Tag Archives: Christmas gifts

Saving My Sanity Holiday Chex Mix

7 Dec
This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year.

This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year. I filled an entire laundry basket with gift bags, plus a Tupperware Cake Taker full of the mix itself.


I think we’d all agree that the holidays are much more enjoyable when you’re not totally and completely stressed out.



That being said, this school year, the holidays and the treat-giving season that goes along with them, had the potential to put me right over the edge. And really, as a working mom of three this time of year, that edge is awfully close most of the time anyway, so I really didn’t have far to be pushed.

Normally, I’m a cookie baker at Christmastime. Between my mom and I, we bake over a dozen different types of cookies, creating cookie trays for our family and friends.

As a mom of three, I have always given all of our kids’ teachers a cookie plate at Christmastime. I also have given one to the secretary, bus driver and bus monitor, teacher aides, principal and I make a tray for the faculty room. I also treat the staff at my husband’s school to a tray of cookies in the teachers’ room, and then I make them for our family as well.

It seemed doable when my oldest was first in school, and even when two were in school. It started to get a little tougher when all three were in school, as well as my husband at his own school, but I continued on.

Then last year came middle school.

SEVEN TEACHERS. A whole new set of office staff. A principal AND an assistant. TWO secretaries.

A lot of people will say, “Oh, in middle school that all ends. No gifts for those teachers anymore.”

I’m not sure where that theory came from, but I will say I used to BE a middle school teacher, and I love cookies, but more than that, I liked being thought of at this time of year just as much as when I was an elementary teacher.

My daughter didn’t want to stop our treat-giving tradition, and I couldn’t find a good reason why she had to. And she didn’t want to leave any of her teachers out. So we didn’t.

This year, my husband has a new job at a larger school.

With 90 staff members.

I knew something had to give. I was not going to be able to do it. There wasn’t any way that I could possibly make enough cookies for all of the teachers and staff in all three schools and my family, and keep my job. Or my sanity. I’d be baking all hours of the day and night for weeks to make that happen.

There had to be another answer.

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Enter The Tailgateista and her Homemade Crock Pot Apple Cinnamon Chex Mix.

That’s right. I said CROCK POT.

That was the answer to my problem, thanks to my Crock Pot partner in crime, Gina, who was also searching for another solution to the gift-giving issue. She’s the one who found this recipe and sent it to me.

We both decided to go with Chex Mix gifts this year, although we each chose a different mix to make, and today, as I type this three days before the last day of school before the vacation, I can honestly say that this saved my sanity.

My gifts are done. Cooked, cooled, bagged, tagged and ready to be handed out on Friday, the day you’ll be reading this.

And I still have my job and my sanity, thanks to this recipe from The Tailgateista.

I doubled her original recipe and made a few modifications to it, to serve my purposes. I will put her recipe and my modifications below.

I doubled the recipe SIX TIMES.

That’s right, six times. 72 cups of cereal, and the equivalent of 48 two-cup gift bags of Chex Mix.

And the best part of all? Not only is it a very cost-effective gift, but it cooks while you accomplish other tasks!!

For me, a journalist who works from home a good part of the week, I could type all day and my gifts were cooking themselves over in the crock pot behind me as I worked. Or, if I was working away from the house all day, I could throw in a batch at night to cook itself while we worked on homework and showers and cleaned up from dinner. Some days, I did both: a batch in the daytime if I was here, and a batch again in the evening or after school.


And delicious.

I’ll still be making Christmas Cookies this weekend, all our favorites, and I’ll still share them amongst our family and some close friends, but I won’t be cooking over the mixer and oven,rolling and frosting, baking and cooling late at night for a week in between working and parenting obligations, and still not  having enough cookies to go around.

We’ve found a way to thank our teachers and staff members for their time, talent and hard work without pushing me over the proverbial edge the week before Christmas.

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn't ever have enough!

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn’t ever have enough!

Below is the Tailgateista’s recipe and my modifications follow below it.

Give it a try, it’s delicious! Maybe this Chex Mix will be the key to saving your sanity too!


6 Cups Chex Corn Cereal
1/4 Stick Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Cup Chopped Dried Apples

***You can also add Pecans, M&M’s, any other candy,dried fruit or nuts!!


* In a microwave combine all spices, sugar and butter until it is melted.
* Add the Dry ingredients (cereal, apples) into crock-pot
* Add all melted ingredients into the crock-pot and mix
* Cook in crock-pot on low for 3 hours
* Enjoy!

I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.

I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.


1) I doubled this recipe each time, since my crock pot is large enough to hold a double recipe.  ***2014: Another sanity-saving tip I have added in this year is using the plastic bag liners for the crock pot for every batch. The brand I used is an Aldi’s brand, Boulder, and they’ve been amazing. I would not make this again without using the bags.***

2) I substituted the Dulche le Leche flavored Cheerios for one cup of the Chex, (so two cups of Cheerios for a double recipe and ten cups of Chex.)  ***2014: Substituted Frosted Cheerios instead of Dulche le Leche.***

3) The butter should read 1/4 cup for a single recipe, in my opinion, not stick. I used 1 stick per double recipe.

4) I opted not to use the apples, because the first time I did a trial run, they burned.

5) I did not stir the Chex Mix in my trial run, which may be the reason why the apples burned. In every subsequent time however, I stirred the Chex Mix every 45-60 minutes while it cooked for the 3 hrs.

