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Family Movie Night and Two Books: The Snowman, Some Snowflakes and a Craft

12 Dec
The Snowman movie based on the book

This movie is quick, 23 minutes long and is based on the book by Raymond Briggs


Today is Friday, our wind-down night and often-times we have a Family Movie Night, as I said in last Friday’s post. Yesterday’s recipe was for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which I said make me think of snowflakes, even though they are chocolate based cookies. That thought of snowflakes leads me to today’s movie, book and craft for kids.

When I was an elementary teacher, the book, “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs was one of my favorites to use as a wintertime activity with the kids. A wordless book, it had gorgeous illustrations, depicting a boy’s journey with a snowman. I used to love having the kids make their own version of the words to go along with the pictures.

That book is now a movie, and although I have not seen it, I wish I had it! According to the description on Amazon, it is based on live action flying footage. It sounds fantastic!

This is the same book that our family had for years until just last week.

The book that I used to have is now gone, donated just a couple of weeks ago, by my generous kids who each year have to make a big pile of books and toys for children who don’t have much, just before Christmas.

Clearly they couldn’t read my mind and know that I was going to use that very book in my blog post this week. When I heard it was gone, I almost went after it but my husband assured me they were putting the boxes on a truck as he was dropping them off, it was gone. So, instead, I am including the picture from Amazon. Sigh…I loved that book.

Speaking of books and snowflakes, when my daughter Caroline was in first grade, she checked out this very cool book about William Bently, a man who studied snowflakes. It includes really amazing photos of snowflakes and my kids were thoroughly intrigued by it. It truly shows that every snowflake is unique.

To me, nothing says winter crafts like paper snowflakes. One year I had my kids make snowflakes for all of the windows in the house (this was not an overwhelming task, we don’t have a ton of windows!) Each of their snowflakes was different and unique, just like real snowflakes. I loved the ones they put up on my bedroom windows so much that I never take them down. My side of the bed is the window side and I happen to sleep on my left side so I look out the window all the time when I’m laying there in the mornings just waking up. I love seeing those snowflakes.

Therefore, my craft for the day is just that: simple.paper.snowflakes.


Paper snowflakes made by the kids

Every snowflake is different and unique, just like the children who make them!

Paper snowflakes made by our girls

I keep my paper snowflakes on my window all year long!

Fun Friday: Book Review and Giveaway!

5 Dec
I was so excited to go and get my copy of Anika and Chris's new book! You're going to want your own copy too!

I was so excited to go and get my copy of Anika and Chris’s new book! You’re going to want your own copy too!

What’s more fun on a Friday than a giveaway?!

You might be thinking, maybe a giveaway that includes something yummy to eat?

You’ve got it!!

I do lots of book reviews and lots of giveaways, but it’s always more special to me when I know the author of the book personally.

Therefore, today’s review and giveaway is an extra-special one.

Last spring, I participated in the 2014 Providence Listen To Your Mother show, and I had the honor and privilege of sharing the stage with so many wonderful, talented women.

Anika Denise was one of those women. Anika told a wonderful, funny and yet emotional story about her children and their experience with their pet fish. You can hear her story here.

Today’s book review is another story by Anika Denise, a children’s book author, and it holds special meaning for me personally as well. The story behind this sweet children’s book, “Baking Day at Grandma’s” is from Anika’s own childhood as she grew up spending time with her Grandma Rose. Her story reminds me of my own two grandmothers and my mother, and the rich tradition of baking together that has been instilled in me as well as the rich tradition of giving. It’s a tradition I’ve written about each December on my blog as I share my own Grandma Rose’s recipe for her Italian Wine Biscuits and as I’ve shared my Grandma Grello’s recipe for her Christmas Prune Cookies. I’ve written about the years I spent growing up, baking with my mom so that my brother and I could go off delivering trays of cookies each Christmas Eve day. It’s a memory that I hold dear to me, and I’ll continue to share them again this holiday season, beginning next week.

In the book trailer (link below), Anika talks about the fact that growing up she spent a great many summers and winter vacations with her Grandma Rose. I too, spent summers and school vacations with my grandparents, making special memories with them and learning their cooking skills. My kids now spend time baking with my mother as well and carrying on that special bond and tradition.

As I flipped through my book, I found each illustration to be more beautiful than the last.

