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Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Round-Up

2014 was the year I got back into blogging on a serious, more regular basis. I started trying new recipes and posting more regularly. I began participating in linky parties and meeting new bloggers and finding even more recipes. And, I started writing again. 

It's been a great cooking year and some of this years popular pages have been...



Pie Crust Cookies
Because who doesn't love pie crust?



The Old Apron
Some aspects of life just seem to resonate with us. This is one of my most popular posts and I can't take credit for it, but I love it all the same.



Beef Enchiladas
Simply one of the best meals I've ever made. Discovering homemade Enchilada Sauce this year made this dish even better.



Red Enchilada Sauce
Because homemade really is better.



Bruschetta Chicken
Easy, delicious and not so unhealthy as fried.



Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad
Easily still the most popular post on my blog. I hate this picture though. I really need to get another one taken!



Milky Way Brownie Bites
Second only to Raspberry Pretzel Jello Salad in popularity. This one rose quickly in the ranks this year, but to no surprise. It's amazing and oh, so easy.



Cinnabon Clone Cinnamon Rolls
Always a favorite and always one of my most popular recipes.



Sour Cream Pound Cake
Literally the best pound cake you will ever, ever have. Go ahead, I dare you to tell me any differently!



Armadillo Pie
Weird name. Completely unhealthy. The Brother's favorite. He asks for it weekly. He doesn't get it weekly, but he asks for it!



Cocoa Brownies
My favorite brownie recipe.



Chocolate Crinkles
Who doesn't love chocolate? These are like a truffle. Crisp on the outside and soft and gooey in the center.



Homemade Pumpkin Puree
Easy and frugal.



Пятница Ponderings: My Loves and Hates of Motherhood
One of my first posts as I started writing again.  So true.



Rolo-Stuffed Ritz Crackers
Another one that rose quickly in popularity. How could it not? Salty, sweet and chocolate all at the same time?



Lemon Butter Cake
Divine. Absolutely divine.



Taco Seasoning Mix
I don't buy packaged mix. Ever.



French Silk Pie
To. Die. For.



Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Brownie Muffins
Still popular. Needs a better name.

Thank you for your support and comments and for visiting me this year! I wish you all the happiest of New Years and I am excited for what 2015 holds!



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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

He is The Gift



The first gift of Christmas was a simple gift given by a father to all his children, to us. He gave us His son, the Christ. He is the gift.

Merry Christmas!

Have a joyful and blessed holiday.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekend Reflections 12/20

Looking outside....it's rainy and gray.

Listening...it's quiet. The Doctor is at work, The Brother is on the computer and The Boy has gone to the hospital to turn in the 24 hour heart monitor he finished wearing.


Loving...my boys. They aren't perfect, but they are amazing. They're patient with their little cousins most of the time, they love their Mom and they show it. I am blessed. 


Thinking...that it's been an incredibly challenging week.  I am emotionally and physically spent. 


In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate right now and I have no idea about dinner tonight. That takes too much effort to think about right now.


Wearing...red penguin pajamas and a black turtleneck.


Needing...to clean out my pantry. I thought I smelled a rotten potato last night, but when I went looking, I found a flattened, dead mouse. I have no idea how or when he arrived and I have seen no signs anywhere else in the house. 
Not the greatest end to a difficult and challenging week.

Reading...No idea. I haven't picked up a book for three weeks.


Today...
some much needed family time.

Hoping...for for a quiet weekend where we can all recoup and be ready to enjoy Christmas next week.


Planning...I still need to get gifts wrapped and pick up some stocking stuffers. 


Gratitude...for medical professionals. For a nurse 16 years ago, who noticed my newborn son's color wasn't good and suspected a heart problem; an observation that ultimately saved his life. For pediatric cardiologists who look after his health and who care and support and encourage. For a doctor husband, who can understand a situation and reassure me. For that strong, handsome son who is such a joy to me.


From my world... 



What about you? What are you reflecting on this week? How has your week gone?

Holiday Gifts from Chocolate.com 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Пятница Ponderings: Christmas Traditions

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian
-------------------

I love Christmas. It's my favorite holiday. I love everything about it. I love the continued reminder of Jesus Christ and the gift of his birth. I love decorating the Christmas tree, baking, wrapping gifts and more importantly, giving those gifts. I love traditions. Those things that happen every year because they are important to us.

We have some Christmas traditions that happen during the Christmas season and some that happen on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Some are more secular in nature and some are more sacred and spiritual in nature.


Christmas Tree
We decorate our tree the day after Thanksgiving. I love Thanksgiving and my focus is on family and gratitude for my blessings. After Thanksgiving, I can then focus on Christmas.

