Monthly Archives: November 2011

Here’s our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree


I sold our old wimpy tree on craigslist for $60. I got this amazing-ly gorgeous one on craigslist for $75. I was VERY happy – it’s definitely a steal for just a $15 upgrade. 🙂 I had way too much fun decorating it this year (since I didn’t have to spend all my time jumping over the 5′ fence in our backyard, hiking down the copperhead-ravaged ravine, and slaughtering the mighty pine trees back there just to get some greenery to fill in the poor excuse for a Christmas Tree we’ve endured the last few years.

Well, maybe it wasn’t that terribly dangerous….no copperheads. But it is a ravine.

So here it is – our Christmas Tree in photos.  My husband has been collecting Peanuts ornaments for a looooong while now. We always end up with 2 or 3 more each year. (*Hint: These make great Christmas gifts!) 🙂  It’s a bit different from the one in the Charlie Brown Christmas special. And as endearing as that little scrawny tree is – I’m thankful to have something a bit meatier this year.  Enjoy these photos – and have fun decorating your trees everyone! 🙂

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Praise the Lord today.


Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
3who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

6The LORD works righteousness
and justice for all who are oppressed.
7He made known his ways to Moses,
his acts to the people of Israel.
8The LORD is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
9 He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
10He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
   so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

13As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
14For he knows our frame;[a]
he remembers that we are dust.

15As for man, his days are like grass;
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
and its place knows it no more.
17But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,
and his righteousness to children’s children,
18to those who keep his covenant
and remember to do his commandments.
19The LORD has established his throne in the heavens,
and his kingdom rules over all.

20Bless the LORD, O you his angels,
you mighty ones who do his word,
obeying the voice of his word!
21Bless the LORD, all his hosts,
his ministers, who do his will!
22 Bless the LORD, all his works,
in all places of his dominion.

Bless the LORD, O my soul! Bless the Lord

Free Jesse Tree Printable


We really enjoyed putting together our Jesse Tree last year using Ann Voskamp’s Free download. I loved the focus it put on why Christ came and the miraculous events leading up to His birth. It starts 27 days before Christmas – during the days of “advent” – and helps us remember the reason Christ came for us.

What is a Jesse Tree? It can be anything – from a branch you cut off a tree in your backyard, to a small Christmas tree (I found one on Craigslist for $5 I can’t wait to use this year!), to a paper tree on your wall or a bulletin board, to something large and exciting if you want! It works similar to the Advent calendars your moms used to use – every day, you have a new ornament to put on the tree – that corresponds with an event in Scripture that leads up to Christ’s birth. It starts with creation and focuses on God’s promises to send His Redeemer for His chosen people. There’s corresponding verses (great for starting a family Bible Time if you don’t have something to do already!) to go with each day’s ornament as well.

This new printable, though, my friend’s friend posted today – and she’s offering it free for a limited time this month – and it’s fantastic! It even includes cute little gift boxes for you to put each ornament in – I’ll be including some candy – probably chocolate – for each night as well – that makes it even more fun for my girls. 😉 I’ll definitely be using this one this year – as the pictures and graphics are a little more appropriate for my younger girls.

We’ll be celebrating our Christmas away from home this year – our first family “mission trip” – at our church in West Virginia…so I’ll have to figure out how to add that climactic moment of Christ’s birth on our tree – I might have to lug the whole thing with me. (It’ll take me all 27 days of Advent to convince my husband to let me do that!)

You can of course print this off at home – but I did a little research on printing prices:

At Fedex Kinkos, you can print the entire document for the following prices right from home –

Cardstock (4 different weight options – all the same price) Paper – $39.95/after discount – $31.96

Laser White (32 lb.) Executive paper – $23.25/ after discount – $18.14

Standard White Paper – $18.29/ after discount – $14.63

Through 11/30 – you can use the coupon code GAN222 to get 20% off your order.

I went with the 32 lb. weight option – and I’ll plan to use the wooden circles, then laminate them as well – especially those boxes. If you come up with any tips, let me know! Happy Christmas Celebrating!

Double Chocolate Chip Frappacinos – in a cupcake.


Well, here it is, folks. I love these. (See my confession at the end if you wanna know why.) I made these kinda for me – and those kids at the rehearsal dinner who didn’t like coffee. (I think there was, maybe, one?) These still were the first to go – even though there were just as many as the caramel fraps!

