Unmet Expectations At Christmas

The burning candles, balls and gold ribbons it are Christmas

For years I have written about bringing traditional values and practices back to our US  holidays. This year, I want to write to you out of my own experiences with preparing for Christmas and other holidays through my adult life. Hopefully I can encourage you to take a new look at how you go about getting your home and mind ready for Christmas.

Americans seem to have lost so much through the years and people yearn for those simple, peaceful occasions. Many of us go looking for what we call old fashioned ways of celebrating Christmas so that we can recapture something we hope will fulfill us and our family. We often go to great lengths to find this fulfillment and very often our efforts end up in arguments or stressful confrontations in the family, overspending and profound sadness.

Holidays aren’t peaceful or simple if you find yourself strung out, worn out and tensed up over trying to make the occasion into something that meets unrealistic expectations. I want to encourage you to let go of your expectations for a perfect Christmas get-together this year and to redefine your ideas of Old Fashioned and Perfect.

What does an Old Fashioned Christmas look like anyway? To most of us it means food, family…. and beyond that, what? Perfectly decorated tables? An immaculate house? New furniture? Lots of going and doing? Shopping with family and friends? Just the perfect gift for everyone on your list? A quiet evening or two before the fireplace with family? I think it can, in part, mean any of those things but conspicuously missing from those descriptions is the Lord Jesus Christ and the particular peace and fullness He brings to our lives. Also missing is the true purpose of Christmas; Celebrating the Gift of Jesus and God’s salvation to mankind. It seems so easy for most of us to get busy and involved with making the perfect Christmas celebration that we forget about the reason for all our blessings.

When we set up a picture in our minds and make plans for a perfect Christmas we set up expectations. Expectations can be dangerous things to family harmony and peace.

Unmet expectations = Discouragement & Frustration

Christmas and other holidays like Thanksgiving often leave us discouraged and frustrated with the people and preparations of the seasons. We somehow believe that because we spend money, time, thought and energy on preparations for these holidays that they must turn out a certain way. We believe that our friends and family must react to our efforts in particular ways.  And then they don’t.  So we become discouraged and frustrated and we show that by the way we treat our family members and in our private thought life.


Food for thought
~ We have no rights to expect anything in this life except the promises of God. Yet our sinful nature tells us that we have rights to our expectations. We have the Gospel and we have forgiveness in Jesus. Is that Good News enough for you? Or do you insist on having your holiday expectations met?

Everyone has their own ideas of what constitutes the perfect Christmas, an Old Fashioned Christmas, but I think the main things that people think of when they think of a holiday being old fashioned are peace and simplicity. I believe we can have those beautiful attributes in our present day celebration of Christmas, if we focus our minds on what we are grateful for, remember to worship God and  enjoying the people God sends into our lives.

Certainly, go shopping, lay around the fireplace with family, play games, make and buy gifts, go for a walk…. do all those things but do them with an attitude of thankfulness and with an eye on the fact that these luxuries are gifts from God; we don’t have a right to any of them. When I think in those terms I become even more thankful for what I have.

In these upcoming weeks as you prepare for Christmas, open your heart to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to prepare it for giving thanks and worshipping God in spirit and in truth. Focus your mind on Jesus and serving others as He has done. Focus on people and being thankful for what God has given you. Then your Christmas will be simple, sweet and truly old fashioned. No matter what happens, no matter if things don’t go perfectly and according to plan, you will have thankfulness and peace in your heart….and I think that is the very best kind of old fashioned Christmas there is.

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All My Turkey Helps In One Place

All my Turkey info in one place. Plus a little more.

 

How To Thaw The Turkey

How To Brine A Turkey

How To Roast A Turkey

Tips For The Perfect Turkey

The Children’s Table – ideas!

Thanksgiving Lists – what to do and when

Dressing and Stuffing Recipes

Thanksgiving In A Hurry

Gravy Recipe   Including my fast Thanksgiving gravy!

Yeast Rolls

 

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Sweet Potato Rolls

A few years ago I made Sweet Potato Yeast Rolls for Thanksgiving.  They’ve been requested every year since then.  The recipe doesn’t have much sweet potato in it, just enough to make it nicely orange and a little sweet.

sweetpotato rolls
I use my standard Aunt Eura’s Yeast Roll recipe with a few tweaks. This recipe will make about 3 dozen rolls.

 

 

 

Sweet Potato Rolls
3 pkgs yeast or about 7 teaspoons loose yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
2 c warm water
1/2 cup melted butter or shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup pureed sweet potatoes
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional but very good)
6 c plain or bread flour

Place the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water with the teaspoon of sugar to get foamy.

In a large mixing bowl combine and mix:
Melted butter or shortening
cinnamon
salt
flour
sugar
sweet potatoes
eggs

Add yeast mixture and 2 cups warm water. Mix well and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. You may add a little flour if the dough is too sticky but in general you want your dough to be soft and pliable and a little sticky.

Cover and allow to rise until double.

