Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sweets for the sweet - and family members, too

I took charge of goodie production when we arrived in Arizona. I decided to try something different, and announced we'd be having a ball, courtesy of a variety of truffle recipes. (Basically I spent 10 minutes finding ideas on that didn't involve baking). Just in case you haven't eaten enough, here are a few more options:

Easy Truffles

8 oz cream cheese, room temp
3 cups powdered sugar
14 oz vanilla candy melts

Beat cream cheese until smooth, then gradually beat in powdered sugar. Stir in melted vanilla candy and beat until no streaks remain. Divide dough as desired, and flavor with mint, almond, vanilla or other extract. Refrigerate for approx 1 hour, and then roll into small balls. Roll in additional powdered sugar, candy sprinkles, nuts, or dip into chocolate coating. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

Fudgy Truffles

½ c evaporated milk
¼ c sugar
1 pkg bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ c raspberry or black cherry all fruit/preserves

Combine milk & sugar in heavy saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat; boil and stir for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in remaining ingredients. Chill for an hour, then roll into balls. Coat with chopped nuts or a mixture of powdered sugar & cocoa powder. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

½ c butter, softened
¾ c packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ¼ c flour
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
½ c mini chocolate chips

Beat butter and brown sugar until smooth. Mix in vanilla, then beat in half the flour and sweetened condensed milk, then add remaining flour and milk and beat until smooth. Fold in the chocolate chips, then refrigerate dough for about an hour. Roll into small balls, and then dip in melted chocolate candy coating (may also top with toffee bits or nuts if desired) and allow to set. Store in covered container in refrigerator.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Recap

We've had a busy December. Hubby's 94 YO grandmother fell and broke her hip earlier this month, so we ended up driving out to AZ to see her and lend moral support to the rest of the family. Things were a bit crazy at times, but I'm so glad that we could spend those days together. Grandma has had her hip replaced and is currently in a rehabilitation facility; still not sure what the future will hold for her and we'd appreciate your prayers as we know there are more difficult days ahead.

In other news:

  • Made it through our first children's Christmas Program at church. Not perfect, but still better than what we'd done in the past (nothing!!)

  • Christmas letter? Um, you're reading it. For an alternative (and more complete) version, head over to facebook.

  • I have eaten way too much. I feel lousy, yet I continue to shovel garbage in. Bad choice - duh! Will be getting back to using sparkpeople to seriously track food once the kids are back in school. That's January 3 just in case anyone wants to hold me accountable.

  • I love seeing the kids' faces light up when they open gifts. So thankful that we were able to give gifts, as I know many families are really struggling.

  • Our son is still very much into Legos and K'nex, and we've now added beyblades to the mix. I must admit those tops are pretty cool!

  • Our daughter got another American Girl type doll, plus dress-up clothes (she's outgrown most of her other stuff and I've been picking up costumey type stuff at the Thrift Shop for a couple months), books and a Barbie microphone that connects to an MP3 player so she can sing along to any song. Yes, we bought that in a moment of insanity, and I'll probably be regretting it for the next 3 years, but she loooooves it.

  • Uncle R taught our kids a special new Christmas carol. It goes like this: "Joy to the world! Barney's dead! We barbecued his head. Don't worry about his body, we flushed it down the potty. And round and round it goes, and round and round it goes, and round and round and round it goes." Funny (particularly since I can't stand the big purple guy) but a teensy bit annoying after hearing it for the 318th time. Oh, and let me mention what a precious moment it was when the kids wanted to sing a song for Great Grandma (thankfully she was singing along with them and didn't notice they were shouting a slightly different version)

  • Another funny song story: the kids heard me tell someone that I really hate the song "Christmas Shoes." They don't know it (hmmm, could it be because I change the radio station as soon as I hear it?!) but decided to follow me around singing "O Christmas Shoes" rather than "O Christmas Tree." They were both really disappointed that I didn't get more annoyed.

  • Very cool to be able to go to church on Christmas morning and worship with extended family. There were 11 of us in the row!

  • We headed back to TX on December 26, and did see patches of snow along the road in Eastern AZ and NM. Fun to see, but glad I don't have to shovel any of it.

  • As we were driving back, this was the first time I was actually thinking, "We're headed home!" and not just, "We're headed to where our stuff is." Yes, another milestone for this girl who doesn't particularly like change.

  • I know there's more I wanted to share, but I'm struggling to keep my eyes open, so that's just going to have to do for now.

    Monday, December 12, 2011

    Christmas Ponderings

    In case you've missed my previous 47 discussions about Santa, we don't "do" the jolly red guy at our house. I know a lot of families incorporate him into their family traditions and that's fine - but I must admit that it bugs me when I see him in a church setting, as it feels like that's crossing the line from a cultural celebration and definitely detracting from Jesus.

    Anyhoo, here are two realloy great posts about the Santa issue, both very thought-provoking for different reasons.

    The Christmas Conundrum
    Of Santa and Jesus

    Hmmm... definitely not going to be giving up the Christmas tree ;) But a good reminder not to be driving people away with my legalistic attitude.

    It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don't use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that's how freedom grows. For everything we know about God's Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That's an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?

    My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness. For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. Why don't you choose to be led by the Spirit and so escape the erratic compulsions of a law-dominated existence?

    It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

    This isn't the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.

