Thursday, December 31, 2009

Thrifty Thursday!

Tip # 7: Let the “deal” bloggers do the work to help you live frugally!

I have latched on to several really good bloggers who do the work of finding awesome weekly deals! I use to have to spend a lot of time sorting through grocery and store ads matching their deals with my coupons. Not anymore!

There’s an awesome local blogger who digs through all the local grocery ads, points out great deals, and matches their specials with any coupons that are available. There are many bloggers that find freebies and money saving deals for living frugally--find them and follow them!
Just last week, I was browsing through my list of “deal blogs” and came across a super sale on Leapster games at Toys R Us. This totally perked my interest because the boys are getting Leapsters for their birthday tomorrow from Grandma and Grandpa.
(Birthday or birthdays? Two boys / one day / singular or plural? The correct way to say this has been really bugging me! Opinions???)

The sale at Toys R Us was "Buy 1 Get 1 Free Leapster Games". Throughout November and December, many magazines had $5 off coupons for these games. The games are rather pricey at $25 each, but bogo plus two $5 off coupons seemed pretty attractive!

Geoffrey Giraffe from the Toys R Us Birthday Club sent the boys each $3 giftcards! Woo-hoo! It almost seemed like a deal too good to be true!

I grabbed four games and headed to the register ready for defeat by a coupon nazi ready to spoil my looming coupon rush...but the especially friendly clerk rang up the games, cheerfully took my coupons and congratulated me on a deal well played!

I have a new love for Toys R Us!

Of course, in sneaky mommy fashion, the boys were right along with me and had no idea what we were purchasing! That was hardest part!

I have listed some of my favorite freebie and deal blogs in my sidebar. I would love to see it grow! Do you have any awesome frugal living blogs to add to the list?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One last Christmas treat recipe...

As you may have noticed, I developed a little Obsessive Compulsive Disorder this holiday season in the *baking* department! Excitement just overwhelmed me as I tried new recipe after new recipe and turned out old favorites, as well. I'm now feeling some remorse for sending so many innocent people down the road towards Type 2 Diabetes...all in the name of Christmas cheer!
My mixer has been safely stored away and the oven has been turned off...but I have just one last recipe to share.

Fanny May Bars

I'm pretty sure that I don't need to be eating anything that has the word *fanny* in the title...I'm wondering if the title came from the almost 2 cups of butter wracked into these super yummy bars!
These amazingly rich chocolaty mint bars are a signature treat of my mother-in-law. I've never made them, but I might just have to bring them out around St. Patrick's Day!

Fanny May Bars

1 c. sugar
1 stick soft butter
4 eggs2 c. Hershey's syrup
1 c. flour

Cream together sugar and butter. Add eggs, one a time. Add Hershey's syrup and flour. Bake at 350 degrees in a 9x13 pan for 20 minutes.

4 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter, softened
2 T. milk
1+tsp. mint flavoring
Green food coloring
4 T. creme de menthe (optional)

Beat well and spread on cool brownies; chill in refrigerator.

1 (12 oz) pkg. chocolate chips
6 T. margarine

Melt together in microwave and stir to blend. Pour over brownies.
Store in refrigerator.

Wow! Just reading that recipe gives me that Christmas sugar buzz! I think I'll head over here and make these cleansing smoothies!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The tire incident...

What happened to our family on Saturday evening as we neared home was one of those crazy events that you can't imagine what you would do if it happened...until it happens!
Thankfully, I didn't have to do anything! God certainly knew what He was doing when He provided me with a my manly mechanical man!

Here's a brief synopsis of our ride home:
*Leave Estherville driving on slightly icy highways
*Decide to take a desserted snow-packed county road rather than deal with the ice
*Stop in Ft. Dodge for amazing tacos at Taco Tico (not really pertinent, but these tacos are so tasty!)
*Hop on a four lane highway to catch the interstate since their roads are clear and we can travel at normal speeds
*Get to our town and run the car through the wash quickly since it's so snow/ice packed
*Decide to take side streets home for fun

THEN, while traveling around a round-a-bout, suddenly Cody says, "Oh no."

For a guy who never reacts, that's like hanging on to an electric fence out in a pasture and grabbing my hand so I get the brunt of the shock...

Cody opened his door, popped his head out, and said, "I think our tire just broke off. Don't move."

Thanks. It's super easy for me just to sit really still in a car with three anxious children...

I, of course, very submissively, say, "What?" and hop out of the car. (That wasn't submissive?)

Sure enough, the tire was all cock-eyed...not properly attached at all!

Thankfully, it wasn't a worst case scenario in so many ways!

