Christmas Feasting 2010

Christmas Day 2010
Hopefully thoughts on the actual day later…

Cinnamon Rolls
Make Ahead Egg and Ham Casserole
Chilled Clementines

Steamed Green Beans and Corn
Holiday Cranberry Relish
Mashed potatoes
Home-made Bread

Pumpkin Pie
Christmas Cookies
Amanda’s Own Chocolates and Peppermint Bark

Christmas Eve

Happy Christmas Eve!

A Shepherd’s Meal

Creamy and Savory Potato Soup with Crusty Whole Wheat Bread
By Candlelight.

We have been enjoying this as our traditional Christmas Eve dinner for several years now. I miss my mom’s lasagna- but we have learned to embrace our food limitations and make a delicious best of it.

I am going to share this recipe exactly as I made it.

2 three pound bags of organic potatoes, washed and peeled
1 pound bag of organic baby carrots
1 package Hormel Natural Bacon (we prefer Earthbound from EarthFare- but use Hormel in a pinch)
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup olive oil
4 cups plain soymilk
3 TB dried parsley
Black Pepper
Garlic powder
Onion powder
The largest soup pot you own. We need to upgrade to a bigger pot. I am not sure how big mine is.

Dice all potatoes and put in soup pot. Dice carrots and onion and put in pot. Add 1 TB onion powder and 1 TB garlic powder. Add 2 tsp black pepper. Add ½ cup olive oil. Cover with water to just under the top of pot. Bring to a boil. Turn down to medium and simmer (all afternoon) until carrots and potatoes are tender. While this is simmering, bake bacon and let cool. Add 4 cups plain soymilk and 3 TB dried parsley. Crumble bacon and sprinkle over top. Heat until warmed through (about 30 minutes).

Serve in mugs with warm, crusty, fresh bread for dipping.

This recipe can also be made in a crock pot- but it takes MUCH longer than on the stove.
It is not low glycemic which I have found is important for me- but it IS a once a year meal. We only serve on Christmas Eve.

Blessings and Grace,

Christmas Week

Christmas Week

It is Christmas Week.

Sweet scent of mint chocolate is rising in the air.
Christmas music serenades.

It is Anticipation Week.

The children can hardly stand the days that seem to creep by.

Our Advent studies fell back on sweet and simple. I downloaded (well- actually Todd downloaded- twice- in town) a free, beautiful, daily Jesse Tree devotional complete with ornaments- and we started faithfully. But due to several mishaps- had to set it aside for this year. I am hoping for next year. It was so beautiful to trace Jesus through the Bible and the picture ornaments really reinforce the learning.

Years ago now- more than several- but not a decade ago- 😉 I was part of an email loop for Christian homeschoolers and was “woken” to the beauty of the advent candles. I read a very wise lady’s advice (Tina Farewell- if that rings any bells) as she shared their very sweet and simple adaptation of the Advent wreath.
I put ideas into practice immediately and we have been celebrating Advent ever since.
This year- we began the tradition of decorating our tree and getting out all of our decorations on Advent Sunday. This was in hopes of keeping our hearts toward Christ for the entire Advent month. How well did we do? I am not sure- but that was the intention. We also tried to begin the Jesse Tree. I decided last year that I really wanted to begin that with my children… but I mentioned the fail of that plan for this year.

Our Advent is very simple and our candles are red and white- symbolizing the purity and blood of Christ. We light a total of four crimson votives (starting with one and adding each Sunday)and then on Christmas Eve- light all four and a tall white pillar candle as well. We sing special Christmas Carols and read Scripture passages I printed and keep in a Holiday Binder. We enjoy Christmas cookies and a special, reflective time.

We also love to use FamilyLife Adornaments every year- but this always gets scrunched in due to tax season. We are behind with this as well- and will probably be hanging all 12 of them tomorrow night. But they are beautiful symbols of the Names of Jesus- like Lamb of God, Lion of Judah, The Door.

We have created lots of crafts, done some baking, practiced for a Christmas drama, and tried to focus on the Lord.

I have done a lot of reflecting and will be hopefully tweaking some things with the New Year and advent back into our school routine.

We are preparing our Christmas Eve and Day menus and I look forward to Christmas Eve when Todd and I hang out together and wrap and prepare and have our own rituals.

