A Woman of Joy

A dear friend sent me this lovely card this year:1-DSC_0063She commented that I was like the “woman of joy” pictured on the cover. Her comment brought a smile to my face as I thought about the many reasons I have to be joyful.

1-DSC_0366I have joy with my husband. He is such a great support to me, and he shows me much love and kindness. I am so thankful that we are together…we make a great team!

IMG_0147I have joy with my children. Raising my children brings purpose and fulfillment to my life. While the day-to-day tasks may seem small (feeding, clothing, cleaning, teaching) the effects are far-reaching. The arms around my neck for a hug, the sticky and slobbery kisses, the bed-time stories and snuggles are moments to treasure.

IMG_0078I have joy in mothering and nurturing…especially the new spirit that will join our family in the spring.

lost-lamb-art-lds-425852-tabletI have joy in my Savior. Following the teachings and example of Jesus Christ bring great peace and comfort to me, showing the path that I should follow in this life.


I have joy in this Christmas Season, remembering that He Is the Gift.

Peppermint Pretzel Cookies

2-DSC_0004For a lot of people, baking is a big part of their Christmas holiday celebrations.  Baking isn’t a big tradition that I grew up with, but I enjoy involving my children in the kitchen with me when I can. These cookies are my favorite thing to make at Christmas time because the recipe is very kid friendly!

You only need three ingredients: pretzels, peppermint flavored Hershey’s Kisses (the kind with red and white stripes), and red and green M&Ms.1-DSC_0002Set your oven to 200 degrees.

On a large baking sheet, lay out the pretzels. Top each pretzel with a Hershey’s Kiss.

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Place in the oven and WATCH THEM CLOSELY. You want to soften the Kiss, not melt it too much and turn into a gooey mess. It will only take 5-8 minutes. When it is soft you can drop an M&M on top. Chill until set.

4-DSC_0006Enjoy and share some with your friends!

Our Christmas Menu

For most of our married life, we have lived far away from our extended family. Since traveling at this season can be difficult and expensive, we have opted to make the most of Christmas celebrating with our own little family in our own little home. Over the years we have developed a holiday menu that we really look forward to!

Christmas Eve the theme is Chinese Food. You can follow the links to view the recipes. This year I am planning to serve:

Sweet Sriracha Chicken-purchased from Sam’s Club

Egg Rolls-purchased from Sam’s Club

One pot wonder Chicken Lo Mein

A couple of other items I am considering: Chow Mein, General Tso’s Chicken, or these Thai Peanut Noodles.

Fried Rice: my recipe is mostly of the make-it-up as you go along variety, and it varies overtime. Take a guess at the proportions! Saute sliced onion and garlic. Add sliced carrots and bell peppers, then frozen peas. Or you can just use a bag of frozen mixed vegetables. Scramble 2-3 eggs. Add prepared white rice (2-3 cups, cooled). Toss in some soy sauce until it tastes good. If you want a real recipe, try this one.

For dessert we always have Fried Ice Cream balls. Not actually fried, so at our house we call these Cruncy Ice Cream balls. These are especially good with peppermint flavored ice cream, but with the picky eaters at my house we will stick to vanilla ice cream this year.

Christmas Day breakfast is Butterscotch Caramel Pull-Aparts (made by my husband). We also have hard-boiled eggs, and the oranges that are in everyone’s stockings. Perhaps this year I will try this Bacon & Egg Breakfast Casserole.

Dinner on Christmas Day is the traditional ham and potatoes. I am going to try the Orange and Brown Sugar glazed ham posted by Our Best Bites, as well as Funeral Potatoes. Most likely green beans for a side.

Ever since we moved to Florida I have been trying to learn how to make rolls. My husband’s family makes fabulous rolls, which I have been trying to replicate with moderate success. I think the elevation and humidity have something to do with my failures, but let me just say that bread making is not really my thing. Last January my good friend kindly gave me a one-on-one lesson on roll making. I made them for Thanksgiving this year and they were my best ever. So this is my roll recipe for this Christmas.

