Christmas Highlights

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Hello everyone! I hope each and every one of you had a blessed Christmas and holiday season!

This last week has been crazy busy! Funny how weeks like that either fly by or feel like it’s been more like a month because you’ve had so much going on! It’s wonderful to be back on the blog — I’m enjoying catching up on posts as well as catching my breath!

We had a great Christmas season — how to sum it all up?

Wonderful memories, cozy evenings, playing in the snow, running errands like crazy, eating way too much sugar (still having some trouble looking at my sugar canister), getting way too little exercise (needs to go on my New Year’s resolution list), a 24-hour flu bug paying a visit, losing one of my daughter’s Christmas gifts (which turned into a scavenger hunt), frantically trying to find my daughter’s lost Christmas gift with the help of Jonathan (which turned into Jonathan finding his Christmas gift early!), trying to coax the chickens out of their coop (still working on that one!), Christmas caroling, a beautiful Christmas Eve Candlelight service and many moments of gratitude for all of God’s many blessings!

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Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookies

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Snow has arrived!

Yesterday, we spent a cozy day inside while watching the softly-falling snow through the windows. By morning, the snow storm had subsided, and the girls couldn’t wait to get outside for a day of sledding!

For me, snow days are cozy. I want to cuddle in a blanket, sip hot chocolate with my family, and we can’t forget something yummy to bake, now can we?

While listening to Christmas tunes play merrily, I was inspired to bake up some cookies that I hope you will enjoy!

Chocolate Chip-Pecan Cookies

*I prefer to use organic ingredients

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup raw cane sugar

1/2 cup coconut sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon raw honey

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups chocolate chips

1 cup finely chopped pecans

-With a stand mixer or hand mixer, blend butter and coconut oil.

-Add sugars, eggs, vanilla and honey — mix until light and fluffy.

-Gently incorporate flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

-Stir in chocolate chips and pecans by hand until well incorporated.

Scoop by rounded tablespoon (a cookie scoop works wonderfully!) onto a baking sheet or baking stone, and bake for 10-12 minutes. Edges should begin to turn a soft brown.

-Cool on cookie rack for 1-2 minutes before transferring to a plate.

Enjoy!

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Ohhh Christmas Trees!

As a child growing up in California, I greatly anticipated visiting the nearby Christmas tree lots to pick out a beautiful tree with my family. Because I was not as tall as my parents or older sisters, every tree seemed to tower over me, and I was simply in awe! The wonderful smell of pine, the brightly lit tree lots and row after row of evergreens captivated me!

This year, we decided to drive to the mountains to find our family Christmas tree — something we had always wanted to do! As we started off through the valley, the sun was shining with brilliant blue skies, and the girls and I began pondering where we would possibly find a tree. Were we in for a fairly long drive? Not that we mind drives, but it was late afternoon, and we did not want to be out after dark.

Especially when I began reading portions of the brochure that came with our tag:

(paraphrased) Dress warmly, take extra food and equipment in case you find yourself camping overnight. Always let someone know where you are going and your expected return time. Do not deviate from your plan.

Camping overnight? Jonathan and I looked at each other while Aviah’s eyes grew wider by the minute. “You mean we have to camp overnight to get a tree? We didn’t bring any food!” This was indeed correct as I looked at our half-filled cans of La Croix. Geneva on the other hand loves a good adventure and seemed perfectly calm and ready for some fun. I did let family know where we were headed to look for a tree. Check.

Jonathan and I assured the girls that we would not be spending the night — if the roads became too treacherous or it became too late, we would head home and come back the following weekend.

Within a few miles, we began to see a few sparse trees. A little further and there was a dusting of snow on the ground with the mountains in clear view. We became more excited by the second, and soon this was our view!

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Now it is really starting to feel like Christmas! It brought back that same child-like feeling, and I knew the girls and Jonathan were feeling the same way — simply in awe!

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When looking for a tree in the mountains, every tree looks enormous, so it becomes somewhat of a challenge to accurately know what size you’re looking for. One can look perfect for your home, but in reality be 16 feet tall or more! However, Jonathan has a good eye, and he spotted the perfect one!

