Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Christmas Edition (Random Thoughts)

Here are a few random thoughts. The Christmas Edition. Consider it my Christmas card to you…and possibly the only Christmas card most of you will receive from me this year.

1. Speaking of Christmas cards. I purchased a beautiful box of Christmas cards at T.J. Maxx last month for 5.99. They had a glittery Victorian Angel on the front and something about Christmas blessings and a scripture verse. They are really pretty. And still sitting in the box on my dining room table.

2. Josiah and I watched the Ballet together last night. Actually it was a documentary about the Kirov Ballet in Russia. Obviously there was a lot of Russian spoken and dancing going on. He finally told me, “Mom! All of this dancing and Spanish speaking is driving me crazy!” He thinks every foreign language he hears spoken is Spanish. We did do a introductory Spanish course this past year. I let him pick out what we watched after the Ballet. He picked Scooby Doo. Sigh.

3. So. Show of hands. How many of you have been out doing your last minute Christmas shopping. ‘Cause you’re all crazy! I went to Aldi’s the other day. Along with half of the Senior Citizen population of the Ozarks… and the Amish. You don’t mess with the Seniors when they are doing serious shopping. I thought I was going to lose a limb. The Amish, however, were exemplary shoppers. They seemed pretty delighted by the whole chaotic scene. I couldn't even drive my buggy down the was like the 76 Strip at Branson during the tourist season. Crazy crowds make me nervous. I break out in hives. The Seniors eat so much better than we do. They had all sorts of fruit in their carts. I covered up the box of Frosted Flakes with my coat in shame. In my defense, the Frosted Flakes were for The Studly Muffin.

4. I have another confession. I have not wrapped a single gift. Except for the empty boxes we used for a memory verse game in Children’s Church on Sunday. Normally, I am all about the present wrapping. I get all of my paper and bags ready (matching, of course). Bows, gift tags, tape. I make myself a cup of something hot (this year I have a box of Holiday Chai Tea I am enjoying) and put on White Christmas. I am a little obsessive about the whole thing. I blame it on my mother. She is the quintessential last-minute present wrapper. One year, she waited so long that our little town in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas ran out of scotch tape. Our presents were brought down Christmas morning in laundry baskets. Not that we complained. But it did kind of take the whole “Santa came down the chimney and left these for you” magic out of the morning. There have been years I have gone to her house and wrapped her presents for her. Last night she called me from road (she and Dad are spending Christmas with Baby Sister in OHH-Klahoma) and she had yet to wrap any presents.

5. It happens. Every once in a while. I find myself in what appears to be a episode of "Hoarders." You know it's bad when you call your son and if he doesn't answer right away, your first instinct is that he has been buried underneath the avalanche of coats, wal-mart bags and scrapbook paper spilling out of the hall closet. It's time for an intervention. It doesn't help that we live in a 600+ square foot apartment. Maybe people in urban cities can do it, but I was raised in the country, ya'll! I have to spread out a little. Plus, there are things (like books, dishes and my son) that I can't live without. But not to fear! The Studly Muffin leant a hand over the weekend and the clutter has been conquered (at least this week)!

6. We are doing a bit of Holiday traveling tonight. The Studly Muffin gets off work at 1:30am. We are piling in the little Ford Contour (Sadly, Bertha the Buick…my car has no heat and bad tires) and heading up to St. Louis. The Studly Muffin likes to travel at night. Except that he likes me to stay awake to keep him awake. What’s up with that! One of the great things about traveling at night is the sleeping!

7. Have you ever been so discouraged that you couldn't even prayer for yourself? I've been there. And there have been times in my life when I am convinced that the prayers of those around me made the difference. I love this quote by Abraham Lincoln "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go.”Of course, the flip side to this is that we need to be on our knees in the good times, too. Right now I know of some pretty serious needs. Crisis doesn’t take a Christmas Holiday. My heart has been so burdened for many friends and family. As we celebrate with our loved ones, let’s all remember those around us who need a miracle. No matter how big the problem, God is still in control. And what better time for a miracle!

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hot Chocolatey

It's C-C-C-Cold here in Missouri. At least it's cold for us Hillbillies. We like our winters cold enough we know that ole Jack Frost has paid us a visit. Give us a few snowman building days and we're good.  If it gets too cold our stills and possum traps start acting out of us! Kidding! Most of us don't have stills and I haven't eaten possum in ages! :<) For me it's all about the boots. A few months of cute boot wearing weather is worth all the chilly days and nights.
There are a few benefits to a frigid night at home. For one, the whole "night at home" thing is pretty good. It doesn't get any better than enjoying some snuggle time with the family. And being Christmas and all, we get to watch our fill of Christmas movies.  And what's better than watching White Christmas, Frosty the Snowman & It's Wonderful Life than with something chocolatey and warm. Is "chocolately" even a word?  Probably not.

