Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Christmas. Show all posts

Spicy Raspberry Cheeseball

How was everyone's Christmas?  We had a lovely day yesterday celebrating Jesus's birth and enjoying time together!  I'm sure I'll have some sort of recap or photo post coming in the next few days, but today I wanted to pop on here and share a recipe.

The last several years, I have been making a cheeseball for our family to enjoy on Christmas morning.  We make so many cookies and fudge for Christmas morning, the cheeseball is a nice little island of salty in the middle of all that sweet.

I usually make a jalepeno-bacon-pecan cheeseball, but this year I poked around on the internet for a second cheeseball to add to our Christmas spread.  I wanted something with raspberry in it, but I didn't find exactly what I was looking for - so I took inspiration from other recipes and came up with my own!

I had Derek try my creation, and he declared it a success, so I thought I'd share the recipe here!  It turned out just the way I wanted it to - raspberry and cream cheese, with just a little kick.  I know it's the day after Christmas now, so it's too late to make it for Christmas morning this year, but this might work for any New Year's Eve parties just around the corner!

Spicy Raspberry Cheeseball

2 packages cream cheese
4 heaping tablespoons raspberry preserves
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp chipotle pepper
2 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup walnuts

For Dippers:

wheat crackers
graham crackers

1.  Combine cream cheese, 2 heaping tablespoons of raspberry preserves, and spices in a bowl.  Mix together with electric mixer until well combined.  Form with spoon into a ball and chill while preparing coating.

2.  Finely grate the white chocolate and crush the walnuts.  Mix white chocolate and walnuts together and spread onto a cookie sheet.  Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of preserves in the microwave for 20 seconds to slightly melt.  Drop preserves by spoonful on top of the mixture in cookie sheet.

3.  Take cheeseball out of the refrigerator.  Wet your hands so the cheeseball won't stick, then gently pick it up and roll it in the cookie sheet mixture to coat.  Arrange in a bowl or plate, and chill until ready to serve with crackers!

Did you try any new recipes for Christmas this year?

When You Can't Find Christmas Peace

Peace is a theme of the Christmas season, and I've been mulling over the idea lately.

On the night that Jesus was born, angels lit up quiet skies and declared "on earth, peace among men!"  But the world still doesn't feel peaceful, does it?  Our attempts to drum up some peace around Christmas time feel artificial and hollow.  Around this globe, war and atrocities never truly end.  Maybe that's why the song "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" has resonated with me in my adult life.

"There is no peace on earth," I said.  For hate is strong, and mocks the song, of Peace on earth, goodwill to men..."

I think we understand peace all wrong.  We think quiet, or a brief ceasing of strife, or a fleeting feeling, or one happy day is Christmas peace.  But that's not the peace the angels were talking about.  The peace Christ brought when he was born in that stable is not the temporary, fading peace of one Christmas morning.

"But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace..." 
Ephesians 2:13-14a

Christ Himself is our peace.

We are a rebellious, sinful people.  We have broken God's laws, we are lost, deserving death as the penalty for the crimes we have committed against a holy God.  But instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, God in His mercy stretched out His hands, and offered us peace by offering Himself.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men. 

That baby, born in a manger that night, was God Himself.  He who had no sin, took the death we deserved by dying on the cross in our place.  He rose again, securing His victory over death and our sin. And He still stretches out His hands to us now, offering us peace with God, if we will just believe and trust in Christ to save us.  The truest peace of God can be ours forever.

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 5:1

Someday Jesus will return again, and put all things right, and then His people will have peace in every sense of the word.  Until then, my prayer for you, my friends, is that you will know His peace in your heart this Christmas and always.  That you may reach out and grasp the hand of peace that God has offered to you in Jesus Christ, and find Him while He may be found.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 15:13

"Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace."
Luke 1:78-79

He Himself is our peace.  May you know that truly, my friends. And the merriest of Christmases to you!

Sugar Cookie Memories

Everyone probably has memories of decorating Christmas cookies, and I am no exception.  When I was growing up, my mom involved us with as much of the Christmas baking as possible, and one of the most fun baking days was when we made and decorated cut-out sugar cookies.

