Wednesday

Christmas Card Cookies

Ingredients

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup molasses or dark corn syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
Tubes of red, green and white frosting

Instructions

Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl till light and fluffy. Beat in molasses, egg, and vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and add to butter mixture till well blended. Chill for 1 hour.

Roll dough into a 12x15 inch oblong on a lightly floured surface. Cut into twelve 3x5 inch oblongs. Place on a lightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or till firm to the touch. Cool on cookie sheet.

Write holiday greetings or names onto the cookie cards.


More Christmas Ideas and Recipes:
Christmas Recipes, Crafts And Kids Activities

3 Cute Christmas Ornaments...

...You Can Make with Items Around Your House



These days it is quite expensive to buy ornaments or other decorations for the holidays. As a more frugal and fun option, here are 3 cute Christmas ornaments you can make with items you have around your house.

1. Cookie Ornaments: Use whatever cookie cutter designs you have on hand and bake cookies to hang on the tree. If you do not have cookie cutter designs, no problem. Make your own designs. For example make pretzel cookies, which can easily be hung on a branch and decorated with ribbons. Here is how to do it. Roll out a small piece of your favorite dough to about 3 inches. Take the two ends and overlap them at the top to form an upside down letter “Q” – or make any loop shape. After the pretzel is baked, you can tie a ribbon through the hole in the shape of a bow, and hang it on the tree.

2. Paper Tree Ornaments: Take white construction paper and cut out Christmas trees. Your child can personalize each one with his name, stickers, glitter, a drawing, or color each tip of the tree to resemble ornaments. Use these trees to make a border in your child’s room or string them together to wrap around your Christmas tree.

3. Christmas Stocking Ornaments: Make your own Christmas stocking ornaments using whatever material you have on hand. Use several fabrics and colors to really make them bright and colorful. Glue on bows, beads or large ribbons. You can also personalize them with your child's name. When the stockings are done, cut a piece of fabric into a loop and sew it onto the top of the stocking. Hang them on the tree proudly.

Making homemade Christmas ornaments is not only fun for the entire family, but lets your child expand his creativity and imagination. It is much more meaningful to make something than to just go out and buy it. It is a wonderful and satisfying way to spend time with your children. These home-made ornaments make wonderful gifts as well.

Before you decide to go shopping for Christmas ornaments, first take a look around your house. You’ll be surprised at what you may find!


More Christmas Craft Ideas:
Little Kids Christmas Crafts
The Ultimate Christmas Collection

Christmas Trees - The Important Details

As Christmas time comes ever closer to you and I, we must decide on one important thing, maybe the most important decision we’ll make in the coming weeks. As you might suspect, I’m referring to the yuletide tradition of Christmas trees. There’s some very important details you need to know about Christmas trees before you make your purchase though, and the details spawn from this one often asked simple question: “Should I get a real Christmas tree, or an artificial Christmas tree?”. I’m going to explain what you need to know about real Christmas trees and artificial ones, and help you make up your mind on which one is better for you and your family.

Of course you want the best Christmas tree possible. We all love having our Christmas trees next to the window for the entire neighborhood to awe and gawk at. Artificial Christmas trees often look just like real ones. Nine million of these bad boys were sold in 2004, up from 7.3 million in 2001. This alone might be a factor in choosing artificial over real. The more people that have artificial trees the more common it’s going to be having one. One of the pros for choosing an artificial tree is the fact that artificial Christmas trees are easier to assemble and store away for later use. Artificial trees cannot and never will rot like real Christmas (pine) trees do. If you’re allergic to the smell of pine, artificial Christmas trees won’t bother you one bit. The biggest factor of all in my opinion is the cost. Artificial trees can save you money and time, which can be spent on more gifts for your family and friends.

Real Christmas trees however aren’t all bad. Each one has that unique fresh forest scent that we all seemed to have loved at least sometime in our lives. There’s also a lot of unique selections to choose from. There are skinny Christmas trees, fat Christmas trees, pretty Christmas trees, ugly Christmas trees (I don't know why you would want one, but hey – it's your choice...and that's what it's all about!), tall trees, short trees…you name it and they have it. Real Christmas trees are also the traditional choice if that’s your kind of thing. The most important reason to choose a real Christmas tree though, is environmental. Christmas trees are known to take in harmful greenhouse gases such as Carbon Dioxide and release fresh oxygen into the air.

As we all know though, with everything, there are cons to both. Artificial trees can sometimes look phony and synthetic. Real Christmas trees need constant care and maintenance. Artificial trees are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Real Christmas trees are difficult to transport and dispose of after use. Artificial trees can take a lot of time to assemble and dissemble.

These are just some of the important details that you need to know about real Christmas trees and artificial ones. There are various pros and cons for each and it’s up to you to decide which one best fits your home and lifestyle. Whichever one you choose though, it will shine like a beacon of light in your home and give that same feeling of warmth to you and neighbors as it does every year.

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER

The History of Rudolph and Santa's Other Reindeers

Maybe it's the undeniable alliterative appeal of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that makes him the most known or popular of all Santa's nine flying reindeers. It certainly doesn't seem as easy to come up with a similar catchy description for the others - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen - as named in the song.

