Saturday, December 18, 2010

Days of Play--Gifts in a Jar

I really like to give close neighbors and friends some holiday cheer that's cheap homemade.  I take cookies, breads, and drink mixes but some of my favorite gifts are gifts in a jar.

You've seen them--bread, soup, cookie and hot drink mixes in fun mason jars with raffia--now make some. 

Measuring is a great "math connection" for kiddos and what can be better than making gifts for others, together?

Here are some great "gift in a jar" recipes that I've tried and loved (oh, and here's one Miss Frontier Kitchen made that looks amazing!  I heart orange cranberry bread!).
Hot Snow (for more drink mix ideas, click here)

10 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
4 cup confectioner's sugar
2 8 ounce jars of French vanilla flavored nondairy powdered creamer
3 1/2 cups Nestle's Quick
2 3/4 cup nondairy powdered creamer
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 pint size gift jars
Combine all ingredients. Scoop into jars.
Print out the following instructions on card stock to attach to the jars with a ribbon and peppermint stick.
Stir 3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix into hot water or milk.


Layer the following in a 1-quart jar:

3 cups vanilla wafers (Nilla) finely crushed
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa

Attach the following gift tag to the jar with a ribbon and a mini-bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream.

Combine contents of jar in a bowl.
Mix in 1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Cream and 3 tablespoons light corn syrup and mix with a wooden spoon until well blended.
Allow to stand 5 minutes.
Shape mixture into 1-inch balls.
Roll balls in confectioners sugar and allow to dry on wire rack 1 hour.

Store leftovers in air-tight container between layers of wax paper.

 Dirty Snow Soup
A hearty rice and mushroom soup to help you warm up after a day of play in the snow.

1 (2.75 ounce) package country gravy mix
1 tablespoon chicken bouillon granules
2 teaspoons dried minced onion
2 teaspoons dried celery flakes
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 cup uncooked wild rice
1 cup uncooked white rice
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried mushrooms
Pour gravy mix into wide-mouth pint jar. In small bowl, stir together bouillon granules, onion, celery and parsley. Pour into jar to make second layer. Add layers of wild rice, white rice and mushrooms. Seal with lid. Attach gift tag with a ribbon and wooden spoon.

Dirty Snow Soup
Empty contents of jar into a large saucepan. Add 7 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender.  Stirr occasionally. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.

Candy Cane Bath Salts
12 (12 oz) canning jars with lids
2 cartons (4 pounds) of Epsom salts
4 pounds of kosher salt
1 tsp glycerin, divided
12 drops peppermint essential oil
red food coloring

Empty one carton Epsom Salts into large mixing bowl.
Add 3 cups sea salt, stir well.
Stir in 1/4 teaspoon glycerin and 6 to 8 drops essential oil and mix well.
In second large mixing bowl, empty one carton Epsom Salts, and add 3 cups sea salt. Stir well.
Add 1/4 teaspoon glycerin, 6 to 8 drops essential oil, and red food color.
Stir until completely blended and color is even.
Hold canning jars at an angle, layer salts in jars, alternating white and colored mixtures. (**If you want, you could divide into three--and have white, red, and green salts to layer).
Add instructions to jar with ribbon and a candy cane.

Add 2-3 tablespoons to hot water for an invigorating bath


Consider themes
Christmas Cookies
Make a jar of Gingerbread cookie mix, attach a cookie cutter to the jar and put in a basket with a The Gingerbread Man book.

Winter Fun
Get a saucer sled.  In the concave part of the sled, put a jar of soup mix, some hot cocoa, some inexpensive gloves/mittens, and a fire starter log.

Snowman Hat
Get a black hat.  Put in a jar of Hot Snow.  Add a large plastic carrot, two big black buttons, two sticks, and a red scarf.

Family Night
Get a basket.  Add a jar of pizza dough mix, cookie mix, a family game (such as Sorry or Uno) and an inexpensive holiday movie.

