Christmas Season Joy!

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A half-done tree 😉  We waited until my husband got home to do the star at the top, which is always down by the youngest in house who is able to walk ❤  Watching my husband pick up our 2nd son and let him put the star on is like winning the lottery.  So. Much. Love.

We got our decorations up last week, it’s been so much fun decorating with the kids and seeing all the ornaments come out again.  I get so much pleasure from just seeing everything again – like seeing old friends… LOL.

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My mom got us this sweet decoration a few years back.  I know Santa is a controversial figure, but I do love the story behind him, the legend if you will.  And I love this decoration because it kind of epitomizes the importance of Jesus’ birth amidst all the craziness of Christmas shopping, Santa visits, or whatnot.  It’s really about this, when it comes down to it.  None of the other stuff matters, and it’s nice to be reminded of that.  We can have all the other joyful stuff, as long as Christ is still the at the center.

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Love lights ❤

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And at night….

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Our famous skyline.

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The top of the building in the center of the above pic, is where my parents bought their chunks of land in the country back in the 80’s.  All the way at the top in the penthouse.

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So cute… 😀

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Our river ❤  There were less lights for some reason this year.  It was still gorgeous and we can’t really complain – but apparently we have new boats that light up the water below them.  LOL

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Our cutie…

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Christmas Candle… I always try to get one every year and light it every night, at least through dinner.  It’s just a simple tradition, and the light is beautiful for the kids (and me) to look at.

LOL our mischievous one!  Wait… they’re both mischievous… oh well!

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Enjoy this season readers!  Please go out and have fun!  Do joyful things… go listen to some carolers, or watch a ballet of the Nutcracker.

Do something to remind yourself of beauty this season!  To recapture how you felt when you were a child.

Go see some glittering, brilliant lights around in your city.  Really look at a well-decorated Christmas tree at a hotel.  Enjoy some wine!  Go out dancing!

Do something this season to bring more joy into your life, please.

Stephanie

 

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Our Winter Wonderland Experience!

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Taking a break from writing the Proverbs 31 series, I wanted to take some time to finally upload our pics from our mini “Winter Vacation” a couple of weeks ago.  San Antonio never gets real snow.  Well, one time back in 1985, but even that was called a “100-year snow,” for us.  Soooooo  we decided that since we missed going to the beach/island this Summer due to so many car issues, that we’d instead drive up to the mountains in New Mexico for a little less than a week to see if we could catch some snow for the boys to see!

It was the best decision ever to do this – our oldest had so much fun!  I’ve never even seen snow like we saw on the last 2 days there (we planned it somehow just right)!  It was so exciting (and FREEZING COLD)!  It made me SO GRATEFUL that we live in South Texas.  I love the heat… yes, even the really extreme heat we get in the Summer.  We live very close to a great waterpark and have access to swimming all day if we want.  It’s bliss ❤  🙂

But as for New Mexico’s mountain chill – wow!  We had all the correct clothing and even snow boots for everyone, but mentally, I was so not prepared for that level of cold!

We stayed a little cozy cabin in the area of a ski resort (that wasn’t open for a few more days – we got the best price because of this, and yet we still got to see their ski slopes with “created” snow).

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This day wasn’t actually that cold, hence the hoodies (they had layers of clothes underneath though!).  These were some photos of the bottom of the slopes at the ski resort.  We weren’t sure we’d be able to play around there so I didn’t wear my snow boots, the boys did though.

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New Mexico with it’s deserts and mesas and mountains was incredibly beautiful!  I’m not posting a lot of our pics of exploring the town and the mountains because I tend to take too many anyway, but I wanted to show the most exciting parts for us: the snow!

I loved seeing all the thousands of fir trees, and we were lucky to get to see it before and then after the first snowfall of the season.  I thought it’s scenery was equally as beautiful – it was that stunning.

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Our big window in the cabin the morning after the big snowfall.

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Our patio showing just about how many inches we got overnight in the mountains!  Wow!!!

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Our adorable little cabin!  It was a great stay and experience we’ll never forget.

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So. Beautiful.

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Thanks for reading 😉

Teaching My Son to Be Thankful When He’s Sad

The day before Thanksgiving, my husband had to work late.  He was set to get off early, but plans change fast for a Police Officer… he never knows what he’ll face, but he always does it bravely, and his faith and courage is like a light to us.

But my son was waiting for him to come home… he expected that his daddy would get off early so that the fun could begin.  Whenever daddy is home, he and our oldest son have the greatest time playing, wrestling, and just plain being silly-heads!

But the time came, and went, and after eating another dinner by ourselves, another bath and bedtime routine by ourselves, another tucking in and praying blessing over my son, while I was praying the blessing over him, he started to cry.  He told me through his tears how much he missed his daddy, and this has become something that happens more often than I want to admit.  My son LOVES his dad… like REALLY loves his dad, and he MISSES him at night to point of going to bed crying!

