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This Irish Family’s Christmas Mix

christmas mixIf you’re following ThisIrishFamily on Instagram you know I posted a photo of our Christmas Mix on Sunday.  It’s Tuesday now – there isn’t a chance of it lasting the week!

And let’s be honest- the kids can’t reach it…

Christmas is as much about food as it is about giving.

I spend more time baking in December than I do the remaining 11 months of the year combined.  And since I am not a HUGE baker, I don’t stray to far from the Christmas cookies I grew up baking.  But every so often a new recipe comes my way- something virtually fool proof.   And since Christmas Mix is actually assembly mores than baking it is fool proof.

Before I launch into the ‘recipe’ to assemble Christmas Mix.  I have to give  all the credit to my neighbour back home, Mrs. E.

Mrs E is the neighbour across the street from where I grew up.  She’s one of those hallmarks of my childhood that I never paid much attention too until I was old & wise enough to realise neighbours like that are worth cherishing.  She is just one of the best.

You don’t have to look too hard around the house at home to see her presence.   Even here in Ireland we all have a handmade fleece blanket from her.  Those that are the special kind of gifts that were carry-on only when we flew home with each of them.  Over the years she made sure mom got a break from us kids by hosting craft classes or attending local craft fairs and she was always around to keep a watchful eye on us. Our visits with her every time we go home to NY are so special to us that  ThisIrishGirl sent Mrs E her own Christmas card this year.

So all of this is to say a big thank-you to Mrs E for the part she has played in ThisIrishFamily’s Christmas traditions and also to encourage everyone reading this who may a life long neighbour –  be sure to call in for a cup of tea with them this Christmas.

Now….let’s get to it.


Christmas Mix:

*disclaimer: this is our ‘recipe’ that uses no measurements- I’ve put some idea of quantities down but you really can’t go wrong

1) In the biggest bowl you’ve got mix:

  • a festive crowd pleasing treat Christmas mix4-6 cups Shreddies (I used the Aldi brand)
  • 1-2 bags M&Ms (or the cheap knock-off from you know where)
  • 1-2 bags salted peanuts
  • 1 bag of pretzels (if they are sticks I break them).

2) Melt 4-5 bars of white chocolate (the cooking chocolate is easiest)

3) Once melted stir the chocolate into the big bowl and make sure it coats all the good stuff.  Spread it all out on sheets of baking paper.

You have to work fast here and mix it before the chocolate starts to harden.

festive treat everyone will love Christmas Mix

4) Let the chocolate harden and then break into pieces.

You can put it in the fridge to speed up the process but its not necessary.

5) Store in an air tight container.

Share with your friends, OR, eat it all yourself-but remember it IS Christmas.

Try it and tag us on Instagram & tell us what you think.

 

**  Disclaimer: there are about 1000 different recipes for this with 100 different names on line but we call it Christmas Mix-  possibly to remind us to ONLY make it at Christmas or else we would make it EVERY DAY!!

Family Life

3 Simple Christmas Traditions for the Whole Family

3 Simple Christmas Traditions

 

I absolutely love this time of year.  Christmas time is full of memories and traditions.  There are so many Christmas traditions in our house- but the ones that make us all smile are the most simple.

December is full of nonstop fun with visits to Santa, trips to the panto,  parties,  meeting up with friends,  I love ALL of it.

There is another side to Christmas though-  the stress of a never ending to do list. The pressure of wanting to make the holiday great for the whole family.

Stressful or not it is our traditions that bring us together as a family.  Some of those traditions take time and hard-work, but through the years we have found that it is the SIMPLEST of traditions that bring the most joy.

1)  Christmas Lights Tour

simple christmas tradition christmas light tourGrowing up in Upstate NY we went each year to the local ‘Lights on the Lake’ where you drove a few miles to look at Christmas light installments.  I haven’t found anything similar in Cork so we improvised and have come up with one of our easiest, most fun traditions.  One night every year around now- when the weather is dry- we get the kids all cosy in their pyjamas and ready for bed.  Once they are all tucked in and we have said goodnight we rush back into their bedrooms, toss back the covers, throw on slippers and rush them down the stairs and into a warm and cozy car!!  The kids at this point are squeeling with delight- we spend the next hour driving around singing Chistmas songs, checking out lights and eating Christmas cookies.

