Start your holiday entertaining engines! It seems like people barely tolerated Halloween this year before completely skipping Thanksgiving and moving right on to Christmas. In any case, the holiday entertaining season is upon us and as long as you do a little holiday party prep, you’ll be ready for large parties, last-minute get togethers or even super informal family hangouts. And hopefully remain stress free…
Last minute gift idea for your girls
Photo garland with your kid’s photos
Balloon signs for your party decor
Party Foods, Treats and Drinks:
Edible Confetti for hot beverages and cocktails
I’m SO excited to share this post with you guys! Did I say that yesterday too? Well, this year I am sharing a bunch of really fun holiday things that mean a lot to me. You know, like wine cake and such. Because cake with wine is VERY exciting. And today I’m sharing these awesome candy bar trains! This is something me mom made when we were growing up. And while I don’t remember making my own, I think these are the PERFECT alternative to gingerbread houses. Gingerbread houses can be so hard!!! Unless you glue gun the walls together, they often collapse and seem a bit fragile. But these trains are a little bit easier and such a fun idea for families to do together at the holidays.
When I told my mom that I wanted to do a post on her trains, she searched her archives and came up with these written instructions for how she made them including a supply list. And then she left on a cruise. So I poured over her instructions and started gathering materials. And then got busy and put off making the actual train. And weeks later, my mom was back in town and I was finally ready to take photos of the candy bar train making process. So I invited her over to help me put it all together! I love having my mom help with posts! We pretty much followed her instructions this first go round but I can’t wait to make more and really get creative!
We got everything together and did a little mock-up before starting glueing things together with the royal icing. In doing so, we learned that candy has changed a bit since she first made these. Some things are larger and some things are smaller. Feel free to use whatever candies you think are best and please you, aesthetically. Also, she used to make a train track out of thin black licorice laces. I couldn’t find those anywhere! I also had a hard time finding rolls of Lifesavers (which we didn’t end up using anyway) and the larger Tootsie Rolls which make perfect logs. I feel like you can’t go wrong by buying the candy that looks fun to you and then see what you come up with. And if you have kids, the extra candy certainly isn’t going to go to waste…
We made (I say we, but really my mom made it) royal icing which would act as the glue to hold the train together. We probably could have used a little less of the icing but we wanted to make sure that things stuck really well.
A few years ago my mom gave me her tin of vintage miniatures that she used for her trains and a few other food crafts she made. So many memories in that tin! It was awesome to go through and remember all the old plastic figures and show them to my kids.
Our second train car holds a bunch of presents and toys and the final car is the log car. It dawned on me that it would have probably looked a little bit more like logs if we stacked another row in the center and on top of the bottom row. But it’s been probably 30 years since we’ve seen one of these trains so…we forgot. I just love how it came out!
And of course we added edible glitter to have even more of a snow-like look although it is pretty hard to see. Like gingerbread houses, these are edible, but since all of the candy has been manhandled I wouldn’t recommend eating them. My kids asked so incessantly that I finally said they could eat their cars. Turns out all the different flavors of candy don’t taste that great together. So they stopped eating them instead of picking the candy off individually…dummies. (Yes I just called my kids dummies. But as a joke. That is kind of ironic. Especially since my 3rd grader had to go ask his teacher how to do one of his homework math problems since I couldn’t figure it out…)
When my youngest son got home from school he skipped lunch (truth be told he had candy for lunch) to make his train. He was so excited! He’s almost 6 and this was really easy for him. Where we had used a piping bag and decorating tip, we gave him a little paint brush to use with the royal icing and it worked really well. In hindsight, we probably would have had a cleaner look if we had used the paintbrush.
This would be a super fun idea for a family holiday party. I had only bought 6 of the large candy bars but the candy used to decorate was very plentiful. I could have made a ton of train cars by just picking up a few more Snickers bars, which is what we’ve always used. I guess you could use a different kind. But you would ruin Christmas…so…
We ended up having a last-minute playdate after school that day so my older son and his friend decided to make them too. Turns out, with a little imagination, your train car can be a sports car. And a new tradition may be born.
