Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013








Merry Christmas from our home to yours...

Enjoy the peace and love that this Blessed Season brings. : )

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Eve Preparations

Christmas Eve...perhaps our very favorite day of the year. There is just something about the anticipation that makes the day so magical. : ) During the day we stay in jammies and follow Santa on the  Norad Santa Tracker. In the late afternoon, we start to get ready for the most special night of the year.  I try to have everything ready and waiting so we can just sit back and enjoy the day. Here is what we do on Christmas Eve...

We light our Christmas Eve candle that only burns this one day of the year...


We mix up our Reindeer food to sprinkle on the lawn...


We attend a beautiful Christmas Eve Mass, then come home and change into special Christmas Eve pajamas...and yes, I miss the days when they all would match...


We sing Happy Birthday to Baby Jesus...


We read the Night Before Christmas... from a special book brought from The North Pole...


and we set out cookies for Santa on our special Santa plate.

Then some of us snuggle into bed with dreams of the morning, and others sit in the quiet of the most holy night of the year, and watch the Christmas tree lights glisten. : )

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve, my friends...with whatever traditions you hold dear.  : )


Friday, December 20, 2013

Manger Cake...A Birthday Cake For Jesus



We love to celebrate with a special cake each year for Baby Jesus. This is one of our favorites. It is delicious, easy, and not too sweet. In other words, it is just right. So if you would like to try something new this year, give this one a try. A very dear friend of mine gave me this recipe years ago, and I have enjoyed making it with my children. We do omit the nuts. ; )



Manger Cake


Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  2. 1/4 cup butter
  3. 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
  4. 2 cups flour
  5. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  6. 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  7. 1 tsp. soda
  8. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  9. 1/2 cup shortening
  10. 1 1/4 cups milk
  11. 2 eggs
  12. 1/2 cup chopped very fine walnuts
Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Generously grease 9x13 inch pan.
  3. Melt 1/3 cup chocolate chips. Set aside.
  4. Melt butter, then stir in graham cracker crumbs. Let cool.
  5. In a larger bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, soda, vanilla, shortening, milk, eggs, and melted chocolate.
  6. Blend at low speed until moistened.
  7. Beat 3 minutes on medium.
  8. Pour into prepared pan.
  9. Add walnuts and remaining chocolate chips to cooled crumb mixture.
  10. Sprinkle over batter.
  11. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
  12. Cool, and serve with whipped cream.



 We used Christmas chocolate chips, so that is why you see green. ; )








Thursday, December 19, 2013

Weekend Plans

The last weekend before Christmas is here. Even as I type those words, I don't believe them! My mother always says that Christmas will come, whether you are ready or not. And she is right. So I have learned to stress less and enjoy more. : )

Friday evening is free. I am planning on s simple meal of sloppy joes and French fries before we spend the evening in front of the tree watching a few of our favorite Christmas movies. Santa Clause Is Coming To Town and A Christmas Story will most likely make the cut. ; )

Saturday begins our baking weekend. : ) We are planning on spending most of Saturday with our aprons on baking a few of our favorite Christmas cookies...chocolate chip, chocolate crinkle, snickerdoodle, snowball, and peanut blossoms are on the menu this year. Saturday evening we will attend Mass and pick up a pizza for dinner. No cooking on baking day!

Sunday we will finish up our baking and fill a few containers to deliver to a few of our neighbors and friends. Then I am thinking of a favorite...breakfast for dinner. Eggs, toast, waffles, sausage, fresh fruit... perfect way to end the weekend. : )

And that is what we have planned for this last weekend before Christmas. I hope yours is happy and cheery and cozy and festive, whatever your plans may be! Oh...and no pictures from Madison's Snowball Dance...too much snow! They rescheduled it for January. : )


A little pre Christmas treat for my kiddos...I found these sweet mugs at Pottery Barn.


A simple meal for us girls when the guys were at camp...Amish Noodles...Soooo good!
Simply brown 2 tablespoons of butter in a pot. Add two 14 oz cans of chicken broth and one bouillon cube and bring to a boil. Add a 12 oz bag of uncooked egg noodles, bring back to a boil, cover and turn off the heat. Leave it on that burner, stir a few times,  and in 30 minutes or so you will have some yummy noodles. : )
Thank you Pinterest!


And while we were eating noodles, my eleven year old son was doing this!
So happy for him!


