A Recipe for Christmas Fun

Way back when when I was a Pampered Chef Lady, I earned a stoneware gingerbread house mold. My oldest two daughters, the only kids at that time, were 2 years old and 4 years old. That was the first year we made a gingerbread house. We have made one every year since- with the exception of last year.

This year was the first with the grands. The grands are 4, 3, and 2 years old. Their mamas, the two toddlers from the beginning of this story, are 27 and 25 years old. That is a lot of gingerbread houses! That is a lot of really great memories.

Traditions can be a tricky thing. There can be a lot of pressure to continue traditions handed down to you and they can feel like a yoke. Those same traditions can also make you feel grounded, like you know who you are and where you came from. I don’t want my kids to ever feel like the things we do every year are a yoke. If we outgrow certain things, I don’t want them to feel guilty that things needed to change. But, I also want them to have a thread to hang on to that runs all the way back through their history.

The gingerbread house is one of those. It is also my tradition. They can develop new things with their own children, but this gingerbread house mold and this tradition belongs to me and Tony. Mostly me, he was usually at the station when the house was made. My family that I grew up in never made a gingerbread house, we have lots of other traditions. So this is a “new” thing. If someone wants to carry on the gingerbread house when I am gone, that is fantastic. If they don’t want to, that is okay, too. I will have made all the memories that I am going to make by that point and it will be their turn to make the memories they want. But, they will be able to look back at this blog and see pictures and know who I was- at least a little bit. I think that is the best part of traditions- the imprint it makes on family history.

I have included the recipe for the gingerbread just in case you wanted to create a new tradition.

A LITTLE EXTRA FLOUR MAKES THIS DOUGH STURDY ENOUGH TO MAKE GINGERBREAD HOUSES, BUT ALSO WORKS GREAT FOR COOKIES. PLUS, THE SMELL OF GINGERBREAD BAKING IS DELIGHTFUL. (pamperedchef.com)

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups (750 mL) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp (7 mL) ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (5 mL) ground ginger
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) baking soda
  • ½ tsp (2 mL) salt
  • ¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cloves
  • ½ cup (125 mL) vegetable shortening
  • ½ cup (125 mL) sugar
  • ½ cup (125 mL) molasses
  • 1   egg

DIRECTIONS

  1. Whisk the flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, salt, and cloves together in a medium bowl.
  2. Use a hand mixer to beat the shortening and sugar together in a large mixing bowl. Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.
  3. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until fully combined.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 2 portions. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 30 minutes. Use the dough to make cookies with cookie cutters or press into mold.

Gratin Dauphinois- The Best Potatoes!

Food is essential to romance. Regardless of where the food comes from- a fancy restaurant, a cool dinner, or from home. The old saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” has a lot of truth to it. I don’t know many women who are impervious to a man who cooks for her- or at least brings her tacos.

In A Marine for Christmas, Lucas is no different. Dixie blows his mind with Gratin Dauphinois and Beef Carbonnade. What good love story doesn’t have good food? I love cooking, I love growing food, and I love serving that food to those I love. So, my characters do as well. I hope you enjoy the recipe I have included for you!

You could call these scalloped potatoes, but Gratin Dauphinois has so much more flair!  It is hard to go wrong with potatoes, they are a humble food from the earth that need only a little dressing up.  You will be hard pressed to find a menu that can’t be complimented with a potato dish.  With the potatoes cooked in the oven with milk/cream, butter and a little garlic, the simplicity is deceptive.  This taste is subtle but engaging, the texture is smooth, and the experience is wonderful.

This dish complimented the Beef Carbonnade the family greatly enjoyed at our Christmas Dinner.  There was not a bit left after dinner, always a compliment to the cook!  Unless of course there is none left because the cook did a poor job of planning for her guests, but that was not the case- this time.

The humble potato!

Gratin Dauphinois

3 pounds of boiling potatoes– peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick (the food processor works great for this)

1 cup of whole milk – I like to mix 3/4 cup whole milk with 1/4 cup cream- adds to the richness and wonderful texture.

