December 2014 archive

Colorful Melted Bead Ornaments- Pinterest Fail?

Melted Bead Christmas Ornament http://www.3littlegreenwoods.com Yeah, I’m going to let the cat out of the bag pretty quickly on this one.  This was a complete fail for me.  I really wanted this to work.  I found this a couple of weeks ago on Carrie this Home.  I was so excited to have my boys make these ornaments and give them to their friends as Christmas presents.  I was excited to be able to share with you a Christmas craft that was easy, little mess, and fun for the kiddos.  Well, maybe I’ll find one that will fit the bill next year.

This photo is from Carrie this Home.

AnneOpinion

I really feel like I gave this a good chance.  I tried making them two different times.  As you can see I used beads that were not all the same shape.  I don’t think that made a difference.  In fact, you can see that the flower shape beads actually melted together quite well.
I had to leave mine in the oven for 30 minutes.  They weren’t very melted after 20 minutes.
You can see that I was placing a nut in the top of the ornament for the string to go through.  I thought that this would be cute and work well.  I really think that it would have too if the plastic had molded around it.
The second time I tried it I made sure that the spaces were filled in, but it didn’t turn out any better.  In fact, it was worse because some of the beads melted with pointed edges sticking out.
This may work for someone else, but I think as a “children’s craft” this is a fail.  You would have to be very precise to get this to work.
If you do decide to try it, here is the link.  Let me know how it works for you!

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Eggnog French Toast with Gingerbread Syrup

Eggnog is big around our house.  Big, as in, we can go through almost a whole gallon in one night kind of big.  We have a family tradition of lighting our German advent wreath every Sunday.   In Germany, the four Sundays leading up to Christmas are the four Sundays of Advent.  On the first Sunday we light one candle, on the second Sunday we light two, and so on.  We then each pick a Christmas song to sing and after the singing in done and the candles blown out, we have German treats and a special drink afterwards.  Normally it’s hot chocolate or eggnog.  My boys will remind me all week to pick up eggnog because it’s their favorite.
Eggnog is one of those things that you taste, and instantly it feel like Christmas.  When I saw a picture of Eggnog French Toast with Gingerbread syrup on Favorite Family Recipes I knew we had to try it.  For 1. I knew it would have a holiday taste with the eggnog, and 2. I love things that have special syrups.

AnneOpinion

I made this the first time just like the recipe.  The second time I made one pan with brown sugar in the bottom and one with a Capt’n Crunch crust. (Capt’n Crunch makes an awesome crust on regular French toast.)  My husband and I both felt like the original recipe was the best, so I’m not changing it.
I like how really moist it is.  Sometimes overnight French toast can dry out a little and get chewy.  That was not a problem with this recipe.
I like to cup my slices thinner than were originally called for.  I get 14 pieces out of one loaf of French bread.  This fits nicely in two 9×13 pans.
The syrup- I couldn’t find Biscoff spread, so I used Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter.  I think it was a very comparable substitute.
The gingerbread syrup was a nice compliment to the French toast, but I wasn’t a fan of it on it’s own.  Also, I’m cutting the original recipe in half because after making this twice, I still have a lot of syrup left.
I really liked having it with whipped cream.  Something about having the toast, syrup and cream really brought the flavors to their best.
Definitely add this to your menu for Christmas or Christmas Eve breakfast.  It comes together quickly the night before, and pops right in the oven in the morning!

Eggnog French Toast with Gingerbread Syrup       Printable Recipe

AnneOpinion slightly adapted from Favorite Family Recipes
Ingredients:
1 loaf of French bread
2 1/2 C eggnog
6 eggs
1/2 C brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
Whipped Cream
Spray 2 9×13 pans with cooking spray.  Cut bread into 14 even slices (not including small heel left from each end).  In a bowl, mix the eggnog, eggs, brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg.  Dip each slice into the mixture and place in one layer in each pan.  Pour the remainder of the mixture into the two pans evenly.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator overnight or for a minimum of 4 hours.
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Take the pans from the refrigerator and remove the plastic wrap.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes.  While French toast is cooking, prepare the syrup.  Serve with whipped cream and gingerbread syrup.
Gingerbread Syrup
1 C water
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C cookie butter
1/4 C white corn syrup
A dash of nutmeg
A dash of cinnamon
Combine all of the syrup ingredients in a sauce pan.  Cook over medium heat until it comes to a low boil.  Serve with Eggnog French toast.

