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Archive for December, 2009

Happy New Year!

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Reason for the Season

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11 (KJV)

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As the holidays approach this year, I’m reminded of an interview I gave to my daughter Deb, for her blog The Queen Mommys Cafe in 2008.  I thought I’d share that interview here with you – my readers.  Enjoy!

Q: How do you prepare for your holiday activities (calendar, lists, etc.)?

I make notes on a desk calendar for any activities going on from day to day, including cookie baking, cookie exchanges, Christmas concerts, etc.

I keep a pocket file folder in my recipe drawer – I have many – but one I have marked “Holidays”. I keep my favorite recipes there so I don’t have to dig through all my recipes to try to find a holiday favorite. I also use small photo albums (you know – the inexpensive ones from my local dollar store or walmart) and place recipes from newspaper/magazines in them, and mark each of them with the kind of recipes they contain. I have one marked “Cookies” that I refer to often. Others are ‘desserts’ ‘9″ X 13″ pan desserts’ ‘snacks and appetizers’, etc. etc. I stand these little albums on end so I can easily see the one I’m looking for.

I keep a Christmas Card record book from year to year – that way I can make changes in addresses when needed ( I include the year of change also), and I keep track of to whom I send to, and receive from. Most record books are good for 5-8 years. I keep a list of gifts I give to friends and customers from year to year so I will vary the kitchen ‘goodies’ I share with them and don’t repeat – unless it’s one of their favorites, which I record, also.

Q: What shortcuts and time savers do you rely on during your holiday preparations?

As I mentioned previously, I keep a list of recipes written out for review & reference. I try to make every minute count – get up and do something while a commercial comes on TV, and I always make myself lists so I can think of what I need to do next.

One thing I do to keep things moving along in the kitchen, is to keep hot sudsy water in the sink all the time I’m working there, and wash dishes when I have a minute in between things. It helps keep the counter cleared and dishes can dry (use HOT water to rinse) and you can put them away when you have another few minutes.

Sometimes, we just have to prioritize. I do that often during this very busy month. And I have to consider what REALLY needs to be done first – usually, according to the day of the week it needs to be ready. We gotta ‘keep the main thing, the main thing’….I always record comments on new recipes – ‘excellent’….’rubbery’ (just did that today with a sugar free cookie I tried =) If the recipe isn’t in a book, and I’m not wild about it, I usually throw it away and keep trying new ones.

Q: What homemade gifts do you like to give? How do you package them?

White Christmas Mix is a really yummy, easy, pretty holiday gift to give. Giving it in the holiday printed zipper-seal bags is nice because you can see how pretty the mix is. Even plain ziploc bags, decorated with curly ribbons is ‘fun.’

Pretzel Pretties are fun to make with kids, and make a LOT so giving them away by themselves or along with other goodies is nice. If you can keep from eating them all…

Fruited Oatmeal Mix is a nice gift to give – it’s warm and filling and is a healthier option, too! It can be bagged and tucked into a pretty tin or given in a pretty gift jar.

Q: How do you prepare for last minute party invitations or gift ideas?

I buy things (on sale) throughout the year – candles, books, calendars, Avon, Melaleuca products, and have two file drawers in my desk with gifts in them, so I can look through and see if I can find anything ‘fitting’ for the person I desire it for. And I always have something edible made up – even if it’s in the freezer.

**RECIPES**

WHITE CHRISTMAS MIX

1 lb. white chocolate (or vanilla almond bark)
Melt in double boiler or microwave according to directions

Mix together:
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex (or combined – 6 cups crispix cereal)
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups mini pretzels
2 cups peanuts
1 lg. bag of M & M’s – plain or peanut (optional) (We love using the holiday mix)

Pour white chocolate over everything and mix well. Let dry and place into gift containers.

PRETZEL PRETTIES

13 oz bag Rolos (or 6-7 rolls)
1 bag tiny twists pretzels
1 bag peanut M & M’s – we like to use holiday colored ones

Line cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lay out pretzels, place one unwrapped rolo on top of Pretzel. Bake at 300 for 5 -6 minutes or until chocolate becomes shiny.

Take out of oven, place M&M on each one, smashing down rolo. Let cool for 10 minutes, then place entire sheet in fridge or cold room to set for at least 1 hour. This is so great because you can make few or many at a time. A cookie sheet full will make 70-90 treats. May also top with pecan halves instead of M & M’s.

FRUITED OATMEAL MIX

6 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apples or dried banana chips or any dried diced fruit
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tsps. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

(Yield: 7 cups of mix/two batches – each makes 7 servings of oatmeal)

Directions to include with gift:

For each serving:
1/2 cup fruited oatmeal mix
3/4 cup water

In a deep microwave-safe bowl, combine mix and water. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds; stir. Cook 20-30 seconds longer or until bubbly. let stand for 1 – 2 minutes.

A healthy gift – I used splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt….Delicious!

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Last year, my daughter Deb asked if she could interview me for a few Christmas posts at her blog, The Queen Mommys Cafe.  She asked the questions and I gave the answers. This is the first part of the interview, and I wanted to share it with you this Christmas season...

1) I’d like to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about yourself, Queen Martha.

