2016 Cash for Christmas Giveaway!

Are you getting geared up for the shopping season? Have you made your list and checked it twice?  Do you need extra cash for Christmas? Who doesn’t?

 

Cash for Christmas Giveaway 330 dollars

We are so excited to be giving away $330 in cash prizes for you to use starting Thanksgiving weekend. Enter to win one of these amazing prizes and make a nice dent in your holiday shopping!  Here are the prizes:

1 – $100 Amazon Gift Card
1 – $75 Target Gift Card
2 – $50 Walmart Gift Card
1 – $25 Kohls Gift Card
3- $10 Starbucks Gift Card

There will be 8 winners in this giveaway. Each winner will receive a gift card code to use on the online store or in the actual store.

Now it’s time to meet our wonderful co-hosts who have made this giveaway possible.

Cash for Christmas Giveaway 2016 Co-Hosts

Starting at the top row we have:

Terri – Christmas Tree Lane, Melissa – The Farm Girl Gabs, Christine – Your Strong Tower, Audrey – That Recipe & Munofore, Dana – Goods Giving Back, Tammy – Creative K Kids, Trish – Creative Simplicity by Trish Sutton, Kim – Shopping Kim and Enter Online Sweeps, Ali – Home Crafts by Ali and Ali’s Book Nook, Kelly – Typically Simple, Kim – The Resourceful Mom, Katie – The Ramblings of an Overtired Mama, Angie – God’s Growing Garden, Sarah – Devastate Boredom, Karen – Raising Little Superheroes, Gina – Money Savvy Living, Beverly – Eclectic Red Barn, Melissa – Deliciously Savvy, Beth – Our Pretty Little Girls, Meredith – The Mom of the Year, Laura – Michigan Saving and More, Debbie – Heartbeats ~Soul Stains, Carol – The Red Painted Cottage, Tiffany – A Wandering Vine, Monica – Mommy & Love, Holly – Keeping Life Sane, Sinea – Ducks ‘n a Row, Cindy – Simple Steps for Living Life, Tammy – My Life Abundant, Kari – Keep It Simple DIY, Danielle – Dancing with My Daughter

Please stop by and say hi to these wonderful ladies and their blogs.

The giveaway will end midnight on Wednesday, November 24th, the night before Thanksgiving. You will have 48 hours to respond to the email claiming the prize. If you respond right away, we will get you the gift card code promptly so that you can shop with it on Black Friday! If we don’t hear in 48 hours, we will choose another winner.

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Christmas Cookie Explosion

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Every year in December, for as long as I can remember, my mom and I take an entire Saturday and bake our famous sugar cookies with buttercream icing.  It’s one of my absolute favorite things about the holiday season!  Of course the cookies taste delicious, but half the fun is baking, icing, and decorating them together. By the time we have made a tripe batch, it looks like a cookie explosion has gone off in my kitchen.  There’s flour, frosting, sprinkles, and icing everywhere!  The finished product is worth it though. I have friends and family literally begging me for a few cookies, and wanting the recipe.

This year we had a few new additions to the cookie cutters that we’ve been using for ages.  My husband used his GorillaMaker 3-D printer to make “A” and “R” cookie cutters for my niece, Ayla, and my nephew, Reid.  Usually, they join us but my poor niece had the flu.   I’ll probably do a mini cookie baking session in January with them because I know they were disappointed about not being able to come over.  (But no need to bake flu germs into the sugar cookies, right?)

I also bought these awesome “Ninjabread Men” cookie cutters from Amazon.  I’ve always loved martial arts, so I thought they would be a fun addition to the usual stockings, angels, and Christmas tree cookies.  I’m definitely making sure that my nephew gets a few of the frosted ninja cookies!

So for the past four years, I’ve teased you, my dear blog readers, with pictures and descriptions of my fabulous sugar cookies, but have never released the recipe.  So here is your holiday gift from me (with my mom’s blessing) – Carol & Christine’s Christmas Sugar Cookie Recipe! Enjoy!

