Monday, December 31, 2012

Nutty Cheeseball

Celebrating the completion of another calendar year - and sharing a recipe for a yummy appetizer for a New Year's Eve party, or to save and use for one of the many celebrations of the year ahead!

I used my brand new KitchenAid Artisan Mixer to prepare this recipe for our Family Christmas snack/appetizer spread in the evening. My husband knew that I had been wishing for a KitchenAid for years, and he was so sweet to give one to me as my Christmas gift (and as an early-Christmas gift so that I could use it for all the Christmas baking and prep!)

Nutty Cheeseball

1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives (I substituted chopped green onion)
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

Place all ingredients except pecans in mixer bowl. Attach bowl and flat beater to mixer. Turn to Speed 4 and beat about 1 minute, or until well blended.

On waxed paper, shape mixture into a ball. Roll ball in chopped pecans. Wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate until serving time. Serve with assorted crackers or raw vegetables.

(Credit: This recipe was in the Instruction Book for the KitchenAid Mixer.)

Linking up with:
Melt in Your Mouth Monday
Better Mom Mondays
Inspire Me Monday

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Time to Celebrate

I love celebrations! All through the year - and especially at Christmastime!

Family Christmas!

Our Christmas came a few days early this year - on Saturday, December 22nd. This was the magical day when 18 family members gathered at our home for our celebration that lasted from 11:30 am to 11:30 pm at night! When family is home - together - there is always magic. So blessed and thankful for love that fills our home. We are not a perfect family, but by God's grace and mercy, love fills our home and our family. And we are blessed.

It was a day of celebrating this love, all a gift because of God's Gift (whose birthday we celebrate at Christmastime) - spending time together, sharing food and gifts together.

We chose a different menu for our Christmas Dinner, a change from our usual ham & mashed potatoes with all the sides. Instead, we celebrated with a Tempura Meal! (Recipe to be shared in a later post.) We've served this meal some years in the past, around Christmas or New Years - but this was the first time for this menu at our Family Christmas Dinner. What fun we had preparing it all together (as it is best served freshly cooked)! Having our five (grown) kids in the kitchen with me (and also sons-in-law and grandkids in and out of the kitchen!) was a highlight of the day for me - and I think, for them, as well.

The rest of the day was filled with gift-giving, grandkids playing, adults playing games in the afternoon and in the late hours of the day, and a yummy snack/appetizer spread in the evening. Thanking God for Love - all because of God's Gift of Jesus, and of Family - filling us up to the brim, and overflowing.

(We missed one daughter, son-in-law, and four grandkids, who were here for Thanksgiving this year - and thankful for the special Christmas they could have as family in TX. They had the very special treat of a beautiful snowfall on Christmas Day - unusual for TX!)

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

More celebrating came a few days later, on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day. And a rather historical time for us - the first time since 1972 that my dear hubby and I spent Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day together, just the two of us. Even though we have loved having one or two family members join us for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (after we have already had our big Family Christmas Day on an earlier date), and I wasn't completely sure that I wanted that to end, our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day turned out to be a very special time for us as a couple, just the two of us.

Christmas Eve has an added special dimension for us as a couple, as it is our engagement anniversary. After joining friends at a Christmas Eve service at our church, we ate out together (a delicious meal at Cheddar's), and then drove around to view some Christmas lights in the area neighborhoods. So thankful, and so blessed to remember, and celebrate that very magical Christmas Eve, 42 years ago, when I heard the beautiful question, "Will you marry me?".

We had a leisurely, relaxing Christmas Day morning together, and then went to see "The Hobbit" together in the afternoon. We bid the day's end sitting by the warmth of our wood stove, Christmas goodies and white wine (purchased for us by a son) in hand. So thankful for God's Gift of Love, for Jesus, and for the love He has given my hubby and me - we are blessed, and we are thankful.

And Looking Forward to the Gift of Celebrating a New Year!

So thankful for this privilege He has allowed me - to share my heart through blogging as I listen to Him, and to seek to follow when He prompts me to share. It has been a joy to write - and also a great joy to have family and friends take time to visit me here. You are all such a blessing to me. Thanking Him for the privilege to write and to share - all because of God's Great Gift to us at Christmastime.

