Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Tradition #7 from the pigpen

It's here.... well almost.  It is hard to believe that it is Christmas Eve.  I've said it numerous times already, but I absolutely love this time of year and our family has built many traditions over the years that make the Christmas season very special for us.  Today I will share tradition #7 and although I have more to share, they will have to wait until another year as I think it is appropriate to end with tradition #7 this year as it just might be my favorite.

When we decorate our house for Christmas soon after Thanksgiving, we love to set up our nativity as I'm sure many of you do.  The nativity itself is not the tradition, the tradition is when Baby Jesus and the 3 kings arrive.

Baby Jesus does not arrive in our manger scene  until Christmas Eve when we gather around as a family before going to bed to read the Christmas story from the bible.  So since Thanksgiving weekend, we have been patiently waiting for tonight when we can celebrate the birth of Jesus and the real reason for the season.

Our 3 kings have also been waiting patiently since Thanksgiving weekend.  You see they are making their journey to visit Baby Jesus on the Epiphany, January 6th.  January 6th is my mom's birthday so growing up we always made a big deal of the 3 kings arrival on the 6th.  So until they arrive on Epiphany, our 3 kings are "traveling" to our manger.

Merry Christmas to you and your family!!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Tradition #6 from the pigpen

I started sending Christmas cards after I graduated college.  After we had Big Sissy, we included a photo with our Christmas card or sent a photo card of the kids.  5 years ago we started the tradition of taking our annual Christmas card photo with the kids thanks to a suggestion from Ice Tea.  This year, Big Sissy, Bubby, and Little Sissy all wanted to old a pig so we were quite literally 3 kids and lots of pigs.

I thought I'd share some of our outtakes  as there are a lot of them because if taking a picture with 3 kids isn't hard enough only someone like me would add not one, but three live pigs to the mix.  As usual, after about 20 pictures, we ended up using the very first picture I took for our Christmas card thanks to closed eyes, moving and/or non-smiling kids, moving pigs, hair in the eyes, and operator error to name a few.

So with no further ado, here are some of our outtakes:

What do you do for your Christmas card picture?


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Tradition #5 from the pigpen

I can't believe we are less than a week away from Christmas.  I have so much to do this week between work and kids' school stuff (they don't get out until Friday at 1pm) that I can't hardly even think about it or I'm easily distracted as I love this time of year.

Any way, I don't know if my mom started this tradition or if it was started before her, but she always made sure we had a brand new outfit to wear for Christmas.  We would always wear this outfit for our annual Christmas picture (I'm the oldest of 4), to church for Christmas Eve, and anywhere else she wanted like the Christmas circuit.  I have fond memories of my Christmas dresses over the years even if there was a point that I was tired of color coordinating with my siblings.  (As a parent, I 100% understand why she did this.)

Since I had fond memories of this tradition, it is one that I have continued with my own children.  Each year since Big Sissy was born, I have made sure that the kids had a new Christmas outfit to wear for church on Christmas Eve and for our annual Christmas picture.

Last night one of our great friends who is also an amazing photographer took the kids Christmas pictures and although I haven't seen all of the proofs, I'm more than pleased with the few I have seen as she shared a few on Facebook so be sure to head over to my fan page to check it out.

Did you get a new outfit for Christmas as a kid?  Do you still today?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Tradition #4 from the pigpen

I realize this may be hard for you to even imagine as it seems a bit surreal to even talk about now, but I used to go on the Christmas program circuit ever year... at least that is what I called it.

You see my grandparents belonged to several different organizations that had a Christmas party every year.  I'm not quite sure how it all started, but from a young age I would go to the different Christmas parties with my grandparents and perform as part of the entertainment.  I'm not saying I was talented, but the price was right... I was free.

In the beginning, I would sing a selection of Christmas songs.  One year I even sang The Friendly Beasts complete with hand puppets for each of the different animals in the stable.  (This really is an amazing Christmas song that Garth Brooks actually cut for his Christmas CD.)  As I learned how to play the piano, I would take my electric keyboard to play for them in addition to singing and eventually moved on to playing the flute.

Really though I have great memories of doing this as a child and often wondered if I would ever be able to recreate it for my children.  Well last year, it all came together.

You see I belong to a local club of Extension Homemakers  with my mother-in-law (my grandma belonged to this as well) and last year I started a new tradition of hosting our Christmas party at the pigpen.

After a yummy meal, if I do say so myself, provided by my mother-in-law and myself, all of the children of the club members (well at least the daughters) entertain us by singing Christmas songs while Big Sissy accompanies them on the piano often with assistance of my mother-in-law.  This party really is a lot of fun and something all of our members look forward to each year as our members range from 30 something to 80+ in age.

It is a long story as to why my mother-in-law is wearing a paper crown, but she is the queen of our family.

And ultimately, I'm really honored to be able to share the tradition of the "Christmas Circuit" with my children even if their circuit currently only has one stop.


Iron Chef Bake-Off

As you know Ott, A from A latte with Ott, A has kept me on my toes this year in the kitchen with her monthly secret ingredient Iron Chef Challenges.  It has been a lot of fun to work with some familiar and some new ingredients in the kitchen with these challenges.