The story of Rudolph whose glowing red nose made him a standout, first appeared in 1939 when Montgomery Ward department stores distributed about 2.4 million booklets with the poem in the form of a story about "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer." It was written by Robert L. May, who worked in the store's advertisement or marketing department, to be used to attract more people into the store. When the booklet was reissued in 1939, sales soared to more than 3.5 million copies. But it wasn't until a decade later, in 1949, that the story really gained immense popularity when Gene Autry sang a musical version of the fable. As a Christmas song, it is second only in popularity to 'White Christmas.'

Rudolph, the ninth reindeer whose lighted nose guides Santa's sleigh through the night, is now known worldwide as the song has been translated into more than 20 different languages and an animated television movie has also been based on the story. Rudolph and his noticeable nose have also become the subject of jokes and sparked more interest in reindeers which has led to much research into Santa and the flying reindeers who pull his sleigh through the sky.

Along with the catchy rhythm of the lyrics, Rudolph's story is also appealing because of the moral lessons it contains. As the story goes, Rudolph was ostracized by the other reindeers, which laughed and teased him about his shiny red nose. But on a foggy night, when Santa must have been concerned that he may not be able to deliver his Christmas gifts around the world, Santa spotted him and kindly asked if he would step to the front as the leader to 'guide my sleigh tonight.' His shiny red nose would after all be very useful in lighting the way, Santa thought. From then on 'all of the other reindeers loved him," and rightly predicted that he 'would go down in history.'

Among the moral lessons the story can impart is that an attribute that is perceived as negative or as a liability can be used for a positive purpose, or, become an asset. It also makes the point that an individual should not let the negative behavior of others define him or her and limit expectations of what can be achieved. And it also illustrates how quickly opinions and attitudes about a person can change.

The question still lingers however of where Rudolph came from. He is commonly regarded as the son of Donner (or Donder), one of the original eight reindeers. But the Snopes.com site rejects this however, saying that he dwelled in a reindeer village elsewhere and it was there that he was seen by Santa who had already started on his Christmas Eve journey to deliver gifts. And in a more modern evolution of the story according to Wikipedia.com, an animation by the British Broadcasting corporation (BBC) introduced a son of Ruldolph named Robbie the Reindeer. That son has now become the tenth reindeer.

It's also interesting to note that the idea of Santa's sleigh being pulled by reindeers was originated in the poem, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas.' That poem tells the story of St. Nicholas, who is Santa, calling his eight tiny reindeers by their names, as previously mentioned, just before he came down the chimney of a house to start filling the stockings from a sack full of toys he carried on his back.

Tuesday

Making Your Baby’s First Christmas Perfect

Your baby’s first Christmas only happens once in a lifetime - for both you and the baby. Making your baby’s first Christmas perfect is a special thing that any loving parent would hope to accomplish when that fun-filled holiday rolls around sooner than expected.

From the frenzy of the shopping season to the fellowship with friends and relatives, a lot of parents sometimes forget to capture the rare magic of their baby’s first yuletide experience. Let's explore some of the more important things you can do to capture the memory of this wonderful event and be able to cherish it for years to come.

One of the biggest things that you can do to capture the memory of your baby’s first Christmas is to get him or her a gift that recognizes that this is in fact their first Christmas. What I would recommend is a gift that has “Baby’s First Christmas” written on it somewhere. There are many ornaments that can be custom made for this and even have your baby’s name engraved on it.

A lot of parents also get their baby new clothes that commemorate the baby’s first Christmas. If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, babies are generally known to love boxes covered in wrapping paper and beautiful bows. It would be a good idea to take some pictures of your baby playing with these items, as pictures tend to last a very long time.

Pictures and picture albums are one of the key things to acquire to make your baby’s first Christmas absolutely perfect and unforgettable. Probably the most important picture you need to take of your baby during the Christmas season is of the baby sitting on Santa’s lap. You can usually find a Santa at your local mall, and it’s best for you to hold him or her during the process in case the baby gets frightened. You’ll need a photo album as well to store all of your newly taken pictures.

A really fun thing to do would be to have the whole family gather around and decorate the photo album with creative images of Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen, etc. to make the photo album more seasonal. You could have someone filming you while you do this, creating a long lasting memory.

In this day and age of technological advances, you want to be able to make sure that your captured memories will last. Getting a video camera and a DVD recorder works wonders for this. You’ll be able to capture your baby’s first Christmas in a way that goes beyond mere pictures and presents. Your baby will be able to see him or herself back then years from now.

As you can clearly see, these are some of the many ways you can capture your baby’s first Christmas while making the experience genuine for everyone around you. Regardless of the many methods you choose to make this experience wonderful for you and your baby, you’ll be able to look back on his or her first Christmas with a sense of awe and wonder, knowing that you did everything you could to keep those memories alive for years to come.

Creative Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas

Are you tired of buying the same old wrapping paper year after year? Creating wrapping paper is a unique way to show that you really took time to make someone’s present special.

Here are some items you may wish to use: ribbons; small Christmas balls; scissors, glue; glitter; and rubber stamps.

Tissue Paper:
Take whichever color tissue paper you choose and wrap the present. Use the same color ribbon or combine different color ribbons to tie around the present.

Tin Foil:
Another creative idea is to take tin foil and use it as wrapping paper. Wrap the present, and, in the middle, glue a gift card with a poem or rhyme; picture or sentiment; or whatever you prefer to make this present special to the person you are giving it to.

