Shipping Day

Well, there's no rest for the weary. We had a great Thanksgiving meal, lots of family time, and more frames!

The corn pudding was a huge success and the only new recipe I tried this year. Everyone loved it and it will be added as a regular from now on. The turkey was golden and moist...it was a pretty as a picture, but with 15 people crowded around it I didn't get a good picture. It got whisked away to the laundry room ASAP to carve. For some reason, the men in the family take the turkey to my tiny laundry room to carve (eat). They take their drinks and all cram in there and have a little man party while standing shoulder to shoulder among the craft supplies and laundry, snitching pieces of crispy skin and dark meat.

This is what it looks like if you venture in

After all the eating and drinking I set up shop at the kitchen table among dirty dishes and slices of pumpkin pie and got to work. At around midnight I had this to show for it:

It is such a relief to get things in boxes and out! So, here are 10 Christmas gifts that will be delivered on time...18 to go...

This week I will unveil my new Christmas mantle for this year. I am so excited and was inspired by a tiny photo in my Better Homes and Gardens magazine this month. That is your only hint, for now...


Pilgrim Hat Cookies

These cookies have become a holiday tradition at the Thanksgiving table. I really can't remember where I first saw the idea, but I'm sure it was Family Fun magazine.

Gather your ingredients, chocolate chips, Keebler Fudge Stripes Cookies, and marshmallows.

Melt your chips according the the package instructions then, holding your marshmallow with a toothpick, dip into the chocolate letting the excess drip off.

Place chocolate dipped mallow onto the cookie that has been turned upside down, fudge side up.

Mix together confectioner's sugar, yellow food coloring, and a few drops of water to make a stiff decorator's icing. Place in a ziploc baggie and snip off the corner. Pipe a buckle on each hat.

Fair Warning

I'm going into hibernation for the next few weeks, I have about 22 back orders and as many days to get Christmas orders shipped. I will try to blog as much as I can, but will be slow on the email.

If you need to contact me about an order, please be patient! I will get to you, but it may be at midnight or 6 am

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! If I get a chance to make my Pilgrim Hat cookies today I will take some pics and post instructions for you. To be ready, you will need chocolate chips, marshmallows, Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies, and yellow decorator's icing. Go shopping and check back, your kids will thank you!


I forgot to show you my home show set up!

Joy Beadworks and I were invited to participate in a Christmas Open House last week. It was fun! We shared the living room and set up shop for the day. She killed that day and sold lots of cool interchangeable jewelry for Christmas (check it out throught the link). I turned in respectable sales, but better yet, soaked up some estrogen to get me through Thanksgiving. Bonus!

Pancake Season is Upon Us

Now that the weather has turned cold, my kids are asking for pancakes for breakfast every morning. This is my super easy recipe that is quick enough for school mornings. To speed things up further, you could pour one of each ingredient into your bowl then one in a Ziploc bag beside it to save for busy mornings.

Easy Weekday Pancakes

1 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
2 tbsp. oil

Mix the dry ingredients then add the wet and whisk until just mixed.

Add to a hot oiled pan (very light on the oil!) and when you see bubbles forming on the surface, flip!


A Decade Has Passed...

10 years ago today I was in a state of thrilled, panicked anticipation - euphoria and terror mixed into a brew that left me twitchy and giddy. I was about to deliver my first child, a son (though, I didn't know that yet).

I can remember the feeling of my water breaking at 10 pm that night. A strong kick followed by the sensation of a bubble traveling down and bursting on the surface. Had I just peed? My hubby was sound asleep on the chair in front of the TV blissfully unaware of the spectacle in the bathroom nearby as I tried to figure out what had just happened. In fact, he remained unaware through my calling for him and finally woke up when I threw a book out into the hallway. "I think I either peed my pants or my water broke." I was instantly weak in the knees and wondering how I'd gotten myself into this and WHY? What was I thinking?

My son was named quickly, as soon as we saw him we knew his name. We spent the next two days staring at this human we had created. My first words were, "We just had a baby!" on our home video and I thought this many times in those next hours. How is this possible?

We were then sent home and the fun began as we figured it out the way only new parents can.

