Christmas Dinner 2015 Recipe Share

I think I've told you guys the story before that my first year hosting Christmas dinner at my house I decided I was going to make the complete Martha Stewart Menu.  This involved standing rib roast, yorkshire pudding, spinach salad, pear tart, and a host of other complicated things.  I cooked for 2 days in preparation.  It was insane.  And then my mom showed up with Thanksgiving Dinner, which was what my family traditionally had for Christmas (turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc), because my brother was really upset about not having what we always have. 

To my credit- I only spent about 10 minutes in the bathroom having a meltdown ;) So this year, since my brother was going to be spending Christmas Dinner with his wife's family, I took advantage of being able to make all new recipes for everything.  (Not that there's anything wrong with tradition, I just like new things!) 

So we had some hits and some misses.  I made Chocolate Chip Panettone overnight french toast, which should have been amazing but was just eh.  


Have you ever had Chocolate Chip Panettone? It's amazing! There's no reason that should have happened.  I also made a version with cherries in it (chocolate cherry!!) that was EVEN WORSE.  So now I'm going to have to figure out how to fix this, because it's just boggling my mind. 

For dinner, though, I had some serious homeruns.  

1- Peppercorn Beef Tenderloin 
 Loosely based off the Pioneer Woman's recipe, which you can read here I swear that I watched her make it the way that I did, but I can't find a video of it anywhere.  Trim all the silver skin and big chunks of fat off a beef tenderloin.  I had to cut mine in half because I don't have a pan big enough to sear an entire beef tenderloin in.  Salt aggressively with seasoned salt (or salt, garlic powder, etc), noting that you're only doing the outside so you need more than you think.  Then sear the tenderloins on all sides in a hot pan with vegetable oil until it's nicely brown.  Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of crushed tri color peppercorns and place on a roasting pan (I used a cookie sheet), and dot with an entire stick of butter.  Yes I did.  Roast at 425 until desired doneness.  I did 135, which was still red in the middle for those in my family who like that sort of thing, and tender and evenly grey for me on the ends :) 

I made individual martini glasses of this because I don't have a trifle dish.  Use all the syrup mixture if you do that- don't get skimpy :) I also made my red velvet madeleines in a mini muffin tin and cut them into quarters because I don't have a madeleine pan and I decided they fit the glasses better cut in quarters.  My final change was that I whipped the mascarpone into the whipped cream with my kitchen aid, mainly because folding it in left lumps and I didn't like that. 

You'll learn I very rarely follow a recipe just exactly as written.  I did very much like this one, but I added a pinch of red pepper flakes and didn't add the cheese. I used white onion instead of shallots because I forgot to buy them :) 

4- Pear Salad with Goat Cheese
This was just an easy made-up one, but it was so good my 12 year old asked for it for lunch.  On a bed of mixed baby greens, layer thin slices of ripe bosc pear, dried cranberries, pomegranate arils, a sprinkle of goat cheese, crushed walnuts, and your favorite vinaigrette (I used Panera's Raspberry vinaigrette, but you can always make your own).  

5- Roasted Crispy Potatoes
Thinly slice 4 large, scrubbed potatoes on a mandolin, watching out for your fingers :), along with 1/2 a white onion.  In a large bowl, toss the potatoes with 2-3 tablespoons of the oil left from browning your beef (yes- just do it), along with a heaping tablespoon of Montreal steak seasoning (if you don't have that, it's coarse black pepper, kosher salt, dehydrated garlic, red pepper, and coriander, I think).  Roast these at 425 with your beef in a double layer on a cookie sheet, turning once or twice.  They will be crispy on the edges and soft in the middle.  For crispier potatoes, do a single layer.  Expect 20-30 minutes of bake time depending on the thickness of your potato slices. 


Winter S.T.E.A.M. Camps 2015/2016

The Animated Child invites you to their Winter STEAM Camp!

Winter S.T.E.A.M. CAMP Dec 21-23 & Dec 28-31
Have your kiddo join us for Winter Break! 
Weekly and Daily Camps available!
Winter is our favorite season to learn! Dress for the weather because we are taking the science lab to the park!

