Celebrating a Simple Christmas: Is it Possible?

Let’s throw this idea around together shall we? Is a celebrating a Simple Christmas even possible?

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Every year at this time, I play tug of war between wanting to keep our holiday super simple and wanting to do everything possible to make our Christmas extra special. I bobble back and forth between wanting to make all the fun crafts then refusing to even get out the glue gun or ribbon. I decide that we should spend hardly any money on gifts then teeter over to the “but it’s Christmas” money mindset.

I make a huge list of Christmas goodies I want to make, then scratch most everything off and narrow it down to just a few of our traditional family favorites. I fall in love with all the amazing Pinterest Christmas suggestions (because who are the geniuses who think of these fabulous ideas?!) then I get mad at all the Pinterest Christmas suggestions (because who are the crazy people who have actually taken time to think of and execute these ridiculously impractical ideas?!).

So in summary, each December I decide that I want to do everything and I also want to do nothing. God bless us everyone.

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Now that we have officially entered the Christmas season, I believe I’ve landed on some sort of happy middle ground. We’ll do a little more than nothing but certainly not everything, so I guess it will look like something. Do I know how to celebrate a Simple Christmas or what?

Sigh. Do you do teeter back and forth like this? Is it only me?

Here’s what I’ve been working on to share with you this month. As you read through the list, you’ll be able to see clearly that nothing is difficult or requires much effort (you’re welcome). But we’ll still have us some simple holiday fun and we’ll get to eat chocolate (because God is good).

Simple Christmas posts you can look forward to this month:

  • Simple Chocolate Peanut Clusters recipe
  • Simple Crock Pot Cranberry Apple Cider recipe
  •  Chocolate Pie Crust recipe
  • Dozens of LEGO Sets for Less Than $10
  • Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Pie recipe
  • Simple Trick to Serve Festive Treats without Food Coloring
  • Homemade White Hot Chocolate recipe

Truly, I don’t mean to overdo the chocolate. It’s just what happened as I started putting ideas together for the Christmas season. My Simple Christmas started to turn into a Chocolate Covered Christmas.

Is celebrating a Simple Christmas even possible

 

Share your thoughts! Do you prefer a Simple Christmas or an elaborate one? What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice

I read and hear the debates every year at this time: Pumpkin Spice Coffee, or no?

Pumpkin Spice MIx

I promise to love you no matter your preference in this matter, but I have to admit that when it comes to Pumpkin Spice in my coffee: I heartily vote no!

Not that I’ve actually ever tried it. I’m sorry. I’m a coffee-with-cream girl and I’ve already made up my mind about Pumpkin Spice Lattes before I’ve tried a sip. Can I pretend to be a 5-year old and say, “I don’t like that” even though I’ve never actually tried it?

I’ll try all the new vegetables put in front of me. I’ll give most foods a fair chance. But when it comes to my beloved coffee combined with the fun, seasonal pumpkin spice, that is where I must draw the line.

I do love eating a pumpkin spice treat with my coffee. But to stir the pumpkin spice directly into my coffee, on purpose, with a spoon? Now why would I want to go and ruin my morning like that? Why?

I’d love to hear how all of you feel about the infamous Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It’s possible that some of you love them so much that you are convinced that they were served at The First Thanksgiving. With a dollop of cool whip. And topped with a candy corn.

I can’t even.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Mix

Now the cinnamon-nutmeg-clove pumpkin spice combination itself – this is the essence of fall. When making a pumpkin treat of any kind, I have always pulled out the variety of spices needed and added them each separately. But in the name of simplicity, this year I decided to shake together my own little jar of Pumpkin Spice perfection.

This year as I make all of our fun pumpkin muffins, pies, pancakes, and cookies, I’ll save myself a bit of time and effort and get out my cute jar of Pumpkin Spice.

Think of all the precious seconds I’ll save because of this new jar of Pumpkin Spice I have finally added to my kitchen. Thanks to this, I’ll actually have time to tie my shoes before running out the door.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice

How to Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice
 
Author:
Serves: ½ cup
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tablespoons ground ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon ground allspice
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients and store the spice blend in an airtight container.

Quick and Easy Pumpkin Spice Mix

What to Make with Pumpkin Spice

From now on, I’ll sub my Pumpkin Spice in all my Pumpkin Recipes!

12 Pumpkin Recipes

 

Here are some of our featured Pumpkin Recipes!

Be on the lookout this fall for several new recipes we can use with Pumpkin Spice. I’ve been experimenting and to be sure, my house smells wonderfully pumpkin spicy all the time right now!

If you’d like to shake some Pumpkin Spice into your coffee, please go right ahead. I’ll even sit with you while you drink it. We can still be friends.

Do tell. Are you a Pumpkin Spice Latte lover?