Once dough is doubled in size, you can make 2 inch rolls. If you want the pumpkin shape, use a pair of clean, sharp scissors to cut the sides of each roll almost to the center of the roll. Use a piece of a pretzel stick for the stem of the “pumpkin”.

Need to see how to make rolls?  Here is my video about how to do that! 

Place prepared rolls on a lightly greased baking sheet in a warm, draft free area to rise until about double their size. Bake rolls at 400*F for about 18 minutes or until they are golden brown.

You can make these ahead or even freeze the dough. Check out the instructions here for refrigerated rolls and here for freezer rolls.

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Sweet Gum Tincture

Disclaimer:  The instructions I offer here in this post (and in all my posts about herbs and home remedies) are what I use personally at home. Of course the standard disclaimer goes: I am not a doctor and don’t prescribe medicines or herbs, this is just what  we have done here for generations with great results. 

Here in the southern US there is a tree called the Sweet Gum Tree.      Liquidambar styraciflua  is a large tree that is valued for its pretty leaves and hard spiky fruits.  Its the  sweet gum ball green  fruits that I am interested in because they are a source of shikimic acid which is the active ingredient in medicines like Tamiflu®.

That’s right, green sweet gum balls can be made into a tincture that can help kill viruses in your body.  Its right up there with Elderberry Tincture and Oregano Tincture .

Be sure you pick the green balls, the brown ones are finished for the year and won’t make a tincture.  They’re cute for using in crafts though.

gum ball craft

Here’s how its done:

Pick enough green sweet gum balls to fill at least a clean, sterilized glass jar that has a tight fitting lid.

Bust open each green gum ball either using a hammer or a hatchet. But be careful, they’re harder than you think!

Once you get them busted up, put all the pieces in the clean glass jar and cover the pieces with any clear, at least 100% proof alcohol. I buy the cheapest vodka I can find and use that.

Let this sit in a cool, dark place for about 6 weeks.  It seems to take longer for sweet gum to give up its properties than other plants.  After 6 weeks you can strain it and put it in dark amber bottles. It will keep forever.

sweet gum balls

To use it, I take 1 teaspoon every 3-4 hours when I know I have a virus.  I combine it with elderberry syrup sometimes.  If the taste is objectionable to you, you could put the teaspoon of tincture in a cup of water or even tea and drink it.

For keeping viruses at bay, I take 1 teaspoon in a cup of hot water each day during flu season.

I have not made sweet gum tincture using glycerin, I have doubts as to whether the glycerin would be able to pull out the medicinal properties of the fruits.

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Harvest Homekeeping

mickey fall

Hey everyone, hope you’re having a great end of summer. Its nearly Autumn, really my favorite time of year.  The color!  The weather!  The food!   And the cleaning of my home to get ready for all the winter time where we’re shut up in this house.

 

 

Here are links to all my Harvest Homekeeping and Fast and Furious Fall Cleaning that I have done over the years here at CHK.

Use all of them that you can, leave behind what you can’t use.  If you have questions be sure to ask.

Natural Cleaner Recipes

Clean The Kitchen

Clean The Living Room

Deep Cleaning The Living Room

Cleaning The Master Bedroom

Cleaning The Bathroom

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Chocolate Half Sheet Cake

chocolate cake

This is a delicious, moist cake with homemade chocolate icing that hits the spot for BBQs, parties, family dinners. It’s a recipe for a half-sheet cake which is 12 inches by 18 inches. It will serve 40 or more people. This isn’t modern-instant-make-it-fast food, its old fashioned with a twist so take your time, read through and give it a whirl.

If Snack Cakes are more your thing, check out my recipe. Chocolate Snack Cake

First, Prep.
Pre-heat your oven to 325*F
Grease and flour your pan or use a spray like Baker’s Joy

Get your ingredients together.

A 12×18 inch pan and either Baker’s Joy spray or you can grease and flour it.
2 Dark Chocolate Cake Mixes – I used Duncan Hines Chocolate Fudge Cake
6 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 – 3 oz package of instant fudge pudding mix
2 1/2 cups brewed coffee – you won’t taste the coffee in the final cake, the coffee brings out the chocolate flavor
2 cups sour cream

I found the idea for this tweak on www.cakecentral.com and its by a member there named macsmom. The icing is my own recipe.

Make The Cake
Mix everything together well and pour in your prepared pan. Bake at 325*F for 45 minutes, check the cake for doneness and bake longer if needed. Some ovens will take 50-55 minutes maybe a little more. Mine takes 45. You test for doneness with a very thin sharp knife or a broom straw. Insert the sharp knife in the cake in the middle and to each side. If the knife comes up clean, no cake batter on it, then the cake is done.

Once its done, allow the cake to cool.

You can turn the cake out onto a prepared piece of cardboard or cake board or just leave it in the pan, that’s what I usually do.

Icing Recipe

In a medium sauce pan combine:
2 sticks butter – don’t use margarine or other substitute, it will be too oily.
1 1/3 cups cocoa powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup water
1/4 tsp salt

Stir it as it cooks.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, stir well.

