BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 18 – WINTER MUST HAVES

Ironically I’ve been a bit under the weather this past week and am no trying to play catch up on BLOGMAS.
What I CANNOT live without in winter is many, many things, but these are my top items! The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that if I have a sore throat, dry skin, cold feet or hands, cold food or catch a cold I am NOT happy.  I drink a cup of green tea every night and try to make very balanced comfort food meals to warm up my family from the inside out.  Here are a few of our favorite soups and stews links for you.

Split Pea Soup  

Red Chicken Chili

Black Eyed Pea Chili

Navy Bean & Ham Soup

Tomato Dumplings

FRENCH Onion Potato Soup

FRENCH Onion Potato Soup serves 2
3 tablespoons butter, divided 1 + 2
1 small Vidalia onion, halved root to tip and sliced thin
2 sprigs FRESH thyme, minced
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
1 large russet potato, peeled and diced small
2 cups beef broth
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 slices baguette, buttered
1 cup grated gruy’ere cheese

  • Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in saucepan.
  • Add onions, thyme, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until onions are tender and light golden brown, 10-15 minutes.
  • Add garlic, cooking a minute or two until fragrant.
  • Add wine and cook until almost evaporated.
  • Stir in potatoes and broth.
  • Season to taste.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally until potatoes are fork tender, 10-15 minutes.
  • Using an immersion blender puree the soup.
  • Stir in the heavy cream and remaining butter until melted and well blended.
  • Preheat broiler.
  • Pour soup into oven proof boils.
  • Top with baguette slices.
  • Sprinkle with grated cheese.
  • Broil until cheese is bubbly and starting to brown, 2-3 minutes.

BLOGMAS 2019- DAY 17 – STOCKING STUFFERS

Stuffing stockings is one of my favorite things to do.  I’m always on the look out for special little items that I tuck away all year long waiting for just this day.  Since the kids are grown hubby gets my FULL attention and he hates it (sort of) because he says he isn’t as good at reciprocating the stocking process.  But, he tries hard and is getting better at it every year.  EVERY year though he complains about having to actually make things ‘fit’ into something stocking shaped.  So NEXT year, we’ve agreed to use these cute bags I found on Amazon.
The picture below was a couple of years ago (I never give away this year’s items in case he reads my posts 😀 ) but this gives you the idea:

  • 2 new Wii U games (Amazon had an awesome Black Friday sale I could do from home in my PJ’s)
  • fun snacks – M&Ms, cashews, pistachios and DILL peanuts.
  • some camo carbiners
  • some camo notepads
  • an Army magnet
  • new winter gloves
  • Mason jar shot glasses so he’ll quit using my REAL mason jars
  • a couple of additional watchband choices to accessorize one of his gifts from mom
  • .50 caliber pocket knife
  • lottery tickets

This year I already stuffed his stocking, but guarantee it will be full of ALL sorts of fun stuff again including some of his new favorite alcohol flavors!

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN & STUFFING

Those of you that know me, know that I SCRATCH cook. Every now and then hubby begs, yep actually begs, for something like Stove top stuffing or Kraft Mac and cheese or an occasional canned good. This recipe is the PERFECT comfort food for an easy weekend meal that’s full of flavor and checks all his boxes!

SLOW COOKER CHICKEN & STUFFING

1 1/2-2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 can Campbell’s cream of celery soup
1 can Campbell’s tomato soup
2/3 cup half and half
1/2 cup sour cream
2 boxes Stove Top savory herb stuffing
3/4 cup butter, melted
Parsley, for garnish

  • Coat slow cooker insert with non-stick cooking spray.
  • GENEROUSLY season the chicken with FRESH ground sea salt, black pepper and poultry seasoning.
  • Place chicken in the bottom of slow cooker.
  • Sprinkle with cheese.
  • Whisk together the soups, sour cream and half and half.
  • Pour over cheese.
  • Sprinkle stuffing mixes evenly over the soup.
  • Pour the melted butter over the stuffing mixes.
  • Cover and set on Low for 4 hours.

