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A Very COVID Christmas :: Fun Activities, Outside-the-Box Style

It seems like this year keeps throwing us curve balls, and this holiday season is proving to be no different. With the rise in COVID-19 cases, and the addition of cold and flu season, I’m going into December with one eye open and fingers crossed!

Each year, my family chooses a “big ticket” event during the holiday season. In the past we have done things like Grapevine’s North Pole Express, Prestonwood’s Gift of Christmas show, the Dallas Arboretum’s 12 Days of Christmas, Dallas Zoo Lights, and the Gaylord ICE Exhibit, to name a few. Some of these events are still happening and doing a great job of making it a safe, socially distant event. However, I thought this year would be a great chance to take a break from the big Dallas Christmas events and get creative with some COVID-friendly Christmas ideas and activities.

COVID-Friendly Christmas Events & Ideas

Make a Book Come to Life

Schedule a “Story Book Day” and make it a big deal! Each kid could pick their favorite book to “bring to life”. You can use this idea with any Christmas/holiday book you have! The Gingerbread Pirates and Gingerbread Friends are a couple of my son’s favorites. In The Gingerbread Pirates, a little boy and his mom make gingerbread pirate cookies. My son has always BEGGED to make our own gingerbread pirate cookies, and I’ve always deflected, thinking it was too complicated and time consuming. (And The Gingerbread Friends book even has a recipe for the cookies inside!) While decorating for Christmas last weekend, my son asked again to make the cookies…and I figured there was no time like the present! We truly had the best time doing something so simple and it totally made his weekend

Make The Nutcracker come to life by putting on your own play or make a “sleigh” out of your couch and deliver presents like Santa Claus. Act out your own “Nativity” and let your kids each be a member of the Christmas Story (they’ll fight over being the wise men) and gather stuffed animals to complete the barn scene. Another family favorite is Where Do Diggers Celebrate Christmas. Have your child find how many construction vehicles they have in the book!

I struggle with creativity, so by using a story/book as my “guide”, all I had to do was bring it to life with the gift of my time (and of course a few props).

Rent a Venue for a Private Party

Now is the perfect time to support small local businesses like Playstreet Museum, Safari Run, Cheeky Monkeys, Heritage Farmstead Museum, etc. Have your “quaranteam” split the cost and it’ll still be less than you’d spend on a big ticket event! You can bring your own decorations, set up a hot cocoa bar, or maybe even have Santa stop by for a visit! (Apparently, that jolly ole fella has been leaving his “laundry” at Hobby Lobby, hint hint…)

Another great idea is to rent a movie theatre for a private showing! I’ve had some friends do this and they said it was so fun to have the theater to themselves. Several local ones are offering this, but for example, at Cinemark, prices start at just $175 for a private viewing! Again, splitting the cost with a few other families would make this an affordable and memorable event.

Host a Progressive Dinner/Party with Friends

Our youth group used to do these and they were so fun! The premise is that you go to several different houses as you “progress” through dinner. You could start the “appetizer” at one house (when I say appetizer for kids, I mean popcorn or goldfish), then “main course” at another house (again, kid stuff, like pizza), then dessert at another house. This way, you can share responsibility of “hosting” a party and the kids could see each others’ homes/neighborhoods all decorated for Christmas. You could even add an activity to each stop, like an ornament swap, book exchange, cookie decorating, etc. The kids would get a total kick out of this!

Even though this holiday season won’t look like we planned for many reasons, there are still so many ways to make it special! I will say this about COVID: It’s made us think outside the box and get creative on ways to entertain and celebrate! In the end, our children will probably look back on this time and remember all the silly and random things we did to be “together” even when we had to stay (six feet) apart.

Looking for more socially distant but fun Christmas events in and around Collin County? Check out our guide to Winter Holiday Events!

Apple Cider Donut Cake VIDEO: In the Kitchen with Kids

Moms, get ready to indulge! Let your kids and bundt pan do the baking with this recipe. 

