Our New Year’s Eve: Sparkling Strawberry Knudsen’s, Sleeping Bags, and Celebrating Every Tiny Thing

Here’s our rockin’ New Year’s Eve tradition.

We’re all so excited we might have to start early.

First, the five of us have a nice dinner (meaning something that isn’t cereal) and then. afterward, we each get a glass of bubbly. Ty and I get some cheap champagne and the kids get some sparkling Strawberry Knudsen’s juice and we go around and around and around the table talking about things.

When it’s your turn, you say something that you enjoyed over the year, something you are thankful for, or something you want to do in the year ahead (whether it’s a resolution or just a new thing you want to try). You can tell someone you love them or you can say something that’s totally random. No matter what it is, as soon as the person is done talking, we all clap and cheer like we’ve lost our minds.

We keep going like this until we all run out of things to say, which generally takes about 2 hours (really.)

When it’s his turn, my son says the same thing over and over. He’s especially fond of saying “I’m thankful for our house,” “I’m thankful for my neighborhood” and my all-time favorite: “I’m thankful for my mommy.” My oldest has some deep things to say and I can tell she’s been giving it some thought. My middle child giggles a lot and is mostly thankful for her toys and her friends and her dog.

When we’re all done at the table, we turn off all the lights, get in our sleeping bags and squish all together on the living room floor to watch whatever the kids pick out (usually the Nickelodeon New Year Countdown) until they fall asleep.

Each year, they are ambitious; each of them knows they are going to stay up until midnight. And, each year, they fall asleep by the second or third episode of iCarly. It’s the best New Year’s tradition I can imagine.

Happy New Year from our family to yours! 2010 is going to be amazing!

Here are some New Year’s articles at Momscape you might enjoy:

No More New Year’s Resolutions
Ditch the New Year’s Resolutions and make a mission statement instead.

Time Capsule of Family Memories

Family fun for the New Year.

Things I’m Loving Right Now: Fruit Infusion Pitcher

fruit-infusion-pitcher

fruit-infusion-pitcherOne of my favorite gifts this year was this Fruit Infusion Pitcher. (Okay, I bought it for myself, wrapped it and put it under the tree with a tag to myself. I even feigned surprise when I opened it. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does that.)

Anyway, I’m one of those moms who dilutes the kids’ juice to the point where it can’t really be called juice. The kids don’t like that so much. Sometimes I think that when I turn my back, they are slamming back the Simply Orange straight up in great big gulps.

So I got this Infusion Pitcher mostly with me in mind, but, turns out, the kids love it, too. There’s an “infusion rod” in the center of this acrylic pitcher in which you insert your choice of sliced fruit. (We love oranges and lemons – and occasionally strawberries). Then you can fill and refill the pitcher using the same fruits in the center. The holes in the infusion rod are small enough that no seeds or rinds get through. I read a good suggestion on the amazon.com reviews for this product, which I’m going to try: add some fresh rosemary or lavender instead of (or in addition to) fruit.

The result is a delicious and subtle, natural flavor to your water. Yum! And when water is appetizing, it sure is easier to drink those 8 – 8 ouncers.

You can get it from cooking.com and also from amazon.com (Amazon.com has it for 20% off, at the time of this writing.)

Diet Coupons: New offers to help with weight loss resolutions

If weight loss is on your list of New Year’s Resolutions this year, here are a few money-saving coupon-codes and promotions to help you get started!

Weight Watchers Coupon
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Also:

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From eDiets.com
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Get one FREE week of meals with your first eDiets’ meal delivery order
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Click link above for details

From BestBuy.com

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From SmoothFitness:


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From Medifast:

medifast coupons


$50 off any purchase of $275 or more!
Click through link above and use Coupon Code: Jan31C
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For all current Medifast promotions, see our Medifast Coupons page >

See all Diet Reviews at Momscape >

Read Weight Loss Articles at Momscape >

Recipe: Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Got some extra candy canes after this week of mirth and revelry? Here’s another great winter warmer!

You’ll need:

1/3 cup of chocolate chips
4 cups milk
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 candy cane or peppermint stick

Start by pouring the chocolate chips into a saucepan over medium low heat. Pour the milk over the chocolate and stir constantly until the chips just begin to melt.   Add the sugar and cocoa powder and stir until incorporated into the melting chocolate. Add peppermint extract.

