Cinnamon Coffee Cake

What do you do for breakfast at your house on Christmas morning? I am still trying to find a great “traditional” breakfast at our house and haven’t found one that is our favorite…yet! So this year I tried out a recipe to see if it would be our new favorite. I tried out a recipe from my friend {L} for this Cinnamon Coffee Cake. It was so yummy! The family loved it…especially my husband! So that was a good sign. But, I am still open for another {or multiple} ideas.

What breakfast traditions do you have on Christmas morning?
Thanks in advance for sharing! I love hearing the great things you are doing too!

{Only 3 more sleeps ’till Christmas!!!}


2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups butter, softened
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla


1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl.

2. Blend flour mixture and butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Combine sour cream, milk, eggs and vanilla and blend to mix well.

4. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients.

5. Beat at medium speed with a electric mixer until smooth and fluffy.

6. Spoon half the batter into the parchment lined baking dish. Combine pecans, sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle half over batter.

7. Spread the remaining batter over topping. Sprinkle with remaining topping.

8. Bake at 350 degrees in a 9×13 pan, for 35 to 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


Oh Christmas Tree…

Oh Christmas Tree
Oh how we love
to sleep under thee!

Every year right before Christmas we pick a night and sleep under (or beside) the Christmas tree. We light a fire in our fireplace and grab our favorite snack and a cup of hot cocoa. We read a couple of Christmas stories and then lay down and TRY to get some sleep. Every one is pretty excited and silly. Amid the giggles and whispers are A LOT of unheard, “it’s time to stop talking now” statements by either my husband or I. After everyone settles in, we listen to my absolute favorite Children’s story, The Velveteen Rabbit, that we have on CD.

Here is a little sampling of the CD that I found on the internet.

Several years ago, one Christmas, my hubby suprised me with this amazing book on CD of The Velveteen Rabbit. The story is read by Meryl Streep and is accompanied by piano music from George Winston. I love it! It quickly became a family favorite and a tradition to listen to as we sleep under the tree.

Eventually everyone drifts off to sleep. Then the hubby and I (who pretend to be falling asleep with the kids) watch a movie together in the same room with the tree and the sleeping kids. Then when it is our bedtime, we join the kids under the tree. The next morning, we make a big yummy breakfast!

Do you have any fun Christmas tree traditions?

Magic Reindeer Food

*Update 12.10.13–I have a newer version of the Magic Reindeer Feed with a printable if you are interested in seeing or using it.  To see the newer version click here: Magic Reindeer Feed

A few years ago my daughter came home from her Pre-school class with some magic reindeer food. She was instructed to sprinkle it on the front lawn on Christmas Eve so that Santa and his reindeer could find her home.  She was so excited and my other kids wished they had some reindeer food too.  It worked just like magic. Santa definitely came! We have continued the tradition every year since to ensure that Santa can find his way to our house.



The food has special “glow in the dark” crystals that are illuminated by the moon and as my daughter pointed out today, Rudolph’s Red Nose! I wish she would have said that before I got them all printed out :). That is so much more fun than being illuminated by the moon. (I will have to change it for next year as I have already made ours up).

This would be so fun to make for your kids friends as a small, inexpensive gift, an elementary school party, your neighbor’s kids or your grandkids!  Be sure to make it edible so that the birds don’t eat something that is not good for them…like glitter.

Here is our simple recipe.

Reindeer Food

1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup red or green sugar crystals (for cake decorating)

**I have seen some recipes that call for glitter, but I have heard that it can be dangerous for any birds who might eat it, so we just use colored sugar. Colored sugar can be made so easily. Just take some sugar and drop a few drops of food coloring in the sugar. Then take a fork and stir it until the sugar is colored evenly and there are no lumps.

Here is a fun poem that you can give along with the reindeer food to let people know what it is and how to use it.

Sprinkle on the lawn at night
The moon (Rudolph’s Nose) will make it sparkle bright
As Santa’s reindeer fly and roam
This will guide them to your home.

I filled a cellophane treat bag (6 in. x 3.75 in.) with the reindeer food and attached a label by stapling it to the top. The writing on the label is upside down so when you fold it,the writing will be right side up.


There are two different downloads if you are interested.  I would love to know if you end up making some!  I love to see the projects my readers are enjoying and making for themselves.

Reindeer Food 2



Christmas Ornaments

Years ago, growing up my parents had a tradition of getting each of us kids a new ornament on Christmas Eve. The ornament was usually something that represented something we did or had accomplished that year. Then, on the Christmas Eve after we were married, my parents wrapped up all our ornaments from our growing up years and gave them to us, as a new couple, to use on our own Christmas tree.

