Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 - A More Simple Resolution

I hate New Year's Resolutions.

I don't know if I've ever kept a New Year's Resolution.  Why can't we make resolutions on our birthdays, or summer solstice or Labor Day?  Making resolutions at the end of the year right after the excesses and "highs" of the holidays pretty much blows any chance at realistic goals.

Instead of making resolutions for the New Year, I have a better idea I remember from a song:

Let peace begin with me, let this be the moment now.
With every breath I take let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

Be peaceful and make 2014 the best year you can have.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas Traditions

It's 20 minutes until Christmas and I'm catching my breath.  I have been at church since 3:30 p.m. watching my daughter sing, singing myself and directing my husband's choir.  Christmas Eve is always a long day, but we are just getting started.

My husband will be home about 12:30 a.m. from his last Christmas Eve mass.  (If you haven't figured it out yet, he's a music director at a Catholic church.)  By that time we are both tired.  It's been a long day.

Now is the time for our private Christmas traditions.  When he comes home and kicks off his shoes, we'll watch the Pope at mass at the Vatican.  We'll also watch some of the local midnight mass with our bishop here in Phoenix.  We just can't seem to get enough liturgy, but it's nice just to watch and pray instead of serving as a liturgical minister.

Now is the time for the egg nog, maybe with a little bourbon whiskey :)  We will talk over how the night went, whether the children sang the Polish Christmas carol well, whether the contemporary band sounded OK on O Holy Night and how the adult choir fared on the Hallelujah Chorus at the end of midnight mass without a director (I needed to come home with the kids!).

Then it's time to get to work - Santa time.  There are gifts to be wrapped and others to be "placed".  Thank goodness our kids are tweens so we are out of the phase of assembling toys!  We're mostly removed from the 15 minute battle to wrestle toys out of boxes and packaging.  Usually we grab a bite of Santa's cookies, but this year we'll have to eat See's candy because the kids didn't have any cookies.  Works for me.  We're happy to help Santa however we can.

Finally, about 2:00 a.m. we will roll into bed.  Hopefully the house isn't too messy and the gifts are all there.  Hopefully I will be able to get dinner on the table on time and find something to wear for my Christmas dinner guests.  Hopefully everyone will be happy with their gifts.

Ready or not, Christmas is here.  Ready or not, the Christ-child is here.  Babies are like that.  You can clean, prepare, decorate, buy gifts and even celebrate, but in the end they will come in their time.  Christ came in His time.  Christ will come again in His time.

I pray I'm ready for that day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Give a Girl $1,000 and Shop!

*This was originally posted two years ago, but I love it so much I can't help repeating.  Plus, it's still a great idea!

Unlimited shopping spree?  Well, not exactly.  Today I visited a very busy mall the day after Black Friday with two eight-year-old girls, my daughter and her friend.  Maybe it was a little crazy, but a super opportunity to use a little creativity to enjoy a "girl's day" without spending money at an upscale mall.  Before we went in, I gave the girls $1,000 each to spend any way they wanted.  That is, I gave them each a paper with $1,000 written at the top.  We were going on a pretend shopping spree!

We visited every store they wanted and picked out things each wanted.  We wrote them down and subtracted the amount from their $1,000.  First stop was The Disney Store where they spent the most money.  They love those stuffed animals!

Next stop, Build a Bear Workshop.  Kenzie actually did have some money, so she bought a bear.  Otherwise, the spree continued.

Those stops left us about $800.  But there was still shopping to do!

We found a great kiosk with gorgeous (and expensive) hair accessories.  We had to try them out:

We checked out the Toy and Hobby shop and Paradise Bakery for a few sugar cookies.  Then Mom picked the next store - Brookstone!  That set each of us back about $200 - wow!

 They have some awesome stuff!

Our last stop was to visit the big guy to share our lists:

What a great time!  We each finished with about $600 left over and had a nice restaurant lunch.

On a serious note, this was a tremendous learning experience for the girls to spend "their money" and realize they are a little more frugal than they would be with someone else's money.  It also allowed us to enjoy window shopping without feeling we wanted "something".  It gave us moms a much needed hint on the Christmas lists.  Best of all, it was so much fun - I don't know who had more fun - me or them!  We will definitely do it again!

