Much to my chagrin, it’s been two weeks since I posted about our adventures during the ice storm. Since starting this blog, I’ve tried to post at least once each week, but I just haven’t found the time to write during this Christmas season. No doubt it’s busy for everyone this time of year, but for families in ministry, it’s an exceptionally busy time. A wonderful time. But a busy time, nonetheless.
Since mid-December, various members of our family have attended 8 Christmas parties.
We’ve also hosted our new church staff for brunch in our home.
We’ve taken a journey through Bethlehem, compliments of the Children’s and Youth Ministry departments of our church. That was a ton of fun!
And our kids topped off their fall semester of Children’s Choir with a performance and reception last Sunday afternoon.
Add shopping and decorating to the list, and it’s been a month packed with activity that’s kept me from writing. In fact, it’s been so crazy that I showed up at a friend’s house for an engagement party on Saturday night only to find out that the party was THE NIGHT BEFORE! Grrrrrr.
As Christmas Eve approaches, though, we have managed to check many things off our list, and it actually feels like things are settling down.
So on Thursday, we played hooky from school to sneak in our annual visit to see Santa. We’ve been visiting this Santa at this mall since our oldest child was four weeks old. And we’ve gotten it down to a science to avoid the ridiculous lines that form before the mall even opens.
I arrived at the mall early to get a ticket to see Santa. This year, I scored Number 4!
Kory brought the kids in their Christmas PJs just before story time with Santa so I could fix their hair (this is one task I just can’t seem to delegate).
We were done visiting Santa by 11:30. We grabbed lunch in the food court, strolled through the mall looking at decorations, and topped it off with a visit to the trains. The trains are fantastic, and at these ages, the boys especially go nuts over them!
This is a family tradition everyone looks forward to, and it’s a great way to document the growth of our kids annually. Every year, when I unpack all of the photos to display, I get a little misty. And I wonder…how many more years will our daughter agree to show up at a mall in her pajamas and sit on Santa’s lap? I don’t know the answer to that question, so I’ll enjoy every year I’m given until the issue rears its ugly head!
On Thursday of this week, we managed to have Family Date Night. This is something we usually do weekly on Fridays, but with all the celebrating that’s been going on, our weekends have been beholden to other activities. So it’s been a while.
We tried to watch Elf or Arthur Christmas. Neither were available to rent (only for purchase) which irritates me to no end. We decided NOT to give in to the tactics of the movie makers! We watched Planes instead, which our kids had also not seen. Our oldest helped me wrap gifts while we enjoyed the movie. Having an extra set of hands was a treat for me, and last night, she mastered how to fold the ends of a package! Yesterday, I paid her to wrap gifts for me! Yes. I. Did. And I’ll do it again next year. She did a great job!
We also did some baking.
I don’t do much baking, but at Christmas time, I have two recipes that we always bake. Chewy Yum Yums (Santa’s favorite) and Chocolate Mint Bark (Mrs. Santa’s favorite). These recipes are quick, easy, and very “kid friendly.” My kids get to be very hands-on in the kitchen, and the goodies always turn out great. Last night, we baked both, and we had so much fun! You know those moments when you become acutely aware of your blessings? Baking in the kitchen with our kids last night was one of those moments for me. We had so much fun!
Chewy Yum Yums (this is what we put out for Santa)
1 Yellow Deluxe Cake Mix
1 Stick Butter (softened)
8 oz. Package Cream Cheese
1 Box Powdered Sugar
In a mixing bowl, combine the yellow cake mix, 1 stick of softened butter, and one egg. If you forget to pull your butter out of the refrigerator to soften it ahead of time, you can grate it using a cheese grater to get the same effect. Once combined to the consistency of a pie dough before kneading, press this mixture into a 9×13 GLASS pan to form a crust. (I don’t know why, but metal pans ruin this recipe!) Then, combine the remaining ingredients and pour the wet mixture over the top of the crust. Smooth with a spatula, and bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes. (I always pull these out of the oven just before a toothpick would come clean in order to keep the edge from over-baking…keeps them chewy and yummy!) Slice into brownie-sized pieces and enjoy!
Chocolate Mint Bark
32-36 Chocolate Wafer Cookies
10 ounces Vanilla-flavored Candy Coating
1 1/2 Cups Chocolate Morsels (milk, semi-sweet, or dark, depending on preference. I use dark)
1 1/2 Cups Mint-flavored Morsels (green)
2-3 Teaspoons Shortening
Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray generously with cooking spray. Place the cookies in rows to fill up the baking sheet. In a microwave safe bowl, combine 1/2 of the Vanilla-flavored candy coating, all of the Chocolate Morsels, and 2 Teaspoons of Shortening. Microwave in 30 second increments until melted and smooth (add a little more shortening if needed to help with texture). Then, combine the other 1/2 of Vanilla-flavored candy coating, all of the Mint Morsels, and 2 Teaspoons of Shortening. Microwave in 30 second increments until melted and smooth. Alternate adding spoonfuls of chocolate and mint mixtures on the cookies. Spread with a butter knife or narrow spatula to create swirl effect. Place in refrigerator for 30 minutes or until bark is hard. Break up and enjoy!
Note: Sometimes, I have trouble finding mint morsels. I’ve replaced those with Andes Candies in the past, melted the Vanilla-flavored Candy Coating separately from the Chocolate, and added green food coloring. Works as a great alternative, but obviously, creates a few extra steps!
How have you spent the last couple of weeks celebrating the Christmas season?