Being married to my Officer, I have to be prepared to be flexible, because he often has little control over what will dictate when he works or how late he’ll have to stay.  I don’t give him a hard time because I understand the greater purpose and reason behind him staying later than normal.  He’s usually helping someone in dire need, or catching a thief, or tracking down a stolen car, or intervening in a child sexual abuse situation and waiting for CPS to come.  His staying late means he’s being someone else’s hero, but that’s extremely hard for a 5 year old boy who just misses his daddy to understand.

Usually I comfort him and tell him to be strong and that his dad will come home and pray his blessing over him as he sleeps, I promise him he’ll see his dad in the morning.  But this time I had an idea… it was the night before Thanksgiving, and we were focusing on being thankful for everything in our life, so I decided I could help him use this opportunity to thank God for the gifts he DOES have, even wen daddy isn’t there.

He bowed his little head, and we started to pray, him repeating every word I said, together, we spoke thankfulness into his heartbreaking situation:

“Thank you God, that I have a wonderful dad.

Thank you that he loves me so much!

Thank you that he works so hard for us.

Thank you that he helps people who are in need, and deals rightly with evil people in our city.

Thank you that he prays a blessing over me each night as I sleep.

Thank you that he’s off for Thanksgiving this year, and that we’ll have him all day tomorrow all to ourselves!

Amen!”

 

A strange thing happened when we started praying, as he repeated back each sentence in his own prayer with me, I noticed that his tears stopped!  His voice tone changed.  He went from being legitimately heartbroken over missing his dad, to being filled with true, unabashed thankfulness for having such an amazing, wonderful dad!

It was a light bulb moment for me as well.  Oh how our world changes when we move from complaining about our circumstances to being thankful and joyful despite them!

And for you dear reader, I’m not sure what you’re going through right now, what trials you may be facing… but I do know this, praying that prayer with my son was a miracle.  The way it changed his entire outlook, and helped him to not go to bed with tears yet again, was such a blessing to this mommy.

I challenge you, sweet reader, to try to thank God in your tough times, to try to remember the things He’s blessed you with and take back the joy that Satan has stolen from you.

Much love and blessings!

Christmas Joy & Excitement!

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This past weekend, our family does the usual tradition of getting all the Christmas decorations out on the day after Thanksgiving, otherwise known as Black Friday lol… my son thought that sounded scary, and I guess from what it’s turned into, it is!

Getting the Christmas decorations out, putting up lights, the nativity scene for the kids, getting out my Grandma’s old glass Christmas decorations she passed down to me – telling my son stories about the family he’ll meet in heaven as were admiring their trinkets… it all makes me so happy!!!

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Throw in the Christmas music playing joyfully in the background, and you have a beautiful scene!

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Even though this holiday season has been emotionally difficult, I’m still trying to make it as joyful as possible for our little family.

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My dad is still not completely there mentally, and my brother and I have been receiving some things he no longer wants or uses. 😦   I’ve gotten his camera 😦 and his field microscope, my brother’s gotten the family rifle, and even though he’s excited and loves guns as much as I do, as we sat talking on Thanksgiving in his room (that he no longer really lives in, my baby brother has grown up!!!!) we both felt the sadness of what this meant.

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So we’re still mourning the loss in a way… and trying to be thankful that he is still here, and that we can still enjoy him.  Over Thanksgiving, we had the best times playing games together, talking, and laughing till we cried!

The morning of Thanksgiving, my older son (5) and I made a cherry pie together 🙂 I really suck at baking… but I keep trying and adventuring into this realm of the domestic goddess, and at least this pie turned out great!

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And it was even more fun that my son had especially requested we made this kind of pie this year (he was obsessed with cherry pie for months!), and so making it together with him, letting him help me do the dough and create the lattice work, was SO fun and SO worth it, even if the pie had turned out terrible.  So hooray for that!

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It looked beautiful, and tasted amazing!!!  So proud of him!

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Perfect Sugar Cookies & Royal Icing

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I’ve been doing sugar cookies with my son every December, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to make the process easier or less overwhelming so that the fun remains the priority in our baking and decorating for Christmas!  Since I’m especially visual when it comes to baking (I need to know what the texture is supposed to look like), this year I’ve found two youtube videos that perfectly show how easy it is to 1) make the sugar cookies from scratch and 2) make EASY Royal Icing that looks so beautiful and is so easy to decorate any cookie with!

 

Sugar Cookie Recipe

Watch this video

Ingredients:

  • 2 ½ all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg – room temperature
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
 Directions:
  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a separate bowl with a hand mixer or using a stand mixer, beat together butter and sugar on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape the bowl as needed.
  3. Meanwhile, crack the egg in a small bowl and add the vanilla extract and almond extract and whisk lightly with a fork, just to combine. With the mixer on low, add the egg mixture gradually and mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape the bowl at least once.
  4. With the mixer on low speed and using a large spoon or scoop, gradually add flour mixture until the flour disappears and the mixture forms a slightly crumbly dough.
  5. Place two sheets of plastic wrap onto the work surface and dump the dough onto one of the sheets.Gather the dough together using the plastic wrap and form into a ball. Divide the dough in half with a pastry cutter or knife and place one half of the dough on the other sheet of plastic wrap. Form each piece of dough into a ball and then flatten with your hand and smooth the dough into a disk about 1/2 inch thick. Wrap the dough in the plastic and refrigerate at least 1-2 hours or until firm. Dough can be refrigerated for a few days at this point.