Happy shopping!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Holiday Snacks - Orange-Cranberry Snacks

This is a recipe I like to repost every year not only because it's good, but also because you can never have too many little gift ideas.

It's getting down to the wire when I've got to think about all the "little" gifts I need - for teachers, babysitters, mailmen, other last minute recipients.  These are my favorite gifts because although I like to make them interesting, I don't necessarily have to give a lot of personal thought to them.  I also like to combine my love for the deal.  Specifically, I like to buy Christmas things right after Christmas for a song and wait and use them the following year.  When I unwrap my Christmas decorations, I enjoy finding something new - like Christmas comes early.  A couple of years ago I found these glass Santa containers on sale for $1.00 each (originally $4.99) at Target.  I thought I would make cookie mix, but because of the small size, I needed to think of something else.

 Cranberry/Orange Snack Mix

The ingredients are pretty simple:

2 c. Corn Chex
2 c. Oat squares
2 c. Mini Pretzels
1 c. whole almonds
1/4 c. butter
1/3 c. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
3 Tbl packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
2/3 c. dried cranberries (Craisins)

Preheat oven to 250 degrees and coat a 13X9 inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Mix the first four ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.  In a smaller bowl melt butter and add orange juice concentrate, brown sugar and spices.  Mix well and pour over the dry ingredients, stirring them to coat. 

 Spread the resulting mix on the baking pan and bake for 50 minutes.  You will need to stir the mix every 10 minutes.  

Once it's done, you add the Craisins and lay the mix out on a flat surface until it's dry.  You can store it in any airtight container.  As an extra bonus, your kitchen will have a wonderful smell of spiced orange and cranberry.  

This is better than any old cookie mix :)


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Etsy Finds - Gifts for Her

I know the majority of my readers are women (let's be serious, ALL women).  However, ladies, your guy is suffering right now.  He doesn't have a clue what to get you for Christmas.  Many of them just want you to point out something specific you want, others just want some ideas.  (You may actually prefer to point out a specific item because you've gone that route of letting him choose.)  Either way, Etsy is an awesome place to shop.  Give him the hint now and he can avoid the crowds at the mall, especially on Christmas Eve.  So, send him the link to this post, give him a couple of hints and let him go.

Gentlemen, if you are reading this, your favorite lady would like you to give a little thought to her gift (which I'm sure you would like to do anyway).  Etsy is easy - most sellers take credit cards (through the safety of Etsy, sellers don't see your credit card information).  They will mail it directly to you.  Watch the date for last Christmas delivery, and if the seller doesn't identify it, send them a message.  Here's some ideas (click on the title to see the Etsy listing):

Gifts $25 or Under

Gifts $26 to $50

Hopefully, this gives you some ideas to find that special gift for that special lady.  If you just can't decide, Etsy has gift cards.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas Snacks - Muddy Buddy Mix

I like this one from last year, so I'm reposting for more holiday yumminess.

If you're looking for a sweet little snack as an alternative to cookies, this one is easy, quick and (seriously) not as messy as making cookies.  This looks just like snow in a bowl.  It's also a change in pace for Santa on Christmas Eve.  (Let's face it - he's tired of cookies at every house!)  This snack is actually good any time of year, so jot down the recipe for later if you're one of those cookie purists.

The dry ingredients are somewhat approximate, just make a big bowl of crunchy stuff and then mix it with the other ingredients.  You need:

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
4-5 c. Chex (any flavor(s) you like)
2 c. Mini pretzels
1 c. Powdered sugar

Place first three ingedients and heat in microwave for 1 minute. Mix well and heat more if needed to melt everything. Add vanilla extract and mix well.  Mix dry ingredients (you can also add nuts, M&Ms or anything else).  Pour chocolate mixture over dry ingredients and mix well.  Wait a few minutes for the hot chocolate mixture to cool down a bit  Transfer the mixture into plastic ziplock bags with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in each, close and shake to coat.  Coat all of mix (adding more powdered sugar as needed).  If you end up with too much powdered sugar or if it is clumping too much to the chocolate covered ingredients, you can use a colander or sifter to reduce the powdered sugar.  Serve or chill to store.

 (I just noticed my pictures look like it's a container full of powdered sugar, but it's my flash adding to much light.  It is coated, but not drowning in powdered sugar!)

Dive in!!