Monthly Archives: December 2011

10 Cool Themed Parties for the New Year

Welcoming a new calendar year is like hitting the restart button. We say goodbye to last year’s trials and tribulations, and focus our energy on creating a positive experience for the months to come (or at least the next few days). And the occasion isn’t complete without a party, right? Right.

Click here to see the 10 Cool Themed Parties for the New Year Slideshow.

While some spend the night wandering the bustling streets of New York to admire the dropping ball in person, others buy tickets for over-the-top New Year’s bashes where everyone dresses to the nines and dances all night, and there is plenty of free-flowing champagne to go around. Both are fun, but expensive. On the other end of the spectrum, some elect to cuddle up on the couch, zone in and out of the beloved Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special, and vow that next year they’ll go out. But isn’t that, well, boring? This year, ring in the new year right by hosting a fabulous party at home — a themed extravaganza that you and your friends will never forget (and some unforgettable party games). [slideshow:47059]

For friends who love to get silly, a decade party or a black-light party is the perfect way to ring in a goofy new year. For those who like simple elegance, host a black and white ball at home, or perhaps a sultry masquerade party. And even those who like to keep it calm and collected can have a seat around the fire at a bonfire party. Throwing any one of these fun and festive parties is sure to create fantastic first memories for 2012. 

Source: – Posted by Lauren Gordon, Special Contributor

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FUN Christmas Dessert

Got a sweet tooth? No problem. FamilyFun has you covered with this collection of delectable desserts!



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2011 Virtual Cookie Exchange From Vocalpoint

Source: Vocalpoint / Shared by Pam Overly

Sugar Cookies

3 c unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 c sugar 2 sticks (salted) butter, cold
1 egg
3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. Cream the sugar and butter. Add the egg and extracts and mix. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.

The dough will be crumbly, so knead it together with your hands as you scoop it out of the bowl for rolling. No need to refrigerate now.

Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. Place on parchment lined baking sheets. Place in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Peppermint Candy Cookie icing is Royal icing

4 TBSP meringue powder
scant 1/2 c. water
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/2 – 1 tsp light corn syrup
few drops clear extract (optional)

Combine the meringue powder and water. With the paddle attachment of an electric mixer, beat until combined and foamy.

Sift in the powdered sugar and beat on low to combine. (Do NOT skip the sifting!)

Add in the corn syrup and extract if desired.

Increase speed to med-high/high and beat for about 5 minutes, just until the icing is glossy and stiff peaks form. You should be able to remove the beater from the mixer and hold up and jiggle without the peak falling. Do not overbeat.

Cover with plastic wrap touching the icing or divide and color using gel paste food colorings.


Shared by Elizabeth Sims


1 1/2 cups Shortening (half butter or margarine)
1 cup Sugar
2 tsp Grated Orange Rind
2 eggs
4 cups Flour
1 egg white
2 tbsp sugar
red candied cherries / green citron

*Mix shortening, 1 cup sugar, rind and eggs thoroughly.
*Measure flour by dipping method. Stir in flour. Chill dough.
*Heat oven to 400 degrees.
*Break off small pieces of dough and roll to pencil size, about 6″ long and 1/4″ thick.
*Form each piece into a circle, bringing one end over and through in a single knot. Leave 1/2″ end on each side.
*Place on ungreased pan.
*Beat egg white until frothy
*Gradually beat in 2 tbsp sugar
*brush top of cookies with this meringue mixture.
*Press bits of red & green candies into cookies to look like holly berries.
*Bake 10-12 min, or until set.

Shared by Mare Zorio

Russian Tea Cakes

1 Cup Butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. pure Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar, plus more for rolling cookies
2 Cups All-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 Cup finely chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Cream butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla then gradually add the 1/2 cup confectioners sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift the flour, measure, then sift again with the salt. Add gradually to the butter mixture. Add the pecans and mix well.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly using the bottom of a glass, then bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are very lightly browned. Remove the cookies from the baking sheets and roll in powdered sugar while still hot. Cool on wire racks and roll cookies again in powdered sugar before serving.

Once they are completely cooled, cookies may be stored in airtight containers for up to 1 week.