Paper bags:
Do you have some paper bags at home? If so, you can create adorable wrapping paper. Use rubber stamps, stickers, glitter, markers, paints or crayons to personalize and decorate the wrapping paper. This is a fun activity to do with kids.

Personalized wrapping paper:
Print photos of the recipient off your computer and glue them onto the gift. You could cover the entire package with photos of the recipient or just add a few for flair.

Cellophane:
Using colored cellophane as wrapping paper is another popular idea. There are so many ways you can use this cellophane. For instance, wrapping homemade cookies on a plate and tying the top with a ribbon; candies in a mug; or simply wrapping a present using the cellophane and decorating it.

Make a curly cue bow:
Take your scissors and open them up so that you have one blade to work with. Place the blade at the bottom of the bow that is untied (sticking out) and pressing firmly with your thumb on the inside of the ribbon and your index finger on the blade holding the outer side of the ribbon, run the blade up to the top of the ribbon. You have just made a ribbon curly cue.

There are literally thousands of different kinds of wrapping paper one can purchase, but there is only one creative wrapping paper idea – and that is one made with love.

More Christmas Ideas:
The Ultimate Christmas Collection

Christmas Decoration Ideas for Kids to Make

Kids love making their own Christmas decorations for their home and displaying them proudly.

Ribbons and Bows
Use ribbons and bows to decorate lamps, curtains and drapes. Choose different color ribbons and bows according to the colors in your home. For example, if you have white curtains, add red and green bows you can stick onto any surface, and arrange the bows on the white curtains any way you wish.

White Doilies

Kids may want to decorate the drapes using different sized white doilies, and fill the drapes with snowflakes. Attach green or red garland to the bottom of the drapes, and hang small light colored ornaments on the garland.

Candles
Kids can also decorate the entertainment center with candles of all colors, little glass bowls of Christmas balls, and Christmas figurines. Whether the entertainment center is wood, white or black, this is a sure way to make the entertainment center a Christmas display.

Garland
Have a coffee table? If the coffee table is glass, the kids can decorate the edge of the coffee table with garland and ornaments. Remember to choose a garland that compliments the colors in the room. Tape the garland around the table. Start with taping the garland at one corner of the table and let the garland hang a few inches. Repeat the process: tape and hang, until you have hung the garland completely around the coffee table. Then add favorite ornaments and hang them on the garland. This is a wonderful visual effect that also works on your mantel or a banister or railing, too.

Artwork
Your children can create Christmas artwork with markers, paints or crayons. If you display it in a nice frame, it will complement your home décor and look like you paid money for it.

Gingerbread House
And, of course, a favorite Christmas decoration is a gingerbread house. Create a gingerbread house with your children. The gingerbread house will be a perfect display for a countertop or in the middle of your coffee table.

Choosing Christmas decorating ideas for kids to make is easy; arranging them to compliment the décor of your home is the challenge. Choose the decorations, and have the kids use their imagination to turn your home into wonderland of color.


Monday

Tempting Holiday Treats

by Rachel Paxton

The holidays are a great time for spending time with family. One favorite family activity of mine is baking! I just don't spend as much time playing around in the kitchen as I'd like, and the holidays are a perfect excuse to try out new mouth-watering candies, cookies, and other holiday treats. It's also a great time to teach your children how to find their way around the kitchen while also having fun with them at the same time.

I always find that holiday recipes often require expensive ingredients that I usually avoid in my everyday cooking and baking, just because of how much those unnecessary items cost. Around the holidays though, many of these items (chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, peanut butter, butter, etc.) go on sale and you can stock up on a few special ingredients that will let you whip up some favorite family treats rather inexpensively. I get a few at the store here and there for a few weeks (or even months) in advance while they're on sale to avoid having to buy them all at one time. Try out some of these recipes and get in the holiday spirit! Happy Holidays!


Pear Eggnog Muffins

3 c. flour
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 tbsp. and 1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
2 medium pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 c. eggnog
1/3 c. plus 2 tbsp. butter or margarine, melted
1/4 c. dark rum (or additional egg nog)
1 egg

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in large bowl; make a well in center of dry ingredients. Combine chopped pears, eggnog, butter, rum and egg, stirring until well blended. Add eggnog mixture to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into greased muffin pans, filling two-thirds full. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes.



Heavenly Hash Candy

12 oz. chocolate chips
6 oz. butterscotch chips
1/4 c. butter
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 large bag miniature marshmallows
1 c. chopped pecans (or peanuts)

Spray a 13x9-in. pan with Pam and add marshmallows. Melt chips, butter, & milk in boiler. Remove from heat & stir in pecans. Pour over marshmallows and stir just enough to coat lightly.



Peanut Blossoms

1 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. butter (soft)
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg (unbeaten)
1 package chocolate kisses or stars
1/4 c. sugar (to roll the balls in)

Sift dry ingredients together. Cream sugars and butters. Add egg, milk, and vanilla. Beat well. Blend in dry ingredients. Shape into balls. Roll in sugar. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 minutes in an ungreased pan. Remove and place kisses on top. Bake 2-5 minutes more. Remove from oven and let cool.


Originally published at Suite 101. Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints, and more, visit Creative Homemaking.

Sunday

Christmas Nativity Crafts For Children

The nativity is one of the central themes of Christmas. Nativity scenes are depicted on church lawns, in Christian plays, and outside of homes. Learning about the nativity can be fun for kids when you use crafts to teach them.