Much to my surprise, I was named the winner of not only one, but two of her monthly Iron Chef Challenges.  I actually won the artichoke Iron Chef Challenge in October and the turkey Iron Chef Challenge in November which led me to this month's Iron Chef Bake Off.

Instead of a secret ingredient, the monthly winners are competing in a Bake-Off sponsored by Taste of Home.  Each of us were asked to make the exact same recipe of Cinnamon Raisin Bread and then take that bread to the next level by incorporating it into another recipe.

Believe it or not as soon as I saw the Cinnamon Raisin Bread recipe, I knew what I was going to make.  My mother-in-law makes a bread pudding that puts most others to shame so I thought it would be the perfect thing to make for this bake-off challenge.

Aunt Nettie's Famous Bread Pudding 
French bread to cover the bottom of 9x13 pan or 1 loaf of Taste of Home Cinnamon Raisin Bread
1/2 cup melted butter
8 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 t. vanilla
1 t. salt
5 1/2 cups milk

Tear up bread and cover the bottom of a 9x13 pan.

Pour 1/2 cup melted butter over the bread.

Beat 8 eggs well.

Add sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat well.

Add 5 1/2 cups milk and mix well.

Pour over the bread and let rest 15 minutes or until bread is soaked.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until center is set.

Serve warm with the whiskey sauce.

Whiskey Sauce
1 cup melted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
2 T. whiskey
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans (toast pecans at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes)

Melt butter on the stove top.

After butter is melted, remove from heat and whip in powdered sugar and eggs.

Add whiskey and pecans.

Drizzle over the bread pudding.


I hope you not only enjoy the bread pudding, but also the cinnamon raisin bread as by following the recipe for it, you will end up with 2 loaves... one for the bread pudding and one to enjoy for breakfast or a snack.

Thanks again to Ott, A for all of her awesome Iron Chef challenges in 2011!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Christmas gifts for you

I couldn't believe when I logged in today that it has been almost 2 weeks since my last post.  I knew it had been awhile, but I really didn't think it had been that long. It definitely isn't because I don't have anything to tell you.  In fact, a lot has been going on around this pigpen and that may be why it has been a few days since my last post.  I know I've said it before, but I'm really going to try to do better.

So as you know my good friends over at The Real Farmwives of America and Friends launched a new project a few weeks ago called In the Cookie Kitchen with Gooseberry Patch.  I happened to be lucky enough to be one of the ladies that participated in their virtual cookie swap.  In fact, I "gave" Graham No-Bake cookies to Miss Marybeth of Alarm Clock Wars.  In addition to the virtual cookie swap, the ladies are also hosting a big cookie linky party with the opportunity for one of their readers to win a Gooseberry Patch cookbook.

Now who doesn't love a Gooseberry Patch cookbook especially one of their Christmas cookie themed cookbooks.

This being said, I couldn't pass up the chance to purchase 4 different Gooseberry Patch cookbooks a few weeks ago.  As part of a big sale, I was able to acquire Christmas Cookie Collection, Magic of Christmas, Old-Fashioned Country Cookies, and Jolly Holidays.  (Per Gooseberry Patch, a few of these are even retired.)  I was so excited and knew these cookbooks would be a great way for me to help share the spirit of Christmas with all of you and my fellow realfarmwives and friends.

So here is where it gets fun for me and you...

I decided to keep Old-Fashioned Country Cookies for myself.  Merry Christmas to me!

Since my fellow realfarmwives and friends aren't eligible to enter any of the contests held on their blog, I decided to use two of these cookbooks as a giveaway of sorts for my ladies.

So unknown to my fellow realfarmwives, they were secretly entered into my giveaway by two different ways.

My first winner is Miss Liz from Two Maids a Milking.  She will be receiving Magic of Christmas. (I used to determine this winner amongst all of the ladies that participated in the virtual cookie swap:  Jane, Megan, Liz, Jeanette, Meggie, Marybeth, and Cris.)  Merry Christmas to Liz!

My second winner will be receiving Jolly Holidays.  The winner of this cookbook will be determined by with all of real farmwives and friends that enter the linky party before it ends and those that participated in the virtual cookie swap except for Miss Liz since she already won.

And now one of my lucky readers has to chance to win a copy of the now retired Christmas Cookie Collection complete with a set of Christmas cookie cutters.  You have several chances to enter and you can use as many or as little of the entries as you want.

NOTE: To be officially enter you must enter through the widget and click, "I did this" for each of your eligible entries.  

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christmas Tradition #3 from the pigpen

Even though I'm already talking about Christmas tradition #3, I can't believe tomorrow will be December 1st.   How is it possible that we are 25 days from Christmas?

Any way, Christmas tradition #3 is decorating the Christmas tree.

The Farmer and I both grew up in houses with a live tree and we had a live tree the first couple of years of our marriage.  In fact, I can remember bundling up Big Sissy for her first trip to the Christmas tree farm when she was only over a month old.  However, we lived in a very small rental house the first three years of her life and once she was able to walk, we had a very tiny space for a tree.  So we went the pre-lit artificial route that year and havent' looked back until this year.

