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Make Your Own Easter Basket Treats!

It's very easy to pick up traditional Easter candies at your local store, but it's so much more fun to make them from scratch! Any of these projects can be an enjoyable and educational experience for kids, and homemade treats are a perfectly personal gift. And they're tasty, too.

1. Peeps

Yes, you can make your own marshmallow Peeps. It's just a matter of decorating your homemade marshmallows. Kathleen at Twig & Thistle takes it from there. Add your color before the marshmallow sets. Cut them out with cookie cutters, dampen slightly, and roll in colored sugar. Don't forget little candies for the eyes! An alternate method from Serious Eats uses a whipped marshmallow mixture that you can squeeze into the classic Peep chick shape. It takes a steady hand and a little practice.

2. Cadbury Creme Eggs

Cadbury eggs seem complicated, with a yolk and white that looks like a chicken egg but tastes like heaven. However, this recipe from Instructables breaks it down into steps that you can accomplish. The yellow and white filling are the same thick fondant you can mold with your hands. The chocolate covering is the delicate part, and even if the result is less-than-picturesque, it will taste delicious.

3. Giant Cadbury Creme Egg

Once you've conquered the Cadbury Creme Egg, you may as well make the leap to the giant Cadbury egg. The process requires more ingredients and a bigger mold, but the rewards will be greater as well. The guys who made this 8-inch tall egg also made their own foil wrapper!

4. Chocolate Bunny

Making a chocolate rabbit is just a matter of following instructions for melting chocolate and using a bunny mold. You can make your bunny solid, or let the chocolate cool enough to be a little stiff, then paint the inside of the mold with a even layer to make a hollow bunny, like the chefs in the video. Chocolate Easter eggs are made the same way.

5. Whoppers

Many chocolate Easter eggs are made of malted milk balls, or what we know by the name brand of Whoppers. The simple part of making them at home is mixing chocolate with malted milk powder and rolling into balls. Dipping them in chocolate afterward is kind of tricky, but it's a skill worth practicing. The reviews of the recipe say these are better than Whoppers.

6. Tootsie Rolls

Traditional Tootsie Rolls are relatively inexpensive and plentiful, so you won't save any money by making your own. But the homemade versions are tasty and softer than the store-bought kind. Allrecipes has an extremely easy version, (pictured) with a list of ingredients and simple instructions: "Mix all ingredients together. Knead like you would for bread. Roll into rope shapes and cut into desired lengths." Right, no cooking at all! A slightly more complex recipe that does involve a bit of cooking yields rolls very close in texture to the original.

7. Pop Rocks

I really wanted to find a recipe for homemade jelly beans to complete the traditional Easter basket, but found nothing that really approximated the jelly beans we know and love. However, we can substitute Pop Rocks, because we have a recipe! These directions at Instructables yield a candy that relies on citric acid and baking soda to create the fizzy sensation on your tongue. And don't forget your hammer!

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Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
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Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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What Are the 12 Days of Christmas?
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Everyone knows to expect a partridge in a pear tree from your true love on the first day of Christmas ... But when is the first day of Christmas?

You'd think that the 12 days of Christmas would lead up to the big day—that's how countdowns work, as any year-end list would illustrate—but in Western Christianity, "Christmas" actually begins on December 25th and ends on January 5th. According to liturgy, the 12 days signify the time in between the birth of Christ and the night before Epiphany, which is the day the Magi visited bearing gifts. This is also called "Twelfth Night." (Epiphany is marked in most Western Christian traditions as happening on January 6th, and in some countries, the 12 days begin on December 26th.)

As for the ubiquitous song, it is said to be French in origin and was first printed in England in 1780. Rumors spread that it was a coded guide for Catholics who had to study their faith in secret in 16th-century England when Catholicism was against the law. According to the Christian Resource Institute, the legend is that "The 'true love' mentioned in the song is not an earthly suitor, but refers to God Himself. The 'me' who receives the presents refers to every baptized person who is part of the Christian Faith. Each of the 'days' represents some aspect of the Christian Faith that was important for children to learn."

In debunking that story, Snopes excerpted a 1998 email that lists what each object in the song supposedly symbolizes:

2 Turtle Doves = the Old and New Testaments
3 French Hens = Faith, Hope and Charity, the Theological Virtues
4 Calling Birds = the Four Gospels and/or the Four Evangelists
5 Golden Rings = the first Five Books of the Old Testament, the "Pentateuch", which gives the history of man's fall from grace.
6 Geese A-laying = the six days of creation
7 Swans A-swimming = the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven sacraments
8 Maids A-milking = the eight beatitudes
9 Ladies Dancing = the nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit
10 Lords A-leaping = the ten commandments
11 Pipers Piping = the eleven faithful apostles
12 Drummers Drumming = the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostle's Creed

There is pretty much no historical evidence pointing to the song's secret history, although the arguments for the legend are compelling. In all likelihood, the song's "code" was invented retroactively.

Hidden meaning or not, one thing is definitely certain: You have "The Twelve Days of Christmas" stuck in your head right now.

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