Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

How To Eat an Egg Part 1 – Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

I’m all for quick, easy meals, especially for supper at the end of a long, busy day (as in, most of the time).

But I also want to serve my family as much real, healthy food as possible, without driving myself insane.

One way I accomplish this is to rely on some easy, quick meals made with ingredients I regularly keep on hand.

Enter, the egg.

Now I won’t try to convince you of what kind of eggs to buy. My favorite, and I think the best option, would be a local, farm-fresh egg, which we indulge in on occasion. There are also many different kinds of “healthy” eggs available for purchase at the supermarket, but do your own research and be careful of misleading labels and information. (For some interesting and informative reading about healthy eggs, read this and this.)

The meal budget for our family of four grown humans (three of which are tall men), does not regularly allow for farm-fresh eggs. After doing a little informational reading, I feel it’s a healthy compromise to purchase regular, store-bought eggs most of the time.

This food staple can be one of the cheapest, money-saving meal options out there, especially if you shop special sales or buy in larger quantities (or best option yet, raise your own chickens like my dear sister). I usually buy a large quantity from my local warehouse-style store (mine is BJ’s Wholesale Club), and try to stock up when they offer a coupon.

If you have stronger convictions about eating “healthier” eggs and a grocery budget to match, feel free to use your special eggs. Also, if high cholesterol or other issues prevent you from indulging in unlimited eggs, use whatever egg substitute you currently purchase. The cost will be increased, but I’m quite sure it will still result in a cheaper protein option than most meat-based meals.

Today I’d like to show you one of my favorite ways to eat an egg (or several).

This is not my very fastest, easiest egg option (more egg ideas to come), but moderately easy and fast, and uses “regular” staples you’ll probably have in your house. I think it’s a nice, supper-friendly option with the addition of potatoes.

The original recipe came from the Land O Lakes Treasury of Country Recipes, a book I’ve owned for years.recipe book

I got it when a salesman left us a sample to browse at work  (before they got all “fussy” about allowing such things at places of business), and liked it so much I later searched for and purchased a similar book in the same series for myself and another family member. Although the cookbook is still available today, I had no luck finding the recipe online by Land O Lakes. I did, however locate essentially the same recipe printed here.

Many friends have complimented my cooking and baking, but in reality I’m not one to invent too many recipes from scratch. One day I figured out that a primary reason people think I’m a good cook is because I’ve learned to recognize a good recipe. Often I tweak it to make it healthier or to use ingredients I have on hand, but I usually start by following the directions.

Since I don’t currently own an oven-proof skillet, for this recipe I use either a large ceramic pie plate, a glass casserole dish, or my deep dish stoneware baker. I usually add more potatoes than the original recipe calls for, since I like them and am often needing to use up extras before they get soft. I also use whatever cheese I have on hand that sounds good (most often shredded mexican or chedder).

So without further ado,  I present Country-Style Potato & Onion Pie.

 

slicing red potatoes

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

(4-6 servings; 50 minutes)

 

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 cup (3 small) new red potatoes   *(I usually use more, about 4 or 5, and whatever type I currently have.)
  • 1 med. onion, sliced 1/8 “, separated into rings
  • 1 cup (or more, because cheese!), shredded Swiss cheese   *(or whatever type you’d like)
  • 1/3 cup chopped
    fresh parsley (or about 1 1/2 Tbsp. dried)   * (Try other herbs; I like to add some dill.)
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 8 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper
  • 1 med. ripe tomato, sliced 1/4 “

 

1.  Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. In oven-proof cooking dish or skillet melt butter in oven (3 to 4 min.).

3. Add potatoes and onion. Bake, stirring once, for 15 to 20 min. or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

potatoes and onion in stoneware 2

4. Meanwhile, in small bowl stir together eggs, milk, salt, pepper, parsley (and/or other herb of choice), and shredded cheese.

5. Pour over baked potatoes and onion; arrange tomato slices on top.

6. Return to oven and continue baking for 17-22 min. or until eggs are set and lightly browned.   *(I often find it takes longer, especially if I’ve used larger quantities.)

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

Country-Style Potato and Onion Pie

 

I like to serve a nice, fresh salad with this meal, or possibly cut-up fresh fruit.

*****

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do, and that it makes for a few easier, more enjoyable evenings for you and your family!

