Wednesday, July 27, 2022

{This and That} :: Summer's End

Well, we are in our FINAL week of summer here. This break has flown by -- I have gathered some of the reasons why below! Now we are closing out our long break and putting final touches on our plans for a new year of learning together...


First, the big news: I shared on Instagram a few weeks ago but don't think I shared here yet. We are so very grateful to be pregnant with another little Cruz! I'm almost at the half-way point and the kids can't wait to find out what gender this little tie-breaker will be. He or she will join us in January, God willing.


A highlight of my summer was the week I spent on the East Coast for the CMEC Summer Retreat! It was so nice to get back to our large, in-person summer event after several years off for Covid.

(We hosted smaller, day-long "gatherings" last summer in three cities on the East Coast, and it was wonderful to meet so many mothers that way, but this format of two days of cohesive talks and immersions is really special.)

The event was absolutely beautiful -- the hosting and planning team did such a stellar job. The theme was "Our Constant Joy: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in Home and School." I spoke on artist study, composer study, notebooks, and a Christian conception of beauty. Amy spoke on singing, recitation, and more. There was a resource fair, time for narration and discussion, and a fantastic dinner with live music and folk dancing.

I will admit: preparing for this event took just all my available energy in May and June. That was the peak of my first trimester nausea and fatigue, and there were many times I wondered what I had gotten myself into! (Do you have moments like that? I often do. I'm not sure what that says about me!) But honestly, I think the talks were all the better for my weakness -- grace abounds! And the worst of the symptoms passed in time for the event itself, which was a huge relief. It was so nice to be in the company of 160 like-minded moms and teachers.

And for the first time ever, I brought one of my children along with me -- my oldest daughter. She helped at the event, including manning some of the tables and holding lots of babies. ;) She also got to meet some longtime penpals.

We also got to do some sight-seeing since it was Gianna's first time on the East Coast, which was a treat for both of us. Amy and her daughter Grace played excellent hostesses -- we were so grateful for the time to be together with our friends.


Thinking back to last year: a reader recently asked how our co-op went this past spring. I posted about our fall plans but didn't have the chance to come back and give an update.

Some subjects stayed the same and some changed. A peek at our timetable:

And some photos from our end-of-term celebration together:

We did recitations, a Shakespeare performance, folk dancing and singing games together, and a show-and-tell of paintings based on the Form 1 students' historical picture books reading (based on the CMEC programs). And celebrated with lunch together!

We are getting ready to start up again for the fall in just a few weeks. This term, we'll be taking our co-op indoors and switching up subjects again to take advantage of the space we'll be using. More on that later in the year!


At the Summer Retreat, I mentioned that I print mini stickers of our artist study selections for my students to add to their TBG Notebooks after we have finished each one. I got lots of attendees asking for the details! 

So here's how I create them: I grab the images from online for the paintings, paste them into a Word doc, and print as many copies as I need onto 8.5x11 sticker paper from Amazon/Office Depot (usually used to make full size mailing labels, etc) -- like this. Then we cut them out! Very simple.

I also want to mention that at other times, I have printed our selections as 4x6 prints at Snapfish for my kids to keep in a personal photo album. (I actually am still doing that also since my older kids still want to add copies to their albums-in-progress!) Riverbend Press sells 4x6 sets of the term prints that are perfect for this for those who would rather not DIY and want a higher quality item.


pre-reading almost always involves a snack for me as a pregnant mom! LOL

I told myself after I got back from the retreat that I would spend the final two weeks preparing our school year: finishing up necessary pre-reading, planning subjects like art and Italian, building our timetables, etc.

I still have a lot to do -- art and handicraft supplies need to be organized, Terms 2 and 3 still have some pre-reading left to do, etc. But it's moving along and feeling more likely I'll be ready to go next Monday! My boys are going to camp the second week of August, so we're actually doing a week of school and then taking a week off before beginning in earnest. So there are a lot of little things I can wait on during that "break week." I'm thinking of that first week as a "soft start."

The timetable is really the last necessary task, so that's my focus over the next few days. With so many students, it really is a puzzle, but once I get it laid out, I know I'll feel ready to begin. 

It's so exciting to think of the weeks ahead with so many wonderful "books and things" ahead of us, even if there are lots of logistics to work out too.