Our Christmas tree!

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It truly was a lovely family experience, and we made it home safely! Now we are ready for decorating — cinnamon-baked angels, woodland creatures and wooden stars.

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From our home to yours …

We wish you a Merry Christmas

and all the joy your hearts can hold!

 

 

Dad’s Favorite Peanut Butter Fudge

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This peanut butter fudge recipe has been in my family for as long as I can remember. My Dad found it in a large cookbook entitled, “ideals Desserts, Candy & Cookie Cookbook”, and it’s been a family-favorite ever since!

I can still remember as a young child seeing my Dad head into the kitchen, hearing the gentle clanging of pots and pans and feeling my heart do a little happy dance.

Dad’s making candy!

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Within moments, I was beside him in the kitchen, and he would ask if I would like to help. Of course! I absolutely loved spending time with my Dad — we always had a great time together! My first job as a young girl was buttering the plate for the candy. When I got a little older, Dad would let me stir the candy and taught me how to properly check for the “soft ball” stage. Dad was always encouraging, telling me not to worry if it didn’t turn out. “If it’s too soft, we’ll have a great topping for ice-cream, and if it’s too hard, we’ll eat it fast while it’s still warm.” Dad would say while smiling at me.

Sue’s Easy 15-Minute Peanut Butter Fudge

*I prefer to use organic ingredients

-In medium saucepan, combine:

1 cup raw cane sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

-Stir with a wooden spoon until mixture begins to softly boil. Cook to 240 degrees. (For some reason, mine tends to heat fairly quickly, and I take it off of the burner at 230 degrees.)

-Remove from heat, and add:

1 cup mini marshmallows (or homemade marshmallow recipe here)

1/2 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

-Mix with a wooden spoon for several minutes. Candy will become creamy, thicken and start to lose it’s gloss.

-Spread onto a buttered dish (Dad and I always used a large dinner plate.)

-This recipe can easily be doubled.

So beautiful and delicious!

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This candy recipe is so dear to my heart. Yes, it tastes amazing, it’s an incredibly easy recipe to follow and we all know I’m fond of peanut butter! But it’s so much more than that — it brings back such wonderful memories with my wonderful Dad, and it reminds me of his encouragement, love and kindness. Always taking the time to cook with me, laugh with me and sharing the bowl and spoon with me.

I look forward to the day I will see my Dad again. For now, I hold him close to my heart.

I love you, Dad — you’re the best!

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Evening Skies

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I love watching the sky. It’s a magnificent canvas for God to show His splendor in a variety of beautifully-shaded hues and ethereal details.

My eldest daughter also loves to watch the sky. I often see her dash out the door with her camera in hand. She might return in a few minutes or she might be out there much longer while she works at capturing the ever-changing views.

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When she bursts through the door, cheeks rosy-pink from the cold, there is pure delight in her expression, and she eagerly comes to share.

I thought you might enjoy some of her photos from this week.

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Homemade Marshmallows with Sweetima’s Creamy Thick Hot Chocolate

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Winter time naturally brings such fond memories of hot chocolate with marshmallows — sipping this creamy treat in a favorite mug while cuddling with your kiddos, watching the falling snow or listening to treasured Christmas carols is a wonderful way to stay cozy and warm!

About a year ago, I tried making my own marshmallows, and to me, the results were nothing short of amazing. First of all, I had no idea they were so easy to make!

Creamy and wonderful, coated in a soft dusting of powdered sugar and so soft and dreamy!

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For me, there’s something especially fun about making them around Christmas time!

I found this lovely recipe for Easy Old-Fashioned Homemade Marshmallows at Kitchen Frau. I was pleased that they used less sugar than other recipes I had tried, and they also have a Honey Marshmallow recipe on the same post that I’m looking forward to trying!

Now for the hot chocolate — I’ve made many varieties, but as I was working on the marshmallows, I noticed that my fellow blogger at Sweetima had posted a recipe for Creamy Thick Hot Chocolate this very week! One look at her delightful cup of hot chocolate, and I knew I wanted to try this with the homemade marshmallows!

