Monthly Archives: December 2012

Noodles’ Christmas 2012 Final Report

This is Noodles the Scout Elf reporting in from the North Pole where I am enjoying a little R & R after a very busy Christmas at the Brewer house. I had so much fun with my family this year and I miss them so much since my departure on Christmas Eve. There was so much to do, so much to explore and so many fun things to play with – I can hardly wait until next year! But for now, here is my final report for 2012 and a few highlights from some of my most memorable moments and favorite adventures.

Advent-Candy-1

Advent is a wonderful tradition, I loved hearing the “Christmas Story” and getting to enjoy a piece of candy from behind the little red door each night. My kids like it too!

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Candy is by far my favorite elven food group!

Defending-the-Castle-1

One of my favorite and most daring adventures was defending the castle and the princess from the fire-breathing dragon. Yes, you heard right the FIRE BREATHING DRAGON.

Defending-the-Castle-2

There he is … The FIRE BREATHING DRAGON! And you thought I wasn’t serious. Later, I was even knighted by the queen (she’s the one there in the purple and yellow gown) for my bravery. So I guess that officially makes me “Sir Noodles”. Santa was so proud!

Decorating

I did a little decorating. Elves are known for their tree trimming skills.

Boy, I was having so much fun and then, on Friday, December 14th, something really terrible happened and a lot of little kids and their teachers died. And my heart was broken.

I-Love-You

And all I could think about was how much my kids mean to me and how I needed to let them know I love them and am watching out for them. My family prayed a lot for those families in Connecticut and I don’t know if they know it but I was praying too.

The next night was hard too. My family was gone for a Christmas Party and sleep overs. I missed them so much but did a little tidying up to keep myself busy. I tell you, that sweet “little one” must have re-arranged the “Merry Christmas” blocks a thousand times. Fixing-Blocks

But I put things back in order, and he left me a little piece of his cookie as he rushed by to play the Wii. Funny, after I fixed them, he never touched the blocks again. I sure do love him.

The next night, I was eager to make a new friend so I paid a visit to this really cool house I saw while I was busy defending the castle from the FIRE BREATHING DRAGON – remember that? I did tell you about the FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON, didn’t I?

Barbie-1

Anyway, about the really cool house, turns out there’s this girl who lives there, her name is Barbie. She said I could drive her car so we could go look at Christmas lights but the elevator in her house was broken so she couldn’t get down. Luckily, the “Rescue Heroes” were near by and were happy to give us a hand. And then we were off …

Barbie-2

to enjoy the Christmas lights and share a candy cane.

Barbie-3

And then I returned her home, safe and sound. She let me keep the car a little longer.

Marshmallow-Bath

Did you know Barbie’s Dream House has the best bath tub EVER! Barbie was kind enough to let me borrow it. We elves love to take marshmallow baths you know. You really should try it sometime, Marshmallow baths are the best!

The next night was Sara’s 11th Birthday.

Scarf-for-Sara

Elves LOVE birthdays, after all Christmas is Jesus’ Birthday and He is the reason we celebrate. I gave Sara a beautiful scarf that I brough back from the North Pole. She LOVED it and wore it out to her birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory that night. Here’s the best part, my family came home with leftover cheesecake (those pieces are huge) and one of them was Peppermint Bark – MY FAVORITE! How did they know?

Helicopter

I told you a was going to take that helicopter for a spin. It was soooo much fun!! That chicken on top of the ledge in the kitchen was pretty interesting too, he has some good ideas on solar energy and clean fuel.

Village-Visit

I did a lot of visiting this Christmas and stopped by this quaint little village to chat with the very tiny but oh, so friendly people who live there. I still can’t figure out how Santa does the whole chimney thing though.

At-the-Movies

One night, I watched my favorite move of ALL TIME! I love popcorn!

Oh, I can’t forget! Remember that FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON, I think I might have mentioned him …

Dragon-Rider

well, I trained him and am now a certified Dragon Rider. Here we are with our friend Griffin just hangin’ out on the chandelier.

Before I knew it, it was Christmas Eve and time for me to say goodbye.

Good-Bye-for-now-1

My kids aren’t perfect but they sure do try hard and are so funny and I love them so much. I want to be sure they remember me, a year is a long time after all, so I left each of them a little something special.

Believe

Well, until next year, this is Noodles the Elf, or Sir Noodles the Dragon Rider – whichever you prefer, signing off!

