MiMi-a great name for grandma

A Grandma's spin on crafts, games, recipes & lifestyle

Social Media Fasting

I’m sitting here literally laughing at myself as I just typed the title of this post.  I have been diligently working and learning all about blogging….and I LOVE it!  As you all know, blogging is all about writing about what you love and sharing it with others.  In order to share, you have to make yourself known…and this of course mostly happens through social media.  So WHY am I writing an article about Social Media Fasting???

As much as I truly love technology and everything social media, I also love everything family!  I have had many debates with others over the years about the positives vs. the negatives of social media.  Both sides have very valid points, but for me it’s a good thing.  I have reconnected with so many people I had lost touch with…followed family fun of others…enjoyed seeing pictures…celebrated milestones with my children’s friends that have grown up and started work and now have families of their own.  This list goes on and on.

WHY???

However, I do think taking a break from social media…short, intermittent breaks….can bring many positives into your world.  Try this for 24 hours.  Then try it once a week or once a month.  I’m betting you will be very surprised.  I just finished a 24-hour fast from social media and game apps.  I surrounded myself with blank paper and books.  Every time I went to pick up my phone to check the latest updates, I set it down and picked up a book or paper instead.  Those books were about prayer and positive writings.  I then prayed after I read each time.

I have been following a local family that has gone through a great tragedy with their children.  I tried this fasting upon the request from a large following that asked everyone to give up something and pray in return for the family.  I am a strong believer in the power of prayer, but I have gained more from this than what I expected.  You, too, can follow this family on Facebook ~ Light for Levi and Lainey.

What I Gained From Social Media Fasting ~

  • More time in prayer, not only for this very precious family, but for my own!
  • Relaxation – my brain relaxed!
  • Sleep – Ahhhh, this was amazing and I’m assuming it was because of the above bullet point!
  • Time to read – something I love but tend to put off to play “just one more game!”
  • More time to communicate with my family….talking and LISTENING!  I have been working on listening lately.  Really listening.  My mind is so often moving on to the next thing that I have realized I do listen, but I’m not always fully “hearing”…or my head is buried in my phone too much to listen intently.

What I Expect to Gain Long Term ~

I am setting a date on my calendar to do a 24-hour fast each month.  Eventually it may be each week, but I want to take it slow so I can make it stick.  I have no intention of giving up social media…I love it too much!  Just taking time once a month to make myself enjoy the other things in life I have put on the back burner.  Once you start letting those other important elements back into your life, you may find how much you miss them.

What to Do While Fasting ~

  • Read!  Read passages in the Bible, self help books or that novel you have been wanting to dig in to!  Did you know that you can do a quick search on Amazon of New York Times current best sellers….it doesn’t get any easier than that!!!  I’ve put a quick link in for you here to check it out:    New York Times Best Sellers
  • Write!  Jot down what is in your head, write poetry, write a letter (remember snail mail???), write a story…just write!  I love to have loads of different pens and paper available for this.  I have recently become an affiliate of a couple of really cool stationery companies..I hope you will check them out!
  • Yoga!  Whether you have done yoga before or not, it is something everyone should look into.  So take that social media break and spend some time stretching and destressing!  I wrote about this in an earlier blog post.  You can do yoga as a family too…Yoga with Meddy Teddy!
  • Get Outdoors!  There is nothing like fresh air…whether it’s hot or cold!  Take a walk, do some yard work or just sit and get some natural vitamin D.  Leave the phone inside for a bit!
  • Cook!   Ok…you can use your phone but ONLY if it is to look up a recipe…don’t cheat….no social media or games!
  • Pray and Meditate!  It’s just good for your soul!  Mark 10:27 ~ All things are possible with God!
  • Call Someone!  Reach out and catch up with a friend or family member.

Whether it is something from the list above or another favorite hobby, try a little social media fasting and see what a mere 24 hours can do.  Seriously, 24 hours doesn’t seem like a long time but I know I sure was amazed by it!  I slept better and woke up with a fantastic start to my day feeling good about what I had read the night before!

It’s Time for A Challenge!

Are you up for it?  Subscribe to my page and work along with me!  Let’s do a 24 hour challenge once a week for the next 4 weeks.  #SMFChallengewithMimi.  Respond in the comments or click on the subscribe button (at the right on desktop or at the bottom of the blog on phone) so we can support each other.  What are you waiting for????

Loving Life ~ Shelly (Mimi)

 

Valentine’s Day Family Fun

Valentine’s Day ~ The celebration of romance and love!  My dad always said it was another Hallmark holiday…😂!  As a child, it is such a fun day to share Valentine’s cards and specialty candies with your friends.  But it can be so much more than that.  Being the hopeless romantic that I am, I have always loved this holiday and I still do.  For us it evolved into a special time to have some Valentine’s Day family fun!

