Category Archives: Holidays

Happy New Year’s!


We spent New Year’s Eve camping at the beach.  It was a gorgeous day, ending in a brilliant sunset.  This picture really doesn’t do the colors justice.  I will say it was extremely cold, though.  The wind whipped up and we were feeling frozen!  We were very thankful to go  our warm, cozy camper.  We watched movies, ate caramel corn we had purchased at a candy shop, and got some sleep.  Earlier in the week, it had been stormy and rainy, so it was a real treat when the weather turned sunny.


Today, New Year’s Day, we came home to find that the power had been off.  There was a lot of debris on the ground and the friend who kindly took care of our animals while we were gone, told us that he had helped neighbors remove a large branch from a power line this morning.  All of our freezers seem fine–still frozen solid, so it was short-lived, thank goodness.  We were only gone a few days, but it would have been tragic to lose our freezers full of food, so I’m very thankful that we did not.

It was a great start to our new year!   I hope your new year started out as well as ours did.


I did get one walk on the beach in–between showers and wind gusts!   We still love the beach, though, rain or shine, but even the children were more than willing to look and not go in this time!



Merry Christmas


We attended a wonderful Christmas Eve service last night and then had our immediate family Christmas celebration.  Everyone ended up happy and joyful–it was awesome.  Today, we are going to celebrate some more with extended family–an all-day affair involving lots of food, laughter and love.  I hope all of you have a wonderful day!  Merry Christmas!

Allergy Friendly Holiday Meal

A simple table setting

Last night, our oldest daughter, Abbie and her husband, Keith, and Maddie and Carter came over for dinner.  We had a very nice time visiting, and eating together.  The visiting part is easy.  We could chat for hours!  The eating part is a little more challenging.  I cannot eat gluten at all, not even one crumb, or I get very sick.  Abbie can eat gluten, but cannot eat eggs, dairy, beef, watermelon, blackberries and more.   She will break into hives if she does and get migraines.  So, between both of our needs, it takes a little planning to get a meal we can all enjoy.

We started by thawing one of the chickens Rob raised.  He also got out a package of steak, because Keith loves steak and we love Keith.  (Seriously we do–he’s a great son-in-law–nice to our daughter, good sense of humor, etc.)  He doesn’t get it much because Abbie can’t have beef.  Rob barbecued the meat with Lowrie’s Seasoning Salt, because we can eat it, and put nothing else on it.  He also baked plain potatoes on the grill as well, wrapped in foil.

I boiled home-canned green beans and home-canned corn, with salt and pepper only.  I put home-made dill pickles and bread and butter pickles into a divided glass dish.  We put out little dishes of butter, sour cream, cottage cheese (for the potatoes), barbecue sauce, other sauces we had on hand, and just let everyone fix up their exceedingly plain food the way they wanted it and could have it.  It was a simple, plain dinner served on china and fancy glass dishes.

I wanted something a little fancier for dessert, but not too fancy.


I decided to make chocolate cupcakes that were gluten-free, dairy-free, soy free, and egg free.  I used a recipe I found in a free Kindle cookbook.  I had to change quite a few things to make it work, so I won’t be posting it unless I have a chance to re-work it a little more.  Sometimes I think the different flour mixtures work differently and recipes have to be fussed with.  I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten free flour mix.  It’s my favorite one for most things and includes xanthum gum in the mix.  I used a combination of coconut milk and almond milk and it called for a little cider vinegar, so I put it in.  I made chocolate frosting with Earth Balance dairy-free spread, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, almond milk and vanilla.  Then I topped them with some decorations that looked  “safe” but left a few undecorated just in case she didn’t want to take the chance.  I was pleased with the results and the whole evening.  We exchanged gifts, except for the turkey we gave them as their gift.  Rob had delivered it the day it was butchered and they have already cooked it.  They have other plans on Christmas Day, so we were glad to spend some time last evening.




No Bake Mountain Bars


These are so easy to make.  Patsy and I whipped out a batch early Friday morning.  When I packaged them up for gift giving, I put a layer of waxed paper in-between the layers.

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cups cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

3 cups quick oats

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil sugar, cocoa, milk and butter in a large pan for 1 minute.  Add remaining ingredients.  Drop by teaspoon onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with waxed paper. Decorate with sprinkles or mini M and M’s according to the holiday it is, or the color scheme you want to match.  We often leave them plain if it is not a holiday.  Refrigerate until set.  Makes 1 cookie sheet full of cookies, if you put them pretty close together.

The amount you get actually varies according to how big you make them.  I’ve had the recipe for years.  It came from a home-school math book a long time ago.  They are gluten-free as long as you are sure to use gluten-free oats.  Some people cannot handle oats, anyway, no matter what, but I can, so enjoy these occasionally.  I’d check with the recipient if you are unsure if they tolerate oats.


