Baking With Kids: 9 Tips

Baking is one of Little G and my favorite things to do together. Maybe you and your children enjoy it, too. Or maybe you’ve never tried it before. But if you have some extra flour and sugar left over from your holiday baking … and your kids have a few more days of winter break, too … then give it a try. Here are nine tips to help you along, especially if your kids measure in at three feet or shorter. 🙂

1.) Pick an easy recipe. Little G and I love this one for Orange Dark Chocolate Blossoms, which my Mom passed along to us. Nine ingredients—that’s what I’m talking about!

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2.) Know that things might get messy—and that’s OK. As Harriet van Horne said, “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”

3.) Also know that everything will take longer: prep, cleanup, everything. That’s OK, too. P.S.: Don’t hurry to preheat the oven anytime soon.

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4.) Enjoy your time together, you and your child. No need to rush through mixing the butter, flour, and sugar. Chat; laugh; steal a dark chocolate kiss or two from the ingredients list.

5.) At the same time, make sure your child doesn’t eat too many of the ingredients. (Yes, I speak from experience, friends!)

6.) Give your kiddo a job, maybe even a few jobs. For our Orange Dark Chocolate Blossoms, Little G’s main job is to unwrap the 40 dark chocolate kisses. She also likes to stir the dough using a wooden spoon, and roll the dough into circle-shaped cookies-to-be.

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7.) Use this time together to teach—about kitchen safety, for example. “The oven is hot, Little G, so you need to stay right there while Mommy puts the cookies in.” Another worthy lesson: “Mommy’s mommy made these cookies every Christmas, and now we’re making them, too. We’re carrying on a family tradition. Those are important.”

8.) Baking with kids is a wonderful mommy-and-me activity, for any season. It encourages conversation. It teaches skills. And it makes your house smell homey.

9.) Most of all, baking with your kids creates memories. I’m no Cake Boss, but I love baking with Little G, and I’m excited for us to make cookies (and memories) with her little sister one day, too. Happy baking, friends.

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5 Reasons to Write Thank-You Notes

‘Tis the season for gifts and giving, for counting our blessings and expressing our gratitude, too. Last night, after snuggling Little G to sleep and watching an old “Breaking Bad” episode with my hubby, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote some thank-you notes. Three different friends had made my family’s Christmas season merrier with their kindnesses, and I wanted to let them know we appreciated them.

11_5 Reasons to Write Thank-You Notes

When I was growing up, my mom taught my three siblings and me to thank people for their thoughtfulness and generosity with a handwritten note, promptly composed. This lesson resonated with me and has stuck with me all these years later. I like the idea of putting pen to paper to consider a kindness, acknowledge it, and then send off my appreciation.

Can’t you just e-mail or text a thank-you note? Sure, of course. And when I use electronic communications like these, I like to attach a picture of the gift “in action”—for example, Little G having a tea party with the Raggedy Ann doll my brother mailed her as a Christmas present.

But I really enjoy writing and mailing thank-you notes that you can touch; hold; hold onto as keepsakes. Here are five reasons why:

1.) Say, “Thank you,” in a heartfelt, unhurried way. Slightly more meaningful than a “Love the new Anthropologie potholder!!” text (which I dashed off to my sister a few days ago—we all have our moments, right? 🙂 ).

2.) Relive the joy. When I write a thank-you note, I take time to reflect on the gift and the giver. And in doing so, I give myself the opportunity to enjoy the gift and the goodwill it generated—and the accompanying friendship, a gift itself—again.

3.) Be present in the moment. Writing the old-fashioned way, with simple pen and paper, enables me to take a break from electronics—from the hum of my laptop and the mere being of my phone, constantly reminding me of all the people out there to connect with, all the possibilities, all the things to do. *Simplicity.*

4.) Brighten someone’s day. When I open my mailbox and see a handwritten note, it’s the first thing I open (sorry, Pottery Barn catalog and Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer!). You too? Personal correspondence brightens my day, and I think it may brighten others’, too.

