No matter where I spend New Year's Eve, there is one thing, a tradition, that we always try to do. Pray out the old year and pray the new year in. My mom and dad are the two that started the tradition when I was just a young girl. Now I do it with my kids and hopefully one day they will do it with their children.
We still hoop and holler and make a lot of noise, but first we pray. Why? Because He is the God of my yesterdays, He is the God of my today, and He is the God of my tomorrows. What better way to start the New Year than with the One I love most. It is because of Him that I am blessed to have another year. It is because of my faith in Him that I know that whatever the new year brings He will see me through. In the good times and in the bad times, at the end of the year and at the beginning of the year, I will say blessed be the name of the Lord and thank Him for His goodness to me, his unworthy servant.
There's nothing better on a cold winter's night than a bowl of chocolate gravy for dinner. My mom fixed it when I was a child, a recipe, or should I say a skill that was passed down by her mother. As an adult I asked my mom for the recipe. Her response... "I don't have a recipe, I just make it." So I did what any desperate cocoa gravy lover would do, I asked her to make it while I watched so I could write it down. After all this was too great of a thing to be lost in time only to be recalled as a favorite childhood memory.
Trust me when I say this recipe is going to put a smile on your face. If you are someone who has been denied the joy of chocolate gravy, try to resist the temptation of grabbing the phone and calling your mom or maybe even your grandma to ask her why she never fixed it for you. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe they've never heard of it. Fortunately for you it's never too late to make up for lost time. Make yourself up some homemade biscuits and a batch of this yummy treat and sit down to pure delight!
Mamma's Cocoa Gravy
In a saucepan put 3 heaping Tablespoons (mamma uses a big cooking spoon) of Hershey's cocoa, 6 heaping spoonfuls of sugar and 3 heaping spoonfuls of flour. Stir together, add and stir in a pinch of salt. Slowly stir in a can of evaporated milk, mixing well. Next add water. Mamma takes her saucepan over to the sink and adds a little less than half of what is in the saucepan. Stir constantly over medium high heat till it gets thick. Careful not to let it stick. Then add one teaspoon of vanilla. Stir that in and you are done.
Now for the best part. Fill your bowl, add a dab of butter and eat with your favorite homemade biscuits.
When you find a good thing you just have to share it! I absolutely love the way this sugar scrub makes my skin so soft and smooth instead of dry and itchy like the winter months tend to leave it.
1 cup brown sugar (you could also use white sugar or a mixture of both)
1/2 cup canola oil or olive oil
2 drops vanilla or almond extract (optional)
In medium bowl combine sugar and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until you achieve a paste-like blend. Add extract if desired and stir until well mixed. Transfer to a clean airtight container to slow breakdown of the oil. Store mixture that you are not using in the refrigerator for 6-12 months.
In shower, massage mixture gently over damp skin. It will exfoliate and moisturize at the same time. Do not use on broken, irritated or scarred skin. Avoid Eyes.
Pine cones make great fire starters and I just learned a super easy and fun way to decorate them up a bit. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, you are going to love this idea! They would also be great to bring on the next camping trip or to give as a gift.
First thing you need to do is go gather up some pine cones. Fortunately we have a couple pine trees on our property so that won't be a problem for me. If you don't have any you could go to a park or hit your local craft store where you could buy a bundle of them at a fairly reasonable price.
If you have gathered your pine cones outside be sure they are nice and dry. If they are wet from a recent snow or rain you could put them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the oven on a low setting for a couple hours to dry them out.
You need a double boiler to melt your wax in. I use an old metal coffee can inside of a metal pan. Fill your pan about half way full of water and put your wax in the coffee can. You could use old candles for this, just be sure to cut them up a bit so they will melt faster.
Using tongs (or wire from an old hanger) dip each pine cone into the wax. Be sure to have newspapers spread about and a sheet of wax paper to set the pine cones on as they dry. The wax will drip and you don't want a mess. The newspapers will make it much easier to clean up. If your wax is not too hot it will be a little thicker and you will only need to dip your pine cone about 4 times. After the last dip let them dry real good. I'd say for at least an hour. Now put your dipped pine cones in a basket and sit it by the fireplace! That's all there is to it! I told ya it was easy!
I now have all the Homestead Blessing dvd's and I'm so excited! This Christmas, thanks to my mom and sister, my collection was completed. If you have never met the West Ladies thru their dvd's I urge you to do so. They are such a blessing! If you love country living, homesteading, gardening and old fashioned living like I do, then these are the dvd's for you. I can't say enough good things about the West ladies! They are a homesteading, homeschooling, home making family that love the Lord. Sounds great don't it! As a homeschooling mom I have to mention that these are great for teaching your daughters homemaking skills!
The West Ladies offer 11 dvd's in all. The Art of Crafting, Quilting, Sewing, Canning, Gardening, Herbs, Dairy Delights, Cooking, Soap Making, Candle Making, and Bread Making! You'll want them all!
