December 30, 2010

Merry Christmas and Christmas Goals

I love Christmas...  I love the true meaning of Christmas, God's immeasurable love coming to earth for us! We assigned the date of December 25th to the Lord's birth but, I have a feeling that the date really doesn't matter to Him. What does matter is that we take at least a day to truly remember His great sacrifice of being born into the human race, after all, He is God!

With that being said, I am trying to take the consumerism out of my Christmas. Yes, I will purchase some gifts, but I love home made things. I love to make gifts and find special ways to wrap and decorate.

I am starting NOW! :) I'd like to be able to be all finished with buying & making at least by the beginning of December so that all I have to do is look forward to baking, decorating, relaxing, enjoy reading the true account of the birth of Jesus, and listen to Christmas music while I put the finishing touches on our packages! Well, a girl can dream or a girl can make a plan!

Being a practical one...  I need to figure out how to make this happen! So, here's the start of my plan!! If I put aside one day or at least a portion of a day each month and buy supplies, make my tags, decorate gift bags, make Christmas cards, start my gift giving & making lists, start adding to a box for stocking stuffers, menu plan & list ingredients etc...

Won't that make life the week before Christmas

I think this is VERY achievable don't you?

December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas....

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Just a little bit of
hot chocolate, but I would
prefer tea!

2. Turkey or Ham?

Baked turkey for dinner with all the
fixin's of course!

3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?

Definitely a REAL tree!
(The last few years they have been pre-cut ones.)

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?

Only the God given snow...
with an occassional snowman!

5. Snowball fights or sleddin’?

When I was a kid it was sledding!

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?

Not so much... I like making & baking!

7. Favorite Christmas song?

I love all the traditional songs...
Silent Night &
O Holy Night
Joy to the World

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?

I enjoy the older ones and some
of the new ones too!

9. When is it time to start listening to Christmas music?

Right after Thanksgiving!

10. White lights or colored lights on the tree?

We have decorated both ways, but I
like the colored ones best!
(and, not blinking ones this year)

11. Go to someone else’s house or they come to you?

In the morning we travel and then we come
 home to stay from mid-afternoon on!!
But, I sense change is
in the air....

12. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?

Luke chapter 2:1-20
Usually on Christmas Eve

13. What do you do after presents and dinner?

Clean up and relax... bask in the joy of
gifts opened & received, chat...

14. What is your favorite holiday smell?

The real pine scent of the tree.
The turkey roasting...
Home baked bread...

15. Ice skating or walking around the mall?

NEITHER...  How about curled up with a good book,
playing cards or a game with the family,
or watching a new movie!

16. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?

Both! Christmas Eve after church we opened gifts
from the kids to each other and us, then on Christmas day
we open the gifts from us to the kids!

17. Favorite Christmas memory?

As a child,  being all together with my
parents, grandparents and cousins!

As an adult, seeing the wonder
in my children's eyes and listening
to them play Christmas music;
piano, bell choir or singing on
Christmas Eve!

18. Favorite Part about winter?

Being warm inside and admiring the beauty outside!!
Seeing the snow cling to the trees... it is so pretty!
And, counting down the days
until springtime!

19. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?


Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

(back row: Austin, Darlene, Audrey, Ethan, Pete, Travis)
(front row: Melanie, Mom, Dad, Marc)

December 21, 2010

Fun Day With A Special Friend....

Gary came over today! We had alot of fun making "Puppy Chow"
which is a variation of chex mix! We started out with a good
sized bowl (or so I thought) but then switched to a bigger
roasting pan to add the chocolate mixture!

Gary is pouring the wheat chex in with the other
ingredients! (Rice chex, wheat chex, peanuts)
After we had all the dry ingredients mixed, I poured
a combination of melted chocolate chips,
peanut butter & a little butter on it. He
stirred it around a little with a wooden spoon
but then we poured it all into a HUGE
2 1/2 gallon zipper bag. He zipped it shut and
stirred it by tipping the bag over & over.
After the chocolate was distributed he unzipped it and
we added about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of confectioner's
sugar. And the process of tipping it over again and again
was repeated!!  Gary had fun making the Puppy Chow, but
the best part was.....

He likes it!!
Here's a close up of the Puppy Chow. We also
added a bag of  'Pretzel M&Ms' after everything
was mixed up. Very yummy and very pretty!
Awesome job Gary! We had so much fun...
he is a true blessing to us!

December 18, 2010

EASY Christmas Crockpot Treats!!