Do you depend on eggs for quick and easy meals, too?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

stone well with bucket

The Well Is Deep

 

stone well with bucket

 

This morning in my Bible plan reading of the day, Oswald Chambers, author of the well-known and loved devotional, My Utmost For His Highest, talked about the story of the woman at the well.

Jesus stops along his travels at a village in Samaria, and surprises a Samaritan woman by not only speaking to her, but asking her to draw a drink of water for him from the well. (In those days, the Jewish people would not associate with the Samaritans. See verse 9.)

After questioning why he would even talk to her, the woman then says this:

   “But sir, you don’t have a rope or a bucket,” she said, “and this well is very deep. Where would you get this living water?” – John 4:11 (NLT)

This well is very deep.

Hmm. Sound familiar?

Have you ever questioned God’s ability or desire to provide for your needs or guide you through a problem? I know I have. Sure, I know with my head that God can do anything, but do I truly believe it in my heart?

After seeing what seemed to be an encouraging sign that God was moving in a certain area of my life this past week, I awoke this morning to thoughts of why this possible answer wouldn’t work, because of something I didn’t have.

My husband and I still laugh about the time years ago when a student from our College & Careers group said something like, “I know God created the universe, but I don’t think he can help me with my finances.” This person was expressing in so many words what we often live out in our lives…..that we don’t actually expect God to meet our needs.

But do we realize who we are talking about?

Oswald Chambers challenges us with this:

“The thing that approaches the very limits of His power is the very thing we as disciples of Jesus ought to believe He will do. We impoverish and weaken His ministry in us the moment we forget He is almighty. The impoverishment is in us, not in Him. We will come to Jesus for Him to be our comforter or our sympathizer, but we refrain from approaching Him as our Almighty God.                                                                                                                  The reason some of us are such poor examples of Christianity is that we have failed to recognize that Christ is almighty. We have Christian attributes and experiences, but there is no abandonment or surrender to Jesus Christ.”

Wow.

So if I truly believe that he is the Almighty God, I will understand his unlimited power. And in order to truly believe, I need to not only “act like” a Christian, but I must fully surrender my life to Jesus Christ.

 

Lord, help me to surrender my whole life to you. Let me know you so well, that I can do nothing but trust you. And help me to believe that you are not only my heavenly Father and a close friend, but my Almighty God. Amen.

*****

 

 

 

snowy pine tree

One Thing I’ve Learned in (Almost) 50 Years…..

snowy pine tree

Today we got the snow that we’ve been waiting for all winter (well, some of us, at least).

We’ve only had a little snow so far this winter, and any we got has melted away within days. In fact, it’s been unseasonably warm for New England.

But today we got about six to eight inches of sticky, wet snow.

snowy branches and sky

It was fairly warm, so it clung tenaciously to the branches and rooftops, until the wind picked up and blew it around, creating a momentary blizzard effect.

As I was out shoveling along with my neighbor across the street, at one point we heard a loud crack. Looking to see what on earth was making such a noise, we caught sight of a very large limb falling out of another neighbor’s tree. Fortunately, it didn’t look like it did any damage, and I’m thankful no-one was hurt.

As I was working, I began to realize that it was the ultimate snowman-making snow.

snowy mailbox

So when my portion was complete, I first took some cold, snowy pictures, careful not to let my camera and my tablet get too wet in the process.

Then I began to build my snowman.

shoveling with snowman

My teenage son doing his share.

I still remember (and my parents have some photos or slides somewhere, I believe), my grandmother building a snowman in her front yard when she was probably in her sixties. She lived right next to us in my early childhood years, alone for many years after my grandfather died of a heart attack in his fifties, but she definitely still knew how to have fun and stay young.

Update from 09/16/16: I’m so thrilled to have been given a photo of two of my Grandma’s snowmen to share with you! Thanks to my thoughtful Mom, this 1983 photo was included in a memory box she gave to me for Christmas. In it are many photos and a few little trinkets to remind me of my dear Grandmother, who passed on this past year. Grandma would have been about 61 years of age when she built these particular “twins” in her front yard. 🙂

my grandmother's snowmen "twins"

My Grandmother’s snowmen “twins”, built with love in her front yard in 1983. Grandma was about 61 years of age.

 

snowman, snowlady

Me and my new friend.

Yes, I’m now almost fifty (only a few short months away).

 

snowlady Feb 2016

 

Yes, I had lots of “more important” things to do today.

 

home with snowlady 2-5-16

 

Yes, the neighbors may think I’m a nut.

