BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 21 ~ WRAPPING IDEAS

Sorry everyone – not sure how it happened, but I have gotten a few days behind, but WILL catch up today and tomorrow! Odd, because I’m actually ready for the holidays 😀  but I did get a bit overzealous with baking the past few days!

I wrapped as I went this year and boy did that make things easier than facing a large pill of gifts to wrap all at one time! I also went pretty simply with color coordinated papers, matching ribbons, cute little tags or their favorite character ornaments and colored twines.

There are some of the MANY fun ideas to try ALL over PINTEREST, but these are some of my favorites!  These are also some simpler, but classic ideas! I LOVE that some of them are so creative and use plainer papers – papers that can be used year round and then spruced up for whatever the occasion is.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 20 ~ FAVORITE FAMILY 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 maybe crowds of rude people and Black Friday. 

Sometimes seeing things through someone else’s eyes can give the same old traditions new meaning an in the long run that can also make the favorite traditions and the memories mean that much more.

If I had to pick just one tradition though, it would be putting up the tree as a family while eating leftover turkey (from Thanksgiving) sandwiches.  When I was a kid we usually put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving and leave 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.

When I was a kid 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.

My mom recently retired that tablecloth finally! I never did like it so that made me very happy!
Thankfully, I’m not in the bottom 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 LOL.

Then on Christmas Day we would do Christmas morning and “Santa” with just the immediate family followed by a BIG turkey with all the trimmings including my dad’s stuffing and giblet gravy with ALL the family as well as extended family, 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.

Our newest tradition in the last several years is watching 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!

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 19 ~ STORIES & INSPIRATIONS

BEFORE I get to my normal more solemn stories and inspirations I wanted to share this story that made me laugh and then laugh some more! I found this on facebook so don’t know where it actually originated.

My husband added these “cookies” to his Walmart order last week, to meet the minimum amount for free shipping. If he’d clicked on them for more info before clicking “Add to Cart,” he might have noticed the very tiny letters that said, “real USA chicken as the #1 ingredient” and questioned his purchase. But, as he did not do that, they ended up on our front porch, along with a pack of Oreos. This was a pleasant surprise to my kids, who wasted no time digging in. I opened the package for them, which I might not have done if I’d noticed the tiny words on the label that read, “treats for dogs.” Or if I’d noticed that some of them were shaped like a dog bone. Or if I’d sniffed them after cutting off the shrink-wrap.

But, as they looked like cookies, said “Christmas cookie biscuits” on the label, and arrived with Oreos, in no part of my mind was I thinking that maybe I should verify that they were for human consumption.

So strong was my assumption that they were actual cookies, that I thought nothing of it when my 11-year-old daughter complained that they tasted bad. Store-bought sugar cookies are always gross, which is why I wasn’t tempted to eat one. I shrugged and said, “Try microwaving it for 10 seconds, they’re probably frozen from being outside.” She did so, but it didn’t help. She told me they tasted the way she imagined dog food would taste. STILL no alarm bells in my mind. Meanwhile, my 14-year-old son ate all of his cookie with no complaint. One of my neighbor’s boys even ate one later that evening, again with no complaint!

The next day, my 6-year-old son, who hadn’t had one yet, joked that he was going to have a dog treat (referring to the cookies). I asked why he said that, and he said because they were shaped like bones. Wait… what?! I grabbed the package to inspect it, and sure enough. They were dog treats! I fed my kids DOG TREATS!! I FED MY NEIGHBOR’S KID DOG TREATS!!!!!

Though shocked and somewhat horrified, I literally fell on the floor dying of laughter, especially when my oldest said, “I thought they were good!”

After confessing to my neighbor that I’d fed her son a dog treat (she also thought it was hilarious, thankfully), I gave them to a much more suitable recipient: her German Shepherd.

However, I did make one of them into an ornament for our tree. Because that is a Christmas memory that deserves to be preserved.

INSPIRATIONS

FAVORITE STORIES

This is such a beautiful story that makes you understand that things truly do happen for a reason. Don’t forget to grab the tissue box.

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc… and on December 18th they were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On December 19th a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.

On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc… to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.

Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet.. ‘Pastor,’ she asked, ‘where did you get that tablecloth?’ The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.

The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband or her home again.

The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a house cleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.

The man asked him where he got the Tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike.