This particular ornament was given to me the year my brother taught us all how to rapel. We went many times as a family and loved it.

This ornament was given to us when we were pregnant with our first child. This was the last ornament my parents gave us. And we have continued the tradition in our own family, beginning with our son’s first Christmas.

This is the ornament my daughter received for her first Christmas.

My husband and I usually only get ornaments for the kids, but every once in a while we will surprise one another with one if we did something fun or significant that year. Six years ago my husband surprised me with this ornament after my mom, sister and I took a class together and became SCUBA certified.

We got this for my daugher when she started taking ballet. I was so excited when I found this ornament because not only does it represent her ballet, but she loves to dance with her dad and brothers on the entry way rug.

My son received this ornament the year he started to play soccer.

…and the year my son learned how to snow ski.

This one is a little different to have on your tree, but I love it! It reminds me of when we went to Yellowstone and my son who is the animal lover was fascinated with the Buffalo. He couldn’t believe how BIG they were. He sat and stared at one forever and they were all he could talk about. So everytime I see it, I smile thinking of that experience.

The ornaments can be about anything that is a memory. Some years are harder to find ornaments for than others. I remember one year my mom had a really hard time finding one for my sister, she ended up giving her a pickle ornament. But, the funny thing is that it was one of my favorite ornaments on our tree growing up. The pickle ended up being perfect because this sister LOVES pickles!

I keep a paper in our ornament box and each Christmas when we put away the ornaments, I take the paper out and write down the ornament the kids got that year. This way when they get married, I will remember who got what ornament and when!

What is your favorite Christmas Tradition with your family?


Letters to Santa

Each year the kids sit down and write a letter to Santa telling him the one thing they would like him to bring for Christmas. Then we drive straight to the city post office. Inside our post office is a special mailbox set up just for those special letters to Santa Claus. We drop them in and the kids are each given a candy cane. Then the mailman sends them straight to Santa at the North Pole. Then a week or two later our mailman drops each of the kids a personalized letter from Santa himself.

It has been so fun for the kids. They can’t wait to check the mailbox for their special letters. But you have to get your letters in early so Santa can have a chance to reply before he gets too busy.

You could just send your letters to a friend or a Grandma/Grandpa who has special connections with the North Pole (wink, wink). Then they could send Santa’s reply letters for each kid back to your house from the North Pole. Get what I’m saying?

This is an actual letter that came back to one of my kids a couple of years ago. Even my oldest who is now “wise in the ways of Santa” gets a kick out of sending and receiving his letter to Santa at the North Pole.


Graham Cracker "Gingerbread" Houses

One of our advent calendar activities is to make graham cracker gingerbread houses. I have hosted a “cousins” party at my house for the last 4 years (including this year). I make the houses the night before (one for each kid) by gluing graham crackers into a house shape with hot glue. Yes…you heard me…Hot Glue!


This ensures that the houses are STURDY so little hands can frost and place candy on it without it crashing down. The kids know this and do not eat the graham crackers or glue when they are finished. But they can still pick off the candy and eat it. I place each house on a paper plate with their name on it. My older children help me make them by getting the crackers ready and putting the cousins names on the plates while I do the gluing. There are 19 cousins to make houses for now!

My sisters and sister-in-laws each bring a couple of different types of candy to decorate the houses with or the frosting (we use Royal Icing). We decide before hand who will bring what. When all arrive, we divide up the candy so that they each have their own little cup of candy to use on their house. We also fill small plastic baggies with their own frosting and cut the corner of the bag so they can spread the frosting easily. They each are given their own plastic knife so they aren’t licking and sharing :)!


It is so fun to see each of their individual personalities as they decorate their houses. Some pile globs of frosting and candy together and call it good. While others spend the entire time carefully decorating with precise candy placement and color patterns. It is a lot of fun, and a little messy, but so worth it. The cousins look forward to it every year and so do I! (The pictures are from last year’s party).

**editRoyal Icing Recipe:

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, or more to thicken icing
1 lemon, juiced

Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar and lemon juice; beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

*You can substitute 5 tablespoons meringue powder and 1/3 cup water for raw eggs.

Christmas Books

When we were first married, my hubby and I talked about each of our families Christmas traditions and which ones we wanted to incorporate in our own family. We have used some traditions from both our families and then started some new ones we have adopted from our friends families.

