Bringing the Outside In

In our neck of the woods we were dumped (or blessed depending on how you look at it) with a bunch of snow. (I am not a big fan of the snow and I constantly threaten to move to Florida to avoid our harsh winters.)

Since we are stuck inside, we had the opportunity to use one of our new Christmas presents: an indoor smore maker.

Thanks to my Dad who picked it out for us, we received this really cute smore maker from the company nostalgia.

The maker is composed of a metal section that has a coil that heats when you plug it in. There is a protective grate over the coil that will prevent you from getting burned on the coil directly, but the top of the grate does get hot so you will want to watch your Mousekatots around the actual maker.

Surrounding the maker is a lazy Susan that has four compartments to hold your graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows.

The kit also comes with four marshmallow roasting forks, which I wish would have been a little longer, but they still work great.

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Sorry about the grainy photos. The lighting wasn’t the greatest. You can see that we have this sitting on our large ottoman with a beach towel over it to prevent any spills. 

The smore maker really puts a nice crust on the marshmallow. However, if you are a fan of letting your marshmallow catch on fire and then blow it out, this won’t achieve that level of doneness. (That will only happen with an open flame which can be super dangerous in the house.)

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I also highly recommend that you buy the flat marshmallows that are made for smores. They fit nicely on the grahm cracker and smoosh really nice when they are toasted.

The end result is a nice and gooey smore.

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Terribly blurry photo, but you get the idea.

I would highly recommend this smore maker. It is a lot of fun for the family it really makes a nice and cozy treat for everyone to enjoy.

Do you and your family have any cozy treats that you like to make or enjoy when it is cold outside? Leave your comments below.

All opinions in this review are mine. I was not compensated for them in any manner. 

 

 


Visiting the Big Guy

Where we live we are very lucky because we have an active community that does a lot for children in the area.

One such place that always hosts great events is the Uniontown Public Library. Not only is it a wonderful place that offers a wide selection of books for adults and children, they also hold story times, a summer reading program and, what we experienced most recently, a special Christmas party.

This past Saturday we had a chance to attend the party for the first time and I have to say Lily had a wonderful time.

The festivities kicked off with a short play, “The Life and Time of Santa Claus” presented by Stage Right, an acting school for kids in Greensburg.

The play told the story about how Santa Claus became the person that we all know and love today.

The kids did a wonderful job and really entertained the kids.

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Lily did a good job sitting with the other kids. However, she did get a little nervous and wanted to come back and sit with us.

After their performance, the cast sat on the floor and invited the kids to come up and meet them. Lily was so excited that she got to give a high-five to Mrs. Claus.

Then the kids were invited to do a holiday themed craft.

Each child received a picture of Santa’s sleigh on a snowy wonderland and they were given stickers to use to decorate the picture.

If there are stickers involved, we are there. Lily absolutely loves stickers and she really enjoyed doing the craft.

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If there are stickers, we are there.

While we were completing our picture the announcement was made that Santa was there and he was ready to meet with the children.

I was really proud of Lily she did a great job meeting him and telling him what she wanted for Christmas (a Paw Patrol playset) and wasn’t really nervous. I think introducing her to a lot of characters at Disney really helped.

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We enjoyed meeting Santa. We also received a candy cane and got to pick out a book. We we over the moon about both.

And the perfect ending to any event is cake.

Lily informed me that her favorite snack is cake and she loved having her piece before we headed out to do more Christmas shopping.

We can’t thank the Uniontown Public Library enough for putting on such a wonderful event. (I was also told that the Greek Catholic Union, which I have a life insurance policy through, paid for the performance from Stage Right. So thank you to them.)

Do you participate in any special holiday events in your community? Leave your comments below.


Holiday Book Bag

With the Christmas and holiday season right around the corner, we wanted to take one more trip to our public library to stock up on some books to keep us busy during the holiday season.

So I wanted to show you what we have in our:

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We are lucky enough to have a wonderful library that has a lot of books for adults downstairs and then a great children’s library upstairs.

I am a big lover of cozy mysteries (mystery books that are not overly violent and often feature a sleuth who is not a professional in the business.) Luckily, our library has a wide selection of these types of books.