My Christmas Cookie list turned out to be too ambitious- and we just made Snickerdoodles, Cut-Outs, Brownie Cups, and Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip (yum). My favorite Sugar Cookies- just didn’t happen. Ah well.

Tonight- we attempt a shopping trip with all the children so they can pick a gift for their secret gift exchange with each other. Hopefully we will survive with sweetness intact and then off to pick up those last minute grocery items.

So- that is Christmas week here. I hope Christmas week- there- wherever there might be for you, my friend, is filled with sweetness and that you can stand against the stress and craziness that seems to steal the wonder, joy, and LIFE right out of the season.

Blessings and Grace from me to you,

Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe

Snickerdoodle Cookie Recipe

1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 cup margarine ( we use dairy free margarine- but I think butter would work really well in this recipe! I haven’t tried it though- so I can’t vouche for sure.)
2 large eggs
2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda

3 TB sugar
3 TB cinnamon (for rolling dough balls)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix sugar, margarine, and eggs in large bowl. Stir in flour, cream of tartar and baking soda. The dough should roll nicely into balls in the palm of your hand without sticking. If it doesn’t- add more flour, a little at a time, until the dough is nice and stiff and rolls neatly into a smooth little ball.

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together into a bowl for rolling dough balls.

Shape dough into balls and roll in cinnamon mixture. Place on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes until set. Remove from oven. Remove cookies from cookie sheets while still warm to cool. This will prevent them from sticking to the cookie trays. Cool on rack or paper towels.


It is that time of year at our home!

Christmas cookie making!
And I visited my recipes and food finds links to print the recipes of some of our very favorites!

We will be making:
Christmas Sugar Cookies with decorative Icing
Cut-Outs (the kids favorite cookie tradition)
Chocolate Chip
Peanut Butter

We have already made and consumed! some chocolate chip and oatmeal. 🙂

I am not sure what else… I might attempt a chocolate chocolate chip that is actually a mint chocolate cookie. I love mint at Christmas time! Crisp fresh deliciousness. And paired with chocolate. Yum.

I like to keep us supplied with cookies for our Sunday evening Advent time. We also set out a decorative tray on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day that adds to the festiveness.

Everyone loves making cut-outs. ( I will confess- I do NOT love making cut-outs. They are our once or twice (Easter tide too) a year special activity. And it is a floury, messy, doughy memory, always. But they love. And we make memories. And we shake hard those red and green sprinkles… cookies, tray, table, floor. 😉 You can imagine.)

The little boys love all baking of all kinds. I am looking forward to small hands patting and shaping dough, rolling it in sugar/cinnamon and plopping dough balls down in haphazard boy fashion on our baking trays. 😉

What will you be making?

Endless Gifts

O… Endless Gifts…

I have been so far away
Even though
I close my eyes

Somehow words, they close in tight.
They close hard.
They dry up.
I curl in around them.
Will not let them go…

Even when I know…
Am better.
Is better.
Life is better
The writing
When I craft
The true
Our days.

I am curled



Little One has one hand on the rail and and I stretch my hand to his to walk him down the stairs. He declines my hand. “I’m big. I’m a big boy.” Then- emphatically- “I a… KID.” This significant- because I always group our older five as “the kids” to him. The kids are doing this and that. The kids are here or there… “I a KID.” He tells me- strong. I smile. I gulp, too. Later, I ask him if he’s big… if he’s a kid. He says no. (There’s still time…)

Thanksgiving Day- I am occupied in our room and children are washing up from our meal. Jonah is dismissed from the table to wash up. In my mind’s eye- I see him there. Dawdling at the sink the way he does- with one small leg kicked back to block any usurpers of the throne (stool). I hear Daddy’s strong manly voice, “Move along!” And I grin cause I know it is directed to Jonah- and indeed, he was manfully whisked off the stool and hustled through finishing his wash. I laugh every time I think of this. As I see him there- as I have seen him time and again and tried to urge him to finish… and as I hear No-nonsense Daddy- just move us all along. 😉

Today, one son got hustled a little too hard (by me) after an altercation… and indeed, his feet did leave the floor for a moment. To which- the funny one cries, “Ah- I’m flying! I’m flying!” in his own dramatic way- and all of us- we laugh. We can’t help but laugh. This one- sometimes, he has perfect timing. He really does. And I can see him still- in my mind’s eye- “flying.” And I laugh. I laugh.