As I flipped through my book, I found each illustration to be more beautiful than the last.

Christopher Denise is the amazingly talented illustrator of “Baking Day at Grandma’s” and in the trailer below he explains where much of his stunning scenery is derived. Each illustration in the book is more beautiful than the last, and the Denise team does a wonderful job of both showing and telling such a sweet story, one can’t help but love it.

One of the best parts of the book, is the recipe Anika shares in the back of the book. It’s her Grandma Rose’s recipe for chocolate cake, and it provides a perfect opportunity for families to bake together, to spend special time together and even (here goes the teacher in me again) to throw in a little hands-on kitchen math and science. I won’t share the recipe here, of course, but when you get your own copy of the book, you’re going to love that extra-special touch.

Given that the holidays are coming up, I think that “Baking Day at Grandma’s” makes a perfect gift! Being a person who loves themed gifts, I can just imagine a kid-sized apron, maybe a matching adult-sized apron, and some cute baking supplies added in. It’d be a wonderful treat for anyone–child or adult, and a great tradition starter or an add-on to an already existing tradition of baking and sharing!

Listen in this trailer for the book, as Anika and her husband Chris, speak about how this story came to be, and then enter my giveaway for your own copy of the book!


Leave me a comment below telling me who you’d like to have this book for, and why!

Entries will be accepted until Sunday, December 14, and one lucky winner of their very own copy of “Baking Day at Grandma’s” by Anika Denise and Christopher Denise will be announced on Monday December 15.

**This contest is open only to those in the continental United States!**

Family Movie Night & a Recipe: Homemade Hot Chocolate

7 Dec


It’s a Friday and for us Friday nights are sometimes Family Movie Nights. It’s the end of the week and it’s often a wind-down night as well. We look forward to it.

In the winter, our Family Movie Night movie is usually “The Polar Express” at least once.

I got this book in 1993, before there even *was* a movie!

We have the hardcover version of the Chris VanAllsburg book, and it’s even autographed. We also have the special bell from the story as well as the cd of the story from a gift set that we received a few years back. You can find the book and the movie here on

There are several bell crafts you could do to go along with “The Polar Express” if you’d like.

Cups, pipe cleaners, stickers and glitter make for an easy jingle bell craft. If you have a real jingle bell, you can put it inside so that the bell actually rings.

You could:

1) Cut out a bell from construction paper and decorate it with glitter or other materials,


2) Turn a styrofoam drinking cup upside down, put a pipe cleaner through the top (gold works well) turning it into a bell that way, decorating it on the outside any way you’d like.

During the winter months, Family Movie Night often includes a special treat: Homemade Hot Chocolate. My kids LOVE this recipe and it came from a cookbook I received as a gift from one of my Stampin’ Up! customers several years back. The cookbook is called “Old Fashioned Holiday Recipes.” It was full of many great recipe ideas, but this one has always been a favorite find and perfect for our Family Movie Nights. It would go especially well with the “Krispie” Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from yesterday!

Two mugs of hot chocolate

Hot off the stove tonight!

Creamy Hot Chocolate

1 (14 ounce) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk (NOT Evaporated Milk)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 1/2 cups hot water
Marshmallows, optional


In a large saucepan over medium heat combine Eagle Brand, cocoa, vanilla and salt; mix well.

Slowly stir in water. Heat through, stirring occasionally. Do not boil.

Top with marshmallows (optional.)

Store covered in refrigerator. Makes about 2 quarts.

Hot chocolate can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. Mix well and reheat before serving.

A word about re-runs

19 Oct

Yup, I’m already thinking now about my holiday baking!

Fall is here, and winter is coming. Last year I began posting daily around this time of year, in order to fit in all of my holiday-worthy and seasonal recipes.

I also featured winter crafts and children’s book recommendations to go along with each of the recipes in December.

This year I will be re-running some of those recipe posts as I see fit, in order to let my newer followers in on those yummy treats. Although I do try out new recipes once a week or so, when it comes to my holiday baking, I am steeped in tradition and I do not veer off that path very often. Therefore, I won’t have 20 new Christmas Cookie Tray recipes for you again this year, since I shared most all of my tray treats with you last year. So if you are a regular, long-time reader, you may see a few things that ring a bell as looking awfully familiar. I hope those re-runs will remind you that you always wanted to try that recipe last year and never got to, or that you loved it so much you can’t wait to make it again.