May you have a blessed and wonderful 2013.

And Keep Believing!

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“Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime”

My blog has officially been neglected. I can’t believe it has been ten days since I last posted but as usual, Christmas has gotten away from me. My efforts at planning, preparation and time management were just not enough to accomplish all that I piled on my plate. This is not unusual. I am a work in progress. The good news is despite one visit from Monica (read about her here)  and a few sleepless nights, I truly had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Now, after a couple of days to regroup and renew, which included a much-needed “Castle” marathon on TNT, I am back and am excited to share some of the highlights of our Christmas.

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For us, Christmas starts immediately after Thanksgiving when the trees, garland and lights go up. I love decking the halls and tend to over do it (shocking, I know) but it is always festive – not always finished, but festive none the less. Christmas-Decorating-3

The Christmas Tree(s). My husband likes colored lights and I like white lights so we compromised long ago and decided to do two trees. Is that truly a compromise? A fancy tree with white lights in the main living area and a fun and festive tree with colored lights in the family room. Truth be told, I love them both.

Decorating the family room tree or “kid tree” as we now call it, is a big family tradition complete with hot cocoa and Christmas songs on the radio. Just as my mom did when I was a kid, I put up the garland and the lights and then daddy and the kids hang the ornaments (and then I move the ornaments to more suitable locations after they go to bed) …

Decorating-the-Tree-2

Decorating-the-Tree

Decorating-the-Tree-3

Nathan has the honor of putting the star on top of the tree, with a little help from daddy of course.

Along with decorating, there is always a lot of baking to be done this time of year. A LOT! This year, I baked for friends, for charity, for parties and for family and neighbors. The good new is when you bake so many cookies, after a while, the last thing you want to do is eat one. I wish the same could be said of french fries.Cookies

We also enjoyed lots of celebrations and parties including a couple of birthday parties right smack in the middle of all the hustle and bustle – but that is for another post.

We enjoyed giving to others.

Gifts-for-friends-1

Gifts-for-friends-2

You are never to young to experience the joy of giving.

And we remembered what had been lost …

Remembering

Two of the little boys killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut were Tiger Cubs in the local Cub Scout Pack, one of the first responders was their den leader, one of the lost teachers had been a Venture Scout and three other scouts lost siblings that day. We remembered them at our Cub Scout Christmas Party by taking donations and cards and letters of sympathy and well-wishes.

As we remember what has been given …

The-gift-of-salvation

We also celebrated ongoing traditions and started new ones, like our first year with Noodles, the elf on the shelf.Bob-the-Elf-Rock-Climbing

This is Bob, the imposter elf, rock climbing on the fireplace. You can read about Noodles and Bob here.

A-gift-from-Noodles

A gift from Noodles when he departed Christmas Eve. Watch for his final Christmas Post for 2012 as he will share the last of his antics and adventures while visiting with us.

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Dressed up and heading out for Christmas Eve services.

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Comfy and cozy in Christmas Eve pajamas and new slippers.

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Opening gifts Christmas Morning.

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Santa even left a little something for Gracie.

So much to be thankful for and so many things I want to remember about this Christmas.

Nathan’s first eggnog and the pure delight that washed over his face as he smelled and then tasted, exclaiming “mmmmm, it is sooooo good! Like bubble gum milk!”

Nathan-Christmas

Funny guy.

The generous hearts of my kids as they showed immediate willingness when asked to give up Christmas gifts and instead spend the money to help others. How they were still filled with joy and understanding as we talked about that decision Christmas morning and remembered why there were only a few presents to be opened.

Christmas Eve services when it was announced that our church met our goal of digging 8 deep water wells and feeding ALL of the vulnerable children and orphans in one of the poorest and most ravaged regions of Malawi Africa. And when it was revealed that at last count we were actually tens of thousands of dollars over the goal, my son said “WOW! Now maybe some of those children can even have seconds!” He knows that to them, life is one cup of porridge each day and his heart was hoping some might get to have another. It truly is better to give than to receive.

The beautiful Christmas stockings my sister Dana made for my kids that were just like the ones our grandmother had made for us. Look for this story in a future post.

Nathan talking to my mom on the phone and asking her why she hadn’t come home for Christmas because he thinks her home is or at least should be with us.

My deconstructed Christmas Eve dinner because I just couldn’t do it ALL. Another future post.

