Saturday, December 19, 2009

Grandma's Candy

Every year growing up, our family spent the day after Christmas at my grandparents' home.  I have wonderful memories of Christmas at my grandparents' house.  The little kitschy spinning tree topper that I would sit and watch for hours, waiting to open presents.  The endless games of euchre.  The cold and somewhat mysterious storeroom upstairs from which everything seemed to come.  

And, most of all, GRANDMA'S CANDY.  The candy that had to be kept cool but wasn't kept in some boring, obvious place like the refrigerator.  Grandma's candy was always kept in a secret door that led to a secret room.  Okay, I think it was just the door to their storage underneath their house, but to me it felt like a big secret (Maybe it felt like a big secret because I am still unsure of what the door leads to.  Why, after all these years, have I not bothered to find out?).  Candy that only came out on the 26th of December.  Candy that was chocolatey.  Crunchy.  Peanut-buttery.  Divine.  

Now everyone who can make the trip to my grandparents' house on the 26th of December still goes to celebrate.  Things have changed a bit, but the memories and traditions are still alive and strong.  And Grandma's Candy?  Definitely still there.  And usually kept in the same secret stash.  

I say usually because once I found it in the refrigerator.  In plain sight!  For everyone to see!  Surely this wasn't the same candy!  It completely threw me for a loop.  

So a few years back I couldn't make it to the celebration and asked my Grandma for the recipe.  Who new that it was so easy?  A few ingredients melted and mixed together, put it in the refrigerator to harden and you're done!  

Grandma's Candy
(this makes about a dozen cookie-size pieces of candy)

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (11.5 oz)
1/2 to 1 cup of peanut butter (more or less depending on how much you like peanut butter)
1 1/2 to 2 cups of granola (again, depending on how you want the consistency of your candy) - Grandma used to always use Quaker 100% Natural cereal, but in recent years she's used the Kroger brand of Natural cereal.  It's just a basic granola.  Use whatever granola you like, but I wouldn't use one with a lot of added stuff in it (raisins, dried fruit, coconut, etc...).  A simple oats and honey one works best.

Okay, here you go.  I hope you all are reading closely because it's the easiest thing you'll ever make.

Melt chocolate chips.  Take off heat.  Stir in peanut butter.  Stir in granola.  Drop onto baking sheet covered with wax paper.  Put into refrigerator to harden. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Baking: an update

We survived!  And I even got a few pictures.  Here are some gingersnaps getting ready to go into the oven:

Here are some of those cute little pretzel treats, ready to go into the oven.  Things did turn out, I promise.  I just forgot to take after pictures.  I only have befores:

And last, but not least, here's a little one all tuckered out from the baking.  The older kids helped my husband hand out treats at work while I waited with the younger ones.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Baking

Tomorrow I'm planning on doing some baking for my husband to take to his office.  I thought I'd share what I'm planning.  These are simple, no-fuss recipes.  Easy peasy.

So, in case you're wondering - because I know y'all are - is she going to do all this holiday baking with five children under 6 years old?  Or maybe you weren't wondering.  Maybe you do it all the time and it's just me who gets in a tizzy about these things.  Kudos to you.  Tell me how you do it.  But I was sitting here thinking about my plan for tomorrow and I had a brief thought of . . . "Really?  Is this possible?"  

So I'm saying now what I have to say to prepare myself before I do any sort of cooking/baking with the children.  It won't be picture perfect.  And it won't go as planned.  I'm always lowering my expectations around here.  Because baking with children can be enjoyable and fun for everyone (you too!) if your expectations are lowered a bit.  Oh, and I don't know about your kids, but my kids are really only helping so that they can have tastes of everything.  So if you want to stay sane, hand out tastes (and liberally).  

Don't expect pictures.  Or maybe I'll surprise myself and get some good ones.  

Okay, here's what I'm planning . . . Don't look, Danneca.  Nothing is healthy about any of these.  :-) 

Peanut-Butter Kisses.  Everyone calls them something different.  Here's a recipe. 