In the meantime, if you’d like to look back at my holiday treats from last year right now, you can type in Pumpkin Palooza (Thanksgiving) or Your Tray or Mine? (Christmas), or even click on November and December 2011 to take a look!

As always, if you have a recipe you’d like me to try, feel free to email it to me and I’ll add it to my list, which is super-long, of things I want to try one day! Thank you in advance for sharing your recipes with me and for being such a great, supportive blog audience!


Bonus Post: Story time, a cookie recipe and a craft

23 Dec
The Night Before The Night Before Christmas

A very funny story to read tonight!

It’s Friday night!! Even though we’re not doing Family Movie Night tonight, I do have a story for you: “The Night Before The Night Before Christmas,” a funny story by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Mike Lester.

This is a great story to read on Christmas Eve-Eve, different than your typical actual Night Before Christmas stories, which you can read tomorrow night.

In addition to reading, here’s a cookie recipe for you as well:



1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp grd. cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups quick or oldfashioned oats
1 2/3 cup (or one 11 ounce bag) butterscotch chips

Oatmeal Scotchie Cookies

These use butterscotch chips and oatmeal. They're a yummy, crunchy cookie!


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in large mixing bowl.

Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Stir in oats and chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 7-8 minutes for chewier cookies, 9-10 for crispier cookies.

Cool on cookie sheet 2 minutes, transfer to rack to cool completely.


If you’re looking for some fun, homemade ornament ideas to do during the day on Christmas Eve to help the kids pass the time on what can be a very long day, waiting for the “big event,” here is a collection of photos of some of my favorites from this year and years past. These make great last minute gifts or “tags” to add onto a gift package, or…to add to your tree!

handmade ornament using a container cover

My sister-in-law always makes a handmade ornament each year. This year she collected all kinds of covers, all year long, to create the ornaments.

Popsicle stick ornament

Here is the ornament Elizabeth brought home today, made out of popsicle sticks and paint.

Photo ornament

Caroline's second grade photo ornament using her school photo and a painted frame.

glitter ornament

A fun, easy ornament for young kids to make using glue, glitter and tissue paper.

Crafts for Kids: Story for the day today: You Can Do It, Sam

7 Dec

Today I posted a recipe for my brother’s favorite cookies, Brown Eyed Susans and I talked about how each of us in our family has a favorite cookie on the trays so that you can’t ever think of leaving one out or someone will be disappointed.

As a kid, we lived on a “country road” where the houses were kind of spread apart and our neighbors were sometimes down a long and winding road, or in a house we couldn’t see, even though they were nearby. On Christmas Eve each year, my brother and I would walk up and down the road, up and down the long, winding driveways for hours, delivering our trays of cookies to our neighbors. Some of these people we wouldn’t see very often during the year, even though we were neighbors, but everyone knew that on Christmas Eve Chris and I would be coming around with the cookie trays.

Elephant Ears were always Mr. Lussier's favorite.

It would take us hours because it wasn’t just a drop and run, it was a stop, stay and chat, and watch as the neighbors would exclaim over the cookie trays because they’d been waiting all year for their favorite cookie. I remember our one neighbor, Mr. Lussier, his favorites were Elephant Ears, and my mom only made just so many of those so each tray would get ONE Elephant Ear. The Lussiers knew that one cookie belonged to Mr. Lussier. As labor-intensive as those were, we could never leave them out or Mr. Lussier would be disappointed.

These memories of delivering the cookies are so, so special to me, I almost get choked up as I type this. Many of those people are now long gone, and my parents have since moved as well, but the memories…they stay forever and every single year when I make my cookies, I think of them fondly. It gets me through those moments at midnight the week before Christmas when I think to myself, “Why the heck am I doing this again?” Then I remember how much these cookies mean to the people we give them to, and how much the memories mean to me as well.

Today’s story is one that was given to my kids for Christmas in 2008 by my brother Chris and his wife, Nina, so I thought it was only appropriate to share today. It’s called “You Can Do It, Sam,” by Amy Hest and illustrated by Anita Jeram. Ours even came with a plush of the main character, courtesy of the Kohl’s Cares for Kids program that year. It’s about a mother bear and her baby bear, Sam. Together they make many cakes for their neighbors on Plum Street. Together they bake and together they wait as the cakes finish. And then, together, they put the cakes into bags for their neighbors. Sam is now old enough to deliver the cakes to the neighbors himself, as his mom waits in the truck for him as he delivers all twelve cakes to his neighbors.

