Celebrating Christmas in the Arctic

Family Crhistmas
Family members all gathered at my parents’ house to have a Christmas celebration with us before we left Alabama to come back to Kotzebue.

This was the first year I have ever been away from my family during Christmas. We went down south for Thanksgiving and spent two weeks visiting everybody, because that was the only time we could arrange to be with some of our extended family. So, we decided our Christmas would be here in the arctic.
Continue reading “Celebrating Christmas in the Arctic”

Saint Patrick’s Day with the Family

saint patricks day family fun
The following is an excellent guest post from Megan with great tips on making this St. Patrick’s Day extra fun for the whole family. Megan Gates is an active blogger who provides written work to the blogosphere pertaining to NYC ApartmentsHamptons Homes for sale, home improvement and the latest architecture, design, fashion and travel.  Follow her on twitter @MEGatesDesign.

Saint Patrick’s Day Family Activities:

St. patricks Day family activities

Saint Patrick’s Day doesn’t just have to be for the Irish. Who doesn’t love the stories of little magical leprechaun’s, pots of gold at the end of the rainbow and shamrocks that bring good luck? Here are some ways to make this Saint Patrick’s Day full of fun-filled activities and surprises for the whole family.

When we think of St. Patrick’s Day, the color green is usually one of the first things that come to mind. So, on March 17th, be sure to wear your green. Whether you put on a green shirt, special socks or just some green ribbons in your hair; dress up for the occasion. Add a little more green to your day with some special desserts, such as pistachio pudding or lime Jello. A few drops of green food coloring can turn any cup of milk into a festive treat for your child too.

St. Patricks Day Family activities
Shamrock Sugar Cookies with Green Icing

Whether you are just celebrating the holiday as a family or throwing a kid-friendly party, there are some great Saint Patrick’s Day crafts you can try. Make a shamrock out of paint, a potato and a cookie cutter. Cut a potato in half then, using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, press it into the potato half and cut around the cutter. Now, dip the heart-shaped potato stamp into green paint, making the three leaves of the shamrock. Add a stem and you are done.

Having your children decorate their very own treasure box is a great way to surprise the little ones with a treat. Legend has it that the night before Saint Patrick’s Day, the leprechauns come out to play disguised as leaves and grass. If they find a decorated treasure box, they must fill it and hide it. Have the children decorate an empty shoe box any way they like. When they go to sleep, fill the box with small treasures, such as candy or costume jewelry. Hide the box, but make sure to leave a trail of shamrocks to the treasure.

St. patricks Day family fun
Make a Leprechaun Craft with the Kids!

Other games you can play as a family or in a party setting are: find the coin or scavenger hunt. Hide a coin and play a version of hot and cold until someone finds it. If you choose to have a scavenger hunt, hide a pot of gold with some chocolate and write some clues on shamrocks. Have the children read the clues all the way to the treasure.

Make Saint Patrick’s day fun for the whole family this year. Try some of these craft ideas and games or come up with some of your own. After all, leprechauns aren’t the only ones who get to have fun!

Enjoying Both of My Valentines

toddler valentines day photo
Anneliese Mae February 14, 2012

I spent Valentine’s Day with my two loves, Anneliese and Jonathan. It was not relaxing or crazy fun like many of the previous years. I still had a destructive toddler running around, making messes and getting an attitude when she did not get her way. I also had a husband to care for and a website to work on, but I had a wonderful day enjoying valentine breakfastboth of my Valentines anyway.

For breakfast, I made waffles using blueberries or cherries with whipped cream to make smiley faces. It was delicious, fun and simple.

Then, Anneliese and I did a toddler- safe Valentine craft. I cut a variety of tissue paper into valentine toddler craftone inch squares which we wadded up and stuck around a pink foam heart. Now I just need to print off the Valentine’s Day photo of Anneliese to glue in the center and it will be a great keepsake for my baby’s second Valentine’s Day.

Later that afternoon, my sweet husband took me out for dinner early so we could beat the crowds. Then he took me shopping! We had so much fun goofing off together while the grandparents took care of our baby.

Overall, I spent a wonderful day with my two favorite people. Although it was not the most relaxing day and I still had to do some work, I am very thankful for the joyful time spent with my family. Thanks to my sweet husband for giving me a fun date night.

daddy and baby valentines
My Two Valentines!

