Saturday, December 31, 2016

The actual Christmas baking list for 2016


Last year's list
Every year I post a tentative baking list of cookies, candy, snacks, etc. that I plan to give as kitchen gifts.  And it seems as if every year, that list gets tweaked in a major way.  You can find my tentative 2016 list in an October post.  Meanwhile, here's what actually got baked or otherwise prepared in my Christmas kitchen this season!  I've included links just in case anyone is still interested in baking.

Whipped Shortbread Cookies
 
Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

Eggnog Log Cookies
Photo by Taste of Home
Chocolate Spritz
Chocolate Mint Crisps
Coconut Gingeroons (I'll share this recipe soon)
Chocolate Mint Crisps (photo by Taste of Home)
Sacher Torte Cookies
Sacher Torte Cookies
Date-Nut Casserole Cookies
 Then there was candy, as well:
Cookies 'n' Cream Fudge
Marbled Peanut Butter Fudge (an experiment that didn't really succeed.  I'll blog about it eventually)
Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices
Heavenly Delight
Coffee Shop Fudge
Coffee Shop Fudge -- photo from Taste of Home
 Arlene’s Easy Fudge

And several more kitchen gifts:
Hot Chocolate Mix
 Bran Muffins
Little Apricot Cakes (recipe shared a few days ago)
White Chocolate Snack Mix
 Cinnamon Pretzels.

And that was it for this year's baking output!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Final baking report for Christmas 2016


Some of our kitchen gifts ready to go.
I'll share the actual 2016 baking list (as opposed to the tentative list) tomorrow, but for now I will just share about the baking for Christmas 2016, which I finished up on Christmas Eve day.

I don't have a lot of counter space (and I often need it for other things I'm doing in the kitchen) but I do have a large table, so that is often my cooling and decorating surface for cookies.  I lay down sheets of newspaper topped with waxed paper to protect my table/tablecloth/place mats, then place wire racks atop that.
The eggnog logs had been baked previously, but now I frosted and garnished them.
 The eggnog logs were frosted and then a fork run through the icing to resemble tree bark.  Then they are sprinkled with nutmeg.

Below you see the little apricot cakes (mentioned in an earlier post) all wrapped up.  I used regular and green foil to package the ones you see here, plus a festive tie of ribbon, metallic trim, or bakers twine in red/green. 
 The cookies below and above are jam-filled shortbread thumbprints.  Raspberry jam is what's called for (I use the all-fruit type), but I ran out and used apricot in some.  These are waiting to have the icing added.
 Below you see part of a batch of chocolate spritz to the right.  We were about to run out so I had to bake some more!
 And below are the shortbread thumbprints with the glaze added.  I got it a bit too thin so it soaked in more than I like.   Still pretty, though ... and absolutely delicious!

So there you have it.  There is still one item I have not done -- the chocolate-dipped orange slices -- but I will still make those because people at church love them and they go well on the cookie and fudge trays I'll bring for Sunday potluck lunches for as long as the frozen goodies hold out.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Some time with my Christmas notebooks

 In the last few days, I've spent an hour or so working in my Christmas notebook.  (If you'd like to know more about this notebook and how I use it, click on "Christmas notebook" in the word cloud of labels in the sidebar for more posts about it.)  The notebook above is not my full-fledged Christmas notebook, but I've done some work in it too.  I bought this little Mary Engelbreit planner for $1 at a dollar store in Nevada!  It's handy for jotting short notes about our holiday each year, and there are several more years' worth of pages in there. 


I've shared some of my planning with you before, but here's what I've been doing recently.

I took a fresh sheet of Christmas-themed computer paper (always on sale after Christmas) and listed down everything that we gave for Christmas gifts.  Of course, I had already made a list, but some things changed with the actual gift-giving:   I couldn't locate a source for a particular gift, I changed my mind, etc. etc.  I started the list in January 2016 and by the time Christmas came around, my list had been scribbled on, crossed out, and so on.  So that there will be no confusion next year and I don't give someone a duplicate book or whatever, I make a nice, neat list.

Sorry for the poor quality -- this is one of my copied-over lists.
 Then I tuck it in the "Christmas Past" section at the back of my notebook.

