Dec 30, 2009

Bring In The New Year With Some Tasty Appetizers

Party Slush
4 tea bags
2 cups boiling water
7 cups cold water
2 cups sugar
12 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate
12 ounce frozen limeade concentrate
(1 pint whiskey, optional)
2, 2 liter bottles chilled lemon lime soda

Place 4 tea bags in 2 cups boiling water; allow to steep 10-15 minutes. Mix together 7 cups water and 2 cups sugar, bring to boil. until sugar is dissolved. Add one 12 ounce can frozen orange juice concentrate and one 12 ounce frozen limeade. Add steeped tea. Cool. At this point the original recipe invites you to add a little less than 1 pint of whiskey if desired; Freeze the entire mixture - washed plastic milk gallons work well. When serving, allow punch to partially thaw at room temperature for 25 or 30 minutes, then spoon into glasses or punch bowl. Pour equal amounts of 7 Up over frozen mixture.

(I'm not a drinker so my personal favorite is without the whiskey and I think you'll like this unique punch without!) 

Mini Party Quiches

1 stick butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 cup flour

Mix all together well and press into bottom and sides of mini muffin tins.

Custard Filling:
4 eggs
1 tablespoon flour
1 ½ cup cups half & half
¼ teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons melted butter
2 tablespoons diced onions
½ pound bacon, fried crisp & broken (if desired)
1-2 cups Swiss cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Break eggs in bowl with wire whisk. Stir in next 6 ingredients. Layer each prepared, unbaked, pastry shell with bacon first, then cheese, then onion. Spoon custard filling over these ingredients in each shell until 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degree oven until slightly puffed and custard is set, about 35 minutes.

Warm Artichoke Dip

1 can Progresso Artichokes, drained and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients well with fork in small baking dish. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve with thin, toasted French or Italian bread slices or crackers.
Party Meatballs

3 pounds lean ground sirloin
¼ cup chopped, cooked onions
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup uncooked, quick oats
3 eggs
¼ cup milk
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or oregano
1 tablespoon chopped dry parsley or 2 tablespoons fresh
1 teaspoon pepper
16 ounce jar grape jelly
12 ounce bottle Heinz Chili Sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix everything but the jelly and chili sauce together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon or with your hands. Cook the meatballs in a very small amount of oil in a skillet on top of the stove, then put them in a large roaster to bake at 400 degrees until the meat is cooked throughout and the meatballs hold their shape, about 30-45 minutes. Stir the jelly and chili sauce together and heat in the microwave for several minutes. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Continue baking the meatballs until the sauce looks thickened and coats the meatballs, about another thirty minutes. Gently stir the meatballs occasionally during cooking time to coat them evenly with sauce.

Happy New Year!
May 2010 be a year filled with blessings and joy for you and yours.

Dec 27, 2009

It's A New Year Challenge!

Recently I came across a website promoting a challenge to read the Bible in 90 days.  I've never read the Bible throughout but I've always wanted to.  I've started before, but I let life get in the way of sticking with it.  My dad has been such an inspiration to me.  He's very ill and is totally blind in one eye, yet he read the Bible in it's entirety last year at 82.  Not just once, but almost twice.  He kind of put me to shame!  So I've decided to take the 90 day challenge beginning January 1.  The official dates for the challenge are January 1 - March 31.  If any of you are interested, there is a down-loadable schedule available here.  It's suggested that you will need to commit 45-75 minutes daily to complete the challenge.  It's definitely a commitment...but then I'm pretty sure I waste an hour a day doing something, so I think I can put that wasted hour to good use for 90 days!  I'm going for it!  I would love to know if any of you decide to join me. 

Find lots of inspirational posts to enjoy at Spiritual Sundays.

I hope you all had a FABULOUS Christmas and are enjoying a little much needed down time. Wishing you all a safe and joyous New Year!

Dec 25, 2009

God Came Near...Merry Christmas!