We held him up to my tummy and tried to imagine how he'd ever fit in there. (We both avoided thinking about how he'd gotten out) We were blissfully, insanely in love and as addicted to this being as any drug addict to cocaine. We got our buzz from kisses and squeezes, from sniffing his little baby neck and running our lips over his tiny baby feet. We were born that same day, we were born parents. We have never looked back and have never been the same since. We now carried such weight, such responsibility, such love.

My husband and I were talking in the car today about how quickly this 10 years has gone by. So fast, it's as if we've been swept up in some cosmic black hole that distorts time and were plunked down in 2008 with a 10 year old son. The scarier thought is that in another 10 years he will already be gone from here. He will be moving on and making his own way in the world as an adult. The stolen kisses and "love you mom"'s will not be something I can look forward to each day, but rather scheduled as we make time for each other in our separate lives.

How is this possible? I ask again...

So, for this birthday I wish for him to be 6 months old. A cooing, laughing bundle of boy that is figuring out how to assert himself in this world. A boy full of spitty kisses as he chews on my chin and infectious giggles when you kiss his tummy. A baby boy who loves to be naked and loves to be held. A boy with beautiful blue eyes and his daddy's nose... my first son, who taught me how to be a mother.


Take Your Turkey Out of the Freezer!

Hello, can you hear me? It's time to take your turkey out of the freezer! Seriously, just get up right now and do it because if you sit there and think "oh yeah, I need to remember to take my turkey out of the freezer as soon as I'm done here" you will forget and come Monday (or God forbid, Wednesday night) you will be screwed.

Do you want to know what will happen next? You will get onto the computer to see what to do if you forget to thaw your turkey and read that you need to run water over it. You will then stick your turkey in the laundry tub to run water over it for the next 2 hours and something will fall into the tub and plug the drain and you will flood half of your kitchen and basement. Let's just say I speak from experience...

So, get off your butt and pull it out...Right now! Your husband will thank me later when he's not paying for FireDex to dry you out and worrying about mold. Your welcome.


Hope Studios

I forgot to mention that the deadline for Christmas delivery of custom frame orders in my Etsy shop is today. Since I didn't give my blog readers fair warning, I will extend that deadline to Sunday, November 23rd for orders received through my blog this weekend.

Here are some examples of custom orders I have completed this week. To place your own order, please email me at jsneill@zoominternet.net and I can invoice you directly.

Thanksgiving cont...

The recipe for the Pineapple Souffle is a staple in our family. We make it for nearly any holiday and is delicious when paired with salty meats like ham or kielbasi. Use it like a hot relish or compote, not like a side dish.

I always associate particular people with foods - Patty's Pineapple, Lisa's Cream puff's, Sheri's Delight... It made sense to publish a cookbook with all of the family's signature recipes for Christmas one year. The company, HeritageCookbook.com, was a lifesaver when it come to this project. With an organized and easy to understand website, I completed the whole thing in 2 days. You can upload photos (I didn't have a digital camera at the time...darn!)and write a story or description for each recipe. They print, bind, and ship quickly and it was hit at Christmas time.

Patty's Pineapple Souffle

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
6 slices white bread, cubed (I use stale Italian bread)
1 can crushed pineapple (I use the kind in syrup)

Combine ingredients in casserole and bake 350 for 40 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

I have experimented on and off with corn pudding and have settled on this one from epicurious:

Sweet Corn Pudding

4 cups frozen corn kernels (about 19 ounces), thawed
4 large eggs
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 8x8x2-inch glass baking dish. Blend all ingredients in processor until almost smooth. Pour batter into prepared dish. Bake pudding until brown and center is just set, about 45 minutes. Cool 10 minutes; serve.



I've had a request for the brie recipe I use as an appetizer:

Baked Cranberry Brie

1 round brie
1/2 cup fresh cranberries, chopped
1 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. fresh ginger, chopped
1/4 cup chopped, toasted pecans

Mix the berries, honey, and ginger in a sauce pan with about 1 Tbsp. water or orange juice. Simmer until thickened (5 min or so) then spoon over brie. Sprinkle with toasted pecans and bake 8-10 minutes at 350 until softened.

Tomorrow, recipes for corn pudding and pineapple souffle...

Thanksgiving Planning

Okay, we've got a week. Let's move on to Thanksgiving.

I always begin with my guest list, this year I am cooking for 15 people. If you haven't bought your turkey yet, now is a good time. While you're there, pick up 4 turkey wings to make extra gravy - that is always the first to go (you can find the recipe at the end).