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Fantastical Fudge

I have 13 teachers to give Christmas presents to this year.  13.  I am grateful to all of my children’s teachers and want to thank each of them, but obviously, it will be in a small way.  I was scouring Pinterest a couple of weeks ago looking for an idea.  Last year I did Bath and Body Works soap, but this year I wanted to do something homemade.  I found this idea from bettycrocker.com and thought is was adorable, simple enough, and it looked thoughtful.  I gave it a go and crossed my fingers, because I really didn’t have a backup plan.  So glad I was happy with the result!

AnneOpinion

I used my own fudge recipe because I really like it and I didn’t want to waste time and ingredients on something mediocre.
I bought the Wilton Holiday Cookie Cutter set.  It was the best value for getting lots of metal cookies cutters.
I make milk chocolate and dark chocolate fudge every year with this recipe.  The important thing to remember is that the quality of chips that you use makes a big difference.  I like Ghirardelli chips best, but I’ve also used Nestle with good results.
I didn’t put anything in the fudge when I put it in the cookie cutters.  I was not wanting to worry about nut allergies.  Normally my favorite is to have pecans and craisins in my fudge.  Yummy,yummy!!
I was worried about the fudge seeping out of the bottom, but it didn’t at all.  It was amazing how easy it was.
I wrapped mine in a plastic bag tied with some tulle and ribbon.  They turned out really cute and have been delivered to 8 of the 13 teachers.  Whoo-hoo, over halfway there!

Fantastical Fudge                                                       Printable Recipe

from AnneOpinion
Place cookie cutters on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper, or on a silicone mat.  Have square pan ready for the extra fudge.
If only making a pan, spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Place in a large bowl and set aside:
33 oz (three bags) chocolate chips (milk, semi-sweet, dark, whatever kind you like)
1 C butter, cut into small pieces
1 7 oz jar marshmallow crème
1 T vanilla
Optional:
1 C chopped nuts
1 C craisins
For decorating: crushed candy canes, chopped Andes mints, and/or M&M’s
Place over how heat and stir:
4 1/2 C sugar
12 oz can evaporated milk
Bring to full boil and boil for 10 minutes, stirring continuously.
Pour hot mixture over ingredients in bowl.  Stir until well mixed,  spoon into cookie cutters.  Gently press fudge so it is even in the cutters.  Top immediately with desired toppings.  Pour excess fudge into square pan.  Chill about 2 hours before cutting or bagging.  Makes 5 lbs.

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The time a Crayon went through the Dryer

I had this happen to me when my older kids were little.  That time it was a red crayon in my load of whites.  It was a nightmare.  I looked up on the internet some ideas and I vividly remember lots of WD-40 and still being left with a light pink stain on everything!  I was vigilant after that.  I checked each load careful for years to make sure that no unwelcome “guests” made it into the dryer, but over time I slacked off and now, with our laundry room upstairs and the crayons kept downstairs, I don’t feel the need.  So, how’s that working out for me you ask?  Not so well.
This week, after getting a load out of the dryer, I noticed a yellow crayon sitting on the bottom.  As I then hurriedly started checking the clothes, I discovered that almost everything had gotten yellow crayon on it somewhere.  Visions of WD-40, lots of elbow grease, and things still having yellow marks on them started entering my head.  I wasn’t even going to even to try and just started make a pile for the thrift store, silently cursing how a 5 cent crayon could ruin $200 worth of clothes.  My husband quickly decided that we should see if the internet had any answers.  I wasn’t confident and left to clean up the kitchen.  A few minutes later he came down saying he had found a post on Diary of a Doctor’s Wife that said all you had to do was a simple soak in the washer with dish soap, white vinegar and hot water and then run you washer.  I was less than confident, but was easy, so I decided to give it a try, and I am really glad that I did.

AnneOpinion

This method works AMAZING well!! I didn’t try and scrape crayon off of anything, I just put everything straight in the washer with out touching it and the crayon came completely out 95% of the time.
The one material that had the hardest time was the boys gym shorts.  I had to run them through twice, and then it was mostly gone.
The crayon came completely out of my husband’s dress pants and dress shirt. Hallelujah!!
We did the pot of boiling hot water on the stove.  I think having the water super hot helps get the wax completely off.
I found some clothes the next day that I had missed and was tempted to throw them away.  Even though I had seen this work, I still looked at all that crayon and thought, “There is no way this is coming out.”  I ran another load, and it worked.  I am a believer!!
Instructions:
1) Put the clothes in the washer, and set the water to hot.  I’m thinking as hot as you can get it to get the wax melting.  If you are worried about your water getting hot enough consider adding a pot of boiling water.
2) Add your laundry detergent (I used Tide), 1/2 cup of white vinegar, and 4-6 Tbs. of dish liquid (I used Palmolive).
3) Agitate for 1 minute and then let the clothes soak for 15 minutes.
4) Let the wash run normal.  We had it do an extra rinse at the end of the cycle.