    But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

    Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

    Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original. Galations 5:13-26, Message

    Friday, December 9, 2011

    Friday Funny

    More Christmas craziness - although I have to admit I'm actually pretty impressed with the writing on this one!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    Christmas Lists

    So does anyone do these with their kids? It's not something we actively promote (we're definitely not writing letters to Santa!) but the kids have heard about "the list" from friends and have latched onto it as any good little consumer should (snort). They even got creative a few weeks ago and cut pictures from the Sunday ads and glued them to construction paper. It really is funny to see how they're transitioning from big to little (insert tearful mama here) - our son wants Legos, video games, a fancy scooter and drums; daughter still loves Polly Pockets but has also requested a slide guitar and a TV remote.... and glittery makeup. Oh, and both kids now want their own Kindle Fire, too (which I received as an early Birthday/Christmas gift - I'm diggin' it but have to fight the rest of the family for use of it) I love seeing the people they're becoming, but a part of me misses shopping for cute little toys for ages 3 and under.

    On another note, what on earth is up with the recommended gift lists floating around online?! We're in the midst of a recession, right? MSN and Yahoo are constantly running stories about cutting expenses, better budgeting and the like - and now they're rolling out lists of what to buy everyone... from the "neighbor with a collection of lawn gnomes" or "cousin you haven't seen in 13 years" I guarantee you can find some bizarre suggestion of how to part with your money. I like to read these as I find them amusing, and occasionally have stumbled onto a neat idea. This year, though, they seem downright stupid: gold flake coasters, surfboards, $800 sunglasses and such. Another article announced you can't go wrong buying a Nissan Leaf for your significant other. Uh, yes you can! Hubby would probably have a stroke if I took him outside to see his brand new vehicle, considering we spent two months researching models before we took the plunge on buying a $100 blu-ray player.

    Rant complete. Oh, and in case you were wondering, I'd like cash this year ;)

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    Entering the most wonderful (and busy!) time of the year

    Survived Thanksgiving, and now it's full speed ahead for Christmas! Hubby was off last week, and we had a lovely time on Monday and Tuesday (the kids were still in school, so we had the days all to ourself - now THAT'S a gift!). We checked out the new Bass Pro Shop (truly impressive!) and just got a variety of little things done around the house. We had originally hoped to tackle the living room (which involves scaffolding, plus a lot of rewiring and paint) but realized it was going to severely strain our budget so have put off that project for a few more months. The kids T-giving vacay started on Wednesday, and we headed off to the a museum in McAllen, had lunch at Fuddrucker's (haven't eaten there in at least 7 years!) and then met up with some friends at the movie theater to watch the new Muppets movie. Yes, I am a total Muppet geek and the friend that we met up with also is a big fan. We were the ones in the back singing along with Rainbow Connection -- and hubby (who doesn't particularly care for them, and just tagged along since it was a family event) commented that we probably enjoyed it more than anyone else in theater. True! Lots of fun, goofy humor - the kids enjoyed it, but honestly a lot of the jokes were over their heads. After the movie, we came back to the house for dinner and cut out a bunch of snowflakes to decorate the house. It may have been 70° outside, but there was a whole heap of white mounded up under our dining room table!

    As for Thanksgiving itself, we had a relatively quiet day. We had originally planned to gather with a couple other families, but circumstances changed and we ended up just hanging here at home. The kids didn't want turkey, so I just made chicken (stuffed with bacon, apples, onion & gouda - yum!) along with a few sides -- we got out the good dishes and ate by candlelight and it was deemed a "fancy" success by all ;) My Dad has cousins who winter down here, and we had them over on Friday evening. Sadly, at this point I was now dealing with the 2nd round of a cold I've been fighting for almost a month now - after our guests left, I crawled into bed and basically was there all day Saturday, too. Blech. We were hoping to have the house all decorated for Christmas over the weekend, but comatose Mama threw a wrench in those plans. We did put the tree up (but still no decorations on it!) so at least there's a bit of holiday cheer in the air :) Thankfully I'm feeling better now and have been chipping away at the decorating, so it does feel more festive...

    Other randomness:
    - After a full day of helping at school, running errands, and putting up Christmas decorations at our local museum, I realized that my cute semi-sleeveless blouse had an unplanned accessory: armpit hair. Awesome.
    - Oven heating element was dying, and we ordered a replacement. We made it through Thanksgiving (hooray!) but the oven stopped working halfway through dinner preparations on Monday evening. Replacement was delivered, but was the wrong size. Replacement #2 arrived today and it's the proper one - so glad that I can now use my oven again.
    - Glitter. Everywhere. I swear I end up with it all over my face just passing the Christmas aisle! I do love sparkle, but only where *I* want it. Glitter glue is my friend - loose glitter not so much.
    - I had to take care of couple things in Brownsville, and decided to stop at a few stores while I was down there. First "fun" stop: Goodwill. I scored a box set of Bionicle books for our son, and spotted a very cute little side table. It needed repainted, but it was decent quality so I was hopeful that I had finally found a nightstand for our guest room. There was no price tag on it, so asked an employee and yes, a most unladylike snort escaped when she informed me that it was $49.99. Seriously. I left with only the books. Next stop: Michael's. Walked around the store but didn't buy a thing. Who knew that was possible?! And finally, I stood in line at Ross for over twenty minutes! I probably would have just walked out, but I snagged a fabulous pair of Nine West black ankle boots for $7.99. Having giant feet occasionally has its perks ;)

    On that note, good night for now. Back with more brain oozage later...