Xmas Heroes – Parents

Xmas Heroes – Parents

What would Christmas be without parents? As much as Christmas has become a child-focused affair, it really depends on the parents to bring the magic to the holiday. Having been on both sides of the spectrum, I can say this is completely true.

My parents did such a wonderful job of making Christmastime special for my sister and me. My mother spent weeks ahead of the big day baking cookies. It was a great time for togetherness. She put on the Bing Crosby album and stacked up the Chipmunks behind it and we began making and baking the cookies that would go into Tupperware containers until family and friends came by. My father got out the electric racetrack and we raced our little cars for hours on end. We all sat together and watched Christmas specials and holiday movies on TV. We all got together and played board games and cards. Weather permitting, we went out and had snowball fights and built forts. It was such a wonderful experience and gave me a lifelong love for the holiday season.

On the flip side, as a parent I get no greater joy than burying my wife and kids in presents and watching holiday movies together. Creating a place where my kids can enjoy the magic of the holidays is an annual challenge and goal for me. If you’re anything like me, the thrill of finding a 24×7 Christmas music station is a harbinger of marvelous things to come. I’m no Clark Griswold, but I do like things to be a bit over the top for the holidays. I like having decorations in every corner of the house. I like having all the tastes and smells of the season available throughout the month of December and even the weeks before and after.

Honestly, I miss the days of counting down the days until Christmas and having a mountain of presents mysteriously appear beneath the tree. That was a real treat. It made the holidays genuinely magical for me. That being said, I never cease to be amazed at just how the magic continues to apply. As the parents, it is our job to make those presents mysteriously appear for Christmas morning. The amazing thing is that we actually put it together. Having slowly gathered and wrapped the presents for our munchkins, we tuck them away to await the big reveal. Stepping back from our late night Santa stand-in, we’re nearly just as thrilled and amazed as if we were the ones receiving the presents. It is a truly enchanting sight. The twinkling lights of the tree cast a special glow over the stack of presents we’ve assembled for the kids. It’s enough to give me a chill of delight just looking at it.

I’m so pleased to have shared this week of Christmas Heroes with you. Thank you for following our series. For the Twelve Days of Christmas this year, I have assembled a variety of obscure yuletide entertainments. I hope you will enjoy them as much as you have our Christmas Heroes and Historical Grinches.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

National Bird Day and Whipped Cream Day

Bird Day and Whipped Cream Day

Today we celebrate our winged neighbors and a light sweet treat. It’s our last day of Christmas, so let’s enjoy!

National Bird Day

birdholly We don’t see too much of our feathered friends in Wintertime. Quite a few migrate to warmer climes. However, not all of them do and it’s good to have a special day to remember and care for them.

Something we like to do for the holidays is to decorate the trees outside with items that are edible to birds such as dried berries, cheerios, peanut butter, bird seed. Here are some ideas you can try to make a bird-friendly garland for your non-migratory birds.

Whipped Cream Day

Whipped Cream, also known as Snow Cream, was first mentioned in 1673. Early versions were sweetened and flavored with such things as vanilla, chocolate, orange, rose and coffee. They also used the term Chantilly Creme for these dessert treats.

The reason today is Whipped Cream Day is to celebrate the birthday of Reddi-wip creator, Aaron “Bunny” Lapin. He came up with the canned cream treat in 1948. Some people prefer the canned treat to the scoop-able stuff. Some people prefer whipping heavy cream by hand. Some people just eat it straight from the tub or nibble it off of a loved one (say no more, let’s keep this PG here). No matter how you take it, whipped cream is a tasty addition to any sundae, pie or whatever you’re hungry for.

whipped-cream

For the Twelfth Day of Christmas, it’s twelve drummers drumming. Not the Little Drummer Boy. Not gonna happen.
 

Twelve Drummers Drumming

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Trivia Day and Spaghetti Day

Christmastime is quickly slipping away and we’ve only got a little bit of the magic left to share. So, why not sit the family down around a bowl of spaghetti and play some trivia games?

Spaghetti Day

Spaghetti Day Spaghetti is a wonderful comfort food for the chillier times of the year. You can enjoy the usual tomato sauce, alfredo sauce or garlic butter depending on your mood. You can also add proteins such as meatballs, shrimp, sausage or langostinos to fortify the dish. If you’re into vegetables, you can use a light broth and make a wonderful pasta primavera.