Final Thoughts
  • If you don't want to use jars, use holiday themed gladware, fabric bags, or brown paper sacks decorated by your children (put ingredients in Ziploc bags before putting them into fabric/paper sacks).
  • Make sure to wash jars and lids before you use them.
  • If you make soups mixes with beans, make sure to rinse and inspect beans first.

Friday, December 17, 2010

{Girls} Date Night In: Cookie Swap

Every year I host an cookie swap and it is one of my favorite holiday traditions.

The Skinny:
  1. Each guest chooses 1 type of cookie to make and lets you know in advance so there aren't duplicates. 
  2. Each guest makes 1 dozen cookies per attendee PLUS a dozen to share on cookies swap day (that means if 5 people RSVP, you make 6 dozen of the *same* type of cookie--5 doz to give, 1 doz to share).
  3. Package cookies dozens individually (on paper plates, paper sacks, etc.) so they can be quickly and easily distributed. 
The Beautiful Part:
You leave the cookie swap with several dozens of DIFFERENT types of cookies that you can re-arrange and give to neighbors. I looks like you baked for hours :)

The Rules:
*Only make 1 type of cookie to swap (I've been known to break this rule BUT when I break it, I still make a dozen of EACH cookie.  So if I make buckeyes and pinwheels, each guest still gets 12 of each).
*Cookies only--popcorn balls, candy, fudge, caramels, etc. are really hard to divvy up.

The Event:
  • Send an evite to several friends explaining the process and the benefits.
  • The day of, make some tea, coffee, and cocoa, turn on Christmas music, and play hostess.
  • This can be a quick drop off-take-leave event or you can draw it out.  Have time to chat, sample cookies, and perhaps give white elephant gifts.
  • Make sure everyone leaves with cookies

Share the Love:
When the swap is all over, open up those cookies and layout a nice cookie assortment on plates.  Cover with wrap, add a bow and gift tag, and take to your neighbors.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

{Holiday} Things I Love--Christmas Music

Every year I wonder what the "right" time is to start listening to Christmas music.  Because even though some people would rather rip their ears of than hear Michael Buble sing "I'll Be Home for Christmas," I simply can't get enough. That's what she said.

Though I know several families who break out Rudolph on November 1st, I try to make myself wait until the week of Thanksgiving.

If you are compiling a list of must-have Christmas songs, here are my top picks of songs and the artists I prefer to sing them!

10. O Holy Night~Glee
9.  Santa Baby~Calista Flockhart
8.  Baby It's Cold Outside~Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey (judge me all you want.  You know it's good) or Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone
7. Christmas Canon~Trans Siberian Orchestra (I walked down the aisle to this song)
6. Carol of the Bells~Trans Siberian Orchestra
5.  The River~Robert Downey, Jr.
4. Bells will Be Ringing~Bon Jovi
3.  Last Christmas~Taylor Swift (uh huh. I just said Taylor Swift)
2. Silent Night~Boyz II Men (I like to kick it old school!)
1.  Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas~Judy Garland

Of course I love, love other songs as well but these are my faves!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What I Think About--My Little Girl Growing Up

Whether you can believe it or not, I'm a mess.

M.E. is five today.


I keep trying to figure out where the time has gone.

Wasn't it just yesterday I found out I was pregnant?

It feels like it has just been hours since I first held her in my arms.

Surely it was just minutes ago that she started saying "mama" and "dada.

It can't be more than a few seconds ago that she started toddling around and exploring.

And now she's at that delightful age of begging to stay up until midnight (she doesn't even "get" what midnight is yet) and gearing up for kindergarten.  

Some times the days feel like they go slowly but the years go by so fast.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those moms who wants my children to stay babies forever.  I've loved every age and every new season.  I look forward to reading Anne of Green Gables together, having "the" talk, and going shopping for wedding dresses.

I look forward to the lifetime of companionship that mothers and daughters have (Yes, I know moms and sons have great relationships too).

But today, if only for today, while I can hope and dream about the kind of woman she'll become, I'm just a bit sad that these days don't last forever.