NOTES:

  • This recipe works best in the rectangular flat slow cooker by crock pot.
  • If using chicken tenders decrease time to 3 hours.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 16 – FAVORITE TRADITIONS

This has ALWAYS been a really hard category for me.  I LOVE Christmas!  There is nothing about this season I don’t like, short of crowds of rude people and Black Friday.  Being a military family on a tight budget I’ve always started shopping early (like in January) to work everything we want to do into our tight budget.

If I had to pick just one tradition though, it would be putting up the tree as a family (usually the weekend after Thanksgiving) while eating leftover turkey sandwiches.  When I was a kid we usually put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving and left it until Kings Day, the Epiphany on January 6th.  Hubby and I still do that and for that reason we like to go cut our own tree so it’s fresh and lasts the entire time.  I use an apple cider/sugar mix that keeps the sap from forming on the cut area and keep the water cool and full.  BUT, this year we used our artificial tree, the one I bought the last time hubby was deployed.  Honestly it looks REAL!!

When I was a kid one of my favorite traditions was that we did a BIG family get together with a buffet of food and opening our family presents on Christmas Eve.  I just saw a few of my cousins recently and we were reminiscing about some of those holidays and LOL how horrible our wardrobes were back then.

Thankfully, I’m not in the picture because I remember what I was wearing! But I love my brother’s plaid pants and Monica’s floral blouse. If you don’t hear from me for a few days I’m Sure it’s because one them found me and made me pay for sharing this picture again LOL.

Then on Christmas Day we did Christmas morning at our respective homes with “Santa” gifts and just the immediate family and then we would do a BIG turkey with all the trimmings including my dad’s old fashioned stuffing and giblet gravy with the entire family as well as extended family and friends, which included crazy Aunt Louise and Uncle Herb. I replicated dad’s stuffing recipe a few years ago (Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing) and that is now a MUST TRADITION for the Christmas meal no matter what the protein is.

Christmases for us now are MUCH smaller and our newest tradition in the last several years is watching our favorite traditional Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street as well as Hallmark Christmas movies and dreaming about moving to every small town depicted in them, kind of like Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls.  We loved that show!

HAPPY HOMEMAKER & MENU PLAN MONDAY week 51 of 2019

Be sure to join us and link up with
Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for Happy Homemaker Monday

GOOD MORNING dear friends.  Can you believe that Christmas is only 9 days away? Or that 2020 is only 2 weeks away?  Personally, I find it mind boggling! I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas season and having the time to truly enjoy it as you go. I’ve been feeling a bit puny so spent most of yesterday down and out 🙁

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW & THE WEATHER OUTSIDE & WHAT I’M WEARING It is supposed to be a really wet week here and cold too.  It’s been a bone chilling type of wet/cold.  Don’t let those highs fool you, so far this past week we’ve been 4-5 degrees lower each day from what they predicted. 🙁 and with no sun it feels like even more of a difference!  Thursday in particular I will be staying in. It’s 30 degrees right now and I’m planning on Levis with a gray fleece hoodie and UGG’s.

ON THE BREAKFAST PLATE Peach yogurt and a banana

AS I LOOK AROUND THE HOUSE, WEEKLY TO DO LIST, HOUSE & CRAFT PROJECTS, APPOINTMENTS

  • LAUNDRY, LIVING AREAS & KITCHEN… Laundry  is caught up, vacuuming is done, bathrooms are clean, fridge is cleaned…
  • YARD… we finished the decorating yesterday in the frigid cold.  I literally had to keep stopping and go in to get warm so it took ALL day!
  • APPOINTMENTS & TO DO… We have a couple doctor appointments Tuesday and Wednesday, but are ALL done with shopping, even the grocery shopping will be done in a couple hours so I get to avoid the stores until 2020.  We’ll be going to the Festival of Lights tonight.
  • BLOG… I have a couple BLOGMAS posts to get done and there are a few recipes to write up for next week.
  • CRAFTS/PROJECTS…  I’m hoping to get some mixed media projects done later this week.