1 clove garlic– pressed and spread on bottom of a buttered flame proof baking dish- I prefer a deep dish 9 inch cast iron skillet

3 tablespoons of butter plus more for greasing the bottom of the dish.

Once you have buttered the cast iron skillet and spread the pressed garlic, place the potatoes in the skillet spreading in layers.

Season the milk with salt and pepper, pour over potatoes.  Add more cream until the milk is 3/4 of the way up.  Place on burner and heat just to a simmer- this is a very important step so that the liquid and potatoes come together in the oven.

Distribute 3 tablespoons of butter (real butter, not margarine) on top of potatoes.

Bake in a 425′ oven for about 25 minutes- until the liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender.

Serve and be happy!  That is some flat out good food!  Great food does not have to be complicated to be wonderful.

Release Day! A Marine for Christmas is LIVE!

Today is the day!

You can find the book on Amazon

This is my first fiction book to self-publish and I am excited to see how this goes.

All Dixie ever wanted was a home in the country with a family of her own. That dream was shattered when her husband left the day after he graduated medical school with his new plastic surgeon.

Four years later she is highly successful with her own business, but her heart still longs for what it wanted most.

Lucas Hardwick is ready for a change. On a recommendation from a friend, he finds himself in LaRue, Texas looking for the right property to relocate his security firm. He knows exactly what he is looking for in a property. His heart, however, is looking for something more.

Dixie is stunned when she is attacked on a quiet sidewalk in her sleepy little town. When she meets the eyes of her rescuer, Dixie finds herself looking into the eyes of the first man in four years who tempts her heart to dream again.

Will this Christmas make dreams come true or will the attacks on Dixie’s life succeed?

A Marine For Christmas- Cover Reveal

As I promised, this is the over reveal!

Well, sort of-

I have two covers and you get to vote on your favorite!

#1

#2

Leave your choice in the comments!

Mary- Did You Know

joy our redeemer lives

See Video Here

During the Christmas season when we focus on celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I can’t help but think of the Crucifixion as well. They are inseparable, without either one there would be no salvation and redemption.

Growing up in church I was told many times how God gave His Only Son. He did, this is truth but I always thought that Mary kind of got left out- Jesus was her son, as well.

For many years I pondered on Mary, what it must have been like for her. The joy of bringing the Son of God into this world. The bitter sadness of bringing the Son of God into this world. Being the Jewish girl that she was, she knew the prophecies, she knew what lay ahead, she knew the sacrifices she and Joseph had already made to get this baby here. This was her son, too. She loved him as any mama loves her baby. Given all of that, I always wondered why she didn’t get more credit. She gave her son as well as God.

God gave his Only son, Mary of course had more children, but did that really mean it was no big deal that she gave Jesus? Then it came to me- when all of the events of Jesus’ death began to happen and as she stood there and watched him die on the cross- as a human, she could do nothing. It was out of her control. She certainly sacrificed, felt the grief, and was probably so angry she could have spit nails, but all said and done she had no control. Jesus was a grown man and he made his choice to follow God’s path and set us all free from eternal death and restore us to our Creator.

Now God, on the other hand, He was Almighty God- Commander of the Angel Armies.  At one word Angels could have swooped in and took Jesus home to Heaven

He could have stopped the pain with a thought. He could have said “enough” and Jesus’ and His own suffering would have been over.

As God, he was in control and he had the power to stop the whole horrible day.

But, He did not.

He gave his only son.

How much He must  love me and you. He could have stopped his child’s suffering, but He saw the big picture- our redemption- and He restrained himself and let Jesus die. What a sacrifice, what hurt. God felt the same pain, grief, and anger as Mary. We are made in His image, we have feelings and emotions -so does He.  But He endured the pain and hurt so that you and I could be restored, forgiven, and set free.

Could it be that the pain of seeing all of us lost to the evil one and separated from our heavenly father was more painful than watching his only son- the perfect one- die on the cross?  He wants a relationship with us that bad…  Mind boggling that the creator of the universe, the Alpha & Omega likes me that much.  I don’t know about you- but that motivates me to live better and love more.

