In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. ~ Proverbs 3:6

Friday, December 25, 2015

We decorate our tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. 
I buy the  kids a new ornament each year for the tree.
I buy the kids a new pair of Christmas pajamas from Target's Black Friday Deals, and we give the kids their new jammies and ornaments before we decorate the tree.
We make chex mix and cookies to kick off the holidays and watch our first holiday cartoon, before going to bed.

Family Christmas Cards
Holiday Baking
Making Christmas Ornaments
visiting santa
going to see Christmas Lights

Something you Want
Something you Need
Something to Wear
Something to Read

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Pineapple Cheese Ball

Pineapple Cheese ball from Chef in Training has become my holiday party go-to cheese ball.  I started my blog right about the same time that Chef and Training began, and I believe I discovered this recipe at one of the weekly link parties I used to join back when I was getting my blog started.  Since then, I decided to have my blog be more of a hobby, but Chef and Training has gone on to do big things in the blogging world and her recipes are all over Pinterest.  I use a lot of her recipes, so check out her site if you get a chance.

Part of why I tried this recipe is because my husband loves all of these ingredients!  Pineapple, onion, ham, cream cheese....yep, this is the perfect cheese ball for him!  Because really, cheese ball is one of those things you take to a party and usually have some leftover to take home.  If I'm going to have leftover cheese ball, I want to make sure my husband loves it enough to consume it before I get to it!

This really is a great cheeseball to take to a party, and is something I've been making every holiday season for the past few years!

12 oz. softened cream cheese
1 small can crushed pineapple, well drained
2-3 tbs. powdered sugar
2 tbs. chopped green onion
3 tbs. chopped deli ham
1 c. chopped pecans

Mix everything but the pecans together in a bowl.  Shape into a ball and top with chopped pecans.  Serve with cracker.

Mom's Bagel Dip


It's not the holidays in our family without Mom's bagel dip!  I've shared this recipe on my blog a few years ago, and thought it was worthy of sharing again.  This is an appetizer that my mom always makes for our Christmas family party.  This is definitely not a dip that I make often, as it is far from healthy.  We get it once a year at my mom's Christmas party, and then I make it once for me and my husband right around Christmas time. 

My husband came home tonight and was thrilled to see that I had made a batch for him to munch on. I have to say that you probably need to be a mayonnaise lover to enjoy this dip, as the base is mayo and sour cream.  The texture is obviously that of a mayonnaise consistency and you can't miss the mayonnaise taste in this dip.  What makes it yummy, in my opinion, is the dill.  It just brings a bright flavor that seems to pair nicely with the bagel bites. This might not be a dish everyone loves, but I don't know anyone in our family who doesn't look forward to this at our annual Christmas party.

1 1/3 c. mayonnaise
1 1/3 c. sour cream
2 tbs. dried dill
2 tbs. dried parsley
1 tsp. minced onion
4 oz. of thinly sliced deli beef or corn beef
one bag of bagels

Mix everything but the bagels together in a bowl.  It's best to let sit in fridge for several hours or overnight to let the herbs give off flavor.  Tear bagels into bite size pieces before serving.

My mom always used original Budding Beef, found in the lunch meat section of the grocery, so that's what I use too.  I can usually find it at Kroger.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cranberry Bliss Cookies


You can't go through the holidays without baking cookies.  I like to bake.  I also like cookies.  What I don't like is having dozens of cookies around the house, because I am usually the only one who eats them!  My husband is really not a "sweets" kind of guy, but he will eat baked goods if they are fruity.  

This year I stumbled on this cranberry bliss cookie recipe from Cookies and Cups.  I saw  a few different versions of this cookie on Pinterest, but chose this recipe because it made three dozen cookies. I was looking for a new cookie to make for an event, but I also wanted to keep a dozen cookies at the house to see how my husband liked them.  Cranberry bliss cookies are now the Christmas cookie of choice in our home.  He loved them!  I mean, can you really go wrong with a basic butter cookie, filled with dried cranberries and white chocolate chips, topped with a cream cheese frosting, more cranberries and then drizzled with white chocolate?  We will be making these again next year for sure!