WHAT IS ON THE DVR, I LIKE OR ON THE LIST TO WATCH/SOMETHING INTERESTING I WATCHED

We are still only about halfway through Dolly Parton’s Heart Strings on Netflix – a series of heart warming stories.  We’re also about halfway through the new season of Mrs. Maisel. We’re caught up on the fall finales.  But, I have quite a few Hallmark Christmas movies to watch this week.

Some of the shows we’re watching for this year are:

  • CRIME, SYFY, POLICE & MEDICAL  – Chicago Series (Medical, FIRE and Police), Law & Order SVU, Blue Bloods, Hawaii 5-0, Magnum PI, FBI, NCIS, NCIS LA, NCIS NOLA, All Rise, Bluff City Law, The Resident, New Amsterdam, The Good Doctor, StumpTown, The Rookie, Bull, 911, Emergence, Seal Team, Supernatural
  • COMEDIES & FAMILY – Young Sheldon, The Good Place, The Unicorn, American Housewife, GOD Friended me, Almost Family

I’M READING I’m almost done with Kissing Jenna Book #2 of Kristen Proby’s BIG SKY series

FAVORITE PHOTO FROM THE CAMERA

INSPIRATION & A FUNNY

HEALTH & BEAUTY TIPS

HOMEMAKING/COOKING TIP

MENU PLANS FOR THE WEEK
MONDAY – FETTUCINE with CHICKEN RAGU & SALAD
TUESDAY – BRAISED BALSAMIC CHICKEN & SALAD
WEDNESDAY – HOLIDAY EVE CHICKEN & SALAD
THURSDAY – C.O.R.N.
FRIDAY – TROPICAL DUMP CHICKEN & SALAD
SATURDAY – GRANNY’S CHICKEN
SUNDAY – C.O.R.N.

SUCCESSFUL RECIPE LINKS FROM LAST WEEK

FEATURED PARTY LINKS FOR THIS WEEK

RECIPES TO LOOK FOR THIS NEXT WEEK OR SO

  • FETTUCINE with CHICKEN RAGU
  • BANANA UPSIDE DOWN CAKE
  • FRENCH ONION POTATO SOUP
  • CREAMY GARLIC PARMESAN BRUSSELS SPROUTS
  • BRAISED BALSAMIC CHICKEN
  • HOLIDAY EVE CHICKEN
  • TROPICAL DUMP CHICKEN
  • GRANNY’S CHICKEN

SHORT RIBS ala INSTA POT with CREAMY POLENTA

SHORT RIBS ala INSTA POT serves 4
2 pounds bone-in short ribs
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon Avocado oil
2 small carrots, chopped
2 large green onion, sliced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3/4 cups chardonnay or merlot
14 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 teablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
1-2 sprigs thyme

  • Pat short ribs dry.
  • GENEROUSLY season with FRESH ground salt and pepper.
  • Set INSTA POT to saute’.
  • Add avocado oil.
  • Brown short ribs on all sides.
  • Transfer short ribs to plate.
  • Add carrots, celery, onions and garlic, stirring often 5-6 minutes until tender and fragrant.  Generously season with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Arrange vegetables around edges and add tomato paste to the center, cooking a minute or two until browned.
  • Add wine and simmer 10-15 minutes until reduced to about 1/4 cup.
  • Stir in tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth and thyme.
  • Return short ribs to the INSTA POT.
  • Press cancel.
  • Lock lid and cook on HIGH 30-35 minutes.
  • Use natural release for 10 minutes.
  • Remove meat from sauce.
  • Discard thyme and any loose bones.
  • Skim off any fat.
  • Reserve 3/4 cup of vegetables.
  • Use an immersion blender and puree’ remaining vegetable into sauce until smooth.
  • Cut beef into large pieces or shred and return to the sauce.
  • Serve over polenta.

NOTE: Original recipe called for red wine, red wine and I don’t like each other much. I substituted the chardonnay and even hubby loved it so I think this was a win-win!