I had lots of tasks on my summer list that did not get done (once I found out I was pregnant, I put at least a dozen things on the back burner), but one thing I did do was prepare a new chore chart for the year. Little kids needed more responsibilities, some new "problem spots" in our home needed to be added to the routine, and my older kids needed their chores to be a little more flexible now that their schedule is more unpredictable.

(Did I mention my oldest got a job?! Actually he got two! Not sure which he'll keep for the school year, but he has been happy to have the extra hours during the summer.)

Another thing we are working on is a new menu rotation for fall. My 13yo daughter has also been organizing our most-used recipes into reference sheets for all of the young chefs I have in the house now. I'll share more once that project is complete!


Two of my "little boys" received their First Communion last month! Gianna did their final preparation and my two older boys served the Mass. It was a special day.


Another exciting change in our home is that with the mask mandate removed late in the spring, my two oldest boys have been able to participate regularly in in-person chess tournaments. They have been playing online chess for a couple years, but going to "real" tournaments has been super fun and built their skills in a new way.

with a chess-playing friend!

a "team" win for our homeschool - LOL


I'll admit -- this has been an overwhelming summer in many ways! But I think I end up saying that every year somehow. I have come to the conclusion that my particular vocation doesn't lend itself to restful breaks -- ha! I am grateful for the work God has given me in this life and will head into a new school year relying on Him.

When are you starting school -- will you be back to it in August, like us? What have been some of the highlights of your summer? I'd love an update!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Catholic History and Religion :: 2022-2023 School Year

Thanks for your patience as I put this annual post together!

Here I'm offering some suggestions for books that tie to the 1780-1900 time period we are studying this year in American, English, and world history (as well as a few for ancient Rome, our focus for ancients!) and additional resources for our regular Bible and religion studies.

This year, I am assigning Catholic reading for eight formal students: two in Form 5 (11th graders), two in Form 3 (7th grader and 8th grader), two in Form 2 (4th grader and 5th grader), and two in Form 1 (1st grader and 3rd grader). Once again, we will be using the CMEC mostly as written for all Forms.

This post is organized in the following way: (1) Bible for all Forms, (2) Historical Supplements for Forms 1-3, (3) Religion for Forms 1-3, and then (4) Catholic History and Religion for High School at the end.

Previous' years plans:

Catholic History and Religion :: 2020-2021 School Year

Catholic History and Religion :: 2021-2022 School Year



Lower Forms

For Old Testament, my students in Form 1-3 will be reading Joshua and Judges. As I have explained before, the CMEC follows the PNEU in scheduling Paterson-Smyth's books as a resource for Bible lessons, and I use his Joshua and the Judges for my preparation as well. I like to take his suggestions and combine with Catholic resources, so I rely on Knecht's A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture too. This tome (it's a thick one!) provides a Catholic perspective on both Old and New Testaments, from historical background to theological and doctrinal connections to application. I have used it in various ways over the past few years and always with good results. It also includes a few nice images and diagrams helpful for Book of Centuries work.

For New Testament, my students in Forms 1 and 2 will read the Gospel of Luke. Paterson-Smyth doesn't have a commentary for this Gospel, so I will be using the Navarre commentary (lots of affordable used copies!), which comes on the recommendation of good friends.

Upper Forms

For New Testament, my high schoolers will be reading through Psalms and Proverbs this year with a few commentary resources on hand:
  • Dummelow's One-Volume Bible Commentary - We used this PNEU-recommended commentary last year and my kids liked the historical details it includes on each book. (This is the new edition -- we have an older used one.)
  • For Psalms: Commentary on the Psalms by St. Robert Bellarmine (I got an affordable used copy). I looked at a few different psalms commentaries from the saints and this was the one I thought my students would most enjoy. He does not provide much  historical background or concordance with other areas of scripture, instead giving thorough explications for each psalm. I think my students will appreciate his perspective.
  • For Proverbs: I have printed a few different texts from online resources, including Father Most's commentary at Catholic Culture.
My Form 3-5 students will also have two streams of New Testament reading: 

First, they'll be reading the gospels alongside Charlotte Mason's Saviour of the World.

