Super-Soft Eggnog Cookies

I remember growing up and seeing all the adults drinking eggnog on Christmas Eve & Christmas day. Us kids were left at the ‘kids table’. It was a table. It was also in my grandmother’s laundry room/pantry/sewing room off of the kitchen. It didn’t bother us though. The grown-ups didn’t see us sneak a glass of the good stuff for ourselves or notice it make it’s way quickly around our little table as we each took a sip. I know what you’re thinking. Shame on you! It was non-alcoholic. Being an adult now with four boys, I totally get why they hoarded the stuff. I’m pretty stingy doling it out myself as well.

To this day, my kids and I (still) love eggnog. We wait all year long for the creamy concoction to hit the store shelves again. My husband, he hates it. This cookie won him over. He was impressed. It was moist, chewy, and the eggnog taste was just right. Seriously, he ate 12. In less than 5 minutes. He may not be ready to actually drink a cold, frothy glass full but he’s behind eggnog a little bit. And that’s enough for me! For now. Before he avoided it like that little milk jug was hiding the Ebola virus in our refrigerator.

As for me, and my family, we’ve seen the light. Eggnog is so much more than just the nectar of the gods a drink. It’s an amazing, drool-worthy addition to multiple recipes. Cookies today. Tomorrow, the world! It’s time for an eggnog revolution. What do you say?

Super-Soft Eggnog Cookies

4 Sons 'R' Us: EggNog Cookies

recipe originally from I Heart Naptime

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup eggnog

Eggnog Icing

1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp eggnog
ground nutmeg, for garnish

4 Sons 'R' Us: EggNog Cookies

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350¬į. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg yolks and vanilla to the mixture and beat until smooth. Finally, add eggnog and mix on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Slowly add flour mixture into the eggnog mixture and stir until combined. Chill dough for 20 minutes.
3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and use a cookie scoop or drop spoonfuls of dough onto the cookie sheet. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Do not over cook. Remove cookies from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
4. For icing, whisk powdered sugar and eggnog together. Add more sugar or eggnog, depending on the consistency you prefer.
5. Drizzle icing on cooled cookies and sprinkle with nutmeg. Store in a air tight container in the refrigerator.

Holiday-Themed Sensory Bags

According to Buddy, the elf, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.” While I certainly believe this to be true, I can’t always just break out into song. I mean I could, but then everybody in the middle of Target would probably stare and there’s no way my kids would ever, EVER go out in public with me again. So, in the interest of self-preservation I have to reign it in. Sometimes. Like in public.

Still, I absolutely love to get my family, and pretty much everyone I know, into the holiday spirit, even the little ones who still aren’t quite sure what’s going on and why Mom’s dancing around and singing about a fat man with a scratchy beard. A holiday-themed sensory bag was my compromise with myself, and a favor to my kids. I mean, come on, spreading the love cheer and stimulating little minds and developing gross motor skills? That’s what I’d call winning!

The ‘Holiday-Themed’ Sensory Bag

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Holiday-Themed Sensory Bag

hair gel
ziplocking bag
decorative buttons or beads
strong tape

Directions

1. Squirt hair gel into a zip-locking bag.
2. Add in your decorative buttons, beads, etc and zip the bag closed making sure it’s secure.
3. For extra peace of mind re-enforce the top with tape so the bag can’t accidentally open.
4. Let your little ones squish it around and explore the different pieces included.

The ‘Snowman In A Bag’ Game

4 Sons 'R' Us: Snowman In A Bag

a large ziplocking bag
shaving cream
orange foam sheet
black felt
glitter, optional
glue

Directions

1. Cut 6 small, ‘lumpy’ circles (you’re going for the lumps of coal look) from the black felt for the snowman’s mouth. Cut out two larger lumps for it’s eyes.
2. Glue the lumps onto the outside of your ziplocking bag to resemble a face. Let dry.
3. If using, add a little glitter to the inside of your bag. Squirt in a little shaving cream. Securely seal the bag closed and squish it around to mix up the glitter and shaving cream.
4. Cut a carrot shape out of the orange foam.
5. Put the carrot shape into the bag, making sure you securely seal the bag closed again.
6. Have fun watching/helping your little ones move the nose around until they’ve completed the face.