3/4 c. softened butter
2 oz. softened cream cheese
1 1/4 c. light brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 c. flour
1 c. white chocolate chips
3/4 c. chopped dried cranberries

6 oz. softened cream cheese
1/4 c. softened butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 c. melted white chocolate chips

1/2 c. chopped dried cranberries
1/2 c. melted white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Cream butter and cream cheese until smooth.  Beat in brown sugar.  Add eggs, vanilla, baking soda and salt.  Once combined, slowly mix in flour.  Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries.  Drop dough on cookie sheet two inches apart and bake for 9-11 minutes.  For the icing, beat ingredients until smooth.  Ice cookies once they are cool.  Top with dried cranberries and drizzle with chocolate. 

For best results chill dough for two hours or overnight.  Although, I didn't have time for that and mine turned out fine.  I found that the icing never set up enough to stack the cookies without messing up the icing.  I ended up serving them on two plates, instead of stacking them into a pile on one plate, like I normally do with cookies.

Orange Glazed Cranberry Bread


It's the holidays and tis the season of cranberry goodness!  I'm not a huge cranberry fan....or even a citrus fan, for that matter....but I will say that I eat every crumb off of my plate when enjoying a piece of this bread.  It is incredibly moist and has great flavor. 

I discovered this bread last year when looking up holiday baking ideas that my husband would enjoy eating.  He is not a man who eat sweets ~ at least not the sweets I enjoy, like chocolate and holiday spices.  However, he does like a good "fruity dessert", and he particularly loves berries and citrus.   This  cranberry orange bread has now become a favorite of his.

I got this recipe here from Sally's Baking Addiction.  Be sure to check out the link for the original recipe, along with tips about freshness and storage of the baked bread.  This recipe is definitely a keeper and will be made in my family for several holidays to come.  The only thing I did different from the original recipe was omit the pecans.  My husband hates nuts in his desserts.  I also never keep buttermilk on hand, but if a recipe calls for buttermilk, it is important.  My mom taught me along time ago to add a tbs. of vinegar to cup of milk to create buttermilk, and so that's what I did for this recipe. 

This yummy bread, topped with a streusel and orange glaze, can be served for breakfast, brunch or dessert.  It even makes a great holiday gift for teachers or neighbors.  I ended up making three or four loaves last year and gave them away to people who helped watch my boys throughout the year.


1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3 tbs. butter, cold

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup. chopped cranberries, fresh or frozen
1 large egg
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. sugar
1 c. buttermilk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tbs. orange zest

1 c. powder sugar
1-2 tbs. fresh orange juice
as much orange zest as you want

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray.  Make the streusel by mixing flour, sugar and cinnamon and then cut butter into the mixture with a pastry cutter or fork and set aside.  To make the bread, toss flour, baking soda, salt and cranberries together in a mixing bowl and set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk egg, brown sugar and sugar together until there are no lumps, then add buttermilk, oil, vanilla and orange zest until combined without overmixing.  Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix together.  Pour batter in loaf pan and top with streusel.  Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the bread pokes clean.  To make the glaze mix ingredients together, adding more juice or powdered sugar to get the right consistency.  Once bread has cooled, top with the glaze.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sausage and Cream Cheese Crescent Rolls


I've shared this recipe on my blog a few years ago.  It ended up being a Pinterest hit, so I'm sharing it again, seeing as how it is a favorite of mine this time of year. 

I first had these sausage and cream cheese crescent rolls when my aunt made them for a family Christmas gathering.  They were delish, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn how easy they were to make!  You can't go wrong with only needing three ingredients.  The nice thing about making these for the holidays is that these ingredients are almost always on sale this time of year.

These are super easy and always a crowd pleaser!  They can be served for breakfast, brunch or as an appetizer for a party.  Sometimes I'll even make them for my husband as a game-day snack. 

