Thursday, November 28, 2019

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

In Hushed Anticipation: Observing The Season of Advent - Third Sunday

Introductory Hymn
Missa Gaudete. Listen, here.

Introit: I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God; for he has clothed me in the garment of salvation and robed me in the cloak of justice, like a bride adorned with her jewels.

- Isaiah 61:10 (Roman Missal)

Gaudens gaudebo in Domino et exsultabit anima mea in Deo meo: quia induit me vestimentis salutis, et indumento iustitiƦ circumdedit me, quasi sponsam ornatam monilibus suis.

Ps. Exaltabo te, Domine, quoniam suscepisti me: nec delecasti inimicos meos super me.(Graduale Romanum)

The Reading of the Word and The Lighting of the Candle
Isaiah 12:2-6

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the LORD GOD is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation.

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted.

Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth.

Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

The Candle of Joy
Light the Advent candle three
Think of heavenly harmony
Angels singing "Peace on Earth"
At the Blessed Saviour's birth.

Candle, candle burning bright
Shining in the cold winter night
Candle, candle burning bright
Fill our hearts with Christmas light.

Joy To The World

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments
1 cup applesauce
1-1 1/4 cup  ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves or nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the applesauce, cinnamon, and cloves (if using). You want the dough to be able to form a ball without being too sticky. Add additional applesauce or cinnamon if needed. You can also mix the dough by hand.

Sprinkle a clean surface with cinnamon (like you would with flour while rolling out cookies). Place the dough on the surface and sprinkle with more cinnamon. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick, sprinkling with more cinnamon to keep from sticking.

Cut out into desired shapes and place on the prepared sheet pan so that they aren't touching. Use a skewer to poke a hole into each ornament (to attach string). Bake in the preheated oven for 1 1/2 - 2 hours or until rock hard. Loop a decorative string through the ornament and hang on your tree.

I also LOVE these . . .
Wood and Paper Stars

Maple Cinnamon Star Cookies
2 and 1/4 cups (281g) all-purpose flour (spoon and leveled)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 teaspoons maple extract*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
gold sprinkles and/or edible glitter sprinkles
optional: 8 ounces white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy and smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Add the egg, maple extract, and vanilla extract then beat on high until fully combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer down to low and add about half of the flour mixture, beating until just barely combined. Add the rest of the flour and continue mixing until just combined. If the dough still seems too soft, you can add 1 Tablespoon more flour until it is a better consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Roll each portion out onto a piece of parchment (or a silicone baking mat, what I prefer!) to about 1/4″ thickness. Stack the pieces, with parchment paper between the two, onto a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours and up to 1 day. Chilling is mandatory. If chilling for more than a couple hours, cover the top dough piece with a single piece of parchment paper.

Once chilled, preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line 2-3 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Remove one of the dough pieces from the refrigerator and using a cookie cutter, cut into star shapes. Transfer the cut cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet. Re-roll the remaining dough and continue cutting until all is used.

Before baking, top with sprinkles. Use a spoon to press the sprinkles into the cookies so they stay secure on top.

Bake for 10-11 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. Make sure you rotate the baking sheet halfway through bake time. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before dipping into chocolate. If using, melt the chopped white chocolate in the microwave in 20 second increments, stirring after each until completely melted. Dip the cookies into the white chocolate and allow chocolate to set completely at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Mexican Hot Chocolate
4 cups whole milk
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
4 oz bittersweet chocolate , chopped
7 oz sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Optional Toppings:
marshmallows (regular or mini)
whipped cream
pinch of cinnamon
drizzle of chocolate sauce
grated chocolate

To a large saucepan, dutch oven or stockpot, add all ingredients and heat over MED heat. Whisk as it heats, to combine all ingredients until smooth. Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Pour into mugs and top with desired toppings. My usual preference is whipped cream, grated chocolate, and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Our Thanksgiving Menu 2019

Today I wanted to share our Thanksgiving menu with you, with links to the recipes we use. This menu has changed little over the years, if only to add another dish in years when I wanted to try something new. But it just wouldn't be Thanksgiving if these dishes were not on the table. The only diversion we are making this year is that we are having Cornish Hens in place of turkey. It's something I've wanted to do for awhile now, as I love the idea of everyone having their own little bird on their plate, so we're giving it a try! I've never had them before, but Bill loves them and according to him, they are much easier to deal with than a turkey, so, we shall see, I hope I don't regret it.

Our meal this year will be on Wednesday night, due to the fact that two out of three of us work retail. Bill actually managed to be off Wednesday and Thursday, but our Kate has to be at work at 2:30 Thanksgiving day, which would have rushed things. So our big meal will be the night before, and then on Thursday, since we won't have leftovers from the cornish hens, and you MUST have leftover Turkey!, we'll bake a small turkey breast for our meal on the big day, along with leftovers from the night before.

And so, here is a list of what you will find on our table this year;

Cornish Hens
Pilgrim Sauce
(see recipe below)
Deviled Eggs
Olives / Green Onions
Water / Sweet Tea / Wine

Chocolate Pie
Pumpkin Pie

Growing up, I never cared for canned cranberry sauce.  But for many years that opinion was based purely upon sight.  I don't care for anything "jellied", unless it's spread on toast, and just the sight of that jiggling, tubular red sauce made me dizzy! I was pretty sure it was plastic, and regardless of how "wonderful" others claimed it tasted, I wasn't taking any chances.

