Tree Trimming Party & Decadent Brownies Recipe

Tree Trimming Party & Decadent Brownies Recipe

Christmas is a time for family and friends, we all love to get together during the holiday season.  If you’re looking for an excuse to throw a quick informal get together with friends and family how about a tree trimming party? These days you may want to limit your party to a few close friends or maybe just family, depending on your community’s rules and regulations.

It shouldn’t take long to organize and should be relatively inexpensive to host.  Best of all you get the tree trimmed while visiting with  a small group of friends and family!

Here are some ideas to get you plan your tree trimming party!

Since it’s a very informal gathering you can call, text, or email invitations.  However if you want to and you have enough time you can also send invitation cards.  Just be sure you get a general idea of who will be attending.  No matter how informal the event you will still need a fairly accurate guest count so that you have enough food and drink.

To accommodate as many busy schedules you might consider setting a time period instead of a specific time.  It’s also a good way to socially distance.  For example you can let guests know that the tree trimming will be from 6pm-9pm in the evening and they are welcome to drop by at a specific time within that time frame; you’ll just need to decide on a time slot so that you don’t exceed the guest limit.

Have the tree set up and the decorations ready to be hung before the first guest arrives.  It’s not the time to haul stuff out of closets or the garage when the house is filled with guest.  If possible have ornament hangers already on the ornaments, or at least easily available.

Play some Christmas music during your party, it gets everyone in the holiday spirit.  Encourage everyone to sing along.

The easiest and really best way to serve food and beverage is on buffets, bars, or stations.  Guests will be arriving at different times and they will be busy during the time that they are there.  A buffet or stations will allow guests to serve themselves.  Just be sure you have someone periodically check the food to see if anything needs refilling.

Sandwich bar

If you are serving a meal, brunch, lunch, or dinner a DIY sandwich bar or pancake bar are the easiest and most economical choices.
To keep everything sanitary you may want to pre-package sandwich fixings and condiments so that guest can grab what they need for their sandwiches.  For instance place portions of deli meats and cheeses in clear plastic sandwich bags, use packets of condiments, and provide a basket or tray of single serve chips.

Pancake bar

For  breakfast or brunch a pancake, waffle, or french toast station would be great.  But these days you many want to do a cereal bar using single serve little boxes of cereal instead.  You can also have a selection of single serve fruit cups and juices.

Snack bar

If you aren’t serving a meal you can set-up a snack station, you can serve finger foods, tea cakes, and other snacks.  All single served packages of course.  Just put the bags of chips, popcorn, twinkies, and other snacks in pretty baskets and trays and you’ll have a festive table in no time!

Candy barWhatever you decide to serve you will need a beverage bar and a sweet station.  They don’t have to be fancy, but at Christmas time everyone expects sweet treats!  You can pre-package individual treats in clear plastic bags, yes even cookies and brownies.  They can double as favors!

Guests can take them home or enjoy them while trimming the tree!

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Speaking of brownies I thought I’d share my recipe for

Decadent Brownies

Ingredients:

1 Cup Butter

3 1/2 OZ.  Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars

3 Tbs. Valrhona Cocoa Powder

1 1/2 Cup Flour

1/2 Tsp. Baking Powder

1 Tsp. Salt

4 Eggs

2 Cups Baker’s Sugar

1 Tsp. Vanilla Extract

1 Cup Guittard Milk Chocolate Chips

Directions:

Pre-heat Oven to 350 degrees

Place butter and baking chocolate in a double boiler to melt.

Set aside and cool.

Prepare 9×13 baking pan with butter or baking spray.  Set aside until ready to use.

Sift dry ingredients except the sugar together.

Place eggs in stand mixer (you can use a portable mixer) and beat until creamy.

Slowly add sugar while beating.

Add vanilla and cooled butter mixture and mix well.

Stir in dry ingredients until just combined.  Do not over mix.

Spread in prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over the batter.

Bake 30 – 35 minutes or until center is set.

Cool completely then cut into bars.

 

A Christmas Tree Decorating Party

A Christmas Tree Decorating Party

There’s something festive yet casual about a Christmas Tree decorating party. It’s an occasion that celebrates the fun of the holiday season, built upon one of the more enduring holiday symbols. Yet, by its very nature, things don’t have to be perfect. When guests attend your party, they expect to find a naked tree and a house that is not quite ready for Christmas.

Before your guests arrive, you should have purchased your tree (!) and set it up in its stand. Light a fire in your fireplace and play Christmas carols as background music. If you have a piano, place Christmas sheet music on it in case any of your guests feel inspired to play. Serve your food buffet style, since this will be an active party with your guests moving around decorating, or at least admiring your tree.​

 
 

You can also expand on the cookie buffet by adding hearty appetizers. This way you are still keeping things very casual, holding down the expense of the party, and in my opinion, offering the two most interesting courses.

 

A weekend brunch is another relaxing alternative. You can offer a selection of fresh bagels, muffins, cut up fresh fruit, and one or two breakfast casseroles, which can be made the night before, and baked that morning before your guests arrive. Serve orange juice, coffee, punch, and eggnog, with optional champagne and rum.