There are unresolved issues about the origin of spaghetti. Some say that it was created in Ancient Greece and others hold that Marco Polo brought it back from the East after dining on it at the court of Kublai Khan. Whatever the truth is, we’re glad we have this versatile dish to keep us warm and nourished.

Trivia Day

Is there anything more enjoyable for a family to enjoy than an evening playing a trivia game? From the classic Trivial Pursuit and all of its specialty variations (we really enjoy Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit) to the latest craze in trivia games, trivia games test your memory and teach you things you might not have known before.

If you want to tackle the latest trivia games, I’ve located 119 amazing facts that could help you in your next trivia challenge.

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

Click on this game to get your copy

It’s the Eleventh Day of Christmas and not a moment too soon. Who doesn’t love a band of pipers?
 

Eleven Pipers Piping

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day and National Fruitcake Day

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day and National Fruitcake Day

Winter’s off to a quick start and we’re going to help things along with some cutout snowflakes. After a fun time crafting our own snowflakes, it’s only fitting to sit down to a piece of rich, delicious fruitcake. Let’s get celebrating!

Make Cutout Snowflakes Day

Some of us get enough of the real things and may even have a yard full of them at this point. Just the same, it’s a fun holiday craft to engage in. Kids love to cut wonderful shapes and watch with wonder as the snowflakes unfold into individual works of art.

So, whether you live someplace where it snows or not, you can have a Winter Wonderland indoors with just a few creative clips.

National Fruitcake Day

I know, I’m one of the few people who actually likes fruitcake. Apparently, I’m not the only one since they’ve designated a national day for it. Wahoo! Makes my day.

First references to fruitcake date back to Roman times. Many would joke that the same fruitcakes have been passed back and forth as gifts since that time, but with proper preservatives and airtight packaging a good fruitcake will only last 25 years.

Two towns have long been battling for the title of Fruitcake Capitol of the World. Corsicana, Texas, is home to the Collin Street Bakery while Claxton, Georgia, is the home to two major fruitcake bakeries: the Claxton Bakery and the Georgia Fruitcake Company. While it hasn’t yet been finally decided, Claxton has claimed the title on their water tower.

Today is the Third Day of Christmas! Here are 3 French Hens
 

Three French Hens

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day and National Roast Suckling Pig Day and Bake Cookies Day

As we close in on Christmas day, the celebrations get more and more awesome. Ugly sweaters, suckling pigs and cookies are on the docket today. It’s the Friday before Christmas, so kick off a wonderful weekend with some classic holiday treats!

Ugly Christmas Sweater Day


Admit it. You know you want one.
National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day is celebrated on the third Friday of December each year to add some lighthearted fun to an already awesome holiday season.

What’s involved in celebrating this zany holiday? Just buy yourself the ugliest Christmas sweater you can find and wear it all day. Don’t forget to dare your friends to try to top you. It’s not a party if you’re the only one wearing one!

Want to add some meaning to the fun? Make a donation to Save the Children and their Make The World Better With A Sweater campaign.

Make The World Better With A Sweater

National Roast Suckling Pig Day

National Suckling Pig Day is a chance to have a super-retro medieval holiday dinner. A suckling pig is technically one that hasn’t been weaned from its mother’s milk, causing the meat to be extremely tender. Not everybody has the right kitchen or even the time and patience to prepare such a sumptuous meal, but some people are all about the BBQ pit. If you’ve got the time and the tools, this is a feast not to be missed. If you’d like to know how, ask Julia Child. National Suckling Pig Day

Bake Cookies Day

Sure, this is technically cheating, but boy do these look tasty!!! I’ve always wondered why if you bake cookies, you don’t call them bakies. Well, it turns out that the word cookie comes from the Dutch word koekje which means “little cake”.

It turns out that Dutch bakers used to check the temperature of their ovens by dropping a little cake batter in rather than risk losing the whole cake on an oven that wasn’t hot enough. Waste not, want not.

There are so many kinds of cookies and ways to make them. Since Christmas is next Friday, it’s time to get those batches cooking. Whether you make them from scratch with old family recipes or whether you just buy logs of pre-made dough at the store, baking cookies is a great family activity and makes a wonderful homemade gift for friends and relatives.

Dewey Decimal System Day and Gingerbread Decorating Day

Dewey Decimal System Day and Gingerbread Decorating Day

Today we’re looking at books and gingerbread. I happen to love both for different reasons. I have a hard time passing up a library sale. There is something magical about an old library book, particularly if it’s about Christmas. Gingerbread, on the other hand, is a phenomenal food. You can roll it thin and bake it into cookies, cutouts and houses or you can bake it soft in cake form. In either form, it’s really fun to decorate.