But then a few years ago by some twist of fate, a bit of it ended up on my plate, and in one small bite I was hooked! The only problem was, while I did love the taste, the texture still left a lot to be desired.

Enter, Pilgrim Sauce!  I came across this recipe in one of my Gooseberry Patch Christmas books shortly after that fateful encounter, and decided to give it a try.  Oh my goodness!  I could eat this stuff year round, it is just that good! It is a staple on my Thanksgiving menu now! It is so good with a slice of turkey! But my favorite way to eat it is the next day, in a turkey wrap!

This is a recipe I found on Pinterest. Once I had discovered the joy of fresh cranberry sauce, finding ways to use up the leftovers was important so that none of that goodness went to waste! The thing I love about these wraps is that I am not big on leftovers, so if I can find a way to create some variety using common ingredients, I'm all for it!  This recipe uses both leftover turkey and cranberry sauce and the combination of the almonds, celery, mayo and spinach wrap is just delicious!

I'm including the recipe for both of these today, but if you already have a tried and true recipe for cranberry sauce, or even if you like the canned stuff, just use what you have for the wraps!  Either way, you are in for a treat and it will help you use up some leftovers!

1 can frozen cranberry juice, thawed.
(I had a hard time finding this for several years, and I have used substituted cranberry juice in its place and it worked fine!)
1/3 cup sugar
12 oz. package of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 Tbsp. orange marmalade
2 Tbsp. orange juice
2 tsp. orange zest
1/4 tsp. allspice 

Combine cranberry juice and sugar in saucepan. Boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Add cranberries and cook for about 7 minutes until fresh berries pop and dried berries soften. Remove from heat.  Stir in marmalade, orange juice, orange zest and allspice. Chill until ready to serve.

3 cups Turkey , cooked and shredded (or chicken)
1/2 cup almonds , whole or sliced
2 ribs celery, chopped
2 - 3 Tablespoons mayonnaise (or Greek yogurt), to taste
1/2 cup cranberry sauce (or dried cranberries)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 - 4 large tortillas

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon filling into tortillas and roll into a wrap.

This year to go along with our turkey wrap, I'm going to make up this broccoli salad.  One of the ladies at my first ever Friendsgiving that I attended last week brought this, and I tell you, I could have eaten my weight in it!

6 cups of broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 of a red onion, chopped
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled (I use this method for making bacon, SO easy!)
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

In a very large bowl, mix the mayonnaise, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper until blended. Add broccoli, red onion and cranberries into the bowl and mix until coated. Add crumbled bacon and sunflower seeds and mix well.  Leave in the refrigerator for at least an hour, preferably two.

I also plan to set aside a small amount of the crumbled bacon, dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and sprinkle a little over the top before serving, just for some added color.

If you love cranberry sauce like I do now, you are sure to love these recipes!

Until then,

Friday, November 22, 2019

Tea With Dawn - Week 2

Cozy Nests  Earth's Bounty  Thankful Hearts

Good morning!  Well, here we are once again, invited to another of Dawn's lovely tea parties.  I've been preparing for days now and I hope you'll enjoy your visit here! Do be sure to visit our host and say hello to all of the other party guests!

I'll let you know right off the bat, however, that this afternoon I am not drinking tea. You see, it's been a particularly stressful day as my baby girl got into a little fender bender, well, maybe more of a trunk smusher. She's fine, other than being shaken up and a little sore, but no major injuries, her little car is fixable, and it wasn't her fault. But, it's still every parent's worst nightmare, THAT phone call. And to be honest, the phone call and the drive to get to her was worse than the wreck. My heart about stopped. All that being said, I did still want to go ahead and share my post, because goodness, I've been working on it for a couple of weeks. :)

So instead of drinking tea today, I'll pass on a recipe that I've enjoyed during the holidays, which are quickly approaching.  Thanksgiving is now less than a week away, and then the Advent and Christmas season will be in full swing.  I like to make this up a couple of times during the holiday season, usually closer to Christmas, and I find it especially nice to enjoy in that lovely week between Christmas and New Year's, which is unlike any other week in the entire year for me. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I am quite intentional about planning for a week of leisure, my own personal week to hibernate!

 Christmas Tea
1 stick of cinnamon
4 oz. loose green tea
5 cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 vanilla pod
1 Tablespoon dried cranberries (optional)

Prepare a clean and dry glass jar.

Break cinnamon stick into small pieces then place in jar with the remaining ingredients. Close the lid tightly and shake to combine. Wait at least 24 hours, 48 is desirable, for the tea to absorb the other flavors. 

❈ Cozy Nests 
And speaking of hibernating, this week we're discussing cozy nests!

- Dim lighting
- A fire in the hearth
- Soft, warm blankets
- Cozy, comfortable chairs
- Beds piled high with quilts
- A good book or your latest knitting project to occupy the hours.

This is the very definition of COZY!