I remember taking such care with my sugar cookies, trying to decorate them with different designs using just regular ol' powdered sugar frosting (which is not that conducive to elaborate designs, but I tried anyway).  I remember wishing we could get the colors to be a little more vibrant, but my favorite cookies were still the ones on which I found a way to include every frosting color.  I don't remember ever believing in Santa, but our family still played the "Santa game", and I'd pick my favorite frosted cookie to leave out for Santa (my dad) to eat on Christmas Eve.

Yesterday was designated for sugar cookies at our house.  The day didn't actually start out very smoothly, but I persevered and made the cookies anyway.  All of the kids are old enough to participate in one way or another this year, though there was a lot of finger-licking (let's just say these cookies are not for sharing outside of our family).  We watched the new Grinch cartoon, and then Jingle All The Way, in the background.  Harvey stole one of Georgie's cookies.

I was this close to throwing in the towel and forgetting about the sugar cookies when we were in the throes of a difficult morning, but I'm glad I didn't.  The kids decorated so diligently, and I could see them putting as much effort into their designs as I used to as a child.

I hope someday they have fond sugar-cookie memories too.

Did you decorate Christmas cookies as a kid?

The Christmas Newsletter I Would Have Sent

Christmas newsletters are very hard to get right.

Every year around this time, I get a handful of Christmas newsletters tucked inside of Christmas cards.  I am excited each time I get one - it's fun to read a little bit about what my friends and family are up to, what they thought was worth noting about their year.

To the people I know who send a newsletter each year, I give major props, because I also recognize that newsletters are hard to write!  You have to come up with something to say about each family member, and keep it within a reasonable length, insert some personality to make it interesting to read, and do it all without crossing the line into "braggy" territory.  I think all the newsletters I've received this year were able to strike this balance well, but I've never really attempted a Christmas newsletter because I wasn't sure I could do a good job of it.

However, I read a newsletter blog post on Michelle's blog last week, and it was fun to read!  I thought she really nailed the art of the newsletter, and it made me want to try one.  So I wrote up a newsletter for our family over the weekend.  I don't hate how it turned out, but it's too late to send it in my cards, so I'm just going to share it here instead.  Pretend this is printed on Christmas-y paper and showing up in your mailbox!

Note: This is actually a little long for a Christmas newsletter, but in my defense, there are seven people in this family on which to write an update.


Dear Friends and Family,

I have never sent out a Christmas newsletter, but now that we are exiting the too-tired-to-floss, new-baby phase, which has encompassed the last 9 (!) years, I thought I’d give it a go.

Don’t people usually say something like “this year has been one for the books” to start out a newsletter? I think every year could be considered one for the “books”, but in the general sense of the phrase, this has not been a “big” year. It’s been an ordinary, slow-growing year. But there is something wonderful about those restful, quiet years that I think is worth celebrating too.

For Derek, much of 2019 has involved home improvement projects. We bought a new house late in 2018, and  I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I cried the first night we spent in our new house, telling Derek that it just didn’t feel like “us”.  He has gradually been making that statement untrue.  In the last year he has remodeled the kitchen and master bathroom, installed new flooring, changed out light fixtures, built a fireplace and (halfway) installed a wood stove, and started on the kids’ new play structure (still in the blueprint stage).  I was going to say that it feels like slow going, but thought better of it - seeing it all typed out makes that statement feel silly.  That is a lot of work! I’m grateful for all the hours and care Derek has put into making this place home.

Wyatt, to my horror, is nearing 9 years old. I say “horror”, because I came to the realization this fall that once he reaches 9, we will be halfway through his childhood. Let that sit a minute.  He is a delightful kid, a little shy around new people, but ask him what his favorite animal or bird is, and he can talk your ear off. He knows more about animals than me, is better at identifying birds than me, and remembers interesting facts we read much longer than I do. Needless to say, it’s pretty easy to homeschool him when we break out the science textbooks (maybe not as much when I bring out the writing book, his least favorite subject).  Bike lights and an “adventure kit” (including binoculars, compass, and flashlight) are on his Christmas list.

