When Thanksgiving and Christmas Collide ~ And It’s a Good Thing

give thanks

Today, my family is celebrating Thanksmas.  Hey, it’s a real thing.  It’s when Thanksgiving and Christmas collide because of travel plans and family circumstances.  We won’t be able to see my Kansas family on December 25.  Instead, we’re celebrating both holidays together – today, at the same time.

“Oh no!” one might think.  “We should never skip through Thanksgiving and jump into Christmas, forgetting to be thankful.”

I’ll agree with you completely on one point:  We should never forget to be thankful.  Never, ever.  But blending the two holidays?  I have decided that it’s perfect.  I’ve also decided that this same concept is perfect in the middle of February, early in April, and during summer break.  After all, if I only choose to consider “what I’m thankful for” during Thanksgiving season and “how wonderful it is that God sent Jesus to earth” during the Christmas season – I have completely missed some major Truths in the Bible about who I’m called to be, and where my heart should be focused.

Hooray for holidays that bring our attention back to these important areas of focus!  But not only do I disagree that we shouldn’t blend the holidays, I believe we’ve actually missed something very important if we don’t.

Our God is an amazing God - today, on December 25, and even on Black Friday, if you can possibly imagine.  But, ack!  What about all the commercialism?!  Marketing tools!  Flyers and ads and sales – they are everywhere this time of year!  That is a true fact.

Also a true fact:  There are gimmicks and commercials and marketing ploys 365 days of the year – all of which are insisting I need their product in order to have a full and happy life.  The only difference right now is that commercials slap the words “gift giving” on the reason they’re asking us to buy stuff.  At least it’s better than telling us to buy something for ourselves because “we’re worth it,” wouldn’t you say?

Are we losing Thanksgiving because of all the Christmas hype?  My thought is that it’s not up to what time the stores open their doors, or the fact that some are not closing theirs at all.  It’s not up to sale flyers or commercials.  It’s up to you and me.  It’s about our heart focus.  Nothing in our lives can be separated.  I don’t care when you shop, what you buy, how much you spend, or whether you ate turkey or ham.  Jesus and a thankful heart go hand in hand, every single day - no matter the holiday, season, or date on a calendar.

For the record, today, not only am I celebrating Thanksgiving (so much to be thankful for!) and Christmas (how exciting that God sent His Son!) - I’m also celebrating Easter (praise God, Jesus died and rose again!) and Valentine’s Day (Love you, Matt!!  XOXOXO).  I’ll celebrate it all over again tomorrow.  And since tomorrow just so happens to be Black Friday, I might also pick up a good deal or two.  Bonus!

Have a blessed holiday season!  May our hearts yearn for Truth, may our souls find peace, may we always be grateful.

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Games on Sale at Amazon!

After all the fun discussion about your favorite games, I’ve been doing some shopping around.  I’m excited to find many of the games you mentioned on sale right now at Amazon.  With free shipping right to my door, this is tough to beat.

In case you’re interested in new games for your family too:

Quirkle is on sale for just $20.99.

quirkle

5-Second Rule is just $14.50.

5 second rule

Headbandz is $11.99.

headbandz

The Game of Things is really discounted – just $19.30.

game of things

Sequence is down to $15.99.

sequence

And there are many more great deals as you click around at all the game options.  These prices are all cheaper than the prices I saw when shopping at the store this week.  Sweet!

This post contains affiliate links.

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Beef Summer Sausage Recipe

Summer Sausage has always been a favorite finger food of mine during the holiday season.  I’ve tinkered with recipes before, but haven’t felt like I’ve nailed them – until now.

Folks, we can now eat Summer Sausage – worry freeHigh fives all around!  No MSG, no nitrites, no preservatives.  Actually, salt is a natural preservative, so I guess I can’t say “no preservatives.”  But the least of my worries is sea salt, especially when I use Redmond. That means that “summer sausage” and “good for you” can be used in the same sentence.  Yay!!!

I think you’ll be as excited about this recipe as I am.  It’s homemade beef summer sausage!!  You will not believe how crazy easy this is to make.

Homemade Beef Summer Sausage - Easy and Healthy!