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Get a Great Toddler Holiday Photo

 cute girl in polka dot dressWhat to Wear

Everyone loves girls in fancy dresses, little boys in suits, and babies who look sweet enough to eat. But while you want to make your child look like the angel he or she (sometimes) is, it’s obviously necessary to stay practical. For starters, don’t get too attached to the idea of your child looking “just so.” Put on her outfit right before you head out the door, and you’ll also be able to relax more if you stash a spare outfit in the car. Think of it as a potential opportunity to showcase yet another barely worn ensemble!

 Cute baby wearing hatDressing Brand-New Infants

With your new baby, outfits don’t last more than a few hours without spit-up stains unless you keep him in a bib, Consider buying a new, clean bib that’s as nice as his outfit. Try to save a little lace gown, suit, or holiday-themed onesie for portraits, and if you’re feeling adventurous (and feel like Baby’s up for it), throw in a cute and festive accessory, like a red hat.

Knitted hat by Susan B. Anderson

baby crawlingDressing Little Crawlers

Babies in the crawling stage are difficult to dress. For girls, beautiful frilly skirts can get caught on furniture and may rip, so try a pants outfit or a short skirt paired with leggings. Shoes rarely stay on a crawling little one, so skip the cute penny loafers and keep your baby’s look simple with bright, clean socks. 

baby boy standingDressing Active Toddlers

For these newly independent tykes, avoid clothes with big collars — which are magnets for food and juice stains — and long sleeves, which may end up in the gravy boat on the dinner table. Look for shirts with stretchy neck openings to cut dressing time in half — and to maximize comfort. You’ll probably want to dress your toddler in nice dress shoes for holiday portraits, but keep him in comfy sneakers if he’s playing with cousins at your relatives or waiting in line for Santa.

toddler holding teddy bearHoliday Portrait Pointers

The holidays are prime time for studio portraits, so naturally you want your children to look spiffy. “But keep the focus on your child rather than on what he or she wears,” says Lisa Berman, president and CEO of Picture People. And don’t try anything radically new, like putting a bow in your daughter’s hair if she doesn’t normally wear them. Need to calm Baby? Bring a prop like a teddy bear or favorite toy to make him smile.

 cute baby boy in dressy clothesPortrait Pointers for Boys

Buy soft button-down shirts that look cute untucked (since they will be after the camera’s done flashing). For young toddlers and babies, elastic-waist pants allow for quick diaper changes and trips to the bathroom, and shoes with Velcro fasteners make putting on his shoes a cinch. If you love the suit and bow tie look, expect your little man to be a little fidgety!

girl in Christmas dressPortrait Pointers for Girls

Little-girl skirts rarely lay how you want them to in photographs because of diapers or pull-ups, so use a diaper cover or cute tights to keep them from peeking out. To make sure that your little girl isn’t uncomfortable in her tights, buy a size bigger just to be sure. 

messy baby eatingMom’s Bag of Tricks

We know it’s exhausting to dress yourself and your kids for a party before you leave the house. But during the holidays, it pays to be over-prepared for a kid-related emergency. Always take an extra outfit for your child, especially if she’s prone to spills. Pack a few portable stain wipes to easily treat small stains, and a hairbrush for a quick sweep right before picture-taking. If you think your holiday visit will stretch into the evening, take your child’s pajamas so he can fall asleep in the car on the way home.

 mother and baby family protraitSitting Pretty

Have someone hold your infant upright, then get close and snap a picture quickly so she doesn’t get scared.

 baby in santa costume holding presentFound Object

Give your baby a safe ornament or present to explore. Take a picture while she touches it, smells it, or tries to eat it.

baby wearing santa hatBe Adventurous

Try an action shot with your child, such as one of her rolling over, crawling, or taking wobbly steps.

family portrait outside in the snowGo Outside

Family photos can be beautiful when taken next to some evergreen trees, or standing gingerly in the falling snow.

family portraitCute Close-Up

Try a cute way to fit everyone in the picture: Arrange you and your family members so that all of your faces are stacked close together, then have someone take a close-up. Bonus points if you do it while laying down in a circle!

cute baby smilingGet Him to Grin

Is Baby reluctant to smile for the camera? Sing Bob the Builder or Dora the Explorer theme songs right before the camera clicks.

woman taking pictureTake a Dozen

To get a great picture, expect to snap a dozen or more photos of your family’s smiles! Be patient, load up on film, and let the photographer keep clicking away!