My cozy mystery choice for over the holidays is:

“Gingerbread Cookie Murder” by Joanne Fluke, Laura Levine and Leslie Meier

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This book is really unique because it contains three different stories in one book and they all have to deal with murder and gingerbread. (How is that for a niche book subject?)

The first story is “Gingerbread Cookie Murder” by  Joanne Fluke.

Fluke is the author of the Hannah Swensen novels that feature the owner of a bakery as the heroine of the books. (Some of the books have been made into movies for the Hallmark Channel and feature Alison Sweeny in the role.)

This time Hannah finds her neighbor murdered with a box of her gingerbread cookies nearby. She soon discovers he had a list of enemies longer than her Christmas shopping list. Will Hannah be able to solve the crime?

The second story is “The Dangers of Gingerbread Cookies” by Laura Levine.

Jaine Austen has been recruited to help her parents’ retirement community play when the actor playing the gingerbread cookie falls to his death during the play. Was it an accident or something more? It is up to Jaine to find out.

The final story is “Gingerbread Cookies and Gunshots” by Leslie Meier.

Lucy Stone discovers the body of the father of a five-year-old boy who had gone missing. When gingerbread cookie crumbs that Lucy gave to the boy are found on the body she sets off to find the killer before he strikes again.

Honestly I picked up the book because I really wanted to read Fluke’s story, but if I have time I might check out the other two.

When it comes time for Christmas and over the winter I really like to find a sweet romance. Not one of the bodice rippers that features Fabio and some woman half clothed with her hair flapping in the breeze, but a sweet story that is full of heart and gives you the warm and fuzzies.

My go to author is Debbie Macomber.

Some of her books were made into the widely popular drama series “Cedar Cove” on, you guessed it, the Hallmark Channel.

So I picked:

“The Perfect Christmas” by Debbie Macomber

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This book I actually started reading as an e-book from our library, but my time was up and the book “poofed” away from my bookshelf when I was only a few chapters in and I thought I would get it in hard copy form and finish it.

When 33 year-old Cassie Beaumont receives a Christmas card from a friend depicting her perfect family, single Cassie decides to take fate into her own hands.

She makes a sizable investment into a very exclusive matchmaker, Simon Dodson, who guarantees a match or your money back.

But before Simon will introduce Cassie to her match, she must complete three holiday tasks: be a charity bell ringer, dress as Santa’s elf at a children’s party and prepare a traditional turkey dinner for her family.

Will Cassie be able to complete the tasks and find love? What does Simon have planned for her?

The few chapters I read were really cute and I am looking forward to finishing the book.

Those were the two books that I choose. I am hoping to at least read two of the stories while I am on vacation from work, but with a little one you never know.

For our little bookworm, who also loves to read, I choose mostly Christmas books, except for a book from her favorite series.

“Happy Pig Day” by Mo Williams

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This book, that is part of the Elephant & Piggie series, teaches children about how to include their friends.

When Piggie is celebrating the very special Pig Day, Gerald her elephant pal starts to feel left out. Will Piggie notice and find a way to include Gerald in the festivities?

Lily loves these series of books that feature very few words on each page and almost always garner a laugh from the little readers.

“The Animal’s Santa” by Jan Brett

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I was immediately drawn to the books because of the beautiful illustrations. Lily and I previously read another book by Brett and we enjoyed the illustrations. Because there is a lot of text on each page for pre-schoolers, the intricate illustrations help distract the little bookworms and make them less antsy while you read.

The books tells the story of Little Snow, a white rabbit who is celebrating his first Christmas, as he learns who is the Santa for the animals.

On Christmas Eve, Big Snowshoe, who is Little Snow’s big brother, figures out a way for the animals to catch a glimpse of Santa.

“Henry the Christmas Cat” by Mary Calhoun and illustrated by Erick Ingraham

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If you have read Mousekatots before, then you know that we have two sweet kitties. So, anytime there is a book that features a cat we snatch it up. So when we found a book that featured a cat and Christmas we had to check it out.

In this book, Henry is a Siamese cat that follows his family everywhere. When he finds out that his boy is acting in a Christmas play he decides he wants to see what this is all about and sets out to find his family.

On his journey he becomes an accidental shepherd and steps in to save the day and the play.

