December 19, 2014

The Week Before Christmas.

Oh what a wonderful time of year!
I told you already that I was a bit grinchy this year and my children have been praying for me.
I can feel my little Grinch heart has grown two sizes this week.
I just want to record a few of the ways I have felt the Christmas Spirit crowd out the feeling of materialism that crept into my life.

Notes to Self for next year::

--Invite people over!!
Remember the idea to have "12 guests of Christmas".  It doesn't have to be grand, your house doesn't have to be a museum piece.  Just invite people into your home and feel how much you love them.  

This year we had Anna's (and Drew's) two friends and their families over before the Choir/Band concert.  We also have enjoyed Ben's physical and speech therapist, two representatives from the Red Cross, and we've got some more visiting in the works.  Simple not fancy-- but fun.

--Go to the parties!!
Don't even worry about what you are wearing, go to the parties.  GO to the concerts.  GO caroling.  Go to the Messiah Sing Alongs.  Pretend you are going to love it and then you WILL.  The busyness of the holiday season makes life busy, but also festive.  You will feel the special spirit of the holidays as you join with community to praise God, celebrate the birth of His Son, and fellowship one another.

--Keep Christ Simple!
Just try to sing ONE Christmas song every night, maybe at dinner.  Talk about one name of Christ as you eat.  Maybe read one scripture.  If your plan is too hard you won't do it.  Just one thing.  Don't feel guilty for not doing picture perfect completely extravegent Christmas devotionals.  This isn't how Christ taught either.

--Buy big meat.
After Thanksgiving, I bought two hams and two turkeys.  I didn't get expensive, free-range meat this year, just spiral hams and medium-sized turkeys from Aldi for about $15 each.  The day we eat our big meat, we have had company come.  Here is a link to the $40 Turkey Roaster that I love.

Meal-- Spiral ham, cranberry sauce, cooked carrots, green beans, applesauce, butternut squash or sweet potatoes, rolls.

One spiral ham cooked in a turkey roaster all day is EASY and delicious.  I paired this with homemade cranberry sauce (1 bag of raw cranberries, one cup or less of sugar cooked on the stove until the cranberries pop), maple syrup/dill cooked carrots (just peel and cut whole carrots and cook them in a little bit of water, when they are soft drain the water and squirt in maple syrup and dill seasoning).  I also cook whole green beans, frozen are the cheapest (put the frozen beans in a small amount of water in a big wok type frying pan, cook until thawed and barely soft, dump them into a bowl, in the big pan, melt a fourth to a half a stick of butter and fresh garlic, you can add craisins or almonds and then dump the green beans back in for a minute to season them. Mmm.)  

I always serve ham with a jar of homemade apple sauce, or I just peel and slice about 5 apples and cook them real fast on the stove to make fresh homemade applesauce, you can add a dab of cinnamon on top of the bowl as you serve it.   Another easy side dish is sweet potatoes or butternut squash.  Roasting vegetables is so delicious and easy.  I just peel them, cube them, splash them in oil (olive or canola), salt and pepper them, and throw them in a 9x13 pan in the oven for an hour at about 425".  If I'm cooking something else at a lower temperature, I just throw the veggies on the bottom and keep them in longer.  I like to add some seasoning, garlic salt, or nutmeg and cinnamon.  With ham, I keep most of my side dishes sweet, so this week I added a splash of cinnamon and a tiny sprinkle of dark brown sugar.  Easy and good.  Rolls or homemade bread are just my extra fancy thing.  I usually only have time for this if I really plan ahead.  For drinks we have crystal light lemonade or water (to make it fancy I like to slice a lemon or orange in it and sometimes I throw in raw cranberries for prettiness), if we have Egg Nog my kids are on cloud 9!  Note-- save the juice from the ham that collects in the bottom of the roaster as it cooks.  (Just stick that juice in the fridge so the fat goes to the top.)

