As we conclude the second week of Advent today, I am pleased at how well our celebrations have been going. The kids, being the little gnomes they are, have really enjoyed the focus on our natural world. They are still so firmly connected to it at ages three and five, and I think it has added a whole new level of understanding and meaning for them (and me) around these holidays.
Each morning this week they have received simple plant related gifts: a small bowl of red cherries (that they said looked like little Christmas ornaments!), an amaryllis bulb, baked apples for breakfast, a little flower fairy I made, a few other small items, and a "Little Fir Tree" like the one in the story from the Winter Wynstones book.
In past years, the items in their Advent calendar varied, but were generally in the "treat" type category. A jelly bean, a few stickers, a small toy of some type. This year, most of the "gifts" they have received really haven't been for them at all, but were special items for them to place around the creche. After two weeks, I have not heard one single complaint! They have been so joyful about putting their special tokens there for the Christmas Child. They are caught up in the spirit of giving, and they continue to find little items to give on their own.
We also enjoyed some stories about St. Nicholas this week, as Monday was St. Nicholas Day. Just like in the stories, he left the kids each some nuts and an apple in their shoes for them to find on Monday morning. We also baked my new favorite cookie, Pfeffernusse! Here's a great story to go along with that special cookie. And here's the recipe I used, too (except I omitted the Anise extract.) For gifts, (for neighbors, co-workers etc.) we'll be making some Peffernusse and printing out a small version of the story to go with each package.
We also made a batch of butter-mints. We make these every year along with peppermint bark and a few other sweet items. The buttermints are easy to make, and they kids really enjoy making their own. The "dough" they're made with is so smooth and soft, and the kids love working with it. It's really like playing with playdough for them, except it smells lovely!
Today I'll leave you with the buttermint recipe I use. Enjoy!
1/2 stick of unsalted butter, cut into slices, room temperature
1 lb organic confectioner's sugar
1 Tbsp plus 2 tsp of very cold water
pinch of salt
1/4 tsp organic peppermint oil
natural food colors (I use India Tree brand)
In a large bowl, cut butter into sugar with two knives, or your fingers. Add 1 Tbsp ice water, salt, peppermint oil. Toss with a fork. Press mixture into a ball. If it seems crumbly add more water 1 tsp at a time, until dough presses together easily. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface and knead until smooth and satiny, about 3-4 minutes. Quarter dough, then tint each quarter a different color with food coloring (use sparingly. 1-2 drops usually does it!) Roll dough into 1/2" balls and flatten them lightly with your palm (keep remaining dough covered with plastic wrap so it won't dry out.) Let set for 2-3 hours, uncovered, at room temperature. Then move them to a covered container in a cool place (where they should ripen for two days to improve flavor and make them easier to handle)before being eaten or packed to ship. They will keep at room temperature for two weeks and in the fridge for a month. Makes approx. 1 lb.
|F and his mints|