Here is a very general list of what you might need to make a candy bar train with 3 cars like I’ve made above:
Large Snickers bars for the train cars (so 3 Snickers bars for the full train I made)
Fun Size Snickers bar for the front car
14 Peppermint candies for the wheels (note: the first car has 2 extra wheels – and they probably aren’t called wheels are they…)
1 gummy fruit slice for the corn catcher at the front of the train
4 Werther’s or several Lifesavers for the front of the train car
1 JUJU Bee for the light on the very front of the train
1 Gum Drop for the front train car
1 Lifesaver and 1 Rolo for the smoke stack on the first train car
Thin licorice laces to connect the train cars. Can also be used for the train tracks if you decide to add them to your cake board
14 M&M’s for decoration on the wheels
Several Tootsie Rolls for the log car. The full size work best but you can also stack the Midgees if you can’t find the regular ones.
White edible glitter for snow
Royal Icing and a pastry bag and tips. You can also use a smallish paintbrush instead or if you have a young child where a pastry bag might be too hard to manage.
Tweezers might also come in handy (if you want to be all type-a about it)
To make Royal Icing:
3 level TBSP Meringue Powder
4 cups powdered sugar
6 TBSP water
Put all ingredients in a large bowl and beat with a mixer for 7 to 10 minutes.
If you make one share it with me on instagram!!!! Tag me at @cupcakescutlery and use the #cupcakesandcandytrains
*Today’s post is sponsored by Thymes, but my love for their Frasier Fir collection is all my own! My pine addiction is pretty much lifelong…
Holiday decorating is always hard for me. I don’t love holiday decor. Can I confess that the holiday fragrances are more magical to me than the decor? And I also don’t love that unless you go on a real hunt for cool, less traditional decor, you are stuck with whatever look the stores are selling that year. Thank goodness some of the larger stores are really stepping up in the design area and there are usually some good finds. Over the last few years I have been taking the time to go through the decorations in the garage and getting rid of the things that were bought on a whim, but I don’t love. (A few things I am holding on to simply because the smell reminds me of some awesome childhood memories). I’m trying to grow our collection to include things we are really drawn to and fit our personal style. Today I’m sharing 10 ways to put your personal style in your holiday decor.
1. Pick a color palette that YOU like. While most stores bombard you with decorations that are green, white and red, you can go in a different direction. Whites and silver, with a little sparkle, like in the image above) make for a super wintery look. Similarly, if you love hot pink, add it! Either diy something store-bought or let your friends and family know what you are looking for so they can help you scout out those harder to find decorations.
2. Don’t pack away the great pieces that you love the rest of the year. Figure out how to incorporate the pieces you love and still have your house feel holiday ready. Create little vignettes for visual interest. And see if there are ways to play up the holidays. Done right, a sleigh bell swag draped on this horses’ neck would be awesome and seasonal appropriate.
3. Try new plants and flowers in your home that have a holiday feel. Whether they are real or faux, go for something different. Look for berry-like stalks or even forgo flowers and use just greenery. Trader Joe’s is the best for finding unusual, seasonal plants and flowers. Even using just a small amount, mixed in with your usual decor will change the look of the room and have it feel more festive. And that simple Thymes Frasier Fir Pine Needle candle adds the perfect winter look to pair with unexpected foliage.
4. Look for great vessels, that match your holiday decor aesthetic, and use them to house your favorite succulents. Tuck in a few berries or even rosemary sprigs to take them from summery desert to wintery and lush. The modern looking white woodgrain soap dish from the Frasier Fir collection would be perfect for a succulent arrangement!
5. Add some flair in unusual places. Pine branches and glittery, decorative picks add warmth and whimsy to a room and is unexpected when placed in a magazine holder. Skip the usual mantle garland and instead add your greenery around the room at different visual levels. While most things are set on tables or shelves, don’t forget to survey your floor space to see if you can style something on the ground as long as it won’t impede your usual traffic.
6. For a lot of us, our trees go up much closer to December 25th (here in CA they dry out and die if you get them too early) which means that we don’t get a lot of time to enjoy our favorite ornaments. There is no rule against using ornaments on house plants. And you get to have your favorites up earlier so you can enjoy them longer. This Botancial Ornament does double duty as both decoration and room fragrance.
7. There are standard phrases used to share holiday cheer, like Noel, Merry Christmas, etc. But I took a cue from my kids, and their excitement for the season, to use a new word for our wall decorations. I mean, with all the presents and the treats and fun events that happen over the holidays, could there really be a better word? Also these mini mylar balloons are a super fun, celebratory way to decorate. They make your room feel like a party.
