Years ago when my kids were small I read a book about making family memories. It had a lot of ideas that looked great in the book, but they didn't work for me. I am not sure why, except they weren't really in my character; if that makes sense. They were out of character for me and seemed forced or silly. I remember trying a few Christmas suggestions with my kids and when we got done we looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and went on to the next thing. What was I doing wrong?
Why wasn't I good at making memories with my kids?
The thing is, I was making memories; and they were not fond ones. As I talked with my husband about my feelings of in adequacy of making memories, he advised I toss out the book and do what I love. Share those things with my children.
I know it sounds obvious, but for some reason I didn't see it till my husband mentioned it. Do what I love with the kids. Now, that is something that got me excited.
So, I took inventory:
- I liked to read to the kids and they liked it too
- I liked to bake and the kids liked to help
- I liked to do simple practical crafts and the kids were eager to do anything that required glue or glitter
- I wanted to make memories, but I also wanted get some of my “to do” list done!
So, that year things changed. We began what was to become a 20 year tradition with me reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Dickens' A Christmas Carol aloud to all the kids. It was something we all looked forward to every year, it took no prep time and the time spent together was priceless.
I asked the kids what they wanted to bake to give away as gifts. Caramel corn was the hands-down favorite, so we made vats of caramel corn, packaged it in plastic bags and then decided it looked really plain. That's where "practical crafts" come in.
One of the older boys had received a cute reindeer gift bag made from a brown lunch sack the year before, so we found it and we set up an assembly line making lots of little brown reindeer bags. It was fun and practical. After packing the caramel corn into the bags, we delivered the gifts to family friends, Sunday school teachers and neighbors, thus checking off lots of Christmas visits and gifts at the same time. It was a tradition we did for years and we made some wonderful memories.
So, if you want to make fun memories with your kids; take inventory:
- What do you like to do?
- What do you need to do?
Then go for it. Have fun and enjoy the process. It will probably be messy [Did I mention that making caramel corn and reindeer bags are both very sticky?] but worth it. The memories you make and the traditions you begin will be stored in the hearts of your family members for years and perhaps be repeated for generations to come.
I thought I would include our fantastic caramel corn recipe [below] for those who are interested. It is pretty easy and is the best I have ever tasted.
Take care and Merry Christmas,
Never Fail Caramel Corn
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees.
Pop enough popcorn to make 6-7 quarts. I like to use a hot air popper. Butter 2 large cake or jelly-roll pans or a roasting pan and put popcorn in there. Put pans in the warm oven.
Tip: Don't put in any unpopped kernels. I usually put the popped corn in a big bowl, shake a little so the unpopped corn goes to the bottom, then scoop the fluffy corn into the buttered pan (s).
Combine the following and cook over low heat in a saucepan until the butter melts and you can stir all the ingredients together. Then, turn the heat up to medium and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes [stirring occasionally].
- 2 sticks butter [1 Cup]
- 2 Cupa brown sugar
- ½ Cup white corn syrup
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
Remove from heat and add to the sauce:
- 1/2 tsp baking soda [The mixture will foam while you are stirring in the baking soda]:
Take the popcorn out of the oven and while the sauce is foaming pour it over the popped corn. Stir well to coat popcorn. Bake at 200 degrees for 1 hour. I stir once after about 30 minutes. While it is baking, lay out several sheets of waxed paper on a flat surface. When done, remove and pour out onto waxed paper to cool. It will get crisp as it cools.
Note: The secret to good caramel corn is to keep popcorn hot and crisp until you pour sauce over and be sure to remove all un-popped kernels before the pouring sauce over it. It is best to use air popped corn or corn popped in a SMALL amount of oil. I put the popped corn in a big buttered roasting pan but if you don’t have one, you may want to mix the popcorn and sauce in a big bowl or Dutch oven until it is evenly coated, then divide it into two parts and bake on buttered cookie sheets.