Beef Summer Sausage

2 1/2 pounds hamburger meat
2 1/2 Tablespoons liquid smoke (I prefer Wright’s Brand)
1 Tablespoon sea salt (I prefer Redmond brand)
1 teaspoon sucanat
1 Tablespoon ground pepper
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon mustard seeds

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, squishing with your hands until everything is well combined.  Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Knead meat mixture, then shape into 2 logs, about 13×2 inches each.  I found that rolling them in parchment paper helped form a nice, round shape.  Place logs in baking dishes such as Pyrex 9×13 inch pans (so fat drippings will not spill over into the oven).  Bake in a 300° oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours.

To freeze Summer Sausage:  Allow baked summer sausage to cool completely.  Wrap in parchment paper, then with plastic wrap.  Place in a freezer bag, storing in freezer for up to 2 months.

As if it wasn’t already wonderful news that we can enjoy healthy summer sausage – it’s even better news that this will be perfect for your Make-Ahead Lunch Box.  I’ll be packing this for road trips, for sure.

Share with us!  What’s your favorite holiday finger food?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The winner of our Deborah and Co. $50 gift certificate giveaway is:

Serenity Summers: lasummers@

Serenity, email me and I’ll forward your info on for your prize!

 

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Gratituesday: The Big Purchase

gratituesday[2]

You know how exciting it is when your baby first get a tooth, takes a first step, and says his/her first word?  I have to tell you, this past week has ranked right up there as one of the most exciting “firsts” for our family, particular for oldest son, Asa.  Allow me to introduce to you the newest member of our family:

asa car

Yes indeed, our 17 year old has purchased his first car.

It’s been quite the event.  My dad, Asa’s “Papa,” called a few weeks ago to let us know he may have found a good car if Asa was interested.  My dad is an auctioneer, so he frequently comes across items of interest.  The car isn’t new, and it isn’t fancy, but if Asa wanted something reliable, this could be perfect.  It had been owned by an older person who hadn’t driven it much and had taken good care of it.

We did a lot of research, loving that although the car is old (1994), it has low mileage and a good reputation.  Asa decided on a price to bid for the car, and left it in Papa’s hands since the auction was in Kansas.  Our family went on to play in a Basketball Triangular all day Saturday while my dad carried on with his auction at the same time.  As we were heading home after a long day on the basketball court, the text from my dad came in, “Asa owns a car.”

Shouting and high fives and all around.  He had won the bid!  Not only that, he got a lower price for it than we had expected – a blessing for sure!

We are so proud of Asa.  He has been working hard and saving his money for years.  This purchase was a wise one, and very doable for him because of the way he’s handled his money through the years.  He’s even still got a savings cushion (which hurts him on the FAFSA, as we are now learning – don’t even get me started).

He’ll get to bring his car home after our Thanksgiving trip to Kansas, so the timing for this purchase couldn’t be better.  As always, God worked this one out just right.

There’s much to be thankful for, and while it’s especially on our minds this time of year, I’m grateful to celebrate God’s goodness each week here during Gratituesday!  Your turn to share: What are you thankful for?

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What Are Your Favorite Family Games?

Our family loves playing games, especially now that all four kids are old enough and able to play games we all enjoy.  Finding a chunk of time that works for all six of us to sit down and play together is rare, so when we find it, we jump on it!

What Are Your Favorite Family Games

We are trying to come up with a new family game or group game to get our kids for Christmas this year.  Because you are all brilliant and always full of great ideas, I thought I’d ask you what games you love at your house.  First, I’ll give you a list of what we already have and enjoy together:

Wow, after making that list, it kind of makes me wonder if we actually need another game this Christmas.  We have oodles in our closet!  Still, tell me your favorites.  Our lives may just not be complete yet without one more game.  :)

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Menu Plan for the Week – Plus This Week’s Grocery Pictures

Here we are, beginning Thanksgiving week already!  We’ll head to Kansas to spend time with family later this week, thus the abbreviated menu plan below.  Since my side of the family won’t be together again at Christmas time, we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas all in the same weekend.

groceries nov4

Home-canned goodies make great gifts!

