I remember Christmas when I was young.
There was so much cleaning, preparation and cooking, and cooking... and more cooking! We were all involved in some way whether it was cutting up the dried fruit, stirring the Christmas cake or pudding mixture or rolling out the sweet pastry for the tarts and fruit mince pies.
And afterwards, somehow or other, we all managed to scamper outside clutching tasty bits of pastry, fruit, biscuit or cake mix.
I loved watching the batches of beautiful Christmas cookies (we call them biscuits in Australia) cooling on trays before being stored in large glass jars or packed between layers of greaseproof paper in shiny, bright tins as gifts.
There were Snickerdoodles, Peppermint Chocolate Slice, Shortbreads, Meringue Kisses, Iced Vo-vos, Melting Moments and Florentines.
And although I'd love to recreate similar memories today for my children and grandkids- the same delicious smells and mouth-watering flavours- I just don't have time.
But maybe, I can create memories that are every bit as sweet for my grandkids without spending hours in the kitchen. And you can, too.
So here's my simple version of Christmas cookies that will take less than 15 minutes to make. And... if my grandson is anything to go by, you'll have them coming back for more.
Here's what you'll need:
* 1 cup of chocolate melts (Use natural chocolate melts if you're looking for a healthy alternative and there are even gluten-free versions.)
* 1 pack of mini salted pretzels (You won't need to use all of the pretzels.)
* 1 pack of mini gingerbread men (If you need a healthier alternative, there is a brand made with wholegrains and sweetened with grape juice rather than sugar.)
* 1 pack of shredded coconut (Again, you won't need the whole pack.)
* ! pack of Christmas M&Ms- the ones with green and red M&Ms
You'll also need a biscuit tray lined with baking paper.
1. Melt the chocolate. (I just popped a microwave-safe bowl with the melts in the microwave 30-40 sec but you may prefer to melt it gently by standing the container of melts over a bowl of hot water and stirring until melted.)
2. Make small circles of chocolate on the tray of baking paper using teaspoonfuls of melted chocolate.
3. Gently push a couple of pretzels, a gingerbread man and a few M&Ms in each chocolate circle.
4. Sprinkle with shredded coconut.
5. Refrigerate until the chocolate is firm.
6. Gently remove from the tray and arrange on small Christmas plates or platters.
And that's it! Easy! In fact, your kids or grandkids would probably like to help you make these. So go ahead and enjoy some family fun and make some wonderful Christmas memories.
'Life is short. Time is fast. No replay. No rewind. So enjoy every moment as it comes.'
Last week, I helped my daughter and their little ones move house. Her husband had gone ahead with the removalist and we followed more slowly, with many stops for small boys and a feeding baby.
Let me tell you... 2 days of travel in a car with 2 toddlers and a baby is a long time. I lost count of the number of times we sang the Veggie Tales theme song, watched Lightning McQueen, and played I Spy.
It was tiring. It was mind-numbing, checking Google maps for the next McDonald's stop or rest area along the highway. But it was also fun! And I learned a huge amount.
I learned how calm my daughter is despite tiredness and the stress of a toddler who refuses to use any unfamiliar toilet. I learned how easily small boys can get stuck inside playground tube-slides. (Believe me, there's no way you can clamber around in those things with dignity!)
I learned how cute a toddler can look falling asleep in the car with his sunglasses hanging from his ear.
And, I learned again that suffocatingly tender feeling when a fretful baby you`re cuddling looks up at you, with tears running down his cheeks, recognises you and smiles a big, delighted grin.
Yep... I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
But... in the busyness of life, it's so easy to forget.
As soon as we arrived, we were flat-out unpacking, feeding tired and hungry children, finding bedding and making up beds.
But once the shadows lengthened and the softness of evening curled into the corners of the rooms, I pulled out my gratitude journal, Simply Grateful.
I wanted to record and remember every moment of our eventful trip. And, I wanted to relax a little and unwind with the colouring pages included in the book.
It's so easy to find yourself caught up with the busyness and notice little more than life and time passing. And yet life is filled with 'moments that matter' that will pass unnoticed if you don't make room for them.... and don't journal about them.
So... it's important to take a bit of time, before the day closes, to remember and record those moments.
There are so many benefits of taking time to journal, of maintaining a gratitude journal... better sleep, fewer symptoms of illness, increased happiness. But it's also an amazing way to remember those moments that matter. And... it's the greatest way to share with your family and leave a legacy of special family memories.
If you haven't used a gratitude journal before, the Simply Grateful- a creative journal is the easiest way to start. It encourages you with prompts, questions and suggestions to reflect on the many ways that you have been blessed. You'll find places to record lists or add notes. And, there are reflective style questions.