The hugs and thanks of elderly neighbors for the gift of a simple plate of cookies and of being remembered. I need to remember to visit them more often.

There are also a few things I have learned this Christmas …

We gave up a lot and we didn’t miss any of it, kids included. We can give more.

Christmas-Morning-1

If you don’t open the damper on the fireplace, merry and bright become stinky and hazy.

No one notices or has less of a Merry Christmas because you were never able to finish the outside lighting and finally gave up and boxed it all back up and put it in the garage. Let it go.

When you have two little boys, two scooters are better than one – luckily, David was easily convinced that it would be a good idea to spend his Christmas money from grandparents on a scooter of his own.

Scooters

Yes, we ride scooters in flip-flops and Wellies.

Burgundy mushrooms are definitely worth getting up at 6am to start so they can simmer in butter and wine for nine hours. Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.

The answer is five. Five years old is the age when you finally work up the courage to ask Santa for the scooter and monster truck you are hoping for instead of bursting into tears and burying your face in your mom or dad’s shoulder while clinging to them for dear life when he asks you what you want.

Nathan-Santa-2

At five years old, you are a big boy.

If I can’t get my family to eat brussels sprouts that are baked in a creamy cheesy gratin then I am NEVER going to get my family to eat brussels sprouts. Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Carmellized Shallots.

Hot cocoa is best with a little bit of fresh nutmeg grated over the whipped cream.

Fresh-Nutmeg

I know this as well, next year I may or may not improve my time management skills. I will probably be exhausted again and over do it and despite my best efforts, Martha may try to take over and Monica might even show up a time or two. I also know that despite all of that, I will continue to seek the true meaning of the season and will be ever grateful for the Savior who came and died that I might have everlasting life. I am imperfect. He is not.

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Merry Christmas.

May you find peace and contentment in these last few days of the season. God Bless.

Friday Morning

I haven’t been able to post the last several days. My heart has been heavy and grieving. How do I talk about the Elf on the Shelf or cookies or meal planning or lights or tree trimming?

Friday morning. It is all we are hearing about, thinking about, talking about. I have read so many beautiful posts, thoughts, prayers and scripture uttered in the search for hope amid such unimaginable grief.

Beautiful insight.

Exactly what I wanted to say.

What I would have said had I been able to find the words.

I have read the prayer of St. Francis posted on Facebook by Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) … Lord Make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O’ Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Yes, Lord.

I have read the words of fellow blogger Derek Maul, “But my God is still the God of hope; and that hope is still articulated most eloquently in the promise of the Christ-child and the imperative of love. And while I can’t offer my faith as any kind of a ‘now I understand’ explanation, or an excuse for ‘unfairness,’ or a tidy answer, I can offer it as proof positive that the very real presence of God both sustains and encourages me – especially in the face of such consummate evil.”

Yes, Lord.

And I have turned to scripture, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will show mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3-10

Yes, Lord.

No, up to now, I haven’t myself been able to find the words but I have been sustained by the words of others; by the words of my Heavenly Father. What more can be said? What more can I add? And yet I feel like I can’t take another breath or go through another motion until I acknowledge the message He has for me and accept the words He is laying on my heart.

I watch the news, too much of it – and I hear discussion in regard to the shooter. He has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has Aspergers. He was a loner. He was odd. My heart breaks again as I read the words of Liza Long in her post “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”  that has been circulating everywhere. I have compassion as she cries out for help with her own son whom she fears but I am frustrated as she throws out possible diagnoses such as an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD), ADHD, and Intermittent Explosive Disorder and links them and her son to what happened on Friday morning. I understand she is frustrated with the lack of mental health services and options. I understand she is looking for answers to the challenges she faces and the fear she has. My heart goes out to any mother who feels that she has to fear her child. I will pray for her. A lot of people have commented about her and have responded to her essay both in support and anger but who is praying for her? Who is praying for her son?

Does she need help? Yes. Does her son need help? Yes. Do we need to address the lack of appropriate mental health services in our country? Yes. Are there people who suffer from mental illness that pose a danger to themselves or society and need to be given the appropriate help and treatment? Yes. Do we need to recognize their suffering and watch for warning signs? Yes.

But we also need to be careful of where we place blame, point fingers, misdiagnosed and allow fear to creep into our good intentions; our judgment.

Was this tragic shooting on Friday caused because a young man had Autism, Aspergers, ADHD, PTSD, ODD, OCD or mental illness alone?

