Monday, December 31, 2012

Letting go of Perfect

No More Perfect MomsWe ended 2012 by remembering my Grandma. It was not the way I anticipated reflecting on the year but with her dying on Christmas Day, it was what needed to be done. I was thankful to be able to share my memories about Grandma at her funeral today.

I wanted to share thoughts from the viewpoint of my childhood verses the marred reality of adulthood memories that seem to counteract. While it was difficult to find time to reflect on my Grandma’s life over the hustle and bustle of the holiday, I am so grateful God helped me to do just that. (You can read what I shared about my Grandma here and here.) While she was far from perfect, she loved us well. I can only hope and pray my children and grandchildren will be able to say the same about me.

In 2013, I have the privilege of helping launchJill Savage's (Hearts at Home) new book, No More Perfect Moms. With the busyness of life the past couple of weeks, I haven’t been able to read past Chapter 1. At the same time, because I’m giving up the masquerade of perfection, I didn’t have to feel any pressure to do more. All I can do is take things one day at a time; one moment at a time.

My house is a disaster. Christmas presents remain unpacked. Returns wait to be made. Decorations still deck our halls. I haven’t exercised in over two weeks. We can barely walk in the girls’ room. Clean laundry is piled all over my bed yet to be put away. Dirthy clothes overflow from hampers for the washer and dryer to run. Dishes are all over the counter. Dog hair is in noticeable clumps on the flour. Bleach sits on my bathroom beckoning me to disinfect. This is the reality of our life.

Another reality is that I spent time with family over the past few days. Our Post-Christmas-Pre-funeral-arrangement calendar was filled with fun for my children. When my daughter asked me to color a picture, I got down on the floor and did so. (This is a huge thing!) We are spending time with friends tonight to ring in the New Year and my house will look the same tomorrow.

I’ve given up on perfect. It won’t be the cleanliness of my home my children and grandchildren will talk about at my funeral. When I stand before God, I highly doubt He is going to be listing off the times I neglected to wash my kitchen floor. (Thank God!) My Grandmother’s life and death were an example of giving the gift of love. This is what I’m called to. This is what matters. In 2013, I’m going to do a better job of letting go of perfect in order to embrace authentic. Will you join me?

1.      Sign up for the free No More Perfect Moms email challenge that begins tomorrow! You'll be sent one short email a day to encourage you!

2.      WAIT until the week of Feb 4-9 to order the book. Why? This will concentrate as many sales as possible during this limited time period in an effort to get the book on the New York Times best sellers list. When a book is on the best sellers list, it reaches more people. If you’ll wait, you can actually help give the book visibility which will help reach more moms! THERE’S A PERK: If you order or purchase the book during the week of Feb 4-9, you will receive free bonuses! Jill will announce what these bonuses are on Feb 4, on her blog and the book website. The perks will include e-books, audio workshops, and more!

3.      Sign up for the Hearts at Home National Conference coming on March 15-16. The theme is No More Perfect Moms. I am so very excited that Candace Cameron Bure is one of the keynote speakers! (Remember DJ from Full House?)

Memories of Grandma

While Rod and I were at the Frankfort Fall Festival this year, I saw signs that read "Grandma & Grandpa's House: Where cousins meet to become friends". It's true in a way I'm certain only a grandma really realizes. They set up an environment where their grandchildren feel loved and secure and carefree. This was what Grandma did for her grandchildren.

Grandma's house was a place where kids could be kids. Of course, we had to be careful around the glass coffee table, but overall, it was our playground. I even had my one broken bone at Grandma's house falling off their old porch swing. For me, their house really was a place where my cousins became my friends.

When we would arrive for the family gathering (usually the last ones to show up), Grandma was always busy in the kitchen. I went straight to the playroom in search of my cousins. After all, there was a Christmas play to produce and star in. I had cousins that needed a little convincing to participate. Seeing as how Grandma was the only one who really enjoyed sitting through those productions anyway, we won't talk much about them.

As I helped my own daughter get ready to go to my mother-in-law's house on Christmas morning, I reflected on my excitement as a child. As a mother, I feel rushed, longing for a little more time at home. My daughters don't. They look forward to Grandma's house with anticipation. It was the same way for me as a kid. Going to Grandma's on Christmas Day was what we did.

I remember the way one of her cabinets clinked and clanked as we walked past it. It's a reminder of the glasses that were always filled with apple juice for every meal. Adults at one table and children at the other, it was just shy of a Norman Rockwell moment for this granddaughter.

