Take Time For R & R

Every Christmas season I end up being exhausted or sick. A whirlwind of commitments take over and along with work at school and my housework, there’s not much time to relax. For years my wish was to slow down and take time for me. Now our house just has us here and things are slowing down. On weekends I’ve been trying to squeeze r & r in my days. My favorite things to do is read, write my blog and watch Christmas movies.

Here are some of my suggestions for busy moms and wives to indulge in r& r

* Watch a holiday movie, better yet do a Christmas movie marathon

 

* Take a bubble bath and light a candle nearby

 

* Look through old cookbooks and plan to make a meal or dessert. I do this with my cookie magazines and enjoy it very much

 

* Call a friend or family member and strike up a conversation. This beats a quick message or text

 

* Go for a winter walk when it’s snowing…it’s so magical!

 

* Take a family drive to see neighborhood Christmas lights

 

Everyone needs rest this time of year, healing therapy for your body and mind. With relaxing and taking good care of yourself, you are banking on healthy and pleasant days ahead! Don’t let the stress of the season take over!

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤️

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!

There’s nothing as comforting as a plate of homemade cookie concoctions baked fresh out of the oven! With a glass of milk or coffee a cookie is a special treat, especially around Christmas. Recently I’ve spent much busy time in my kitchen baking different cookies for fundraisers, co-workers and family. It has been a peaceful and fun week as I listened to my Spotify Christmas playlist and baked my heart away.

 

Chocolate Thumbprints

I found this Chocolate Thumbprint recipe on Pinterest, from Shanon at The Curvy Carrot. She is a physician and enjoys cooking and baking while at home. I’m sharing her recipe for this delicious and beautiful cookie. I doubled the recipe and it made about four dozen. It will be a steadfast addition to my annual cookie list. They are also pretty easy to make and that means a lot this time of year!

 

I used parchment paper and love the results!

 

 

Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Servings: about 20 cookies

Ingredients

2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup chocolate or multicolored sprinkles

20 (or however many cookies you end up with….) milk chocolate kisses, unwrapped

Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds.

3. Add sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.

4. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined.

5. Beat in the flour.

6. Your dough should be at ball-rolling consistency at this point. If it’s not, let it chill in the refrigerator for a while to firm up a little.

7. Once easily handled, roll dough into 1-inch balls.

8. Roll balls in sprinkles to coat.

9. Place balls 2 inches apart on your lined cookie sheets, and, using your thumb, make an indentation in the center of each cookie.

10. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes or until edges are firm. Immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie’s center. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

 

 

 

 

Next I made Melt in your Mouth  Pumpkin Cookies with frosting to top them off. I love pumpkin cookies and believe they are not just for fall but would be great to add to a Christmas cookie tray. I got this recipe on Pinterest, from Crissy at Dearcrissy.com. She’s a mom and wife, writer and food photographer. This recipe is the best pumpkin cookie I’ve ever tasted and baked! It will be a hit at parties, work or just at home.

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies Recipe
YIELD: 60 COOKIES PREP TIME: 30 MINUTES COOK TIME: 10 MINUTES PER BATCH

Ingredients:

2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 15-ounce can pumpkin
4 cups all-purpose flour
Frosting

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 to 4 cups powdered sugar (add until desired consistency/firmness)
ground cinnamon sprinkled on top (optional)

 

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl beat the 2 cups of butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, baking powder,baking soda,salt,the 1 teaspoon cinnamon,and the nutmeg. Beat until combined. Beat in the eggs and 2 teaspoons of vanilla until combined. Beat in pumpkin. Beat in as much of the four as you can with the mixer. Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon.
Drop dough by heaping teaspoons 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until tops are set. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
For frosting, in a small saucepan heat the 1/2 cup butter and brown sugar until melted and smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in milk and 1 teaspoon of vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until smooth. Spread frosting on cookies. Sprinkle with additional cinnamon if desired.