I am not an expert. I am not a mental health professional, psychiatrist, therapist or counselor. But I do have a gifted child who has been diagnosed with ADHD, ODD and PTSD due to the extreme trauma he experienced before we adopted him. We have been through a lot with him but I am not afraid of him. In fact, quite the opposite; I am amazed by him and admire his resiliency, compassion and desire to overcome his past. I see his heart and his goodness and I see God at work in his life every day.

I feel a great push to share this because I have put a part of my son’s story out there in the world by talking about his challenges in earlier posts and my heart now breaks at the though of any condemnation or judgment he could face because of the labels he bears; because of the “links” being made in the media and by those seeking an answer. My hope in sharing a part of my son’s story is only to praise how far he has come, to offer encouragement to others and to give glory to God for what He has done in our lives.

There is hope and healing is possible.

I also have a nephew with Aspergers and a close friend with an Autistic son and I myself have faced OCD. And I can’t, not for one more moment, hear this unspeakable act being linked to or blamed on conditions, disorders and/or diagnoses that millions of people live with. Diagnoses or labels that may remove them from the mainstream make them “different” and cause them to struggle but certainly do not make them cold, calculating mass murderers. How often in our history has the fear of “different” resulted in tragedy of its own?

What this young man did was something sinister.

We live in a world where there is good and there is evil.

What happened in that sleepy Connecticut town on Friday morning was evil; “consummate evil.”

  • People with Autism are not evil.
  • Autism is not mental illness.
  • People with Aspergers are not evil.
  • Aspergers is not mental illness.
  • People with mental illness are not evil.
  • People with OCD are not evil.
  • People with ODD are not evil.
  • People with PTSD are not evil.
  • People with ADHD are not evil.
  • People with depression and anxiety disorders are not evil.

Because it is close to me, I write specifically with thoughts of the thousands of foster children in our country who suffer from conditions resulting from abuse, trauma and loss. Overcoming that trauma, hurt, loss and lack of trust is not easy and takes a family or at the very least, someone who cares, a great team and a lot of love and hard work. Being loved and cared for by people who walk along side you and help you is a start. Being prayed for and shown the God who loves you allows for the breaking down of even the most difficult hurts and starts the process of true healing; replacing brokenness with hope. We cannot turn away or refuse to accept, love, help, guide and adopt hurting children because we are fearful. With God … WITH GOD, all things are possible.

As I repeatedly hear the question, “where was God that Friday morning?” I find myself compelled to answer because I know where He was, where He is. I know, because I know who He is.

I know because He was with me as I struggled with OCD and He ultimately delivered me from that which threatened to cripple me and hold me back from my purpose.

He has been with my husband and I every moment of our journey as parents called to nurture an abused and hurting child (children). He has walked with us through the rages and the anger and the trauma and has held our hands through diagnoses and therapy. And He has rejoiced with us as our children heal and are made new. As we watch them blossom into who they are intended to be as God delivers them from the hurts this world has visited upon them. He has also been with my children, through it all, and continues to walk every step with them.

He was there Friday morning.

He was with the teachers and staff who stood in the face of evil and overcame it to leave a legacy of love and sacrifice; a heroic testimony to us all. And He was waiting to welcome them home.

He was with each of those precious children; children that He first loved and are now with Him.

He was with each first responder as they ran into that building without hesitation. He is with them now as they struggle to overcome the trauma and heartache of Friday morning.

He is with each parent and family in Connecticut as they grieve the unspeakable and seek a way to forgive the impossible.

And He is with me as I write these words; as I pray for Him to give them to me. As I pray that we will notice and embrace the lonely and hurting before they become the lost. That we will offer hope and light and grace. That we will move forward with understanding and open eyes and not with fear.

“Do not fear what may happen tomorrow. The same loving Father who cares for you today will care for you tomorrow and everyday. Either he will shield you from suffering or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it. Be at peace then and put aside all anxious thoughts and imaginings.” St. Francis de Sales

Blessed be to God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. 2 Corinthians 1:3

White Chocolate Dipped Gingersnaps

ready-to-serveThese are my favorite “go to” Christmas Cookies. Versatile, delicious, easy and one batch makes a lot of cookies. I found this recipe several years ago in one of those little “Best Christmas Cookies Ever” type mini-magazine cookbooks that you pick up on impulse at the checkout stand. You know just in case you didn’t already have the “Best Christmas Cookie Ever Recipe” amongst the hundreds of recipes you already have and actually might just find it in this particular little magazine so you buy it because you can’t take the chance you’ll miss out on the best thing that has ever happened to you. As it turns out, this little magazine did actually have the recipe for the “Best Christmas Cookie Ever”.