Then I take a fresh piece of lined notebook paper and start a new list for the coming Christmas.  Some things are going to stay the same, pretty much.  For instance, we always give my mother-in-law homemade bran muffins,  a jar of homemade hot chocolate mix, and a bag or box of clementines.  So that is already on 2017's Christmas list next to her name.  (We used to give her bran muffin batter so she could bake them as needed, but now she prefers to receive the baked muffins.)  I made my dad a photo calendar this year and will plan to do the same in 2017.

Some gifts, like a science center membership for one family, a gift card for another, etc.  will be the same again next year, so I make sure to write those down.

I have already ordered a couple of items for next Christmas, so I've made note of that on my catalog/internet order form.

Another thing I like to do is to look over my crafting time lines and add in new projects I want to start and note whether I need to buy materials for them.  This year, I'm tentatively planning to make handcrafted gifts only for birthdays as I did in 2016.  It worked out quite well.

I also took a fresh sheet of notebook paper and started listing ideas for 2017 birthdays.  I just jot down each person's birthday and their name, and I do this in order of where the months fall in the year.  We don't have any birthdays (other than my own) until March, so I start there.  I already have a few birthday ideas, having seen how certain Christmas gifts were received. 

I also like to note any new recipes we tried and how we liked them.  And I make a note of any new decorations we added, where we put them, and where I will be storing them.  This making note of where Christmas items are stored is something I need to get more specific on in the coming year.

I actually have several Christmas notebooks: this big one, with its wealth of planning forms, gift ideas, and so on;

  a smaller one which contains memories and family recipes; and then a smaller one still, which is pictured at the top of this post. 

It's a great feeling to start with 2017's Christmas planning -- before 2016 has even ended!  Why not brew yourself a cup of holiday tea and get started?  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Little apricot fruitcakes


It had been awhile since I made these little cakes for Christmas kitchen gifts, but this year seemed like the opportune time when I found a good buy on apricots at a local discount store.  At the same store, I found something I used to have -- food-safe holiday tissue paper and colored foil -- but that I have not seen in years, not even on the internet, and I've looked!  Finding those lovely wraps -- there was also a white tissue with blue snowflakes -- just confirmed to me that I should make the apricot cakes again.  In the above photo you see my cakes all wrapped up ready to give.  Here's the recipe:

GOLDEN APRICOT CAKE
1/2 cup water 

1/2 cup sugar
2 cups dried apricots, quartered
1 3/4 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder  

1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar

3 eggs 
2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup raisins (either dark, golden, or a combination of both)
1 cup chopped dates
Grated rind of 1 orange

1/2 cup chopped walnuts   

1/2 cup slivered almonds

A day ahead, combine the water and 1/2 c. sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil and boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, pour over apricot pieces; stir and let stand, covered, in a cool place overnight. (I put them in the fridge.)

Next day, sift dry ingredients together onto wax paper, then return them to sifter and sift again. With electric beater, cream butter and 1 c. sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each; beat in vanilla. Toss raisins, dates, orange rind and nuts with 2 Tablespoons of the flour mixture. Fold the flour, the fruits/nuts, and the apricots (lifted from their syrup with a slotted spoon) into the creamed mixture just until well distributed. 

Heat oven to 350ΒΊ. Turn batter into a well greased and floured tube or Bundt pan, or use smaller pans. I use about 9-10 small loaf pans. Bake tube or Bundt pan about 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and beginning to pull away from sides of pan. (Obviously, bake smaller pans for a shorter time.  My small loaves take 35 to 40 minutes.) 
If using large pan, let cake cool in pan for about 30 minutes, then turn out on wire rack to finish 
cooling. For the small pans, let them cool 5 minutes or so before turning out on rack to finish cooling, as the cakes above are doing.  Those are Eggnog Logs in the background.

This wonderful recipe is from Cook & Tell December 1988.   I love to make this in little loaf pans to include in gift baskets for friends and neighbors.


If you enjoy apricots or a really tasty fruitcake (which most are not!),  I hope you'll give this recipe a try.  The little cakes are festive, but they would make nice kitchen gifts any time of year, not just at Christmas.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!


Just taking a moment out of our busy day to wish a very merry Christmas to all of my readers and friends!  May you enjoy a blessed day wherever this holiday finds you.  And may you find moments to ponder the true meaning of why that Baby in the manger came to earth!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Egg casserole for Christmas breakfast


(Photo by Skip to My Lou.)
Quick, while you are doing your last-minute grocery shopping, pick up an avocado or two, and some tomatoes if you don't ordinarily keep them on hand.  You will need these items for a wonderful egg bake that's perfect for Christmas breakfast.

