Thursday, December 22, 2011

Embrace The Christmas Card

Well, I kinda lied!  I said yesterday was my last post for 2011, but I wanted to share our family Christmas card with you all, so HERE is my last post for 2011!!  I promise!  The sleigh is loaded and in a few short hours we'll be off for a grand holiday!
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, everyone was reading!  Well, not yet the tiniest mouse!  This year has been grand with so much that is new, we’ll start with Macky who’s almost done being 2!  With his tractors and trucks he’s a boy there’s no doubt!  He’s filled with joy and smiles except when he pouts!  His sissys are still in love with him to this day, they also love AWANA and taking ballet!  Emma’s our singer with a voice from above; from drawing and dolls – there’s so much that she loves.  Georgia has letters swirling around in her head, she reads and she spells ‘til asleep in her bed!  Daddy’s our new sergeant who works through the night.  Maybe he’ll be the first to spot Rudolph and his nose that’s so bright!  Mommy is busy keeping everything in line, from classes, her blog, and the school – there isn’t enough time!  We are more blessed this year than we were in the last, we treasure each moment but wish it wasn’t going so fast.  The one thing we know that is steady and true is the love of our Savior for me and for you.  The display of his love was never more clear, than when He came to live with us and draw us all near.  The best time is now as we celebrate His birth, to trust him and follow – He’ll show you your worth.  Well, the cattle are lowing and the star shining bright – so Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight.

Merry Christmas Bloggin' Friends!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Family Christmas Party

We do a lot of entertaining around here. If there is any excuse for a party, we’re throwing it! So it’s no surprise that often when I ask the children what they’d like to do, their answer is, “let’s have a party!” We have a few short days together when Daddy isn’t working and the children aren’t in school before we had to Grammie & Papa’s for Christmas so when I asked the children what they wanted to do, naturally they said…
"Let’s have a Family Christmas Party"
(Translation of the above invitation: Merry Christmas, we're having a Christmas party,
we would like to invite you)
The girls did their own hair!
The children helped prep the food, make decorations (thanks Trader Joe’s bags!!) and plan the activities.

First up was Candy Land

 We had to improvise a few of the pieces!
Georgia won and did a victory dance!

The food rolled out and everyone enjoyed all the snacks! Bacon Wrapped Chestnuts were not a hit with the kids, but my husband and I had our fill!
Then we loaded up in the car to see the Christmas light around town.

(If this is all sounding so perfect and Cleaver like to you – 5 in the car for the lights was where the wheels came off! I think Daddy pulled the car over at least 2 times!)
Back home everyone jammied up for a Christmas movie. Mickey’s Once Upon A Christmas (a serious favorite of mine, it’s so littles friendly!).
After the littles went to bed, Daddy Bear and I put on Elf and started wrapping presents. What a fabulous Family Christmas Party!

This is my last post of 2011. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, celebrating the greatest gift we’ve ever been given – JESUS!

Have you noticed? I stopped posting “What’s For Dinner” some months back. I was out of ideas and uninspired. But…. It’s coming back! When I return on January 2nd, get ready for a food revival!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Intentional Family Traditions - Birthday Cake & Tasty Treats

Well, it’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than a week away. I always kinda dread this week – only because I know the end of the season is approaching and I don’t want it to end!!

One of the special things about the holidays is the recipes we pull out only once a year. I have to say, most of our family traditions growing up revolved around food! I want to share with you a new traditional recipe that we started just last year.