 

snowlady close-up

Isn’t she beautiful?

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my almost fifty years of life (especially growing up in Ontario, Canada 🙂 ), it’s not to miss out on building a snowman when the snow is just right.

 

back of snowman

I think she has her arms raised in worship. 🙂

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m still learning the importance of living in the moment, enjoying this fleeting life for all it’s worth.

 

Live, Laugh, Love

 

And later in the afternoon, I glanced out the window to see a most stunning view of the late afternoon sunlight on the treetops. Grabbing my camera, my sneakers and no coat (so as not to miss the breathtaking sky), I ran outside and shivered while I took pictures, soaking in the beauty of God’s creation.

 

sunlight on treetops

home with snowy trees

golden treetop

snowy pine with pink sky

house with snow and pink sky

trees with pink sky and snow

*****

Have you ever built a snowman, as an adult, and NOT because you were helping a child? What other types of activities do you engage in to keep yourself “young” at heart?

 

 

duck swimming

Look at the Birds…

Hebrews 13:5-6

Being the “good” Christian that I am, of course I don’t love money. Besides, I’m not rich, so there’s no chance of worshiping money. I’ve got that one down.

But wait a minute: “…be satisfied with what you have” ???

That part hit me square in the nose.

You see, if I’m really honest, I have trouble with contentment. Not always; sometimes I am so happy and thankful for all of the many blessings I know that I have been given. Truly, I am. But other times…..

No matter in what financial state you find yourself, there is room for discontent. Especially when money is tight, it’s easy to feel that there isn’t enough. But if you have enough or perhaps are even rich, you may still long for more than what you have. Our human nature tends towards greed, and our culture doesn’t help. There’s always someone with a bigger, newer, nicer house, car, job, family, vacation…..the list goes on.

So why is it so difficult to remain focused on the blessings, rather than our apparent lack?

Discontent is lack of thankfulness or gratitude, to be sure, but I think sometimes it goes deeper than that. I believe that often my feelings of dissatisfaction are fueled by an inner fear that there will not be enough. How can I trust that God will provide when sometimes I feel I must do without?

There is an answer within this passage. Look at the words again. God promises to never fail us, to never leave us, so that means that we have a choice.

We can choose to trust him and have no fear. Does that mean we will never have moments of doubt, sleepless nights, and thoughts and emotions of worry? I don’t think so. We are not yet perfect.

But I believe that when we are confronted with fear, God wants us to face it, then turn and look to him. And there we find the one place where there is no fear.

It’s not always easy, but he promises to care for us.  duck swimming

 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” – Matthew 6:25-26

 

So next time you feel dissatisfied, look deeper.

Do not worry.

Look at the birds; observe the simple trust illustrated in nature.

Keep your focus on the One in whom there is no fear.

And be satisfied.

*****

Are you prone to fear? What do you do when you feel you don’t have enough? Have you ever taken a walk or hike and found peace in observing God’s creation?

 

Bible, journal and tea

This One’s For Your Spirit

 

Bible, journal and tea

Quiet Time

Hi friends! This year I’ve been enjoying finding and sharing various ways that we can make positive changes in our lives, and it’s never too late to start. First I shared about a 91 Day Declutter Challenge, then suggested another way to tackle several differnt changes in a 12 Mini Goals Challenge .

Today I’m really excited to share a challenge for your spirit! I was intending on discussing the benefits of the Bible App and YouVersion, and low and behold, they are staring a 21-day challenge tomorrow, February 1st, 2016!

So what better time to jump right in and check it out!

Do you ever struggle with wanting to read your Bible or do a study every day, but you just don’t always know where to start, what book or verses to read, or how to go about it in a practical way? Sometimes these obstacles can even distract us from spending any time in the Word at all!

I’ve been using YouVersion for some time now, and really enjoy and find it useful. You can sign up for the Verse-of-the-Day, read Bible verses and passages and share them with “friends” (with whom you link up, similar to Facebook), even make beautiful and impacting verse images on your mobile device to share on social media, and one of my favorites, chose and participate in one of numerous and varied Bible devotional plans.

Our church is one of many who provide the option of using The Bible App to follow along with the Sunday message and even take notes.

And the wonderful thing is these helpful tools are all free.

Let me tell you a little more about the plans YouVersion has to offer.