Carol & Christine’s Christmas Sugar Cookies

(Single Batch)

 Ingredients:

  • ¾ Cup of Butter
  • 1 Cup of Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 tsp. real Vanilla Extract
  • 2 ½ Cups of Flour
  • 1 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Salt

Directions:

1.) Cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer.  Beat in eggs and vanilla.

2.) In a separate bowl, add flour, baking powder, and salt.  Blend thoroughly.  Add the mixture from #1 and mix well.  (This usually requires hand kneading at thoroughly combine.)

3.) Chill dough 3 hours or overnight.  Take dough out of the fridge 30 minutes before baking to soften it up.

4.) Preheat oven to 400 F.

5.) Roll dough on a floured surface.  If the dough seems too sticky, work some extra flour into in before rolling out.

6.) Cut with cookie cutters.  Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown.

7.) Cool on sheet before removing.  Let cool completely before frosting.

 

Buttercream Frosting

 

Ingredients:

  •  ¼ Cup of Butter
  • 2 Cups of Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tsp. real Vanilla Extract
  • 2 – 3 TBS. Evaporated Milk
  • Food Coloring

Beat first four ingredients with an electric mixer.  Once thoroughly combined, transfer to a small bowl and add food coloring.  If frosting becomes a little stiff, add a little extra evaporated milk and stir.

Five Fun Christmas Dessert Recipes

This week’s post is by Amy of Savvy Saving Couple

One of my favorite activities to do during the holiday season is bake. Making desserts, cookies, and casseroles is just so fun once the weather gets chilly. Seasonal baking is especially fun because there is no better time of year to indulge in some homemade and festive treats. I thought it would be fun to spread some Christmas cheer and share five of my family’s fun and easy Christmas dessert recipes.

First up is my Pistachio Cherry Christmas Cake. This recipe has been in my family for decades. It is such a unique cake because it has a delicious pistachio flavor, maraschino cherries, nuts, and is super moist. It is easy to make and can be turned into a beautiful Bundt cake, or even cupcakes.

Next we have a recipe for Gingerbread Men Cookies that was passed down from my grandmother. I love these cookies because they are slightly chewy, and the dough is great for actual cut out cookies. Personally, I prefer to always chill my dough before cutting out my little men, because the shapes stay. Decorating them may be even more fun because the decorating choices are endless.

Love easy treats that require hardly any cooking skill? I used to be like that too! That is why Peppermint Bark is one of the easiest Christmas or seasonal treats I have ever made! Seriously, who would have thought that just two ingredients could produce such a tasty treat that goes perfectly with a side of hot cocoa! You can switch this recipe up too if you prefer dark or milk chocolate.

Don’t have time to bake? Another fun and easy Christmas dessert option for parties and hosting are these Christmas Oreo Truffles. These are no bake balls that are made with a few simple ingredients. However, the taste is so rich and seems as if you traveled high and far for only the finest truffles. These no bake Oreo Balls are perfect for this season of cheer!

Since the Christmas season is just such a busy one, I couldn’t leave out a recent short cut or “hack” I discovered for yummy Peppermint Brownies. These delicious treats use boxed brownie mix, and store bought vanilla frosting. The secret ingredient is peppermint extract which takes these brownies from average to rock star is seconds. These would make great treats for parties, or a late night snack!

As you can see, the Christmas season doesn’t have to be spent slaving in the kitchen. There are just so many sweet treats which you can make or bake up this time of year. I hope you and your family enjoy our top 5 Fun and Christmas Desserts and Treats recipes.

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ 25 Days of Christmas

This week’s blog post is by Leah Kelley.

In October, I did 31 Days of Halloween food for my kids.  They loved it so much that I decided to do 25 Days of Christmas. Each day in December, I have made the kids some kind of Christmas food creation. One day it was Santa pancakes, the next day a Christmas tree made out of vegetables. It’s a sneaky way to get them to eat and also a great way to make memories with them. I’ve decided to make 31 Days of Halloween and 25 Days of Christmas a tradition from now on. You’ve still got a few days left to try one of these fun recipes this Christmas Season!

