Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

A white Christmas is rare here, but yesterday we were given a beautiful snowfall. It is amazing at the change only two inches of snow will make.

 We were at my parents and I had not come prepared for the children to play in the snow. But that didn't keep them from running out in their sneakers to make a snowman with their cousins. 

Today we are relishing a quiet day at home. The children have already been out to make a snowman in our yard.

Thankfully, we all feel good enough to enjoy the snow today. It is far more fun to write about the snow than the stomach bug that hit us this week.

From our home to yours...

wishing you a happy, healthy Christmas.

I plan to take a blogging break for the next week. I'll be back in 2013!

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David...To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins...To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1:68-69,77,79

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hog Butchering 2012

Those of you who have been around this blog a while know that when all other bloggers are sharing their lovely Christmas recipes and crafts, I write about something as low-down as butchering.

But since some of you continue to ask about my families tradition of home butchering, here is yet another edition. If you are squeamish at the thought eating something that once squealed, just skip this post.

Saturday was a beautiful, sunny but cold day - perfect for butchering. By the time I appeared on the scene, (hours after the men had begun) the fires were under the huge iron pots.

We do things the old fashioned way, including scalding the hogs in this wood-heated scalder.

The hair is then scraped off. At the end of the day, I am amazed at how little waste there is. A pile of hair, the innards, hooves, and some bones - but about everything else is used.

With many hands, the day went very well. We were blessed to have a number of friends who came to help.

Cleaning pig stomachs for hog maw.

Stuffing sausage.

Cutting meat.

In past years, two elderly friends, Joe and Jim, always came to butchering. They were the ones who told the younger men how much wood to put on the fires, when the lard was cooked enough, and to keep stirring the pots!

But in the past year, both Joe and Jim passed away. This year was the test to see how well the younger generation has learned from their elders.

At the end of the day, there was a table full of pon haus (sometimes called scrapple), hams and bacons in the smokehouse, sausage, ribs and pork chops in the freezer.

From my perspective, the day couldn't have went better. Sunday morning, we tried the pon haus - and it was as good as ever. It think the next generation passed the test.

Want to see more on hog butchering? Check out these posts for many more photos and videos.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Maple Twists

Looking for a special holiday pastry.  You won't regret trying this recipe! They are similar to cinnamon rolls with a little different shaping technique.

I've tried this technique with other cinnamon roll recipes and it works great. If you already have a favorite sweet bread recipe, use these directions for the twists. Just make sure to roll the dough out very thin. If the dough is too thick, it is hard to get the center baked completely.

This recipe makes one pan, or 16 twists. While you have your ingredients out, make a double recipe to have some to share.

Maple Twists
slightly adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook cookbook

3/4 cup warm milk
1/4 cup soft butter
3 cups flour
2 T honey (or sugar)
1/2 tsp salt
1 T yeast
1 egg
1 tsp maple extract (optional)

Filling: brown sugar, chopped nuts (optional), cinnamon, and soft butter

1 cup confectionery sugar
2 T melted butter
1-2 T milk
1/2 tsp maple extract

Mix milk, butter, 2 cups flour, honey, yeast, salt, egg, and extract. Stir in remaining flour with kneading hook or by hand until soft dough. Knead for five minutes. Place in greased bowl and allow to rise until double (about 1 hour).

Grease a 12- inch pizza pan. Divide dough into three balls. Roll one ball into a circle to fit the pizza pan. Spread dough with soft butter and sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon. Add chopped nuts if desired. Repeat layers for remaining balls of dough.

Cut out center of dough with a biscuit cutter or glass. With sharp scissors or pizza cutter, cut 16 wedges from the outside to the center. Twist each wedge several times and press down to hold in place. Allow to rise until double (about 45 minutes).

Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Mix glaze and drizzle over twists while warm. Serve.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Favorite Adult Christmas Books

I don't want to let anyone out! Though all the children's books can be loved by adults too, here are a few of my favorites just for the older ones in the home.

Skipping Christmas - John Grisham
Luther and Nora's daughter has moved to Peru and they decide to skip Christmas and spend their money on a cruise. If only it were that easy. Fun read.

The Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
We've all heard the story of Scrooge's transformation many times but still I can't let a Christmas go by without spending at least an hour reading my favorite passages.

A short story told in poem form of the impact Christ had on the Bethlehem innkeeper.

A Symphony in Sand - Calvin Miller
An allegorical retelling of the Christmas story in beautiful poetic verse. This book made me look at the Nativity story with new eyes.

Peace Child - Don Robinson
No, this isn't a classic Christmas tale, but it is the true story of how the message of Christmas and God's forgiveness came to a head hunting tribe. The chapter on their Christmas celebration is void of any of the lights and snowfall of a Norman Rockwell Christmas - but full of the real meaning of Christmas- the coming of the Prince of Peace.

