Thursday, December 30, 2010

Easy Peppermint Bark

Chocolate and Mint- in my humble opinion, one of the greatest culinary duos.
I love peppermint bark.  However, it's usually so expensive I rarely purchase any for my family.  This year, I decided to make some.  It was so easy- anyone can do this.
Here's what you need:
A bag of mints (or even candy canes) 
Two 12 oz. bags vanilla chips
Two 12 oz. bags semi-sweet chocolate chips

I would recommend, if your budget allows, more expensive, high quality chocolates- both white and dark.  But these work great for the average batch.

So here's what you do:

 Spray a 9X13 glass cake pan and line it with a sheet of wax paper or foil- allowing the paper to drape over the edges. (I lightly sprayed the foil)

In a food processor (or by hand), chop and crush peppermint candies.  Leave enough small chunks to be pretty.  You don't want it all pulverized into powder.

In a medium sized bowl, melt chocolate chips in the microwave.  Stir every 30 seconds until just melted.  For mintier bark, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract to this mixture and stir.

Pour melted chocolate into greased pan and spread smooth.  Next, sprinkle half of the peppermint candy over the top.  Refrigerate for a few minutes to semi-harden while going on to the next step.

Now do the same thing with the vanilla chips.
Melt in microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until just melted.  You can add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract to this mixture as well, if you like.

Pour over chocolate layer lightly and be careful not to mix with the chocolate. Spread carefully.

Now sprinkle the rest of the crushed candies over the top and press gently to be sure candies 'stick'. 

Refrigerate until hardened.
Remove by grabbing ends of wax paper/foil and lifting out of pan. Peel off paper/foil.
Break or cut into small chunks to serve immediately or store in an airtight container.


Note to self: Remember to document recipes during daylight hours in order to take better photos!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Sweet Surprise

Two days ago, I was minding my own business in the kitchen- cooking and talking to the girls.
To my great surprise, The Man of the House came in with these:

For no reason at all.

(Except that he loves me.)

Oh, how I love this guy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Days Before Christmas!

The Man of the House is on his annual pilgrimage.  Every year, he makes a mad dash with children in tow to find me the perfect Christmas gift (s).  

This year is no exception.  They loaded up this morning (the kids love it!) and headed for town.  They usually make a day of it- stopping to have lunch together,etc.  Even our grown daughter and new granddaughter went.

Me?  I'm enjoying the peace and quiet while working to get the house clean and orderly for Christmas.  It's really warm out, so I have the doors and windows open- enjoying the fresh breeze spreading throughout the house.
I may or may not still be in my pajamas at 1:30 in the afternoon.  
I may or may not have eaten three pieces of fudge while cleaning the kitchen.
I may or may not have gotten sidetracked from my work by two phone calls, a neighbor boy stopping by and the uploading of new precious pictures of my new granddaughter.  

And, since I am a grandma....I get to post a few more pictures of our sweet little Mallory, now three weeks old:

 Uploading photos of her and sharing them keeps me distracted from the intense desire to gobble her up.  She is that yummy.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas


This was in an email sent to me this morning:

"There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.
What in the world do leaping lords, French hens,
swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out
of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

This week, I found out.
From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were
not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone
during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.
It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning
plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each
element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality
which the children could remember.
-The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
-Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
-Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
-The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
-The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
-The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
-Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit--Prophesy, Serving, Teaching,  Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
-The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
-Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit--Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness,  Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
-The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
-The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
-The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.
So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas pass it on if you wish.'
Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone"

 ~Author unknown

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Birthday Tribute: My Grandpa

                                                  L to R: my cousin Ryan, brother Noah, Grandpa and myself on my birthday

Today is my grandpa's birthday.
He was born on the winter solstice; his mother declaring it both the longest day of her life and thankfully, the shortest of the year.  

As a young man he was a gymnast and throughout my childhood was able to demonstrate his amazing abilities. 
He was in the Navy and served 4 years in the Korean War.  He has some amazing stories from his travels abroad! 
He married my grandma just a few short years before my birth...and embraced us all as his family.
Kind-  Loves babies and children, a caregiver to animals and to those who are sick,  a quiet man of great strength.
Loving- I never saw him leave the house- not once- without kissing my grandmother good-bye.   

Gentleman- Grandpa gets very put out if a lady (or even a little girl) opens their own car door.  He always opens my doors.  He also expects other men to treat ladies the same.

Humorous- He is always ready with a joke or funny story.  Always one to cheer you up and never one to feel sorry for himself.

Creative- This man is a great artist.  He carves, builds, gardens, makes beautiful knives, paints amazing pictures.  

Humble-  Grandpa worked at the mill for as far back as I can recall and retired from there.  He worked the graveyard shift and made a humble living.  He ate the same lunches in the same black lunchbox.  He made use of his free time working on hobbies with my grandmother.  He was never an idler or a complainer.

Honorable- Grandpa sets an example of honesty and integrity in all he does.   He is a man born of the heroes generation.

I cannot possibly convey the depth of my feelings for this man.  There are so few like him.  How many men today can list even that small portion of his attributes I listed above?  

I think of the past few times I've been able to make my way to Oregon to see them.   I am greeted with pure, unconditional love and treated like a queen in their home.   As I leave,  tears are shed- my grandpa unafraid to show his emotions- and my last view is the same as it has been my entire life: 
Grandpa and Grandma framed by their doorway, leaning on the little half-gate screen door; waving and smiling and calling "goodbye." 

He is and always will be, my true grandfather.  And nowhere in this world is there a girl luckier than I.  

James Hamilton Cline- a little girl's (and big girl's !) hero.

Look to the Light

" The birth of the Savior means to me that the world has a chance to change....the world has a chance to become what He intended it to become from the beginning... the world has a chance to accept His love and follow him..."

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Vacation Begins

It's the most wonderful time of the year....Christmas happenings, school is out for vacation time and the winter weather calls for snuggling up in front of a fire.  

I'm so very pleased and thankful.
Pleased that my new little granddaughter is here to share in the Christmas joy, that my Sophomore son, who is experiencing his first year of public school, is doing so well.   (He just had his finals!)

That my family is healthy and happy, that our home is safe and warm.

Thankful for the month of December and the singing of Christmas carols at church every Sunday.
There is nothing quite like sitting in a pew with your loved ones, surrounded by friends, singing beloved carols.  

For the time of year when we give ourselves permission to slow down, reconnect and reach out.

Life is such a beautiful thing!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas Festivities

The Christmas season is here and one of our traditions is to get our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving.
Growing up in Oregon, my family always made a trip up in the mountains to choose and chop our own tree.   I have many memories of bundling up, sitting in the backseat with my siblings and singing along to music on 8-Tracks.   Christmas songs, John Denver, a little Earth Wind & Fire and Linda Ronstadt to name a few favorites.
We would tromp through the inevitable mountain snow, searching for the perfect tree.   Our seventies winter clothes lacking decent water-proofing, we would quickly become cold and Mom would shoo us back to the car/truck to drink thermos-held hot cocoa out of styrofoam cups.  Then we'd haul the tree home and set to decorating it!
Through the years, my husband and I have bought our trees.  While in Oregon, we never paid more than $15-$20 for a nice Fir.    Moving to other states, I was shocked to see ticket prices for an average tree up in the $70 range.   We thriftily found the cheapest we could and, a few years later, bought an artificial tree.  That, my friends, was lowering my standards.
I couldn't fathom not having a real tree filling my home with its fresh scent.
Fast forward a few years: Donated the artificial tree, went back to the real thing.
Then moved to Colorado and gulped at the prices again.
This year, I told my husband we couldn't possibly justify spending so much on a tree when it could be spent instead on gifts or family activities.  We decided to scout our own tree-filled property for something that would work.   There were several patches that needed thinned out anyway.

So one morning we set out, located a Pine tree that was growing too close to others  and chopped it down.  

Pine trees are a different breed of Christmas tree to be sure, but a few times as a kid we had one and they are special in their own way.  My children have only known Fir and complained that decorating it was not the same.   I told them it was rustic and real; like having a Ponderosa Pine growing indoors.  
We calculated the tree's age and found that it was 9 years old- the same age as our youngest daughter.  That gave them some food for thought- all those years growing to be cut down for our Christmas enjoyment.  We did feel good that if the tree needed to be cut for others to grow, at least it was cut in honor of Christ.