If your children are of school age, you are probably already working ahead with them to create their decorated box or bag to collect their precious valentines in.  IF, due to Covid this year, you don’t get to do this at school, take the time to still make one for home.  Ask family members to send valentines to fill their goody box!  While in the planning process, why not make a special breakfast to start their day out right?

Valentine’s Day Breakfast ~

Mornings are hectic, I know!  But with just a little planning, it doesn’t take much to make breakfast special for this day!   Over the years, we have added food coloring to different food dishes to match the theme of the holiday…some have been great…and some not so much! For example, I urge you to NOT make green oatmeal on St. Patrick’s Day…I promise…it does not go over well!

Last year, Lauren got pretty creative with her breakfast ideas for the kids.  Suffice it to say that they LOVED it!  It consisted of red, heart shaped pancakes with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

They also had some festive strawberry milk.  She made a batch of strawberry milk ahead of time and poured it into heart-shaped ice cube trays.  When it was time for breakfast, they popped those ice cubes into a plain glass of milk….and voila!

There was a little planning ahead time.  Not too time consuming but oh so fun!  Next, let’s get to work on how we are going to present their Valentine goodies!  Need those fun ice cube trays….Get this 24-cube silicone heart mold by Wilton!  The trays can be used for ice cubes, gelatin, baking and candy molds!

Some other fun food ideas are:

Valentine Fruit Wands by afewshortcuts.com ~ This is an oh so easy yet festive snack recipe the kids will definitely love!

Valentine Grazing Board by ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com ~ Shove the diet aside for one day because you are going to love this Valentine’s Day grazing board!  yum!

Valentine Candy Poster ~

For many years, I would make a valentine candy poster for the kids.  It is such a fun way to give them their Valentine goodies.  It warms my heart that Lauren has continued this tradition.  They are so much fun to make and even more fun to receive.

I think it is easiest if you buy your candy first before making your Valentine poem.  Of course, you will want to try to work in their favorites.  This way you know what candy names you are working with to create the clever wording needed to make your poem work.

Types of Candy with Sample Sayings ~

Please don’t

You are  Extra Sugarfree Bubble Gum Slim Pack - 10 / Boxspecial

I love you to Image result for Reeses pieces

I wouldn’t trade you for Image result for 100 Grand bar

You are the best kid in the See the source image

Sending you hugs & Hershey's Kisses - 1 piece

This Valentine’s Day is going to be a Image result for Whoppersof a day!

To my   Sweetarts - 1.8 Oz Roll

You are A--zing!

You’re no!

You Skor - 1.4 Oz Baran A!

These are just a few examples of how you can create your own personalized Valentine’s poem.  There are so many clever sayings you can create with the names of the candy in it.  In fact, it is not only fun to make one for the kids but have fun and make one for your honey too!

Valentine’s Day Family Fun Continues ~

Now you weren’t planning on just handing these works of art to the kiddos, were you????  Of course not!  They need to work to get their special treats!  After all, you put a lot of time into making that Valentine poster for them.  So how do you suggest we do that?  Glad you asked!  Have you ever played the Yarn Scavenger Hunt game?

Items Needed for the Yarn Scavenger Hunt ~

1 color of yarn for each person playing

A room that has items to crawl under and over

Not too bad, right?  You will start off by choosing one color for each child and tying one end of each ball of yarn to something in the room.  This will be the starting point.  You can start everyone off at the same point or in different areas.  Weave the yarn over couches, under chairs, around tables.  Safety is key, but you want them crawling over and under as much as possible….even over each other at times when their yarns cross each other.

They will collect the yarn as they go in an effort to get to the end and ultimately to their Valentine candy!  For such a simple game, you will enjoy watching the children laugh hysterically as they race to get to the end.

Of course, once they get to the end of their yarn, they will be gifted with their candy poem poster.

You can also have fun decorating cookies in fun Valentine’s Day shapes.  Although the cookie and icing recipe I shared in an earlier post was for Christmas, you can still refer back to it for the recipes.  Click here to find the cookie recipe and icing for your Valentine’s Day cookies!  Making cookies is always a fun festive idea!

Whatever you choose to do to make this day special….be sure to have a full day of Valentine’s Day Family Fun!!!!

Love ~ Shelly

 

 

 

 

 

Homemade Sausage with Fennel

Pappy on the Penarve is at it again….this time making homemade sausage with fennel….AH…MAZING!!!!!  He has been perfecting this recipe for quite some time, and the end result is worth all of the work.  Let me tell you, there are quite a few steps to the end result…but oh is it worth it!!  That being said, it would be a great idea to purchase quite a bit of meat to work with so you can store some for later!  By doing this, it makes the time spent making this delicious sausage even more worthwhile!

In our recipe a KitchenAid mixer with the meat grinder attachment is used.  I absolutely love my KitchenAid and use it for so many different recipes.  Check out the Black Storm KitchenAid Professional Series Mixer ~ it is a FANTASTIC addition to any kitchen!