One of my favorite ways to make my home warm and cozy is candlelight. I especially like beeswax candles, and this is the year that I am **hoping** to try my hand at making my own. I am going to start with jar candles, but I'd love to think that one day I might master taper candles as well.

In addition to the warm lighting, one of the things I enjoy as well are the lovely scents that fill the room. But if you, like me, are trying to be more aware of the toxic fumes that most store bought candles contain, then you might enjoy simmer pots!
Growing up, one of the things that I loved about cold mornings was waking up to the aroma of breakfast coming from the kitchen. Lying in my head and hearing the tinks and clinks as mom worked, listening for the furnace to turn on, assured me that it was safe to come out from under the warm cocoon I'd made of my covers.

My mother always made the traditional spread of eggs, bacon and toast on Saturday's, but when my girls were growing up we ate a lot pancakes. I don't make pancakes as much as used to, and writing this post has reminded me that maybe I should, and when I do, I think I'll try this recipe out first.

❈ Cinnamon Vanilla Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp white sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
1/4 cup melted butter

Melt the butter and set aside to cool down slightly.

To a mixing bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Use a whisk to combine all dry ingredients well.

In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, vanilla, ground cinnamon and egg. Whisk to combine. Add melted butter and whisk again.

Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisking and stirring to mix it all together. Once it's combined, stop mixing. If you over-mix, your pancakes won't be light and fluffy.

Set pancake batter aside and heat up a large skillet or griddle over MED-LOW heat. Add a bit of butter to the preheated griddle and spread it out.

Use a 1/4 or 1/3 cup measuring cup to scoop the pancake batter onto the griddle or skillet. Slowly pour it onto the surface, circling outwards to make a nice circle.

Let the pancake cook about 2-3 minutes. You'll notice bubbles popping up on the surface of the pancake, if the edges look set, carefully flip the pancake over. Cook another 2 minutes on the other side.

Remove to a plate and cover with a kitchen towel. Alternatively, you can place the pancakes on a baking sheet and keep it in a low heat oven (175-200 degrees), until you're ready to serve

 Earth's Bounty
The year has turned its circle.
The seasons come and go.
The harvest all is gathered in
And chilly north winds blow.
Orchards have shared their treasures,
The fields, their yellow grain,
So open wide the doorway-
Thanksgiving comes again!"

This time of the year is so lovely, with the harvest gathered, the pantry brimming with jams and jellies, and tomatoes that will taste of summer in the middle of a cold winter day! Life is golden in November, from the dying leaves still hanging stubborn on the limb, to the glow of the firelight in the hearth.  Winter is on the way!

If you're still looking for a few ideas for preserving your harvest why not try out one of these recipes. Each one is small batch, meaning, in most cases, it makes one jar, and requires no pectin or canning!

Small Batch Fig Jam

Small Batch Strawberry Vanilla Bean Jam

Small Batch Blueberry Jam

Small Batch Blackberry Jam

Small Batch Mixed Berry Bourbon Jam

Small Batch Sweet Cherry Jam

Small Batch Spiced Plum Jam

Small Batch Candied JalapeƱos
(aka Cowboy Candy!)

Small Batch Hot Pepper Cranberry Jam

 Thankful Hearts
For most of my life, Christmas was my favorite holiday, and I'm not going to lie, I still love it!  But as I've grown older, the sweet simplicity of Thanksgiving speaks more and more to my heart every year. There was a time when putting up the Christmas tree right around my birthday happened every year, my excuse being, well, "It's IS my birthday!???", and I wanted the sweet glow of the tree to enjoy during our Thanksgiving meal.

But now there is something stirring in me to preserve and hold this day close, all on it's on, and to reflect on the blessings that are ours. Rather than "what do you want for Christmas", Thanksgiving asks us to stop and reflect upon what we already have, and it-is-enough.

While I believe that placing our focus on all that is ours and being thankful should be a year round discipline, at Thanksgiving, especially, it is important to take the time to reflect.  Here are some ideas I've found for bringing this forefront to our attention, tangible reminders to give thanks each day for the blessings that are already ours.

Light A Candle, from, is a beautiful online activity that encourages thoughtfulness and thankfulness.

Make A Thankful Tree Using Real Fall Leaves

Printable Thankful Dice - roll the dice and share what you're thankful for!

Gratitude Stones - I love this idea! You could set them out in a pretty basket along with a few chalk pens and allow people to reflect and add to the basket of gratefulness throughout the day!

Family Gratitude Pumpkin - I love this idea, as well!

Gratitude ABC's Printable - This would be great for the littles in your life, and for the not so littles, too!

Gratitude Scavenger Hunt - This would be a fun family activity after everyone has enjoyed the big meal.

And when you have the time, I encourage you to listen to this speech, Jack Canfield - How Gratitude Changed This Multi-Millionaires Life

I hope you've enjoyed your time here, and be sure to visit our host and leave a comment to be entered into a special give away she's hosting, I know I'd love to be the winner!  And join us next time, on December 6 when the themes will be. . .

Heaven and Earth   Holiday Greenery ❈ Christmas Trees

Thursday, November 21, 2019

My First Friendsgiving

I recently joined a group of ladies who meet every Monday morning for a water color painting class.  You might recall that learning to paint with water colors was among the first eleven goals I listed on my 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge. I've only been a few times, but they are such a fun group of ladies and I am really enjoying myself!