“Llama Llama Holiday Drama” by Anna Dewdney

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If you have a little one then you are probably familiar with the Llama Llama books.

In this story Llama Llama is struggling to remain patient for Christmas to arrive while he helps with all the holiday preparations like decorating, shopping and making Christmas cookies.

This is something all little ones can identify with.

“On This Special Night” by Claire Freedman and Simon Mendez

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For us, teaching Lily the reason for the season is something that is important.

We have a few books that take on this subject, but I really liked that this story was told from the perspective of the animals that were in the manger when Jesus was born.

Little Cat and Mother Cat end up joining the other animals that are going toward the special light that lead them to a very important someone who embodies peace, love and joy.

So, those are the books that we chose from the library to enjoy during the holidays.

What is your favorite holiday book or what books do you plan on reading over the holidays? Leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 


Ho-Ho-Oh-No

Several years in the past we have made homemade peppermint marshmallows. It has been fairly easy and they turn out really cute.

However, this year it was different.

It was cursed from the beginning and I ended up throwing away most of the marshmallows, sans a few that I saved for Lily who loved them.

But let me start from the beginning.

The recipe that I used I have used in the past and it worked really well, so I don’t blame the recipe at all. The recipe from Ashley Marie can be found  here.

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You start the recipe out by basically making a simple syrup by dissolving sugar into water on the stove.

You also have to grease your pan (13 x 9) and cover it with a mixture of powdered sugar and corn starch.

While you are making the syrup you will have to “bloom” your gelatin in cold water for 10 minutes. Once the 10 minutes is reached you add it to the syrup.

This is when everything started to take a turn.

Here is my PSA: use a pot bigger than you think you will need. It will bubble over. You will have all of this syrup spilling over the edges. You will end up scraping off burnt sugar for an hour.

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So once I cleaned this mess up I got a bigger pot and it seemed to work out well, but I had lost a lot of my syrup and gelatin which I think is what resulted in the marshmallows being a giant fail.

After it is done boiling for about 15 minutes you have to let it cool to a lukewarm temperature. Given I was ready for this to be done with, I maybe didn’t let it cool completely that led to my next fail of the project.

Once it cools you add it to your mixer and adds the extracts to give it flavor and you whip it up until it is really thick and white.

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Once it was thick enough, I poured it into the pan and had to let it cool overnight because it wasn’t solid enough.

Next came the part where Lily could get involved. Because there was so much hot and sticky liquids and stoves involved, she really couldn’t help with anything. So, when it came time to cut the shapes out of the marshmallows, I wanted her to help.

We used small cookie cutters that I found at Target earlier this holiday season.

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Lily helped by cutting out the shapes, she would hand them to me and I would dip them in powered sugar to prevent them from sticking together.

When she started cutting them, I noticed that the bottoms were still wet and not the right consistency. They were more like wet clumpy sugar. I ended up letting Lily cut some out and then threw the rest away.

To be honest they were pretty terrible. Lily loved them. I just couldn’t see having these floating in my hot chocolate so the rest ended up in the trash.

But most importantly Lily enjoyed cutting the shapes out and it gave us something to do this evening.

I will just remember to use a bigger pot and then all of this will be avoided.

Did you have any holiday fails this year? Leave a comment below.


Buying Real Furniture Was Easier

If you read my earlier blog then you know that Santa got a little lazy this year and delivered a dollhouse that needs to be assembled (meaning painted and glued together).

I thought the hardest part would be trying to put everything together. Boy, was I wrong.

Surprisingly, the most difficult part has been trying to find furniture.

Sure, there are tons of options out there. There are some dollhouse kitchens that are nicer then mine:

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Kitchen available through VintageModernGrrl on Etsy.com

Unfortunately, for this complete kitchen it is $90. That is a little bit out of budget for this Santa.

I was also looking to try and do a mid century modern style because I thought it would look cute with the house that I was building, and frankly I am obsessed with that style right now.

I found a cute company called Smaland and they make a special dollhouse, that is designed like a mid centuary modern house, but you can also buy the furnature that will work in a lot of different houses.

Once again their stuff is a little on the pricey side for a dollhouse for a three year old, but I did end up getting this really cute living room set.