8. Tuck holiday themed candles around your living space to play up the season. Candles, like this one from Thymes, are really nice looking and don’t steal the attention from the style of your room but rather blend in with it. They special holiday scents with a variety of decorative candles so I’m sure you’ll be able to find one that fits in with your style. Some of the gingerbread items come in this gorgeous amber-colored glass!
9. Choose a signature holiday scent. For me, I’m a pine girl all the way. My soaps, candles, etc. are all in this scent. This year I’m using Thymes Frasier Fir collection. The scent is a mix of fir needles, cedarwood and sandalwood. All of the products layer nicely together to bring a subtle scent to the house all season long. They even created home care products in this scent so even my cleaning can feel more seasonal. I love this reed diffuser set for the smell but also because the reeds mimic the pine needles to me. And like I mentioned in number 6 above, we don’t get our trees for a while. I have to get my pine fix in! And the smell just makes me happy. Yes, I could use it year round, but for me, pine IS the holidays. But if it isn’t for you, they also have gingerbread with spicy notes of cinnamon, cardamom and ginger, yum.
Smells always evoke memories for me, but especially around the holidays. I can easily think of the various smells found in my mom’s boxes of holiday decorations. There’s the Avon candle from when she sold their cosmetics. There is the smell of the ornaments and the tissue they are wrapped in. There is peppermint from the candy canes that get put away with all the other decorations, inadvertently, every year. And there’s pine. Always pine. The scent that I look forward to all year. It signals the holiday season and the joy that I get to share with my own family now.
10. Don’t forget the kitchen! I don’t know about you, but the kitchen rarely gets decorated for any holiday. BUT that is where you spend a lot of time during the holiday season with all your baking and holiday hosting. So from this year on, I will be switching to my favorite scent in the kitchen too. And this white, faux wood holder, that this sink set comes in, is sleek and chic but feels wintery. While I can’t say that this will make me look forward to doing the dishes, I do know when I smell the Frasier Fir, I will have a moment of joy.
Head over to the Thymes site to check out all their amazing scents and shop for yourself or others on your gift list. Once there, you can redeem your exclusive offer for a free Fragrance Studio Sample Kit with any purchase of $25 of more! Thymes creates fragrances that are a mix of familiar and intriguing rooted in botanical perfumery. Drawn from nature, their unique formulations are artfully crafted to create products that are skin-compatible, environmentally friendly, effective and a pleasure to use.
Thank you for supporting the brands, like Thymes, that let me keep blogging. Especially the ones that make the most glorious pine-y fragranced products that make me swoon.
Growing up there were a few things I could always count on my mom to make during the holidays. One of these things is her Homemade Cinnamon Candy. Aside from working with boiling hot molten sugar lava, the recipe is pretty easy to make. I had my mom make it with me (for me) for this post. Side note, she also fed me and my son lunch while she made the candy. I think I may make my mom a full-time blog partner. It works out really well for me.
You just need some light corn syrup, straight up wonderful white sugar, water and cinnamon oil. You can find the cinnamon oil at your local craft store. Oh yeah, my mom also bought all the ingredients. The cinnamon oil came in a pack of two, each bottle being 1 dram. We only used one bottle, but if you like you cinnamon light-your-tongue-on-fire hot, you may want to use some of the other bottle as well.
It will take a while for the sugar to get to the right temperate. I think it took us about an hour. And can we talk for a moment about how freaking clean my mom’s stove top is? Gosh I wish I got her cleaning gene.
Well, here it is. Our family Christmas card for 2012. Some of you may know the story behind our cards. If you don’t you will probably want to read it here. You’ll also get to see all of the other cards we’ve done. Except one. I still need to add last years to the site but, well, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. It’s only two years after the fact…
My oldest son is OBSESSED with ninjas right now. He came up with the idea to be ninjas and then we turned it over to my husband to do the rest. We are so blessed to have people who are willing, dare I say excited, to help us with our card for photography, graphic design and printing. Sometimes I hate that we usually do these at the last-minute but overall it is a pretty amazing experience.
Thank you Direct Edge Media for printing them!!