HAPPY NEW YEAR

Oh my, can you believe it’s the first day of 2020?  HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU!  I cannot believe how fast time goes, not just this past year, but this past decade! We are 20% done with a century that seemed unimaginable when I was a girl! My plan is to go simpler in ALL things. I started awhile back and have even donated MANY Christmas decorations and such already. I LOVE streamlining my life.

This was a tough year, but not as tough as many have been.  And I’m so blessed to still be here and more so to actually realize that.  Many say it was a bad year and I agree there were MANY ups and downs, but you know what?  That’s life!  It’s NEVER ALWAYS up or always down and our ability to ride this roller coaster we call life with a smile on our face is what makes it worth living – knowing there is ALWAYS good to come our way.

In 2020 my wish is to accomplish my list of goals, which is NOT a resolutions list, but a realistic list of things that have needed done in my life to uncomplicate it and make it more enjoyable.  Many of the things on that list just happen to mean doing things simpler than I’ve done them before 😀  My wish is that others realize that simple IS BETTER also.  Our world has become so unnecessarily complicated!  It’s time we uncomplicate it and get back to the JOY of living it!

Every year I plan on getting more organized than the last.  😀 That said, I’m actually a fairly well organized person, a list maker and love things clean, but sometimes I do give in to the clutter when I’m not feeling great.  The one thing I do religiously though is meal plan. 

To start the year off right I sat down and made my January meal plan and even part of February.  I organized it right down to the cookbooks I’m referencing during the month for new experimental recipes and even color coded them for ease of use.  Thursdays are traditionally my C.O.R.N. (clean out refrigerator nights) because it’s also trash night, so the timing is perfect!  If I happen to miss a meal I will simply add it to an upcoming month in an attempt to clean out all my recipe scraps and notes.  My ultimate goal in 2020, at least for meal planning, is to have a WORKING menu planner full of notes that make an easy reference for future meals.

CIDER BRINED BAKED HAM

When I was a kid, Honey Baked Spiral Hams were all the rage and are still quite popular. BUT, in my opinion they have lost a little something over the years. I don’t know if they have changed the recipe or downgraded the ingredients to make them more profitable, but I find them a bit dry and flavorless anymore. So I make my own these days. I start with a whole ham that has the fat cap still attached to keep all the juices in. Scoring the fat cap and roasting the ham with the brown sugar pepper rub results in a sticky, crispy sweet and peppery crusted juicy ham.

CIDER BRINED BAKED HAM
1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
10 whole cloves
2 star anise stars
9 cups apple cider, divided 4 cups + 1 cup + 4 cups
8 cups ice cubes
7-10 pound shank end , bone-in cured ham (I used an 8 1/2 pound)
1 large oven baking bag
¼ cup molasses
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (optional)*

  • In a large sauce pan toast cinnamon, cloves and star anise about 3 minutes until fragrant.
  • Add 4 cups of apple cider and bring to a boil.
  • Pour into a large stockpot (that the ham will fit into), add 1 cup apple cider and 4 cups of ice and stir until melted.
  • Trim ham to ¼ inch thickness of fat and score with a cross hatch pattern. CAUTION: Cut down into fat, but NOT into the meat!
  • Add ham to the stock pot apple cider mixture, cover and refrigerate for 12-24 hours. The liquid should just about cover the ham.

 

  • Remove ham from marinade and add to baking bag already placed in roasting pan.
  • Add 1 cup of marinade to baking bag, tie securely and cut 4 slits in top of bag.
  • Let stand at room temperature for 1 ½ hours.

Preheat oven to 300°.
Bake 1 ½-2 ½ hours until ham registers 100°.

  • While ham is roasting, add remaining 4 cups of apple cider, molasses and mustard or horseradish to a medium saucepan, whisking until well blended.
  • On a medium low heat, stir often, cooking for about 2 hours until mixture is very thick and reduced to about ¹⁄³ cup. WATCH towards the end of the 2 hours, it will burn easily!