Dewey Decimal System Day

Melvil_Dewey_1891 Today is the birthday of Melvil Dewey who designed the numerical system by which library books are organized. To find books about Christmas customs, go to the shelves where 394.266 is found. 300 is Social Sciences. 390 is Customs, etiquette and folklore. 394 is General customs. Dewey devised the system that was adopted in 1876 for the logical and consistent organization of libraries. The system has been updated 23 times, most recently in 2011.

So, when you’re in a library looking for a particular nonfiction book and you’re able to find it and all the others on the same topic; you’ve got Mr Dewey to thank for this system.

Gingerbread Decorating Day

There are so many wonderful techniques for decorating gingerbread men and other gingerbread cutouts. The classic approaches involve icing and raisins, but here are some awesome ideas to really kick it up a notch:

  • Use jelly beans or sliced mini marshmallows to create accessories or jewelry
  • Smash gumdrops with a rolling pin to make sheets that can be cut into clothing or use fruit leather
  • Smash mints or hard candy into tiny pieces or powder to create a sequin effect
  • Cut shapes out of your gingerbread people and fill with smashed hard candy and then bake to create a stained glass effect

Use your imagination and make some brand new, avant-garde gingerbread creations this year!

Decorating Gingerbread

National Brownie Day

National Brownie Day

A joy at any time of the year, brownies are a marvelous comfort food to share with your family. Making brownies with your kids is a great opportunity to build some holiday memories. Play some Christmas music and make these sumptuous treats.

Here is the recipe for the brownies in the video you see above courtesy of the The Frugal Chef:
Ingredients (Makes 16 brownies)

4 eggs at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup melted unsalted butter — cooled down
1 ¼ cups unsweetened cocoa –sifted
½ cup flour — sifted
1 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 300 degrees F and prep a square brownie pan by buttering and flouring it.

Mix the sifted flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

Place the eggs in a bowl and beat until they are pale — about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and mix. Add the vanilla and butter and mix. Do not over beat, just mix it. Add the flour and cocoa and mix. Again, do not over beat, just mix it.

Pour the batter into the pan and place it in the oven. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool down completely — about 3 hours.

Once the brownies are completely cooled, cut them into squares.

Serve and enjoy!

CALORIES 247.95; FAT 13.48 grs (sat 8.11; mono 3.77; poly 0.64); PROTEIN 3.42 grs ; FIBER 2.34 grs; CARBS 32.26 grs; CHOLESTEROL 74.28 mg; IRON 1.35 mg; SODIUM 166.19 mg; CALCIUM 19.65 mg

Seven Joys of Christmas and Cotton Candy, Too

Seven Joys of Christmas and Cotton Candy, Too

We’re exploring the Seven Joys of Christmas today based on the themes represented in the choral piece of the same name.

The Joy of Love

snowwalk  There is so much love associated with the Christmas season. Parents’ love for their children. Husbands and wives love for each other. The love of humankind for each other through acts of altruism. The love of God for all of us.

The Joy of Bells

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells / All seem to say: throw cares away
Christmas is here bringing good cheer / To young and old, meek and the boldWho doesn’t love the tolling of church bells in the evening? Marking the time. Playing hymns. Waking the neighbors. Bells are a potent symbol of the season. They announce the good news of Christmas with a joyous noise.
bell07

The Joy of Mary

adoration2  Mary, mother of Jesus, is revered the world over as a the embodiment of purity and spiritual sanctity as she has been for centuries. She’s got seven joys of her own that tell the story of how she fits into the Christmas story. Here’s the carol that counts them out for you.

The Joy of Children

So many of the Christmas traditions we enjoy are geared for children. Candy, presents, Santa Claus, TV specials… The list goes on and on. And why not? What is more delightful than bringing a smile to the face of a child? They are so full of wonder and excitement. To them, everything is new. That is part of the magic of Christmas. The joy and wonder of children at all of the sights, sounds and tastes of the season. christmascrackers

The Joy of the New Year

ID-100101086  Smack dab in the middle of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the new year begins. It’s a time of fresh beginnings and a chance to start new habits. The anticipation of Christmas throughout Advent is a great opportunity to think about what changes you want to make in the coming year. Is there something you can do better than you ever have before? Is it time to try something new? You have a couple of weeks to really ponder and plan out how you’re going to make next year your best year ever.