Let me know if this works for you!
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PS- As I’m writing this I’m enjoying some Crockpot Sausage and Cheese Tortellini.  If you haven’t tried it yet, you really should.  It’s easy-peasy and really yummy!

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Cookies

http://buddingbaketress.blogspot.com/2010/12/peanut-butter-reindeer-cookies.htmlMy sister emailed me last week and said, “I have these cookies pinned, but the pin is just the picture.  Can AnneOpinion figure it out?”  I thought they were super cute and looked fairly simple so I decided to give it a shot.  I found out that the picture is from Bakergirl, who posted about “Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies” about 4 years ago.    They really are about the cutest cookies I’ve ever seen, so it didn’t take much arm twisting for me to try them.  Here’s what you need to know to make these fun Christmas cookies.

AnneOpinion

Bakergirl said that she used a recipe from Jif to make her cookies.  Since it sounded like you could use any recipe you’d like, I chose to use my go to peanut butter cookie recipe, which is from Lion House Classics. (I highly recommend this cookbook!  Every recipe I tried in it I have liked.)
For the pretzels, I could tell that mini pretzels were used,  I did not have time to go to a lot of stores, so when the first one didn’t have them, I just decided I would used regular sized ones (I got Flipz) and cut them in half.  I thought they turned out super cute this way and it saved me the stress of searching for the little ones.
I used mini chocolate chips because 1. I had them already and 2. I didn’t feel like buying a bag of mini M&M’s to hunt the brown ones out of.
I bought a bag of cherry M&M’s so that I would have all red M&M’s.  They are flavored, but they tasted fine with the cookie. (and once again I saved myself the time of separating out all of one color)
I used a small cookie scooper like this one.  It holds about 2 teaspoons of dough and was the perfect size.
This pictures shows the three stages of the cookie dough.  A round ball from the cookie scooper, a pointed end for the nose, and then flatting the dough with your palm.
I hope you get the chance to try them.  They were a hit in these parts!

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Cookies              Printable Recipe

AnneOpinion- inspired by Bakergirl; cookie recipe from The Lion House Classics Cookbook
Cookie Recipe
5 1/4 C flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 C butter
3/4 C shortening
1 3/4 C sugar
1 3/4 C brown sugar
4 eggs
1 t vanilla
3/4 C peanut butter
Reindeer add ons:
Red M&M’s (I got cherry ones so they would all be red)
Mini chocolate chips
Chocolate covered pretzels
Preheat oven to 350.  Grease cookie sheet and set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix four, baking soda, and salt, set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, shortening, sugar, brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla.  Stir in peanut butter.  Add flour mixture and stir until well blended.  Drop dough by using a small cookie scooper onto pan.  Pinch one side of the ball to a point for the nose.  Flatten the ball using the palm of your hand.  Cook for 7-8 minutes.  While cookies are in the oven, cut pretzels in half.  Immediately after removing from the oven, attach nose, eyes, and antlers.  Allow to cool before transferring.  Enjoy the smiles on everyone’s faces when they see them!

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Magical Christmas Hall Lights

Best thing I did last Christmas!  Add twinkle lights to your hallway
Is there anything more magical than Christmas lights?  The soft glow makes you feel all cozy and safe.  I know that feeling is what attracted me and 2200 other people to pin this picture from Nest of Posies last year.  It looks simple, easy, inexpensive and full of Christmas magic.  I had to try it this year.  Would I do it again next year?  Here’s my experience.

AnneOpinion

A big problem is that the only hallway I have extends over my stairs.  This meant that this project would require help from my husband and he was less than thrilled about climbing on a ladder over the stairs to hang Christmas lights.  We used a straight ladder and propped it between the base of the hall wall and the top of the wall by the stairs.  I really don’t know that I can recommend doing this.  It was dangerous in our house and I doubt I’ll get my husband to do it again next year.  We’ll just have to really enjoy it this year!
http://www.nestofposies-blog.com/2012/12/all-things-merry-bright-add-twinkle-lights-to-your-hallway/Kellie at Nest of Posies used icicle lights.  I used regular white lights for two reasons.  1. I’ve tried doing something indoors with icicle lights before and the way that they look in the day bugs me and since it’s light for most of the time that I’m wake, that matters to me.  2. About 10 years ago I was at Target in January and they had clear Christmas lights on clearance for 30 cents a box.  I bought a lot of them and so I wasn’t going to go buy lights when I already had some.
I used the Command hooks that Kellie recommended and they worked fabulously.  I used 6 strings of lights, but I think that I had a bigger area to cover than a normal hallway.  If you’re doing a regular hall 3-4, at most, would be needed.
After getting done I felt like it needed something else.  Like I said, I see them mostly during the day and I didn’t like the wires just hanging there.  I decided to drape tulle under the lights.  I used clear push pins to attach it.  I went with red because I was afraid that white would look to much like a wedding. I used 3 yards of tulle.  I really like the effect the tulle has on it.  It really softened the light that is given off and it makes the wires not feel so “raw” hanging across the ceiling.
My overall assessment is: I would do this again if I had a normal hallway.  I would use regular white lights, with white wires and I would hang the tulle under it.
Over the stairs, we won’t be doing it again.  I can’t do it by myself and there is no way I’m getting my hubby out on that ladder again.  Than again, it might still be up next year. :0)
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Perfectly Peppermint Brownies

