Monday, November 30, 2009

Birthday Party for Baby Jesus

The other night I was on my way home from work, and I noticed a house with a huge, lighted "Happy Birthday, Jesus" sign on the roof. Ordinarily, I would not be a big fan of such a large light display, but it struck me that perhaps the homeowners felt that people needed a large, brightly lit sign to remind them of the true meaning of the Christmas season. Over the past few years, I have felt more and more that I am getting entirely too wrapped up in parties and gift exchanges for work and clubs, and lengthy wish lists from my children, who are blessed enough to already have too much of everything. My husband and I keep trying to do what we can to help others in need during this season, and just as importantly, to try and teach our children to do the same.

An idea sparked, after seeing this sign and having spoken with my sister-in-law Jenny (who could teach us all a lesson about doing good for others -- seriously, if she has a spare moment, she fills it up with another volunteer job!) about how she encouraged her daughter to donate some of her older toys in preparation for her 4th birthday. My husband and I talked about it and we are starting a new tradition in our house this year. During December, we are going to pick a day and have a birthday party for Jesus. The girls will help bake cupcakes or a birthday cake for us to have in celebration of Jesus' birthday. And what is a birthday party without presents? We will all go through and pick out some things that we can donate to someone in need -- I'm sure that Jesus would appreciate that more than a Gameboy or an iPod... I think this is a good way for our family to remember who and what Christmas is really about!

Do you and your family have any traditions for celebrating the true meaning of Christmas? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Gingerbread Recipe

Last Saturday night my husband and I went to Chris and her husband Will's house for our gourmet club. The theme they came up with was "Pioneer Dinner" which turned out to be a wonderful theme for fall -- lots of great fall flavors like squash & apple soup, pork roast with homemade apple ketchup / catsup (and we learned that that is a process of cooking, not specifically just the familiar tomato ketchup). There were lots of other great things including homemade bread and Chris made us all take turns churning our own butter to go with the bread! (I know my husband will just LOVE this picture, but I knew my girls would appreciate seeing Daddy churn butter -- they've helped churn their own butter at Chrissy's!)

Chris assigned dessert to my husband and me, because she knew my 8-year-old would LOVE to help make the recipe she had chosen for us -- Laura Ingalls Wilder's very own Gingerbread! My girl was ecstatic, and of course she donned her Laura Ingalls Wilder outfit to wear while making it! It was really a pretty easy recipe and my girl did most of it, while I supervised and helped out occasionally if she needed it. She loves to cook and is at the age where she is a big help in the kitchen. She did a great job making Laura's gingerbread, and we all loved eating it! (She loved it too -- with vanilla ice cream on the side.) And a nice keepsake for our recipe box? Laura's recipe that we found on the internet along with a note that Laura wrote in her own handwriting to a fellow author! Here's a link to Laura's Gingerbread Recipe.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Girl's Best Friend

Recently my best friend and fellow blogger, Christine, began typing tributes on her blog to several of her closest friends all under the guise of gathering readers. What started somewhat as a joke, ended up turning into a really lovely expression of her heartfelt feelings for those she wrote about. And I was one of the lucky ones to be chosen! Now, she has turned the tables on us and asked us to write in her comment section about how we feel about her! I thought I would post mine here for all of you to read.

Chris and I have been friends since the 10th grade. What started as two girls chatting in Social Studies about boys, turned into the discovery of a lifelong friendship and sisterhood. Who would have thought that the cool girl (her) with the great jewelry and the funky haircut (very '80's -- short on one side, long on the other -- REALLY tough on us when we had lifesaving in gym class and did the hair pull technique...) would have anything in common with the prim and proper girl (me) with the tailored shirts and the ribbons tied in bows at the collar (I looked like a secretary when I was in the 10th grade...)? But something clicked and after a while we were inseparable. Obnoxiously so... We always had adventures - most of which I will not write on here - don't want to give my daughters any ideas! We'll tell our stories to our girls when they are older - 35? - and as we always do when we tell anyone our stories, we will laugh until we cry, and they will nod politely and look for the nearest exit.