Here’s a picture of this week’s grocery store run.  See that nine year old boy hiding behind the groceries?  He was on sale, and I couldn’t resist.

groceries nov3

We’ll be enjoying the special treat of Chex Mix over the holiday.

Our Amazon Subscribe and Save order came this week.  I got such good deals – and they are all over my storage room.  Not only have I not had time to put them away, it’s freezing in there!  I’ll do it….later.  ;)

groceries nov

My new Menu Planning Notebook is proving to be soooo much fun - and super helpful too.  Do you have yours put together yet?  As you can see, I shared my work space with cookie cutters.  Malachi and I were getting cookies ready to take to Kansas.  :)

groceries nov2

Here’s what my menu plan ended up looking like for this week:

Breakfast

Lunch

Dinner

Fruit and Veggie Side Dishes (I serve 1-4 with each meal)

  • Pears
  • Applesauce
  • Peas
  • Green Beans
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet Peppers
  • Petite Carrots
  • Clementines
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Mixed Greens
  • Spinach
  • Romaine
  • Raspberries
  • Fresh Pineapple

What are your Thanksgiving plans this week?

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Simple Pumpkin Pancakes

It might be apparent to you at this point that I am on a big pumpkin kick right now.  First Pumpkin Breakfast Cake, then Pumpkin Cheesecake, now Simple Pumpkin Pancakes.  It’s just one more way to add vegetables to our table, plus it’s delicious – so why not?  That, and I have oodles of pumpkin puree at my house right now, so I’m making everything I can think of.  My family rejoices.

It is important to note that I often use butternut squash in many of the pumpkin recipes I am making.  Pumpkin and butternut squash are interchangeable in recipes.  Many a pumpkin pie at my house is actually butternut squash pie, but don’t tell.

Want to know how to easily cook a pumpkin (or butternut squash)?  Cooking them whole is the easiest way I’ve found to cook them to make puree.  Once pureed, I use it right away or freeze it until I need it.  Awesome, nutritious goodness!

These Pumpkin Pancakes stir together in just a few minutes and taste fantastic.  Veggies for breakfast…woot!

Simple Pumpkin Pancakes

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups milk
1/4 cup melted butter

Whisk ingredients together until smooth.  Cook on a hot, buttered griddle, flipping once the pancake becomes bubbly on the first side.  Serve with applesauce or real maple syrup.  Makes about ten 3-inch pancakes.

Simple Pumpkin Pancakes

Other pumpkin (or butternut squash) recipes you’ll find here:

What’s your favorite way to use pumpkin (or butternut squash)?

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Lord, Get Me Off This Crazy Brain Train

All aboard!  Who’s with me?  We’re heading south toward Crazy, passing through Unproductive, Distracted, and Terribly Unpleasant along the way.

Lord! Get me off this Crazy Brain Train!

Do you know what’s great about women?  We are multi-taskers.  We can get things done like nobody’s business.  Our brains are wired to think about what to make for dinner – while we’re switching out laundry, while we’re on the phone setting up an appointment, while we’re watching the kids to make sure they are safe.  This is a gift!  God made us this way!

Satan though.  He’s a sly one.  He likes to take what God did and flip a switch – just a tiny one – to mess up what God created perfectly and turn it into something miserable. He makes it seem okay, or at the very least, he makes it easy for us to shift the blame to others so that we not only justify our actions and attitudes - we don’t even recognize them for what they are: sinful.

So hello, fellow multi-taskers.  Praise God with me for the gift He’s given us to be able to think of so many productive and meaningful thoughts at the same time.  But be on guard with me, too.  This unique and blessed gift often causes more anxt, worry, and fear than godly productivity.  I can make breakfast, plan dinner, be mad at my husband, be worried about my teenagers, and re-play a conversation with a friend that’s bothering me – all at the same time.  This is multi-tasking in a gruesome form.

The noise is deafening – turning my focus in eight different directions at the same time – none of them focused upward.  I hear the battles raging for my mental energy to dwell on what I can not change.  I groan inwardly at all I wish I would have said and what I hope she heard when we visited.  I look ahead four years and try to create the impossible.  It’s loud here.  It’s confusing.  It’s physically exhausting.