And for Dad...who was even more excited and proud. : )


Zip was busy this week...


and was sure to remind us what this season is really about. : )


We had some snow last weekend...


pretty pretty pretty


to look at. Driving in...not as much. The girls and I ventured out to Mass, and made it home safely. Well, almost the whole way up the driveway. Seems I am completely incompetent without my hubby next to me. We had him on speaker phone, where he calmly told me to put the van in park, put on the emergency brake, and he would take care of it when he got home. See why I married him? ; )


We are all about Christmas here...drinking morning coffee from a Rudolph mug...


and again later while we watch our favorite Christmas movie...


We are having extra special treats for snack...



and we are sporting Christmas clothes around here while we can...


and this one looks way cuter than I do in hers. : )

Have a wonderful weekend my friends!







Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Time Goes Too Fast Tuesday

Just a quick look back at Christmas four short years ago...when we were celebrating the birth of Baby Jesus with our own new baby in the house...


Christmas Eve with my littles...


and Christmas Day...my sweet hubby and me with the best Christmas gift ever...our new baby Flynn. : )

( And yes...because I love you all so much...I didn't think twice about posting a picture of me in my jammies without a bit of make-up on.)

Here's hoping the next four years don't pass as quickly as these ones!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Saying No at Christmastime Means Saying Yes To Familytime

This year we are saying no. No to the extra things that distract us from the meaning of this blessed season. No to the things that rush us, and stress us and make us feel anxious. I am finding the older I get, the less I want. Less fuss. Less rush. Less craziness this time of year.

We are saying no to our annual Christmas party. For years we have hosted a gathering with friends before Christmas. It is not elaborate, but it is time-consuming. We have a Fourth of July party with the same people, so perhaps it is not really no...just see you later.

We are saying no to the Christmas Cookie Exchange I have always dreamed of hosting. Someday I want to wear an apron and invite a few friends over to visit and sip tea and swap cookies. But not now. Not this year.

Perhaps the biggest no we are giving this year is to Steve's family Christmas. Steve is the youngest of seven. Many of the grandchildren now have children of their own. We had to move the party to a lodge to accommodate everyone. It is held the Sunday before Christmas every year. And every year since 1987 Steve and I have attended. Not this year. Last year Flynn got sick two days after and was in the Emergency Room on Christmas morning. ( I realize that getting sick can sometimes be unavoidable, but I am not taking any chances.) We also get together with the family in late August every year. And we will be sure to attend then. My own family gave up trying to get everyone together years ago. We are going to spend the day of the party here at home...the six of us...baking cookies for ourselves and for some special people in our lives. : )

Why are we saying no? We are actually saying yes to our family. I want my children to have memories of a peaceful, meaningful, blessed Advent leading up to Christmas. I don't want them to remember rushing here and there, or having a stressed out mother, or jammed packed days that flew right by. This time passes quickly enough, and for us, the best way to enjoy it now is here in our home with family fun and Christmas music and snuggles on the sofa with cocoa and movies.

What else are we enjoying this Christmas here at home?


Christmas treat baking...


Little People playing...


Christmas book reading...


Favorite toy playing...


New Holiday Barbie introducing...



Hershey Kiss sneaking...


Christmas movie watching...


and Activity book coloring. : )

This works for us, right here...right now...
Have a Blessed Season, my dear friends.




Thursday, December 12, 2013

Weekend Plans

The weekend is here again. And we have some fun holiday plans in store. Not too many. Just enough to add a festive feel to our cozy days. : ) Friday Steve and Rhett will be at camp for one more try at Rhett's buck. Successful or not, those two sure have had a fun hunting season this year.

Saturday is a quiet day here. The girls and I will spend the day getting Madison ready for The Snowball Dance. : ) She is going with a friend from school and is very excited. They are going to Mass and then to a friend's house for dinner before heading to the dance. The rest of us will be attending Mass as well, and then going out to dinner. After that, it's home to wait for Madison and the stories and pictures from the dance.

Sunday is a free day. I am planning on sleeping in and then having brunch. I am thinking pancakes, eggs, sausage, toast, and fresh fruit. After that, Steve is planning on taking a few of the kids to do some Christmas shopping. We exchanged names among the six of us, and are going to exchange gifts Christmas Eve morning. Since Flynn and I are all done with our shopping, we will stay here and snuggle on the sofa with a Christmas video or two. : )

And that is what we have planned this December weekend. I hope yours is happy and cozy and festive, whatever your plans may be!


Love sleepy little Four year olds in Christmas jammies. : )


Chilly December evenings mean a favorite meal...Grilled cheese and tomato soup...


My preschool student in a favorite Zulily find...


and then all ready for Mass last Saturday.


My oldest had her first college visit this week!!!! Hard to believe, but it's true...She went to an open house at a beauty school, and loved it! She has another year at home with me, but she is fairly certain this is what she wants to do. And she will be great!