The tire had literally fallen off but had fallen in a way that caught the vehicle by the rotor so we didn't completely crash down on the ground. Although there were some "things" on the tire broken off and missing, it looked like the tire could be put back on. (according to Cody...I had no idea what we were looking at!)

There are so many little details that only God can receive the glory for in what transpired...
*Cody was driving slowly, so the damage was not serious.
*We had arrived in our town, very close to home and not still on county snow packed roads.
*We were not still going 70 miles an hour down the road watching our tire fly off.
*Our awesomely kind neighbors, who happened to be snowed out from their trip to Arizona, happened to be home, happened to have a tire jack, and happened to say "yes!" when I called and pleaded for help! They are seriously the most kind, helpful, generous neighbors!
Cody and Mark were able to get the tire back on, even with a few pieces broken off and missing.

As I was reviewing all these events with Cody, I was raving about how blessed we were that God had protected us and shielded us from serious danger. He was hesitant to have me post this story because so many times we brag boldly about the protective hand of God on us when things turn out well, but what if things had turned out differently?

What if that tire had just flown by us on the interstate causing us to have a severe crash? What if the tire had fallen off on one of those deserted county roads in the nine degree weather? Would God have been any less in control of the situation? Would we not have counted that situation as a blessing?

God has a sovereign plan for our lives. Plans that are meant to bring glory to Him. We pray that this small trial did indeed bring glory to Him. We also pray and trust that in the big trials of life, we will continue to bring glory to Him. Our lives are never going to spin out of His control, His care, or His love.

1 Peter 1:3-9
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.


Christmas was filled with
treacherous travels,beautiful Christmas lights,
stinky cheese from a delicious raclette meal,my dad's reading of the birth of our Savior from Luke 2,fun with cousins, NEW TOYS!fun in 18 inches of snow,and fun in a pool...all in the same day!
The excitement didn't end there!
On the way home, Cloe lost her second tooth!

But wait...there was one more thing...

Can you guess what happened next?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Luke 2:1-20
The Birth of Jesus Christ

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus
that all the world should be registered.
This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee,
rom the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David,
which is called Bethlehem,
because he was of the house and lineage of David,
to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
And she gave birth to her firstborn son
and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger,
because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.
And the angel said to them,
"Fear not, for behold,
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger."

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

When the angels went away from them into heaven,
the shepherds said to one another,
"Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has made known to us."

And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph,
and the baby lying in a manger.
And when they saw it,
they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.

And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.

But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.

Merry Christmas!

Have a blessed day as you celebrate
the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Traditions

Every year when I was growing up,
our family would head over to my Grandpa and Grandma Reed's house on Christmas Eve for:


When I first saw this episode of Seinfeld,
I immediately became the Soup Nazi of Oyster Stew.
No soup for you...

This year, I'm looking forward to a new "oyster replacement" tradition
that will be courtesy of my sister.
We'll be enjoying a raclette meal.

potatoes...ham...melted ooey gooey cheesey goodness...mmm...

Thankfully, my brother is a missionary in France,
so we can double the specialness of this European meal by having it in his honor.
Aren't we so thoughtful?

What are your favorite or not-so-favorite Christmas traditions?
Please share!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Christmas History Lesson...I was a teacher, remember?


Have you noticed?

He's everywhere.

Not in an o m n i p r e s e n t God-like way...
just in the way that white bearded men
seem to abound during the Christmas season.

Do you take your children to visit Santa?
We do.
Twice, in fact.

To let our children deliver their long list of desired toys?

To participate in the magic of Santa?

To celebrate a historical character who exemplified Christ-like giving in extraordinary ways?

To lovingly remind a dressed up Santa man that Christmas is more than presents?

To share with Santa that there are still boys and girls who celebrate the birth of our Savior?

I love the surprised look on the Santa's face when Cloe shares that we celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas. She also shares that we give gifts as a way of celebrating the gift God gave to us through the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Am I a bit of a kill-joy?
I don't think so.

Our kids seem to appreciate honesty and are thrilled to learn
that St. Nicholas was actually a real man!

Here's a great little piece on the history surrounding St. Nicholas.
Even if you don't read it all...please read the last line!
It's the best!

Saint Nicholas

The larger-than-life myths surrounding Santa Claus actually emanate from the very real person of Saint Nicholas. It is difficult to know the exact details of his life with certainty as the ancient records are sparse, but pieces can be put together as a mosaic of his life.

A Gift-Giver

Nicholas was born in the third century in Patara, a village in what is now Turkey. He was born into an affluent family, but his parents died tragically when he was quite young. His parents had raised him to be a devout Christian, which led him to spend his great inheritance on helping the poor, especially children. He was known to frequently give gifts to children, sometimes even hanging socks filled with treats and gifts.

