A Sad Snowman
Oh no, it's a sad snowman.
An Ungrinch Present Arrives
Ungrinch is here to save the day.
A Snowman with flair
Now we have a happy snowman.

33 is the Magic Number

excitedelf

One of my favorite things about the holiday season are the mass amount of Hallmark Christmas movies that come out each year. And if I am being completely honest, my season for holiday movies stretches out the entire year. I usually try to wait until July to start watching, but I never succeed. I cannot tire of the joy they bring to me. I know they are arguably cheesy and almost always predictable, but I wholeheartedly love them and this year Hallmark is releasing 33 brand spanking new movies for me to gush about. The movies start airing on Friday, October 27, 2017 and run through Monday, January 1, 2018. I. Cannot. Wait. I will be reviewing them throughout the season, but as a little preview, since I have obviously already read through each flick's synopses, I thought I would call out a few that really caught my eye. Maybe you are an admitted Hallmark nut like me, or maybe you just secretly obsess - either way, here we go!!

Sister Christmas Swap
Estranged twin sisters swap lives for the holiday season?! The true meaning of life is discovered. Sign. Me. Up. I don't need to know any more, and cannot wait to see who will play the twins. I am not even going to look at the cast because I want to imagine who it could be. Hallmark has a few choice actresses for their holiday lineups and I already saw the one Lacey Chabert is in so I have my money on Alicia Witt or one of the Duff sisters. Whomever it is, I already trust she will slay the role.

Good Sam
An LA news reporter covers the story of the anonymous man who leaves $100k on the doorsteps of ten strangers and her coverage of said story thrusts her into a national spotlight. But as if that wasn't enough, it also dramatically changes her personal and professional life. In. First off, I love the name. I also love that it takes place in LA. I recently relocated from LA to Lake Tahoe, so any glimpse back is welcome to me, especially when it involves a Christmas movie. This one involves mystery and a love story. This one has to have a strong male and female sharing the plot... who could they be? I will have to give that one a bit more thought.

The Sweetest Christmas
This is the Lacey Chabert one I talked about earlier. Hallmark loves her. She is a struggling pastry chef who gets into the American Gingerbread Competition finals, but her oven breaks... and who can help but none other than her ex flame and local pizzeria owner. But he also used to be a pastry chef but he had to give up his dream to run the family business. Lucky for Lacey's character, he has a great big oven she can use to gingerbread her little heart out, and call me crazy... but I think she will also use her real heart for love while she bakes. This one sounds just great. Plus we get gingerbread inspiration. Hopefully it'll air before attempt gingerbread house version 2017 with the kids.

Ok, that's my top three based on the snippets. Stay tuned for reviews and you can read about all the new holiday movies Hallmark is releasing this year here.

I Am Not a Contractor

Ginger Bread House

I attempted to make my first gingerbread house from scratch - and full disclosure, I basically made a small version of the house from The Money Pit, as you can see by the glorious photo. That said, it was fun, the kids had a blast and I would totally recommend it for anyone that wants to make their own. The dough recipe I used was easy enough to follow and I laughed a lot the entire process. Here's what we did from start to finish:

- Gingerbread House Templates:

      - Front and Back
      - Roof
      - Side and Chimney

- Royal Frosting Recipe

- Goodies -- really anything you want! You can see from our photo below that we decided on starlight mints, gumdrops, red hots, marshmallows, M&Ms, sprinkles of varying color, candy canes, peanut butter cups and of course some fun reindeer shades for the kiddos to wear while we worked

 

gingerbreaddecor
Started off cute...

Here is the recipe for the gingerbread:

Ingredients

  • 6 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup dark molasses
  • 1 Tbsp water

Make the Gingerbread Dough

1 Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

2 Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.

3 Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

4 Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.

Create and Cut Out Pattern Pieces

Cut out the patterns for the house (linked above in case you missed it) using thicker pieces of paper, like construction paper or thin cardboard. pieces of stiff paper (like that of a manila folder) or cardboard. I made the mistake of using regular paper and it was a bit too thin and flimsy. The patterns should print to proportion, but the dimensions are also listed in case you want to double check.