Gwendolyn will be 7 years old “two days after Christmas, the same birthday as Daddy’s!”, as she likes to tell anyone who will listen.  She is fun-loving and easy to like, and tends to make friends wherever she goes. She is reading, but is desperate to get further in her reading curriculum so she can learn to read chapter books.  While I have become less of a planner the older I get, Gwen picks up where I slack off. She recently wrote out a detailed plan for Christmas morning that made me chuckle and melt a little.  Nail polish and Barbies are on her Christmas list.

Aren’t you supposed to include a paragraph about the family vacation in a Christmas newsletter?  Clyde’s paragraph might make more sense if I do. We went to Florida this year, mostly because it is the cheapest place to fly in August. Hurricane season and all.  We got home a mere week before the hurricane, crossed the Everglades off our National Park bucket list, and while we feel grateful that we can now say we took the kids to Disney World once in their childhood, our one day there taught us that we are not hardcore Disney people. Our favorite part of the trip was visiting NASA and seeing the Saturn V rocket and moon capsule, and it has launched (ha!) an interest in space for our whole family (except Derek, he was always a space guy).

Having said that, our 5.5 year old Clyde has latched on to space transportation as an interest.  When I ask him lately what he wants to learn about, the answer is always “rocket ships!”  If I picked an adjective for Clyde, it would be “charming”.  The kid can get away with saying the “darndest” things, just because of the charming little way he says them.  When he gets one-on-one time with me he always has a lot to talk about, and I learn such interesting things about him (like the fact that he wants to have eight kids someday - he said it so seriously, I knew it was well thought-out).  Rocket ship Legos and a model space shuttle are on his Christmas list.

Clarice turned 4 years old this fall, and while she has always had a big personality, especially for being so quiet, I’ve seen it developing more recently. She is my most imaginative child, declaring how fun it would be if the world were made of fudge, and excitedly informing me that the moon is following us home because “ he’s hungry!”  Her blue eyes and dimpled smile would probably melt the iciest heart, but when I pull out my camera she frequently takes that as her cue to try out every expression in her arsenal.  A Little Mermaid princess doll and a Barbie are on her Christmas list.

Our littlest one, Georgiana, just turned 2 years old, and I’m not sure I’ve met a more easy-going toddler. Redirection is a breeze, and is often accompanied by an enthusiastic “OH-KAY!”  Aside from the occasional flirtation with the “terrible twos” (which thankfully never lasts too long), she is very agreeable. She mainly just cries when she is thirsty or cold or within 20 feet of a moving vehicle (a healthy fear).  She is my most social child so far (that’s saying something, because Gwen was hard to beat). When we walk through a store or parking lot, she is usually holding my hand, and the other hand is waving at strangers as she shouts “HI!” She is usually rewarded with a grin.  On her Christmas list is whatever we decide to get her, and a new bunny-bear, which was her most prized possession before she lost it four months ago.

This letter wouldn’t be complete without including our protector-dog, Harvey.  He is mainly a teddy bear, following me around the house and settling in for a nap wherever I happen to be.  But he can break out his scary bark when he feels it necessary, which is usually when the poor mailman is trying to drop off a package.  He had a tumor earlier this year which briefly made our hearts sink into our feet, until we thankfully found out it was benign. He wants a rawhide bone for Christmas.

I (Callie) have been keeping busy homeschooling the kids, reading a lot of books, and figuring out how to keep this place clean (a never-ending, and possibly losing, battle).  While I occasionally miss working as a dental hygienist, settling into these homeschooling years has been very fulfilling (and also very insecurity-inducing, but we won’t get into that). The greatest joy of homeschooling to me so far is the freedom to point my kids to Jesus throughout their education, and getting a front row seat as I watch them grow academically and in their knowledge and love for the Lord. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Oh, and also I’ve been taking too many pictures.  I notice an occasional eye roll from a passerby when I whip out my camera, but most people get it. I’ve been told many, many times by the older generation that “it goes by so fast”. I take so many pictures because I believe the white-haired ladies who stop me in the grocery store to wistfully remind me of that.