Over the years, I have happily shared this recipe with countless friends and now I am going to share it with you too!

White Chocolate Dipped Gingersnaps

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Molasses – I use “Full Flavor” Molasses
  • 4 Cups Flour
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • Additional sugar to roll cookies.

White Chocolate Dip:

  • 2 – 12 ounce Packages Vanilla Baking Chips
  • 1/4 Cup Shortening (Crisco)

Directions

In a mixing blow, combine sugar and oil; mix well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Sugar-and-OilAdd molasses and mix well.

MolassesHere is a little trick that may or may not be life changing for you …Measuring-Molasseswhen you add the molasses use the same measuring cup that you used for the oil and the molasses with slip right out without sticking to the sides. Yes, I do watch entirely too much Food Network.BatterGorgeous!

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing well after each addition.Adding-MolassesKeep going, you’re almost there.DoughPerfect, such a beautiful dough.

Now, shape the dough into 3/4 inch balls using a small scoop for uniform size.scoopAnd then roll the cookie balls in sugar.A-roll-in-the-sugarAhhhhh, there’s my sweet boy.Nathan-helping-2You didn’t think I could post a recipe without pictures of my helper did you? The sugar rolling step is perfect for little helpers. Here we are experimenting with a roll in Turbinado Sugar which turned out to be a little much. We recommend sticking with the plain old granulated stuff.Nathan-helpingNext, place the sugar rolled balls 2 inches apart on a baking sheet (mine is lined with a Silpat mat to prevent sticking but parchment paper works just fine too).Ready-for-the-ovenBake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until cookie springs backward when touched lightly. A little less time will give you softer, chewier cookies and a little more crispy and crunchy.bakedFresh from the oven and smelling fantastic. Remove to wire racks and cool.

What to do next? These cookies are so beautiful and delicious just as they are (go ahead, try one) which brings up the question to dip or not to dip? This is entirely up to you but you really must try the white chocolate dip at least once. The white chocolate dresses them up and puts them over the top but the gingersnap really is wonderful on its own too. ready-to-dip

If you decide to dip (which really is a good decision), melt the chips with shortening in a microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring after each until not quite melted as to not scorch the chocolate. Keep stirring until the heat of the mixture fully melts the chocolate.

Melting-chocolateYes, my picture shows the chips in a pan that clearly can not go in the microwave and is obviously on its way to the stove top. This is the way the original recipe says to melt the chips. I did it this way. I should not have. I know better. Melt them in the microwave, unless you can properly care for your melting chocolate and are not likely to be distracted by a five-year-old, a dog, the phone or the doorbell or all at the same time. Trust me, unless you use a double boiler, this can go wrong quickly and will only end in heartbreak. Use the microwave.ready-to-dip-2Okay, now that your chocolate is perfectly melted, dip the cookies halfway and shake off the excess. Place on waxed paper or parchment paper to harden for about an hour. dipped-and-dryingIf you want to get festive, right after dipping (before the chocolate hardens) decorate with colored sugar or sprinkles.sprinkledNow, here is where it get’s interesting. If you are a ginger lover and can take a pretty big flavor punch, sprinkle your cookies with a little bit of chopped crystallized ginger.Crystallized-GingerHeavenly!ginger-toppedThese are the cookies that we leave out for Santa. I hope you love them too and that they become a part of your Christmas traditions! Thanks for reading, I’d love to know if you try them and what you think!

My Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookie Recipe

My Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookie Recipe

Click here to read the story behind the cookies.

Finished-Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 pound butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 Tablespoon of cold water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt (less – about half – if you use table salt)

Directions

Shape into a small “log” roll. Refrigerate several hours, slice and bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes.

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT! Okay, so those were my grandmother’s instructions, written back in the day when knowledge and technique were assumed.

I have added slightly to the “how to” of the recipe:

Cream the butter and sugars together in a stand mixer (or with an electric mixer) until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.

Creaming-Sugar-and-Butter

Add and incorporated the eggs, one at a time.

One-Egg-at-a-Time

Add and incorporate the vanilla and the soda dissolved in water.

Mix salt into the six cups of flour and mix into butter mixture one cup at a time.