 

You can always make any of these buffets heartier by adding a roast turkey and trimmings or baked ham. Or, to keep the mood very casual, arrange a large crockpot of chili on your buffet table, and serve it with sour cream, chopped onions, grated Monterey jack cheese, chopped cilantro, tortilla chips, and salsa.

 

Whether or not there will be children present, you can set up a table for guests to make their own ornaments to take home as a party favor. Simply choose the craft based on the age and craftiness of your participants.

 

For another planned activity, you can set up bowls of popcorn and cranberries in cozy corners of your home for guests to string as decorations for your tree. It’s a great way for guests who don’t know one another well to interact.

 

If you will be having young children at the party, you can have Christmas coloring pages and crayons already set up on a low, easily accessible table. If you’re concerned about crayons on the table, wrap the table in Christmas wrapping paper. You’ll then have a festive surface that serves to protect your furniture. Or, plan a few Christmas games that will keep kids entertained.

 

If you’re lucky, when the party is over, your tree will be fully dressed and ready to welcome Christmas. If not, you still will have helped your friends to forget, at least momentarily, their seasonal chores, and to remember the fun of the holiday season.

Santa Handprint Craft

Santa Handprint Craft

One of our favorite things about Christmas is all of the fun and festivities leading up to the day. We are so excited to share so many great craft ideas you can do with your kids this year! And these Santa handprint cards are one of our favorite!  Not only is this Christmas handprint card fun for the kids to do but it will also make an adorable keepsake too. And for an adorable handprint ornament idea see these salt dough handprint ornaments – our most popular Christmas craft!

 

 

Here are the supplies you’ll need to make this Santa Handprint

– White cardstock (sturdier than paper to make it a card)

– Paint for Santa’s face – we used this color

– Googly eyes

– Small red pom pom

– Cotton Balls

– Glue – we used this glue to glue on the pom poms which can sometimes be tricky to stay on with regular glue

– Red and white felt

 

Steps to Make the Santa Handprint Craft

1. First fold your white cardstock in half and trace your hand so that the wrist is on the folded part.

Handprint Craft for Christmas

Christmas Santa Handprint Card

3.  Now paint the middle of the Santa handprint for the face.

4.  Trace the top of your hand on your red felt to get the size for the hat. Glue the felt to the top of the handprint. You’ll want to cut the red felt top rounded so it looks more like a hat.

Cut out some white felt for the brim of Santa’s hat and glue on top of the red felt.

Santa Claus Handprint

5. Glue on your small googly eyes and pom pom for the nose.

Santa Craft

Santa Christmas craft for Kids

And then glue to the fingers and the brim of Santa’s hat:

7. Now write your Christmas message inside! You can even create or write a poem to go inside the card too.

Santa Handprint Card Craft

 

Looking for more fun Christmas crafts? 

These popsicle stick snowflake ornaments are so easy to make! This is the perfect activity for kids to make their own ornament.

These salt dough handprint ornaments make the perfect keepsake or gift idea!

For another fun Christmas handprint craft idea – make this handprint Christmas tree. Perfect to put on display for Christmas or use as a Christmas centerpiece!

DIY Cookie Exchange!! Free Printables & Caramel Cookie Bar Recipe

DIY Cookie Exchange!! Free Printables & Caramel Cookie Bar Recipe

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone we turn our attention to the winter holidays. That means lots of cooking, baking, cleaning, decorating, and shopping going on.  Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukka, or other winter holiday you’re probably wondering how you’re going to fit in all the seasonal activities.

One way to reduce your seasonal cookie baking is to have a cookie exchange and swap baked goods with friends and relatives.  I usually love to host an exchange, it’s a great excuse for a girls day or night out! But in these days of social distancing and limited contact hosting an exchange may not be possible. But that doesn’t mean friends and relatives can’t share the holiday baking load with a drop off cookie exchange.  It may take a bit more planning, but at least you’ll only have to bake one type of cookie and still have a variety to enjoy or gift over the holidays.

There’s really not much to having a Drop Off Cookie Exchange, just a bit of coordinating and if you’re really creative you can have a Zoom baking party! You know set a date and time when everyone involved can get together virtually while they bake, it might be fun!

Here’s a few tips to help you plan your Virtual Baking Party and Drop Off cookie exchange!

1.  Decide who you want to “invite”.

You may want to keep the party small and intimate to keep it manageable.  It’s probably not the right time to throw a zoom party with 50 of your friends and their families.

2.  Set your date and time.

Send out virtual invitations with the date, time, link to join, and ask guests to RSVP and tell you the type of cookie they plan to bake.   Knowing what type of cookie each guest plans to make will ensure that you have a variety of cookies. You can also ask each person

Ideally cookie swap invitations should be sent out a month before, but if you haven’t already done so, you should schedule it as soon as possible so guests can plan to attend. Everyone is busy during the holidays, if your guests are able to attend weekday events it may be easier to have your Baking Party during the week, otherwise you can schedule a weekend day at least a week before the holiday.