Now, compose your menu and don't forget to assign dishes to guests coming. They love to help and it will lift some of your burden if you only concentrate on the core menu. I keep all my lists from previous years in my roasting pan so it is easy accessible the next year.

Thanksgiving Menu- 2008

Brie with cranberries and pecans
Chili cheese dip
Veggie sticks and fruit
Bloody Marys

Turkey (22 pound)
Turkey breast, just in case
Mashed Potatoes
Fresh Kielbasi (this is Pittsburgh, it's a part of every holiday meal, I don't know why)
Pineapple Souffle (it goes with the kielbasi - salty/sweet)
Green Bean Casserole (Amy)
Sweet Potatoes (Mom)
Sauteed Mushrooms (Mom)
Corn Pudding
Cranberry sauce
Pumpkin Pie and "Delight" (Sheri)
Pilgrim Hat cookies for kids
Jello Salad (Grammy must have this)

From here, make your shopping list.

Now, go ahead and make your schedule.

Saturday: Take turkey out of freezer. If you miss this first step you're screwed. Just saying.

Sunday: Take turkey wings out of the freezer.

Monday: Take turkey breast out of freezer, make gravy (I double this recipe)

Make Ahead gravy (Woman's Day magazine, 2003)

4 turkey wings (3-4 lbs)
8 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp thyme
3/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 tsp. pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Roast wings in roasting pan in a single layer with onions scattered on top for 1 1/4 hours or until browned.

Transfer wings and onions to large pot. Add 1 cup of water to roasting pan to loosen any brown bits then add to pot with 6 cups of broth, carrots, and thyme. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer 1 1/2 hours.

Remove wings and strain broth into a saucepan, pressing the veggies to extract all the juice. Skim fat from the top, or put in fridge overnight to pull solids off top.

Whisk flour into remaining 2 cups of broth.

Bring broth in saucepan to a boil and whisk in flour mixture. Boil 4-5 minutes to thicken, then stir in butter and pepper.

Tuesday clean the house, wash the dishes to be used

Saute veggies for stuffing
Inject turkey and breast with brine (1/4 c. salt, 2 T. brown sugar, 1 quart veg stock.)
Make corn pudding
Make Pilgrim hat cookies
Prepare mushrooms
Assemble pineapple souffle (recipe tomorrow)
Prepare cranberry mixture for brie
Set the table
Make jello salad
Make Bloody Marys

This day's schedule is arranged by the count down to dinner (2:00 this year)

Turkey, 3.5 hours
Make stuffing (I do not stuff my bird)
Pull out corn pudding and pineapple to come to room temp.
Assemble brie
Pull out appetizers and bloody marys, brie and chili dip in micro.
Make mashed potatoes and keep in crock pot, adding extra milk if they get dry
Grill kielbasi, 1 hour
Bake stuffing, 45 min.
Bake corn pudding, 40 min.
Reheat gravy, 40 min.
Reheat mushrooms, 30 min.
Green beans and sweet potato casseroles in oven, 30 min
Let turkey rest, 30 min
Bake pineapple, 25 min.
Warm bread
Plate cranberry sauce
Carve Turkey


Key Lime Mousse Cake

I was approached to donate a "specialty cake" for the teachers' appreciation luncheon for our elementary school last month. When it came time to bake, I turned to an old standby from my Pampered Chef days - Key Lime Mousse Cake.

I rarely stick to a recipe as written, so I will write this recipe as I make it rather than how it is published.

Key Lime Mousse Cake

1 package yellow cake mix
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup water
2 eggs
1 container (12 ounces) frozen limeade concentrate, thawed, divided
2 packages (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 package (3.3 ounces) vanilla instant pudding mix
1 (8 oz) container of Cool Whip
1 lime
2 tablespoons white chocolate morsels, grated (optional)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease 2 spring form pans, bottoms lined with parchment paper. Combine cake mix and flour; mix well using a whisk. Add water and eggs; whisk until smooth. Pour batter into pans.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Cool completely. Brush cakes with 1/2 cup of the limeade concentrate

Fill pastry bag with 1 cup Cool Whip and set aside. Microwave cream cheese for about 1 minute or until softened; whisk until smooth.
Gradually whisk in remaining limeade concentrate until smooth.
Add remaining whipped topping and pudding mix; mix until smooth, then spoon filling over cakes; spread evenly. Run a knife around edge of cake; remove collar. Now, stack the two cakes one on top of the other.