Originally published in American Baby magazine.


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Best Dressed Gingerbread Men & Women

You’ll find a whole slew of ways at:











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Mouse Macaroons

Mouse Macaroons
Yield: about 2 dozen
Bake: 25 mins 325°F
Stand: 10 mins

  • 1 bag (8 ounces) sliced almonds
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips, divided
  • Black licorice laces
  • Hot cinnamon candies
  • White tube decorating icing

Make It

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line baking sheet with foil. Reserve 3 tablespoons sliced almonds for mouse ears, and place remaining almonds in food processor; pulse until finely ground. Add sugar and egg white, and pulse to combine. Melt 1/4 cup chocolate chips, add to mixture, and pulse. Shape tablespoonfuls of dough into teardrop shapes; place on baking sheet 1 inch apart. Bake 25 minutes.

2. While cookies are still warm, insert 2 almond slices for ears and 1 piece of licorice lace for tail. Let cool completely.

3. Melt remaining chocolate chips. Dip front of face in melted chocolate, and attach a cinnamon candy for nose. Using icing, pipe 2 eyes. Let set 10 minutes.


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Rudolph’s Nose~Cookie on a Stick


The plan was,  I was going to make Rudolph nose cookies (on a stick) for all of my munchkins when they were here at Thanksgiving, take a photo, post it here, and maybe even make it into a Christmas card.  That was the plan, but somehow when everyone converges on my home, many of my well-laid plans fly out the proverbial window. Of course I remembered my idea after 6/8 of the munchkins returned to Texas and Nevada:(  Sigh.

Now onto the easiest cookie on-a-stick ever…

I used a sugar cookie dough, rolled it out, grabbed a small (1.5-inch) biscuit cutter and went to town cutting out reindeer noses. I then inserted popsicle sticks and baked them. When cooled, they were iced using red (AmeriColor Super Red soft gel food paste) tinted royal icng.  While the icing was still wet I sprinkled on red decorating sugar. Let dry completely.  

That’s all there is to it! I told you it was easy~peasy:)

How cute would these Rudolph Nose cookies on-a-stick be for a party favor or photo-op? As you can see,  very cute!


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Sugared Fruit Centerpiece

Sugared Fruit Recipe

For an elegant table topper, create this centerpiece showcasing simple-to-make sugared fruit. It’s not only eye-catching but edible as well!
  • 15 to 20 pieces assorted fruit
  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 2 cups superfine sugar
  • Edible or silk leaves, optional

Scrub fruit in soapy water; rinse and dry completely. In a microwave-safe bowl, sprinkle gelatin over cold water; let stand for 1 minute.

Microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds, until gelatin is completely dissolved. Whisk until slightly frothy.

Lightly brush mixture over all sides of fruit. Place on a wire rack over waxed paper. Sprinkle with sugar.

Let stand at room temperature for up to 24 hours. Arrange as desired, adding leaves if desired.

Editor’s Note: Fruit should not be refrigerated because the sugar will dissolve. This recipe was tested in a 1,100-watt microwave.

How to Sugar Fruit

Sugared Fruit CenterpieceStep 1

Working with one piece of fruit at a time, lightly brush gelatin mixture over entire surface with a pastry brush. Place on a wire rack over waxed paper.

Sugared Fruit CenterpieceStep 2

With a spoon, sprinkle superfine sugar over all sides of the fruit until the desired look is achieved. Repeat with remaining fruit. Let dry completely before handling.

Secrets for Successful Sugared Fruit

A stunning Sugared Fruit Centerpiece is guaranteed if you review these helpful hints before beginning.

  • You can sugar whole pieces of fruit as well as cut pieces. For cut pieces, it’s best to use citrus—not fruits that turn brown when exposed to air, like apples and pears. Because cut fruit will be a bit juicy, the sugar may not adhere as well. Dab the cut side with paper towel and let air dry a few hours before brushing with the gelatin mixture and sprinkling with sugar.
  • Sugared grape clusters become very stiff when dry. So if you would like them to have a little bend when arranging your centerpiece, drape the grapes over an inverted bowl until dry.
  • If desired, you can sprinkle the fruits with additional sugar before completely dry to achieve a more dramatic effect.
  • Sugar-coated fruit can be kept at room temperature for up to 24 hours; do not refrigerate.
  • When arranging the centerpiece, handle fruit as little as possible so that the heat from your hands doesn’t dissolve the sugar.