Don’t you just love ‘baggie’ projects? They’re so simple, but so fun, and all for practically free! These are great manipulative toys that all ages love. They are great for a rainy, dreary days when you can’t go outside. Let these help keep those little hands busy. You can squish and wiggle that snowman all afternoon. ūüôā

How do you spread the cheer & get your family into the Holiday Spirit?

The Sock Snowman Tutorial

Christmas & Crafts. Two of my most favorite things EVER. Combined. This is what I’m talking about people. This is what I live for! These little guys, just the idea of them, stole my heart.

My best friend called me right after we’d put our kids on the bus to tell me about them, and I spent the rest of they day working on my own set in my spare time. Our four year old even got in on the action, helping me fill the socks, dress them, and glue on accessories. Of course, then I spent the rest of the day removing contraband (stolen rubber bands) from his possession as he tried to shoot things with them. Thanks, older sons for teaching him that little gem.

Either way, these adorable little creatures found their way into our home and are here to stay, at least until spring. Who knows, maybe they’ll even bring us a little luck and a little snow. (I walked in on son # 4 rubbing it’s belly and wishing for some of the white stuff to come our way. I’ll keep my fingers crossed along with him) This is the perfect craft idea for kids (and adults) this Thanksgiving day/weekend as we usher in the Holiday season. Plus, it helps to have something constructive for them to do and be entertained while the adults wait out their tryptophan¬†carbohydrate-induced coma. ūüėČ

The Sock Snowman Tutorial

4 Sons 'R' Us: Sock Snowman Photo Tutorial 2

one white tube sock, or more depending on how many snowmen you’re making
decorative socks (optional)
rice, for filler
rubber bands
buttons
something for the nose, I used different buttons but feel free to be creative (the tip of a wooden skewer painted orange would work VERY well

Directions

4 Sons 'R' Us: sock snowman photo tutorial

1. Cut the foot part off of your sock and set aside.
2. Turn the tube part of your sock inside out and wrap a rubber band around the bottom.  Make sure it is wrapped tightly.  Then turn it inside out again so the rubber band is on the inside.
3. Fill the sock with rice.  Be sure to push the rice down as you go.  This will help stretch the sock a bit and ensure that you get a nice plump snowman in the end.  Then, close the top by wrapping another rubber band around the top as shown in the photo above.
4. Squeeze the middle of your snowman until you’ve created an indention to separate it’s ‘head’ and ‘body’. Wrap another rubber band around the indention to create a ‘neck’.
5. Using the foot part of the sock, put on your snowman’s hat/nightcap.
6. If desired, remove the hat and cut a thin strip to use as his scarf. Otherwise, use a scrap of fabric.
7. Tie the scarf and make sure it’s covering up the rubber band neck.
8. Add button eyes and buttons down the body. If you want to get creative, use an old sock that’s lost it’s mate to make a sweater and matching cap. Again, cut the foot away from the tube of the sock. Use the foot as the cap and cut the tube part to fit the belly of your snowman.

Quick Tips:

-Using old socks with missing mates will prevent you from having to buy new socks for the project
-Rice isn’t the only option as a filler. Beans would work well too.
-Consider adding some potpourri to the inside with the rice or beans to help scent the room you’ve chosen to display your snowman in.
-All of my socks came from  The Dollar Tree. They have a large variety of color and designs to choose from, and can help keep this craft on a budget. Also, consider checking the dollar bins at Target.

Seriously, how cute are these little guys?!

4 Sons 'R' Us: sock snowmen

While I love all of my snowchildrenmen, I do have a favorite. (I can’t tell them that though!) The sock ‘sweater’ just tickles my fancy. Isn’t he just too cute? All bundled up and just absolutely adorable! What a dapper little dude. Here he is all ‘up close, and personal’. You just can’t help but love himthem.

4 Sons 'R' Us: sock snowman

Scrapbook Paper Pumpkin Centerpiece & Tutorial

I love decorating for the holidays. I just can’t shake that ‘festive’ itch. When the mantle, walls, and doors are properly decorated, and only then, I get to the kitchen table. Afterall, I wouldn’t want it to feel any holiday-envy. Imagine trying to eat dinner at a grumpy table that had been left-out. It might just decide to leave me out of dinner. I can’t have that. Every available surface should be decorated equally.