As it happened, at my very first class someone mentioned getting together for Friendsgiving, and sweet as they are, even though they'd only just me me, they invited me to come.  By that time it had already been determined who was bringing what, and with most of the bases covered, they asked if I could bring rolls.

So yesterday, as I was finishing up my Thanksgiving shopping, I was perplexed about what type of roll to bring.  My absolute favorite, and what we will be using for our Thanksgiving meal, is Sister Schubert's, and I briefly considered them. But in the end I didn't want to bring anything that had to be popped into the oven. I'm not sure exactly what time we are eating, I know we are meeting at noon, but my guess is that oven space may be tight and if all the other food was ready to eat, I would hate for us to have to wait for the rolls.  So I decided instead on classic club rolls.

When I got home, I began rethinking my decision.  My offering of rolls seemed meager, especially when they were not even home made. And that was when I got the idea to make up a couple of different variations of compound butter.

I had seen this idea on Pinterest several times and even pinned a few recipes, but this was my first time making them.  And all I can say, is HOLY SMOKE! Who knew that just by adding a few spices and other ingredients to butter that it would make it so decadent!  And it was so easy!

I chose two different recipes;

❈ Cranberry Orange Pecan Compound Butter

1 stick unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon dried cranberries
1 Tablespoon small pecan chips (I used these!)
 Zest of one orange

Allow butter to reach room temperature.  Using an electric mixer, whip until fluffy.  Stir in pecans, cranberries and orange zest.

Place in mason jar, or you can make a roll by placing the butter on a piece of parchment or wax paper and rolling it up and twisting the ends.

Place in refrigerator overnight to allow flavors to blend.

*Rolls pictured are a separate package. I wouldn't take "handled" rolls to share with my friends! :)

 Brown Sugar and Cinnamon Compound Butter

1 Stick of Butter
2 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Allow butter to reach room temperature.  Using an electric mixer, whip until fluffy.  Add brown sugar and cinnamon and mix until combined.

Place in mason jar, or you can make a roll by placing the butter on a piece of parchment or wax paper and rolling it up and twisting the ends.

Place in refrigerator overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Making this butter just added such a nice touch to what may have otherwise been a boring presentation.  You can really see the pretty tray in the picture very well, but its one that I've had for years.  It's plastic, but on one side it looks like wood and is adorned with acorns all around the edges. I actually have two of them, and they have both held up well for as much as I have used them.

I can't wait to join my friends for our feast, and to share these delicious recipes!

People, Look East

People, look east. The time is near
Of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able,
Trim the hearth and set the table.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the guest, is on the way.

Furrows, be glad. Though earth is bare,
One more seed is planted there:
Give up your strength the seed to nourish,
That in course the flower may flourish.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the rose, is on the way.

Birds, though you long have ceased to build,
Guard the nest that must be filled.
Even the hour when wings are frozen
God for fledging time has chosen.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the bird, is on the way.

Stars, keep the watch. When night is dim
One more light the bowl shall brim,
Shining beyond the frosty weather,
Bright as sun and moon together.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the star, is on the way.

Angels, announce with shouts of mirth
Christ who brings new life to earth.
Set every peak and valley humming
With the word, the Lord is coming.
People, look east and sing today:
Love, the Lord, is on the way.

- Unknown

In Hushed Anticipation - Observing The Season of Advent - Second Sunday

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Introductory Hymn
Missa Populus Sion. Listen, here.

Introit: People of Zion, the Lord will come to save all nations, and your hearts will exult to hear his majestic voice.
- Based on Isaiah 30:19,30, (Roman Missal)

Populus Sion, ecce Dominus veniet ad salvandas gentes: et auditam faciet Dominus gloriam vocis suae, in laetitia cordis vestri.

Ps. Qui regis Israel, intende: qui deducis velut ovem Ioseph.(Graduale Romanum)

The Reading of the Word and The Lighting of the Candle
Isaiah 40:3-5
“A voice of one calling:
‘In the wilderness prepare
    the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
    a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
    every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
    the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
    and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’” (NIV)

Light the Advent candle two,

think of humble shepherds who,

filled with wonder at the sight,

of the child on Christmas night.

Candle, candle burning bright,

shining in the cold winter night.

Candle, candle burning bright,

fill our hearts with Christmas light.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Listen, here, or listen to this beautiful version.  We enjoy listening to this at the end of every Advent devotional during the season.

Click on image to enlarge, right click and save to your computer.

Hand Crafts
Traditionally we put up our tree the weekend before Thanksgiving, although in recent years, I've held out for the weekend after, but always before the first Sunday of Advent.  

However, with the scripture reference to "the voice crying in the wilderness", and the poems mention of "the humble shepherds", it might hold special meaning to put up the tree on this day.  Not that there were pine trees in the fields, but most likely there were some trees, and as I though on this it just seemed an obvious fit.  I don't even know that I will hold out until the second Sunday of Advent, but it's a lovely thought, just the same.