But don't take my word for it. Check them out for yourself. Here's a link to their website. They also have a blog that you can check out here. You can also buy their dvd's at Franklin Springs Family Media.
Here's a short trailer featuring 10 of their 11 dvd's.
The West Ladies also have a cd out. Most of the songs on it are songs they wrote themselves. Here's a video of one of their songs!
The tree is down, the decorations are put away, everything is back in its place...well, almost. I know most people keep up their tree till the New Year. Not me. I've always taken it down the day after Christmas. So has my mom, so maybe it's a family thing. I love having everything put away and in it's proper place so I can enjoy some time with my kids. Remember I'm a homeschool mom so it's my Christmas break too. For me, the sooner I get the tree down and everything put away, the sooner I can sit back, relax and enjoy some family time.
After Christmas is over I get some boxes and make two stacks of new gifts. Bethany's stack and Dakota's stack. Then throughout the next week I take time to look at their new things individually with each of them. After each item is looked at/played with by mom and kid it then gets put in it's place. This is something I've always done. We do it on Birthday's too. The kids look forward to it and so do I. It used to consist of playing hotwheels and remote control cars with Dakota and playing barbies and baby dolls with Bethany. Now that they are getting older it consists of looking at books, watching movies, and playing video games.
So this year for Dakota we will be watching his new Crabb Family dvd together, looking and discussing several books including a book on humility and George Bush's Decision Points. He got a really neat sportsman camouflage Bible that I am thoroughly convinced that every sportsman should have. It's even waterproof, supposedly even floats! He also got several things for hunting so we will look at those together and hopefully he'll get to use some of it next deer season. But mostly we will be looking at pictures. He takes really good pictures of nature and he has photography blog that you can check out here. His grandmother got him a new tripod, he got some camera cleaning supplies and his most favorite thing...Photoshop! Here's an example of some of the fun stuff he can now do.
With Bethany we will be looking at some books. She loves the Life of Faith books and this Christmas she completed her collection. She was very excited about that! She also got several Focus on the Family Radio Theatre productions. We are almost finished listening to Anne of Green Gables then we'll start on Little Women or perhaps The Secret Garden which she received from her great grandma. She also got the Anne of Green Gables dvd set and some paper dolls. She loves paper dolls and has quite a collection. One thing she'll have to wait to try out is her new sweep net. This year in Science she has been studying insects and the one and only thing she really asked for this year was a sweep net so she could catch all kinds of bugs and butterflies. We'll have to wait for spring on that. Here's a picture of her opening up her Anne of Green Gables Focus on the Family from her Aunt Shelley.
As a family we'll be watching I Love Lucy! We now have seasons 1 & 2 and have already shared several laughs while piled in bed together. Also we'll try to solve some Brain Teasers together while playing Professor Layton and the Curious Village on the Nintendo ds.
Then when I am all done with that, I hope to have some time to myself so I can read. I got several new books for Christmas. My mom got me Serendipity by Cathy Marie Hake and my sweet Bethany got me A Guide to Deaf Ministry and Celebrating the Christian Year, both books that I really wanted.
I can't end without mentioning the sweet gift that Dakota got for me. He took a beautiful picture of a pink rose with water droplets on it and then he wrote a poem for me and printed it on the picture and gave me the framed work of art. Needless to say I teared up when I read the poem. It is a gift I will treasure forever.
I love to reflect. To think about days gone by. I hope one day when I am old and gray (or should I say older and grayer) that my children will look back on their childhood and a smile will come to their faces.
Out of all the Christmases of my childhood there is one year that sticks out in my mind above all the others. It's not because I got the biggest or the best gifts that year. Quite the contrary. Looking back I can see now that it was a very meager Christmas. But none the less it was my favorite.
I was nine years old that year. We were building a new house. The house we had lived in had been bought out by the government due to the ground being contaminated with dioxin. We lived with my grandparents for quite sometime while the new house was being built. The location of the new house was across the field, then filled with apple trees, from grandma's and grandpa's. The house was not finished, but with Christmas near it was important to my parents to be in our own house for the holidays. We had no electric except for an extension cord ran down thru the field from grandma's house and no water (yes, that means no plumbing). But we did have a wood stove for warmth, we had each other, and we had our own home. We lived in one room. A quilt was hung to keep the warmth of the fire in, me and my sister slept on cots and mom and dad had a pallet made in the floor. I still remember decorating our little tree that year. With the tree being so small it made it seem like we had so many presents!
Me and my sister decorating the little tree!
Me and Shelley in our cots
Here's a picture of my mom that year. She has always made Christmas special for us.
I am not one that gets real personal on my blog. I try to keep it light, posting about country living, recipes, etc. But for tonight, I'm going to get personal. I feel the need to share my feelings, my thoughts, and how God has been speaking to my heart.
There is only a week left till Christmas, and to be perfectly honest, last week was a very trying week for me. There have been some things that have left me hurt, stressed and at times angry. I've learned through all the seasons of my life that the times that you feel the most hurt, the most broken, in those times, if you listen close, God is there comforting you and ready to minister to you.
