Tuesday, December 7, 2010

$20.00 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

The girls and I have a $20.00 Amazon gift card just waiting for one of you to win it.  If you know me, you know I'd like to mail one out to all our followers.  Since I don't have an extra $4,000.00, I am adding two Christmas books to the givaway, too.  So three of you will be winners.

First name

Second Name
Christmas Cookies Are for Giving: Recipes, Stories and Tips for Making Heartwarming Gifts.

Third Name
The Christmas Kitchen: The Gathering Place for Making Memories

Become a follower (and leave me a comment to let me know) to have a chance to win.  If you are already a follower just tell me so.  To earn another chance, tell me your favorite Christmas book (in a separate comment). 

I'll announce the winners next Tuesday.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

More Fun with Two

A jolly afternoon spent baking and making treats yields an abundance of tasty joys to share with dear ones throughout the season. 
                                                                                      ~Southern Lady

Don't you think it's more fun to create with a friend?  The Bible tells us,
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work" (Ephesians 4:9).  Throughout the years, I have found joy in working and creating with friends.

When RB was in college, a friend, Joy, and I decided to make Christmas cookies together.  Being new brides, we planned to use all our favorite recipes.  I don't remember what all we made (after all it was 30 some years ago) but I do know we made cut-out cookies.  Now these weren't just any cut-out cookies--they were peanut butter cut-out cookies--a HUGE batch --and used 8 cups of flour.  Whew...we rolled and rolled and rolled. We baked and baked  and baked.  We iced and sprinkled, iced and sprinkled... and finally resorted to just sprinkles. 

Not that I don't like sprinkles... Remember this book,   "The Christmas Cookie Sprinkle Snitcher" by Robert Kraus?  If you'd like the book, you are fortunate.  1969 copies are going for $99.00 - $225.00.  But good news! In March of this year it was reprinted and you can purchase it for $12.89.

Christmas cookies without sprinkles
are like raisins without wrinkles,
and like sleigh bells without tinkles
are Christmas cookies without sprinkles.

Well for sure, our dozens and dozens had sprinkles, and they were delicious.  Most importantly, Joy and I had fun just being together.  We still laugh about it all these years later.

The year I learned to make toffee was the year Janet, Beth and Vonnie and I decided to make cookies and candy together.  It was a laugh a minute.  Again, I don't remember all we made, but Beth did buckeyes and Vonnie taught us to make toffee.  Janet made homemade yeast doughnuts.  Oh, my--best ever!  I think it was the last time I've had them.  Isn't it funny I don't know what I made?  Maybe I was having too much fun watching and tasting.

This year's baking will probably be done solo...snuck in between writing and cleaning.  Daddy and Mom will be with us for Christmas.  Mom is making the traditional date bread for Christmas breakfast.  Daddy is making the monster cookies -- and a small bird (or was that a sister?) told me they were already made and tasted.  Emily will make puppy chow. 

Puppy Chow

Puppy Chow Recipe: The Kuhn Way

 9 cups crispy rice cereal squares
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 or more cups confectioners' sugar

 Melt the chocolate and butter (I do it in the microwave); add peanut butter and mix until smooth.
Add cereal and stir until coated.
Pour powdered sugar* into large paper grocery bag, add coated cereal.
Shake until well coated. Store in airtight container.
*We use a lot of powdered sugar because it's pretty when very white.

Here's my list to make:

Shawn's favorite: Toffee
Emily's favorite: Chocolate Covered Bon Bons
RB's favorite: Date Pinwheels
Cut-out cookies with the Grands (not peanut butter!)
Old fashioned Sugar Fudge: Chocolate, Penuche, Vanilla Pecan
Expectant mother, Melanie, will decide what she likes on any certain day.  Changes expected!

I'll leave you with my toffee recipe.  So easy, no fail.  Just use a heavy bottom pan.

 English Toffee

2 cups sugar (I suggest Domino)
2 cups butter (not margarine)

Boil on medium heat to hard crack stage.
Pour on buttered cookie sheet.

Place 4 Hershey bars on toffee until shiny.
Spread chocolate and sprinkle with pecans.

When cool, break in pieces.

Some of my goodies will find their way back to Pennsylvania.  Too many will be consumed right around our table.  I'll package some up for friends. I remember some of the food gifts I've received through the years.  Ed made the best chocolates, and although he's been celebrating Christmas in Heaven for many years, I can still see him, standing at the counter, wearing his chef hat while filling boxes with caramels, fudge and chocolate cherries.  Philip boxed up deer jerky for us.  JoAnn made us a pan of cinnamon rolls -- a welcomed not-so-sweet dish that was a special breakfast treat.

