Garanimals Blog

December 23rd, 2014 at 6:16 pm

Welcoming Santa

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Our family has some special traditions for preparing for Santa’s visit. First, we make a batch of “reindeer food” to leave on the ground for Santa’s reindeer. In the evening, we sprinkle it on the ground outside so the reindeer have something to eat while Santa is inside. We don’t have a fireplace, so we know that Santa parks on the front lawn. Check out the recipe for Magic Reindeer Food below.

We also prepare a plate of cookies and a glass of milk that we leave on the table. Santa usually only leaves crumbs, since he is a big fan our our cookies.

During the evening, we check out where Santa is in the world on Norad. It truly is a great learning activity so the kids can learn the parts of the world, the time changes, and the distance from place to place.

Other families hang stockings for Santa to fill, leave a magic key outside, and more. What do you do on Christmas Eve to welcome Santa?

Magic Reindeer Food Recipe

In a small zipper sandwich bag, mix:

  • 1/4 cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup red or green sugar sprinkles

 

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December 22nd, 2014 at 3:42 pm

Holiday Appetizers

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I  love the appetizers that come with holiday gatherings. To me, all those little bites make up the perfect meal! Here are some of my favorite appetizer recipes:

Cold Veggie Pizza

Ingredients:
1 can refrigerated crescent rolls
8 oz Cream Cheese
1 1/2 tsp mayonnaise
1 tsp Dill Weed
Salt and Pepper
4 Cups fresh vegetables: mushrooms, carrots, green or red peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini
1/4 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 350° F. Arrange crescent dough on baking stone and pinch seams together. I like to spread it out flat on a baking sheet. You can arrange in a wreath circle pattern. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool.

Blend softened cream cheese, mayo, dill weed, salt and pepper. Spread over cooled crescent dough. Chop vegetables and sprinkle over pizza. Top with grated cheese. Refrigerate.

 

Here are some other recipes I love:

White Pizza Dip

Garlic Herb Roasted Shrimp 

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

French Onion Soup Stuffed Mushrooms

Crispy Baked Ravioli

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December 16th, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Making Christmas Treats

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One of my favorite days in the month of December is the day we make our Christmas treats. The kitchen is filled with the smells of cinnamon, caramel, chocolate, and more. The tradition started with my sister-in-law’s family, and we baked cookies together as her children grew up. Her children are now all in college, so we carry on the tradition in our home.

The variety has changed over the years. Plus, sometimes we try some new things. Once we experimented with cake balls, another time was peppermint bark.  This year was white chocolate party mix. I probably gained a pound or two just taste testing, and now have to hide most of the treats from all the boys in my family, but we always make a lot of memories!

What is your favorite treat to make? Mine is Turtle Pretzels. Simple to make and yummy to eat, plus a fun activity for the kids.

turtle pretzels

Turtle Pretzels

Ingredients:

  • Square Pretzels
  • Rolo Candies
  • Pecan Halves

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F. Arrange the pretzels in a single layer on a cookie tray lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper. Place a rolo candy in the middle of each pretzel. Bake for 4 minutes. Press a pecan half onto each candy-covered pretzel to spread. Let cool completely before packaging.

 

 

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December 12th, 2014 at 2:01 pm

Elf on the Shelf

Every night we have an elf that visits our house and watches our children, reporting back to Santa whether or not they are being good. This year our oldest has decided to start writing letters to our elf.  The elf’s name is Alex, and he hides somewhere new each night, but sometimes he gets into a little bit of trouble. Check out some of the fun times our elf has already had this holiday season.

He brought donuts for breakfast, including mini ones for himself.

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He played in my table decoration and made a mess.

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He drew mustaches on the boys’ photos with dry erase marker.

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He brought us a Christmas puzzle and started putting it together.

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Sometimes he likes to snuggle with Santa during his visit.

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Other times he just wants to hang out in the boys’ stockings.

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Do you have an elf? What does he like to do?

 

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December 8th, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Sending Holiday Cards

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In this age of Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets, people have so many more ways of staying in touch than they did years ago. It’s easier to talk to far away friends and see pictures of their kids, homes, vacations, activities, etc. Because of this, many question whether or not they should still bother to send out holiday cards.

Do we send holiday cards out of obligation or is the act something that follows the tradition of the holiday spirit of giving? Sending cards can definitely feel like a part of the stress that comes with the season.

Holiday cards are an easy way to spread cheer by connecting with people through a short note, photo, or even just the notion that you’re thinking of them. A card doesn’t have to be a perfect picture, a long newsletter, or sent out to a ton of people. Think of the feeling you get when you find a card with a short note at the end of a stressful day – it brings a smile to your face. And considering how “digital” we’ve all become, a handwritten note or piece of regular snail mail is a real change of pace. Amongst all the bills, advertisements, and catalogs, these lovely cards really shine through.

I’ll be sending out cards this year, just because the act of receiving them has such a impact on me. I know when mine go out, they impact others too. Will you be sending out holiday cards this year?

 

 

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November 25th, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Everyday Gratitude

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At the Thanksgiving table we always list all the things we are grateful for. But after, the focus turns to Christmas and we tend to get sucked into the latest and greatest things, and become busy with shopping, parties, etc. It’s important for children to understand how lucky they are to have people who love them, clothes, food, shelter, clean water, etc., that other kids around the world might not have. Try to take some time in everyday life to keep the focus on gratitude.