Do You See Him?
by Max Lucado

IT’S CHRISTMAS NIGHT. THE HOUSE IS QUIET. Even the crackle is gone from the fireplace. The last of the carolers appeared on the ten o’clock news. The last of the apple pie was eaten by my brother-in-law. And the last of the Christmas albums have been stored away having dutifully performed their annual rendition of chestnuts, white Christmases, and red-nosed reindeers.
It’s Christmas night.

The midnight hour has chimed and I should be asleep, but I’m awake. I’m kept awake by one stunning thought. The world was different this week. It was temporarily transformed.
The magical dust of Christmas glittered on the cheeks of humanity ever so briefly, reminding us of what is worth having and what we were intended to be. We forgot our compulsion with winning, wooing, and warring. We put away our ladders and ledgers, we hung up our stopwatches and weapons. We stepped off our race tracks and roller coasters and looked outward toward the star of Bethlehem.
It’s the season to be jolly because, more than at any other time, we think of him. More than in any other season, his name is on our lips.

And the result?

For a few precious hours, he is beheld. Christ the Lord. Those who pass the year without seeing him, suddenly see him. People who have been accustomed to using his name in vain, pause to use it in praise. Eyes, now free of the blinders of self, marvel at his majesty.
All of a sudden he’s everywhere.

In the grin of the policeman as he drives the paddy wagon full of presents to the orphanage.
In the twinkle in the eyes of the Taiwanese waiter as he tells of his upcoming Christmas trip to see his children.
In the emotion of the father who is too thankful to finish the dinner table prayer.
He’s in the tears of the mother as she welcomes home her son from overseas.
He’s in the heart of the man who spent Christmas morning on skid row giving away cold baloney sandwiches and warm wishes.
And he’s in the solemn silence of the crowd of shopping mall shoppers as the elementary school chorus sings “Away in a Manger.”
Emmanuel. He is with us. God came near.
It’s Christmas night. In a few hours the cleanup will begin—lights will come down, trees will be thrown out. Size 36 will be exchanged for size 40, eggnog will be on sale for half price. Soon life will be normal again. December’s generosity will become January’s payments and the magic will begin to fade.

But for the moment, the magic is still in the air. Maybe that’s why I’m still awake. I want to savor the spirit just a bit more. I want to pray that those who beheld him today will look for him next August. And I can’t help but linger on one fanciful thought: If he can do so much with such timid prayers lamely offered in December, how much more could he do if we thought of him every day?

Dec 24, 2009

The Arrival...Merry Christmas Eve!

The Arrival - by Max Lucado

God had entered the world as a baby.

Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.

The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.

A more lowly place of birth could not exist.

Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor; perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him—so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds. Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can’t remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn’t figured it all out. The mystery of the event puzzles him. But he hasn’t the energy to wrestle with the questions. What’s important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes he remembers the name the angel told him to use … Jesus. “We will call him Jesus.”

Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph’s saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel. “His kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:33)

He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he had just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty’s arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren’t looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

Breath of Heaven - Jessica Simpson

Dec 23, 2009

Trans Siberian Rocks and A Holiday Recipe!

My mother has made these bar cookies/candy for years at Christmas.  It's a real family favorite.  I can almost guarantee that your family will love them!  Enjoy!

Chocolate Scotch-A-Roo’s 

1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut better
6 cups Rice Krispies
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 ounces butterscotch morsels

Cook sugar and syrup until bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter; mix until smooth, being careful since this mixture is very hot. Stir in Rice Krispies. Pat into buttered 9x13 inch pan. In glass measuring cup, melt together the chocolate and butterscotch chips. Pour over cereal mixture. Cool and cut into bars.
The last Scotch-A-Roo is sure to cause a squabble!