2)  A Christmas Eve Present

I spent my childhood (ok let’s be honest my ENTIRE LIFE) begging my mom and dad to let me open JUST ONE Christmas present on Christmas Eve.  JUST ONE!!  Every year they would reply the same “when it’s your house and your traditions you can open one but we don’t open presents on Christmas Eve.”

christmas eve present simple traditions

Well now it IS my house and OUR traditions so you bet there is a present opened on Christmas Eve!!!  In our house on Christmas Eve the children exchange their presents with each other.  (I totally stole this from my sister after spending Christmas with them one year before I even had kids of my own.)  Christmas eve tends to be that bit more relaxing and quiet for us.  We have a chance to slow down and the kids are entirely present as they give and receive their gifts to each other.  The undivided attention coupled with the excitement of the first gift of Christmas is a guaranteed win. Each year the kids love this tradition of exchanging gifts.  Their gifts for each other don’t get loss in the mayhem Christmas morning and they are guaranteed to share a sweet moment together.

3)  The Waiting…

Our kids aren’t allowed downstairs until the entire family is awake and ready.  Once everyone is up the kids sit not so patiently at the top of the stairs while mom and dad have a minute to wake up and grab a cup of coffee ( & the camera).  As the excitement builds we position ourselves perfectly so we can catch that magic moment when they first see Santa has been.  We also take turns opening presents so we can see what Santa brings everyone.  The waiting helps add to the excitement and make the morning last even just a few minutes longer.

 

We love those simple family traditions-  we also love the ‘harder’ traditions like baking and wrapping etc.  We love having so many traditions but the easy ones are the best by far.

Leave a comment with your favourite tradition!

 

 

 

Family Life

Elf on the Shelf ideas in 60 seconds or less

Elf on the Shelf in 60 Seconds

It’s getting to be that time of year again!! I love Christmas and ALL the traditions that go with it.

These years of magic when the kids are little are short lived so I love making the most of it.

That being said I do have a  love/hate relationship with Elf on the Shelf or as he’s known in this house…Bruno.

Bruno came to us when ThisIrishGirl was 1.  In fact we hauled him back from the US (along with a few others for friends) before they were readily available across Ireland.

I love Bruno for the little bit of magic he brings to the house every morning in December.

I hate Bruno because at least 5 times a week I end up making a mad dash out of my warm bed in the darkness of night to move him.

So this year I plan on setting a nightly alarm on my phone to remind us and have put in a bit of forward planning.

After extensive research on Pinterest I have come to the conclusion that I don’t have enough annual leave left this year in work to pull off ANY of that so I’ve come up with some ideas to pull off  the Elf on the Shelf  in 60 seconds or less:

  1. For the big arrival on 1 December Bruno is bringing with him Christmas activity books I found at Aldi  (I’m trying these in lieu of Advent calendars this year)  I also really like the idea of the elf brining breakfast with Christmas cereal bowls.
  2. Hiding in the fridge
  3. Slumber party with the dolls on the doll bunk beds
  4. Staring out from the washing machine  (I might do this twice only because it gets me out of laundry for the day right!)
  5. Squeezed into a glass in the press
  6. Taking Barbie for a spin in the Barbie car
  7. A fun message on the white board
  8. Holding onto the medicine dispenser next to the Calpol (this was a hit last year when the kids were sick) if we have a few spare minutes we’ll add the thermometer and a bunched up tissues.
  9. Climbing the ladder on the fire truck
  10. Having a cup of tea with the tea set
  11. Building with legos
  12. Hanging off the rear view mirror in the car
  13. Reading a bed time story to teddies
  14. Drawing silly faces on framed photos with dry erase marker
  15. Sitting in the Christmas wreath
  16. Driving Santa’s sleigh – a Christmas decoration
  17. Hiding behind Captain America’s shield and/or fighting with some Ninja Turtles
  18. Whispering into Santa’s ear
  19. Calling Santa on the toy phone

That takes care of most of the month with some opportunity for us to get creative on a few other nights- if we have the time and maybe after a glass or two of mulled wine!