Second, they'll be completing their two-year study of Acts this year alongside Ellen Knox's The Acts of the Apostles. This is not a Catholic commentary and includes comments we disagree with here and there, but I have been reading it alongside my students and it has made for good discussions. I described this book last year as well, but just for reference:

This PNEU book happens to be written by the aunt of Ronald Knox, author of The Creed in Slow Motion and The Mass in Slow Motion, two favorite books around here! Here's how my friend Kyndra explains the connection: 

Monsignor Knox' father was the Anglican Bishop of Manchester and a staunch evangelical (so staunch in fact that he cut his son out of his will upon his conversion to Catholicism). One of Monsignor Knox' brothers was an influential Anglo-Catholic priest who never could quite make the move to Rome. Both men were influenced by John Ruskin. Monsignor Knox was a friend of G.K.Chesterton and Frances Chesterton was the first secretary of Charlotte Mason's PNEU! Some of the best and brightest minds of late nineteeth/early twentieth century Britain and they all knew one another....

All Forms

In all our Bible lessons, we will be reading directly from our favorite translation, the Douay-Rheims. Each of my Upper Forms students has his or her own copy to use, and I use mine for the younger kids. 

We rely often on The Dore Bible Illustrations. I have used this volume for years and it so handy to have these scenes so reverently and beautifully illustrated all in one place!

As a side note: our TBG Songbooks from Riverbend Press include the Bible passages for the year in the King James Version, so I print ours in the Douay-Rheims and tape it in for our recitations. And for the terms that schedule a hymn we have already covered, we will work on reciting the additional verses of that hymn but also add in a Latin hymn to learn.



This coming year, we will be studying roughly 1780-1800 (beginning with the French Revolution through Reconstruction after the Civil War). My Form 2A and 3 students will also be studying Ancient Rome.

Form 1

My Form 1 students will read a couple easier saint biographies from the list below or from our collection of Windeatt books for this time period, including The Miraculous Medal (on Catherine Laboure), The Little Flower (on St. Therese), The Cure of Ars (on John Vianney), Pauline Jaricot. (The last two are longer and would be fine for Form 2 as well.) When they come around to this period again in Form 2 or 3, they will have the chance to read the others.

Forms 2 and 3

Most of these are from the Vision series or the American Background Series being reprinted by Hillside Education. This isn't an exhaustive list -- just what we have on our shelves, in no particular order. My students and I will pick 1-2 for them to read each term on Sundays. The others will go on the free reading shelf. (Form 3 students who are strong readers may also like some of the options under High School as well.)

Other Notes on Form 1-3 History

Arnold-Forster's A History of England and H.E. Marshall's Our Island Story are both written from a British, Anglican perspective. I love the books and think they are certainly worth using! I can't really imagine our homeschool without them. However, I do generally edit here and there and supplement with Catholic reading as described above for a more balanced view. With this approach, I think my students get to understand how the viewpoint of the author colors his or her work.

This year's assigned chapters don't need to be adjusted at all in my view, though. The only time they discuss Catholics is when describing the Catholic Emancipation Act in England, which is presented in both texts as a positive move toward justice.

The same can be said for our American history texts this year, This Country of Ours and Builders of Our Country, Volume 2.



Catechetical Instruction and Sacramental Prep

My two Form 1 students just received First Holy Communion last month! (You can read about my FHC preparation plans here and here.) So they are very fresh on the basics and are ready for further study.

This year, I plan to spend a half hour with my Form 1 and 2 students each week in a study of the Mass. I will be using the following resources from our shelves:

And as a side note: I have been previewing lately a few new texts about the Traditional Latin Mass to see if they are worth recommending. I get asked for books about the TLM for children a lot and I always like to have a few good in-print and affordable recommendations to pass along! A couple new ones on our shelves are Traditional Latin Mass: A Missal for Little Ones and A Beginners Guide to the Traditional Latin MassIt's nice when discussing the mass structure to have various depictions of Low and High Mass to compare as well as different prayers for the different parts of the Mass to explain their overall role in the liturgy.

We will also be practicing with the hand missal -- this is my fave for littles, but the kids who just received FHC will be moving on to proper missals soon!

(For more titles for young children, I recommend a bunch here (listed under "For My Younger Kids"). I would also add to that list Leading Little Ones to Mary and The Secret of Mary Explained to Children, which I read with my littles last year.)

My Form 3 students will be preparing for Confirmation this year. (My older daughter will likely go through her prep in just one year. I may stretch my son's to his two years of middle school.) Here are the resources they will be using:

Spiritual Reading

My Form 1 and 2 students will be studying with me on Sundays, as mentioned above.