He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.

He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

This true Story was submitted by Pastor Rob Reid.

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Or this story I found years ago over at Heather’s blog Family Forever, now a closed blog, but I kept it to remind me to remember this for the future.  I think next year that many of my gifts will be given in the same manner as my family really doesn’t ‘need’ anything, but so many others do. Don’t forget your tissue box as you read this story.

THE SIMPLE WHITE ENVELOPE

It’s just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas –oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it — the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma — the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth.. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended.

Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, ‘I wish just one of them could have won,’ he said. ‘They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.’ Mike loved kids — all kids — and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball, and lacrosse.

That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition –one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknown to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s giving spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 18 ~ FAVORITE CHRISTMAS FOODS, BEVERAGES & RECIPES

This is a SUPER easy topic for me. The one thing I am noticing as I type each entry is that by doing this, I am remembering so many silly stories and anecdotes about aunts, uncles, cousins and such that keep bringing smiles to my face. These memories are part of what this season is all about to me.

I’d like to say that our table looked just like the one in the picture. Well Christmas day was close, but Christmas Eve was ALWAYS much more casual. One of my earlier memories is of a very warm Christmas Day, a backed up sink/garbage disposal (I don’t think we ever had a holiday in that house where the garbage disposal didn’t have an issue of some sort) and then having to transport all the prepared food from my parent’s house to my grandparent’s house via my grandmother’s RED (kind of like a Christmas sleigh) Chevy station wagon (remember those?) while my uncle and I sat in the back keeping the food from toppling over.

CHRISTMAS EVE – Served Buffet style since this was the night we did most of the present opening and the adults didn’t want to spend all their time in the kitchen – in later years we would have it catered (so to speak – they prepared the food, we picked it up and displayed it) from Rattler’s BBQ. We also began to use “FINE CHINA” as hubs calls it aka as decorated paper plates, bowls and napkins.

  • Sandwich makings – roast beef, ham, cheeses
  • Potato Salad
  • See’s Candy boxes
  • Wintergreen ribbon candy
  • Chocolate covered cherries

CHRISTMAS DAY – This is where we dug out the REAL fine china and crystal as well as the silver and cloth napkins. I loved setting the table for this meal. There were always enough people that we had a KID’S table too. I hated the kid’s table – all the good stuff was sitting at the grown-up’s table.

  • Roast Turkey, Baked Ham or Roast Beef
  • Daddy’s Stuffing – now recreated from scratch to taste virtually the same as my Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing
  • Mashed Potatoes ALWAYS from scratch – it was those potato peels that were one of the biggest garbage disposal problems
  • Giblet Gravy
  • Cranberry Sauce – my family always used Ocean Spray from a can but nowadays we make my homemade sauce ALWAYS (though our oldest prefers canned sauce LOL 😀 )Cranberry Sauce
  • Baked Ham – in later years it was always HONEYBAKED HAM and I loved making Split Pea soup with the left over bone.
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Green Bean Casserole (THEN) Brussels Sprouts Casserole (NOW) 😀
  • Gran’s cranberry salad – she’d make two, one for mom and aunt Liz and one for everyone else.
  • Rolls and butter
  • Traditional pies like pumpkin, Cherry and as well as Cherry Pineapple Dump Cake.
  • See’s Candies

When we go to my SIL’s family for Christmas (or any other big family get together) we do Hor’deouvres style. The family is so big now that over the years we have found that if each person brings an hor’deouvre to feed 10+ people that we can make a HUGE feast. We just serve it buffet style (skipping the sit down meal) and mingle and play – it is ALWAYS the best time.

CINNAMON BUN CUPCAKES
CUPCAKES
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 LARGE eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons PURE vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  • Line cupcake tins with papers.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Set aside.
  • Whisk eggs for about 1 minute. They will become frothy and lightened in color.
  • Add oil and whisk again until combined.
  • Add sugar and whisk for about 1 minute.
  • Add vanilla extract.
  • Add sour cream to the batter, whisking until combined
  • Now add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk gently. Whisk batter until JUST until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!

