Friday, December 19, 2014

Glitter Makes It Taste Better - Let's Make Those Chocolate Covered Pretzels SPARKLE!!!!

Hi Ladies!  Wow...Christmas is only 6 days away!!!  If you are like me, you are probably in the midst of getting gifts not only for your kids and your family, but when you have younger children....teachers too!!  With having 2 special needs children comes lots of therapists, very special physicians, teachers, aids, nurses, and bus drivers.  My go-to for not too costly, but beautiful, and of course, yummy, gifts are CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS.  I know tomorrow is the last day of school for most of the kids, BUT if you still need a few budget friendly gifts in the days ahead, here's a great idea!  

Chocolate covered pretzels don't sound too fancy or too hard to make, but I do some simple tricks that make these babies look store bought - or better yet, look so homemade with much time and attention to detail that you'll hear lots of "oohhhs" and "ahhhhs."

First, I start with a barrel of Pretzel Sticks.  These are about half of the size of pretzel rods.  Perfect
for dipping!  I am a Sam's Club kinda girl, so I get this big barrel there at a great price!!  This year I found my secret ingredient at Sam's too - Ghiradelli milk chocolate chips.  Usually I buy the normal 12oz bags at Marc's or Giant Eagle, but Sam's had 33oz bags for sale.  This chocolate is what makes these pretzels truly outstanding...the melted chocolate is thick and rich, not runny like some brands would be.  I use Nestle Tollhouse white chocolate to dip as well. Don't let the white chocolate get too hot; otherwise, the white chocolate can get pretty runny.

I follow the melting instructions on the bag for each kind of chocolate.  I always melt the chocolate in
the microwave in a glass Pyrex liquid measuring cup (1-2 cup size - no bigger - pictured on left).  Once your chocolate is melted you are ready to dip!  Lay each dipped pretzel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Before the chocolate hardens, this is your chance to make these pretzels shine, glitter, and look fabulous.  Edible glitter in gold and silver and gold and silver crystals are just a few of my faves. You can find these at a cake decorating store OR if you ever go to Amish Country, Heini's Cheese Chalet has an awesome section of sprinkles and decorations at great prices!   The point is (and you hear this on Food Network ALL the time!!) presentation is everything!!! You can make these pretzels look awesome with all the bling and decorations you add to them.  You truly can never have to much edible glitter, silver and gold nonpareils, and crushed candy canes.  This is the time to let your creativity come out.  And this is why home made gifts are so special - because you have decorated and thought about each and every one!




Once my pretzels are glitzin' and glammin', they go into the refrigerator to harden.  Once the chocolate has hardened, I put them in an airtight container....until the final presentation.  


I buy little loaf pans at Michael's Craft Store. They are usually $1.00 each, but this year they were on sale for $.60 each.  I love these pans because they fit my pretzels perfectly! Also, because they're ceramic, they can be used again for baking, or even used a cute candy dish. These pans are just an example one of the simplest details that takes these pretzels from ordinary to extraordinary.  I put a layer of fun, cute tissue paper at the bottom and then I lay the pretzels in the loaf pan.  I arrange them strategically to create a look of fullness and always putting my favorite pretzels in the front.



Once the pans are filled, I purchase celaphane bags from my local cake/candy shop for $.18 each. You really can take ANY dish into most candy stores to find a bag that fits around the gift just perfect.  Once the pretzels are in the bags, I tie the bags off with a soft ribbon (wire-free).   To keep the edges from fraying I melt them very quickly with a lighter.  The ribbon stays beautiful and looks amazing.









You can take these tips and tweak them however best suits you.  Just remember, it is the embellishments that make all the difference, so don't be afraid to spend a few extra dollars on decorations which will create the look of fancy and festive (even though you and I know this project is very frugal!!).  Enjoy!!  

Have a blessed Christmas!  Rejoice in the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!