We are fiercely loyal to each other, each of us holding grudges on behalf of the other one far past reasonably necessary. There are a couple of people out there that I have long since forgiven their transgressions against me, but they will forever be on Chris' "list!" There was a span of time that she was very quick with a specific finger in the car when that seemed to be called for ("Chrissy, finger!"), and another span of time where she was quick with a glass of water in the direction of whoever had wronged one of us. We both know each others secrets and dreams, we also can have conversations in shorthand -- we have this perfected to an art form!

I'll never forget my mother-in-law telling me that one of the most important relationships a woman can have is the relationship with her best friend. You can always lean on each other and get each other through life's ups and downs.

We have gone through some heartbreaking times together and cried rivers of tears. But we have also been there for each other during our most wonderful times - including the births of our daughters. And this wonderful friendship now includes our husbands and our daughters -- three little girls who love each other like family. And really, that's what we are -- family.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thanksgiving Place Cards

Here is another cute and simple project that my daughter and I did for our family’s Thanksgiving celebration. We took colored construction paper – from the pack that we had, we used red, yellow and green paper, but orange or brown would have been nice too! I cut out leaf shapes (about the size of a 4 x 5 or 5 x 7 photo – not too large) and my daughter and I wrote a family member’s name on one side of the leaf to use for each person's place card.

On the other side of the leaf, we wrote something that we are thankful for about that person. For my father, I wrote that we were so thankful to have such a great grandfather to take care of our girls when we can’t be there. For my husband, my daughter wrote, “I’m so thankful to have a hockey-playing, story-telling Daddy like you!” We thought they looked cute and festive on the table, and they fit right in with the theme of the holiday – giving thanks!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pilgrim Hat Cookies

I found this cute, easy “recipe” in last year’s fall issue of Taste of Home Magazine. This was a recipe created by a young brother and sister team (if I remember correctly from the magazine) and as soon as I saw it I tucked it away for my daughter! My 8-year-old and I made these for our family’s early Thanksgiving celebration, and they seemed to be a big hit.

Pilgrim Hat Cookies
Keebler’s Fudge Stripes cookies
Reese’s Mini Peanut Butter Cups
Vanilla Frosting
Yellow Food Coloring
Orange Tic Tacs

Place the fudge striped cookies bottom-side up – this acts as the brown brim of the hat.
Stir the yellow food coloring into the vanilla frosting, to make yellow frosting. The original recipe said to dip the peanut butter cup into the frosting, but that got very messy, very quickly! After a few attempts, I used my old standby trick and I spooned the frosting into the bottom corner of a heavy freezer baggie, then I cut just the tip of the bag’s corner off – voila, makeshift pastry bag! My daughter was able to easily pipe the frosting in a circle around the hole of the cookie. Then she took an unwrapped peanut butter cup and placed it (bottom-side up again) onto the frosting, so that some of the frosting peeks out from under the peanut butter cup. The final step is to place an orange Tic Tac on the yellow frosting. Cutest little Thanksgiving treats, and SO easy to make!

Peanut Free Version!
My friend Catherine was interested in making these for Thanksgiving, but her daughter has a nut allergy. We went to the grocery store to investigate a peanut-free version of this cookie and we found that the Keebler Fudge Stripes cookies are peanut-free and in place of the peanut butter cookies, we came up with Rolo’s chocolate covered caramels, which are a similar shape to the peanut butter cups, but are also peanut free, according to the product label.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank You!

Thinking of all of the courageous men and women in the military who sacrifice so much to ensure our freedom -- and thanking them for their service and their bravery.

Bad Blogger...

I am a very bad blogger...  I have been so busy the past couple of weeks, that I have neglected my beloved blog...  I'm still here and I have lots to share and I promise to post more regularly (so that Catherine has something to read on lunch...)!