Perhaps his most famous act of kindness was helping three sisters. Because their family was too poor to pay for their wedding dowry, three young Christian women were facing a life of prostitution until Nicholas paid their dowry, thereby saving them from a horrible life of sexual slavery.

A Bishop and Saint

Nicholas grew to be a well-loved Christian leader and was eventually voted the Bishop of Myra, a port city that the apostle Paul had previously visited (Acts 27:5–6). Nicholas reportedly also traveled to the legendary Council of Nicea, where he helped defend the deity of Jesus Christ in A.D. 325.

Following his death on December 6, 343, he was canonized as a saint. The anniversary of his death became the St. Nicholas holiday when gifts were given in his memory. He remained a very popular saint among Catholic and Orthodox Christians, with some two thousand churches named after him. The holiday in his honor eventually merged with Christmas as they were celebrated within weeks of one another.


During the Reformation, however, Nicholas fell out of favor with Protestants, who did not approve of canonizing certain people as saints and venerating them with holidays. His holiday was not celebrated in any Protestant country except Holland, where his legend as Sinterklass lived on. In Germany, Martin Luther replaced him with the Christ child as the object of holiday celebration, or, in German, Christkindl. Over time, the celebration of the Christ child was simply pronounced Kriss Kingle and oddly became just another name for Santa Claus.


The legends about Santa Claus are most likely a compilation of other folklore. For example, there was a myth in Nicholas’ day that a demon was entering people’s homes to terrorize children and that Nicholas cast it out of a home. This myth may explain why it was eventually believed that he came down people’s chimneys.

Also, there was a Siberian myth (near the North Pole) that a holy man, or shaman, entered people’s homes through their chimneys to leave them mushrooms as gifts. According to the legend, he would hang them in front of the fire to dry. Reindeer would reportedly eat them and become intoxicated. This may have started the myth that the reindeer could fly, as it was believed that the shaman could also fly. This myth may have merged with the Santa Claus myth and if so, explains him traveling from the North Pole to come down the chimney and leave presents on the mantle over the fireplace before flying away with reindeer.

These stories of Santa Claus were first brought to America by Dutch immigrants. In the early twentieth century, stores began having Santa Claus present for children during the Christmas season. Children also began sending letters to the North Pole as the legends surrounding an otherwise simple Christian man grew.

We keep the center of our holiday focused on Jesus; it’s probably what Nicholas would have wanted.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Gingerbread Fun!

Snowy days are perfect days for gingerbread storytelling and gingerbread making!
The house was made from a kit, but the gingerbread men are all homemade!

Ooo...can we eat this yet? Pleeease?

Run, run as fast as you can!
You can't catch me, I'm the Gingerbread Man!

Gingerbread Men
3 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature, softened)
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 large egg
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

Royal Icing
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1 3/4 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter. Add sugar and beat until fluffy. Mix in eggs and molasses. Gradually add the flour mixture; combine on low speed. (You may need to work it with your hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.) Divide dough in thirds; wrap each third in plastic. Chill for at least 1 hour or overnight. Before rolling out, let sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes. If after refrigerating the dough feels too soft to roll-out, work in a little more flour.

Heat oven to 350°. Place a dough third on a large piece of lightly floured parchment paper or wax paper. Using a rolling pin, roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate again for 5-10 minutes to make it easier to cut out the cookies. Use either a cookie cutter or place a stencil over the dough and use a knife to cut into desired shapes.

Transfer to ungreased baking sheets. Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Let sit a few minutes and then use a metal spatula to transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Decorate as desired.

Royal Icing
Beat egg whites and lemon juice together, adding the powdered sugar until the mixture holds stiff peaks. If the icing is too runny, add more powdered sugar until you get the desired consistency. Fill a piping bag with the icing to pipe out into different shapes. (Or use a plastic sandwich bag, with the tip of one corner of the bag cut off.) Keep the icing covered while you work with it or it will dry out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I found THE recipe!

My very favorite kind of Christmas cookie is the frosted sugar cookie! Actually, it doesn't even need to be Christmas and those are my favorite cookies! The only problem for me has been finding the *perfect* recipe! I've tasted the perfect cookie, I just hadn't quite made them. Until now...

A few months ago, I made my first real "blog" friend: Amanda. The only connection we have is that we're moms who have a love for baking. She bakes...she takes pictures...I read...I copy. It's a great friendship!

Her frosted sugar cookies are the absolute most beautiful things I had ever seen. She has made every size, shape, design, and pattern imaginable! People bid at auctions for her cookies. She's pretty amazing!