2 cans of crescent rolls
1 8oz. package of cream cheese
1 lb. breakfast sausage

Cook sausage and drain the grease.  While sausage is warm, mix in a bowl with the cream cheese.  You can use a spoon, but I think my hands are the best utensils for this job.  Once mixture is combined, stuff a spoonful of the mixture in each crescent roll, and wrap up making sure that none of the mixture will come out of the roll while baking.  Bake rolls as directed on the package.  Best when served warm.

One batch makes 16 rolls.  When making for a crowd, I always double the recipe.  One doesn't seem to be enough for most people!  Also, if I am making these for breakfast, I will often make the sausage and cream cheese mixture the night before and put it in the fridge overnight, so that the crescent rolls are ready to be stuffed and baked first thing in the morning.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Vegetable Pizza - holiday appetizer


Christmas is less than two weeks away, so I wanted to share a few of my favorite holiday recipes this week. 

Vegetable pizza is something I can remember having at holiday parties when I was a kid.   This is not a hot pizza, as it is served cold or at room temperature.  It's also not something you can only eat at the holidays, but the beautiful colors make it a festive appetizer for a holiday party or get-together.  Plus it's a light, fresh food choice to help balance out all of the sweets and rich food on your holiday spread.

I've seen several versions of recipes for this pizza.  I just took the ingredients that I knew were in it when I was a kid and came up with measurements to make it taste like I remember it.  This appetizer would be great for a Christmas or New Year's party!

2 cans of crescent rolls
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese (softened)
1/2 c. mayonnaise
1/2 c. sour cream
1 small packet of ranch dry dressing
2 tbs. dried dill
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 bag of fresh mixed vegis (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots), chopped
one green pepper, diced
one red pepper, diced
1 pack of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small can of sliced black olives

Spray baking sheets with nonstick spray.  Unroll crescent dough onto the pan, so it looks like a pizza crust.  I prefer to buy the crescent roll dough that isn't precut into rolls. In a mixing bowl, mix cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, ranch and dill until well blended.  Once dough is baked and cooled, spread cream cheese mixture onto the baked dough. Top with shredded cheese and vegis.

This recipe makes two pizzas, as an appetizer for a small crowd.  If I make this for just my small family, I divide the recipe in half.  When I only make half of this recipe, I will end up with extra vegis, but I use the extra vegis for a different meal the next day (usually a stir fry or a salad).

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pregnancy and Adoption Update

Hello there dear readers.  It's been awhile.  I've been MIA on the blog the past several weeks, but I'd say I have good reason. Last time I posted, I was sharing about beginning our journey into international adoption.  It was literally not even a week after choosing an agency and sending out adoption applications with our first non-refundable checks that I discovered I was four weeks pregnant!

All I can say is that God has a real sense of humor sometimes.  We had been trying to get pregnant naturally for several months without any luck, as we knew we did not want to seek any fertility treatments this time around.  In September, we decided to focus on adoption and set the pregnancy thing aside for a little while.  Due to my husband traveling for work that month, when I look back on it there was honestly only one day that we could have conceived this pregnancy.  To be quite honest, I must have had a really early ovulation (which I wasn't tracking, so I don't know for sure), because the dates on my calendar would not have been the dates that I would have normally used for TTC.  But anyway, sure enough, we were quite surprised with this pregnancy!

I'm currently 12 weeks pregnant and looking forward to being done with the first trimester.  The pregnancy itself has been....well, a typical pregnancy.  For me, that means I feel nauseous the majority of the time and am extremely fatigued most days.  I nap when my boys nap to get through the day.  I am more than looking forward to getting that second trimester burst of energy.  This also explains why I have been MIA on my blog.  Nap time is usually blog time, but for me lately, it's been my nap time too!

As far as the adoption goes, there was never a doubt in our mind that we would not move forward with it even though we are pregnant.  I know this doesn't make sense to a lot of people.  But for us, adoption was not because we have trouble getting pregnant.  Adoption is something that we knew we wanted to do, particularly through China, as that is where our hearts are leading us at this time.  We knew we wanted to a grow a family through both biological and adoptive children, and in some ways, getting pregnant after officially beginning the process of the adoption, only confirmed to us that the timing of this adoption was exactly what God wants for us.

