Wishing you and yours a Christmas that is merry, bright, and filled with the gift of Jesus.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
Goal: 248 hours of sleep (or at least hours in bed, eyes shut!)
Goal: 64 maximum hours of TV watched
Goal: 24 daily Bible readings
Goal: 15 home-cooked dinners
Goal: 10 hours of fun, connecting time with Terry
Goal: 10 gym workouts
Goal: 8 non-holiday visits with family or friends
Goal: 5 hours studying for my 2 finals
Goal: 0 pounds gained
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!
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!
“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
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!
Yield: Approximately 5 Dozen Cookies
I’m not sure that there is any better combination out there than chocolate and peanut butter; it’s simply a classic. This recipe is a favorite of my sister, and I think this actually the first time that these little treats have been made in over 10 years! Poor Jaime…! They popped into my head this year, and I decided they had to be on my Christmas baking list this year.
I love these cookies because they are not too intensely sweet; the chocolate flavor is a bit lighter than the other cookies I make around this time of year. The ingredients are simple too, which is always a plus! This is balanced out with the sweetness of the peanut butter filling ~ yum! I like to make them small, so they’re the perfect
bite sized 2-bite treat.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Thumbprints
Yield: approximately 22 cookies
This cookie is a fan favorite at our house. I stumbled upon this gem of a recipe a couple of years ago, and with a several tweaks and modifications, it turned out perfect! It really is Christmas in a cookie ~ dark and chocolately, a burst of peppermint flavor, and a dusting of powdered sugar. They’re cakey and fudgey, and simply delicious!
The best part of this recipe is that they were an instant hit with Terry! That automatically puts them at the top of my baking list each holiday season. I send a big container of them to work with him for his birthday treat.
Sadly, baking powder and salt did not show up for the picture… Divas!
Chocolate Peppermint Crinkles
Yield: approximately 5 dozen cookies
Today I had a bit of a Christmas meltdown.
I’m not exactly sure what it is or why, but this year I’m not quite in the Christmas spirit as I have been in years past.
Sure, we went to the Holiday Parade, and had a great time, and put up our tree and I’m loving the coziness of the twinkly lights ~ always one of my favorite parts of the season. But the joy, the experience I’ve had in the past of thriving during the holiday season, I’m just not feeling it. I feel a little bit like a grinch! But, so be it ~ this is where I’m at.
I have a few theories. This year, Terry and I have been thinking quite a bit about the traditions of Christmas, and all of the “extras” that come with Christmas, and where those things came from. We’ve been spending time talking about whether we want certain aspects of Christmas ~ like Santa, for instance ~ to be a part of our lives. And on my own, I’ve been questioning the relevance of the hustle and bustle of this time of year.
I also have been more connected to the online world this year, through blogging and Pinterest in particular, and I realized that I was getting caught up in the hype of what I’m calling Christmas Perfection. This time of year, it seems that each blog post has a more festive recipe than the last, each home is more decked out than the previous, and everyone has time to do everything. With a smile to boot!
I think that my mind has been processing these thoughts for the past week or so at least, and today it all really came to a head. I realized, I don’t want a Christmas that is done out of necessity and simply keeping with empty tradition. I don’t want a Christmas that is so filled with baking, crafting, decorating, and socializing that I feel pressured to achieve perfection. I don’t want a Christmas that makes me sad, and today I was most definitely sad.
What I do want is this: a Christmas that is centered around Jesus rather than busyness. A Christmas in which I bake and cook for joy, and if things do not come out perfectly, or I don’t check every item off my list, it will be okay. A Christmas in which if my house isn’t utter perfection, it will be okay. And most definitely, a Christmas in which I don’t check out mentally because of some self-induced pressure!
I plan to spend my time between now and Christmas focusing on these things, and this:
Hopefully in this way, I will find true Christmas Perfection!