Saturday, November 27, 2010

Advent Plans- Child friendly

We had 3 goals in creating this plan for the Christmas season, or as some call it, Advent (which means the coming of Christ).  Our minister has been preaching a series titled "Advent Conspiracy,"  We have always done Christmas differently, at least since having children.  We have always had presents, though in a modest way (with a very small budget).  We have not done Santa, however.  We do not ask the kids what they want, so no list making!  We, instead, always wanted to keep the focus on Christ, not on getting things.

The first objective for us THIS year was creating lasting memories for our children.  How many gifts from your childhood do you actually remember receiving?  Probably can't count them on one hand, unless you have a photographic memory.  The second objective was making sure our focus was on Christ!  The third was considering how much we already have, and how there are so many people out there who are much less fortunate than us.

That being said, here are our plans, I have to create the physical calendar, but this is what is going inside.

Dec 1: Luke 1:26-38.  Angel Comes to Mary.  Angel Coloring Page.
Dec 2: Matt 1:18-24  Angel appears to Joseph.
Dec 3: (Friday- Movie Night) Veggie Tales Christmas Movie 1 (Star of Christmas)
Dec 4: Matt 14:15-21; 24:35; Prov 28:27; Isaiah 58:10 Feed a family in Haiti and a family in Honduras (rice bag and food basket from Lifeline Christian Mission)
Dec 5: James 1:27; 1 Tim 5:3; Talk about what it means to be a widow and what we should do; Tomorrow, bring dinner to 2 widows.
Dec 6: (Bring the dinner to widows) Also read Isaiah 9:1-7 Names of Christ prophesy; Veggie Tales Song "For Unto Us a Child is Born" which ties into the scripture reading.
Dec 7: Luke 2:1-5 Trek to Bethlehem (Life Group meets that night)
Dec 8: The Pine Tree Parable book; Christmas Tree coloring page
Dec 9: Make Christmas Cards (Finish tomorrow if needed)
Dec 10: (Friday- Movie Night) Veggie Tales Christmas Movie 2 (The Toy That Saved Christmas)
Dec 11: Bake Christmas cookies; visit neighbors with goodies
Dec 12: Luke 2:6 "No room for Jesus" discussion for kids, the idea that if people had known who was being born, they would have offered their room
Dec 13: Deut 15:11; Prov 19:17; 1 John 3:17-18; Acts 20:35; Eph 4:28; Discuss children who are much less fortunate, ie. no bed to sleep in; Buy a bed for a child in Honduras through Lifeline Christian Mission.
Dec 14: Sing Christmas Songs; Lessons & Carols at daughter's school
Dec 15: Unwrap a new Christmas book (need to pick, buy and wrap ahead of time) and read it together.
Dec 16: Mark 1:1-11 Prepare the way; John the Baptist baptizing people; Jesus gets baptized
Dec 17: (Will be in the car) "Lord, Bless us with..." fill in the blank; Listen to Christmas music
Dec 18: Legend of Candy Cane; Bookmark craft; eat a candy cane!
Dec 19: Using small strips of paper, write who you want to pray for this season, make a prayer chain and hang it (like garland).  Doesn't have to be just people you know personally (ie. children who will receive your gifts, etc.)
Dec 20: 1 Peter 5: 1-7 Shepherd; Buy a Bible for a child in Haiti or Honduras through Lifeline Christian Mission.
Dec 21: Matt 2 Wise Men; What gift(s) would you bring?; Coloring Page
Dec 22: Family Game Night
Dec 23: John 1:1-18; Light of Christ; Drive around and see Christmas Lights
Dec 24: Bake a cake for the birthday celebration; Candlelight service at church
Dec 25: Luke 2:16-21; Open presents.  After naptime, eat birthday cake!

What will you do differently this year, to shift your focus?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cranberry Apple Crisp

 "In all things give thanks..." 1 Thess 5:18
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!  I hope yours is filled with friends, family, and good food!
Don't you just love fall?  I think one of the things about fall are the warm, hearty foods, and the flavorful desserts to follow!

I made this quick crisp for the family.  Hope you'll try it!
Cranberry Apple Crisp
3 large sweet-tart apples, such as Cameo, or go with a more tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled and cubed
1 pint fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp water
4 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup whole oats
1 stick butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional

 Mix together apples, cranberries, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, water and cornstarch.  Heat in pan on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until apples begin to soften and mixture thickens.  Put mixture in a pie or casserole dish.  Cut butter into the oats and brown sugar (and optional pecans).  Mix with your fingers until it is mixed well; spread evenly over the apple mixture.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 30-40 minutes, when crisp is bubbly and topping is browned.

Serve with your favorite vanilla ice cream!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Apples, apples and more irresistable apples!

Our Scenic Drive through the NC Mountains

Getting closer to the apple farm, and saw some wonderful waterfalls

Apple farm
Last week we drove 6 hours to the NC mountains in hopes of picking apples.  What we didn't know was that all of the 10 orchards in that one town were not going to let us pick.  We were really bummed.  When we got to the random orchard we chose, we realized that it was best they pick for us!  The trees were literally on the slopes of the mountainside, and surrounded by a lot of yellowjackets!  Not exactly ideal when you have young little princesses!

But it was still worth going, as we saw some gorgeous little waterfalls along the drive, some great scenic views of the remaining fall leaves, met some great apple farmers, and came home with a huge box and another bag of apples. 

After sampling their apples, we went with a box of Cameo, a combination of tart and sweet, very juicy, and large!  The other bag of apples was Pink Lady, less juicy, more dense, but a promise for sweetness about a week later (now).

I decided to make some apple butter for canning.  This year I made my own rather than someone else's recipe.  I've made it twice, and I love it.  It's not as sweet as your typical apple butter, but it's delicious!  I had some friends at the office try it out, and it seems that other people also liked it, so it's not just me.

I have speculated as to why it's not as sweet.  It's quite possibly that the apples are the reason for the slightly tart flavor.  It could be the honey replacing some of the sugar  (I used NC Wildflower Honey).  Either way, this apple butter is easy to make and really worth trying!

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

10 large apples, such as Cameo
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Peel apples, and chop into large chunks.  Throw them into a large slow cooker.  Put remaining ingredients in, tossing to mix slightly.  Put slow cooker on low for 10 hrs or overnight.  You may stir a couple of times, if desired.  Otherwise, you can just leave it.

In the morning, stir the apple mixture.  In batches, blend in the blender.  Or, if you have an immersion blender, you can blend it right in the pot!  Pour into sanitized canning jars.  Follow standard canning procedures.  If you don't have standard canning procedures, you can visit the real Martha's website for some great tips on easy canning!

So I have many more apples, and so I also made some homemade applesauce for canning.  It's so easy, really anyone can make this:

Cinnamon Applesauce

8 large apples, such as Cameo
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp cinnamon

Peel apples and chop into large chunks.  Place chopped apples in a dutch oven.  Splash with lemon juice, and stir in cinnamon until blended in.  Cover and put on medium heat for approx 30 minutes.  Test to see when the apples mush with back of stirring spoon.  If they do, they're done!  Put the apples in a food processor, and blend for 10-15 seconds.  Eat warm, refrigerate, or can for future eating!

As my husband said, "It's like warm apple pie!"

I made something else with the apples.  I'll share later this week.  Hint: a great fall dessert!

Happy fall!