 Do you have a favorite way to make a gift out of your goodies?  I'm stuck in a rut, using glass and crystal, and would welcome some fresh ideas. 

If you have time to bake with a friend, I'd urge you to try it.  Life may not allow repeat baking experiences but you'll make memories to last a lifetime.  And as Lucy Maud Montgomery said, "True friends are always together in spirit."

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Friday, December 3, 2010

We're-Happy-To-See-You Gift

Constant use will not wear ragged the fabric of friendship.  ~Dorothy Parker

It has become a tradition in our family to take a few days -- with our friends, Mark and Eleanor -- to get away from the hustle and bustle of the Holidays.  Their daughters, Katie and Kayla, are Emily's best friends and we love being with Mark and Eleanor so it's a win/win situation.  The tradition was started to celebrate Katie's birthday.
Katie was married in October; she and her husband, Ivan, live in North Carolina.  Past years we have gone to Chicago, and since we weren't willing to give up Katie being along, was an easy pick to decide on Gatlinburg.  A 3-hour trip for them and 6 for us.

We rented a cabin that sleeps ten, complete with fireplace and game room.  We're having the best of times.  I wanted to take Katie a We're-happy-to-see-you gift.  My mother and I brainstormed and came up with baking-in-a-can.  It was fun getting it all together.  I found a youthful tin and matching Christmas tea towel. Gingerbread and sugar cookie mixes, peppermint crushed candy, holly sprinkles, cup cake picks and polka dot napkins...  with a fun Christmas spatula tied on top.  It made an adorable gift -- and giving gifts to Katie is so much fun becasuse she gets so excited about every little thing. 

Another idea for the tin: cookie cookbook (I wanted one but couldn't find one to fit in the tin).

I love giving gifts in a sort of random way --  without the celebration of specific holidays.  Do you know a newlywed who would love a baking tin?  What would you include? 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Blessing Turnaround

In friendship's fragrant garden, there are flowers of every hue,
Each with its own fair beauty, and it's a gift of joy for you. ~Friendship's Garden

This past summer my husband, Shawn, who owns his own business, was asked to hire another worker. A young man, Nathaniel, who was just graduating from Bible College to become a pastor, planned to begin his internship at a local church.

Nathaniel would also be marrying this same summer and would be in need of housing. I was able to meet both him and his fiance, Annalisa, when they came to view an apartment Shawn had available for rent.

Months past. Then one evening at supper Shawn told me that since Annalisa had been a missionary kid
during her teen years she hadn't gotten a driver's license. When she applied after getting married,
thinking they would have a permit in hand soon, she discovered the law requires you wait 6 months for your permit.

So, that left Annalisa at home all day, alone, until her husband returned from work and took her to do whatever shopping needed to be done. A few weeks later I started to think that maybe I could help Annalisa.  I brought the idea up to Shawn and, of course, that is when he told me that was the main reason for him telling me Nathaniel and Annalisa's situation.

Thinking of helping Annalisa felt "right" -- like God had given me a way to bless someone.  Little did I know that blessing Annalisa would take a turn and start blessing me! Since I am eight months pregnant, it makes it nice to have someone help deposit groceries into the trunk if need be. Plus, I am so sick that it is hard for me to get out of the house, so knowing I'm scheduled to pick Annalisa up does help me get my shopping done. Plus, it's keeping our fridge and pantry stocked.

The Sewing of Friendship. WOW! Whether we have a garden full of friends or if we have a small cluster or maybe even one dear friend, we all started the process the same way.  In my case, I first planted the seed by calling Annalisa and asking her to join me on my grocery shopping run.

Second, I faithfully watered the seed by making our grocery shopping a weekly habit. Thirdly, I watched as the seed sprouted while we grew comfortable with each other (didn't take long) and now our friendship has blossomed into a beautiful relationship.

Are you happy with your friendship garden? Is it producing healthy friendships? Or do you feel as if the friendships are drooping and some are even dying? Go forth and plant a seed! I am sure it will encourage someone and, like it has me, will become a huge blessing for you.

P.S. This also includes my two younger children getting to be a part of helping someone. They are not bothered by the fact that we have a "tag-along" to the store - they actually get to go out more because of it. And oh, did I mention Annalisa has a dog? Now that makes her really special in their book!!