God gave his only son…. So Celebrate this Christmas- Our Redeemer Lives!

Christmas Parade

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DIY Keepsake Ornaments

DIY ornament

As I spoke about in a previous post, the children are given a new ornament each year.  I try to buy the ornaments while on our summer vacations, but to be honest that is hard to do sometimes.  If I was content with buying a mass produced ornament at a big box store it would be easy- but I am not.  I want ornaments that tie into our trip and experiences in some way.  Then I discovered clear glass ornaments at Hobby Lobby.  Now, I can use all the shells, sand, leaves, twigs, and such to create ornaments.

This years ornaments have a beach theme as our trip was to Galveston Island.

What you will need:

  • Clear glass ornaments from a craft store
  • Ribbon
  • Filling for the balls- sand, shells, drift wood, sea glass, etc.
  • Embellishments of you choice- I used metal letters, glitter and jingle bells
  • Modge Podge

Step 1, pour sand and add large items

Step 1: pour sand in the ornament

Step 2: place the larger items in the ball- I started with the drift wood.  As the pieces we brought home were large, I broke off small pieces that would fit.

Step 2, adding shells in the ornament

Step 3:  add shells & rocks- obviously not a lot of the shells will fit through the hole at the top, but you can collect enough to do the ornaments.  This is a good use for the pieces of sand dollars and mother of pearl that you find.

metal lettersStep 4: Prep the embellishments for the ornaments.  I am using metal letters I bought at a local flea market.

Applying modge podgeModge Podge makes a great medium for applying glitter to the letters.  Of course, shinny paint or any other form of paint would have worked.  I like bling.

Applying the glitterOn goes the glitter. Notice the brown paper covering my work surface- this is contractor paper from Lowe’s super useful stuff and really cheap.

putting ribbon on the glittered lettersStep 5- Add ribbon to glittered letters- once they have dried.

keepsake ornaments put togetherStep 6- put it all together.  I added a jingle bell with fishing line to the ornaments as well.  You can tuck the ribbon and fishing line into the hole of the ornament then press the metal hanger and cap back into place and this will hold it all together.

DIY ornamentThere you are- pretty as a picture and full of memories.  That is the way you make a home.

Ornaments, Tradition, & Tapestries

Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World
Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World

When Cheyenne was about 3, a wonderful lady shared about buying ornaments for her grandchildren to hang on the “cousins tree” in her house.  Each Christmas the cousins would all come over and were given a new ornament to go on the tree and would then decorate the tree with ornaments from years past.  I thought this was great and I changed it a bit to fit the season of life that I was currently in and still am as I do not have any grandchildren yet.

Each year I give the kids a new ornament which is the first ornaments to be hung on the tree.  Their ornaments are stored in a plastic shoe box labeled with their names.  The idea was that when they left home that these would be their ornaments to decorate their own trees.  Last year, the first box left home.  Honestly, this was more traumatic for me than when the child actually left home.  There are precious memories in those boxes.

In the beginning, I wanted a themed tree- you know color coordinated and just so.  So, I purchased ornaments that went with my theme, mainly mercury glass type ornaments in shiny colors.  But then one year when the kids were still very little, I had the idea to purchase the ornaments while on our summer vacation.  I was able to do this without the kids noticing as my husband is great at keeping the kids busy while I hunt ornaments. At Christmas, the vacation would have long been a memory but when the ornaments came out the memories came back. Being stealthy about the ornament buying worked for a few years, but the children being smart and observant started looking for ornaments for me while we would be shopping.  Then this became a new tradition.  Also, it dawned on me the year we went to Chincoteague Island that if I didn’t buy myself an ornament I was going to have a very empty and sad tree when the kids left home.

From the island of Chincoteague- the light house
From the island of Chincoteague- the light house

Now, each year when the boxes are relieved of their contents, we remember each trip and tell the stories one more time.  Some years, there weren’t vacations so the ornaments were chosen based on a significant event in our lives.  Like the year all the kids got into horses, I bought horse ornaments that looked like each kid’s horse.  It has become something we all treasure and enjoy.  My tree is not coordinated, but it is themed.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I often ask the kids about their friends houses at Christmas- I am a bit of a junkie and I like to gather new ideas- so often their response is “The tree is pretty, but not special like ours.”  It seems I set the bar high without even meaning to do so.

Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas

This is what traditions are to me- threads that run through the years tying us together and weaving the tapestry that when we look back, it is the tapestry of our lives.  As the mother, it is my honor to be the keeper and maker of these traditions.

Tony would always sing the rymn "little pig, little pig let me in" to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.
Tony would always sing the rhyme “little pig, little pig let me in” to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.

What says Christmas like a pink flamingo?  Brought back from one of the many tips to the coast.
What says Christmas like a pink flamingo? Brought back from one of the many trips to the coast.

This years ornaments were make by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.
This year’s ornaments were made by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.

Opening the 2013 ornaments
Opening the 2013 ornaments

Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.
Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.

Simple Beauty- Christmas Decorating on the Farm

I love Christmas time- I have a  desire to bake, cook, clean, decorate, and wrap gifts tied up with lots of ribbon that sparkles that I am just unable to suppress.  I do get some help from the kids, but mostly its just me and I love it.  Tony enjoys my creations, especially those emerging from the kitchen, but is also content to sit and watch.  Many wives gripe about their husbands not being involved but I don’t see it that way.  He loves what I do but its not his thing to decorate- plus, if he got involved and started having opinions then I would not get to do it my way uncontested.  I like doing things my way.  Therefore, we have a nice balance, I drape greenery and lights on everything that will stand still and then when the sun sets and our home is shimmers, we sit on the couch and he tells me, “It’s beautiful, baby.”  That makes my heart happy and we avoid silly fights.

So, as Thanksgiving came and went the bins of decorations came out.  I have collected many items over the years that I love.  I usually pick a few things up each year after Christmas has passed.  But the things I love most are vintage junk.  The junk ( more on the great junk in another post) plus Christmas photographs of my children when they were little make up the most treasured of our Christmas decor.  For a few weeks, I am once again surrounded by their little cherub faces and toothless smiles.  These framed photos are stored in the bins with the other lights and ornaments.  As the bins are emptied of the Christmas contents, I pack away all of my usual decor into the empty bins- giving me a clean slate on which to create.

Decorating for Christmas can get expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.  Simple white lights mixed with fresh greenery is beautiful and elegant.  Add in some cheap dollar store bead garland and you have a classy display.  The greenery can be obtained by a county drive with a pair of lopping shears.

Cheyenne and the greenery

Vintage ChritmasWhite lights and greenery mixed with a vintage tool box, glittered Merry Christmas and a ceramic Santa painted by my very talented Aunt.

Coca Cola Christmas TreeThe only artificial tree that I have in my house, this white tree with white lights holds all my Coca Cola ornaments that I have been collecting for over a decade now.  The Coca Cola Christmas village was given to me by my awesome mother-in-law.

China HutchThis china hutch has a mixture of tool, white lights and glittered Pine Cones– the pine cones are a really fun project to do with the kids.  We made our pine cones about 5 years ago.  Each year I store them in large zip lock bags and they have lasted really well.

Merry & BrightThis in an antique window that I painted an ornament on.  The ornament is patterned after my favorite Merry Brite ornaments that hung on my parents tree for years.  I love those old ornaments.  As you can see, I need to fix the white stripes.  I stored this window in the storage room in our barn, this summer the cow got inside and licked off a lot of the paint.  I repainted the dots, but wouldn’t you know it I am out of white paint.

vintage santaSince, before I was born ( I am 41) this Santa covered my great-grandmother’s front door.  After she died, my grandmother moved into her house, so I have spent every Christmas Eve in that home and so have my children.  One day, I was over at Grandmother’s house and she was going to throw out this Santa.  I said, “I will take that, thank you very much.”  Now, it has hung in my home for over a decade.  My children  do not remember a year when that wasn’t apart of our house.

I love making memories.  I look at is as my privilege to be the keeper of those memories as well as the creator of memories for my family.  My Christmas decor is filled with memories of the people I have loved, many of them are no longer with me.  In this way, they live on.  In years to come, I hope nieces and nephews, grand children and children will pull something out of a box or smell are familiar aroma from the kitchen and remember me fondly.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary, Did You Know?

During the Christmas season when we focus on celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ, I can’t help but think of the Crucifixion as well. They are inseparable, without either one there would be no salvation and redemption.

For many years I pondered on Mary, what it must have been like for her. The joy of bringing the Son of God into this world. The bitter sadness of bringing the Son of God into this world. Being the Jewish girl that she was, she knew the prophecies, she knew what lay ahead, she knew the sacrifices she and Joseph had already made to get this baby here. This was her son, too. She loved him as any mama loves her baby. Given all of that, I always wondered why she didn’t get more credit. She gave her son as well as God.

God gave his Only son, Mary of course had more children, but did that really mean it was no big deal that she gave Jesus? Then it came to me- when all of the events of Jesus’ death began to happen and as she stood there and watched him die on the cross- as a human, she could do nothing. It was out of her control. She certainly sacrificed, felt the grief, and was probably so angry she could have spit nails, but all said and done she had no control. Jesus was a grown man and he made his choice to follow God’s path and set us all free from eternal death and restore us to our Creator.

Now God, on the other hand, He was Almighty God- which means Commander of the Angel Armies. He could have stopped the pain with a thought. He could have said “enough” and Jesus’ and His own suffering would have been over. As God, he was in control and he had the power. But, He did not. He gave his only son. How much He must  love me and you. He could have stopped his child’s suffering, but He saw the big picture- our redemption- and He restrained himself and let Jesus die. What a sacrifice, what hurt. God felt the same pain, grief, and anger as Mary. We are made in His image, we have feelings and emotions -so does He.  But He endured the pain and hurt so that you and I could be restored, forgiven, and set free.

Could it be that the pain of seeing all of us lost to the evil one and separated from our heavenly father was more painful than watching his only son- the perfect one- die on the cross?  He wants a relationship with us that bad…  Mind boggling that the creator of the universe, the Alpha & Omega likes me that much.  I don’t know about you- but that motivates me to live better and love more.

God gave his only son…. So Celebrate this Christmas- Our Redeemer Lives!

Christmas Parade

Divorce & The Holidays

christmas

As the holidays approach, life can really get complicated.  Add in blended families and divorced parents and it can be a real mine field.

So I am going to offer something that, I hope will make your holiday what you hope for.  Sit quietly and think about what memories you would like to make with your children and what you want them to remember when they are grown and look back on the holidays that they shared with you.  Frankly, this applies to any facet of life- what do you want your kids to remember when they look back and make that happen.

In regards to the holidays, don’t let all the voices pulling at you influence your dreams.  Just take a few minutes to dream about what you would like and what would be best for your children.  Now go do that.

I am reminded of a conversation I once had with a friend.  Her children were all little and she was married to her original husband who was the father of all four kids.  The stress she was feeling was that both his and her parents were divorced and remarried- and all wanted them at their respective homes for the holidays.  She was exhausted and didn’t really want to make 5-6 stops in a 48 hour period with four small children in tow.  This was not what she thought was best for her kids or herself.  When asked what I thought I offered this:

“You did not create the problem.  It was not your decision or your husband’s for either of your parent’s to get a divorce.  The adults at the time made that decision.  Now, they have to live with the consequences.  Because they chose divorce, they now have to understand that they will not have all the children and grandchildren at every holiday.  And that is not your fault or your problem to fix.”

Now, will people get mad when you choose to stay home or only visit one or two homes?  Yes.

Will they get their feelings hurt?  Probably.

Will they be harmed? No.

The main thing is that you live and establish YOUR family in the way that is best for you and them.  Your  children are only little once, don’t let it pass by missing out on what you dream of by trying to make everyone else happy.

I hope this helps someone have a less stressful holiday.  The holidays should be a time of joy and celebration- but we have to be purposeful for that to happen.