POLENTA
2 cups WHOLE milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
scant 3/4 cup polenta (4 ounces)
1/4 cup finely grated Asiago cheese

  • Bring milk, butter and salt to a boil in a sauce pan.
  • Whisk in polenta.
  • Cook, stirring constantly 3-4 minutes, until thick and creamy.
  • Stir in cheese, adding 3-4 tablespoons of water if too thick.
  • Serve short ribs and sauce over polenta.

COCKTAIL CRAB DIP

When we were detoured back home at Thanksgiving time, our friend’s graciously included us in their Thanksgiving dinner. Heather served a dip we had never had before, but instantly fell in love with. I’ve adapted this from my memory, but think I’ve come close.

COCKTAIL CRAB DIP
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup cocktail sauce
8 ounces Krab, chopped or shredded
1 small bunch green onions, chopped, greens and whites divided
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 small can chopped olives

  • Toss crab in cocktail sauce and then let drain through a small colander.
  • Whisk cream cheese smooth.
  • Spread cream cheese in serving dish.
  • Spread strained cocktail sauce over the cream cheese.
  • Sprinkle Mozzarella cheese over cocktail sauce.
  • Toss together the Krab pieces, onion white and olives.
  • Layer Krab mixture over cheese.
  • Top with green onion tops.
  • Serve with wheat thins or Ritz crackers.
  • Sprinkle Krab mixture over cheese.

BLOGMAS – DAY 14 – COOKIES & GOODIES

Remembering back to being a kid always seems the same to me.  Dad would buy all sorts of nuts by the pound during the holidays and bring out the nutcrackers. There was always a box (or 2) of See’s candies (I just loved the Bordeauxs and since there was only 1 or 2 to the box tried to be the first to find them) and the tins and tins of butter cookies, snickerdoodles, peanut butter fudge, chocolate fudge as well as the sugar cookies that us kids iced and decorated.

One of our new favorites here for Christmas is:

Whether you use homemade or store bought these cookies turn out swoon worthy of any holiday goodie platter. They are sooooo simple, but look and taste sooooo decadent.

GOOEY CARAMEL TOPPED GINGERSNAPS
42 gingersnap cookies, (homemade or store bought)
14 ounces KRAFT caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup + 1/4 cup finely chopped honey roasted peanuts
12 ounces combination of white and dark chocolate
Sprinkles of choice (I like chocolate for the holidays)

  • Arrange cookies on cooling rack line baking sheet.**
  • In a microwave melt the caramels with the heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
  • Stir in peanuts.
  • Spoon about a teaspoon over each cookie.
  • Refrigerate until set.

 

  • Alternately melt white and dark chocolates.
  • Coat each cookie halfway with one of the chocolates, return to the rack allowing the excess to drip off.
  • Sprinkle with sprinkles and/or crushed peanuts.
  • Refrigerate until set.

NOTE** Was paper or parchment paper works well also.

GINGERSNAPS
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup CRISCO
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
sugar for rolling

  • Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves. Set aside.
  • Cream butter and crisco together until smooth.
  • Add sugar and molasses, blending until smooth.
  • Add flour mixture gradually until well blended.
  • Chill dough for at least 1 hour.

 

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Roll dough into small balls
  • Roll balls in sugar and place on cookie sheet.
  • Bake 8 minutes for soft chewy cookies and 12 minutes for crisp cookies.

AND the other is this wonderful no bake recipe:

CHOCOLATE PRETZEL PB SQUARES
2 cups pretzels, crushed into crumbs
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ¼ cups peanut butter
¾ cup butter, melted
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
½ cup Heath bit pieces

  • Spray 13×9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray!
  • In a large bowl mix together the pretzel crumbs and powdered sugar until well blended.
  • Mix in melted butter and 1 cup of the peanut butter.
  • Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Sprinkle evenly with Heath Bit pieces.
  • In a microwave safe bowl melt combine the remaining peanut butter with the milk chocolate chips. Heat at 30 second intervals, stirring after each until melted and smooth.
  • Spread over the layer in the baking dish.
  • Garnish with Heath bit pieces and broken pretzel bits.
  • Chill at least 1 hour before cutting.
  • Store in airtight container  in the refrigerator.