Grandma and Grandpa sitting together in front of the fireplace that produced a false glow gave me a sense of warmth anyway. If we weren't receiving bathrobes, Kelly and I were gifted games for which we were well past the prime. From the perception of a child, however, our family was ideal.

As an adult, I realize our family is a lot like every other family out there - imperfect - each one with their own bit of crazy. Still, I cherish the way Grandma (with a little help from Hallmark) loved us well. We could always count on her to remember our birthdays with a greeting card. She kept track of each one of us and attended as many birthday parties as she physically could.

With so many in the world today feeling unloved, unwanted and uncared for, Grandma's love was a gift. You see it in every picture where she is holding a grandchild. That smile that shown with love for each one of us. I think she knew this was her responsibility as a Grandma: to give her grandchildren the gift of love.

As I drove from my mom's house to Aunt Sheree's the other day, I realized how very disconnected I am from Mokena. It started when I got married and moved to Joliet. This place became just a little less of "home" for me. When Grandpa died, I felt it again. The way Wolf Road made me feel sadness instead of excitement the way it did as a child. And even more so, when my dad died. Now again, with Grandma. This place just isn't home for me anymore.

Many of you have already the thoughts I wrote down for Grandma on her birthday. I find it a little ironic where my thoughts were considering how Grandma truly went Home on Christmas Day. I just felt the need to thank Grandma and share with her my hope. As the reality of adulthood brings memories that aren't so wonderful, I hope you will take the time to reflect on the good memories Grandma left us. They really are in abundance.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Baking Day 22

This morning, we are trying Christmas Bread with our Advent Reading as our kids will not be home with us tonight. I'm done baking. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will be spent with family enjoying all the hard work. Next year, I'm making it a point to start my baking in November so that it is complete by December. We'll see if it goes as planned. This year, I've learned I can accomplish a lot more if I simply connect it to something important to me.

Merry Christmas!

Advent Baking Day 21

White-Chocolate Cherry Shortbread
(from Better Homes and Gardens)

1/2 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 drops red food coloring (optional)
2 teaspoons shortening
white nonpareils and/or red edible glitter (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spread cherries on paper towels to drain well. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 4 ounces (2/3 cup) of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Knead mixture until it forms a smooth ball.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2-inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to 1-1/2-inch rounds. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool for 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a wire rack and let cool.

In a small saucepan, combine remaining 8 ounces white chocolate and shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie in chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. If desired, roll dipped edge in nonpareils and/or edible glitter. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Snowman Treats

My brother and I swapped a couple of kids tonight. He and his wife have the older kids for a sleepover and I have the younger ones. Since we have a guest tonight (and I was looking for something fun to spice up my cookie tray), I tried this new recipe. I'm pretty happy with the appearance and I assume the taste will be good. We'll see... haven't read our Advent reading tonight yet and that's when the cookies get eaten!

Day 21 Advent Cookie:

snowman treats

Snowman Treats Recipe

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Day 20 Advent Christmas Cookie

English Toffee Squares

1/2 pound butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg yolk
1 cup flour
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup cake flour
1 - 12 oz. milk chocolate bar
chopped walnuts (if desired)

Preheat oven to 350*. Cream butter, brown sugar, egg yolk and vanilla with a hand mixer. Stir in flour and cake flour with a wooden spoon. Spread batter on to a greased, large, thick cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes. Melt chocolate while toffee is baking. Take out of oven and spread on melted chocolate. Sprinkle on walnuts, if desired. Cut immediately (while still hot) into small squares.

It is more blessed to give than to receive (A Hearts at Home Blog Hop)

Bugs Daffy Roadrunner

Today I am participating in The Third Thursday Hearts at Home Blog Hop. Be sure to hope over to Jill Blog to see thoughts other women have to offer on Christmas and giving. What are some ways that you give? Do you have annual traditions? Do you include everyone on your list?

"It is more blessed to give than to receive."
"All I want for Christmas is more, more, more..."

The countdown in our home is 4 days until Christmas Eve. Ours ends a day earlier than most because that is the day our family starts opening presents! Since my dad passed away five years ago, my kids have had a sleepover at my mom's, with their cousins, on Christmas Eve Eve (not a typo). They wake up at her house Christmas Eve morning and receive one present from Grams. Later, when the rest of us arrive, they get a few more gifts from their aunts and uncles but it's nothing crazy.