 

 

Every year I write my cookie list to bake for family, friends, co-workers and neighbors this year. It varies from year to year. Most years I make peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies nicknamed Black eyed Susans, a family favorite. My son Branden and I still make sugar cookie cut outs every year. Since he was about 7 or 8, he has had a keen interest in creating and decorating these beauties. I asked him a message recently if he wanted to continue the tradition when he gets home for college break. He said yes, he would love it and so I look forward to this time with him in the kitchen.

 

Today my sister Barb, niece Ella Kate and my sweet mom are coming for Cookie day, a tradition we started a few years ago. Each of us will bake a batch of our favorites and then we split them up between us. We play music, laugh, reminisce and just enjoy each other while baking cookies. It’s a special day for me and I hope the tradition lasts with my future grandchildren.

Are you baking Christmas cookies soon? What are your favorites?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

Christmas Wrap Station

 

Every Christmas I have quite a variety of wrapping papers, ribbons and tags for wrapping. Years ago I did something clever and organized by buying a tall  container to store all the rolls. That way I could be mobile and wrap in any room I wished. Most years I tug out the container and watch It’s a Wonderful Life while peacefully wrapping in front of the Christmas tree. What a joy it is to give and wrap the present!

 

You see, I think I have a wrapping paper addiction! Our former employer Mrs. Geneen had a special wrapping room with hundreds of rolls of wrap. Every color of the rainbow and prints of quaint villages, snowmen and vintage Santas lay in big pull out drawers. A large table was set up for working elves on Christmas Eve. Ever since I saw Mrs. G’s layout I’ve wanted a good variety of Christmas paper. I did resist buying new wrapping paper this year because I know I have more than enough.

 

This year I wanted more organization and since we have a spare room no one is using, I set up shop in there. On a little cardboard table I have a wrapping station of wrap rolls, a place for bags, a station for tags, scissors and tape. I guess I’ll wrap on the table if I move the rolls or on the bed. All the packages and presents are in the room ready to be lovingly wrapped.

 

 

Do you have a wrapping tradition? Is it a random action or do you put a lot of thought into it? I have to admit that even though I enjoy wrapping presents I’m not that great at it! On the other hand my husband is very precise with it and does a wonderful job! He could be one of those quick wrapping department store clerks!

I hope that this year you find wrapping is fun and not a pain! Play festive music, have a glass of wine or a cocktail and enjoy it!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🎁

Succulent Squash

The other day I searched high and low for decorative gourds to adorn my Thanksgiving table. The supermarket must have had a rush for them because there wasn’t any left. Walking around the corner where they should have been, suddenly I discovered some unique squashes that could stand in for the gourds and serve my purpose.

 

 

Aren’t they beautiful in colors and shape?

 

 

I chose a golden acorn, an orange squash I’ve never seen before, a bright yellow acorn, and a slender squash and that resembled a gourd. With a little research I discovered that the slender tan squash is called a  Delicata squash. The multi colored acorn shaped squash is a Carnival squash. The orange round one resembles a pumpkin and is called a Golden Acorn. I threw in my home-grown Buttercup squash from our garden to add a little dark color and complete my display.

 

We had eleven diners so we had two long tables. On each table I scattered the colorful squashes amid my pilgrim people and turkey leaf display. My one regret is that I didn’t have time to snap a photo because I was deep into a cooking mode but they did look beautiful! Interspersed with the plates were my niece’s lovely thankful turkeys and artwork.

 

 

Now I have all these squashes and it’s fun to search for different uses. I plan to make all of them within the next couple weeks. In years past I’ve baked squash wedges with a little brown sugar and butter or boiled it. Winter squash is tasty either way and a healthy side dish to any meal! Tonight I baked the golden squash with butter and salt and pepper. It was yummy and accompanied my spiral pasta with local sausage. ( See my side note)

 

A Little Side Note:

Recently my husband and I started buying meat from a local farm in our town. I saw the post on our town blog  from a local farm. They are selling a holiday package of a variety of meats all from their farm and processed in a FDA facility. We were excited to invest locally with GMO free and grass-fed meat and will continue buying from this farm. It feels good to abandon grocery shopping for meat that has traveled many miles from who knows where. Not knowing where your food comes from is pretty scary…especially in this day and age of additives and the Genetically Modified Organisms nightmare.

