Monthly Archives: December 2011
Dozens and dozens of cookies are now stashed away awaiting the children and grandchildren. Sure, there are other goodies as well but the cookies, well, the cookies take the cake!
In the nearly 50 years I have been baking, I had yet to come up with the definitive chocolate chip cookie….until this year! Oh, I had brushed up against cookie greatest in years past and once one of my sons had a friend who made the perfect cookie but absolutely refused to share his recipe! Well, this year is the year of Cookie Perfection and I am more than happy to share this recipe with you!
The Definitive Chocolate Chip Cookie ~ Makes 4 -5 dozen but you might as well double it now!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare cookie sheets by lining with parchment paper.
1 cup softened butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda dissolved in 1 TBS. hot water
1 tsp. vanilla
3 ¼ level cups all purpose flour
2 cups chocolate chips or combination of chocolate, butterscotch, white, or Heath bits. We made one batch with Andes Mints chips. Yum!
1 cup chopped nuts
Cream butter and sugars well. Add eggs, vanilla, and soda water. Add in flour and mix well. Add chips and nuts. Scoop up 1 TBS. dough and roll into a ball. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, switch racks in oven if baking two sheets at a time. Bake 3 to 4 minutes more, watching very carefully. Remove from oven when not completely done. Allow to sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes (very important) then place on wire rack and allow to cool completely. Freeze well.
Chocolate Surprise Cookies ~ makes 4 dozen cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups softened butter
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
24 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally
4 cups powdered sugar
½ cup melted and cooled butter
½ cup milk or cream
1 tsp. vanilla
Cream butter with eggs, stir in vanilla, and add dry ingredients and milk, alternately. Scoop up 1 TBS. dough and roll into a ball, placing a dozen on each cookie sheet. Bake 5 minutes and switch on racks in oven if baking 2 pans at a time. Bake another 4 minutes. Remove from oven and place one marshmallow half in center of each cookie, pushing down a bit. Return to oven for 1 more minute, remove and allow to sit on cookie sheet for 5 minutes. Remove to rack and cool completely. When cold (I placed mine in the fridge for a bit to be sure they were completely cooled inside) frost with frosting, covering marshmallow completely to achieve surprise affect when biting into this deliciousness!
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” ~ Matthew 7:11
(originally posted here in December 2010, but I needed the reminder again!)
I love this time of year and still enjoy the magic of the season, the wonder that comes with each snowstorm, the cozy feeling of a house gift-wrapped in holly and ivy. I have already watched White Christmas, Holiday Inn, The Christmas Card, and Elf…..so many great Christmas movies, so little time!!!!! Nothing says cozy like a cup of hot chocolate and someone special to annoy as you quote all the lines from a familiar family favorite while wrapping packages!
Last weekend, Clay and I braved Toys R Us, a store we hadn’t been in for several years. Since we had already done most of our shopping online, we only had a few things to find and thought it might be fun to reminisce a bit about the days of our own toddlers and babies. Unfortunately, there were far too many frazzled and impatient parents struggling through the aisles so we quickly grabbed our two purchases and headed home. That experience on the heels of having spent Thanksgiving vacation with all 10 of our grandchildren put me to thinking about Christmas gifts and what I believe children really want under their own Christmas trees! Here is my list…
Someone who will listen to them ~ I am always up at the crack of dawn and disgustingly cheerful at that time, too. My favorite part about having little ones visit us is the early morning cuddle and chat time I get to enjoy every day. I love hearing them come down the stairs in their jammied feet and I love listening to their stories. They are always so ready and eager to tell me about their lives and interests and all they really want is an audience. I sometimes wonder how many really and truly great ideas for mankind could be captured simply by listening to children talk.
Kindness and willingness to partake in their childhood sorrows and joys ~ As we get older, we tend to think of grief only in terms of the big things…the death of a loved one, a job loss, broken relationships. But children have real and true sorrows that are devastating to their own little hearts ….. a broken toy, a missed turn, not finding mom close by when waking from a nap, a harsh word spoken in haste, or even a disapproving glance their direction. Scripture admonishes us to be kind to one another, literally to succor or to come alongside or to help, to uplift and to be gentle and tenderhearted while doing so. I believe kindness also manifests itself in taking delight in things that our children find delightful, not dismissing their interests. I must admit that I have a hard time finding the joy of Spongebob or the Three Stooges but knowing how much joy it brings to those I love inspires me!