That being said, perhaps you could even place the tree the day before and put on nothing but the lights and save the fun of decorating together as a family for today.  Or you could put the tree and the lights up and then decorate it a little more each night, adding different elements. As I've said in previous posts, there is no wrong way to observe the season, all that matters is what is right for you and for your family! So whenever you choose to decorate your tree, here are some lovely ideas for adorning it!

 Christmas Tree Gingerbread Ornaments
1 cup shortening (I used butter)
1 cup light brown sugar
3 farm-fresh eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups molasses
6 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tablespoons ginger
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon,

1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and add the brown sugar, eggs, and molasses. Sift together all the dry ingredients and add them to the butter mixture. Mix thoroughly and chill well ­before rolling out on a floured slab. 2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease a cookie sheet.

3. Place them on the greased cookie sheet and bake them in the preheated oven. Bake until dry but not crisp.

 Candy Cane Ornaments
A shepherds crook is a long and sturdy stick with a hook at one end used to guide and manage sheep. In tribute to the shepherds, why not decorate your tree with candy canes.  Of course you may choose to use the real thing, which we did for a number of years and it was lovely.  But here are some other ideas you might want to consider as well.

Rustic Holiday Candy Canes - wrapped in burlap and ribbon and adorned with bells and greenery.
Prim Candy Canes wrapped in twine, or these wrapped in red gingham, so cute!
Pipe Cleaner Candy Canes - these would be super easy and fun for the littles in your life!
Beaded Candy Canes - and these would be great for the not-so-little littles, so they won't be tempted to put the beads in their mouth!
Salt Dough Candy Cane Ornaments - I just love salt dough, and these are especially cute!

❈ Peppermint Cookies
So while we're on the subject of candy canes, why not make up something that features them!? There are more recipes than you can shake a candy cane at, :), but here are a few that caught my eye!

- Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies
- Peppermint Melt-Aways
- Ultra Soft Peppermint Sugar Cookies
- Peppermint Snowball Cookies
- Frosted Peppermint Brownie Cookies

I traditionally make a sweet little peppermint sugar cookie dusted with peppermint sugar and drizzled with chocolate every year, but as odd as it may sound, I can't find a single picture of them. So I'll save that post for another day!

And, since we discussed putting up your Christmas tree, if you prefer a live tree (we do, but due to allergies in the family have always used an artificial tree), you might like to make up a batch of this and have it waiting for everyone, along with some of the cookies you've made! My long-time blogging friend, Rachel Proffit, shared this recipe with me last year.

 Christmas Tree Farm Apple Cider Punch
2 cups hard cider
2 cups apple juice
1/2 cup of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons allspice

Method: Boil and simmer to allow flavours to infuse. That's where the slow cooker came in handy!.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Advent: A Time of Preparation

I may be sharing more than I first anticipated over the next week, as we prepare our hearts and homes for a glorious day of Thanksgiving, quickly followed by the beautiful season of Advent.

I've come across so many beautiful passages and resources, and I'm working to devise a personal plan that will blend them all together in a lovely observance. But as I come across them, I want to share them with you. They are simply too lovely to keep for one's self, and I hope you will enjoy them and be blessed.

The following passage is from a lovely little book I found on The Internet Archives. This description of the Advent wreath being somewhat different from the more common candles of purple and pink, I found it inspiring as I have used white candles from the beginning. In some years we have included the Christ Candle, as well, and will again this year, though I still use a white candle, only the Christ Candle is a bit taller.  I also love the meanings given for each candle, which differ from what I had learned previously.

I was especially moved by this phrase;

"Whatever the arrangement of the color, the beauty of the wreath deepens the understanding of Advent as a time of preparation for the full appearing of life in Jesus Christ."

For however one chooses to observe the season of Advent, the meaning is not in the color, but the symbolism. "It is the light that gives the candle its meaning".  There is really no right or wrong way to carry out these rituals in your home. The most important aspect is the spirit in which they are observed.  I pray you'll be encouraged!

"The Advent wreath is a contribution of the German and Scandinavian traditions. It developed out of the simple use of an evergreen spray of fir, balsam or pine placed near the hearth.  The wreath is plain, without any ornamentation of ribbon or bow. The evergreen of the wreath, representing the life that is found in Christ. The greens have come from the out of doors, where nature has begun its winter sleep. Midst the drabness of nature, the evergreen branch symbolizes the continuation of life. In the home it is placed on a central table. In the church it is usually suspended above the alter, or set on a high pedestal resting on the floor.

The Advent candles are arranged with the spray. Candles have been used for centuries as the symbol of light, by the Jewish religion and others as well. It is not all that strange that Christian tradition has given the candle a prominent place in the observance of Advent.

It is the living light, the living flame, that gives the candle its meaning. This is what makes it more symbolic than artificial lights. 

The Advent candles are symbolic of the coming of Jesus, the living light of the world.

He is the light that broke forth on the world on that first Christmas when he was born as Prince of Peace. He is the light that gradually penetrated into all the world. The tradition of lighting one more candle each week, or each day, tells of the increasingly brighter light of His coming, and leads gradually to the blaze of light at the dawning of Christmas.