 

I hope you all enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday and spent it with people you love! I did…it was a special day of feasting, love and family.

Here is a photo of the dinner crew after eating and indulging in these desserts, pumpkin pie, apple pie, apple crisp, Reese’s peanut butter pie, cherry pie and  chocolate cream pie. Wow, there were lots of desserts and leftovers!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

Thanksgiving Preparation

This will be my third year hosting Thanksgiving at our home. It’s been a learning process and it still continues as I work on planning the cooking. Somehow it all comes together in the end like a perfect wrapped package, despite anxiety over the details. While I have planned on  how things will go, my go to for organization is to make many lists. I jotted down a simple menu and as the big day approaches it’s been tweaked a bit. It changed as I discovered which relatives will bring what dishes. Next I wrote a grocery list. This year I had two, one for a week ago and one for fresh veggies for today. I picked up chicken broth, pickles, olives and the turkey last week and today shopped for fresh veggies and last-minute additions.

 

 

I brushed up on recipes, talked to my mother-in-law about her tasty sausage stuffing and my sister-in-law Bev on her fabulous gravy. I will make these dishes the best I can in the next few days and every year it should get easier and become a science.

I’ve already made my son’s cookies since he prefers them to pie and tomorrow I’ll make deviled eggs and start roasting veggies for the gravy. I’ve planned what I’ll make on which day and the big pie baking day will be Wednesday. Wahoo!

Here’s some advice for your Thanksgiving planning that have helped me. I always love to read my blogging friends holiday tips!

* Go early to the grocery store to avoid crowds. The next few days will be hectic

* Write a list of dishes you wish to prepare and a separate list of items needed for them

* Communicate with family and friends to see what they are bringing

* Ask your spouse and family members to help peel veggies, vacuum the house or other tasks you may need done while you cook and bake

* Light the candles, wear your favorite apron and play Christmas tunes as you cook. It will lighten the mood and relax you.

 

My son Dylan laughing with our company, my brother-in-law Chris

Laugh with your loved ones. Doesn’t Dylan look happy?

* Most Important, have fun and thank your blessings as you plan and prepare the feast! 

Last year’s gravy, apple crisp, cherry pie and pumpkin pie

 

As I wrap this post up I wish you all a blessed and Happy Thanksgiving! Indulge in good food, company and remember to acknowledge what you are grateful for! I’m beyond thankful for my loving family, they are my anchor and life is so sweet with them! I’m thankful that my son Dylan proposed to his girlfriend Alexis this month and will marry her in August! I’m so thrilled to be gaining a sweet daughter in law! I’m also grateful for my friends, my little job at school and the children there.

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗

 

 

 

Finding My Way

Just when I think I have my life together something happens that brings me down. Although my heart hurts, I choose not to wallow in self-pity and discouragement from someone’s behavior ( that I took personally). I’m going to get up and move on. I desire to stand tall through it all and pray for peace. I’m choosing to reflect on  two of the Four Agreements, don’t take things personally or don’t make assumptions. 

Life is full of challenges especially with the many personalities we deal with. Occurrences will definitely happen to you, like me, and they might affect you in some way. What we need to remember is that standing strong in faith and prayer will guide us through the dark tunnel.

I already feel better by writing this down, like a heavy weight has been lifted. Maybe I don’t know the whole story or took something too personally. I forgive and forget and pray that you can too.

 

Thank you all for being here and investing in my blog! It means the world to me to be part of this community, one that I feel right at home with. Come back again for a more positive post…this one I needed to write, though.

Blessings to you all as you travel through challenges.

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗

The Voice Inside You

This poem was penned by famous children’s poet, Shel Silverstein. Taken from Pinterest.

 

This little poem shouts to my heart like a boisterous yell over the highest mountain. It may be a children’s poem but it applies to us all! Its message is this…seek a confident air to trust yourself and your gut. No one can really tell you what is right or wrong and you must do what is right for you and no one else. I suggest praying for confidence while asking for strength,  faith in yourself and the ability to be decisive. You are your own advocate…with God’s guidance, of course!

I hope you all are having a blessed week! 😉💗

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 💗