Then there are the tried and true favorites of the past!

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE DROPS
2/3 cup HOT water
10 ounces Land of Lakes cocoa mix
2 cups JIF creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 cups C&H powdered sugar, divided 2cups + 1 cup
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
2 cups crushed ginger snaps
72 Hershey Kisses (I like the cherry cordials)

  • Whisk together the hot water and cocoa mix until smooth.
  • Add peanut butter and corn syrup. Blend until smooth.
  • Add 2 cups powdered sugar and stir until well blended.
  • Stir in cookie crumbs until well blended.
  • Spray wax paper with PURE (these will be sticky so don’t forget this step).
  • Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough onto the wax paper.
  • Place the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar in a shallow bowl.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a ball and dredge in powdered sugar.
  • Press your thumb into the center and fill with a Hershey’s kiss.

Now there is much debate over Gran’s cranberry salad recipe, but one thing was for sure, she’d have to make a double batch, one for my mom and aunt and another for everyone else.  Now while I usually helped prepare the above recipe, AND I hated it the prep AND the salad itself!! One year she even decided the grapes needed to be peeled – need I say more? And recently Jean from SO NOT ORGANIZED pointed out that the grapes in the recipe seemed strange, but I’m here to tell you that they really MAKE the recipe. 😀

I much prefer the recipe below.  Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but I usually eat a whole batch by myself.

HOLIDAY SALAD
1 package (3 ounces) cherry Jell-o
1 package (3 ounces) black cherry Jell-o
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 can (14 ounces) whole berry cranberry sauce
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups seedless green grapes, quartered
chopped pecans (optional)

  • Dissolve the jell-o in the boiling water in a large bowl.
  • Fold in the pineapple and cranberry sauce.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Fold in grapes and pecans if desired.
  • Refrigerate until firm.

Now on to the REALLY yummy stuff!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CHUNKY MONKEYS
3 cups crushed pretzels
1/2 cup sugar
scant 1 cup butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Line a 13×9 cake pan with heavy duty foil, leaving plenty on the edges to use as handles later.  This will make clean-up so much easier.
  • In a medium mixing bowl stir together the pretzels, sugar and melted butter until well blended.
  • Press the pretzel mixture evenly into the bottom of the cake pan.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
11 ounce package caramel baking bits (or 14 ounce vanilla caramels, unwrapped)
2 cups honey roasted peanuts

  • In a medium saucepan melt butter over a medium heat.
  • Whisk in the whipping cream and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved.
  • Stir in caramel bits, stirring constantly until bits are melted and sauce is smooth.
  • Add in peanuts to coat well.
  • Immediately pour over pretzel layer, spreading evenly.

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup Heath milk chocolate toffee bits

  • Scatter each of these over the caramel layer.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are bubbling.
  • Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Lift foil edges to remove bars from pan.
  • Cut into bars.
  • Layer between wax paper in an airtight container.  I store them in the fridge, but the can also be frozen for 3 months.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My great aunt who I only got to see a couple times a year used to make these every year special for me.  My cousins and I would wait out on the front steps for her arrive just to see them, the wreaths that is. She always made them soooooooooo pretty and perfect!  Aunt Louise was just plain crazy it seemed to me.  I can’t pinpoint any one thing that made me think that, but as the years wore she continually proved it.  Let’s just say if the made a movie of her life, Shirley MacLaine would play her part.  Aunt Louise reminds me of Shirley’s character Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias.

CRAZY AUNT LOUISE’S HOLIDAY WREATHS  (these are better when they are made a few days ahead)
30 large marshmallows (or 1 jar marshmallow cream)
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon green food color
3 1/2 cups cornflakes
Red Hots

  • Combine marshmallows, butter, vanilla and food color in top of double boiler. Heat and stir frequently until well blended.
  • Gradually stir in cornflakes until well blended.
  • Drop onto wax paper and arrange into wreath shapes. I plop them onto the wax paper and then push out from the center to form the wreaths.
  • Decorate with red hots.
  • Let cool.
  • If your house is warm – chill in refrigerator until set.

