Kids in Cowtown

Day 1 – A Partridge In A Tree, Do We Have A Tree In The House?

December 13th is Day 1 of our “12 Days of Christmas” so get ready!

Each day we will post the day before so you can be prepared to get er done…

As we get started I will just run out and pluck a partridge off the pear tree and we can get started. Oh… we are in Alberta. No pear trees and I have not seen a partridge in years and I think that was when I was visiting the zoo as a child. Even if we could find one we would have to shoot it to get close to it, so guess that is not an option!

So if we were to do the 12 days of Christmas how would we celebrate that?

At our house we love the Christmas season and we often start in November by getting the first ornaments out and shifting the house into the holiday mode. By December the decorations are out and the only thing left is the tree. These days you can actually get a pretty good fake tree. They look a lot more like the real thing than they use to and they are more environmentally friendly.

This year we set up the fake tree that we picked up on special last year in our downstairs living area but the kids really wanted to have a real tree so we got a second one and set it up in our upstairs living room. When I was a kid on the farm we use to look forward to the day that my Dad would come in early from his daily chores and declare that we would go looking for a tree in the forest. Am I the only one who remembers that?

My brother and I would get dressed up all warm and pile into the Ford pickup truck and drive out to our bush quarter. Dad would carry the axe and we would stomp around in the woods examining every possibility while freezing and shaking in -40 weather. We would try to find one that looked good from all angles but if that was not possible we would try to get one that had one side that looked good and we would set it up with the bad side against the wall. It is so nice today to just go to a Canadian Tire and find the one we like. White spruce or some exotic fir? Which would you like? Would you like it delivered? They are all the right size. They are all perfect on every side. Just get a stand from Walmart and wallah – Instant tree just add water!

Decorating is easier now too. So much to buy… so little time. Dollar store is amazing! The wonderful thing about a tree is that you can put a real hodgepodge assortment of things all over it or you can do a theme tree. Ever been in one of those great Christmas stores where the whole tree is covered in angels or teddy bears? Or there is only one or two colors on the whole tree. You can make a Canadian tree or a musical tree. So many choices…

Those are really nice if you are Martha Stewart and have an unlimited budget but the reality is for most of us that kind of uniformity is too much money. It is better to get that kind of thing after Christmas is over at half price and save it for next year or plan for it all year round. So our theme is a bit more simplified. Downstairs all the store bought colorful ornaments and garlands will decorate the fake tree. Upstairs we will go with a homemade theme.  So tonight we set it up and put on the simple lights and the popcorn and cranberry garlands that we made earlier this month. We also have some ornaments that we made over the years with different crafts. Those can go on immediately, and over the next few days we will add some new ones that we create as a family.

We will play Christmas music and drink some apple cider while we decorate it.

Tomorrow we will decorate the cookies that we will hang on it.

Apple Cider

Take out the crockpot and put in 2 Litres of apple juice and turn it onto low.

Add 3 long cinnamon sticks.

One package of mulling spices. Mulling spices are not the easiest to find these days. I have been getting mine from a Hallmark store in Okotoks the last few years. You may want to Google to find some. If you can’t find any that are made already you may want to try making your own. I love Google don’t you?

Just put this mixture on at about 4:00 and let the aroma fill the house up into the evening. Drink it as you like and add more apple juice if more guests drop by.

Enjoy!

More coming tomorrow follow the RSS feed so you get it all!

Kerry Christmas 2Kerry George was has three children Zechariah, Joshua and Naomi and started her writing career by publishing the book “Juicy Fruit Christianity” in 2001. Since then she has written numerous articles for Today’s Business Woman, Faith Today and multitudes of blogs and online publications for ministry and business related publications. Currently she is the owner of Loyal2U and the Calgary Business Network and has a personal blog at http://loyal2u.blogspot.ca/ She also creates content for a variety of businesses in the Calgary market.

Great Things To Do In December In Cowtown

Here are a few of our favorites in December.