Make the Gingerbread House Pieces

1 Preheat oven to 350°F, with the oven rack in the middle. Have several flat cookie sheets at the ready.

2 Divide the dough in two. Spread parchment paper or wax paper on a large flat surface for rolling. Dust the paper lightly with flour. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, use a rolling pin to roll out the dough to an even thickness of about 1/4-inch. Add a little flour to the surface of the dough and add flour as needed if your dough is sticking to your rolling pin or surface. If the rolled out dough is very soft, you may want to freeze it for an hour before cutting out the patterns.

3 Rub a little flour over the surface of the dough. Place the pattern pieces on the dough, as many pattern pieces as will fit on the dough. Use a small sharp knife to cut out the pattern pieces from the dough, wiping the knife surface clean frequently. You can cut out the patterns through the dough and parchment paper, placing the dough pieces with the paper directly on the cookie sheets. If you are not using parchment paper or wax paper, you may need to use a large metal spatula to transfer the dough pieces to a greased cookie sheet. Space the pieces on the cookie sheet an inch apart from each other. If dough pieces stretch during the transfer process, push them back into shape.

You can cut out a door and window(s) at this point, or you can wait until after baking, soon after the pieces have come out of the oven while the cookies are still warm.

4 Bake in a 350°F oven until the edges are just beginning to darken, 11-15 minutes for the large pieces, 6-8 minutes for the small pieces. Cool for about 15 minutes after removing from the oven.

Remove pieces to cool directly on racks to cool completely.

 

Now this is where I went a bit rogue and after I had my royal frosting in the piping bag me and the kids just went straight for construction. Here is where I might recommend following some instructions -- I read a great tip about balancing the house against canned veggies to help stabilize while the frosting dries and acts as a harder glue. I also think my frosting was a bit too loose so it didn't bond as well as it could have. I will say, you are basically gluing the house pieces together, so common sense can be applied, but going slow and being a bit more conscious will likely result in a prettier end product. But, we decided there had been enough rule following and we sure had a lot of fun just piping and gluing and giggling our way through.

The final portion was the best part of all, decorating our house! I let the kids lead the way, sticking anything and everything on and snacking on sweets as we went. New blogger admission, I forgot to take a photo of our finished product, doh! Although I am still learning, I do think the mid-construction shot is the best and most hilarious. And like I said at the start, the kids had a blast every step of the way and at the end of the day, that is the whole reason we did it. Maybe next year our house will look more like, well a house. Let me know how your gingerbread house adventures turn out! And if you made it this far, thank you!!

Had Enough, or Are You Thirsty for More?

Home Alone Battleplan

I recently introduced my oldest son to Home Alone, arguably one of the best movies of all time. We started a bit out of sequence and went straight to the booby traps. He was immediately hooked and thus began his desire to set up booby traps all over the house for me and his dad. After viewing the film in its entirety, once we saw Kevin McCallister's battle plan map, I thought it would be a great project for us to do together the next day. Between us, I may have been more excited about it than my son. It was such a fun DIY activity, great for kids of all ages (grown ups can help craft the map and kids of any age can help color). I hope you have as much fun as we did! Our Battle Plan is still hanging up in the kids' playroom.

Here's what you'll need:

  • White craft paper cut into large square shape
  • Crayons
  • Template of Kevin's battle plan from the movie

And here's how we did it:

After we gathered all our supplies, we looked up and saved a still shot from the movie of Kevin's battle plan to use as our template. Depending on how old your child is, they can help with any or some of the steps. Since my son is only four, I started by drawing each room and letting Chaplin tell me which order he wanted to draw each booby trap. He helped to direct which colors to use and he also helped color each booby trap. He enjoyed his role as director and it made him feel included. We went room by room, following our template, until each room was complete and each booby trap had all its complete details. Chaplin loved seeing each trap come together... I think his favorite was the flying paint cans... although that is one we had to nix him setting up inside the house! We finished off our creation by adding Chaplin's name at the bottom instead of Kevin's. He loved that and it felt only fitting since it was his first battle plan after all. Here he is proudly showing off his very own battle plan!

 

 

Chaplin's Battle Plan

It's Hallmark Time!

Clue Hallmark Ornament 2017

I got hooked on Hallmark about 7 years or so ago... and what drew me in was the keepsake ornaments. Nostalgia mixed with Christmas... sign me up! The great news for fans like me is that the new Dreambook is out this week!! Stay tuned for all my 2017 picks... and choose your favorites too!