As I write this, my family and I are currently snuggling together around a good "end of the world disaster flick"....2012. Not my idea. I am hoping to take control of the remote. Maybe if I distract the holder of the remote. I am not a disaster flick fan. They don't give me any thing warm or fuzzy. Anyhoo.

Here are some recipes and links for some fun Hot Chocolatey Recipes. Yum!

My Mama's Hot Cocoa Recipe

This is the recipe I grew up with. We didn't have little packets of cocoa in the country.

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3/4 cup white sugar
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup half-and-half cream

Just heat on your stovetop. Serve with whipped cream and candy canes.

If you are really ambitious, Martha Stewart has a recipe for Homemade Marshmallows. I have made these before. Granted they didn't look as pretty as Martha's, but I'm no Martha.

Our Best Bites has a wonderful collection of recipes to change up your Hot Chocolate. These look really yummy simple. There are great recipes like Raspberry Truffle or Peppermint Stick.

Maybe you would like something a little more substantial with your cup of cocoa.  I have a friend who has a recipe for a chocolate microwave cake in a mug. You can find it here.

But how about making these Hot Cocoa Muffins In A Cup for the whole gang. Or better yet. Invite your friends over for a movie and a muffin in a cup! (hint. hint).



Thursday, December 9, 2010

My Favorite Christmas Present - EVER!

So have you made your Christmas list yet? I have an unofficial one (new tires, a new printer, a house with a yard, maybe a job, boots, a Circut, to return to my wedding dress size)…but there’s not much on it ;<). Josiah has his list. I will tell you that most of it involves Indiana Jones. There are many families this year that have had to simplify their Christmases. We aren’t alone on that island. We have been blessed to be blessed in this country and there have been many Christmases that my “stocking” was filled to the brim. But I would have to say that my favorite Christmas present ever wasn’t a new purse (though the Studly Muffin has done a good job in that department in years past). It wasn’t a bottle of fancy perfume or a new teapot. 9 years ago on December 10, Troy and I officially received parental custody of one Josiah Bevan. 6 months or so later we become his forever parents. Somewhere in all my boxes I have pictures of a tiny Josiah wearing a little Christmas outfit and a peppermint stripped hat. I think I spent that whole Christmas in some sort of surreal existence. Troy and I had been married 10 years. There had been things that had happened in our 10 years of marriage that no young couple should have to experience. Yet, here we were. Looking at our Christmas miracle. Wrapped up in all the things we thought we might never get to experience. Midnight feedings, dirty diapers, colic. They were glorious!

So here I am 9 years later. I am gazing at a handsome young man. He is wearing a pair of well worn Iron Man jammy pants. Picking his nose. He has dragged out all his action figures to the middle of the living room floor where it appears he attempting to save the world from certain doom. I think his Indiana Jones action figure is hanging from my floor lamp. He didn’t eat a bite of supper tonight (full from the Krispy Kreme we took to our friend Kim’s today) and has discovered that Mom gets really annoyed when he tries to burp “Jingle Bells.” I won’t tell him this, but all of it (even the nose picking part) is glorious! How blessed I am. So even if Santa doesn’t make a stop at my house this year I already feel that my Christmas present has arrived. I am at this moment telling him to keep his hands out of his pants…and probably will send him back to his own bed at least a dozen times tonight. But what a Present!

Josiah - Age 9 - At Ama and Papa's Farm in Stella

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Some Christmas Goodies to Give or Take

I wanted to share with you some of the ideas I have discovered on the web this week. I am totally planning on trying these this year. That is if I can get my act together. Right now I am having difficulty mustering the energy for the grand culinary undertakings of Mac and Cheese. I expect the creative and crafty Christmas bug to infect me at any moment...Of course, if it winds up happening around Valentine's Day you can expect to receive a handcrafted Christmas goodie from me. Just receive it with love. And put it back for next year.

Here is an idea for Pie In A Jar. I love pie! And what better is a cute little pie in a jar to hand out to neighbors (and me). This particular site (Our Best Bites) has a lot of cute recipe ideas.

This Fruit Candy Popcorn is another recipe from Our Best Bites. I am for sure going to do this one. I have plenty of jello hiding in my cabinet. This is a perfect treat to enjoy for a family movie night. Plus it looks festive.

And you can't get any cuter than this! Here is a Santa Party Mix. It looks just a little time consuming, but absolutely worth it if you want a snack mix to give or take that is unique.  This comes from a cute blog, Cookies and Cups.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Corn Casserole

So tomorrow night is our church Christmas dinner. Our small group is in charge of the set up, clean up and stuff in between so it's going to be a long day (but lots of fun!) One of the guys in our group is going to bless us with lunch...he is a particularly gifted "smoker of meats" and has barbecue sauce recipe to die for. He should bottle it up and sell it, seriously. Then we've got the Christmas dinner to look forward to that night. There is nothing better than a church potluck dinner. At least for those of us with the adventurous spirit. I plan on taking the very unadventurous Corn Casserole. It's comfort food at it's best. I've posted a Corn Casserole recipe before. I have taken the Corn Casserole to many a family dinner, church potlucks and neighbors in need.