Christmas Ornament
Each Christmas, we get a new ornament for the tree. My mom always got us a new ornament each year. For several years, when my sisters and I were teenagers, we would go into San Francisco for a girls day with mom. The big stores on Union Square used to decorate their store windows and it was so cool to see. We would have lunch together and then we would find our ornaments for that year. Macy's used to turn the top floor of their store into a Christmas store and it was so fun to look through. Those are some wonderful memories that I can relive each time I pull out one of those ornaments.

I have continued the ornament tradition as has my mom. She gives the grandchildren a new ornament every year, often from one of her trips. This year, each grandchild received a lovely nativity ornament.


A TARDIS, because every tree needs a TARDIS. We also have K-9, a dalek, the 11th Doctor and a sonic screwdriver! I'm tempted to get a Weeping Angel.


The Artist loves dinosaurs and I think at last count, we had about 13 dinosaurs on our tree.


The Boy has been collecting monuments. He has a great pyramid, a sphinx, the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty, Taj Mahal, Parthenon, Big Ben and the Sydney Opera House so far.


I grew up in wine country and while I don't drink alcohol, grapes always remind me of my Livermore Valley. 

Our tree is eclectic. It's not color coordinated, nothing matches. But every ornament has a story and means something to each one of us.


Nativity
Each year, we attend a live nativity. It's awesome and it is such a wonderful way to really put into perspective the birth of Jesus Christ. I also have several nativities that I put out as part of my Christmas decorations. I love the reminders of Jesus Christ.


At our house, every wants to worship the Baby Jesus. The wise men, Baby Groot, Hobbes, K-9, Boudreaux the Crocodile, a Dalek, a purple minion and a dinosaur.

Soup & Bread
Our Christmas Eve dinner is always soup and bread and eaten by candlelight. My parents started this tradition and I've continued it. My mother always taught us that the soup and bread symbolized the humble circumstances into which the Savior was born. It's really the perfect start to Christmas Eve, which is my favorite part of Christmas.

Christmas Lights
The Boy loves to look at Christmas lights. So a couple of years ago we started going out for a drive to see Christmas lights after dinner. We always have a good time, we laugh and we're together.  When we get back from seeing Christmas lights, we make s'mores.


I collect Christmas stories as does my mother, who always gives me a new one each year.  This year it's The Symbols of Christmas: Finding Meaning in the Symbols of the Season.



The Boy and his cousin reading Peef the Christmas Bear.

Christmas Eve stories
Another tradition that my parents started and that we continue is Christmas stories. After lights and s'mores, each family member chooses one or two stories to read around the fire. Some are funny (The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas) and some are tender (A Christmas Prayer, which I can't get through and The Doctor always has to finish or When Jesus Was Born in Bethlehem). We always finish by reading the account of Jesus' birth from the scriptures. It's the perfect way to end Christmas Eve.

Christmas Stockings 
In The Doctor's native England, Christmas stockings are left at the ends the children's beds. I think it's to buy the parents extra time in the mornings. Our boys love to sleep in the same room together on Christmas Eve, even now that they are teenagers and they tell us that they wake up in the middle of the night to go through their stockings, which are filled with practical things like socks and toothbrushes, some little toys and candy.


Cinnamon Rolls
We always have cinnamon rolls for breakfast. It's tradition! I make them the night before and let them slow rise in the fridge.

Christmas Presents
I love seeing the joy in my children's eyes when they open their gifts. I love, even more, the joy they feel when they watch their brother or their dad and me open gifts from them. To me, Christmas joy comes from the giving and not the receiving and it thrills me when my children recognize and feel that joy.

What about you? What are some of your favorite traditions?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Angels We Have Heard on High


This is beautiful. Please take a moment to listen to it. I love The Piano Guys and this version of Angels We Have Heard on High is gorgeous. I absolutely adored the live nativity, too!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Blueberry Turnovers




Ingredients
  • 1 Pie Crust
  • ~ 2-3 T sugar (to taste)
  • 1 T cornstarch
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Additional sugar for sprinkling
  • 1 can blueberry pie filling
Cooking Directions
  1. In a sauce pan combine, blueberries, sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice.
  2. Bring to a boil and reduce heat, simmer until thickened.
  3. Remove from heat.
  4. Divide pie crust into 6 pieces.
  5. Roll each crust into a small circle.
  6. Place some blueberry mixture on one side, fold the pastry over to cover the fruit and make a half-circle.
  7. Crimp the edges, brush with egg and sprinkle with sugar.
  8. Place on baking sheet.
  9. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until golden.
Serves 6.