I am always on the lookout for new fun Christmas treats to try.  I especially love anything that is made in a “bar” cookie form because they are so much faster to make than cookies I have to scoop out individually.  I found these Perfectly Peppermint Brownies from Your Homebased Mom last week and knew that I had to try them.  They have peppermint added in 4 different ways!  I was a little bit nervous before trying them because I was afraid that they would be too minty, thankfully that wasn’t the case at all.  Here’s my experience with them.

 

 AnneOpinion

Gathering the ingredients.  Oh my goodness!  This was so much more of a bother than it should have been. Hopefully, I can help you avoid that.   I’ve included a picture of the ingredients that I used.  I looked at 3 stores before I found these Oreos at a Wal Mart Supercenter.  I liked using the minis because I just cut them each in half.
The Christmas pretzels I found at a Wal Mart Neighborhood Market after trying 5 stores before it!  Peppermint pretzels are just regular yogurt covered pretzels with crushed peppermint on them.  I would suggest not bothering with them, using regular yogurt covered pretzels, and crushing some starlight mints (which you’re already getting) into the crust with the pretzels.  I used a mixed of yogurt covered and chocolate covered.  Both were good, but I think that I’ll go with chocolate covered in the future.

Another thing to think about before you start in the cost.  I spent $12.50 buying everything to make these brownies.  On the plus side, I had enough of the Andes mints, Starlight Mints, Oreos, and Pretzels, to make a second pan.  So, my second pan only cost me an additional $2.50.  Score!

We loved the brownies!  They were gone in one night. (glad I had enough to make another pan)  They was just the right amount of peppermint, and I loved the crunch that the mint candies added.  They were fairly easy to make, and they look very fun and festive.  Overall, I’m giving them 2 thumbs up.  These are going on my Christmas goodie plates this year!!  Thanks for the great recipe Leigh Ann!

Perfectly Peppermint Brownies                                                 Printable Recipe

AnneOpinion  Adapted very slightly from You Homebased Mom
1 Brownie Mix
1/2 C butter, melted
1 egg
1 C yogurt or chocolate covered pretzels, chopped
5 startlight mints or 1 candy cane, chopped
1 C mini Candy Cane Oreos, or 12 regular sized, chopped
12 Andes mints. chopped
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 C starlight mints or candy canes, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line bottom of 9 x 13 with foil allowing 2-3 inches to extend over edge of pan; spray with cooking spray.  Mix together brownie mix, melted butter and egg. (this will be very thick!) Stir in chopped pretzels and 5 chopped mint candies.  Press mixture into bottom of pan evenly. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and sprinkle cookies and Andes mints over the brownies; pour sweetened condensed milk over top, covering the entire brownie.  Bake for 10-15 additional minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped mint candies immediately.  Very gently press them into the top.  Allow to cool completely, removed foil from pan and cut into pieces.

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Best Ever? Crockpot Hot Chocolate

Hello again!  I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything.  A week filled with fun times with family will do that to you.  I was very excited to try out this Crockpot Hot Chocolate that I found on One Good Thing when all of the family was here.  It makes a lot and I thought everyone would be excited for it. (which they were) This recipe is another that I’ve seen all over Pinterest and people have been saying that they want to make it for Christmas morning.  So, do you want to know whether or not you should?  Here’s

AnneOpinion

Ok, so I’ve promised to always be honest here, and I want you to trust my opinion.  Trust me on this, there is better hot chocolate out there.  I had 16 people at my house drinking it, ranging in age from 2-64 and no one thought it was very good.  The general consensus is that it was way too sweet.  The kids even left their cups mostly full.
I’m keeping my eye out for a good homemade recipe, but for now I’m sticking with Stephen’s and Cadbury from the store.

If you are a blogger and would like me to review something that you’ve posted, please email me or comment below.  I’d love to try out what you’ve done!
Happy December!!

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