The Gift of Christmas

Christmas

Wishing you and yours a Christmas that is merry, bright, and filled with the gift of Jesus.

~ Katie

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Bulletin Board Wreaths: Christmas Card Display

This project actually happened for the first time last year, and it was such a success that I knew I had to share it with you.  I thought it would make more sense to wait until Christmas rolled around again, so that it would be a bit more relevant than if I shared it sometime in mid-February!

Near the beginning of the holiday season, I was flipping through one of those Christmas catalogs ~ you know, the ones that stores send en masse around this time of year?  The same catalog that inspired me to make these.

As I was turning pages, I came across this picture:

I don’t even think this was an ad for anything; I’m pretty sure it was just background.  But it got my creative juices flowing, and I decided that instead of my usual basket, I wanted to display my Christmas cards on a bulletin board wreath this year.

So, I supplied up:

It turned out that the biggest bulletin board squares I could find were really not that big, so I decided to make two wreaths instead of one.

I had a perfectly sized wooden wreath to trace that I had bought for another project ~ score!  After tracing and cutting, I set about to wrapping my wreaths in ribbon.

Yes, I sometimes craft on my living room floor!

Then a sad, sad situation occured: I underestimated the amount of ribbon I would need for each wreath.

So after a quick run to the store, I was able to finish up!  Add some bows, and they’re ready to hang!  For hooks, I used plain metal key rings.

Photo Source

I hung them on our wall that transitions between our living room and kitchen.

They’re a perfect decoration because they were beautiful on their own,

And they look awesome as they fill up with holiday greetings from our friends and families.

Enjoy!

WIAW: Christmas at Mom and Dad’s

On Monday I talked about my family’s traditional Christmas weekend at Mom and Dad’s, and I mentioned that the food we ate deserved a post all it’s own!  Well, that time is here, so I’ve decided to join in on Jenn’s What I Ate Wednesday party with our Christmas weekend eats.

We typically spend at least three nights at Mom and Dad’s, and over the years we’ve developed three great days of food traditions.  The best part is, throughout the weekend we pretty much all participate in the food preparation and presentation!

Our newest tradition is appetizer night.  Mom, Jaime and I each plan a couple appetizers to contribute, we start prepping around 3:30, and then we kind of graze all night.  It’s pretty much fantastic!  This year, as you can see above, Hailey decided to get in on the action and selected some jello appetizers to serve up!

some of our appetizers: spinach and artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms, bacon wrapped tenderloin bites, and zuchinni and summer squash stacks

Another traditional meal is our “Turkey Dinner”, which we typically do on the same day that we open presents and we call it our “Christmas Day”.  For this meal my Dad cooks and carves the turkey, my Mom does the gravy, and the past couple of years I’ve been on veggie duty while Jaime has done the mashed potatoes.  We also had rolls this year from a La Crosse area bakery!  Christmas Dinner is always served in Great Grandma Millie’s china.

Dad’s turkey, my Parmesan Green Beans, and Jaime’s mashed potatoes

Mom’s fabulous homemade apple pie, made with apples from their yard

We usually eat lighter for the early meals, but we do have one traditional sit-down breakfast.  Typically we eat this meal together on Sunday morning before we all head for home, but since this year Terry and I had to get up very early on Sunday to rush back to our side of Wisconsin for the Packer game, we decided to have our brunch on Saturday morning and then pretty much not eat until Turkey Dinner!  We had our game faces on!  The brunch menu is Mom’s egg bake, Mom’s super fabulous coffee cake, and lots of fresh fruit.

These meals tend to rotate their order, depending when New Year’s Eve falls during our weekend.  We also have a traditional New Year’s Eve meal and festivities, but since Terry and I stayed home for Nicki and Dan’s wedding, we only had two nights to work with and decisions had to be made!  We decided to forgo New Year’s Eve and have Turkey Dinner instead.

What a weekend of fantastic food!

Recap: December By The Numbers

On December 1, I sat down and came up with some numbers-related goals that I wanted to try to achieve during the month of December, and my personal December by the Numbers Challenge was born.  Today I have the task of looking back over my month and reviewing what went well and what, um, didn’t.