CINNAMON SWIRL
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar

  • Make the Cinnamon Swirl: mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of white sugar. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY

  • Now start by pouring about 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter on the bottom of each cupcake tin.
  • Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the Cinnamon Swirl mixture.
  • Top with another heaping tablespoon of batter.
  • Now, sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon Swirl mixture over batter.
  • Top with another heaping tablespoon of batter.
  • Using a toothpick, swirl the batter a few times to create a swirl effect.
  • Top already swirled cupcakes with one final 1/2 teaspoon of the Cinnamon Swirl mixture.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, checking halfway to rotate pans.
  • Remove from the oven once cupcakes are lightly golden brown and puffed.
  • Cool 10 minutes.

GLAZE
+/- 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
+/- 2 tablespoons milk

  • Mix powdered sugar and milk together.

NOTES: There are many factors that will affect your glaze consistency. The brand of sugar you use, whether you use a scale or a measuring cup… If your glaze is too thin and runny, add more sifted powdered sugar and test for consistency again. If the glaze is too thick and not spreading, add a very, very small amount (1 teaspoon) of milk at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency.

GRASSHOPPER BROWNIES
11 ounce package dark chocolate pieces
1/2 cup butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Creme-de-Menthe Filling (BELOW)
Dark Chocolate Ganache (BELOW)

  • In a medium saucepan, melt and stir 4 ounces (3/4 cup) of the dark chocolate pieces, butter, and the unsweetened chocolate over low heat.
  • Remove from heat; cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.
  • Stir sugar into the cooled chocolate mixture in saucepan.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon JUST until combined.
  • Stir in vanilla.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.
  • Stir in the remaining 7 ounces (1-1/2 cups) dark chocolate pieces. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Spread Creme-de-Menthe Filling over cooled brownies.
  • Place uncut brownies in the refrigerator while preparing the Dark Chocolate Ganache.
  • Spread slightly cooled Dark Chocolate Ganache over Creme de Menthe Filling, spreading to the edges with a spatula.
  • Cover and chill about 1 hour or until set. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut into bars.
  • Place brownies in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

CREME-DE-MENTHE FILLING
3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons GREEN creme de menthe
Milk (optional)

  • In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter.
  • Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.
  • Gradually beat in 1 cup of the powdered sugar.
  • Beat in creme-de-menthe.
  • Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar. If necessary beat in 1 tablespoon of additional milk to make the filling slightly thicker than a frosting

CHOCOLATE GANACHE
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 11 ounce package dark chocolate pieces

  • In a medium saucepan, bring whipping cream JUST to boiling over medium-high heat.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add dark chocolate pieces (do not stir).
  • Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.
  • Cool for 15 minutes.
  • Pour over brownies and QUICKLY spread evenly.

NOTE: You can substitute 2 tablespoons milk, 1/2 teaspoon mint extract, and several drops of green food coloring for the GREEN Creme-de-menthe.

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Here are some of my FAVORITE RECIPE LINKS to make for a crowd. They make some pretty impressive foods and drinks for a buffet table.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 17 ~ PARTY FOODS & CHARCUTERIE BOARDS

This time of year can be stressful and super busy (normally pre-pandemic) so to make things easier we have gone to making charcuterie boards on the “eve” nights of holidays. The word charcuterie sounds a bit intimidating, but it is just a fancy French word 😀 for good food spread out in my opinion.

Charcuterie Boards are suddenly all the rage, but the culinary art of preparing charcuterie boards dates back to the 15th century originally. The person who prepares the charcuterie board is a charcutier which literally means “Pork Butcher” in French. The original process/meaning was intended as a way to preserve meat before the invention of refrigeration, especially pork products.

The revived comeback of the charcuterie board brings it front and center to our table and was been born out of the necessity of our busy lives and our love for farm to table as well as deli style meals that are also quick and easy.

Since the original meaning dealt with preserved meats, adding fermented, farm to table, home canned and prepared foods just falls into place along side.

One of the best things about serving a charcuterie board at your own party is that there are NO RULES! It’s yours for the making – make it as simple or as sophisticated as YOU like. One of the greatest aspects of a charcuterie board is that you can mix it all up to fit EVERYONE’S taste.

You can make these as simple or as sophisticated as YOU like. For us it is ALL about favorites and yummy satisfying and filling “bites” of food. Below is a list of some suggestions for building your own charcuterie board for your next party.

Next year I’m going to do a “DESSERT” charcuterie board for a girlfriends party instead of a cookie exchange.

