He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young
. {Isaiah 40:11}

31 December 2010

{Monkey Bread}

Finally! Just in time before everyone starts making resolutions to lose ten pounds... you might as well go out with a bang, right?

Monkey Bread

What You'll Need:
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cans of Pillsbury Grands Homestyle Refridgerated Biscuits
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 c melted butter

What To Do:
Mix granulated sugar and cinn in a resealable plastic bag.
Remove all 16 biscuits from the cans and cut each biscuits into quarters.
Place biscuit pieces into bag with cinnamon and shake until coated.
Assemble coated pieces into a lightly greased fluted pan.
Mix brown sugar and melted butter and pour over pieces.
Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then invert onto serving plate.

30 December 2010

{Puppy Chow}

My baking and "all things sweets" is coming to an end this week but I couldn't stop without sharing my all-time-favorite snack that I make tons of, especially at Christmas time...

Puppy Chow
{aka Muddy Buddies}
What You'll Need:
9 cups of Chex cereal {I prefer Rice Chex}
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 c peanut butter
1/4 c butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 c confectioners sugar

What To Do:
Measure out Chex cereal into a large bowl and set aside. 
Measure confectioners sugar and place in a gallon size resealable bag.
Mix chocolate, peanut butter, and butter into microwave safe bowl. Heat for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until everything is melted and well mixed. Add vanilla. 
Pour chocolate mix over Chex cereal and stir until all cereal is well coated. I use my hands for this just cause. 
Pour cereal into plastic bag. Seal bag and shake until all cereal is coated with sugar. 
Eat. Eat. Eat. 

29 December 2010

{White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars}... WITH Oreos!

 Yes, a little more baking. I know.
...but did you read the name of this recipe?
Need I say more?
 White Chocolate-Raspberry Cheesecake Bars
{avec Oreos}
12 Oreo cookies, finely crushed
2 T melted butter
3 oz white chocolate squares, divided
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 c sugar
1 t vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 c raspberry preserves

Heat oven to 350. 
Mix Oreos and butter and press into the bottom of a square baking dish. 
Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in a bowl. Melt 2 oz of the white chocolate and mix into the cream cheese mixture. Add one egg at time to the mix until blended. Pour over crust and bake for 25 minutes or until center is almost set. Let cool for 5 minutes. Pour preserves over top and spread evenly. Melt remaining chocolate and drizzle over top. Cool completely and refrigerate for 4 hours. Cut into bars to serve. 

28 December 2010

{Thumbprint Cookies}

 Thumbprint Cookies
makes 4-5 dozen

What You'll Need: 
2 c butter {yup, that's 4 whole sticks}
1 c sugar
6 eggs; separated
3 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 t salt
4 1/2 c flour
1 lb of crushed walnuts {optional}
filling of choice {jam, jelly, pie filling}

What To Do:
Preheat to 350.
Beat butter and sugar until fluffy. Lightly whip 6 eggs yolks and add to butter mixture along with vanilla and salt. Beat well. Gradually add flour until all 4 1/2 cups are in.
Using a fork, lightly beat egg whites until they start to get frothy.
Dip dough balls into egg whites and then into crushed nuts and place 1-2" apart on a baking sheet. Press your thumb into the center of each dough ball to create a divet for your filling. {I prefer raspberry jam but I've heard cherry pie filling is good too.}
Bake 15 minutes.

27 December 2010

{Homemade Marshmallows}

Why, you wonder, would I make my own marshmallows? Easy. Because I can!
Okay, for real, I like to know what's in the food I eat and wondered how hard it was. The reality is, for as often as I eat marshmallows, it wasn't hard. The process was quick and easy but kind of messy.
My conclusions, I'll gladly buy a bag in a pinch but, if I have enough time to plan ahead, I'll probably make my own.
** I'm so sorry... I failed to mention the recipe I used... Alton Brown lent the world this one.

And these go really well with Martha Stewart's hot chocolate mix
I read the back of the Swiss Miss container the other night and was a little irked by the fact that the second ingredient listed on the package was corn syrup and cocoa was fourth along the list followed shortly after by "artificial flavoring". Odd.
So we said goodbye to our old standby, bought a few air-tight glass containers from the dollar store and are now enjoying the rich tasting cocoa we get with just three ingredients... sugar, cocoa and a pinch of salt. Beautiful!

24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

I pray you have a blessed holiday weekend with lots of good food, sweet family moments, and at least a little relaxation. 

Merry Christmas!