Gingersnaps.  I use a recipe that makes soft gingersnaps, which I guess wouldn't make them "snaps" but I'm not changing the name.  

Oatmeal Scotchies.  I found it on the back of the butterscotch chips bag.  I might put chocolate chips in them too.  

These.  Aren't they cute?  This will be the kids' favorite thing to make and I'm mostly making this for them.  

Later this week I'm making my Grandma's Candy for a party.  I will post the recipe to this because it is divine and so easy to make. 

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent Book

I've been reading a book called Preparing for Jesus by Walter Wangerin.  It's about - yep, you guessed it - preparing for Jesus!  Y'all are so smart!  Here it is.  I bought it last year but didn't read much of it last year because I got it when I was looking for an Advent devotional to use with the kids.  My kids are a little young for this book.  But I started using it myself and I really like it.  

Here's an excerpt that I thought was especially good.  This is from December 8th.
Luke 1:28-30: And Gabriel came to Mary and addressed her thus: "Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!"  Now, she was greatly troubled at what he said and wondered what such a greeting might mean.  But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary. for you have found favor with God."

"This, too, must absolutely be a part of our Christmas anticipations: that in the presence of divinity we are "greatly troubled."  . . . . . Nevertheless, fear has been forgotten - both by the world and by Christians in general.  We rush toward angels unafraid.  We approach the blazing furnaces of the seraphim with no more apprehension than children who reach laughingly for fire.  This fearlessness is not a sign of the character of God, as if God has changed throuh the centuries that divide us from Moses and Isaiah, from Zechariah and Mary and the shepherds.  Rather, it is a sign of the character of this present age, of arrogance or of ignorance, whether or not one admits to a living God.  

Mindlessly do the bells of secular celebrations jingle for Christmas.  Meaninglessly do carols repeat their tinny joys in all the malls of America.  No richer than soda pop is every sentimentalized Christmas special on TV.  Fearless is the world at play with godly things, because Godless is its heart.

If God is a laughing Santy, why should we be afraid?

Secular arrogance says there is no God.  Arrogance, in fact, assumes that humanity itself - its dreams, its talents, its visions and accomplishments - is the nearest thing to God the world will ever know.  Therefore, the "true meaning of Christmas" is assumed to be the occasional human kindness which, yes, may very well be symbolized by a nice old gentleman.  . . . .

Of course it is right to rejoice in tidings of great joy: that the mercy of God now crosses the gulf which our sinning opened between ourselves and our Creator.  Yes, it is right to fall down in perfect trust, fearlessly, before the Christ child and to worship him.  Yes, it is right to delight in the song of angels, the peace that God brings to the earth.  Yes, yes, and therefore do we cry in confidence, "Fear not!  Fear not!  For God hath banished fear!"

Ah, friend, but arrogance assumes that we deserve this blessed state.  There is neither grace nor gifts for those who deserve what they get - and no true joy at the receiving.  

And ignorance forgets the sin without which mercy means nothing, without which the baby Jesus is just a baby after all.

Listen: the light of Christmas shines into darkness!  We should be the walking dead.  What we deserve, in fact, is the absence of God - a cold and cosmic isolation - for this is our sin, that we chose to be gods in the place of God.  In the day we disobeyed we began to die.  We should, therefore, be dwelling in a land of deep darkness, mistrust, hatred, hopelessness, finality, and death. . .

But even as we feared, so do we rejoice when we hear the light say, "Don't be afriad.  I have not come to punish but to give you life.  I am no judge.  I am the Savior born for you."

Life instead of death?  That is a wonder!  And the wonder is all the more intense because death had been expected - because death had been right!

The mercy of God?  Is not this a dazzling wonder?

And isn't Christmas wonderful after all?"