Why only talk about the things you’re thankful for on Thanksgiving? Why can’t gratitude surround the table every night? Start by having each person in your family list three things they’re grateful for each day. It can be as simple as:

  • The sun is shining and we got to go outside and play.
  • Mom made my favorite brownies.
  • Its Taco Tuesday and that’s my favorite meal.
  • I got to stay in my pajamas a little later than usual.

If your kids are old enough, they can even start a journal. Take a simple notepad and decorate it with stickers, have them draw pictures and use it to write things they are thankful for. It gives them something to look back on and see what things they were most grateful for at certain times in their lives.

 

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November 19th, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Holiday Tablescapes

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The holiday season is upon us. It’s fun to bring your table to life and create a nice, festive place to gather as family.

Here are some tips for making your tablescape come to life:

  • Focus your decorating energy on the centerpiece. Fill a beautiful bowl with fruit, arrange some flowers, or use gourds, leaves, grapes, and other fall fruits and nuts. For a more wintery feel, use pinecones and evergreen branches to a bowl. Use ornaments, large colored light bulbs, and other Christmas items to fill in spaces.
  • Use cut burlap as a table runner, or for winter, use metallic or holiday-colored fabric.
  • Cover the table runner with gourds, leaves, mini pumpkins, and Indian corn for fall and Thanksgiving. Scatter different levels of candles among those things.
  • Use ribbon to tie napkins or silverware together.
  • Fill a mason jar with cranberries and water. Add a floating candle.
  • Be inventive when choosing place cards. I have a collection of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years themes.

The most important part is to make the table your own. Have it reflect your family, things you love, and other things that will make the event special.

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November 17th, 2014 at 10:24 am

Online Shopping Tips

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Online shopping has become a popular way to handle the purchase of holiday gifts. It’s an easier and quicker way for busy people to shop. If you are new to online shopping, here are some tips to help you become a savvy online shopper!

  • Companies often offer sales online that they don’t offer in store. Coupled with coupons you might be able to use, you can not only save time, but money as well, by shopping on their website.
  • Create an account on sites you shop the most. This makes purchasing easier because your information (shipping, billing, order history, etc.) will be securely stored in the account. Additionally, you’ll be able to check your order/shipping status, facilitate returns, and sometimes even contact customer service through live chat or a direct account function.
  • Sign up to get emails from companies you frequently purchase from. They will send you exclusive emails with sales and coupons to use for future purchases. It can make a big difference when you have a significant percentage off your total!
  • Don’t throw away packaging and receipts once your item arrives. Most companies allow you to send the item back in it’s original packaging for a full refund with free postage. Sometimes you decide the item isn’t exactly what you wanted, sometimes there’s an issue with the item itself, or sometimes it doesn’t fit or work the way you need it to. Don’t get stuck keeping an item you don’t want or need.
  • Early Black Friday sales are already being posted, and even more appear on Black Friday itself. The best day to shop online is Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving. It is a good day to find significant sales of up to 40% or 50% off!

Also, you can earn cash back from your online holiday purchases (and any other time of year as well) by signing up with Ebates.com. Ebates is paid by a number of popular online retailers to drive sales on their online platforms. Each retailer offers a different percentage of cash back, some on certain items or type of purchases, some on your total purchase of any items. Walmart is one of the major participants, so you can earn cash back from buying Garanimals!

Some great sites to monitor for online sale information are:

Brad’s Deals

Penny Pinching Mom

Saving with Shellie

Passion for Savings

I plan on getting A LOT of shopping done this way for Christmas! How about you?

 

 

 

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November 11th, 2014 at 5:08 pm

Fun Thanksgiving Activities

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Thanksgiving is a great time to do some fun crafts and activities. These ideas make nice gifts to bring to family and friends on Thanksgiving, or to have the kids do at the Thanksgiving table.

One year we made a turkey centerpiece. We filled a brown lunch bag with popcorn and stapled it shut. We then used colored construction paper to make feathers and the turkey’s head. The kids could later cut open a slit in the bag to eat the popcorn as a snack.

Lego Turkey

Paint Chip Turkey

Handprint Turkey Hat

Leaf Turkey Craft

Mayflower Craft

Handprint Turkey

Candy Corn Turkey

Paper Bag Turkey

I am Thankful Pumpkin

Paper Plate Turkey

Tissue Paper Turkey

Fun Activities for the Thanksgiving Table

Thanksgiving Word Search

Turkey Color & Number Patterns

Thanksgiving Mad-libs

Thanksgiving Bookmarks

Thanksgiving Coloring Pages

Thanksgiving Conversation Cards

Thanksgiving Placemat & Activity Sheet

A Thinking Turkey Game

Thanksgiving Sudoku

Thanksgiving Jokes

Interview Questions for Grandparents

Max & Ruby Placecards & Table Labels

MORE….

More Thanksgiving Coloring Pages

Free Printable Activity Pages

 

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November 7th, 2014 at 9:14 am

Favorite Thanksgiving Books

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My boys love to read books about holidays as they are approaching. Thanksgiving is a fun time to learn about tradition and the history of the holiday through sharing books. Here are some of my favorites:

Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks

The Berenstein Bears Thanksgiving Blessings

The Night Before Thanksgiving

10 Fat Turkeys

Pete the Cat: The First Thanksgiving

Pinkalicious: Thanksgiving Helper

The Story of the Pilgrims

Fancy Nancy: Our Thanksgiving Banquet

Biscuit is Thankful

The Best Thanksgiving Ever

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

The Story of Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day Thanks

This is the Turkey

Take some time this month to have some family reading time with Thanksgiving books, and discussions about the meaning of Thanksgiving and why it is a part of our history.

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