Monday, December 14th
On Monday, Sophia and I made Salted Caramel Chocolate Pillows. The recipe came from this pin on Pinterest that led to Artzy Creations.
Salted Caramel Chocolate Pillows
• 1 refrigerated pie crust, thawed (we used both pie crusts)
• 14 Hershey Kisses of choice, (you can use different flavored Hershey Kisses; we used about 32 Hershey Kisses)
• 1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water
• 1 small jar Mrs. Richardson’s Caramel Topping (we used Breyer's Caramel Topping)
• Mediterranean Sea Salt
• Other optional toppings (we didn't use any of the following):
• 1 cup chocolate chips melted
• 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
• Powdered sugar for dusting
• Granulated sugar for sprinkling before baking
1. Turn oven on to 350 degrees.
2. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment or spray with non-stick baking oil.
3. Roll out the pie crust on lightly-floured counter top.
4. Made 2 1/2 inch circles with a knife or biscuit cutter (we used a biscuit cutter, although we didn't measure how big the circles actually were)
5. Place one Hershey Kiss in each circle.
6. Fold 1/2 of the pie dough over the Kiss and seal the pie dough.
7. Pull the other half of the pie dough up forming a criss-cross and pinch to seal the edges.
8. Brush each pillow puff with the egg wash and then sprinkle with a little granulated sugar or Mediterranean salt (we used salt).
10. Bake at 350 degrees, for 15 to 20 minutes or until your pillow puffs are golden brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 5 minutes before moving to cooling rack. Drizzle with caramel topping and sprinkle with Mediterranean Sea Salt.
These taste incredible right out of the oven (well, actually, after they cool for a bit). We will definitely make these again.
Tuesday, December 15th
We had leftover Hershey Kisses, so Sophia wanted to make peanut butter cookies with the Kisses on top. My mom used to make peanut butter cookies with chocolate stars on top. I didn't have the recipe handy, so Sophia used the recipe off the Hershey Kisses bag. They are called "Peanut Butter Blossoms."
48 Hershey's Kisses Brand Milk Chocolates
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup additional granulated sugar for rolling (optional)
1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.
2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.
3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar, if desired; place on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 48 cookies.
These are just the right size for a dessert. They are - like the other cookies we made - best right out of the oven. However, even cooled they taste delicious.
Wednesday, December 16th
Today was Las Posadas. In past years, we've made a more elaborate Mexican-theme meal for breakfast and dinner. This year, we had nachos again. This time, though, it was even more basic than the nachos the other night when we celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
This time, it was close to 6:45 p.m. when we started to eat. Olivia wasn't too hungry, so she just had some chips with shredded cheese on top. Sophia had some blue corn chips. We couldn't find the salsa, so it was just the chips with melted cheese on top.
To give you an idea how informal this dinner was, Lucy (the cat) joined us and watched us eat chips or nachos.
Again, maybe next year will be different. I just am not in the Christmas spirit at all the year. And maybe that's normal when you're dealing with grief that is relatively fresh. This time of the year was a favorite one of my mom's, in particular.
She never celebrated Las Posadas. In fact, it a holiday I learned about when the girls were smaller and I came across a book about it. I thought it would be interesting to learn more about it and incorporate it into our holiday plans. It has been fun trying different foods and learning about this holiday. I'll aim for something special next year on the 16th.
Thursday, December 17th
For a few years now I've been wanting to do something a bit more intentional during Advent. Before both my dad's and mom's health declined and they died, I did a written retrospective of the year that was tied somehow into Advent. I have no idea where the questions went which is too bad. That was a meaningful activity to do.
I found a pin on Pinterest that led to Praying in Color. I had to do some digging to find the Advent calendar for 2015. There were different versions. The one below is the one I chose.
I'm using markers to color in the tree shapes and garlands that connect each one. In the middle I'm writing the name of a person/people, pet, or animal that was in my thoughts or life that day. Sometimes the name reflects an activity that we did with a person. Other times, they are people who I am missing. A lot. Like my parents.
The colors reflect ones that the names - to me - represent and/or are/were ones they liked. I probably could write about each day in a journal to make it even more meaningful. Perhaps another year. My goal this year is simply to get through this first year without either of my parents. That, in itself, is enough.
Friday, December 18th
Today we did two things that related to celebrating Christmas. One was seeing the Nutcracker at O'Shaughnessy at the College of St. Catherine (where I went to college). It's now named the St. Catherine University. However, it will always be the College of St. Catherine to me.
At any rate, 29 youth and parents from our 4-H club went to see the ballet this morning. We filled almost an entire row which was impressive. That was the highest turnout for one of the field trips that our club has gone on!
Somewhere in this row Sophia and Olivia are seated. Sophia is wearing a brown sweater (with her back to the camera) and Olivia has black boots.
The costumes were beautiful. That was one of favorite parts of the ballet.
I enjoyed seeing how some of the ballet was different from other versions I've seen in the past.
The parts that always stand out for me are the accomplished dancers who are so elegant and graceful.
Having done both ballet and pointe, the effort and hard work that goes into the performance to make it look so "easy" is not lost on me.
After the ballet, we went to the nursing home/assisted living facility where we volunteer. We went around with one of the seniors to pass out calendars and gifts. We've done this for the past three years and he - as much as we - enjoy doing this tradition together.
Afterwards, he stays and listens to music and people come up and talk with him. Many know who he is because of his involvement in the community.
This year, he went into some of the rooms if people were there. They enjoyed having a visit from Santa.
Sophia played to a full room of seniors and their loved ones.
The activities/volunteer director sang along to some of the songs.
While Sophia was playing the harp for the open house, Olivia was practicing on the piano in the lounge for an upcoming performance that she and Sophia will do next Tuesday at the nursing home.
Arlyce, who helped paint each one of the barn quilts on the Washington County Barn Quilt Trail that Olivia coordinated earlier this year, wanted to hear the girls play their instruments. She seemed to enjoy her time at the open house and wants to come back next Tuesday to hear them perform.
Arlyce said that she and Olivia even played a duet together. It sounded like both of them had fun doing that.
After Sophia took a short break, she played a couple more songs while Tia sang along.
It was a nice way to wrap up the week. Only one day left - Saturday - and then next week is the final few days of the countdown. December went by way too quickly.