In the traditional use of four white candles for the four weeks of Advent, a specific meaning has been attached to each candle. The first has been called the Prophecy Candle, announcing the period of waiting. The second is the Bethlehem candle, symbolic of the preparations made to receive and to cradle the Christ child. The third is the Shepherds' Candles, which typifies the act of sharing Christ. And the fourth is the Angels' candle of love and final coming.

Sometimes a red Christ Candle is placed in the center of these four to be lighted on Christmas Eve. Whatever the arrangement of the color, the beauty of the wreath deepens the understanding of Advent as a time of preparation for the full appearing of life in Jesus Christ."

- Paul M. Lindberg
Advent: The Days Before Christmas

Thanksgiving Playlists

I came across some lovely playlists on You Tube this week and bookmarked them.  But in case you're looking to add a bit of musical ambiance to this most special of days, I wanted to share.

I really like the graphic on this one as well.  Bring it up on your big screen TV and
welcome guests with a friendly greeting as they arrive.

A for a little fun

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Ultimate Advent Resource Guide - 2019 / Part 1

❈ Stir Up Sunday - November 24
from Better Homes and Gardens
In a tradition that harks back to Victorian times when the family would gather together to stir the Christmas pudding five weeks before Christmas Day. The opening words of The Book of Common Prayer, used on the last Sunday before Advent reads: "Stir up, we beseech you, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people." So the tradition stands, that this is the day to get stirring.

The Stir-Up Traditions

- Christmas pudding would traditionally contain thirteen ingredients, to represent Jesus and his disciples.

- It is traditionally stirred (while making a wish) by each member of the family from East to West, to remember the wise men that visited Jesus in the nativity story.

- The customary garnish of holly represented the crown of thorns. But be warned, holly berry is very toxic, so adorn your Christmas pudding with fake foliage.

- Adding coins, originally charms, to the pudding was said to bring luck if you found them in your portion on Christmas Day. The traditional lucky charms were a silver coin for wealth, a wishbone for luck, a thimble for thrift, a ring for marriage, and an anchor for safe harbor.  However, biting down on such a thing could potentially cause a trip to the dentist, so I am not sure I recommend this.

Now of course in these days, or perhaps at least in my house, we've never attempted to make Christmas Pudding. In my opinion, since stirring is the key here, that could be anything from a batch of cookies, to pie filling. Traditionally this is the day that I would make my mother's famous chocolate pie. But I did find this recipe, that doesn't sound too daunting, so we shall see. There's really nothing like my mom's chocolate pie, it's hard to beat!

A friend of mine also suggested these little mincemeat tarts a few years back, and I have to admit, this orange pastry sounds delicious! I just love the little stars on top!

And while I'll probably just fill ours with store bought mincemeat, I like the sound of this recipe.

 ❈ Advent Wreath
If you are unfamiliar with making an Advent wreath a part of your celebrations, you can find a little more about it here. The candles are traditionally purple and pink, but you can use any size, shape or color.  We've used everything from the traditional colors to tea lights, but traditionally ours are all white. If you are looking for inspiration, here are a few variations that I like.

- Advent Wreath 1
- Advent Wreath 2
- Advent Wreath 3 - This one couldn't be much simpler, but still so pretty! Here's a tutorial for making the stars!
- Advent Wreath 4 - LOVE this one! And in the window is especially lovely!
And finally, this one, Advent Wreath 5 . The first year we observed Advent this was the idea that inspired me!

For more inspiration, click here!

Blessing of the Advent Wreath - this is a sweet tradition that we have incorporated a few times.

❈ Advent Calendar
Advent calendars expand the idea of the Advent wreath with scriptures and fun activities for every day.

- Gifts for Jesus Family Advent Calendar
- Advent Calendar Activity Cards
- Free Biblical Advent Calendar
- Christmas Carol Advent Calendar
- Handel's Messiah Advent Calendar
And this, such a wonderful idea! A Christmas Book Advent calendar.  Free printable and list of books included.  And I absolutely love the setup of this one!  If you wrapped them in green paper, they would look like little Christmas trees!

But if you still haven't found one that is to your liking, you'll find more inspiration here.
And now, if you have littles in your life that you're introducing to Advent, you might find these resources helpful.

❈ Christmas Manger or Nativity
Blessing of the Nativity

The Traveling Nativity
One of the things we have done for several years is our "Traveling Nativity".  Playing off the Elf on the shelf idea, every day from the first day of Advent until Christmas Eve, Mary and Joseph move around the room as they travel closer to the stable. Baby Jesus stayssafely tucked away as we anticipate His arrival. Mary and Joseph arrive at the stable on Christmas Eve and when everyone awakes the next morning, they find Baby Jesus in the manger. It is then that the shepherds and wise men begin their travels, and move closer to the manger to join Joseph and Mary. The shepherds typically arrive on Christmas night, but the wise men moved to a new location every day beginning the day after Christmas until Twelfth Night or, the Epiphany, on January 5. I always planned to somehow devise a star above the manger the we would turn on first on Christmas night and then every night until The Epiphany to guide the shepherds and wise men on their way. However, I don't think I could ever figure out exactly what to use or whether to use a candle, or find something used a light. I still think it sounds like a lovely idea, so if you're more creative than I, perhaps you can figure it out.

