sweet homeade ornaments

Gingerbread ornamentLooking for a unique and fun way to dress up your tree? Well, if you can keep the kids away, these gingerbread cookie ornaments are adorable and make the room smell great too.

Read my post about making sure your cookies come out of the oven the same shape they went in. And be creative with the icing and ribbon. Remember, little ones might not make the tidiest cookies, but their smiles do make the best memories.

Enjoy!

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the perfect man… the gingerman

Gingerbread ManThere 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 prepWe’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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appreciate your hostess

We’ve all been there, someone invites you to a party or a family dinner (i.e., Thanksgiving) and when you ask what to bring, they say “nothing.” Take it from me, they don’t really mean it… plus etiquette compels you to ignore them. Here’s our advice, if it’s a dinner, take at least a bottle of wine (your meal will cost much more than it and you didn’t even have to cook). If it’s a cocktail party, the bar is stocked… give your hostess a personal gift. Remember, she worked hard and thought enough of you to invite you.

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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 pieAnother 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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nutter butter balls

Nutter Butter BallsI’m a huge fan of Bakerella. For those of you who have never been there, you simply have to go. She has some of the coolest baking ideas. This one is just too fun and really simple. My grandmother makes a homemade Reese’s Cup every Thanksgiving and it takes her hours of prep time. These are just as good and take significantly less time. Here’s what you need:

  • 1 package Nutter Butter cookies
  • 1 8 oz. package cream cheese (softened to room temperature)
  • Chocolate candy coating (chocolate bark or chocolate candy melts)

And here are the easy steps with pictures. Enjoy!

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no fuss favors

No fuss favorEvery mom stresses about the party favor. I admit that I’ve done some fairly elaborate things, but only when the party was with my very best girlfriends and their children. And some of you even have to suffer through school policies where your child’s entire class has to be invited; that isn’t always economical. Remember, the birthday is about your child, don’t spend your entire budget on the guests.

Take it from me, do what makes you feel comfortable. For instance, this is a very simple, yet attractive favor for a sweet’s birthday party. The hardest part will be spelling all the kid’s names correctly.

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