The birth of Jesus Christ is the focus of the Christian nativity. He was born to Mary and Joseph in an animal stable because there were no rooms available in the nearby inn. Using a water trough filled with straw for a bed, Mary gave birth to the savior and laid him there. After the birth, the Christ child was visited by shepherds, wise men, and a host of angels. The men followed the North Star to his location in the east.

These are the basic elements of the story. Read the story to your children first to give them an idea of who was involved in the scene. From there, the crafting can begin.

Kids can make their own manger. Using Popsicle sticks and glue, fashion a manger for the baby Jesus. If you don’t want to use real straw, Spanish moss will work just as well. A small baby doll can portray the baby Jesus. Kids may want to paint the manger to make it stand out. Display their mangers in a central location for everyone to enjoy.

Coloring books and children’s websites have free printable coloring sheets that depict the nativity. Give each child a piece of poster board or a cardboard presentation board to work with. After coloring the Nativity pictures let the kids come up with their own nativity scene and paste it to the cardboard. If the children want to paint things different colors, it’s ok. Let them, even if baby Jesus turns out to be purple and Mary and Joseph are green. Let them express themselves through their crafts, no matter how out of the ordinary it may be to you.

A fun nativity craft that the entire family can enjoy is the making of an Advent calendar. “Advent” is the time of the holiday season that is represented by special programs at church on each of the four Sundays before Christmas. Each day beginning with the first Sunday after Thanksgiving, the focus is on the Nativity story. There are a variety of ways to make an Advent calendar. Each day of December through Christmas Day, families do something special pertaining to some aspect of the birth of Jesus Christ. Children can decorate each space on the calendar with a symbol of the Nativity. At the end of each day, the family will gather to look at the symbol for the day and study a certain part of the Nativity story.

The Nativity is important to understanding the spiritual reason for celebrating Christmas. Allow kids to express feelings about the Nativity through their crafts. You can join in too and make it a family affair.

More Christmas Craft Ideas:
Little Kids Christmas Crafts
The Ultimate Christmas Collection

The Christmas Story

The idea of celebrating Jesus' birth was done to counteract pagan holidays celebrated in Rome during the Winter Solstice. Church leaders thought Christmas celebrations were more likely to be popular if they coincided with the traditional festivals and merrymaking during the Winter Solstice.

Although some Christmas celebrations are secular, the religious aspect of Christmas remains central to celebrations. This is evident in church services such as Midnight Mass and primarily in the many forms of the Nativity, or Christmas Story, presented wherever people celebrate Christmas.

That story started in Nazareth in Galilee about two thousand years ago.

Mary, a young woman, was engaged to a carpenter named Joseph. An angel appeared to her one day and told her she was with child. She couldn't understand how that could happen because due to her circumspect nature, she had not laid in bed with Joseph. The angel explained however, that the child would be special as he would be the Son of God and his name was to be Jesus. Mary and Joseph then got married soon after the angel's appearance. But about the time when Mary was to have the baby, the couple had to travel far away to Bethlehem, Joseph's birthplace, to pay a special tax.

It was difficult for them to find a place to stay because many other people were in Bethlehem to pay their taxes. After many rejections, one innkeeper offered a room in his stable where they could spend the night. That's where Jesus, the Holy Child and Son of God was born and then wrapped in bundles of cloth and placed in a manger for a cradle.

In the same hours that Mary was giving birth, shepherds who were in a field that overlooked Bethlehem saw an extremely bright star over the sky in Bethlehem. They had never seen anything like it and had feelings of curiosity and scariness. An angel appeared and told them the 'good news' that the Son of God had been born in Bethlehem.

The shepherds left their flocks to go to Bethlehem to find the baby. When they reached the stable, they were filled with immense joy at seeing Jesus. They fell to their knees and worshipped Him. They also told Mary and Joseph about the bright star and the angel appearing to say Jesus would be the Savior of the world.

The bright star was also seen by Wise Men in the east. The Wise Men, who studied the stars, learned that a new and great ruler would appear whenever an extraordinarily bright star appeared in the sky. Three of them therefore set out to find the new ruler. They first visited King Herod in Jerusalem because they thought the child would be born in the palace. But when they asked to see the child who would be the new ruler, King Herod was very worried as he thought he would be removed from the throne. King Herod told the Wise Men that when they found the baby, they should return and tell him so that he could also worship the baby.

The Wise Men used the star as a guide to go to Bethlehem where they found Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus who they worshipped and offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The Wise Men are celebrated in some Christmas celebrations on Jan. 6, known as the Epiphany to mark the date when they found Jesus. Later in the night the three Wise Men had a dream in which an angel told them that King Herod wanted to kill Baby Jesus. They left Bethlehem to return to the East but didn't return to Jerusalem to tell King Herod where they had found the child.

Joseph also had a dream soon after the Wise Men left in which an angel appeared and told him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt because Herod had ordered that Jesus be killed. In an effort to kill Jesus after the Wise Men did not return to inform him of the baby's whereabouts, Herod later ordered that all baby boys in Bethlehem should be killed. But by then Mary and Joseph had left with Baby Jesus.

Warm Me Up Amaretto Brownies

These delicious brownies take advantage of a boxed brownie mix and a few simple ingredients!