This year though, I wanted to do something a little different for our Thanksgiving centerpiece. I opted for these adorable scrapbook paper pumpkins. They’re cute, easy, and quick. Is your table looking lonely? Trying to get it up to snuff for Thanksgiving dinner? Begin creating your own fun, festive table-scape with a scrapbook paper pumpkin today.

Scrapbook Paper Pumpkin Centerpiece & Tutorial

4 Sons 'R' Us: Scrapbook Paper Pumpkin Cneterpiece

  • circular item to trace, I made two sizes of paper pumpkins and used a cake pan for the large one and a bowl for the smaller
  • 8 or 16 pages of scrapbook paper, the large pumpkin only got one circle per page, the smaller got two
  • scissors
  • glue stick

Before I give you the verbal tutorial here are some step-by-step photos for you as well.

4 Sons 'R' Us

Directions

  1.  Trace and cut out 16 identical circles from scrapbook paper.
  2. Fold each circle in half with right sides together.
  3. Glue one side of the circle and place another circle patter on top of it until you have glued all the circles together.
  4.  Once you have glued all the circles together, you will have one stack of folded circles.  After the glue has dried, about 2-3 hours, unfold the circles and lay flat.  You will have two sides that have not been glued.  Glue them together so it creates an accordion.
  5. Decide which end of the pumpkin will be the bottom. Using an exacto knife or sharp scissors lay the pumpkin flat and cut a straight line about 1/4-1/2 inch from the bottom. This will enable it to ‘sit up’.
  6. Roll up a small piece of the scrap paper from where you cut out your circles to make a stem. Stick it into the tiny gap at the ‘top’ of your pumpkin.

Seriously, how cute are these little guys?!

4 Sons 'R' Us: scrapbook paper pumpkin

Mummy Dogs

I love seeing the look on the littlest son’s face when I make him ‘fun’ food. Holidays provide the ultimate opportunity to surprise him. Still, sometimes I just don’t have the time, or the energy, but these Mummy dogs are so simple and quick. From start to finish it took less than 20 minutes. Add some fun to your Halloween lunch or dinner with this adorable idea.

4 Sons 'R' Us: Mummy Dogs

recipe adapted from Pillsbury

  • 1 can Pillsbury crescent rolls, or homemade crescent roll dough
  • 2 1/2 slices American cheese, quartered (optional)
  • 10 large hot dogs
  • cooking spray
  • mustard or ketchup

Directions

  1. If using Pillsbury crescent roll dough, unroll the dough sheet. Press together at the perforations to seal it into one large rectangle.
  2. Cut the rectangle into ten ‘bandages’. Stretch the bandages a bit to elongate them.
  3. Wrap one bandage around one hot dog and 1 quarter of cheese. Repeat for each hot dog.
  4. About 1/2 inch from one end of each hot dog, separate the ‘bandages’ so that the hot dog shows through for it’s ‘face.’ On an ungreased baking sheet, place wrapped hot dogs (cheese side down).
  5. Spray the dough lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 13 to 17 minutes or until the dough is light golden brown and the hot dogs are hot.
  6. With mustard, draw features on the ‘face.’

I’ve Got My Eye On You: The Eyeball Pumpkin

After over-seeing the cleaning and carving of the sons’ four huge pumpkins, I didn’t want to see anymore pumpkin guts. It looked like I’d been through a war, like I had personally massacred an entire pumpkin patch. It was a mess! But, we all had a blast, so all the debris was worth it. For my pumpkins, I decided to hit up Pinterest and find something equally creative, but less invasive, to do. When I saw¬†the idea for the eyeball pumpkin, I knew I’d found ‘the one’.

This pumpkin is really easy to make and didn’t require any kind of template. I ‘eyeballed’ the different sections as I painted. All the neighbors have loved the giant ‘eye’, and the sons got a tickle out of it since I’m always reminding them that I do, in fact, have my eye on them!