This Christmas book tradition was inspired by one of my students when I was still teaching high school. She explained to me one day how every Christmas season, they would buy a new Christmas book to add to their growing collection. Each night, her siblings would take turns picking a book to read together as a family bedtime story, saving the new book to read on Christmas Eve. I loved this idea as soon as I heard about it and so we added this to our list of Christmas traditions.

We have acquired about 18 books now most we purchased as that year’s book (one each year) and some were given to us as gifts. We usually start our books around December 6, so that we can read one book a night. I wrap all the books each year (to solve fighting over who gets to pick which book as some are more popular than others) in the same wrapping paper, except for the new book. This new book is wrapped in a different paper and is saved until all the other books have been read. This book is read on a special night (more to come on that later) which we usually try to do on December 23.

I have really enjoyed this tradition as it brings a nice Christmasy feeling into our home each night. Most of the books have a nice Christmas theme to remind us of the “real reason for the season”. In fact, it is probably MY favorite Christmas tradition!

Here is a list of the books we have (although there are many other great books out there). This tradition can also be altered to represent the other December holidays you as a family may be celebrating other than Christmas (ie. Kwanza, Chanaukka, St. Nicholas Day, Boxing Day, St. Lucia Day, etc.)

1. Bear Stays Up For Christmas; Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
2. Welcome Comfort; Patricia Polaco
3. The Giving Tree; Shel Silverstein
4. The Polar Express; Chris Van Allsburg
5. You Are Special; Max Lucado
6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas; Dr. Suess
7. The Touch of the Master’s Hand; Myra Brooks Welch
8. The King’s Highway; Heward Fullmer
9. Christmas Day in the Morning; Pearl S. Buck
10. Too Many Frogs; Sandy Asher
11. I Believe in Santa Claus; Diane G. Adamson
12. A Wish to be a Christmas Tree; Colleen Monroe
13. Christmas Oranges; Linda Bethers
14. Snowmen at Christmas; Caralyn Buehner
15. The Story of Holly and Ivy; Rumer Godden
16. Christmas Tapestry; Patricia Polaco
17. The Tale of Three Trees; Angela Elwell Hunt
18. Jacob’s Gift; Max Lucado

For a printable version of the above list, click here.

What are some of your favorite Christmas (or other holiday) books?


Christmas Advent Calendar

Each year, starting on December 1, we start our Christmas (or Kwanza, Chanaukka, St. Nicholas Day, Boxing Day, St. Lucia Day, etc.) countdown with an Christmans Advent Activities Calendar like many of you.

I have seen all sorts of advent calendars around. Here is our version!  I am also sharing a list of some Christmas Advent Activities to help you come up with some of your own.


I make a list of several activities we can do together as a family. Then each day the kids take turns opening the little door for the day and reading what activity we get to do together. At our house, the holiday season can be pretty busy and somedays are unpredictable. So instead of just cutting up the strips and distributing them into the calendar, I do not put the activity in until I have an idea of what activity is actually feasible that day. I keep a pre-typed list up in the cupboard and then before the kids get home from school, I pick an activity, cut the word strip out and place it behind the little door.

This way each day I control what we are realistically able to participate in. Plus the kids aren’t able to find out what we are doing until that exact moment.

Here is a list of some of the things we have included in our advent calendar in years past.

1. Decorate the Christmas tree.
2. Write letters to Santa.
3. Build a snowman.
4. Have a snowball fight.
5. Make Christmas cookies and surprise a neighbor or two with a plate.
6. Sing Christmas Carols together.
7. Write Christmas letters to relatives we will not see for Christmas.
8. Watch a Christmas movie.
9. Visit Santa at the Mall.
10. Take a drive to see the Christmas Lights.
11. Clean out old toys and donate to Goodwill.
12. Make a gift for kids teachers.
13. Make some Christmas Candy.
14. Play a game in front of the fire.
15. Watch The Grinch.
16. Learn more about Jesus.
17. Sleep under the Christmas Tree.
18. Do a secret service for someone in the family or a neighbor.
19. Make a gingerbread house.
20. Read an extra Christmas story.
21. Make some reindeer food for Christmas Eve (recipe here).
22. Read the Christmas story in Luke Chapter 2 and other scriptures.
23. Act out the nativity scene.
24. Listen to Christmas music.
25. Set out cookies and reindeer food for Santa and his reindeers.
26. Read the notes in our love socks (more to come on this later).
27. Watch a Christmas special on television.
28. Go sledding!

You can use some of these ideas, or come up with your own that will meet the needs of your family and the specific holiday you may celebrate.

What are some ideas you would add to the list?


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