Friday, December 23, 2011

Not a Silent Night....

This is a re-post from last year

As we so often forget, Christmas, the Real Christmas, didn't happen conveniently for anyone.  It wasn't convenient for Mary or Joseph.  It wasn't convenient for Herod.  It wasn't picturesque.   It was, however, God sending Love to us in a very relatable way - who as a mother has not put herself in Mary's place? 

Can you imagine being a teenage mother, traveling for days and finding yourself in labor?  There is nowhere for you to go.  You have only your young husband for comfort and support - and he's not even the father of your baby.  But, you have the promise of your Creator that in your womb rests the Hope of the World.

I think the song, "Silent Night" could not be more misleading.   Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright - if you read the same Bible that I do - you realize that God specializes in showing Himself in scary and otherwise unlikely situations.  That's why they're called miracles. 

You will also realize that the characters of the Bible were very real - in their failures and successes.  I personally find comfort in the fact that God makes a habit of choosing those with flaws to bring about His plans - in His time. 
This song was our special music this past Sunday in church.  I'm not "up to date" on my Christian songs, so maybe everyone has already heard this song.  As I listened to it for the first time, I found it very powerful.  A good friend remarked yesterday, "it's difficult to have a mother's heart in this world".

Here are the lyrics - click here to listen see the video - depicting scenes from the movie, "Nativity Scene".  Even if you think Christmas is only a sweet fairy-tale, you may find it very moving. I think it describes the birth of Jesus in a very real, very gritty, and not necessarily pretty way. 

Labor of Love - by Andrew Peterson

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Merry Christmas to one and all - may you experience the miracle of Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Do you "thank-you note"?

As we're knee-deep in the "season of giving" and receiving, I am declaring my resolution to be a better "thank-you noter". 

I once read that you should send a thank-you note to anyone who has done something for you that took more than 15 minutes.  Wow.  I guess I'll need to stock up a bit on stamps and stationary. 

I think a short, well-written note goes very far in creating respect for yourself.  I totally applaud people who excel at being thankful!

My mom has a friend who is the best "tyn" (thank-you noter) that I've ever met.  Literally, if you do something for her, the next day in your mailbox is a note waiting for you.  She must mail out the notes the second she returns home from being in your presence!  There are several people I already know who ascribe to the "Janice Raub School of Thank-You Noting" - my sister, my mom, my husband, and my father-in-law.  My sister-in-laws also do a great job. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is.....let's bring back the thank-you note!  Let's work hard to teach our children this long-lost tradition and to thank all of the people who enrich our lives. 

Well - I'm off to write a thank-you note to my aunt and the director of our church children's musical!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday's News by the Numbers.....

one hour and thirty five minutes - time taken to drive each way to the family cabin

8:25am - the time we left

13 minutes - how long it took my Dad and I took to open the cabin, load up our cargo, take a bathroom break, and head back down the road

12 minutes - time involved to get gas, order and receive four sandwiches

$33.36 - total cost of a half of a tank of gas and four sandwiches

12:01pm - the time we pulled into my driveway

2 - the amount of people crazy enough to drive 3+ hours, time everything we did, and laugh almost the whole way!

We drove up to our family cabin to retrieve Josh's dirtbike so he can join the other riders in our family for a little off-road fun on Friday. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Excuse me, ma'am.....

Is that a door on your wall?

I am not a crafty person by design.  Usually I don't even try.  But, since we hosted a family birthday party for Emma [so close to Christmas], I decided to try my hand with a few decorations. 

Even though our house lends itself more to a mid-century modern look (it was built in 1955), I really like the rustic farmhouse style of decorating.  I enjoy natural, weathered surroundings. 

I found this cute little mason jar idea on Pinterest.  It was super simple - and it just so happened that I had purchased a pack of floating candles about 10 years ago and had never used them!

I used some foliage from our yard, added some fresh cranberries and water - and floated the candle on top!  So easy.  They looked great in the evening while the candles were lit!

I had snagged the beam they're sitting on from the pile of lumber at the cabin - I'm obsessed with tongue and groove beams. 

I also rescued an antique door - and convinced my husband to hang it on the wall.  I kind of love it.  My eventual plan is to mount black framed prints on the door in a symmetrical pattern, mixing landscapes and portraits.  But, for now, I simply hung two lanterns on the antique coat rack we've always had in the foyer.  At the very least, I figure it will be a great conversation piece.  I picture hearing at least once, "is that a door on your wall"? 

it looks kind of weird in this picture - but I still like it!

a view of our foyer through the mirror hanging above the table

the side view with our door wreath in the foreground
Do you decorate your house seasonally?  Do you go all out for Christmas? 

I'll update you on the door/picture frame when I decide which prints to mount!

Upcoming New Recipes

So, will you be cooking this week?  We are blessed to live near to both of our families and we'll get to celebrate Christmas with everyone this coming weekend. 

We're doing things a little differently this year - celebrating on Christmas Eve day with Rob's family and then spending Christmas Day with my family.  Of course we will eat very well at both locations!

I'll be trying several new recipes - click on the link, if included, to see the recipe ahead of time!

Our Christmas Eve festivities will include a brunch.  I'm planning to contribute a chipped beef and dill dip with rye bread cubes, a salad (probably mandarin oranges, pomegranates, and toasted almonds with lettuce), and a vegetable tian.

On Christmas Day, I'll be making Ina's tomato tarts, fennel gratin, and my apple galette. 

How about you?  Will you be hosting or traveling to family?  Are you going to try a new recipe?

I'll keep you updated on all of my new recipes! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

But the last one: the baby who trails her scent like a flag of surrender through your life when there will be no more coming after - oh, that's love by a different name.  She is the babe you hold in your arms for an hour after she's gone to sleep.  If you put her down in the crib, she might wake up changed and fly away.  So instead you rock by the window, drinking the light from her skin, breathing her exhaled dreams.  Your heart bays to the double crescent moons of closed lashes on her cheeks.  She's the one you can't put down.  (The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver)

Today, my favourite thing is our baby girl, Emma.  It's so, so hard to believe that she turned eight years old this morning at 12:12.  I remember like it was yesterday the second that we first met her, already her dimples were the first things we noticed.

She has us wrapped around her little finger.  Truly.

Emma with her Mommy

Emma with her Daddy

Here is my post from last year (on her birthday).

And the year before - with lots of cute baby pictures.  

Happy Birthday, Emma!   You're the best "surprise" we've ever had!

Appetizer Idea #3

Hot dips with veggies and crackers.  It is so hard for me to use restraint when presented with a hot crab dip or a hot artichoke and spinach dip.  I literally want to eat a whole bowl by myself.  There is something so satisfying about a warm, creamy, and salty concoction tempered with the crunch of a good cracker.  Yum.

Here are two recipes for you - make one today and take it to a party - or, make a batch for yourself and just call it a party!

Hot Crab Dip:

Hot Crab Dip Recipe (courtesy of

  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • 2 green onions, sliced, greens included
  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley, or 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp horseradish
  • 1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon of Tabasco or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup of canned crabmeat (the kind in the tuna aisle)

 1 Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, lemon juice, water, onions, and parsley until smooth. Mix in the Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, and horseradish. Fold in the slivered almonds and lump crab meat. Place in an oven-proof casserole serving dish.

2 Bake until bubbly and heated through, about 20 minutes. Serve with crackers or thinly sliced baguette.

I know you can't see how good this is, but just trust me, please.....

Baked Spinach and Artichoke Dip (my mom's recipe)

1 package of cream cheese, softened (8oz)
1 cup of sour cream
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1 10oz package of frozen spinach, drained
1 small jar of marinated artichokes

mix all ingredients and bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Appetizer Idea #2

Miniature Sandwiches.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches on mini croissants(click here for the link).   Totally cute.  Delicious and filling in a light way.  I like to serve them with slices of tomato and some spinach.

Ham sandwiches with pineapple cream cheese and shredded carrots.  It's as simple as it sounds.  Cut the crusts off of whatever bread you'd like (we did half whole-wheat and half white) and assemble.  Salty, sweet, and creamy - a perfect combination!

