The Christmas of sickness

I don’t think it’s ever happened to us around Christmas before, but we’ve had a lot of this:

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And this:

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I think everyone is finally on the mend now (and so far I haven’t gotten sick), but whatever this bug is, it is slooooow to leave (at least, once it develops into pneumonia and bronchitis!).

Fortunately, on Christmas morning, everyone did feel well enough to open gifts.

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Something that makes my heart happy: the genuine excitement all four of our kids have over giving gifts to each other and watching each other open presents.

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It actually seems to supersede their excitement over opening their own gifts, and I’m so grateful for that.  It’s not that they lack enthusiasm over their own gifts or anything…just that giving has seemed to naturally become slightly more exciting.

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Pretty sure my favorite thing is this adorable All-Clad 2 quart saucepan.

I love it.  And I might be drumming up reasons to use it.

“Anyone want some soup?  Cream of Wheat?  Oatmeal??  Anyone??”

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Katy texted me to ask if the velvet gift bags were out (but of course!), so I sent her photographic proof.

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Sonia and Zoe felt well enough for a while to try out Zoe’s new window markers.  Sonia bought them for her a few months ago when she and I found them on clearance at the grocery store.  ;)

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And I made caramel monkey bread for breakfast, though appetites were small.

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Joshua got some art supplies, which are pretty much his favorite thing, I think.

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(He’s artsy with his camera too! See today’s 52 Project post from him.)

As per usual, we spent the day in our pjs, which, let’s be honest, is how pretty much every day has been here during the plague’s residence.

For dinner, Mr. FG and I made crepes together, as is our tradition.

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We ate them with fruit and whipped cream and chocolate pudding.

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Plus sparkling juice (from Aldi, of course) and sausage from a local farm.

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It’s not exactly traditional, but it’s our tradition, and I like it.  Tasty, a little unconventional, and so little work for me, which means that I get to spend Christmas Day relaxing, not cooking.

Despite the sickness, the six of us had a delightful day here together.  I love my people.

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Moving on from Christmas…my house has fallen into a state of disarray (I handily blame it on the plague.), so I’m gonna try to whip it back into shape this week before school starts again next week.

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Any of you want to join me?  I’ll blog about my progress this week (because organizing/decluttering is way more fun when you get to share your results) and we can cheer each other on.

Or you can just have fun looking at the messes in my house.

The four main things I need to work on are the office (see above), the laundry room, the kitchen, and Sonia/Zoe’s room.  I’m probably the least inspired about the kitchen (I am positive I’m gonna find some food waste in my fridge what with all the sickness!), so I’m committing to tackle that first.  Wish me luck!

Reindeer and Snowmen (well, cupcake versions, anyway.)

Sometimes the best-laid plans get derailed.  And boy, a lot of things have gotten derailed this last week at my house!

holiday cupcake ideas

Here was the plan: Aldi had a holiday blogger program this month that didn’t work out for me for a number of reasons, so as an alternative, I suggested that I use the gift certificates they sent me to have a cupcake decorating party with my kids and some friends.

cupcake party

Except that when said decorating party falls on the week when plague is at your house, you might decide that your friends would be more blessed by NOT decorating cupcakes in your germy abode.

I kept thinking we’d all be better before Christmas, but that clearly is not gonna happen. So yesterday, my kids and I made cupcakes (fortunately, they were all feeling well enough to participate.)

cupcake party

And hey, there are four kids that live here, so, you know, it’s sort of like a small (ok, very small) party.

But!

If your house isn’t infected with noxious germs, you could obviously make this idea into a party.

And of course, if you live in the Land of No Aldi (I’m so sorry for you!!), you can buy all your ingredients at a regular grocery store.

