the perfect man… the gingerman

Gingerbread Man There are so many decorating possibilities when it comes to gingerbread men. I’ve demonstrated a very easy technique here (just resealable bags of white icing and black icing with the corners snipped), but really just be creative. Decorating cookies, especially with the little ones, is really more about having fun than anything else.

That said, it used to frustrate me when we would place beautifully shaped cookies into the oven and get blobs back out. Here are a few tips so that you can have perfect shapes to decorate:

Dough thickness – it doesn’t matter if you mix it yourself or use the stick from the dairy case, the key is to roll out your dough so that you have a consistent thickness across your cookies so that they cook evenly.

Cookie size – make sure all of your cookies are approximately the same size or your little ones might burn and your big ones will be gummy.

Dough temperature – it is critical that you slide your baking sheet into the frig for 10 minutes before baking the cookies. The dough needs to be cold to hold its shape; the process of rolling and our hands warms it up.

Don’t overcook – it is so easy to peek at a sugar cookie and think it isn’t done. Don’t guess, time your cookies, and once the oven and pan are warm, you might want to cook later batches even less. My rule, take them out before they brown at the edges, usually 7 minutes.

Cooling racks – many people don’t use cooling racks… I highly advise that you do. Cookies will continue to cook on the pan and you don’t want hard and flaky cookies!

Happy baking!

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cookie party prep

Christmas party prep We’ve held an annual cookie party for our children and their friends for several years now. My best advice… enjoy the time and worry about getting the sprinkles up later.

Our snowman invite, platters, child aprons and cookie jars are perfect for the occasion. Take a peek at our décor and plan your Christmas cookie decorating party. Here are a few tips to get you organized:

  1. Bake gingerbread boys and girls or sugar cookie shapes (at least four cookies per child, plus a few extras in case any break),
  2. Mix up three or four different colored icings,
  3. Create a workstation for each child with a place mat, paper plate and individual cups filled with decorations. This party’s all about creativity, so make sure you’ve got lots of things to choose from, like gumdrops, mini marshmallows, and chocolate candies,
  4. Put paintbrushes, plastic knifes and open containers of icing down the middle of the table so everyone can share. Older kids can try resealable bags filled with icing (snip off a tiny corner), and
  5. Organize each child’s cookies together on cooling racks so the icing can dry (and they go home with their creations) while they enjoy a sweet reward. Serve mugs of hot chocolate topped with whipped cream and crushed candy canes, along with the broken or left over cookies.

Before your guests leave, pack up their cookies in little boxes with pieces of wax paper in between to protect the icing. Remember, no matter how you handle your preparations, enjoy the time. These are the things memories are made of!

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who sits where on Thanksgiving

One of our “Party Chat with the Experts” readers on OpMom.com asked a great question today. What do you do when you’re having the entire family over for Thanksgiving and the “main” table isn’t big enough for everyone to sit at? She also asks whether or not the kid’s table should be in the same room. Here’s what we think.

The “main table” situation is always tricky. You know your family best and who might take offense to being at the “second” table. If someone is going to raise a fuss, put them at the “main,” unless you really don’t want to! {smirk} Or, if you want a more diplomatic way to arrange, you could let everyone draw a number and sit in the seat they drew. (See how to make cute turkey placecards.)

As for the kid’s table, location is definitely tied to the age of the children. If above 4, I would say in another room is just fine. They’re going to giggle, play at the table and probably get up after 10 minutes anyway. {wink}

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rich pecan pie

Nanny\'s pecan pie Another tradition in our house is pecan pie (being a southern girl and all). There are so many ways to make this pie and they’re all easy. Here’s a “rich” (aka: sugar overload) recipe:

  • 1 cup maple-flavored or pancake syrup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter or margarine
  • 1-1/2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Dash of salt

Steps:

  • Place syrup, sugar and butter in medium saucepan. Bring to boil on medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
  • Preheat oven to 375°F. Place pecans in pastry shell. Beat eggs with vanilla and salt in medium bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Gradually add cooled syrup mixture, beating until well blended. Pour over pecans in pastry shell.
  • Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

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turkey placecard to match

diy-thanksgiving-turkey-placecard

If you’ve made the turkey runner you also must make the placecards. Here’s a scaled down template with a foot so that they stand. The items you need are similar to the runner, except you’ll need craft paper instead of felt and there are no buttons. Here’s a list:

  • Brown, black, orange and yellow craft paper
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors

Simply print the template, cut out the shapes and glue them together starting with the base circles, next the feathers (five per turkey), stand (score it in half) and finally beak (triangle) and eyes (circles).