Here is the link to the recipe:  California Egg Casserole. I wasn't sure about the recipe when I first thought about trying it.  I really had no idea how the avocados would behave as I was planning to prepare the casserole (without baking it) the night before, refrigerate it,  and bake it in the morning so it was ready just as we went out the door to a sunrise breakfast at church one Easter.  I was somewhat concerned that the avocados might discolor, but I pushed them down into the egg mixture as much as I could, covered the top of the casserole with bacon bits (just in case) and hoped for the best.  I was so pleasantly surprised.  The avocados stayed nice and green.  I plunked the casserole on a warming tray when we got to church and so it was just right when we were ready to eat. 

So this has become a  keeper recipe for me.  Simply wonderful!

(I should add here that I do not use all of the cheese this recipe calls for. I use a total of perhaps 1-1/2 cups, and I usually use cheddar.  For cream cheese, I substitute the lower fat Neufchatel.)
 
I made this dish for our ladies' Christmas fellowship brunch and realized how the colors, with the red tomato, green avocado, and white cream cheese, were just perfect for Christmas.  Maybe this will fit into your Christmas morning plans, too!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Merry Little Christmas Hodgepodge!


Again this week I am joining in with the Wednesday Hodgepodge with Joyce at From This Side of the Pond.  She asks the questions, other bloggers  answer, and it's just fun getting to know one another more. 

πŸŽ„1. What's left to be done on your Christmas to-do list? 

Do you really want to know? Quite a bit.  Let's see: one batch of cookies (possibly more); 2 kinds of candy; 2 gifts to buy; several kitchen gifts yet to make (hot cocoa mix, bran muffins, little apricot cakes).  Still some decorating to finish.  A bit of cleaning would be nice, too.

Some kitchen gifts from 2013
On the plus side, nearly all of the wrapping is done and all of the out-of-town cards have been sent or are ready to send. 

πŸŽ„2. The Hodgepodge lands on the first day of winter this year. What's your favorite thing about winter? 

The beauty of freshly fallen snow, or snow that is falling softly.  (As long as I don't have to drive in it!)  I also love seeing the beautiful winter night sky.  The stars are amazing!
πŸŽ„3. In what area of your life are you immature? Feel free to elaborate or not. 

Many areas, I'm afraid.  I hate driving in winter, or in cities, or for long distances, or tight parking spaces.  Have you sensed that I dislike driving?

πŸŽ„4. What was the most (or one of the most) important lessons you learned in 2016? 

The word I picked for 2016 was faithfulness.  In choosing it I was thinking of the need for me to be faithful in all that God has given me to do.   I was also thinking of God's faithfulness to me and how He would continue to be faithful through every trial and test.  Both aspects of the word held true.  There were many challenges and difficulties that could have caused me to disregard the need for faithfulness in my God-given tasks.  And through every one, I saw God's great faithfulness to me and to His people.
πŸŽ„5. It's Fried Shrimp Day...are you a fan? What's your favorite way to eat shrimp? Will there be shrimp somewhere in your holiday feastings? 

I enjoy fried shrimp.  Our local seafood restaurant has a fried shrimp special that is wonderful.  I enjoy shrimp in other ways as well.  Probably my favorite might be just cold cooked shrimp served with cocktail sauce.  I don't have shrimp on any of my menus for the holidays.

πŸŽ„6. What sound lulls you to sleep? 

Rain on the roof.

πŸŽ„7. What one word best describes your 2016? 

Challenging. (Since I can only pick one word.)
πŸŽ„8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I still don't have the Christmas tree completely decorated, so I'll share a picture or two from a previous year.   I tried very hard to be much more organized with my planning this year -- and I followed my hubby's advice about not crafting after November 30 -- but life sort of went crazy for awhile there anyway.

2010
2015
Merry Christmas to all of you! 

Thinking ahead to Christmas breakfast


I seldom post the same things in both of my blogs in a given season.  But because it's such a great recipe, I want to share my Cranberry Coffeecake recipe today.  It would be perfect for Christmas breakfast! 

Also, I know that not all of my readers read both of my blogs, and I don't want anyone to miss this.  There's still time, I hope, to be sure you have the ingredients in the pantry for this festive treat.

This is a coffeecake that I cobbled together from two different recipes,  and I was so pleased with the results.  I'd seen a recipe on line that looked good, but I wanted my cranberry coffeecake to taste like one I remembered from my younger years.  My mother's friend Evelyn had shared the cake (made in a small tube pan) and the recipe.  Hers did not have the orange component to it that this one does, though it was delicious.  However, I like the added zing of orange flavor.

I prefer to make cakes in a 13x9 pan rather than a tube pan, but since Evelyn's recipe called for a small tube pan I needed to increase the quantities.  1 1/2 times the recipe worked perfectly.  Her recipe also called for almond flavoring but I changed it to vanilla, to go better with the orange component I was adding.

Jellied cranberry sauce was the only kind I had on hand and it worked very well.  I didn't have any oranges, so I went with the orange extract in the cranberry sauce and it worked out perfectly.

CRANBERRY COFFEE CAKE
3/4 cup margarine or butter
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
15-16-ounce can cranberry sauce (either jellied or whole berry will work)
2 Tblsp. grated orange rind OR 2 scant tsp. pure orange extract

Cream together the margarine and sugar in a large mixing bowl.  Add unbeaten eggs one at a time, beating after each, at medium speed.  Beat in vanilla.  Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt; add to creamed mixture alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Grease or spray a 13x9-inch pan.  Pour half of the batter into the pan.

Stir together the cranberry sauce (I used a fork to break it up as I stirred) and the orange rind OR extract.  Spread half of this mixture carefully over the batter in the pan.  Then layer on the remaining batter and then the remaining cranberry sauce mixture.  Use a knife to gently swirl the cranberry sauce into the batter.

Bake the coffeecake for 50 to 60 minutes at 350ΒΊ or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool completely before glazing.

GLAZE:
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 Tblsp. orange juice (more if needed)
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries

Combine the powdered sugar and the orange juice, adding more juice a teaspoon at a time if needed to make a glaze of drizzling consistency.  Drizzle the glaze evenly over the cooled cake.  Sprinkle the chopped dried cranberries evenly over the drizzled glaze.  Allow glaze to set up before cutting cake.
Makes 1 13x9-inch coffee cake.  Servings depend upon how large one cuts the squares.

I picked up more cranberry sauce so there is plenty of it in the pantry.  My hubby liked this coffee cake so much that I need to make at least one more during the Christmas season.  And I am planning that one of those times will be for Christmas breakfast.

Monday, December 19, 2016

My grandmother's best cookie-baking advice


I only have a few of my grandmother's cookie recipes, and will have to post her famous Aunt Sally's Cocoa Drops recipe one of these days ... a true heirloom.  But today as I was baking Christmas cookies in my own kitchen, I was reminded of something my grandmother often did -- something I should do much more often.  It would save me a lot of trouble in the end.

Especially when trying out a new cookie recipe, my grandmother would follow the recipe exactly, and preheat the oven to the specified temperature.  Then she would bake a test cookie or two, setting the timer for the specified number of minutes. 

And then she would see how the cookie came out.  Was it underdone?  Overdone?  Too brown?  Not brown enough?  Did the dough spread too much or not flatten out enough?  She would then make adjustments to the baking time temperature and sometimes, even to the dough, adding a bit more flour or liquid if needed.  I think she probably learned to do this as a result of baking in unpredictable wood stove ovens.

I should have done this a couple of weeks ago when I made Whipped Shortbread

Photo from Taste of Home
This is an old family favorite that I've made countless times through the years.  I always cut the recipe in half because it makes nine dozen.  I thought that's what I had done this time.  But apparently I made a mistake in the measuring, for the cookies did not stay nice and round as you see in the above photo.  They spread out too much and the edges were thin and crispy.  The flavor was still great, but the proportions were definitely off.  I will serve them on cookie trays at home and church, but will not use them for gifts.

Today I made a second batch and the cookies turned out perfectly.  As I measured, I tried to think what could have gone wrong.  There are only a few ingredients in these cookies -- butter, confectioners sugar, flour, and cornstarch -- so there isn't a lot to remember.  But as I think about it, I believe what may have happened is that I cut the amount of flour and butter in half, but left either the cornstarch or confectioners sugar measurement (or both!πŸ˜•) the same.  I could have avoided wrecking an entire batch of these by just baking a test cookie and paying attention to the results.  At the time, I noticed the dough seemed soft, but thought it just needed to chill awhile.  That turned out not to be the case!

