I’m a bit late with my New Year’s Greetings, but that’s nothing new! 🙂 (At least it’s still January) Here’s Snoopy, apparently fast asleep atop his doghouse, but in reality he’s thinking deep thoughts about the new year, and wishing the best for you and yours in 2014.We did a gingerbread decorating day with my sister and all of our kids, and after the frosting stopped flying, and the kids rumbled off to their next activity, I assembled this gingerbread doghouse for cookie Snoopy. I used the birdhouse pattern that I printed from the instructions here, and just trimmed in the roof sections a bit and cut out the doorway. Then decorated with royal icing and nonpareil snowflakes. Snoopy is such a comforting image from my childhood! Here’s Snoopy’s doghouse with some Christmas lights that I swiped from my nephew…..They didn’t stay on too long when my nephew finally noticed them….! I just love gingerbread!! YUM! I usually end up making some in February, too, not just for Christmas! Anyways, have a great New Year!
Ok, this might be a little late, but I figure it’s still the season to eat cranberries!! If you like cranberries and if you like meatballs….I’m pretty sure you will like this tasty meal! I have kids who happen to love both (oh, wait, someone inexplicably doesn’t like cranberries, so we just scraped the sauce off for her, one out of 6 isn’t bad) so it was a recipe that got rave reviews! I haven’t made it for years, but every Christmas, I think about it. Finally, for our (late) New Year’s celebration, I decided that I was going to make these festive meatballs, then realized that I don’t even have the recipe….so I had to call Mom. I’m not sure where the recipe comes from, but years ago our church served these meatballs several times and we both asked for the recipe (I just didn’t realize that I had lost mine).
Here’s the recipe followed by my observations,
Christmas Cranberry Meatballs
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 envelope of onion soup mix
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsely
Mix all ingredients together and shape into meatballs and place on a foil-lined tray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake the meatballs for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix up the sauce.
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce (the kind with some sauce/jelly and the whole berries, not just the jelly)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 tsp. finely chopped onions
Mix sauce ingredients together, heat and pour over meatballs before serving.
That’s the recipe as-is. I always end up doing some substitutions, because I rarely have the exact ingredients on hand. I didn’t have the envelope of onion soup mix, so I looked it up online and the home-made version is mostly just dried onion flakes and beef bouillon and some seasoned salt, so I did that instead….lots of flaked onion! And for some reason, I had it in my mind that the sauce included Russian dressing, and I did have that on hand so just had to use it, so I substituted it for the tomato sauce. I’m sure that in the end I used more ground beef than the recipe says, so I just kind of eye-balled everything else. The meatball mixture didn’t seem to need an egg, but I’m sure that if you did add one it should be fine (I didn’t). It’s probably a good idea to really mince the parsely super fine, (I didn’t and the large leaves of parsely were very obvious in the meatballs, but we didn’t mind). The meatballs are slightly chunky-looking, but you don’t notice it that much with the sauce on. The recipe says to just heat the sauce, but I actually simmered it a bit and put the meatballs from the oven into the sauce for a little simmer. Obviously this recipe made enough to feed 6 people here, but I can’t say exactly how many it would feed at your house, I guess it depends on the size of the meatballs and the hunger of your group! 😉
Every time we eat meatballs I get quizzed “did you make these yourself or are they from the store?” haha!! The funny part is that it doesn’t seem to matter what the answer is, they always gobble them all up. My answer’s about half the time home-made and half the time store-bought. I find that I don’t like those “italian style” frozen meatballs, but everyone else does. I need to make an effort to make them from scratch more often! Then you know exactly what’s in them! I haven’t tried making meatballs with rice in them, should try that…. Have you tried making meatballs in Italian wedding soup? That’s another almost-favorite around here.
Before I get into all the other ‘January’ posting stuff, I just wanted to show you a few photos from our holiday. I guess that you could say this is one of my hobbies, it’s something that I’m driven to do, just can’t stop doing: it’s taking photos through the windshield of a moving vehicle. Seriously, I can’t help myself. It’s a super-frustrating hobby, the windows are dirty, I have no zoom, and all the cool scenery is flashing past, and I usually see something fabulous then notice the camera is off and in 2 seconds it’s gone!! But I always do it. Over and Over again. (this is starting to sound more like an addiction and less like a hobby).
I’ve decided to post these photos as a slideshow. I was going through them and narrowed down the ones to post here on the blog, and when I was uploading them was surprised to notice that there were 45!! Forty-five photos of scenery from our minivan window!! (I’m feeling slightly insane as I type this). And those are only the ‘bestest’ ones. (I shouldn’t have told you that, now you won’t want to see them all! It only takes 2 minutes to watch them though, really!)