The Giving Manger
Though we never did this, I always loved the idea and wanted to incorporate it, but as you can probably tell, there are so many ideas that you "could" incorporate into this season, that it is hard to do everything. That is why I would encourage just selecting a few, especially if its your first time observing Advent. You can always add more in the coming years!

Here are instructions for making your own manger from popsicle sticks, and you could easily make a Baby Jesus from home made play dough, clay or a peg doll wrapped in cloth. You can purchase the straw from a local craft shop. I've even seen it at Dollar Tree.

And that's it for today, friends! This isn't quite as long or filled with as many ideas and resources as I had hoped, and I had planned on having this up much earlier. But my laptop died today and I spent hours moving all the important files over to my trusty back up!  I'll be back soon with more resources for observing and celebrating the Saints of Christmas!

In Hushed Anticipation - Observing The Season of Advent - First Sunday

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Before we jump in, this observance is based upon prior knowledge of what the season of Advent is and represents, as well as the significance and symbolism of the Advent wreath. Therefore, if you are new to either, I would suggest beginning by reading here, and here. Though you can and I would advise further reading to expand your knowledge, the information provided at these two links will give you a general understanding and overview.

An expected silence, a hushed anticipation
as if the very galaxy is holding its breath.

There are some truths even the stars know,

like darkness, like loneliness,
And how the nights can be a living thing.

And how once, long ago,

the night waited in wonder
along with the darkness and the loneliness,
for the sound of a baby’s cry.

For the miraculous to come down

to the earth mundane.


 Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to make ready the way of thine only begotten Son, 
 so that by His coming we may be enabled to serve Thee with pure minds. 

Introductory Hymn
❈ Missa Ad Te Levavi
Listen here.

Introit: To you, my God, I lift my soul, I trust in you; let me never come to shame. Do not let my enemies laugh at me. No one who waits for you is ever put to shame.

- Psalm 25:1-3 (Roman Missal)

Ad te levavi animam meam: Deus meus in te confido, non erubescam: necque irrideant me inimici mei: etenim universi qui te exspectant, non confundentur.

Ps. Vias tuas, Domine, demonstra mihi: et semitas tuas edoce me.(Graduale Romanum).

The Reading of the Word and The Lighting of the Advent Wreath Candle

First Sunday of Advent Readings:

Isaiah 9:2, 6–7
“The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
    there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.” (NIV)

Following the scripture reading, one of the children lights the first candle, The Candle of Hope, and reads the bible verse and the leads everyone in reading the poem together.

We can have hope because God is faithful and will keep the promises he made to us. Our hope comes from God.
- Romans 15:12-13

The Candle of Hope
Light the advent candle one, 

now the waiting has begun.

We have started on our way,

time to think of Christmas Day.

Candle, candle burning bright,

shining in the cold winter night.

Candle, candle burning bright,
fill our hearts with Christmas light.

 Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Full Choir and very beautiful)
 Come Thoug Long Expected Jesus (Sung by Meredith Andrews, and perhaps easier to learn by listening to this version if ou want to sing along)

Click on image to enlarge, right click and save to your computer.

Hand Crafts
 Orange and Cranberry Garland

Oranges, a fruit once reserved for those with a high social status, has long been a symbol of prosperity. And with its bright golden skin, has likewise been symbolic of the sun and the light. Shopkeepers in mid evil times would place them decoratively in windows in the dark winer months, a reminder that the light and warmth would soon return.

So when we read in Isaiah of "the people in darkness have seen a great light", and that "He will reign over David's throne", it is fitting then that the orange in this craft is symbolic of Christ himself, the cranberries with their deep red hue, foretelling the blood that He would shed for the forgiveness of our sins.

As we make and look upon this garland, it serves as a constant reminder of Christ our King and His great love and sacrifice for us.

4-5 oranges
1 bag of fresh cranberries (12 oz)
Bakers twine or Jute Twine
Cookie sheet
Parchment paper or silicone baking mat

Drying the Oranges:
Parchment Paper
Cookie Sheet
Start by preheating your oven to 220 degrees and slice your oranges about 1/2 inch thick.
Place the oranges onto parchment paper or a silicone mat on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 3 hours.
Check every hour to make sure they aren’t turning brown. They are done when they are dried and translucent in color.
Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.

Drying the Cranberries:
Parchment Paper
Cookie Sheet

Put a large pot on the stove with enough water to cover the cranberries. Bring the water to a boil. Put the washed cranberries in a bowl. Then pour the boiling water over the cranberries. Leave the bowl in a safe place, and let the cranberries sit. You will hear the skins pops, don’t leave the berries in the water for more than 5 to 10 minutes, the berries will then be ready.

Drain the water and spread the cranberries in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Then put them in the freezer for two hours. The freezing process helps the berries dry faster.

Remove the cranberries from the freezer and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Turn on your oven to the lowest possible temperature. Put your cranberries in the oven and allow them to dry which can take 5 to 7 hours. Take the time to turn them every 30 minutes to help the drying process. There will be some that get a little darker than others and some that you will have to pull apart after they dry.