So, last week, when she posted her recipe for her amazing sugar cookies, I jumped right on board! You will not be disappointed in the time and effort it takes to make these amazingly delicious cookies! My cookies, of course, are not quite as detailed and beautiful, but since they don't seem to be lasting on the cookie platter that long, I'm ok with that!

These are my cookies...not the most glamorous...maybe someone should sign me up for a cake decorating class at Michaels!

Amanda's Amazing Sugar Cookies
  • 1-½ cup Butter (I Use Unsalted)
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 2 whole Eggs
  • 2 whole Eggs Yolks
  • 4 teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 teaspoons Almond Extract
  • 4 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
In a mixer, beat butter and sugar until well combined, about 2 minutes.
Add in 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks and mix until combined.
Add in vanilla and almond extract; mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly (about a cup at a time) add flour to butter mixture and combine. You can use a mixer or not, just depends on how strong you are. ;)
I usually just mix ingredients until they are combined, as I have heard that if you over-mix this dough it will get tough.
Put dough in some Saran wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour. When you are ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out, cut out cookies, and bake for 6-8 minutes.
Amanda's Awesome Icing
  • 1 cup Confectioners Sugar (powder Sugar)
  • 1 Tablespoon Milk
  • 1 drop Lemon Juice (fresh Or Processed)
  • 1 Tablespoon Light Corn Syrup
Combine powder sugar, corn syrup, and lemon juice in a bowl.
******This next step is important!******If you need a thicker frosting, say for outlining your cookies, add LESS milk.
Just a drop at a time. If you have already outlined your cookies and need a to fill in or ’spill’ your cookies, you can add more milk (as much as you would need) to make your frosting very runny.
If you are using food coloring, be sure to use LESS milk. Most food colorings are liquid and can make your frosting more runny. If you are using a gel food coloring, your milk quantity can remain the same.
If you want to add different flavors, you can add drops of vanilla extract, almond extract, lemon, etc. to flavor your frosting.
If you want more SHINE, use more corn syrup and less milk. This frosting will stay good for days in the fridge.
Thanks for sharing this recipe, Amanda! Our friends, neighbors, family, pediatrician, and dentist thank you too! Amazing!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Take Time to Celebrate

I stumbled across this story several years ago. I love its reminder to celebrate the Christmas season -- the birth of Jesus our Savior!

As the holiday season approaches, I am reminded of December a few years ago when I did my best to wash away the happiness from the Christmas season. The tide started building by Thanksgiving. I became increasingly busy, convincing myself that all the effort was the best thing I could do for my family. I was crafting and sewing, cleaning and cooking on top of all the other obligations I had in teaching and volunteering. I found myself dreading the lovely invitations that we received to celebrate during this blessed holiday season. Instead of the good cheer these invitations were meant to provide, I saw them as representing wave upon wave of guilt. These celebrations seemed frivolous in light of what I had to do, and I felt like I was drowning.

I didn't have time to celebrate with others.

I felt like every slot of time I carved out of my schedule should have a specific point and purpose. What I was blind to was the fact that celebrating with others has a point and a purpose.

Celebration is actually a spiritual discipline. It is the logical extension of worship. Once we understand how amazing God is in worshipful awe, we can then celebrate how amazing He is to us, together, as a community. Celebrating together accentuates our gratefulness and delight in life, love, family and friends. We need to celebrate as an antidote to the suffering, selfishness, senseless busyness and sanitized emotions around us that would steal our joy.

Dallas Willard says that the spiritual discipline celebration is the "...most overlooked and misunderstood." Of all times of the year, Christmas and Easter are times to celebrate, to pull out all the stops and remember the incredible love God has for us in giving us his Son and his unconditional grace.

"For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." 1 Timothy 4:4

"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." Philippians 4:4-5

Enjoy this season as moms and families. We are called to celebrate!

Coo-Coo for....


Well, not just plain, raw, tart cranberries--they, of course, must be swirled, twirled, and coated in some sort of buttery and sugary goodness! And, of course, I would never just make a buttery, sugary, cranberry treat without an excuse to share it! Thank goodness for MOPS! These are the cakes that have made an appearance at the last two MOPS...where amazing food has been in an abundance!
(I know this is an embarrassingly horrible picture. The cake was me!)