A Nice Surprise


Today, we received a nice surprise in the mail.  My aunt sent us a greenery centerpiece.  We both love it.  I watered it according to the directions, and set it in the middle of my table.  It’s going to add another fresh layer to our Christmas decorations.  I love texting.  We were both able to send her a “thank-you” right away and she was able to know right away that we got her lovely gift.

Almost Christmas


It’s almost Christmas.  Am I ready?  Are you?

We have a tree, some holly, and a poinsettia.  There are some festive placemats on the table.  Our decorations are very simple-a couple of nativity scenes are out on the side tables.  Funny thing, though–we can’t find the huts they sit in.  We know we own them and we had them last year.  But this year, Baby Jesus has to sit in a new place.  The other decorations are the same ones we use year after year.  We have plenty of presents for the kids and each other. Although there are less than there have been in the past, we know they will like them.

But this year, there is a huge difference.  Like our poor nativity scenes, we’ve lost our place.   We don’t have our church home (or Rob’s job) anymore, and it hurts.  It hurts so much that we are having trouble feeling that light-hearted excitement, the overwhelming joy, the thrill of the joyous feelings of Christmas.  We are slogging through the motions, trying to find new traditions, new places to go, new memories.  Since we had been there almost 19 years, many of our holiday traditions were connected there, and now they are not. So, no Christmas events or dinners with people we considered our family and friends, no Christmas Eve service to play music for, no Christmas choir to sing in, no worship team to play on, no baskets of candy canes to hand out to the children, no playing with the babies in the nursery as our family always did during one of the Christmas Eve services.  We have been attending another church, but it’s very different to watch, and not be involved–it’s just not home yet.

So, what are we doing to combat those feelings?  We are allowing ourselves time to grieve and work through this situation. Friends have been very kind and supportive, offering us innumerable opportunities to go to their events with them.  We haven’t gone.  We’ve been invited to church services, Bible studies, movie nights, and more.  We’ve mostly declined, except for the Sunday morning services we are attending with family.  We are still grieving.  For us, it’s like a death.  A death that needs to be grieved properly.  We cry a lot.  We mourn.  We feel anger, sadness, and more. We pray.  We pray some more.  There are good days, interspersed with the bad.  As time passes, there have been more good days.  There is a feeling of hope that was not there before.  A sense of peace, and of the goodness of God, who cares for us in the hard times along with the easy ones.  An overwhelming knowledge that He is still in charge, in control, and involved with our lives.  And, slowly, we are creeping back to life inside.  We will be ready soon,we think,  to take these friends up on some of their offers–ready to take on another big adventure, as Rob calls it.

We have spent more time with family than we have ever had time to do before.  They have been so supportive, caring, loving and kind to us.  They have listened, hugged us, had us over, fed us, prayed with us, given us gifts, helped out with the children, and much more.  The time spent has turned out to be one of the hidden blessings of this whole situation, and mere words could never express how thankful we are to them.

We have chosen to be purposefully thankful.  We are deliberately looking for things that we have to be thankful for. Our needs are being met.  We have a home, food, clothes, family, friends, and much more.  We have much to be grateful for.

We have chosen several activities that make Christmas feel like Christmas to us.  We are already very busy people.  We have chosen carefully so that we did not lose the meaning of Christmas in busy-ness.  We have attended Patsy’s 6th grade band concert.  We had our usual 4H Christmas party.  One daughter is in a homeschool choir and we will watch her Christmas concert.  We are choosing to attend a church choir concert one evening.  We are going to modify our traditions.  We will go to church on Christmas Eve, it will just be different.  I will have food ready when we get home and we will still unwrap our presents like usual and go to my sister’s on Christmas Day, like normal.  Our children do better with routine.  This has been very hard on them and we are trying to make things as normal as possible for them in a situation that is anything but. It seems like this year, we have been more focused on the true meaning of Christmas and family.  It seems that hard times truly do push us closer to the manger.  And, like our poor nativity sets, perched on 2 tables, we will adapt and survive.  Because, God is bigger than all of this.  And Christmas….Christmas is way beyond us, and our paltry troubles here on earth.  It’s a celebration of the Christ Child–God Incarnate, sent to earth, the hope of the world and all mankind.  Am I ready for Christmas?  I’m sure working hard to be.  How about you?






Service Project for Christmas, 2015


Every year, our family usually chooses some kind of service project to do at Christmas time.  This year, since we have changed churches, some of the opportunities we usually do were no longer as readily available.  So, we chose one from the new church we have been attending.  It was very different because they wanted each child–well over 100–to receive the same 4 items.  They asked everyone to get a pillow, pillowcase, blanket and some socks.  They told us what age and size the child was and if it was a boy or girl.  We chose an 11-year-old girl, because that is Patsy’s age and we thought it would be fun to help out someone the same age as she is.