Christmas Veggie Tree ~ My kids love vegetables so getting them to eat this was easy but for some picky eaters this is a great way to get some veggies in their diet.

Candy Cane Cinnamon Rolls ~ This recipe was super easy to make! Just take a can of cinnamon rolls and lay them on the pan in the shape of a candy cane. Bake as directed and then dye half the icing red. Alternate white icing and red icing on each cinnamon roll to make it look like a candy cane.

Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls ~ If your family loves cinnamon rolls for breakfast, here’s another variation for you.   You’ll need two cans of them. Lay the rolls on a pan in the shape of a tree. Bake as directed, and then dye the icing green with food coloring. I got a little ambitious and formed one of the rolls in the shape of a star and dyed a little bit of icing yellow.

 

Rudolph Pancakes ~ (Pictured at the top of the post.)  These are absolutely adorable!! They take a bit more prep work but it’s worth it.

Peanut Butter Cut Out Sandwiches ~ These were easy also and my kids loved them. Spread one piece of bread with peanut butter, with the other piece use a cookie cutter to cut a shape in the bread. Lay cut out piece on top then sprinkle with green sugar.

What Christmas food traditions do you have in your family?

 

Christmas Traditions

This week’s post is by Christine Luken.

Whether you drive around and look at Christmas lights,  visit a live Nativity scene, go ice skating, or attend midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, we all have holiday traditions that we look forward to each and every year.   On Saturday, we indulged in my favorite family Christmas tradition – baking sugar cookies with homemade butter cream frosting.  My Mom and I have been doing this together since I was seven or eight years old, which means we’ve been at it for over 30 years!  This year’s cookie baking marathon (we bake and frost a triple batch) was extra special because my brother Jim joined us, along with my nephew, Reid, and my niece, Ayla.  It was pretty awesome having three generations elbow-to-elbow, cutting cookies, baking, frosting, and enjoying the finished product together!

Another Christmas tradition we have is that my Dad and stepmom still fill up all of our stockings and give them to us on Christmas Eve – even though all the “kids” are in their thirties and forties!  Of course, the grandkids get their stockings, too. My Dad always insists that we pose for a picture of all of us with our stockings.  They are usually filled with practical things like breath mints and scented candles – but I think we’d all be disappointed if the tradition stopped!

Because Christmas is the season of giving, my husband and I sponsor a local family in need every year and buy presents for the kids.  Since we don’t have kids of our own, it’s fun to get to play Santa!  We always sponsor a different family each year and most times we never even meet them.  But there’s such a sense of peace and fulfillment that comes with doing something for someone with no thought of what they can do for you in return.  And that’s what Christmas is really all about.

What holiday traditions do you look forward to every year?

 

The Holidays Are Coming!

This week’s blog post is by Christine Luken.

The  Holidays are coming!  The Holidays are coming!  That’s right – only one month until Halloween, two months until Thanksgiving, and LESS than three months until Christmas!!  Are you panicked yet?  Well, don’t be.  I’ll tell you the secret weapon you need for a less stressful 2013 holiday season.  Planning!

Most of us – me included – tend to wing it when it comes to shopping, cooking, and decorating for the holidays.  In the same way that meal planning reduces the cost and stress of putting dinner on the table, investing a little time in advanced planning for your holiday celebrations NOW will pay big dividends later.

Find the Right Tools ~ I found this awesome and FREE Holiday Planner which has handy sheets for keeping track of your gift list, holiday expenses, and activities.  It’s geared towards Christmas, but you could make a copy for each holiday to track decorations, crafts, travel plans, food, and more!   I like that it includes a budget, which increases the likelihood that I won’t overspend on my holiday fun.