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Eyeball Pumpkin

  • 1 medium-large pumpkin
  • acrylic paint: black, light blue, white, and red
  • paint brushes
  • paper plate or other flat disposable surface to squirt paint out onto

Directions

  1. Using warm,  soapy water thoroughly wash the outside of your pumpkin gently scrubbing to remove and dirt or mud.
  2. Begin by painting the outside of the pumpkin white. ‘Eyeball’ the top of your pumpkin and stop when you’ve reached the area where you’d like iris to start.
  3. Here is our pumpkin drying after its second coat of white paint. It’s upside down which is why you can’t see the iris/pupil area. I painted the bottom so that when I set it on our porch I could sit it on it’s side.

4 Sons 'R' Us

4. After your pumpkin has completely dried begin painting the blue iris. Again, stop painting when you reach the area where you’d like the pupil to begin. My iris was a little over 2 inches wide. Let dry. If needed apply a second coat and let dry.

5. Paint the remaining circle of unpainted pumpkin black for the pupil, including painting the stem. Allow to dry completely.

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Eyeball Pumpkin

6. Now you’re ready to get to the veins. Eew! But, man does it look cool. Paint red veins along the pumpkins natural segments. You can paint every segment, or alternate if your pumpkin has a ton of them, all close together.

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Eyeball Pumpkin

Voila! You now have a cool, creepy eyeball.

The Pumpkin Patch & Creepy Carvings

Sunday we took all the sons to the pumpkin patch. Can I just say how thrilled I am every year that the teen-itis my older two suffer from hasn’t whittled away at their love of Halloween?! They still get a rush picking their own perfect pumpkins and turning them into masterpieces. For a mere $30 we left with all the pumpkins our family could carry. In total it was only 8 pumpkins, but these were some big¬†pumpkins. In fact, Sons 2 & 3 were after the biggest pumpkins they could find. They took on the patch, and won. Challenge complete.

pumpkin patch 2 pumpkin patch 3

It was Son # 4’s first time cleaning out his own pumpkin. It was all fun and games until he actually had to touch the pumpkin goop. He was not a fan.

pumpkin patch 4

Here’s what Sons 2 , 3, and 4 have done so far with their pumpkins. We’ve still got 1 more to carve. Two to paint, and one to use as a baking dish/serving bowl. Halloween makes me feel like a kid at Christmas. I get giddy just thinking about all the impending craftiness. I also can’t wait until all the carving is finally done because (once the mess is all cleaned up) then we get to the seeds!

pumpkin patch 5026 pumpkin patch 6

Both pumpkins were made using templates. The Cyberman from Doctor Who can be found here. Son # 3 drew King Boo from Super Mario World onto his pumpkin and then carved. The Thomas the Tank Engine is free-handed based off his profile. Son # 4 opted for a very petite pumpkin this year because it was ‘just so cute’, so we had a very petite Thomas.

Monster Munch

I love making spooky treats for the boys to enjoy and get them in the ‘mood’ for Halloween. When I came across this recipe for Monster Munch I made it immediately. It was a huge hit and has already become a new tradition. It made the perfect snack to enjoy while watching a Halloween movie marathon, including two of my personal favorites: Hocus Pocus & ParaNorman. Sweet & spooky, this Monster Munch is a Halloween must have.

P.S. Check out the cute little cardboard cartons I found to serve the monster munch in! Wilton makes and sells them in a four pack and they were just too adorable not to buy. Not pictured, but also included, was a mummy and a skeleton. They were on sale in the Halloween section of Kroger for $1! In hind sight I probably should have snagged a couple of packs. That settles it, back to Kroger I go!

Monster Munch

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Munch

recipe from A Pumpkin and a Princess

  • 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup Wilton orange candy melts
  • 1/2 cup Wilton black candy melts
  • 1/2 cups candy corn M&M’s
  • 1/2 cup candy corn
  • edible monster eyes

Directions

  1. Cover a 9X13 baking sheet with waxed paper. Make popcorn and lay a single layer on covered baking sheet.
  2. Melt the candy melts in separate bowls over a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir frequently until completely melted.
  3. Pour the candy melts into disposable piping bags or thick ziploc bags. Use a napkin or towel to hold the bag if it’s too hot. Snip off the tip of the bags. Drizzle black candy melts evenly onto popcorn.
  4. Add the candy, except the edible eyes, spreading evenly over the drizzled popcorn. Drizzle the orange candy melts over the candy. Gently place eyes where you want them to go. Allow to cool then break apart and enjoy!