Guest Post: 9 Ornate Christmas Desserts from Easy to Expert

{The following is a wonderful guest post by the budding food writer, Sue Colburn. These recipes will be great for homemade Christmas gifts. Thanks again Sue, for this delicious article!}
christmas dessert recipes guest

9 Ornate Christmas Desserts from Easy to Expert

Have a blast making these oh-so-divine Christmas cookies, cakes and other sweet treats that suit any skill level.

Whoever said a fresh start begins on January 1? When it comes to making Christmas desserts, try a new and improved recipe—something that takes you out of your holiday comfort zone. Make Christmas cookie balls instead of sugar cookies; add some peppermint flavoring to a plain cheesecake; and dress up traditional cupcakes using holiday decorations. No matter your skill set in the kitchen, there are many ways to cook outside the box this holiday season—all you need are a few ingredients and a lot of Christmas cheer!

The Easy Christmas Desserts

With all the obligations that accompany the holidays, not everyone has time to fiddle with making over-the-top treats. And let’s face it: some people just don’t have the knack for baking. If your ability-to-bake level is somewhere between Dessert Take-Out and Easy-Bake Oven, the following recipes are right up your alley. In fact, round up the kids—these Christmas desserts are easy and fun for the whole fam!

1) Oreo Snowman Cookie Balls

Easy Christmas DessertsServings: 48

What You Need:
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 pkg. (16.6 oz.) Oreo Cookies, finely crushed
2 pkg. (8 squares each) Baker’s White Chocolate, melted
1 tsp. black decorating gel
2 tsp. orange decorating icing

 How It’s Done:
Mix cream cheese cookie crumbs until well blended.
Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls. Freeze 10 minutes. Dip balls in melted chocolate; place in single layer in shallow waxed paper-lined pan. Decorate with remaining ingredients to resemble snowmen.
Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

2) Festive Mint Thins

Easy Christmas Desserts

Servings: 12

What You Need:
1 pkg. (8 squares) Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted, slightly cooled
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
1 sleeve Ritz Crackers (36 crackers)
1 candy cane (6 inch), crushed

How It’s Done:
Mix chocolate and extract.
Dip crackers in chocolate mixture, turning to completely coat each cracker. Carefully scrape off excess chocolate. Place crackers in single layer on waxed paper-covered baking sheets; sprinkle with crushed candy.
Refrigerate 30 minutes or until chocolate is firm.

3) Holiday Poke Cupcakes

Easy Christmas Desserts

Servings: 24

What You Need:
1 pkg. (2-layer size) white cake mix
1 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (3 oz.) JELL-O Gelatin, any red flavor
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip Whipped Topping, thawed
Red or green food coloring
Suggested decorations: colored sugar, colored sprinkles, crushed candy canes and/or holiday marshmallows

How It’s Done:
Prepare cake batter and bake as directed for cupcakes. Cool in pans 10 minutes. Pierce tops with fork.
Add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Spoon over cupcakes. Refrigerate 30 minutes. Remove from pans.
Tint Cool Whip with food coloring; spread onto cupcakes. Decorate as desired.

The Intermediate Christmas Desserts

So your baking skills are somewhere in the middle of super cinch and ridiculously difficult—that’s no problemo! Look at it this way: there has to be a middle class in every group, including baking. If you’re looking for middle-of-the-road recipes, these Christmas desserts will provide just enough challenge without causing frustration. Sweet!

4) Merry Cherry Dessert

Christmas Dessert

Servings: 18

What You Need:
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling, divided
1-1/2 cups boiling water
1 pkg. (6 oz.) JELL-O Cherry Flavor Gelatin
1-1/2 cups cold water
4 cups angel food cake cubes
2 pkg. (3.4 oz. each) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding
3 cups cold milk
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip Whipped Topping, thawed, divided

How It’s Done:
Reserve 1/3 cup cherry pie filling for garnish; set aside. Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir at least 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Stir in cold water and remaining cherry pie filling. Refrigerate 45 minutes or until slightly thickened.
Place cake cubes in 3-qt. serving bowl; cover with gelatin mixture. Refrigerate 45 minutes or until gelatin layer is set but not firm.
Beat pudding mixes and milk in large bowl with whisk 2 minutes. Stir in 2 cups Cool Whip; spoon over gelatin layer in bowl. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm. Top with remaining Cool Whip and reserved cherry pie filling.