Increase heat to medium high and stir continuously. Cook until the mixture is smooth (and until almost boiling.)

Pour your peppermint hot chocolate into warm mugs and garnish with a candy cane or peppermint stick. Or garnish with whipped cream and crushed peppermint candies.

Enjoy!

Recipe: French Toast with Pear Glaze

Here’s a fantastic recipe for a lazy weekend morning:

French Toast with Pear Glaze

You’ll need:

Glaze:
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
Zest from 1 slice lemon
4 cups pears, peeled, cored and sliced

French Toast:
3 large eggs
2 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
12 slices bread

Instructions

Glaze:
Pour water into a medium saucepan.  Add the sugar and lemon zest.  Bring this mixture to a rapid boil over high heat.  Once the mixture is boiling, reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for 6 minutes. Sauce will turn to syrup consistency. Add the pears and cook another 8 minutes or until the pears are fork tender.  Once tender remove the pears with a slotted spoon from the juice and place them in a bowl.  Place the juice back over medium high heat and continue cooking 5 minutes.  Some of the juice will evaporate.  After 5 minutes remove the pan from the heat and pour the juice over the top of the pears.  Cover and set aside.

French Toast:

Place the eggs in a large mixing bowl and pour in the milk.  Add the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla to the egg milk mixture.  Whisk until well combined. Spray your griddle with non stick cooking spray and heat. (Griddle is sufficiently hot when a drop of water dances on the surface.)  Dredge a slice of bread into the egg mixture. Place the coated bread on the hot griddle.  Cook about 4 minutes or until the bottom is a nice brown, flip and continue cooking 3 minutes or until browned.  Continue with each slice of bread.

When ready to serve, pour the pear mixture on the French toast.

Enjoy!

Christmas Party Games for the Whole Family

Here are fun Christmas party game ideas for the entire family.

1. Christmas Word Search. Find holiday word search puzzles on the Internet or in bookstores. Make enough copies for all. Using a timer, give everyone three minutes to find as many words from the list as they can.

2. Holiday Win, Lose or Draw. Remember the TV show? Divide into two teams and have a list of holiday phrases and song lyrics written down on slips of paper. One team member chooses a phrase and then draws it while the other members try to guess. Your team gets 90 seconds to guess correctly. If they can’t, play passes to the other team.

3. Name that Holiday Tune. Divide into two teams. Have a list of holiday songs written on slips of paper. One person from each team chooses a slip of paper and hums the tune for the rest of the team. Teammates have five or ten seconds to name the holiday tune. If they can’t, play passes to the other team.

4.  DVD games. There are a number of DVD games on the market that can make it easy to play big group games.  Here are some favorites:

Family Feud DVD Game

Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader? DVD Game

Who Wants To Be a Millionaire DVD Game

There are lots of other games that are great for large groups. Play Charades with a holiday theme or play Catch Phrase, a game that is particularly well-suited for groups of any size. Mad Gab is always good for a giggle, especially in large groups, but it works better with groups of 12 or fewer.

Whatever games you play, it can spice up the game if you have prizes for the winners. These can be small candies or items from Oriental Trading. Or use fake money and have a Christmas Auction House.

Here’s how it works: Instead of giving assorted prizes for winning games, give game money, which you can call Reindeer Bucks or Santa Bucks. At the end of the game session, each person with money can bid on a gift that they want from the gift table. Have everything wrapped so no one knows what exactly they are bidding on.You’ll want to buy enough gifts for everyone to take home something as a fun and festive party favor.

Happy holidays!

Christmas Bread Recipe: Reindeer Bread

Here’s a sweet Christmas bread recipe. Moist and delicious!

You’ll need:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, divided
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition.

In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and the ginger.  Slowly stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the sugar mixture.  Then stir 1/3 of the pumpkin into the sugar mixture.  Next stir in 1/3 of the flour and then the rest of the pumpkin. Stir in the last of the flour mixture.

Gently fold in chocolate chips and 3/4 cup of pecans.  Pour mixture into loaf pan and sprinkle with remaining pecans.

Bake for one hour until a knife inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool completely.

Icing
Stir together confectioners’ sugar and heavy cream. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and stir until smooth. Once bread is completely cool, Drizzle icing over bread.

