Old Years and New Beginnings

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I walked outside last night to lock my girls in the coop for the night. The minute I stepped out of our garage door and walked across the driveway I noticed how still it was. The wind had died down, there were no traffic sounds and all I heard, as I walked, was the crunch of gravel under my feet.

The sky was darkening quickly and the horizon was displaying the last light of day in a thin yellow ribbon. Evergreen trees in the backyard were silhouettes against the coming dark of night. It was truly the space of time between day and night where the world lies hushed and waiting…..hanging onto the old day and yet ready to give way to something new.

These last few days of 2016 are rather like that space of time. We are busy trying to wrap up the old year while our thoughts are beginning to focus on what the new one will bring. The past year brings back so many thoughts and memories. Things we did accomplish….things we did not get done. New people we have met and friends and family that we will not meet this side of heaven again. New jobs, new hairdos, new additions to our families …….changes…. sweet and some bittersweet.

Some of last year we cannot wait to be rid of. Plans that did not work out and caused us pain.  Memories we might like to toss out…. like the Christmas tree after the season. Some memories are not quite so easy to toss out. Some consequences must be lived with.

Some memories we will hold onto tightly. We will keep them close and cherish them. The time we spent with people we love and who love us are like pictures in our minds that we can “see” and just smile at the memory. These are things that time cannot erase.

Last year brought some wonderful things.  At least into my life. My children encouraged me to blog and I have met some amazing, wonderful people while doing so.  The kids just grin when I speak of some of you; as if I saw you just yesterday; when in reality I have never met you in person.

I have been privileged to share in your lives and have been thoroughly blessed by that fact.  I have been honored to pray for you during this past year and look forward to doing that in the coming new year.

So many thoughts can run through my head as I stand outside watching the day turn to  night. Thoughts of people and their lives, their hurts and their joys. Thoughts of places I have been this past year and places I hope to go in the coming year. Thoughts of things accomplished and things still on my to do list when it comes to faith, home, health, relationships and fun.

That space of time between day and night is a great place to pause and reflect. It is a place of hushed, reverent wonder. It is a place where the soul can dance. It is a place to offer your thoughts and prayers for peace when it comes to certain memories and thanks for others. It is a place to ask for renewal in the year to come.

My prayer for all of you in this coming year is joy, peace and hope. May you have joy in the everyday things, peace in adversity, and hope in every breath you take.  May you be blessed and may your soul dance…..

 

 

  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”
Isaiah 43:18-19

 

 

Journeys

the-path-gooseberry-falls-mn

Gooseberry Falls State Park, MN

There are days when blogging inspiration is hard to come by.  Today is one of those days. It seems small seeds of ideas pop into my brain and scatter before they have a chance to take root.

I am not sure why this is an issue today. Maybe it is because I was already a day late with my Monday post and my brain just can’t quite reset to the normal blogging schedule. It is hard to get my thoughts back on track.

Much of life can be like that.  You find a perfectly good path to take (at least you think it is a perfectly good path.) and before you know it…..your good path has taken twists and turns that you never expected.

What starts out as an easy hike quickly becomes a test of endurance and perseverance. I find when those paths starting getting a little iffy; it is good to remind myself to stop, breathe and take a look around.

It seems to me, that the hardest paths tend to have some of the most beautiful sites to see along the way. Maybe the flowers just appear to be more beautiful when the way is hard. Maybe it is compensation for life taking a difficult turn. Or maybe it is the promise that no matter how tough it gets there is hope to be found.

In the next few days our thoughts will turn to the past year and all the paths that we have had to travel…..the smooth ones and the rocky ones.Then we wonder what the year ahead will look like. One thing I know for sure – there will be some easy trails. There will also be those paths where the end cannot come soon enough.

Enjoy the easy days to the full….without worrying when the hard ones will show up. Take heart on the difficult days.  Stop and look around. Appreciate the small things…..the smile of a grocery store clerk, the way the sun shines and makes patterns on your living room floor, the smell of the woodstove as it warms your home, the hugs from a loved one…..

There is much beauty to be found if we only look. There is much goodness to be found if we give those around us a chance. There is much joy to be had if we just open our hearts and let it in.

May you be blessed…..wherever your path takes you. And may you be a blessing to those who travel with you.  “The joy is in the journey.” (Glen S.)

 

Yet, the strength of those who wait with hope in Yahweh will be renewed.
They will soar on wings like eagles.
They will run and won’t become weary.
They will walk and won’t grow tired.