Serve with fruit or whipped cream
Recipe credit: www.cakebycourtney.com
This cake is spongy with a soft spice flavor. It is a warm and wonderful feeling to share with family and friends around the table or perhaps treat yo’self with a good book with this seasonal treat.

In the Kitchen with Kids :: Apple Cider Donut Cake Recipe

Combine in a medium bowl:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

Combine in a large bowl:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil

Add to sugar mixture:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes.

Remember to spray and flour your bundt pan so the cake doesn’t stick like mine!

Grease that bundt pan completely

The kitchen is where memories are made! I love including Caleb’s friends, testing out new recipes and watching the reactions, and seeing what they come up with!

Kids love adding their creative twists

Delicious! I love being in the kitchen with kids.

Enjoy!

14 Popular Cocktails for Thanksgiving and Christmas

Bourbon

Sharing 14 Popular Cocktails for Thanksgiving and Christmas to help you find the perfect drink for your upcoming holiday gathering.

Whether you’re looking for a pitcher-style drink like a festive sangria, a healthier cocktail, or a delicious holiday Mule, you’ll be sure to find something for everyone here. These drinks are perfect for snuggling up by the fire, decorating the Christmas tree, or hosting a holiday get-together. No matter the festivity or mood you’re in, get your holiday cocktail inspo here.

Set out your favorite appetizer, and have a drink.

Autumn Aperol Spritz

I am a sucker for an Aperol spritz, and when I saw this autumn version on Pinterest, I just had to give it a try. It’s so delicious.

Autumn Aperol Spritz Recipe

Apple Butter Old Fashioned

Apple Butter Old Fashion

Bourbon and homemade apple butter?! YUM! This one is a must-make fall drink. So perfect for Thanksgiving.

Apple Butter Old Fashioned Recipe

Naughty and Nice Cinnamon Toddy

Everyone loves a hot toddy. This one is the perfect holiday version that’ll leave you feeling warm and cozy.

Naughty and Nice Cinnamon Toddy Recipe

Spiced Persimmon Bourbon Old Fashioned

Spiced Persimmon Bourbon

Talk about Fall in a Cup. Such a great way to use up that Fall produce and turn it into a signature cocktail.

Spiced Persimmon Bourbon Old Fashion Recipe

Smoky Harvest Apple Cider Margarita

For all you margarita lovers…this one is for you. Smoky mezcal (or tequila) mixed with a splash of orange liqueur, spiced apple cider, a touch of citrusy lime, and sweet maple.

Smokey Harvest Apple Cider Margarita Recipe

Cranberry Mocktail

Cranberry Mocktail

The perfect festive non-alcoholic drink. Looks incredibly refreshing and delicious.

Cranberry Mocktail Recipe

Mulled Wine

mulled wine

One of my favorite cozy Fall/Winter drinks is Mulled Wine. Trust me…no holiday season is complete without Mulled Wine! With seasonal spices, a bold red wine, and bright orange, this cocktail is comforting and warming.

Simple Mulled Wine Recipe

Spicy Pomegranate Moscow Mule

This one is made with vodka mixed with fresh lime juice, a squeeze of grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice, spicy jalapeños, and topped off with ginger beer. The perfect kick for a holiday festive drink.

Spicy Pomegranate Moscow Mule Recipe

Cranberry Thyme Spritz

A drink that is sweet and mixed with vodka, thyme, and elderberry flower. So festive and perfect for this holiday season.

Cranberry Thyme Spritz Recipe

Holiday Mojito Mocktail

Mojito lovers! This is a great non-alcoholic mocktail with the perfect amount of flavors.

Cranberry Mojito Mocktail Recipe

Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktail

A mocktail that is vegan, paleo, and simple to make.

Sparkling Cranberry Kombucha Mocktail Recipe

Festive Holiday Cranberry Sangria

sangria

Sangria is such a great cocktail to mix and forget about. This festive holiday sangria is a good one to make this year.

