Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

The day after Christmas, I yelled across the house in my happy Let's-Make-Something-Cool mom voice, "Who wants to make cinnamon ornaments?"

Peyton: "NOOOOOOO!"

Ella: "I do! I do!"

There you go.

I wanted to try out this recipe, even though cinnamon is one of my least favorite scents ever. Why? Because I planned on making them for the family. And I'm willing to be a craft martyr. Look how much I care! I had my children make these for you because we love you so much and because we're awesome. Also, I had half a jar of applesauce in the refrigerator and I hate waste.

Really, I don't mind a basic baking-in-the-oven cinnamon-mixed-with-something-else smell. I just cannot stand that cinnamon-scented candle /cinnamon-scented pine cone / cinnamon-scented fake fakety fake smell. You know, that super strong smell that hits you in the face when you walk through that certain aisle in your local craft store. I was hoping these would smell real.

I had let Ella pick out some new cookie cutters the other day. Hobby Lobby had about fifty different kinds. My little sweetie picked out the princess crown and the teddy bear. So we pulled those out, plus the star that I had from making the Wired Star Ornaments, and we got to work.

I used this recipe from McCormick, but I changed it up a little bit. I also added a couple tablespoons of white glue, because I heard that it helps make the ornaments a little stronger. Six days and a 25-hour road trip later and our ornaments aren't broken yet, so maybe the glue helped.

Cinnamon Ornaments

Makes 12 to 15 ornaments
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 2 1/2 hours

3/4 cup applesauce
1 bottle (about 4 ounces) ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons Elmer's white glue

Plastic Wrap
Rolling Pin
Wax Paper
Cookie Cutters

1. Preheat oven to 200°F.

2. Mix applesauce, cinnamon, and glue in a small bowl
until a smooth ball of dough is formed. (You may need to use your hands to incorporate all of the cinnamon.)

3. Using about 1/4 of the dough at a time, roll dough to 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch thickness between two sheets of plastic wrap. Peel off the top sheet of plastic wrap. Cut dough into shapes with 2- to 3- inch cookie cutters.

Here's Ella, cutting with all her almost-4-year-old might:

4. Place ornaments on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Use a straw to poke a little hole in each one.

5. Bake 2 1/2 hours. Cool ornaments on a wire rack.

When they are done baking, and you go to pull them out of the oven, hold your face waaaaay back. I did not hold my face way back. I went right on in like it was nothing and the cinnamon smell came straight up out of the oven and smacked me in the face. And attacked the inside of my nostrils. Like it had something to prove. CINNAMON! GEEZ! I GET IT! YOU'RE STRONG! And honestly, I didn't use McCormick cinnamon. I used the cheapest store-brand cinnamon I could find. So I probably deserved it.

If I got in a fight with cinnamon, it would totally kick my butt. And, in fact, I think we just did get in a fight. Yay for you, cinnamon. I hope you sleep well at night.

Anyway! The first open-the-oven-door cinnamon smack-down was the worst of it. They do have a strong scent, but it's not overwhelming. After they cooled, I strung some raffia through the holes and called the whole adventure a success. They were really easy and really cute. Next year I may even have the kids paint them. I'll just make my husband get them out of the oven.

Happy Crafting!

Wired Star

When I saw this craft over at Family Fun, I just thought it was the sweetest thing ever. So I got all the supplies and my kids and I got to work.

Some things I realized:

1. The craft at Family Fun calls for 18-gauge wire. For some reason, I can never find it. I used 16-gauge and it was okay.

2. Wire is sharp. Especially the 16-gauge and heavier kind. And it can be a huge pain in the butt if you aren't a wire professional. I am not a wire professional and step #2 just about drove me crazy. I'm just not any good at using wire cutters to twist wire. After that step, though, the rest was a breeze.

3. I would recommend doing this craft with kids older than 3 and 5. We were able to finish three stars each by staggering them over a couple of days, but the wire wrapping can get a little tedious for the young ones.

Wired Star

3-foot length of 18- (or 16-) gauge gold (or silver) colored craft wire
Small jump rings like these (or you can use a little bit of the extra lightweight wire to make a loop)
Star-shaped cookie cutter
Wire cutters
20- to 24-gauge colored lightweight wire
Iridescent beads

Make sure a grown-up does the first two steps. And don't yell at me if you cut yourself on the stupid wire.