5) Angelic Apple-Cranberry Pie

Delicious Christmas Desserts

Servings: 8

What You Need:
1-1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 ready-to-use refrigerated pie crust (1/2 of 15-oz. pkg.)
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
3 Golden Delicious apples (1 lb.)
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon

How It’s Done:
Heat oven to 425ºF.
Bring cranberries, water and 6 Tbsp. sugar to boil in small saucepan on medium-high heat; simmer on low heat 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly.
Place pie crust in 9-inch pie plate, pleating edge as necessary to fit. Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar, egg and vanilla in bowl with mixer until well blended; spread onto bottom of crust. Cover with cranberry sauce.
Peel apples; cut in half and remove cores. Place, cut-sides down, on cutting board; cut into thin slices, keeping slices for each apple half intact. Arrange over pie. Mix remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over apples.
Bake 28 to 30 minutes or until apples are tender and crust is golden brown.

6) Winter Wonderland White Chocolate-Peppermint Cheesecake

Yummy Christmas Desserts

Servings: 16

What You Need:
1-1/2 cups Honey Maid Graham Cracker Crumbs
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
4 pkg. (8 oz. each) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
1 cup sour cream
4 squares Baker’s White Chocolate, melted
4 eggs
1 cup thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping
16 miniature candy canes

How It’s Done:
Heat oven to 325°F.
Line 13×9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. Mix graham crumbs, 3 Tbsp. sugar and butter; press onto bottom of pan. Bake 10 minutes.
Beat cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and extract in large bowl with mixer until well blended. Add sour cream and chocolate; mix well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, mixing on low speed after each just until blended. Pour over crust.
Bake 40 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool. Refrigerate 4 hours. Use foil handles to lift cheesecake from pan before cutting to serve. Top each piece with a dollop of Cool Whip and candy cane.

The Show Stoppers

Pull out the red carpet and let’s get glamorous—it’s showtime! These advanced-level recipes include the festive bells and whistles of baking. In other words, you need to know your way around the kitchen, blindfolded. The following Christmas cakes are so incredibly ornate that they may be better served as holiday decorations. Move over Julia Child—it’s time for [Your Name Here] to take center stage.

7) Very Vanilla Snowflake Cake

Fancy Christmas Desserts

Servings: 16

What You Need:
1 pkg. (2-layer size) yellow cake mix
2 pkg.  (3.4 oz. each) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Instant Pudding, divided
6 squares Baker’s White Chocolate
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cold milk
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip Whipped Topping, thawed
1/4 cup raspberry jam, warmed, strained

How It’s Done:
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for 2 (9-inch) round layers, blending 1 pkg. dry pudding mix into batter before pouring into prepared pans. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes; invert onto wire racks. Gently remove pans; cool cakes completely.
Meanwhile, draw 3 or 4 snowflake shapes on paper, ranging in size from 1 to 3 inches in diameter. Place on tray; cover with waxed paper. Melt chocolate as directed on package; cool 5 minutes. Spoon into small resealable plastic bag; cut small corner off bottom of bag. Trace over snowflake patterns with chocolate, rearranging patterns as needed to make a total of 35 chocolate snowflakes. Freeze 10 minutes or until chocolate is firm. Carefully transfer snowflakes to plate; refrigerate until ready to use.
Beat remaining dry pudding mix, sugar and milk in large bowl with whisk 2 minutes. Stir in Cool Whip. Place 1 cake layer on plate; spread with jam, then 1/3 of the pudding mixture. Cover with remaining cake layer. Frost top and side of cake with remaining pudding mixture. Decorate with chocolate snowflakes. Keep refrigerated.

8 ) ‘Tis the Season Starlight Mint Cake

Christmas Desserts

Servings: 16

What You Need:
1 pkg. (2-layer size) white cake mix
1 cup boiling water
1 pkg. (3 oz.) JELL-O Cherry Flavor Gelatin
28 starlight mints, divided
3 squares Baker’s White Chocolate, melted
2 Tbsp. sour cream
2 drops red food coloring
2 cups thawed Cool Whip Whipped Topping

How It’s Done:
Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for 2 (9-inch) round cake layers. Cool cakes in pans 15 minutes. Pierce cakes with large fork at 1/2-inch intervals. Add boiling water to gelatin mix; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Pour over cakes. Refrigerate 3 hours.
Heat oven to 350ºF. Reserve 5 mints for later use. Place 12 of the remaining mints, about 4 inches apart, on parchment paper-covered baking sheet. Bake 5 minutes or until mints are melted and each spreads out to 1-1/2- to 2-inch circle. Remove from oven; cool completely before removing from parchment paper. Meanwhile, repeat with remaining 11 mints.
Blend 5 reserved mints in blender until finely crushed; place in small bowl. Stir in melted chocolate, sour cream and food coloring.
Dip bottom of 1 cake pan in warm water 10 seconds; unmold onto serving plate. Spread cake with chocolate mixture. Unmold second cake layer; place on first layer. Frost with Cool Whip. Decorate with melted mints. Keep refrigerated.

