Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Well, we survived our first year back in Minnesota and as a reminder of what we had been missing, we had 8 months of snow.  Yes, our Atlanta friends, that’s October 25th through… ahem... May 2nd! For all you Laura Ingalls Wilder fans, that is the approximate length of the Long Winter of 1880 that began in October and ended in April.  Thank goodness for snow tires. And Ice skates.  And Starbucks!

Now that we’ve been back a year, it has become clear to us that there are many distinct differences between the North and the South. These are differences we might never have appreciated had we not spent a significant amount of time in both places.  Here are a few of our findings:

ATLANTA:  People drive home from work, don their Tour de France spandex and go for a bike ride on the greenway.
MINNESOTA:  People put rubber bands around their pants legs and bike to work. Even in the snow.  Seriously.

ATLANTA:  Average drive time to Chick-fil-A:  4 minutes, 37 seconds.
MINNESOTA:  Average one-way drive time to Chick-fil-A:  37 minutes, 4 seconds. (And yes, we have made the hour plus round trip drive because we are just that grateful that they finally (in October!) opened a free-standing Chick-fil-A franchise in this state! And, by the way all you Minnesotans, the Chicken Minis are totally worth the drive!)

MINNESOTA:  Plaid (Flannel) Shirts.  Big Beards.
ATLANTA:  Plaid (Ralph Lauren) Shorts.  Big Hair.

MINNESOTA:  People are too cheap to pay for the coat check.
ATLANTA:  There is no coat check.

ATLANTA:  If it’s 95 degrees: football practice is held in full pads and helmets.
MINNESOTA: If it’s 95 degrees:  all sports are cancelled.  Oh yeah.  And SCHOOL is cancelled (August 29 & August 30 2013, Minneapolis Public Schools).

ATLANTA:  Six inches of snow shuts down school for 5 days (January 10-14, 2011).  Of course, having just returned from our annual Christmas trip in Minnesota, our boots and snow pants were stuck on a FedEx truck somewhere in Tennessee.
MINNESOTA: The Twin Cities experience well over 10 inches of snowfall overnight. School starts on time. (December 9, 2012).  The bus is on time, which, of course, we miss because I’m searching the computer for the school cancellation notice!)

MINNESOTA:  When you see a VW Bug you hit your brother and say “Slug Bug” because it rhymes.
ATLANTA:  When you see a VW Bug you hit your brother and say “Punch Buggy.”
MINNESOTA:  You say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” (Because get rhymes with upset.)
ATLANTA:  You say, “You get what you get and you don’t pitch a fit.” (Because “git” rhymes with “fit”.)

ATLANTA:  Recess is held indoors if it’s colder than 32 degrees.
MINNESOTA:  They send entire the entire fifth grade to an overnight nature camp when the wind chill reads in the single digits and then they require students and chaperones (a.k.a. ME) to spend three hours on the high ropes course in boots, snow pants and Elmer Fudd hats.

MINNESOTA:  When you ask for a Coke, they say, "Is Pepsi OK?"
ATLANTA:  When you ask for a Coke, they say, “What kind?”

ATLANTA:  The only proper response to a male teacher at school is, “Yes, sir!”
MINNESOTA:  Responding, “Yes, Sir” to a teacher can lead to detention. (Apparently, it comes across as sarcasm!) (Don’t ask us how we know this!:-)

ATLANTA:  Can’t find a ticket to the Georgia Bulldawg games.

Celebrating the Miracle of Christ's Birth!



Monday, December 23, 2013

Gingerbread Caramel Kiss Cookies (2-Ingredients!)

Here's the state of my life right now.  Two-ingredient cookies!  Not to mention that my 9-year old can make them ALL BY HERSELF!  I just love it when my little helpers grow up to be big, responsible helpers!

A tube of Gingerbread Cookie Dough and a bag of Caramel Kisses is all you need.  Take a teaspoon of dough and roll it into a ball.  Roll the ball in granulated sugar.  You know the drill.  Bake @ 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

I like my cookies small for a larger candy to cookie ratio.  Disclaimer: The caramel kisses melt more easily than your standard chocolate ones, so let the cookies cool just a moment before you top with the kisses.  But not too long, or they won't stick!  Worst case scenario: You have to eat some that didn't turn out. And we wouldn't want that to happen, now would we?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Red Velvet Peppermint Kiss Cookies

I loved my time in the South.  Long before Red Velvet became the craze in the rest of the world, it was a southern signature. And what's not to love?  Festive red cake, highlighted with creamy white frosting? It just speaks to Christmas. And Valentine's Day. And the Fourth of July.... OK, especially to Christmas.

This year I decided to put a twist on another Christmas Classic - Peanut Butter Kisses. These Red Velvet Peppermint Kiss Cookies come together in a flash when you start with a Red Velvet cake mix. Now, normally I prefer baking from scratch, but here's why the cake mix makes sense: You don't have to invest in an entire bottle of red food coloring! There it is in the box - all portioned out for you!

Top the cookies with white chocolate peppermint kisses.

Or white chocolates candy melts if you're trying to please picky peppermint person. I topped these with two candy melts - one facing down and one facing up.  Due to their low melting point, they fuse together quickly when placed on a warm cookie!

