Christmas this year was full of friends and family celebrating our blessings.  Even though we were all sick at one point or another during the last few weeks we still enjoyed a wonderful holiday.  We celebrated with Grandpa and Grammie and our friends Tim and Nikki last weekend.  

Grandpa made Emma the best kitchen ever.  She (well, Mason too) loves to cook up all sorts of dishes.  Emma was completely put out that there was not real water coming out of the faucet.  She kept asking both me and daddy to "come....come" and she would bring us to the sink and say "on...water."  We would pretend to turn it on and she would exclaim "Noooooo!  Water!"  It took her a while to accept that you had to pretend.  She does love it though.  Good job, Grandpa! 

 Then it was off to my sister's house to celebrate with all our aunts, uncles, and cousins.  She was quite the hostess with all sorts of goodies and drinks.  We played cards, watched football, and enjoyed all the kids opening their presents. 

 We came home on Christmas Eve.  Nana came back with us and spent the week at our house.  Ryan and I were sick for a couple days and the kids relished in playing with Nana.  They made hot chocolate, played with their new toys and read books. 
 Mason wasn't so sure about leaving milk out for Santa because he was worried that it would get warm.  I guess he isn't a fan of warm milk. 
 He loved his workbooks from Nana.  He would go get a pencil and run up to Nana saying, "come on we have a lot of work to do!"  Emma loved playing with her new kitchen and little babies with her new beautiful cradle made by uncle Bruce.  Between all the playing, mom and I squeezed in a little shopping trip.  On the hour drive home, Mason was getting a little restless.  I told him that if he closed his eyes and fell asleep it would go faster.  He replied with, "mom, the only way it will go faster is if the car goes faster" in his serious, matter of fact way.  Love that kid.
Somehow my 12 days of Christmas recipes turned in to 3 days.  I did plenty of baking.  Even snapped a few photos, but it just didn't happen.  Maybe I should have had my little chef-in-training help me out.
We're busy finishing up some house projects before we start a new list for the new year.  We've been organizing, moving furniture and cleaning.  Two closets and some serious drawer issues have been taken care of.  Paint is drying on a new shelf in my craft room and the huge space where our stackable washer and dryer used to be is filled with a pretty cabinet (free to us from some friends) full of baskets holding our towels and linens.   I have another week at home, looking forward to some more major family time. 


12 days of Christmas Recipes: Snowflake Bread

This honey-glazed bread has just hint of anise.  You get to practice your snowflake drawing in the dough, too.  It's best served warm from the oven.  It goes great with a big pot of stew. 

Snowflake Bread
from Gooseberry Patch

2 1/4 tsp. yeast
1/4 c. warm water
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. butter, melted
1/4 c. honey
4 3/4 c. flour, divided
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 tsp. anise seed, crushed
1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. water

Combine yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Combine milk, butter, and honey in a large bowl.  Stir in the yeast mixture, 2 cups flour, eggs, vanilla, anise, and salt.  Beat with a mixer until smooth.  Stir in another 2 cups flour until a soft dough forms.  Knead until smooth, gradually adding the remaining 3/4 c. flour.  Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled.  Punch down dough and divide in half.  Form each half into a 8 inch round loaf.  Place on greased baking sheets.  Cover and let rise 15 minutes.  Use a knife to make a snowflake design in each loaf.  Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Brush glaze over loaves and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes.  Serves 10-12.


12 Days of Christmas Recipes: 4 Layer Brownies

These brownies happened by accident (or perhaps necessity).  And they are pretty delicious.  Four layers of chocolate, oats, and peanut butter.  These babies are super sweet.  Rich.  A little goes a long way.  Well, not that long if you find yourself carving off little slivers all day long as I may have done.

I was planning on making some buckeye brownies (think brownies, peanut butter filling, more chocolate) that caught my eye in one of my Christmas cookbooks, but when I got around to reading the recipe I realized that it called for a boxed brownie mix which I, of course, did not have on hand.  So, in my search for a brownie recipe I came across a recipe for 3 layer brownies (think oat layer, fudgy brownie, chocolate topping).  So I combined them together to make some mighty 4 layer peanut butter brownies.  Perfect for sharing with my awesome student teacher after a crazy Monday.