23 December 2010

{Peanut Butter Munchies}

These need no introduction... I mean, look at them!
Peanut Butter Munchies
makes about 3 dozen

What You'll Need: 
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c butter
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1/4 c peanut butter
1 egg
1 T milk
1 t vanilla
3/4 sifted powdered sugar
1/2 c peanut butter
2 T granulated sugar

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, cocoa, and baking soda. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, the 1/2 c granulated sugar, brown sugar and 1/4 c peanut butter with electric mixer. Add egg, milk and vanilla an dbeat well. Beat in as much of the dry ingredients as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining dry ingredients by hand with wooden spoon. Form chocolate dough into 32 large balls and set aside.
For the peanut butter filling, in a medium mixing bowl combie powdered sugar and the remaining 1/2 c peanut butter until smooth. Shape mixture into 32 small balls.
On a work surgace, slightly flatten a chocolate dough ball and top with a peanut butter ball. Shape the chocolate dough around the filling to completely cover the filling. Roll the dough into a ball. Repeat with remaining chocolate dough and peanut butter filling balls.
Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookies sheet. Lightly flatten them with the bottom of a glass dipped in the 2 tbsp of sugar. {Honestly, I skipped this part.}
Bake cookies for 8 minutes or until they are set and the surface is slightly cracked. Let cookies stand on sheet for 1 minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling. 

22 December 2010

{Forgotten Cookies}

 Forgotten Cookies
{as if there could be such a thing}
makes 2 dozen

What You'll Need: 
2 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 c granulated sugar
1 1/2 c chocolate chips

What To Do:
Preheat oven to 350. 
Beat egg whites and sugar until stiff peaks form. Do not under whip. {We started with a hand mixer but it wasn't working so I moved the whites to a stand mixer on high and it did the job.} Fold in chocolate chips. 
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a silicone baking sheet. Drop mixture by tablespoon-fulls onto lined cookie sheet, spacing cookies 2 inches apart. Place cookie sheet in oven and turn oven off. Leave cookies in oven (without opening the oven door!) until oven has completely cooled. {I made these late at night and let them sit in the oven overnight.}
 My aunt makes a plethora of cookies each year and this is one recipe she makes every year. 
If you like meringues, you'll love these.

21 December 2010

{Peanut Butter Blossoms}

 Peanut Butter Blossoms {2 Ways}
makes about 3 dozen
What You'll Need:
1/2 c sugar                                            
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter or shortening
1 egg
2 T milk
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 c peanut butter {all natural and regular both work}
1 3/4 c all purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/4 c sugar {optional}
Hershey Kisses or Reese's Peanut Butter Mini Cups

What To Do:
Cream butter and sugars. Add egg, milk and vanilla. Mix in peanut butter. Mix dry ingredients and add to the creamed mixture. Roll dough into 1 1/2" balls and then roll balls in granulated sugar {optional} to coat.
For Hershey Kiss Blossoms.... place balls onto ungreased cookie sheet  and bake for 8 minutes. {You can use this time to unwrap Hershey Kisses.} Remove from oven and push a single Kiss into the center of each cookie. Return to the oven for another 3 minutes.

For Reese's Cup Blossoms... place rolled balls into tassi pan and bake for 10 minutes. {You can use this time to unwrap Reese's Cups}Remove from oven and immediately push a single Reese's Cup into the center of each cookie. Allow cookies to remain in pan for a few minutes to set. I use a butter knife to gently lever them out.  

My mother-in-law, the baker, shared these beauties with me. 
They're delicious and thankfully quick and easy... my favorite! 

20 December 2010

Lesson Learned

So I put a good bit of effort into making yarn balls for Miss Mak's room for Christmas. I had them hanging all around her room on a strand of lights. We have forced air heating in our home {a seemingly unrelated point yet completely relevant}. Forced air equals dry air in our home so we started up the humidifiers in the kids' rooms. The next morning I found these...
We made 16 yarn balls... now we have four and Mak's room decorations look like this...

Lesson learned.

15 December 2010

Can I Just Tell You...

I'm completely and totally smitten with my little family!

And to think there's another on the way!

14 December 2010

It's Almost Here and It's Gonna be Good!

