Give Yourself Permission to Nix the Christmas Card (and other trappings)

December 5, 2016

Only 20 more days until wide eyed kids tiptoe down halls in unabated excitement.
Only 21 more days until stressed eyed parents pack it all away in unabashed exaltation.

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Contrary to what you are thinking right about now, I am not a scrooge!

But sometimes the trappings of Christmas seem to do, just that – Trap us.

Trap us into believing every one of those trappings has to be done, every single year. And not only checked off the list, but completed in perfection.

Christmas Lights  Advent Calendars   Locally Sourced Gifts   Christmas Cards   Homemade Desserts   Wreaths on the Door  Christmas Caroling   Kid Made Ornaments   Trees   House Decor   Christmas Parties

The list is never ending and there is a pressure you feel that if you even just dip your toe into a certain area the result has to be Pinterest perfect.

For those around me, Christmas cards seem to be the biggest hold up. You spend a fortune on a professional photographer or try to find the just perfect candid photo of kids having a sweet moment. It all ends as you begrudgingly hand write more addresses than you thought possible.

Why is it that family photo shoots make root canal dentist visits seem more enjoyable?
Bribes and Lollipops just don’t cut it and temper tantrums erupt when your 8 year old is asked nicely forced into a collared shirt.


So this year, instead of giving yourself a guilt trip over all you haven’t done this Christmas season..
Cuddle up in front of the fire with your kids.
Give a hug to your elderly neighbor.
Read the Christmas story from the Bible.
Nix the cards and Just Be Still. {This is what I’m doing this year!}
Don’t fill up every second of your time. The world will not end if you don’t send out cards.
Invite your brilliant sister to town and let her make elephant toothpaste for your kids

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Most of all, repeat this mantra… trappings are NOT what make the Christmas season.

Christmas is a time to remember God’s love for YOU and share that love with all mankind.
His love isn’t found bundled up in a card, present, or tree.
It’s found in the quiet and in the simple… giving a hug, bestowing a smile, or laughing together.

Christmas is found in the every day minutia of the relationships we share with those around us.

Merry Christmas!





Child Like Magic

On Christmas Eve I am often surrounded by memories and I wonder what your memories are this evening.

My memories as a kid are simplistic…of a sleepless night anxiously awaiting Santa’s arrival, Christmas carols sung around a piano, the hilarious gift my ‘gran’ gave every year. And then I transition to memories more recent…the first Christmas spent with our son, to the now joy I experience as my two kids open up their Christmas Eve gift. But I also guess you may have some somber moments, like me, as the day passes…when you remember simpler times or remember people who are no longer by your side.

So what I wish for you and yours this Christmas is child like magic. The ability to see hope in our lives, to see the good in others, and to see the strength that comes from a warm embrace. I hope you look beyond a hectic day of going here and there to see the joy spent among friends and family. And as tomorrow dawns, I hope you are able to see all the blessings in your life and give thanks to God for the birth of His son. And if tomorrow dawns and it isn’t quite the situation you would ask for, I hope you are able to still give thanks to God for the wondrous reason we celebrate and to know that you are not alone. No matter your circumstances or where you are spending Christmas, you are forever in God’s loving embrace and I pray His peace will be with you tonight and tomorrow, as always.

May you have a joyous and memorable Christmas Eve and Christmas.


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given…And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies for Santa

If the Santa and Elves in your household enjoy chocolate then this recipe is for you! Its got semi-sweet grated chocolate plus milk chocolate chips. And, if you love oatmeal in cookies, this recipe delivers on that too! This is one of my favorite cookies…I’ve been known to devour 2 dozen in 2 days, all by myself! So be careful…they are addictive!

Pure Chocolate Delight!

Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you Google this recipe you’ll find lots of different variations and an interesting story of how the recipe came to be. I’ll save the story telling for someone else but this variation came from a friend’s mom a few year’s back. The chocolate has been scaled back and the recipe is halved. Even with halving the recipe it still makes 4-5 dozen cookies. But that’s good right…the more for you to eat?