5.) And … fun stationery. I love picking out note cards and writing papers of all kinds, anywhere from the Hallmark Store to Half Price Books. Writing thank-you notes gives stationery a purpose. Would you agree?

Meanwhile, here are some helpful links related to thank-you notes …

Holiday Illumination at the JW Marriott San Antonio

Who doesn’t love taking in the sparkle and splendor of Christmas lights this time of the year? From your neighborhood’s décor to the River Walk spectacular, illumination sightseeing options abound in San Antonio.

A friend recommended that my hubby, Little G, and I check out the Holiday Illumination at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. So we did, last night. The whole experience is remarkable.

The Holiday Illumination runs nightly through December 31, from 6:30 to 10 p.m. Cost is complimentary.

And now, for some pictures …

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My favorite part of the Holiday Illumination was the gingerbread house display, which greets you as you enter the lobby. Isn’t this festive creation just incredible?

 

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The resort’s staff put 500 pounds of sugar, 250 pounds of fondant, and similarly striking foodie figures to use in constructing all the gingerbread houses.

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Predictably, Little G’s favorite gingerbread house featured the Frozen cast. 🙂 Olaf’s everywhere these days!

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The outdoor winter wonderland of lights takes place on the resort’s Crooked Branch Patio. I love how the colors twinkle across the water here.

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Behind this tree is a red sleigh attached to a sparkling reindeer—the perfect photo op for you and your loved ones. Enjoy, friends!

My Day in 5 Pictures

I got the idea for this blog post from one of these writing prompts. So here you go, friends: a day in my life in five pictures. And the day in question was yesterday, Friday the 19th.

What would your five pictures tell the story of? Here’s my story:

#1

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8 a.m.: I drop Little G off at preschool. I need to be back by 9:30 for her class’s Christmas program. Until then, I set myself up at a nearby Corner Bakery Café. While indulging in a chocolate muffin, I read some of the current issue of Writer’s Digest and then actually write.

#2

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11:15 a.m.: Back at home after the Christmas program and the class cookie-decorating party afterward. I loved being there for Little G and was so glad that my hubby and his parents were able to come, too. Some of the parents in Little G’s class gave the kiddos gifts, such as a winter-themed Disney princesses cup, personalized red-velvet Bundt cake, and homemade Christmas ornament. I didn’t think to do any of these things. Definitely need to step up my game next year, right, friends? 🙂

#3

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12:30 p.m.: Another gift was Play Doh. Little G loves Play Doh and can “pretend cook” with it for hours. Meanwhile, I clean up the kitchen—a disaster when we all left the house around 7:30 earlier that morning. Around 2 p.m., I convince Little G to take a break to read books and snuggle with me. Soon, we both nod off.

#4

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4 p.m.: Nature walk at a nearby playground. Being outside is invigorating.

#5

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6:30 p.m.: Family pizza night at one of our favorite local restaurants. My hubby, Little G, and I love cozy neighborhood hangouts like this one. A warm way to end the day.

 

A Last-Minute, Stress-Free DIY Christmas Gift Idea

9_Only one week before Christmas. Are you ready, friends? Or might you be in need of a last-minute gift or two?

If so, I can help!

One of my favorite gifts to give is a loaf (or mini loaf) of homemade bread, paired with tea or coffee in a holiday-themed gift bag. It’s heartfelt, thoughtful, and useful. And best of all, it lends itself perfectly to minimal stress at the last minute.

What You Need

For the homemade bread

For the accompanying tea/coffee

  • Tea: Check out this article to get ideas on teas that pair well with different kinds of bread. This blog post from Great Harvest Bread Co. offers up additional suggestions, too. Hint: Everyone seems to agree that the flavors of pumpkin bread and chai complement one another perfectly.
  • Coffee: The website Coffeeinated features this article about coffee pairings and foods, including breads. According to this article, try pumpkin and banana bread with Colombian or Costa Rican roasts.