Cranberry Orange Pound Cake

1 1/2 c. butter, softened
2 3/4 c. sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 tsp. grated orange peel
3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 c. sour cream
1 1/2 c. chopped fresh cranberries

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla and orange peel. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Fold in cranberries.Pour into a greased and floured 10-in. fluted tube pan.
Bake at 350° for 65-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

Upside Down Cranberry Cake

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 3/4 cups cranberries, fresh
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk

Arrange a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350F. Use 2 Tablespoons of the butter to generously grease an 8-inch round cake pan. Set aside.
Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and the cinnamon and allspice to a small bowl. Pour mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan. Tilt and swirl the sugar around until it evenly coats the bottom -but not the sides- of the pan. Arrange cranberries in a single layer on top.
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or using an electric hand-held mixer) cream the remaining 6 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat until well combined. Add the vanilla and mix in well.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Start your mixer on low speed and carefully add 1/3 of the flour mixture followed by 1/3 of the milk. Repeat, scraping down the bowl occasionally, until you have added all the flour and milk.
Spoon batter on top of the cranberries in the pan. Smooth the top bringing the cake batter to the edges of the pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes--until a toothpick comes out clean from the center.
Let cake cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Turn out on a cake platter.

Oh my goodness!
Look who showed up for MOPS!
Julie enjoyed a little time visiting with Oprah after

Every mom was grinning from ear to ear after scoring some
pretty amazing gifts!

(Look at the pages on those Premier catalogs flying!)
Cute babies doing cute things...
Baby J was all smiles and giggles!I guess Katie misunderstood who I was trying to get to smile!
Cute Mama!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Raspberry Pinwheels

I think I signed up for every single place that was sending Christmas cookie recipes daily throughout the month of December. That maybe wasn't such a good idea! My list of cookies just keeps growing and growing... This was my latest adventure from Real Simple: Raspberry Pinwheels!

My pinwheels didn't turn out quite as delicate and perfect as was pictured:

It could be the extra six hands helping me! They taste delicious, though. I'm sure we'll be perfecting these more next year!

Raspberry Pinwheels

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 8-ounce bar cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar or coarse sanding sugar
  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese, and granulated sugar until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the flour, mixing until just incorporated.
  2. Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and gently knead it 2 to 3 times, just to bring it together. Form the dough into two 1-inch-thick squares. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. On a lightly floured piece of parchment, roll one of the dough squares into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Spread half the jam over the dough. Cut the dough crosswise into thirds, making three 9-by-4-inch rectangles. Starting from a long side of each rectangle, roll into logs. Wrap in wax paper and refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  4. Heat oven to 350° F. Slice the logs into 1-inch pieces and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1½ inches apart. Brush with the egg and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar. Bake until golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool slightly on baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
  5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thrifty Thursday

Here's a quick holiday tip for some awesome thrifty deals!
NOW is a great time to purchase gifts cards at many restaurants and mall shops because they have super incentives! For example, yesterday I purchased a $40 gift card at Children's Place (for myself) and they in turn gave me an extra $10 gift card! The really great thing about this deal is that they took a 10% off coupon for the gift card, and I got it for $36! That's $36 paid for $50 of gift cards! To keep the ball rolling, when I use these gift cards, I'll be able to use another coupon and my credit card 10% off perk! This could be huuuuge!

Okay, so maybe money at Children's Place doesn't excite you like it excites me. I have three children...they have great sales and inexpensive what happens when you're a mom!

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I'll admit, when I was a kid, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's carol of hearing bells on Christmas day was not a favorite. It seemed like a weird song that the church song leader tried to get everyone to sing with a little marchy, happy glimmer. It just didn't make sense to me, so thus, I didn't like it. It went off my Christmas song list.

Then I married a music pastor.

Suddenly, lyrics to old, familiar songs were matched with the beautiful, and often heart-wrenching stories of their history. I remember the first Sunday Cody had planned to do "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", I was a little disappointed. It was going to be a new slow, reflective arrangement which made it seem somewhat better(thanks, Jars of Clay!).

Then I listened as he read the story of the carol's history to our church. There was no stopping the tears from stinging my eyes...I couldn't imagine for the life of me putting myself in Longfellow's place and penning such beautiful lyrics.

It's now become my most favorite Christmas carol!

I took this story from the blog on the Willow Creek website. It's amazing!

Tragedy struck the home of America’s most popular poet. On July 9, 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing the locks of her daughter’s hair in a packet, using hot sealing wax. It was never known whether a spark from a match or the sealing wax was the cause, but suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awakened by her screams. He desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife. He was severely burned on his face and hands.
She, tragically burned, slipped into a coma the next day and died. His grievous burns would not even allow him to attend her funeral. He seemed to lock the anguish within his soul. Because he continued to work at his craft, only his family knew of his personal suffering. They could see it in his eyes and observe his long periods of silence. His white beard, so identified with him, was one of the results of his tragedy- the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible.
Although a legend in his own time, he still needed the peace that God gives to His children. On Christmas Day, three years following the horrible accident- at age 57-he sat down to capture, if possible, the joys of the season. He began:

“I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carol play.
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

As he came to the third stanza he was stopped by the condition of his beloved country. The Civil was in full swing. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question. “How can I write about ‘peace on earth, good will to men’ in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son? But he kept on writing – and what did he write?