There are, of course, other great meat grinder options:

This electric meat grinder gets great reviews…check it out here!

This manual meat grinder has a suction base and gets great reviews…check it out here!

These grinders work for so much more than just making sausage.  I grew up with my mom making homemade ham salad.  We still put in requests for her secret recipe to this day!  Yes, I said secret!  And yes, that recipe will be coming soon so stay tuned!

Back to the Homemade Sausage with Fennel ~

As stated earlier, buy the pork shoulder butt in bulk.  When we find it on sale, we go hog wild….yes, pun intended! 🤣  The savings you will notice will astound you!

What you will need ~

  • The fattest pork shoulder/butt you can find…seriously buy that fatty stuff!
  • Fennel seed – if you are like Brad (Pappy), you will want an abundance of this!
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Red Pepper Flakes (optional)
  • Red Wine or cooking wine (we used a nice Cab)
Step 1 ~

Cut the pork shoulder/butt into chunks for grinding and place in a disposable foil pan.

Step 2 ~

Cover the meat with foil and move to the freezer to get to a cold state.  This helps the grinding process go much smoother.  Brad kept it in the freezer for about 1 hour.

Step 3 ~

Grind the meat chunks.

Step 4 ~

Generously season the ground pork shoulder/butt.

Step 5 ~

*After completely blending, make 1 or 2 small patties.  Fry these patties for tasting.  This is an important step before moving on!  This will enable you to decide if it is seasoned to your liking.  If you are preparing meat to store for later use, you will want to be sure you are happy with the flavor.

Step 6 ~

Add additional seasoning if you prefer.  Cover ground meat and place back in freezer for about an hour.

Step 7 ~

Remove from freezer and prepare your mixer for the final prep stage of your homemade sausage with fennel.  *If you don’t have a mixer with sausage stuffer capabilities, you can make it into patties.  We actually prefer to make different types of sausages for various serving options.  When using the sausage stuffer, it is helpful to watch videos first to aid in the process.  I have provided a link from KitchenAid.com right here ~  Use this handy link from KitchenAid to view how to use the sausage stuffer attachment!

If you are making into patties, there are many options on that process.  I prefer rolling the sausage out and using a glass or biscuit cutter to be the best option for more uniform patties.  However, sometimes we just form them with our hands as we did in the picture above.  If you choose to roll out it, there are different methods, I like the method that HappyMoneySaver.com uses here ~  Happy Money Saver describes the rolling out and cutting process in detail here!

 

Freezing Homemade Sausage with Fennel ~

We love the Food Saver Vacuum Sealer for so many freezer foods.  It does such a great job protecting food from air and freezer burn.  It is also ideal for food prep.  You can double so many of your recipes and save half of them for later, making busy nights or lunch time woes a cinch!    Get your own Food Saver Vacuum Sealer here…you will love it!

Like so many kitchen gadgets, you may ask yourself, “Will I really use this?”  From experience, this is one gadget we are very happy to have and we find ourselves using it often.

We will use this sausage for breakfast and dinner ideas.  Our favorite is grilled sausage with peppers and onion served with a side of rice.  However, we will definitely be looking for new fun ideas to use this yummy sausage as well.

 

Meal prep has become widely popular for busy families and lunch preparation.  This homemade sausage with fennel is an ideal recipe for just that!  Not to mention the savings you will see.  For this recipe we bought almost 10 pounds of pork for $9.  Seriously $9!  The amount of sausage links it yields (depending on how big you choose to make each one) is phenomenal!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!  Let us know in the comments below!  Also, follow MimiBlog with the link and you can stay up to date with all the great recipes!

Have a great week!

 

Bring Back E.T.~Imagination and Role Playing

I wish I could tell you how many people comment, “Bring back E.T.!” whenever we post a picture of Max in his E.T. mask!  There was a short span of time that EVERYTHING he did was done with that big E.T. head.  One only has to be around him for a short period of time before he has you engrossed in his imagination and role playing.  While we are all laughing with delight at his antics, we never stop to think of the many benefits there are to children when playing dress up.

Have you ever been told, “Maybe you should try walking in my shoes for a bit?”  I’m sure almost everyone has either heard that phrase at one time or possibly even said it.  This is a person wanting you to understand what their life or situation is like…a person asking for empathy.  When a child engages in role playing, they are doing just that.  Whether it be dressing up like mommy and daddy, a superhero, a princess, or even E.T., they are “walking in their shoes,” and without realizing it, learning empathy.

Sure, it’s fun to pretend they can fly like a superhero or swim like a mermaid.  However, they have also watched this person in action and are now trying to mimic them…or walk in their shoes.  The process of watching…remembering…then mimicking is building brain power without them even realizing it!