Once we had children and were hanging out with other families, we kept hearing of families that make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas. Can I be honest? It sounded really corny to me. I mean, who blows out the candles? Then, last year, in my girls preschool, their Christmas party was a birthday party for Jesus. I thought that was really cool for a school party! (private Christian school of course!!) And I decided that I too would make a birthday cake for Jesus on Christmas and it would be the final way to focus our hearts on the true meaning of this season as the evening comes to a close. I found the perfect recipe and couldn’t wait to make the cake. The cake came out beautifully (sadly I don’t have a photo, but I’ll get one this year!!) and as the meal ended and dessert approached, I started getting nervous. Perhaps it was because our Christmas dinner was shared by all of our extended family and neighbors. Would they think this was corny to sing Happy Birthday to Jesus with a birthday cake? Would they sing along? Would they laugh as the candles just burned since the birthday boy wasn’t there to blow them out? Ah, I was a nervous wreck. But I was committed. The cake was made; the children had been told that it was a birthday cake for Jesus; I had no choice. I disappeared into the kitchen to light the candles and decided to just go for it! The lights went out and I started to sing. Everyone, especially the children, sang along. At the end of the song, without hesitation, all the children blew out the candles and cheered. As I walked back into the kitchen to cut the cake, I had a bit of a Peter moment. Embarrassed of Jesus’ birthday? Slightly hesitant to publically celebrate this significant birthday in the same way I celebrate my own children’s birthdays? In a way, was I struggling with denying him in the same way Peter did? I was humbled. I’m so grateful that I have children that are unashamed. They don’t hold back. They don’t hesitate. Because of them, I made a birthday cake for Jesus and you know what? I will do it every year because it is the most important birthday we’ll ever celebrate and He’s worthy of a grand celebration!

Grandmother Paula’s Red Velvet Cake aka Jesus' Birthday Cake!
• 2 cups sugar
• 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
• 2 ounces red food coloring
• 2 1/2 cups cake flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup buttermilk
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 tablespoon vinegar

• 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
• 1 stick butter, softened
• 1 cup melted marshmallows
• 1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
• 1 cup shredded coconut
• 1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food coloring together and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture. Pour batter into 3 (8-inch) round greased and floured pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from heat and cool completely before frosting

Blend cream cheese and butter together in a mixing bowl. Add marshmallows and sugar and blend. Fold in coconut and nuts. Spread between layers and on top and sides of cooled cake. (I did not fold in the coconut and nuts. I sprinkled the coconut on at the end and omitted the nuts.)

Bacon Wrapped Chestnuts
Whole Water Chestnuts
Worchestershire Sauce
Brown Sugar

Another family favorite! Wrap each chestnut with bacon. Do not overlap the bacon, just wrap until it is covered. Place in a glass baking dish with the ends of the bacon on the bottom. Bake at 375 until bacon starts to brown (about 15-18 minutes). In a small dish, combine about ¼ cup brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. mustard, 1 tsp. worchestershire sauce, ¼ cup ketchup. When bacon is brown, pour some sauce on each chestnut and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes until sauce is bubbling. Take out of oven and pierce each chestnut with a toothpick and place on a serving tray. Warn your guests to let them cool slightly before popping one in their mouth!

Sweet & Hot Salami
This is so easy and delicious! Truly a must try!
Buy a stick of salami or summer sausage. Cut into thin slices, but not all the way through so that the stick of meat stays together. Combine equal parts Trader Joe’s Sweet & Hot Mustard and apricot preserves and heat on the stove while stirring. Line a loaf pan with foil and place the salami in the pan. Pour the warm mustard over the meat, making sure it is in between the slices. Bake at 350 for about ½ hour. Serve with crackers and additional sauce on the side.

The Newquist Family Ginger Cookies
I married into this recipe, and I’m so glad I did!! These cookies are divine!

¼ c. Crisco shortening
½ c. sugar
1 egg
½ c. green label molasses
Mix the first 4 ingredients and beat well

Add the following ingredients in order and beat well:
2 c. flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. ground cloves
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ c. hot water – add this slowly until the right consistency comes about – similar to chocolate chip cookie dough.

Mixture will be smoothe – drop by teaspoon on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 8 minutes at 400 degrees. (I’ve found that 6-6 ½ minutes is perfect – it depends on your oven)

While still warm, frost with the following:
1 c. powdered sugar
½ to 2 Tbs. cream or milk
½ tsp. vanilla
(I have to admit, a can of white frosting it just as good and much easier!! Not vanilla frosting, but “white” frosting!)
What fabulous holiday recipes do you make?