In the evening, we head over to Rod's mom's to continue the festivities. While the location is slightly different than the original tradition, that gathering still consists of extended family including my late father-in-law's cousins and their children. This is really one of those ideal gatherings with family that is now so rare. The generosity on this night is overwhelming. Everyone gives gifts to children who are high school aged and younger. (I am so grateful that I rarely have to purchase clothing for my kids!)

On Christmas morning, our girls wake up to three gifts under the tree. Early in my parenting, I was given the tip to follow after the gifts the wise men brought. Since Jesus was given three gifts, why not limit theirs to the same number? (It's been a lifesaver to control my spending!)

For brunch, we are back at my mother-in-law's where Santa Grandma never disappoints. The party continues throughout the day with cousins, aunts and uncles. My children know nothing less than walking away with a bounty at Christmas!

I am so incredibly grateful for the generosity of others. Truly, I am. That being said, it can be a little difficult to teach my children that giving really is more blessed than receiving. Especially when their Christmas mindset is a little more like Daffy Duck's. While I desperately want to embrace the philosophy of living with less, it truly is a challenge.

Sponsoring children through Compassion has helped extend our children's world. We even have the kids shop and fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. It is normal that we give to family and friends. In our home, I do my best to cultivate a spirit of giving as well as gratitude. It's a struggle. I want them to feel normal. Anticipation of receiving presents, especially at Christmas (and birthdays), is fun and exciting. Not to mention, one of my love languages has always strongly been that of gifts. I struggle each day over how much is too much. When I read Ann Voskamp's post on Christmas in their household, I really struggle with the possibility that I've just got it all wrong.

Here is one thing I know: An attitude of giving is instilled in our children as they witness our demonstration of generosity. This year, we set out to build new holiday traditions. We began by going downtown Chicago for the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. While we cannot even begin to fill every need in the city, my husband and I were certain we could bring a smile to a few faces.

When our church filled bags last year to pass out to the homeless, it changed me. I'm the kind of person who walks past those begging, averting my eyes and guarding my wallet. Without good reason. I can justify up and down how I don't want to support additions and so on. That doesn't change the truth of my husband's words, "No one says, 'When I grow up, I want to be homeless'." With a few McDonald's gift cards in hand, we set out to live life differently.

As we walked around enjoying the holiday decorations, opportunities to share our plenty with those in need were abundant. My oldest now thinks doing magic tricks on a street corner is something to aspire to. While our youngest saw the balloon animal as a must have, we saw an opportunity for giving. Even though our middle daughter has difficulty looking people in the eyes, we are hopeful that she will lift her head long enough to an awareness of those in need. The smiles we received from a few random acts of kindness we extended to a choice few has changed me.

It's not like I feel the need to give money to the Salvation Army every time we enter or exit a store this time of year. They are simply a reminder to me that others are in need. We gift because we were given the greatest gift of all and we want to share Jesus with others. My prayer is to implement a spirit of giving not just at Christmastime but our whole life long.

"Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. ” - Luke 6:38



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Please remind me (Reminders from Pecan Tassies)

Pecan Tassies make me think of my dad. He always had a way of making me feel like all the hard work I put into cooking and baking was worth it. While he wasn't a big eater of sweets, there was one year he really enjoyed this treat. As I bite into the ooey-gooey pecan-pie type of cookie, my heart is warmed with memories of my dad.

There are twelve days left in the year. That means I have less than two weeks remaining of saying "no" to all desserts. Tonight, my youngest touched her tongue to her Advent cookie and turned her nose up telling me she didn't want it. My husband has an aversion to all things associated with double dipping, so I knew he would not want the cookie. Not wanting to waste such a delicious treat, I took a bite. Instantly, I felt the comfort I've been set so hard on finding in God rather than in food. I walked over to the garbage can and tossed the rest of the cookie away.

I'm still so far from turning to God to sort my emotions. Desserts give me instant satisfaction. However, this year will not be in vain. I must remember the clarity of mind I have felt in swearing off desserts. There is growth in my relationship with God that I haven't experienced for a long time. I sincerely believe that is because I have denied myself in an effort to say "yes" to God.

In a very short time, I will technically be able to treat myself again. Please remind me of my reason behind saying "no". I most certainly want to continue to seek for fulfillment in God above all else. If that means passing on desserts for the rest of my life, it's that important. As my friends, I ask you: Don't allow me to party alone. If you see me treating myself a little too often with a little too much, remind me of my "why".

