Category Archives: Holidays

Thanksgiving Preparations

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” –1 Thessalonians 5:18

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Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday. I seem to either feel thankful and happy and exceptionally blessed, or I don’t. I know, logically, that I have plenty to be thankful for. We are all healthy. We have a roof over our heads. All of our needs are met. I just don’t feel myself riding high on a wave of gratitude. I find myself, more than anything, missing the rhythm and traditions we’ve built over the last few years in our last home. I’m going through the motions: making a grocery list, timing out the best way to prepare for Thursday to prevent feeling overwhelmed, and trying to think of ways to keep the kids occupied and entertained over the next week while they are out of school. But this year, we don’t have the friends we’ve been celebrating with these past few Thanksgiving holidays, the friends we most love celebrating with, eating with, drinking with, laughing with, watching football with, arguing with. It feels strange, planning for just the four of us.

Family doesn’t often come to us for Thanksgiving, and we don’t generally have the time or the money to commit to traveling a long distance for such a short period of time. For the last little while, I’ve at least had “Friendsgiving” to distract me from that, but this year, I’m feeling a little lost and lonely. And I’m feeling guilty for not being 100% satisfied with what I have. This is Thanksgiving, after all. I’m supposed to feel thankful, especially when I have so much more than so many people. When life brings us to hard places, gratitude doesn’t immediately follow. Yet, the Bible says to give thanks in all things. That means all the good things and all the bad things, all the blessings and all the messes, all the joy and all the pain. I just need to figure out a way to focus on those positives instead of the negatives that so often occupy my thoughts.

I believe that I will get there. I’ll get swept up in the grocery shopping and the preparations. I’ll force my children to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with me, and I’ll bake more desserts than side dishes. I’ll pray that we don’t catch the turkey pot on fire again. We’ll call our friends and family, and we’ll make the best of our celebration, no matter how small.

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Pumpkins – From the Patch to the Oven (and everything in between)

  1. Find the most sincere pumpkin patch in your area. For us, this was McCall’s Pumpkin Patch in Moriarty, New Mexico. dsc_0248 dsc_0258 dsc_0260 dsc_0266
  2. Bring your pumpkins home and sit them on the porch for a couple of weeks. You know, to “ripen.” Ha!
  3. On All Hallow’s Eve, set up shop in the back yard and carve! Be sure to save as many seeds as you can, a process which is guaranteed to make your children say “Eeeew!” and beg to wash their hands 1,096 times. dsc_0286 dsc_0288 dsc_0290 dsc_0293
  4. Place the pumpkins back on the front porch to hold court. dsc_0296 dsc_0297
  5. Put all those glorious pumpkin seeds in a colander. Wash the yucky pumpkin guts off, and spread on a dish towel to dry overnight.
  6. Depending on how many seeds you have, dump those babies onto a baking sheet (or two).img_2604
  7. Melt some butter, and grab your favorite seasonings. I made one pan with just butter and salt, and the other pan with this Tajin deliciousness.img_2606 img_2607
  8. Pour butter over your little pile of seeds, spread them out in a single layer in your pan, then sprinkle with seasoning.img_2609 img_2610
  9. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 25 minutes, stirring halfway through. If you have your pans on separate shelves like I did, I also like to switch them at the halfway point.
  10. Once your seeds are nice and toasty, let them cool, then serve as the perfect Halloween snack! I always like to have a little something salty on hand, when the candy bingeing starts to get old.  img_2612
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Halloween Cookie Extravaganza!

I went on a bit of a baking binge this week. It was partially driven by the fact that I’d volunteered to donate treats to the school for Spooky Story Night, and also by the fact that I went 10 days without an oven.

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If you want to make something quick and easy this Halloween, try out these Gooey Monster Eye Cookies. I found the small candy eyes in the baking section of my grocery store, and the larger candy eyes came from Hobby Lobby.

Gooey Monster Cookies

1 Box Yellow Cake Mix

1/2 cup butter, softened

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 egg

green gel food coloring

powdered sugar

candy eyeballs

  1. In a stand mixer, combine butter, vanilla, egg, and cream cheese. Beat until fluffy.
  2. Add cake mix and stir until combined.
  3. Add food coloring. Once the mixture reaches the desired color, chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Roll dough into 1 and 1/2-inch balls, then roll in powdered sugar. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes, and push candy eyes into cookies while warm.

The original recipe comes from Lil’ Luna’s blog.

These cookies are really gooey and delicious. The next time I make them, I’ll probably try using white cake mix instead of yellow. I wanted more of a Mike Wazowski green, and what I ended up with was a bit more Oscar the Grouch.

My second cookie project of the week was a bit more involved. OK, it was a lot more involved.

I have a good friend who is a cookie master. I tried decorating sugar cookies myself years ago for Neely’s Hello Kitty birthday party, and the results were horrible. Helene saved the day! Since then, she’s shared her cookie-making secrets with me and taught me a thing or two about royal icing.

img_2586This was my first attempt all on my own. I definitely have room for improvement, but all things considered, I’m really happy with how these turned out. I may not have been able to cook dinner for my family for two days with cookie accoutrements spread all over the kitchen, but I have desserts for days!

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