Ham- Day Two
Meal- leftover ham, couscous, vegetable OR  leftover ham, rice, and pineapple with veggie

The day after you cook a big ham, you can usually cut of enough actual meat to make a meal with chunks of ham in it.  This week we just warmed it up leftover ham in the microwave and took 5 minutes to cook couscous (or butter noodles) and broccoli.  Simple dinner for our night of Christmas Caroling.  I also like to cook rice and serve it with a sauce of ham and pineapple, sometimes I cut up colored green peppers in it, or I just steam a vegetable on the side.  For the pineapple sauce I just dump one or two cans of pineapple tidbits or crushed pineapple into a big wok frying pan.  In a separate tupperware I shake water mixed with 2 or 3 Tb of cornstarch, then I pour that mixture into the pineapple juice and cook it until it gets thicker.  I add the peppers at the last minute so they can stay a little bit crunchy.  You can google ham and pineapple to find a real recipe.

Ham-Day Three
Meal- Ham and Beans with biscuits or corn bread

I have been cooking with beans a lot this winter.  Beans are so easy, cheap, filling, and good for you.  Bean soup is a perfect warm, winter dinner.  And, so easy for company because you can cook it ahead of time.

In the morning just put the whole ham bone into a big roaster or crock pot.  I take the juice that I saved from cooking my ham, skim off the white fat, and dump the glop (it is thick like gel) of ham stock into my pot.  One bag of beans usually needs 8 cups of water.  For my family, I usually add two bags of beans, two quarts of broth, and 4 cups of water.  I open my spice cabinet and sprinkle whatever seasoning I think looks good.  Usually garlic salt and pepper, something green like basil, and if I'm in the mood a dash of something brown like turmeric or curry.  If I want a splash of spice, I add a dash of red pepper flakes.  I'm very precise in my cooking.  This week I used pinto beans because they were 75 cents a bag.  I LOVE using a bag of mixed, colorful beans.  White beans are so good with ham, black beans are my favorite, lentils are fun... I don't think it really matters what kind of beans you use.  Let your beans cook all day on low, stirring them occasionally.  I can't even tell you how easy this meal is. Right before you serve it, take the ham bone out and cut up the small pieces of meat that are stuck to it.  Add the meat back into the beans and throw the bone away.

Just cook a batch of cornbread or some drop biscuits and you have a whole, cozy meal that only cost you about $5 per day.  Three days of meals from one $15 ham.

I do the same thing with Turkey.
Day One- Mini thanksgiving company meal.
Day Two- Turkey Pot-pie (Use two 9x13 pans.  In a big wok frying pan, saute until clear cut up onion, carrots, celery, add the cubed potatoes, bag of mixed veggies, turkey.  Make a homemade white sauce right in this pan and cook your veggies for a little bit.  Then pour all this stuff into two 9x13 pans, and cover it with one store bought pie crust that you roll out and lay over each 9x13 pans, no bottom crusts.)
Day Three- Turkey noodle soup (make homemade noodles OR use yummy thicker bought noodles) or Turkey soup with dumplings (I love this recipe from Pioneer Woman.)

Big meat is an EASY, inexpensive way to feed a lot of people for a few days.

--Make treats for friends, neighbors, and pure festivity.
This year I made this easy recipe of chocolate covered peanut chunks.

Here is another recipe.
I just used one jar of salted peanuts, one jar of unsalted, one bag of chocolate chips, and two things of Almond Bark.  I put it in my crock pot, left it on low all day while I went shopping, and scooped it onto wax paper as the kids came home from school.  I LOVE THIS RECIPE!!
Crock-Pot Chocolate-Covered Peanut Clusters - SO easy and addictive! |
(Image from Brown-eyed girl.)
And pretzel, rolo, pecan turtles.  (The kids are my rolo unwrappers.)
(Image copied from internet.)

We are excited to decorate ugly sweaters and ninjabread men.