Corn Casserole

2 cans of cream-style corn

1 package of Jiffy Corn Mix

2 beaten eggs

1 tablespoon of milk

One-half cup of onions, chopped

One-fourth cup of butter

One-half pint of sour cream

One-half cup of grated cheddar cheese

Sauté chopped onions in butter. Mix corn, muffin mix, eggs and milk in a large casserole. Add onions and mix together. Dot with sour cream and add the grated cheese on top. Bake at 325 for 1 hour. This casserole raises so be sure to use a big casserole dish.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hershey Kiss Pretzel Candy Thingys

Okay. Because I didn’t post on December 1, I am doing a little bit of catching up. And I am doing it with another easy, peasy recipe. I’m really not sure what to call these…except for those Hershey Kiss Pretzel Candy Thingys.

These are some of my favorite treats to make. I start hyperventilating just a little when I think about making candy. My mom did it all. Peanut Brittle, Fudge, Divinity, Toffee. And I loved helping with every bit of it. But let’s just say that The Candy Making Gene didn’t stop for me. Baby Sister got it. And the Art Gene. And the really good Hair Gene. And the Gardening Gene. But I’m not bitter. I did get the Music Gene. Stink. She got that one too! Still not bitter.
Back to the subject at hand. These treats are simple, bimple (I am really into this rhyming nonsense words tonight). Josiah helps me with these. He doesn’t have to wash his hands every 30 seconds (he doesn’t like for his hands to be messy for very long) and you can’t mess them up. Which is a really good thing for me. I also love the combination of salty and sweet.

Hershey Kiss Pretzel Candy Thingys

Bite-size, waffle-shaped pretzels
Hershey's Kisses or Hugs
M&M's candy (I like to use the red and green Christmas colors)

That's it! That's all you need to make them. Now some fun begins. Heat the oven to 170F. Set a number of bite-size, waffle-shaped pretzels (one for each treat) in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (I use my Pampered Chef Stoneware pan without the parchment paper). Top each pretzel with an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss or Hershey's Hug.

Bake for 4 to 6 minutes (the white chocolate will melt more quickly), until the chocolates feel soft when touched with a wooden spoon. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and quickly press an M&M's candy into the center of each Kiss.Allow the treats to cool for a few minutes, then place them in the refrigerator to set, about 10 minutes.

These are really cute in a treat bag tied with red or green raffia. I try and make bunches of little bags every year. They not only make a pretty gift, but a tasty one as well!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Friendship Tea Mix

It was my intention to post something "Christmasy" every day this month until the big day. As you can see, I am late to my own party. And it's hard to admit this, but I am not in the Christmas spirit quite yet. My tree is up and Josiah has had Christmas movies going...But I'm not quite "there" yet. It will come. I think. Meanwhile, I am taking inventory of my baking supplies. There are a few things we have to make for Christmas. Even though I am diabetic and have issues with moderation...but that best left for another post.  Another little hiccup in my Christmas activities is that I've misplaced Jesus. No. I'm not having a crisis of Faith. At least not this week. I've literally misplaced our Nativity. We have a cute Precious Moments set that we have had for years (long before Josiah was born) and I can't find it. It's not in storage. Hmm. Anyhoo. I need to find Jesus. Or least purchase another set. We can't have Christmas without Him.

I'm sharing with you today one of my favorite gifts to make. Most of my favorite recipes and traditions are ones I remember as a little girl. I've added a few of my own. This one I remember my mom making and giving to friends and neighbors. It's simple and doesn't involving turning on your oven. Which, for me, could go either way. This involves a trip to the grocery store and some measuring. And the result is absolutely delicious. Your friends will Oooh and Aww.

Friendship Tea Mix
 (also called Russian Tea Mix)

18 ounces Tang drink mix

1 cup instant iced tea

2 cups granulated sugar

1 package powdered lemonade mix

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix and place into a covered jar or other container. For hot tea mix 2/3 tablespoon to 1 cup of hot water. For iced tea mix substitute cold water and pour over ice

The nice thing about this recipe is it can be made sugar free. I have used Mason Jars (decorated with fabric and rafia) or my new favorite (and cheap) alternative storage is a ziplock bag and a bag topper. I usually design my own with scrapbook paper and a computer, but here is a link for a cute printable.

Bag Topper Printable
You can also attach a cinnamon stick for extra pizazz. I even make it for myself (the sugar free version) just to enjoy on a cold winter's morning. And it's great when you are suffering with winter sinus ailments.

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