Ingredients:

BROWNIES:
1 23-oz. package brownie mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
6 tablespoon Amaretto

TOPPING:
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
4 tablespoon butter

Instructions:

Mix together vegetable oil, eggs and fudge packet (if there is one with your mix). Add the dry mix and stir well. Stir in the walnuts last. Spread evenly into a 13 x 9 inch baking pan (grease the pan or spray with no stick spray first). Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. Sprinkle with Amaretto when it comes out of the oven and then place on wire rack to cool.

To make the topping, melt chocolate chips and butter in the microwave. Stir until smooth and creamy and spread on top of brownies like frosting. Cool until set.

More Christmas Ideas and Recipes:
The Ultimate Christmas Collection

Saturday

Christmas Decorations You Can Make With Your Kids

The Christmas holidays are a wonderful time of the year, especially since the kids are home from school. Make the most of this time by making memories that will last. Creating Christmas decorations with your kids is a fun time for all. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Tree Skirt: Find some felt material and design a tree skirt. Add beads, bows, sparkles and any kind of trim available to make this a one-of-a-kind skirt. Perhaps the kids would like to add pictures of Santa along the rim of the skirt. Another tree skirt idea would be to make a quilted pattern, using different plaids and solid colors. Decorate it with a fancy trim. It could not only be used for the tree, but as the base centerpiece for a vase of poinsettias.

2. Centerpiece: Another idea is to have your children gather together Christmas balls in various sizes and colors. Find a large clear vase or bowl and arrange them inside. You may want to add some holly as well. This colorful display would make a lovely centerpiece for your table.

3. Christmas Card Holder: Here is a creative idea for storing your Holiday cards. Start with an empty Kleenex (or tissue) box, and cut out the top rectangular part of it. Wrap it in Christmas paper, and use it as a Christmas card holder. Decorate it with holly and ivy. Then, attach a ribbon to both ends and you have a beautiful homemade Christmas card basket.

4. Paper Chain: An old standby is to take several different colors of construction paper and cut them in strips. Then attach two ends of the strips together (with a stapler, glue or tape) to form a circle. Continue by looping another cut strip inside that one. When it’s long enough, wrap the chain around your Christmas tree.

5. Candy Chain: While stringing popcorn or beads around a tree is a tried and true tradition, how about using Lifesavers candy? Your kids can choose the color order or even try to make patterns. Use different color twine or ribbons to give it a Candyland touch. Add candy canes as well. Since both candies come in their own wrapping, just use a needle through the Lifesavers wrapping. After the tree is taken down, they can be fun snacks to eat.

Christmas decorations are a great way of expressing the holiday spirit in your home. The kids will love creating them, and be proud to have their art displayed. And, instead of looking like a department store, your home will become a reflection of the family that lives in it.

More Christmas Craft Ideas
Little Kids Christmas Crafts
The Ultimate Christmas Collection

Friday

Christmas Coloring Pages For Children

You can find lots of Christmas coloring pages on the Internet that are free to download and then print from your home computer. Use your favorite search engine – I prefer Google – and type in “Christmas coloring pages”. The search engine will come up with several places where you can find Christmas coloring pages. Pick out the ones you like, print them out and let your child go wild!

Here are a few web sites that have Christmas coloring pages to get you started:

The Holiday Spot


KidsSoup.com


First-School.ws


FreeColoringPages.com


ColoringCastle.com


Kaboose.com


FreePrintableColoringPages.net


ColoringPage.net


The Kidz Page


Apples4Teacher.com

Another advantage to Christmas coloring pages is that you can also use them as templates for craft projects you may want to do. They can be used to follow as a diagram for some type of craft or incorporated into a collage or picture that you want to display on the holiday.

Have your child color several different ones and then make them into placemats. Just glue the picture onto a larger piece of paper and you have a placemat. To make them even more durable, you may want to laminate them too. Laminating machines can be purchased quite inexpensively these days or most office supply store offer lamanating services.

Then enjoy the creation and the holiday as well!


Christmas Coloring Books At Amazon

Need More Christmas Craft Ideas?

Christmas Crafts For Children That Double As Gifts

If you plan on sending homemade gifts this year, get the kids to make some crafts that you can use for specifically for that purpose. The kids will have a blast, you’ll enjoy the time together and the stress relief of doing it all yourself and the recipient will feel extra special knowing the gifts were made by the little ones. Here are a few ideas to get your kid’s big imaginations started.

Aprons

When it comes to kitchen items there are tons of crafts that kids can make and you can give as presents. Craft stores sell blank aprons in various colors. Kids can decorate these aprons using craft paints, stencils, and iron-on shapes. For unique shapes, use the cut edge of a white potato dipped in paint. Oven mitts, placemats, dishtowels, and napkin rings are other examples of kitchen crafts kids can turn into gifts with just a few simple decorations.

Cross Stitching

Do the kids like to sew? They may not be ready to operate your Singer sewing machine yet but they can learn cross stitch and latch hook techniques. Cross stitching uses colored thread and a needle to create designs on a pre-dyed pattern. For Christmas, there are cross stitch angels, snowmen, Santa Claus, winter scenes, and other holiday patterns. Completed patterns can be turned into wall hangings or framed for grandparents or other friends and relatives.