Flour

Mix in the roughly chopped walnuts (or the nut of your choice).

Walnuts

Add-in-Nuts

If you have a dreamy little brown-eyed boy, let him lick the beater.

Nathan-Beater

Nathan-Beater-2

Shape the dough into three rectangular log rolls by placing the dough in thirds onto sheets of plastic wrap. Use the wrap to help you shape the dough.

Wrapping

Log

Logs

Seal it up and refrigerate for several hours, otherwise, it will be impossible to slice – also, this is why they are called “Ice Box” cookies.

After the dough has chilled, remove the plastic wrap and slice the cookies 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Sliced

Place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10 – 12 minutes.

Just-out-of-the-Oven

Cool and store in an airtight container or freeze.

Enjoy!

A Flood of Memories from The Icebox

This post was supposed to be about cookies. My Grandmother’s Icebox Cookies. But in the process of looking for a (as in one) picture of her to go with the recipe, I found myself spending the morning digging through hundreds of photos and remembering countless special moments from a childhood filled with them.

There are so many things that make me think of my grandmother. I lost her almost 30 years ago but rarely a day goes by that she isn’t with me. She was such a big part of my childhood and I have so many precious memories associated with her. She truly was my very first best friend.

Grandma-&-Me-2-blog-ready

She was a wonderful lady and a good cook. The queen of the baked ham and Jello mold. A simple cook and not an overly confident one but her meals were always delicious, often prepared fresh from my grandfather’s incredible garden. My grandparents are the reason I didn’t know kids weren’t supposed to like vegetables. What is better than a carrot pulled straight from the ground and washed off with the garden hose? Not much.

Grandma-&-Me-1-blog-ready

A foot wash after some barefoot gardening.

There is so much I remember about my grandmother. She was fastidiously neat, clean and tidy bordering on germ-a-phobic. How many times did I hear from the neighboring stall in a public restroom, “YOU’RE NOT SITTING DOWN ARE YOU?” In fact, the current state of my kitchen floors probably has her begging the Lord Himself to allow her 10 minutes in my kitchen with a mop and bucket. I’m also pretty sure she deserves at least some of the credit for my freakishly strong quads.

Grandma-&-Grandpa-blog-read

Grandma and Grandpa having a little fun.

She was a lady and very proper but also funny with perfect timing, grace and poise. She never missed a beat. At least that is how I remember her. I remember how beautiful and pulled together she always looked. I also remember the nighttime routine of face cream, curlers and a foam/net hair wrap that were all paramount to her being fabulous the next day.

Grandma-blog-ready

I remember getting dressed up to go downtown and visit my grandpa at the bank where he worked as head of maintenance and then to lunch at the Crescent – a fancy department store with a wonderful cafe. Back in those days, you did not go downtown in black yoga pants and flip-flops; at least not in my grandmother’s world. Heck, I still don’t go downtown in black yoga pants and flip-flops and I go everywhere in black yoga pants and flip-flops. I’m a mom. In Arizona.

Santa-&-I-blog-readyThis picture is from one of our trips downtown where I was dressed to meet Santa in my taffeta skirt, lace tights and a beautiful butter yellow poncho and hat grandma had knit for me. How I cherished those outings with her. What I wouldn’t give for just one more.

Grandma-&-Me-5-blog-ready

I remember how she would rub my forehead as I was falling asleep and how she sat and rocked me first thing each morning even when I no longer fit comfortably in her lap and the tips of my toes were starting to just brush the floor.

I miss her. I don’t think I realized how much until just this moment.

I’m sure by now you are wondering how all of this ties into cookies and where the promised recipe is. My grandmother may not have been Julia Child in the world of savory but when it came to baking, she was in her element. I spent a lot of weekends with my grandparents and I remember my grandmother always having a “little something” awaiting my arrival.  I remember the chocolate cake with white frosting she made so often because it was my dad’s favorite; and the cherry pie that was mine. I remember the amazing birthday cakes she made and decorated especially for me. Doll cakes, a horse cake, a beautiful yellow layer cake covered in handmade sugar flowers. All made with so much love and care for the sole purpose of making me feel special.

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At Christmas what I remember most were the delightful “spritz” cookies she made. Delicate perfect little cookies in the shape of trees, wreaths and stars beautifully decorated with holly leaves and berries. And I remember her Ice Box Cookies. The ice box cookies that started this whole post and the flood of memories that has come with it.