My Form 3 students will read a book a term for additional Sunday reading:
As a family, we will finish up our re-read of Mother Loyola's First Communion and then we may just start back up from the beginning again!

Liturgical Year (read as a family)

This year, we will continue A Character Calendarwhich has been a favorite with my younger students.  I will also do some season-specific family reading. We may go back to the Troadec volumes, which we used on and off last year, or we may try something different before Advent arrives. I personally find Mother Loyola's "With the Church" series much richer than Troadec's, but the simplicity of Fr. Troadec does make it accessible to a broader range of ages.

I read these at breakfast time, so my older kids listen in too. Many of the mottoes from A Character Calendar have found their way into my students' Motto Books!



As always, please preview the books listed below before handing to your high schoolers.

Catholic Historical Supplements

The CMEC's high school history texts, which are written from a secular perspective, are quite nuanced and well-balanced, so I find our additional reading on Catholic-specific persons and events more than rounds out the period for my students.

I add a weekly Catholic history block to my high schoolers' timetable. Here's what will fill that slot this year:

I also like to schedule some Catholic literature or historical fiction. Some selections for this year:
  • Gertrude von le Fort's Song of the Scaffold (a thought-provoking novella what provides a new perspective on the French Revolution)
  • Sienkiewiczk's Quo Vadis (to connect to our Ancient Rome studies since my kids have already read Ben Hur, which is assigned by the CMEC this year)
  • Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop (assigned by the CMEC in Term 3)
  • Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins and Francis Thompson (assigned by the CMEC in Term 3)
  • Benson's The Necromancer (We have enjoyed Msgr. Benson's books before and this one is set in the Victorian period. I have read it's an argument against spiritualism and has some scary moments! I definitely need to pre-read first, but thought I would mention here in case you were interested too.)


For the older kids, I have assigned a bunch of books in various categories. These will be for daily devotional reading, Sunday reading, and leisure reading.

Spiritual classics written during the period:

Saint biographies and autobiographies:

Devotional reading through the year, not tied to this year's studies:

My kids also wanted some purely catechetical reading, so I went ahead and ordered the classic Fr. Laux's Catholic Morality and Catholic Apologetics for them to work through on Sundays as well. We'll see how far they get!


I hope this helps those studying this time period with us this fall!

Any wonderful books I should add to the list above? Let me know in the comments!

(Amazon links above are affiliate links. Thanks for your support!)

Thursday, June 9, 2022

{This and That} :: A June Update

Hello friends! Last time I was in this space, I shared about Christmas baking; somehow six months flew by and now it's June. Time for an update...


We finished our school year back in April, so have been on break for the past six weeks or so. I always begin summer break with really high hopes for all I will be able to get done. Then about a week or so in, I realize that I still have children to care for, meals to cook, and all the usual life tasks to stay on top of, even if it is a "break." So I have to put my projects in perspective and go through a few iterations of a summer schedule before I find one I am satisfied with.

I like to treat each month of our break a little bit differently. So for the last few weeks of April, I  finished up my filing for the year, re-shelved books (and got out the books for next year!), made my pre-reading plan for the summer, and met with the kids to set up their summer plans. For example, I added my boys' chess tournaments to the calendar, signed my daughter up for a literature class she really wanted to take, helped kids pull book stacks for free reading, did some catch-up cleaning from those last few weeks of the school year that were so busy, etc. I think of this as launching summer break, not summer break itself -- it helps me feel better about all the effort it takes! 

We also fit in a good number of fun trips those first few weeks, including the beach and the art museum. And Easter was in April! It was a busy month.

Then in May, we set up a schedule and some goals for the month. One thing that has helped us all stay on track: I decided to continue with Weekly Meetings through the summer. With so many kids to manage, this has helped my life feel more manageable. Basically I have a short (5-10 minute) meeting with each of my older kids and any of my younger kids that have a request. We do coffee and cookies just like during the school year (though we may swap to something like lemonade once it gets really hot!). It's a time for me to handle any small things that have come up over the course of the week -- books they want me to request from the library, reminders about upcoming events, questions about projects, etc. Having these collected into just one day a week has made my mind feel a lot clearer, and my kids like knowing I will have time to chat if they want it.


Another big help this summer has been Cate's Preschool!