Zoolights http://www.calgaryzoo.org/content/view/29/287/#zoolights November 23 – January 5

Heritage Park http://www.heritagepark.ca/index.php

Once Upon A Christmas at Heritage Park http://www.heritagepark.ca/special-events/onceUponAChristmas.php December 23 and 24

Below is a form for you to add your own special events that are going on in the community. Feel free to post holiday events.

So many things to do, so many places to go!

So many things to do,
so many places to go!

If you see a beautiful tree, a yard done up, or know of a pageant let us know.

If you see a beautiful tree, a yard done up, or know of a pageant let us know.

Seriously… The Best Shortbread Ever!

Shortbread

This is my Grandmother’s recipe. It is so good that some families would actually hide it from the world in their “secret family recipe book.”
It is actually how shortbread should taste and after you eat it you will be ruined for all other shortbread experiences.
It will melt in your mouth and make you a famous baking phenomena every year!
Remember to always only bake it until the bottom is just starting to turn golden and only use real butter, then it will be perfect every time…
1 Cup of soft butter
1/2 Cup of icing sugar
1/4 Cup of cornstarch
1 and 1/2 Cup of flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Whip the batter until it is thick and consistent enough to roll into little balls about an inch and a half across. Flatten with a fork. Garnish with a candied cherry if you want. I like to make them with red ones on some and green ones on others for a decorative appeal on the trays.
Bake 10-12 minutes, watching for that perfect light golden brown color on the bottom of them, which will depend as well on your altitude and your oven.
You can easily double the recipe and get consistent results.
Your fans will rave!
Watch for our upcoming series The 12 Days Of Christmas!
Tell us about your favorite recipes below and we will post them.

Make a String Of Popcorn!

Make a Popcorn String this Christmas!

Make a Popcorn String this Christmas!

One year on Christmas Eve I decided to make a string of popcorn for the Christmas Tree like we had when I was a kid. Guess what? One day is not enough. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself!

If you want to have a nice long string of popcorn to decorate the tree with you need to start now, and it works a whole lot better if you enlist a couple of partners. So go out and buy some thick thread and get a good sized needle and while you are watching television you can get quite a bit done. In fact, if you and the kids each take a turn you can pass it around over a few nights and you can have a family project that literally strings you together.

Making a popcorn garland is a wonderful seasonal activity. This Christmas craft was practiced by some of our early pioneers as they brought their holiday traditions over with them from Europe. Put some apple cider on the stove and curl up on the couch.

This is so much nicer and way more authentic than anything that you can buy from the dollar store. If you want to be really fancy you can string cranberries into it as well or make a separate string of cranberries. It is also fun to tell your children stories about what Christmas was like while you were growing up as you make your decorations.

Have fun!

Popcorn string 1

Start Working On Your Christmas Cards Now!

Do you still love to get Christmas cards in the mail? I know I do. Even though I love to receive them it is still hard to remember to send them.

It can be a great activity to sit down with the kids though and make some good old fashioned Christmas cards. There is so much cool stuff that we can purchase from the craft stores. We can be as original as we like or get a real sweet package of card making goodies and just have a blast putting them together. If your children are young and you have the time and the resources it can be a lot of fun, but the time to start is right now. Don’t wait to get it done.

For me the trick has always been getting the addresses on the envelopes, getting them stamped and then getting them sent. I always seem to drop the ball there somewhere and end up not sending them.

Last year a friend introduced me to Send Out Cards and that has helped me a lot. I can use original photos and do it all online and then click send. They mail it out so I don’t have to worry about dropping the card behind my car seat and finding it next May. You can sign up as a customer on a monthly program or you can become a distributor and get those cards created and sent for about $1.35 a piece. You can do one at a time or send out a whole campaign to hundreds of people. It is wonderful for family but it is also fantastic for your small business. Say “Merry Christmas” to your clients or even wish them well for the New Year.