My Gram has been gone for 25 years.  But her cookie-baking advice is still golden!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Happenings in the real life Christmas kitchen


Yes, things have been happening in my real Christmas kitchen -- and that's partially why I have not been here in my virtual kitchen every day as I hoped and planned to do.  My little island (actually a formica-topped desk from my teen years, hand-built by my dad) does not look this neat or tidy today.  Rather, it is piled high with ingredients: dried apricots, golden raisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips. evaporated milk, orange slice candy, and more, ready to be turned into kitchen gifts.

It's snowing hard outside
View of our back woods through an upstairs dormer window
Snow-covered balcony outside our bedroom
Looking through a front dormer window down to the snowy road. 
 but it's been a cozy morning in the kitchen as I've baked up Eggnog Log Cookies

photo from Taste of Home
and a double batch of Sacher Torte Cookies.  The recipe for those is here in the archives, but I'm going to put the recipe here right now:

The sacher torte cookies are in the right-hand point of the star -- the small round cookies with the chocolate topping.  There's jam underneath!
This is another of our very favorite Christmas cookie recipes. These are great all year long for special occasions such as tea parties, showers, etc.

SACHER TORTE COOKIES

1 cup butter, softened
1 (4 1/2 oz.) pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup apricot (or raspberry) jam
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons melted butter

Heat oven to 325°. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and pudding mix; cream together until fluffy. Beat in egg and extract. Gradually add flour, beating at low speed with mixer until dough forms. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Dip balls in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased
cookie sheets. With your thumb, make an imprint in center of each ball.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until cookies are firm; remove from sheets immediately to wire racks to cool.

When cookies are cool, fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon jam. At this point, you may find it helpful to place wax paper under your cooling racks to catch any drips of chocolate from the next step.

In a small saucepan, or in microwave, blend chips and butter over low heat until chocolate melts, stirring constantly. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon chocolate over each cookie.

Yield: About 4 dozen cookies.

These look pretty and fancy but are very easy to make. I found this recipe in a Yankee magazine article about the Wellesley Cookie Exchange. What a great recipe!


Another day this week I made Coffee Shop Fudge

photo from Taste of Home
and a cookies and creme fudge from a Gooseberry Patch cookbook.  From another Gooseberry cookbook I made a white chocolate snack mix with cheerios, pretzels, rice chex, peanuts, and M&Ms.  I've packaged up two tins of that for gift giving.

All in all there has been a lot going on in my actual Christmas kitchen.  And there is likely to be a lot more kitchen activity in the next few days!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Holly Jolly Hodgepodge


Again this week I am linking up to the Wednesday Hodgepodge with Joyce at From This Side of the Pond.  This week, I thought it would be fun to post the answers to Joyce's questions in my Christmas blog.  Here we go!

1. Are you more task oriented or people oriented? Elaborate. 
Good question. I tend to be more people oriented, I think, in general.  I make a plan for every day and do what I can, but really, it's all about people.  If something on my list doesn't get done because God brought along someone to reach out to or to encourage, it's fine.  It helps me to consider my overall goal for life -- bringing glory to God with all that He has given me.  Part of the way I'm to do that is by touching the lives of other people.  Tasks are part of it too, but the people are more important.

2. December 15 is National Wear Your Pearls Day...do you own/wear pearls?  Everyone share a 'pearl of wisdom' with us here today.
I own pearls but haven't worn them for a long time. As a teen, I asked for a pearl ring for Christmas -- the type with two pearls entwined together -- and received it, too.  Hadn't thought of that in a long time, so the reminder was fun.

Here's a Christmasy pearl of wisdom:

Christmas will always be in the hearts of God's children everywhere as they extend a helping hand to a friend in need ... as they go about reflecting God's goodness in the little quiet and unheralded expressions of a loving heart ... as they share the light of the world with those who live in darkness."
-- Jane Hillsmen

3. Speaking of pearls...oysters? Are you a fan or not a fan? If you answered yes, tell us your favorite way to eat oysters? If you said no, be honest-have you ever tried one or does just the idea of eating an oyster make you gag a little? 
I like oysters all right. They're not my favorite seafood, and I wouldn't go out of my way to eat them, but I like them okay.  My favorite way to eat them would be in oyster stew.  My dad used to love oyster stew and my mother would sometimes make it for him.  I was allowed, usually, to just have a bowl of broth, because I loved the flavor, but leave the oysters for my dad.  I don't think any of my siblings liked oyster stew.   