If you've completed a gratitude journal before, you'll find even more in the Simply Grateful journal. Each page is different with different ideas and moments to reflect on and record. You'll find spots to doodle and draw if you feel creative. And there are some colouring pages and quotes if you need to relax and de-stress. Check it out!
A moment..... will you capture it or let it slip by?
FIND IT HERE......
Date days and date nights. There important. Not just for you and your significant other. But also for catching up with family and friends. As a grandmother, I love nothing more than the chance for quality time with my husband, my children, and my friends. Just as much as my children and their partners need time away from their parental duties to reconnect with one another. But I think a great way to enjoy those dates is to do something involving food. It’s a sociable thing to do, and enjoyable to. Which is why I thought I would share with you some of the foodie dates you could enjoy with anyone. I hope it inspires you to get some dates booked in your diary.
An evening date night
The standard date would take place at night. Most commonly with your significant other. It’s a great way to reconnect with one another. Catch up on what is going on with work, or your children. To remember what it’s like to be you as an individual instead of mom and dad. Sometimes it’s great to head to your local restaurant. Or consider something more specialist and unique like the friday night dinner event. Whatever you decide to do, an evening out enjoying good food will always be a winning combination.
An afternoon tea
If you want to enjoy some great foodie options in a more laidback way, then consider a civilised afternoon tea. There is nothing quite like enjoying a nice cup of tea while eating sumptuous cakes and savoury treats. Some establishments work so hard on those intricate petit fours, sandwiches, and cakes. They can look too good to eat. It’s a great alternative way of spending some time together, whether friends or family and enjoy eating some good food.
Cooking up a special recipe
Sometimes you can’t beat the feeling of satisfaction when you cook up a special recipe from scratch. This is where dates take place at home. You could cook this up for friends, family or just you and your partner. It is special to cook something and serve it to the ones you love.
A taster menu
Often, some of those fancy restaurants will offer up taster menus. This is where you can indulge in four, five or more courses. They tend to be small, so you don’t have to worry about overfacing yourself. But it can make the whole day or evening centred around food and drink choices. For the foodie, this option is possibly one of the most enjoyable. Potentially giving you the chance to try new and exciting ingredients.
A food festival
Finally, what better way to enjoy food that at a festival all about it. These tend to be great fun. Full of stands and food choices as far as the eye can see. It can be an excellent day or night for a date with friends. A relaxed affair while eating freshly cooked food.
I hope this has inspired you to consider some alternative ways to spend time with loved ones.
"Never let small minds convince you that your dreams are too big."
Do you ever wonder about your life- your purpose, your passion, your influence?
I do. in fact, it's the reason my blog exists. Let me explain a little.
Our culture elevates success and influence and paints a bright picture of the accomplished, purposeful woman. It paints in broad strokes a young, attractive woman who easily and efficiently balances both professional and family life.
Do you fit the image? I certainly don't! Success is something that I've rarely thought about much less pursued and life balance continues to elude me. And, with a cheerful bevy of grandkids, I can't be described as young, though I struggle to accept it.
Life is the sum of your choices
My life choices have been simple: a teaching career, tutoring, marriage and family, children and homeschooling, a small business and family ministry. My life has been a whirl of activities, busyness, learning and growing, and building fun memories.
But my children are now grown and I have 8 wonderful grandkids. I have retired from teaching to care for my disabled husband who has struggled for many years with Parkinson's Disease.
Society's standards would judge that the best of my life is behind me. But I disagree... strenuously.
I don't believe my life's purpose and direction has ended, or indeed anyone else's in similar circumstances.
I also believe this is our challenge today. Attitudes need to change. Society should be flexible enough to allow women like us to redefine success, influence and purpose.
And... I believe that thousands of women like me are looking ahead to the second half of life and questioning, 'What's ahead? What's to come?'
When you consider my age and life experiences, the accumulation of knowledge and understanding through living, learning and growing, I believe that my best is yet to come.
The same holds true for you, too. Your best can still be yet to come.
So... this is my biggest challenge. Rather than accepting that my life is over, I want to take it to the next level- reinvent myself. I'm developing this blog and discovering new and exciting ways to share ideas, fun and small moments that are filled with enormous potential for building lasting influence and creating an enduring legacy.
What's next for me? What am I planning to do?
Well, to start with, I'm learning new skills for this blog to help me share more effectively with you; skills like photography, graphics, and creating visual online presentations. I'm working to develop a series of simple courses for anyone to access- Simple Skill Builders and there are more ideas on the planning board. And, just as importantly I think, I'm enjoying it.