Narrow It Down ~ I’ve been collecting ideas for Halloween on Pinterest and there is NO WAY that I will be able to make and bake everything on that board!  So now is the time to narrow it down and decide what I can reasonably accomplish based on the time and money I want to spend.  Think about what traditions your family really looks forward to for each holiday and make sure you allocate time in your schedule.  This way you won’t be carving pumpkins at midnight, pulling your pumpkin pie out of the oven an hour before you’re supposed to be at Grandma’s house, or facing an all-night wrap-a-thon on Christmas Eve.

Build Your To-Do & Assign Dates ~ Once I decide what I’m going to do for each holiday, the next thing to do is figure out when.  By looking at my schedule for October, November, and December, I’ll be able to figure out when is the best time to indulge in some baking and crafts.  In past years, I’ve always waited until the last minute, which means half of what I wanted to do goes unfinished.

More Time, Stress, & Money Saving Ideas ~  Look over your Holiday To-Do List (which should be posted somewhere you see it often, like the refrigerator) and consider your food and baked goods.  What can you make ahead and freeze?  When I visited my Uncle Paul in August, he was baking pies for Thanksgiving and popping them in the freezer.  What a great idea!  Get started on personalized gifts, Christmas cards, and family pictures now.  I always make calendars full of family pictures for my parents as Christmas gifts.  I hate to admit that I’m always doing this at the last minute, emailing my sisters for good shots of my nieces and nephews to include.  This means I’m usually paying for express shipping to get the calendars on time.  Shopping for both food and gifts during the holiday season can be stressful.  If possible, plan shopping trips during the week in the morning when crowds will be light.  I’ve taken vacation days from work to accomplish this in past years and it’s worked really well.

Have a tip for saving time, money, or stress during the holiday season?  I’d love to hear it!

Meal Planning Monday ~ Baking Holiday Treats

         

          December 18th is National Bake Cookies Day, but since it falls on a Tuesday this year, I’m doing my baking this Saturday.  For as long as I can remember, my brother and I have always helped my mom bake sugar cookies a week or two before Christmas.  No matter how old I get, it’s still fun to bake, frost, and decorate the cookies.  And most years, my mom still helps me with the triple batch I make.  This year, I’m hoping my niece and nephew will also join in the fun.

            In addition to my usual cookie baking, I also make a rum cake for Christmas Day.  My recipe comes from the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook by Anne Byrn.  I follow the recipe almost to a tee, with the exception of using Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum instead of Bacardi.  It is super-moist and delicious!  Don’t worry, most of the alcohol cooks out when it’s baking.  However, if you like to lick the bowl and beaters, as I do, you may find that your tongue becomes pleasantly numb from eating the batter.  (See below for the recipe.)

            This year, I am going to whip up these Cinnamon Sugar Almonds in the crock pot.  I was able to get organic almonds at the co-op for $6 a pound, so I got two pounds of them.  Several people in my Facebook recipe group have tried them and said that not only do the almonds taste delicious, but they also make the house smell heavenly while they cook.

            I don’t know if I will have time to bake much else this holiday season, but here are some other great-looking recipes I’m going to try if I have time!  (And who says I can’t make some of these in January or February?)  So, what’s on your baking list this month?

 

Spiced Rum Cake (Adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn)

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 package of Golden Butter cake mix (18.25 oz.)
  • 1 package of vanilla instant pudding mix (3.4 oz.)
  • ½ cup of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum
  • ½ cup of canola or coconut oil
  • ½ cup of water
  • 4 large eggs

Glaze:

  • ½ stick of butter (4 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup of Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum

            Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a 12-cup Bundt cake pan with cooking spray.  Sprinkle the pecans in the bottom of the pan and set aside.  Place the cake mix, pudding mix, rum, oil, water, and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Using an electric mixer, beat on low for one minute.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat on medium for two more minutes.  Pour batter into the pan, smoothing it out with a spatula.

            Place the pan on the center rack in the oven and bake for one hour, or until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched.  Let cool for 20 to 30 minutes.  Run a long, sharp knife around the edges of the cake and invert it onto a serving plate.  Poke holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick.