Holly's Note:
Turnovers are a quick, easy treat or dessert. With pie crusts in my freezer, it's easy to pull one out and make this delicious dessert.

You can use any fruit pie filling. I prefer using raspberries and I just substitute a couple of cups of frozen raspberries in place of the blueberry filling.

Like all my pies, my turnovers look rustic, not perfect. :) 



Vosges Haut-Chocolat


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekend Reflections 12/13

Looking outside....it's sunny, but cold. But, when the sun is shining, I don't care how cold it is!

Listening...it's quiet. The Doctor is at work and the boys are just getting up.


Loving...that my Christmas shopping is done. I just need it all to arrive so it can be wrapped.


Thinking...that the new bifocals aren't working and will need to be returned. When I wear them, I get angry and swear, I have headaches and get nauseous. I do like the bifocal contacts though.


In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate right now and my early family birthday dinner at my Mom's tonight.


Wearing...red penguin pajamas, a black turtleneck and red and white striped fuzzy socks.


Needing...to do a load of laundry and take some time with The Brother to get his room cleaned.


Reading...No idea. I need to start a new one. It's been a slow couple of weeks for reading.


Today...odds and ends and family time.


Hoping...the Doctor won't have to work long this morning. 


Planning...to attend a live nativity with all the family after my early birthday dinner. We did that a couple of years ago and my boys loved walking through the replica of Bethlehem, the inn, the stable. It was such a great way to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas and it was all at the level of children. I think my nieces will really enjoy it this year. 


Gratitude...for a teenage boy who decided he wanted to learn to play the violin, has diligently worked and practiced and who performed amazingly well at his first recital after only 2 1/2 months of lessons.


From my world... 




Shiny! The newest addition to our Christmas tree this year. 


Holiday Gifts from Chocolate.com 
This post has been shared at No Rules Weekend Blog Party, Best of the Weekend, Weekend Retreat


Friday, December 12, 2014

Пятница Ponderings: Do You Believe in Santa Claus?

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian
-------------------

A friend of mine posted on Facebook recently asking when she should tell her children that Santa isn't real. The comments to her post were interesting.  My response was pretty much that in our house, if you don't believe, you don't receive, even now that my boys are teenagers. My kids figured it out on their own that Santa wasn't real and when they did, we talked about how Santa represents all that is good and wonderful about giving to others. I never perpetuated the Easter Bunny, because it was so farfetched, but Santa? Absolutely.  I suggested that my friend let her children figure it out on their own.

My children know why we celebrate Christmas. Oh, they do get caught up in lists and wants like any kids, but they understand the reason for Christmas and that our focus is on the Savior. We read Christmas stories all month, including stories about Jesus' birth. We talk about Christmas and try to put the focus on what they are giving to each other, rather than what they are receiving. But then, Jesus Christ is also a part of our lives all year long, not just at Christmas and I think that is important. If your children have a belief of or faith in Jesus Christ, Santa Claus won't take anything away from that.

I did what I could to perpetuate the belief in Santa Claus when my kids were younger. I don't think that believing in Santa Claus takes away from celebrating Jesus' birth. The legend of Santa Claus is based on a real person, St. Nicholas, who was very generous and giving. Santa Claus is magical. When The Artist got to "meet" Santa when he was about 6 years old, he was so excited. It was truly a special moment and very magical for him. It took nothing away from Jesus Christ.

We have tried to teach our children the importance of giving and helping other people all year long. A couple of times, we have chosen a family to anonymously do the 12 Days of Christmas for and it's always fun to plan and pull off. I have cooked and served lunch at the Salvation Army and I each time I do, I take The Boy out of school so he can serve with me. It is at his request: he loves doing it. He is now a member of our Mayor's Teen Council and this year they are doing an adopt a family. It's so great to see these teens focused on helping others. Each year we go shopping and they choose something they can give to the Toys for Tots organization. They understand that while we don't have everything, we are very blessed and we have opportunities to help those who might be in need.

My boys are as excited about the gifts they are giving to each other this year as they are about the ones they will receive. The Artist is always the first to put his gifts under the tree and they are always, always, something he has created himself. They are given purely out of love. I think that as my boys came to realize that Santa isn't a real person, they came to understand that he represents all of us and the gifts we give and the good things we do for each other. That is what I had hoped they would learn.

Christmas is special: it's magical. It should be. And, for us, Santa Claus is part of the Christmas tradition. It's very easy for me to honestly tell my children that I believe in Santa Claus.

My opinion is that if you focus on Christ as the reason we celebrate Christmas, then belief in Santa doesn't take anything away from that, but instead brings that element of Christmas magic we all love. It's very easy for me to blend the sacred with the secular.