Zest lime then slice into thin slices. Cut each slice in half - set aside.

Grate white chocolate over filling. Pipe rosettes around top edge of cake with reserved Cool Whip, then place 1/2 lime slice between each rosette. Sprinkle lime zest over center of cake and allow to refrigerate for about an hour to set up.

The second half of my duty is to collect cakes from other parents who will drop off in the cake "drive through" tomorrow morning. That sounded like a great idea about a month ago, however, it is now about 33 degrees out there!


Can You Identify This???

This is "fun", apparently. This is what those boys I wrote about yesterday do for fun when they are larger boys, otherwise known as "men".

They trade the toy guns for ones filled with paint bullets and shoot each other. Ha, ha, this is so FUN!


My Life With Boys

It occurs to me on a weekly basis that as a mother of three boys I do and say things that I never would have imagined in my previous life. I feel the need to post about life with boys every so often because moms with daughters, or those with no kids, just can't imagine the day-to-day around this place.

"Stop killing your brother!" I shouted one morning. I was cozy in my bed and I could hear a battle brewing in the other room as I opened my eyes. "You know it makes him mad when you shoot him! SHOOT SOMEONE ELSE AND GIVE HIM A CHANCE!!!" Now, I rolled over and looked at my husband and we both made a mental note to add this to the "things I never thought I'd ever say" list in our heads. Calm down, it was just a Lego Starwars battle, but it is funny what comes out of your mouth. It's only later that you realize how odd it sounds! My little one was shrieking, "He keeps killing me!!! He keeps killing me!!!"

We can walk into my brother-in-law's house and his two daughters will be coloring quietly at the table, soft music is playing, everything is neat and tidy...a dream really. Then there's my house where there is always a ruckus, a mess, a wrestling match. I can identify my three sons by the sound of their screams, footsteps, and armpit farts. There's lots of gas around here that is released in a variety of ways in the car, in front of the TV, at the dinner table. There is no soft music and quiet coloring. A friend with boys once said, "I'd love to know what goes on in those girl houses. They probably just have conversations all day!"

When my kids get a new toy, they usually run straight into the house and up the stairs to drop it over the banister from the second floor to see if it will bounce. Throwing a coconut out the upstairs window onto the driveway was a science experiment and couch vaulting in the basement has been elevated to an X-games sport.

I say things daily that would shock and amaze a "girl mom", such as:

Did you wash your hands after the potty? Wait, let me check your bum!

Are those the same underpants you were wearing this weekend?!?

Go outside if you're going to fight, I can't stand it!

No more cheese or your bummy will come out!
(it's a medical condition that is beyond comprehension)

Well, I'm not sure when you will get armpit hair...and yes, you will get hair on your "peter" someday. No, I don't know when. Okay, I'll help you check.

Stop checking your brother's privates with the Cyber Eye!
(that microscope thing that plugs in to the input jack on the television, projected it 2 feet long!)

Has anyone fed the dog in the last week?

No, you can't kill a deer by shooting it in eye with an Airsoft gun! Yes, if you do we can eat it for dinner.

I am swordfighting while I write this, and I have shouted "You're dead!" three times. I think a girl might cry if she heard that...

Anyway, despite all of the horror there is a sweet side. I hear "love you, mama" about 35 times a day, I am able to steal enough kisses to sustain me, and know that, for my whole life, I will have some big strong guy around to lift heavy things and open jars for me.


Polar Express - A Success!

After all my planning and decorating and all the meetings and buying - it was a raging success! 120 guests attended and left happy and ready to do it all again next year. Hopefully, we've begun a new yearly tradition to kick off the holiday season.

Here are some photos of all the ideas I mentioned in the planning stage.
The children entered and were directed to the front desk/ticket counter where they received their ticket to board
The "blizzard" concept realized: (I will provide a tutorial soon)

The guests walked through 3 doorways decorated this way as they entered the "train" where the conductor punched their ticket.

This is what the children saw as they entered the "train"

Twinkle lights strung across the ceiling held silver strands of "icicles" to give the illusion of falling snow.
They entered the child-sized buffet line through this train tunnel.

The centerpieces were changed a bit as we realized they looked better nested in a bowl of snow. We snipped a bit of pine branch from outside to add some dimension and color.