Dress Up Box ~

A dress up box was always available to our kids when they were growing up.  It was filled with costumes and accessories.  We would go to a Hawaiian themed party and the plastic leis would make it to the box.  We would celebrate New Year’s Eve and the party hats, horns and boas would be added to the box.  Old party dresses and high heels….you got the idea!

What I wish I would have done differently is to add their Halloween costumes to the box.  I tended to put those back in case someone else wanted to wear it the next Halloween.  My daughter, Lauren, keeps costumes out for them to enjoy all year long.  This is how we ended up with the wonderful days of Max and E.T.

Eating with E.T.

Playing Outside with E.T.

 

Shopping with E.T.

Brushing Teeth with E.T.

Yes, Taking a Bath with E.T.

Going to Bed with E.T.

You hardly saw Max during those days that he did not have that E.T. head on.  He would sometimes wear the whole costume, but most often he just wore the head.  There were even days that he shared it with others!

Are you thinking to yourself, “Man, I have got to get one of these adorable E.T. costumes for my kids?”  Don’t you worry, I got your back!  Order your own cool E.T. costume right here!  As stated earlier, your kids can dress up all…year…long!

My other thought here is that if you let your children dress up whenever they want it builds a sense of self confidence.  As I watched our three children grow through the different stages, it was very important to me that they learned to be kind and to have self confidence.  I put these two together because I believe they go hand in hand.  The times I would see them at their lowest in self-confidence is when they were  being picked on by others.  Therefore, it was also important to use those times to enforce why being kind is so important.

With that being said, Brad and I completely believe that Max is not going to suffer in the self-confidence area!  Whether he is E.T (where he just always looks so adorable), The Hulk (where he very dramatically transforms from self to Hulk with LOTS of noise), Spider Man (where he covers you with webs with a twist of his magical hand), or Mr. Freeze (where he freezes you and you MUST stay frozen until he unfreezes you!) he truly believes he IS those characters!

Themed Play & Crafts ~

Lauren does a fantastic job of taking their current interests and turning them into fun activities filled with themed crafts and foods.  I wrote about the alien theme when I first started blogging.  It is a small entry, but the pics are cute.  You can check the alien themed blog here!!!

I have since learned it is helpful to include directions for the crafts and food.  I searched Pinterest for some help on how to make the spaceship and found this great pin.  Zygote Brown Designs describes in detail how to make a spaceship!

Where is Your Dress Up Box? ~

Playing dress up is SO MUCH MORE than just a fun way to keep the kids occupied.  It stirs their imagination and aids in their emotional development.  So if you haven’t done so yet, go create that box of imagination for them.

It can be a bigger, dual purpose box like this!

It can be a pretty basket like this!

Regardless of what you use, you won’t regret making this an option for your kids.  You, too, can bring back E.T. and spark their imagination and role playing.  They can enjoy this for years!  And who knows, when you become a Mimi, you may find yourself dragging it back out again! 😉

 

 

Smoked Poor Man’s Burnt Ends

Several years ago while vacationing down south, I discovered the delicious dish called burnt ends.  I honestly don’t remember what type of meat they were made from, I just remember LOVING them.  Since then, Brad has made several attempts (all of which were delicious!) to recreate the exact dish that I enjoyed so much.  Just recently, we have discovered Smoked Poor Man’s Burnt Ends…and WOW!!!

Burnt ends traditionally are made from beef brisket.  It is indeed a very delicious meal, but is a more expensive cut of meat.  Thankfully, we can still get that AMAZING flavor with chuck roast.  While the cost is less for this cut of meat, the resulting flavor of smoked poor man’s burnt ends is seriously out of this world!!!

Yes folks, Pappy on the Penarve is at it again!  This recipe was a definite WIN!!!  The end result was a very tender piece of beef with a full-bodied and sticky BBQ flavor.  The crispy burnt edges complete the perfect flavor!  You MUST try this recipe…soon!

Steps ~

For this recipe, we used two nice cuts of chuck roast, each weighing about 3 1/2 pounds.  Generously season both sides of the meat with salt and pepper.  Preheat smoker to 275 degrees.  We used hickory chips to smoke the chuck roast.  Place your seasoned meat on the grill and plan on total smoking time to be about 5 hours.

After smoking for 4.25 hours, remove roast from grill and wrap in foil.  Below is a picture of how the meat should “look” when removing it to wrap.

Return to grill and continue smoking an additional 45 minutes.  Remove from grill and let wrapped meat rest for 15-20 minutes.  After resting, hold wrapped meat over disposable foil pan to unwrap, letting the juices flow into the pan.  Set cooked meat on cutting board.  Slice and then cut each roast into 3/4-inch chunks.  Place cut chunks in disposable foil pan.

Mix 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup BBQ sauce in small bowl until thoroughly combined.  Pour BBQ mixture over burnt ends.  Stir meat until completely covered in the BBQ mixture.  Place pan of meat back on grill, uncovered, and smoke for an additional 20 minutes.