Festive Holiday Cranberry Sangria Recipe

Clementine Cranberry Holiday Cocktail

clementine cranberry drink

This one had me at clementine! How delicious does this look? I will definitely be giving it a try this year. This one is using rum and cranberry juice.

Clementine Cranberry Holiday Cocktail Recipe

Keto Orange Cranberry Vodka Spritzer

Don’t let the holiday season get you off your diet. This Keto Orange Vodka Cranberry Spritzer is light, refreshing, and perfect for the holiday season!

MORE Drinks:

There you have it… A round-up of 14  Cocktails for Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you can tell, Half-Baked Harvest is one of my favorites bloggers to follow, and her drinks are so tasty. I hope this roundup of holiday cocktails for Thanksgiving and Christmas has something for everyone to enjoy this season.

Practical Ways to Save Money This Holiday Season

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that everyone is trying to pinch their pennies. There’s no doubt that most of us parents are looking for some practical ways to save money this holiday season. Don’t worry, none of these will have you reusing wrapping paper like your grandmother used to do!

Ways to save many this holiday season
Photo by bobbieo found on canva.com

Keep it simple when it comes to gifts for your kids

I’ve never wanted to go over the top when it comes to gift giving for my kids; too many toys/books/games overwhelm me. I heard about the “something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read” before my oldest child’s first Christmas and we have tried to keep with that since. Don’t get me wrong, he gets plenty of other things from other family members and friends. Keeping it simple is a great way to not overspend and teach kids Christmas is about more than just toys.

Take your own family pictures

I’ll be honest, we have yet to attempt this, but do plan to do it this year! You can purchase a Bluetooth tripod for your iPhone on Amazon for cheap and you can find a lot of free presets for Lightroom on Pinterest.

Print photos and send out “old-fashioned holiday cards”

This is a great money-saving holiday hack if you plan to send out holiday cards. The cute printed photo cards can add up quickly! Printing photos and buying a box of cards from TJ Maxx or Target is a great alternative while still being able to send a family update and photo to friends and family!

Buy gift-wrapping supplies at Dollar Tree

I have always been a Dollar Tree junkie, from movie theater candy to cheap craft supplies; it’s one of my favorite places to shop. You can purchase wrapping paper ribbon, gift bags, tissue paper, and more at the Dollar Tree for $1 an item and while you might not get as large of a quantity as you would at a regular store, the quality of these items is good.

Consider handmade gifts

If crafting is in your wheelhouse, (and you have the time to do so) consider making some handmade gifts this holiday season. Some items I am planning to make as gifts are: mask chains, personalized coffee mugs and wine glasses (I recently got a Cricut machine) and pom pom garlands.

Give coupons for errands, chores, and babysitting

This might be the best gift you can give to a fellow parent: an evening out without having to pay for a sitter! Other ideas: clean car, do a load of laundry, or grocery shop.

Buy gifts second hand

This is certainly not one that everyone will want to do but can be a great way to save money and treasure hunt at the same time! This is especially good when it comes to buying gifts for your kids. Facebook Marketplace and thrift stores have been an amazing source for me to score great toys, games, and more!

This is not a comprehensive list of all the practical ways to save money this holiday season, but it certainly has helped my family save a lot over the last few years. What are your favorite holiday saving tips? I’d love to hear from you!

Teaching Our Kids The Power of Gratitude

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Believe it or not, we are now in the month of November in this unpredictable year of 2020. I think we can all agree that when we think of November, gratitude and giving thanks is one of the first things to come to mind. And in a year in which we can quickly list things we have missed or lost, turning our minds and hearts to gratitude may be more important than ever. Gratitude is a value that can be life changing. It is a value I hope to plant deep into my children’s heart to help carry them through their childhood and into adulthood. Now is the perfect time to begin teaching the power of gratitude to your children.