4 Layer Peanut Butter Brownies
adapted from taste of home and gooseberry patch

Oat Layer
1 c. quick cooking oats
1/2 c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter, melted

Brownie Layer
1/2 c. butter
2 squares (1 oz. each) semisweet chocoate
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt

Peanut Butter Layer
1 c. powdered sugar
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter

Chocolate Layer
3 Tbsp. butter
1 c. chocolate chips

In a small mixing bowl, combine the ingredients for the oat layer and mix on low speed until blended.  Press into a greased 9 inch square baking pan.  Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan over low heat, melt butter and chocolate.  Remove from heat; stir in sugar, eggs, milk and vanilla.  Combine flour, baking soda and salt.  Gradually stir into chocolate mixture until smooth.  Pour over crust.
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.  Cool.

Mix together the powdered sugar, butter and peanut butter.  Spread over cooled brownies.  Chill about 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate chips and butter over low heat, stirring occasionally.  Spread over brownies.  Let cool and cut into squares.



We have an advent calendar this year!  But only because I finally finished it up on December 2nd.  Not too bad for buying the material back in July.  
 I'm so glad we are doing one this year.  It's the highlight of our evenings.  Mason is really into opening the little pockets and reading the bible verses. 
A fun tradition to start with our little ones.  I remember doing our advent calendar growing up.  Opening the little doors each day.  Mason keeps counting how many more days until we get to the yellow one.  We're going through the alphabet with each letter standing for a different word that has to do with the Christmas story. 

We got out the piano music too and are learning Christmas songs here and there.  Mason's favorite so far is Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. 
Did you notice that Emma is playing with her foot?  She's talented like that.


O Christmas Tree

Christmas tree love:
Mason showing off his M ornament.  He moved it right to the middle so Emma wouldn't bother it and he could see it from his perch on the chair. 
 Emma being careful with the ornaments.  "I careful, mommy"
 Emma is doing pretty well with leaving the ornaments alone.  We told her to look at them with her eyes and we often find her with her head in the tree and her eyes as close as they can be, doing just what we asked.
 The perch.  Mason loves to turn on the lights and then sit and look at them.  They go on first thing in the morning and don't turn off until the end of the day.


12 Days of Christmas Recipes: Eggnog Glazed Doughnuts

Can you believe it's December?  Me either.  There are a lot of things I love about this month.  Snow. Baking.  Family.  Eggnog.  Christmas music.  Christmas lights.  Friends.  Cookies.  We haven't had much snow yet, but we're enjoying plenty of everything else on the list. 

I have a long list of recipes I want to try, so I'm challenging myself to post about 12 of them again this year.  Last year I was cooking up these.

So, when I found myself making doughnuts this weekend for my friend's birthday (Hi Holly!) I decided to try some with an eggnog glaze.  If you love everything eggnog like I do, you'll understand.  Make sure to roll the doughnut holes in cinnamon and sugar.  It's the only way. 

Eggnog-Glazed Doughnuts
doughnut recipe adapted from Baked Explorations

3 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
3/4 c buttermilk
1/4 c. yogurt
1/4 c. butter, melted and cooled
vegetable oil for frying

Eggnog Glaze
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 Tbsp eggnog

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk and yogurt.  Add the melted, cooled butter and mix again.  Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until a sticky dough forms. 

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it out until it is about 1/2 inch thick.  Cut with a doughnut cutter or two different sized circle cutters. 

Pour about 1 inch of oil into a deep skillet.  Heat slowly over medium-high heat until it is about 365 degrees.

Make the glaze while your oil is heating up by combining the powdered sugar and eggnog.

When the oil is hot,  place 2-3 doughnuts into the skillet at a time.  Once they have browned (about 2-3 minutes) turn them over and cook one more minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined baking sheet.  Dip the doughnuts into the glaze and decorate with sprinkles. 


thanksgiving weekend

We celebrated our Thanksgiving holiday Thursday through Sunday.  Several days full of family, food, laughs, and blessings upon blessings.  Thursday was spent with Ryan's parents and grandparents.  Then my family came on Friday and spent the weekend here.  It was so much fun to all be together.  The weather was beautiful.  We spent Friday morning at the park and did a little shopping in town before my sister and mom arrived.  After dinner, two of my cousins came over and we got out the yarn and crochet needles.  On Saturday the cousins played and played before we all at our Thanksgiving meal at my aunt and uncle's house. 
Emma helping with the pie dough.

