Saturday, December 05, 2020

Kitchen gifts remembered


This started with a post I wrote years ago (2007) on my Christmas blog, when I'd been doing some thinking about gifts from the kitchen: how they come from the giver's heart and also from the heart of the home. When I was growing up, our family always gave away lots of cookies, fudge, and yeast breads at Christmas time: My mother made pans and pans of her maple fudge, but she also made lots of Christmas cookies,  and loaves of cinnamon swirled bread which she topped with a thin white icing plus sliced almonds and a few candied cherries.  We were also the recipients of some kitchen gifts, so I'm going to share a few of those memories and recipes this morning.

Great-aunt Bessie always made large batches of Chex Mix and gave tins of it to everyone on her list.
I've done a bit of research to try and find the recipe Bessie would have used. It's somewhat different from the Chex Mix of today. I seem to recall that there were short, thin pretzel sticks in it, peanuts, and Cheerios. I definitely remember fighting with my siblings over the Cheerios. These seemed to absorb the butter and seasonings better than anything else, and were really tasty. Somewhere I can picture the recipe, written in Bessie's handwriting on Ralston Purina letterhead (her late husband had worked for Ralston, and they were also the company Chex cereal was originally made by, so this was quite meaningful) but I haven't been able to find that paper. Bessie would pack the mix in recycled cans which she covered with Con-Tact™ paper.  This is the best I've been able to do as far as finding a recipe for it: Bessie's Mix.

I don't recall my grandmother giving kitchen gifts in my childhood, I, but in later years, she also had a traditional homemade gift which she would give -- large jars of creamy hot chocolate mix. She would stir all the ingredients up in a gigantic bowl and then transfer the mix to jars for giving. It made a very rich-tasting cup of hot chocolate, so we kids were always happy to see that jar!  Here's her recipe: Gram's Hot Chocolate Mix.

 Gram also traditionally made a special kind of fudge. I think it was basically the "Five-Minute Fudge" and that she used to use both chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in it, maybe in equal quantities.

Neighbors also shared kitchen gifts with our family. There was a German family who always brought an assortment of delectable homemade cookies. Another neighbor traditionally made a pear quick bread. And another delivered her gift on New Year's Day -- a dessert called Pumpkin Snow (made from her own pumpkins) with an accompanying jar of custard sauce.

What fun it all was! When my hubby and I got married over four decades ago, we decided to share Christmas cookies with our neighbors.  Some reciprocated with jars of salsa or loaves of homemade bread.  Not sure where the neighbor gifts will be going this year amid coronavirus fears, but we will be giving plenty of kitchen gifts to our family.  So happy to keep these memories going.

Friday, December 04, 2020

Christmas preparations and a special blessing


Lovely graphic by Abby at Little Birdie Blessings
 Just a short post today with an update on the progress of our Christmas preparations.  And the above graphic from Abby is such a great reminder that the Lord will strengthen me for the things that need to be done. 

Today I made a list of gifts still to buy and make.  I need to complete a Shutterfly project, do a few small paper crafting projects, five easy sewing projects, and a few small crocheted gifts.  A few kitchen gifts also, but those are easy since they can be factored in with other kitchen tasks.  We will see where it all goes.

I still have six grandsons left to buy gifts for.  Little girls and teen girls are so easy to buy for, but boys can be a little more challenging.  Need to check on those Amazon wish lists!

Yesterday Mr. T kicked off the Christmas cookie baking season (one of his favorite traditions) by making a quadruple batch of Chocolate Spritz.  He had intended to bake a triple batch, but mistakenly quadrupled the sugar, so ... Of course it was fine.  They're now stashed safely in the freezer.

Also yesterday, I managed to get the last of the fall decor taken down and began, ever so slowly, to begin the Christmas decorating.  I enjoy doing this slowly so that I can savor it.  Below is a favorite plate from Gooseberry Patch.

 And now, for the very special blessing!  A new granddaughter, Rosemary, born December 2 out west!  She is so precious and we absolutely love her name.

 How are your Christmas preparations coming along?

Thursday, December 03, 2020

Guest post by Amanda Reed: The Certainty of Christmas in Uncertain Times


Regular readers know that I often try to post daily in both blogs during the month of December.  Only rarely do I post the same content in both blogs.  I much prefer to share different things on each blog to keep things fresh and interesting.  However, today I am breaking my own rule and sharing the same guest post on each blog.  I know that not all of my readers here read my Christmas blog too.  And today's post is so important that I want to share it in both places.  I don't want anyone to miss this.  It's a guest post from my friend Amanda Reed:

December is here! This is my favorite time of year. I love Christmas. I love the decorating, the excitement, the lights, the cards, the songs... everything. I think a lot of people will say the same thing. I heard an ad on the radio the other day, proclaiming that "the holidays are finally here!" I think, after, such a crazy (dare I use the word, "unprecedented" again?!) year, many people have been looking forward to the consistency of Christmas and its once-a-year happiness and excitement.