On weekends when my husband is off with the boys at their chess tournaments, I hire Catherine to spend two hours with the youngest four (ages 8, 6, 4, and 2) doing some fun activities. She draws a timetable up on the white board and then executes -- all on her own. It usually involves her reading aloud a chapter from their current novel, drawing time, work on a sewing project, singing games, picture books, an Italian game, folksong singing, etc. In the meantime, I spend the two hours working in my bedroom. I only have a few rules for her: everyone has to be included, everyone has to be happy-ish, and no one can ask me any questions. ;) It is going wonderfully and she is now asking if she can do "preschool" with them more often. I think I will have her do a daily block with them the last week of this month when I'm ready to tackle some more of our school planning.


One of these days I will have to round up {What We're Reading} like I used to, but for now, I thought I would highlight three books I have enjoyed lately...

During my morning prayer time I have been rereading Counsels of Perfection for Christian Mothers by Fr. Lejeune. I forgot  how good a book this is! It covers in a basic way the spiritual life for mothers. It has helped me build back some fruitful habits and rework some elements of my routine to strengthen my interior life. (This copy is a really nice hardcover reprint with a pretty cover and nice readable font. There are a few annoying typos here and there, but they do not detract from the meaning at all.)

My older kids will be reading Uncle Tom's Cabin this year as we study the Civil War. I had read selections in college but had never read it in its entirety, so it was one of the first big novels I picked up this summer. I found it enthralling as a historical document and painfully touching as a story. You see quite clearly Stowe's biases, but you also see a certain fierceness and fortitude that I found moving and admirable. It speaks to a very specific time and place, but it also speaks to our day in surprising ways -- and it offers an interesting example of a persuasive argument that I know my older students will want to analyze. A very difficult but worthy read. Some local friends and I will be discussing it next week for our little book club. (This copy has original illustrations and a pleasing typeset -- I recommend it. Just be aware it does not censor the n-word and is unabridged.)

Bruchac's Sacajawea was my other first novel of the summer, which my Form 2 and 3 kids will be reading next year with the CMEC. In telling the story of Lewis, Clark, and Sacajawea; the chapters go back and forth between perspectives; sometimes I find this jarring in novels, but here I found it made a enjoyable and intriguing combination. Bruchac did careful research for the book, and it shows -- the characters are brought to life beautifully and respectfully. There are a few difficult moments, so I would be cautious giving this to a sensitive young reader, but otherwise, it makes a great companion to or replacement for Daugherty's Of Courage Undaunted.


I wanted to let you know of a couple places I'll be speaking this summer:

The CMEC Summer Retreat is back! We will be meeting at the beautiful Merion Tribute House outside Philadelphia on July 11-12 to consider "Our Constant Joy: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness in Home and School." There are just a few spots left, so if you'd like to attend, be sure to sign up soon. We are hoping to offer this year's retreat as a package for sale, like we have in the past. So if you can't make it to Philly this summer but are interested in learning more, keep an eye out for that coming later this summer/early fall. 

I will be speaking about artist study, composer study, and notebooks, and I am learning so much through my research -- as well as pulling together some of our family's "best practices" that I have always wanted to share in a more thorough way.

I also have pre-recorded an brief "Introduction to Charlotte Mason" for the Catholic Homeschool Conference happening this weekend -- with registration closing today! If you will be attending, I hope you'll look for my talk, "Educating Persons." And if you have Catholic friends interested in learning more about the Mason approach, encourage them to check it out as well!

(Speaking of the CMEC, registration is currently open for the 2022-23 School Year! We have two live chats scheduled in June: one for community learning and one about summer planning. You can find all the details at our website and request our Information Packet to learn more. I also plan to give the Fall Mini-Retreat this October, which is free for members, either in person in Philly or broadcasted live online to watch from home!)


Some of my projects this summer, besides working on my retreat talks:

Thinking through college visits (how did we get here?!) and prepping for the SAT
Editing Gianna's second novel (hoping to get it out this fall!)
Lots of pre-reading!
Building our swimming skills (see goggles below!)
Organizing the garage and decluttering the bookshelves

And my littles keep me so busy: plotting out a delightful Kinderleben year for this guy (on the far left) and running after this sweetheart on the right!