Simple things ~ Madison Avenue, especially through television advertising, has done a great job of programming parents into thinking that they must purchase every new and whiz bang toy that comes along. The fact is, children love things that are simple, especially if it gives them room to imagine and create themselves. We have often joked that homeschooled children are so easily entertained and it is true. Give them scrap wood, old cardboard boxes, and simple tools and they are happy and busy for hours. While the children were all here, one of our sons went into our basement and, in true Tony Stark fashion, made individual weapons for each of the older ones using parts from old vacuum cleaners, flash lights, etc., and held together with duct tape. Each gun was unique and the kids spent hours and hours racing through the house and yard, their imaginations running wild. Who needs to spend hundreds of dollars on toys that will soon pile up and eventually become the bane of mom’s existence before they are trotted off to Goodwill?
A slower pace so they can soak in the wonder of little things ~ Not long ago, some of the older members of our Toastmaster’s club were lamenting the fact that we had had so many members just a few years ago and now our group is small. They couldn’t understand why there were so few younger people in recent years who are interested in improving their communication skills. I don’t think it has a thing to do with an interest in this group or any other group; I believe it is because families are so busy taking children from one activity to another that schedules are just too full. I also believe that homeschoolers are sometimes prone to this temptation more than others because they don’t want their children to miss out on anything they might have gotten from formal education. How often does a child ask a question that could open up all sorts of other discussion but we have to say “Ask me later, we don’t have time right now; we have to get to soccer practice or puppet club?” The true beauty of parenting is that teaching and learning come in those often quiet, serendipitous moments that happen when we slow down. Children want us to give them “soaking time,” time to examine, ask questions, and think about all sorts of things. And they want us to soak on those things, too.
Someone who knows that living outside the box is sometimes the best idea ~ Yes, we must be good, law-abiding citizens and yes, God’s Word is to be obeyed. Those are true. But sometimes it is the best choice to color outside the lines. While my eight ear old grandson, Henry, was here, I had promised him that I would bake a Texas cake. As I described to him what it was, his eyes grew bigger and bigger and I actually could see his mouth water! But, as the days went by and life was so, so hectic with 21 people in the house, the cake hadn’t made it into the oven. He was too polite to harass me, but the night before he was to leave the next morning, I woke up several times remembering that I hadn’t made that cake and I felt terrible. So at 4:00 am I got up and baked a Texas cake for breakfast, its deliciousness still warm with fudge frosting when he woke up. As the children came down, one by one, they were pleased, though probably not entirely shocked, to find Grandma serving chocolate cake for breakfast! I highly recommend this for everyone from time to time, especially for those who are bound up in any sort of legalism, spiritual or otherwise. It’s amazing how liberating a piece of Texas cake can be!
Freedom and encouragement to explore and create ~ This really goes along with the idea of slowing down and living more simply and it can be lovingly encouraged just by what we provide for them. My daughter has an amazing way of bringing out the best of a child’s creativity simply by keeping an always-changing costume box. She watches for any sort of prop and Christmas always means adding to the ever-growing collection. She is also much better than I ever was at tolerating and encouraging mess making….one of the things I would do over if I could.
Being loved for who they are rather than for what we think they should be ~ I believe one of our important roles as parents is to help inspire our children and to give them a vision for using their gifts and talents in service to the Lord. At the same time, we must fight the temptation to try to force them into some ideal model that we envision based on our own desires or preferences. We need to pattern our own parenting after God’s parenting of us, loving our children simply for the preciousness of their souls, through tendermercies demonstrated toward them by grace alone.
Knowing that they can depend on Mom and Dad anytime, anywhere ~ Children need to know that their parents are their biggest fans. A while back I read an absolutely inane article that said it is a sin for children to desire the approval of their parents, even citing what the author believed to be a bad example where a child had experienced emotional pain from years of having her thoughts and abilities minimized and dismissed. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the servants and their talents. The servant who was faithful with what the Lord had given to him was given even more and “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” Is not this the response that all children desire to hear from their own parents as well? If this were a sin, wouldn’t Jesus have taken this opportunity to instruct us so? Our children need to hear how much they are valued, treasured, and delighted in by their parents!