There are many, many interesting topics to chose from, with commitments from as short as three days to as long as a whole year. Each day includes a thought-provoking reading, a Scripture verse (or verses) or one or more passages to read, and usually a prayer. I really enjoyed one particular plan that had an optional music accompaniment. I found it very a relaxing and worshipful addition to my quiet time.

You can chose a plan that suits your desires, needs and your schedule. There is even a setting called, “Catch Me Up”, so if you miss a day, you can continue on without a hitch. This just may be the best few minutes of your day!

This special challenge is provided to help us form a good habit of spending time in God’s Word and in prayer daily. To participate, you simply need to complete a day (or more) of one of the YouVersion Bible plans each day for twenty-one days. There will even be daily prizes and a grand prize to help motivate you even more.

So what have you got to lose???

There is EVERYTHING to gain!!!

Why not download The Bible App to your mobile device, or participate on your computer or laptop (as I mostly do), and start right away? Join me today!

*****

Have you ever tried YouVersion, The Bible App or subscribed to a verse-of-the-day? Have you found it helpful in your desire to spend time with God more regularly? If not, are you willing to give it a try? What sort of plan would interest you most?

 

 

 

 

homemade croutons

Making Something Delicious Out of Nothing (How to Make Your Own Croutons From Random Bread Scraps)

homemade croutons

Lately I’ve been inspired to do some serious decluttering. That topic, in itself, could be another whole series of blog posts (of which I am not yet the expert).

But for today, I am going to share with you an easy little recipe that will help you to declutter your freezer.

Did you know that you can make your own tasty, inexpensive and not-filled-with-gunk croutons? These taste so good, you’ll probably have to do as I do, and politely ask your family members NOT to consume them all before you get to enjoy the croutons on your salads.

The original recipe came from my trusty Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book (1989). This is the one basic recipe book I chose and purchased when I was newly married (yes, we were married in 1989).  I have used their recipe as a guide. A modern rendition of their recipe can be found here, along with some more options for you to try.

I will now demonstrate how to make delicious croutons from your leftover scraps of old bread.

It should be noted that the way to make this recipe out of “nothing”, is to create a habit of keeping any scraps of bread you don’t use in your freezer.  I don’t know about you, but I seriously hate to throw away food. Part of this is likely because of how I was raised. My parents were frugal and taught me not to waste, but I especially learned from my grandparents, who told us stories of surviving The Great Depression. Not only that, but wasting food is too much like throwing hard-earned money out of the window.

The next best option would be to take advantage of your local supermarket’s “day old” bread rack. Most markets offer at least 30% off of day old bread, and often much more savings can be found. (Again, a topic for another post!)

So either find some fish or ducks to eat your stale bread, or make croutons (but I recommend the latter).

You could make these with fresh bread and they’d be just as yummy, but I love creating something delicious to eat out of stuff that cost me nothing, since it could easily have been thrown away.

I toss any of the following into the bottom section of my freezer, usually right in their original bags:

  • any variety of slightly stale store-bought bread (but especially good are artisan or bakery breads)
  • extra unused rolls from hot-dogs and such (even the cheap white-bread kind)
  • heels from your bread (the part that no-one really wants to eat)
  • leftover homemade bread that is no longer of optimal freshness (mine are usually leftovers from the bread-maker after two or three days).
stale bread

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I usually triple or quadruple this crouton recipe, depending upon how much stale bread I have accumulated and/or how many croutons I wish to make. I also really like to mix several different varieties of bread for more flavor and visual appeal.

 

Homemade Croutons

Here’s the ingredient list (for a single recipe):

  • about 2 cups cubed bread
  • 1/4 butter or less (the real stuff; no margarine!)
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (alternately you may use other seasonings such as 1 tsp dill or 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese; my favorite combination is to use both garlic and dill)

 

  1. The first step is to assemble your bread. If it is frozen, you either need to take it out of the freezer at least a half hour before you want to use it (preferred), or “cheat” and use your microwave on a low setting (being careful not to overheat the bread and make it mushy).

white bread cubes

dark bread cubes

2. Next, you need to cut the bread into whatever size cubes you’d like. Some recipes suggest tearing the bread, which is also an easy option if you don’t prefer cubes (like some of us “neat-freaks”).

mixed bread cubes

3. Melt the butter and stir in your seasonings.

melted butter and seasonings

pouring butter and seasonings

4. Toss the butter/seasoning mixture and bread cubes thoroughly. (Start stirring quickly before the liquid starts absorbing into just one section of your bread.)