Camps are 8am-3:45pm, before and after care are also available as add-ons. 


Cookie Season- Sponsored by Krusteaz

For the last month you've seen me post about all the fun things we've done with our box of Krusteaz cookie mixes.

 I am not usually a "mix" person- I like baking, so I think it's pretty easy to dole out the ingredients.  However, I have to admit that having the dry ingredients already measured makes my kitchen stay SO much happier.  And by happier I mean cleaner.  Because at this stage in my life it is rare that I get to bake anything without "help", and my help isn't always the tidiest with the flour.
All the Krusteaz mixes require is a stick of butter and an egg.  I took them to Eagle Boards of Review as a surprise to all the other parents sitting them. Oatmeal scotches were a big hit- especially since they were still warm!!

You can mix the Krusteaz Gingerbread with a little extra flour and water to make any type of Christmas creation you'd like:
And, honestly, Gingerbread requires a TON of spices and measuring, so when you're going to spend 6 hours decorating, why do that to yourself? (PS- those are "chocolate pebbles" I purchased in Old Town Manassas).

You can even give cookies as a gift.  My oldest son had a "food themed" white elephant swap to go to, so we popped a mix into a mason jar with directions, included several candy add-ins, and hit the dollar store for a spatula and a turner spatula.  Crushed candy canes, red and green m&ms, and we were good to go!
Of course, there's also the traditional cookie plate for neighbors! My daughter and I had a blast decorating Krusteaz sugar cookies with the powdered sugar glaze they suggest on the box.  She even made a video of it!

Not only did our cookies turn out GORGEOUS, but we had so much fun making them together.  Sweet memories like these are so precious, and it was a snap to do with a mix ready in the pantry!
 Okay, so maybe mine were a little more gorgeous and hers were a little more candy-covered, but whatever, we had a blast.
The people who received our treats didn't complain, either!!

We're getting ready for our final round of baking with Krusteaz- my son's boy scout patrol is coming over to help me bake off the rest of the cookies to take to the local Fire Station to say "Thank You" to our first responders!

This holiday season, whether you're baking for friends, family, company, neighbors, or yourself, check out the full line of Krusteaz cookie mixes for gifting, eating, and sharing with your loved ones.

Disclosure: We received several mixes from Krusteaz to try free of charge.  All opinions are my own.


Featured Organization Friday- Colby's Ride

Colby's Ride was created by Colby Thomas Smith's parents to honor their generous, loving 11 year old son following his sudden death in a tragic dirt bike accident October 11, 2015. 

Colby's Ride is committed to carrying out Colby's generous spirit by providing bikes to underprivileged children who might not have the opportunity to ride. Riding was Colby's passion. Colby is remembered by many for his generosity and kindness. He was known to actually give away his own bikes to children who didn't have one. On one occasion Colby actually used his own money to buy a bike for a young neighbor because he didn't have one. Colby's Ride is a beautiful extension of Colby's life. Its mission is to pass on the joy of riding to as many children as possible.

There will be two bike give-aways each year. The first will be at Christmas and the second in May for his birthday. Colby,'s birthdate, favorite number, and riding number was 25, so his parents, Keri and Zach hope to donate at least 25 bikes each December and May to children in need.

Two fundraisers have been planned: Santa Pictures December 12, 2015 at Smoothie King in Woodbridge and a 5K Birthday Run the Saturday before Colby's birthday, May 21, 2016.


Frozen Dance Party 2015

You guys are going to be soooo excited!! Our December meet up is a repeat of our most popular kids meet up we've EVER held.......

Our friends at Showcase Dance Studio will again host their SUPER POPULAR dance party inspired by the movie Frozen.  You son/daughter will have an Arctic Blast dancing to their favorite songs! Do you want to build a snowman? No problem- we'll be doing an arts and crafts project, too! Channel your inner Prince or Princess and Let it Go at Showcase Dance Studio!!

Ages 4-6 will enjoy dance, crafts, games, and tons of fun.  Children can come dressed as their favorite character as long as their outfit allows them to move freely.

