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?

Our Christmas Menu

For most of our married life, we have lived far away from our extended family. Since traveling at this season can be difficult and expensive, we have opted to make the most of Christmas celebrating with our own little family in our own little home. Over the years we have developed a holiday menu that we really look forward to!

Christmas Eve the theme is Chinese Food. You can follow the links to view the recipes. This year I am planning to serve:

Sweet Sriracha Chicken-purchased from Sam’s Club

Egg Rolls-purchased from Sam’s Club

One pot wonder Chicken Lo Mein

A couple of other items I am considering: Chow Mein, General Tso’s Chicken, or these Thai Peanut Noodles.

Fried Rice: my recipe is mostly of the make-it-up as you go along variety, and it varies overtime. Take a guess at the proportions! Saute sliced onion and garlic. Add sliced carrots and bell peppers, then frozen peas. Or you can just use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Scramble 2-3 eggs. Add prepared white rice (2-3 cups, cooled). Toss in some soy sauce until it tastes good. If you want a real recipe, try this one.

For dessert we always have Fried Ice Cream balls. Not actually fried, so at our house we call these Cruncy Ice Cream balls. These are especially good with peppermint flavored ice cream, but with the picky eaters at my house we will stick to vanilla ice cream this year.

Christmas Day breakfast is Butterscotch Caramel Pull-Aparts (made by my husband). We also have hard-boiled eggs, and the oranges that are in everyone’s stockings. Perhaps this year I will try this Bacon & Egg Breakfast Casserole.

Dinner on Christmas Day is the traditional ham and potatoes. I am going to try the Orange and Brown Sugar glazed ham posted by Our Best Bites, as well as Funeral Potatoes. Most likely green beans for a side.

Ever since we moved to Florida I have been trying to learn how to make rolls. My husband’s family makes fabulous rolls, which I have been trying to replicate with moderate success. I think the elevation and humidity have something to do with my failures, but let me just say that bread making is not really my thing. Last January my good friend kindly gave me a one-on-one lesson on roll making. I made them for Thanksgiving this year and they were my best ever. So this is my roll recipe for this Christmas.

Dinner Rolls from Stacey

Proof yeast:

1 Tbs. yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 Tbs. sugar

Mix the first four ingredients in Bosch (I use my Kitchenaid)

2 cups milk (or 1/4 cup powdered milk and 2 cups hot water)

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. salt


2 beaten eggs

8-9 cups bread flour

1/4 cup melted butter

Heat butter, milk, sugar, and salt until warm. Combine beaten eggs with milk mixture then add yeast mixture (make sure liquid is not too hot before you add the yeast mixture). Gradually add the flour until dough leaves the side of the bowl. Cover and let rise until double. Punch down. Knead and spread out onto a floured surface to make a circle (actually rectangle shape works better for me) and spread with melted butter. Using a pizza cutter, cut 24 even wedges. Roll each wedge beginning at the wide end. Place on a cookie sheet and bend slightly to make a curved roll. Cover and let rise until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Butter tops while hot.

What do you think? Anyone want to join us for a meal?

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?

Family Home Evening in December

I love planning Family Home Evening in December, because there are always lots of meaningful things to do. Here are our FHE plans for the month:

Week 1: Talk about the reason for the season. Work on *grandparent pages. Watch Mormon Message Christmas videos.

*My husband’s family has a tradition each year of doing memory book  pages for the parents/grandparents. The adult siblings take turns picking a theme, and then each family completes a page (or more) relating to that theme. Past themes have included testimony, creative works, family traditions, and work. Each page gets assembled into a large binder, to keep and view for years to come.

Week 2: Watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Draw and illustrate our own nativity scenes. Stuff and stamp Christmas cards. Eat pumpkin pie (because we didn’t get enough at Thanksgiving!)



A nativity scene by Lily, age 7 (I like her cute sheep).

Week 3:  Learn about the names of Christ. Use this  free printable, and have the children color in the names as we talk about each. Listen to Handel’s Messiah.

Names of Christ Advent free printablePrintable from alivelyhope.com

Week 4: Symbols of Christmas. My daughter put together a great object lesson on this topic last year at Activity Girls, so she gets to teach this lesson. Another good lesson outline is here. Activity and treat: Decorate Christmas Cone Trees.

IMG_7253-225x300Week 5: 2014 Year in Review. Review our Family Blog and share our favorite memories from the year. Complete the Family Interview using the printable from TeachMama.

What are your Family Home Evening plans for this month?

Books to Read in December

Reading good books with my children is one of my favorite activities, and in December we love to read books related to the Christmas season. Some people online (like here and here) have shared their tradition of wrapping their books every year, then taking turns opening one book to read each night. I tried that one year, and it was exciting for my littles to open a book every night. But the one drawback I noticed is that some books were left wrapped most of the month, and thus unreadable. We try to read at least one book a day, but some days we read many and we like having a lot to choose from and the ability to read our favorites repeatedly.

Here are the books that have made it on our permanent bookshelf so far:

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore illustrated by Mary Engelbreit

Drummer Boy by Loren Long

Who’s Getting Ready for Christmas illustrated by Maggie Kneen

The True Story of Christmas by Nell Navillus

A Christmas Dress for Ellen retold by Thomas S. Monson

How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Good King Wenceslas as read by Jane Seymour

One Shining Star by Anne Vittur Kennedy

We generally try to add one new book each year, and we also fill in our collection with favorites from the library (remember to put them on hold by the time of Thanksgiving, or they will all be checked out!)

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Bear Noel by Olivier Dunrea

Olive, the Other Reindeer by Seibold & Walsh

McDuff’s New Friend by Rosemary Wells

Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Bear Stays up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo: this is a new one for us this year, and I look forward to sharing its sweet message with my children.

For older readers, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is a fun read (and one of my favorites I remember as a youth). We also love the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and nearly every one of her books has a chapter or two about their Christmas celebrations.

What are your favorite Christmas books?