Happy birthday to the sweetest HUSBAND,
And devoted LEADER of our family!
I love doing life with this wonderful godly MAN!
Happy birthday to the sweetest HUSBAND,
And devoted LEADER of our family!
I love doing life with this wonderful godly MAN!
My last post was all about New Year’s Day recipes (are you hungry yet?), but today I’m getting back to some Christmas highlights. I have been so anxious to tell you about our Girls’ Pioneer Christmas Party! Would you just look at these adorable little ladies with their bonnets!!
We’ve met with a group of families, our life group, for Bible study on a weekly basis for the past 7 years. Some families have moved on and some families have joined us in more recent years. But for the families that have been with us from the start, our kids have just about grown up together. Several of those years, Abigail, Madeline, and I have hosted the life group girls for a Christmas party. All the life group families happen to be homeschoolers too, so this is like our class Christmas party.
We come up with a different Christmassy theme each year. Past Christmas party themes have included “Gingerbread Houses”, “Cookie Exchange”, “It’s A Marshmallow World”, and “Christmas Book Swap”. Each year the idea of “Pioneer Christmas” has been tossed around but has never been used. So finally this year, without even much discussion, Abigail and Madeline decided that this was the year for a Pioneer Christmas!
We had the whole life group for a Christmas dinner that evening, so the girls just came over earlier in the day for their girls’ party. Then they stayed until the rest of the group joined us for dinner. Throughout the afternoon, we had snacks and crafts based on the pioneer theme.
When my girls were younger and we weren’t homeschooling, I would start party preps weeks in advance, working on decorations and crafts and freezing baked goodies waaaay ahead of the event. These days, I simply can’t manage so much party detailing, so our parties are usually pulled together quickly and with less fluff! (But, we still have a grand time!) For this party, I mainly just decorated the kitchen island for our theme. Madeline helped me with the menu and craft ideas, and she made the cute paper doll bunting. We wanted to include snacks and treats that the pioneers would have had in their day. After years of reading “Little House on the Prairie” books, it didn’t take long to come up with plenty of ideas. I could have really gone far with this theme! So many ideas. So little time.
Our refreshments included Penny Candy (above) and the Christmas Cakes you see below. Heart-Shaped Christmas Cakes were a special treat, with their store-bought white sugar, that Laura and Mary received on Christmas morning. They were probably more of a shortbread cookie than a cake, but called Christmas Cakes none the less.
Next we have Lincoln Logs and Ginger Scones!
Ginger Scones aren’t necessarily a pioneer recipe, but I wanted to use ginger in something and I love this scone recipe at Christmastime. I first made them for Madeline’s Colonial birthday tea when she turned 8 years old.
To go with the Gingerbread Scones, I prepared Apple Butter the day before the party. During my college years, I always cooked apple butter for Christmas gifts. I was so disappointed when I couldn’t find my old recipe (well, it was 20+ years ago!), but I came across this Apple Butter recipe. It was fruity and spicy sweet, with a smooth texture and spreadable consistency. I think I may have found my new apple butter recipe!
Lastly, since popcorn was mentioned in “Farmer Boy”, we knew we had to include it in our snacks. We made a simple Popcorn Bar, and I think the girls had the most fun with this!
I had a basket of popcorn with a ladle. Next to the popcorn basket was a wooden crate with paper bags and popcorn seasonings. We instructed the girls to ladle some popcorn into a paper bag, sprinkle in their chosen seasoning, seal and shake. Then they just carried their bag with them and enjoyed munching and crunching.
Our seasonings included ranch, cheese, kettle corn, cinnamon sugar, and caramel.
I found these wooden jar tags on a clearance table (pack of 6 for 99 cents), thinking I’d use them as gift tags for baked goods, but Madeline had the idea to use them as food labels and wrote out each tag for me. Love it!
We served hot Wassail in teapots. It was a warm day in the 70’s (unlike our snowy office party!), so we didn’t really need this beverage for warmth, but we still enjoyed it and it’s delicious holiday aroma.
I used the supplies for our craft projects as a centerpiece for the kitchen table.
Jars of buttons for the button strings that Laura and Mary made for Baby Carrie.
Apples, oranges, and cloves for pomanders. More on the crafts in just a minute!
Sweet sisters snacking.
And these girls must be getting older since they’ve moved on to the dining room this year! Makes me kind of sad. And happy.
Our oldest teens relaxed in the den. Love these girls!