"You satisfy me more than the richest feast." - Psalm 63:5

Advent Cookie 19:
Pecan Tassies

Tart shells:
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup flour

2 Tb butter, melted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350*. For tart shells, beat butter and cream cheese. Add flour, mix until a soft dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls into ungreased mini-muffin pans and press dough until dough rises slightly above rim of pan. (Forming a little cup for the filling.)

For filling, mix melted butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla. Add pecans and mix well. Fill each tart shell. Bake 20-25 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Remove from oven and cool in pan 3 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when totally cool, if desired.

Yields 24 tarts

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

It's Christmas Again (for my Grandma)

Today is my Grandma's 82nd birthday (my dad's mom). I was recently told that she has congestive heart failure. To process my emotions and thoughts, I wrote about memories of Christmas with my Grandma. I found myself wanting to thank her for the way she impacted my life as a child. While I didn't see her read it, I included it in her card today and hope maybe it will warm her heart with memories as well.

It really isn't a poem but writing this allowed me to work through some of what I was feeling. The girls and I were able to deliver a variety of Christmas cookies to her today which was fun. We had a good visit but life is so different from what it was as a child. At times, I find myself longing for Christmas past.

It's Christmas Again

Grandma, I want to thank you for the many gifts you've given me
Thank you for your commitment to Grandpa
Your relationship gave your granddaughter a sense of security
You and Grandpa, beside the fireplace, in your chairs
It's Christmas again.

Thank you for all you did to raise your children
God used your oldest son to give me life and life reborn
Aunts, uncles and cousins gathered around the tree
It's Christmas again.

Thank you for all the hours you spent cooking and cleaning
The table set; glasses filled with juice; family seated for the meal
It's Christmas again.

Thank you for the open welcome to wander through the store
For me, it was a place associated with love
Where I could complete Christmas shopping and visit Santa Claus
It's Christmas again.

Thank you for sitting through our yearly Christmas production
Your encouragement was a gift used to build confidence in me
Your home; the landing of the stairs - our stage
It's Christmas again.

Thank you for family memories
This season and may dad are connected; he was our gift
And he taught me to hope in the greatest gift
It's Christmas again.

God sent His only Son, Immanuel - "God with us"
To know He is with us - this is our hope
It's Christmas again.

When I find myself longing for Christmas past
I turn my hope to Christmas yet to come
The hope then for a Savior
The hope now for His return.
The great reunion
Grandpa; dad; you; me
All of us together; God with us
That's Christmas again!

- Tristi Nikelle Tuttle Carlson 2012

Starlight Mint Surprise Cookies

Starlight Mint Surprise Cookies

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 Tb water
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 (6-oz) pkg. solid chocolate mint candy wafers (Andes Mints)
60 walnut halves or pieces (optional)

In large bowl, combine sugar, brown sugar, margarine, water, vanilla and eggs; blend well. In medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt; mix well. Add to sugar mixture; mix at low speed until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 2 hours for easier handling.

Heat oven to 375*. Using about 1 tablespoon dough, press dough around each candy wafer to cover completely. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Top each with walnut half. (I usually top with chopped Ande's mints but didn't realize the package has shrunk in size. This time, I just pressed the cookie in green sugar prior to baking to pretty them up. I omit the walnuts as I'm trying to make cookies my kids want to eat.)

Bake at 375* for 7-9 minutes or until light golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ho-Ho Snowballs

Every year, I like to try new recipes to attempt to find cookies that HAVE to be included at Christmas. My oldest, in particular, is difficult to please. Today's attempt including coconut and white chocolate was with her in mind.

Click here for the recipe for Ho-Ho Snowballs. My two little ones like them a lot. She like the first couple of bites but didn't care for it in the end. I have to wait for my husband to get home to share his opinion as to whether or not they are worth the effort. (I am currently on a fast from desserts but am really tempted to try it since it is one that I've never tried before.)

So far, of the cookies that I have posted about this year, these are the ones that continue to stand the test of time:

sour cream cut-out cookies

red raspberry twirls

nutter butter santa cookies

oreo bon bons

corn flake christmas wreaths

crispy chocolate craisin jumbles

chocolate chip kiss cookies

santa snickers brand surprise cookies

rice krispies peanut butter balls

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Baking Tip and Lemon Sugar Tea Cookies


It is not a good idea to mistakenly use 3/4 lb. butter rather than 3/4 cup. The cookies are tasty but not pretty (and they basically run off the baking sheet). If you want to use the correct ingredients, however, this is a pretty tasty cookie.