You can't get much easier then this! Christmas gifts or family treats... either way, I bet that these recipes will make the list again next year! I've been looking at recipes over the past few weeks, I'm not sure where I found these, either All Recipes or A Year of Slow Cooking or Mennonite Girls Can Cook . These are some of my favorite places to go looking for recipes!
Crockpot Rocky Road Treats

You'll Need:
24 oz. bag of chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)
mini marshmellows  (1/2 of a 10.5 oz. bag)
chopped walnuts  (or any nuts you prefer... approx. 8 oz)
waxed paper
cooking spray

Spray the inside of the crock with cooking spray. Pour the whole bag of chocolate chips into the crockpot. Turn on high and allow to cook for 30 minutes. Stir and then cook another 15-30 minutes until the chocolate is all melted and mixes smoothly. Remove the crock from the pot (heating elements). Pour in the nuts and mix well then add the marshmellows and stir. I did it the other way around adding the marshmellows first and they all melted into the chocolate... so, be sure to add the nuts and stir it ... it will kinda cool the chocolate a little then add the marshmellows! Using spoons, drop in serving sizes onto waxed paper or release foil lined cookie sheets. Place them in the refrigerator to cool and harden! Package them up to give away or store in a lidded container for your family! Now, wasn't that EASY!!

Crockpot Peanut Clusters  (Makes approx. 150 clusters)

You'll Need:
48 oz.  lightly salted roasted peanuts
8 oz.  box German Baker's Chocolate (I bought two 4oz.)
8 oz. box UNsweetened Baker's Chocolate
24 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
Large Crockpot
Baking spray
waxed paper

Spray the inside of the large crock with cooking spray. Unwrap and place all of the baker's chocolate on the bottom of the crock. Add all of the peanuts next and then pour the bag of chocolate chips on top. Measure out and add the vanilla... (you can see the dark spot in the middle of the picture!). Put the lid on and cook on low for 3 hours or on high for 1 1/2 hours. When the time has past, stir the mixture well and determine if it needs a little more time to melt the chocolate. Remove from heat and drop by spoonfuls (in serving size quantities) onto waxed paper lined cookie sheets to cool. You may place them in the refrigerator to cool faster! BE CAREFUL IF YOU TASTE TEST... these will be hot for a while!  When cooled ... package up to store or give away! ANOTHER EASY, EASY recipe!!  (PS. This recipe would be very easy to cut in half so you don't end up with soooo many of them!)


December 5, 2010

December Can Jam.... Blueberry Maple Syrup (dried fruit)

We have arrived at our 12th Can Jam challenge... DRIED FRUIT! At first my heart lurched, what the heck would one make to can with dried fruit?? But then immediately an idea popped into my head! We've always thought it would be fun to try to add a fruit flavor (using REAL fruit of course!) to our maple syrup!! So, this is my attempt at doing just that... I added dried blueberries to maple syrup, brought it back to temp. and then re-bottled it!!  To check out our family fun of making maple syrup click here, here here or here! This has been a learning process over the past 6-7 years!

                 From the tree....

        ... to the bottles!!

Now, from the bottle to the canning jars!

First lesson for me today? READ!! When I bought the 'dried blueberries' I was sooo excited! I checked out Ocean Spray and saw the display... my how they've expanded. I found blueberries & pomegranate... BIG SCORE, or so I thought!! I discovered the day before Thanksgiving ,when I read a little closer, that the package I bought was CRANBERRIES INFUSED WITH THE JUICE FROM POMEGRANATES!!  RRRRGHHH...  Oh well, still used them in the stuffing, not bad at all! THEN TODAY, I discovered that these 'blueberries' that I was so proud to have found are really the same thing... cranberries INFUSED with REAL BLUEBERRY JUICE!!

Since this is a total experiment on my part...  the only recipe is the one I've just made up!

1 pint of PURE maple syrup
1/2 cup of Ocean Spray BLUEBERRY infused cranberries (any type of dried fruit would work)

Pour the maple syrup into a small saucepan and add the dried berries. You could add a bit more if you'd like, and definitely more if you are using more then a pint of syrup!

Bring the maple syrup to a slow boil. Using a thermometer, be sure that you reach 219*. This shouldn't take too long. It is at this point that sap becomes syrup, so since it is syrup already... it really boils pretty quickly.

I let the syrup & berries kinda meld & rest for a short time (15-30 minutes) and then brought it back to 219* and poured it into my jelly jars!

Water bath for 15 minutes and now I can't wait to use it on home made pancakes with fresh home made sausage!! YUMMY!

(AFTER I was all finished, I decided to look up online to see if there were any recipes posted... sure enough, there is. AND... much to my delight, I did it similarly to those recipes! The ones I read used fresh or frozen fruits and had to cook the water content out of it... so, there is one very good reason to use dried fruit!)

Pete's 89 year old aunt has had fun with the challenges too! Each month I'd share with her the topic to be canned and she'd come up with her ideas a few recipes too give me... it's been fun! Her ideas was to use dried apricots with the syrup. I plan to try that next! I will add a picture and update when I get it done!

This has been a wonderful year long challenge! It has been a project that the whole family has been involved in... from brainstorming to sampling! THANKS TIGRESS for coming up with such an awesome project and for all the hours of work you did each month reading the blogs and posting the round ups! God Bless!