gingerbread houses with (old) neighbors

Our old neighbors and us old Olsens have gotten together for gingerbread house making since Avery was just a wee babe and it's definitely a highlight of the Christmas season for us all. Steph does all the heavy lifting, gathering all the supplies and the candies and building the houses and all of that. Not to mention she always opens up her home to the mess and the crazy each year. Saint Stephanie. She also got the kid's their very own hot chocolate mug and a gingerbread ornament! Just like last year! She is just too much and we just love her so!
The kids ate more than they decorated but isn't that the name of the game for most kids during this activity? It turned into a bit of the Dom show because he actually tried to really decorate this year and it was cute. He's like this little naughty creature that suddenly is trying something normal and we are all like awhhh! Look how sweet! He's icing his house and placing candies and just doing what he should be doing! How cute!
After we cleaned up the kids shared their gifts to each other. This is the first year we let the kids take the wheel and much to our entertainment, Liam and David picked out the exact same gifts for each other. That says a lot about their friendship I'd say. Avery warned me as Letty opened her slime launcher that "Aunt Laurie you're gonna hate this gift" and well my dearest Avery, you are most correct. But Letty sure is thrilled and she's been waiting anxiously to shoot it till you come over next. Letty chose a sewing machine for Avery and I think her reaction may be one of my favorite ones from her, ever. Dom got his birthday gift from our Fitzs as well, a Storm Trooper costume that he sleeps in almost every night. He's so thrilled with it and well, he's just the most adorable little Storm Trooper ever. I guess.
Past gingerbread house nights: 2016201520142013.


school holiday parties

The last week of school is always such a fun time to be a kid right? They fun themed dress-up days, the class parties, the giving of the teacher gift! The kid's themed days were pretty out there this year, bells and antlers and lights? Their poor teachers! And thank God for the Dollar Tree. Really got the hook up there...
David's class party was first and if you know me in real life you know that after much soul-searching and ear-bending that I ended up just crashing it. Sorry to his room mom and all but yeah... I just showed up. Uninvited. I helped out with the cookie icing station and David was just so thrilled I was there, spontaneous thank you's all around are just the very best! I wouldn't miss these kids parties for the world!
Letty's party was the following day and it was so much easier for me going in to it than the fall one. I wasn't stressed at all. The kids played games, hunted for candy canes, made a small craft and then ate lots and lots of snacks. 
But boy was I sure happy when Friday afternoon rolled around... Don't get me even started on the fact that this break is cruising right on by...


a morning and three christmas cookies

I mentioned yesterday that I spent a day baking some cookies and have now decided that since Matt has officially told me I am responsible for all cookie baking in the house heretofore the recipes are that good that I should share. Matt's not a big baker but he is the chocolate chip cookie making king. That is until now. Apparently. The ones I made ended up being puffy and soft and yeah so there you have it. 

I made a family favorite from childhood to adulthood, spritz (almond sugar) cookies, M&M cookies and buckeye balls. And I didn't take any photos during the whole process because I was trying new things so I had no idea they would be so popular with my house! So finished product only!
So here they are, the recipes in all their finest.

Spritz Cookies:
1 1/2 cups softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg, milk, vanilla and almond. I always add more almond. Can't have too much almond. Sift flour and baking powder and add gradually to other mixture. I split the dough and used food coloring to make some red and some green. My family typically makes candy canes out of this dough as well.

Bake at 400° for 8 minutes.

M&M Cookies:
Original found here.

2 cups and 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1.5 sticks room temperature butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup M&M's

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl for later. Cream the butter in a mixer. Then add brown sugar and the regular sugar until combined. Then add the egg, egg yolk and vanilla. Then slowly add the dry ingredients until combined, saving the M&M's for last. Then cover the dough and refrigerate for at least a  half  hour if not longer.

Bake at 325° for 8-10 minutes, or a bit longer to get those slightly brown edges.

Buckeye Balls:
These are so easy! No baking! Although I did get super frustrated with the melting of the chocolate but I got there!

1 1/2 cup peanut  butter
1/2 c room temperature butter
3 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar

Combine together till it becomes dough like. Then roll into balls and place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Put in the fridge for about a half hour. This is when I worked on melting the chocolate; I melted about 8 ounces. I had a few little dishes filled with various sprinkles to roll the balls in after the chocolate process, the sugar sprinkles being the group favorite. Something about the texture.

Anyways. After a half  hour I removed the balls and using a toothpick to skewer each ball I dipped it in chocolate and then the sprinkles and then quickly put them back on the wax paper. After I was done with them all I used my finger to cover up the toothpick hole in each before placing them back into the fridge. After another half hour I then put them into a tupperware for storage. Where now every time I walk by the fridge I help myself to another. And another. Come the new year I am going full on detox in my house... Goodness...


i spent a day with oranges

I had a day last week where my calendar square quite oddly was bare, and since it is the month of December that was quite a rare sight to be seen. And of course, I couldn't let it be that way. I was feeling the pressure of the fact that Christmas was just days away and oh did I get it all done and what did I miss? What  memory had I not yet made? Really serious first world problems and all of that. So I started by making three different types of cookies... Once that was done and I had eaten my weight in raw dough I moved on to oranges! 
I realize I was extremely late to the game  but I figured I could leave the garlands up well into January once the rest of the decor goes away and see how goes? But first I made pomanders that I plan on using Christmas Day (yesterday) for place settings.... Depending on how they fair and my rosemary plant which has seen better days....

Since I was late to the game I tried to dry them out a bit in the oven on the lowest setting for an hour... we will see if that is effective or not.
Then I sliced a few oranges up and baked them on a cooling rack for 2.5 hours at 225 degrees.... I used a metal skewer to make holes for the twine and wala! Garland! I really love seeing these all over Instagram and I think they are so lovely and remind me of Christmases of olde. Like I want to sit and watch Little Women by the fire Christmas of olde. 
My sister-in-law used orange slices on her package wrapping which is intense and also gorgeous. I hated to see them be torn apart! Do you guys have any other orange decorating uses you care to share?