1 cup, 8 oz, unsalted butter, softened
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 brown eggs, preferably farm raised, slightly beaten
1 to 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups organic all purpose flour
2 1/2 cups quick 1-minute oatmeal
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz bag milk chocolate chips
4 oz chocolate semi-sweet bars


To soften butter, leave out at room temperature for 30 – 45 minutes. You don’t want to microwave it as that messes with the make up of the molecules so the cookies don’t have the right texture. Also, organic flour (or at least the brand I use, King Arthur) has a higher protein make up of the flour which limits how much the cookies spread while baking. Also, I’ve found that if you use 1-minute oatmeal versus old fashioned you will have more moist cookies. And if you slightly beat the eggs before hand it ensures you get no shell in your dough and also distributes the egg more evenly into the dough, in my opinion!

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or Silpat liners.

Grate chocolate bars into a medium size bowl.

Measure oatmeal and blend in food processor.

Next, cream together butter and sugars. When I first started baking a lot, I would wonder “how do I know when it is ‘creamed'”. Well this is what I consider ‘creamed’ to look like and takes 3 to 5 minutes to achieve.

Add beaten eggs and vanilla. Next, add the flour and oatmeal mixture. Then mix in chips and grated chocolate.

Spoon the dough into tablespoon size and place on cookie sheet and bake for 6 minutes at 375 degrees. The few minutes pass quickly so set an oven timer for these cookies! Transfer to baking rack as soon as cookies are set enough. And ENJOY!

Now, the best part…Lick that bowl clean!

I’d love to know, what cookies do you bake at Christmas each year?



Homemade Gift Ideas

Do  you have all your gifts finished, wrapped, and sitting oh so pretty under your tree? If so, congratulations!!!

If not, you’re just like me! And you may need some last minute ideas for those hard to buy for people or you just want a little something special to add to someone’s gift or you have a party this weekend and need a fun gift for the hostess with the mostess. (Do I get an award for my rhyming???)

So here are some ideas for homemade gifts that truly do not take that much time to make and they aren’t expensive! And the recipient will love the thought you put into their gift.

Veggie Garden Stakes

I came up with this idea last week and am SO super excited about it. It is a fantastic gift for the gardener in your life and you could use it for a flower gardener as well. Any gardener would love to receive this, trust me – I know!

I got the stakes at our local ACE Hardware where they only cost $.49 a piece. So this whole set of 10 stakes cost me $5! I recommend using wood and a sharpie but there are plastic veggie label stake sets at the hardware & gardening stores if you prefer that. I just don’t think it looks quite as nice as these, but that’s just me!

Items Needed: Wooden Stakes, A sharpie, and Wikipedia to look up the Latin vegetable name
Helpful Hints: I wrote on the stakes with a charcoal pencil since I didn’t think that would be as permanent should I make a mistake. Then I went over that with a black sharpie. Set aside and let dry for at least 5 minutes before writing on the opposite side. I wrote the common and Latin names on each side.  For a more festive gift, you could place these in a nice galvanized or copper watering tin.

Homemade Vinaigrette 

Last weekend I had fun at a girlfriends’ house where we (or really they) made homemade gifts, including this recipe and the following one. I was the lucky recipient of a bottle of vinaigrette so I can tell you firsthand how great this tastes! It’s very versatile, I have used it in a veggie salad, pasta salad, and a marinade. And once again, not expensive! All the ingredients are probably in your pantry. So the only cost will be the bottles which can be found at Michael’s for about $.99 a piece. (Don’t you need yet another reason to go to Michael’s this week??? I’ve been three times already!) Click here for the vinaigrette recipe.

Five-Spice Pecans

Once again, this gift is pretty cost effective. One batch should make at least 2 gifts and besides the pecans and five spice blend you probably have everything on hand already. And you may already have the spice blend in your pantry. If not, you should be able to find at your local grocer without a trip to a specialty store. (See, I know you have no extra time to make it to the specialty store!) Click here for the pecan recipe.

I hope these homemade gift ideas help you in your last minute rush to get it all done. And just remember, if you can’t get it all done…don’t worry. A genuine smile and a warm hug are also fantastic presents to receive.

Enjoy your afternoon! Jessica

PS…thank you Colleen & Lauren for including me on your homemade gift making day just so I could write this post!