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Archive for the ‘Hallidays’ Category

I promised myself I would be in bed 15 minutes ago, but I had to share one of our most interesting advent activities from the last week: Transforming those lovely junk magazines into beautiful Christmas trees. Set those kids to work on that unwanted stack of magazines today with this inspiration over at Just Like Martha‘s. The results are well worth the effort.

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What you don’t know about me is that I am a pretty paper and fabric FREAK. I don’t scrap, and I hardly ever find time to sew, but in the second half of my life, I know this is where I will be spending all of my time. While I don’t have time to do things now, I do have a habit of hoarding. I have rolls of beautiful fabric and stacks of gorgeous papers in my closet begging for attention. Every one of them seeming to say, “You paid for me. Use me. I’ve been in a dark closet for 5 years. Please pick me up.”

So with that background in mind, you might be able to understand how I had to be a part of this next Knucker Hatch Advent activity. You can do this activity with paper or fabric, and the results are quite cute. (From left to right, the work of: The Queen’s Grace, Mama Knucker Hatch, The Princess of Wails, and Sir Bugga-Lot).

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A special thanks to The Small Object for the original idea in fabric w/ a very useful template and to Bella Dia for the inspiration to try paper. The only modifications we made were to stick small wads of tissue inbetween each cone for lift. By the way, both aforementioned blogs are wonderful places to sit with a cup of coffee and dream about rescuing my hoards and hoards of lovelies.

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The Knucker Hatch Activity Advent Calendar continues to be an out of the ballpark hit. And the pressure is on to keep it running. So today, an easy craft to eat that my two year old “Do-er” adored: Holiday Pretzel Treats.

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Pretzels, chocolate kisses, and M&Ms. The Princess of Wails was hooked on unwrapping the individual kisses and sorting out green and red M&Ms from the others. It might have even been more of a treat than the occasional swipe of chocolate. And for this Mama, lots of fun and yumminess for very little effort.

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O.K., so it wasn’t a bajillion, but by midnight, after 10 hours of straight biscotti cooking, toasting, glazing and packing, you could have told me it was a bajillion and I would have believed you. The count was more like 900, and I’m pretty sure the smells of biscotti heaven were wafting into the next city. As I mentioned in my previous post, it has become a tradition for the wife of my husband’s business partner to bake biscotti for customers and employees in the company. She receives incredible compliments and the men joke that when they fly in to visit their clients and talk about their product, the first questions they are asked are about the biscotti.

The recipes are outstanding, and Rachel outdoes herself with new ones and tweaking old favorites every year. This year: Andies Mint Chocolate Biscotti w/ chocolate icing, Peppermint Biscotti w/ peppermint pieces inside and iced in white chocolate, Cranberry Chocolate Biscotti iced in white chocolate, and Gingerbread Biscotti iced in wonderful lemon flavored white chocolate. On top of it all, her biscotti comes out beautifully perfect.

This year, I had the privilege of opening up my kitchen, and being allowed inside the factory of “Willy Wonka” so to speak as I watched the master and tried my best to be a helpful oompa-loompa. Rachel had already premade all of the dough for weeks ahead of time and frozen every batch. So the first step was separating the biscotti and placing them in special biscotti pans.

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Here the biscotti is baking and rising in individual slots. These pans keep each and everyone looking perfect.

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Following baking, the biscotti is allowed to cool for a few minutes, and then they are slid on to hot tiles to slowly toast. The tiles, I am told, help to distribute the heat evenly. She’s right. I think we might have burned the edges of only 10 biscotti out of 900.  Simple floor tiles will do the trick nicely.

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After toasting, the biscotti is laid out on wax paper to await their glazes. This is where I would become a very confused oompa-loompa. Rachel was so patient with my inability to keep each icing with the right biscotti! Look at these beauties. Can anybody say “Etsy”???

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Once the icing had set, we were packing up gift bags of six, and preparing gift boxes for the customers. This is my dear friend Rachel looking beautiful as ever at midnight:

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At 12:30am I was biscotti toast myself, and she sent me to bed, only to cook for two more hours! We had a wonderful time together, even with the nine kids running underfoot. And now we get to eat extra biscotti for breakfast, lunch and dinner, which are scrumptious even with Faithie’s teeth tracks running over all of the iced tops.

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The Christmas Season is upon the Knucker Hatch household, and I do believe we are having the most memorable experiences to date. It has taken our family a good while to create our own traditions while striving to hold on to the old of family Christmas’ past. I remember in our first Christmas years as a new family, feeling frustrated that we hadn’t a single tradition of our own, and few to bring to the table from our own families. But this year, over a decade later, we have arrived.

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The fresh tree has yet to pass our threshold, and the storage boxes packed with the stockings and Christmas decorations have still not been pulled from the garage, but we are already knee deep in welcoming family traditions. The spirit of Christmas is finding its way into the kitchen, and on to the mantle, and into our hearts. Children are prancing around the house dancing to Christmas carols, determined to learn every song title by heart. While, little hands have been hard at work creating Christmas countdown paper chains, beaded pipe cleaner candy canes, felt holly wreath ornaments, and paper snowflakes. I’ve been inspired to do a family advent activity calendar, which keeps the children waking up happily with a “What’s the Christmas activity today, Mom?”.