So, for the sake of explanation, I have been busy planning a ladies' night for out church that is finally happening this Friday. One might think it's a bit insane for a mom of two tiny people, with another on the way and very little time to spare, to take on something like this. The reality is, it totally is! But in a great and wonderful way!
Our evening is meant to be pure relaxation for the women who attend. A menu of Chicken with Wine, french cut green beans with roasted peppers and onion, Martha Stewart's "Luxurious Mashed Potatoes, and a salad with pears and candied pecans is being prepared by a handful of volunteers. This night also has crafts. Not your run-of-the-mill sequins, glitter and Elmer's glue kind. No! I have just finished making kits for button necklaces {courtesy o' Martha} and lima bean wreaths like the ones I posted just a few days ago. All supplies are being purchased and paid for so that our lady friends can show up and just go with the flow. No pressure, no decisions. Just sit back and enjoy.
Now, originally, I thought thirty women was a stretch. I figured that we'd get twenty-eight or so, plan for thirty and be "good-to-go". This still sounded good on our deadline of last Wednesday when we had twenty-four people signed up. Since the organizers figured we could fill a few more seats we made one last announcement at church this Sunday and... oh boy!... added another twenty people to the list with a handful of "maybes" just hanging out there. oh.my.goodness!
My first reaction... complete and total panic.
My second response... pure awe at the power of the living God who has not only continued to give me patience and peace exactly when I have needed it but has provided friends from everywhere who want to help and have taken on huge things to make this night happen.
One of the most beautiful things about this coming gathering is that it isn't intended for just believers. This is an opportunity for woman of all kinds/backgrounds/etc. to join and just be women. Many of the women who are coming are friends of those who attend the church and some are unbelievers. What a blessing! I think that's the part that, I feel,  puts even more pressure on us to make this evening spectacular but the reality is I'm way beyond my realm here. I'm outside my comfort zone and yet I am enjoying the ride because God has done nothing but show how He has it all under control. Down to the smallest excessive detail.
If you think to, please pray for the ladies who will be joining us that evening who don't know Him. Pray that their hearts will be open and that Christ's love will flow from those who do know Him so that all may see and be drawn to the One True God.

As a side-note: I miss sitting down and sharing with you. I miss hearing from you. I cannot wait for things to calm down so I can sit back and relax a little; do a little crafting and enjoy sharing the much simpler moments and things in my life like the homemade laundry detergent I will soon be needing. Oh goodie!

13 December 2010

I've been so overwhelmed lately by my schedule. It's my own fault. I've signed myself up for a lot. I hesitate to say that I've signed myself up for "too much" because I have the full support of sweet hubs, yes, the very same man who encourages me to to keep posting on my blog also encourages me to keep on keepin' on {even when it means his dinners are grilled cheese or rotisserie chicken from the store and that he runs out of clean undershirts}.
By God's grace, alone, I have been able to maintain my patience far beyond what I ever have before. When I'm scrambling around and CJ wants to sit and chat about all the Disney characters on the back of a DVD he found, I have been able, for the most part, to take a few minutes to sit down with him and discuss things. I can tell you that even when I'm not busy and just a wife and mommy, it can be hard to make time for that. Miss Mak has proven to be a super-easy baby {barring hunger or tiredness} and hasn't seemed to notice all the running around.
BUT.... I am tired!
Scratch that. I.am.exhausted.
I am constantly asking myself if I am in the Lord's will because this kind of tired just doesn't seem right. And yet, things are falling together "like butta". Encouragement from those around me comes exactly when it's needed. Enthusiastic and optimistic friends are nearby when I start to doubt. Just when I think the house couldn't get any messier, Hubs has cleaned the clutter and filled the dishwasher, CJ has picked up his toys, or I have found time to vacuum which ALWAYS needs to be done. Just when I start to feel guilty because I haven't spent as much time with my kids as I usually do, Mak pulls up to the couch and reaches for me to snuggle for a few minutes, then happily crawls away to play contentedly on her own. Just when I think I have come to the end of myself, He gently reminds me that I have been treading water in the deep end in vain because He's been in control the whole time.
Why is that so hard to remember? 

10 December 2010

The oh-so-encouraging Romans 12

I have recently done a lot of slow, methodical reading through the New Testament. I am continually amazed by how new the words I've read hundreds of times before seem new nearly every time I read them.

A recent reading that stuck with me was Romans 12. The whole chapter is overflowing with beautiful encouragements and truths but verses 9-21 were particularly piercing this time around for me. There are hundreds of "don't"s in the Bible. Lots of "you shouldn't"s, "these things aren't beneficial", or "these things are downright bad". Romans 12:9-21, however, is a "to do" list.
Now I'm a fairly black and white person and when I'm told that something is bad, from a credible source, I usually avoid it. When I'm told something is good, I usually research it and, if I agree, I do it. I have also found that lately I've had to make a lot of decisions. Not only is December an incredibly busy month but my relationships with everyone seem to be shifting, changing, growing, or ending. My head is full of "gray" right now so I wonder if being a very clear "do these things" is why I appreciate this passage so much.
So here it is... with a few little thoughts of mine added in for fun

Romans 12:9-21{ESV}
Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil...
...hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.{Make it a contest}
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit...
...serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope...
...be patient in tribulation...
...be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and...
... seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you...BLESS and DO NOT curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice...
... weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another. 
Do not be haughty...
...associate with the lowly. 
NEVER be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil BUT give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all {act like someone is always watching you and looking for Christ in you and how you treat others.}
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.{I really appreciate the acknowledgment that you may not be able to live peaceably with others and it doesn't necessarily mean its your fault.}
...NEVER avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God. {He knows... He cares... He's got it under control.}
...if your enemy is hungry, feed him:
if [your enemy] is thirsty, give him something to drink.
DO NOT be overcome by evil...
...overcome evil with good.

