Snowy books to read in January

In January we like to read books about snow, especially since we won’t actually see any of the white stuff where we live in Florida. Hands down my favorite is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, but there are a lot of great books to choose from. Here is what we are reading this month:

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Here Comes Jack Frost by Kazuno Kohara

It’s Snowing! It’s Snowing! Winter poems by Jack Prelutsky

Snowbots by Aaron Reynolds

The Snowman books by Caralyn Buehner: Snowman at Night, Snowmen All Year, Snowmen at Work, etc

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Thomas’ Snowsuit by Robert Munsch

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton

The Mitten by Jan Brett

You can also check out my snowy book lists from years past: 2014, 2013 2012

What is your favorite snow book?

A family dessert favorite: Scotcharoos

One dessert that is always on my December planning list to make is Scotcharoos. The recipe comes from my mom’s side of the family, the Larsens. Not the healthiest thing to make by any means, which means that this recipe is a once a year treat for us to enjoy. This year I made a batch of these to share with the family that invited us to share Christmas Eve dinner.

Scotcharoos: A Larsen Family Tradition

1 cup karo syrup

1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups rice krispies cereal

8-9 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

8-9 oz. butterscotch chips

Bring to a boil the karo syrup and sugar on medium heat. Be careful to stir frequently  and not to let it boil very long. Add peanut butter. Mix well. Add rice krispies. Press into buttered 9×13 pan. Melt on low the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Spread on top. Cool 3 hours before serving.

A New Year’s Menu

We are enjoying our Christmas vacation, and a little break from the usual routine. It is nice to sleep in and spend most of the day playing and relaxing with the children. Most of our time has been spent building Lego’s, reading books, watching movies, and spending time outside in the gorgeous Florida weather (walking or hiking while the children ride rollerblades or bikes).

Sometime during the holiday break I usually get a little itch to have some friends over for an evening of good food and games. Hosting an event is a good reason to clean the house, and the children are usually more motivated to help! We worked hard yesterday cleaning and prepping food, then rewarded ourselves with a nice evening with one of our favorite neighbor families.

New Year’s Eve makes me want to eat appetizer type dishes (foods that my normally picky eaters usually don’t like). This is what the menu looked like:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs: I have been wanting to make these for years, and they were so easy and delicious. Just three ingredients in the crockpot!

Cheeseball: This is a repeat of a favorite we discovered last year. Served with crackers and carrots, celery, and bell peppers on the side.

A green salad: nothing too difficult here, just green lettuce with tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and a little bit of peppers. I mixed up a bottle of Zesty Italian dressing to serve with it.

French bread: easy store bought bread. Some pieces were cut and served plain with butter, while the other half of the loaf was topped with Garlic Bread Seasoning and toasted.

Hmmmm, I am noticing a theme here–all of my recipes come from Our Best Bites! If you haven’t checked out that site, you really should. They are always my go-to source for any recipe (so much that I have two of their cookbooks!).

For dessert we had our Fried Ice Cream Balls. I had planned to serve these on Christmas Eve, but our good friends ended up inviting us over for dinner that night. Happy day! So that means I just adjusted our menu a bit, and we get to have our Chinese food menu for dinner on New Year’s Eve.

Sibling Gifts

My children like to give gifts to each for Christmas, and we are happy to encourage them in that activity. They usually request a bit of assistance, whether it be coming up with ideas or taking them shopping.

My oldest daughter likes her gifts to be handmade. Last year she made hand stitched stuffed animals for her sister and brother. She spent a lot of time, and the gifts were all received (read my husband’s post about that exchange of gifts).

After some discussion, this year she opted to make a travel Lego kit for her 4 year old brother. She gathered Lego pieces from our collection, printed and colored and laminated and cut the pattern cards, and packaged them in a nice tin. The inspiration and pattern templates came from Fun At Home With Kids. Sometimes our large stash of Lego’s can be a little overwhelming, so having them broken down into a little set is perfect for our little guy. Zach was very excited about his gift, and now he can easily build and play with Lego’s in a way that is tailored to his ability.1-DSC_0014

My seven-year-old Lily loves to do science and creative projects. When I saw this Science Kit for Kids from I Can Teach My Child, I knew it would be perfect for her. Anwyn agreed to help me get it ready for her sister. We printed the instruction booklet, laminated for durability, and then purchased the few items we didn’t already have on hand at home. This gift is the gift that keeps on giving, since it will allow for some quality bonding time in the future as we all explore the experiments. 2-DSC_0017

Lily and Zach opted to use their allowance money to purchase gifts. Lily knew immediately that she wanted to get a book for her big sister, and toy cars for her little brother. Zach had trouble knowing what to get, so we took him shopping and he picked out a Lego set for Anwyn and a battery-powered pet for Lily.3-DSC_0027

We allow our children to open these gifts on Christmas Eve. We want to be sure that the children feel the joy of giving, and that it doesn’t get lost in the excitement and shuffle of opening the presents on Christmas morning.

How do your children give gifts to each other?

Peppermint Pretzel Cookies

2-DSC_0004For a lot of people, baking is a big part of their Christmas holiday celebrations.  Baking isn’t a big tradition that I grew up with, but I enjoy involving my children in the kitchen with me when I can. These cookies are my favorite thing to make at Christmas time because the recipe is very kid friendly!

You only need three ingredients: pretzels, peppermint flavored Hershey’s Kisses (the kind with red and white stripes), and red and green M&Ms.1-DSC_0002Set your oven to 200 degrees.

On a large baking sheet, lay out the pretzels. Top each pretzel with a Hershey’s Kiss.

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Place in the oven and WATCH THEM CLOSELY. You want to soften the Kiss, not melt it too much and turn into a gooey mess. It will only take 5-8 minutes. When it is soft you can drop an M&M on top. Chill until set.

4-DSC_0006Enjoy and share some with your friends!

Traditions of December

December is a wonderful month, filled with meaning and traditions. Here are some of the traditions and ways that we celebrate the season in our home.

Focusing on Jesus Christ: Beginning December 1st, each night before bed we read a story from the life of Jesus Christ. We first started this back in 2008, and we are still going strong! We use a reading guide from The Friend magazine (laminated for durability), and the pictures from the Gospel Art Kit. This year I put all of the pictures in sheet protectors in a binder, so they are ready to go each night. The children take turns placing a sticker on the chart to mark our progress. Read more about this here.

Watch Holiday Movies: We always enjoy watching movies as a family, and our never-to-be-missed movie list this month includes White Christmas, Elf, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the cartoon Dr. Seuss version). My husband and I enjoy It’s a Wonderful Life, but our children are still a little young and didn’t show much interest in it when we tried it last year. Sometime during the month we will have a Polar Express Pajama Party with friends and drink hot chocolate!

We also love to watch the Christmas messages produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is a classic, along with Nora’s Christmas Gift. There are a number of moving videos on the Mormon Channel and from The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Just released this year is an amazing collaboration by talented YouTube artists . Please watch and share this message, you will be touched!

Community Activities: We support the holiday events in our community! For us this includes viewing the lights at the hospital duck pond, admiring nativity sets from around the world at our church’s Festival of the Nativity, participating in a ward party (and with musical talents that usually means my husband and I are performing something on the piano), and holding a piano recital for my students.

Reading books: You can find our December reading list here.

Family Home Evening: When Monday night comes, this is what we are doing for FHE!

On the Menu: take a peek at our Christmas menu .

What special traditions do you have this Christmas season?