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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Genealogy Paper Chain

I’ll bet you didn’t know that my husband and I teach 1st and 2nd graders on Sunday mornings.

Yep.  Last year we taught along with another friend, but he moved up to another class and this year, we’re on our own.  Which has been a little challenging to say the least as our average class size has doubled since last year.  We went from averaging about 8 each Sunday morning last year to averaging about 16 each Sunday morning this year.  To the elementary school teachers out there, 16 may seem like a cake walk… but we’re not talking about school.  Sunday School is a whole different animal and, admittedly, I am not a teacher by training, vocation or gifting.  So to us, 16-18 each week is HUGE. 

But I digress.

One of the things we enjoy doing with our class is a “Genealogy of Christ Paper Chain.”  We find it to be a really good teaching tool to talk about Messianic prophesy on a level that 1st and 2nd graders can comprehend and the links of the chain act as a visual to link together the old and new testaments of the Bible.

I thought my husband was very creative with the lesson portion of the morning.  He started out by talking about the Old Testament and the New Testament and the difference being that the Old was before Jesus lived on earth and the New was during and after Jesus.  Then he began reading some scriptures and asked the kids if they knew whether it came from the OT or NT and began to work in some scriptures of Messianic prophesy.  He quoted Micah 5:2 which talks about Bethlehem among others which refer to Christ to try to trip them up a little and make them think he was reading from the New Testament so that it would be a surprise that it came from the Old.  Once we were able to establish with the kids that the Bible talks about Jesus in the OT, we were able to talk about how the promise of the Messiah was made all the way back in Genesis and we began to read prophesies about the family that the Messiah would come from all the way back to Abraham.

We know that the details of our lesson probably did not all stick.  But we don’t expect them to.  If those 16 kids walked away from our class knowing that the Bible talks about Jesus in the Old Testament all the way back to Genesis, then we’ve accomplished our goal, in my opinion.

So, back to the genealogy chain… in pictures, here’s what we did:

For our class, I pre-printed all the names from the Matthew 1 genealogy of Christ on colored strips of paper.  Older kids could write them down themselves.  And the Luke 3 genealogy from Adam to Jesus could be used as well.

Genealogy Paper Chain Genealogy Paper Chain

Because I have to have things very organized for our group of 1st & 2nd graders, I put all the names in order with Jesus on bottom and Abraham on top.  I put them in sandwich baggies as shown below so that after starting with Abraham, each child could just take the next strip of paper with the next name on it out of the bag and the rest would remain in the bag and in order.  The links of the chain may be fastened with staplers or with tape.

Genealogy Paper Chain

Now, when you have 16 1st and 2nd graders working on such a project, there is absolutely no time whatsoever for pictures to be taken.  But with two kids working on it at home, it was a fairly peaceful affair.

And when they’re done…




I don’t know about you, but I’m always looking for a fun way to bring my family and especially my kids back to what we are truly celebrating at Christmas time… the birth of Christ.  I hope that this is an idea that might help some of you in your endeavors to do the same thing. 

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Sugar Cookies

In preparation for a little Christmas shin-dig I’m having at my house this week, I decided to make and decorate some Christmas cookies.  Lots of Christmas sugar cookies.

Christmas Sugar Cookies

It is no easy task to find the time to undertake such an endeavor with a job outside of my home, two active kids in grade school with homework and projects galore and everything else that a mom has to do.  So rather than try to do it all in one single block of time, I did it in stages.

In a spare 20 minutes I had one day, I made the cookie dough.  And since it needs to refrigerate anyways, I just put it in the refrigerator until I had time to bake the cookies the next day.  After baking the cookies the next day and allowing them to cool completely, I bagged them in zipper plastic bags and froze them until I was ready to decorate them, nearly a week later.

I made all of the icing one morning when I had a spare 15 minutes and then covered it and set it aside until later that evening when I could get around to it again.  That evening, I colored all the icing and decorated one batch and finished up the other two batches the next day. 

Taking it in little chunks like that really helped me to not feel overwhelmed by the task I had put before myself.

I saw an idea recently that intrigued me, so I decided to monkey with my tried and true sugar cookie recipe.  I removed 4 ounces of butter and replaced it with 4 ounces of cream cheese.  The outcome…. delicious!!  The cream cheese adds just a little zip to the flavor that I felt gave the sugar cookies a whole new dimension.  My updated Cream Cheese Sugar Cookie recipe is posted over on the recipe blog.  Just click on the link.

>>>Cream Cheese Sugar Cookies

In the midst of all the baking, freezing and decorating, I set some of the cookies that would eventually become ornaments on racks on our kitchen table to thaw so that I could decorate them while sitting down in a chair.  I was in the other room when I heard my husband yell, “NO SULLY!  BAD DOG!”

I came back into the kitchen and saw that something was missing.


He was really sorry.  Sorry that he got caught, at least.