I made the chocolate cupcakes that Lisey and I always make for our cute cupcake adventures.

chocolate cupcakes

Aldi doesn’t carry cupcake liners year round but they do around most major holidays.

aldi cupcake liners

Keep an eye out for clearanced liners after the holidays, by the way! My Aldi is pretty much sold out of them at this point, but your Aldi might have some left to mark down after Christmas.

aldi baking cups

The good thing about chocolate cupcakes is that they obscure the liner almost entirely (the chocolate is so dark, the liner appears dark on the sides), so you can use liners from the wrong holiday with no problems.

cook's illustrated chocolate cupcakes

Though obviously I had seasonally appropriate liners this go-round.  ;)

Initially, we had plans to make three different kinds of cupcakes: Santas, reindeer, and snowmen.

Since it ended up being a small shindig, though, we opted for just two kinds.

However!

You can read all about how to make adorable Santa cupcakes over on Lisey’s blog, since she and I made those last Christmas.

ow to make santa cupcakes

Of course, you need some reindeer cupcakes to go with the Santa cupcakes.  You’ll use these three things:

reindeer cupcake ingredients

plus chocolate frosting, mini chocolate chips, and mini marshmallows.

Incidentally, am I the only one who thinks Nilla wafers are ridiculously expensive?  Every now and then I notice them in a regular grocery store and they’re sometimes pushing $5 a box.

Save your dollars and buy ‘em at Aldi, I say! The pretzels and M&Ms are from Aldi as well.

(Do you know why Aldi carries brand name M&Ms?  It’s because they haven’t been able to find a supplier who can make a good generic version, so they opt for the brand name rather than sacrifice quality.  Same is true for Pringles and Twizzlers. #AldiNerd)

Ok!

So, you’ll frost a cupcake with chocolate buttercream, add a Nilla wafer for a nose, and use a bit of frosting to secure an M&M to the wafer.  We used red, but your reindeer can have brown noses too, of course.  Then add mini pretzels for antlers.

reindeer cupcakes from Aldi

For the eyes, we had to do a bit of figuring.

The original recipe suggested mint M&Ms with a dot of chocolate frosting, but I couldn’t find white M&Ms anywhere.

So, we cut mini marshmallows in half, cut a hole in the middle of the marshmallow, and inserted an upside-down mini chocolate chip.

reindeer

Aldi used to carry mini chocolate chips only around the holidays, but they are a year-round item at my store now. This makes my kids very happy because they love to mix in mini chocolate chips to whatever they happen to be baking.

Brownies, muffins, pancakes…it doesn’t matter.  They all get chocolate-chipped!

And Lisey and I have found that mini chocolate chips are very very handy when you need eyes on various cupcakes.

(See the Santas above!)

So, snowmen.

how to make snowman cupcakes

These are really simple to make….white buttercream frosting, chocolate chips, M&Ms and Twizzlers.

If you want your white frosting to be super white, leave out the vanilla.  If you’re more concerned about flavor, add the vanilla, and your snowmen will be a slightly warmer shade of white.

You can buy clear vanilla for this purpose, but I never think of it in time!

The snowman inspiration I found online used black licorice, so I bought Aldi’s variety.

Aldi black licorice

But the pieces are short and round, so we did not have success turning these into hats.  Fortunately, I’d bought Twizzlers when I was at Aldi as well, so our snowmen just ended up having red hats. ;)

80s snowman

(When Zoe started decorating this one, I thought the single band of red looked like an 80’s sweatband.)

snowmen cupcakes

Mini chocolate chips served as eyes and mouths, and for the noses, I chopped orange M&Ms in half.  The original recipe called for candy-coated sunflower seeds, but this is a much cheaper (and more delicious!) option.

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My kids were split about which cupcakes were more fun to decorate, so Zoe helpfully suggests that you just make both kinds.  ;)

kids cupcakes

And you could certainly throw in the Santas as well.

holiday cupcake ideas

Have a lovely Christmas Eve, everyone. I’ll be over here, trying to stay well (not sick yet!!) and trying to get my kiddos back to health, and hopefully we’ll all feel good enough to enjoy the day tomorrow.

Large thanks to Aldi for the gift certificates and for making food so delightfully affordable.