4 Sons 'R' Us: Monster Munch

Who Loves Apples? We love apples! Our Annual Orchard Trip

October typically means two things for our family, lots of Halloween candy and apples. Every October we make an annual trip, and this past weekend we loaded all the kids up in the car and headed off to Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville. It was an absolutely beautiful weekend. Perfect time to enjoy the breath taking views and sit back and just enjoy some quality family time. Something about my boys’ smiles as fresh apple juices run down their chins and those sweet, sticky fingers just melts my heart. I love seeing them so care-free as they run through the rows and rows of trees with reckless abandon in search of the most perfect of apples to claim as their own. I savor the whole day. The beautiful scenery, the smells, the sounds, and of course the sweet taste of biting into my own freshly picked, crisp apple. By the end of the day everybody had a tote full of fall ‘treasures’. After a picnic lunch, and of course sampling and loading ¬†up on our favorite apple-y treats, we headed home. Before I move on, I’ve just got to say that there’s nothing quite like an apple cider slushy, fresh, hot apple cider doughnuts, or homemade sweet/spicy apple salsa. If you haven’t tried it, add it to your bucket list!

Of course, once we get home and unload our two bushels of apples that’s when I get busy. I’ve got apples coming out of my ears, but I’m not complaining. My house is gently perfumed by the sweet scents of Crispin, Jonah Gold, and Golden Delicious. It doesn’t get any better than when you walk in the door after a long day and feel like you’re walking back into the apple orchard. Bonus: The kids have an apple a day for quite some time, and I get to make some of our favorite fall treats, and try out some new apple-inspired dishes and desserts. That being said…you can expect quite a few apple-based recipes in the next few weeks.

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My primary pickers in action. I’ve learned that some of the best bonding occurs when savoring that sweet, crispy morsel in your mouth.

Always plenty to do & see at the orchard. Stumbling onto the old truck was pretty cool and the boys couldn’t believe we’d never found it before.

truckpicking

See you again next year, Carter Mountain!

apple

If you’re thinking about visiting Carter Mountain and want to make a full day of it, there’s plenty to do in the immediate vicinity for both a family oriented day or for an adult get away. Check out historic Michies Tavern next door to the mountain, or Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello. There are also several fantastic local vineyards to tour. Skyline Drive is just a hop, skip, and a jump away with its breath-taking scenic views and trails. The changing leaves make it almost irresistible side-trip!

The Mummy Pumpkin

Son # 4 lovingly referred to this as his ‘Mommy’ pumpkin.¬†I, of course, was tickled pink.¬†It took some practice, but this year he’s having no trouble pronouncing the word ‘mummy’. I’m thinking to celebrate we will be seeing multiple Mommy, err Mummy, themed crafts this October.

When I found this easy, fun pumpkin craft on Martha Stewart’s website I knew we had to do it. I love carving pumpkins with the older boys (I spend a shameless amount of time scouring the web for the lates and greatest pumpkin template for them to choose from), but I wanted something different to do with the youngest son. Let’s save carving, you know pumpkin guts, tools, knives and all that, for at least a few more years. Please? That and if he needs a quick sensory lesson he can always stick his hand in his brothers’ pumpkins. Which he did…repeatedly.

While my version may not be as pristine, or authentic looking as Martha’s, it did the trick. I used what I had on hand in the house so it was budget friendly, and it was a quick craft to fit in before nap time.

The Mummy Pumpkin

4 Sons 'R' Us: The Mummy Pumpkin

  • roll of gauze
  • googly eyes
  • black cardstock
  • glue gun

Directions

  1. Starting at any point on the pumpkin glue a starting edge to the pumpkin.
  2. From their wrap the gauze around the pumpkin, continuing until you feel like it’s sufficiently covered.
  3. When satisfied with the ‘look’, cut the gauze and hot glue down the end piece.
  4. Glue two googly eyes on.
  5. Cut a mouth out of the black cardstock and glue on.
  6. Voila, you now have a pumpkin mummy.