Caroling & Hot Cocoa “Bar”

I didn’t want to throw a “real” party.  It’s Christmastime and who, really, has time for all that extra cooking, cleaning and prep?  Not me.  So I decided that I wanted to start a new tradition:  caroling around the neighborhood and then serving hot cocoa afterward.  It was so simple and so much fun!  I’m not sure which was more fun:  watching the kids have a blast or singing the carols (which I love!).  I think watching the kids has the edge, though.  They were so excited but tired easily.

Next year we’ll limit it to one chosen street instead of trying to go around the block.  We were able to sing 10 to 12 times.  I used the collection of sheet music that good ‘ol Martha Stewart put together.  It was a nice mix of Christian and more secular Christmas music (e.g. Up on the Housetop and Jingle Bells in amidst The First Noel and Silent Night).  I was smiling about it for days afterward and hope that those who went with us had as much fun as we did.

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Afterward, I made Crockpot Hot Cocoa (this filled my 7 qt crock pot!):

  • 2 c. heavy whipping cream (not whipped!)
  • 2 – 14 oz cans of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 gallon of milk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla powder (or regular vanilla, I used Thrive’s vanilla powder)
  • 4 c. chocolate chips (I used Hershey’s dark chocolate chips)
  • 1 c. powdered sugar

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I also made White Hot Chocolate:

  • 4 c. heavy whipping cream (not whipped!)
  • 4 c. milk
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground cardamom (removed from pods)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 T. vanilla powder (or regular vanilla, I used Thrive’s vanilla powder)
  • 16 oz white chocolate (I used the melting wafers from Hobby Lobby)

The White Hot Chocolate was the bomb.  Seriously.  I did not know it would be so good or I would have doubled the recipe.  Three or four people asked for the recipe!

Here’s the selection of marshmallows and additions including maraschino cherry skewers, spray cream cinnamon and chips of almost every kind:

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Before everyone showed up (we had two more families come after this shot!).

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The teenage girls who participated just INSISTED that “Let it Go!” was a Christmas song.  Ahem.  I disagree but they sang it with gusto (along with a few parents!).

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The best part?  Everyone seemed genuinely welcoming and happy to see us!  It’s definitely a new tradition.  Next year, I’ll make the boys bring their drums and bells from percussion.

Knitted Things I Found at Target

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My little town doesn’t have a Target and, oh, how I truly miss clearance shopping at Target! I enjoyed poking around the store and took a few snapshots of some cute knitted Christmas things. Enough to spark a knitting or recycled wool felt project? Probably! Enjoy!

Christmas Decorating for the Nativity

The world’s best designer was out of commission this year so I was asked to help decorate the refreshment room for our church’s community nativity display. I am by no means a professional but I am pleased with the results. You’d have to know what I had to start with to accurately judge, but since my goal was to PURCHASE next to nothing for this project (I like to throw money at problems when I don’t have time to deal with them!), I can honestly say I achieved my goal. The only two things I purchased: the whole bolt of chocolate brown burlap — and the two 96″ tablecloths used nearly all of that –and secondly, the teeny tiny nativity shown in the glass. It’s still too big but I was amazed at the lack of miniature creches available at Hobby Lobby in my small hometown. Rest assured I’ll be on the hunt for tiny nativities online! All in all, though, few purchases and yet a decent success. My favorite thing: the burlap camels from TJMaxx. They are adorable with or without the gold bells I put around their necks. I hope we get lots of visitors to the nativity display at the church this weekend and that all who come eat cookies and think of the true meaning of Christmas!

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Our home is a MESS. A huge mess. It was hard for me to “let” the boys go fishing on such a nice November day in Oklahoma because we started on Christmas decorations today and we have so far to go! It still feels nice to have the beautiful decorations going up…even if we fight half the time while putting stuff up {think: don’t drag that! watch the walls! are you hiding in your room playing games?! don’t you like Christmas?!}. The season of peace and joy is about to begin for sure and I love every single second of it. It doesn’t hurt to have a Husker win and college football on in the background, either!

What I Designed Today: Christmas Songs Book Cover

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So my smarty-pants friend is, among many things, very good with words. He compiled this testament of a book as a Christmas gift for friends and family and asked me to do the cover. I can’t wait to see the final product!

Summer fun in Bartlesville

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The boys are taking a Shotokan Karate / Mixed Martial Arts class here in Bartlesville. Cole went tonight and made the other teenagers (and instructor) gasp when he did his self defense techniques. I am so proud of him. Nobody wanted to volunteer to “attack” him after his very first demo. It’s a great dojo and it will take quite a bit of adjustment for him to learn their style, etc., but if anyone can do it, I know it’s Cole. I’m hoping it’s like learning a foreign language and the old will come naturally to him – I don’t ever want him to forget the instruction he’s received in Gretna and Taekwondo. Mr. Staack and his crew were the best teachers I have ever met and we miss them terribly! Cole has been so lucky to study under that organization.