It is cheap and it is fun. These days the kids know so much about the computer that we don’t have to make this an adult thing either. Anyone who can play an online video game should be able to do it. So this year I will actually sit down with the kids, show them how, and we will create the cards for dozens of people in our lives and have them all sent out.

If you would like to try a free card for yourself or get more info Click Here.

I have also done Christmas Emails in the past. If you would like to try that there is a great article on the Loyal2U site about how to do it. Click here for that information.

Also the Calgary Business Network is offering a course on December 5 where you can get your Christmas cards, your blog, and your Christmas newsletter ready to go in an afternoon. If you want the help check out the information here.

Now is the time to get at it though. Make a plan and get started today. Christmas will be here before you know it!

Is Health, Weight or Success Important To You As A Mom?

As a single mom I believe it is really important to look after myself. I feel every mother wants to be sharp and ready for whatever situation comes at us next but as a single woman I have had to learn that the cavalry is not coming to rescue me. If I get sick – who will be there to look after the children? If I can’t work – who will get the bills paid?

In life however things happen. A couple years ago I watched in horror as my one of my friends got ill. Although she is only in her late thirties work related stress caused her blood pressure to rise and her health to diminish. She was fortunate that her husband made enough money that she could take the necessary time to recover. Another friend in her forties had part of her bowel removed and was unable to make income for most of last year, and she was not as fortunatel.

While some of these things are difficult to avoid being pro-active is a good idea. We need to pay attention to what we eat and the exercise that we get to keep us in good shape. Of course we all know that but when we have gotten into bad habits it can be really hard to get back on track. I know what that feels like. We just kind of give up. Why not have the whole bag of chips? Its late, I am tired and I am feeling like just kicking back to watch a little television. Do ya feel me?

The thing is though we feel worse later when we get on the scale don’t we?

So sometimes it is good to have a little help to get back on track.

A couple months back I started working with Donna Reid and I found her to be more than helpful. Donna has a new product and a new idea on how to get turned around. She did more than just weigh me, she did a Body Composition Analysis. She measured everything! And she did a computer assessment on the spot that told me my body fat, my lean muscle mass and my hydration. It was awesome!

I knew for years that my metabolism was slow but this took the mystery out of the solution. Donna had the answers that I needed. I am finally losing weight and I feel a lot better.

Donna sometimes does speaking engagements for groups to tell you all about this but here is her website info so you can connect with her directly.

Black Diamond Light Up The Lights

Come to Light Up The Lights December 1, 2012!

There are a lot of very neat events in Cowtown but there are also a lot of great events just out of town. Many of the small towns and cities in our region have exciting things going on celebrating the season.

Every year Black Diamond has “Light Up The Lights” with hayrides, free cookies and cider, late night shopping, chestnuts sold from the open fire, caroling and a whole lot more. This year the event will be held December 1st and it starts in the afternoon going right up to about 7:30 PM.

This frontier style town has a lot to see and do for a family outing any time of year. Marv’s Soda Shop has a 50’s motif and the European style bakery has been drawing people from around the country for years. You have to get a mocha or a latte from The Stop and you may even be lucky enough to be there on an evening when they are featuring live entertainment.

On December 7 & 8th The Gospel Chapel will put on their annual presentation of “The Christmas Story.” It starts at 6:30 with hayrides and then goes into the play with real animals courtesy of Shirley Mandell who also owns the Bed & Breakfast Welcome Acres. So if you want to spend the night you can do that too!

Tell us your favorite Christmas events and we will post them and also watch for our upcoming series “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” that we will begin posting December 12th, complete with recipes of Christmas cookies, great ideas for Christmas crafts, and Christmas traditions and stories from the George family who has been on this continent for a mere 200 years or so.

See you soon at a blog near you!

You may even see this on a winters day in Black Diamond, Alberta.