A week or so ago, In my preparations to get started on some Christmas cookie baking, I sought out a recipe I had discovered earlier on a wonderful blog called Piping Dreams. When I went back to the blog and found the recipe I was looking for, Fresh Cranberry, White Chocolate and Sea Salt Shortbread, I read through the comments and saw that another lady had asked about a recipe she’d been trying to find for quite some time. A recipe for “Refrigerator Cookies”, which sounded almost identical to my grandmother’s Ice Box Cookies that I remember from Childhood. I hadn’t thought about them in so long and had never actually made them myself. I did a little digging and found the recipe and went back and shared it in the comment section in the hope that it might be what she had been looking for.

And then I made a batch myself. With my grandmother standing right there next to me in my kitchen on my floors that are so in need of her attention. My rushed and busy spirit so in need of her attention. I don’t know if they were what that particular lady had been looking for but they were just what I had been looking for.

Seeing those cookies on the tray after baking was like looking through the eyes of my six-year-old self. They were just as I remember. They tasted just as I remember. A little bit of my Childhood recaptured through a recipe for a simple cookie. I will make them every Christmas from now on and I will think of my grandmother and remember how much she loved me and what she meant to me.

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My Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookie Recipe

shown above nestled alongside

Fresh Cranberry, White Chocolate and Sea Salt Shortbread from Lauren at Piping Dreams.

Oh, I also remember how she put my grandpa’s whiskey into a musical decanter that would chime out and alert her every time he poured a drink. Sorry, I just needed to laugh a little.

Noodles’ Weekly Elf on the Shelf Update

I can’t believe I met my family just a week ago, it seems like I’ve known them forever – I already love them so much! I have three kids; Sara, she’ll be 11 soon and I can hardly wait for her birthday party, David is 8 and is so clever and funny like me and Nathan is 5 and is so lovable and full of energy, hey, he’s like me too! And of course, mom and dad and Gracie the Dog too.

I have had great fun keeping them all guessing, getting into things and watching over them. On Monday night, after I reported to Santa at the North Pole, I flew back and went fishing for Swedish Fish in this cool pond right below the shelf I first landed on to introduce myself.

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Did you know that candy canes are not just one of the four food groups? They make great fishing poles too! And then you can eat them when you are done fishing, which is awesome.

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Boy did the kids think I was funny and clever when they found me the next morning. Funny though, the dog seemed a little confused and kept sniffing around the pond. Maybe she likes Swedish Fish too.

Noodles-ReminderThat first day, the kids had a little trouble being nice to each other and listening to their mom so I thought a little fun and friendly reminder of what Santa expects was in order. I even sat on a cool silver sled so that mom could move me easily in case anyone seemed eager to touch me.

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Night number three. I could not longer resist the cookies mom had been baking (after all, I am an elf and for us the four food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup) and I was just sure she wouldn’t mind if I helped myself to just one. Boy am I so glad I did!

Noodles-Advent-ConspiracyI’ve heard my family talking a lot about something their church does at Christmas time. It is called Advent Conspiracy. The boys came home on Sunday with cups and the family has been putting coins and dollars into them to collect money to feed orphans and vulnerable children in Africa. I knew the kids would love it if I helped out. What I didn’t know is how good it would make me feel too. Now I understand why my family wants to celebrate what Christmas is really about and Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. I can’t wait to tell Santa all about it and about how generous the hearts of my kids are.Noodles-in-Spidey-MobileSince I arrived, I have been eyeballing all of the fast cars around here and finally, the need for speed got the best of me and I had to take one out for a spin. The Spidey Mobile was AWESOME!! I remember seeing a helicopter around here somewhere, but I was going so fast I can’t remember where. I’ll have to look for it because I’m definitely going to need to try that!Noodles-and-Baby-Jesus

My reports back to Santa have been mostly good. I’ve had to tell him of a little bit of bickering and fighting, back talk and messy rooms but I’ve also gotten to tell him of how much love my kids have and about their big hearts for Jesus. About how they pray and say they are sorry and try hard to do what is right. I love my kids and am so happy I get to be their elf.

Be sure to stop back by and see what crazy antics I come up with next week! I have heard rumors that I might be getting some “work done”, a little velcro to my hands, some wire in my arms and legs for increased flexibilty. I’ll be like a bionic elf or Wolverine. I like that, WOLVERINE, it has a nice ring to it.

Love,

Noodles, Elf on the Shelf