Low Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake Cups

Pumpkin Cheesecake Bites

In preparation for Thanksgiving Day, I made a big Turkey, Cheesy Mashed Potatoes, GravyStuffing Muffins, Green Bean Casseroles, Sweet Potatoes, Cranberry Sauce, Pineapple Fluff Salad , Pumpkin Pies, Pecan Pie Bites, Whipped Cream, and Apple Pies. I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking the same thing I’m thinking. There may not be enough food! What will we do if we run out of food?

So I made more food. Just in case, you know?

Actually, I’m not worried about having enough food. But looking over that list, there is a definite shortage of cheesecake. It also occurred to me that I might enjoy a low sugar dessert on Thanksgiving day. That is why I took my Low Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe and adapted it to make fun these Pumpkin Cheesecake Cups.

We can all sleep better now knowing that along with the other 26 dishes on the Thanksgiving buffet, there will also be low sugar cheesecake. I’m not sure the day would have been complete otherwise.

Low Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake Cups

Yum

Low Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake Cups
 
Author:
Serves: 24
Ingredients
  • Shortbread Crust:
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour (I use freshly ground hard white wheat for this)
  • ½ cup sucanat (or brown sugar if you prefer)
  • 1½ cups melted butter
  • Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling:
  • 2 8-ounce packages softened cream cheese
  • 1½ cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • Real maple syrup or liquid stevia to taste (I used 4 droppers full of stevia)
Instructions
  1. Make crust by stirring flour and sucanat together in a bowl.
  2. Add melted butter, combining well.
  3. Press mixture into 24 paper-lined muffin cups.
  4. Bake in a 350° oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
  5. Allow crust to cool completely.
  6. Blend all pumpkin cheesecake filling ingredients together until smooth.
  7. Scoop into prepared shortbread crust cups.
  8. Spread until smooth.
  9. Chill in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving.

I found it fun to use fall-colored muffin cup liners for the occasion. Come Christmastime, I’ll use red and green. :)

Low Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecake Cups

I made the filling with stevia and was concerned that others might not like them as a result. But since the shortbread crust has a little sucanat and is so buttery and yummy, that balances the taste out for others. As for me, I think they are perfectly sweetened. In fact, I’m having to hold back to save the majority of these for Thanksgiving day. After all, there would be a definite void on the table if there were only 26 food choices and no cheesecake whatsoever.

Here’s to a wonderful holiday weekend! Happy Thanksgiving!

What’s On Your Holiday To-Do List?

A friend showed me a similar version of this list, and I loved it so much I decided to recreate it.  There’s so much “noise” and busyness this time of year that we can quickly lose our focus.  May we always remember what is important as we love others this Christmas season.

Holiday To-Do List

Download and print a free Holiday To-Do List to use as a reminder and to share with others!

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

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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.

Menu Plan for the Week

Here’s a picture preview of one of the first simple recipes I’ll share in our upcoming Real Food Dollar Menu series. Spanish rice is one of our favorite meals. Most of it comes from throwing leftovers together. Easy and inexpensive! Recipe coming this week. (It’s a great way to use up a little leftover turkey!)

We have a full week ahead of us! Of course, with Thanksgiving coming, all of you likely have a full week too. I’m praying for peace and calm for all of us as we prepare food and enjoy loved ones.

Before the festivities begin, we will be hosting High School Huddle tonight, then the YC Ladies’ Basketball Team on Tuesday. You may notice a very similar menu on both nights. I figure our family might get sick of it, but Mama’s got to keep things simple in order to pull this off. Two big meals – one exact menu plan. It works for me. ;)

Sunday, November 18
Applesauce bread, bananas
Spanish rice with chicken, tossed salad
Huddle (for about 35 people) – Pulled pork sandwiches, cream cheese corn, baked beans, grapes, baby carrots, homemade ranch dip, butterscotch bars

Monday, November 19
Pancake sausage muffins, applesauce
Tuna salad, crackers, pineapple
Dinner at our friend’s house (Cake Boys will be making the dessert we’ll be taking)

Tuesday, November 20
Oatmeal pancakes (an experiment), applesauce
Cottage cheese, peaches, blueberry muffins
YC Bball Team (for about 24 people)Pulled pork sandwiches, cream cheese corn, baked beans, grapes, baby carrots, homemade ranch dip, butterscotch bars

Wednesday, November 21
Scrambled egg sandwiches, clementines
Grilled cheese, tomato soup
Chili with crackers and fruit

Thursday, November 22
Banana bread, fruit
Big Thanksgiving Feast with family!
Leftovers

Friday, November 23
Pancakes, scrambled eggs
Leftovers
Homemade pizza, fruit

Saturday, November 24
Biscuits and sausage gravy, scrambled eggs, fruit
Turkey sandwiches, veggies and fruit
Taco potatoes

Will you be doing lots of cooking for Thanksgiving, or will you be joining someone else and let them do most of the cooking? :)

Second Annual Heavenly Homemakers Christmas Brunch

Last year’s Christmas Brunch was so much fun, we’ve decided to do it again.