Christmas. Such a wonderful time. Some even use the word, "magical". But, why is it such a wonderful, magical, happy time?

One word: Jesus.

"Jesus is the reason for the season". While this may seem to be an overused expression, the fact remains: without Jesus, there would be no Christmas.

I have been reading through Luke 1 now, as well as a devotional called, "Repeat the Sounding Joy" by Christopher Ash. As you begin reading Luke 1, Luke writes to Theophilus that Luke's reason for recording the events of Jesus are so "you may have certainty concerning the things that you have been taught". (Luke 1: 4)

What are the things you know for certain?

I think it is safe to say that this year, not much has been very "certain"!

But, in this anticipation and excitement of celebrating Christmas, I want to remind you of what is certain.


Jesus prophesied.

Jesus promised.

Jesus conceived.

Jesus born.

Jesus living as man.

Jesus dying as sin for you and me.

Jesus dead.

Jesus buried.

Jesus ALIVE!

Jesus as Savior.

Jesus as Mediator.

Jesus as KING!

And, all these are certain. Certain because God said them. God foretold them through his prophets. Jesus fulfilled them. And, God's word is there for you and I to read, to know, to believe.

And, this is where these "for certain" things can either be a ray of hope or a cause of disdain. For some, Jesus is a mere religious figure. Yet, for those of us who believe- not in magic-, but in the certainty of God, Jesus is our hope.

He is not just some baby. He is JESUS.

And, what we know for certain is that, from the beginning of time, God foretold of a Redeemer who would break the curse of this sin-soaked world, providing healing to a world, who longs for hope.

What do you know for certain this Christmas season?

Perhaps the plans you normally "do" for Christmas are hindered due to Covid restrictions/fears.

Maybe someone you love died this year, and Christmas will be especially painful without them here.

Perhaps there were some relationship divisions that happened this year. And, the healing process is only beginning.

Maybe the passing strains of time have brought change in your physical body- maybe illness, pain, uncertainties.

Perhaps your job has been greatly affected and funds are tight this year.

Yet, Christmas has come.

And, what are you dwelling on for certain as you consider this blessed holiday?

Are you dwelling on the certainty that Jesus came to save you and give you hope?

Or are you dwelling on all the "things you have to get done"?

Are you dwelling on the certainty that Jesus reigns as King?

Or are you dwelling on the chaos that seems to reign in our world right now?

Take some time to dwell on the certainty of Jesus.

Read Matthew 1 and revel in the fact that the genealogy shared in that passage is a short version of the Old Testament, a remarkable truth of the hand of our sovereign God to bring the birth of Jesus, to save us from our sins.

Read Luke 1 and rejoice in the certainty of God's promises wrapped up in two very special babies: John, as the forerunner of Jesus, and Jesus as the Lamb of God.

Marvel at the work of the Holy Spirit. Promised to dwell in John the Baptist from conception; promised to come upon Mary and cause her to conceive the very Son of God.

This is Christmas. And this is certain: Christmas is all about Jesus.

"Oh, Father, our hearts are easily distracted from belief to unbelief. Give us eyes to see afresh the miracle of Jesus, coming as a baby to redeem us unto yourself. What a miracle of inexpressible joy! What an expression of love from you, our great God. What hope we have- this anchor for our souls in uncertain days- that you have given us Jesus. Thank you for this hope of life and light. Thank you for the certainty of your Word. Teach us more of you. Teach us to rejoice in hope."

If you'd like to read the post over at Amanda's blog and access the links to music she has shared for additional encouragement, you can read here: The certainty of Christmas in uncertain times

Amanda has guest posted here at my kitchen table one other time, so you may remember her.  Our husbands were coworkers until my hubby retired.  Amanda's a busy mom of two young boys, yet she finds time to write (both blog posts and books), lead a Bible study, decorate her home beautifully and frugally, and much much more.  She's an inspiration to me!  I hope that you've enjoyed this most meaningful Christmas post.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Finding time for you in the busy days and weeks ahead ...

Gorgeous winter graphic from (in)courage

 This post by Jessica Turner at (in)courage: 6 Ways to Find Time for You During the Holidays, is well worth filing away for any busy season, but especially for the Christmas season.   Put it somewhere where you'll be able to find it easily every December.  In fact,  it would even be worth printing out and adding to your Christmas notebook, and I have done just that. 

Maybe you have a file on your computer desktop for Christmas helps and ideas, or a Pinterest board for Christmas planning.  Mine is here: Christmas planning and preparation

Just put this post where you will find it easily each December.  I shared this on my Christmas blog for Christmas in July, but decided to also post this here on my regular blog for December Daily, so that none of my readers will miss out.