For the packaging

  • Aluminum foil, to wrap around the bread
  • Wrapping paper, to wrap around next (I’m using this brown craft paper this year, for a rustic effect.)
  • Ribbon
  • Tissue paper
  • Holiday-themed gift bag

And that’s it! Heartfelt, thoughtful, useful. Happy Holidays, friends. 🙂

Writing Your Mom Blog: Lotsa Post Ideas

What to blog about next? As bloggers, this question is always on our mind. In my experience, I’ve found that I get some of my best ideas when I’m not thinking or worrying about this question—when I’m busy moving through the day, trying something new, or simply living in the moment.

Everyday life can be inspiration enough. But sometimes, the inspirations fall short. For those times, it can be helpful to have a bank of ideas—better yet, several idea banks.

Thus, I’ve done a little Googling to come up with and share the following resources for my fellow bloggers out there. Altogether, these resources promise approximately 1,000 blog post ideas and writing prompts. Here’s to never again wondering, “What to blog about next?”

“31 Fresh Blog Post Ideas” from Family Blog Tips

“If Our House Could Talk” is an interesting topic! So is “From the Spouse’s Perspective.”

“32 of the Most-Popular Blog-Post Ideas” from The Blog Stylist

Personally, I love reading and writing tutorial and how-to posts. This kind of “service journalism” benefits bloggers in a few key ways, including begetting appreciation from readers and establishing the blogger as a content expert.

“101 Blog Post Ideas That Will Make Your Blog Hot” from Start Blogging Online

Contests, giveaways, conspiracy theories … lots to choose from here!

“600+ Brilliant Blog Post Ideas” from Kludgy Mom

Some of my favorites here included the following:

  • 10 Things I Believe
  • If you were only allowed to give your children one piece of advice, what would that be?
  • A Letter to My Unborn Child
  • How has your own childhood changed the way you raise your own kids?
  • Why I Stay Married

“Blog Post Prompts and Ideas” from Pinterest

As of this writing, there are 103 pins here!

“The Secret to a Gazillion Blog Post Ideas” from Blog Clarity

Magazine covers … who knew?!

Good luck, friends. 🙂

What Are Your Family Traditions?

8_What Are Your Family TraditionsAll the ladies in my family love Michael Strahan. Not for his football prowess, of course, but for his friendly, easy-on-the-eyes morning-talk-show presence. And I especially love this quote he once shared: “I have the best memories as a kid eating ice cream. It was a family tradition that I had with my father. It was nice.”

Many family traditions involve food, it seems. I myself remember, as a child, stopping by a local ice cream shop called Curly Creme with my mom, two brothers, and sister. Curly Creme specialized in soft ice cream, and operated during the summer only. Throughout my childhood, my summer vacations included weekly cones of chocolate-vanilla “twist” custard from this homegrown institution. I can almost—almost—still taste that rich two-in-one flavor.

Beyond encounters with ice cream ( 🙂 ), family traditions include customs both big and small, from multigenerational holiday getaways to Saturday-morning basketball games in the driveway.

These days, Little G and I have fallen into a cozy Sunday-afternoon mother-daughter tradition that I love, and that I hope Little G loves, too. After we get home from church and have lunch with my hubby, we give him some time to himself (yesterday he watched his beloved Texans play the Jaguars) while we head over to one of my favorite local coffee shops.

Our mother-daughter date includes hot chocolate for me and a chocolate-chip cookie for Little G. We make ourselves comfortable at a table for two, and I bring along a coloring book and crayons in case we feel creative. A lot of the time, though, we simply enjoy hanging out together—people watching, listening to the overhead music, and flipping through the various magazines on hand.

I stumbled across this article, “Creating a Positive Family Culture: The Importance of Establishing Family Traditions.” The article notes, “Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our everyday lives.”

At first glance, there may not seem to be much magical about chocolate-chip cookies from a coffee shop. But maybe the magic lives in the experience—of carving out time together, of being in communion with each other. The article also notes that “through regular family dinners or activities, the centrality of familial solidarity is instilled.”

What do you think, friends? What are your family traditions? What makes them magical?