Just a few more comments, then on to the slideshow!! These were taken on Christmas Eve morning, as we left Edmonton, Alberta and started on the 8 hour drive to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. (We actually made it in seven and a half hours this time with only 2 potty breaks! ha!) It was an amazingly beautiful drive as we watched the sun come up over the prairies. I just love love love the prairies. Maybe because I was born there, or maybe just the huge sense of openess and freedom. You can see the whole sky at once! And watching a sunrise is a very very rare event for me. I also want to mention that Christmas Eve morning the temperature was -25 degrees Celsius, plus windchill made it 30 degrees below zero! (that’s minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit). It was a frosty morning. We were well prepared with our emergency kit (candles, matches, radio, stuff like that) snow pants, sleeping bags and food. My window was so frosted up that I scratched some hearts in it and just had to take a few photos (even my fingerprints crystallized)…. All of a sudden we could see a rainbow!!! (and it wasn’t snowing or raining!) It was such a gorgeous morning, watching the prairie winter wonderland flash by as we listened to glorious Christmas music. I don’t even feel bad anymore about the crazy amount of photos I took….I’m happy to look at them and remember that special morning!
Better late than never, that’s what I always say!! (That really is one of my all-time favorite phrases, can you guess why?) Over the Christmas holidays I didn’t even touch a computer, and since getting back home, what with school starting and all that stuff, I haven’t visited the blog here.
I’m not just late in wishing you a Happy New Year, we were actually late in celebrating it at all! At my parents’ house, where we spent Christmas, many of us were sick, so it was a little more low-key than usual. And when New Year’s Eve rolled around, the most celebrating we did was put the kids to bed kinda early and stay up late watching a good movie!
So when the kids and Henry and I came back home, I thought that we really needed to have a small celebration, even if it was late. I made a yummy supper and a fun dessert and we watched a movie together. And then I thought, what else can we do? Inspiration struck. I rushed the kids into their pajamas and off to bed early. No one really complained, even when I turned the lights out really quickly. Obviously no one had time to fall aleep……before Christmas music started blaring and Henry ran into the kids’ rooms and shouted “Get up!! Get downstairs right away!!” (But not in a scary the-house-is-on-fire type of way. More like a something-crazy-is going-on kind of way.) He commanded them to get into their winter coats and boots, and I passed out the crazy hats. Then we all piled into the van. It was pretty funny! The funniest part of all (for me!) was that Henry actually went out in his p.j.s, too! (That’s not a big deal for some people, but for others it is! Obviously it wasn’t a big deal for me to do!) It was so interesting to see the kids’ reactions. I must say that we have never done anything like this before. And if I didn’t read blogs and Pinterest, I don’t know if I would have ever thought of this idea! We let the kids wonder where we were going, but ended up at Dairy Queen and had a yummy snack!(fancy cranberry meatball supper)(getting out the door)(going to Dairy Queen in our pajamas!)
Henry and I were both surprised when the kids asked, “so what’s the big news?” “huh?” “Are you going to tell us that we are moving or something?” They figured that we had some big news to break to them!!! I tried to give them “a new baby” thing, but no one believed me! That one is not even really funny at all. No, really it was just a Happy New Year’s celebration, no hidden parent agendas.
Just as we were leaving DQ, we heard fireworks!!! I was so pleased (and amazed!) It was almost a week after New Years Eve, and really, you are not supposed to be lighting off fireworks in the city!! I knew that it was specially for me, to complete our little celebration!! 🙂
We went home and lit some sparklers outside, that was fun, but our fingers were freezing up! It’s weird to stick sparklers in the snow, they stay lit for awhile indside the snow drift, then finally fizzle out. So our celebration even had fireworks!
“Christmas time is here….” that’s the theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas, I can hear it playing inside my head. There’s something cozy and comforting about watching Charlie Brown and Snoopy’s Christmas cartoon (that’s older than I am! haha!) while snow falls outside. The kids love watching it to. Is it because it makes us think back to simpler times? Remember the sad little tree that Charlie Brown finds, and the kids give it a bit of love and spruce it up?
I really don’t know why I’m mentioning that cartoon, it just popped into my mind, and seemed to fit (in my mind anyway) with the home-made Christmas idea. This year I was trying to make a bunch of home-made stuff for Christmas, instead of buying new things. I keep finding amazing ideas online that I wanted to try, but have run right out of time!! So I thought I’d post some photos of the things that I did get done because I know it will make me feel better to see the loveliness on my blog, instead of surrounded by the boxes and mess and clutter that are here in my house!! (No I am not going to post a photo of the mess that surrounds the decorating…that would ruin all the loveliness, even though it would show my real life!)