Christmas Canon Rock - Trans Siberian Orchestra

Dec 21, 2009

Dining With The Ford's

Every year my husband Sandy and I try to do a couple of special things during the holidays.  We always enjoy an outing with couples and my sister-in-law and best friend, Jeri, always do something just the two of us in December to celebrate our long friendship.  Last year Jeri and I went to a Christmas tea at a beautiful little tea room in our town.  And Sandy and I saw a live performance of White Christmas at the historic Fox Theater in Detroit with our Bible study group - wonderful.  Hubby and I also went to Greenfield Village in Dearborn with another couple for the fabulous Holiday Lights event.  It was minus 21 degrees!  Greenfield Village is on the Henry Ford grounds and is a community of beautiful historic homes, each street is a different decade.  The homes were decorated for Christmas in typical style of the period.  In spite of the bitter cold it was a fabulous evening. This year there didn't seem to be a lot of stuff offered in the Detroit area.  I think the economy is so bad in this part of Michigan due to the tremendous auto industry layoffs that some of the theater companies didn't come here.  I'm usually the one to plan outings for our social group and I was beginning to think that we were going to be out luck this year.  I looked for a long time for two different December events. Finally, BINGO!  We ended up attending three holiday events in December, all on the Henry Ford estate.  On December 4 we took our grandchildren to Santa's Cottage on the grounds.  It was just a precious little place and we had a wonderful evening.  The staff provided five or six craft stations for the children and the last stop was a lantern lit walk to Santa's Cottage.  On December 11, my sister-in-law and I went to the Holiday Concert Luncheon at Fair Lane Manor on the Henry Ford estate.  We had such a wonderful time together, as we always do.  We ate a wonderful lunch of sea scallops in the music room, followed by a performance of Christmas music. Afterward, we were invited to wonder around the main level of the mansion.  I couldn't believe that I forgot my camera!  No fear, because on December 17 my husband and I went to the Candle Lit Christmas Dinner and Walk with some dear friends, again at the Henry Ford Estate, Fair Lane Manor.  It was absolutely incredible!  The turkey dinner was scrumptious, the staff was lovely, and the tour of the mansion was just too wonderful.  I wish you could all have been there - especially you, CeeKay!  After dinner we were led by a guide throughout all three levels of the mansion by candle light.  I could seriously get used to living like the Henry Ford's!  I want to show you some pictures from the evening and also of that sweet Santa's Cottage.

The Henry Ford Estate, Fair Lane Manor - Dearborn, Michigan, built 1914
(even at that time the cost was nearly 2 million)

The magnificent entry and staircase...

The library...

When we first arrived on Thursday evening with our friends we were invited to sit and chat in the library until our table was ready for our seating.  We so enjoyed the beautiful room and the amazing historical photos of the Fords with interesting and impressive people like Charles Lindbergh.

Look at that ceiling!

A beautifully decorated fireplace in the Ford family swimming pool room where dinner was served.

Our dear friends Terry and Pam are on the left; my husband Sandy and I are on the right.

The Silver Strings Dulcimer Society (in historic attire) provided fabulous dining music.

The beautiful ceiling in the pool room...

The rustic family room where Henry Ford and other innovative thinkers like Harvey Firestone put their heads together to create some impressive business deals.  The room was also used by the Ford grandchildren for play.  Henry Ford was committed to utilizing and protecting nature.  This room was the only room in the house with this rustic style.

This was actually a spring water well in the family room.

Edsel Ford was Henry and Clara Ford's only child.  This was his bedroom.  Edsel married a member of the Hudson family and she very much wanted to live in an area that she considered a more socially impressive area of Michigan.  Clara Ford so wanted her son and his bride to live at Fair Lane that she talked her husband into building a bowling alley, a billiards room and a swimming pool in the mansion to tempt Edsel.  Henry indulged his wife, but Edsel never lived at Fair Lane again after his marriage. 

Henry Ford's private bedroom...

I included this photo of the bathroom in Henry's bedroom because I wanted to show you the four faucets, two are on the sink and two are above the sink on the wall.  Clara Ford believed the hard well water was too harsh on a lady's skin so she had her husband install hot and cold faucets for the regular hard well water and hot and cold faucets for softened water in every bathroom in the house.  He also installed pressurized air outlets in every bathroom wall so the ladies could dry their hair, as well as a central vacuuming system.  Henry Ford was ahead of his time for 1914.

Henry and Clara Ford's master bedroom...spectacular!

The sleeping porch just off the master bedroom, where Henry and Clara slept in the summer.

The chandelier hanging over the master staircase is 300 years old...