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This last pic is Benjamin sampling the cake balls that Cole made today. Thanks to Aunt Lili for the great Christmas present last year. They are so fun to eat – the kids just love ’em!

My First “Real” Apron

I wish that I had these skills about three weeks ago. I sent my sister, LeAnne an apron I tried to sew myself and it looks regurgitated next to these aprons that my friend Benay helped me sew yesterday. I now have THE SKILLS. At least to do an apron! So, LeAnne, which of these two do you want and which one can I keep? Look out – if you know me and usually get a gift – it’s probably going to be an apron this year.

Christmas Photos

Photos of Christmas are so memorable. And funny. My Mom is funny in a very quiet way. We will never forget 2008 – our last Christmas in Omaha for awhile. I think that if we never bought presents for the kids they would still be spoiled by my sisters and parents. They loved it all (even the extra Wii controller Jack wasn’t too pleased with at first – he is sure glad to have it now!). I think they’ve already worn out all their moustaches.

Our Neighbor Gifts – A Relish Tray

If you didn’t catch my post over at www.lightrefreshmentsserved.com, be sure to check out the good ideas for neighbor gifts. They have some fun articles running now about the days of Christmas. Back to neighbor gifts — my personal favorite was one that a friend and neighbor gave me years ago (Cole was just a baby then!): a relish tray. I know it seems strange but amid all the sugar and chocolate, it was really appreciated. We nibbled on it all evening long while we watched movies. So, it isn’t fudge and it isn’t a candle (you know, your normal neighbor gifts) but it IS something healthy and not what you would normally do for Christmas and I sure hope our neighbors enjoyed it — even if it is a little different. Just like us, I suppose. It wasn’t very expensive but let me tell you it took me quite awhile to wash, chop and cut. The sun dried tomato dip recipe was really good. We didn’t have any leftover and I’m pretty sure Don will be requesting some more tonight so I’d better get crackin’ in the kitchen again.

Cute Advent Calendar House

Who’d have thunk it? A cute advent house from Gardener’s Supply. Adorable! I’m curious, though, as what to put in the small little boxes without encouraging MORE candy at Christmas? Maybe quotes? Maybe scripture? Love notes? Jokes? Your thoughts on advent surprises?

Christmas Eye Candy

Spotted online and saved for future purchase and/or to spark new ideas when I’m doing my own crafting. Great colors and design! The jumbo stocking was sent to me by my sister, LeAnne, and is now hanging beautifully on our shiny black front door (really, black. really pretty!). It’s from Pottery Barn Kids. The cable stocking and stuffed, plump fabric candy canes are both from Country Home. The tree skirt is from Company Kids. I can’t remember where the mittens are from…anyone seen these? I hate to post it without credit. That’s what you get for saving inspirational pictures at 3 a.m.

Kitchen Cabinet Decor – What to Put On There?!

I like mine blank. Empty. Nothing. BUT — the realtor asked me to put some Christmas items up there. No problem, I say! Um…problem. I am a print designer and not so good with home decor. Here’s what’s up there now. I need suggestions? There are white lights. I wanted to use what I have. The corner with the baskets and trees — all those goodies came from Goodwill the same day the realtor asked me to put something up there. Gotta love Goodwill. I got some fake poinsettia plants for my front porch, too and they are gorgeous. What do you have on your kitchen cabinets? We’ve been taking lots of pictures of the house at various stages. You can see them my house pics flickr photostream if you’re so inclined. I wish I had a collection of antique scandinavian anything but…Grandma Jackson’s stoneware crock & bowl and some Christmas doodads will have to do for now. Be sure to check back as I’m announcing the winner of the Boden sunglasses either later today or tomorrow. She’s from Finland. So, if you’re not from Finland, you can be sure you didn’t win!

Christmas Party Pics

Here’s a few of our favorite shots. We are going to miss so many wonderful people when we finally move! You can see ALL of our church Christmas party pics here.

Ben’s Afraid of Santa!



















I guess he was really afraid! There are two bigger chunks of video that I might get around to uploading on youtube but for now this is how “calm” he was after the candy cane and stuffed reindeer!

Great Site (w/pics!) for Toy Recalls

It’s hard to go through those lists of toy recalls without pictures, which is why I’m loving this recall list site from Parents. Be sure to check it over for more recent recalls. There’s great stuff here – recalls on toys, gear, and even a few contests.