Ok, this next photo is a bit blurry (Don’t look, Rivers;), but I have to include it because Wilton and his buddy were SO excited to FINALLY get to be at the Christmas party. They had their own little “Dude’s Party” which they needed since they both have all sisters. Gotta stick together, right boys!
Now for the crafting! The crafts were really geared more towards Madeline’s age and below, but that was ok with our older teen girls because they just enjoyed talking and visiting all afternoon.
We told the girls they could use their button strings as an ornament, bookmark, or to hang on a lamp switch.
To make the pomanders, just stick whole cloves into the orange or apple in interesting shapes, swirls, or geometric patterns. I figured out after the party (sorry, girls) that it helps to first pierce your design into the fruit with a toothpick, and then come back and insert the cloves in each little hole. (Pomanders also made an appearance at our Colonial Tea.)
Later in the afternoon, a few of the girls decided to get back to crafting. Madeline asked if they could make “church dolls”, also known as “hanky dolls”. After viewing a YouTube video, they got to work and produced the cutest dolls, each with their own personalities and embellishments.
I invited my mom to join us since she loves the “Little House” books (Joel’s mom was at Nonie’s assisted living facility that day helping my SIL and her kids host cookie decorating). Mom brought the girls and me a basket of canned oysters, oyster crackers, and a recipe for Oyster Stew since Caroline Ingalls served it to her family for Christmas dinner. My mom said that her own mother made Oyster Stew occasionally as well, and she thought it would be a fun meal for us to enjoy one night. Last night, I prepared the Oyster Stew with the ingredients and recipe my mom brought, and it was so delicious!! Creamy, buttery, and rich!
Mom’s (and her mom’s) Oyster Stew
6 tsp. butter
1 small minced onion
Several small, or 1 large, container of oysters
1-2 quarts milk or half & half (My mom said her mother used regular milk. I only had skim milk and half & half on hand so I went with the half & half–yum!)
salt and pepper, to taste
Melt the butter in pot or large boiler. Sauté the onions in the butter until they soften (about 2-3 minutes). Add oysters with their liquid. Cook another 2-3 minutes. Add milk/cream and seasonings. Heat just until it boils. It scorches very easily! May need to skim the top (as milk sometimes needs when boiled).
We followed our meal with some pioneer popcorn and a not-so-pioneerish movie.
I hope you enjoyed this *peek* into our Pioneer Christmas Party! The girls and I are already kicking around ideas for next year’s party!
Hello, blog friends! I can hardly believe we are now two days past Christmas! I’ll be back this week for some Christmas highlights, but first want to share an idea for a unique New Year’s Day menu. I fully acknowledge that in our post-Christmas, over-stuffed conditions, planning another meal is not exactly what we want to be thinking about. But I want to slip this one in before you do your New Year’s menu making and grocery shopping.
Joel and I like to have our parents over for New Year’s Day lunch. I try to stick with the traditional Southern New Year’s plate that our mothers raised us on, but with a twist! I’m not much in to superstition, but I’m totally in to tradition so pork, greens, cornbread, and black-eyed peas are definitely the starting point for my New Year’s menus. Check out my favorite New Year’s menus (along with piano recital pictures) here!
Last year I had my menu planned, groceries purchased, and most of the food prepared, when I woke very early on New Year’s Day with food poisoning from eating out the evening before. Sadly, we had to cancel the lunch with the grandparents, so I put everything away for Joel, the kids, and me to have for dinner one night later that week. Days later, when we finally enjoyed this meal, I snapped photos to save and post this year. Click the highlighted links for the recipes!
New Year’s Day Menu~ With a Twist!
Warm Turnip Green Dip with Crackers
Zannie’s Black-Eyed Pea Dip with Tortilla Chips
Eggnog Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel
The Sausage and Collard Greens Stew is a creamy and hearty stew that includes our pork and one more green. This stew would be the quintessential comfort food for those chilly winter evenings on into January. The cornbread muffins are Jim-N-Nick’s muffin mix. They sell the mix so I like to pick up a bag every now and then to keep in the pantry. They are so tasty!
And here’s the Eggnog Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel! Are you hearing the “Hallelujah Chorus” yet? You should, because this cheesecake is so luscious and decadent, it deserves a grand entrance of it’s own! I like to make an eggnog-inspired dessert each year. In the past I’ve made Eggnog Cupcakes and Chai Eggnog Cookies. I’m not sure if I’ll be making the Eggnog Cheesecake again for this New Year’s Day, but I will be making it again at some point. It’s a keeper!