Many Blessings!
Christine


Thursday, December 18, 2014

5 WAYS TO REALLY 'EXPERIENCE' CHRISTMAS!



5 WAYS TO REALLY 'EXPERIENCE' CHRISTMAS!
And a Easy Yummy Recipe- Don’t Miss It!
Usually, it is right around this time that the press sets in...
You know what I’m talking about – the ‘still have Christmas cards to send, gifts to buy, cookies to bake, a house to clean and plans to make,’ press.  It’s precisely at this time that tensions begin to rise, intentions start to fail, focus begins to wane and joy starts to sneak out the back door…
It’s right at this time, less than ten days before Christmas, that we start to lose perspective…
In November, my husband and I welcomed a beautiful six pound baby girl into our lives.  To say that we have been busy and tired would be a huge understatement.  We are beyond blessed and excited to be a family of four, but if I am being honest, keeping a super clean house, being ready for Christmas and, well, even getting a shower on some days has proven to be a challenge for me...
With that being said, my perspective has truly been a bit off until recently.  In a mad dash to clean my house before company was coming over, I found myself extremely fatigued and frustrated as my two year old was literally under my feet at every single step.  Mix that with a screaming newborn and I am sure you could sympathize with my fleeing thoughts of running away to some remote island by myself!  It didn’t take long however, for my witty two year old to help me see my error.
With all the wonder one could ever muster, his eyes glowed and he said, “Look Momma! Look at the stars!!!” as he whimsically stared at all the dust catching sunlight, as it came through the blinds in our bedroom window.  For five still minutes, he stared at these ‘stars’ as if they had fallen from the sky itself.  I was speechless.

Stars.  He saw stars. I saw mess and felt frustration because I believed my house just might not be clean enough for Christmas guests, that I am sure are not coming for a clean house anyway.  Here I was a half second away from blowing my top, putting him in time out and allowing myself to feel bad about ‘all’ I have going on in that moment, when his sweet perspective gently changed mine.  Staring at him staring at the ‘stars,’ I felt my heartrate slow, my mind clear and in that moment I entered his little world of wonder- only to experience it for myself.  Had I stayed in my hustle and bustle I would have missed it.  I would have missed Christmas too…
This incident only happened a few days ago, but it taught me something that I pray the Lord will have me remember for years to come.
PERSPECTIVE.

In a season known for endless to do lists, busyness and sadly frustration, it is easy to lose sight of ALL that matters this time of year.  To help keep my mind where it needs to stay, I made a list of Christmas songs, which will help me keep the right perspective this beautifully blessed Christmas season.  Maybe this can help you too if you can relate.

1.      My Grown Up Christmas List:  Make yourself a grown up Christmas list.  Not filled with gifts for yourself (although the benefit will turn out to be just that) but a list of ways YOU can be the gift!
 
a.       Bake for a neighbor
b.      Serve food at the homeless shelter (great to do with your kiddos)
c.       Bring coats downtown and hand them out to the homeless.
d.      Sit with your elderly family member, listen with your whole heart, and let them tell you all the stories their heart desires. (you can do this at the nursing home if you have no elderly family members.)

2.      Silent Night: Give yourself a silent night and some time to reflect.  Turn on the old Christmas Carols that mean the most to you, pour yourself some hot chocolate, and be intentionally reflective for even just 5 minutes.  Sit, think and soak in the beauty of the Christmas season.  You won’t regret it.

3.      There’s No Place Like Home For The Holidays:  Home does not have to be your house, but it could be.  Home is the place and time you spend with the people you love most- while doing the most simplest of things.  It’s there in the simplicity that the spirit of Christmas can most sweetly be experienced.

4.      Away In A Manger:  Although many choose not to, true holiday joy cannot be experienced without first accepting the real Gift of Christmas.  Christ is the gift, cliché or not, he is a true historically documented figure that came to the Earth, lived a more than righteous life, performed miracles, was crucified to death only to be seen alive again by hundreds of eye witnesses’…  His birth, His life is the Gift of Christmas. Belief in Him comes with the promise of eternity, joy, fulfilling love and peace in abundance.  Now that’s better than any Black Friday deal I’ve heard of! (People, churches, religions and even I myself have made a mess out of who Jesus really is.  If you do not know Him, please do not let the mess we’ve made of Him dictate Who He is to you.  He would love the opportunity to introduce Himself to you, with no help from any of us, just ask Him.)  Unwrapping His love at Christmas is a gift that truly is priceless.