Mason helping Grandpa with a project.

 Puzzle time!

Mason snuggles.
After everyone left today we went and cut down a Christmas tree.  The house is officially decorated.  Mason keeps insisting that it is going to snow because it's Christmas time.  Our shopping is done except for two things (I think this is the earliest I've ever said that.) I have a few projects left to finish up and then I'm hoping to wrap everything up.   I'm searching for new recipes to try, activities to do with the kids, and just plain enjoying the season. 



I've decided you can tell a lot about a person's personality by the way they approach fingerpainting. 
Take Mason for example:

Careful, meticulous, precise. Don't you dare mix the colors or get too messy.  It's all about the details.  Take your time.  Plan it out. 
Then there's Emma: 


Go all in!  It's all about having fun and making the biggest mess possible.  The sooner you finish the sooner you can get to the next thing.  The more paint you get on your hands and in your hair the better.  See?


weekend moments

So much to be thankful for this weekend. I love my job.  I love my 3-day weekends even more.  I consider it a blessing to spend Monday through Thursday with my precious second graders.  My days are full to the tip top.  Each morning begins with a quiet time (sort of...depending on which early riser climbs into my lap as the sun rises and we study the bible together) and then it's a mad scramble to get showers, breakfast, kids dressed, myself ready for the day, sometimes packing lunch and dinner to bring into town depending on the day and what we have going on after school and we're out the door.  After a super fun day with the kiddos at school it's dinner, bible study, Awanas, cousins, baths, books, singing, dancing, playing and bedtime.  Repeat.  But come Friday, I'm ready to soak up the blessings of our slower pace and lots of family time. 
Sweet girl snuggles with daddy.

Reading books on top of the coffee table, where else?

Giggles and grins at every turn.

Making thanksgiving banners and then cutting "spaghetti" with the extra yarn.

My cracker-making helpers.

Checking out snowplows for our new truck.

Also on tap this weekend: a wedding celebration complete with cupcakes, a great visit with the great-grandparents, and a wonderful message at church and dinner with friends.  Hope your weekend is just as blessed.


apple challah

Craving something full of apples and cinnamon?  I came across this recipe in my bread machine cookbook and since we have an abundance of apples around I decided to try it out. 
There are three sections of dough braided together.  Each section of dough is like a apple cinnamon roll...the apple filling is rolled up inside. 
The result is a pretty braid full with apples, cinnamon, and honey in every bite.  

Apple Challah
adapted from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook

3/4 c. water
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. oil
3 c. bread flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. yeast

Combine the ingredients in a bread machine and select the dough cycle.  Or, make the dough with any other method you prefer. 

3 medium appkes, peeled cored and sliced
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl.  Divide the dough into three equal sections.  Roll each portion into a 12 by 3 inch rectangle.  Brush with melted butter and place 1/3 of the filling down one side.  Roll up jelly-roll style and pinch the seam.  Place the 3 ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid together.  Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes).

Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.



We're not really sure what season it is at our house.  We had snow over the weekend, our house is filled with pumpkins, cinnamon, and apples and we're still enjoying fresh tomatoes from the greenhouse.  

I love these goofy kids.  Mason wanted to wear his awana vest.  Then of course Emma needed a vest.  And with the vest always comes a hat.  I love those tomatoes too.  They are some of the best ones we've had yet. 



On our way to visit my little nephew, we stopped for a bit to visit with my best friend, Mindy, and her family.  We started the morning with coffee at quite possibly the most crowded Starbucks I've ever been too.  Luckily we scored a huge table out of the way where the kiddos could sip their hot chocolate while we visited.  Then it was off to the pumpkin patch.  
They were totally into the smaller pumpkins that they could carry all by themselves.  Livvie was also very into the goats and spent most of her time feeding them.  Mason and Emma weren't about to get close to them, which was a little amusing. 


 We are so thankful for this sweet family and the special times that we get to spend together.