The Crazy Brain TrainWe have got to get off.  Don’t even wait for the next stop.  Just take a huge breath and jump.  You’ll be safe.  What?  Like it’s any better aboard the train?  What holds us here?  Do we enjoy the crazy?

Take Every Thought Captive

You know how we gain knowledge of God?  We read His Word.  Like we need food and water – we devour everything He has to say.  We feast on it with our very breath.  His Truth becomes our life.  Our sustenance.

You know how we demolish arguments and every idle thought that wants to make itself more important than the words the Father is trying to tell us?  We take the thought captive.  We stop the thought in its tracks.  We drop-kick it in the name of Jesus.  We listen to God’s voice - the voice we can only hear when we get rid of the other noise and listen to His – strong and clear.  We replace the ugly, unproductive thoughts with Truth.

His Truth silences the crazy.

“…Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…”  Hebrews 12:1-2 (read the whole chapter!)

Hearing too much noise and not able to hear God?  Look up!!  Fix your eyes on Jesus.  Let the Lord take you off the Crazy Brain Train so that you can enjoy the Peaceful Heart He is waiting to give you.

Still multi-tasking?  You bet.  We’re killin’ it, knocking out everything on the to-do list God calls us to do.  But our hearts and minds are at peace.  We’re using this gift, and we’re doing it right – with our eyes fixed on Him.

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Win a $50 Gift Certificate from Deborah and Co.

Modest outfits that are cute too?  Is it even possible?  Of course it is.

Deborah and Co. is an online shop that is always on the look-out for women’s clothing that is practical, trendy, and modest too.  (If you have a young girl in your household, you’ll want to check out their Little Deborah line as well.)

Through the years, I’ve been blessed to review several Deborah and Co. clothing items.  I have loved them all!  Their clothing is all super quality, comfortable, and fit like they are supposed to fit.  Here’s the outfit I was recently sent to try out:

deborah and co outfit

I grabbed the picture off their website as it is now toooooo cold for me to wear such cute apparel such as this.  :)  At least I got to try them on before the snow started to fall.  The skirt and top fit great, and will be so much fun to wear come spring!  Cute, comfy, practical – gotta love it. :)

Check out the Perfect Pockets Skirt, Grey Striped Knit Top and everything Deborah and Co. have to offer – even maternity.  They are a fantastic company to work with!

The very exciting news is that one of you here can win a $50 gift certificate to spend however you like at Deborah and Co!  Leave a comment here for a chance to win.  I’ll draw one random winner on Tuesday, November 25.  Be sure to watch for a post stating the winner as you will be responsible for contacting me if your name is chosen. :)

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Apple Nachos ~ Share Your Story

Share Your Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Story

Have you tried making these easy Apple Nachos yet?  They are a super fun treat this time of year.  (Or any time of year, maybe?  Yes, definitely.)

Ingrid sent in her story and pictures; it looks like her family had so much fun making – and eating – these together!  I love her idea of adding peanut butter to the sauce.  These Apple Nachos are a fantastic way to get your kids involved in helping you in the kitchen.

Laura,
Just wanted to share some pictures of my little ones helping put together our Apple Nachos.  We’ve made your caramel sauce recipe several times to give as gifts.  We started adding some peanut butter to make a peanut butter caramel sauce that we really like for apples.  I think my littlest one ate more chocolate chips than she put on the nachos but she still enjoyed helping like a “big girl.”  Thanks for all of your great recipes and encouragement–I check your blog every morning :)
Sincerely,
Ingrid from NC
p.s. Our caramel sauce came out really dark b/c the brown sugar I used had a high molasses content.

apple nachos story 1

Beautiful!

apple nachos story 4

I think they look like chocolate chip sprinkling experts.  Gotta start ‘em young, right?

apple nachos story 3

Guilty as charged.  But carry on…

apple nachos story 2

Mmm, yummy chocolate cheeks. She looks so pleased with herself – and so she should be. :)

Your stories and pictures continue to be a highlight of my email inbox.  Keep ‘em coming!
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