Family Traditions

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I love December–it’s my birthday month and I do enjoy Christmas. (although Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday)

I grew up with a mom who liked Christmas–her mom died the day before my 9th birthday and they played the Christmas song Winter Wonderland for her because she loved it so much. But my dad HATED Christmas. Hated it. He would miss family dinners and pretty much hide out until it was over, which wasn’t fun for my brothers and I.

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Of course, I grew up and married someone who hates Christmas. So the boys stay with me for Christmas each year and spend Thanksgiving with their dad. But my sweet husband likes celebrating. He also prefers Thanksgiving but loves doing fun things together and loves making my birthday special and loves seeing the boys’ faces on Christmas morning.

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For years we’ve gone to his parents’ house, but its five hours away. We have a great time and it’s good to get some Grandparent time in, but this is our first winter in this house and we love it here. We want to create special memories here and start to find out special traditions that work for our little family. So this year we are staying home.

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Last night was my big boy’s Winter music program and baby G and I went to cheer them on. In other years they were shy but not this year. They sang and danced and Peachy played the bell (Monkey was on bell duty last year) They were adorable and so proud of themselves.

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Afterwards I offered to take them to dinner. It’s been a while and they love dinners out. They couldn’t decide where they wanted to go and each one vetoed every idea the other had. I was driving in the general direction of home when I saw an option: IHOP.

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I am kind of a food snob and usually would NOT consider IHOP a viable option, but the boys have never been and what kid doesn’t like pancakes for dinner?! So we went and of course they LOVED it. We all had pancakes and bacon and eggs and hashbrowns and hot cocoa and it was a blast.

On the way home we blasted the AC/DC Pandora station and were enjoying it so much we drove around our neighborhood and the one next to ours and checked out all the cool Christmas lights. Some houses really went all out! When we got home we kept the party going and turned off all the lights and turned on the Christmas tree lights and danced around our living room to an old Iron Maiden record. As I spun around under the twinkly rainbow lights with my 3 sweet boys dancing beside me I was the happiest Mama ever.

Our lives are so hurried–rush to school, rush to finish homework and get in bed…it’s nice to just stop for a minute and enjoy each others’ company and do something different just for fun.

We still plan on baking Christmas cookies–both for us and for the children’s shelter nearby. We plan on making ornaments to add to our already-full tree. (I love unpacking each ornament from the years before) We plan on have a big Christmas Eve dinner–and we can each open one small present and a huge Christmas Day brunch and gift extravaganza.

I’m so grateful for the chance to give my babies experiences they will always remember. I still to this day dancing around under our tree with my mom and two brothers. It was Wham! and not Iron Maiden, but the feeling is the same and I know these moments are fleeting.

What traditions have YOU created with your special people?

Piñata Cake: The Verdict

Well, the piñata cake was a hit! I was so amazed and pleased when the cakes just slid right out of the bowls. They looked great!

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I let them cool overnight, then filled and frosted them Monday afternoon. We had plans to have dinner at our friends’ house and I wanted to share the sugar bomb cake with them so we wouldn’t all die from sugar shock have leftovers hanging around.

It was a little heartbreaking to carve my beautiful cakes up, I have never done that and it was a little weird. I hollowed out the bottom bowl a lot but left most of the top intact. I love cake and could care less about candy (that is not chocolate) so I wanted to leave as much cake as possible.

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Easter candy was on sale last week so before my boys went to their Papa’s for the weekend I let them pick out a few things. They chose jelly beans, mini candy bars and Angry Bird gummies. They also chose Cadbury caramel eggs but those got lost in my tummy over the weekend somehow. 😉

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Once the bottom layer was filled I added frosting to the “lip” to secure the “lid” and plopped it right on top. It was perfect.

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After doing a crumb-coat (essential when frosting any cake) and chilling for about 15 minutes I was able to quickly frost the cake and decorate with copious amounts of sprinkles. (I made a huge mess, but I had to leave it because we were in a rush to pick up the boys and head to dinner)

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When we told the boys we had dinner plans they were disappointed because they thought that meant I didn’t make the cake like I had promised. Do they not know me?! I never renege on cake!

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All the boys ate impatiently and did the obligatory post-dinner playing before demanding that we cut the cake. Their friend J had already tried the wonder that is Pinata cake because his mom is L, is my friend who gave me the recipe.

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So even though it was delicious, this will always be a cake we share with lots of other people, and probably only on special occasions. But my sweet husband and I have already discussed ways to make this type of cake less sweet and more elegant. We were thinking yellow cake filled with pretzels and homemade malted milk ice cream and topped with salted caramel ganache. It would also be fun to make it square instead of round. You could even hollow out cupcakes and put things like fortunes or tiny presents in them.

How would you make this cake less playground and more dinner party?