AND if you are more ambitious or have more time check out ThisIrishFamily on Pinterest where I’ve pinned plenty of ideas….none of which I will probably ever do myself!!!

Have any other 60 seconds or less E.O.T.S. ideas for me?  Leave a comment and let me know.

Family Life

Falling for Autumn: 5 Reasons to Love this time of Year

Falling for Autumn 5 reasons to love this time of yearI have always loved the Fall.  Give me crisp evenings, snuggly jumpers and boots over heat and flip flops any day.   I’m not too sure where my love for all things autumnal comes from.   It could be from my days in Marching Band where I spent chilly fall nights marching on a football field.  Or maybe it is because Upstate NY is one of the most beautiful places on earth in the Fall  (I dragged ThisIrishDad and his family home to get married during one autumn).  Who knows,  my entire life I have loved all this time of year.

I could go on and on about all the things I love about this time of year but instead  I’ve recapped 5 of my favourite things about Autumn (although it’s really hard to chose five):

Sports Under the Lights

Whether its American Football ‘Friday Night Lights’ style or catching an evening  Munster match there is something special about watching any sport under the lights.  Autumn is a HUGE time for sport and  going to sporting events with the family is always fun.  And if you don’t feel like venturing out there are always plenty of sports on television to watch this time of year!

Roaring Fires

Nothing beats coming home to a roaring fire on a chilly day.  It’s when you smell fire in the air that you know Autumn has finally arrived.  It’s taken me almost a decade to really hone my fire starting skills in Ireland, but now I can’t imagine life without an open fire or stove.

Slow Cooker Chilli

What else is there to eat while watching sports sitting by the fire but Chilli! It easily serves a crowd and can be made as spicy (or as bland) as the kids will eat it!  We love the slow cooker in this house and it really comes into it’s own in the Fall with recipes like chilli, soups and stews.  Slow cookers let you enjoy a healthy family dinner even if you choose to be lazy on the couch or outside running through the leaves for the day!! By the way my go to for slow cooking is Stephanie at http://www.ayearofslowcooking.com   (she cooked for an entire year using only a slow cooker & she has a ton of easy recipes) but really the beauty of  a slow cooker is you don’t even need a recipe!

Pumpkins!!

ThisIrishDad Pumpkin Carving

Every September America is taken over by pumpkins!  There is  pumpkin in everything and I love it all!!! While it hasn’t quite caught on as much in Ireland I still love baking pumpkin bread, sipping pumpkin spiced lattes and of course  enjoying pumpkin pie (I also search hard for pumpkin ale).  By the way if you get your hands on tinned pumpkin puree (sometimes Aldi/Lidl stock it) shoot me an email I have one thousand recipes you need to try!!! (and if you spot it anywhere definitely let me know where so I can go buy it all).

Of course we can’t forget carving pumpkins at Halloween!!!   It wasn’t until he met me that ThisIrishDad carved his first pumpkin – and he has upped his game year after year.  We’ve fallen into our own pumpkin carving roles in our family and goes a little like this:

TheseIrishKids:  idea & concept

ThisIrishMom:  cleaning pumpkin insides and the all important pumpkin seed roasting

ThisIrishDad:  carving for hours to create the masterpiece of the year

Want my very secret pumpkin seed roasting recipe??? click here.

Apple Picking

applepicking

I searched high and low for years as to where we could go apple picking in Ireland.  And I have to give a shout out to one of my favourite places the Apple Farm in Cahir, Co Tipp.  The Apple Farm is open for pick your own apples the October Bank holiday weekend.  There is nothing that says Fall like Apple picking.  Hot apple cider, apple crisp, apple sauce……apple everything!!!

The Jazz

Autumn in Cork wouldn’t be complete without the Cork Guinness Jazz Festival in October!  Like most parents of young kids ‘the jazz’ has changed for us over the years.  ThisIrishBoy can’t hear a beat without starting to move so going ‘jazzing’ with the kids has become one of  my favourite ThisIrishFamily Autumn traditions.   We usually wonder around town on the Saturday afternoon and listen to some of the street jazz before heading over to the gigs in the Metropole Hotel. If you haven’t done the Jazz with the kids you’re totally missing out!