I wear a lot of ‘hats’ in my world, but my favorites are wearing my wife, mom & nana hats. What a privilege to be given those special places of honor. When I was a kid, my mom spent much time at the sewing machine, so I would work in the kitchen. I developed a love for making dishes then, and even more, after marrying a man who is willing to try anything, and then enjoying hosting company, who enjoyed the recipes I shared. It’s just kinda snowballed since then.

God has given me the gift of encouragement, and so I spend a few hours a day at the computer, along with several hours a week, at the dining room table, where I enjoy writing out cards to mail to help brighten days for dear ones in my life.

I had a story published in Christian MiraclesAmazing stories of God’s Helping Hand in Our Everyday Lives in 2005. I won $100 for a recipe contest in American Profile – a paper magazine distributed in newspapers nationally – for butternut squash bake in 2006. That, plus 5 other recipes of mine were included in their Holiday Cookbook in 2007. I’ve publicly shared our life’s ‘God-story’ a few times, and have spoken for Mother’s Day dinners and also shared encouragement ministry ideas.

I love to say “I’m not a professional speaker, but I AM a professional talker”.

2) What are your favorite childhood Christmas memories? What are your favorite Christmas memories as a mom?

I do think my most favorite Christmas memory as a child is the year I realized there wasn’t a Santa. My mom had made my older foster sister and me matching plaid nighties, and it dawned on me (though I hadn’t had a glimpse of her making them, that SHE made them. I was probably 10 or 11.) Holidays celebrated with the aunts and uncles on both/either sides of the families are special memories also. I’ve always been so saddened that my own children missed out on those growing up times with family that I so enjoyed…since we were military and lived far from home. We rarely had $funds$ to make it home for the holidays very often.

My favorite Christmas as a mom is tough – I loved them all. Having my children help as we ‘worked’ together doing the decorating was always so much fun. The music going, the candles burning, as we sampled goodies we’d already made….those are all my favorites.

3) What are your favorite things to do during the holiday season? How do you prepare for them? What tips & tricks can you share about making your preparations simple and time-saving?

I LOVE baking – trying new recipes, a few times a week, and sharing the goods. I begin stocking up on baking items – chocolate chips, nuts, brown and powdered sugars, etc. when they’re on sale – probably beginning in October. I usually have an extra 5# bag of flour in the freezer, so I don’t run short at the last minute. Shopping with coupons, especially with store sales, and shopping at discount stores like Aldi’s, Big Lots, or Sam’s Club can really help me get stocked up.

I keep a few lists going at once….I have a running grocery list…I taught my kids when they were younger, to add to the list when they used the last of something, and that really helped keep on top of things.

Now, that I no longer have those ready and helping hands, every day at least, I keep a list handy where I can write things down when I realize I’m almost out. I like to have the salt, baking powder, baking soda, vanilla, out on the counter ready to be measured. After I’ve used it, I set it on a different place in the counter, so I know it’s already been used…just in case I get interrupted in the middle of what I’m doing.

Because I have many cookbooks, and love to sit and read them, I keep a running list of recipes I want to try, with cookbook name, and page number handy, so when the mood strikes, I can review my list and decide which one would work best for my time frame.

I do have a kitchen drawer full of recipe files and collected recipe cards that I use most frequently. It’s where I also keep my most recent cookbook magazines. And I normally have a pile of recipes on the countertop…sometimes I need to see the recipe to be reminded of it, and that seems to work for me, since I do have enough countertop to do that.

 

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Bake Cookies Day – 12/18

YUM! My favorite snack and something I make plenty of this busy month of baking! Enjoy a few samples with me….

http://www.crosscards.com/cards/cardform.aspx?cp=1&iNo=65&No=170

We try lots of cookie recipes, but this is one we always come back to every holiday. Hope you enjoy them too – a plateful of these makes a great gift.

FUDGY MINT COOKIES

1-18 ozs. box devil’s food cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 Tbsp. water
2 eggs
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 pkgs. (5 ozs. each) chocolate-covered thin mints

Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, butter and water. Add eggs; mix well. Shape into 1-in balls; roll in powdered sugar. Place 2″ apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 – 10 minutes or until set. Immediately press a mint into the center of each cookie. Cool for 2 minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely Yield: about 3 dozen.

(We like to make them smaller…so it makes more than 3 dozen, and we go through more mints than the recipe calls for) – if making smaller cookies, bake them for a shorter time.

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The link below will take you to a collection of favorite Holiday recipes that was posted at my daughter Deb’s blog in 2008.  Some of the recipes included have been shared here before, but you’ll find several new (and maybe new-family-tradition to you) recipes, too.

Enjoy!

Holiday Recipe Collection

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It has nearly brought me to my knees to have to pay high dollar for my laminate floor cleaner, so you can imagine the thrill it was to find a homemade recipe recently.  I had everything on hand and have been amazed by the results!

HOMEMADE LAMINATE FLOOR CLEANER

1 cup water
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 cup white vinegar
1 Tb. liquid dish soap

Mix together and put into a spray bottle.  Use as you would purchased cleaner – and enjoy the $$ savings!!

My daughter, Deb, is doing a lot of ‘homemaking cleansers’ recently – so I wanted to share her ideas from a recent blog post….

Happy Homemaking Gals!

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