Our Christmas tree is a “throw and go!” tree, as my son called it: throw the ornaments on and then go away! I let the kids do most of the decorating with only one box of ornaments….I don’t know why. I guess I was too exhausted to pull anything else out, and they were happy to do a “candy cane tree”. (Ok, I did buy something new, those wood & fabric words for a buck each!). This is the first time we’ve ever had a color-coordinated tree. So that was nice for a change! ;) Here are some ideas I found online to print out… Advent things, Cookie things (for teacher gifts and just for us to eat on a cold winter’s evening), trying out some new recipes…. Ornament things, Gift things…..I just had to snap some photos of the presents my daughter wrapped, they are so cute!! She wrote out all the tags with our names on in English and in Japanese characters! And a few anniversary things, Our six year old photographer took this 19th anniversary portrait of us, we had just kissed at 19 hours and 19 minutes on the 19th of December for our 19th anniversary! Now that’s home-made stuff!!
So that’s a few glimpses of our kinda home-made Christmas decorating and traditions and stuff….really, our life is not as together-looking as it seems in this blog…..I just have to mention that so that I don’t feel like I’m lying too much with all the perfect-looking photos. I have perfection ideals in my head, but just can’t make them work out….so I take photos of the stuff that turns out…and once-in-a-while of the things that don’t turn out! 🙂
Merry Christmas to you!!!
This time of year especially, I seem to get the sweet munchies (translation: I feel like eating sweets after meals!) The other day we were up to “Christmassy” things and it seemed like we really should have a special sweet something to munch on…but I didn’t have any butter or other main ingredients needed for something yummy.
Then I saw this easy little recipe for peppermint patties….only ingredients needed: cream cheese, icing sugar and chocolate chips (and peppermint extract!) All of which I happened to have. (I still have a stash of mint and peppermint extract from when I was craving peppermint awhile ago!) Here’s the blog called She Wears Many Hats, where I found the idea (recipe and how-to) very cute!
In no time at all the cream cheese was beat up with the sugar and extract and we were making little balls and indenting them with a forth of a teaspoon measuring spoon. (Refridgerate for awhile…no baking required!! yay!) Some we tried rolling in crushed candy cane for a more festive look! Then melt some chocolate chips and pipe the chocolate into the hollows, easy enough!Let the chocolate set and ready set go!! Yum, I thought they were great! Even our cream-cheese-hater liked them!! (even after being told the “secret ingredient”!) I thought the recipe yielded plenty….but then I saw that it was supposed to make about triple what we made!!! So I guess the original recipe peppermint patties are quite tiny….ours were about 2 to 3 bite peppermints, or one large mouthful!
That day the kids unwrapped The Nutcracker storybook and read through it. There’s something that captures you about that fairy tale!! None of the kids have seen the ballet, only read this book. Sure it has the weird and creepy rat king in it, but the underlying story of Fredrick and what happens to him is very interesting!It seemed like a good time to give the kids their ornaments for this year:A few years ago I had given them larger (dollar store) nutcrackers, and they were great, until they all lost an arm or arms!! So in their memory, I found these small ones that can hang on the tree! Here’s one of the armless ones still hanging around…You have to read the story to find out why the nutcrackers have such staring eyes, wide mouths and big heads…. 😉
So what do nutcrackers and peppermint candies have to do with each other?? In the blog post where I found the how-to for the candies, the lady was saying that she thought that Peppermint Patties were named for someone named Patty….but was surprised to find out that they weren’t named for a person. Then she suggested that you could name them for anyone, like Peppermint Jorge or something……..so we decided on Peppermint Fredricks (in honor of the nutcracker)! I guess this is another “sensory memory” to add to our stash of Christmas Memories, peppermint and chocolate and nutcrackers. 🙂Oooo boy, just writing about it and seeing the photos makes me want some mOORE!! I thought they were super yummy! (a bit rich for little kids, so I had to sacrifice and finish Tassy’s second one for her!) Hmmm….wonder if there’s any cream cheese in the fridge??…
In the last few years we have started doing our own little Advent celebration at home during December. It’s not something I grew up with, but we have all really enjoyed doing something together each evening of December. This year we’ve added a few new ideas: a Jesse Tree and an Advent book countdown. I wanted to mention the book countdown….I’m sure many of you have seen photos of this idea online, and I saw it circulating on Pinterest a lot….so I decided to make my own version.
The idea is this: wrap up 24 kids books, and make them look like presents, then each day the kids can unwrap and read one book. The idea isn’t that they are necessarily new books or even Christmas/winter books. That seemed easy enough to do!! And kind of cute. So a few months ago I started picking some of (my favorite) books off the kids’ bookshelves and squirreling them away. We also have a stash of Christmas/winter books that I pack away after the holiday each year. But then I was thinking of all that wrapping paper……don’t get me wrong, I LOVE wrapping paper!! But sometimes when I see the big bags full of scrunched up paper that gets thrown out every year (because most of it can’t be recycled) I feel kinda bad….so (lightbulb!!!) I thought of wrapping the books in something that won’t get tossed! (that’s where the “green” part comes in!! I wouldn’t be adding to the trash on the planet! bonus!)