1 cup PACKED dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon FRESH ground pepper

  • Combine sugar and pepper in small bowl.
  • Remove roasting pan from oven and let ham rest 5 minutes.
  • Increase oven temperature to 400°.
  • Open oven bag and fold back to expose the ham.
  • Brush with the reduced cider mixture and carefully press the sugar and pepper mixture into the fat cap.
  • Return to oven without resealing the bag and bake 20 minutes until browned and caramelized.
  • Transfer to cutting board and tent with foil. Let rest 15 minutes.
  • Carve and serve.

NOTE: I’m deathly allergic to mustard so I substitute creamy horseradish.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 25 – MERRY CHRISTMAS

Just a little trivia: From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote the 12 days of Christmas carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church.  Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  • The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the seven fold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  • Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
  • The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone – and, remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the 12 days following December 25th. The Christmas Season runs until Epiphany, January 6.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 24 – CHRISTMAS EVE

THE HOLIDAY SEASON & CHRISTMAS EVE…
Usually the holiday season is an endless list of tasks and errands.  Christmas Eve is usually at our house and then Christmas Day many times too.  The last several years though the holiday season has been quiet, many times too quiet.  This year will also be quiet.  With having been under the weather the past week, I didn’t get my baking for the neighbor plates done until yesterday, but by last night I had everything cleaned up and the plates covered ready for delivery Christmas Eve afternoon. This year our selection is Cider Glazed Christmas Cakes, Golden Gate Brownies, Cinnamon Bun Cupcakes, Rolo Pretzel Turtles, Chocolate Pretzel PB Bars and Salted Caramels.

Personally, I love the hustle and bustle of the holidays.  I’m a list writer and as a Virgo usually have my presents bought early and the Christmas cards ready to mail by Thanksgiving, many times they are even hand made.  Having all this done and ready made it possible for me to go to the malls, get a nice cup of coffee and just watch other people hustle and bustle.  Then I would go home and cook and bake and then bake some more!

I learned much of this from my folks.  My folks would have the majority of their shopping done before Thanksgiving and then because of their hectic schedules dad would sit me down with all the gifts, a card table, wrapping paper, tape, bows and tags on the day after Thanksgiving and that was where I would spend the Thanksgiving weekend watching Christmas movies, eating leftover turkey sandwiches and wrapping gifts.  When the gifts were done, I would start on the Christmas cards.  LOL this wasn’t an abuse of the child labor laws, it was how I earned a chunk of money for my own Christmas shopping.  Dad was a generous employer.

Christmas Eve was spent at our house with the immediate extended family (grams and gramps, aunts, uncles and cousins and many times neighbors too). We would do a big buffet and then open all our gifts to each other and have a party.  We’d go to sleep happy and sated while waiting for Santa.

Christmas day began with stockings and brunch.  By afternoon the turkey and ham were smelling great and we were ready to start all over.  Oh, it was the same bunch of people, but we would add a great aunt and uncle. Looney Louise, (okay we didn’t call her looney to her face, but it is what made her such fun) made us cornflake wreaths with red hots and fudge too!  All us cousins would sit on the front porch waiting for them and for our wreaths!  It wouldn’t have been Christmas without them!

Looney Louise many, many  years before she made us our wreaths!

It’s Christmas Eve and Santa Claus is coming to town tonight. If you have kids, or are just a big kid at heart, you can track Santa’s progress as he travels around the world on NORAD.
Merry Christmas everyone!

May the Christmas season bring you a bounty of joy,
happiness, health and everything else you desire!

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 22 – WEATHER

It’s been a whirlwind of weather changes around here.  Back at Thanksgiving I would have told you we were definitely in for a white Christmas, but sadly I think that chance has passed. 🙁  Last Friday we had a fluke warm up (65°) that only lasted the one day and then Friday night brought an unpredicted wind storm that had us scrambling to save the blow up from scurrying away despite his guide weights, but seems to have also influenced this next week.  ALL the predictions from before Friday have now warmed up a bit and even the rain amounts have decreased.  That said, I really don’t put much stock in the predictions anymore and take each day as it happens 😀

 

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 21 – PRESENTS

When does your family open their presents?

