Celebrate Saint Nicholas Day

ImageSaint Nicholas Day (December 6) is not a tradition I observed growing up.  In fact, I didn’t even know about it until I was an adult and a man I worked with told me about it.  When I found out it involved shoes and presents, I was all in!  Sinterklaas arrived for several of my Dutch friends this morning, but I guess we Germans prep today.  Must be a geography thing.

One Charming Party describes shining their best Sunday shoes and leaving them out the night of the 5th for St. Nick to fill.  The first time I did this for the boy, we placed a pair of his sneakers on the porch.  When he opened the door the next morning, he gasped in wonder that his shoes were filled with goodies.  His reaction melted my heart, and I was hooked.

Over the years, we’ve left out everything from converse to cowboy boots, but the excitement is always the same.  This year we toyed with the idea of printing and making our own paper shoes, but I’m learning that just because I saw it on the internet, doesn’t mean it will translate well into our tradition.

This year, we’ll learn a bit about the man himself before our boy places his shoes by the fireplace.  We will leave a carrot or two in a napkin inside the shoe for St. Nick’s donkey.

Hopefully, no coal or salt will be found in his shoes in the morning.

Some gifts we hope to see:

anything stocking stufferish (It is so a word!)

cuties or an orange

marzipan (the kid likes it and it’s traditional)

a cookie in the shape of his initial

If you’re totally grossed out by finding food in your shoes, get over it!  It’s not like you’ll be eating spaghetti out of a slipper.

Oddly yours,

Jennifer

Family Advent Celebrations – The 25 Days of Christmas

ImageWell before I was even dating Daddy-O, I purchased the book The 25 Days of Christmas by Rebecca Hayford Bauer (published September 1994).  It has since been updated and re-titled Just 25 Days ‘Til Christmas:  An Advent Celebration for the Entire Family.  Each day has a short devotion, a song, suggested activities, and tips for making your holidays less hectic.  The watercolor artwork is whimsical and fun.  One of our family’s favorite features is the devotions incorporating the tradition of lighting the candles of Advent Wreath.

I cannot imagine celebrating the season without this book.

Oddly yours,

Jennifer

Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate!

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So, the boy wanted hot chocolate from that well-known coffee place this morning. Since we’d already been out in the cold for nearly two hours, the thought of idling behind 15 other vehicles in the drive thru was about as appealing to me as a snowball in the face.  Thankfully, he was agreeable to some homemade hot chocolate instead.

As part of my massive decluttering in my kitchen, I had given away two of the four containers of cocoa powder I owned. Of course, the recipe I usually follow was on said containers.

The recipe on the can pictured was definitely not going to cut it with my sweet tooth, nor would the boy be overjoyed.

After a bit of doctoring, this was the result.

Easy Homemade Hot Chocolate!

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons sugar
Go-big-or-go-home marshmallows

In a medium saucepan, combine cocoa and sugar. Whisk in the touchiest touch of milk, and continue whisking over medium heat until blended. Add the remaining milk. Heat until the chocolate has reached your desired temperature.

Pour in mugs and top with marshmallows.

Serves 2.

Tip: Drink this with a straw. It’s easier to stab the marshmallows once the chocolate is gone.

A word about the photo background: This is a portion of Daddy-O’s sign costume. He was 56-lbs of butter and I was Paula Deen.

me: Try this. If you like it, I may post the recipe.
the boy: Ooh, like a tasting show! [sips a bit] I love it!

We hope you do, too.

Oddly Yours,

Jennifer

Ooey Gooey Caramel Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce – Johnny Appleseed

Johnny Appleseed’s birthday is this week!  Here’s one of my favorite concoctions, which I previously posted.

Yuuuummmm.  Nothing says autumn like caramel apples.  I would have been more than happy to experiment with different recipes for this staple of harvest, but I came across this southern recipe for Gooey Caramel Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce.  Caramel, arguably the most divine of candies, and apples are a fantastic combination in this perfectly spiced cake.  This cake was very easy to put together.  The original calls for a 9-inch pan, but the whole time I was reading the recipe, I pictured a Bundt cake.  Here’s my version with a slight name change as a shout out to my MIL:

Ooey Gooey Caramel Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 medium tart apples, cored and coarsely chopped
  • Caramel Topping, heated
In a mixing bowl with electric mixer, beat together sugar, oil, cinnamon, and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the milk and flour mixture alternately to the sugar mixture.  Stir in apples.Pour apple cake batter into a greased Bundt pan. Bake at 350° until cake springs back when touched lightly in the center, about 30 to 40 minutes. With a fork, pierce cake all over. Pour hot caramel topping over cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Caramel Topping

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 cup sweet cream butter
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or heavy cream (I used buttermilk, which added a wonderful tanginess.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine brown sugar, butter, and buttermilk in a heavy saucepan over medium heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; continue cooking and stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour caramel topping over hot apple cake.

Such a beautiful cake and delicious!  The cake is very nice on its own, but the simple sauce just makes it more special.

Oddly yours,

Jennifer

Thanks to about.com for the original recipe.

Family Chinese New Year Ideas

The Year of the Dragon

My son’s favorite holiday is Chinese New Year.  I’m not really sure how that happened or how he came to love all things Asian, but we’re always up to learning about anything and everything.  If we can involve food, all the better.

If your budget allows for more than a prepackaged bowl of ramen, here are some great recipes said to bring good luck.

Want to incorporate a little history into your celebration? Check out the History Channel’s page which includes traditions and symbols.

There are tons of fun crafts for you to do with your little ones.  www.onlykent.com has links to activities including free printables.

How about some everlasting fortune cookies?  I adore felt crafts and fortune cookies and take-out boxes. These, from www.Kaboose.com, are darling and can be done in a “pinch”.

The Year of the Dragon brings good luck and babies.  I don’t know about you, but I could use both this year!

Wishing your family a blessed Chinese New Year!

Jennifer

Memory Lane Monday: Cupcakes again?

Yum!

Memory Lane Monday:  Here’s fun recipe reposted just in time for autumn.

For some reason, I had a brain skip about taking cupcakes to school for Keith’s birthday Tuesday.  I kept thinking I would bring them on Thursday, which of course, had nothing to do with his birthday.  It happens to be picture day and auditions for the school play, so somewhere in my brain the cupcakes got lumped in with all that stuff.  If another girl in his class hadn’t brought cupcakes for her birthday on Monday, I would have continued this line of thinking.  Thankfully, I saw Keith’s teacher holding the leftover cupcakes to give to the child’s mother and quickly realized my error.  As I asked how many cupcakes were needed, I was trying to figure out what  could create that would be quick but tasty.  Keith chose the carrot cake mix, so I came up with the following:

Carrot Raisin Cupcakes
  • Prepare one box carrot cake mix according to package directions using 2% milk instead of water
  • Stir in 1/2 cup apricot-pineapple preserves.
  • Add a bit of flour to 1/2 cup of golden raisins and toss.  This will keep the raisins from sinking to the bottom of the cupcake.
  • Fold in raisins.
  • Bake according to package directions.

After they were cool, I used Betty Crocker Cupcake Icing.  This comes in a can similar to Reddi Wip and has several decorator tips to choose from.  Using the star tip, I drew flowery stars on the top of several of the cupcakes and simply swirled the icing from the middle of the cupcake to the edge on the rest.  Rainbow sugar sprinkles applied in various designs finished these quick and yummy cupcakes.  Keith and his class enjoyed the finished project. Click here for slideshow.

Jennifer