3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1 teaspoon lemon extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder

In a medium bowl, cream together butter and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, corn syrup and lemon extract. Stir in flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Cover dough, and chill in the refrigerator at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325*. Roll chilled dough into walnut sized balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake 12 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 15 Advent Cookie

Day 15 Advent Cookie:

Cathedral Windows

My favorite on the Christmas Cookie Tray

Day 13 Advent Cookie:
Rice Krispies Peanut Butter Balls

1 stick butter, softened
1 1/2 c. peanut butter
3 c. rice krispies
2 c. powdered sugar
1 large 7 oz. Hershey bar
1 - 6 oz. package chocolate chips
1/4 bar parafin wax

Mix peanut butter and butter together. Add powdered sugar and rice krispies. Make into 60 balls about 1 inch each. Put in freezer.

In double boiler, melt Hershey bar, chocolate chips and parafin wax. Mix well. Dip peanut butter balls in chocolate dip and place on wax paper on cookie sheet.

Put in refrigerator until chocolate hardens, about 10 minutes.

Day 14: Chocolate covered pretzels made with leftover melted chocolate from the peanut butter balls

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 12

Easy Day 12 of Advent Christmas Cookies:

Chocolate Covered Peppermint Cookies

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Advent Cookies 10 and 11


1 bag (9 oz.) Hershey's Kisses
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Hershey's Mini Chips semi-sweet

Chocolate drizzle recipe

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove wrappers from chocolate kisses. In large mixing bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla until well blended. Add flour, blend until smooth. Stir in small chocolate chips.

Mold scant tablespoon full of dough around each chocolate kiss, covering completely. Shape into balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Prepare Chocolate Drizzle, if desired. Drizzle over each cookie.

Chocolate Drizzle: Place 1/4 cup Hershey's Mini Chips and 1 teaspoon shortening in small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH (100%) for 30 seconds; stir. If necessary, microwave at HIGH an additional 20 seconds or until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth when stirred.


2 sticks butter (softened)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (sifted)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 package (13 oz) snickers miniatures (squares)

Combine butter, peanut butter and sugars in mixer on medium to low speed until light and fluffy. Slowly add eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined. Mix in flour, salt and baking soda. Cover and chill dough for 2-3 hours. Unwrap all the snickers. Remove dough from fridge. Divide into 1 tablespoon pieces and flatten. Place a snickers in the center of each piece of dough. From the dough into a ball around each snickers. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 300* for 10-12 minutes. Cool cookies on baking rack. Spruce up cookies with powdered sugar or drizzle melted chocolate.

Monday, December 10, 2012

On the 9th Day of Advent Cookies

On the 9th Day of Advent Cookies:


1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups each: crisp rice cereal, semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried chopped cranberries or cherries

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until creamy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in flour mixture. Stir in the cereal, chocolate chips and dried cranberries just until mixed.

Drop by tablespoonfuls on a lightly greased baking sheet; bake until golden, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

We modified the recipe to use 1 1/3 cups whit-chocolate chips (instead of 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips) and 1 full cup of craisins.

(While these cookies did not come out with the appearance I thought they should, my husband and oldest daughter loved them!)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Hay Stacks

Another quick cookie for Day 8:

Hay Stacks

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 cups chow mein noodles (I used 3 cups noodles)
1/2 cup peanuts (I omitted the peanuts)

Microwave the butterscotch chips and peanut butter on 50 percent power for 3 to 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and blend to coat noodles thoroughly. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed paper.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Letting go of Advent cookies

This is really the year for learning to let go. Today I let go of the Advent cookies. It's been an extremely busy week and my body turned off this afternoon. I took a nap and it was impossible to have another cookie made before I took the girls to their Grandma's house for a sleepover. It just wasn't going to happen.

We did our Advent reading before shipping them off for the evening. Thankfully, I had a few white chocolate covered pretzels left that I had made the other night. It's an easy way to spice up a cookie tray. When a recipe I have leaves me with an overabundance of melted chocolate, pretzels are an easy treat. Tonight they appeased my girls to keep up with our new tradition.

Letting go isn't easy but it's for the best.

Day 7: White Chocolate covered pretzels with sprinkles

Thursday, December 6, 2012

On the 6th day of Christmas Cookies

I managed to make a cookie I remember from my childhood tonight. Easy and yummy!

Advent Day 6

1 cup butter
8 cups mini marshmallows
2 1/2 teaspoons green food coloring (I just used a bunch of drops until it look green enough)
2 teaspoons vanilla
7 cups cornflake cereal
red m&m's or red hot candies

Melt butter and marshmallows together. Add food coloring, vanilla and cereal. Butter hands so marshmallow doesn't stick to them. Mix together into a blob of gooey deliciousness.

Lay out parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Pick up a golf-ball sized amount and place on parchment paper. Shape into a wreath or simply add m&m's or red hots for decoration. Let set until ready.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Praying for you

A friend of mine shared that her family keeps Christmas cards out all year round. Each day they pick one family's greetings out of the basket to remind them to pray. This is a tradition we have followed suit in. If we get a Christmas card from you this season, we will be praying for you during 2013.

I keep two baskets on a shelf. One with cards to pray for. The other with cards that have already been covered in prayer. Each night, after story time, one of our girls picks a card. Each person in our family lifts that family to God in prayer. It has become a rich ritual of embracing relationships and prayer.

Do you have a specific tradition for bedtime prayers?

Day 5 Advent Cookie:

Oreo Bon Bons

1 (1 lb) package oreo cookies
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16 oz) package melting chocolate (I used almond bark)

Place oreos in the food processor and pulse until it's a fine, crumbly powder. A food processor works best, but can also be done in a ziploc bag with a rolling pin.

Add cream cheese and process until completely combined. Dough will be thick and sticky.

Put dough mixture in the refrigerator until well chilled.

Line a baking pan with aluminum foil or wax paper. Roll the dough into small balls and place on the lined baking pan. Place the balls in the freezer until firm.

Melt the chocolate according to directions on package. (I use a double boiler.) Dip the balls into the chocolate to cover. Sprinkle the chocolate covered balls with sprinkles and place them back on the lined pan.

Put the balls back in the refrigerator until chocolate is set. Serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Letting go of the Cookie Exchange

One of the traditions I had established over the past few years was the cookie exchange. I'd open my home for friends to gather together and swap recipes. The bonus was that each of us walked away with a variety of treats for the season. I enjoy finding a reason to host a party... especially when there is an opportunity to use the platform for God.

With the exchange of cookies and quality time together, we focused in on the real meaning for the season. It is always fun to send the women off with a thought to take with them throughout the holiday as well as an ornament. My hope is that when my friends decorate their home for Christmas each year, they are reminded of Jesus, their importance to Him, and His purpose for coming to earth.

While I LOVE hosting this event, it's NOT happening this year. Something has to give so Christmas doesn't feel quite as hectic. This was what I intentionally let go of this year. I miss it but know it was the right decision.

What can you let go of to reduce the crazy busy of the season?

Advent Cookie, Day 4 - Check out the recipe for Nutter Butter Santa Cookies at Taste of Home.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Red Raspberry Twirls

While Spring-like weather in December has confused my responsibilities, I did manage to get a cookie baked for the third day of our Advent reading.

Red Raspberry Twirls

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup seedless red raspberry jam
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup toasted almonds, ground*

In a large mixing bowl beat the butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and baking powder. Beat until combined, scarping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, milk. Beat in as much flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour by hand. Cover; chill 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle.

Meanwhile, for filling, in a saucepan combine jam and cornstarch. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Stir in almonds. Cover and set aside to cool.

Divide dough in half. On waxed paper, use a floured rolling pin to roll each portion into a 12x8-inch rectangle. Spread with filling. From short side, roll up each, jelly-roll style, removing waxed paper as you roll. Moisten edges and pinch to seal. Wrap in waxed paper or clear plastic wrap. Chill for 4 to 24 hours.

Line a cookie sheet with foil. Grease foil; set aside. Using a thin-bladed knife, cut dough into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake in a 375* oven for 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.

*To toast almonds, spread the nuts in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Bake in a 350* oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown, watching carefully and stirring once or twice to brown evenly.

(Makes 60 cookies)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Object of my Baking

It's day two of the official Christmas countdown in our home. A high of 64 today confuses my emotions a bit as I fight back tears at every mentioned tradition of old. The day is busy and I long to sit and rest but the excitement of my girls wins out and I settle into my kitchen for much of my day.

Today we made what I call Aunt Becky's Christmas Cookies. Growing up, I looked forward to the celebration with my maternal side of the family. Every year, my Aunt Becky would bring her sour cream cut-out cookies; brightly frosted and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It was a highlight of the season for me. I could dream about the colorful frosted treats even today.

For a good handful of years or more now, I have been baking a spread of Christmas cookies. Needing some color for the tray, it seemed logical to ask my aunt for her coveted recipe. Only one batch of cookies needs to be baked due to the fact that it makes around 60 cookies. I think the girls enjoy helping make these the most due to the fact that they can help cut-out the shapes to frost and decorate prior to enjoying the treat on their tongues.

The dough is a little delicate and sticky so they don't get to help roll it out. With the girls lined up at the counter, chosen cookie cutter in hand, my aggravation with the rolling pin in hand grew. I expressed my frustration agreeing with my daughter's clarification that the dough (and not my children) was the object of annoyance.

Eventually, the dough was rolled out and trees, stars, stockings and candy canes took shape. While I had forgotten to preheat the oven, it appeared things were going smoothly. I put the first pans of cookies in the oven setting the timer for the lesser 10 minute timeframe than the 12 potentially needed. With 2 minutes remaining on the timer, my nose alerted my senses. Opening the oven, I was immediately irritated to find burnt cookies.

Apparently, ovens don't work exactly as they should when they approach 17 years of operation. The next batches all cooked in less than 7 minutes each and I managed to salvage this Advent experience.

This seems more and more to be a year of learning to let go. While today did not play out quite to my satisfaction, it was a good Christmas memory for my girls. They each enjoyed decorating cookies, licking frosting and eating sprinkles. My Christmas tray may not be to perfection but my love for my girls was the object of my baking; not the approval of others. It's about time I learn that.

Aunt Becky's Christmas Cookies

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening (butter preferred)
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. vanilla
5 cups flour


1 lb. powdered sugar
1 Tb milk (add up to 5 Tbs to desired consistency)
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. butter (preferred)

Mix ingredients together. Spray and flour pan well. Roll out dough in pan with plenty of flour to prevent breaking cut-outs. Cut out cookies. Roll out to 1/4" or less. Preheat oven to 400*. Cook 10-12 minutes. Cool completely. Frost and decorate. Freeze cookies after cooling for best results.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Advent Begins

"We need to make Christmas cookies!" My four-year-old has been making this demand for well over a week now. It is now tradition to tie our holiday baking in with the reading of our Advent book. Every night, starting December 1st, we begin the countdown to Christmas with one variety of cookie for the season accompanied by the story of Jesus Christ's birth.

My happy Andelise with some Christmas tree sandwich cookies
Our Advent Book is done beautifully by John and Kathy Stockman over at Celebrations and Traditions. If you do not have an Advent tradition, we highly recommend this one! Our girls love to take turns reading as well as opening the unique door for each day. This is our bedtime story through Christmas and it is one thing I confidently embrace as tradition for our family.

As for the first day of our Advent Christmas Cookies,I was finding myself more Grinch-like than usual this season and didn't have many ingredients on hand for our standard go to treats.  After thumbing through my recipes, I decided to try the Pampered Chef All-Occasion Cookies from their Celebrate cookbook with a Christmas twist. My girls and my husband tell me they were a tasty treat.

Here's the recipe:

All-Occasion Cookies

1 package (18.25 oz) devil's food cake mix
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 pound (4 sticks) butter or margarine, divided (do not use vegetable oil spread)


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons milk
6 to 8 drops green food coloring
1 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional - I did NOT use)

Preheat oven to 350*F. In small bowl, microwave 2 sticks of butter on High 1 minute or until melted. Slice remaining butter into 1/2 inch pieces, add to melted butter, tossing to coat. Allow butter to stand 3-5 minutes or until softened.

Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine cake mix and flour; blend well using whisk, breaking up any large lumps. Whisk butter until smooth and free of lumps. If necessary, microwave butter an additional 10-20 seconds or until creamy and pourable. Do not melt completely.

Pour butter all at once into dry ingredients, scraping the butter from bowl. Mix until dry ingredients are incorporated and dough is smooth. (If dough is too stiff to stir, knead by hand until smooth.)

Use cookie press to form Christmas tree shaped cookies.

Bake cookies 15-17 minutes. Cool 3 minutes on before moving to cooling rack. Cool completely.

Spread filling between two cookies to complete the sandwich appearance.