Looking ahead - I am desiring to listen and to follow Him as we enter into a New Year, and am asking Him for continued direction as I share here. I will be continuing with sharing devo thoughts, posts on prayer through the "Heart Connect" posts each week, favorite family recipes, digital scrapbook pages, and more. Also, I have sensed a prompting from God to begin a new weekly series on a topic very near and dear to my heart - on mothering. A new focus this coming year.

[Over the coming days I hope to be sharing more photos from our Family Christmas (in the form of digital scrapbook pages), and also a few of the many recipes that I prepared this season.]

Linking up at:
Faith Filled Friday
Friday Favorite Things
Saturday Show and Tell

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Greatest Gift

" ... She will give birth to a son and will call Him Immanuel -
(which means "God is with us"). 
(Isaiah 7:14b)

"Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
because He has visited and redeemed His people,
He has sent us a mighty Savior
from the royal line of His servant David,
just as He promised through His holy prophets long ago."
(Luke 1: 68-70)

"Because of God's tender mercy,
the morning light from heaven
is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
and to guide us to the path of Peace."
(Luke 1: 78-79)

Friday, December 21, 2012

It's Almost Christmas

Just in time for Christmas - a beautiful snowfall! This is the view that greeted us yesterday morning as we looked out through our frosty patio door windows. The perfect finishing touch as we prepare for our Family Christmas Day, very soon - celebrating early with our family, as we often do, giving our grown children time for their own family celebrations, and also with their in-laws. It doesn't matter the day of the month - what matters is that we are together.

It has been a busy week (and month!) of preparations, and I am thankful for ...

Christmas cookies baked - 6 kinds
(using my early-Christmas gift from my hubby - photos coming later!)
Chocolate-covered Peanuts & Chocolate Billionaires
Cinnamon Rolls & Dinner Rolls

Gifts purchased for ten sweet grandkids
And for the rest of the family, too
My last shopping done right before the snowstorm
Gifts wrapped and under the tree

Appetizers and snacks made
Anticipation of our fun family snack spread
Dinner all planned - a unique and fun main dish (photos coming later)
Anticipation of 18 around our table

Thankful for the blessing of family, and that most will be home soon (we'll miss a daughter and her family, in TX), and praying that a son makes it home from CA, flying stand-by. And thankful for three daughters and their families, and another son - all living nearby. Home, and family - all a gift - how can we be so blessed?

"It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to the Most High.
It is good to proclaim Your
unfailing love in the morning,
Your faithfulness in the evening ... "
(Psalm 92:1-2)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Crunchy Apple Salad

Oh, this salad is delicious! I just tried this new recipe for the first time this past week, and it is definitely a keeper. I love the crunchy apples, peanuts, and bagel chips, and together with the homemade dressing, it is a very tasty salad. Perfect as an addition to a meal, or also delicious as a salad lunch on its own.

Crunchy Apple Salad

2 packages (5 ounces each) spring mix salad greens (or any combination of greens)
2 large apples, chopped
2 cups bagel chips, coarsely broken up (I used New York Style Bagel Crisps Everything)
1 1/2 cups honey-roasted peanuts
1 cup (4 ounces) crumbled blue cheese

1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1 1/4 teaspoons dried minced onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a large salad bowl, combine the first five ingredients.
In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients.
Drizzle over salad; toss to coat.

Yield: about 8 servings

(Credit: this recipe is from a Taste of Home publication)

Linking up with:
Melt in Your Mouth Monday
Inspire Me Monday
Better Mom Mondays

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Preparing of Hearts {Heart Connect}

"Come Thou long expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in Thee."
(Charles Wesley)

Anticipation of a special event draws the best from us. The setting of the best crystal and dinnerware, the lighting of candles, the setting out of all that portrays love and care. The giving of our time to create a satisfying meal that refreshes the soul, as well as the body. Preparing our hearts to listen to and love those we are welcoming to our table.

Do we do the same for the most special of guests? The One who longs to commune with us each day in the most intimate way. Do we serve our left-overs, or do we offer Him the best of our time, the finest of all that we have?