These miniature sandwich ideas would be perfect for a Christmas Eve brunch, an open house holiday party, or any other gathering you're hosting or attending during the next few weeks! 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Appetizer Idea #1

I'm sure many of you will be busy celebrating in the next couple of weeks!  Our social life is fairly non-existent, but we'll be enjoying some fun times with our families. 

If you've been invited to (or are hosting) a party, these antipasto skewers are a real crowd pleaser!  I first saw the idea on Pinterest and it seems as though I've been living under a rock - apparently, they've been popular for a while.  The possibilities are endless, but I'll give you my "recipe".  It's so easy, it's almost embarrassing.

Basically, you'll need to cook cheese-filled tortellini and marinate them overnight in balsamic vinegar salad dressing (I personally like Newman's Own, but use your favorite).  Then, you'll simply skewer the marinated tortellini, a cherry tomato, a wedge of cheese, an olive, and a slice of pepperoni.  That's it.  I like the smaller skewers (I believe they're 8 inch). 

Like I mentioned before, the possibilities are endless: various olives, cheeses, meats, vegetables, etc.  I used fontina cheese, kalamata olives, and regular pepperoni. 

I'll be sharing appetizer recipes this whole week - stay tuned!  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Entertaining Ideas

I was able to help prepare food for an event at my parent's church on Sunday night.  My mom and I worked together to feed about 200 people.  Because we were working with a limited budget, our menu choices were simple, but delicious.  I thought I'd share some pictures and later in the week, I'll share some of the recipes!

We were able to pull this off with a little less than $500.  That's less than $3 a person.  My whole family helped - my Dad helped all morning on Sunday, the kids pitched in, and Josh and Rob were my assistants in setting up the food and replenishing.  It was actually kind of fun - but exhausting!  

assembling the antipasto skewers

slicing the tomatoes for the skewers

antipasto skewers - tomatoes, tortellini, pepperoni, fontina

pumpkin bread, poppyseed bread

chicken salad sandwiches on croissants

ham and pineapple cream cheese sandwiches

lemon squares and chocolate chip cookies

pineapple, kiwis, grapes, and oranges

my mom supplied the floral arrangements, my dad the pottery

chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge

sun-dried tomato spread with baguette slices

black bean tortilla roll-ups

refilling everything!
this lady had never tasted an artichoke before! 
Our menu:

Ham and cheese sandwiches with pineapple cream cheese
Chicken Salad sandwiches
Black bean tortilla roll-ups
Spinach and Artichoke dip with veggies
Crackers and Assorted cheeses
Fruit Tray
Antipasto skewers with cheese tortellini and fontina cheese
Pumpkin bread
Poppyseed bread
Lemon Squares
Chocolate Chip cookies
Chocolate fudge
Peanut butter fudge
Peppermint brownies
Raspberry Punch

Friday, December 2, 2011

Favourite Thing Friday

Never Fail Fudge.  Oh, yeah.  Seven ingredients, and you can be a fudge legend.  In our family, it was my Aunt Marie, she was the fudge legend....but our little club has added a new member.  I'm the new member, and you can start your own club. 

The fudge recipe is courtesy of the Marshmallow Fluff container.   By the way, I'm kind of in love with the vintage look of the container.  And, maybe you can't see it, but apparently fluff contains no fat or cholesterol.  It's practically a health food. 

Without further ado, here's the recipe:

 5 cups sugar
10 oz evaporated milk
1/4 lb butter
1 jar (16oz) fluff
1 tsp salt

24 oz semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1.  Combine first five ingredients in large pot.  Stir over low heat until blended.
2.  Bring to a boil over moderate heat.  Boil slowly, stirring constantly, for five minutes (I usually do   between    7-9 minutes, just to be safe).
3.  Remove from heat, stir in chocolate chips and vanilla until chocolate is melted.  Pour into buttered 9x13" pan and cool.  Makes approximately 5 lbs. 

I would be remiss to not remind you that not all of the fudge will "fit" in your pan.  You'll have at least two pieces left in the pan....just remember (pretty please) to let the mixture cool before you sample it. 

This is my new favourite dessert, head on over to see what Shay featured as her favourite this week!