Serving Smoked Poor Man’s Burnt Ends ~

As anyone who has tasted Pappy’s recipes knows, everything he makes is made to perfection.  I will say, this recipe is now at the top of my list of favorites.  It is truly finger-licking good.  Therefore, I now have to find the perfect serving platter and accessories, right?  So I have set out on my small business shopping…

This BBQ tray from Etsy will be a perfect fit for this dish (even though the meat is beef 🤣)  This is manly enough for Pappy to use for his grilling yet cute enough for me to use at the table setting.  LOVE!

This Personalized Grill Master Platter would be perfect too!  I LOVE that you can personalize this and it still looks “woodsy.”  This will look perfect with Pappy, The Grill Master…don’t you agree?  What would you personalize it with?

BBQ journal is perfect for logging notes or any changes made while grilling!

I have always believed that cooking and grilling good home cooked meals keeps the family coming back.  What we have discovered is not only do we get to share a lot of time with our grown children over prepared meals, but we have been lucky enough to share many meals with all of their friends as well.  Let’s not forget the gatherings with neighbors too!  Food and drink are the basics for all of the good times!

Don’t forget to add this one to your list of recipes….you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

 

Caramelized Onions and Provolone Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts

It’s December and it’s cold outside so I ask you, “Do you still grill during the winter months?”  We do!  Brad is an avid grill master all…year…long!  I love that he enjoys grilling so much!  However, whether you grill in the cold or you prefer to cook inside when it’s cold, everyone can enjoy this wonderful recipe of caramelized onions and provolone cheese stuffed chicken breasts.

Bone In or Boneless??? ~

We used bone in chicken breasts, however, I believe the process of assembling is easier if you use the boneless chicken breasts.   Brad prefers to grill meats with bone in to enhance the flavor.  I do not disagree.  However, with the robust flavor of the caramelized onions, it will taste just as wonderful using boneless for this recipe.

Begin with preparing the onions.  To create the rich flavor needed, this process will take 30 to 45 minutes.  The full recipe for caramelized onions and provolone cheese stuffed chicken breasts is included below, but I have also included some tips.

Caramelizing Onions ~

Oh how I love the smell of onions cooking.  The wonderful aroma conjures up good memories of family gatherings and food being prepared in the kitchen.  Caramelized onions are so easy to make.  The trick is to cook them slow and on low heat.  You will be rewarded with a robust flavor that enhances the flavor of so many dishes.

Slice the onions thin and set aside.  Heat your skillet with butter or oil.  The amount of oil you will use depends upon the number of onions you are caramelizing.  The general rule is one tablespoon per one medium onion.  Once your oil is heated, add the onions and stir until they are completely coated.  Add a pinch of salt and stir every 3 to 4 minutes.  Add a couple of tablespoons of broth (chicken, beef or vegetable) or water as you are cooking to deglaze the pan and rehydrate the onions.   Continue this process for 30 to 45 minutes, depending upon the amount of browning you prefer.

Many recipes call for a small amount of sugar, however, you do not need to add sugar if you follow the method above.  They will sweeten naturally as they cook.

Preparing Chicken Breasts ~

Cut chicken breasts lengthwise almost completely through to the other side.  Season the chicken with salt, pepper, thyme and parsley flakes.  Layer inside of chicken with your choice of cheese, a layer of caramelized onions and top with another layer of cheese.

I prefer to use different cheeses for each layer, creating a an array of flavors, however, it is just as wonderful using the same type of cheese for each layer.  If you are baking the chicken, you can then secure it with toothpicks.  When grilling, Brad prefers to use cooking twine to better hold the stuffed meat together.  This is a grilling must in his book!

Use this link to order twine for cooking:  Stock up on twine for all of your cooking needs here!

Caramelized Onion Broth ~

After you have stuffed the chicken breasts and started the cooking process, place the remaining onions on the stove and add beef broth, extra parsley flakes and thyme.  Cook on low heat until thickened.  When the meat is fully cooked, use this broth to spoon over the top of the chicken.  Of course, take this opportunity to add a little extra cheese on top….both for presentation and to enhance the flavor.

Stuffed chicken breasts are a delicious and appealing recipe when looking for “that special recipe to impress.”  The addition of fragrant and delicious caramelized onions is the perfect choice for a wonderful meal.  There is no doubt that you won’t LOVE these caramelized onions and provolone cheese stuffed chicken breasts!

A Perfect Dessert Pairing ~

Looking for a great dessert recipe to compliment this amazing chicken?  Look no further….this decadent apple strudel recipe pairs wonderfully with your meal.

You can find this amazing recipe in my link here:  Get the recipe for a DELICIOUS apple strudel here!  Enjoy!

 

 

 

Christmas Lights and Cocoa

The traditions continue as we enjoyed our annual night of viewing Christmas lights while sipping on hot cocoa and munching popcorn. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to watch our children carry on our family traditions with their loved ones.  Of course, that is what traditions are, right?