Grown-Up Job: Press the 16-gauge craft wire around the cookie cutter twice to form a star shape.

Grown-Up Job: Use wire cutter to twist the ends together and cut off any excess. Stupid, stupid step.

Take one end of a piece of the lightweight colored wire and secure it by wrapping it around the star outline.

Wrap away! When you get to the end of each piece of colored wire, just twist it around the star a little.

Use whatever colors your child wants and go for it! For extra fanciness, thread some pretty beads onto the wire as you wrap the star.

Sometimes the stars won't be a perfect star-shape, but that adds to the child-made charm!

Attach the little jump ring to the top of your star and thread a ribbon through.

We gave ours to the grandparents (we love you!), so I printed up some little tags.

So pretty, right?

Peyton and Ella were so proud! I like that this is a very sturdy craft that will last forever. The second step I really, really disliked, that's true. But the end result was worth my pain and irritation. And wine helps, too. I'm just saying.

Happy Crafting!

Vegetable Enchiladas

This is a Martha Stewart recipe. I've made it many, many times and it always turns out great. The only difference is that I make mine a layered casserole-type thing. Because I'm too lazy to roll the enchiladas. And I use chicken broth instead of the vegetable broth because I like the richer flavor.

And I usually try to make a double batch because it freezes really well.

So here's her recipe with my pictures:

Vegetable Enchiladas

Serves 8

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for baking dishes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium vegetable broth

Coarse salt and ground pepper

3 cups grated pepper Jack cheese (12 ounces)

1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 box (10 ounces) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

1 box (10 ounces) frozen corn kernels, thawed

6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated

16 corn tortillas (6-inch)

Make sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium. Add 1 teaspoon cumin, flour, and tomato paste; cook, whisking, 1 minute. Whisk in broth and 3/4 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook until slightly thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Make filling: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups cheese, beans, spinach, corn, scallion whites, and remaining 1 teaspoon cumin; season with salt and pepper.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil two 8-inch square baking dishes; set aside. Stack tortillas, and wrap in damp paper towels; microwave on high for 1 minute. Or stack and wrap in aluminum foil, and heat in oven for 5 to 10 minutes. Top each tortilla with a heaping 1/3 cup of filling; roll up tightly and arrange, seam side down, in prepared baking dishes.

Dividing evenly, sprinkle enchiladas with remaining 1 cup cheese, and top with sauce. Bake, uncovered, until hot and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool 5 minutes; serve garnished with scallion greens.

To freeze: Prepare enchiladas through step 3; top with cheese, and cover baking dishes with plastic wrap and then aluminum foil. Place sauce in an airtight container. Freeze enchiladas and sauce for up to 2 months.

To bake from frozen: Thaw sauce in refrigerator overnight (or microwave on high 2 minutes, stirring once halfway through). Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove foil and plastic wrap from baking dishes, and pour sauce over enchiladas; cover with foil. Bake 30 minutes; remove foil, and bake until bubbly, about 15 minutes more. Cool 5 minutes before serving.

Prep: 30 minutes
Total: 55 minutes



Yesterday it snowed!

So the boys went out and shoveled:

And tackled:

And threw snow at each other:

And then last night the blizzard arrived:

We got about 13" of snow and wind gusts up to 50 mph. Blizzards are LOUD! Usually snow is so quiet and peaceful, but last night? Last night the wind and snow smacked against the windows so loudly that it woke us all up.

And today, our local news' website, notice the school closings:

And lots of businesses were closed, too. It's weird to watch the TV news crawler list closings besides schools, like Bank of America, US Bank, Nationwide Insurance.

The little birdies outside our kitchen window still enjoyed their breakfast:

I ventured outside to take some pictures. Because blizzards are kind of exciting if your family is all at home and safe and cuddly like we were.

I went out through the garage. Here's where our garage door was before I opened it:

Because I couldn't get out through the front door:

And here's my street. I mean, this is where my street is supposed to be. When it's not camouflaged by snow:

Here's the top of our little front yard Christmas tree. It's decorated with a string of lights. Which are now buried in the snow:

James loves that little tree, so he dug it out:

Pretty, pretty snow.

