Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Animal Finger Puppets - a great gift!

Here is a quick and inexpensive homemade gift idea for young kids on your list. This idea comes from the March 1989 edition of the LDS Friend magazine. I came across an old copy of it years ago before the wonderful joy of the internet.

For the pattern template and easy to read instructions click here.

I can't tell you how many times we have used this pattern. I made a set of puppets for my oldest kids when they were young. They have been in my diaper bag through all the kids! We have also made copies of the pattern and put "kits" together to give to young friends for their birthdays or other special occasions. One year we also put "kits" together to give to the pediatric ward at the hospital to give the kids something fun to do.

It just takes some felt scraps, a package of wiggly eyes and a few tiny pom-poms. Everything is glued together - no sewing needed. Feel free to be creative. Use the pictures from the original article as a guide and then just have fun with it.

We used the alligator pattern to make a big, bad wolf and then we did 3 little pigs. You get the idea -

I always like to make sure some of our gifts are homemade each Christmas. I just have learned the gifts that you invest more time in are much more fun to give and I want my kids to learn this important lesson.

Happy Giving!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Preparing for holiday baking

There are lots of preparations going on in everyone's homes this time of year. The last couple of weeks, I have been preparing for all the holiday baking. 

I made 3 batches of my All-purpose Christmas Cookie Dough. It is in the freezer for later. We did cook up a few dozen pinwheel cookies that we took to the kids' piano recital.

I made extra bean puree so I could give more "healthy" treats to neighbors and friends.

I made a double batch of the dough for these Molasses cookies. It is also in the freezer.

Yesterday, I made a large batch of this Chocolate chip cookie dough. I only added chocolate chips to some of it so I can play with the other dough. It can be an all-purpose dough also. I plan to put a Hersheys kiss in some of the cookies as well as add some of the other fun flavored chips they have available this time of year. I have put a Rolo candy in the top of each cookie, similar to what you do with the Hersheys kiss. I have also used the green and red M&Ms and pressed them in the top of each cookie before baking. There are lots of possibilities once you have a great flavored dough!

The final kind of cookie dough I hope to get to today is my Chewy Cinnamon Cookies.

Since cookie dough freezes so easily, I usually begin my preparations in November. When it comes time to take a platter to a recital or dinner party, I can pull 2-3 kinds of dough from the freezer and bake a dozen of each kind. The platter looks like I worked hard in the kitchen all day, when in reality it only took me the few minutes to form the cookies and bake them. Some years, I have even given the frozen dough as a gift to neighbors and friends. They love the chance to do some baking with their kids or grandkids without the full time commitment.

Once cookie preparations are done, I will move on to the homemade candies. All the decorating, card writing, and package wrapping also has to fit in. I'm using my crockpot most nights to give me a bit of extra time. I'll be posting some of those new recipes soon.

I learned long ago that I have to find joy in the preparations - the years that pregnancy kept me in bed over the holidays helped me realize how much I counted on the preparing as part of the actual holiday for me. Hopefully some of these recipes or tips can help you enjoy the preparations as well.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Cranberry Relish

I always make this relish ahead of Thanksgiving and then use it throughout the holiday season. It keeps for 6 weeks in the refrigerator. I've labeled it a pantry mix, but technically it is a "refrigerator mix." Making a large batch at Thanksgiving time gives me the freedom to use it in many ways between then and New Year's.

The recipe was shared with me soon after I was married by a good friend from church. It was her "neighbor" gift for the year and we loved it!

I always put a bit into a few jars to share with family at Thanksgiving and then I get creative with the rest of the batch. It is good with turkey or ham, just as a relish served alongside the meat. We also love to mix it with cream cheese, cool whip, and pineapple chunks for a delicious holiday salad. (Sometimes I add a little more sugar, to taste.) Mixed with cream cheese, it is also delicious as a cracker spread. You really can try it in lots of ways. My husband has been known to spread it on his toast like jam. It's good any way you want to try it. You won't have trouble using up the large batch it makes.

Watch for fresh cranberries to be marked down after Christmas. Buy a few packages and store in your freezer until next year. All you do is throw the bag in the freezer - it is that simple. They have always lasted just fine for me this way. Hope your family enjoys it as much as we do.

Holiday Cranberry Relish

1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries, finely diced
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1 cup sugar
2 tart green apples, peeled and finely chopped
10 oz. frozen raspberries, thawed and drained
1 tsp lemon juice

I chop the cranberries and apples in the food processor and then mix everything together. It makes about 6 cups.

This year, I replaced the orange marmalade with the zest from one orange and a little more sugar. The orange marmalade I had in the fridge had corn syrup in it and one of my relatives cannot eat corn. The taste was just a good.