Christmas Preparations

It seems like, as I get older, it never really feels like Christmas even when the holiday is upon us.  Then - snap! – like that, it’s over.  Maybe when I was a kid I had more time, energy – naivete? – and less stress to fully savor the moments.

Even though we’ve simplified our gift-giving, there are still a plethora of traditions I like to keep alive.  Especially with the kids, I try to imbue the season with a sense of wonder.

This year we’re having Christmas at our house.  For once, I’m not making dessert!  I’ve definitely been making up for it throughout the month, though.  Here are some of the things I’ve been working on, as well as some of the things we plan to serve on Christmas day…

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I’ve made Peppermint Bark a few times, going easy on the crushed candy canes.  This time I melted some green candy melts to drizzle on top.  Some of it is bagged up for my siblings and the rest will go out for guests along with…

…this sinful Saltine Toffee Bark.  Very easy to make, but a bit messy to cut.  I mailed a tin to some friends and put some in jelly jars as gift.

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Crock Pot Ham will be our main dish on Tuesday!  I’ve done ham in the crock pot before with much success and thought I’d try this one.  I’ll go easy on the brown sugar.  The ladies in the fam will fill in with a bunch of side dishes.

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I’ve already made a few loaves of this Crusty Bread, my favorite so far being cranberry-walnut with golden raisins and cinnamon.

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A great accompaniment for the homemade bread is Cinnamon Honey Butter, which I originally made to go along with some of the same bread as a neighbor gift.  It’s a bit on the sweet side and if I made it again I would go easier on the powdered sugar.

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We love cheese, so the trick is making it last till Christmas!  This Festive Cheese Tree looks so easy and yummy; I’ll serve it with crackers.

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I’ve always wanted to try homemade eggnong and have bookmarked a couple healthier versions, including Honey-Sweetened Eggnog.

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As soon as the cold weather hits I crave hot chocolate, and I’ve been trying all sorts of new versions, starting with my base recipe: 1c milk + 1T cocoa + 1T sugar.  This Italian Hot Chocolate looks delicious!

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There are so many versions of hot chocolate mix in a jar, but I’ve noticed that many of them include the basic ratio of 1 part dry milk : 1 part cocoa : 1 part sugar.  Then there’s a bit of salt and various mix-ins.  To make a peppermint version add crushed candy canes; for a classic version add marshmallows.  I decided to make up pint jars topped with mini semi-sweet chocolate chips and peppermint marshmallows.  I had some extra ingredients after making some gift jars and it’s pretty good.

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The kiddos made fingerprint and cut-out ornaments using salt dough and clay (cornstarch and baking soda).  I thought I would like the clay ornaments better because they seem whiter and smoother, but they actually seem more prone to cracks, and the salt dough painted nicely.

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I originally planned on making these Cinnamon Spice Ornaments with the kiddos and we ended up decorating them at a neighbor’s house instead.  It was a lot of fun – and they smell so good! – and I’d like to make them another time with the kiddos since we weren’t able to make the dough and roll them out ourselves.

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I hemmed and hawed over what to do for the hubs, finally settling on this thoughtful, personalized and not-too-expensive Rein”dear” Games gift.  I put my own spin on it, doing something for each of Santa’s reindeer.

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For fun I made reindeer brown paper bags for each element of hubby’s gift.  I tried to figure out how to display them and finally decided to clothespin each bag to branches on the Christmas tree – it looks so cute!

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I was trying to figure out a simple way to package some small gifts for the girls just down the street.  Then I came upon Christmas Crackers and knew what I had to do!  Gwen helped me with the wrapping and they came out so cute.  We used toilet paper tubes, construction paper, wrapping paper, bits of tulle leftover from her mermaid tutu, embroidery thread and letter stickers for the girls’ names.

*Check out my Christmas and Winter Pinterest boards for more inspiration.

For the past couple years we’ve had Christmas Eve breakfast with the cousins, but they’ve all been sick recently so we’re reschedule till the New Year.  We’ll probably bum around the house in our pjs for the morning, snack and watch Christmas movies, then head over to my sister’s for evening fun.  Christmas morning we’ll have abelskiver for breakfast, open stockings, and make a mad dash to finish dinner preparations before everyone comes over.

In all the busy-ness,  I hope we don’t lose sight of the real reason for the season.  Sure, gathering together with friends and family, eating good food and opening new gifts are nice, but it’s all meaningless without Jesus.

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