When: December 19th, 2pm-3:30pm
Where: Showcase Dance Studio
            Bull Run Plaza
            11750 Sudley Manor Dr
            Manassas, VA 20109
Contact Info: 703-368-0555

Want to come? Visit our page at www.facebook.com/PwcMoms, find the image that you see on this page, and like/comment/share to win.  I'll start letting winners know on Monday, and, as with all of our meet ups, if you are a no-show, we will not select you again for the next 3 meet ups out of respect for the time of the companies that host these amazing experiences! 


Gift Basket of Awesome December Giveaway 2015

Hey Readers!

Instead of running a bunch of giveaways during December, my tradition has been to just run one.  Our winner gets the whole kit and caboodle on December 20th.  We hope that you'll shop with some of our friends who have contributed! Most of the contributors are also website sponsors, and we appreciate them funding our calendar and information so that you can enjoy all that PwcMoms has to offer! This year's gift basket of awesome features:

*GMS Kids Gymnastics tote and gift card
*Little Loving Hands Box
*Two FREE months of dance at the Academy of Russian Ballet
*$50 Gift Card to The Smart Car Wash
*Scentsy Warmer and Wax
*$55 Gift Card (One FREE month of class) at Showcase Dance
*Toddlin Time Gift Card and T-Shirt
* Three Copies of "Prince William Living" December
*Perfectly Posh Bath Bombs from Got Posh? 
*Eme's Army braille "Love" ornament
*TWO parents nights out on January 23rd from 4pm to 8 pm from Animated Child


So, go ahead and use the rafflecopter below to enter.  I wish you the best of luck, and please remember you must be available to MEET me to get your basket- I am not trying to hit the post office 4 days before Christmas!!  You should be able to get a little something extra for just about anyone on your list with this fantastic basket of fun!

If you didn't get your item listed in time, please just email me and we can get you added!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As always, when you enter you agree to our Giveaway Rules.


Giant's Peppermint Inspired Creations- Limited Time!

I love it when a brand wants me to eat their food.  As a person of fluff, I obviously have zero problems taking care of that aspect of my business.  However, when Giant Food sent me their latest box, I've got to be honest you guys, I had a problem.

I don't like peppermint.

I know, I know, I'm missing a soul, yadda yadda.  I just don't! Now I think peppermint stuff is ADORABLE, and I actually make candy cane stuff almost every year for cookie swap because that way I don't eat 144 cookies before I get there. #SecretWeapon

However, once I opened this box, I had zero trouble getting feedback from all the peppermint lovers around me.

Day one- I opened the box on the same day my friend Stacey swung by, and she almost lost her mind because there was peppermint bark inside!

This is hilarious to me because Stacey is about the same size as my 7 year old daughter, so the idea she was going to down a pound of peppermint bark at any point in time was just unbelievable.  She started snacking on it as soon as I got it out of the box, though! This bark is super cute, and it definitely would pass for homemade if you wanted to break it into pieces and put it on a tray.  I'm not saying any of us would ever be in such a rush we needed to resort to something like that.  I'm just saying that, you know, hypothetically, if you were in a holiday pinch, we'd all understand. 

The next thing in my box was the Peppermint Chocolate Sandwich cookies.  I took these to a marathon board of review for Eagle Scout in our troop.  We did FIVE board of reviews in one day.  Well, the collective "we", I actually only sat three of them.  These made the room smell delicious and they were all gone by the time I left on Sunday afternoon. 

Finally, we were sent a Peppermint Whoopie Pie kit. We haven't made this yet- we're actually saving them to use at a special event we have coming up (super secret!), but here's a link to another blogger who shows you how easily they go together! This would be an adorable baking project for you and your kiddos- even tiny kids could roll the finished product in crushed candy cane! 

Giant Food's Peppermint Inspired Creations line doesn't just include food, though, which is great for me because I love the smell!! Cleaning products, ice cream, floral arrangements, soaps, body washes, candles, cakes, and cookies, are all part of this versatile holiday line of products! 

Whether you're looking for a holiday treat for your own family, or you're in need of a hostess gift or something to spruce up your home for the season, head to your local Giant Food to stock up on this adorable line of Peppermint fun! 