 

I could go on and on about everything else I love,  scarves, boots, walking on fallen leaves etc etc and maybe I will over the next few weeks but if you have a favourite autumn thing we should be doing drop me a comment and let me know!!

 

Also follow ThisIrishFamily on IG here and check out all the other awesome fall things we’re getting up to!

Family Life

Week 1 is Done!

First Day of School

Hooray for Friday!!!!

We survived our week one of school this year-  just about anyway- but I still feel like celebrating.

One week down how many until midterm?

I had the very best of intentions to hit the ground running and all that.

Tuesday we all had a lovely hot breakfast together as a family.  It was a complete chilled out nourishing breakfast before first day photos & piling into the car.  After school we skipped into the door and I was delighted to be back into the routine.  With the start of school, life would once again become  normal bed times and well balanced meals!

Well balanced prepared meals that were still rock solid frozen in the freezer.  OOOPS!

Day 1 of a new school year and we were already eating takeaway.

By Wednesday morning a hot family breakfast was a dream and with a birthday in the house there was plenty of birthday cake and sugar consumed that evening….but we were reasonably close to bedtime and hadn’t exactly eaten takeaway so lets consider that a win.

By Thursday I figured out we had the completely wrong religion book and was now on my third attempt to source the correct one. Thank god Friday was tracksuit day because who has time for laundry.

And here we are on Friday with the sun shining, another religion book on its way and the weekend stretched out before us.  AND I have finally managed to put a home cooked, ‘balanced’ meal on the table.

meatloaf

So week one wasn’t our best start.

No one starved at least.

Next week I’ll arm myself with a meal plan and fire up the slow cooker.

8 weeks till midterm.

Family Life

Top 10 Tips for Flying with Kids this Summer

Want to make flying with the kids easier this summer? Check out these 10 tips for flying with children.

Having a family abroad requires a certain amount of commitment to flying home.  Regularly.

Princess M’s first transatlantic flight was when she was 13 weeks old.

The Prince flew even sooner than that.

We are incredibly lucky (and perhaps a bit broke) that at least some of us have been able to fly to the US nearly twice a year.    Our kids are great flyers- practice does make perfect. .

In all honesty they are probably better flyers than me. I like to think my husband and I had some role in this since you know we are AMAZING parents who get EVERYTHING right.

Anyway we have a few tricks we rely on:

