32: Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallows

Everyone loves sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top, especially kids! This Thanksgiving, whip up a batch and get in the spirit of the holidays! Here are a few recipes and tips to get you started!

IMPORTANT: Do not have any distractions while the marshmallows are toasting under the broiler! Pay attention to the browning process. If they burn, just scrape them off and try again! We’ve all done it!

Yummy photo courtesy of Kathryn Rotondo. Thanks!

34: Food Allergy Awareness

Any kind of holiday or occasion involving food is a high alert time for food allergies. Near and dear to my heart is the issue of food allergies. Our daughter and my brother have life-threatening food allergies that require planning, research, and prevention. The key to success in not having an emergency room visit, or worse, is to plan your food. Pack snacks, safe desserts, and other food options if you are uncertain about the ingredients or preparation conditions of food you will encounter.

Here are some potentially deadly items for peanut- and nut-allergic people:

  • pies (a pumpkin pie might seem okay, but it might use pecan flour in the crust!)
  • anything prepared in a kitchen containing nuts or peanuts (past and present)
  • processed baked goods
  • all bakery items
  • anything on a buffet where a nut item is also located (cross-contamination)

At parties with lots of holiday foods, make sure you only drink from your glass. Again, cross-contamination is possible and occurs in drinks. Eat using only your utensils from your plate. If it is possible to go first in a buffet situation, do that and try not to make a second pass. Cross-contamination covers a picked-over buffet.

Remember to make sure your Epi-Pens are current. If you need a refill, take care of it. While you’re doing that, review all of your labeling and contact information on emergency medicines and update it. We keep our Epi-Pens in a red, insulated bag that has been clearly labeled with Sharpie with our contact information and medical information. Inside that bag, we also keep Benadryl Strips and an Albuterol inhaler. The Epi-Pens are also in their own plastic duo-case that is also labeled very clearly.

If you are hosting an children’s event, please have your food clearly labeled and any nut items out of reach of small children, in particular. Children under 3 years of age should not have any peanut or nut items at all, so keep that in mind, too.

In the past, I think of Christmas with nut goodies of all kinds playing major roles, but now it’s a little different. Making safe desserts to give and take has become a tradition in its own right.

Have a safe Christmas this year!

39: Christmas Caroling Party Action Plan

I asked my sister about her favorite Christmas tradition and she replied very quickly:

“My favorite tradition is caroling (Are you surprised?). I have done it every year with the kids and other friends on the Sunday before Christmas. We take the guitar, jingle bells, any other instruments on hand, and friends who can harmonize – what fun! I am getting in the Christmas spirit just thinking about it!”

Christmas caroling is really fun and with very little planning it can be transformed from a last-minute idea into a memorable occasion for family and friends. Here are a few simple steps to get you started.

  1. Get out your calendar and find a convenient early evening to have friends over. A great option is to limit yourself to 2 or 3 other families with kids, making sure to have buddies for your kids.
  2. Invitations can be as simple or elaborate as you like. For something very informal, a phone call is acceptable. I like to use Evite. You can always mail or hand deliver the printed or handmade variety of invitation.
  3. One week before the event, touch base with everyone and get a head count (RSVP).
  4. For the party, your house will hopefully be all decorated before then. For your menu, have plenty of cookies, hot chocolate, cider, etc.
  5. ALLERGY NOTE: Please find out from your guests if anyone has a peanut or nut allergy. Do your best to keep peanuts and nuts out of areas where allergic children will be. Enlist your allergy mom to provide a safe alternative for her child. She knows best.
  6. The focus of caroling is fellowship and spreading joy, not musical perfection!
  7. Make your own caroling booklets with the song lyrics printed in a booklet form. This is easy to do in Publisher or Word. Lyrics can be found for just about any song using Google.
  8. Have extra mittens/scarves/hats available. One fun thing to do, if you like giving party favors, would be to make matching fleece scarves for everyone. This is very simple to do without any sewing!

Photo courtesy of Doug Floyd.

41: Michelle’s Christmas Memories

My friend Michelle sent me a note with her favorite Christmas memory filled with traditions:

“Absolutely, hands down….
Family dinner, followed by the opening of one gift, then Midnight service at church, ending with ‘Silent Night’ by candlelight and coming home and making ‘reindeer food’ with my nieces and nephews.  They’re grown now and we all are in different places, but it warms my heart to think about it!”

What a great evening! There are several elements to this evening that make it special: food, gifts, worship, tradition, and fellowship. Any great memorable tradition combines many of these elements. When all five senses are engaged, the experience is etched in your memory very strongly.

Beautiful photo courtesy of Miriam.

42: Birthday Cake for Jesus

Rhonda, a fellow elf, sent in a favorite family tradition:

“Every year on Christmas eve, we bake a birthday cake for Jesus.  We light some candles and sing Happy Birthday.  We have decided his favorite cake is probably chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.”

My daughter thinks this is a great idea! Kids love birthday parties and it’s a great way to add another Jesus-focused element into your Christmas celebration.

Photo courtesy of Tim Notari.

45: Bedtime Stories for Christmas

If you aren’t already reading books at bedtime, this is a great tradition to start. It’s great for your infants, toddlers, pre-readers, young readers, advanced readers, and tweens! Here are some great Christmas titles for the season:

Photo courtesy of abbamouse.

50: Day Fifty Checkup

Today, let’s take some time to check our progress. How are you doing with the first 50 days of preparation for Christmas? Do you know where you’re spending Christmas this year, or are you playing host/ess? Menu? Guests?

Have you scheduled a family portrait sitting and selected/ordered Christmas cards?

Are you handmaking gifts this year? Knitting projects? Soap? Exploding cards?

Have you tried at least one new cookie recipe? Please say that you have! Everyone loves cookies!

Make your lists and check them twice! Put them all in one place: a notebook/planner or PDA/smartphone. Stay on top of it this year and don’t be caught by surprise a month from now.

Photo courtesy of Adam Smith

55: Experiment with Fondant

Fondant is a wonderful thing. A versatile confection used in everything from cake decorating to homemade candies, you can make fondant at home and experiment with using it for your special occasion sweets. I’ve made fondant mints that used peppermint extract and pressed them into candy molds. They were a big hit!

You can shape fondant just as you would marzipan. It makes great edible decorations for any dessert tablescape! You are only limited by your imagination. If your kids can make things out of playdoh, they can have fun with fondant! Tell us about your own experiments in the comments section! Have fun!

Brilliant cake and photo courtesy of Karen Armstrong and Manassas Cakery

56: Personalized Gifts for Kids

Every kid loves to see their name on various items: books, mugs, placemats, signs, or just about anything else! What could be better than a Christmas Story featuring your child? Our daughter received one of these as a gift a few years ago, and it is still one of her favorite books! Personalized gifts are fun!

Personalized items at Walter Drake

Personalized Christmas Story about your child for just 1 cent!

Oriental Trading Company, Inc.

Great photo courtesy of Megan Soh.