“And in despair I bowed my head”
‘There is no peace on earth’ I said,
‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men!”

It seems as if he could have been writing these words for us today! Wadwsorth then turned his thought to God, the only One who can give true and perfect peace, and continued writing:

“Then pealed the bells more loud deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep:
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”

I hope you'll be able to sing this carol with new meaning this Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Parenting Note

I don't know about you, but when it comes to parenting, I am always up for some good Biblical parenting advice--advice that's centered around the Gospel of Jesus Christ, advice that will point my children to their need of a Savior--advice that will show them a God who saw their need and sent His Son to be their substitution and advocate so we could be made "right" before Him.
Once again, that advice was delivered from the brilliant John Piper on his blog: Desiring God. I appreciate John Piper for his humble, practical well-thought-out delivery of Gospel centered thinking and living!
Read on...I'm off to encourage a little good behavior from my unregenerate two-some!

Why Require Unregenerate Children to Act Like They’re Good?

By John Piper December 10, 2009

If mere external conformity to God’s commands (like don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t kill) is hypocritical and spiritually defective, then why should parents require obedience from their unregenerate children?

Won’t this simply confirm them in unspiritual religious conformity, hypocritical patterns of life, and legalistic moralism?

Here are at least three reasons why Christian parents should require their small children (regenerate or unregenerate) to behave in ways that conform externally to God’s revealed will.

I say “small children” because as a child gets older, there are certain external conformities to God’s revealed will that should be required and others that should not. It seems to me, for example, while parents should require drug-free, respectful decency from a 15-year-old, it would do little good to require an unbelieving and indifferent 15-year-old to read his Bible every day. But it would be wise to require that of a 6-year-old, while doing all we can to help him enjoy it and see the benefit in it.

So the following points are reasons why we should require smaller children to behave in ways that conform at least externally to God’s word.

1) For children, external, unspiritual conformity to God’s commanded patterns of behavior is better than external, unspiritual non-conformity to those patterns of behavior.

A respectful and mannerly 5-year-old unbeliever is better for the world than a more authentic defiant, disrespectful, ill-mannered, unbelieving bully. The family, the friendships, the church, and the world in general will be thankful for parents that restrain the egocentric impulses of their children and confirm in them every impulse toward courtesy and kindness and respect.

2) Requiring obedience from children in conformity with God’s will confronts them with the meaning of sin in relation to God, the nature of their own depravity, and their need for inner transformation by the power of grace through the gospel of Christ.

There comes a point where the “law” dawns on the child. That is, he realizes that God (not just his parents) requires a certain way of life from him and that he does not like some of it, and that he cannot do all of it.

At this crisis moment, the good news of Christ’s dying for our sins becomes all important. Will the child settle into a moralistic effort the rest of his life, trying to win the acceptance and love of God? Or will he hear and believe that God’s acceptance and forgiveness and love are free gifts—and receive this God in Christ as the supreme treasure of his life?

The child will have a hard time grasping the meaning of the cross if parents have not required of him behaviors, some of which he dislikes, and none of which he can do perfectly.

Christ lived and died to provide for us the righteousness we need (but cannot perform) and to endure for us the punishment we deserve (but cannot endure). If parents do not require external righteousness and apply measures of punishment, the categories of the cross will be difficult for a child to grasp.

3) The marks of devotion, civility, and manners (“please,” “thank you,” and good eye contact) are habits that, God willing, are filled later with grace and become more helpful ways of blessing others and expressing a humble heart.

No parents have the luxury of teaching their child nothing while they wait for his regeneration. If we are not requiring obedience, we are confirming defiance. If we are not inculcating manners, we are training in boorishness. If we are not developing the disciplines of prayer and Bible-listening, we are solidifying the sense that prayerlessness and Biblelessness are normal.

Inculcated good habits may later become formalistic legalism. Inculcated insolence, rudeness, and irreligion will likely become worldly decadence. But by God’s grace, and saturated with prayer, good habits may be filled with the life of the Spirit by faith. But the patterns of insolence and rudeness and irreligion will be hard to undo.

Caution. Here we are only answering one question: Why should parents require submissive behaviors of children when they may be unregenerate rebels at heart? Of course that is not all Christian parents should do.