Does anyone else study cookbooks during their daughter’s violin lesson and doctors appointments?

Maybe it has something to do with these cupcakes going all over the place this week. To my new friends in Spain, Germany, Hong Kong and Canada – hello! Let me know when I can come visit. I’ll bring cupcakes. Anyway, back to the recipe.

For the Chocolate Cake. This is the only time I’ve every used a box mix for cupcakes. It just gives me the best chocolate cake I’ve ever made. And it’s easy. Well, easier than those other ones. 🙂


  • 1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix (I’m a Duncan Hines fan, personally, but use what you like best.)
  • 1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, beaten eggs and water. Stir in the chocolate chips and pour batter into the muffin tins. Fill ’em up 3/4 full.
  3. Turn the oven down to 325 degrees F. Bake for 18 to 23 minutes, or until top is springy to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool cupcakes thoroughly in the pan at least a few minutes before inverting onto a cooling rack. Cool Completely.
Yield: 24 cupcakes + sometimes one extra. I don’t have to tell you where the extra one goes. These things are almost as good as that caramel drizzle stuff. Seriously.

For the Chocolate Mousse – the yummy filling several of the wedding rehearsal guests drank right down…

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/3 cup water
1 package of Semisweet Chocolate Chips

2 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream

NOTE: You can cut this recipe in half – you’ll have enough for one batch of cupcakes. But sometimes you might like to have more…you know, just because.

  1. Whisk sugar, yolks, water in large metal bowl.
  2. Set bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bowl to touch water); whisk until candy thermometer registers 160°F, about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, pour the chocolate chips into another bowl and set aside.
3. Remove egg mixture bowl from over water. Pour it over the chocolate chips. Let it sit for a minute or two, then stir. Do not drink this – at least not all of it. 🙂 Using electric mixer, beat egg/chocolate mixture until cool and thick, about 5 minutes.
4.Beat cream in another large bowl until stiff peaks form.
5. Fold the cream into the chocolate egg mixture.
For the Swiss Meringue Buttercream Icing:

3/4 cup sugar
4 egg whites
2 sticks unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Heat sugar, egg whites, and salt in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pan of simmering water, whisking until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer.

Return bowl to mixer, and whisk, gradually increasing speed from low to medium-high, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add butter, a few pieces at a time, whisking well after each addition. Whisk in vanilla. Switch to a paddle attachment and beat until air bubbles are gone, 2 to 3 minutes more. (Or if you have a regular mixer like mine, *ahem*, honey,* ahem* Christmas gift…) 🙂

For the Chocolate Drizzle:

Are you ready for this? It’s tough. It’s so tough I had to sit down with a spoon and a cup of milk afterwards just to enjoy the labors of my work. All my slaving hard work for this one.

Take a deep breath….

Seriously – why re-create this? 🙂

To assemble the cupcakes:

Once cupcakes are cool, core out the center of each one. Using a pastry bag, pipe a small amount of chocolate sauce, then pipe chocolate mousse until the center is almost full, and then top with another piping of chocolate.

Once all cupcakes are filled, pipe swiss meringue buttercream onto each one using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

Lastly, use a sturdy plastic freezer bag or disposable plastic pastry bag with a small hole cut out of it and drizzle chocolate on top of each cupcake.
Sorry for the camera shake here – I was so excited to eat these.

And don’t forget your straws!

Confession: I don’t drink coffee. I’ve tried. So those Caramel Frappacino cupcakes 52,000 of you looked at this week? I’ve never tasted them. That’s the sole reason for making up these amazing chocolate ones – I really wanted a cupcake. Please don’t hold it against me! Around 100 of my friends and family have had them and they raved. So go ahead try them and let me know how they turn out. BUT if you’re like me, and coffee just isn’t your thing. These Double Chocolate Chip Frappacino Cupcakes are the answer. 🙂

Wizard of Oz Party – Games and Activities


If you want to check out the food and setup go ahead – but for now – here’s a couple of things we did. It was the perfect games for this age group (4-7 year olds) – and they all had a great time.

I had a college friend of mine paint a water color portrait of the Wicked Witch of the West – she just used a piece of poster board and a set of $1 watercolors from Wal-mart. I had no idea those paints could turn into something this amazing!

The girls had some (green) water balloons they each threw at her – til she was all melted away. It was definitely a huge hit!