It’s such a special story and it is so special that it was given to us by my brother and his wife, because whether they knew it at the time or not, it invokes such special memories for me of our days together, delivering our cookies to our neighbors. It’s a book to teach my kids about the special meaning behind baking for others, behind giving a piece of yourself to others, and creating memories of our own as a family during a crazy holiday season.

Crafts for Kids: Snowball Snowmen

6 Dec

Yesterday’s post was a recipe for Chocolate Chip Butterballs, oftentimes known as Chocolate Chip Snowballs. It was a recipe that the kids could help out with, by rolling the batter or even by doing some of the measuring of the ingredients or by dumping in the ENTIRE BAG of chocolate chips for the batter. When I bake with my kids I try to find at least one thing for each of the three of them to do.

For today’s kid’s activities, I thought I’d capitalize on the “snowball” aspect of these cookies. Last year another mom, Theresa and I ran the “Brown Baggers” book club for our daughters’ second grade classes. It was a group that met during lunch and recess once a month to hear a story and do a craft related to that story.

This is a great story that leads to endless hours of building "snowmen" inside your home!

We used to alternate planning the activities, each taking a month. One of the months the book that my friend chose was called “Snowballs” by Lois Ehlert. You can find it here on if you’d like to purchase it. (And no, in case you are wondering, I have no connection to at all.) I had actually not seen the book before, but she had it at her house, her kids loved it and it was perfect for the season. She came up with a simple, fun activity for the kids to do to go along with it and they loved it. That’s the activity I’m sharing with you today.

Alexandra and her friend Graycee recently made some snowmen at our house, reminiscent of the ones in "Snowballs."

The storyline in the book will encourage your children to find ordinary objects around your house to turn their “snowballs” into snowmen. They can use paper plates for their snowballs or you can cut white circles (or if they’re old enough, they can.) Some of the items you might want to provide for them for decorations (depending on their ages for choking hazards): buttons, popping corn, stickers, pom poms, sunflower seeds, scraps of paper, rubber stamps and inks, pipe cleaners, feathers, artificial flower petals bottle caps…the possibilities are endless! Your children can make a snowman or woman or an entire snow family, depending on how long you want them to be crafting.

The second graders that we worked with had tons of fun with this story and the super-easy snowman craft that went with it. I hope your children will too! And thanks again to Theresa, for coming up with this activity last year!

Big Announcement for December Cookie and Craft Lovers

30 Nov

December is coming!

Christmas is coming!!!

Holidays are coming!!!!

Family is coming!!!!!

Stressed yet? Don’t be!

This time of year can either be really awful or really special. For most of us, myself included, it’s a little bit of both. I love to bake and I’m always so proud of my cookies for my trays, but it’s hard to find time to carve out to make them all when you have little kids running around. Therefore, many of the recipes I will be posting will be recipes your kids can help you with (aka rolled cookies) so that it keeps them occupied when you’re baking and it cuts your prep time in half. No, all the rolled cookies may not be exactly the same size or shape, but really does that matter? (And if it does, just kind of re-roll them a little bit when you take them to put them on the tray. I’ve done that!)

However, so often you don’t just want them to be occupied, but you want what they are doing to be something they enjoy too, something meaningful for them. Therefore, I’m going to alternate my recipe postings with seasonal activities for the kids as well. They will be things like crafts, special stories to read, gifts to make, things like that which often coordinate somehow with the cookie recipes I’m posting (okay, once a teacher, always a teacher, clearly!) Some of the crafts will be things I’ve done with my kids in the past or things they’ve done at school and brought home that I loved, or even gifts I’ve received that were handmade that I loved. Times are tight for all of us, so any handmade gifts they can make is one less thing we need to buy! The stories I post are just the ones we have at our house, but my kid always love when I pull out the seasonal stories each December. (I always wish I did that every season, but I don’t ever think of it any other time of year!)

So are you ready? If so, be sure to check out the first recipe on December 1! The coordinating book and craft will be featured on December 2! And no…no hints!