We appreciate all of you so much for reading here, and for all of the encouragement you send our way. As a way of saying thank you, we would love to invite you all into our home for a big Christmas brunch. Since that’s not physically possible, we will be having a “virtual” Christmas Brunch here next week that we hope you can all attend.

There will be lots of yummy food (recipes), gifts, and encouragement as we enjoy the week before Christmas together.

In addition, as an appreciation gift for coming to our Brunch, we’ll be having a drawing on the 26th for four $10 Heavenly Homemakers Gift Certificates! Each time you see the above Christmas Brunch Invitation on a post between now and the 24th, leave a comment for a chance to win one of the certificates. I’ll draw four random winners and post them on the 26th. There will be several posts with the invitation attached, so you’ll have several chances to win! (This post counts, so let the comments begin!)

And now, I’m off to prepare goodies and gifts to share with you next week. Please plan to attend this special upcoming week of festivities!

Fun {healthier} Holiday Baking

What with all the butter I hear you’ve been going through lately, it sounds like there’s a lot of fun Christmas baking going on out there! I actually haven’t even started doing my baking yet, but I will start soon. Oh yes, the butter and sucanat are going to start flying around here.

As I began to make my baking plans, I put together a list of some of my favorite holiday cookies and treats. All of these are made with healthier flours and sugars (usually honey or sucanat). I won’t be making all of these treats, but  I’m really hungry right now, so I just kept adding to the list.

Gingerbread Men

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Applesauce Bread

Peppernuts

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Christmas Graham Crackers

Reindeer Brownies

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Coconut Macaroons

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Snickerdoodles

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Orange Cream Cheese Cut Out Cookies

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Christmas Spice Cookies

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Chocolate Snowballs

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Reindeer Cuties

What’s on your Christmas baking list this year?

Gratituesday: The Tradition

Four trips to Walmart. One day.

Why? To carry on the fun tradition our family started three years ago.

All last week, our boys were working on their lists. First, they each wrote a “wish list” of possible gifts for others to purchase for them. Then they exchanged lists and spent time figuring out what they’d like to get for each brother. On Friday afternoon (after the morning crowd cleared!), I took one boy at a time to do their Christmas shopping for each other. I’d drop the one off at home, then pick up another and head back to the store. (Yes, the same greeter was there all four times. We’re like BFFs now.)

I love this time with each of my boys. I love having one-on-one time with each of them. I love the opportunity to talk with them about budgets, spending, and giving. With the exception of Malachi (who doesn’t yet have any source of income or receive an allowance yet), the boys spent their own hard earned money on these presents. I love seeing their generosity and thoughtfulness. (Even if, deep down, they’re excited to be able to play with whatever gifts they purchase for their brothers!)

This has quickly become one of my favorite family traditions. What are yours?

Share how God is working in your life on your blog, then come link up with us here. If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you’re grateful for!

If you are linking up a blog post for Gratituesday,
please copy and paste the following sentence into your post! Thanks!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!

Gratituesday: The Growing List

We intentionally didn’t make big plans for Thanksgiving this year. We’ll do a little traveling during the Christmas season, but for Thanksgiving, we decided to stay home with no plans, and to rest.

Our “no-plan” plan was to just see who needed a place to go for Thanksgiving, and to invite them over. By the end of last week, we had the grand total of one person joining us for the holiday. This was fine, but really, if I’m going to be baking and cooking a big meal anyway, I’d rather be baking and cooking for more than just the six of us plus one.

I mean, you should see the huge turkey Tropical Traditions sent us. (More info on that in a couple of days!)  This turkey needs more than just seven people eating it.

Sunday, Matt and I went to church with intentions of seeking out anyone who didn’t have Thanksgiving plans. By the time we left, we were excited to have made plans with several more college students who previously had no plan except for the possibility of ramen noodles on Thursday.   One girl was so thrilled to be invited that she texted her mom right then and there tell her that, yay! there was no need to worry because she now had a Thanksgiving plan. Shucks, I wish I could have given her mom a little peace about that earlier.

This afternoon, our list grew by two more.

I know I’m a little silly about this, but as the list grows, so does my excitement. We’ll have a nice big group of college students joining us Thursday to share our huge turkey, and all the other goodies that must be a part of Thanksgiving.

I am so thankful we can be a part of this blessing to the students. Little do they know that their accepting our invitation and joining us on this special day is a wonderful blessing to us as well.

Share how God is working in your life on your blog, then come link up with us here. If you don’t have a blog, be sure to leave a comment letting us know what you’re grateful for!

If you are linking up a blog post for Gratituesday,
please copy and paste the following sentence into your post! Thanks!

Join us for Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers!