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Posts from the ‘Holidays’ Category

The Not So Dead of Winter

Bush in the snow

It’s a winter wonderland out there if you look closely.

Though the weather outside has been frightful (at times), it is not the dead of winter.   I’m here to tell you that there is life! There is activity under that blanket of snow, and on top of it as well!

To prove it- here are events that have been going on around here.

Birthday Banner

Birthdays!  My son and I each recently celebrated our birthdays within days of each other.  (It wasn’t supposed to be that way, though,  he was born almost 2 weeks later then his due date 14 years ago!)

Whimsical Birthday Cake

My son’s cake that he decorated himself. 

Birthday Week!  I rather enjoyed my birthday this year.   I declared a birthday week and treated myself to a week of staying positive and eliminating as much stress as possible.  Perhaps I should just declare a birthday year!

Kids Sledding Near Dancing Bunnies Sculpture

Sledding!  On one of our many snow days, I took the kids to “The Dancing Bunnies Park”.  It features a hill with a large metal sculpture of (you guessed it!) dancing bunnies.  It is a great sledding hill, and we spent an entire morning making lasting memories.

Skiing at the Sochi Olympics

Olympics!  We own a large outdoor projection screen that is usually reserved for neighborhood movie nights in the summer.  We decided to put it together in our living room for the Super Bowl and still haven’t managed to take it down.  Its been fun watching the olympics on it.  I especially love when I can catch glimpses of the beautiful Russian scenery behind all the action.  Go Team USA!

Valetine's Day Box

My daughter’s highly creative Valentine’s Box!

Valentine’s Day!  Its that time of year again and the pressure is on to get all the kids prepared for their various school parties.  My daughter was so excited that she decorated her box and wrote out her cards weeks ago.  I wish I could say the same for the boys!

This year my husband and I are actually going on a date for Valentine’s Day.  It required booking a babysitter and restaurant well in advance, but it will be well worth it!

I hope you all have a great Valentine’s Day and spend a little extra love and care with your loved ones.

Have a Lovely Week!

What Gifts To Bring?

Three Christmas Gifts

One of my favorite Christmas Carols is The Little Drummer Boy.  A little boy comes to the stable to see the Christ Child but doesn’t have a fancy gift like the other guys.  All he has is a drum.

I played my drum for him pah rum pum pum pum,

I played my best for him pah rum pum pum pum,

rum pum pum pum,

rum pum pum pum,

then he smiled at me pah rum pum pum pum, me and my drum.

As I get older I’m finding that this is the kind of gift that has more meaning then a piece of jewelry or electronics.  The gift of ones-self is the best possible gift anyone could give.

That’s what I’m giving my friends, family, acquaintances, clients, and anyone I touch through my art business this Christmas and into the New Year.  I want to give of myself.

The best parts of myself, of course.  No one needs my stubbornness or pride.  I’ve put a lot of thought into this and what gifts I can give just happen to be all T’s- Tenacity, Tenderness, and Talents.

Gift of Tenacity

Gift of Tenacity

Tenacity

I don’t know if it has anything with being the oldest in my family, but I’m fairly responsible.  I take pride in getting things done (not always in the most timely and organized way, mind you) and being someone that others can count on.  I’m tenacious.  If I say I’ll do it then I will.  There are many uses for a gift like that!

Gift of Tenderness

Gift of Tenderness

Tenderness

I am a sap.  I freely admit it.  I tear up when I hear of injustices in the world, when I read of others achieving success after overcoming obstacles, and when I see kids singing Christmas Carols.  My kids have to beg me not to cry before their concerts!  But that sentimentality means something.  It means that I feel strongly about what happens around me.  Perhaps I would not make a good soldier but I would be a person you’d want to come back to once the battle is over.

Gift of Talents

Gift of Talents

Talents

I have been blessed with many skills.  Some have developed over time and others come a little naturally.  But I’d like to think that these talents can be utilized by others in some capacity or other.  My personal belief is that God gave me the talents I have, so therefore they should not be wasted.

What would have happened if it had been three Wise Women instead of three Wise Men? 
They would have asked directions, 
arrived on time, 
helped deliver the baby, 
cleaned the stable, 
made a casserole, 
and brought practical gifts. 

What gifts can you bring your loved ones this Christmas that can’t be wrapped under a tree?

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  See you in 2014!

A Baking I Will Go..

Chocolate Cherry Cookies

A new recipe this year, Chocolate Cherry Cookies. Yum!

Have I told you how much I love to bake?

This is mostly a holiday hobby and Christmas is the big kahuna.  That’s when I pull out all the stops armed with my vast collection of baking sheets, tiered cooling racks, and cookie cutters.

I have a confession:  cut-out cookies are my least favorite cookie… to make.  They require too many steps.  But the kids love to help bake these every year and everyone else seems to enjoy eating them, so they’ll continue to be on my cookie list.

That’s how it starts every year, with a list.  I’ll have pored through my collection of cookie recipes from magazines, newspapers, and checkout-line booklets.  (Yes, I’m the sucker who buys those!)  I have a few favorites but there will always be a few more to try.   In the end I’ll have a list of 8-9 kinds of cookies that get whittled down to about 6-7 because there’s never enough time.

So far I’ve made 4 kinds.  You know my plan of baking a batch a week?  Fail!  But I hope to sprint to the finish and save the day.  I know my friends and family are eagerly awaiting them and so am I!

Here is one of my favorite cookies, a signature recipe if you will.  Code name: Magic Bars.  This is a layered bar of sinful goodness starting with a base of crushed shortbread cookies, piling on chocolate and coconut, then ending with a layer of sweetened condensed milk.  Those who love coconut will love these.  But I’ve seen coconut haters enjoy them as well.  They are that good!

Chewy Chocolate Coconut Bars

  • 10 Tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 2/3 Cups shortbread cookie crumbs (about 24 cookies)
  • 1 3/4 cups sweetened flaked coconut
  • 2 (3 ounce) bars bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees.
  2. Melt butter in small saucepan (or microwave).  Pour into a 9″x13″ baking pan, tilting pan so butter covers bottom evenly.
  3. Sprinkle cookie crumbs evenly over bottom of pan.
  4. Sprinkle 3/4 cup of coconut evenly over crumbs.
  5. Scatter chocolate over the coconut, then scatter the remaining coconut over the chocolate.
  6. Drizzle Condensed Milk evenly over the top.
  7. Bake the bars for 22-25 minutes, until the coconut is golden brown in spots and condensed milk is bubbling.  Let cool (refrigerate briefly for faster cooling and easier cutting) and then cut into about 30 bars.

What’s your favorite Christmas Cookie?  Recipe please!

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season and finding your own ways of spreading Christmas Cheer.

Have a Holly Jolly Week!

My Family

Old Family Pictures

Many Generations of My Family

I’ve been hearing a lot of great thankful lists on Facebook.  Most include thanking friends and family.  Of course I’ll always ‘like’ those posts because I always agree.  I am biased of course, but I have the most wonderful friends and family!

What makes so wonderful is that they are not necessarily just like me.  They come in all shapes and sizes and have beautiful minds of their own.  We don’t always agree on everything but as long as we agree to disagree, everyone gets along!

This time of year is when family comes more into the surface.  Family members that I haven’t talked to in weeks and months suddenly call and ask what plans are for the holidays.  Everyone wants to connect.

Of course, not all of us will be able to connect.  Especially my family with its twisted branches jutting out from large Catholic families, divorces, and remarriages.  My husband is still trying to piece it all together after 18 years of marriage- sometimes I have difficulty myself!

I should mention that he, too, has a sprawling family.  They are more centrally located but have grown and multiplied over the generations.

Our extended family represent a beautiful mosaic of people in all walks of life.