mixing bread and seasonings

5. Spread the cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. (I love to use my Pampered Chef stoneware, but any cookie sheet will do.)

unbaked croutons on sheet

6. Bake at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes. Stir the croutons and bake at least another 5 to 10 minutes. You will need to take out your pans often to see if they are done. Always stir the cubes if returning them to the oven.

croutons in oven

7. The croutons are done when the edges are lightly browned and they are slightly crisp. Be careful not to overcook them; they will “harden up” a little when they cool. Cool on pan until they can be stored (if you can refrain from gobbling them all up right away!)

finished croutons

8. Store in an airtight container at room temperature or in your fridge. Enjoy!

 

Besides being delicious on salads, homemade croutons make a delicious snack (just ask my sons). There are a variety of other uses for croutons, including as a topping for baked fish or chicken.

crouton topping for baked fish

 

baked fish with crouton topping

*****

So tell me, do you love croutons? Have you ever made your own? I’d also love to hear of any other delicious ideas for using your homemade croutons in the comments below.

 

 

 

 

the struggle between flesh and spirit

The Fight

Galations 5.16-17

 

OK….I admit it.

I did it again. And it seems I keep on doing it.

Do I have your attention now?

Maybe you’ve done it, too. Actually, it is probably more accurate to speak of what I have not done.

Oh, it’s not some horrible crime or obvious neglect. It’s just that daily struggle to put “first things first” and not be distracted.

This past Saturday I awoke with all the good intentions that I so often profess, and proceeded about my day. I probably threw in a load of laundry, cleaned up the kitchen a little and turned on my computer.

Once at my laptop, I probably looked for “just a minute” at Facebook, or checked “just a couple” of emails.

And before I knew it, it had happened again.

My intended priority is to spend some quiet time with God. But as so often is the case, I allow myself to be distracted by life. Yes, often by “good”  and “necessary” actions, but not what I intend to be the priority.

There are tools, tricks and plans to help us with our morning routines and our devotional life, but the first gadget I need is discipline.

Why is it so hard to simply apply oneself to sitting quietly to read God’s Word, think and pray a little?

It’s an age-old flesh and blood struggle, my friend.

The apostle Paul speaks of this battle clearly in Romans 7, where he discusses this predicament. Pay special attention to verses fourteen to twenty-five, which discuss our familiar struggle between the flesh (our human feelings and desires), and the spirit (that inner part of us that belongs to God).

 

21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power[e] within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.”

 

And the result? It varies between mediocrity and downright disaster. This particular Saturday was somewhere in between, with one of the first events being a “disagreement” between my husband and I. I don’t even remember what it was about; all I know is it brought upon me the sudden realization of my mistake.

I need God to get through this life. I need him more than the air I breathe. But in the natural flow of our normal days, it’s so easy to forget the absolute necessity of this relationship.

So you see how it is.

And I know you’ve felt it, too.

Even if you are not a Christian, don’t you notice how hard it is to do good and those things that are truly important on a consistent basis?

Thankfully, the answer is also found in this scripture. It’s in Christ Jesus our Lord. We first need to accept the gift of himself offered to us, and then we need to pursue this relationship with him.

It won’t be a “magic bullet” or some guarantee that everything will go right, but it sure is a step in the right direction.

I want to let the Holy Spirit guide my life (as stated in the Galatians passage above), and to stand and fight against the desires of my flesh. I know that when I put him first and apply my focus to what is best and most important, I at least have a chance of doing things his way.

In short, I’m more likely to have a better day.

Yes, the milk may still spill, there will be conflicts and questions, life will still be “real”…..but I will be prepared and my mind and spirit filled with the strength, peace and wisdom from God. He will show me and remind me of what I am to do, and Lord willing, I will do it.

I am excited to share with you soon about some of the “tools” I’ve found that can help us to have a more successful morning. But for today, I encourage you to do just one thing right first thing.

Spend time with him.

*****

Do you struggle with doing what you know is important first thing in the morning? Do you intend to spend time with God first? What tools have you found to be helpful in setting proper priorities? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.

 

 

Jessica Smith yoga exercise dvd

Let’s Eat an Elephant – another New Year (mini-) challenge

Jessica Smith yoga exercise dvd

Well, we’re three weeks in to the new year…..and how are those “resolutions” going?