4. Time Magazine has named President-elect Donald Trump Person of the Year. Let's take presidents and presidential candidates out of the mix for a minute. If a political figure had not been chosen who would you name Man or Woman of the Year for 2016?
I would have to say our police officers who have had to carry on under some very difficult pressures and some very bad press, plus the very real possibility of being murdered themselves -- and those firefighters who have been fighting the many horrendous wildfires we've seen this year.  And all of those professionals who've had to deal with the riots and protests and other childishness of those disappointed by election results.

5. The Pantone Color of the Year for 2017 has been announced and it's a vibrant green, aptly named-greenery. Your thoughts? Is this a color currently in your home or wardrobe? Will you add something in this shade for the new year? Click here to see the color. 
I love this color.   I don't have this color in my home (yet) but I do wear this color, and in fact have a shirt this color. Green is one of my favorite colors to wear.  It never used to be, but has become a favorite in recent years.

6. Today I've had too much__________________.
Coffee, I guess.  Yesterday I had too many Christmas cookies -- Chocolate Mint Crisps, to be specific.  They are wonderful!
photo from Taste of Home
7. Share a favorite lyric from a favorite Christmas carol.
I like both of those that Joyce mentioned: '...Then rang the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth He sleep...'

'...A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...'
Our world is so weary and it so badly needs that thrill of hope today.  May we who truly have hope be faithful about showing it in our daily lives!
And this one: "Who is He in yonder stall at whose feet the shepherds fall?  'Tis the Lord, O wondrous story, 'tis the Lord, the King of Glory.  At His feet we humbly fall; crown Him, crown Him Lord of all."

8. Insert your own random thought here. 
 Today's forecast was for partly sunny weather.  Patches of blue sky up there, but at this point it's mostly cloudy and snowing lightly.  I detest winter driving!
Thanks to Joyce for these thought-provoking questions.  I'm thrilled to be participating in the Hodgepodge again this week!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

More from our busy weekend


I didn't actually get photos of every event during the weekend, but I'll share what I have.  Above, again in front of the fireplace at McDonalds.  Julia has developed a habit of widening her eyes when a picture is being taken.  I forgot to remind her not to do that!

The seats by the fireplace are, of course, our favorites.  We claimed those as well as a nearby table.   Josiah wanted to sit there with Grampa, and Julia wanted to sit there with Grammy.  So the ladies began their meal there and then partway through, gave way to the gentlemen.


Gingerbread coffee at the fireside --- mm-mmm!
After our yummy breakfast, we headed off to do some Christmas shopping. we found lots of good deals for the kids to get for their parents and baby sister.  I also found lots of components for these Art Boxes

Josiah with his art box many years ago.
Mackenzie with her art box even longer ago.  Kids love these!
that I am putting together for two grandsons out West, as well as some baking ingredients and so on.

Then it was on to the ice cream smorgasbord!
Four out of the five sundaes
American flags on top are traditional
No whipped cream?  What was he thinking?

Grampa did not forget whipped cream!
Nor did Grammy. 
The player piano, playing Christmas carols, is always a huge hit with the kids, and they take turns feeding it quarters!
We then took the kids home and I made a salad to take to that evening's event -- a company party for my hubby's work.  Then it was on the road again, to the nursing home to see my dad.  Sunday was going to be too busy to see him that day as we usually do.  We brought along his Nativity scene and set it up, along with the stable he built himself.

We got home from there with about 15 minutes to get ready and head out again to the party.  It was a wonderful time -- great fellowship and camaraderie over a sumptuous meal.  Mr. T's boss and his family go out of their way to make every employee feel valued and special.

Sunday was the usual round of Sunday School, church, and potluck lunch.  Then we enjoyed our annual Sunday School gift exchange.  We draw names and it's always fun to find a small gift the recipient will enjoy.

Following the gift exchange, a good number of us piled into cars and headed off to go Christmas caroling.  Thankfully, it was mostly sunny and not too cold when we started out.  But the cold settled in soon enough and we headed home. 

Yes, a busy weekend.  But it was also a weekend of special times with family and friends.  Just what the season should be!