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Tom Builder and I have spent and will spend many more nights perfecting his Grandma’s elusive fudge recipe. I think this year, we’ve almost cracked the fudge code (Grandma’s fudge was not creamy, but had a slight grainy hardness…in other words slightly off the mark, but what Tom Builder’s side of the family grew to know and love as Grandma’s treasured fudge). We will add to our new traditions of whipping up some killer addictive peanut brittle, and creating our famous Christmas cookie tree, with some new candies like peppermint bark to try this year. And tonight, the kitchen prepares for a gathering of friends tomorrow that will last all day and through the night – thousands of flavored biscotti will be baked, iced, and wrapped for company customers, as we assist with a lofty gift giving tradition started by the brave wife of Mr. Incredible’s business partner. Meanwhile, nine children will be weaving in and out of our baking with squeals of laughter and much hootin’ and hollerin’.

In the background, there are Christmas parties to attend and a company party to host (which scares me to death) and all of the Christmas shopping. But for some reason, this time, I’m not falling prey to the mad Christmas rush. To the dark bundles of stress, worry, and distraction that I so often carry around during December and almost seem to open my arms willingly to catch. This year, I am finding true joy in the season. Meaningfulness.

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Every December day. Shared with loved ones. Traditions treasured up and memories held close.

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The Lego Birthday Boy

October is the beginning of a lovefest of birthdays for our family. Three of the four children have birthdays within four weeks of each other, and two are only three days apart. Then there’s all of the nieces and nephews b-days too!  Our two oldest exchange turns each year with who gets to have the all-out knock down birthday party bash. It’s always something that both kids look forward to, no matter who’s turn it is.

This year was Jack’s turn to live it up with his own choice of a Lego themed birthday. So for the first two weeks of October, I hunkered down in my small bits of free time, and made Lego themed invitations, tracked down lego themed party games, pulled together goodie bags, and perused lego birthday cake ideas. The work paid off, and Jack ended up with an organized (so not me) party complete with party games, and a lego cake that survived my poor decorating skills to boot.

The games were a combination of ideas I had found online, and modified ideas for a lego/farm theme. Games included: How Many Legos Are In The Jar?, Lego Hunt In A Haystack, Two Minute Lego Tower Race, and a Lego Scavenger Hunt. The “Build a Lego Man” scavenger hunt was a unique idea of ours that took some planning, but went off really well. Two teams raced across the farm building a lego person piece by piece complete with two tools. I made sure all of the kids had ran about a half mile before it was all over.  The winning team was sweaty and glowing:

Three traditions continue to exist in our birthday bashes regardless of the theme: a rented blow up jumping gym, pizza lunch, and a pinata.  This year, I was going to do without the pinata, but Grace would not allow it, and decided to make her own Lego pinata out of a box and glued on tissue paper for Jack.  We all had a good laugh over her pinata stuffing practices. I had not planned on a pinata, so hence I had no candy. Suddenly, small trinkets and random possessions started disappearing, ending up in the pinata: pens, hats, dress up masks, paper note pads, etc..  She put so much effort into her brother’s pinata, I couldn’t let her down. We made a clearly necessary candy run. I have to hand it to Grace, the pinata was a loving gesture and it turned out wonderful!

The whole thing turned out very well, which may sound lame, but if there is one thing I am not, it is a party planner. So at the end of the day, it was really rewarding to know that Jack had an enjoyable time with his friends and family. It was his day, and he was a gracious host. I’m so proud of him. My new seven year old. He’s still not grown up enough to realize that there is ice cream dribbling down his chin onto his bare chest, or to understand that putting underwear over the top of old underwear is does not qualify as changing your underwear. But he could certainly make a strong case that he is turning into “young man”. And I couldn’t be happier with this little man of mine.

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I think I was too nervous to pre-blog about this trip. We were about to embark on our family’s first ever (no really) family vacation. Our own schedule. No obligations. Just us, and endless parks and possibilities. All I can say is “Why did we wait so long!?”. What a blast! Every hour of our trip, Faithie said with wide eyes and a grin from ear to ear, “BIIIIIGGGGGG TRIP!!!”. She reminded all of us how special our outings were. (Below: All of us minus one Sleeping Beauty in a Stroller.)

The Knucker Hatch clan decided to go big and make sure we were all having fun in the process. So we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, and hit every park we could with gusto. Sunday – Epcot. Monday – Animal Kingdom. Tuesday – Magic Kingdom. Wednesday – Breathe and have a pool day. Thursday – Typhoon Lagoon & Disney’s Nightlife.

At one point, Tom Builder and I looked at each other and said, we’re not that old, look what we’re doing! The children were wonderfully behaved and The Princess of Wails along with Her Highness Hope were troopers. To top it off, we joined up with close friends from our church, so the children AND the adults got to hit the wild rides, and enjoy sweet company. Honestly, the worst part of the entire trip was that two staunch Republicans were forced to watch RNC coverage via CNN thanks to Disney putting the nix on Fox. Which made us feel a tad like this…

(Walt, give your paying patrons Fox.)

I adored watching the children experience their first roller coaster rides. The range of emotions. The fear. The excitement. The occasional moment of panic. The relief. The rush.

And to deal with my own range of emotions as I sat next to Faithie in the boat taking in the overwhelming sights and sounds of “It’s a Small World”, a ride I remember taking as a very small child. I did make sure NOT to take everyone to the Haunted House I so vividly remember entering and then bolting from as that very same small child.

Memories. New and old. All precious. And something we all unanimously agree we’ll be doing much more often.

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