Thanks to Giant Food for sending me some of their Peppermint Inspired Creations line to sample with my friends and family.  While they provided free products for this post, all opinions are my own. 

Town of Dumfries Christmas Festivities

This weekend! The 41st Annual Dumfries Christmas Parade and Tree Lighting! Parade at 12, Lighting at 5pm. 


Review: Busch Gardens Christmas Town

We were so excited to be invited to visit Bush Gardens Williamsburg for their Christmas Town festivities! We were offered opening day tickets- which ended up being very well attended.  It was Friday, November 27, which was also my eldest son's 12th birthday, so we were excited to spend his special day at the park!

Pictures of my birthday boy!
(This is my not-so-little guy with his Uncle Brendan who'd been staying with us for a few weeks- Brendan made him a special banana treat for his birthday) 

Driving down was a bit of an adventure because our GPS program decided we needed to do a scenic detour around William and Mary.  It was also the day after Thanksgiving so we sat in a little traffic.  Be ye not so dumb and don't go on an awful traffic day.

We printed our tickets out before we arrived, which ended up being a HUGE timesaver. We got to skip the will-call and purchase lines and go straight to the gates.  Note that there is a bag check involved in the process.  We did bring backpacks, though, because while we lucked out and got a fantastic day weather-wise, we knew it'd get cold as soon as the sun went down!

When we first entered the park around 3pm, it was very....cozy.
But by the time evening rolled around, most of the people had left for the day.  The Festhaus was so busy they were on a total standstill in the line, so I suggest booking your dinner time, but after dinner, there were really very few people- my boys rode Alpengheist three times in a row! Even at its busiest, we didn't wait terribly long for rides, which is what my boys were in it for.  Usually 2-3 cycles of a ride and we were in.

The lights were AMAZING.  Seeing them in the daylight you realize there are a lot of them, but when they start going on it's just incredible.
 The lights on the Festhaus dance to music- which is just beyond.  I highly recommend doing one of the "people mover" options- either the train or the sky ride- to just sit back and enjoy the lights around the park.  We brought my mom with us, and she's got some serious fear of heights, so we went with the train.  It was just amazing to see all the gorgeous lights!! On foot, one of our favorites was the bridge where they are playing "Let There Be Peace on Earth" with a light display above the water that reflects back up.  It was just charming.

We spent from 3pm until 10pm at the park, and we honestly did not get to do 1/2 of what we could have done.  There's so much to experience and the kids had a blast.  My kids are definitely daredevils and wanted to ride everything they could.  Not all of the rides are open, so they were able to focus on what they really wanted to get to. If you're going, be sure to check out the Busch Gardens website- they've actually created plans for you to get around the park and focus on what's most important to your family. 
There's so much I could tell you about this event.  It's the SAME PRICE as another Christmas event in our area, which you will not spend half as much time at.  It's absolutely gorgeous.  I definitely had a great time, and so did my kids. Let me tell you about my two favorite things, and then I'll just leave you with some pictures:

1- The North Pole
Holy heck you guys, the North Pole.  Looking in the large window at Santa meeting with children while the "snow" falls around you? Stop it.  It's magical and I don't even like Santa. Most of the bloggers I've read recommend you go to see Santa ASAP, but honestly, even if the wait is longer I wouldn't go until the North Pole is fully lit up because it is just incredibly breathtaking to walk around the corner into the Christmas lights and have that full experience.

2- Twas the Night
There are several shows that you can see while you're at Christmas Town.  We only got to one, and honestly, I'm pretty sure it was the one to see.  Twas the Night is an on-ice spectacular based on the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas.  The ice is small, but they use it incredibly well.  My daughter was amazed by Santa "really going down the chimney!" The skaters are all talented, the costumes are beautiful- we loved everything about it.  We ended our night with this show and then grabbed the last train out of New France back to the gates in England, and it was a perfect way to end our evening.

I would most definitely recommend Christmas Town.  We had an amazing time and I only wish we'd had a longer day to spend at the park! I think it would be great if there were more roller coasters open for the older kids, and depending on the weather I think you could have more or less fun, but if you're looking for a Christmas event, this is the one I'd go for.  My iPhone pictures really don't do the lights justice!