes, Sweet, Two Legged Fun

A Year of School Treats

10 Simple Treats to Bring & Share At School

With the school year rapidly drawing to a close, I thought I would compile a list of all the fun treats I came up with to send in for special holidays and birthday treats over the past 10 months.  I love the chance to get creative in the kitchen, so when the opportunity comes up to bring in a themed treat I am more then happy to sign up and bake up something new. Continue reading “A Year of School Treats”

Celebrations, Four Legged Fun, Two Legged Fun

All I wanted for Christmas and more!

Christmas has come and gone so I figured it is about time I get back to posting.

We had a great Christmas! This year there were very few gifts under the tree for myself, but it was absolutely perfect. As lovely as the new cookware I received from my own mom and my mother-in-law was, I was way more excited to see what the kids got and their reactions to all the new toys and books. Christmas has definitely changed in our house and I am very happy to have it now be all about the kids.

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Well, maybe not ALL about the kids – the dogs didn’t get forgotten either.

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It was Rumbull’s first Christmas and it didn’t take him long to sniff out his stocking and figure out what was up.  He watched longingly as we set the gifts out on Christmas Eve and he was the first “kid” up Christmas morning wanting to get into the pile.

Thanks to our Christmas Book countdown, my 19 month old also had the unwrapping thing down pat.  On Christmas Eve, she was raring to go the moment we got to Grandma and Grandpa’s and she saw the pile under the tree.  She was even lucky enough to get the biggest gift under Grandma and Grandpa’s tree – a Little Tikes Cozy Truck!

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The bottom right picture is a bit blurry, but I included it because it captured my favorite Christmas memory.  Camden had been asking for a Vtech Switch & Go Dino since October so he was ecstatic that his gift from his little sister was the triceratops.  We asked him to thank her and he gave her the biggest hug I have ever seen.  Melt my heart!

The kids were both asleep by the time we got home from opening gifts on Christmas Eve, but that made it easy for Santa to get everything set out for round two on Christmas morning.

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In the morning, Camden was very excited to find that Santa had eaten his cookies and had a drink of milk.  He immediately went for his stocking and started opening it all before I could even convince him to wait for his sister.

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Between ourselves, grandparents, aunts and uncles, the kids were definitely spoiled, but Camden did a good job thanking everyone and acting grateful for all his gifts.

Unfortunately we saved the best item for the very last and the reaction to his brand new iPad from daddy was less then we were hoping for.  Instead of being over the top excited, he acted sad that we were replacing his old, shattered iPad.  Luckily, it only took a few minutes of coaxing and walking him through the new iPad for him to understand that it still had all his same apps and that he wasn’t losing anything by giving up the broken tablet.  As was expected, it is now his favorite gift!

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My husband and I made the decision not to bother with gifts to each other since we have a lot of items to buy for the new house in the upcoming months.  I certainly didn’t feel like I was missing out by not having something to unwrap from him and we made up for it by picking up a few nice things on boxing day.  Except for some boxing week shopping, we stayed home for much of the Christmas break and had a very lazy two weeks watching movies and keeping inside out of the cold.

It was a nice Christmas and I am hoping next year will be that much better with everyone settled into our new house. The only thing really missing was my sweet Bullini, but she certainly was not forgotten amidst all the chaos with a special place on the mantle.

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I hope the 2013 Christmas season was just as Merry for all of you!

Recipes, Sweet

Christmas Baking: Chewy Ginger Snaps

There is a nine and a half year age gap between my little brother and myself. When he was still in elementary school, I was already out living on my own and attending university. While he was in grade four, his school put together a cookbook and he decided since I liked to bake and cook it would make the perfect gift for me for Christmas. It is one of the sweetest gifts I have ever received.

This Ginger Snap recipe comes from that cookbook. I used it for my first attempt making ginger snaps and they turned out so well I haven’t bothered trying a different recipe since.  They have become a family tradition and it now isn’t Christmas without a batch of these chewy, spice filled cookies.  Judging by how quickly my 3 year old made his disappear this afternoon, I don’t think it is a tradition that I will be breaking anytime soon.

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 1/2 cups of flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugar well.
  3. Beat in the egg and molasses.
  4. Stir in baking soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.
  5. Gradually add flour and mix well until combined into a soft dough.
  6. Shape into approx. 1 tsp balls and roll in sugar.
  7. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.

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I typically roll my ginger snaps in a mixture of red and green sugars for Christmas to add a festive touch.  This year, I decided to get a little fancier and dipped them in melted white chocolate and sprinkled them with some Wilton holly shaped sprinkles I found at Michaels.  Either way they are delicious!