For the Garland

4-5 oranges sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 12 oz bag cranberries

Slice the oranges into 1/2 inch slices and lay on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Bake at 220 degrees for 3 hours. Check every hour to make sure they aren't turning brown. They oranges are done once they are dry and translucent in color.
 Let the oranges cool to room temperature.

Thread your needle with bakers twine or jute twine and thread through the top part of the orange then thread in your cranberries. You can string them in any pattern you desire. I typically string 4-6 cranberries to one orange, but feel free to use any pattern you like. You can make the length as long or short as you desire and depending on how you plan to use it. For a mantel, draped over. winter, or as a garland for a larger tree, you would obviously need longer strands.

Other variations on this theme include adding popcorn to the strand, the white kernels symbolic of purity and the washing away of our sins by the blood of Christ.  You can add them to the oranges and cranberries, or make a cranberry and popcorn garland.

There are a number of ways to use oranges and cranberries in your observance this week, you could also try one of these ideas.

- Make orange bird seed ornaments and hang from the trees outside.
- Or these lovely citrus candles, inspired by my friend, Dawn.
- This cranberry, orange and clove stovetop potpourri is sure to leave your house smelling cozy and welcoming!
- And finally, why not make a loaf of this cranberry orange pound cake or a batch of these white chocolate cranberry orange cookies and shed the light of Christ's love by presenting to a friend or relative this week.

 Advent Lanterns
Another idea that is symbolic of the light, is to make a jar lantern, or in this case, Advent lanterns.  By simply covering a glass jar with tissue paper, adding a few festive stickers and a handle, you can then insert an LED tea light and go for a walk around your neighborhood at dusk. Be sure to pray for each family as you pass by their house. This might even be a good time to share some of the baked goods mentioned above. You'll find something similar, here.

During Advent I often like to make special foods to share together after our evening candle lighting and devotionals. It would also be nice to have some fun refreshments to come home to after taking an Advent Lantern walk. These recipes are ones that we have enjoyed in years past. I made the Winter Lemonade for the first time last year and we will definitely be making it again!

 Chocolate Orange Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 teaspoon orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup candied orange peel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with a silicone liner or parchment paper.Set aside.

In a large bowl, use a hand-held mixer to cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy.

Add the orange juice and orange zest.  Beat into the butter mixture.

Add the flour and salt.  Beat until just incorporated.

Add the chocolate and the candied orange peel.  Beat until just mixed through.

Divide the cookie dough into three equal portions.  Place two portions aside, and keep them covered they don’t dry out.

Lightly pat the cookie dough into a ball and place it between two sheets of parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to slightly less than 1/2 inch thick.

Cut rolled dough into rounds using a cookie cutter.  (I used a 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter.)

Transfer to baking sheet, leaving 2 inches of space between each cookie.  Round up remaining dough and roll again until dough is used up.  Repeat with the other two portions of cookie dough.

Bake for 13 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack to finish cooling.

Before serving, grate some orange zest right over top and add a few curls of shaved dark chocolate.

 Winter Lemonade With Ginger and Cloves
1 cup fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 cups filtered water
1/2 cup honey
2 inches fresh ginger, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
5 whole cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick

In a medium saucepan combine lemon juice, half of the water, honey, ginger, and spices.

Bring to a simmer, stir until honey is dissolved, and remove from heat.

Cover and allow to steep for 15 minutes.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher. Add the remaining water.

Refrigerate until chilled through. Serve over ice! Enjoy!

And now before I wrap this up, let me say this. There are daily readings for each day during the Advent season that spans this year from December 1 until Christmas Day. That being said, what I focus on primarily in these posts are the four Sundays leading up to Christmas Day. I will be doing daily readings during my quiet time each morning, but since there are so many different and wonderful versions and resources to choose from, I'll leave that to you. I have yet to decide on one for myself this year, so I need to make that decision soon. But, just in case you need some direction, here are a few that I have read in past years both on my own and with my girls that you might enjoy.

All Links Are Affiliate

For Families
- The 25 Days of Christmas: A Family Devotional To Help You Celebrate Jesus
- The Way To The Manger: A Family Advent Devotional
- Unwrapping The Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration Of Christmas

For Personal Reflection
- Advent With St. Francis - St. Francis is one of my favorite Saints, and this books is a lovely read during this season.
- Advent and Christmas Wisdom From G. K. Chesterton
- Advent and Christmas Wisdom From Henry J. M. Nouwen
- Come Thou Long Expected Jesus: Experiencing The Peace and Promise of Christmas

And here are some other books, that while not necessarily daily readings, would be nice to read during the season.

- The Characters of Christmas: The Unlikely People Caught Up In The Story of Jesus
- Because of Bethlehem: Love is Born Hope Is Here by Max Lucado

Over the next few days I'm going to be writing an extensive post with more links to resources than you could use in two Advent seasons, maybe three. I'm working on compiling it now and hope to have it ready for you by the weekend so that you can peruse and plan!

Until then, I hope you've enjoyed what I've compiled so far.  Advent is such a beautiful season, a means of slowing and bringing stillness to what has otherwise become the often chaotic spirit of Christmas. Observing this holy season has redeemed and restored Christmas for me, and I hope it all for you as well!