I can’t find the link to this recipe so I’m going to type this one out for you. It’s from the 2016 Southern Living Christmas Cookbook.
Eggnog Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 cup refrigerated eggnog
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. bourbon
Sweetened whipped cream
Freshly grated nutmeg
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Stir together the first 4 ingredients together in a bowl until well blended. Press mixture in the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 325 for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack, about 30 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, beat the cream cheese and 1 cup of sugar at medium speed until blended and smooth. Beat in the flour and nutmeg. Add eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Add the eggnog and vanilla, beating until blended. Pour the batter into the prepared crust.
3. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until almost set. Turn oven off. Let the cheesecake stand in the oven with the door closed for 15 minutes.Remove the cheesecake form the oven and gently run a knife along the outer edge of the cheesecake to loosen. (Do not remove the sides of pan yet.) Cool completely on wire rack, about 1 hour. Cover and chill 8-24 hours.
4. Bring the corn syrup, 1/4 cup water, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high. (Do not stir) Boil, swirling occassionally after sugar begins to change color, 7 minutes or until dark amber. (Do not walk away from the pan because the sugar will burn quickly once it begins to change color.) Remove from heat. Carefullly whisk in 3/4 cup cream (the mixture will bubble and spatter). Whisk constantly until bubbling stops. Whisk in the bourbon. Cover and chill until ready to use or up to 2 weeks.
5. Remove sides of pan from the cheesecake. Insert a medium-size start tip into a large decorating bag; fill with whipped cream. Pipe the cream around the top edge of the cheesecake. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Heat the caramel sauce until pourable. Drizzle each serving with caramel.
Hope this menu gives you a little inspiration for New Year’s cooking, even if you’re not yet in the mood to think about food again!
Well, hello Friday-before-Christmas! I don’t know how you got here so quickly, but all of a sudden here you are!
At any rate, not only is this Saturday night Christmas Eve-Eve, but it’s also Pizza Night! Here’s a recipe for a special Christmas edition pizza that we love here at the house: Pepperoni Pinwheels!
1 loaf frozen bread dough
Jar of pesto
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Pizza sauce or marinara
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out one loaf of thawed bread dough. Roll it to the thickness of a pizza crust, but in the shape of a rectangle.
Spread on a desired amount of pesto.
Sprinkle with about 2 cups of shredded mozzarella. Top with pepperoni and a shake of parmesan cheese.
Carefully roll up the dough lengthwise. It takes some care to get it started, but just keep tucking everything in as you go and it will go faster with each roll.
Slice into 12 equal (or close to it) sections.
Place each roll in greased muffin tins.
Bake at 400 degrees until golden and crusty on top. Serve with pizza or marinara sauce that has been warmed in a bowl.
Since it’s Christmas weekend, here’s a Pizza Night bonus! I made this Chocolate Mint Pie last week when we had Joel’s parents over for his dad’s birthday dinner. The girls told me we needed an ice cream dessert since Papa loves ice cream, so I thought something minty would be good this close to Christmas. This dessert is so fast to prepare. The recipe is originally from the Food Network website.
Chocolate Mint Pie
Premade Oreo Pie Crust
1 quart Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
1 (8 oz) container whipped toppping
A handful of Junior Mint candies
For topping: whipped cream and mint chocolate chips
Let the ice cream soften; place in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the whipped topping and Junior Mints. Pour into the crust; pop into the freezer for several hours or overnight. Serve topped with whipped cream and a sprinkling of mint chocolate chips.
When I make an ice cream dessert, I go ahead and assemble it when I come home from the grocery store. By the time I’ve driven home and put away groceries, the ice cream is the perfect softness. I’ve prepared it and put it in the freezer and know it’s already done!
Wishing you a merry Christmas Eve-Eve and a delicious Pizza Night!
If you have an elderly loved one in your life and need some last minute Christmas gift ideas, I’d like to share some that I’ve found to be good choices. Given their age and sometimes limited space, there isn’t a lot they really need, so it can be a challenge to come up with gifts that will be useful and even pretty.