Red Velvet Peppermint Kiss Cookies
By Rachel @ Simple Girl

1 Box Duncan Hines Red Velvet Cake Mix
1 egg
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

sugar for rolling
Peppermint Kisses or White Chocolate Candy Melts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix first three ingredients until well combined.  Roll 1 teaspoon of dough into a ball and then roll in granulated sugar.  Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat until you have 12 cookie dough balls on your baking sheet. I like to keep mine small so that the cookie to candy ratio is generous!

Bake for 8 minutes.  Cool for 1 minute and then place unwrapped kisses in the center.  If you are using candy melts, let the cookies cool a little longer.  They melt more easily!

Makes 3 dozen.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Coffee Shop Gift Card Holders

It's one of those seasons when my life's on plan B.
And I'm OK with that.
One of the life skills that I try to teach my kids is how to think outside the box to come up with solutions when things don't go the way we plan. And as we know, things hardly ever go the way we plan!

Cupcake Decorating Party at our house for Ella's August Birthday. "Birthday" Breakfast with Santa.
Blog-worthy cookies for Youth Night.  Cookies purchased at Church Bake Sale for Youth Night.
Shopping done by Thanksgiving. Shopping started December 8th.
Delicious Homemade Goodies for Teacher Gifts. Trader Joe's Peppermint Pretzel Slims.
Coffee Cards with Festive Envelopes. Coffee Cards with no envelopes.

That's right.  I bought 40 coffee shop gift cards and they didn't have any envelopes. On to plan B!

As I was getting a sleeve for my hot chocolate, it occurred to me that the cute little sleeves were just about the same size as the gift cards.  I asked for 40.

How cute is that?  
Sometimes Plan B is even better.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Cherry Pistachio (Good-For-You!) Muffins

Sometimes a girl just has to have some carbs - especially when the outdoor thermometer reads below zero. Yep. That's right. Do you know what the high for today is going to be?  Zero. Do you know what the low tomorrow night is going to be?  Negative 15.  I need food that goes well with a nice cup of tea and that I can eat while I sit by the fire. With my slippers.  And my snuggie.

These muffins are full of fiber and the cherries add just the right amount of sweetness.  Despite the heavy All-Bran, they are surprising light and airy and not at all brick-like!

A little bit of vinegar substitutes for the eggs and, combined with the baking powder, has great leavening power. Agave nectar adds sweetness without the sugar rush.

Cherry Pistachio All Bran Muffins
By Rachel @ Simple Girl

2 cups All Bran
2 cups Vanilla Unsweetened Almond Milk
1 1/4 cups White Whole Wheat Flour
2 Tablespoons Baking Powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/2 cup roasted pistachios, chopped

Soak All Bran in milk for 20 minutes or until the cereal is completely mushy.  Add flour, baking powder and cinnamon.  Stir until combined.  Add canola oil and agave and vinegar.  (If you measure the oil first, the agave won't stick to the measuring cup!) Stir until combined. Chop the cherries and pistachios and fold into the batter.

Bake @ 375 degrees for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Cool.  For extra deliciousness, drizzle white chocolate on top.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Cranberries and Lime: Quick and Easy Christmas Decor!

My mom and SIL went to a Christmas home tour a couple of weeks ago.  It's an event that I look forward to every year. While we weren't allowed to take any photos (I know.  WAAAAH!) I did get smart this year and jotted down some of the clever ideas that I saw.  I loved this one -  Cranberries and Lime!  I've long been using cranberries, but the pop of lime struck my fancy.  That bit of chartreuse is my favorite color green and I'm a big fan of simplicity.  If you haven't noticed.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent: A Moment to Reflect

It's Cyber Monday.  That could mean one of two things.  You either took the day off of work so that your boss doesn't walk by and confiscate your credit card for indulging in on-line shopping during work hours OR you just realized that, with only 23 days left before Christmas, that there is no way, and I mean NO WAY you will ever have that giant to-do list done in time.  After a moment of panic and anxiety you wonder, how did my entire family's expectations of Christmas come to rest on MY shoulders?

Today is also the second day of Advent. I have to remind myself of this, because, while I love pinning projects and coordinating my wrapping paper and sending out hundreds of cards, it is only beneficial if my heart is in the right place. My heart needs to be open to receive The Newborn King. This is what my family needs. They need a mom that can not only set the physical stage for Christmas, but more importantly, set the spiritual stage for Christmas.

So, today, on Cyber Monday, take a moment and light candle. Find some silence in your day so that you can pause for The Silent Night. Looking for an Advent Devotional?  Try THIS ONE!

Wishing you a Season of Reflection and Joy!


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cranberry Salsa

This is perhaps your easiest holiday appetizer.  Ever.  
With only two ingredients, it may be my shortest blog post ever!

If you're not too sure about the combination, just imagine Mango Salsa.  But instead of imagining palm trees, imagine jingle bells.  It's that good. Maybe we should just call it Holiday Salsa! Combine a can of whole berry cranberry sauce with a jar of salsa.  Feel free to add more or less cranberry sauce.  Whatever you have on hand will work!

Serve with a side of Sweet Potato Chips and you've got Thanksgiving wrapped up in a single bite!