  • Breads & Crackers – Crostini with toppings, Artisan Breads, Crackers, Fruitcake
  • Spreads – Jams, Chutneys, Dips, Flavored Mustards, Sauces, Dressings, Flavored Honeys, Flavored Horseradishes
  • Fermented/Pickled – Stuffed Olives, Pickles, Green Olives, Giardiniera, Peperoncinis, Pickled Carrots, Baby Corn
  • Cheeses – Cheddar, Havarti, Brie, Baby Swiss, Gouda, Pimiento Cheese, Manchego, Bleu Cheese
  • Meats – Salami, Roast Beef, Pancetta, Prosciutto, Pepperoni, Ham
  • Nuts & Seeds – Pistachios, Walnuts, Pecans, Macadamias, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Almonds, Chocolate covered raisins
  • Dried fruits – Dates, Prunes, Apricots, Golden Raisins
  • Fresh fruits – Grapes, Oranges, Berries, Apple slices, Pears, Grape tomatoes, Kiwi, Starfruit
  • Decorations – sprigs of Rosemary, Thyme or Basil

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 16 ~ WISH LIST

We also both have “wish” lists, but they are really small as we really don’t need anything so once again we are always looking for the special item that will surprise the other. 😀 My list for this year hasn’t changed much since last year has AGAIN been so full of pandemic drama and unanswered questions.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 15 ~ NEIGHBOR PLATES & GIFTS/DELIVERY DRIVERS

Again this year I have a station set up just outside the front door in the alcove for delivery drivers with a nice variety of drinks and snacks for them to choose from.  They all seem to enjoy it and our regular drivers have come to know it will always be there. One of them saw me at the post office the other day and actually asked if there would be my ‘special Christmas goodies’ again this year.

I normally do this, but again this year tried for an even nicer variety so they really realize just how much they have become essential in this day and age.

I usually do a large plate of goodies for my neighbors and regular delivery people. But, this year again with smaller gatherings and everyone having been home so much and already snacking too much probably, I’m changing it up again to make it easier on me, more cost effective for me and more fun too.

These jars are from last year when I did gift jars for brownie mixes that can be used whenever they want instead of a plate of goodies that may go bad before they eat them all.

PEANUT BUTTER* BROWNIE MIX
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1 cup peanut butter chips*
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup FINELY chopped walnuts

  • In a quart size mason jar, layer the ingredients in the order listed, packing down well between each layer. This is an important step s these ingredients literally fill the jar!
  • Cover tightly. Store in a cool, DRY place up to 6 months.

Include a cute little square of Christmas fabric, some ribbon and tag with the following instructions:
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS
2 LARGE eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In a bowl combine eggs, butter and vanilla with the brownie mix, folding together in as few strokes as possible.
  • Spread into a greased 8×8 baking pan.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes until set.
  • Cool on wire rack.
  • Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
  • Cut into squares.

NOTE: It is easy to change up this flavor by just changing the flavor of chips you use. I’m posting my peanut butter recipe, but you’ll notice the picture is of the jars I made with mint chocolate chips.  This batch of 12 had a variety of peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, caramel chips and mint chocolate chips, LOL 😀 NOT all together  of course!

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These are this year’s recipes:

HARVEST SOUP – picture soon
3/4 cup dried split peas (yellow or green)
1/3 cup+ granulated beef bouillon
1/2 cup barley
3/4 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup dried, minced onion
3/4 cup long grain wild rice
3/4 cup mini bow-tie or alphabet pasta

You can do this two ways. You can make pretty layered rows of each ingredient ending with the granulated beef bouillon allowing it to trickle down through it all. Or you can mix it all together and then fill the jar and add a lid.

Include a cute little square of Christmas fabric, some ribbon and tag with the following instructions:
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS:

28 ounce can diced tomatoes (DO NOT DRAIN)
1 1/2 pounds stew meat
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1/4 cup flour
FRESH ground salt and pepper, to taste

  • Dredge stem meat pieces in seasoned flour, shaking off excess.
  • In a large stock pot melt butter or oil.
  • Sear stew meat pieces.
  • Add soup mix, 3 quarts of water and diced tomatoes.
  • Bring to a SLOW boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until peas, lentils and rice are tender.
  • Makes 16 cups.