Potpourri Sachets

Potpourri is used at all times of the year, but more so around the holidays. Take the holiday scent of dried flowers, leaves, and pine cones and give it to someone else. Kids can make drawer sachets. All that’s needed is some festive cloth, needle and thread, and the potpourri. They can create a square sachet or a drawstring purse sachet so that the potpourri can be changed to other scents whenever the recipient likes.

Candles

Candles are a favorite of many. At night it’s easy to light pine scented candles and feel like you’re sitting under the stars without the cold air of winter side effect. Kids can make candles, too. Purchase wax, wicks, and jars from a craft store. Let the kids decide which scents they like. Glass paint in red, green, silver, and gold will do for decorating the jars in holiday style or simply add stickers.

Ornaments

Christmas ornaments go over well as gifts. Let your kids make some of their own designs. They can make Christmas stars or snowflakes out of Popsicle sticks or make paper ornaments. Whatever they choose to use, have them write or paint the year on the ornament and sign their name as the creator. Then you can keep them for years to come as a memory of the holidays and the time you spent together making them.

Encourage your child’s creative side this Christmas. Everything from picture frames to holiday decorated socks are easy enough for kids to make on their own or with a little assistance. Once they are through, they can give their creations to teachers, friends, and family members for Christmas presents.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Toddlers

Most parents want to keep their little ones entertained, but at the same time want to provide educational toys so toddlers can learn necessary skills they will need in pre-school.

One concern parents have about toddlers, is teaching potty training to them while making it fun. For that reason, Emma and Paul, part of the Corolle Dolls collection are a great gift idea. They are adorable and will help the toddler learn about potty training in a fun way. The 14 inch dolls come with a bottle, pacifier, potty and disposable diaper. They can also double as a bath toy since they are made from specially sealed vinyl that will prevent water from getting into the doll- plus they are vanilla-scented and smell wonderful. Apart from being educational and fun, the dolls are affordable.

Toddlers also enjoy the fun and excitement that DVD’s provide. Not only are DVD’s affordable, they will keep your toddler engaged. Parents will find a wide range of movies available and parents can also spend quality time watching them with their toddlers. Dr. Stevanne Auerbach highly recommends Strawberry Shortcake Berry Fairy Tales DVD. The movie runs for 45 minutes, comes in a strawberry scented case, and will teach your toddler about friendship and kindness.

For parents, or grandparents who might want to invest in a more expensive gift for the toddler, the Baby Dino Rocker by International Playthings is an ideal gift idea. It is a colorful and plush alternative to the rocking horse and retails for under $100. The soft padding on the body of the Baby Dino makes it comfortable and the design and colors will look wonderful in any playroom.

It’s important to think creatively when shopping for toddlers and also keep educational toys in mind. Of course, if you are determined to buy the hottest item, the 10th Anniversary TMX Elmo will be appreciated by your toddler. Expect a moderate to expensive price range and don’t be surprised if some stores are sold out. However, you may be able to find it on eBay.

Discovery Toys makes the Discovery Chest which is an educational and fun toy for any toddler. Not only does it engage your toddler’s imagination, but will also provide a boost in learning and practicing skills such as: button, zip, clip, buckle, and tie. You can’t go wrong and your toddler will have hours of fun!

Christmas Gift Ideas for Babies

Children of all ages love stuffed animal toys, but now there is a new idea called The Singing Sock designed by Mary Meyer and available in three designs: a cat, a dog and a piglet, pink, of course. It is an ideal gift for infants and babies up to 23 months. The Singing Sock is a soft, plush hand puppet and is affordable at $18. The Singing Sock plays three different songs: Old MacDonald, Frere Jacques, and London Bridge.

Other affordable gifts include the Ty Classic plush toys in a variety of designs and sizes. Even if the baby or infant can’t yet play with stuffed animals, they will look adorable in the nursery and bring joy to everyone who enters the room. Consider the wonderful Gotta Getta Gund 18” Benson Bear. At $42, it is moderately priced and carries value as well as the potential for great memories. Of course, if your baby or toddler loves Elmo- you won’t want to miss the 36” Large Elmo. It’s colorful and huggable. However, at $140 in most stores, it’s also quite an investment.

A mother will certainly appreciate a new baby blanket because they are so versatile for use in the crib indoors and even outdoors in the carriage. Baby blankets are available in all price ranges and styles. To make the blanket a keepsake, have it embroidered with the baby’s name, or sew the blanket yourself.

Another option is to think ahead to the days when baby will be teething, or learning to drink from a cup. You can go to Tiffany’s, or other fine jewelry store and purchase a silver and mother-of-pearl teething ring, or a monogrammed baby cup, bowl and spoon. These are keepsake gifts that a mother will treasure for years to come and will likely be handed down as a family heirloom.

If you are crafty, you might consider creating some special picture frames for baby’s pictures. Most crafts stores, including JoAnn’s and Michael’s carry many different craft kits at affordable prices and you can design your own picture frames, or even diaper bags to give as a gift for baby’s needs.

Monday

Homemade Wreaths to Make with Kids

A wreath is a symbol of goodwill during the holiday season. Seeing one on the door lets guests know that they will feel warm and welcome in the home. There are plenty of wreaths that the kids can help make too. Here are some ideas of homemade wreaths to make with your kids.

An Advent wreath is used to welcome the day that has been set aside as the birth date of Jesus Christ. Each Sunday, a candle in the wreath is lit to symbolize one of four virtues: hope, love, peace, and joy. The wreath symbolizes the spiritual aspect of Christmas.