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These ginger snaps were also the final item for the tins of baking I was packaging up for my siblings.  Last year I had the bright idea to use coffee filters in the tins to separate each of the baking items and it worked so nicely I thought I would share.  They keep the flavours for mixing and add a nice white ruffle throughout the basic Dollar Store tins I used.

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Recipes, Sweet

Christmas Baking: Easy Maple Walnut Fudge

I have a whole pinterest board devoted just to fudge.  They all look delicious, but for my Christmas baking I resorted back to this recipe I made last year because I knew it was super tasty and easy.

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Ingredients

  • 1 can Eagle Brand Dulche de Leche sweetened condensed milk (You could substitute regular)
  • 3 cups butterscotch chips (you will need two bags to get enough)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 teaspoons Maple extract

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Directions

  1. Prepare a 9×9″ pan by lining it with parchment paper.
  2. Pour butterscotch chips and sweetened condensed milk in a microwave proof bowl.
  3. Microwave on high for 1 and a half minutes.  Stir.
  4. Microwave for another minute and a half.  Stir well until condensed milk and melted chips are fully combined.
  5. Stir in Maple extract and chopped nuts.
  6. Pour mixture into pan and spread evenly.  Put in fridge to set.
  7. Cut into bite sized squares.

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Enjoy!

Everyday Life, Two Legged Fun

Say Cheese! Capturing My Christmas Cuties

Last year I staged this shot of my two little darling’s reading a Christmas story in their matching jammies:
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I absolutely adore the photo and am so happy I took the time to buy and set out the props and capture a special shot of the two of them together.

This year I wanted something equally special.  I came across some adorable toddler sized Santa aprons at the Dollar Store and that solidified my initial idea of doing something that involved Christmas baking.  I was going to make sugar cookies, but last week I decided to attempt a Rice Krispie gingerbread house with my son and it ended up being the perfect opportunity to capture my Christmas photo for this year.

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With a little direction from myself, my 3 year old did an amazing job decorating our little house.  He was way more cooperative for the photos then I expected and I think he had a lot of fun with his special project.  I don’t think it hurt that there was plenty of candy for the kids to snack on throughout the process!

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I am not a professional photographer by any means, but I do enjoy playing around with my camera and capturing photos of my two favorite subjects.  I think this years shots turned out just as good as last years and I look forward to eventually having a whole collection of special Christmas photos with my two cuties.

Any great ideas for next year’s photo? I would love to hear them! I did buy an adorable snowman making kit recently so maybe we’ll have to take our photo’s outside next year.

Everyday Life

Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Toddlers

I love stockings!  My mom used to do an amazing job of stuffing ours right full and it was always great fun to unwrap all the small treasures Christmas morning.  Now that I have my own kids, I tend to go a little overboard buying small items here and there to fill the stockings.

My 3 year old son’s stocking this year will contain:

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And Santa will be leaving these treasures for my 19 month old daughter (minus a hand puppet and hair bows I forgot to include!):

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We are down to just one week until Christmas so I thought I would share a list of all my favorite toddler stocking stuffers for you last minute shoppers!

For Bathtime:

  • Rubber Duck (bonus if it is Christmas themed)
  • Bubble Bath
  • Body wash/shampoo
  • Bath crayons/paints
  • New toothbrush and toothpaste

Treats:

  • An orange for the toe of the stocking
  • Smarties
  • Skittles
  • Hershey Kisses
  • Candy Canes
  • Gerber puffs or Mum Mum’s for the really little ones

Fun and Games:

  • Card games (Go Fish, Old Maid)
  • Hand or finger puppets
  • Coloring books
  • Crayons or markers
  • DVD’s
  • Stacking cups
  • CD’s of children’s music
  • Magnetic letters for the fridge
  • Lacing beads
  • Fisher Price Little People characters
  • Playmobile figures
  • Lego minifigure packs
  • Small puzzles

For the girls:

  • Small hair clips or hair accessories
  • Disappearing milk  bottles for their doll’s
  • Small utensils for their play kitchen
  • Kid friendly lip gloss or nail polish

For the boys:

  • Hot wheels or other small cars
  • Thomas or other small trains
  • Action figures
  • Hockey or other trading cards

Christmas items:

  • A new ornament for the Christmas tree
  • Small Christmas books
  • Christmas socks

To wear:

  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • A t-shirt with a favorite character
  • A fun toque
  • Mittens
  • Mitten Clips

Mealtime

  • Cutlery set
  • New sippy cup
  • Rolled up place mat

Electronics

  • DVD’s/Blu Ray disks
  • CD’s of children’s music
  • APPmates toys that work with the iPad (I have found a few at Dollarama)

Do you have any other unique suggestions?  Please feel free to comment below and I will add to my list!