Isaiah 40:31 NOG

 

Christmas Reflections

glory-to-god

Sometimes it is a blessing in disguise when the winds are gusting cold and brisk at 45 miles per hour.  It forces us to just relax, retreat into the house and reflect on the highlights of the day before.  Monday was such a day.

My husband and I were given the opportunity to sit and reflect on the highlights of Christmas day. Just sitting here now, thinking about it, brings a smile to my lips. I can close my eyes and replay certain scenes in my head and enjoy them all over again.

The day started early with getting the turkey in the oven and the woodstove fired up for the day.  Once that was accomplished my husband and I sat in the dark living room waiting for the rest of the household to wake up.

The two grandkids were first, of course, and came sleepily into the living room, dragging blankets and stuffed animals behind them. They snuggled in close. It is a wonderful thing to sit in a semi-dark living room with a lap full of grandkids, and the warm glow of a woodstove and the lights of a Christmas tree for company.

It did not take long and we were joined by their parents. After that the busy day began.  We did take time to enjoy a hot chocolate party before the rest of the family arrived. (The hot chocolate party was an effective Grandma bribe to get them into bed the night before.)

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Once everyone else had arrived, hugs exchanged, and Christmas greetings given, it was decided to open gifts before we had dinner.  No one was really too hungry anyway, after spending the morning snacking on Christmas cookies, cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate.

Opening gifts is always a bit of a challenge due to the gift labeling system we use in our home.  It has become a tradition that instead of names on the labels on our gifts, we have random stamped images. This started years ago when our sons were small and could not (or would not) leave their gifts alone.

With this system I have my notebook in hand, with corresponding stamped images and names so that everyone gets the correct gift.  Once my sons got older, got married and moved into homes of their own; I thought I would be able to start putting the names on the gifts….not so.  They voted to stay with tradition and the stamped images of leaves, penguins, trees, etc. continues.

Gifts were opened, dinner was enjoyed, rousing games of foosball were played. Naps were taken (not by small children), lego sets were built, cookies were consumed (in mass quantities by small children), books were read, and the day was liberally sprinkled with laughter, good-natured ribbing, and an amazing dose of love that was so tangible that you felt you could reach out and touch it.

 

The only thing that would have made the day any better would have been to have my other daughter-in-law here. She was back home with the stomach flu.

The day was a blessing and was bathed in that love that comes from shared joys, shared sorrows, and shared lives.  it was the joy that comes from being with those you love and that love you back no matter what.

It was the sense of family that is rooted in a deeper truth that there is One who loves us even more than we could possibly love each other.  The love of the One who came to earth so long ago in human form as a baby and gave His life so we might have life eternal.

May the joy of this season remain with you longer than this season is celebrated. May you be blessed by the One who loves you so much.

I am going to leave you with a less than serious ending to this post.  It just seemed fitting that as the Chicken Grandma, I should somehow involve the “girls”(or at least their cartoon counterparts) in this Christmas post.

And may you even be blessed by the silliness of chickens clucking Christmas songs! They may not deserve a standing ovation but they are pretty fun!

Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek;
bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes;
grouped everything and everyone round the Christ

Charles Dickens quotes 

Read more: http://www.searchquotes.com/quotes/about/Family_Christmas/2/#ixzz4U4lj9wzH

 

 

 

Christmas Ponderings

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There is something quite wonderful about sitting in a darkened living room with the glow of the woodstove burning cheerfully in one corner. Add in the glow of a lit Christmas tree standing in the other corner and the contentment is complete. It is blanketed in a beautiful stillness and calm.

I have the house to myself for a bit as my husband is outdoors enjoying that brief slice of day that is captured between daylight and night. The world is hushed. Traffic has slowed on the blacktop past our place and the chickens have gone to bed.

It is the perfect time to really ponder on this Christmas season. The last few days have been jam packed with preparing for the holiday. Shopping, wrapping presents, messaging kids for last minute details, cleaning, baking and wrapping some more presents; have filled the days.

In the midst of that busyness,  this seemed like the ideal time to slow it down a bit and just feel the joy and the hope that is Christmas. This small space of time also gives me a moment to wonder about that night 2000 plus years ago when a baby came into this world.

I always kind of wonder if Mary could really wrap her head around the fact that she had given birth to the Savior of this world. I wonder if she knew what the next 30 some years were going to bring into her life. Did she know of the joy and the pain that she would feel? Did she know; but choose to focus on the joy that night?

How overwhelming would it have been, to be able to see exactly the path her Son would have to travel? Did she have any inkling that the wooden manger that held her Son would be mirrored by that wooden cross that held Him as an adult?  Did she really realize that her Son would be the light of the world?