We did run into a few hurdles with the adoption process after we got pregnant.  We told our agency and home study office about the pregnancy before we even made the pregnancy public, as we knew this news could effect our adoption process.  Sure enough, this pregnancy will have a significant change on the timing of the adoption.  To make a long story short, our agency informed us that we could not apply with them until the new baby was six months old.  This is their agency policy, but we soon learned that this is most agency policies, as China has an unwritten policy of not wanting children in the home to be less than a year apart.  

While the news from our agency had us trying to find a plan B, our home study office told us that they would work with us while pregnant, if we could find an agency that would also work with us while pregnant.  And so I joined a China Adoption Questions Facebook page to find answers.  I was thrilled to get immediate responses, as that FB group has given me a wealth of knowledge on the China adoption process.  I soon learned of an agency that would work with families, even if they were pregnant.  I contacted the director, and while I was excited that they would work with us, I was discouraged about their average timeline from application to completion.  On average, they were telling me it takes two years to compete an adoption through them, and because we are hoping for a girl with minor special needs, it could take even longer.

With that information in mind, we were scheduled to have our first meeting with our home study correspondent for our adoption orientation.  At that meeting we learned that even though our original agency couldn't take our application until the new baby is six months old, that agency has a fairly quick timeline once our home study is completed and our dossier is sent to China.  The agency claims that depending on how quickly we are matched after dossier, it is usually about six months from the time China receives all of our paperwork to the time we get to travel.

With that information in mind, our home study office suggested that we do things a little different given our circumstances.  Basically, we are going to keep our original agency, but while people usually apply to an agency and then begin the the daunting piles of paperwork and home study process, we are going to have our home study completed before we officially apply with our agency.  This should mean that when the new baby turns six months, one year from now, we will have everything ready to be sent to China at the same time we officially apply to our agency.  While there is never a clear timeline for adoption, we are hoping to get matched next spring of 2017 and travel to complete the adoption in the summer of 2017.  That is the goal, but like I said, there are so many unexpected things that come into play with the adoption process.

My only current concern with this unusual flip-flop of events of the home study process and agency application, is that I have recently learned  we can not apply for any financial aid or grants until we are accepted by an agency and have a completed home study.  Not having an agency and not being matched with a child for well over a year, also puts a damper into fundraising, as it is awkward to fund-raise without some of this basic information.  

Please pray that we figure out the financial aspect of everything.  We know we will meet our $6,000 out of pocket maximum in 2016 with the birth of baby.  We are also in need of a van before the baby gets here.  Even with those two big expenses in 2016, we feel we will be able to save 50% of the $30k we will need to complete an adoption on our own.  It's the other 50% I was hoping to be able to get by applying to charitable grants or by fundraising.  Plus, we know we will have medical expenses post adoption, as we are applying for special needs child.

On top of those expenses, our insurance is just ridiculous.  I feel like we have been fighting them on a regular basis since Obama Care became a reality and our insurance now only gives us a high deductible with minimal coverage.  As I said, we have $6k annual out of pocket max that we have paid the the past three years, due to horrible insurance coverage.  And even though we've met our maximum out of pocket this year, we've been billed an additional $1,500 from our OBGYN offices, because they have coded everything from my annual checkup to my first pregnancy blood work as "fertility", even though I HAVE NOT HAD ANY FERTILITY in this pregnancy!  It has been extremely frustrating going back and forth with insurance and the doctor's office, and it looks like we are just going to be stuck paying it all.  Apparently, when I mentioned my infertility past with my new doctor at my annual checkup, the visit was no longer coded an annual visit for insurance purposes, but was coded a fertility visit.  And then from there, all of the blood work that I had after that was coded the same.   And we know from experience, fertility is not covered by insurance, but this is extremely frustrating to us, because we have not had any fertility treatments this time around.  Please pray for our patience in this matter as we deal with all of these additional expenses.  And continue to pray for a healthy pregnancy.  I go back to the doctor next week for a 13 week check up.