May your Christmas be magical, merry and sacred. Merry Christmas from our home to yours!

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This post has been edited.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Blogging: The Why and What

I was going back through some posts and found this old meme from 2007. It was fun to revisit.

How long have you been blogging? 

Since August of 2007 on my personal blog, October of 2007 at my book blog and January of 2008 here. Weird to realize it's been 7 years.

What inspired you to start your blog, and who are your mentors? 

I had a couple of friends who had blogs and I enjoyed reading them. I love to write and I'd missed having opportunities to write. So, one day, I just created my personal blog. Our extended family is worldwide so it was also a way to share our daily lives and pictures with them. The book blog grew out of my desire to remember what books I read and what I'd thought about them. The cooking blog grew out of my desire to have some fun. 

Are you trying to make money online, or are you doing it just for fun? 

In the beginning, it was only for fun. This last year, I've made more of a concentrated effort to learn about the earning potential and experiment. Jury's still out on whether it's worth it or not.

What 3 things do you love about being online? 

Meeting people and making friends. I love getting to know other people and sharing and learning from struggles and experiences. I've made some wonderful friends. I've found a lot of new books to read and some great new recipes to try!

What 3 things do you struggle with online? 

Spending too much time online is the main one. Especially with wanting to make some money at it. It takes concentrated effort. What to share and not to share, and privacy issues. I made my personal blog private after a while because I didn't like the idea of strangers downloading my personal photos and I watermark anything that has my kids in it for this blog. I think there is a fine line between putting yourself out there as a blogger and still maintaining some privacy.

Knowing what to say and making it come across well is also a challenge. Not feeling like a stalker when you realize you enjoy someone's blog and comment a lot, but they don't seem to reciprocate or want to visit yours.


---------------------------------------- 

I don't tag people, but if you want to play along or answer the questions in your comment, please do!




Monday, December 8, 2014

Pie Crust Cookies


If you're like me, when you make pie you probably always have some remnants and pieces left over. What to do with them?

Make cookies. 

When I was younger, my mom would make little cookies with leftover pie crust. My sisters and I loved them. We all do the same thing now with our children.

Just roll out the remaining pieces of crust, cut them into fun shapes or just whatever shape you can roll them into. Place on a cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 400 for about 8-10 minutes.

They're delightful little bites of flaky goodness.

I taught the activity girls at church (8-11 year olds) how to make pie right before Thanksgiving. They each made a pie crust to take home. In the course of my preparations, I made turnovers and pie for them to try and I used one pie crust just to make these cookies. The were a hit and the girls loved them.

My pie recipe makes about 15 pie crusts and is awesome. You can see it here

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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Weekend Reflections 12/6

Looking outside....it's cold and foggy. I blame the Dementors.

Listening...it's fairly quiet. The Boy is on his computer and The Artist is getting some breakfast.


Loving...a cozy morning at home.


Thinking...that I'm not sure the new bifocals will work out.


In my kitchen...a cup of hot chocolate right now and pizza for the boys for dinner because The Doctor and I will be out tonight.


Wearing...blue sweats and a gray turtleneck with striped fuzzy socks.


Needing...to get some Christmas shopping done. Fortunately most of it can be done online. I love that!


Reading...No idea. I need to start a new one. It's been a slow couple of weeks for reading.


Today...we cleaned the church building this morning at 8:00. We have that opportunity a couple of times a year. It's a blessing to serve.


Hoping...to go shopping so the boys can find their ornaments for this year.


Planning... The Doctor and I are going to the BSU/Fresno State football game. Go Broncos!


Gratitude...for teenage boys who willingly got up early on a Saturday morning to spend time cleaning their church building with no complaints. Service learned early stays with you.

From my world... 




Because everyone wants to worship the Baby Jesus. Even a crocodile, baby Groot, Hobbes, a dalek, a purple minion and a dinosaur.  (All clay creations by The Brother.)


What about you?  What are you reflecting on today?


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Blogging: Music and blogs

When cruising the blogworld late at night, make sure your speakers are turned off. Unexpected, loud music from a random blog sidebar will make you jump out of your seat and disturb your sleeping family. Just so you know...

One of my biggest pet peeves about blogging is music that plays when you visit a blog. It's always unexpected and it's very often loud. It's never something I want to hear and I have to hunt to find it and turn it off or fumble with my headphones or speaker. If that hunt takes longer than about 10 seconds, I will probably leave your blog without reading or commenting.

I've also noticed that there are lots of ads that play music as well. It's just as jarring and unexpected.

If you do have music on your blog, why? What is your reason?

If you don't have music on your blog, do you love it or hate it when you visit a blog that does?