A few changes were made to this year’s Christmas light adventure. Normally the kids would grumble about any changes made to our family traditions. However, we all enjoyed these fun additions, so we didn’t hear those usual complaints. It all began with a hot cocoa snack board. We have always enjoyed cocoa while driving around looking at the festive lights, but this year, everyone got to create their own cocoa masterpiece.

This is so much fun to create and, of course, there are no rules!  When assembling your snack board, keep in mind that some goodies will be for the hot cocoa and some will just be for snacking.   This being the first year, I had a lot of fun assembling the goodies, but my mind is already swirling with different ideas for the next occasion.

Ideas for Creating Cocoa Snack Board ~

The other good thing to remember is that this just doesn’t have to be a Christmas thing!  We drink cocoa as many times as we can throughout the winter months.  This leaves more opportunities to have fun with this chocolate-filled idea!  As mentioned earlier, the goodies are endless that can be included in your setup.  Here are some fun ideas:

  1. Candy canes or peppermint sticks
  2. Crushed peppermint candies
  3. Marshmallows – plain, flavored or festive shaped
  4. M & Ms
  5. Malt Balls
  6. White mini Kit Kats
  7. Chocolate nonpareils
  8. Gingerbread cookies
  9. Graham Crackers
  10. Caramel candies
  11. White chocolate pretzel rods
  12. White chocolate chips
  13. Various candy Kisses
  14. Biscotti
  15. White chocolate covered Oreos

It was so much fun watching the kids create their specialty cocoas.  Addi even discovered a new favorite…she couldn’t get enough of the chocolate nonpareils (also known as sno-caps).   We used the disposable soup bowls for each person to create their own snack mix.   Each bowl started with a little popcorn and then they filled them to their heart’s content.

Hot Chocolate Bombs ~

Have you seen this new and totally fun idea for hot cocoa???  This is definitely something I will add to the snack board for next year.  But why wait????  You can make these all winter long!  They have gone viral on Tik-Tok and everyone is raving about them.  They are available in stores to buy or you can make your own.  I have saved several posts for reference, but I especially like the post by Gluesticksblog.com.  She gives great ideas and tips and also references a video of them if you have not yet seen how they work.  How to Make Hot Chocolate Bombs by Gluesticksblog.com.

We will definitely be making our own soon and will share our results once we have done so.  However, I am starting preparations for them now and ordered the silicone chocolate mold so I am ready to go.    After reading many reviews and scouring for the best prices, these are the chocolate molds I ordered.  These are the chocolate molds I ordered for Hot Chocolate Bombs!  From my research, I have discovered you need to pay close attention to size.  I also saw where many of the chocolate mold companies weren’t so good on delivery!

Off To View the Lights ~

Everyone gathered their hot cocoa and snack bowl and loaded into the car for the next step.  Unfortunately, I believe this will be the last year that we will all be in the same vehicle.  Fortunately, that means our family is growing…❤!  Next year we will have to use 2 cars….but you can be sure that won’t stop this family tradition!  We drive through neighborhoods to enjoy the festive decorations.  To those people who decorate every year…thank you!  Some of the displays are the same as they were when our kids were youngsters.  How cool is that?

Carry Out and Puzzles ~

The final part of the evening is Chinese take-out at the end of our Christmas light viewing.  We call ahead and pick it up on our way back home.  Our little Addi already asks for this when we start choosing the date for this night.  Those traditions obviously make a difference even at a young age.  This just melts my heart!

The other new activity we added this year is doing a Christmas puzzle.  Not a large one, as we want to be able to finish it the same night.  My suggestion is to stick with 100 pieces or choose one that is a “family” style puzzle with three different sizes of pieces.  Have you seen these kind?  They are truly so much fun when you are puzzling with a variety of ages.

(Frosty the Snowman 100 piece puzzle)

Here are a couple options of the family time puzzles.  Our family has had one since the kids were young and we would do that same one every year.  Now there are even more options.

Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Family Time Puzzle  ~ The image Amazon includes here doesn’t show the different size pieces, but if you click on the link you will see that the Family Time puzzles have small, medium and large pieces for family puzzling.

Snoopy and Linus ice skating – Peanuts Family Time Puzzle ~ A super cute Family Time puzzle that also has small, medium and large pieces.

Christmas lights and cocoa has long been one of our kids’ favorite traditions of the many we try to do throughout the month of December.  I love watching our grown kids still juggle their schedules to make it all work.  Family time is oh so valuable and especially during this wonderful holiday of celebrating the birth of Christ!

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

 

 

Mouthwatering Apple Strudel Recipe

Imagine for a minute… you are curled up by a cozy fireplace in a warm, fuzzy blanket.  The room is aglow with colorful lights emitted from the Christmas tree.  Suddenly the scents of apple and cinnamon begin to fill the room.  What is that amazing smell?  Then a perfect little pastry is handed to you, and not only is the smell out of this world but it is almost too pretty to eat.  You soon decide that you would forget about how pretty it is and bite into the mouthwatering Apple Strudel recipe that was just shared with you.