Dinner Rolls from Stacey

Proof yeast:

1 Tbs. yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 Tbs. sugar

Mix the first four ingredients in Bosch (I use my Kitchenaid)

2 cups milk (or 1/4 cup powdered milk and 2 cups hot water)

1 cup butter

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. salt

Add:

2 beaten eggs

8-9 cups bread flour

1/4 cup melted butter

Heat butter, milk, sugar, and salt until warm. Combine beaten eggs with milk mixture then add yeast mixture (make sure liquid is not too hot before you add the yeast mixture). Gradually add the flour until dough leaves the side of the bowl. Cover and let rise until double. Punch down. Knead and spread out onto a floured surface to make a circle (actually rectangle shape works better for me) and spread with melted butter. Using a pizza cutter, cut 24 even wedges. Roll each wedge beginning at the wide end. Place on a cookie sheet and bend slightly to make a curved roll. Cover and let rise until double. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Butter tops while hot.

What do you think? Anyone want to join us for a meal?

Traditions of December

December is a wonderful month, filled with meaning and traditions. Here are some of the traditions and ways that we celebrate the season in our home.

Focusing on Jesus Christ: Beginning December 1st, each night before bed we read a story from the life of Jesus Christ. We first started this back in 2008, and we are still going strong! We use a reading guide from The Friend magazine (laminated for durability), and the pictures from the Gospel Art Kit. This year I put all of the pictures in sheet protectors in a binder, so they are ready to go each night. The children take turns placing a sticker on the chart to mark our progress. Read more about this here.

Watch Holiday Movies: We always enjoy watching movies as a family, and our never-to-be-missed movie list this month includes White Christmas, Elf, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the cartoon Dr. Seuss version). My husband and I enjoy It’s a Wonderful Life, but our children are still a little young and didn’t show much interest in it when we tried it last year. Sometime during the month we will have a Polar Express Pajama Party with friends and drink hot chocolate!

We also love to watch the Christmas messages produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is a classic, along with Nora’s Christmas Gift. There are a number of moving videos on the Mormon Channel and from The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Just released this year is an amazing collaboration by talented YouTube artists . Please watch and share this message, you will be touched!

Community Activities: We support the holiday events in our community! For us this includes viewing the lights at the hospital duck pond, admiring nativity sets from around the world at our church’s Festival of the Nativity, participating in a ward party (and with musical talents that usually means my husband and I are performing something on the piano), and holding a piano recital for my students.

Reading books: You can find our December reading list here.

Family Home Evening: When Monday night comes, this is what we are doing for FHE!

On the Menu: take a peek at our Christmas menu .

What special traditions do you have this Christmas season?

Family Home Evening in December

I love planning Family Home Evening in December, because there are always lots of meaningful things to do. Here are our FHE plans for the month:

Week 1: Talk about the reason for the season. Work on *grandparent pages. Watch Mormon Message Christmas videos.

*My husband’s family has a tradition each year of doing memory book  pages for the parents/grandparents. The adult siblings take turns picking a theme, and then each family completes a page (or more) relating to that theme. Past themes have included testimony, creative works, family traditions, and work. Each page gets assembled into a large binder, to keep and view for years to come.

Week 2: Watch the First Presidency Christmas Devotional. Draw and illustrate our own nativity scenes. Stuff and stamp Christmas cards. Eat pumpkin pie (because we didn’t get enough at Thanksgiving!)

Lily_nativity_drawing

 

A nativity scene by Lily, age 7 (I like her cute sheep).

Week 3:  Learn about the names of Christ. Use this  free printable, and have the children color in the names as we talk about each. Listen to Handel’s Messiah.

Names of Christ Advent free printablePrintable from alivelyhope.com

Week 4: Symbols of Christmas. My daughter put together a great object lesson on this topic last year at Activity Girls, so she gets to teach this lesson. Another good lesson outline is here. Activity and treat: Decorate Christmas Cone Trees.

IMG_7253-225x300Week 5: 2014 Year in Review. Review our Family Blog and share our favorite memories from the year. Complete the Family Interview using the printable from TeachMama.

What are your Family Home Evening plans for this month?

Books to Read in December

Reading good books with my children is one of my favorite activities, and in December we love to read books related to the Christmas season. Some people online (like here and here) have shared their tradition of wrapping their books every year, then taking turns opening one book to read each night. I tried that one year, and it was exciting for my littles to open a book every night. But the one drawback I noticed is that some books were left wrapped most of the month, and thus unreadable. We try to read at least one book a day, but some days we read many and we like having a lot to choose from and the ability to read our favorites repeatedly.

