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It’s almost Valentine’s Day and through the years, our Valentine’s Day celebrations have gotten smaller and smaller. So small now, in fact, that I try to keep my monumental display of affection for my husband under twenty bucks. I know, that’s pretty cheap, but the season of life we’re in right now doesn’t lend itself to extravagant date nights and exotic gift-giving. 

We know spending time together is important. It strengthens our bond, reminds us what we love about each other, and builds intimacy. But like a lot of other couples, it becomes discouraging when you spend $50 just on a babysitter. That doesn’t leave a lot extra for dinner and a movie, or gas to get there. That’s where the Dollar Date Jar comes in handy. It’s the ideal Valentine’s Day gift idea. 

Last year, I gave my husband a Dollar Date Jar. It was filled with ten Dollar Dates. Each date consisted of 2 rolled up dollar bills and a little date note. He picks a “date” out of the jar and we do whatever the paper says. Sometimes it’s just a milkshake and two straws, other times, we go to the Dollar Store to pick out something “special” for each other. Either way, it’s a time for us to celebrate together, it’s inexpensive, and sometimes, we can even complete them at home.

Of course, we do still have regular date nights, where I do my best at wearing heels, we get a sitter for the kids, and we stay out past 10pm, but the Dollar Date Jar has become something we both look forward to. 

You can start your own Dollar Date Jar using the PDF below. Print it, roll a couple dollar bills up with the “dates” wrapped around them, tie them up with a little ribbon and you have 10 or 20 activities to share with your partner. 

Download the PDF now to start your own Valentine’s Day tradition. Do you have ideas for other Dollar Dates? Please share them in the comment section.

 
 
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One of my favorite memories growing up is making Christmas cookies and candy with my Nana. She does it all: Thumbprints, Sugar Cookies, Pecan Tarts, Wedding Cookies, Buckeyes, Turtles, Fudge. She gave us each jobs from the time we could hold a spoon.

Now that I’m a mom, I look forward to making Christmas baking memories with my kids. Thumbprint cookies are a favorite recipe in our house. The kids can easily add the ingredients, roll the dough balls and press their little thumbs into each cookie, giving them an extra bit of love. The kitchen is a mess when we’re finished, but our bellies are full and and so are our hearts.


Thumbprint Cookies (Makes 3-dozen cookies)
Ingredients:
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs, separated
2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
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Directions:
Heat oven to 350ºF. Mix brown sugar, shortening, butter, vanilla and egg yolks in medium bowl. Stir in flour and salt until dough holds together. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Beat egg white slightly. Dip each ball into egg white. Roll in nuts. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Press thumb deeply in center of each. Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Fill thumbprints with butter icing (recipe below.)



Butter Icing
Ingredients:
4.5 cups powdered sugar
2/3 cup butter or margarine, softened
3 teaspoons vanilla
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
Food color of choice (optional)

Directions:

In medium bowl, mix powdered sugar and butter with spoon or electric mixer on low speed. Stir in vanilla, 1 tablespoon of the milk, and food coloring, if using. Gradually beat in just enough remaining milk to make frosting smooth and spreadable. If frosting is too thick, beat in more milk, a few drops at a time. If frosting becomes too thin, beat in a small amount of powdered sugar.
 
 
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My husband, Scott, is a relentless Christmas music lover. We usually start listening to Christmas music at the first sign of cold weather, although it’s not unusual for him to pop a Christmas CD in on our way to the grocery in August, either.  My kids would love it if we kept our tree up all year. They want our elf, Carol to vacation with us and sleep in their rooms so Santa can see just how delightful they are all year-round (when they’re not fighting or talking back.) I love decorating the house and reminiscing about the homemade ornaments the kids made in their preschool class or the craft we did 5-years-ago that HAS to sit on the mantle. Needless to say, Christmas is our FAVORITE!

Last year, we started our Activity Advent. It’s our countdown to Christmas day and a way to spend quality family-time together during this busy season. The kids take turns opening the little envelopes that are attached to the red and white twine hanging near their rooms. Some activities just require our PJs and a Redbox Christmas movie. Others take us outside the home to look at lights or to see a Christmas concert. And there are several that help us see how blessed our family is and to share our blessings with others. Every day, though, we’re taking time to celebrate intentionally and it ends without fighting, tears, or name-calling – my idea of perfect. Download the Activity Advent HERE and start creating more of your own Christmas memories.

The Christmas season is without a doubt, the Murray-est time of our year and hopefully, yours’ too.  So put a little Johnny Mathis Christmas music on, pour yourself a mug of hot chocolate and start building that gingerbread house. Blessings to your and your family this Christmas season! Have Yourself a Murray Little Christmas.