Isn't this wreath beautiful against the huge leaded glass windows on the landing of the staircase?  It was on this landing that Clara Ford told her husband that if he did not negotiate with the new union she would pack up and leave and he would never see her again!  As we know, Henry followed his wife's suggestion.

The dining room...

The music room...this is where Jeri and I lunched.

The formal living room...
Mr. Ford spared no cost when building Fair Lane.  Most of the rooms were panelled with rare and expensive exotic woods.  Seeking to lighten the appearance of her home, Mrs. Ford waited until her husband was traveling and she had the living room painted a creamy white.  When Henry returned home he made Clara promise him that she would not cover any more of the irreplaceable paneling with paint.  When the guide was telling this story I could feel my husband's eyes boring into my back!  I knew he would mention that story later, since he always says that if he is gone too long he will come home to more paint somewhere!  And, yes.  It was the first thing he mentioned when we got back to our car!

And again, as we were leaving I couldn't resist another shot of that magnificent staircase!

Had to show you these - Clara wanted her home to look like a castle.  I took these last two photos in the ladies room - it was quite something!

Santa's Cottage, Fair Lane Manor

Sydney loved Santa and went well prepared with a long list of hopes and dreams.  She had called me earlier in the day to tell me that she had chosen the outfit she planned to wear to meet Santa and it would be "extra Christmas fancy", including a purple boa!

Isabelle can live without the big guy.  Mommy had to go with her but she still wouldn't look at him!

Always ready for a photo op, Sydney with Mrs. Claus.

If you live or visit near Dearborn Michigan and you have never been to Fair Lane, Greenfield Village, or the Henry Ford Museum plan to visit.  It is a delightful place.  The gardens are spectacular in the summer and the mansion is a treat to visit anytime.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Dec 18, 2009

Pink Saturday/Spiritual Sunday - Family Tradition...What's Important?

Don't forget to stop by How Sweet The Sound to read about lots of PINK traditions on December 19 and lots of inspiration at  Spiritual Sundays on December 20!

Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year, always has been.  First of all, I am a Believer, that is I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, so Christmas is valued the most as the day Jesus was born on Earth in order to die on Earth.  I've always loved Christmas trees and lights and just the excitement and cheer surrounding the holiday.  But the older I get, the more I appreciate it for the right reasons.  Sometimes you learn the most valuable lessons through experiences you believe at the time to be the most terrible losses.

A tradition my husband and I had for many years was our Christmas party.  When I was a young wife and mother I was a perfectionist work-a-holic.  I kept a spotless house, I volunteered for every committee and job I could find at church, and I was a maniac at entertaining.  Let me just say, not to blow my own horn or anything, but a party I could give, and lots of them!  Our Christmas party was attended by about 100-120 people every December.  I prepared for months.  I started cleaning at Halloween (even removing the light fixtures to clean underneath!) and I started decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving. Then I
baked, packaged, and froze from Thanksgiving until the party date.  I always served hot and cold hor d'ouvres, then a hot buffet, followed by a dessert buffet - I always baked 12 dozen cookies, plus tarts, cakes, cheese cakes, and candy.  Of course in addition to the entertaining, I shopped and did all the family preparations for Christmas as well.  I LOVED working and cleaning and ironing.  I know, weird...maybe even a little crazy!  I prided myself on my clean house and my organization.  Plus, I worked full time as an administrative assistant.  I could out work any woman I knew.  But most of all, I loved entertaining.  Our Christmas party was just the highlight of my year and Christmas holiday. 

Our Christmas party was just the highlight of my year and Christmas holiday. Hmmm.  What's wrong with that statement?  Didn't I start by writing "I am a Believer, that is I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, so Christmas is valued the most as the day Jesus was born on Earth in order to die on Earth" ???  Why, yes I did.  So what happened to remind me of what I should really value?  I got sick.  I do not believe God punishes us by making us sick or allowing bad things to happen.  But I do believe that God allows us to learn valuable lessons enabling spiritual growth through some of life's most traumatic events.

