Let it be known!

Merry and bright

It was the best Christmas in recent memory.  The weather threw a wrench into the travel plans of some, others were just plain under the weather, the tug of families and miles between us was felt 'round the Christmas Eve table; we just made the best of things and enjoyed present company!  That kind of sums up my attitude toward all the holiday hoopla & happenings this year -- make the best of it, and enjoy it.

We gathered with the kids on Christmas (mid-)morning for a pancake breakfast and then exchanged gifts 'round my minimally decorated (but very bright!) tree.  It was very modest and so much fun -- the girls are so thoughtful in their gifts to each other and to us.

I don't think we've ever had a Christmas without books -- lots and lots of books -- and here are the ones I received this year.

Christmas Reading

Katie works at a Half-Price Books store and, naturally, that's where she purchased all the books she gave this Christmas.  To me, she gave "The Knitter's Book of Wool" -- which was only released a few months ago, so I was totally not expecting that it would show up at HPB.  It was on my wish list, anyway, and it was a thrilling score for us both!!

Maddy gave me two books -- the Emeril cookbook made me smile, remembering how every night at 10:00 we'd have to tune in "Emeril Live!" -- one of Maddy's favorite shows when she was a kid.  She also gave me "Mother," by Maya Angelou, and made me cry -- happy joyful merry maternal love laughter family tears -- because she annotated and highlighted it with her own thoughts, memories, and sentiments.

2010 Calendar

My hubby had a birthday on Saturday!  I made a big pot of Chili All Day and we celebrated over dinner with the kids and my mom and Joe.  I'm afraid that Abbey's link might someday disappear, so I'm pasting the recipe below -- it's so, so good (and in my lunch box today!).

Gifts for Rusty on his day-after-Christmas birthday are sometimes a challenge, not to mention that we almost never have cake because of all the pie, cookies, and chocolate consumed in the days preceding -- some years are easier than others.  This year, it wasn't so easy -- at least until the calendar idea clicked.  I made and printed a small calendar (printed on 5x7 photo paper, trimmed slightly smaller) using a template I found online (but can't remember where and the files are not credited) and photos I took over the past year or so.  There are various ways to "bind" the calendar -- and, it might actually be a template for a CD case calendar -- mine's bound at the top with a silver bulldog clip.  Something along this line might be my go-to birthday gift for the entire year!

* * * * *

Chili All Day

1½ - 2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 large onion, diced large
6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. dark chili powder
3 Tbsp. ground cumin (I use only about 1 Tbsp.)
2 tsp. salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
¼ tsp.(or more) ground cayenne pepper (if you like it hot) (I sometimes don't use any)
½ bottle of beer

1 (28-oz.) can of crushed tomatoes
1 (28-oz.) can of diced tomatoes
1 (14-oz.) can of Bush's chili beans w/sauce
2 (14-oz.) cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (8-oz.) pkg. of sliced mushrooms

In a large pot, over high heat, sauté beef in olive oil until browned.
Add onions and continue to sauté until golden.
Reduce heat to medium and add all spices, stirring well and sauté until garlic is tender, but not browned.
Add beer and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, beans, and sliced mushrooms.
Stir well and let simmer with cover on for 30 minutes or longer (longer is better....the meat will be more tender).

* If the chili is too thick for your taste, add the remaining ½ bottle of beer (if you didn't already drink it).
* If the chili is too thin, add a small can of tomato paste.

Thanks, Abbey!  This is one of my favorite winter recipes!



I love that calendar idea. Glad your Christmas was enjoyable. I am liking the more relaxed Christmas attitude that comes with older kids!


What wonderful gifts! There's nothing quite like books. And your calendar idea is wonderful. What a great thing. I hope you don't mind if I become your copy-cat. Christmas birthdays are a challenge, aren't they? At least Tom's is a few days BEFORE Christmas -- which gives it a slightly bigger chance of being "noticed." I think the after-Christmas birthdays are much harder. . .


I love your attitude -- make the best of it and enjoy. That's the secret to a happy life, I think. Your calendar is awesome! I may stea--, er, glean that idea, too.


Your pictures are so exceptional which makes the calendar idea a treasure! I can't wait to make the chili. It sounds perfect for the long weekend ahead.


Absolutely WONDERFUL gifts, and absolutely the best attitude to have over the holidays. Mmmmm, chili!!!!


Could the chili then be put into a crock pot on low all day? I just know I would burn anything I leave on "simmer'! :)


I don't see why not!


Lovely gifts and the calendar is super. Chili sounds very yummy. The weather was a challenge this year for us, too.

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