To me, being a mom is a glorious burden.  So much hope for the future rides on the lives of my children.  And yet I fear that I am not enough--that I won't do the right things, say the right things, or teach the right lessons.

Every day as this baby becomes a girl, becomes a young lady, becomes a woman I cry out to God and ask that He make me the kind of woman this little girl thinks I am.  She's watching me.

Happy 5th Birthday to our Big Girl!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesday's Too Clean Tip--Cross Contamination

If you are like me you're probably whipping up a few extra special meals and goodies this holiday season.

Sometimes being in a hurry to make a lot of food for a lot of people results in some forgetfulness and negotiation of basic food handling rules.  The result?  Cross-contamination.

Cross-contamination often results in food poisoning.  Ick.

If you don't want to spend your holidays with your head stuck in the toilet, remember to follow basic rules of food preparation.

  • Buy "fresh" poultry as late as possible.  Store them in the fridge and cook within 48 hours.
  • Defrost frozen turkeys in the fridge.  DO NOT defrost turkeys on the counter or in a lukewarm bath.
  • DO NOT wash your turkey under the kitchen faucet. Bacteria splash from the raw meat and poultry to counter-tops, cutting boards, and utensils. Proper cooking will kill any bacteria, so it doesn't need to be washed.  
  • Use a meat thermometer to make sure meats are cooked all the way through.
  • Wash your hands BEFORE and AFTER handling food. 
  • Use separate cutting boards, knives, etc., for different meats and produce.
  • Germs that cause food poisoning can also linger on surfaces for days. Make sure to use a CLEAN rag and antibacterial cleaner to wipe down surfaces tainted by raw meat and poultry.
  • Immediately clean surfaces and utensils after using them.
  • Don't leave leftovers sitting on the counter or table.  Food poisoning producing bacteria grow quickly so eat and refrigerate. 
  • Store food properly.  Keep meat away from produce. Try to adios leftovers within 48 hours of cooking them.
  • By the way, there is an old wives tale that leftovers needs to "cool" before it can be refrigerated.  FALSE.  You should cool food before freezing so you don't get ice crystals and freezer burn but there is no need to let that leftover turkey "cool" for three hours before popping it in the fridge (unless, of course, your diet of choice is a nice stomach flu).
  • Use different colored sponges or dishcloths for wiping surfaces and washing up. 
  • If you have accidentally used the wrong sponge or cloth (or if you want to make sure germs are gone) place rags/sponges in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

When you are in your kitchen whipping up some holiday food magic, don't forget that cleanliness is next to godliness (I don't actually believe this but you see where I'm going...).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Calling All Bloggers

I hate to brag but I'm going to Mexico in January and I'd love some guest bloggers!

Interested in writing a piece for WITMIM? ?

Well, send me your submission to whereisthemeinmomm{at}gmail{dot}com by December 21st and I'll let you know if you made the cut ;)

Feel free to write about anything MOM, WOMAN, or WIFE related.  Recipes, craft ideas, opinion pieces, fashion finds or faux pas, ... your call.  For one week only I won't be following my general routine.

HOWEVER, each sumission must include:
  • Your name and the names/ages of your children;
  • Links to your blog (if applicable) or esty store;
  • 2-3 good quality photos;
  • E-mail in html format preferred.
What you'll get in return:
  • This is not a big blog by any stretch of the imagination but you will get 1 day of my reader's attention (and I'd rather have 100 loyal followers than 2310 luke-warm follwers, BTW!).
  • Hot silver gums (Okay, this is a "nothing" award.  M.E. decided "hot silver gums" were the coolest thing ever so now I hand them out like invisible trophies. It's kinda like Who's Line--the points don't matter--neither do the hot silver gums.  But it sounds cool, doesn't it?).
Once again, if you are interested send e-mail me your submission of your post by Dec. 21st.

**Please note** I have the right to refuse submissions that are not in line with the mission and vision of this blog.  I also maintain the right to edit as needed.

Oh and one more thing, I'm all about controversial topics but keep the language PG cuz that's how I role!