--Turn your scriptures on AUDIO.
I have LOVED listening to my scriptures as I travel or bustle around the house.
Yesterday I was listening to the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

I was AGAIN amazed at how God works.
God is different from Santa Claus.
He blesses us with what we need to accomplish the work He has asked us to do, after giving us time to try and struggle and endure.
He does not ask us to write him a letter of wants promising that we will wake up one morning to get everything on our list.
He often uses poverty, hunger, and wanting to create a holy, humble people.
If you are on His good list, you may actually end up with less worldly goods than those on his naughty list, but you will get a place on his sleigh delivering cheer to others.
He doesn't want us to ask and then go to bed, He wants us to ask and then try... He blesses us to be able to make or find or earn or at least walk in the direction of our dreams as He is helping us accomplish all that He knows we can accomplish.
Heavenly Father is not really concerned about what we have, he uses physical things to help us become better people.
His gifts are less about what He can give US, and more about how He can help us to give to others.
I believe in God.  He fills my soul with joy, desire to serve others, and love.

--Donate Blood!
My time is up, but I just wanted to tell you one thing I'm really, really excited about.  I just met with some local Red Cross coordinators and we are planning a big blood drive for Ben's 2nd Birthday.  Over 200 people donated 200 pints of blood that saved my life almost two years ago and I really want to pay this gift forward.  Will you help me?!!!  The Red Cross has a harder time getting blood during December, January, and February  and then again in June, July and August.  These are busy months where people don't usually donate, and also months where they need the most blood because accidents are more common.  I'm overwhelmed with symbolism of giving of yourself to save another.  I'm humbled every time I think of the ways my own body is a mixture of so many good people.  I'm so excited to start planning Ben's Bloody Birthday.  200 for 2!!  I'll be telling you more about it as time gets closer.  But, I think I can just give you a code and you can donate anywhere in your local area, but your donation gets added up into our blood drive.  Isn't that cool?!!

At this time of year, people feed the hungry, buy coats and clothes and toys for those in need... and all that is good, so good.  But, nobody needs a coat if they don't have blood.  Donating blood is FREE, it just takes time.  Isn't that symbolic of the very best things we give?  You can save a life.  Do you know that in the US, we give 44,000 pints of blood everyday?  Blood has a shelf life of 42 days.  Blood platelets only have a 5 day shelf life.  The Red Cross is a great organization.  There are so many opportunities to serve.  One thing you can do with a little training, is volunteer to be a blood runner.  You would drive a Red Cross car, pick up blood from a donation site and drive it to the blood bank.  Doesn't that sound cool?  Do it!!  Call your local Red Cross today, and save the day-- June 6, 2015!!  All I'm asking for is a pint of your blood...  xoxoxo

--Don't sweat the small stuff!
Chocolate does NOT kill dogs.
If your dog happens to eat a plateful of pretzel, rolo, pecan turtles, he will not die.  Just get a tad bit sick.

If your dog has diarrhea on your carpet before company comes, and your attempts to clean it yield even greater mess.  Don't worry!!  You might find an inexpensive cleaner willing to come out quickly.  What a good excuse to clean carpets and create wonderland for your kids.
The good thing about a naughty dog is that your husband probably never really wanted a dog in the first place.  So, his frustration and your attempt to justify that it was not the dog's fault that the husband left an uncovered plate of work treats at dog level, will keep things humorous instead of contentious.

--Be Prepared for Not Being Prepared!

Buy extra "Secret Santa" gifts, treats, and school party snacks.  I bought a few round EOS lip glosses, a cute, cheap journal, some gummy bears and chocolate, and 5 liters of soda instead of one.  

I was thinking these would be for stocking stuffers, but despite my best effort to get a list of what every kid needed for school holiday celebrations, they still wake-up Friday morning (or wander in late Thursday night) with "Oh Yeah! I need to bring..."  

I'm loving my little stash.  "Volunteer to bring soda," I tell them.  

We printed out a sheet of cute "You're the BALM" ribbons that they attach to red lip balm with a bag of Haribo Gummy Bears and bam!!  Another happy child!

Tis the season!
Merry Christmas friends!!
Life is good.

1 comment:

Rebekah said...

That was PERFECT!!
I will remember this one next Christmas, and just follow your plan!
Thank, jen!

one of my favorite parts:
"If you are on His good list, you may actually end up with less worldly goods than those on his naughty list, but you will get a place on his sleigh delivering cheer to others."

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