According to this interesting article (written in 2013), although an impressive 40 % of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% actually achieve them.

But here’s an idea that’s a little more encouraging, from the American Psychological Association :

“Setting small, attainable goals throughout the year, instead of a singular, overwhelming goal on January 1 can help you reach whatever it is you strive for,” says psychologist Lynn Bufka, PhD. “Remember, it is not the extent of the change that matters, but rather the act of recognizing that lifestyle change is important and working toward it, one step at a time.”

Earlier this month, I mentioned my desire to share some worthwhile tools to help us with our goals, especially in the new year. There are many people sharing all sorts of wonderful ideas, challenges, courses, etc., in order to help us achieve new success in various areas of our lives. The best thing about the challenges I am sharing is that they are free.

Today I’d like to share a 12 Mini Goals Challenge from Emily at Morning Motivated Mom. Her idea is to focus on several small, manageable challenges, a new mini habit or goal each month. Emily is even including a nice printable to go along with each habit. I like it.

Here’s my chart as of yesterday (using my free printable from Morning Motivated Mom), for January’s exercise challenge. Notice I only started this on January 19th, but that’s OK, because it’s better to do something imperfectly, rather than nothing at all. Feel free to jump in, too.

There is a suggested new challenge for each month, but you can tweak her idea if a particular monthly goal doesn’t quite fit. This seems like a win-win challenge to me!

In my previous post, I shared that it’s more effective to make attainable goals, rather than just resolutions (with no practical goals or steps).

You’ve heard it said, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

So if you are still looking for encouragement to reach some new goals this year (or perhaps already feel like you’re “failing” at your existing 2016 New Year’s resolutions), why not join me and sign up for this valuable challenge?

So, really…..how ARE you doing at your goal-setting or habit-changing efforts so far this year? I’d love to hear of any successes or ideas you’d be willing to share.

Here’s to happy “elephant bites” in 2016!

*****

 

junk pile

Junk Piles

junk pile

 

Have you ever looked out of a window and had to deal with a view filled with junk? I have.

It’s not a good feeling. In fact, it almost feels like a violation, to have your view accosted by garbage.

Recently I had such a window view. It gave me such an unpleasant feeling, and I proceeded to complain, criticize, even judge the perpetrators of the junk pile.

But, as so often happens with me, I immediately began to sense a lesson. And as soon as I begin to judge others, I am quickly reminded of my own short-comings.

You see, we all have junk piles.

Some of them are like the ones we can easily view outside of a window. They refuse to be hidden, refuse to just go away, and are difficult to avoid. They are in plain sight of the world.

Others are more secret. like the piles or clutter in our own real life basements: hidden, out of sight, and unknown to many.

But they all need to be dealt with. They all clutter our hearts and negatively affect the lives of those around us.

I am aware of some outward junk piles in my life. But because of (the introverted part of) my personality, most who do not know me well would not “see” my junk piles.  They may not even be aware that they exist.

But my family and those I love the most often live blatantly staring at my junk. I am guilty of presenting my sins or the result of my “un-dealt-with” stuff to those with whom I am closest.

I don’t want to keep my junk piles for myself;  I don’t wish to share them with my loved ones; I certainly don’t want to leave them out for anyone to see.

I have to realize that what I do, and especially what I say, can be “junk” to my listeners’ hearts…..or it can give life.

And I don’t want this junk to be my legacy. I want to chose words and deeds that are life-giving. I want my influence to be a positive one. I desire to bring love, and peace, and growth to those around me.

Whether the whole world sees it outside my window, or whether I only present it to those who are close enough that I allow them into my “basement”, I chose to banish the junk. I purpose to clean it up.

And I need Someone to help me.

Lord, help me to live unashamedly. Forgive me for uncontrolled words and actions that kill, rather than heal. Help me to speak and live more like you…..both in my public and private life. Amen.

 

   ” The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain;
    the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions.”

   Proverbs 10:11 (NLT)

“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living.” 

Romans 6:16 (NLT)

” And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

Romans 8:2 (NLT)

flower in cupped hands

 

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Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Just in time for next Christmas 😉

Layered Hot Cocoa Gift Jars

Work with me here, folks.

I know it’s a little late to share a Christmas gift jar idea, but I just launched my blog, it’s taking me a little bit to learn the ropes and get into the swing of it, and my head was overflowing with so many Christmas ideas that I could write about them for weeks.

But I won’t do that to you.