Merry Christmas, friends!  We pray that  you each know the peace with God that comes through trusting Jesus, Who was born to pay for our sins on the cross, that we may live.  He is our greatest gift. 

Also praying as we approach 2020 that it is a restful, quiet year “for the books” for you too.  That may be a tall order in an election year, but nothing is impossible with God!  (Joking, but also kind of not.) Hoping for a peaceful New Year for you all!


Our Little Family

"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20, ESV)

All About The Christmas Gifts

Do you find Christmas shopping stressful or fun?  For me, it is usually both.  It can be stressful because I am working with a budget, and no matter how hard I try I always seem to find a way to mess the budget up.  I forget a gift for someone, or as is the case this year, I lay out all the gifts I bought for the kids and realize that there was a hole in my planning, and I need to buy one more thing to even out everyone's presents.

And then don't even get me started on the stress of wrapping.  We're usually those parents that are finishing up at 11 PM on Christmas Eve.

But there is a part of Christmas shopping that is really fun to me too, and that is anticipating how excited the gift-ee will be when they open their present!  This is more and more fun as my kids get older.  When kids are little, I feel like they are just happy about everything on Christmas morning.  I don't really know what my two year old wants for Christmas, I just grab a couple things that look good, and she'll be excited no matter what is under the wrapping paper.  As my big kids are getting older though, their presents are more specific to their interests, and that makes me more excited to give them!

Anyway, I thought I'd share the present I am most looking forward to giving each kid, and Derek!  Just for fun.  I also got some good deals on a couple "gifts" for myself - does anyone else do that? - so I'll share those too.

Wyatt, 8.75 years old.

If you know Wyatt for more than two minutes, you'll know that his favorite subject is birds.  He likes to observe them, and he knows so much about them.  At this point I fully expect him to be a world-class birder/bird photographer someday.  I am quite excited to give him this book I found - the kid can never have too many books about birds, but this one comes with programmed bird calls for 75 species of birds!  Now he will be able to identify them not just by their appearance, but by their sounds too.

Gwendolyn, nearly 7 years old.

Gwen is getting to such a fun and girly age, and I think we have finally reached the age where she is old enough to play with Barbies.  I am thrilled about this.  My sister and I used to play Barbies for hours, and we had elaborate plots worked out, and distinct personalities for each of our Barbies.  Clarice probably isn't quite big enough to play Barbies like that with Gwen yet, but she will be soon, and in the meantime I'll show Gwen how it's done!  I found this astrophysicist Barbie and thought it was pretty cool - I know there is probably some sort of feminist message being attempted with the "career" Barbie line (and I am not a feminist), but I do think the career Barbies open up whole new possibilities for Barbie storylines, so I'm here for it.

Clyde, 5.5 years old.

Clyde's interests are starting to differentiate from the other kids, and I'd say they revolve mostly around transportation.  He is into cars, trains, airplanes, and to my delight, rocket ships.  We went to the science museum last week, and he spotted a toy space shuttle in the gift shop.  He actually cried because we couldn't get it - it wasn't "I'm throwing a fit" crying, but just a genuine, heartbroken crying because he didn't think he'd ever get the toy he wanted so badly.  It melted my heart a little bit.  I am loving his interest in space-related transportation right now, and I think he is going to be really excited to open this space shuttle lego set!

Clarice, 4 years old.

Clarice is still little enough that she will be enthusiastic about anything she opens.  However, in preparation for Christmas shopping, I had all the kids go through the toy catalogs we received in the mail and circle the things they wanted.  It was very enlightening.  There was a theme to the things Clarice circled - every time Ariel (of The Little Mermaid) came up in the catalog, Clarice circled it.  We haven't even watched the original Little Mermaid, but I did let the kids watch the prequel (go rent it from the library, I like it better than the actual Little Mermaid movie).  Apparently it made an impression, so an Ariel doll she will have!  I liked this one because it wasn't a Barbie-style Ariel doll (which I'm not sure would get much play time yet), and I also like that she's wearing the glittery blue dress instead of the mermaid bikini.  Modesty and all that.