The results were wonderful for both the marshmallows and the hot chocolate! Put them together and they’re a delicious and delightful pair!

Creamy, dreamy, warm and cozy! I know you will enjoy!

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Peanut Butter & Honey-Chocolate Chip Muffins

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Ahh, muffins. For me, they rank right up there with smoothies for breakfast or a tasty treat!

When I was a young girl, my mom would make toast for me with butter, peanut butter and a sweet swirl of honey on top — it’s still one of my (and my mom’s) favorite ways to dress up toast. Peanut butter and honey go very well together, but what could make a muffin even better?

Add a little chocolate!

I hope you will enjoy these moist and flavorful muffins! They pair well with tea, coffee, hot chocolate or a tall glass of milk. Mmm!

Peanut Butter & Honey – Chocolate Chip Muffins

(recipe adapted from chocolatechocolateandmore.com)

*I prefer to use all organic ingredients

2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 cup vanilla almond milk

2 eggs

3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

2/3 cup raw honey

1/3 cup coconut oil, softened

3/4 to 1 cup chocolate chips

-Preheat oven to 375 degrees

-With a hand mixer, stand mixer or by hand, gently combine eggs, peanut butter, honey and coconut oil until smooth.

-Alternate flour, salt and baking powder with vanilla almond milk — mixing gently.

-By hand, fold in the chocolate chips. (add a few extra if you like 😉 )

-In a muffin tin with liners, use a cookie scooper to fill each liner approximately 2/3 full.

-Bake for approximately 12-14 minutes, or until toothpick comes out of the center clean.

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Enjoy!

 

 

A Star Wars-Themed Birthday, Much Fun It Was!

IMG_1925[1]Kidding, I was not, when I mentioned we have a lot of autumn birthdays in our family! As I’ve mentioned before, I love celebrating birthdays, and each joyous occasion is as unique as the individual!

A few weeks ago, we celebrated our youngest daughter, Geneva’s, birthday, but the party itself had been planned well in advance. Geneva is a girly-girl and loves all things princess, but she also has a deep regard for Star Wars, or Star Horse as she called it when she was younger.

Several years ago, I began to notice that when I arrived home from a dentist appointment, running errands or grocery shopping, the girls would be cuddled next to Jonathan on the couch watching Star Wars, Clone Wars or Star Wars Rebels.

I also enjoy Star Wars, however, I am not near the expert that Jonathan and the girls are. Not even close. I’m often quickly lost in their conversations, and I can tell you that Jonathan is one proud dad teaching our girls the Star Wars legacy. I’m slowly learning more names of ships, characters such as Ahsoka Tano (yes, I had to look that up) and Aviah recently mentioned that I could find a considerable amount of information on Wookieepedia. (yes, I had to look that up as well and yes, it’s very real.)

So it really came to no surprise when Geneva requested a Star Wars party, or should I say, a surprise, it was not. (I do know who Yoda is!)

This was such a fun party to plan and an exceptional way to incorporate art into our school studies. Three ships were built (including the Millenium Falcon), two space ship control panels and a game with flashing lights when you attacked the Death Star. I apologize that there aren’t pictures for this, but they were painted with glow in the dark paint, and our camera couldn’t fully capture their awesomeness.

However, I did get pictures of the cake/cupcakes! Desserts, awesome they are!

For the cake and cupcake batter, I used the chocolate cake/cupcake recipe found here. The frosting is a favorite Buttercream Frosting found at Wilton. The only substitution I made with the frosting/icing was palm fruit shortening instead of vegetable shortening, added about 1-2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to give it a brownish color and dusted the cake with cocoa powder to match the décor.

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Young padawans also need something refreshing to sip on, and nothing could be more perfect than Yoda Soda. Refreshing, it is. Green, it is. Easy to make, it is:

Yoda Soda

-Fill glasses about 3/4 full with lime sherbet

-Add enough lime La Croix to almost fill glass

(adapted from a recipe found on Pinterest)

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These recipes would work well for any Star Wars-themed party, which I’m sure we will be making again when the new movie comes out this month!