The Joy of Dance

Another joy of the Christmas season is that of dance. A splendid way to enjoy the season in dance is to see a performance of The Nutcracker Suite. If you can’t find a local performance, I’ve found a classic performance from the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

The Joy of Song

carolersBW Without a doubt, Christmas isn’t Christmas without the carols. There are centuries of music associated with the Christmas season that we still enjoy today. Modern renditions of carols from decades past, classical music from the great masters, timeless TV and movie tunes, church hymns and seasonal jingles are all part of the musical fabric of the Christmas season. From the joyous secular fun of Jingle Bells to the ecumenical expression of Handel’s Messiah, music is an integral part of the holiday. So, sing loud and proud throughout the month. Christmas is coming. Celebrate it with song!

National Cotton Candy Day

Cotton Candy or Candy Floss dates back as far as 1400, but the classic cotton candy machine that you see at carnivals was invented by William Morrison and John C. Wharton in 1897. The great thing about cotton candy is that, like popcorn, it is mostly air. The machine is a bowl with tiny holes where hot air melts the sugar and spins it into long airy threads. These threads are then wound around a paper cone to create an iconic and surprisingly low calorie treat. There are 110 calories in an ounce of cotton candy, but the great thing is that an ounce of cotton candy is half of a jumbo bag. That’s a lot of candy, but remember that the reason it melts in your mouth is because it’s mostly just air. That’s what I like to call magically delicious.

Make A Gift Day

Make A Gift Day

It’s December 3rd, so you still have enough time to make some personalized gifts. In fact, prior to the turn of the 20th Century, most gifts were personally made rather than store bought. Christmas wasn’t the big commercial event that it has become.

Harken back to the olden days and make gifts for your friends and loved ones. I’ve tracked down over 250 ideas for gifts that you can make yourself.

Some of my favorite homemade gifts are the cookie kits in a mason jar. It’s fun because you make it look like sand art and it’s practical because they can just dump out the contents and bake themselves a bit of holiday fun courtesy of you!

The absolutely best thing about making personal gifts for your loved ones is that you’re genuinely giving them a bit of yourself. Even if you’re not the handiest or craftiest person, the fact that you’ve taken the effort to make something special will make the gift that much more treasured. To this day, I still remember the presents that my Nana made for us all. When you make a gift yourself, you’re making memories that will last a lifetime.

Fritters & Mutts

Fritters & Mutts

Today we’re going to fill your belly and your heart. December 2nd is National Fritter Day and it is National Mutt Day.

National Fritter Day

To celebrate today as National Fritter Day, we’re going to hook you up with breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. Fritters are any sort of cake or pastry with fruit or meat inside and are a classic comfort food in many regions of the country.

Breakfast: Cheesy Bacon Fritters

This image courtesy of cinnamonspiceandeverythingnice.com

This image courtesy of cinnamon spice and everything nice.com

I just love the smell of bacon in the morning! My mouth is watering just thinking about these bad boys.

If you like the extra zing, the recipe includes a ration of jalapeños. Click through to get yours sizzling.

Lunch: Easy Zucchini Fritters

This is going to make a really tasty lunch for you today. I love zucchini in casseroles, stir fry, as a side or even in cookies! Click here to see how to have these for lunch.

This image courtesy of laurenslatest.com

This image courtesy of laurens latest.com

Dinner: Indonesian Corn Shrimp Fritters

Bakwan (seafood cake with whole shrimp).jpg

This image courtesy of Garrett Ziegler. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons.

Also known as Bakwan Udang, this savory shrimp dish brings an exotic set of spices to your holiday table.

Click here to learn the secrets of this Eastern dish.

Dessert: Easy Glazed Apple Fritters

Is there anything as tasty as an apple fritter with a generous layer of glaze?

Click here to find out how to make this tasty treat for dessert tonight.

This image courtesy of cinnamon spice and everything nice.com

ID-10055322

National Mutt Day

We were watching the highlights of the National Dog Show on Thanksgiving Day and it’s neat to see all the exotic breeds, but not everyone has the cash for a purebred or the medical problems that are inherent in some of the breeds. A lot of people just want a furry friend who is going to live a long healthy life without the cost and drama of a pedigree. If you have room in your home and your heart for a fuzzy family member, today is specially designated for the rest of the canine community.

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