What favorite books do you plan to reread this Christmas?

This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Chapter Books for Children

More favorite reading at Christmas

One Wintry Night - Ruth Bell Graham
Zeb wanders away from home and can't get back until the snowstorm stops. But the lady who shelters Zeb tells him the Christmas story, starting back before the world was made. Beautiful illustrations.

The Birds' Christmas Carol - Kate Douglas Wiggin
An old classic of the sick Carol who planned a special Christmas party for some needy children. This  is a tear-jerker but a sweet reminder of the joy in serving others.

Turkey for Christmas - Marguerite de Angeli
A favorite author and illustrator tells the story from her childhood. They have just moved to Philadelphia, sister Martha is sick, and there is very little money for Christmas. But there is love, and they find that is all that is needed.

Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Barbara Robinson
The Herdmann children are going to bash the Christmas pageant - and give the church a perspective on Christmas they will never forget. Fun story.

Treasures of the Snow - Patricia M.St. John
Not really a Christmas book, but the book begins at Christmas and contains an important message of forgiveness. A favorite from my childhood and now of my own children.

What would you add to this list?

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Christmas Stories from Other Times and Places

Sharing more of our favorite Christmas picture books for children.

Christmas Day in the Morning - Pearl S. Buck
Rob wakes early to do the chores as a special Christmas present for his dad. A sweet story with illustrations that perfectly combine with the story.

Christmas Tapestry - Patricia Polacco
To Jonathan's surprise, a disaster in the church started an unbelievable chain of events. Based on a story told to the author as a true story and adapted for children.

An Orange for Frankie - Patricia Polacco
Go back to the days when the gift of an orange was a treasure. A sweet story of Frankie who gives his Christmas sweater to a hobo. By the same author/illustrator as Christmas Tapestry.

A Certain Small Shepherd - Rebecca Caudhill
A heart warming story of a young boy who has never spoke who utters his first words at Christmas.

An Amish Christmas - Richard Ammon
Enjoy a visit to the country and celebrate Christmas with an Amish family.

Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomney - Susan Wojciechowski
A young boy wiggles into the heart of a sad woodcarver. Lovely illustrations

Christmas in a Shoebox - Franklin Graham
Inspire your children to do something for someone else at Christmas. The story of how a boy's Christmas gift blessed a family in war-town Bosnia. From Samaritan's Purse.

Tomorrow I'll share some of our favorite longer, chapter-length Christmas stories.

This post contains affiliate links.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Favorite Christmas Books for Children

I love Christmas books.

And I don't have to look far to find where that love came from - my mom loved Christmas stories. I can remember at least one year when she wrote the titles of all our Christmas stories on slips of paper and each evening we drew out a slip. In the midst of the busyness of the holiday season, it was a cozy kind of tradition.

We didn't have enough books for every day in December. But some days were too busy to read anyway. And besides picture books, she also included the Christmas chapters in some of our favorite books. The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder has many great Christmas stories. The contrast between the Christmas in The Long Winter and By the Shores of Silver Lake is worth reading. Or compare Almanzo's Christmas in The Farmer Boy with Laura's Christmas in The Little House in the Prairie. Other books with good Christmas chapters are Little Women and The Wind in the Willows.

If you are looking for some good Christmas books, I'll share our favorites. Some of these I have read since a child, some are new discoveries, but all have been read over and over again.

Just a note...if you borrow these books from your library (like I do) be considerate of others and only keep them for a short time. Others may be waiting to reread their favorite Christmas books this season too.

May you enjoy lots of good cuddle-on-the-couch time with your little ones.

Nativity Picture Books
Books for children that share the Christmas story

The Very First Christmas - Paul L. Maier
A mother shares the the true story of Christmas, with her son. Includes the text from Luke 2. Excellent illustrations with attention given to accuracy. One of the best.

The Crippled Lamb - Max Lucado
A crippled lamb becomes one of the first to witness the first Christmas. Sweet illustrations.

A folktale of three trees with ambitions that come true in ways they never imagined.

Room for a Little One - Martin Waddel
A Christmas story for the littlest ones with gentle script and pictures.

A candy maker comes up with a way to tell the Christmas story to the townspeople.

Christmas Picture Books
Well-loved stories from the Christmas season

Little Hedgehog shares his Christmas present that in the end, comes back to him. The fuzzy hat adds to the appeal for my little ones.

Night Tree - Eve Bunting
Every year the family decorates a tree in the woods with food for the animals. A fun idea your children may want to adopt.

How the Grinch that Stole Christmas - Dr. Suess
Christmas isn't about the presents and food. A favorite children's book that is a good reminder for parents too!

If You are Missing Baby Jesus - Jean Gietzen
A family finds blessing in giving to others at Christmas. A true story.

Tomorrow I'll share some more favorite Christmas tales.

I'd love to hear the books in your Christmas basket.

This post contains affiliate links.


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