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Photo courtesy of lundby.com

Since it was on sale I was able to buy it for around $20 which was a pretty good deal.

I spent I can’t tell you how many hours trying to find more stuff like this and I couldn’t find it.

The hardest to find was the kitchen.

Luckily my mom, who is a super Internet sleuth, found a really cute kitchen, in the proper size on Walmart.com from Melissa and Doug.

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Photo courtesy of Walmart.com

It is really cute and has an old school look to it. The green will look great with my honey colored wallpaper.

Walmart also had it on sale for $19.94 and I qualified for free shipping because I ended up spending more than $50 when I also purchase the furniture for the bedroom and bathroom.

 

While the bedroom and bathroom aren’t necessarily the style I was looking for, I think with a little modernizing it will work. 

All in all it has been a success. They are going to arrive at the house Friday so they will be here in time for Christmas. 

Did you have any hard to find or hard to decide on items this holiday season? Leave your comments below. 


Christmas Traditions: Baking Cookies

One of my favorite things to do with Lily, any time of the year, is baking cookies.

It becomes more special when it is Christmas time.

One thing I have learned about baking with toddlers, and now a preschooler, is to try and not set your expectations too high and to save yourself as much aggravation as possible.

I know in our house we will not be making Martha Stewart sugar cookies, or any recipe that involves a bunch of ingredients or steps.

So enter my life and time saver:

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My mom saw this rolled out, sugar cookie dough at Walmart and got it for us to try and I will say that I was pleasantly surprised with it.

When you open up the bag you have two sheets that are floured so that it doesn’t stick to your countertop when you use it.

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Lily had so much fun using the cookie cutters to cut out the cookies. I would place them so we could get the most cookies out of the sheet and then she would press down and cut out the cookie.

You could take the extra dough that you get from in between the cutters, roll it out and make more cookies. (I couldn’t find my rolling pin so I threw the scraps away.)

We were able to make 14 cookies using this method.

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After the cookies were done I asked Lily what color cookies did she want, she said green and I made the easiest icing ever.

The icing was made out of 1 cup of powdered sugar and about 8 tsp of milk. (The recipe said 4 tsp of milk but I had to add more.) I added about five drops of green food coloring and whisked it together with a fork.

I poured the icing into a shallow bowl and dipped the front of the cookies in the icing and let it drip off before they were put on a cooling rack for the icing to harden.

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The cookies turned out really great. I heard that there is also sheets of gingerbread just like these sugar cookies and I am anxious to give them a try.

But the biggest test is from our little Cookie Monster.

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She gave them two thumbs up.

Do you have any special cookies that you like to bake during the holidays? Leave your comments below.

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Santa Got a Little Lazy

Since we have started discussing the future of building our house, Lily has been saying that she doesn’t want to move out of our little house. I get this. I hate change more than anything.

So, we thought that it would be a good idea for her to ask Santa for a dollhouse that would look like ours. This way she can take her little home with her.

Santa heard the request and delivered a kit to our house and basically said that we have to put it all together because the elves have a lot on their plate this year.

The kit that arrived was this one: the Greenleaf 8012

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We received the kit via Elf mail this week and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What arrived was a little bit of a surprise. It was a completely flat box. I knew I would have to build a lot of it, but I didn’t know I would have to glue on each individual shingle.

When I opened the box and looked at the instructions, which dated back to the early 90s, they had mentioned that you need to put a sort of primer first and then paint the house.

I hate to say this, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I am just going to put the paint on and hope for the best.

The second roadblock is that I wasn’t sure what type of paint to use. There are so many different types! Some people suggest using actual house paint that you can pick up from hardware stores and others say a good acrylic paint that you can find at craft stores works as well.

Since our house is a light yellowish color with white trim, I think that I am going to go with the acrylic paint.

A lot of people swear by a brand called Folkart. I saw some at Michael’s that didn’t seem too expensive.

Another aspect that I didn’t think about was electricity. I saw a bunch of houses on YouTube with lights and it really made a difference so I think I am going to add them through a kit that is available at Hobby Lobby.

My plan is to update the blog through my process. You will also want to look at the Facebook page to see live video updates and additional photos of our holiday festivitites.

Are you planning any DIY projects for your family this year? Leave your comments below.