‘Twas the night before Christmas…

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring…except the puking youngest child… *sigh*

And so came crashing down the plans for our yearly Christmas brunch…*sigh*

We had great plans, which we hope to piece together throughout the week once all are strong and healthy again.  🙂  The kids had a skit about The Legend of the Candy Cane, we had brunch planned including such yummy things as quiche, she crab soup, crab cakes monkey bread, meatballs, champagne, desserts and other delectibles.  We had a new fireplace to share the “warmth” of Christmas.  😉  Not to mention gifts galore.

You know what though?… my kids (and myself, as well) were most disappointed about not getting together with the people!  We love being with our extended family!  We have been talking all month about how Christmas isn’t about all the frills and gifts, but solely the rejoicing of Christ’s birth.  The birth of our Savior!  Without this glorious day we would have no hope and no future.  And so, tomorrow, we will focus on that even more with our quiet and subdued day warding off illness.  I will miss seeing my family and serving them brunch and giving them gifts…but that will come soon enough.  Tomorrow we will just huddle together as a family and rejoice our king!  And if the kids are well enough, we will spoil them a bit with all the feast foods that are left to be eaten by someone…  😉  Oh yes and there will be presents of course.

Speaking of glorious, we just had an amazing Christmas Eve service at our church that was truly glorious.  Seriously, I would have paid money to see the worship team…their performance was amazing!  And the hope of Christ was clearly stated throughout the evening.

The hope of Christ gives such peace and joy!  I see it in my kids constantly.  They have such a wonderful perspective on things.  When we go to visit Joshua, it is a place of good memories for them.  The cemetery is just another playground where they are able to visit Joshua’s place, decorate it and throw in a game of tag.

I am going to repeat the quote I posted last time, because it is just meaningful to me.  Life changes, love remains…No matter what life throws at us…from a sick kid to a horrible loss…love remains.  Love is the most important thing we can give and receive.  Love from one another is an amazing thing.  Love from Christ, our King and Savior, trumps everything.

Christmas

The days surrounding Christmas had ups and downs this year, but one thing that NEVER changes is that Christ came down all those years ago to be born here on earth, leaving His perfect Kingdom, so that He could save our lives.  That is THE meaning of Christmas.  That is the unchanging good news.  That is why despite sadness we have joy!

Joshua’s birthday celebration:

Christmas Brunch, before eating commenced:

Some yummy recipes this year included banana cream cheese stuffed baked french toast, blueberry white chocolate coffeecake, scones, quiche and about a million other things.  😉

Here are a couple desserts after they were dug into…red velvet cheesecake and butterfinger bars:

The butterfinger bars were very good…a little difficult to cut and the recipe is surely for a small pan (I used a 9×13 and had to double and it was still a stretch!)

The red velvet cheesecake I couldn’t try, because of the red dye, so I am not sure how it turned out, but it looked good!  😉

BUTTERFINGER COOKIE DOUGH CHEESECAKE BARS

YIELD: Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE LAYER

  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup flour plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips + 1/2 cup for top
  • 5 Butterfinger bars, king size

CHEESECAKE LAYER

  • 8oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

PREPARATION:

Create a sling by lining the pan with foil so that there is a one inch overhang on each side. Cover foil with bake spray. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE LAYER

Melt butter and let cool to warm. Add in brown sugar and mix to combine. Add in egg and vanilla extract and mix to combine.  Add in flour and fold to combine. Add in 1 cup of mini chocolate chips and fold to combine. Pour mixture into pan; set aside.

TO MAKE CHEESECAKE

Add all ingredients in a bowl and beat until blended. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Press 3/4 of cookie mixture into pan. Place Butterfinger bars side-by-side on top of cookie dough. Pour cheesecake mixture on top. Crumble remaining cookie dough sprinkle on top of cheesecake layer along with remaining 1/2 cup of chocolate chips all over top.
  2. Transfer pan to oven and bake for about 30-40 minutes at 375 degrees F. Remove from oven set on wire rack to cool.

 

RED VELVET CHEESECAKE

Yield: 12 to 14 servings

Prep Time: 1 hr + cooling and chill times

Cook Time: 1 hr, 15 min

CHEESECAKE:
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

RED VELVET CAKE:
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups granulated white sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups vegetable or canola oil
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup (two 1-ounce bottles) red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons white vinegar

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted lightly to remove any lumps
Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1. Prepare the cheesecake layer: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.  In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to mix the cream cheese- blend until it is nice and smooth and creamy. Mix in sugar and salt and blend for 2 minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed. Add eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Finally, mix in sour cream, whipping cream and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Bake the cheesecake for 45 minutes. It should be set to the touch and not jiggly. Remove the cheesecake  and let it cool on a wire rack for at least an hour. When it has cooled, place the pan into the freezer and let the cheesecake freeze completely. This can be done in several hours- or overnight.

2. Prepare the cake layers: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round metal baking pans (or spray with nonstick baking spray with flour). In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar to the flour mixture. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat for 1 minute, until blended. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pans, then invert cakes onto a rack to cool completely.

3. Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat powdered sugar, cream cheese, butter and vanilla until it is smooth and creamy (do not overbeat).

4. Assemble the cake: Place one cake layer into the center of a cake plate or platter. Remove the cheesecake from the freezer, take off the sides of the pan, and slide a knife under the parchment to remove the cheesecake from the pan. Peel off the parchment. Measure your cheesecake layer against the cake layers. If the cheesecake layer turns out to be a slightly larger round than your cake, move it to a cutting board and gently shave off some of the exterior of the cheesecake to get it to the same size as your cake layers. Place the cheesecake layer on top of the first cake layer. Place the 2nd cake layer on top of the cheesecake.