I have no answer to these questions and probably never will. I do know that I am deeply grateful for the reason we celebrate this Christmas holiday. I know that we were given an incredible gift that night so long ago.

We were given the gift of hope that gets us through so many difficult places in life. Hope that never quits and never gives up. Hope in the great love He has for us.

We were given joy that night. Joy, that had angels praising and shepherds hurrying to leave their sheep just to see what it was all about. This was joy…..not just happiness that comes and goes….but a deep seated Joy that goes hand in hand with Hope.

Sitting here, in the dark, reflecting as I look at my glowing tree I realize that those little twinkly lights are but a tiny reflection of the real beauty and glory that is the Light of the World. Maybe that is why lit Christmas trees are so special.  They are reflections of something greater and something deeper.

My wish for family and friends this season is that you feel the hope and the wonder….that you discover the real joy of this season. I wish that the Light illuminates all the dark places in your life and blazes brightly.

May you be blessed and may you be a blessing to those around you. May you reflect the Light and know the joy of hope.

The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
John 1:5
New International Version

 

 

 

 

 

Anticipation of the Season

top-hats

Only a few more days till Christmas and I have one more cookie recipe to share with you before the day is actually here. This is one is that my youngest two sons wait for with great anticipation as it is their all time favorite. In fact, the youngest told me just the other day; that he did not care what other varieties of cookies there were…..as long as there were plenty of Top Hats.

His enthusiasm for these cookies is contagious.  When I told him I was in the process of making them I could almost hear his smile through the phone line in that one word he uttered, “Yessss.”

It is always fun to find out what things are important to my children and husband on the holidays. Certain foods and certain traditions all speak different languages of love to each of them.  With daughter-in-laws and grandchildren added to the mix; it just makes it all the more fun.

Anticipation of the season for me is about so much more than all the preparation, baking, list making, shopping and so on. For me it is wrapped up in family and the love I see in their eyes for each other. The joy they have when they get together is a blessing to the heart and soul of this mom.

The anticipation of the laughter, the memories, the stories, the good-natured joking has taken hold and added a glow that rivals the brightly colored lights on the Christmas tree in the corner. My mindset is ready for the day to arrive….my preparations are not…..but they soon will be completed and if they are not; it really does not matter.

I finished the last of the cookies yesterday and tomorrow is house-cleaning time. If I figure it right I will be all set to go by the time the kids arrive this weekend.

I am not sure where I got this recipe; as I have been making these for more years than I care to count. These cookies take a little “canooey” work as my Grandma used to say. I will tell you; if you do make them….they are definitely worth the effort.

Top Hats
Cookies:
1 cup butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
Filling:
6 ounces cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup nutmeats (optional)
1 cup flake coconut
Frosting:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons water
Melt and beat in 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Mix cookie dough and shape into 1 inch balls.
Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 12-15 minutes at 325º – 350º
Remove from oven and thumbprint.
Mix filling and put on top of cookie.
Top with chocolate frosting.
NOTE: I choose not to add the optional nutmeats to the filling as my family does not care for them.

I will be counting the days till my family gathers. (I will also be guarding the cookies till they all get here!) I will be soaking up the joy that is this season and anticipating the contentment that is family.  May you be blessed in your preparations for this season of joy.

Christmas…that magic blanket that wraps itself about us,
that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.
It may weave a spell of nostalgia.
Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer,
but always it will be a day of remembrance
…a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.

Augusta E Rundell quotes 

Making a List, Checking it Twice….

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Melt in Your Mouth Cookies

I am wondering if you started humming or singing as you read that title?  I can never read those words without putting the tune with it and singing them.  It is definitely the season for making lists I am finding.

In fact I have several lists floating around here at this point.  There is the Christmas wish list that has all our kids and grandkids names on it; complete with things they would like.  Then there is the Christmas dinner list….the one with the menu.  To coincide with that list is the grocery list; with those last minute items that I forgot the last time I went to the grocery store to get the Christmas dinner stuff.

We should also not forget the list for the Christmas Eve party at my folks house. That one contains the food items I need to bring, the gifts we must not forget to take along and other random items that need to journey to their house.

Then there is the list for the things I need to finish up.  Things like getting the bedrooms upstairs ready for kids to stay overnight. Turning the water on upstairs is also on the list. Oh, and we mustn’t forget that the list should also remind me to finish purchasing and then wrapping the presents that need to get under the tree before Christmas day.

I also need to make tags for those gifts that are under the tree. My gift tags have never had names on them…..only stamped images. We started doing things that way, back when the boys were little and could not (or would not) leave their presents alone. Once they started getting married I thought I could put names on the tags; but they all insisted the nameless tags were a tradition….so I need to stamp some tags…..soon!