This pigpen's tradition is to start decorating our house and Christmas tree the Sunday after Thanksgiving when we get back from visiting my family for the Thanksgiving weekend.  Everything was going as planned this year until I got the tree out of the box and all set up.

After plugging in the tree, this is what I got....

a partially lit up tree.

Now this is not the first time I have had this problem.  Two years ago, none of the lights came on, but after shaking it quite hard for quite some time all of the lights came on and down the road we went.  Last year when I first plugged it in, the entire middle section of lights did not come on so I added a strand of lights and we were back in business.  So this year when only part of lights came on, I was slightly depressed.

I shook the tree.  I unplugged and replugged in the tree several times with no luck.

I wondered if this was a sign that we should go back to a real tree.

I decided to wait to talk to The Farmer before making any decisions and I'm glad I did.

After some discussion, we decided to get a new pre-lit artificial tree and since The Farmer gave me the go ahead I went ahead an ordered a new tree on Sunday night from Home Depot.  (We ordered from Home Depot as we had a store credit to use and liked their online selection.)

When I ordered the tree, they said it would take 3-5 days for shipping after 1-3 days of processing.  Well much to my excitement, the box was sitting by the door when I arrived home tonight.

Now I just have to find time to decorate the tree.

Are you a real tree or artificial tree family?


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Big Sissy's Pumpkin Fluff

I have to admit I have done a lot of Christmas shopping and decorating the last few days.  So much that it is almost hard to believe that Thanksgiving was just a few days ago.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend.  We were able to spend Thanksgiving Day with The Farmer's family and then headed north to spend the rest of the weekend with my family.  I even squeezed in some Black Friday shopping with my mom and sisters and we took the family to see the new Muppet Movie and created a whole new generation of Muppet fans.

Before I completely move past Thanksgiving, I wanted to share Big Sissy's pumpkin fluff that she made for Thanksgiving.  Now Big Sissy can be a picky eater and I never pegged her to be a fan of pumpkin, but ever since she tried Gal in the Middle's pumpkin chocolate chip muffins she has been a huge fan.  In fact we made some of Miss Megan's muffins for Thanksgiving as well.

Pumpkin Fluff
16 oz. can of pumpkin
8 oz. container of Cool Whip (we used fat free)
6 oz. container of vanilla instant pudding mix
1 t. pumpkin pie spice

Add all ingredients to a large mixing bowl and blend.

Serve with regular or cinnamon graham crackers or sticks.

I don't know what she calls this face. :-)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Turkey: Two Ways

When Ott, A from a Latte with Ott,A announced turkey was the secret ingredient for her November Iron Chef Challenge, I immediately thought of two different recipes that could work.  These recipes both came to mind as they can be made in less than 10 minutes each and always receive rave reviews from the pigpen.  Additionally, they can be made with turkey breast from the deli case or with leftover turkey from Thanksgiving or anytime you make a whole turkey or turkey breast.

So I decided I would go ahead and share both recipes with you as we all know we will be looking for many different ways to serve up the leftovers from Thanksgiving come Friday.

First up is my semi-homemade Turkey Manhattans.  Now, you can make this recipe as homemade as you want or as semi-homemade as you want.  At this pigpen, we usually go the semi-homemade route as it is hard to beat a delicious comfort food that can be made in less than 10 minutes.

Semi-homemade Turkey Manhattans
White Bread
Turkey Breast
Mashed Potatoes

When making semi-homemade turkey manhattans, we use turkey breast from the deli case, Bob Evans Original Mashed Potatoes from the refrigerator case, and Heinz's Home Style Roasted Turkey gravy in the jar.  

Prepare your mashed potatoes in the microwave as instructed.  (This takes approximately 6-7 minutes.)

Heat your gravy on the stove top.

Place one piece of white bread in the middle of your dinner plate.

Add the desired amount of turkey breast.  Then heat the bread and turkey up in the microwave oven for about 30 seconds.

Add the desired amount of mashed potatoes and then drizzle with the desired amount of gravy.

And you are ready to eat one yummy meal.

The second recipe I'd like to share is for a Cranwich.  My mother-in-law made these when she used to work at a local tea room as their chef and it has become a treat for our family when she makes them.

Brownberry Whole Grains Health Nut Bread
Whipped Cream Cheese
Chopped Walnuts
Sliced Swiss Cheese
Turkey Breast
Leaf Lettuce
Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce

Chop walnuts and set aside.

Take one piece of bread and spread whipped cream cheese all over one side.

Sprinkle chopped walnuts over the whipped cream cheese.

Add a slice of swiss cheese.

Add the desired amount of turkey breast.

Top the turkey with a piece of leaf lettuce.

Spread the whole cranberry sauce on one side of another piece of bread.

Assemble the sandwich.

Cut into 4s and serve with a toothpick inserted into each fourth.

This sandwich is a real treat as it puts a real twist on a traditional turkey and swiss sandwich.

Hopefully these recipes have given you something to think about as you  stare down your Thanksgiving leftovers and think of quick and easy weeknight meals that just hit the spot.

Hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

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