            Prepare the glaze by placing the butter in a small pan and melting it on low heat.  Once melted, add the water and sugar and increase the heat to medium, stirring constantly.  Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce the heat slightly.  Continue to stir the mixture for 4 to 5 minutes, until thickened.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the rum.  Stir well and spoon the glaze over the warm cake, allowing it to drizzle down the sides and into the center of the cake.  Allow to cool completely before serving.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Meal Planning Monday ~ Christmas Traditions

This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

Christmas is right around the corner!  I’m usually not a big Christmas fan but this year the holiday spirit bug bit me.  Since my kids are getting older, *sniff sniff* I wanted to start some fun traditions with them.  So I bought an elf.  (I told myself I wasn’t going to buy one but I caved into the peer pressure.)  I’m glad I did, because my kids are over the moon about the elf!  He took up residence at our house on December 1st and will stay until December 24th.  So far he’s eaten almost all the Halloween candy (no, I didn’t actually eat it – I threw it away) and he’s knocked off ornaments from our tree trying to climb to the top.  Another tradition we have is to buy Christmas pajamas for the whole family.

If you need something to get your creative juices flowing, here are some great ideas to start a Christmas tradition or two for your family.

Homemade Christmas Ornaments ~ This could be as easy as a pinecone rolled in peanut butter then in birdseed.  Hang the ornaments outside to decorate a pine tree and attract all kinds of pretty birds to your yard.  I found this super-easy recipe on Pinterest for Cinnamon Ornaments.

Snowman Pancakes ~ These are super easy and the kids will love them.

Looking at Christmas lights ~ We like to drive around town, looking at all the different lights while drinking hot chocolate or chocolate milk for the little ones.

Sugar Cookies ~ My kids love baking and decorating rolled sugar cookies.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions?

 

 

 

 

Crafty Christmas Gifts

 

            This week’s post is by Leah Kelley.

            Two weeks left until Christmas!  I’m so excited because this is the first year that my husband and I have been able to afford Christmas presents.  In the past years, we’ve had to decide between paying bills and buying presents.  There’s  no joy in knowing you had to put off paying the electric bill so you can buy your kids’ presents.  We’ve worked very hard to reach this point and, although it wasn’t an easy road, it has paid off greatly.  I highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.  It was both a sanity and marriage saver.  

            If you’re struggling with your finances or just don’t have a lot saved up for Christmas, you can always make something homemade.  Many times a gift from the heart means more than a store bought piece of plastic.  I thought I’d share a few do-it-yourself gift ideas.  I’m posting the ideas and also the links to the blogs I found them on.  Not only will you get some ideas for presents but you might find a new blog you’d like to follow!

 

Tea Cup Candles ~ These are adorable and very inexpensive to make. http://www.littlehouseliving.com/tea-cup-candles.html

Fabric Coaster ~ If you know how to sew or someone who has a sewing machine this looks fairly easy. http://www.hilanimade.com/welcome_files/tutorial.html

Memory Game ~ If you have a digital scrapbooking kit like My Memories Suite this is perfect! If not you can find different patterns online to use. http://sonyatoews.blogspot.com/2010/09/bitten-by-crafting-bug.html

Peppermint Face Scrub ~ I’m a sucker for any homemade beauty products. http://lifeinthemotherhood.blogspot.com/2011/08/homemade-scrubs.html

Canvas Log Carrier ~ I’m thinking about making one of these for my parents. http://www.anoregoncottage.com/2011/04/how-to-make-canvas-log-carrier.html

Vanilla Sugar ~ I bet this would yummy in some sugar cookies. http://www.goodlifeeats.com/2011/07/simple-and-inexpensive-hostess-gifts-recipe-for-vanilla-scented-sugar.html

No Sew Wine Bag ~ Not only does this look easy but would make a great hostess gift too. http://www.bystephanielynn.com/2010/12/make-no-sew-felt-wine-bag-wrap.html

Have fun with your presents this year!