Goal: 2,000 ounces of water consumed

  • 2,000 ounces of water for the 31 days of December came out to roughly 64 ounces per day ~ the bare minimum recommendation for healthy daily water consumption.  I thought that in this area I would really excel, but I was shocked to discover that I was not consuming nearly as much water as I believed I was!  This was the first time I ever tracked my water consumption, and it was really eye opening.  I used the app Waterlogged, which was fantastic, although I got a bit discouraged and stopped tracking sometime mid-month so I don’t have a final number!  I do know that it’s very unlikely that I reached 2,000.

Goal: 248 hours of sleep (or at least hours in bed, eyes shut!)

  • 248 hours came out to 8 hours of sleep per day, and in this area I easily was successful.  I used the app Sleep Tracker, and I found it to be extremely easy to use.  Again, I stopped tracking sometime mid-month, but this was more due to distractions and general busy-ness!

Goal: 64 maximum hours of TV watched

  • This area came out to be…  an epic fail.  I always turn the tv on while I’m doing things around the house, and although I had high hopes, the Christmas season turned out to be a very bad time to try to change this habit.  However, I definitely still need to work on this because I fall into the trap of getting sucked in to whatever’s on way too often; this goal just may need its own whole month!

Goal: 24 daily Bible readings

  • This goal started out strong, and fizzled out as the holidays got nearer.  I started a daily Bible reading plan in November on my iPhone using the app You Version, so now I have quite a bit of catching up to do!  I’m headed out to Manitowoc Coffee after this to play catch up.

Goal: 15 home-cooked dinners

  • This goal was really important to me, as it’s typically very easy for me to get caught up in the stress of the holidays and not even think about dinner until it’s too late.  I’m happy to report that we consumed 11 home cooked dinners during the month of December.  No, it’s not a 15, but this goal really forced me to focus on cooking more than usual during the holidays so it gets an A+ from me!  The times that we didn’t eat at home were (for the most part!) unavoidable social and holiday occasions.

Goal: 10 hours of fun, connecting time with Terry

  • When I set this goal, I had no idea which number to choose ~ I didn’t know what our schedules and social obligations would end up being, so I didn’t know what would  be realistic.  I’m again happy to say that we easily surpassed this goal.  From our Christmas at Camp Sinawa date, to our day after Christmas dinner and a movie date, and several hours of playing games and getting hot chocolate, we spent a lot of dedicated one-on-one time with each other and this makes me happy.

Goal: 10 gym workouts

  • This goal was really important to me as well, and unfortunately I didn’t make it.  The month started out great (remember when I found a gym to go to while visiting Jaime?), but again fizzled out as the holidays neared.  I planned to make up for it during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, but I came down with a nasty cold and decided to focus on getting healthy in time for our trip to Mom and Dad’s.  I ended up about halfway successful here.

Goal: 8 non-holiday visits with family or friends

  • This goal ended up being a little overwhelming ~ between all of the social events of the holidays themselves, I was pushed a bit to the brink with this goal.  I’m a girl who definitely needs her alone time for rejuvenation.  I ended up having 5 visits, and 2 more scheduled but cancelled; my friend Angela and I scheduled a Skype date two different times but her kiddos were sick and she needed to focus on them, and my friend Becky and I planned a movie night but she and her baby ended up getting sick!  Overall, this goal was good and helped me to focus on the fun and social aspects of the holidays rather than just the “must-dos”.

Goal: 5 hours studying for my 2 finals

  • This goal did not pan out at all, but I will be taking a whole post to talk about why!

Goal: 0 pounds gained

  • I’m very happy to report that this goal was a total success; in fact, I actually lost 2 pounds!  This is huge to me because I usually use the holidays as a free-for-all excuse, and I didn’t want to do that anymore.  I considered setting a weight loss goal, but decided to go easy on myself and simply set the goal of not gaining, and it worked!  I didn’t feel too pressured, but I was reminded of my healthy goals ~ all in all, exactly what I wanted!

How do I feel about the challenge results?

I feel good overall.  There are a few areas that I was disappointed in my results, particularly the gym workouts and the Bible readings, and I will continue to work on those.  However, there were many areas that I was pleased with.  Ultimately, I wanted to use this challenge to stay focused on my overall health during the Christmas season, and I think that it was a success!