And now the Wicked Witch is dead! 🙂

After that fun game, we made some little scarecrow magnets. I had the foam pieces pre-cut – I eyeballed the pattern from these magnets. The project was perfect – it took just long enough for everyone to do each step and pass around the few glue sticks I had – and they all had a little craft to take home.

This really was the most fun I’ve had doing a party – and I think my little birthday girl is having just as much fun remembering it.

Happy Friday, everyone!


I’m looking forward to a rather quiet weekend with my family – starting with a Whinnie the Pooh movie night. Enjoy your weekend plans – and have a good laugh during your last hour at work – or your last hour before Daddy comes home – or just the last hour before 5:00. 🙂 Oh! And make sure you watch all the way to the end – or your gonna miss the best brothers!

PS – Next week, I’ll definitely post my recipe for Double Chocolate Chip Frappacino Cupcakes.

Kid-friendly Cheeseburger Sliders with Honey Dijon Mayo – and Crispy Sweet Potato Fries!


I decided pull these out for dinner tonight – but I didn’t have any dinner rolls in my pantry or my freezer…so I decided to pull out my every trusty Deluxe Breadmaker Bread Machine. This was that one wedding gift on my registry that I desperately wanted to have. And I use it at least 2 times a week! These rolls are worth a post all to themselves, so if nothing else, whip these out for Thanksgiving or something.

Homemade Roll Ingredients

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk or half n half (I pour it into the water so it warms it up a bit.)
  • 2/3 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast – or 2 1/4 tsp yeast if you’re using a jar.
Homemade Rolls Directions (for my Deluxe Breadmaker Bread Machine – I LOVE this thing, btw!)
  • Place the bread flour, sugar, salt, milk powder, water, butter, and yeast in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Set on Dough cycle; press Start.
  • Remove risen dough from the machine, deflate, and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into twelve equal pieces, and form into rounds. Place the rounds on lightly greased baking sheets. Cover the rolls with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In case you were wondering, here’s how I let my redneck roots shine. Seriously – it’s the BEST way to rise a roll in the South. Even on Christmas Day! Just walk outside in your t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops, put ’em in your car and walk away.  At least that’s what we did in Georgia.
Check these out – it only took 17 minutes for them to get like this. In November. In July it would take 3. Or you could just leave them in there and they’d bake right up for you. Talk about not needing a car-air-freshener-thingy.
OK, I’ll get civilized again. Sorry about that.
  • Bake them at 350* for about 15-17 minutes, and they’ll come out lookin’ amazing. Add a little egg wash if you want a shiny brown look.
Now on to the burgers. They’re pretty simple.
Cheeseburger Slider Ingredients:
  • 20 ounces lean ground beef (or turkey)
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 clove garlic – minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon basil,, dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano,, dried
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  •  freshly ground black pepper
  • 16 dinner or slider rolls
  • 4 slices of Havarti Cheese (or whatever your favorite happens to be at the time!)
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon honey Dijon mustard
Cheeseburger Sliders Directions
  • Combine ground beef, cheese and all seasonings. Mix together well. Make sure you have my blog post up so you can read the recipe. hahahaha!  🙂
  • Shape turkey into 16 small patties.  Good burger making tip here for ya – you know how when your burgers normally come off the grill they shrink up and get more bouncy-ball like -then flat disc like? It has to do with proteins in the meat scrunching up on the outside of the burger and bringing it all in to the middle. (That was scientific wasn’t it?) If you punch down a little hole in the middle of your burger patty before you cook it, your burger will be more level shaped than bouncy-ball shaped when it’s done cooking – it’ll fit on those awesome rolls better this way. 🙂
  • Place patties on a greased baking sheet.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 – 10 minutes or until cooked through. Be careful not to cook too long or they will become dried out.
  • Cut your cheese slices into quarters.  Top burgers with Cheese slices.
  • Combine mayonnaise with honey Dijon mustard and stir until well blended. Yeah, I use Duke’s – ’cause it’s local. And anything with the words “Heavy Duty” on it gets my attention.
  • Place on rolls and top with honey Dijon mayo.
Serve these sliders (with those homemade rolls if you don’t wanna run to the store for premade ones…) with these amazing sweet potato fries, and you’ll have a happy bunch of kids – the big guy in your life included.