As the soundtrack played "Hot Chocolate!" silver urns of it were wheeled in and the hot chocolate bar, complete with bowls and bowls of toppings, was unveiled.

Check out this edible train that held the cheese and fruit on the buffet! The chef constructed it from melons, pineapples, and various other fruits and veggies. Piled around it were mounds of cheese cube "snow".

The children occupied themselves with cookie decorating and Polar express activity sheets before and after the meal as well as writing a letter to Santa. They decorated the envelopes and sent them away in the mailbox provided.

Finally, they settled down to view the movie as they cuddled up with pillows and blankets on the floor.

As the end of the movie approached, each child was given a silver bell (see the planning stage above), gift wrapped in candy cane striped paper just as Santa's gift to the boy is revealed on screen. Each of them held the bell up to their ears and proclaimed, "I believe" which was inscribed on the tag. I recommend waiting until the end for this as we did, because it all fell apart at this point! Kids began to run around ringing the bells but the evening was nearly over and it was a good transition to get ready to leave.

I hope this helps you plan your own Polar Express Party!


Girl's Day Out

aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh....That is how I feel once the door opens to my monthly girl's day. I decompress, and soak up all that lovely estrogen - storing some away to get me through the football banquet tonight. All is right with the world until it's time to pack it up and head out to catch the bus and dive back into daily life.

As usual, we had more planned than we had time for, but we were able to plan our first annual Soul Sister's Christmas Party and Secret Santa. This is the deal, we all filled out a questionnaire with the following questions:

Tell me about YOU! Name ____________________

What is your favorite…
If you could visit anyplace, where would it be?
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you take with you?
What is your secret indulgence, guilty pleasure?
Shirt size ___________
Ring size____________

Then folded them up to draw a name. The rules of the exchange are as follows...You must make something for your gift using things you already have in your craft room or spend no more than $10 for supplies. Bring it wrapped for the exchange when your Secret will be revealed!

We will also wrap a cookie exchange into it and bring along 1 dozen cookies for each person to exchange.

Next, we had our "color consult" as marzipan mom beautified us and hooked us up with her fantastic array of Mary Kay products. Have you been looking for a Mary Kay consultant? Look no further...just click here and drop her a line.

Finally, joybeadworks set us all up to assemble a vase to force paper white bulbs. They should pop up in the next 6 weeks, just as we're in need of something pretty.
We chose from an array of containers and filled the bottom with small gravel stones. We nested several bulbs into the stones then topped with some spanish moss.

Tie on a bow and add some water to begin forcing the bulb and you're done!


Roasted Chicken Thighs with Faux Whipped Potatoes

I had a great photo of this meal but alas, I've lost it. Maybe it's mixed into the sea of random photos in computer-land.

This chicken marinade is from celebrity Chef Christina Ferrare, and is quite tasty. The recipe is meant for roast chicken, but I've adapted it so that I could use thighs.

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice

Whisk together and pour over chicken pieces and let marinate for about 1 hour. Remove from the marinade and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes.

Also, it's that time of the year again...holiday snacking and parties. Did you know the average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone(according to the Caloric Control Council.) That can equal a weight gain of 7-10 pounds over the holiday season! So, this is when I begin to try to make healthier choices for our everyday meals.

These "Faux Whipped Potatoes" are just the ticket. Simply, steam a head of cauliflower cut into florets.

Transfer the cauliflower into the bowl of your food processor and add

2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 - 1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper
a pinch of nutmeg

Pulse, adding more milk as necessary until a creamy consistency. This can be eaten as whipped potatoes alone or mixed with whipped potatoes. Bon appetite!


Close Encounters of the Bug Kind OR How to Make a Football Player Scream Like a Girl

Though it's 37 degrees and spitting snow this week, last week was our Indian Summer and the nights were in the sixties. My big football player boys were playing night ball (since it's dark at 5:30!) when one of them spotted a "stick" that was moving on the kitchen window.

Boys and bugs go hand-in-hand so they all wanted a closer look at the "walking stick" insect, or Carousius Morosus (click here to learn more about these interesting insects.)

So, like a good mom, I got it down with an ABC workbook for closer inspection. It pulled it's front legs together and over it's head and stayed perfectly still while in stick mode. When one of the boys reached for it, it suddenly came alive.