  1. Booking early, or beg at check-in:  I won’t lie,  when it comes to traveling with a family of 5 we try to do it as cheap as possible.  Who doesn’t. We hold no allegiances to any particular airline.  While there are a few things I won’t do (like sit in JFK for 8 hours when I could drive to Syracuse in less than 6), for the most part we try to get the cheapest tickets available.  Sometimes this means booking way early and sometimes it actually has meant grabbing last-minute deals.  If you can book early book online and then CALL the airline and explain to them you are travelling with young children….especially if you need the bassinet seat.  Even if you don’t need a bassinet try to get that seat.  There is a bit more leg room.  There is also bound to be other young families near by. Misery does love company. For times we can’t book early we try to check in as early as possible and beg for any better seats or more space if possible.  For the most part airlines are happy to accommodate when they can but you need to get their early.  For the times when it has just been myself and the kids I can’t say enough how helpful people have been but you need to ask.
  2. Cuteness Counts:  Let’s be honest we all know people are far more tolerant of a crying baby/toddler when they are cute. So try to keep this in mind when choosing your child’s travel clothes.  However,  cuteness should not trump comfort, or functionality…especailly when travelling with a newly toilet trained child. A word of caution:  be prepared to possibly toss an outfit…we had the worst blow out of our life while waiting in the security line at Dulles Airport. By the time we made it to a bathroom outfit number 1 went straight into the bin.  Some outfits, no matter how cute,  just aren’t worth saving.
  3. Liquids & Gels:  Put EVERYONE’S liquids/gels in 1-2 bags. Consider stashing another bag inside the liquids to hold all your passports and boarding cards.  At security you’re only whipping out 1-2 bags and have everything you need leaving more time to struggle with collapsing the buggy/stroller while holding a baby and/or cornering a toddler.
  4. More Ziplocs!!!!:  I might be obsessed with these.  Of course we all have to have them these days but there use goes way beyond liquids and gels. Pack complete spare outfits in their own individual Ziploc bags to minimize rummaging through your bags to find spare socks and onesies when a dreaded blow out occurs. Conveniently store dirty clothes in the now empty Ziploc.
  5. Find grandparents:  You know the ones…white hair, smiling at you from afar even though the rest of the gate may be looking at you as though you were travelling with Satan himself. Find them.  Sit next to them.  Indulge them in listening to the stories of their own grandchildren and then…sit back and let them go all goo-goo-gaa-gaa over your kid. Kids are drawn to grandparents and you need to catch our breath for just a minute before you board.
  6. “Repack” before boarding: Take 5 minutes to restructure your bags so that everything you will for sure need in flight is in one bag if possible at your feet.  Surely you won’t need ALL the extra bottles or sets of clothes so throw them above you and just be sure everything you are 100% likely to need is at your feet. There is nothing worse than needing a bottle or your toddler crying for that one toy that is in the bag above you and you have to wait for the bloody fasten seat-belt sign to go off
  7. Bottle Feeding:  If you are currently bottle feeding and plan on flying with bottles already filled with water (in Ziplocs of course) over fill the bottles and expect an ounce or two of spillage.  We learned this the hard way when we opened bottles mid-flight to find out every single one spilled under the cabin pressure.  Since then we’ve stuck to bringing bottled water (be careful of the sodium content) and filling as needed.  Also plan ahead for delays or cancellations and make sure you have enough.
  8. Arm yourself with snacks:  Forget trying to be “parent of the year” and just plan on surviving.  Miss M ate 4 boxes of raisins during one 6 hour flight just because it kept her happy.  I don’t remember her having anything that resembled a meal that whole day.  She was fine.  Of course I had healthy choices to hand but I won’t lie she pretty much existed on raisins and chocolate buttons while in transit.
  9. The power of “presents” When they are old enough to need entertaining the fun really starts.  Hit up a pound shop or dollar store and find little toys and wrap them!!!! Or even consider withholding a few small toys from them in the weeks to the trip and wrap those…they’ll be like new treasures to them.  The second it’s wrapped it makes it a present and what kid doesn’t love birthdays and Christmas.  We’ve done, mini magnadoodles, crayons, stickers and paper, books, magic paint books etc.  Plan out your trip and try not to offer all the presents in the first hour.  Also look for the fun in any thing…Mr. R once spent a solid 30 minutes learning to master pulling open and closing the sports top on my water bottle.
  10. Expect blood, sweat and tears: Well hopefully not blood.  But sweat and tears definitely.  You will sweat and the kid will cry…you might cry too. That’s ok.  Dress in layers yourself. Before I was a parent flying made me cold, now I’m constantly too warm and sweating.  And yes, your kids will cry. They’re kids they do that.  Just be prepared for it and do whatever it takes to get through it.  (Unless that’s inadvertently walking past the no re-entry beyond this point with screaming child and without passports and boarding cards).  Now isn’t the time to be using text-book parenting techniques to curb future tantrums.  Kids get overstimulated, jet lagged, tired and uncomfortable…seriously just get everyone through every bout of crying whatever it takes.  Be sure not to get so consumed with your screaming child & people staring at you that you forget your whereabouts or miss important flight information!!

And lastly,  be prepared that kids aren’t everyone’s cup of tea.   I shamefully will admit my husband and (pre-baby) I sitting on more than one flight holding our breaths as a screaming infant headed our way only to let out a sigh of relief as they went past.

Shameful I know. There must be some bad travel karma heading our way for this terrible behaviour.

As much as possible ignore these people. You will never see them again.

and when all else fails, have a beer

and when all else fails, have a beer

 

Do you have any tried and true tips for travelling with kids?