Check out Ashley's post that she linked up to share some of her favorite traditions!
Our Family

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Eyed Squirrel

When I was little my mom used to lay me across the bathroom counter to wash my hair in the sink.  I loved that time, it was always so special and she would tell me stories as she washed my hair.  
I had one favorite story that I always asked her to tell me - the story of the one eyed squirrel.
Why?  I have no idea! 

But for some reason I loved it and perhaps that is what sparked my secret obsession with squirrels!
When my mom was here this week to bake with the children, as they made gingerbread houses, she told them the story of the one eyed squirrel.

When I was a little girl, we live in New Jersey.  At Christmas time my mom would always make gingerbread houses.  After the season was over, she would put the stale houses on the back porch for the squirrels to come eat.  There was one special squirrel who had been in a fight with the cat next door and was left with only one eye.  The one eyed squirrel loved to come eat the gingerbread houses!
The End

To my amazement, my children have not stopped talking about the one eyed squirrel since Grammie told them the story.  Hmmmm, I think there's a little crazy in our family!
Happy Weekend!

PS Trader Joe's has the cutest gingerbread house kits - look at these cute people it comes with!
Monday will be the final Intentional Family Traditions - filled with Holiday Recipes!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Cookie Baking

Grammie is here to bake Christmas cookies with the children and make gingerbread houses!
We started with our Spritz cookies.

 Want to know a great tip? 
Place tape over some of the holes of the sprinkles so that they all don't pour out when decorating! 
This is especially helpful if you have little hands that are helping shake on the sprinkles!

 It's a great idea to always check on the progress of your baking! 
(Dragging a chair in front of the oven is optional!)
 Oh, and including your baby dolls is very important too!
It was a success!  The Spritz cookies were amazing!
Link up your favorite holiday traditions here

Monday, December 12, 2011

Intentional Family Traditions - Jesus

Last year when I was back in Michigan for my Grandmother’s funeral, we spent some time at her house going through things. I was looking for something special to keep in our family that would always remind us of my Grandmother. She was very neat and tidy and didn’t keep any extra things that she didn’t have use for. We thought we’d gone through everything until I found a styrofoam box in the closet. When I opened it up, I might as well have found a million dollars! It was my Grandmother’s nativity set. I must confess that I don’t have any memory of this nativity. I don’t think I ever saw it in her home. But I’ve always wanted a special nativity set of my own and now to have found this one that belonged to my Grandmother – it was a dream come true! Even better was the manger that was with it!

This year I wanted to include the children in setting up this precious visual of the true meaning of Christmas. They have a few plastic nativity sets that they love to play with - but I was clear that this one was not to be touched! As I opened the box, they gathered around and I invited them to point to which figure they wanted to place in the manger and I’d be the one to pick it up and set it down! They were thrilled. As they selected a figure, I asked them a specific question about that figure. A shepherd was selected, “Why were there shepherds there?” Joseph was selected, “Who was Joseph?” Baby Jesus was selected, “Why was Jesus born?” It was a wonderful time of walking through the Christmas story with a beautiful visual presentation. I’m pretty sure a new tradition was born!

This weekend we had 3 Christmas parties, a Christmas movie night, overnight guests who we enjoyed breakfast with and a family Christmas dinner with our dearest friends who are moving out of state in only 3 weeks! As much as that sounds like a nightmare – it was most lovely. I sat in church yesterday a little tired from all the activity, but I woke up when a woman sang Sweet Little Jesus Boy. As many times as I’ve heard that song, I’ve never really listened to the words. Tears ran down my face as I listened to the powerful, convicting, tragic words to that song. I then asked myself, “do I know who Jesus is?” “Do I know who he is right now?” “Am I mindful of Jesus in this holiday season? Or would one say of me, ‘she doesn’t even know who he is?’”