At this most special time of year, and all through the year, may we give Him our best - sharing our hearts at the start of each new day, a gift - bringing our sacrifice of thanks to Him for all that is in each day - and keeping in close connection throughout each day, listening, reading His Words, communicating our needs as He longs for us to do. Finding release from fears and worries. Finding rest, finding joy ...

King of the Universe, 
and the Babe of Christmas -
Teach us to offer to You our best,
 each day - 
and may we live our days,
full of anticipation of You.

(Photo above taken last week, as I prepared my best for a special evening dinner - our staff Christmas party, and welcoming a new staff member to our Cru team. Joy in the preparing, and much joy in the presence of friends.)

Heart Connect: Living a Life of Prayer - click here to read earlier posts in this series.

Linking up with:
Heart and Home
Thought Provoking Thursday
Faith Filled Friday
Fellowship Fridays

Monday, December 10, 2012

Small Town Christmas

It was a week full of Christmas ~ so thankful for the blessings of last week ...

** two Christmas parties - one at our home with our staff team, and one together with the larger area staff team - both were sweet, surrounded by dear friends.

**a Christmas Concert by the elementary school in our town - a grandson in the 4th grade, and a granddaughter in kindergarten (her first school concert!) - sweet sounds of children's voices.

**a shopping day on Friday - all the gifts for our grandkids, purchased!

**on Saturday - an amazing day of Christmas activities, a first for our little town - we loved it!

Thanking God for the first week of December - and for the blessings of this season. 

(Credits: Page Template: Scrap Girls - SSDLOT_Alb5_PG10; Paper & Embellishments: Shabby Shoppe - kcroninbarrow-rejoicing)

Linking up with:
Multitudes on Monday

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Giver - {Heart Connect}

The festivities, the gifts,
the scents and surprises of the season -
visible expressions of love ...
longed for, given and received.

So much longing during this wonderful time of year. And sometimes my actions reveal that it is all up to me to accomplish what I long for. That it all depends on me, and my efforts. Especially during this beautiful, wonderful Christmas season, where we are filled with so many desires and dreams. But I am pausing, and remembering. Whose power accomplishes all that we long for - for our families, for our times together this season, and yes, even for ourselves?

Does more activity, and more effort on my part bring what I desire most of all? Or could it be that sometimes in the hustle and bustle of the season, we often blindly stumble over the very Source of the things we desire most.

"Take delight in the Lord,
and He will give you your heart's desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust Him, and He will help you."
(Psalm 37:4-5 NLT)

Lord, help me to not be too busy for what is most important. Help me to keep in step with You this busy, but wonderful season - pausing to listen to Your heart. Depending on You alone, trusting You ... the Giver of all that is good, and all that we long for. Remembering to connect my heart with Yours each day, throughout the day.

"Much prayer, much power;
little prayer, little power;
no prayer, no power ... "
(Revive Us Again)

Heart Connect: Living a Life of Prayer - click here to read earlier posts in this series.

Linking up with:
Tuesdays Unwrapped
Thought Provoking Thursday
Faith Filled Friday

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes are a treat to have, and I don't make them very often throughout the year. But I do make them most every holiday meal - Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Especially after I came across this amazing recipe years ago, which allows me to prepare the mashed potato dish a day or two in advance, and then bake it the day of our big meal together.

We are a family of 22 now - with six grown kids, four sons-in-law, and ten grandkids. Plus, we usually also are blessed to have my father, and also my husband's brother join us for the holidays - which means that we are often about 2 dozen around the table now! This dish is so wonderful, not only because it is delicious, but because I can prepare it ahead of time. Which is quite necessary to do when feeding two dozen family members for a festive meal.

Here is a photo of our recent Thanksgiving feast, which we enjoyed together with 23 family members!

Lots of delicious food here (some brought by our daughters!) - and I'll be sharing the recipe for the Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes in this post. Of course, you can also make it the day of your dinner, but it always works good for me to prepare it ahead of time.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

10# potatoes, peeled and cut in small pieces
2 3/4 teaspoons salt
3 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup butter, melted
2 cups milk, heated to lukewarm

Fill pot of potatoes part way with water; cover and cook until tender. Drain.

Mash potatoes, using part (about 1/4th or less) of the butter, and part of the milk to make a good consistency.