This is how it went down..."Look, look! It's walking! Look, it wants to crawl on my hand! Ha, ha, look at me!! It's crawling up my arm!"

Now the walking stick is approaching the back of his neck. This is the last photo I was able to take because there was suddenly a shriek of pure terror. The mayhem this little walking stick caused, when it brushed the back of my little tough guy's neck, could only be equaled by spiders descending onto a cheerleaders' convention. There was a garbled "aaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE" that rose to a fevered pitch only heard by neighborhood dogs with lots of hopping and frantic swatting. I had to save the poor thing, those kids had lost it!

So, lesson learned, don't let strange bugs crawl up your arm unless you're man enough to take it.

Speaking of sticks, I ordered the most fantastic earrings from Nectar this week. Now, these sticks are perfectly harmless and lovely. When they brush your neck you will smile and love them even more.


Thanksgiving Wine Charm Tutorial

More about the secret project later when I'm able to unveil properly. In the meantime, it's time to think about Thanksgiving. As the days get closer, you can join my preparations as I post my calendar and recipes.

Now is the time for the extra touches since we aren't in a time crunch yet. I've decided to kill two birds with one stone this year and make personalized wine tags that can double as place cards.

For supplies, you will need a leaf template
Shrinky dink plastic
Hole punch
Colored pencils
Toaster oven
Hoop earring blanks (found in any craft store)

Print out your template and place the shrinky dink plastic over top, shiny side up. Trace the shape with your Sharpie, then print the guests name in the center.

Using the hole punch, punch a hole for the hoop to slide through later.

Cut out the shape then color the rough side with colored pencils, acrylic paint also works for a more intense color (water it down a bit)

Place onto a piece of parchment and pop into a 300 degree oven for about 1 minute as it shrinks then let cool. You can press it flat with the bottom of a drinking glass if you'd like, but I like the edges curling a bit for this leaf shape.

Thread the hoop earring into the hold and place onto the stem of your wine glasses before you set the table. Cheers!

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Secret Project

I'm working on a secret project, you know one of those "wild hairs". I can't go into detail yet, but I promise to come clean very soon with lots of photos.


Polar Express Pajama Party

One of my passions is party planning. I am on the social committee at our club to have an outlet for this love of planning. It's a good way to plan all my parties without footing the bill.

Since Polar Express is a great winter theme, I thought I'd begin sharing some of our plans and ideas here.

Above is the flyer that was distributed via email as an invitation, my co-planner is a whiz on the computer.

I've been cutting and collecting many, many snowflakes for the decorations. My plan is to make the entrance look like the children are walking into a blizzard - the North Pole. I will layer the snowflakes, paper chains, and these round balls that resemble snowballs with white twinkle lights. I do this in my own home around the holidays and it results in a magical, glowing snowstorm. I will take photos once we've decorated the room to give an example of what I mean. In the meantime, have you seen the movie Elf? Buddy decorates the department store in much the same way.

Next, each child needed to leave with a favor as a souvenier of the party. We collected giant jingle bells and attached a tag to each one. The tag reads "Do you believe?" It is ripped on the edges and burned with a match for an authentic look. Tied with a green grosgrain ribbon it is suitable for hanging on the Christmas tree.

The children will decorate cookies cut in the shape of trains and write a letter to Santa.

Envelopes will be provided, as will a "mailbox", so the children can "mail" their letter right away.

All of the food will be served on a mini-buffett that will be constructed of a table with the legs folded propped up by boxes. Once it is covered with a tablecloth, it simply looks like a kid-sized table. This is strictly kid-zone, mac & cheese, veggie sticks, PB & J, pizza...

Table centerpieces will be assembled using a fishbowl shaped vessel placed upside down over a ceramic train sprinkled with faux snow. The effect is a train snowglobe. I will get a better photo at the event, but here is a quick example.

Finally, the children will be treated to a hot chocolate bar, Polar Express style! A hot chocolate bar will be unveiled prior to viewing the movie with lots of garnishes: candy canes, chocolate chips, whipped cream, sprinkles, m&m's, marshmallows...and liquors for the adults. After their drink, they will snuggle in with their jammies and blankets to watch Polar Express on the big screen.

As all of this comes together I will continue to post photos. In the meantime, this should get you started planning your own Polar Express party.

Your Skin Fix, December Edition