About fifteen years ago I began to develop some weird illnesses out of the blue.  I was hospitalized multiple times for odd ball serious things like meningitis and unusual pneumonia's.  I developed arthritis.  I developed an overwhelming fatigue and was almost never well.  I eventually had to quit my job and I could no longer work at home as I always had.  I saw doctor after doctor but it was only 4 years ago, two days before Thanksgiving, that I received a diagnosis.  I have a very rare white blood cell abnormality which effects my health and energy in general.  The silver lining in this storm cloud is that there is a treatment.  The unpleasant part of the treatment is that it is an IV infusion at a chemo clinic every three weeks.  Every three weeks of my life.  As long as I live.  So long, party queen, hello 110 year old hag.  That's how I felt when I got this diagnosis.

To make a long story short, I had a chest port implanted and I have been receiving infusions every three weeks for almost four years.  I hate every minute of every treatment and I resent the intrusion in my life.  But having said that, I know how blessed I am.  There is a treatment for my disease and it is working.  Is life the same as it used to be?  Nope, far from it.  The treatment itself often makes me sick for days.  I have about two good weeks out of four.  Even with the treatment I still get sick a lot.  I still have arthritis.  I have a 400 times greater risk of developing lymphoma than people who do not have my disease.  Life is very different for me and for my family now because of this hateful disease, but has it ruined my life?  To the contrary, the lessons I've learned these last four years have blessed my life.

Priorities.  Don't we all want to set the right priorities?  I know I did.  And I thought I had.  But really, did I need to remove the light fixtures from the ceilings in order for guest to enjoy my Christmas buffet?  Did my kitchen floor really require a toothbrush scrubbing so 120 guests could walk over it during a Michigan winter?  And did my guests actually notice that every room in my house had at least one Christmas tree - each one following a perfectly matched theme?  Did our extended family members appreciate the elaborate hand made gifts I created for them each year or the packages wrapped as if they came from the finest shops?  Did any of these things hold a fraction of the importance I thought they did?

It's taken me four years to get to a place where I can say that I am truly more content than I have ever been in my life.  For me, it took a serious illness to teach me the truly valuable things in life.  I still like a clean house - even sick I can out work half the women I know!  The difference is, I don't have to work until one or two in the morning to feel ok about myself.  I am still a perfectionist, but now I usually know when to stop.  I'm ok with a store bought gift just like every body else and this year I don't even have bows on my packages!  Yikes - I can't believe I said that!  I don't spend sleepless nights making mental lists of things I need to do the next day.  I can enjoy watching a movie sitting down rather than only while doing dishes or ironing.  Most importantly, I spend time of true worship and prayer during each day.  I can allow myself to drop everything and leave a job half finished to spontaneously go to a movie with my husband or babysit my granddaughters or sit down and really enjoy a guiltless phone conversation with my daughter or my mom or a friend. I see the value in things I used to view as wasted time.  This Christmas Day my husband and I will sit around our family room with our son and daughter-in-law, our daughter and son-in-law, and our two granddaughters.  We will go around the room, each one opening one bowless gift at a time, lavishing in the joy of the moment.  There will be no rushing to pick up wrapping paper, no obsessive gathering of coffee cups and cinnamon roll plates.  This family tradition will add new pages in our book of cherished family memories. 


When I learned of my diagnosis and the nature of this progressive disease, I thought my life as I knew it was over.  Well, it was.  But what I thought was going to be the most terrible loss of my life has turned out to be one of the greatest blessings of my life.  Don't misunderstand me, I really wish I didn't have this disease!  But that's just the way the cookie crumbles.  I do have it and I am doing just fine.  Better than fine, I have learned to trust God with every aspect of my life.  God never fails and He never makes a mistake.  He knew exactly what he was doing when he made me with too few white blood cells.  And He also knew I wouldn't be happy about it!  He knew He was going to help me see beauty in a more simple life and He knew I would see more opportunities to praise Him and to witness for Him. 

I'll finish this post with some pictures of our home decorated for Christmas.  We're not having a party, but we are celebrating.  It's almost Jesus' birthday!

I am wishing each of you a blessed Christmas with those you love and a new year filled with joy!