Here are the books that have made it on our permanent bookshelf so far:

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore illustrated by Mary Engelbreit

Drummer Boy by Loren Long

Who’s Getting Ready for Christmas illustrated by Maggie Kneen

The True Story of Christmas by Nell Navillus

A Christmas Dress for Ellen retold by Thomas S. Monson

How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

Good King Wenceslas as read by Jane Seymour

One Shining Star by Anne Vittur Kennedy

We generally try to add one new book each year, and we also fill in our collection with favorites from the library (remember to put them on hold by the time of Thanksgiving, or they will all be checked out!)

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Bear Noel by Olivier Dunrea

Olive, the Other Reindeer by Seibold & Walsh

McDuff’s New Friend by Rosemary Wells

Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini

Christmas in the Barn by Margaret Wise Brown

Bear Stays up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo: this is a new one for us this year, and I look forward to sharing its sweet message with my children.

For older readers, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson is a fun read (and one of my favorites I remember as a youth). We also love the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and nearly every one of her books has a chapter or two about their Christmas celebrations.

What are your favorite Christmas books?

“Ponder the path of thy feet” (Highlights from President Monson-Oct 2014)

President Monson’s most recent General Conference talk comes from this scripture in Proverbs 4:26 “Ponder the path of thy feet”. This is an excellent talk and made for a great FHE lesson. I had the children each trace an outline of their foot while we discussed the highlighted quotes below. 

“As we look to Jesus as our Exemplar and as we follow in His footsteps, we can return safely to our Heavenly Father to live with Him forever.”

“Physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as He walked.”

Walking-as-He-Walked-Quote2image via Simple As That

Like Jesus, we can walk the path of: obedience, service, and prayer.

Read the scriptures to find instructions given to us by the Savior: be merciful, be humble, be righteous, be pure in heart, be peacemakers, stand up for beliefs, let our lights shine, be morally clean, love and serve our neighbors, improve our talents, rescue others.

“As we strive to place Christ at the center of our lives by learning His words, by following His teachings, and by walking in His path, He has promised to share with us the eternal life that He died to gain.”

“Nothing else, no other choice we make, can make of us what He can.”

President Thomas S. Monson, “Ponder the Path of Thy Feet”. October 2014 General Conference.

Guidelines for the smart use of technology (Highlights from Brother Ridd-April 2014)

“You have agency. It is the power to not only act on your desires but also to refine, purify, and elevate your desires.”

Principles to guide your use of technology

1)Knowing who you really are makes decisions easier

2)Plug in to the source of power

“Every time you plug in your phone, use it as a reminder to ask yourself if you have plugged in to the most important source of spiritual power—prayer and scripture study, which will charge you with inspiration through the Holy Ghost”

3) Owning a smartphone does not make you smart, but using it wisely can

“Don’t do dumb things with your smartphone.

4) The Lord provides technology to accomplish his purposes

“The divine purpose of technology is to hasten the work of salvation.”

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From New Era Magazine

Randall L. Ridd, “The Choice Generation.” April 2014 General Conference.

A Disciple of Jesus Christ (Highlights from Sister Burton-April 2014)

“As true disciples, may we offer our willing hearts and our helping hands to hasten His work. It does not matter if, like Brynn, we have only one hand. It does not matter if we are not yet perfect and complete. We are devoted disciples who reach out and help each other along the way. Our sisterhood reaches across the generations to those faithful sisters who have walked before. Together, as sisters and in unity with living prophets, seers, and revelators with restored priesthood keys, we can walk as one, as disciples, as servants with willing hearts and hands to hasten the work of salvation. As we do so, we will become like the Savior.”

Sister Linda K. Burton, “Wanted: Hands and Hearts to Hasten the Work”. April 2014 General Women’s Meeting.

“The Savior makes all things right.” (Highlights from Elder Christofferson-April 2014)

“Having satisfied the demands of justice, Christ now steps into the place of justice; or we might say He is justice, just as He is love. Likewise, besides being a “perfect, just God,” He is a perfect, merciful God. Thus, the Savior makes all things right. No injustice in mortality is permanent, even death, for He restores life again. No injury, disability, betrayal, or abuse goes uncompensated in the end because of His ultimate justice and mercy.

“By the same token, we are all accountable to Him for our lives, our choices, and our actions, even our thoughts. Because He redeemed us from the Fall, our lives are in reality His.”meme-christofferson-savior-1240579-gallery

Elder D. Todd Christofferson, “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ”. April 2014 General Conference.