A Christmas Story from the Heart…

Touring the Christmas sights, Hyatt Regency Vancouver's Gingerbread Lane

Touring the Christmas sights, Hyatt Regency Vancouver’s Gingerbread Lane

We celebrated a first this Christmas. Instead of cooking Christmas dinner my mother-in- law and I decided to take the family out to dinner at nice downtown restaurant. I wanted a Christmas Day without all the fuss and work for a change, a day for all of us to enjoy being together and relax rather than spending all day cooking a turkey, prepping the dinner and decorating tables to feed everyone. We had a wonderful Christmas day with gifts in the morning, brunch with my brother and family, a nap and then a lovely dinner downtown.

We enjoyed a delicious meal with family and friends and us ladies did not have to lift a finger. Then as we were walking the streets going from hotel to hotel checking out the Christmas lights with me bringing up the rear my son came back to me looking very sad. I was surprised at his expression and said,

“Honey, what’s the matter were your sisters bugging you?”

“No.” he said wiping a tear,

“Did your dad say something?”

“No Mom.”

Then a thought occurred to me “Did you maybe see a homeless person back there on the street and that made you sad honey?” I asked him gently.

“Yes Mom,” he said quietly, “He looked so sad, he probably didn’t get anything for Christmas, can we help him Please?” and he looked up at me with pleading eyes.

I was so touched and moved by his thoughtfulness, “Of course we can honey. How much would you like to give him?”

“Could we give him ten dollars on the way back to the car mom?”

“Of course dear”

So after our tour of the lights James walked back with his dad to pick up the car and tucked $10 into the gentleman’s hand wishing him a Merry Christmas. I was so proud of him for thinking of others on this beautiful most giving day of the year. If we could all do just one act of kindness for another person each day think how much love could be spread throughout the world.  Sometimes it can be as simple as holding a door or offering a seat to someone with a smile. Shovelling a sidewalk, or mowing a lawn, the gift of time is a wonderful thing.  If you can spare the money, buy some gift cards to your favourite grocery store and pass them out to people you see that could use a little help or buy a meal for someone who needs one. If money is tight then donate any clothes, baby equipment or toys  that your children have out grown to the outreach workers or community support organizations in your neighbour there is always a need somewhere greater than ours and by giving directly to the community support groups it goes to the people who need it for free. Give the gift of kindness and love this holiday season, it is the best gift of all as in giving to others we fill our own hearts with love and joy.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Sharing the Tradition of Christmas Baking with your Children

Christmas Treats Always Taste Better When Made With Love!

Christmas Treats Always Taste Better When Made With Love!

So many families these days go to the store and buy all their Christmas goodies. The packaged treats in Grocery stores and bakeries make it far too easy for busy families to purchase their Christmas baking and not take the time to make it themselves.

It is worth the effort to bake with your kids even if it is only one traditional family recipe.  Children love baking with their mom and they learn so much in the process. They learn about family traditions, how to measure, mix, stir, bake and of course the best part tasting. They can learn scientific facts about the chemical reaction in baking powder and baking soda and how they make the dough rise. And best of all they get some quality time with mom, something they love any time of year.

I do not bake a lot throughout the year but in December I spend a day with my kids baking some traditional family Holiday treats passed down to me from my mother’s family. My son doesn’t always have the patience for a whole day of baking but he loves to pop in and out of the kitchen and help with the stirring, licking the bowl and tasting. My girls have always loved helping out in the Kitchen.

When my children were younger I would plan at least one recipe we could make together as that would be about the length of their attention span. They loved rolling out gingerbread or shortbread dough and cutting out the cookie shapes. One of their favourite recipes was making Nuts N Bolts. I have revised the recipe so many times I am sure it is different each year and before I can get any, my kids have usually picked out all the pretzels and cheese squares but it is still really yummy. I have added extra pretzels and Cheese Nips in this recipe so I get some too.  When they are packaged up these treats make great Teacher’s gifts too. Feel free to alter the recipe to your own taste as I did. Enjoy!

Nuts N Bolts

1 lb of melted butter 1 small box Cheerios cereal   1 box Life Cereal or Corn Bran
¼ cup Worcestershire Sauce 1 small box Shreddies Cereal   3 boxes of Cheese Nips or Straws
1 tbsp onion powder 3 pkg Pretzels
1 tbsp garlic powder 2 ½ cups Cashews
1 tbsp celery salt 2 cups unsalted mixed nuts

Method:

Mix all dry ingredients together in a large clean paper or plastic bag rotate it several times to blend it then fill a roasting pan ¾ full with blended mix. Melt the butter in a 4 quart sauce pan on low, add the Worcestershire sauce, onion, garlic powder and celery salt. Heat on low to medium heat stirring occasionally until melted. Using a metal ladle fill with the liquid and pour slowly onto the

Homemade Teacher's Gifts are Always fun to Give!

Homemade Teacher’s Gifts are Always fun to Give!

dry mixture while stirring to blend. (This step is easier done with two people one pouring and one folding and stirring) It takes about ¾ – 1 cup of liquid to coat a large roasting pan full of mix. You can tell you have enough when the pretzels get a slight buttery sheen on them and the mix looks slightly wet. Bake at 225° F with the lid on for about 30 min to heat it through stirring occasionally. Then continue to bake with the lid off for 1 hour stirring every 15 minutes until lightly brown and Shreddies with sauce on them are crunchy not soft.

If you would like to cut down on the butter in this recipe you can mix it half and half with olive or grape seed oil instead. Half the fun is experimenting try using your own favorite cereals.