The side of our house loves snow drifts. That's our 6-ft tall swing set there on the left and our kitchen window in the back:

And the backside of the snow drift:

Visibility: not so much. With the wind chill, the temperature is 14 below zero. When I was in the front yard, it didn't bother me. When I walked around to the back, the wind whipped up and started smacking me hard in the face with snow. And I was all, "What the hell, snow?!? I was trying to show how beautiful you are and this is how you treat me?"

So then I retreated back to my nice, warm house.

Here's Ella checking out the front yard:

Our front door wreath from the inside:

And the view from our basement window:

LOOK! I've never seen this before! It's called a Sun Dog. I took this picture right outside my house:

So you can just guess what's in my crock pot today:

With chili and cornbread for dinner and my family safe and warm, it's the perfect blizzardy day.


For the past, oh, gazillion mazillion months, my wackamo family has been on me to let them get a dog.

I'm a dog person, but C'MON! the work and time involved with raising a puppy is ridiculous. I've done it before and I KNOW! And since I'm a stay-at-home mom, you know who's going to be doing all the work. Am I right, ladies? AM I RIGHT?!? You know I am.

I always said we could get a dog when the kids were a bit older, like 18. Or at least 2 or 3 more years. With that in my back pocket it was easy to say no to the persistent Ella voice: "Mommy, I want a puppy AND a baby!" and the Peyton voice: "I wish WE had a dog!" and the husband voice: "Wouldn't it be SO GREAT if we had a dog?" I can honestly say their pleas meant nothing. Nothing. I was strong and smart and smart and smart.

And then... sweet husband sat me down one night because he wanted to have an important, serious talk. Serious enough that he waited until the kids were asleep so we could actually talk. We'll call it The Dog Talk. It's when the "Hey, we should get a dog!" nonsense turned serious. And he really wanted a dog and I really love him, so there you go. Also, I appreciated the leverage I now had in my hot little hands. It didn't hurt that he promised to do everything ever in the world to take care of the dog when he wasn't at work. And he promised me a lifetime supply of foot rubs on demand.

But really, I tried to wiggle out of it at first. I unsuccessfully attempted a final procrastination effort in the form of, "How about after winter?"

But it turns out that James had fallen in love online. With a picture of a very specific puppy. Who would be ready in a very specific amount of time. Two weeks.

Also, I believe in shelter dogs. This wasn't a shelter dog. Our last dog I had chosen and he was a shelter pup, so I suppose it was James' turn. So for his turn he had fallen in love an English Springer Spaniel. We named him Indie and I dove in head first.

Even though the pup pup was mostly for James, we decided to make it an early Christmas present for the kids. The next weekend Santa called James (supposedly) to let our family know that he would be leaving a present for the kids that night. So Peyton and Ella put out some bribery treats for Santa and his reindeer and the next morning we found this:

Present 1: A dog collar. They figured out what is was, but I don't think they understood the meaning.

Present 2: A picture of Indie with a note from Santa, "This is Indie. He is a REAL PUPPY! I hope you love him. Love, Santa"

Now they understood! Ella was so excited about our new pup that she hugged her big brother!

We sat down at the table and made a list of everything we would need. And then we went puppy supply shopping! And for the next week Peyton and Ella arranged and rearranged Indie's bed and his toys.

Puppy Day! It turns out that we needed to drive to a place very near the North Pole. Because that's where Santa's helpers have the puppies. This place is also sometimes called Minnesota. It's a 3 1/2 hour drive.

The sweet couple who bred the pups had stuffed animal puppies for Peyton and Ella under their Christmas tree! So sweet! It was nice because I could tell my kids were a little overwhelmed by everything.

Here's where Indie slept for most of the 3 1/2 hour ride home (my lap):

It was a beautiful drive:

Remember the empty and waiting dog bed? Now it's filled with a puppy worn out from all the kid love. As Ella says, "Mommy, we need to be alone now. We need some quiet time with the dog."

And you know what else she says?
"Mommy, I love the dog! You know the only thing we need now?"
"A baby."
"Sorry, honey, we're not getting a baby."
"Oh yes we are!"
(We most definitely are not.)

The next day he got a bath. Look at that face!

And here he is trying to be the boss. It didn't work. He still had to finish his bath.

A kiss from Peyton:

My happy husband:

And, yes, for those of you who really care about me, James has kept up his side of the puppy deal!