Getting Into the Mood For Christmas

I know Halloween seems to be just over and all the Holiday stuff is coming out in the stores. If you are like me you don’t feel quite ready for it. But why not enjoy the entire Christmas Season? The winters are too long so why not? We may as well get in the mood because it is coming anyway and why not have a few more days of making merry before the drudgery of January hits us? Why not put on a Santa hat and dance around with  the kids? They will love it!

Do you have a lot of decorations? Why not get started early and put out a few things now and a few more things later?

This year we have just moved into a new home so most of my Christmas decorations came out at once right at the beginning of November but usually I  start by getting out my Christmas mugs. It is a simple thing but it helps to get rid of my grouchy “winter is here” mood. I also have a couple dessert trays that I like to have handy. I may not even fill them up yet but I find a spot where they can sit and look decorative. Then out comes the towels and oven mitts to hang in the kitchen.

Next I get out the box that has the nativity scene in it and get that set up in a corner somewhere. Then the angels get placed on a shelf while I drink hot chocolate out of my Santa mug.

A few days pass and I make some cookies with my daughter. We always make lots and put some into a fancy tin for unexpected guests. We may even make some extra dough and put it in the fridge for a bigger baking day on the weekend. You can always put extra cookies in the freezer once they are baked.

As November progresses more and more comes out, or we make something extra, or we pick up something special. Many of our Christmas ornaments have been made a few at a time over the years and other things were purchased from garage sales in the summer time. You can get some really decadent items still in the boxes even with price tags on them! Even in December we still occasionally find a bargain at a thrift store. It does not have to be expensive to be delightful.

Oh and definitely invest in some great music to play softly in the background and get some cinnamon sticks to simmer in a pot on the stove. It makes the whole house smell awesome!

We are currently working on some fine articles for the 12 Days of Christmas. Stay posted because you are going to want to read these great ways to stay in the mood for Christmas that will begin posting on the 12th of December. Hilarious and riveting fun!

Send us your stories about Christmas and we will post them as well.  kidsincowtown@gmail.com

Got To Have a Jack-O-Lantern

There are a lot of new immigrants to Canada who have never made a Jack-O-Lantern. Do you have a neighbor with kids who is new to our country? Why not invite them over to carve a pumpkin together? Or why not have a little neighborhood pumpkin carving contest?

Making a Jack-O-Lantern is easy if you have never done it, but it does require an adult being involved.

Start by carving the hat. You can just make a circle if you want but you should know that after it is a few days old it could shrink and the lid may fall inside. That is why it is better to use a zigzag pattern.

Once you have made the hat and pulled it off you can get inside the pumpkin to empty out the seeds and guts. Don’t throw those seeds away. You can bake them later for a tasty treat!

Use the sharp edge of a spoon to scrape the insides real good and get rid of all the gunk. Make it smooth so nothing can dangle into the flame of your candle later.  Also make sure the bottom is nice and smooth so your candle will have a nice flat place to sit.

Now select the side of the pumpkin that you want to put the face on.

You can do the traditional triangle eyes and nose and big gaping mouth or be more creative, but remember the shrinking later.  If you are going to put teeth in the mouth, make them nice and wide or they may shrivel into nothing as the pumpkin shrinks.

Post your pictures on our Facebook page. We would love to see what you have made.

Put your Jack-O-Lantern on your step or in your window so others can enjoy it too!

Halloween Cookies

Autumn is a great time of year for decorating the house. Don’t you just love the colors? The kids really get into cutting out leaf shapes and pinning them up. You can go to the supermarket and load up on gourds and ornamental corn and fill a wicker basket as a centerpiece for the table. A couple of pumpkin latte candles and maybe a real pumpkin latte from Starbucks while you decorate can stimulate some great memory making sessions with the kids.

When I was a girl I remember baking cookies with my mother and then cutting out the shapes of ghosts and pumpkins and covering them with bright icing.  Baking cookies after school is a great activity to improve parent/child bonding. Have some fun with your kids!

Here are some recipes for you.

Here are some more ideas!

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