Georgiana, 2 years old.

Georgie really doesn't care very much what her presents are yet, and I'm pretty sure she is going to love everything I got.  But I am personally rather excited about one of the items I bought for her stocking.  I found these rock crayons online, and they look like so much fun!  Georgie is just now getting into drawing, and these look like a fun tool for little hands.  I can't wait to let her try them out!

(Derek, if you are reading this post, stop right this minute!  Love you.)

Family Gift

Excuse the warning above, but this is a family gift and Derek doesn't know I got it!  This fall we have been studying space, and we've done a couple star-gazing trips as a family.  Derek has always been a space nerd, and I've been getting more into space subjects too after the 50th anniversary of the moon landing this summer.  The kids have caught some of the enthusiasm too, so I decided to take $20 from each person's Christmas budget, and I put it toward a telescope!  I'm not going to include a picture here, just in case Derek does scroll through this post briefly, but this is the one I got.  I'm sure it's not the best telescope in the world because it didn't cost thousands of dollars, but you are supposed to be able to see galaxies with it.  I can't wait to use it the next time we go stargazing!

For Derek

I got Derek a few things he has been mentioning, but I am actually really excited to give him a "together" gift this year.  Every year I try to buy our family one new game for Christmas, and Derek and I usually end up playing it in the afternoon on Christmas Day.  We drink wassail, eat snacks, and play our game while we listen to Christmas music, and it's lovely.  We especially like strategy board games, and I ran across this one when I was shopping this year.  It looks like alot of fun!  I think Derek will be surprised that there is such a thing as a Jurassic Park board game.

For Me

I did find some good prices on a couple things for me while I was Christmas shopping this year.  I know, I know.  But yes, I "Christmas shopped" for myself.  Anyway, if you've been reading for a while, you know that I am an advocate for wearing nice, non-frumpy pajamas.  For the last few months I have been breaking my own rule and making do with ratty pajamas, so I was overdue for a new set.  On Cyber Monday, I grabbed these from Target:

They are soft, cozy, and cute, and also cool and breathable so I don't get too hot, which is important for me.  Much better than the items I was wearing, trust me.

This summer I also discovered ColourPop eyeshadow palettes, and I have to say, I really like them.  The colors are pretty, and they apply well for being so inexpensive!  They re-stocked this palette that looked like a great neutral eyeshadow palette, so I wanted to grab it before it sells out:

I'm excited to play with it a little more!

So those are a few of the presents that will be waiting under our tree this year.  Minus the "presents" for me, which I'll be wearing.

What present are you most excited to give this year?

Are You Feeling The Christmas Stress Yet?

The Christmas stress is starting to set in a little bit.

I used to get overly stressed around Christmas time, after I had kids.  I just wanted everything to go perfectly and be fun and memorable.  But I also didn't realize just how much moms shoulder the burden of Christmas until I had kids.  It took me a while to figure out how to balance the Christmas season better, without letting the stress totally overwhelm me.

But clearly I'm still susceptible.  Christmas is basically two weeks away guys, two weeks.  And I have barely started any wrapping, and half the Christmas cards have yet to be sent.  Thankfully last week was the busiest week on our December calendar, and the next couple weeks will hopefully be much calmer and more joy-filled.

All that to say, I have a post up on about simplifying Christmas.  I'm talking about focusing on what...and really important this time of year.  I hope you'll go check it out, and then come back and please give me your best tips for navigating the Christmas season gracefully!  It's something I'm still trying to practice.

I've also actually written alot about Christmas and stress in the past, so obviously it's been an issue around here in the past, ha!  You can check out some of those posts below.

When Christmas Stresses You Out

Six Christmas Stressors (And What To Do About Them)

Five Ways To De-Stress During The Christmas Season

Four Ways To Recognize Advent As A Mom

My No-Stress Christmas To-Do List

Three Ways I'm Preparing For Christmas Before Thanksgiving

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