Two Legged Fun

Creating New Holiday Traditions: Night’s Before Christmas Care Pack

Our kids are at a young enough age that we are still trying to figure out what Christmas is for us as an immediate family of four.  We now have three Christmases as parents under our belt, and my son is finally at an age where he has a greater appreciation for the Christmas activities we plan and is able to start remembering some of the yearly traditions we might have.

I have been looking for new traditions to start with the kids this year and two of the ideas I fell in love with is were the Advent Calendar/Christmas Countdown from Urban Daisies:

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And the Christmas Eve movie box (source unknown):

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The books was easy enough to do after I hunted down all the Christmas books we already owned and bought a few more from Costco and Dollarama.  A couple rolls of wrapping paper (Mickey, of course) plus one night of wrapping and  we were set!

The Christmas Eve box ended up being a lot more complicated.  It is a box packed full with a new Christmas movie, pajamas, popcorn and hot chocolate to be enjoyed on Christmas Eve.  It would have been perfect at our house growing up where we typically went to church early and then got new pajamas and enjoyed a quiet Christmas Eve watching a movie (preferably Muppet’s Family Christmas), but my husband’s side does things a bit differently.

For the last several years we have spent Christmas Eve with my husbands family and it isn’t the quiet, relaxing evening I was accustomed to as a kid.  We head there in the late afternoon and are there until well past bedtime attending an evening church service and then opening gifts and enjoying snacks.  Santa always visited my husband and his brother’s while they were at church, whereas my siblings and I had to go to bed on Christmas Eve and Santa would come while we were sleeping.  Our own children get to enjoy a hybrid of both: opening gifts with my husbands family Christmas Eve and then having Santa leave gifts at our own house for them to open Christmas morning.

I did consider doing a Night Before Christmas Eve box for the kids, but that seemed kind of silly.  I finally settled on the idea of doing up a slightly different package for the kids to open at the same time we started our Christmas book countdown.

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The bedtime care package I put together for the kids included:

  • Christmas themed body wash, shampoo, bubbles and handsoap for bath time
  • New Christmassy pajamas
  • Sippy cups for their milk before bed
  • A package of cookies for bedtime snack
  • A small bag of Hershey Kisses for a treat
  • A new stuffed friend each to snuggle

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I also included a somewhat lengthy note explaining their gift and the book countdown:

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I am not sure it has help make my children any better behaved, but they are a lot more willing to go for a bath each night and I love seeing their excitement each night as they choose a book to unwrap.

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It hasn’t taken my 18 month old long to catch onto this new routine and she has begun bringing me wrapped books throughout the day wanting to open them.  If nothing, we are getting good unwrapping practice in so she is ready for the big event next week!

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Now that we have all the books, this is something I will definitely do again in the years to come.  I have typically waited until Christmas Eve to give the kids their Christmas pajamas but I love the idea of giving them in the care package to wear throughout the entire month of December.  The care package was quick and inexpensive to put together and is just one more little way I can bring a touch of magic and excitement to the holiday season.

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Everyday Life, Two Legged Fun

Edmonton Valley Zoo Festival of Light

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I was very excited to find out the Valley Zoo in Edmonton was introducing a Festival of Light this Christmas season.  We had gone to Zoolights at the Calgary Zoo while I was still pregnant with my son and it was a fun experience to see the zoo all lit up at night.

My original plan was to go this past weekend so I was a little bummed when we were hit with extremely cold temperatures that made it impossible to go with two young kids.  After looking at the weekly forecast, we determined that Monday night looked the warmest (-6) and took it as our opportunity to check the festival out.

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They are currently working on renovating the zoo and I was excited to see the newly built front entrance finally open.  Our zoo is still fairly small in comparison to a lot of other zoo’s, but they are working hard to improve it and I think they have done a great job making it a worthwhile attraction to visit throughout the year.

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Keira started in the stroller but didn’t last long in the stroller before she was itching to get out and walk.   She raced between exhibits, shouting an excited “dog, dog, dog!” every time she spotted a new animal.  Luckily she was still strapped in the stroller when we came across the zookeepers out walking the Arctic wolf otherwise she would have been racing to pet it.