What to do about a Christmas Tree when we are going away for the Holidays?

A Great Alternative to the Traditional Tree!

A Great Alternative to the Traditional Tree!

 

Going away for the Holidays and don’t feel like putting up all those decorations or just want to try something different this Christmas. Why not paint a Christmas tree on your window?  One year when we were going away for Christmas instead of putting up our 7’ Christmas tree and dragging out all our boxes of decorations and lights my cousin and I decided to paint one. It was one of our most unique and memorable Christmas Trees ever. My kids made a few decorations out of construction paper and we picked up some candy canes to hang on it. We even put up some lights to make it more festive at night. Then we painted the rest of the windows in the living room with stockings and snowmen. It was great fun and to this day the kids still want to paint the windows for Christmas.

A festive Snowman to make any window brighter!

A festive Snowman to make any window brighter!

The tree was really simple to do; I made up some paint using tempera paint powder, water and a bit of dish soap. (The soap makes it easier to take off the window later). You could also buy window paint at a craft store but it could get expensive as you will need quite a bit of it.We drew the outline of the tree on the window then arranged suction cups for the lights within the tree. After filling in the tree with paint and painting the rest of the decorations on the windows we added the Christmas lights and hung the homemade decorations the kids had made on the suction cups and light cords. The kids had lots of fun making decorations and when we got back from our Christmas Holiday we just washed the windows with some wet paper towels to take off the paint. It was a great alternative to spending the day taking down and boxing a bunch of decorations.

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Christmas Shopping with your kids?

What do I do Now?????

What do I do Now?????

Shopping with children can be a challenge at the best of times. Never mind at Christmas when stores are packed and children are excited and want everything in sight. I am sure every parent has a “Shopping Nightmare” story.

Mine was when my son James was just turning three years old….

It was his 3rd birthday and I took him to the toy department to pick out his favourite toy, a Tonka Truck.  He had chosen a small metal digger and we were walking down the isle to leave when he spotted “The Monster Digger”, six times the size and price as the one he had clutched in his hands.  He immediately dropped the small one in his lap and started begging for the bigger one. Cursing myself for venturing down this isle I tried reasoning with him. I agreed with him that yes the bigger one was very cool but it was way out of our price range right now,  it was also made out of plastic and would probably not last as long as the small metal one he had in his lap.

I ask you, “What does a 3 year old know or care about price?”  Absolutely Nothing! He just wants what he sees and wants it NOW!  James picked up the digger in his lap, threw it down on the ground and started kicking, crying and pleading for the Monster Digger.  It was his birthday after all and I would have felt horrible if I didn’t buy him something. So, I spent 15 minutes reasoning with him. I showed him how much better the smaller one was being strong metal and not plastic. I explained again why we could only get the smaller one while I slowly walked away from the source of his tantrum. I picked up the small digger off the floor and bought it for him. That was my biggest mistake.

I couldn’t take James into a Toy store for almost a year after that incident without having to drop my purchases and leave with a screaming child. A stubborn boy he was and he did not give up easily. However, I never caved in again and he eventually got it. When he fussed mommy left the store.

What did I learn from that experience? Never buy a child in a Temper Tantrum ANYTHING he or she wants in that moment! Pick them up, drop everything and hightail it out of the store as fast as I can. If it is something I really want to get for them like a birthday gift I can go back the next day to get it but if I buy Anything in the tantrum moment the child will always remember “Temper Tantrum = Getting what I want”.

Christmas shopping survival tips…

  • Try shopping in the morning after breakfast when the child is not overtired and hungry.
  • Always explain your expectations ahead of time and maybe have a small reward at the end of the trip as something for the child to look forward to. For example, I would say “Ok James we have two stores to go to, we need to pick up groceries and mail a letter at the post office; it should take about ½ an hour and I expect you to be on your best behaviour. If I hear any “I wants” I will buy nothing for you. If you help me get my shopping done then maybe we can go for a treat afterwards. If there is any crying or tantrums we will leave the store immediately, go home and we won’t be able to go for our treat.” When I was clear with my expectations before shopping James knew exactly what was going to happen and how I expected him to behave. He also had something to look forward to after the shopping trip. The key was to follow through. If James started putting up a fuss on our shopping trip I would drop my purchases, pick him up and leave the store.
  • When going to a toy store tell the child exactly what you are there to pick up so they know if the trip includes some toy shopping for them or not. Before I left for the toy store I would tell James, “We need to go to the toy store today to buy a birthday gift for your friend Tommy, you can help me pick it out if you like but we are not buying for ourselves today so there will be no I wants. If you think you can manage that you can come with me if not then I will go shopping when your daddy gets home?  Then I would follow through with whatever he felt he could handle.
  • Be Flexible. Sometimes it is better to skip shopping that day rather than taking a fussy child into the store. I have left many parking lots and gone home without my groceries because my child was already fussing in the car.
  • Always Carry Extra Snacks when going shopping, then if your child gets hungry you have something healthy they like to eat with you instead of having to buy them something off the shelf. If a child is hungry they will get cranky very quickly.
  • When you can, Shop Without the Children. It is always much faster, more peaceful and relaxing. I was always amazed how much I could get done in just 45 minutes with out my children with me.

Check It Out!

Disclaimer

The information on this site is based on the personal experience of the author. There are no guarantees of a perfect method to raise a child, it is all trial and error. Please feel free to try some of the suggestions on this site and let me know how you make out. If you would like to use any words or pictures from this blog please contact me for written permission. © 2013

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