Happy crafting!

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festive turkey table runner

diy-thanksgiving-turkey-felt-table-runner

Looking for a great way to dress up your Thanksgiving table!? Check out our ”no sew” turkey table runner craft. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Brown felt, 19′ x 72′
  • Orange felt, 12′ x 12′ block
  • Light brown felt, 12′ x 12′ block
  • Yellow felt, 12′ x 12′ block
  • 4 black buttons
  • Fabric glue
  • Scallop ruler or medium size bowl

And here are the simple steps and a template:

  1. Take a scallop edge sewing ruler (or a medium size bowl) and mark your scallop ends.
  2. Trim your runner to match the length of your scallop. It should be approximately 17′ x 72′.
  3. Cut your scallop onto each end of the runner and set the fabric aside.
  4. Print off our template and cut out each piece. You’ll need two of each shape with the exception of the leaf where you’ll need 10 (five per turkey). (Orange – leaves; Light brown – large turkey body; Yellow – small turkey body; Orange – beak)
  5. Center the large turkey body circle in the center of your table runner, about 4 inches from the end of your runner and glue down the bottom of the circle. (Tip: Place your runner on the table before gluing and make sure that your turkey will be completely off the end of the table on each end.)
  6. Glue five leaves behind the base body in a fan and then glue down the remaining body circle
  7. Glue on the yellow small turkey body and orange beak.
  8. Sew on button eyes.

And don’t forget the placecards to match!

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thanksgiving placecard ideas

 

Here are a number of fun and very creative ideas for your Thanksgiving table:

Thanksgiving placecards

1. Cookie – the only problem with these would be that they might not make it to dinner!

2. Nature – we found this one on www.thanksgivingcard.blogspot.com. With a few leaves, acorns and a little glue, anyone can pull this one off.

3. Turkey – this placecard from a 2003 issue of Martha Stewart is so very fun and really easy to make.  For the head and beak, bend a 3-inch piece of brown pipe cleaner, and affix it to the top of a pinecone with craft glue. Glue 3 feathers (available at crafts-supply stores) near the base. Station one turkey at each setting with a place card.

4. Pumpkin – these were featured on www.tipjunkie.com and are just too adorable from www.mochamemories.com. Read more on her site for instructions. You’ll need a few crafting tools, but they look worth it.

Happy crafting!

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sugar, sugar and more sugar

Halloween sugar cookies Okay, I know we’re supposed to be doing tables this week, but I couldn’t resist. Today is going to be absolute sugar overload anyway, so why not add a little more with sugar cookies. I developed a love for decorating cookies about four years ago. Candidly I would prefer to save the calories for chocolate so I rarely eat them, but I love to make them and my boys love to help. These are a few of our Halloween cookies that we’ll share with our neighbors tonight. (For tips on how to flood sugar cookies, read this previous post.)

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ghostly

Ghostly

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we were having a block Halloween party. To show our spirit for the evening we made a lot of things… including this ghost. All you need is:

  • 3 yards white bridal tulle
  • 6 inch diameter Styrofoam ball
  • Sheet of black construction paper
  • 48″ dowel
  • Hot glue
  • Scissors
  1. Scrunch your tulle into several bunches so that it is very wrinkled (this will help it stand up and appear more spooky)
  2. Cut two 2 inch circles out of the black construction paper for the eyes and a large oval for the mouth
  3. Apply the paper to the Styrofoam ball with hot glue
  4. Insert your dowel in the bottom of the ball (use your scissors or a pencil to start the hole)
  5. Snip a 12 inch strip of the tulle and then drape the remaining tulle over the ball
  6. Define the neck by tying the tulle in place at the neck with the 12″ strip

Have fun!

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peanut butter witch brooms

Peaunut butter witch brooms Looking for a fun treat for the upcoming Halloween bash you’ve been invited to? Well there is no easier cookie than this one. All you need is:

  • Refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough
  • Pretzel rods
  • Orange chocolate wafers (or you can tint white chocolate)
  • Sprinkles

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, form 1 to 1 ½ inch cookie dough balls and insert the pretzel rod. Once you’ve laid it on the cookie sheet, press it out in the shape of the broom bristles. Next, using a fork, press lines in the cookie. Bake the cookies for 7-8 minutes (remove from the oven before they brown). Once the cookies have cooled completely, melt your chocolate in a resealable bag, snip a small hole in one corner and pipe on the chocolate. Before the chocolate hardens, dash on your sprinkles. This entire process can be wrapped up in 35 to 40 minutes. Enjoy!

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