Before your Virtual Baking Party you’ll have to tell guests how many people will be participating and ask them to bake at least a half dozen cookies per guest.  The cookies must be packed separately for each participant, in many cases Ziplock bags will work.  They don’t need fancy packages because each participant may want to repack them with other cookies for gift giving.

3. Decorate the Kitchen.

Or which ever room you plan to be in during the Zoom Party.  Decorating the area you plan to be in sets a festive mood.  You might even want to have some cider or eggnog to sip on while you bake and chat.  Wearing something festive like a holiday apron adds a nice touch too!

4.  Bake your cookies and join your friends in a Zoom party.

You can make them well in advance and store baked cookies in the freezer, this way you can just chat with friends during the zoom party.  Or you can prepare the cookie dough in advance and just bake them during the party.

Cookie bars freeze and pack well as do chocolate chip, peanut butter, oatmeal, sugar, and snickerdoodles.  For a list of cookies that freeze well check out this article from aboutfood.com.
To learn how to freeze cookies click here!

5.  The star of the show are the cookies and the main event is the exchange.

Decide how you’re going to work the exchange during the party.  Will each person deliver a pack of cookies to each participant or would you prefer to set up a central pick up point where everyone can drop off and pick up cookies?  Decide on the date and time for the actual exchange and remember to practice social distancing and wear your mask.  We all want a safe and healthy holiday season!

Free Cookie Exchange Printables from How to Nest for Less

Caramel cookie bars are an excellent choice for a cookie exchange.  They’re simple to make and are really yummy.  You can dress them up for the holidays by adding sprinkles or other candies for a festive look.

Caramel Cookie Bars

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Melted Butter

2 Cups Brown Sugar, packed

2 Eggs

2 Cups Flour

2 Tsp. Vanilla

2 Tsp. Baking Powder

1/4 Tsp Salt

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Spary a 9×13 pan with cooking spray

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

In a separate bowl combine Sugar and Butter.

Add in eggs and vanilla.

Add in dry ingredients.

Mix until dough is well combined.

Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes or until pick comes out clean.

Let cool and cut into bars.

 

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

As a girl, I loved helping to decorate the tree each year for Christmas. I would carefully unwrap each ornament and place it on the tree. My favorites were always the vintage clip-on candles and birds from my Grandma. Recently I’ve seen a resurgence of this type of ornament and I love it! I decided I could make a pretty similar rendition using paper and it would be a lot cheaper too.  It’s a very common Scandinavian tradition to decorate your tree with candles, so this Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament is a little homage to my roots! All you need is small baking liners, paper, and glitter and you’ll have a tree all aglow in no time!

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Check out the step by step photos to create your own paper candle ornaments!

 

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Materials:

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Instructions:

  1. Cut out pieces of paper that measure 2-inches by 3-inches for the candle body.
  2. Roll the piece of paper along the 2-inch length and hot glue together, forming a tube.
  3. Cut a small circle large enough to cover one end of the paper tube and hot glue onto the top.
  4. Cut a small candle flame from the paper. Cover with glue and glitter and hot glue onto top of tube
  5. Using your hot glue gun, create the “wax drip” around and on top of the candle and cover with copper glitter.
  6. Take two baking cups and flip one of them inside out. Apply the glue stick on the inner, white, side of one baking cup, and place the other inside it, so both sides of the cup have the copper sheen.
  7. Hot glue the candle inside the baking cup.
  8. Hot glue a clip to the bottom of the baking cup to clip onto your Christmas tree. You can also omit the clip and just nestle the candle into the tree as well!

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Make a dozen or so candles and cover your tree!

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Paper Candle Christmas Tree Ornament

Thanksgiving Activities For School Aged Kids

Thanksgiving Activities For School Aged Kids

A collection of fun and easy Thanksgiving Activities your child can do as you prepare for a special turkey day. Activities featuring Gratitude, Turkeys, Pilgrims and Native Americans that incorporate educational activities for Thanksgiving.

There’s something very special about taking the time to make a few turkey crafts with your kids for Thanksgiving. No matter what your child’s age is it’s fun to treasure those special growing handprints and share moments of gratitude together.  Our magnetic thankful tree is a great place to start!   

We’ve gathered 40 Thanksgiving Ideas from some of our favorite kids Bloggers who share their ideas on the After School Linky Party each week just in time for you to do a few with your child before Thanksgiving.  They include fun ideas for Writing, Gifts, Printables, Crafts, Math, Books, Cooking, Gratitude Projects and more!  One of our Thanksgiving favorites is our collection of Turkey Learning Games and Activities. 

Start of your month of gratitude with this Turkey Gift Idea inspired by your child’s turkey artwork.

THANKSGIVING ACTIVITIES FOR SCHOOL AGES 

 
 

magnetic Thankful Tree a photo project for beginning readers this Thanksgiving   Teaching Gratitude at Home with Kids

Acts of Kindness Activities for Kids. Simple ways to teach gratitude at home with your child.   DIY Sight Word Turkey Game for Thanksgiving with Kids   

 

40+ Thanksgiving Activities for School Aged Kids