I have said before, that Christmas is giving gifts to each other to represent the gift that God gave us. I have said that Christmas is the time of year that families show each other how much they love you. I have said that Christmas is being with those you love. All those things about Christmas are partly true, but what about the true meaning of Christmas. I have been raised in church, I've been a christian for a long time, I know what Christmas is all about, I know the meaning, but until this year I have never thought about it so hard, meditated on it, or let God really speak to my heart.
Christmas is....a Father.
A Father that was so merciful that He gave a gift. The gift of His son. His only son. To a world that was lost and dying, to all people. He gave this gift to me. He gave this gift to you. I have never had anyone else love me so much, that they were willing to give their son's life for mine.
Christmas is....a Son
A son who willingly came to this earth as a baby. He knew His destiny. He knew the plan. He knew the outcome. He knew that the very people He came for would turn their backs on Him. He came anyway. I have never had anyone else love me so much, that they would lay down their life for mine.
A love that is stronger than any power on earth. A love that goes deeper than sin. A love that reaches the unreachable. A love that came in the form of a babe. A love that came to die, a love that grew to be a man, that experienced hurts, betrayal, pain. At anytime before he came or while He was here on earth, He could of chose to stop it, but because of love he didn't. I have never had anyone else love me with such a love, that they would look past my sin, my mistakes, my unworthy heart and love me anyway.
My prayer this season is that God would prepare my heart. Not to be a Bethlehem like we so often hear. Bethlehem had no room for it's King. But instead to be a humble stable, a manger, a home.
If you are feeling stressed, hurt or even angry this Christmas, remember that Christmas cannot be bought, created or made. Christmas can only be found. You can take away the tree, the family, the food, the presents, but if you have Jesus, you still have Christmas.
On a cold winter day, who doesn't like a cup of hot chocolate? It's the perfect drink to sip on while snuggled on the couch with a good book or to have ready when the kids come in from playing in the snow. This year I have found a delicious recipe for a homemade hot chocolate mix. It makes quite a bit and would be perfect for Christmas presents. You could do a festive "mix in a jar" or make up your own packets and include a chocolate dipped spoon for stirring.
My Bethany made these. She loves making gifts for Christmas!
Creamy Hot Chocolate Mix
6 1/2 Cups powdered milk
1 Package of chocolate pudding mix (use regular not the instant kind)
2 Cups of Nestle Nesquick instant chocolate drink mix
1/2 Cup french vanilla coffee creamer (mix)
1/2 Cup powdered sugar
1/2 Cup sifted cocoa powder (non-sweetened)
Mix all the ingredients and then put it in your jars, packages or a large container for yourself! The mixture will keep for 3 months if sealed properly.
Have you ever experienced the sweet peace of Jesus? That peace that floods over your soul, when everything in your life is anything but peaceful....and then Jesus comes in, soft and sweet, and you experience a calm, a love, a peace like never before? Sometimes we just need to be still, to know, to feel, to experience....
Psalms 46:10 "Be still and know that I am God"
If this Christmas season is finding you anything but peaceful, close your eyes, listen to this song, and let Him come to you...soft and slow.
My Christmas shopping that is. I really do not like to shop. I am NOT one of those gals that can spend a whole day at it. When I go, I am on a mission. I have a list, I have a goal, I have a plan. I know which stores I am going to and the order in which I will go to them. If things don't go as I planned I tend to get grouchy. My kids will vouch for that. So today when I headed out to finish my Christmas shopping and to get the kids their Christmas outfits, I had a goal, a list, a plan, I had my stores mapped out.... I was a mother on a mission. Mission failed. Out of all the stores we went to Bethany could not find one outfit she liked....with the exception of one purple skirt that we could not find a single top to match and personally I did not think it looked very Christmasy anyway. I would hold up an outfit and ask her if she liked it and her response most of the time was "a little less than a maybe". So we finally settled with a red sweater to go with a black skirt she already has. I know that when she wears it she will be complaining that it itches and that it makes her hair have static, but I will not think about that today. Dakota on the other hand was easy. His only complaint was..."why couldn't I stay home and you just pick it out?" I'll take note and remember that next time.
The last few gifts I needed to get I could not find. The stores were crowded and everything was picked over. The things that were on sale, which by the way was the whole reason I went shopping, were already sold out. So I came home. Tired, disappointed, and with a monstrous headache, got on-line and finished my shopping.
On Christmas day, 1864, the beloved poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow received word that his son, a soldier in the Civil War, had been wounded. Just two years before, Henry had lost his wife in a fire. As this devout Christian man sat alone with his grief, on the most joyful of Holy Days, he penned words of hope to challenge his own despair. He called his composition Christmas Bells. Little did he know that those words would someday be set to music and become a blessing to millions of people around the world.
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day was set to music by composer John Baptiste Calkin in 1872.
In 2008 Casting Crowns came out with this version and ever since it has been my favorite Christmas song.