Knowing that we expect the best of them, even if what they do doesn’t look like the way we might do things ~ One thing I have really enjoyed about having children who are grown and married is observing how each couple becomes one and together make up one family. They have their own family favorite foods and their own family traditions. They have convictions and goals and use their amazing talents and abilities in unique ways. Sometimes I am amazed at how much like Clay or me they might seem. Other times I am equally amazed at how differently they look at life. I once knew a woman who repeatedly said to her daughter “You’re not like me at all,” sending the message that to be acceptable within their family, the daughter was expected to be a carbon copy of the mom. What a tragedy for a daughter who spent years struggling needlessly with self-acceptance issues and how much that mother missed by not enjoying the unique ways God was working in her family!
Someone who is honest and genuine, someone who is willing to be vulnerable and transparent, someone who is consistent in living out her faith and is willing to admit wrongdoing and seek forgiveness when she fails ~ I teach communications skills to a group of homeschoolers and right now we are working through the principles of storytelling. From the corporate board rooms to family dining tables, telling your own story is a powerful way to communicate God’s working in your life. But the value of our stories diminishes if we are not willing to share the truth of mistakes we have made or if we embellish them for our own glory. Years ago, I heard the story of a man I knew who had competed in a Toastmaster’s Humorous Speaking competition. The most important rule of this event is the one that requires all participants to present their own original stories and it comes with the warning that plagiarism will be punished. This man won first place through all the levels of contests and finally made it to the top, winning the grand prize with his hilarious telling of a personal story. He went home with a huge trophy and displayed it on a shelf in his family room, but only for a few weeks. It seems that this man had taken found this amusing tale online and decided to make it his own story. Imagine his chagrin at receiving the phone call asking to arrange a time for his trophy to be returned. And can you even imagine the horror of facing your friends and family after such an experience? Children want parents who are willing to share stories of their own lives, the good and the bad, the joyous and the painful. They want parents with integrity who are willing to become vulnerable and, most importantly, they want parents whose stories include repentance and seeking forgiveness when they have wronged others, especially their children.
These sorts of Christmas gifts will not break your holiday budget but they will cost you something….everything, as you purpose to one another your children by God’s grace and for the glory of the Newborn King Jesus whose gift of eternal life is the reason we celebrate Christmas!
* Note: There is a place for storytelling that involves interpretations of the stories of others or making up your own stories, both of which I encourage with my class. But we must be honest about what we are presenting and differentiate when appropriate!
Everyone has some in their family or among their co-workers who still wonders why anyone who is sane would chose to homeschool, after all, we have great schools that help our kids fit into the real world, right? Here is an article you need to read and share with the skeptics. I chronicled my own experience with just this sort of thing but, sadly, to many parents this isn’t this big of a deal. Why?
Sally Clarkson is speaking my own heart in a recent blog entry. I think we need to continue to talk about the importance of one anothering in all our family relationships and what this means! Go Sally!
Wade Burleson is blogging again and has written this amazing article on the changes he believes are occurring and need to happen for churches to be healthy today. Those who are interested in the family integrated church movement will be amazed at how his insights parallel with many of our concerns and I especially appreciate his emphasis on the ramifications for ignoring the new covenant. Clay and I have discussed this article every day since we read it….don’t skip this one!
We are in the throes of Christmas planning and are preparing for at least some of the gang who will be here. Lots of fun in the works including making more model rockets with more grandchildren with a big launch planned for New Year’s Day. Will and Clay have been working on a 7 foot tall model rocket…think we need to call the airport before we send it into space? And Joe and Clayton have another “family game” in the works, which reminded us we need to pull out Mollie’s infamous “Dadopoly” from a few years ago. We have been enjoying Christmas movies while I crochet vintage 1970’s ponchos for the little girls and stitching names on stockings for the latest grandbabies.
I have lots of fun Christmas treats I am working on , too, and will share recipes as they come out of the oven. Here is a favorite from last year we will be making again by the gallon:
Santa’s Christmas Eve Snack Mix for the Long Ride Home
3 cups mini pretzels
1 cup dry roasted peanuts
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Caramel Bugles
8 oz. white chocolate bark
2 cups red and green M & M’s
In large bowl (we use a stock pot for multiple batches), mix first four ingredients. Melt bark and pour over mixture until all is covered. Spread out on a cookie sheet lined with wax or parchment paper and allow to cool. Break apart and place in clean bowl, tossing in M & M’s with it. Store in airtight containers. (I just found lots of cute tins at Hobby Lobby on sale and will put the mix in plastic bags and then transfer to the tins for gift giving. WARNING: the Caramel Bugles are addictive, I am serious.