For the greenery, artificial swags or real pine can be used. Arrange the greenery in a circle. Decorate the wreath with berries or pine cones. Parents need to be on hand to use the hot glue gun to attach the pine cones and other decorations to the wreath. Candles are placed in holders with one in the center of the other four. There are three purple (or blue) candles and one pink one. The center candle is white and is lit on Christmas Day.

Wreaths can be made with buttons too. Everyone has a few buttons lying around. Help your kids collect the buttons. They can use buttons that are different sizes, colors, and shapes. Decorate the button wreath with wire bows in festive colors. Since this type of wreath is smaller than the ones you hang on the front door or over the mantle, try using them for bedroom or closet doors instead.

A wreath of bows would be easy for kids to make. Purchase a wire wreath frame to attach your bows. Tie a few bows to show the kids how it is done. Now let them have a hand at it and remember it’s ok if their bows are less than perfect. The fact that they tried will make the wreath beautiful. A bow wreath can be hung on the wall at the center of a colorful swag.

Experiment with your own unique ideas for homemade wreaths as well. Purchase undecorated wreath forms and let the kids decide what types of things to add to it. They may decide on a string of lights or ornaments. Ornaments aren’t restricted to round shiny balls anymore. They come in hot pink, electric blue, and lime green. I’ve seen pigs, cows, clowns, and other figures that aren’t typical for Christmas ornaments, but add a more personal touch to whatever it is they adorn.

Jingle bells! A wreath made of sleigh bells will make a delightful ringing sound each time you open the front door. Bells can be glued to a traditional wreath form or tied to a wire form so they won’t slip. Because bells are small, several will be needed to fill out an entire wreath without leaving gaps. You can also use various size bells to make it unique. For instance, by a few bigger bells and twice as many small bells then create a pattern around the wreath of one big bell, two small bells and continue until the wreath is complete.

Who knew wreaths could be so much fun to make? Spending time with the kids is an added blessing and helps to make even the most normal holiday activities more interesting and fun.

Sunday

Rum Balls - A favorite holiday treat!

Ingredients:

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons corn syrup
1/2 cup rum
2 1/2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 cup confectioners sugar

Instructions:

Melt chocolate chips in a microwave safe dish. Heat for 1 minute to start off stir well, then heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between and continue until smooth. Blend in sugar, corn syrup and rum. Mix in the crushed wafers and nuts and stir until those are evenly spread out through the mixture. Cover dish and refrigerate until it seems firm enough to shape. Roll into bite sized balls between the palms of your hands. Then roll the balls in powdered sugar. If you like more nuts you can roll them in a mixture of chopped nuts and sugar. Store in a sealed container for about a week to get the best flavor before eating and handing out these goodies.

More Christmas Ideas and Recipes:
Christmas Recipes, Crafts And Kids Activities

"Twas the Night Before Christmas"

A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement C. Moore
With Pictures by Jessie Willcox Smith


'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;


The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,


When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

"Now, _Dasher!_ now, _Dancer!_ now, _Prancer_ and _Vixen!_
On, _Comet!_ on, _Cupid!_ on, _Donder_ and _Blitzen!_
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.


And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
_"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."_

The Many Legends Of Santa Claus

It's only fitting that since Santa Claus has the magnificent capability to visit homes around the world in a single night that more than one place would claim to be his home. It's common belief that Santa hails from the wintry North Pole, but folks in Finland will also tell you that Santa calls that country his home. To prove it, the Finns will even invite you to visit Santa in his workshop before Christmas or during the year and talk with Santa Claus as he and his elves busy themselves for their end-of-year Christmas expedition around the globe.

The popularity in America today of the images and legend of Santa Claus can be traced to the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" , that was written by Clement Clarke Moore in 1822. In that poem, Moore described St. Nicholas as a jolly fellow who flew from house to house in a sleigh pulled by reindeers and waited for children to go to bed on Christmas Eve before he came down the chimney to deliver Christmas presents for them.

Following the distribution of that poem, the popular magazine Harper's Weekly published cartoons by Thomas Nast between 1863 and 1886 that depicted Santa as a cheerful fellow with a large round belly and long white beard who wore a bright red suit that was trimmed with white fur. In those cartoons, Santa also held a sack, which was filled with toys for boys and girls, over his shoulder. The cartoons also showed Santa reading letters from good boys and girls, working in his workshop with his elves, checking his list to make sure he had all the required toys and even showed his wife, Mrs. Claus.

The tradition of Santa Claus was brought to America however by Dutch colonists who settled in New York City, which was called New Amsterdam at the time. The real St. Nicholas is said to be a minor saint from the 4th Century with a reputation for generosity and kindness that gave rise to legends of many miracles that he performed for the poor and unhappy. One of the stories about the legend of St. Nicholas is that he saved three poor girls who were sisters from being sold into a life of slavery by their father. According to the legend, Santa Claus provided the girls with a dowry so that they could get married.

The legend of St. Nicholas led to hundreds of people being devoted to him and consequently thousands of European churches became dedicated to him. After the Reformation period however, widespread practice and worship of St. Nicholas disappeared in European countries that were Protestant, except in Holland where the legend of St. Nicholas continued. St. Nicholas was known as Sint Nikolaas but that was later corrupted to Sinter Klaas.