On one of my lists it reminds me that I need to finish the Christmas cookies that I have started. Today, I could check a couple of those cookies off my list as I finished piping the frosting star on them.

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Thumbprints

The two I worked on today are called Melt In Your Mouth cookies and Thumbprints. Both of these cookies are real favorites of mine. (To be really honest there are very few cookies that I have met that I have not liked!)

Just in case you are looking for one more cookie to add to your holiday baking; I will share the recipes with you today.

 

 

Melt In Your Mouth Cookies
1 cup butter (do not substitute)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
3/4 cup cornstarch
Milk (a few drops if needed)
Frosting:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter (melted -do not substitute)
1 teaspoon vanilla
green food coloring to make light green color

Cream butter and powdered sugar.
Add vanilla, flour, and cornstarch.
Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place on cookie sheet.
Bake at 350º for 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and make a thumbprint in the center of each cookie.
Return to oven and bake another 8 minutes.
Cool and fill center with frosting.
NOTE:  I like to use a #21 star tip and decorator bag to pipe a frosting star on top.

Thumbprint Cookies
1 cup butter (do not substitute)
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 egg yolks (reserve egg white)
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Frosting:
1 cup butter (do not substitute)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Red food coloring to make a light red

Blend butter, sugar, egg yolks, and vanilla.
Add dry ingredients.
Roll into 1 inch balls and dip into slightly beaten egg whites.
Roll in finely chopped walnuts
.
Place about 1 inch apart on cookie sheets.
Bake 5 minutes at 350º.
Remove from oven and make thumbprint in center of each cookie.
Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes.
Cool and frost.
NOTE: I like to use a #21 star tip to pipe a frosting star on top of these cookies.

It is a good feeling to check things off my lists. I do find having them makes it easier for me to relax through this busy season that requires lots of preparation and planning. I think it might be because I know I am not forgetting something. I do find it is also helpful to contain my lists in one notebook. That way I only have one thing to keep track of.

It makes it easier for me to focus on what is important when I know the little things are taken care of or will be taken care of in good order.   It makes it easier to focus on the joy of the season and the anticipation of family gatherings.

So I am making my lists and checking them twice….    I am wondering what little tips and tricks do you use that make your busy holiday season run smoother?

And what are some of your favorite cookie recipes?  Please feel free to leave a link to your blog if you have some of these posted there! Cookies and tips and tricks!  I would love to check them out.

“The best way to get through any challenge is to step back,
look up at the sky, breathe deeply in and out,
smile if you have to…
then dive in.”

Waylon H. Lewis

Missing Candy Canes

candy-canes

I have been having a senior moment today. Actually it has been the last few days of senior moment-itis. (Yes, I realize that is really not a word or condition….but it should be.)  Yesterday I purchased another box of candy canes.  I say another, because a few weeks ago I also purchased a box.

Every Christmas I put candy canes on the tree so we can snack on one every so often. This year I purchased the initial box before the tree was put up. I wanted to make sure that we did not eat them before the tree went up so I put them in a very “special” place to “keep them safe”.

Unfortunately I put them in a place that was too safe.  It is safe, even from my mind.  It is really, really maddening to not remember where that place is! I asked my husband if he knew where they were.  All I got was a blank look.

He remembered we had purchased them. (that was not helpful).  He remembered they had been put away……somewhere. (Also not helpful).  I did feel some better that he did not know where they were either……some….but not much.

Years ago my sister-in-law and I agreed that our brains could only hold so much information at a time.  When the brain got full some information just needed to be kicked out. I think with the busyness of the season my brain decided the hiding place of candy canes was not important and just deleted that information.

I don’t know if there is a life lesson to be found in my missing candy canes. Maybe it is the fact that life is too short to stress over candy canes? Maybe the lesson is that candy canes are not the focus of Christmas? Perhaps the lesson is patience….those candy canes will show up when the time is right for them to show up.  Maybe they will be found when the grandkids come and are scrounging around in only places grandkids look.

I suspect they will be found when I get the house ready for the kids to come next week for the Christmas holiday.  At least that is what I am hoping for.  If this does not occur I have a feeling they will show up at some odd, random time and be a very nice surprise.

I do wonder if anyone else has problems with this particular issue of putting things away too “safely”. I have a feeling the canes will probably show up when I put some other item in that “very safe place”. At least candy canes are not too perishable….it would have been much worse if the turkey went missing…..

 

As you get older three things happen.
The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.