5.      Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas:  Finally, remember that it is not always the circumstance or trial that is permanent but our memories.  As crazy as this season can be, and as hard as some of our lives are at the current time, usually these things past.  How we respond, the way we allow ourselves to react- that will be what we (and sometimes others) remember most as our Christmas experience during this season.  SO- Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Relax, Reflect and Rejoice in this beautiful Christmas Season!

Quick and Easy Yummy Chocolate Bark Recipe
Make This With Your Kiddos- Make a Memory!  Makes a Great Gift!

Ingredients:

25 Oreo cookies

3 cups white chocolate chips or semisweet chocolate chips (can do half of both)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (use with semisweet chips only)

To Make:

Line a 9-inch-square baking pan with waxed paper. Coat the paper with nonstick spray; set it aside. Pour the cookies into a large bowl and break them into small pieces.  Melt the chips in a large microwave-safe bowl according to the package directions. After chips have melted add extract. Remove from the microwave and quickly fold in the cookie pieces with a spatula. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and spread to about a 1/2-inch thickness. Refrigerate until solid, about 1 hour.

Remove the bark from the pan and carefully peel off the waxed paper. Set the bark on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife, cut the bark into 12 bars for wrapping or 24 triangles for boxing.  Store in an airtight container.
 
Because Each Minute Is A Gift, Let's Be Intentional This Christmas Season and
Truly Experience Every Second!
 #MinutesMatter
 

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord...“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”
Luke 2:10-14


 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Teaching Children about Giving

 
 
 "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Matthew 25:45
After an exciting birthday weekend full of gifts and fun my 6 year old walked away with $40.00 to spend however her little heart desired. She was excited (although she didn't really understand the full value of $40.00) she understood it meant she could indulge in more gifts for herself. In the midst of her excitement I decided to reminded her to make sure she gave back to God from her birthday money. With a puzzled look on her face she asked?

"How am I suppose to do that when I can't even see him?"

I honestly can say I wasn't ready for this question. Giving back to God has always been an unspoken priority in my life. I always felt a need and desire to give back to God. So it never occurred to me that I would have to explain to my little one why she should feel the same way. Some parents would have had the PERFECT immediate response. It would have been spiritual and enlightening. Well, I wasn't one of those parents. I looked just as shocked as she did. Rather than give a quick response out of a felt obligation to respond, I decided to take time to seek out the right answer. I knew that this was a delicate topic and could shape her perspective of giving for the rest of her life. So I pondered her question for a few days... 

How do I explain giving back to GOD to a child who has yet to completely wrap her head around how God exist?

After a few days of seeking God  I called my daughter into the dining room and included my son in the conversation. I began to ask them questions about God, our existence and Jesus. I then began to show them the giving nature of God and his son through scriptures and biblical stories. Finally I shared with the mandate God gave to his children to

"Look after orphans and widows in their distress" James 1:27

I explained to them how in our giving we are able to do this.  We looked through pictures of orphan children and talked about the role of a missionary.

I can honestly say that I am thankful I was slow to speak and quick to listen. I truly believe that I have sparked a new passion in my children that wasn't there before and with Gods help given them a greater understanding of why it's important to give.

I'd like to share a few Tips on Teaching our Children about Giving:

1.) Try not to force the concept of giving on your child. God loves a cheerful giver and a child can quickly become unhappy when they give and don't want to.

2.) Show your child the value of helping others through their giving. Show them pictures of those that benefit from the giving nature of others.

3.) Share with them how in giving we can make God smile and proud of us because it shows we are becoming more like him. 

Lastly, as we approach the Christmas Holiday, let's teach our children the value in looking for opportunities to give. 95.5 The Fish sponsored a day of hope late last month and giving to Cross International is still an option. Visit Cross International on the Fish Website to sign up.

Blessings to you and your family and Merry Christmas