Our family currently has two precious elderly grandmothers: Nonie and our adopted grandmother Peach. They both live in assisted living facilities and have all very little room for things to sit around. This year we’re giving them each a calendar and a guest book. They both use calendars to keep up with doctor and other appointments so that will not only be useful, but will also hang on the wall and not take up surface space. As for the guest books, I thought these would serve two purposes. For one, they would become a sort of “visitors journal” for them to flip through and cherish any comments left by their friends and family. The second benefit is for their family and caregivers. We often don’t know of all the thoughtful people who come to visit Nonie because she sometimes doesn’t remember herself. Now we’ll be able to see who’s coming around so we can thank them later. The only downside is that we will have to find a place for it, but maybe the benefits will outway the drawback.
On a recent trip to see Nonie, I took some holiday foam soap and two cookies the girls had decorated. Items such as these make ideal gifts because they will eventually be used up or eaten, so they don’t have to be stored or displayed on valuable surface space. If we take food to an elderly person, we package just one or two servings so there is no excess to throw out. Growing up, when we visited my Grandmother, my mom always took two things: a box of tissue and a can of butter mints. Grandmother loved those butter mints!
Have you ever thought of doing a “something of the month club”? For Nonie’s birthday one year, we gave her a “Soap of the Month Club” certificate when Madeline was into soap-making. I printed the certificate below with the promise of a different soap each month.
Another gift that doesn’t even require a purchase is the gift of OUR TIME! These sweet souls are so hungry for our attention. They often feel so left out and forgotten. It’s a shame since they were the very ones who served and poured into our lives for decades.
Our Bible study group made a trip last week to a nursing home to sing Christmas carols! One afternoon while the girls and I were watching one of our sappy Hallmark movies, we packaged little stockings to hand out at our caroling trip. Each miniature stocking contained a tissue pack, a lip balm, and a candy cane. (I later removed the candy cane due to possible choking hazards for some. Just made me little nervous!) My friend Rivers and her sweet girls made gorgeous, sparkly paper ornaments with printed Bible verses. As they handed them out, the residents were so excited and many hung them on their wheelchairs and walkers. As little Ruthie handed one to an elderly lady, I heard her tell the lady, “It has Bible words on it!”. How precious is that?!
But just taking our little songbirds in to see them would have been gift enough. The residents get so excited to see children! We had so much fun singing as a group with them. A wonderful surprise was finding this lady who knew several of us from years past. She was a delight! Such a personality she has!
Side note: After caroling at the nursing home, we all went out to eat at Shoney’s. With our group of 19 on a Tuesday night, our young hostess was a little taken aback when we walked in the doors. She wisely placed our energetic group in the back room and we had such a wonderful time eating and talking! It’s definitely going to be a tradition from now on!
Our little ones felt like big stuff getting their own table!
We’ve also made it a tradition in recent years, to pick up our adopted grandmother, Peach, to go Christmas light-looking. This photo was taken on our drive through the city last year. We pick up peppermint milkshakes at the drive-through to sip on while we ride. Yum! She prefers to sit in the back with the kids, and we all laugh and sing and act silly the whole time.
So the very last (but certainly not least) gift I think we need to give the elderly is the gift of letting them feel like they’re giving TO US! Whatever they offer you or your children, TAKE IT AND ACT AS IF IT’S THE MOST SPECIAL AND VALUABLE GIFT YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED! Even if it’s something you don’t need or your kids can’t have, just accept it and pass it on to someone else later. Growing up, when we visited my Mama Poole, she would load up a bag of groceries for us to take home. We didn’t need it, but my mom would accept it graciously. Mama Poole would always say, “You’ve got all those kids to feed”. She really felt like she was helping us and that was very important to her.
When my friend Kelli and I used to take our little girls for monthly nursing home visits, there was one lady who always wanted to give the girls rides on her scooter. That was one thing she knew she could do to bring a thrill to a child. We made a big deal of her offer and the girls really did enjoy it.
Now, Nonie gives Wilton rides on her walker, up and down the halls! Aren’t they cute!
Some additional gift ideas:
Gift cards to restaurants (if they still get out)
Gift cards to clothing stores they like
Any medical supplies they need
Fresh slippers, socks, robes, and scarves (or anything that wears out over time)
Photo albums (my MIL and SIL make photo books on Shutterfly for Nonie and her friends to flip through and they love it!)
Bulletin boards to hang on their wall–bring a new photo of your kids each time you go visit!
Books and bookmarks
Some enjoy the comfort of a doll or stuffed animal
Cards in the mail
So what other gift ideas do you have for the elderly? Please share!