We even cut rounds off of the excess trunk, bored holes into them and hung them by ribbons on the tree.  I also cut round orange slices and hung them as well.  They smelled amazing with the fresh tree!

Here it is with its initial rustic finery; before earnest decorating commenced:

A little Charlie Brownesque, but very in tune with the Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

One of Life's Most Amazing Experiences!

                                             link to original photo here

Okay, I'm ready to talk.

Ready to share my amazing recent experience.

Seeing the birth of my granddaughter!

First, I have to say I was full  of mixed emotions.  Worried about my daughter and the health of the unborn baby, excited to be a part of the birth process once more- even though I was on the other side of it, so to speak.    Nervous to meet this precious little girl.

                              link to original photo here

Can you be nervous about meeting your granddaughter?  I certainly was.  

So nervous and full of emotions that I was literally vibrating with anxiousness and excitement.

But most of that was all before I even reached the hospital!  
Once there, I happily realized that my girl had an incredible epidural (say that five times fast!)  and was virtually pain-free. 
At one point, towards the end of labor, I was feeling a little jealous and wishing upon her just a teeny bit of pain.   Just to get an idea of what real labor feels like.    'Cause, ahem, I only had an epidural with my sixth baby....and it didn't work properly.    Now, after seeing the incredible work of that pain reliever, I'm all for it.   Especially when it involves my own sweet daughters.  
: o)

She did feel some pain during transition- but the anesthesiologist was called in to administer a bit more meds.  This pretty much took care of the pain...although she still felt pressure.  But by then, it was time to push.
My original plan, when my daughter asked for me to be in the room, was to stay in a back corner or near her head....wherever she needed me most.  She also invited her dad to be there...and he stuck with the original plan- back in the far corner.   I, however, was cast as a main supporting character in that the nurse ordered me to hold one of my daughter's legs.  Her husband held the other. 
And there we were, as this beautiful baby girl came into this world. 

During the process, I would occasionally meet eyes with my husband.  His, large and round with worry and helplessness as he paced the floor in his small corner.  Mine may have been mirrors of his own- I only know that virtually every emotion that a person can feel was winding its way through my heart and mind.   
 At one point, in the break between pushes, my daughter laughed and said, "This feels like a dream." That, is exactly how I felt, too.  

                                                                  link to original  photo here

And then, little Mallory came into the world and the nearest description I can think of is Christmas morning as a child.   Wonder, excitement, rainbows and butterflies, humbleness, gratitude and extreme tears of joy....just a few things that I experienced.  And my beautiful daughter laughing and saying sweet things to her new daughter.  
Then, seeing a new family created: Father, Mother, Child.   
Truly, our Heavenly Father in His wisdom knows that a family can be perfection on earth.

Later that day, after we left the new family together at the hospital, my husband and I reflected on the experience.  Trying to wrap our minds around the fact that not only had we been a part of that amazing  event, but we were now, in fact, grandparents.   We held hands on the way home and quietly contemplated  our blessings.  
The marvelous circle of life continues and our family tree begins to branch out.

                                                         link to original  photo here

Monday, December 6, 2010

Our Bird Has Flown

A few weeks ago, I wrote  here about a little dove we rescued.

Little Hamish had been recovering from his injuries, but wasn't quite ready to fly free.

Last week, he suddenly seemed to have his strength back.  When I would refill his water and food, he would try to rush me and get out of the cage.

I knew it was time to let him go.

We again took him outdoors and opened his cage.  He again walked out, a free man.  
This time, however, he immediately flew up into a tree.

An hour later, when we checked again, he was gone.

Good deed done.


Friday, December 3, 2010

Baby Mallory

Our first grandchild has arrived!
A precious little girl:

Mallory Emeryl Paige
November 30, 2010
8 lbs, 1 oz.
21 inches long

Peaceful, wise, aware and strong,
She has captured our hearts from the moment of her birth.

 She is named after her great-great grandmother, Faye Emeryl Mallory (also born in November and just celebrated her 80th birthday!)  as well as her mother, Mariah Emeryl Ruth.
Her father chose Paige as his special name for her.

 She has her momma's dimples...I hope to capture them on film soon.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting; 
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
          Hath had elsewhere its setting
               And cometh from afar;
          Not in entire forgetfulness,
          And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
               From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy! 

~William Wordsworth

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