9) Totally Fabulous Turtle Cake

Christmas Cakes

Servings: 16

What You Need:
1 tub (8 oz.) Cool Whip Whipped Topping (Do not thaw.)
1 pkg. (2-layer size) devil’s food cake mix
1 pkg. (3.9 oz.) JELL-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
38 Kraft Caramels
1-1/2 Tbsp. water
6 oz. (3/4 of 8-oz. pkg.) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
5 squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate, divided
16 Nilla Wafers
16 Planters Pecan Halves

How It’s Done:
Spoon half the Cool Whip into bowl; refrigerate to thaw. Return remaining Cool Whip to freezer. Prepare cake batter and bake as directed on package for 2 (9-inch) round layers, adding dry pudding mix to cake mix before mixing with liquid ingredients. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes; invert onto wire racks. Remove pans. Cool cakes completely.
Meanwhile, microwave caramels and water in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1-1/2 minutes or until smooth, stirring every 45 seconds. Cool slightly.
Beat cream cheese in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add caramel sauce; mix well. Blend in thawed Cool Whip. Stack cake layers on plate, filling and frosting top with cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Microwave frozen Cool Whip and 3 chocolate squares in microwaveable bowl 3 minutes or until well blended, stirring after each minute. Cool 10 minutes. Meanwhile, melt remaining chocolate squares as directed on package. Dip half of each wafer in chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Top with nuts. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Spread Cool Whip mixture onto top of cake. Garnish with wafers. Keep refrigerated.

About the Author:
Sue Colburn believes in new beginnings… For her “retirement” from teaching 7th grade Social Studies she set her sights on breaking into the Food Media industry. Just like she taught her students: “ain’t nothin to it, but to DO IT.” If you’d like a food article for your site please email her: SusanColburn@gmx.com. When not writing or cooking, Sue spends time with her 2 granddaughters, 3 children, 8 cats and her high-school sweetheart, who by the grace of God she also married.

Fun Christmas Facts and Stats

Now that I wrote all about the history of Christmas and origin of Christmas symbols, it’s time to find out the fun facts and stats about our modern Christmas holiday. I have found some pretty crazy and interesting information, so I know you will enjoy it.

Christmas Facts

Christmas Fun Facts

The city called North Pole is in Alaska. There are 2 cities named Santa Claus, and one named Noel.

Apollo 8 – Did you know that the crew of Apollo 8 orbited the moon on Christmas Eve of 1968? (During the orbit, the crew read the creation story from the book of Genesis, which was broadcast for all to hear and later became controversially famous.)

December 16– Busiest mailing day for packages, making the 19th the busiest delivery day for packages.

December 20– Busiest letter mailing day, so you might be better off mailing those Christmas cards early.

Christmas Facts and StartisticsWhite Elephant– The term “white elephant gift” came from the King of Siam. He would give a white elephant as a gift to any courtier that annoyed him and, because of the upkeep expenses, the gift would ruin them.

Mistletoe is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words “missel” and “tan” and is translated “dung twig.”

Gemini 6– On December 16, 1965, the astronauts of Gemini 6 sang “jingle Bells” for all the world to hear, possibly making it the first song sung in space.

World’s Largest Christmas Gift– Statue of Liberty, given to the U.S. from the French in 1886.

Crazy Christmas Statistics

5340 number of times a visa card is used every minute during the holiday season.

3– number of times the average Christmas shopper will be elbowed this Christmas shopping season.

$1.25 Billion was spent on Cyber Monday for the 2011 holiday season, which gives a 15% increase from last year.

Gift Cards are the top gift this year, just ahead of electronics.

fun Christmas Facts and stats801 Million pieces of mail will be processed on the 20th of December.

1.5 Billion cards sent for Christmas in the U.S. It is the largest card sending holiday.

2 Billion– approximate number of candy canes that will be sold this Christmas season.

30 Million– approximate number of real Christmas trees to be purchased this year for Christmas.

113%– Jewlery store sales increase for the 2010 Christmas season.

Christmas Facts$27.2 Billion– spent in department stores alone for Christmas in 2010.

10% of Christmas gifts will be broken before New Year’s Day.


{sources: U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Census Bureau, PR Newswire, Wikipedia}

Christmas Facts and Stats