Heavenly, delightful, appetizing, delectable and irresistible.  They must have slaved all day long over this dessert that is tantalizing your taste buds.  Nah!  While it looks and tastes amazing….it’s a pretty simple recipe.

Mouthwatering Apple Strudel Recipe ~

Use this link for a printable version of the Mouthwatering Apple Strudel Recipe

Step by Step Instructions ~

Step 1 ~

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Either line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray.

*TIP* – You will definitely want to use a baking sheet with raised sides…otherwise, you will be very unhappy when you have to clean your oven (*voice of experience speaking to you here 🙄)

Step 2 ~

Spread Wewalka puff pastry sheet evenly out on baking sheet and set aside.

*TIP* – I have used the frozen Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets in the past, which are wonderful.  However, I just discovered these refrigerated Wewalka puff pastry sheets and they are so much easier since you do not have to spend time thawing them out!

Step 3 ~

Peel, core and thinly slice apples.  I use my apple peeler, corer, slicer from Pampered Chef.  I have had this tool for years and I absolutely LOVE it! LOVE LOVE LOVE this Pampered Chef Apple Peeler Corer Slicer!!!

There are different versions of the apple peeler, corer, slicer out there and I have read many reviews.  Some have the suction cup base, which seems nice if you don’t have a countertop with a ledge to attach the clamp version.  However, you need to pay attention to the reviews of the ones that don’t hold the suction very well.  Speaking from experience, I am a BIG fan of the Pampered Chef version.  I just attach it directly to my counter top and have those babies peeled in a matter of minutes!

Step 4 ~

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced apples, lemon juice, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour.   Once the apples are evenly coated, spread the mixture lengthwise down the puff pastry sheet.

*TIP* – I would use a slotted spoon and not get all of the juice that you see in the above picture.  The apples will create more natural juice as they are cooking, which will still leave you with a very juicy apple strudel.  We made a second one with less of the juice and it turned out perfectly!

Step 5 ~

Next, cut one inch sections along both sides of the pastry sheet.  We found that 11 strips made a good number of sections for braiding the dough.  Start taking every other section and pull up and over the apple mixture in a braided fashion.

Step 6 ~

Whisk the egg in a small bowl until frothy.  With a pastry brush, cover the top of the mouthwatering apple strudel with the egg wash.  Then sprinkle evenly with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Step 7 ~

Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Seriously!!!  Isn’t your mouth watering right  now?  You guys, this is truly such an easy recipe that there is NO reason for not making this mouth watering Apple Strudel Recipe for your family!  Of course, it was even better when we had it last week because Karleigh and I got some good mother-daughter baking time together.  Priceless!  Add it to your list of recipes for December.  This would be a great dessert or perfect with that Christmas morning coffee!!!

 

 

Making Memories With Christmas Cookies

Christmas traditions are a very important part of the spirit of Christmas!  This year has made us all look back at years past and re-evaluate what truly is important.  It also has urged us to look forward, past 2020, and decide what we wish to carry with us for the coming years.  Spending time with loved ones is something I believe we can all agree is at top of the list.  How amazing is it that a small little cookie, decorated with sprinkles and festive colors can do just that?  Making memories with Christmas cookies is a tradition my mom started with us years ago.

We would sit in our cozy little kitchen at a fold up card table.  There was one gingerbread cookie sheet that was the moldable type.  I can still see my pudgy little fingers molding the soft cookie dough into the form until it was just right.  Mom would pop them in the oven and it didn’t take long for the sweet smell to fill the small kitchen.  Anticipation is what comes to mind!

Bowls of colorful icing would be brought to the table in preparation for the next step.  Once those cookies were done, we got the wonderful job of icing each gingerbread man and woman in an attempt to make the prettiest one.  Corn cob butter brushes were converted to paint brushes for the icing.  My heart still warms as I think back to these sweet memories.

Carrying On The Tradition ~

Fast forward to the 1990’s.  It was now time for me to start making memories with Christmas cookies with my own small children.  The cookie shapes and icing methods have changed a bit, but the family fun remains the same.  We switched to cookie cutters and small kid’s paint brushes for the icing.  (only because the corn cob butter brushes have become next to impossible to find!)

As the years progressed, the kids would each start inviting a couple of friends for the annual Christmas cookie decorating event.  The cookies were made ahead of time, which left the icing fun to them.  Back then we would add extra Christmas festivities to the day with Christmas Bingo and Christmas Scavenger Hunts.  It became a day they looked forward to each year.  Thus the Christmas tradition lives on.