Christmas Weekend at Mom & Dad’s

Our Christmas celebrations have finally come to an end today, after a weekend spent across the state at my parents’ house.  My parents moved to the La Crosse area about seven years ago, and every year since then my sister and my niece along with myself and Terry have been heading to their house the weekend after Christmas for our Christmas celebration.  It’s fun to spend the entire weekend together, and over the years we’ve developed quite an arsenal of special traditions!

There were tons of presents, of course ~ I think this year everyone really outdid themselves; there was just so much piled up under the tree and everyone picked out really thoughtful gifts.  This year, we also added a new tradition ~ a white elephant gift exchange!  We picked the letter Z as a theme, which meant that all gifts had to start with the letter Z.  Since there are only five of us adults, we had to be sneaky so that no one would know who brought which gift.  Terry and I had to be especially so since we brought our gifts together on a four hour drive!  There were some great ideas, including zinnia seeds, ziplocs, and a bug zapper, and check out my Dad’s creative Z wrapping!

We always have tons of fun, playing games and even having contests!  This year, Terry and I got Jenga for our 7-year-old niece Hailey, and it was a big hit with the whole family.  Dad and Terry find time to head out into my parents’ yard and play wiffle golf every time that Terry and I visit; usually at Christmas their course is covered in snowy obstacles, but this year it was green!  This year we also had an Elf trivia contest, put together by Terry, and the goof put 100 questions on it!!  It was an intense battle between me and Jaime, and I kicked her butt!

Terry and I got my Dad the game Blokus this year, and we had to bust it out and play a couple rounds.  Last year, Jaime and Hailey brought their Wii along, and it was such a hit that they brought it again this year!  There were many, many rounds of bowling, and some Just Dance happening as well.  Our longstanding tradition at my parents house is to play hours of cards after dinner each night, and I was much too busy kicking butt to get any pictures of that!

We also had tons of incredible food, and that deserves a whole post of its own!

The weekend flew by way too fast; we usually spend four nights there for Christmas, but we stayed home this year for Dan and Nicki’s wedding, so we were only there for two nights instead.  On top of that, we had to get up super early this morning to hit the road, because Terry went to the Packer game at noon!

I don’t know what I was thinking, but it really didn’t occur to me that we would be leaving while it was still dark out…  It was SO early!

Caribou Coffee is our traditional stop on our way out of town when we leave Mom and Dad’s, and it was especially welcome needed this morning!  Guess which one is mine?

Even with all the rushing, we still managed to squeeze in tons of fun!  I’m incredibly blessed to have a family that chooses to spend time together, and that really enjoys it.  I treasure the memories that we’ve made each year, and look forward to tons of new ones!

Words of Worth: Christmas

View all “Words of Worth” posts.

“And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” ~ Luke 2:10

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” ~ John 3:16

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Chocolate Hugs

This may be a bold statement, but I think this just might be my personal favorite cookie for the Christmas season.  These cookies are cakey and fudgey, and so delicious, and I love the hug on top!  I like to eat all the way around and save the hug for last…  Who’s with me??

The very best part about this recipe is that it includes a few simple modifications from this recipe, which I also make every holiday season, and a whole new and very different cookie is born.  I live for stuff like that!

Sadly, baking powder and salt did not show up for the picture…  Divas!

Chocolate Hugs

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Baking Cocoa
  • 2 Cups White, Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Canola Oil
  • 4 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/2 Tsp. Salt
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • Sugar (for rolling)
  • 72 Unwrapped Hershey’s Hugs

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine cocoa powder, white sugar, and canola oil and stir with a wooden spoon until mixed well.
  3. Beat in eggs, one at a time, and then stir in the vanilla.  The batter will be dark and very glossy at this point.
  4. Stir in baking powder and salt, and then add flour, about 1/2 cup at a time.  The mixture will get very hard to mix; I always ending up mixing by hand.
  5. At this point, put the dough in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.  This is an important step because the dough is extremely sticky; you’ll want it frozen so that you can easily form the dough into balls!
  6. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Roll dough into small balls, about 1 inch, and roll them thoroughly in granulated sugar before placing them on the cookie sheet.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes.  As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, gently push a Hug into the center of each cookie.

Yield: Approximately 5 Dozen Cookies