Dutch colonists took this tradition of Sinter Klaas to New York City where it was adopted using the English name of Santa Claus. Over time, the Dutch legend of the kindly saint was combined with old Nordic folktales about a magician who punished naughty children and rewarded good ones with presents to give rise to the stories that now exist about Santa Claus.

The red and white-trimmed suit of Santa Claus is believed to be the colors that the original St. Nicholas wore because red and white were the colors of the robes worn by traditional bishops. It is also believed that the Coca Cola Co. played a role in what is regarded as the popular look of Santa Claus today through paintings by artist Haddon Sundblom that were placed in some of the company's advertisement between 1931 and 1964.

Friday

Making Memories During Christmas and the Holidays

A favorite Christmas song has a line that describes Christmas as 'the most wonderful time of the year.' While giving and receiving gifts is something that is highly anticipated and remembered at Christmas time, there are also many more activities that make Christmas memorable and wonderful.

Decorating The Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree occupies a central spot and is the most visible display of Christmas in most homes. Unlike in other countries, most American homes do not have a representation of the Nativity scene, which is more likely to be located at churches.

As soon as the Christmas season begins on the day after Thanksgiving, families will begin their search for the perfect Christmas tree. This in itself can become a memorable activity as children may accompany family members to places like a Christmas tree farm to select a tree.

Once a real or artificial tree is selected, then it's an exciting activity for the entire family to play a part in decorating the tree. Manufactured decorations come in many shapes and forms. But a special memory is created when family members make a special ornament for the Christmas tree, or contribute one or more keepsake items to decorate the Christmas tree. It then becomes a ritual each year for those particular items to be placed on the Christmas tree although other decorations may change in coming years.

Baking Cookies


A great activity that can help to create special memories at Christmas is baking cookies. Along with popular gingerbread cookies, using cookie cutters to make special holiday-shaped cookies is also practiced a lot in households. Based on the ages of children, they can help in the actual baking activity by measuring and mixing some ingredients, or, younger children can sprinkle sugar on the cookies or decorate them with icing when they are finished. Helping in this activity can also be educational as parents can use the activity of measuring and figuring out equivalent measures to teach fractions and other mathematical elements.

Making Gift Baskets

An activity that is related to food which also helps to create memories during the Christmas season is making fruit and goody baskets, which are filled with candies, baked items and other treats for loved ones, their special friends, neighbors, teachers or for charity. Items such as goody baskets make especially wonderful Christmas gifts because they are home-made. That quality
often makes them more treasured than a Christmas present that is bought at the store.

Sending Holiday Cards

Because Christmas is the season of goodwill and good cheer, it is very important to reach out to family, loved ones and friends during the season. The busy lives that many people lead today often leaves them little or no time during the year to be in frequent contact with family and friends who are located far away, or even others who live within a reasonable distance in the
same or a neighboring state, for example.

It is therefore very common during Christmas to send a Christmas or holiday greeting card to those individuals. Along with the pleasant memory of receiving the card, there may be a short letter included that gives a brief account of any significant event in the individual's life or with members of the family. That makes sending and receiving Christmas greeting cards more memorable.

Christmas Presents

Then there's probably the most anticipated activity of Christmas - finding out what Christmas gift Santa brought on Christmas Eve. While adults also look forward with much anticipation to see what Christmas gifts they will get, it's really the children who get the most delight from receiving presents at Christmas. The carefully planned actions to hide Christmas presents from children and then to magically place them under the Christmas tree to be found on Christmas morning is one of the most wonderful ways to create unforgettable memories for children at Christmas.

Gingerbread People Cookie Recipe

Gingerbread People
by Rachel Paxton

Directions and recipe for making gingerbread people.

Gingerbread cookies are a fun family activity during the holiday season. All you need to get started are some gingerbread people cookie cutters and your imagination.

You can make your own frosting. I like to buy different colored frosting in tubes that come with the different tips ready to attach and frost. It's a lot less work and mess, and you can use them over and over again.

Use a variety of candies to decorate, like raisins, gum drops, etc. As you can see from the picture, mine are nothing fancy, but still cute and fun to make.

Gingerbread Cookie Recipe:

1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. shortening
1 egg
1/2 c. light molasses
2 1/4 c. flour
4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. all spice

Cream sugar and shortening. Add egg and molasses; blend. Mix in dry ingredients. Chill dough for 1 hour. Roll out dough to 1/8 in. thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 9 minutes.

Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of What's for Dinner?, an e-cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, holiday hints and more, visit Creative Homemaking.

Wednesday

Cheesecake the Eggnog Way

Ingredients:

CRUST:
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

CHEESECAKE:
4 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
1 cup white sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons rum*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks

Instructions:

Make the crust by mixing together the crushed wafers, butter and nutmeg. Press the mixture into the bottom of a spring form pan. Bake the crust for 10 minutes at 325 degrees F. Blend together cream cheese, flour, sugar, rum and vanilla. Add one egg at a time to the mixture and continue to blend well after each addition. Then blend in the 4 additional egg yolks and the whipping cream. Pour cheesecake filling into prepared pan. Bake for one hour at 325 degrees F. Completely cool before removing from spring form pan then refrigerate over night.

*For a non-alcoholic family friendly version you can use rum extract, vanilla extract, white grape juice or apple juice!

More Christmas Ideas and Recipes:
The Ultimate Christmas Collection

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