5. Frost and decorate the cake

Decorating

I had so much fun preparing for our family Christmas this year!  One twist I did for place settings was to make a favor with the guests name on it and place it on the plate.  So each person had a favor and a “place card”, so to speak.  The favor was a jar of cookie mix.  Cowboy chocolate chip for the guys and either M&M or pecan muffin mix for the ladies.  I ran out of jars and WalMart did as well, but they had cute Christmas tree ones, so some people had those instead.  I liked them all and really enjoyed making them.  🙂

I also wanted to post a picture of Joshua’s park since I told you we would make it festive.  🙂

 

 

12.23.12

My little guy would be 8 years old today.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem real and sometimes all too real.  I miss him.  I know a lot of people out there may think I should be over it.  I’m not.  I gave birth to my sweet son and buried him days later.  Shame on me if I ever got over that.  I love him and always will.  I praise God for taking the best possible care of him.  What an honor Joshua has to live for eternity with his King!

The balloons are all ready to take tomorrow along with his trees and toys.  His place at his “park” (we call the cemetery his park) will be decorated beyond compare!

Below is the passage we put on his website nearly 8 years ago.

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JOSHUA 1:5 ~ No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.

We were so blessed to have Joshua in our hearts, arms and lives, even if for too short of a time.  We have memorized his precious face and look at his pictures constantly to give us comfort.  He is greatly missed, forever cherished and always remembered.  We know he is experiencing such joy in Heaven and we know that we will see him again!  What peace that brings!  Though we miss him dearly, Joshua is and will remain a very important and special part of our family.

MATTHEW 19:14 ~ Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Emotions and Blessings

It is a hard week for me.  My Joshua’s birthday is on Sunday and so we will take a family trip to the cemetery.  It will be bittersweet.  We will decorate his gravestone better than anyone’s in the cemetery.  He will have Christmas and birthday balloons, trees, toys, etc.  The kids will want to leave one of their toys for him.  It will be a tender day.  And yet we will smile knowing he is safe in the arms of his Savior.

It was a hard year.  We saw a lot of loved ones struggle either with marriages, loss, health, parents or children hardships.  Every year, every minute sometimes, I realize how fragile and precious life is.

This year, I held onto those precious moments.  I breathed them in.  I felt guilty when I took them for granted.  We are not promised perfect families or perfect health.  We are not promised that life will be pain free.  We are promised eternal salvation in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.  We are promised that He will walk through each minute and each pain with us.  We are promised that there is no pain in Heaven.  I ask of anyone who reads this to give your life over to Jesus and spread His word to all you know.

I take photographs often, even when my camera is not around….I take photos in my head.  I know that I am blessed beyond belief with my husband, my children, my parents and family who love me even though I am far from the perfect wife, daughter, sister and mommy.  I thank God and them for giving me chances far over what I deserve.  I pray to the Lord that each of them will live with Him for eternity.   My personal life this year didn’t go through the trauma that I watched others go through, but my heart ached and broke for each one.  Each one made me appreciate each moment with my blessings.

Bittersweet

Today is a special day for many women across the globe.  A day where they can either celebrate their mothers or their children…in some cases both.  Sadly, for some, it is neither.  My prayer for those women is that they know how special they are, how loved they are, and how important they are to the people close to them and to their Lord and Savior.

Today is a special day for me.  My mom is the greatest.  She is such an example of a Proverbs 31 woman.  She works hard, gives much, sacrifices, loves, is patient and has a love for the Lord.  She is pretty perfect when it comes to moms.  Today is a day I can celebrate her and how blessed I am to have her in my life.

I am doubly blessed in that I also get to celebrate my children.  My 4 children.  Today is a bittersweet day for me.  I have so so so so so much to be grateful for…a great mom, other great women in my life (grandmas, aunts, sisters, cousins, nieces, friends), and children that melt my heart.  (I have great men in my life, too, just am focusing on women today)  It is also a day that hurts my heart.  I miss my Joshua…every day, but today hits harder than most.  We will be going to the cemetery (or Joshua’s Park as we call it) as we do every Mother’s Day to make sure his area is the most decorated in the cemetery.  We will go through the explanations again as to why we are there when he is not, why we leave him presents that he can’t play with, and why sometimes we are sad even though he is in the best place he could ever be.  These topics are difficult for adults to make sense of, but the kids grew up with their brother in Heaven and have accepted it in their own way…they make sense of it in their own way…sometimes I think they understand it more than we do.

My day will be happy, too, because I can just hang out with my kids.  My oldest son at home with us is a miracle.  We put a lot of effort into getting him home…all of it worth it for sure.  He has a giant heart and a lot of love!  He loves God and people.  He is great!  My daughter is close to Jesus.  She loves to learn, is super smart and is good at caring for others.  My youngest is a bit of a goofball.  He also loves Jesus and cuddles and life.  He is in a testing phase right now, but we love him anyway.   All our miracles are truly miracles, none arrived easily, and each is a tremendous blessing.  I am grateful for my children even when they push their limits….I am blessed to have children to hug and scold and discipline and teach and LOVE.

For all those who are saddened today…you are in prayer.  For all of those who have reason to celebrate, let those loved ones know how blessed you are that they are in your life.  And for everyone…enjoy a beautiful Sunday…a gift from God.

Happy Mother’s Day!