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HERB RICE MIX ~ PER 1 PINT JAR:
2 cups long grain rice
2 tablespoons celery flakes
2 tablespoons dried, minced onion

1 teaspoon dried chives
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sera salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • Combine all the ingredients, mixing together well.
  • Funnel into a pint sized mason jar.
  • Seal with a fabric square between the ring and the lid.
  • Tie with a cute ribbon that attaches the instructions.

INSTRUCTION TAG:

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons of butter to a boil.
  • Add 1 cup of rice mix.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  • Let stand 5 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Fluff with a fork and serve.

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CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES – this jar will be seriously FULL so pack each layer as tightly as possible!

1 cup PACKED brown sugar
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • In a 1 quart wide mouth canning jar, layer the brown sugar packing it down as firmly as possible.
  • Add the powdered sugar also packing it down as much as possible.
  • Add the cocoa once again packing it down firmly. With a dry towel clean excess cocoa from the inside edges of the jar.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the jar, packing tightly.
  • Include a cute little square of Christmas fabric, some ribbon and tag with the following instructions:

additional ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream together the butter, peanut butter and eggs.
  • Gradually sift in the dry mix.
  • Shape into balls and place on a LIGHTLY oiled baking sheet.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes.

 

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 14 ~ 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 above contains:

  • Walker’s shortbread tin.
  • Emerald Nuts & berries.
  • Dry skin cream for winter.
  • Moonshine mini’s and a few other mini bottles of Seagrams, Fireballl and Vodka.
  • A BIG bottle of Jack Daniels Winterfest.
  • Some underwear as an inside joke 😀
  • Some handmade caramels.
  • Slim Jim’s beef sticks and beef Jerky.
  • A couple dice games.
  • Some candies.
  • Lottery Tickets.

The picture below was a few years ago.

  • 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

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 13 ~ TAG QUESTIONS

Top 2 Winter Beauty Essentials?

  • A NICE HOT SHOWER to relax and clean out the pores.
  • A super moisturizer to keep away dry skin!

Top 2 Winter Fashion Essentials?

  • I wait ALL year for it to be cold enough to bring out the boots!
  • Scarves and gloves.  I have color combos to match anything.

Favorite Winter Accessory?

  • HATS & SCARVES of course!!!!

Favorite Winter Nail Polish?

  • Red for Christmas, but normally a pinky mauve. I just have too much red in my complexion.

Hot Cocoa or Apple Cider?

  • Homemade hot cocoa and MUST have marshmallows and or whipped cream!
  • Apple Cider if it is made into a AVAL POTA TODDY!

Favorite Winter Candle?

  • Apple and Cinnamon

Does it snow where you live?

  • Yes, but after the SNOWMAGEDDON of 2019 with a week long power outage that left us freezing or the SNOW/ICE storm of 2013 that left the cul-de-sac as an ice skating rink, we hope for only flurries this year.

Have you ever made a snowman?

  • Absolutely! And a snow woman and snow kids!

What is Your Favorite Holiday Movie?

  • IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE tops the list! Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street and they never get old either.  

What’s your favorite holiday drink? 

  • Coffee
  • Hot Tea
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Hot toddies

Candy cane or Gingerbread men?

  • I like the chalk style peppermint, but I’m not real keen on actual candy canes and I like soft gingerbread men.

What’s your favorite holiday/Christmas song?

  • That’s a tough call – depends on my mood… White Christmas, Silent Night and I’ll Be Home for Christmas

What is most important to you about the holidays? 

  • That it is genuine and homemade for the most part.  It is not a commercial holiday for me.  I believe in trying to remember the real reason for the season and keep the Christmas spirit in my heart and life ALL year long.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 12 ~ OUTDOOR DECORATIONS & LIGHTS

Outdoor decorations haven’t panned out as well this year as we planned. The blowups are getting old and tired 🙁 we’ll rethink things for next year.

So I’m offering your the outdoor lights from the 2 local festivals, Festival of Lights and Shore Acres that we’ve been to locally over the years. Hubby did “announce” that we will be going to find a parking space to watch the Timber Town Toy Land Electric Light Parade on Saturday the 18th and I hope to get pictures that I will update this post with later.