So what are you up to this summer? Will I see you in Philadelphia, or will YOU see ME (ha!) at The Catholic Homeschool Conference? Do you have any advice for college visits? (We're looking for a college that's super friendly to traditional Catholics.)

And I'll have to come back with a recap of our school year. It was a great year.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Sweet Treats for Christmastime

I don't do a ton of baking for holidays, but I do have a few tried-and-true recipes that are always on our list. Below are five treats I make every year without fail.

1. Knock-Off Cranberry Bliss Bars

This is a Starbucks copycat recipe and always gets rave reviews from friends and neighbors. After misplacing my mom's recipe, I pulled together a variety of online versions and combined them to make my own favorite. I always make a double batch (two 9x13 pans) on St. Lucy's Day -- I frost one for our St. Lucy's tea, and put the other unfrosted pan in the freezer to pull out and frost for Christmas.


3/4 c. (1.5 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder
3/4 c. chopped sweetened dried cranberries
6 oz. white chocolate chips


4 ounces softened cream cheese
1.5 c. powdered sugar
4 T. butter, softened
1 t. vanilla
1 T. orange juice
1 T. orange zest


1/4 c. chopped dried cranberries
1/3 c. white chocolate chips + 1 T. vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350. Make cake by beating the butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs, ginger, vanilla, and salt, and beat well.  Gradually mix in the flour and baking powder until smooth. Mix the chopped dried cranberries and white chocolate into the batter by hand. Pour the batter into greased 9x13 pan (I line with foil also). It will be sticky, so spread the batter evenly across the pan with a wet spatula or hands. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned on top.  Allow to cool completely.

Mix together frosting ingredients with electric mixer. Once cake is cooled, spread frosting evenly over cake.

Sprinkle on 1/4 c. chopped dried cranberries.

Melt 1/3 c. white chocolate chips with 1T. oil on low heat in microwave, stirring frequently, until smooth. Drizzle over top of bars.

Let cake chill in the fridge for a couple hours. Cut into squares; then cut each square in half to make triangles. Store in fridge and serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

2. Gingersnaps

This is my mom's recipe for not-too-sweet, gingery gingersnaps. I love that they stay a little soft in the middle but firm up around the edges. They freeze very well also.

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. light molasses
1 egg, beaten
1 T. baking powder
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. ground cinnamon
1.5 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. (1.5 sticks) butter, room temperature
1/3 c. sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients into bowl and set aside. Using mixer, cream butter with 1 c. sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in molasses and egg. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Cover and refrigerate dough at least one hour (can be done a day ahead). Using 1 T. per cookie, form dough into balls. Roll balls in 1/3 c. sugar. Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets, 2 inches apart. Bake until cookies are light browned around edges, about 12 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely; cookies will crisp as they cool.

3. Peppermint Chocolate Cookies

This is a recent addition that is now a family favorite. Unfortunately, my husband isn't a peppermint fan, so the kids and I have these all to ourselves. ;) They would make a great addition to a pretty cookie platter. Last year I dipped them in regular melted chocolate rather than white and used sprinkles rather than candy cane crumbs. Recipe here at Cooking Classy!

4. Sugar Cookies

This is our family's go-to sugar cookie recipe. We make them year round, but during Christmas, we add festive sprinkles. You could also frost them, but they are plenty sweet without. Recipe here at Life Love and Sugar. Just a couple notes: we make 1 T. balls and cook about 9 minutes, though be sure not to overbake! They do firm up when cooled. We also don't worry too much about overmixing -- we combine everything with the mixer and I can't notice any difference.

5. Last, a breakfast treat: Ina Garten's Easy Cheese Danishes

I have made these for Christmas and Easter brunch for at least a decade. Surprisingly easy and so tasty. I love sweet breakfast foods that pair well with coffee -- this is a winner! It's also simple enough that you could make it for brunch anytime, not just for the holidays. Recipe here at Food Network.


Before I go: are you looking for some gifts for the bakers in your life, or items to add to your own Christmas list? I love my ceramic 9x11 dishes and my silicone baking mats. I also could not do without my gigantic cookie sheet -- I measured my oven and bought the biggest one that could fit. I use it almost daily! It cleans up well and is thicker than other pans I have purchased.

As my children get older and more helpful in the kitchen, I find I'm branching more each year. What are your very favorite Christmas treat recipes?  Leave a recipe or link below and I'll let my girls sort through to find some new treats to try!