Reflections and Beginnings

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This was the sky this morning reflecting on the ice pond on a day that many use to reflect. We have had a pretty great year in our home with many many things to reflect upon and be thankful for.

I don’t make resolutions on this night.  There are basically two things I try to remember and work towards with the beginning of a fresh new year.  The first is to keep negativity out of my life be it with people, situations, and mindsets.  I don’t like to let negativity in.  The second is to be content.  Being content with what you have, who you are, who your children are and where you are going in life leads to a certain calmness and peacefulness in your days.

So with the beginning of this New Year, I would like to say thank you to all my followers for being a part of our journey in life and wish you all much happiness, peace, and a content mind in 2015!!!!!

Happy New Year

The Special Room

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Since 1972 I have celebrated Christmas with a tree in this room.  The room has changed slightly over the years with a hardwood floor we put in, a bay window, new ceiling, and narrowing of the entrance, but the structure is the same.  I could not imagine a Christmas without this room.

This was in the early 1980’s with my siblings.  My dad always handed out the gifts while my mother directed him who it belonged to.

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Our trees have always been decorated with many handmade ornaments.  As kids we painted wooden ornaments or made pasta ornaments in school to hang on our trees.  My children have carried on that tradition and most of the decorations on our tree are made by them and some from our friends and family.

This picture was from 1990 after my sister married and I had moved out.  That is my niece enjoying the tradition of my dad playing guitar with my mom singing Christmas carols in front of the tree.  This is how we celebrated Christmas every year until adulthood.

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This room has a special place in my memory and I love that my children will have the memory of their childhood in this room with their special trees.

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And the aftermath of opening their gifts just as I did

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And at night when all is calm and everyone is asleep, I get to enjoy our beautiful tree with the simple ornaments in the special room filled with memories.

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Italian Chocolate Cookies

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These are my absolute favorite cookie.  I love the hint of cloves sweetened with the cocoa and light powdered sugar icing.  You can add chocolate chips (truly my favorite way), raisins, or nuts to these as well.

Growing up this was a staple Christmas cookie in our family.  I remember watching my mom make them and waiting until they were cool enough to grab a few off the tray!

I alternate between our family recipe and an Italian friend of mine who has a slightly different version.  Her’s contain less clove and uses Crisco in place of the lard our family recipe calls for.

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They are easy to make and look pretty when displayed with other cookies.  The taste is fabulous and even better with a cup of coffee or tea!

Here is the recipe I used for these cookies

4 cups flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup cocoa

3 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP Crisco (shortening)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

1/2 cup plus 2 TBSP milk

3/4 cup chocolate chips (or raisins or chopped nuts)

Mix flour, salt, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon, sugar, chips and Crisco with a pastry blender until pea size balls form.

Mix vanilla, egg and milk together in a separate bowl.  Add to flour mixture and stir by hand until all dry ingredients are blended.

Roll into walnut size balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes.  Dip in icing or frosting when cool and decorate

Christmas Cutouts

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Christmas cookies are a great way to make a family tradition. No matter how busy we are and other traditions have been outgrown, the cutting and decorating of the cookies is something that draws us all together.  It’s a fun family thing to do and the kids like seeing their cookies displayed on the cookie tray at our family gathering.

I like to try all sorts of recipes and last year made 2 different types of cutouts so we could vote on our favorite.  This year I decided to try the widely “Pinned” Sour Cream cut out cookies.

The dough was made and the rolling, cutting and of course eating began.

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I found this dough to be a stickier dough you have to knead with flour or powdered sugar after you pull a chunk out (I mix a bowl of flour and powdered sugar to sprinkle on the rolling pin and mat) to keep from sticking. But it was easy to roll and cut.

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I made the dough two days prior to us being able to get together and make the cookies.  It kept very well in a sealed container in the fridge.

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The cookies had a “crinkly” look to them right out of the oven and were very puffy but settled down smooth.  The recipe received the “approval” of the kids as they said they tasted great without the frosting.  It made a nice big batch of cutouts also.

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After the frosting was made and colored everyone went to town to get them decorated.

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And another year of memory making was had!

Here is the recipe I used:

1 cup butter

2 cups sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sour cream

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

4 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream together butter, sugar and salt with electric mixer.  Blend in sour cream, egg and vanilla.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl and add to sugar mixture slowly mixing well.  You can leave dough in the bowl and cover with plastic and chill for an hour.  Roll out using flour/powdered sugar as needed to keep from sticking.  Cut into shapes and bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes (slightly brown at edge).  Let cool for 2 minutes then transfer to wax paper to cool.  Frost as desired

Isn’t it winter???

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This is our ice rink behind our horse pastures.  This rink should be frozen and we should be skating on it!!  I mean it is December in Buffalo, NY right????

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Apparently Mother Nature has other plans this year or is feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

This is what the ice rink should look like

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Maybe this will serve as a boost to Mother Nature to get her butt in gear!!!!  We are ready for winter 🙂

Ricotta Cookies

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These are a staple cookie at our house and especially during the Holidays.  Ricotta cheese makes these cookies moist and delicious!!

They are simple to make and you can frost them with cream cheese frosting (recipe at bottom) or leave them plain as the tween queen in our house requests.  They are perfectly delicious either way!

I like to separate the batter at Christmas and make red and green colors as they make your cookie tray very pretty.

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Here is the fast and easy recipe:

Ricotta Cheese Cookies

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks butter (1 cup) softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 lb (16 oz container) ricotta cheese

½ tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp baking powder

4 cups flour

Food coloring if making different colors

TO DO:

Beat butter and sugar until creamy (about 3 minutes)

Add eggs 1 at a time

Add vanilla, ricotta cheese, salt, baking soda, baking powder until incorporated

Add flour slowly and combine all

**IF MAKING DIFFERENT COLORS ADD FOOD COLORING HERE

Drop by teaspoon onto a greased cookie sheet (or you can use parchment paper or silpat mat)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes

Frost with Cream cheese frosting (homemade or store bought works great)

**These cookies freeze well also. Separate layers with wax paper**

CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:

1 8oz brick cream cheese softened

1 stick of unsalted butter (1/2 cup) softened and cut into pieces

1 cup confectioners sugar (powdered sugar)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream the butter and cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth

Add the vanilla and mix well

Slowly add the sugar until well combines

(store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks)