Thursday, December 30, 2010

Resolutions, One by One


New Years Resolutions


The end of the year has arrived, and many people are thinking about their New Year’s Resolutions.  I’ve got plenty of my own regarding subjects like sleep, health, hobbies, and my time with God.  I think it can be very beneficial for us to take time to evaluate our lives and write down our thoughts and goals.  If we have a vision in mind, it is easier to accomplish our dreams!

If you are trying to make a Resolutions list for yourself, try writing down categories:  Personal, Health, Hobbies, Relationships, Finances, Organization, Household, Homeschool, etc…  This might help you think about what you would like to change in your life.  Ask yourself questions like:  What needs improvement?  What are my interests and hopes?  What does God want me to do in this area?

Secondly, I read a post recently that encouraged people to think of a purposeful word to focus on in the new year – words like:  faith, home, margin, peace, debt-free…  I can think of many words that I would like to see fit with my new year, but the one that stands out the most for me would be JOY!

With all of that said, please remember that a Resolutions list can be overwhelming to make and also overwhelming to fulfill!  If you can not make an entire list, start by writing down ONE thing you would like to accomplish.  If you do create a list, tackle the most important thing first.  For me, I am REALLY going to try to work on going to bed earlier and getting more sleep.  (Pray for me!)  I think many of my other desires will fall into place if I feel more rested and able to tackle the issues of life.  Most of us can not work on getting more sleep, starting a good exercise routine, eating more healthfully, organizing the entire house, crafting more often, learning the piano, making bread, and other wonderful things ALL AT ONCE

Oh, and remember…

You don’t have to have your list completed by January 1st!!  ~smile~

May your New Year be blessed

with newness of life in our Lord!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas Cooking in Review

How was your Christmas?  I hope it was good!  Did you have to simplify?  I sure did.  I had to forego baking and distributing goodies to neighbors, giving gifts to all of the leaders at church, and cooking all of the special food I was hoping to cook for our household on Christmas Eve.  We ended up eating leftover pizza for dinner rather than the Chicken Italian meal I had planned AND also ended up not doing the fondue.  It was not easy for me to change gears, at first, but then I realized it was best.

I DID make the Red Velvet Cake, and the Chocolate-Topped Peanut Butter Mousse Cake for our celebrations with our families.  Delicious!

I used King Arthur’s cake flour blend for the Red Velvet Cake and dusted over the frosting with white sugar sprinkles.  The cake looked very pretty and festive.




The Chocolate-Topped Peanut Butter Mousse Cake was extremely rich and very good!  I haven’t made the recipe in YEARS.  It was time to dust it off and enjoy it again!  The recipe says not to use old-fashioned or freshly ground peanut butter.  I do use natural peanut butter, and the cake turns out very well.


This photo was taken mid-glazing.

Chocolate-Topped Peanut Butter Mousse Cake

from “Bon Appetit” magazine, October 2003

1 1/2 cups finely ground cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 17 cookies)

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

12 oz. cream cheese, room temp.

1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter

1/4 cup chopped, lightly salted, dry-roasted peanuts

2 T whole milk

2 3/4 cups chilled heavy whipping cream

6 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped

Butter bottom of 9-inch springform pan.  Mix cookie crumbs and melted butter in medium bowl until crumbs are evenly moistened.  Press crumb mixture into bottom of prepared springform pan.  Using electric mixer, beat 12 oz. cream cheese and 1 cup powdered sugar in large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Beat in peanut butter, chopped dry-roasted peanuts, and whole milk.  Beat 2 cups whipping cream and remaining 1/4 cup powdered sugar in another large bowl until peaks form.  Fold whipped cream into cream cheese/peanut mixture in 3 additions.  Transfer mixture to prepared springform pan and smooth top.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Bring remaining 3/4 cup whipping cream to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Remove cream from heat.  Add semisweet chocolate; whisk until chocolate is melted and smooth.  Cool to lukewarm, about 15 minutes.  Run thin knife between cake and pan sides to loosen.  Release pan sides.  Using hot metal spatula or knife, smooth top and sides of mousse cake.  Place cake on rack set over rimmed baking sheet.  Pour chocolate mixture over cake, allowing it to run over sides and using spatula to help coat completely.  Refrigerate mousse cake until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.  (Peanut butter mousse cake can be made 3 days ahead.  Keep refrigerated.)  Cut cake into 12 wedges.  Transfer to plates and serve.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Change of Pace


Life comes with is pressures and expectations, even Christmas came with its own bundle!  This week many of us are blessed to have a vacation, but with the word, “vacation,” comes its own pressures and expectations.  You’ve got to recover from Christmas, plan for the New Year, tackle the project list … Oh, and don’t forget to relax – after all, isn’t that what vacation is all about?!

If you’re like me, you start to formulate what your week will look like, and before long, you realize your week isn’t really going to be like that.  No, I’m not going to get full nights’ sleep.  I have a six month old baby who has been waking up multiple times a night for a couple months now and as of today, appears to be teething or fighting something.  She’s got a crusty nose, a mild fever, and doesn’t want to eat much solid food.  No, I’m not going to sit around playing games, watching movies, and dating my husband ALL WEEK.  YES, I am going to schedule SOME of that, but I still have a family to care for, mouths to feed, and a house that needs order.  With all of this, I realize I need a perspective change.  Instead of thinking this is a “vacation” where I will have loads of rest and be secluded on some faraway, exotic island, I am going to think of it as a

“Change of Pace”. 

I will still have plenty to do.  However, as I mentioned, I am going to make the best of the week and schedule some fun events in the mix (and have already!).  Sure, I might have to put Christmas gifts away STILL or plan for school next week, but I can do my best to regroup and refocus this week.  I can work hard to have a good perspective, enjoying each day to the best of my ability.

No matter what you are doing this week, I hope you are able to have a “Change of Pace”.  May your time during the holiday season be one of refreshing and not be burdensome to you.

Blessings to you!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

We wish you a happy, safe, and blessed holiday!

Glory to God in the Highest!

Christmas Food Planning

I realize I am talking about food a lot lately.  Yes, it is one of my passions, and what a great time to have special food – at Christmas!  I am planning out what food we will have on Christmas Eve (when we celebrate with our own household) and then on Christmas Day with our families.  Here’s what the list looks like right now.


Christmas Eve

Breakfast:  Cinnamon Rolls, Turkey Sausage

Lunch:  Cheese Fondue with Dippers, Strawberry Spinach Salad, and Homemade Sub Sandwiches(?)

Dinner:  Chicken Italian, Bruschetta, Green Beans, Angel Hair Pasta

Dessert:  Chocolate Fondue with Dippers, hopefully by a roaring fire!


Christmas Day

I am in charge of taking dessert to both of our families’ houses.  I am hoping to take some Christmas cookies along with the following:

Red Velvet Cake to my parents’ house.

Chocolate Topped Peanut Butter Mousse Cake to my in-laws’ house.

What are you planning for your Christmas celebration?  Do you have any foods that you typically eat?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Please Vote for My Friend

My good friend, Kirstie Hansel, has been part of a weight loss challenge through “Fit Yummy Mummy” and has done a spectacular job!  She is actually a FINALIST and needs votes!  She is listed as #1.  Please vote for her!!

Voting ends tomorrow night,

Thursday December 23rd,  5 p.m. EST.!

On the link you can scroll down to see Kirstie and her story.  Then click at the top of the page where you will be taken to the voting section!!

Thanks so much!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Crinkles, Color, and Cream

Today we made Chocolate CrinklesThis recipe made over 3 dozen cookies, which is great.  I use a melon scooper to scoop out the dough, and that works well for portions.


We packaged some in a box with some fudge for the kids’ piano teacher.  When I made these cookies last year, my niece said they were one of her favorites!


I made a salad for a Christmas party over the weekend.  It was simple, tasty, healthful, and nicely-colored for the holiday season.  I mixed some spring mix lettuce with glazed walnuts and dried cranberries.  I like to serve this type of salad with a raspberry vinaigrette dressing. 


For dinner last night I made Chicken with Cream.  My good friend from Guatemala taught me how to make this.  I realized it might be a good option for Christmas with the red and green peppers.  When my husband took his first bite of dinner, he said, “YUM!”.  That’s when I know something is really good.  ~smile~


Chicken with Cream

serves 4 or 5 people

Simple and delicious!

1 1/2 chicken breast, cut into pieces

1 Green and Red Pepper, chopped into chunks

1 Onion, chopped

Mushrooms (fresh), a handful, chopped


Salt and Pepper

Cook peppers, onion, and mushrooms in oil or butter. Add chicken pieces and cook until done. I like to saute everything until it is nicely browned.  It gives it a good, rich flavor.  When done, remove from heat, and add 1 cup of cream with salt and pepper to taste!  Serve over rice.

Precious Moments

Our precious baby girl was dedicated to the Lord at church on Sunday.  We love her dearly and are so very thankful that God has bestowed this blessing of love upon us.  As a man said to me in the store the other day, “Oh, you got your Christmas present early”.  Yes, indeed I did!


At one point yesterday I sat down with my older children to discuss how they were treating each other.  Afterwards, I told them that I wanted them to go play with each other … altogether … a board game or something.  A short while later, my daughter came upstairs from the basement and said, “Mom, come see something”.  I went downstairs and found a message waiting for me.  How creative and beautiful children can be.  ~Smile~


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Even Now, Simplify!


It’s the last week before Christmas.  How are you feeling?  Are you feeling stretched, exhausted, or burdened?  Do you have too much on your plate?  Evaluate and try to simplify.  Maybe you can not make the 300 Christmas cookie recipes you found posted in blogs, magazines, and cookbooks.  Maybe you can not finish (or start!) the homemade projects you were hoping to do.  Maybe some of the presents you were hoping to buy for someone will have to be late (gasp!).  During this week, remember the spirit of Christmas – thoughtfulness … love … joy … redemption … salvation!  If our lives are too noisy and burdened, by our own doing, we are causing ourselves to lose the very sight and reason for the season.  I am hoping to tweak my own life a bit so I can feel more relaxed and joyful overall.  I am shooting for a week of peace and celebration, altogether.  How about you?  What are your goals for the week?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Brunch with a Friend

I invited a couple friends over for a Christmas brunch.  Unfortunately, one of them was unable to come at the last minute.  I thoroughly enjoyed the undivided time with my other friend, though.

I made Mini Bagel Sandwiches and fruit salad, and my friend brought a yummy hashbrown casserole.  I made the bagel sandwiches as part of our soccer luncheon with family members at the end of our Fall season, and everyone loved them.  I slather a thin layer of cream cheese on mini bagels and fill with a slice of meat and cheese of choice. 

We finished off our meal with Brownie Pizza for dessert.


We sipped on some Flavored Hot Cider.  My mother-in-law taught me a great trick.  Add red hot cinnamon candies to your cider while it is heating, and you will have a delicious hot beverage!  I added about 3 oz. of candies to a gallon of cider.


I made a box of Decadent Fudge as a Christmas favor for my friend.  This recipe turned out superbly.  I do not have a microwave, so I just put everything into a large stockpot and stirred while heating the ingredients until the mixture was smooth and melted.  I added pecans instead of walnuts and sprinkled the top with white, green, and red decorating sugars.  The fudge is very rich and delicious and has more of a dark chocolate taste.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Our Project for the Day


This morning we made four large salads for my husband to take to work with him for a potluck.  He and the other managers are in charge of the meal.  I made two garden salads and two antipasto salads.  Containers of parmesan and ranch croutons, along with bottles of Ranch and Italian dressing, will accompany them.

My son and daughter were a huge help to me, chopping and slicing away to help me accomplish the task in due time!  Now, back to school…


Monday, December 13, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas


Yesterday, we were blessed to have several inches of snow visit us.  It sure is pretty to look at, but I admit, it was not very “pretty” to shovel.  UGH!  The snow is great packing snow, so it was sticking to our shovels like mad.  Nonetheless, I do love snow and its awesome beauty! 


I always love snow at Christmas time.  It makes life feel so festive and cozy.  Well, at least to me… It’s all I’ve ever known – Christmas in Michigan.  IMG_7099


It’s hard to believe that Christmas is less than two weeks away now.  December seems to fly by.  Last week we attended my niece’s choral concert.  She attends a local Christian school, and they put on a very nice Christmas concert.  She was privileged to wear her choir dress for the first time, so it was an exciting moment.


IMG_7120Brian and I went shopping together for a couple hours over the weekend, without the kids, and were able to buy most of their Christmas presents.  That was a huge blessing.  That night I wrapped mostly everything and made some gift tags out of old Christmas stationery I had on hand.


Tonight I made my first batch of Christmas cookies – Cornflake Wreath Cookies.  These are very good and quite easy to make.  If you are looking to make at least one, simple recipe this holiday season, try these!  (If you want a good amount of cookies, I would at least double the recipe).


Usually people put cinnamon red hot candies on top.  I did not have those on hand, so I used the Christmas sprinkles mix from Wilton to decorate the tops.  It added color and pizzazz, and the kids had fun doing it!  I have made these cookies multiple times and still can not figure out how to make them into the wreath shapes (with the hole in the middle), so mine are “FULL” wreaths.  ~smile~  I just use a muffin batter scooper to plop the cookies onto the waxed paper.  Voila!  The end result is still very delightful, and it tastes the same. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Breakfast Scramble


This is a delicious breakfast!!  One day my creative juices were flowing again, and I came up with this recipe.

Breakfast Scramble

Serves about 4 people.

  • 1 large potato, diced
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • chopped meat of your choice:  deli, pepperoni, sausage, or bacon…
  • 1/4-1/2 cup cheese

Fill skillet with 1 to 2 T olive oil.  Place diced potato in skillet and cook until you can pierce with a fork, stirring periodically. 

Add eggs, meat, and cheese.  Scramble and cook for a few minutes.

Top with salt and pepper.



Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Kindness Meter

You may remember the reward system I started recently in my home.  The first round went well, but I think my children may have caught a case of the winter blues or something!  They have not been as motivated to earn their poms.  Well, this mother has gotten “Pom Happy” this week, during the Christmas season!  I told the kids that I am going to start handing out poms more often.  My son even made this sign that is currently hanging from our chandelier:


To motivate the children even more, I have started a kindness meter on our whiteboard.  I have noticed a lot of unkindness between them and wanted to spur them on to goodness!  Once their meter is full, they earn three poms to put in their jars. 


I’m looking forward to reaping

some goodness in my home!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Puzzling Situation


Why I haven’t been blogging as much?  I’ve got a LIST of topics to blog about with pictures and recipes waiting for you, so what is the problem?  Basically, it is a combination of two key things.

For one, I am trying to simplify and focus so I can take better care of my family and home.  I am fluttering around too much, feeling overwhelmed, like things aren’t getting done and feeling emotionally stretched to the max.

Secondly, I have been feeling paralyzed.  Have you ever realized how much negative emotions can simply paralyze you?  Fear, worry, disappointment, discouragement, loneliness, rejection… These types of emotions come in and bombard our great, motivational beings! 

How are you feeling these days?  Are you feeling on top of life?  Are you feeling productive or paralyzed?  What is motivating you and what are some of the things that help you keep the puzzle pieces of life together?  Let me know!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mourn with Those Who Mourn

The past week has been difficult.  We have received many reports from our friends and family of tragedies.

  • Emails about heart-wrenching situations with children, from infant to adult.
  • A good friend lost her sister to a senseless act of violence.
  • A family with five children is grieving over the death of their 17 year old son.
  • A couple got into a car accident wherein the car was totaled.  Amazingly, by God’s great mercy and protection, my friends walked away unharmed.
  • Battles with depression, difficulty, and health issues.

Certainly, living in this world is not easy!  The Scripture verse that keeps coming to my mind is:

Romans 12:15

“Mourn with those who mourn”

During this season of celebration, there are those amongst us who are mourning – and maybe you are even one of them!  We, all, have our own trials and tribulations.

Whatever condition you are in, I encourage you to stop for a moment and think if you know anyone who is struggling right now…  anyone who needs someone to mourn with her...  someone who needs words of encouragement, a cup of tea, a hot homemade meal, a Scripture verse, or some other act of kindness.  We can not fulfill every need that every person has, but we can help people around us to whatever extent we are able.

Pray and ask God to reveal to you what He would like you to do, and how you can help those who are mourning!

Friday, December 3, 2010

“What to Give” and some gift ideas

For a few years now, we have been using the “What to Give” web site.  You can make a wish list for all of the members of your family!  The service is free, but the creator does accept donations.  Family and friends can use the lists for birthdays, Christmas, or any special occasion.  It’s wonderful!  Grandma and Grandpa can see Little Johnny’s list online and promise to buy an item.  Others will see that item is bought when they peruse the list.  Check it out!

If you are looking for some gift ideas for others (or yourself ~wink~), check out some of these:


This piano CD, “Porcelain” by Helen Jane Long, is amazing.  It is inspirational, uplifting, and energizing.  My husband even likes it a lot, and sometimes he feels piano CDs are a bit dull.  You can find some good samples of the music here.


“Sequence States and Capitals” is a great strategy game for learning the states and capitals.  My kids enjoy playing it.  The states and their capitals are located on each side of the board.  You can play on either side.  The objective is to get your sequence of five tokens established first (either one or two sets of them, depending on the number of players).  You place tokens by playing one of the cards in your hand. 


“Qwirkle” is another good game.  My five year old son especially enjoys this, and we have had many dates together playing it.  You line up tiles based on color or shape and earn points.


Wooden Spoon Puppet Theater.  My daughter just received this for her birthday.  The kit includes four wooden spoons with pop-out clothing, face stickers, and yarn for hair so you can make the puppets.  The theater is also included.

Happy Shopping!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Baked Apples


I made these Baked Apples for breakfast,

and they were yummy!

I used six Braeburn apples, used a little extra brown sugar and oatmeal, and added 1/4 cup chopped pecans.  YUM! 

Oatmeal-Brown Sugar Baked Apples

From The Kitchn

Serves 4

4 apples
1/4 cup brown sugar (dark or light)
1/4 cup oatmeal
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch cloves
1 Tablespoon butter, divided in four
1 cup hot water
Optional Extras: orange zest, lemon zest, grated ginger, raisins or other dried fruit, chopped nuts

Pre-heat oven to 375-degrees.

Remove the core of the apples, cutting to within a half inch of the bottom of the apple. This is easy to do with an apple corer, but can also be done with a melon baller, grapefruit spoon, or a paring knife. The idea is to create a well inside the apple about 3/4 inch wide.

Mix the brown sugar, oatmeal, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and any extras in a bowl. Divide this mixture between the apples and pack it into the wells.

Arrange the apples in a baking dish (an 8x8 Pyrex dish works well), and top each one with a pat of butter. Pour the water into the bottom of the dish and cover loosely with aluminum foil.

Bake for 20 minutes and remove foil. Continue baking uncovered until the apples are baked through and the brown sugar has melted into a syrup, an additional 20-30 minutes.

Test for doneness by poking a knife into the apple through the center well. It should slide easily with no resistance. The skin on the apples will also become wrinkled and soft by the end of cooking.

Serve with a scoop of ice cream, creme fraiche, or whipped cream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Tree is Finally Up!

Some of you may say, “Finally up?  After all, it is just the first of December!”  Well, my fresh, fraser fir tree went up on Saturday and was not decorated until today – four days later!  I attempted to decorate it Sunday night, but all four strands of lights that I tried to use did not work.  I went to the store and could only find two boxes of the type of lights I wanted.  I actually wanted white pearl lights, but there was only one box left of those.  I resorted to two boxes of red, white, and iridescent pearl lights instead.


Since my tree is mostly red and gold, I thought I would give these lights a try.  Two strands was not enough.  It only covered a little more than half of the tree, SO I had to find more lights!  I called two Targets last night before I found them, and there was a bit of drama in finding the lights – which I won’t go into right now.

I am happy to say that my tree is up

and sharing its love!