Take a moment to listen to the song by Casting Crowns. Listen intently to the words. Focus your heart once again on the reason for this whole season – it’s Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.
It was a blessing to get to share our weekend with so many friends. Some of those friends don’t know who Jesus is, that sweet little Jesus boy who came to save them. And some know him very well and encouraged us as we focused our hearts on Jesus together.

Christmas is wonderful because we get to see “faithful friends who are dear to us, gather near to us, once more!” Sharing the holidays with friends and family is so special and important. And sharing Jesus with all of them is even more important than that!  As we laid our baby Jesus in the manger, I realized that this will be our most important tradition - focusing our hearts and home on Jesus.

Now it’s your turn! What are your favorite Holiday Traditions? Link up your posts for all to enjoy!
This linky party will be open until next Sunday night, so feel free to link up more than one post.
1. post something about your holiday traditions on your blog
2. add the intentional family traditions button
3. link up here
4. visit other posts and get some great inspiration!

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Lord Changes Everything

I've been finding all these fun Christmas signs on pintrist and so I asked my artistic husband to make one for me.  "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear,"  that was my request!  So much fun and always makes me smile.  He agreed and said he wanted to make it to hang over our mantle.  OH!  I think what hangs over your mantle is a statement about your family and who you are.  So, perhaps the fun quote from Elf wouldn't really fit the vision.  I knew it had to be about Jesus if it were going to hang over our mantle. 
O come let us adore him, Christ the Lord
That would be perfect.  My sweet husband made a run to the hardware store, bought some wood and paint, and got to work.  He made up a sample on the computer and got to work.  Can you believe he free handed those different fonts?  He's amazing!  When he was finished, I was slightly disappointed.  Sadly, I couldn't hide my disappointment and he was discouraged and frustrated.  Something just didn't look right.  The spacing was off, it just lacked the "wow" I was hoping for.  I felt horribly for not being grateful for his efforts, but the sign just didn't look right.  A few hours later I noticed that he took the sign down and had the paints out again.  He said, "I'm not re-doing the whole sign.  I'm going to change one word."  I was doubtful that it would make a difference, but I decided to let it go.

Later on, as I walked through the family room, I looked up and saw the sign over the mantle.  He repainted LORD and everything changed.  "Oh my gosh, it's amazing.  The Lord is incredible!  The Lord changed everything.  The Lord totally makes everything look right."  Then we both laughed as he said, "Yes Raeanne, the Lord does change everything!"  What a beautiful Christmas reminder.  If you look closely, after he distressed it, you can see "Lord" as he first painted it - it was the same size and font as "The."  It was small and insignificant.  When we keep the Lord small, life just doesn't look right.  It's out of balance and the spacing is all wrong.  But when the Lord is made big and dominates our lives, everything looks better!  It's amazing!  The Lord really does change everything!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Embrace The Photo Booth

We've been having way too much fun with our little photo booth props!!

We had a little Christmas Cocktail Party and all the guests had fun taking photos.
The kids love it too!
Merry Merry!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crazy Hats & Pine Noodles

We loaded into the car, Grammie’s crazy hats in tow, and headed out to the tree farm to hunt for our Christmas tree. 
Well, not really. 
We actually drove to Home Depot where we found a perfect tree in under 20 minutes! 

I don’t know why, but every year when we quickly find perfect trees at the Depot, I’m a little disappointed.  Shouldn’t this take a few hours?  Shouldn’t there be a few quarrels over which tree is best?  Shouldn’t there be time for hot cocoa and a cookie or two? 

Everyone still had a wonderful time and no one complained that we weren’t there for hours on end, freezing and hungry!  The children still managed to get tangled in all the twine, dangerously scale the mounds of trees and scoop up as many “pine noodles” as possible! 
You know what?  It’s kinda nice when things aren’t so complicated!
Happy Wednesday!


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