We are mostly Catholics but also Protestants, Baptists, and Agnostics.

We originate mostly from Germany but also Italy, Luxemberg, Austria, Italy, Korea, and a pinch of American Indian.

We are professors, lawyers, bus drivers, artists, bankers, tanners, writers, priests, soldiers, waitresses, air traffic controllers, farmers, teachers- with a (quite distant) Princess and Pope thrown in!

We live in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and New York.

This Thanksgiving many of us will get together in various homes all over the United States.  May we all have a safe and happy celebration, giving thanks to the bloodline that binds and keeps us together.

May all of you enjoy your celebrations surrounded by your loved ones.

Have a Wonderful Week!

Are you getting holiday anxiety?

Wrapping Paper Supplies

It’s time, once again, to get out those holiday wrapping paper supplies!

Yesterday I discovered that next week is Thanksgiving.  Whaaat?  How did that happen?!

Then, of course, next up is Christmas.  I remember a time in my very distant past when I actually thought of Christmas and Thanksgiving as being two separate entities.  I would celebrate Thanksgiving, there’d be a break of a few weeks, then I’d start to think about Christmas.

That must have been BC (Before Kids) or even BH (Before Husband)!

But I am determined not to let my holiday anxieties take over.  There are so many things to love about the holidays.  It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…So here are some steps I’ve decided to take to ensure that I don’t get caught up in all its snares.

1. Make a list

A friend of mine actually has an Excel spreadsheet of all her holiday activities, purchases, and budget.  This is a wonderful idea but probably not a realistic goal for me.

My hope is to create a list of EVERYTHING I propose to achieve during the holidays and then start chipping away at it.  Perhaps as I create this list I’ll see things that can be trimmed, cut out, or even delegated to other family members.  How fantastic would that be!

2. Break it down

I’m guessing that this list will seem a tad overwhelming.  How should I tackle it?  One baby step at a time.

gingerbread menI’ve already begun this with cookies.  My “thing” each year is to bake an assortment of cookies for friends and family.  It’s become such a tradition that I inevitably get asked, “When are the cookies coming?!”

I usually get in a baking frenzy sometime in December and by the end, I’m spent! So this year I decided to concentrate on one type of cookie each week- baking several batches and freezing them.

I just began last week.  So far so good!  Now to tackle the rest of my list the same way!

3. Schedule fun

Every year there is a plethora of concerts, holiday events, light shows, etc., etc.  Some we do but many just pass us by as we become busy with our daily schedules.  This year I want to choose a few of them and write them on our calendar.  Make a date out of it or a family outing.

Beyond that, there’s a few holiday service projects in my church and community that we can get involved in to teach my children the joy of giving.

I’m also determined to squeeze out the most of the holidays at home.  I’ve already got my hot cocoa and mulled wine spices on hand and have printed off the Holiday TV Guide so that we can watch How The Grinch Stole Christmas to our heart’s content!

Family at the nutcracker ballet

One of our favorite holiday traditions is to attend The Nutcracker Ballet

4. Keep it simple

That being said, I feel like it’ll be important to leave empty spaces.  I want to avoid feeling rushed or frenzied by keeping it simple and leaving room to enjoy the real meaning of christmas.

Peace. Joy. Hope. Love. Goodwill towards all.

For that to happen it’s important to pay attention to the pulse of my family and I.  What are their needs? What are mine?  What can we add or cut out?  What do we really need?

My husband just read the title of this piece and summed it up in a few words.  Here’s real holiday anxiety.  Not being able to give presents to your kids.  Worrying about losing your house or your job.  Losing a loved one and wondering how you can get through the holidays without them.  So what’s all the fuss about?  Everyone else’s holiday anxiety is just self-imposed.

He has a way of cutting through to the heart of it all!

What are some ways that you are avoiding the frenzy of the holidays this year?  What one thing can you share to help all of us bring back the true meaning of christmas?

Have a wonderful week!

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