I'm also enjoying sharing and connecting with you here and on social media- another learning curve.
So, what's next for you?
Remember: what you do today can alter and improve all your tomorrows.
So, dream big... and then take the first step.
If you'd like to gain some understanding of your core values to help your future direction and purpose, then check out this online assessment.
And I have some more helpful tools to share with you soon.
Please, check back here often as I regularly share more ideas and inspiration for you and your family. And, you can be the first to hear about the latest ideas through my regular email updates. Plus.. you'll receive my FREE Smoothie recipe book.
It can be hard to decide how to entertain the kids for a couple of hours when you are babysitting. They can get bored easily, so you need to think of something fun. Baking cakes is a fantastic way to keep them occupied while they are at your home. Here is everything you need when you are baking cakes with the grandchildren so it all goes smoothly!
Plenty of ingredients
You need to purchase plenty of ingredients when you are baking cakes with the grandchildren. It will ensure they get a chance to make a few cakes. Also, if the first load go wrong, then you have the ingredients to make more. Also, having plenty of ingredients means you get to experiment with different flavors. You might want to make a chocolate cake, and then make a carrot cake for a healthier option. You should talk to them before you go to the store about different ideas they will love to make. Here are some fun cake ideas you could bake with the grandkids!
Some good aprons
Another thing you need when you are baking cakes with the grandchildren is some good aprons. The kids are bound to be messy while they are making the cakes. The flour will go everywhere, and they could easily get it down their clothes. You don’t want to send them home covered in ingredients. Therefore, buy them some aprons which they can use to protect their clothes while baking.
A washable table cloth for the table
You also need to put a cloth on the table when you are baking cakes with the grandchildren. Unless you want to spend hours cleaning after, you will need to protect the table before you start. After all, they will be mixing and decorating the cakes on there, so there is bound to be some spills. You should get a washable tablecloth which you can easily wipe after.
A great mixer
You also need to get a great mixer when you are baking with the kids. You want this part to go as quickly as possible as kids can easily get bored. To make it easy, you could get an electric hand mixer which you can just hold to make the mixture smooth. You can even make the process quicker by getting a stand mixer. That way, you won’t have to do any mixing yourself. You can look online to find the 10 best kitchen stand mixers.
A decent baking tray
Another thing you need when you are baking cakes with the grandchildren is a good baking sized tray to put the cakes on. If you are making cupcakes, you could get a cupcake baking tray which will help them make accurate shaped cupcakes. It makes it easier for them to understand where it needs to go when pouring the mixture in. Make sure you grease the baking tray first so that you can remove the cakes quickly.
And if you think the baking day is going to be stressful, you could just skip to the end, and all just decorate cupcakes! You can buy some ready-make, or bake some before they come, then they can just enjoy decorating them!
Easter- a day to remember the sadness and the gladness of Jesus' sacrifice for us.
But it's also a time of gifts to others, of chocolate, Easter eggs and joy.
I searched the stores and supermarkets yesterday for Easter gifts for my family and friends. Have you bought your gifts, yet?
There were wall-to-wall shelves of identical Easter eggs...perhaps some different wrappers and maybe a few size variations but sooo.. similar.
I did find some gourmet chocolate eggs and yes, they looked amazing with gooey sweet centres and crushed nut coatings or hand-decorated varieties. But they were expensive, and big. And, with today's greater emphasis on good health and nutrition, I didn't really want to overload my kids with sugar.
So, I decided to create something handmade instead.. something that I could individualise to some degree for each person.. something that need not necessarily be a huge sugar overdose.
And also... importantly... something that wouldn't take long to make.
What is it?
Simple! A Easter bunny and eggs design printed onto 2 sheets of card and used to frame a small mug or container of Easter gifts. You could also use it to frame a clear, cellophane or a coloured paper bag of gifts, too.
The materials won't cost much. In fact, you may have almost everything you need already. It takes no more time than what's needed to print, cut out and assemble. And, you can add anything you wish to the container- Easter eggs, chicks, candies, decorations, even a voucher or movie ticket.
You'll find a list of needed materials;
and the slideshow below provides you with simple directions for creating this gift.
* Free downloadable file (see below)
* 2 x A4 sheets of card
* glue stick
* double-sided tape
* small glass/plastic mug (approx 8-9cm high)
* small Easter eggs, candies, decorations, gift items
'How to..' instructions:
Life as a grandma.. it's no 'quiet, restful days in the rocking-chair'. It's filled with activity, excitement and lots of family fun. Please share it with me.