My sweet hubby took her, and then they did some shopping. He brought me home some early Christmas presents. : ) Now I can use them for our cookie baking!


That's not all he brought back...since we live in the boonies, we don't get Dunkin Donuts often.
So of course I HAD to have one, right? I mean I couldn't hurt his feelings. ; )


A little Santa craft my little student made this week. I love preschool. : )


A few weeks ago we girls had a Christmas game night while the guys were at camp...fun, fun, fun!


Zip was hanging out with the big bucks this week...


The December cupcake delivery did not disappoint...


Madison's friend and her mom who is my friend both found this at a craft show. Nicole wanted to get it for Madison, and Mary wanted to get it for me...so they did! : )


Dinner in the crockpot on a cold December morning makes me happy...thanks Patty for this yummy chicken recipe. All her recipes are delicious!!!!


And one other thing that makes me happy on cold December days...


Have a blessed weekend, my friends!
Thanks for visiting. : )









Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

Now don't get scared...they are really good...I promise!!!! We love anything pumpkin around here, and when Madison found a few pictures of these on Pinterest, I knew we would have to try them. They are delicious! And simple. And comforting. Now, I had to change up the original recipes Madison found, as they were a little too "fancy" for us. I made them a bit more family friendly...and to answer the most asked question...no...they don't scream pumpkin. It is more like an extra flavor and texture in there. So here it is...please give it a try!


Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
Ingredients:
  1. 1 box pasta shells, cooked, drained, and rinsed in cold water
  2. 1 can ( 15 oz. ) canned pumpkin
  3. 2 cups ricotta cheese  and yes, use the whole milk ricotta : )
  4. 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese...and more to sprinkle on top
  5. 1 egg
  6. 3 garlic cloves, minced or the garlic powder equivalent if you forgot to buy them like I did...
  7. Dash of salt and pepper
  8. 1 large jar of pasta sauce...I like Tomato Basil...
Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cook shells according to directions...and then drain and rinse.
  3. Spray 13x9 baking dish with Pam and pour some sauce on bottom.
  4. Mix pumpkin, cheeses, egg, garlic, salt, and pepper.
  5. Stuff each shell with pumpkin mixture and place in baking dish.
  6. Cover with remaining sauce.
  7. Cover with foil, and bake for 30 minutes.
  8. Uncover, sprinkle with more Parmesan cheese, and bake for 10 more minutwes.
  9. Enjoy with garlic bread!





Monday, December 9, 2013

Deck The Halls

Christmas. Is it a coincidence that one of the most magical times of the year...the time when we adorn our home with our favorite holiday decorations...comes during the darkest days when we spend the most time indoors? Perhaps, but in any case, I so enjoy creating a festive, cozy place for my family to relax and enjoy during this special season. And in case you are interested, here are way too many pictures of our holiday home. : )


Our kitchen table... I rearranged the kitchen area. I just do that sometimes. No reason. : )


A new centerpiece this year...


the sideboard...


with one of my favorite pieces. This cute Santa is actually a replica of one my mother had.


A nighttime pic of the tree in the kitchen...


near the sweet sign that hangs behind the table.


A lone candy cane that was too cute to leave out...


across from the tea and coffee table all decked out for Christmas.


I found this cute little cupboard to hold the hot cocoa.


And hung one of my favorite signs up too.


I added a new one this year. I just love Etsy...the place where people with many talents offer things for people like me. ; )


One little cupboard in the kitchen displays my grandmother's Christmas tea cups.


The Christmas mantle...










a little pillow on the rocker near the fireplace...


where our Brownie keeps an eye on things...



our special Christmas Eve candle waiting to be lit...


 a few sweet signs hanging up as well...


and the little holiday tree


decorated with candy canes make the Hearth Room cozy as can be.


Here is what it looks like all put together. You may notice we added a love seat. This room is where everyone seems to gather, and we needed more seating. : )


This is the view from the Hearth Room looking into the kitchen...


and a close up of the garland that hangs throughout our home during this happy season.


Around the corner is the TV room...


where these sweet blocks sit on top of the book shelf near a sweet smelling candle that burns at night...


and where our family tree glows day and night...


and still holds some of the ornaments, candles, and bows I bought for our first Christmas years ago.


Underneath...the beautiful Nativity Steve's parents gave us years ago as well. : )


Steve's tree is all lit up in his den...


with beautiful wildlife ornaments all around.


One more tree...the kids tree in the basement. We decorated this a few weeks ago...


with a special ornament from a dear friend to celebrate our first year of homeschooling. : )


And of course...our Home for the Holidays candle that burns every evening (and all day long ) in our country home.


Thanks for visiting, friends!