Lesson learned.  Sully is now big enough to get his front paws on TOP of the table and reach food that is sitting there.  A far cry from where he started

I made Christmas trees, ornaments and stars all using techniques that were new to me that I learned from the brilliant Bridget over at Bake at 350.  While mine are not as good as hers, I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out for the most part.

Star Sugar Cookie

Ornament Sugar Cookie

Christmas Tree Sugar Cookie

Merry Christmas, y’all !!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Today at A Martha Heart...

Today I'm over at A Martha Heart. I share a very insightful creative writing assignment that my daughter brought home from school and think about about a few "What ifs" that came to mind as I read it.

Enjoy "the kite."

Monday, December 12, 2011

A new adventure with Tomatillo Jalapeño Jam

I got the most wonderful gift from a dear friend when we hosted a fall gathering of friends at our home right before Halloween. She brought me a paper lunch sack loaded with jalapeños from her garden.


As I stood there and stared at these beautiful gems I wondered what on earth I would do with them all.  Then it struck me that I could make jalapeño jelly.  So then the search began for a recipe.  The search was pretty short.  I scanned the internet and then realized I had a cookbook in my possession that may have just what I was looking for.  And it did.  More on that in a moment.

I also had to wrap my mind around the idea of canning.  It was a thing that struck fear into my heart.  I don’t know why as I have watched my mother successfully can everything from peach preserves to pear halves my whole life.  Even still, it always seemed to be this mystical magical thing that only women who survived the depression and the dust bowl should know how to successfully accomplish.

I mean, what if I don’t do it right and everyone gets food poisoning?

But, I decided to put on my big girl panties and give it a try.

The recipe I found came from Lisa Fain’s new The Homesick Texan cookbook.  I have followed Lisa on Twitter for quite some time and have always enjoyed her blog.  So when I found out she was coming to the Le Creuset store in Dallas to sign her new cookbook, I absolutely had to take the opportunity to go and meet her in person.  (Missing a World Series game in the process, y’all.)

IMG_1030And I’ll tell y’all, she is just as precious in person as she seems in her book and on her blog.  And her grandma, the one she talks about in the book and whose hands are pictured in it… she was there.  I spent several minutes talking to her and she reminded me ever so much of my Nana. 

All that to say that if you have a cook in your life, her cookbook, The Homesick Texan, is a perfect gift.  Or a Le Creuset dutch oven would work nicely also. (Especially since I scored one for 40% off that night and handed it to my hubby and said, “Merry Christmas to me!”  He may or may not have rolled his eyes.)

In her book is a recipe for Tomatillo Jalapeño Jam.  I really liked the idea of using tomatillos and the addition of some additional spices like clove and allspice to this jam really got my attention.

Since I was trying to make enough for some Christmas gifts, I multiplied the recipe a couple of times and learned a very valuable lesson in the process.  You CAN multiply a jam recipe too many times.  I think I had too much liquid and therefore it initially did not set up properly.  But I cooked it just a tad bit more the next day and added just a little bit of unflavored gelatin and that did the trick. 

And you know what?  The canning part of the whole thing was not a huge deal.  In fact, it was kind of fun to boil the jars, remove them from the water and wait to hear the pop of the lid sealing.  I don’t know how it happens, but it does, and it’s as cool as all get out to tap the top of that jar and hear it go, “PING.” 


So now I have some awfully good tasting gifts to give for Christmas.  I think two jars will go to the kids’ teachers and the others to my cousins. 

So, if you’re still reading this and are interested, here is the recipe (used with Lisa’s permission):

Tomatillo Jalapeño Jam
copyright 2011 The Homesick Texan Cookbook, page 36

Yield: 1 pint

1/2 pound tomatillos, husks removed, chopped
2 jalapeño chiles, seeds and stems removed, finely diced
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup lime juice
2 teaspoons lime zest

Special Equipment:
1 pint-size jar or 2 half-pint-size jars
(I recommend the latter)

1.  Sterilize the jars and lids in either a pot of boiling water or dishwasher.

2.  In a pot, add the tomatillos, jalapeño, vinegar, sugar, ground cloves, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, lime juice, lime zest and 1/2 cup of water.  Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down to a low simmer, stirring often, for 45 minutes or until it’s thick and syrupy.

3.  Pour the jam into the jars, then cover with the lids and fasten with the ring.  Let it cool and then refrigerate.  The jam will become more solid after a few hours in the refrigerator and will last for a month, refrigerated.


{Side note: For those of you who are like myself and love to use a thermometer for things like this, I did some research in my On Food and Cooking book and found that the temperature should reach 217°-221° F “which indicates that the sugar concentration has reached 65%”.  The author, Harold McGee, also suggests that “a fresher flavor results when this cooking is done at a gentle simmer in a wide pot with a large surface area for evaporation.” Page 297.}