Making Memories With Christmas Cookies~

Fast forward to 2020…the tradition lives on!  We just celebrated Year 15 with the same girls….and my son joins in each year to help with one or two.  These girls are now in their 20’s and 30’s and somehow we all manage to find one day each year for Christmas cookie fun!!!   We have also happily added my precious grandchildren.  Isn’t this what Christmas is all about?  Making memories with those that you hold dear to your heart!

Making memories with Christmas cookies is so much more than just decorating cookies.  It’s sharing stories and laughter while you all create your works of art.  It’s laughing and reminiscing about the year’s past.  It sharing dreams of the future.  It’s watching your children’s friends treat the new kiddos at the table with love.  It’s a whole lot of love wrapped up into one short night!

We have tried different cookie recipes and various icing recipes as well.  We have come to the conclusion that these are our favorites!  In fact, we love them so much that we can’t seem to get the cookies all decorated before we start enjoying our works of art.

Recipes ~

Perfect Printable Roll Out Cookie Recipe – No Need To Chill!

The BEST but oh so easy Cookie Icing Recipe can be printed right here!

Of course, I have to share with you some quick links to get you started on your Christmas cookie adventures.  We have found that we tend to add one or more new shapes each year, however, there are several that tend to be the tried and true favorites.  You have to have a good Santa, Christmas Tree, Reindeer and Candy Cane.  Get Christmas Tree, Reindeer, Santa and Candy Cane cookie cutters in one grouping!

We also have come to love the cute little penguin.  He is so fun to decorate!  You will definitely want to add the penguin cookie cutter to your collection!

Another favorite is the snow globe…this one has created a lot of imagination over the years!  The snow globe cookie cutter is a definite favorite of the whole cookie crew!

It is my biggest wish that each of these girls (and my son) carry this tradition on with their families.  That they too can have their hearts filled with happiness as mine is each year we all gather.  We continue to add new “things”  to our group each year…sometimes its gifts, aprons and ornaments we share with each other and other times it is even better because its a new “crew member.”  And just like that….we continue making memories with Christmas cookies!

Cooking Fun With Scooby

Encouraging kids to get involved in the kitchen is beneficial in SO many ways!   While it means extra patience and cleaning for parents, the numerous benefits are very worth it.  I happen to believe that the biggest perk is extra bonding time!  So, how do we go about encouraging the children to WANT to help us cook?  Well, it looks like we have another mystery on our hands…OR do we?   Finding really cool cookbooks should do the trick!  What kid wouldn’t enjoy cooking fun with Scooby?

Scooby Doo is one of those cartoon characters that transcends all ages.  Am I right?  I still enjoy sitting with the kids and watching Scooby and those meddling kids.  So what could be more fun than recreating some of those fun foods we see Scooby and the gang eat in the shows?  From Donut Demons to Shaggy & Scooby’s Jaw Stretcher Special, you are sure to satisfy even the most pickiest of eaters!

And it doesn’t stop at food items!  There are some fantastically fun drink ideas!  You may even be able to sneak a veggie in these blended delights without them even knowing.  If you dare, you can carry the mystery on by asking them to use their detective skills to figure out what the secret ingredient is!!!

Order your Scooby Doo cook book by Katrina Jorgensen here and get it in time for Christmas!

Jinkies, this may be the favorite gift of 2020.!!!

Taking Cooking Fun With Scooby a Step Further ~

This cookbook is truly awesome, but you can make it more “Scoob-ariffic!”   Why not create a gift basket of themed Cooking Fun with Scooby!  Here are some cooking gift ideas:

Other Scooby Doo Fun Recipes ~

Of course, there are tons of wonderful Scooby Doo recipes and fun ideas out there.  I have rounded up a few of them for you.  For example MyKidsTime.com has a super cute compilation of Scooby birthday party ideas.  You can use some of these for your basket gift as well.  They have a great recipe for dog-bone shaped cookies.  These would be fun to add in for Christmas cookie decorating too!  Scooby Doo free recipes and ideas from MyKidsTime.com

Betty Crocker shared some cooking fun with Scooby too.  Check out this fun recipe using candy and fruit snacks:   Scooby Doo Pops Recipe by Betty Crocker

Scooby-Doo Pops

Scooby Printables ~

Cooking in the kitchen may be all the excitement they can handle for one day.  However,  keep in mind that just because it wears us out does not mean it will wear them out!  If you happen to have one that runs like the energizer bunny, take some time to print out some fun games.  These will be sure to keep them busy while everyone is waiting to eat or to finish up the fun Scooby themed evening!

Print out this Scooby word search to use while waiting for the food to cook!

Print this fun Scooby coloring page by Michael’s Family

Find What’s Different in this fun Scooby printable by activities.websincloud.com

Scooby Doo 38

What’s next for Mystery Inc?  I don’t have an answer to that, but I am sure that whatever it is, the whole family will love it!  For now, put your oven mitts on and get started on your cooking fun with Scooby!

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