A few more favorite links are:

BBQ HOISIN BRISKET ala SLOW COOKER

This is one of the tastiest AND the simplest of recipes.  The combination of the BBQ sauce and the Hoisin sauce is well paired for a bit of salty AND spicy with JUST a hint of sweet in every bite.

BBQ HOISIN BRISKET ala SLOW COOKER for 2-4
2 pound brisket*
2 cups Hoisin sauce
1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ sauce
1 cup Beef Broth

  • Whisk together the Hoisin sauce, BBQ sauce and beef broth.
  • Spray the crock insert with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place brisket in insert, fat cap up.
  • Pour Hoisin mixture over top.
  • Cover and set on low for 7-8 hours.

NOTES:

  • I buy a 4 pound brisket, cut it in half and freeze half for the next time. It seems impossible to find a brisket under 4 pounds anyway.
  • Buy a cut with the largest fat cap you can find – they are the MOST flavorful!

BLOGMAS – DAY 13 – TRAVEL & VISITS – WARNING A PICTURE HEAVY POST

ALL of our travel is “AROUND” Christmas and never ON Christmas. This year we visited “Holiday Lights” at the coast (and why I’m so incredibly behind in commenting – I had no internet at the hotel). And while it was beautiful I am so glad to be home with nowhere to go until 2020.  We arrived fairly early, just before dusk so we could walk through and get the lay of the land before ealking through a second time after dark.  The displays were animated and themed.

Shore Acres is literally perched on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean and began as a private estate for Louis J. Simpson, a shipbuilder. Simpson developed the 3 story mansion complete with an indoor heated pool and ballroom as his “summer home”.  The surrounding grounds included 5 acres of formal gardens full of shrubs , trees and flowering plants brought from around the world by himself and various lumbermen.  There is even a 100 foot lily pond and caretaker’s cottage.  The cottage still stands and was really decorated cute!  I’d live there.  I really wish I had seen the original mansion, but it has since been torn down after a fire in 1921 and the rebuild was never finished because of the depression and fell into disrepair.  Oregon bought the property in 1942 for use as a public park.  The gardens, lily pond and caretakers cottage were restored while the mansion was razed.

Shore Acres Holiday Lights is by decorated sponsors and volunteers.  This was the 33rd Annual event. and is famous for its beautiful 7 acre botanical gardens and Japanese lily pond on the Oregon coast among the trees.  It has over 350,000 lights, animated displays, Santa, choirs… A beautiful holiday tradition for the whole family.

Because of growing families with plenty of munchkins being born and in-laws to accommodate, one of hubby’s sister’s family traditions is to celebrate the weekend before as a LARGE group and then be at each respective home for Christmas itself or with their in-laws.  As the family has grown, Christmas dinner became a larger and larger production.  Eventually instead of a “dinner”  it became a “cocktail” party with each person bringing an appetizer type dish for 20.  So Christmas dinner became a HAPPY HOUR and it has worked out fantastic over the years.  Everyone pretty much has a “signature” dish so we end up with a WIDE variety of everything from homemade Egg Nog to Salads and Chicken Skewers on the BBQ with plenty of tasty fudges and goodies too.

Even on the years we travel to SIL’s party, we are home by Christmas itself.  I love having our tree and decorations with a relaxed Christmas Day schedule.  We do try and take 1 trip to see some sort of “City Sidewalks” type event.

These are a few of my favorite pictures from our trip to Holiday Lights at Shore Acres on the coast this year.  We took some time to play in a couple of the small towns and stayed over so we didn’t have to drive the windy roads late at night in the rain. We were fortunate to be able to have lunch with an old friend to catch up the next day before we drove home.  It was super rainy, COLD as all get out, but ALSO really beautiful. It’s a walking tour so umbrellas were a MUST, but also a hindrance at really seeing the true beauty of it all.