Last-Minute Gift Favorites: Print-it and Give-it

Here are some more meaningful last-minute gift picks that you can print and give:

Gaiam Subscription Clubs

1. Online Home Yoga Classes with Gaiam Yoga Club.
Enjoy the benefits of a yoga studio at home with one-on-one instruction from yoga experts, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman through videos, podcasts, pose guides, and a community forum for only $5 a week. Gift subscriptions available.

Spiritual Cinema Circle

2. 3 months of feel-good movies from Spiritual Cinema Circle
Give 3 months of enlightening and inspiring entertainment from Spiritual Cinema Circle for just $49.95+ S&H

Here are some of our favorite gift certificates available online that you can print and give (or email):

Amazon Gift Certificates

Travelocity Hotel Gift Certificates

BedandBreakfast.com - Give the Gift of a Getaway
Give the gift of luxury and relaxation by giving a Getaway Gift Card from BedandBreakfast.com

These gift cards are accepted at nearly 4,000 Bed & Breakfasts in the United States and Canada. There are no hidden fees, no blackout dates, and no expiration dates.
You can print and email an ecard instantly or you can have a plastic gift card shipped free.

The Universal Gift of Spa
SpaFinder Gift certificates
are now available in a print-it and give-it option.

Christmas Crafts and Activities – 7 Boredom Busters for Kids on Holiday Break

It’s the first day of holiday break. Here are few crafts and other boredom-busting indoor activities for keeping your kiddos busy today (and beyond).

1. Make your own snow globes. Gather some glass or clear plastic containers, such as baby food jars or mustard or mayonnaise jars. After you wash and dry the jars, gather some small Christmas decorations or knickknacks. Use some waterproof glue to affix your figurines inside the jar. Decorate with stickers or other holiday items. Then fill the jar with water and some glitter. Glue the lid in place and let dry.

2. Make candy crafts and ornaments to give away. Here’s a quick and easy idea to get you started: Make a candy train. Take a roll of Lifesavers or other hard candy to make the main part of the train. Glue on individually wrapped peppermints for the wheels. Glue a square candy, such as a caramel or a Starburst, to the front. Add a string to create a holiday ornament. Ask your kids to come up with other things they can make with different sizes and shapes of candy: angels, robots, puppies and more.

3. Make homemade Christmas cards. Provide a variety of supplies, such as construction paper, card stock, scissors, glue, glitter and glitter glue, pencils, crayons, and makers as well as old Christmas cards. Turn the kids loose with their creative energy to make festive handmade cards. Deliver them to friends and neighbors atop loaves of quick bread or tins of cookies. (We made this Cranberry Orange Walnut Streusel Bread the other day and it was a hit with the entire family. Yum!)

4. Have your kids help you wrap gifts. Here are 24 creative holiday gift wrap ideas and here are some eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas.

5. Make sugar or gingerbread cookies together and let the kids decorate. Then put them in decorative tins and give to family and friends.

6. Make holiday wreaths. Supply the kids with red, white and green chenille stems, as well as some small bells, beads and bits of ribbon. The kids can braid or twist the chenille stems and shape them into a circle for a cute ornament or decoration to hang on the tree or to share with friends.

7. Make other handmade gifts.
Everyone excels at making something. Teach the kids how to create something that comes easily to you. Some ideas: handmade soaps and bubble bath, scarves, candy, mini scrapbook albums, a poem or more homemade food. Here are more simple holiday gift ideas for your neighbors.

What are more holiday boredom busters? Please share below!

Great Last Minute Gift Idea: Gourmet Monthly Clubs

Here’s an easy last minute gift: You can purchase one of these gift club memberships and then email the gift announcement to your recipient or print it out and put it under the tree.

Gourmet Monthly offers six specialty monthly clubs: International Wine, Microbrewed Beer, Gourmet Chocolate, Gourmet Cheese, Fresh Cut Flower, and Premium Cigar of the month clubs. And you can mix and match clubs and customize your shipping schedule with the Whatever-Whenever program..

Here are some Gourmet Monthly coupon codes, good for the 2009 holiday season:
GMCH15 – $15 off any prepaid order of 6 months or longer.
GMCH25 – $25 off any prepaid 12 month order.

You can choose flexible durations of 2 to 12 months. And the payment terms are flexible, too. (Pay monthly or in one installment.)


234x60 GMC Indulgent Gifts

Momscape is an affiliate of Gourmet Monthly Clubs.