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough”

Family Gratitude Practice

It’s the month of November, the month of gratitude, and I think many of us have implemented some sort of gratitude practice or activity with our kids over the years. It is one of my favorite family traditions. Here are a few ways we have done it in the past or plan to do in the future:

  • Gratitude turkey: Cut out a large turkey body and head, add some eyes, a beak and a gobbler. Cut out several large feathers in different colors of construction paper. Family members can write things they are grateful for and add to the turkey’s body throughout the month. This type of activity is my personal favorite for toddlers and preschool age. You can never be too grateful for Paw Patrol or snacks!
  • Gratitude tree: Trace an outline of a tree trunk and branches on a large piece of paper or branches. Cut or print out leaves and label each leaf with something you are grateful for.
  • Gratitude jar: As the month goes on, family members can add things they are grateful for on strips of paper to add to the jar. On Thanksgiving, everyone can take turns reading about the things for which everyone is grateful! Check out more Thanksgiving crafts here!

“It is not joy that makes us grateful, it is gratitude that makes us joyful”

Gratitude Journal

For older kids (and adults!) a journal is a perfect way to train your mind and instill the value of gratitude in your everyday life. At the beginning of this year, I bought a journal that included space to write goals, gratitude and memories for each day. The simple act of writing down things I was grateful for each day made a significant impact on my everyday life. Admittedly, as pandemic fatigue has set in, I haven’t kept up on this journal consistently. I plan to get back in the habit this month. It’s as simple as this:

  • No need for a fancy gratitude specific journal (though those are fun if you want!), a simple notebook or piece of paper will work just fine. Each day, write three things you are grateful for and help your kids do the same. See how this practice changes you and your children’s outlooks throughout this month.

Thank-You Notes

One lesson I learned from my mom is the power of a thank-you note. I remember several times throughout my childhood sitting down to write thank-you notes after birthdays, Christmas, or special occasions. I have tried to continue this with my own children as they learn to practice gratitude in their life. Here’s a way to make thank-you notes a habit in your family:

  • Find a special box that can be placed in a good location in your home. Fill it with notecards, envelops and stamps so it is easy to access when a thank-you note is needed. Practice writing thank-you notes together as a family, maybe by designating Sundays as a day to show your gratitude to others.

I have seen firsthand the power of gratitude in my daily life. It has lifted my spirits when I needed it, reminded me of my daily blessings, and helped me gain perspective in trials and difficult times. Gratitude is a value that has the power to make an impact on our lives and the lives of our kids!

3 Ways To Pivot Your Thanksgiving for 2020

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It seems like just yesterday we were wrapping up summer, making preparations for a new and different school year. Like everything else in 2020 we have had to make adjustments to our norm, due to COVID-19. As we slide into the middle of November, a week or so away from Thanksgiving, we will be asked yet again to make adjustments.

Our usual, large Thanksgiving gatherings could be potential spreaders, and so this year we will need to rethink how we do Thanksgiving. I have had this conversation with my family; you may be have had or are having a similar conversation with your family. Many families are opting to forego the larger gatherings and gather in small groups or not at all.

Even though we may not all be together the way we want to for Thanksgiving this year, there are still ways we can celebrate and make this a memorable Thanksgiving. Here are three ways to pivot your Thanksgiving.

3 Ways To Pivot Your Thanksgiving for 2020

1. Establish New Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving is all about traditions, but it’s also a great time to establish new traditions. Do you normally put up your Christmas tree and decor on Thanksgiving, but your family will be in town before Thanksgiving? Switch it up and do it before. Create a gratitude newsletter and mail out to your family who would normally be with you on Thanksgiving to let them know what you are grateful for and how grateful you are for them. Use some of the time you spend on social media and head over to Pinterest to find some fun and new traditions to incorporate this year with your family.

2. Virtual Cooking Competition

Running out for last-minute recipe ingredients and whipping up recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation is one of the many fun pastimes of Thanksgiving. Even though you may not be with your family in person this year, you can still do this fun tradition virtually. Choose one or two recipes that the family usually makes together or is served every Thanksgiving. Have everyone shop for ingredients. Pick a date and time that works for everyone. Turn on your digital platform, assemble your ingredients, and have fun making your Thanksgiving faves virtually. If your family is competitive, you could make it a Food Network-style cooking competition with a time limit, or only using certain ingredients and establish a prize at the end for the winner.