Jessica's six basic points are these:

1.  Prioritize.

2.  Include you in your calendar.

3.  Plan for times of waiting.

4.  Don't overschedule yourself.

5.  Take care of your body.

6.  Give yourself grace.

But by all means, head on over to her (in)courage post and get the full benefit of Jessica's helpful counsel. 

This year I've been working my way through Jessica Turner's book The Fringe Hours, and have found much commonsense advice there as well.  I hope that this post is a blessing to someone as we begin this busy, festive month!

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

December goals

It's December, so let's jump into it with some goals for the month:

* Keep up with Flylady's homemaking zones of the week if possible
* Do something creative each day
* Post in this blog every day through December if possible
* Decorate for Christmas
* Finish buying and wrapping Christmas gifts
* Post in my Christmas blog every day through December
* Send a birthday package and Christmas packages to Nevada
* Address and send Christmas cards
* Bake Christmas cookies; make candy and other kitchen gifts
* Continue planning for family birthday gifts and crafting any handmade ones
* Craft some homemade Christmas gifts and decorations
* Spend a little time on some UFO craft projects
* Continue stocking my Etsy shop and continue selling vintage items
* Work on Etsy and trust bookkeeping as necessary
* Write at least 4 encouraging notes to friends and family
* Attend my hubby's work Christmas party
* Make and carry out plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas day
* Help and encourage my local daughter as I'm able
* Continue to encourage and support my hubby as he works through a pastoral search for our church
* Clean church
* Maybe go out for breakfast with friends
* Plan meals with a greater emphasis on healthy eating
 * Memorize several Bible verses and review some older ones
* Continue with my study of A Woman after God's Own Heart for the ladies' Sunday School class
* Continue our discipleship study with new believers
* Provide Sunday lunch hospitality for pulpit supply couples twice this month
* Continue to help a recently widowed friend with the challenges of life in general
* Limit sugar
* Get to bed by 9 pm each night 
* Drink enough water each day
* Walk and/or exercise at least 4 times each week
HEALTHY HABITS FOR DECEMBER:  Drink more water/get more sleep/limit sugar/walking

Monday, November 30, 2020

Getting ready for Christmas baking


Today I've been spending some important time getting ready for Christmas baking, cooking, and kitchen gift making.  I cleaned and sorted the kitchen drawer where I store measuring cups and things like extracts, colored sugars, and sprinkles.  And I did the same with the shelf in my pantry where I keep baking items like flours, sugars, cocoa, chocolate chips and other baking staples.  Later this week, I'll be posting a Making Space entry that will detail everything I decluttered from these areas.  I'm hoping to get lots more decluttering done this week, so that's why I'll wait to post my list.) Suffice it to say that a lot got thrown away, especially from the drawer.

While I was working on the pantry, my hubby suggested that this would be a great time to take inventory of what's there.  He was so right!  Years ago, I kept both a freezer and a pantry inventory, using forms from Organized Home.  But I hadn't updated them in a long, long time.  I went to my household notebook and found that I had blanks all printed out that I could use.  (You can click on the Pantry Inventory form at the Organized Home Free Printables page, and the pdf will open up, if you are interested in using these forms yourself.)  Below you see my form with the baking items filled in.  I'm pretty sure this will be added to as I declutter the other shelves in the pantry!  Since Mr. T took over the grocery shopping when he retired, he usually puts the groceries away.  Baking items have definitely been tucked into other shelves in this overly full pantry.

From here it was a logical step to checking my long-term holiday ingredients shopping list, pictured below.  You can read about that here: Long-term holiday grocery list.  


I'm so glad I did this, because there are several items we're getting low on that would be important to our holiday baking.  I've been stocking up on butter for weeks, but we also need brown sugar, confectioners sugar, almond extract and more.

How about you?  Are you ready to begin your Christmas baking?

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Making space -- week 4


This past week was crazy and busy and included a holiday, but I managed just a teensy bit of decluttering anyway; undoubtedly a good idea with Christmas decorating on the horizon.  

Here are my very small accomplishments this week:

November 25 — a pair of pajama pants, a hand towel, and a washcloth, all worn beyond repair, but I’d been continuing to use them.  Tossed out!
Also, 10 1960s magazine pages — large size, like old Better Homes & Gardens issues, scanned for use in graphics and now tossed into the trash.

November 26 — While hunting for pumpkin in my pantry [yes, on Thanksgiving morning!😓], I discovered 2 cake mixes with “Use by” dates of 2016.  To the trash they went!  Shows how long it has been since I used a cake mix!

November 27 — To the trash: 1 cassette tape, a cake mix with a 2019 date and a box of graham cracker crumbs with a 2018 date.  A hardcover book headed for the thrift store, now that I’ve read it.

Certainly I'm hoping for greater progress in the week ahead!  I need to declutter some areas in the kitchen to make way for Christmas baking and to make space for any needed ingredients.