Add: 2 teaspoons vanilla, stir.

Sift 2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar, using a stand mixer or hand-held mixer, slowly add the confectioner’s sugar to the chocolate mixture until well blended. You can add some milk in tiny amounts if you think the icing is too thick. When its done, it should pour.

Pour the icing over the cooled cake, let it all cool before packaging.

The icing will form a nice, light crust as it cools.

 

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Saving Pumpkin Seeds

All throughout the winter I use up the pumpkins and winter squash we’ve either grown or purchased.  Winter squash/Pumpkins need to be stored in a cool, dry place. Even with optimum conditions, your winter squash and pumpkins will start to dry out and get pithy. That’s OK though, most of them will be just fine to eat as long as you don’t allow them to get damp and rotten.

I save seeds so I can grow the same vegetable each year.  Now if you save seeds from a cultivated variety, a cultivar, you probably won’t get the same plant you started with. But if you use heirloom varieties that have not been changed genetically, you’ll get the same plant year after year.

This year I am saving Field Pumpkin seeds which is an heirloom seed and Cinderella Pumpkin seeds which is a cultivated variety. So I don’t expect a pumpkin exactly like the Cinderella pumpkin next year but we’ll see then what we get.

First I fire up my oven to about 350*F so I can bake the pumpkin while I am cleaning the seeds.

pumpkin1

I cut open the pumpkins and scrape out the seeds. A lot of pulp may come with the seeds, that’s OK for now. Be careful cutting open pumpkins, don’t cut toward yourself or your hand.

This Cinderella pumpkin has sort of firm pulp and the seeds are firmly attached to it

 

 


pumpkin3

The pulp of the Field Pumpkin is more slimy and soft. The seeds come off of it more easily then the Cinderella Pumpkin .

 

 

 

 

 

pumpkin4

 

 

 

 

 

I remove all the pulp I can and then I put the remaining seeds and pulp into a bowl of warm water.  Its just a mater of picking up the Field Pumpkin pulp and seeds and giving them a gentle squeeze for the seeds to release from the pulp.  I discard the pulp.

The Cinderella Pumpkin takes a bit firmer hand.

pumpkin5

 

 

 

 

 

After the seeds are pretty clean of pulp I lay them on newspaper or paper towels to dry. You could use a clean cotton towel for this but the seeds dry to the surface and I have found they are hard to get off towels so I use paper.

Seeds should be as dry as possible before storing or they tend to grow mold. Mold will kill your seeds. Don’t dry your seeds for planting in a dehydrator, they usually get too hot and will kill the seeds. Stir them around on the paper every day, a few times a day if possible. They will dry enough to stop sticking to the paper in a day or so.

Store completely dry seeds in labeled glass jars. To absorb any leftover moisture in your seeds you can roll them up in a coffee filter before putting them in the jars.

After the pumpkin flesh is baked, you can scoop it out of the shell and let it cool. It can be used just like this for lots of recipes or you can freeze it in freezer bags, freezer jars or rigid freezer containers. I don’t recommend canning pumpkin or winter squash that is pulp. You can however cut raw pumpkin into 1 – 2 inch chunks and can it in pints at 10 pounds of pressure for 55 minutes.

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Thanksgiving Prep – My Lists

Here are all my daily lists for preparing for Thanksgiving. I’ve gathered them together from all over this site so you can use them if you want to.  The lists start on Friday, November 18th and go through Thanksgiving Day, November 24th this year, 2016.

You can print this page out and use these lists, adding your own notes, to help you prepare.

 

Friday, November 18th
Finish making pie crusts for the freezer
Make cornbread and biscuits for dressing, crumble and freeze in plastic bags
Grocery shop for non-perishables
Clean bathroom and do general straightening in the house

Saturday, November 19th
Take turkeys out to defrost
Grocery shop for perishables
Cleaning and laundry

Monday, November 21st
Check on turkeys as they defrost
Clean dining room, put out plates, utensils, etc.
Set out all casserole dishes, pots and pans, see if I have what I need to cook everything
Make Aunt Eura’s Yeast Rolls and put in freezer
Make Cranberry Relish, refrigerate


Tuesday, November 22nd

Brine the turkeys. I’ll use the Traditional Turkey recipe this year!
Assemble casseroles and refrigerate (sweet potato, green bean, any casserole that does not contain breads, baking soda or baking powder.)
Make a Breakfast Casserole for Thursday, freeze or refrigerate

Wednesday, November 23rd
Take Breakfast casserole out of freezer
Bake pies
Make dressing and refrigerate
Make salads
Roast turkey, carve, refrigerate in chicken broth
Make centerpieces
Do last minute laundry

Thursday, November 24th – Thanksgiving Day
Put Breakfast casserole in to bake
Take pies and yeast rolls out of freezer early
Make stuffing
Make mashed potatoes
Reheat turkey
Bake casseroles
Bake yeast rolls
Make gravy

Dinner is ready!

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