  • Let there be much spontaneous celebration verbally of every hopeful sign of life and goodness in our children.
  • Let us forgive them often and be longsuffering.
  • Let us serve them and not use them.
  • Let us lavish them with joyful participation in their interests.
  • Let us model for them the joy of knowing and submitting to the Lord Jesus.
  • Let us apologize often when we fall short of our own Father’s requirements.
  • Let us pray for them without ceasing.
  • Let us saturate them with the word of God from the moment they are in the womb (the uterus is not sound proof).
  • Let us involve them in happy ministry experiences and show them it is more blessed to give than to receive.
  • Let them see us sing to the King.
  • Let us teach them relentlessly the meaning of the gospel in the hope that God will open their eyes and make them alive. It happens through the gospel (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thrifty Thursday!

Here it is Thursday again already! We are loving this snow day business! The kids have done great at staying content while being stuck indoors. This afternoon we're enjoying a few holiday movies! Here's my thrifty tip for this week:

Tip #5: Coupons can be worth their while. I'll be honest, I totally have a love/hate relationship with coupons. I grew up watching my mom sort and sift through coupons, carry huge coupon binders around, and seeing the total slowly tick down at the register...laughing when the coupons spilled all over the grocery aisle, not laughing when we had to pick them up for a frantic mother...

Before we had children, I rarely had time to clip a coupon, much less remember to take them along to the store and match them up with the right items. Now that we've been minus that extra paycheck for six and a half years, coupons have become something that I strive to conquer at the grocery store. Many times our grocery bill totals at 50-60% off! Those days, I love coupons!

The best way to get started is to grab yourself a cute little coupon binder from the dollar store. Next, start clipping and printing coupons. (Please print in black/white/gray scale/low quality!)
I usually only clip the ones that I would consider using, so obviously I don't waste time clipping coupons for denture cream or adult diapers...I'm just saying... I also hunt down good coupons online! has a lot of great coupons and new ones are loaded every month.

The next step is find a good *free* website that will give you a heads-up on coupon match-ups at area stores. Please do not spend money to have someone tell you about these deals! Housewife Hacks is done by a local gal who always posts great deals! I love that she does the work of sifting through the weekly ads for deals and coupon match-ups! She also posts the links to find the online coupons--can't get easier than that! There are several other great websites...just follow the links! I'll try to get the ones I use listed my my sidebar soon!

My final word of advice today concerning coupons is don't buy an item just because you have a coupon! Those silly 25 cent off coupons for Charmin toilet paper do not make it justifiable for me to buy it over another cheaper brand. Now, if you're a die hard fan of a certain brand and will only buy that certain brand, then by all means, coupon away!

Hope these thrifty coupon tips help!

Happy Couponing!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A new post...Guy Fieri Style!

We're rolling out looking for America's Greatest Diners Drive-Ins and Dives.

This time, we'll see a great joint that is one of a kind:
Hamburgers served up the sweetest way, right in West Des Moines, Iowa.

That's all right here, right now on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

You never know what kind of weather you're going to get in Iowa:
Today the town is shut down with white out, blizzard conditions.
That's why we've got to get inside to try the sweet hamburger treats at Cafe C.

Folks around here say they've got the best sweet burgers in town, and I'm always looking for a burger to mac on. That's why I'm here. The burgers at Cafe C's have been made since the current chef's mom was just a high school student. The sweet burgers were made and sold as treats for high school graduation parties.

Let's go on in and take a peak!
Made with only the best locally bought ingredients,
these burgers are decked out with all the fixins!
Let's try 'em!
Mmmm...amazing! Let's meet the chef!
Little Cloe runs a tight schedule attending first grade by day
and making burgers by night.
Her special technique for the sweet burgers includes
vanilla wafers, thin mints, red and yellow frosting and green coconut.
The flavors meld together to make the most amazing sweet treat that just keeps customers coming back.

Whether it's big customers looking for a little bite...

...or little customers looking for a big bite...

Cafe C is exactly what you'd hope to find when you see a place like this.
It's simple and sometimes simple is best.
The food, the feel, and the folks running the joint:
committed to keeping tradition alive.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Crinkle Taste Off!

Have you ever noticed that there are about a zillion recipes for a cookie under ONE name? Because my cookies always turn out differently each time, I often look at different recipes and wonder if they have some secret that would make them more likely to turn out well...or maybe its just the baker! I wonder if they all taste the same, if butter is better than shortening or oil, if salt really makes a difference, if cocoa is better than unsweetened chocolate...

So, I decided to take one of our family's favorite Christmas cookies and do a taste off with two different recipes for the same cookie: Chocolate Crinkles.

