Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Nativity Costumes

Ben comes from a large family and they always draw names each Christmas for gift-giving. This year we needed a gift for his brother's family and I saw this fun idea at Design Mom to make a set of nativity costumes that they could use for acting out the nativity on Christmas Eve.

We had so much fun as a family putting these costumes together. We started at the thrift store and found clothes and fabric that would work and searched through all the crazy trinkets to find gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I bought more fabric at a fabric store and made a few costumes (my mom made the angel costume when she was here for Thanksgiving). We made a variety of sizes so hopefully they will last through the years.

All packaged up and ready to go:

Amelia had fun modeling the costumes:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Matchbox Advent Calendar

I could not stop myself from making this adorable little matchbox advent I saw here. It takes about 30 minutes to make and all you need are matchboxes and some wrapping paper or scrapbook paper. I stamped the numbers with a date stamp (the kind you get at an office supply store). Use a hot glue gun to glue the rows of boxes together, then wrap each row in paper and glue them on top of each other. Add a fun little "tree topper" and hide a surprise in each box.

Andes Mints are the perfect size to hide in each little box.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Our D.C. Christmas favorites

Here is a list of a few of the things we love to do at Christmas time in the area. For a HUGE list of things to do, go to

Creche exhibit at the
Washington National Cathedral
(Display of nativity scenes from around the during regular visiting hours through Jan. 6)

Festival of Lights at the Washington DC LDS Temple
(Nightly performances as well as a live nativity and a large display of nativities from around the world.)

Holiday Magic at the National Botanic Gardens
(The train display this year is fantastic! Open late on Tuesdays and Thursdays with musical performances.)

Downtown Holiday Market (8th and F Streets)
(Nice handmade gifts for sale...don't miss the hot donuts!)

National Harbor (click here for a full list of activities)
(Very festive with Christmas trees, music, holiday market on the weekends, ICE show)

National Christmas Tree
(see the National tree as well as the smaller State trees, musical performances nightly, Santa's workshop)

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Zoo Lights at the National Zoo

Garden of Lights
at Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County
(A large walk-through light display with really fun garden-themed lights...also a train display in the greenhouse)

Thanksgiving Recipes

A few of our recipes from Thanksgiving this year. Enjoy! (The carrot souffle would be a great addition to any dinner.)

Pumpkin Cupcakes

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (15 oz.) solid-packed pumpkin (about 1 3/4 cups if you're making your own puree)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
4 eggs

Spiced Cream Cheese Frosting

1 stick of butter, cubed and cold
8 oz. cream cheese*
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon spice mix (see below)

Spice Mix

1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cardamon
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg


Preheat an oven to 350ºF. Line three 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.

To make the cupcakes, in a bowl sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, granulated sugar, brown sugar and oil. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition. Add the flour mixture in three additions, stirring with a large wooden spoon until just combined.

Fill the muffin tins about 2/3 full. Bake until the cupcakes for 20 minutes. Transfer the tins to a wire rack and let cool for ten minutes; then remove the cupcakes from the tins and let cool completely.

To make the frosting, cream the butter until fluffy, but still cold. Add the cream cheese in small chunks. When completely combined (no lumps of either butter or cream cheese), add the powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy. Add the vanilla and then 1 teaspoon of the spice mix before blending one last time.

Sprinkle a little spice mix over each cupcake.

* make sure you use Philadelphia Original!

Chocolate Pecan Pie Bars

1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs
3/4 c. light corn syrup
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 c. pecans, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Line bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat 1 stick room-temp butter, brown sugar, flour,and salt until coarse crumbs form. Pour mixture into prepared pan; press firmly into bottom. Bake until lightly browned, 25-30 minutes. Let cool, 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in same large bowl, mix eggs, corn syrup, granulated sugar, and 2 Tbsp melted butter until well combined. Add chocolate chips and pecans; spread over crust.

Bake until set, 25-30 minutes. Cool completely in pan before lifting out (use foil to lift). Cut into 32 bars. I like to keep mine in the fridge.

Carrot Souffle

1 3/4 lbs. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla
2 tB. all purpose flour
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup butter
confectioners sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a large pot of boiling water, cook the carrots until very tender. Drain, and transfer to a large mixing bowl. While the carrots are warm, use an electric mixer to beat with sugar, baking powder and vanilla extract until smooth. Mix in the flour, eggs, and butter. Transfer to a 2 quart baking dish. Bake one hour in the preheated oven, or until top is golden brown. Dust lightly with confectioners' sugar before serving.

Note: If you want to use individual ramekins instead of one dish, adjust the cooking time to about 30-35 minutes depending on your oven. Keep an eye on them to avoid over-cooking them. I read online that one person liked to puree the carrots with the butter, sugar and vanilla and then add in the baking powder with the eggs and flour. Apparently the souffle rises better.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Alexandria Parade of Lights

Holiday Boat Parade Schedule:

Saturday, December 5, 2009
  • 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. - Festivities on the docks at the Alexandria Waterfront (music and entertainment)

  • 4:15 p.m. - Santa arrives by boat - pictures with Santa for Kids and Canines

  • 5:00 p.m. - Parade starts at the Washington Channel, Water St. off of Maine Avenue, Washington, DC

  • 6:00 - 7:00 p.m. - Parade at Alexandria Waterfront

Complete list of Alexandria City activities on December 5:

Ornament Decorating Workshop for Families
Be inspired by the colors and patterns of pottery excavated in Alexandria and make a memorable holiday keepsake! The Alexandria Archaeology Museum (105 N. Union St., #327) will host a free ornament decorating workshop from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Participants can decorate and take home dough ornaments which are shaped like artifacts from the museum’s own collection. For additional information, please call the Alexandria Archaeology Museum at 703.838.4399 or visit .

Thirty-Ninth Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
The City of Alexandria invites the public to attend the Annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade at 11 a.m. in historic Old Town. The centerpiece of the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, the parade celebrates the City's Scottish heritage, featuring more than 100 Scottish clans, bagpipe and drum bands, living history reenactment groups, dog clubs, and a special appearance by Santa Claus. The St. Andrew's Society of Washington, D.C. partners with The Campagna Center and the City of Alexandria to sponsor the annual parade. The Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend is one of the largest fundraising activities for The Campagna Center; all proceeds from the Weekend support the Campagna Center’s programs, which help children in Alexandria arrive at school ready to learn and ensuring they are academically successful at each grade level. To learn more about the parade and the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, call 703.549.0111 or visit .

Holiday Concert in Old Town Alexandria
Enjoy the music of the season in Old Town Alexandria at a holiday concert at Market Square, 301 King St. At 2 p.m., the Family Choir of Beth El Hebrew Congregation will perform Hanukah favorites. For more information, call the City’s Special Events hotline at 703.883.4686.

Potomac River Parade
From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Alexandria's harbor will sparkle when 50 brightly lit powerboats and sailboats fully decked out in lights and holiday décor take part in the 10th annual Burke & Herbert Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Santa Claus will arrive by fireboat to kick off the evening festivities at 4 p.m. at the Alexandria Marina, 1 Cameron St. Kids and dogs will be able to sit on Santa's lap and get their picture taken for free. The Braddock Brass Quintet and the Bells of Mount Vernon, a hand bell choir from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will headline the live music entertainment.