This category has changed a lot over the years for me as I got older. 

My family traditions as a kid were of a BIG Christmas eve open and that carried on through college, but as we (cousins) all got older and began getting married with families of our own, our grandparents passed on, blended families (with their own traditions) were formed, etc… getting together for both Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day became harder and harder to do. 

Eventually Christmas eve became a much smaller event for immediate family for a small dinner and to open our gifts to each other.  Christmas morning was for being at our respective home with our kids opening presents and then the larger family get together much later on Christmas day for dinner at just one place, usually my mom and dad’s house which became our house after my dad passed away.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 20 – TREE REVEAL

I mentioned yesterday that I LOVE our tree this year.  We bought all new LED lights this year so I worry a lot less about the lights getting too hot. and it’s full of all our favorite ornaments.  I would still like to find a lighted star or angel that I really like. 😀

In reality how I decorate each year changes based on my mood, weather, where we are living, etc… so it will never be the same twice! But, it will at least be the same components.

This is my Snowman Family arranged from 2 different years.
We made candle yule logs for Advent craft night at church one year and they were a HUGE success and soooooooo easy to do.  The decorations below are a few of my all time favorites.
The ornaments below are some of our homemade bulbs.  Several years ago I made quite a few and then did them with my girl scout troop also.  Hubby liked them so well that we have now donated all our store bought bulbs and made enough of these for the entire tree.

My cousin that passed away in 2014 made the ornament below for me.  It will always be hung by my shooting stars in her honor even though I’m still mad at her for leaving the mess called A HOUSE FROM HELL for me to deal with.
And our handmade ornament by Design Chick Creations.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 19 – 2020 IDEAS

Christmas is full of tradition and with tradition comes a cyclic nature in how we do things year after year.  Our traditions and practices though stem from our experiences.  As life progresses things change and evolve over time. This year we decided to “downsize” or streamline our decorations to only those that really mean something to us.  I honestly used the Feng Shui method on every decoration and ornament.  I have already donated the discards so I can’t change my mind.  So my ideas for 2020 are to decorate almost identically to how I decorated this year.  I LOVE our tree and am going to try and quit trying to invent the wheel with changing things.  There are still a few boxes to go through, but I see even more donations in the future 😀

This is a category I have given a lot of thought to OVER AND OVER, year after year, and while I no longer really want an upside down tree, I find the story of its origin very interesting. 
I found several places offering background on the upside down tree. One was, ChristmasCarnivals.com which also has many other links for Christmas history to check out too.

“Christmas is associated with many traditions, of which the Christmas Tree is an inherent part. The history of the upside down Christmas Tree has its roots in the 7th century. It is during this period that St Bonafice journeyed from Devonshire, England to Germany to preach the message of God. He engaged himself in religious as well as social work and spent a lot of his time in Thuringia, a town located in Germany itself, which is the birthplace of the industry dealing with Christmas Decorations.

It is believed that St Boniface, while staying in Thuringia, took the help of the triangular fir tree to represent the Holy Trinity made up of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As a result, the converted people started to [consider] the Fir tree as God’s Tree. Then St Bonafice, using this triangular shaped tree tried to introduce to the pagan tribes the paragons of Trinity.

By the 12th century, it became a custom, especially in Europe to hang the Fir trees upside down from the ceilings to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The Upside down Christmas Trees was also considered the symbol of Christianity. However, the real history behind the hanging of the upside down Trees remains vague. Presently the trend of hanging a Christmas Tree has changed, because nowadays the tip of the Christmas Tree is made to point towards Heaven, as many think that an upside down Christmas tree is a sign of contempt.”

St. Boniface~Wikipedia
St. Boniface~New Advent
ChristmasCarnivals.com

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

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!

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!