I looked around the house and found some chunks of fabric and 3 new dishtowels…and thought, this is it! So I did buy a couple of those cute packages of dishtowels, the kind that have 4 coordinating ones tied with a ribbon…I didn’t think I had enough fabric around the house, so I wanted some new fabric, to go with my Christmas colors of red, white and brown for this year. So those “fat quarters” at Walmart came in handy…And then I realized….this is turning into an expensive project!! That’s when I decided to wrap some of the books in brown kraft paper from the dollar store. I did rationalize the dishtowels….I really need new ones….and the fabric…..I will use it in various projects, really!! (As soon as I get that sewing machine to work!) Oh, and new red yarn…..I’ll use it for many Christmas projects!
Anyways….here’s my recipe for a cute and fun “green” Advent book countdown:
1 roll of brown kraft paper
yarn and string (I used red, brown and white)
11 new dishtowels
7 lengths of fabric of different sizes (red, brown and white)
scissors and tape
1 and 1/2 hours of your time
Directions: (this is probably why it took me an hour and a half:) pick out the order you want the kids to unwrap the books. The easiest way would have been to have the largest books on the bottom of the pile and the smalles books on top. But I had to do it the time-consuming way of course!! And then I decided to wrap the books with the fabric for the first days of December so that I could use that fabric for some Christmas decorating….these things take time, so feel free to skip these steps and just jump in and wrap away!! Tie the fabric-wrapped books with yarn or string, and use tape on the brown paper. I thought it would be cute to add numbered tags…but I knew that that would take me an extra hour to do….and I was rushing to get it done before the kids got home! (I’m afraid that I also kept a list of what book would be opened which day, just in case I felt like coordinating some activity with a book….so far this has not been necessary or used at all! Boy I sound like a geek.)
(I was humming “brown paper packages tied up with string, these are a few of my favorite things!!) Stack up the presents as you go, and there you are: your beautiful green Advent countdown is ready to go!
Disclaimer: the author of this recipe and tutorial does not guarentee that your children will appreciate or even like your work and effort to create this advent countdown. They may not want to do it, or may not think that unwrapping old books is cool or fun. You must be the judge of what your children can handle (yes, it is ok, as a parent, to be judgemental in these types of situations!)
Here are some of the books I wrapped up:I know my kids are getting older, but many of these they can remember from when they were little, so I thought a bit of nostalgia was ok for this project….some of my favorites:I love Mortimer’s Christmas Manger, it’s really special. Usborne books have some really cute Christmas and winter books and a nice book of Christmas carols. The Nutcracker book has become a tradition around here. The Christmas Story is a book that was given to me by my special Auntie Lucy and Uncle Homer when I was a wee one ( a long time ago!). The inscriptions in the books can be as important as the book itself, I think….so be intentional and write a bit to your child and date it, believe me, it will be cherished. We even have a book that was created by my daughter! 🙂 Another book that has become a traditional Christmas favorite is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (in the middle of the photo)…it was a gift from friends and came with a CD to listen to. I just love love love listening to it when the lights are low and the kids are tucked into their beds and drifting off to sleep, it’s so soothing and magical, with a really great story! (We haven’t unwrapped that one yet!!)
Fishing in the Air isn’t a Christmas or winter book, but one of my very very favorite kids’ books to read aloud. About a father and a son and their memorable fishing trip.Abulea’s Weave is a book I found last year, about a Guatemalan girl and her grandmother. I was so happy to finally have a kids book about Guatemala! The White Pony is another of my all all-time favortite kids books….maybe my MOST FAVORITE OF ALL. The painted illustrations of Native Americans are gorgeous and the story is really the most one fabulous one ever told. I totally recommend this book, it’s great for all ages: The White Pony “a tale of great love by Sandra Byrd, paintings by Sarah Waldron” published by Waterbrook Press.What can I say?? Even though there are times when I’m going completely crazy and want to stop ALL this Christmas preparation and just sit down and give up on absolutely everything, there will come a moment like the one above, when everyone is together in harmony, and I’ll will remember that I have the BEST kids in the whole world and that I guess my efforts aren’t wasted if I can give them a nice Christmas to remember. My six-year-old and I walked into the house yesterday after being at the clinic, and she said “I love walking into our warm house full of cozy things!!” and that sure made me smile. Yes, it’s messy and cluttered and sometimes that’s all I can see, but she focused on the coziness and is grateful for a warm house on a freezing cold day. That’s something to Ponder in my Heart and remember to be grateful for.
I hope you are having a beautiful Advent season, counting down the days to the day when we celebrate the BEST BIRTHDAY OF ALL!! 🙂