So if you’re a Christmas Day purist (in the sense that the day after Christmas you start taking down all the decorations, refuse to listen to one more Christmas carol, and throw out the uneaten holiday cookies)….then you’re NOT going to like this. You can stop reading right now (and whatever you do….do NOT look at all the nice photos below that may contain “Christmasy” stuff), and maybe by next year I’ll catch you again before the holidays.

However, if you’re like me, there’s still just a little bit of Christmas spirit left unexpressed that can’t quite wait for another whole year. I’ve just seen a couple of pictures on Facebook of people with a Christmas tree still up; so I’m not that bad! (OK, now that I’m finally finishing this post mid-January, even I am ready to be done with Christmas…..but bear with me.)

The best thing about this idea is that it’s not just for Christmas!

Sure, my photos will demonstrate mostly “Christmasy” looking jars, but they can be decorated for any other appropriate holiday (Valentine’s Day Hot Cocoa Gift Jars, anyone? In which case, you’re actually EARLY.)

If you need a little housewarming gift or something to take to a hostess this winter, these will fit the bill.

 

So let’s get started.

 

First, you need to assemble a collection of jars. I used pint-sized mason jars, and adjusted the amounts from this recipe

I also used an assortment of colors, including both blue and purple “vintage” colored jars for my gifts. Since the beauty of using jars for gifts is that they are reusable, I thought that some of my friends would love to receive a tinted jar.

tinted mason jars

 

For each pint jar, you will need the following ingredients:

 

½ cup granulated sugar

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup powdered milk

¼ tsp salt

¼ cup miniature chocolate chips

¼ cup miniature marshmallows (you could also use a dehydrated marshmallow such as these)

 

Each pint gift jar makes six servings.

 

ingredients for layered cocoa jars

 

Gather up your ingredients, clear a nice, big space on your kitchen counter or table, and get layering! Start with the sugar and end with the marshmallows.

 

layering cocoa gift jars

layering cocoa gift jars 2

layering cocoa gift jars 3

layering cocoa gift jars 4

Here are some notes to make filling your jars a success:

-Use a canning jar funnel to help pour each layer into the jar.

-Be CAREFUL when adding each layer. It’s difficult to make the layers nice and even (even for a recovering perfectionist, like me), so take care and take your time, so as not to mix the layers.

-GENTLY tapping the jar and/or carefully “stirring” or smoothing the top layer with a utensil may help to even the layer you’re working on.

-Add extra marshmallows to the top of the jar to fill it completely. This will look better and more importantly, keep the ingredients from sliding around and mixing when moved.

 

filled cocoa gift jars

 

Next, decorate your jars as you wish, including tying festive ribbons around them, and possibly a doily or sticker to adorn the lid. Attach a pretty tag with these simple instructions (I simplified them from the original recipe, per my husband’s advice): Mix contents. Use ⅓ cup cocoa mix per 1 cup boiling water (or milk). Store airtight.

 

decorating layered cocoa jars

decorating layered cocoa jars 2

Here are some Christmas tags I designed for my jars that I would like to share with you. 🙂

(*stay tuned…download coming soon!)

Obviously, if you’re not giving these for Christmas, you’ll need to “de-Christmasify” (that’s a word, right?) your tags.

(*download for winter tags coming soon!)

 

making cocoa gift tags

 

You could cut and paste these paper tags onto card stock or other heavy-weight paper for your tags and hole-punch them, or simply use appropriately sized store-bought gift tags like I did. (Do NOT buy them at full price, though, PLEASE! That’s a post for another day.)

 

layered cocoa gift jars 2

Notice how some are “Christmasy” while others are just “wintry”?

 

You can really use any hot cocoa mix recipe you like or any size jar, but you’ll have to do the calculations to figure out how much of each ingredient to place in each different sized jar. You could also change up the add-ins if you like.

The hot chocolate mix recipe on this page looks like another version I may try next time. The addition of crushed candy canes looks festive and delicious.

I think my gift recipients all really liked their cocoa jars. We tried the cocoa mixture here at home and decided that it is REALLY chocolatey. That’s why I added the idea of using hot milk rather than hot water. I may try to adjust amounts a little differently next time around.

So that’s it, folks! Enjoy making and sharing these heart-warming presents with someone you love.

Have you ever made layered hot cocoa in jars, or do you have another exciting layered-in-a-jar recipe you’d like to share?

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