09 December 2010

Lima Bean Wreath

 foam wreath: $1
half bag of lima beans: $.90
hot glue: free {already owned}
cute and quick decor: fabulous! 

{AND!... if you're a woman, and you'll be in the Pioneer Valley area on the 17th of December, around 6pm, you are invited to Ladies' Night at WellSpring Church at Old First Church. If not, you will be missed and I pray that you can spend this Christmas season with loved ones.}

08 December 2010

Hot Chocolate Heaven

Who doesn't love these sweet beverage?  It can be creamy, sweet, rich or thick... vanilla, caramel, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, coconut... Oh, the possibilities! 

First, the classics: 
Ina Garten : my favorite chef EVER, Ina Garten, gave us her homemade recipe
Ellie Krieger : you can always count this chick for a healthy twist on your favorite anything
I also wanted to throw in a little extra sumthin'sumthin' by sharing Sweet Hubs' recipe... "fill 3/4 of the way with hot water ... fill the rest of the way with whole milk... add 3 tbsp of coco mix and stir...add a splash of pure vanilla extract...the add a heaping spoonful of marshmallow cream to create a "head" on the top and finish with a bit of cinnamon on top."
"OR", Hubs says, "if you're feeling extra crazy, add an Andes candy in your hot chocolate and stir!"

The Fancy: 
Maitres Chocolatiers {"really good chocolate-people"}from Lindt : these "fancy-pants'" add vanilla bean and peppercorns to their recipe.
Dizzy-Dee : coconut hot chocolate
Singing With Birds : inspired this post with her thick and sweet version
Chow: peppermint hot chocolate. mmm! 
Dry Mixes:   
Whole Foods : these guys skip the preservatives and keep the goodness
...and of course Martha Stewart weighs in with her own mix

A Little Something Extra:
Once I stumbled on these Hot Chocolate Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies I had no choice but to sneak them in! I mean, come on!

06 December 2010

Tree Skirt... Done!

I'm going to admit from the very beginning that I enjoyed making the top but when it came to quilting the whole piece and attacheing the binding I... well... completely lost my steam. I'd like to blame in on the pregnancy. I just lost my motivation on this one. The only thing that got me through was knowing I'd soon be covering the ugly base of our tree.
So yes... I'm happy to cross another item off my list.

Don't get me wrong. It wasn't hard. It took me about one full day's worth of work. Totally doable. It just requires a little motivation.

You can find this pattern at Sew Mama Sew. Everything you need to make your own is right there!
Have a happy, restful weekend!

03 December 2010

Boy, Does Time Fly?!

Happy 5th Anniversary to my Sweet Hubs!
The nearly 10 years of knowing you have been the most fun I've ever had.
You make me laugh every day, even the times I don't want to.
You're silly with me. I love that!
You put up with my moods even when the daggers are unfairly aimed at you.
You put up with my psychotic cleaning frenzies that happen when I've let the house get too messy.
You put up with the mess.
You insist on sharing "interesting tidbits" {like what Armistice Day and juneteenth are} and though I don't always seem it, I'm usually listening.
You've taught me that I am no better than anyone else but you love as if I were.
You keep me grounded.
You've taught me how to stop worrying so much.
...and how to let life happen without getting so worked up about things I can't change.
You've taught me that my well of patience never has to run dry.
I just have to dig a little deeper to find it sometimes.
You are consistent.
You are hard working.
You are my earthly rock. 
You are my earthly provider. 
You are my best friend.
You motivate me to be a better wife.
...a better mother.
...a better person.
I'm a better woman for having married you.

02 December 2010

5 Minute Custom Pillowcase

Another project that's easy to customize and is fun to make. 
Wanna make your own? Head over to MADE to learn how.

01 December 2010

Do Tell... {Christmas Music}

I've always been a music lover and Christmas time is no exception. I've put together a few of my favorites, in case you're in search of some new albums or songs and would love if you'd share your favorites with me. My list is, by no means, thorough , there are just too many to choose from!

Andrew Peterson's album "Behold the Lamb of God" {the title track is my favorite}
Mercy Me's album "Christmas Sessions"
Kari Jobe's song "Adore Him"

Rosemary Beland & Mark Bracken's album "Winterbourne"
Jim Brickman's album "Coming Home for Christmas"

Classic Christmas:
Bing Crosby's album "White Christmas" {I especially love his "I'll be Home for Christmas"}

Nat Cole's album "Christmas Songs" {j'adore his version of "The Christmas Song"}
Crystal Theory's album "Christmas Chillout" 

Now, seriously, don't be shy. I'm always looking for new music.

And if spending money on music isn't for you there's always Pandora.com {a free custom online radio station} and playlist.com {where you can create your own playlist, for free, using their library}


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