The Festival of Lights is now over 20 years old and a great way to kick off the holiday season. It’s ALL Volunteer and NON-Profit. It began as a fundraiser sponsored by the Rotary Club to help get the city out of debt and then took on a life of its own and now helps with scholarships and special projects. The festival runs every night from Thanksgiving to New Years and was perfect for this year since it is a truly socially distant event. You can drive your own car or take a horse drawn carriage ride (normally and hopefully the carriage rides will be back in 2021) through the displays. They have also coordinated a local radio station to listen to as you view the displays. The night we went through the fog was moving in early so a few of the pictures look a bit “smoky”.

As of that year they have the world’s tallest (41 feet, 16,000 pounds with working jaw) nutcracker built by a local company (unfortunately the nutcracker was a no-show for 2020 because of COVID), 500,00 lights, 90 animated displays, 3D displays, horse drawn carriage rides through the displays and a Holiday Village with Santa, hot cider with a bake sale and a synchronized light show in the courtyard (also closed this year due to COVID). The displays depict fairy tales, the military, patriotism, the local logging industry, local vineyards, local fishing and the traditional Christmas songs and scenes. People come from all over to see it. Unfortunately for locals, it doesn’t change much, but is still fun every few years. The lights were all the same this year though!

Three of my favorite munchkins from next door were coincidentally there that same night we were so had to snap a few pictures of the discussions with Santa. They were sooooo young! Now 2 of the 3 tower over me and they’re only 13 and 15!

Even the lights with errors turned out cute. It was difficult to get great pictures or continuous pictures of the animated scenes since there were so many cars behind us.

This snowman is on a corner in our neighborhood hugging a light standard.

A couple years ago we went to HOLIDAY LIGHTS at Shore Acres on the Oregon coast. ALL of our travel is “AROUND” Christmas and never ON Christmas. And while it was beautiful I am so glad to be home this year with nowhere to go until 2022. We arrived fairly early, just before dusk so we could walk through and get the lay of the land before walking 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.

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. 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.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 11 ~ FAVORITE DECORATIONS & ORNAMENTS

My husband would tell you I never met an ornament I didn’t like. He would also tell you that our tree is going to collapse under the weight of all of the sentimental and treasured ornaments. 😀 What he forgets is that MOST of the family has made me the “safety deposit box” for all things nostalgic.

One of our favorite shows was THE BIG BANG THEORY which always makes me laugh as I picture Penny asking about Sheldon’s Ornament Placement Template.

There is no such thing as a proper way to place an ornament in our house 🙂 We believe in the more the merrier theory.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 MORE than 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 as well as her father who swindled us out of more than $75,000 dollars, but that’s NOT a story for Christmas time.
And our handmade ornament by Design Chick Creations.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 10 ~ ADVENT CALENDARS

There are literally thousands of different advent calendars. These days most are promotional items and come in every form from daily chocolates to beers. You can make your own, find them on ETSY, EBAY… but what do they stand for? What is advent?

Advent itself is Christian followers remembering the birth of Christ in celebration of His birth and the anticipation of His return. Advent originates from Latin meaning “coming” or “arrival. Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas.

This year the first Sunday was November 28th, the second IS TODAY, December 5th and the third one will be the 12th. The third one is also known as Gaudette Sunday and is a time of rejoicing that the fast is almost over.

Advent calendars are a cute little way to help kids not only countdown to Christmas, but also learn along the way. Many families offer up a daily scripture or devotional reading to go along with the chocolate treat as a way to stay focused on the reason for the season.

Many families also use an Advent Wreath, burning the candles as they countdown to Christmas. Each week features a different liturgical theme. Traditionally the first week features hope and expectation of the Jewish people as they await the Saviour’s arrival and reminding Christian believers to wait for Jesus’ second coming. The second week focuses on preparation and the third week celebrates the coming of the Messiah while the final week celebrates God’s peace and love.

Both royal purple and Sarum blue are used to symbolize the preparation, penitence and royalty to welcome the new king at Christmas time while purple is also used as the color of suffering during the week of Lent and Holy Week. Most churches have shifted their emphasis to the Sarum blue for Advent and reserving the royal purple for the Easter season. Pink replaces the blue in week 4 as a shift happens to lessen the emphasis of penitence and turn the attention to the celebration of the season.

Red and green derive from old European practices using evergreens and holly to symbolize the ongoing life and hope that Christ’s birth brings to the world. Red and green are NOT actually liturgical colors for the season.