Combine remaining butter and milk in saucepan with cheese and salt; cook until smooth.

Stir into potatoes; then fold in eggs. (Add additional salt to taste, if desired.)

Pour into a greased large white casserole dish. (Also use an extra dish, if needed.)

(Bake right away, or refrigerate for 1-2 days and bake later.)

Bake, covered, at 350 degrees until puffy and golden brown, about 50 minutes or more.
(I always stir once or twice during the baking time - and then spoon into a serving bowl when done.)

Make-ahead (optional): Cover & refrigerate for 1-2 days. On day of baking, allow to stand at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before baking. And then bake as directed.

Yield: about 20 servings

(Credit: the original recipe came from Taste of Home, but I have adjusted it over the years and do not have access to the original one anymore.)

Linking up with:
Melt in Your Mouth Mondays
Tasty Tuesday
Trick or Treat Tuesday
I'm Lovin' It

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Best Way to Receive

"Thank Me throughout this day for My Presence and My Peace ... 
The best way to receive these glorious gifts is to thank Me for them. ... 
As you thank Me for My Presence and Peace, 
you appropriate My richest gifts."  
(Jesus Calling)

Some things are easy to be thankful for, and others are difficult. But always, we are to thank Him - bringing all our needs to Him. And the gifts that we receive as a result, are even more than we imagined. His Presence and His Peace - what so many in the world long for. There were both kinds of things this past week - things easy to thank for, and things difficult. And the Gifts of His Presence and His Peace were given, and received, as thanks was given. 

It was also a week of anticipation and joy as we transitioned to a new month, Christmas month! I put out much of our Christmas decor around the house the last day or two of November, and we assembled our Christmas tree on Dec. 1st! (Earlier than usual for us!) The lights had to wait a day or two, as we needed to purchase more to replace some burnt-out strings of light. And I am still slowly getting all the ornaments on the tree ... 

And in the midst of a week of transitioning from November to December, of Cru ministry, newsletter writing, of house cleaning, and meal preparing - we took time for playing with grandkids ...

And more to be thankful for on Sunday: worship with friends, stopping in at Blue Line to see a son briefly, an hour walking through Hot Shops Art Center's Holiday Open House, watching our high school's drama performance (with quite a few Cru students starring in it!), and attending a fundraiser spaghetti dinner for a family in need. A full week - much to be thankful for!

(Credits: Page Template: Digital Scrapper - ScrapItNow templates; Paper: mturnidge_makeawish)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Celebrating the Gift

"Put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love,
and with Him is full redemption."
(Psalm 130:7 NIV)

At the beginning of this most wonderful of seasons: full of love, good deeds, gift-buying, cookie baking, home decorating, gathering with family and friends, anticipation of the merriest day of the year - a reminder to wrap our hearts securely all through the month with the Greatest Gift.

Christmas is ...

"living in appreciation of what we have already been given - 
God's perfect gift, a Redeemer whose name is Jesus Christ."

Loving Lord, as we busily prepare for the magical day of Christmas, may we remember the Greatest Gift of all, the Gift that lasts all through the year. 

Linking up with:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Our Source for the Season

At the start of this most magical time of the year - we all have longings and desires. For rest, for joy, for peace that permeates our souls. For love expressed, and love shared. For belonging, and for being cherished, to be home.

And as wives and moms, we desire to create an atmosphere in our homes where all who live within, and all who enter, find rest, joy, and peace. We will go to whatever lengths needed to create a place where the magic of the season can fill all the places of the heart. Boxes of decorations will be unpacked and placed around our homes, hours and hours of time will be spent baking goodies, and days will be spent shopping for just the right gifts for those we love.

Oh, how I love this time of year - 
excitement and anticipation is in the air!

And I am reminded that all that I long for is a Gift, coming from one Source. From the One who gave us the desires and longings for Love, for Joy, and for Peace. And I want to be plugged into this Source. For without the power that flows from our Vine, we are powerless. Without Love and Joy and Peace that comes from Him, we will have no love, and no joy, and no peace this season.

"Yes, I am the Vine, you are the branches.
Those who remain in Me, and I in them,
will produce much fruit.
For apart from Me you can do nothing."
(John 15:5)

Linking up with:
Simple Things Sunday