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Delicious Christmas Beverages

I simply love to make special drinks during the Christmas Season.  It's no-mess, pretty quick, yet still delicious, nutritious and heart-warming.  Here are some of my favorites:

Hot Apple Cider

1 part unsweetened cranberry juice to 2 parts apple juice; add a cinnamon stick, an orange, whole cloves or allspice, simmer an hour or so on med-low, strain, add honey to taste and keep warm.  OR, buy spiced cider packets (unsweetened) and add to the juices.  OR, buy Knudsen's Spiced cider and mix w/ cranberry juice. 

Hot Cocoa

Follow the directions on the cocoa container, using non-homogenized milk and substituting the sugar with honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.  Top with whipped cream, lightly sweetened with one of the above sweeteners.

Egg Nog

Folllow your favorite egg nog recipe, substituting the sugar with honey, agave nectar or maple syrup.  You won't notice a difference!  It's so yummy!  Love it with rum too, of course.

Candy Cane Green/Black Tea

Use bulk herbs for this.  As you know, we love the herbs from these folks:  Pour 1c. boiling water over 1tsp. peppermint leaves and 1tsp. green or black tea.  Steep for 3 min.  Less if you don't like it fairly strong.  Sweeten with honey to taste.  Also a great gift for your tea-drinking friends - give them the bulk herbs already mixed, with directions for brewing. 

This is one way to bless my family without too much hassle and guilt.  Enjoy!

posted by Danneca

Thursday, December 3, 2009

a picture of the advent calendar

Here's a quick picture of the advent calendar I made after seeing it in a catalog.  I'm very happy with the way it turned out.  I couldn't get a nice looking picture, so sorry about that.  And I took it on the side where you can't really see the numbers, but they're there, on the other side.  See that first one on the far left, all askew?  That's after I got it all made and pretty looking and a certain child clipped the ribbon really really short.  Lovely.  So I had to make do. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"For to us a child is born. . . "

For to us a child is born,
       to us a son is given,
       and the government will be on his shoulders.
       And he will be called
       Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
       Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
 (Isaiah 9:6)

Now that the Advent season is upon us, I am faced with the challenge of conveying to my children the real meaning of all the preparations for December 25th.  Actually, I should back up and say that I am faced with the blessing of conveying this to my children.  It is a blessing to be able to try to convey the magnitude, the miracle, the wonder of it all!  But I will say it is also a challenge.  How do you celebrate Christmas with young children and not have it be all about the presents?

Well, in some ways, it is all about the presents and there's no way getting around that.  When you are a little kid, the excitement of it, the anticipation, the wonder gets mixed in with presents.  And that's okay, in my opinion, as long as it doesn't get out of hand.  We tend to let them get excited about anticipating presents, but also reign them in when it feels like they are just selfishly wishing and hoping. 
I think a big (very very big) way to help your children not focus on presents (or just "things" in general) is to limit their television watching.  I know lots of people say that, but I see a very big different in my children's attitudes when they have been watching tv and when they haven't.  We don't own a television.  That's for another post though . . .we won't get into that now. 

So having said that, some practical things we do:
+We do an advent reading every night.  It's short and sweet.  We light our advent candle, we read Scripture, and we sing a song.  Then they get a small treat. 
+We tell them the story of Christ's birth over and over and over again.  We read books about it.  We focus on it as much as we can while we're decorating and baking and partying.
+This year we're also doing a Jesse tree.  I'm sure most of you have heard of it.  There are a lot of resources out there to do this.  We're using this book.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering about Santa Claus.  We tell our kids about the real Santa Claus, Saint Nicholas.  There are plenty of books out there to read about Saint Nicholas.  I just recently found several I hadn't read at my local library.  We have this book and I like it a lot too.  Everyone does the Santa Claus thing differently and I tend to not want to mettle with your way of doing things when it comes to St. Nick.  Do whatever you feel is right.

Lastly, I got several Christmas book suggestions from here, if you're interested.  She has several along her sidebar.

So there you go.  My ideas.  Anyone want to share your ideas?