3. Safe Thanksgiving Celebration with a Small Group

If you do plan to still get together with your family and friends this year but in a smaller group setting; enjoy but be safe. Establish a plan that everyone can agree to regarding self-quarantine before the big event if possible, masks and temperature checks on the day of, and if anyone has been sick or been in contact with anyone who has been sick, make sure it is understood that they need to stay home. Encourage each family/person to bring their own flatware, glassware, plates, etc., as well as their own meal (no potluck style this year) to reduce the need to share. Eat outdoors if the weather permits, and space out the seating. It may seem like a hassle, but all these precautions will help to make your Thanksgiving Day an enjoyable and safe event for everyone!

I know for many of us Thanksgiving may be the only time we are able to connect with family, especially those who live a long distance away. Make the best of your Thanksgiving gathering in whatever form it may be this year. Be present with your loved ones, and remember to celebrate the true meaning of Thanksgiving: a day to give thanks.

3 Easy Thanksgiving Crafts for Kids

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Thanksgiving can be the forgotten holiday sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, but here are some fun kids crafts that will get the entire family in the Thanksgiving spirit.

Coffee Filter Turkeys

Wooden-spring clothespins
Round white coffee filters
Assorted googly eyes
Washable markers: brown, red, orange, & yellow
Glue gun or a liquid glue
Brown acrylic craft paint
Red & yellow craft foam
Paintbrush
Scissors
Pencil

After coloring the coffee filter, place it on a craft mat or Ziplock bag and spray with water. Have fun watching the magic of the colors move and blend. Paint all sides of the clothespin with brown craft paint.


Glue on the googly eyes. Cut out a triangle beak from yellow craft foam and a squiggly waddle from the red craft foam. Fold the dry coffee filters in half and crinkle slightly to fluff them. Insert coffee filter into top clip of clothespin to be the turkey’s feathers.

Thankfulness Pumpkin Pie Garland

Paper plates

Paintbrushes

White construction paper

Paint

Scissors

 

Paint your paper plate orange for the pie and the crust or top of the paper plate brown. Once the paint dries, cut out pie-shaped “slices.”

Cut out white paper circles for the whipped cream and ask your kids what they are thankful for. Glue whipped cream onto pie pieces and punch holes and use string to make a fun Thanksgiving garland.

Beaded Indian Corn

4 tan or brown pipe cleaners

Assorted plastic beads

Line up your pipe cleaners so they are even on each end and twist them together in the middle.

Evenly space each pipe cleaner and spread them into the shape of a star. Start threading the beads onto each pipe cleaner, until all 8 are covered. Be sure to leave a little over an inch of pipe cleaner showing on each end so you have enough to twist your husks later on.

 

Time to shape your corn! Carefully bend each end upward and gather the points together. Take the tops of your pipe cleaners and twist them a couple times to secure the beads and form the corn husks.

Hopefully these kid-friendly, easy Thanksgiving crafts get the entire family in the Thanksgiving spirit and makes everyone realize how much we have to be grateful for this year.

A Guide to Winter Holiday Events in Collin County

holiday events in collin county christmas eventsThe holiday season is officially ON. Come check out our roundup of the best local activities to help you celebrate. 2020 is strange and unusual, to say the least, and some of our favorite holiday events will be taking the year off. But we’ll discover new ways to make memories and have special moments with our families. Be safe and have fun!

Reminder: None of these events can take place without a commitment to personal responsibility. Mask up, social distance, and stay home if you’re sick or have been exposed to COVID. Because everything is subject to change, we highly recommend double checking with venues for last-minute cancellations.

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AROUND Collin County

14 Popular Cocktails for Thanksgiving and Christmas

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Sharing 14 Popular Cocktails for Thanksgiving and Christmas to help you find the perfect drink for your upcoming holiday gathering. Whether you’re looking for a...