Christmas Cupcakes

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Baking is not something I do very often, but I do enjoy it. Chocolate cupcakes have become my signature treat. I always use the Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Cake recipe and this American Buttercream frosting recipe from the blog Glorious Treats. It’s definitely a sweet combination but incredibly delicious.

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Since moving to Tennessee, I’ve had to adjust my baking time to 20 minutes for cupcakes. I think the oven in this house runs a little hot. If I bake for the minimum recommended time, the tops get a little bit firmer than I like. I’ve found that 20 minutes gives me that perfectly moist and light texture throughout the entire cupcake.

I’ve also made minis with this recipe. After googling and doing a little trial and error, I found that 9 minutes is perfect for my oven. Depending upon your oven and the recipe used, the typical recommended range seems to be 10-14 minutes.

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I made mostly traditional red and green Christmas cupcakes this time around, but the girls have been wanting me to make Frozen cupcakes. I separated my batch of frosting into two and colored one half green for the cupcakes above and one half with this light blue color similar to Elsa’s dress and the color used on Frozen merchandise. I want to make these cupcakes at some point with handmade snowflakes, but snowflake sprinkles were easier and more convenient this time around. And the girls enjoyed putting the sprinkles on themselves.

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It was a successful first attempt at decorating cupcakes with the girls. One at a time I would pipe frosting onto a cupcake and then let one of the girls put snowflake sprinkles on top. Then I would repeat with the other kid. We alternated turns until they were all decorated. It was a pretty low stress way of doing it. The only difficulty was keeping them from eating too many sprinkles between cupcakes. Every time I turned my back to put a newly decorated cupcake onto the counter and to grab a plain cupcake, they would each grab a bunch of sprinkles from the bowl and stuff them into their mouths (I had to dump the sprinkles into a bowl because the holes in the shaker top were too small for the sprinkles to come out?!). But we survived with enough sprinkles to finish our little batch of Frozen cupcakes!

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And as an aside, the red “plates” you see above holding the decorated cupcakes are actually cupcake holders from Dollar Tree. They have tops that latch on for storing and transporting. They aren’t the most durable plastic and I have never carried them by the handles just in case, but they are awesome. If you have a Dollar Tree nearby and they have these in stock, immediately run out and buy a bunch of these, you will not regret it!

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Christmas Books Advent Calendar

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It’s been a little while since my last post. Things have been busy around here with the holidays and such.

The weekend before Thanksgiving we went to Atlanta with my husband who was attending a work conference. We had a lot of fun visiting the Georgia Aquarium, especially since we got to attend a “wake up Santa” event. It is apparently one of the best aquariums  in the country and definitely did not disappoint! Katie is still enthralled and mentions it regularly throughout the day.

We went to the Zoo Atlanta on our last day in the city. It wasn’t the greatest zoo in the world, but it was a lot of fun and they have panda bears, including two babies, which was really exciting to see! We rode the train and the carousel. Again, Katie mentions these regularly throughout the day. It was a fun trip, especially for Katie!

My husband’s brother, Tim, came for Thanksgiving. A very fun day! It was my first time cooking a holiday meal for anyone other than just us. It went pretty well and I think I found a keeper of a stuffing recipe. I’ll have to share soon…

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But now it’s on to Christmas! One of the things I’m really excited to do again this year is our Christmas books advent calendar. I did this last year for the first time and it went pretty well. I bought a few new books featuring some of Hannah’s new favorite characters (Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy) to switch out some of the not as great ones from last year.

The books I wrapped in order from 1 to 25 are as follows:

1. The Christmas Story* by Patricia Pingry (An excellent Biblically accurate version of the Christmas Story. I highly recommend!)

2. The Night Before Christmas* by Tomie DePaola

3. Bear Stays Up for Christmas* by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman

4. Angelina’s Christmas (Angelina Ballerina) by Katharine Holabird

5. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas* by Jane O’Connor

6. Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle

7. The Friendly Beasts an Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie DePaola

8. The Mitten* by Jan Brett

9. Merry Christmas, Stinky Face by Lisa Mccourt

10. Corduroy’s Christmas Surprise by Don Freeman

11. The Wild Toboggan Ride by Suzan Reid

12. Good King Wenceslas by Jamichael Henterly

13. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Eileen Daly

14. God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren

15. The Snowy Day* by Ezra Jack Keats

16. The Twelve Days of Christmas A Christmas Carol Little Golden Book (couldn’t find link to the one we own)

17. If You Take a Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff

18. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

19. Mickey’s Christmas Carol Little Golden Book

20. Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie DePaola

21. Room For a Little One: A Christmas Tale by Martin Waddell

22. Jingle Bells Little Golden Book by Kathleen Daly

23. The Hat* by Jan Brett

24. The Littlest Christmas Elf Little Golden Book by Nancy Buss

25. The Christmas Story Little Golden Book by Jane Werner Watson

(* highly recommend)

In terms of order, I like to sort the books into categories first (religious, Christmas secular, winter…). I lay out the books on the floor in rows to represent each week. I start with religious books as the first and last books as well as on each Sunday. Then I fill in the rest from my other categories, mixing them up so that there is always variety. I make a point of putting favorites in the first week or two so that we can read them as often as we like throughout the Christmas season.

Once I figure out my order, I simply wrap them up and then put a sticker on each with a number. Katie helped me pick out the wrapping paper at Dollar Tree. The stickers I made using 8 1/2″ x 11″ Avery label paper and a 2″ circle punch.

Not all of these books are necessarily top notch books, but I will add some each year so that hopefully in the  future they will all be favorites. It’s a little hard to get started with so many books, but I found that thrift stores and ebay were a good way to inexpensively fill in the gaps between the nicer books we have slowly acquired and ones I owned as a child and have kept.