6) For my mix-ins, I used 1/2 bag of mini marshmallows, 1/2 bag of red and green mini M&Ms, and one full bag of white yogurt covered raisins, per double recipe.

7) Each double recipe with my mix-ins filled eight gift bags. For my husband’s school, I filled  a large Tupperware Cake Taker, normally used to carry layer cakes, with an entire double recipe, just for his faculty room. I sent in small plastic drinking cups for them to eat it out of.

Although cost is not always the deciding factor in gift-giving, it’s certainly taken into account. I think most everyone sticks to a budget when shopping for gifts. With each of the six double recipes yielding 8 two-cup bags of mix, and my ingredients costing a total of $40.68 for all six batches (I used coupons for the M&Ms and the cereals), these 48 gifts cost me $.85 per bag to make. I spent just under $2.00 on two packs of 20 gift baggies to put them in. Even still, that cost me less than $1 per gift.

Over 100 people will be enjoying my Sanity Saving Chex Mix this weekend, and I was able to accomplish it relatively stress-free and budget-consciously.

Have a great Christmas everyone!!

Snowy weather or winter boredom? No problem!

6 Jan
Stuck inside? No worries!

Stuck inside? No worries!

Living in the Northeast, we are prone to lots of cold, snowy winter weather. Sometimes we can get outside, go sledding, build a snowman. Sometimes though, it’s either snowing too hard or it’s just too cold to be out or out for long.

On those days, when we’re stuck inside, it’s fun to find some neat things to pass the time other than watching TV or playing one device or another.

Lucky for us, this weather usually follows our Christmas holidays and we have lots of great, new things to keep us busy. As I did last year, I thought I’d highlight and review a few of the really great things we received this year, which have already provided us with some great, indoor fun.

Today’s review is for one of my daughter Elizabeth’s (age 11) gifts from Santa: Snap Circuits, Jr.

The mat included in the kit really helps the kids to see where to place their pieces.

The mat included in the kit really helps the kids to see where to place their pieces.

This was a gift she put at the top of her list after seeing it in a catalog that came in our mail, but it was one that we didn’t know very much about. It has turned out to be one, very cool gift. Focusing on Science, Engineering and Technology skills, this kit contains over 100 projects that the kids can do, all of which produce an action: a light turns on, a fan runs, music stops or starts; things of that nature. To create the action however, the kids must connect a series of circuits. A flat surface is included, similar to the work mat that comes with LEGO kits. The circuits are all able to be created and put together on that mat. The mat helps the kids map out how far apart the various pieces need to be placed in order to be connected.

As a parent and as a former teacher, I liked so many things about this kit and I really had a great time delving into it with her one afternoon when it was just she and I at home for a little while.

First off, I loved that it was STEM related (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics). I was so pleased to see my daughter enjoying utilizing those types of skills. We often tend to lean towards the crafty activities. We love to craft and create, but this was a whole different type of creativity and her eyes lit up that very first time she made the light bulb turn on with a flip of the switch that she’d connected herself.

The kit comes in a box that helps to keep the pieces organized and helps the kids know which piece is which.

The kit comes in a box that helps to keep the pieces organized and helps the kids know which piece is which.

Second, I loved how organized and easy to understand this kit was. It has many, many pieces and they’re all organized and easy to store, and come with a map to show you what you should have for pieces, what the pieces are called, and where they go in the box. I taped the map right into the cover of the box to help her put things back in the right spots.

Third, the booklet that comes in the kit is fabulous. The projects are numbered, with a place to check them off once done. They start out easy and basic and get more complicated as you go. Kids see success instantly as they do the first, quick project, and it fuels their fire, making them want to complete the next project, and the next. Each project has an objective, so the kids see what they’re going to do with that project, and then the directions follow, with a summary at the end which explains why the project did what it did. I was especially thrilled when one of the early projects explained to her how a battery connected to the circuit made a propeller spin, and we could connect that to the new spinbrush toothbrush she’d gotten in her stocking, which runs the same way. She went and got her toothbrush, turned it on and watched it spin as she looked at her Snap Circuits propeller spinning too. It was fantastic.

And finally: budget. This is a very affordable activity kit which provides so many hours of fun and learning. The Snap Circuits, Jr. kit runs in the $25 range, depending where you buy it and I’ve seen it online at Walmart, Target and on Amazon.com, but I know it’s also available in other places. I love it when things are affordable! I also know that there are lots of kinds of Snap Circuits kits, ranging from physics to lights, to much bigger and more complicated (and more expensive) kits. You can get replacement parts and there are learning extensions online at their website as well.

As we progressed along in the book, the projects got more complicated, using more pieces, the results more exciting.

As we progressed along in the book, the projects got more complicated, using more pieces, the results more exciting.

I’d definitely give the Snap Circuits, Jr. kit a thumbs up as a parent, and my daughter gives it her vote from a kid’s point of view as well. I highly recommend you giving it a try! It’s great for those rainy or snowy, cold weather days and provides hours of fun and entertainment, while lots of learning is taking place too.

When I looked on Amazon.com, the age recommended for the kit was 8 and up, and I have to agree. I have a daughter who is 8 also, and she likes it too, but my 11 year-old is definitely more independent with it than my 8 year-old. They’ve done some of the projects together as well, which is nice too. It’s also a  great gift for both boys and girls, which is not often easy to find.

I can’t wait to see what some of the next, more complicated and more exciting  projects will be!