6. Remove 1 chilled dough disk from fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes before rolling. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place some flour into a small bowl for flouring the cookie cutters.

7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly flour work surface and rolling pin. Place dough on surface and very lightly flour dough. Be sure the dough is smooth around the edges before rolling. Roll out the dough to about 1/8 – ¼ inch thick. Turn as you roll and add more flour to surface and pin, as needed, to prevent the dough from sticking. If the edges begin to separate while rolling, just push them together. Note: If the dough is too cold, it will crack when you try to roll it and if it’s too warm it will be very sticky. Let cold dough rest for a few more minutes or gently work it with your hands. Soft dough should be returned to the fridge until firm.

8. Dip cookie cutter into flour, press cookie cutter into dough to cut cookies as close together as possible. Remove excess dough from in between cookies and set aside to roll. Place cookies on baking sheet or slide a thin, lightly floured spatula under the cookie, move it to baking sheet and release cookies onto sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart. Reroll excess dough gently and cut. Place baking sheet with uncooked cookies, into the fridge to chill for about 15 minutes. Chilled dough will help prevent spreading and over browning.

9. Bake chilled cookies for about 8 -11 minutes or until edges begin to turn golden brown. Cooking time depends on size of cookies – 1/8 inch thick should be done in about 8 minutes, but ovens vary and so will cooking times, so keep an eye on them.

Royal Icing Recipe

Watch this video:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar – sifted – Also known as powdered sugar or icing sugar
  • ¼ tsp. pure vanilla extract

 

 Directions:
  1. Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites until foamy.
  2. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  3. With the mixer on low, gradually add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on medium high until thoroughly combined, shiny and smooth. Scarp the sides and bottom of bowl a few times as you mix. It the powdered sugar begins to stick to the sides of the bowl, place a rubber spatula under some warm water and then scrape the bowl. If the icing is too thin, add more sugar or beat a bit longer and it should tighten up. If the icing seems to be too thick, then add a little warm water, about 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  4. Add food coloring, if desired. Spoon, spread or pipe onto cookies, cakes, cupcakes or desserts.
  5. Use immediately or place in an airtight container, with plastic wrap placed directly on top of icing, as the icing hardens and forms a crust when exposed to air.
  6. Note: If spooning or spreading the icing, be sure to cover the bowl with plastic wrap as you work, as the icing can begin to form a crust within minutes when exposed to air. Keep some damp paper towels available or even a small pitcher of warm water to rinse utensils (spoons, spatulas, knives), as they will get crusty as you use them. It can be messy, but if you’re ready for it, everything will be fine.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo & Recipe videos all belong to Dishin’ with Di

Traditional Chocolate Tart

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I love chocolate.  This recipe is RIDICULOUSLY easy, you will love spending the time to make it!  From Gourmet Magazine & Cupcakes & Cashmere, please enjoy this awesome tart.  Mine just came out of the oven so I will hold off glazing it until tomorrow.

If you think you see little chocolate teddy grahams being smashed with a crystal glass, don’t worry my son didn’t watch!

Bon Appetit!

yield
Makes 8 to 10 servings

active time
30 min

total time
2 3/4 hr (includes cooling)

A triple layer of crumbly crust, a truffle-like interior, and an almost patent-leather-shiny glaze make this tart the chicest take on chocolate we’ve come across in a long time.

Ingredients

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For crust:

  • 9 (5- by 2 1/4-inch) chocolate graham crackers (not chocolate-covered), finely ground (1 cup)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar

For filling:

  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate (not more than 65% cacao if marked), chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For glaze:

  • 2 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 3/4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon warm water

Equipment:

  • a 9-inch round fluted tart pan (1 inch deep)

Preparation

Make crust:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Stir together all ingredients and press evenly onto bottom and 3/4 inch up side of tart pan. Bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Cool on a rack 15 to 20 minutes

Make filling:
Bring cream to a boil, then pour over chocolate in a bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Whisk together eggs, vanilla, and salt in another bowl, then stir into melted chocolate.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Bake until filling is set about 3 inches from edge but center is still wobbly, 20 to 25 minutes. (Center will continue to set as tart cools.) Cool completely in pan on rack, about 1 hour.

Make glaze:
Bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until smooth. Stir in corn syrup, then warm water

Pour glaze onto tart, then tilt and rotate tart so glaze coats top evenly. Let stand until glaze is set, about 1 hour.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Chocolate-Glazed-Chocolate-Tart-243610#ixzz2oPfMBtzR

(top photo by Martyn Thompson; Photo Mix by Stephanie)

Christmas Eve: Wisdom

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“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.
 
I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.
 
I’ve learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you’ll miss them when they’re gone from your life.
 
I’ve learned that making a “living” is not the same thing as making a “life.”
 
I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
 
I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.
 
I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
 
I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.
 
I’ve learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone. People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.
 
I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.
 
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Maya Angelou