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I loved watching as Keira spotted the animals and started jumping and screaming in excitement.  We were able to get pretty close up to a lot of the animals, but that still wasn’t good enough with my little girl who had a few mini meltdowns trying to clamour her way into the enclosures.

We have only ever been to the zoo on hot summer days so it was neat being at the zoo at night and in the cold.  Some of the animals that would typically be hidden out of the hot sun were out and very easy to spot.  The Siberian tigers, fox, otters and other Arctic wolf were all out wandering around their enclosures and we were able to get a good look.

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No trip to the Valley Zoo is ever complete without checking in on Lucy the elephant.  We found her inside out of the cold, which gave us a chance to warm up a bit too.  It was a pretty warm night but it was still nice to be able to alternate between viewing the lights and animals outside and seeing the inside exhibits.

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As we were leaving, the reindeer were out for a walk which gave us a good view of them.  These were just 3 of the 7 reindeer they have at the zoo – not quite a full team to pull Santa’s sleigh!

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The snow was just starting to fall and the wind was picking up as we were loading into the car.  We weren’t that chilled, but we still decided to cap the night off with hot chocolate and donuts at Tim Horton’s!  It was well past bedtime and Keira was tired from walking most of the zoo on her own, but she managed to stay awake and happy.

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Overall it turned out to be an awesome night to go.  Due to the dark and the kids excitement I wasn’t able to get many non-blurry pictures, but I know they had smiles plastered to their faces for most of the night and their joy made it totally worth it.  If the temperatures cooperate I am pretty sure it will be something we will attempt again next year.

Recipes, Sweet

Christmas Baking: Peppermint Vanilla Chip Cookies

I finally got a start on my Christmas baking last night while the other members of my family were not-so-quietly watching Christmas specials.  I managed to get through two recipes last night and am hoping to get through a few more throughout this week.

I still had some leftover peppermint candy sticks sitting on my counter from the candy buffet I did in August so I decided I to find a candy cane cookie recipe to use them up.   I came across a few different recipes on pinterest, but am glad I finally settled on these Peppermint White Chocolate Chip Cookies from Closet Cooking.  I chose them because the reviews were good and the recipe was very straightforward.  My recipe quantities below are doubled from her recipe and the cookies turned out so tasty I am glad I made the decision to make s larger quantity!

The original recipe calls for white chocolate chips, but I decided to substitute vanilla flavored holiday chips I found several weeks ago at the grocery store.  When I spotted them I promptly tossed two bags into our shopping cart, not knowing what I was going to make with them but excited for the extra touch of festive color I knew they could bring to one of my recipes.

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Adapted from Closet Cooking

Makes 4 dozen
Total preparation and baking time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients
  • 1 cup butter (only real butter, not low fat), room temperature
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 package Chipits vanilla flavored holiday chips (can also use white chocolate chips)
  • 3/4 cup peppermint candy cane, crushed

Directions

  1. Cream the butter and sugars in a bowl.
  2. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract.
  3. Mix in the baking soda, salt and flour.
  4. Add the vanilla chips and the peppermint candy cane, folding in gently.
  5. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
  6.  Scoop the dough in to 1 tablespoon sized balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Bake in a 350F preheated oven until just lightly golden brown around the edges, approximately 8-10 minutes.

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Also up this week will be the Rice Krispie Treat gingerbread house I promised to make with my 3 year old.  We had a good time this morning picking out our candy decorations at the bulk store and are just waiting for the pan of treats to set and be ready to cut into walls and a roof.

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Big Hands, Celebrations, Crafts

And the Mickey and Minnie Stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

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My daughter’s stocking last year was a small pink “Baby’s First Christmas” stocking with a teddy bear on it.  It is cute, but no longer appropriate.  I am on the hunt for a set of matching family stockings, but since I still haven’t found anything I love I needed a solution for a stocking for Keira to use this Christmas.  I have seen a few different styles of Disney themed stockings in stores and cute versions on Etsy, but decided I could come up with something I liked better and would probably cost less.

I think these may be my favorite thing I have created for our Mickey and Minnie themed Christmas.  They turned out a lot nicer then I expected and total cost to me was less then $3 for the black and white felt I bought to cut out the embellishments.  I was lucky and already had the stockings from a Christmas advertisement I had created for work several years ago, but you can buy these basic felt stockings for around $1 at any Dollar Store or Department store such as Walmart. Continue reading “And the Mickey and Minnie Stockings were hung by the chimney with care…”