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Candy House Party

Click here to find out more!Whether using gingerbread or a cardboard base, bring on the fun for a house decorating party

Susan Davidson has been making candy houses since 1984, when an old family friend, Ruth Gutenkunst O’Malley, mentioned making candy houses when she was a girl and shared her frosting recipe.

Making candy houses is a Christmas tradition that Susan has shared with her family, friends and students (She’s an elementary school art teacher) for 25 years. Last season, she put her cookie exchange friends to task.

She asked them to bring peppermints, gumdrops, candy canes, ribbon candy, cereal, pretzels and whatever else to add to her stash of trims.

The project is simple. You can cut the house pattern out of cardboard boxes, hot glue the pieces together and hot glue the house on an upside-down, thick paper plate. Or you can use a small milk carton as the house, like she does for my kindergarten students.

Frosting is used to cover the house and adhere the candy. Cereals, cookies and crackers become roofs, doors and windows. Small pretzel knots are used for fences, an upside-down ice cream come makes a great tree — the possibilities are endless. You really start to look at candy differently.

One thing is certain &mdash you’ll have lots of fun making candy houses.

Here are some tips from Susan about making candy houses:

  • The frosting should be made the day of the “event” or can be made a day ahead if the frosting container is sealed tightly and put in the refrigerator. The frosting dries quickly so keep unused portions covered. I usually make a double batch. A single batch frosts 5 small milk carton houses and a double batch frosts 3 houses like the pattern provided.
  • I am an art teacher at Swallow Elementary School in Hartland, Wisconsin and always love to have a fun project for the holidays. The kindergarten teachers save the milk cartons. I send home a list with the students of what types of candy, cookies, cereals and crackers to bring in. I hot glue the milk cartons on an upside down thick paper plate, put names on the underside of the plates and make the frosting. Parents of my kindergarten students are invited to come help divide the candy on the tables and frost the houses. I talk about being an architect and ask my students how they would design a house made out of candy needing a door, windows, roof etc. Following the frosting of the building (milk carton), my students start to decorate the building with all of the candy and stuff that they brought. The project dries in 2 days and the parents stop by after the School Christmas program to take their children’s creations home.
  • I have made the houses out of corrugated cardboard but you could also make it out of wood. What about your own house in miniature?

PDF: Candy House Pattern »

Candy House Decorator Icing

“This frosting can be made a day ahead if the frosting container is sealed tightly and refrigerated. It dries quickly, so kep unused portions covered. One batch will frost 5 small milk carton candy houses. —Susan Davidson, Elm Grove WI0 ServingsPrep/Total Time: 20 min.
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup egg whites (about 3)
2-1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
•In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water.
Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a
boil. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads
234° (soft-ball stage).

•Meanwhile, in a large bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on
medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar mixture,
beating on high until stiff glossy peaks form and sugar is
dissolved, about 8-10 minutes. Use to decorate gingerbread houses or
other holiday projects as desired. Yield: 5 cups.

Editor’s Note: Icing contains partially cooked egg whites and is for decorative purposes only. If icing will be eaten, substitute a royal icing recipe using meringue powder. Meringue powder is available from Wilton Industries. Call 1-800/794-5866 or visit

Candy House Party Photo Gallery

See how Susan Davidson brings on the candy for her holiday house party!



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Boxwood Tree

This simple to make little tree makes a wonderful alternative to traditional floral arrangements during the holiday season. Most florists will be able to sell you bunches of cut boxwood, or you may be lucky enough to have some of this beautiful evergreen in your yard.


  1. Find a container that is the appropriate size for your table and fill it with well soaked oasis.
  2. Starting in the middle of the oasis, insert a tall piece of boxwood. This will be the top of the your tree.
  3. Insert graduated shorter pieces forming the general shape of a tree. Don’t worry about being too precise, you will be able to trim or fill areas as needed.
  4. Tie a bow around the base. Be sure to keep it watered and enjoy your tiny tree throughout the holidays!


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