We put up a Christmas tree for the first time in years. Asher happily informs Ama about our “fake tree” to which he is gently guided to refer to it as “an artificial tree” not a fake tree. Ah, my blunt son. Ever saying it just how he sees it. We laugh.

Last year, I pick an easy “artificial” tree. Three parts to put together. Tall- but not too tall. One I can do all by myself. I am NOT a handy person. I pick a beribboned, fluffy, iridescent angel too. The kids and I put up the tree. We crown it with our angel. The tree looks skinny and “Charlie-brownish” underneath a Mighty Angel. I can’t help but think there must be some powerful reflection about us being like that tree… adorned by Mighty God. But my thoughts blur with fatigue and weariness and I cannot articulate what I “see” in that tree and in us. We say, “It will fill in when we decorate it. It won’t look so sparse.” We encourage. We are right. It fills in. Beautiful.

We unpack memories. We unpack years. Each child has their own special ornament bought for their “year.” And they decorate happy.

I pull out one and for some reason I cry. I cry and I can’t talk. And they just want to know. What is it, Mom? Why that one, Mom? And I barely mumble what it is. And all it is the ornament I chose for our first Christmas in our first house in PA. 2001. For some reason I cry. And one son, he comforts, “So many memories, Mommy. So many memories there. But this house is much nicer Mommy. Such a better house…” and he said a few other sweet comfort words that I can’t remember now- but he is really the only one who really remembers that house anyway. And they have seen it and they know it is better here…

But I think it was just- us– those years ago. In that first house. That felled me.

And sometimes when you let the words go- the tears release too- and then they flood hard. Maybe that is why I hold the words in tight and hard. Curl up around the pain.

Our tree is sweet. The children love. Unpacking our box brought back many, many memories of years decorating the tree in my old family home. How I loved unpacking the crystal angels and the set of drummer boys.(or were they soldiers? They were little wooden figures in bright colors.) Each one carefully wrapped in tissue paper. I loved placing them “just so” on the tree.

There are still some touches needed before our tree is “complete.” I hope I am able to find what I need when I am able to go out.

We go to Franklin’s Winter Wonderland. Our annual tradition. It was not the same this year. And we all agree- we liked the other years better. But still- we made our memory and came home and drank our cocoa and some ate cookies, too.

I take four excited children out on a cold and wet night. I think about how much I utterly DISLIKE driving in the mountains in the dark when it is 38 degrees and raining- with a threat to drop below freezing. With a threat for the road to freeze over. And we ponder that we might have to walk up our hill. We dislike this idea mightily. Tall Son encourages us to focus on the trouble at hand: getting there. And face the hill trouble when actually meet it. And they ply me curious about my driving experience. To which I snort and say I have driven in much worse than we have seen here in NC BUT it was not on a mountain and they SALT the roads in PA. On a night like this- the trucks would have been out. Salting the road. To which, Tall Son, again chimes in- yes, they just don’t expect this that much here Mommy. And of course, I agree. He is right and I am just scared and a little grumpy at the worry of ice or black ice on the road…And then the poor lighting… it scares me enough to stay in… but we ventured out and all was well- the thermometer actually climbed UP a few degrees rather than down before the night was over. We head to the Georgia border to see Nutcracker. We had tickets. Off we go! We get there and are directed to AMAZING, front row seats. Little Girl, eyes big with wonder, watches enchanted. We make a Christmas memory. And there was no ice on the road. And we didn’t have to walk up the big hill. Or any hill for that matter. After all.

We begin Advent. (I must write another post on our Advent later.)

Todd finishes his very challenging and hard grad class with a bang. A six hour final. On Sunday. And now (although grades are not in) on our end at least- we are officially done and ONE HALF(15 credits) way through the course. And it has caused blood, sweat, and tears. Yes it has. And although I don’t have to wrap my mind around Tax Law and all those numbers (thank goodness)- I am carrying it too- in other ways.

I wake up to a world frosted white. And still. And for a few moments- peace steals over my soul.

And tears mist when I try to recall… more of those Endless Gifts.
I can’t. The words. Have closed in tight.
Once more.

I think I often follow the old adage- if you don’t have anything nice to say- don’t say anything at all. So I don’t. But then
Suddenly I realize.
I do have something to say and
It is nice
It is just not
Whatever thing
Has grappled me.
And in “finding” the nice
I free

And so I have,
A little.