We were able to easily find the socks and pillow at a Walmart near the church last Sunday.  The blanket was made and tied from fleece I had on hand from a JoAnn’s sale a while back.  I am happy to report that I am now out of plain-colored fleece.  There is still lots of printed choices in my stash.  The kids voted that a hand-made blanket would be better than buying one.  They love theirs that they have made or received as gifts.  I totally agreed with them.  I love it when they can participate in the giving somehow.  I also love giving hand-made items.  It makes it more personal, to me.


Today, I was able to sew the pillowcase.  I was able to use up 2 left-over pieces of fabric from other projects, as well as some lace I had on hand.  I was able to find pretty, pastel colors and we hope the little girl that receives them will enjoy having them as much as we enjoyed making them.


Gluten-Free Stuffing With Apples and Water Chestnuts


I wanted to make stuffing for Thanksgiving.  I needed it to be gluten-free, but I didn’t want to pay the price for packages of gluten-free stuffing mix (I would have needed several boxes at around $5/package) and I didn’t want it to be either too dry or gummy.

I decided to take a loaf of gluten-free bread I had in the freezer.  My daughter made multiple loaves during the summer because she was practicing for the fair, and we just froze them all.  It was unsliced, so I sliced and cubed it.  I divided the cubes between 2 cookie trays, drizzled a little butter over them and sprinkled on some seasoning.  I used poultry seasoning on one tray and Bragg’s mixed seasoning on the other.  My plan was to use one batch for croutons if it made more than I needed, but I ended up using it all.  Then, I baked those trays at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

The bread cubes were definitely dried out and crisp, but a little chewy in the middle.  I had 1/2 pan left of the gluten-free cornbread my mom had brought over.  I had some frozen broth from a time when Rob had cooked a chicken with apples and onions, so it was apple-flavored chicken broth.  Regular chicken broth would work well, also.

Thursday morning, I made the stuffing.

2 quarts homemade stuffing cubes

1/2 of a 9″ x 13″ pan of gluten free cornbread, crumbled

2 onions, diced

4 stalks celery, diced

1 can sliced water chestnuts

2 large apples, cubed

2 cups broth

2 Tablespoons poultry seasoning

1/4 cup melted butter

salt and pepper to taste

Salute the celery and onions until soft in a little vegetable oil.  Pour bread cubes, cornbread, the vegetables, apples and water chestnuts into a very large bowl.  Sprinkle with poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.  Mix thoroughly.  Drizzle with the melted butter.  Pour  1/2 of the broth over the mixture and stir.  Check to see how moist it is.  If it is still very dry, add the rest of the broth.  Check again.  Add more broth if needed.  Mine took about 2 cups of broth.  The cornbread I had was quite moist but the cubes were quite dry.  I did not want the cornbread to be gummy so I stopped adding broth when there was still some definition to the cubes–the stuffing was not all stuck together into 1 big ball when I mounded it on a spoon, but it did not just fall apart, either.    The cornbread broke down into little bits that kind of held the cubes together.  I poured it into a flat pan–mine is larger than 9″ x 13″ and baked it for about 1 hour at 350 degrees.  IMG_1755.JPG

It turned out amazing!  It had wonderful flavor from the apples, onions and celery and a nice crunch from the water chestnuts.  It was not gooey or too dry.  It was economical, too, when I used the homemade croutons.  I was very pleased with the results.

A Successful, Happy Thanksgiving 2015

IMG_1771I could ask myself what constitutes a “happy” Thanksgiving.  Is it the food? The decorations? The company?  In our family, I have to say it is all of that, plus more.  As I looked around the table and into the next room, which was overflowing with more company, I realized that there were people in those rooms with chronic diseases, job losses, dehibilitating special needs, schedules that were overwhelming to them, sick people, exhausted people, people with spouses missing for different reasons, lonely people and those who had suffered deep, grievious loss. And, that was only the ones who could come!  But, each and every one of those people had a hard time choosing which blessing they wanted to share when Rob asked them to share before the prayer.  There were so many choices!  Even the youngest had no problem choosing things, such as good water, food, a house, etc.

IMG_1752.We took the meat off the bones last evening and they were placed into our 2 crockpots. Then we filled them with water, salted them, and then put them on low for the night.  This morning, Abbie (my eldest) and I picked the meat off the bones and froze the broth into cartons.  I smell soup coming up!

After we ate, we cleaned up and everyone sat around eating dessert and visiting.  The 2 big cousins went and picked Lovana up from work and that was a great surprise for her, as one of her close cousins is just in from California for the weekend. Everyone enjoyed being with her for the day!

IMG_5007Patsy did a great job in her play at school on Tuesday afternoon.  It lasted 6-10 minutes so was just the right length for the young cousins to enjoy.  It was really cute and it really put us in the Thanksgiving mood!

Today,  after things were put away, and people had visited as long as they wanted to, they went home leaving me with a super-clean house.  Amazing.  To me, it was more than just  a happy day–it was a successful, happy Thanksgiving.  I hope you had a great day, too.