Here are the results:

Chocolate Crinkle A & Chocolate Crinkle B

Take a bite of each cookie...mmm...
And the results...You just can't go wrong with
Chocolate Crinkles!

Here are both recipes. Give them a try yourself!
Chocolate Crinkle B
(This cookie didn't spread out on the pan very much. It was very rich and chocolately with sort of a fudge like consistency.)

4 tablespoons unsalted
8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted

In a stainless steel bowl, over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate and butter. Remove from heat and set aside.
In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar until thick, pale, and fluffy.
At this point beat in the vanilla extract and then stir in the melted chocolate.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to shape into balls.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees and place rack in center of oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside.
Place the confectioners sugar in a shallow bowl. With lightly greased hands, roll a small amount of chilled dough to form a 1 inch diameter ball. Place the ball of dough into the powdered sugar and roll the ball in the sugar until it is completely coated and no chocolate shows through. Gently lift the sugar-covered ball, tapping off excess sugar, and place on prepared baking sheet. Continue forming cookies, spacing about 2 inches apart on baking sheets. (If you find the dough getting too soft for rolling into balls, return to the refrigerator and let chill until firm.)
Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or just until the edges are slightly firm but the centers are still soft. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. These cookies are best eaten the day they are baked. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Chocolate Crinkle A
(This cookie spread out quite a bit on the pan. It had a good mix of chocolate and powdered sugar. This cookie is definitely more chewy.)

1/2 c. vegetable oil
4 squares unsweetened melted chocolate
2 c. sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
Powdered sugar for rolling

Mix oil, chocolate, and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time with vanilla, flour, and baking powder. Regrigerate dough one hour or overnight.
Shape into balls the size of a walnut. Roll in powdered sugar.
Place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

A Mission with HOPE!

Last night was the Willow Creek Box Party.
Our church partnered with HOPE Ministries
and filled 30 Christmas Adopt- a-Family HOPE Boxes
which will be given to families in need.
It was an awesome sight to see the foyer
filled with more people than ever participating in this outreach.

I truly love the people at Willow Creek!

When it comes to generously loving others,
people at The Creek have got it down!

The night was capped off with a beautiful snowfall that had these three mesmerized!
What an amazing Creator we serve!

Who has told every lightning bolt where it should go
Or seen heavenly storeho
uses laden with snow
Who imagined the sun and gives source to its light
Yet conceals it to bring us the coolness of night
None can fathom

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God
You are amazing God

--Chris Tomlin

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chewy Gingersnaps

Something happens in my head every year around this time:
I become obsessed with making Christmas cookies.
I read and study cookie recipes for days.
I make my list of the kinds to make for the year.
Then for more days, I bake boundless amounts of recipe after recipe after recipe.
The only problem: I am not a good cookie baker!
More often than not, the first pan comes out of the oven looking like this:
"Mmmm, those pancakes smell delicious! What are they for?" asks an innocent husband.
Yeah, probably not so innocent, but he sure is funny.
The whole family enjoys a good laugh (at my expense) about the flat cookies mom just baked.
It happens every single year.
Grrrrrrr flat cookies!
I know, you all probably have amazing tips swimming in your heads that you're getting ready to leave in my comments.

Don't worry, I've tried them:
Freeze your dough.
Chill your dough.
Alter your baking temperature.
Use real butter.
Use margarine.
Use shortening.
Use more flour.
Use a mixer.
Stir the dough by hand.
Sorry, I realize I'm sounding a little bah-humbug about now.
I'm not really.
I just want beautiful, picture perfect Christmas cookies.
Is that too much to ask...NO!
I forge ahead with the obsessive cookie baking,
determined, batch after batch, to get each kind to turn out someway or another.

To the aforementioned pancakes, I finally found success by adding more flour.

Now that's a little better:

Gingersnaps are a must in our home every Christmas, but this year I strayed from my regular recipe and tried a new one. I must say, the extra spices make these fabulous (that is, of course, after fixing them from being pancakes)!

Chewy Gingersnaps
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. butter
1/4 c. molasses
1 egg
2 1/4 c. flour (or 2 3/4 c. if you have my cookie baking handicap)
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. allspice

Mix brown sugar, butter, molasses and egg. Stir in flour, spices, and baking soda. Shape into balls and cover with sugar. Flatten lightly. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes and just until they are set. They will complete the baking process once removed from the oven.

Of course, no gingersnap is complete at our house without being snow-capped!Like the background?
I was getting a little bored with my glum gray counters behind all my food pictures.
Doesn't everyone hold a cookie out in their living room and take a picture?

Happy Baking!
I'll just be hanging out in my kitchen trying to resolve the next pancake cookie!