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.


Christmas…in August

Lately I haven’t been motivated at all to sew. I started a dress for Hannah a week or so ago and then just put it away. But that all changed when Hannah pulled a Christmas book off the shelf and started looking through it. I realized that even though Christmas is quite a ways off, it would be fun to start some Christmas projects that I’ve been wanting to make since last year.

Last Christmas, I bought the McCall’s M6453 pattern during one of those $1 pattern sales at Joann’s. The two projects I was most interested in making were the tree skirt and stuffed wreath. So far I have my wreath mostly done, but sadly, I ran out of fiberfill so I have to make another trip to the fabric store before I finish it up and share it with you all.

Yesterday, I cut out the pieces for my tree skirt, and today during Hannah’s morning nap, I made quite a bit of progress on piecing it together. Maybe I’ll be able to finish it up tonight or tomorrow!

I’m also searching around the mommy blogs looking for more Christmas inspiration and fun tutorials. A few things that I’m thinking about adding to my Christmas list: stockings, an advent calendar, and maybe a quilt or table runner.


Big Button Flannel Jumpers

One of the patterns that I bought when my whole sewing craze began was the McCall’s M6193. I’ve been dying to try it. It’s so simple but completely adorable! The pattern seems to be intended for fleece, but with a huge snuggle flannel sale at Joann’s on Black Friday, I went with my small stash of less than $2 a yard flannel to create some winter themed jumpers for the little one. Is she not completely adorable in this Christmas jumper and matching headband?! I love how the headband is basically across her forehead in the top pic : )

The headband was sort of a last minute thing. It’s amazing how far one yard of fabric can go with a 5 month old, so I was trying to find ways to use up as much of the fabric as possible since it’s Christmas themed. Obviously a matching headband was necessary : ) The whole red and green thing is a little over the top, I know, but why not for baby’s first Christmas?

The amazing thing about the headband is that I found it in the Target $1 isle in packs of three. What a steal! I bought a few packs of them but was a little bummed that they were too big for her. Oh well, I went for the oversized headband look anyway. I think she pulls it off well.

I also made two other jumpers, which are very cute. So far no matching headbands for these. We’ll see if I have time before Christmas travels to pull something off.

The one gripe I had about making these jumpers is that creating button holes and sewing buttons on is a pain in the you know what! Hopefully it will get easier and quicker with practice.


Christmas Memories Preserved in Clay

Andrew and I have been thinking that we need to get a baby’s first ornament. I looked at a couple of stores but wasn’t wowed by anything, especially for the prices. I just can’t justify spending $20 or more on an ornament! When browsing on Amazon, I came across some DIY kits to make an ornament with a baby handprint. Since I’m an aspiring crafty mom, I figured I could make the same thing with some Crayola Air-Dry Clay for less.

It was a little more complicated than I thought it would be, but with Andrew’s help, we were able to get a hand and a foot! The clay was much tougher than I thought it would be, so water to soften the clay and a lot of baby manhandling were necessary. I had to really squish her hand and then later her foot into the clay. She was a good sport! I also had to make the slabs of clay much thicker than I thought, so I guess the ornament thing is out the window.

The fun thing about this whole endeavor was that today marks her 5 month birthday and so it’s kind of sweet to have Christmas mementos on this mini milestone day.

In other exciting little one news, today she pulled herself up for the first time. I was holding her hands while she was in a sitting position and she spontaneously pulled herself up. And then she did it a bunch more times. What a special day!


Elephant Softie

When I saw the tutorial for the Layla the Elephant Softie on the blog, Cutting Corners College by Riley Blake Designs, I couldn’t resist. I thought that it would make a perfect Christmas present for the little one, especially since I happened to have the gray with white polka dots fabric. I think it’s adorable! I’m also thinking this is a good gift idea for friends who have little ones…I find myself making excuses to make more of these. They are just so darn cute!


Circle Felt Garland

Christmas is my very favorite holiday! Every year my husband has to tell me to be patient and to wait until Thanksgiving is over before putting up the Christmas tree. I love everything Christmas. I even abandon all forms of music except Christmas music for the entire month of December. This year, though, has been a total change of pace for me. Instead of putting up all the decorations as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is over, or the next day if it’s a year where I’ve somehow mustered enough self control to wait, with a new baby, I’ve been putting things up a little at a time.

Lately I’ve seen so many variations on felt garlands in the blogs I follow, so I decided to give it a go with some extra red and green felt I’ve had lying around for years from a holiday project I completed long ago. It was super easy! All you do is cut out the shapes you want in the colors you want and start sewing, adding one shape after another until you reach the desired length. Luckily, I did a pretty good job eyeballing it and got the right length with my first attempt. I think it definitely dresses up the windows in our living room and adds some extra holiday spirit.

It was so easy, maybe I’ll make garlands for other holidays–hearts for Valentine’s day, shamrocks for St. Patricks day….the possibilities are endless. If I get inspired, I could even use a variety of shapes. A Halloween garland could have pumpkins, ghosts, black cats, etc. I wouldn’t ordinarily do this, but with a little one, holiday decorations are so much more fun!