Reminiscing and Ginger Bread Houses

By Rhonda Woods

Oh, Christmas, you are only a few days away.  The children are excited for Santa to come.  Parents and grandparents are trying to find all the items on their sweet little lists. Some people go all out with decorations, while some, like me, keep it simple (barely getting the tree up). Secret Santa, playing the White Elephant gift exchange game (not sure where that name came from) and holiday music on every station.  Calendars are filled with special events, cantatas, drive through light shows, and of course, food…lots of food.  Pace yourself and forgo the fancy fitted frocks.  Opt for “eating pants”, as we say, you know the ones that allow a little room in the waist for “I just want a little taste”…of everything!

Last Christmas was the beginning of what I think will be a tradition in my family.  With my sweet husband in the hospital, I had no time to shop or even think about gift giving.  Talking about it, we decided to give each of our children and their spouses a set amount of money to purchase a special gift for themselves, and their children.  The instructions that came with the money was specific.  They must wrap their own gifts and place them under our tree to be opened on Christmas day in front of us, thus surprising us with the gifts they chose.  Worked great, but I must admit, with all that was going on, it was a blur.  Shopping has never been a favorite for me.  Hard to believe, right?  Now, keep in mind, I’m no Scrooge or Grinch, I just can’t seem to get into the “Christmas Spirit”, especially this year.

My mama was reminiscing about the foods we enjoyed on Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house as we were making our newer version of fruitcake last Saturday.  Now, Fruit Cake was something my mama and her grandmother made every year…early, like right after Thanksgiving! They would wrap them in cloth, place them in tins, and occasionally brush with some blackberry wine to “keep them moist”!  My sweet husband would say, “That’ll go good with my coffee in the morning”.   She told us about how they would go downtown in Columbia to Silvers on Main Street to purchase the candied fruits, not in the containers like today, but weighed by the clerk at the counter from bins. Mama also reminded us about the deli meats, cheeses, mustard, Kosher pickles and breads that were purchased from Groucho’s Deli in Five Points and served at my grandmothers house.  The food list went on describing things like celery stuffed with a cheese spread, olives, nuts, and deviled eggs.  We will honor her requests for all of these and more at our family Christmas gathering this year.

So, as we race through the last few day of school before Winter Break, my students are making Gingerbread Houses.  It’s a process and a lesson in patience.   Each one rolls and cuts the house parts from the cookie dough.  I bake them, and then the patience part comes into play when they assemble them using royal icing.  Each students customizes their house with a variety of candies and other edible decorations. I’m looking forward to seeing their final projects.

With limited time to spare these busy days, I have included a few quick and easy sweet treats, dips and spreads for you to try.  Merry Christmas Ya’ll!

May God bless you and your family as He continues to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Appetizers and Dips

Zesty Crab Cakes

Squares

Spinach Dip

Roasted Red Pepper Remoulade Sauce

Quick Fudge with Nuts

Pimento Cheese

Double layer fudge

Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip

Orange Glazed Pecans

A Celiac Friendly Christmas Craft

By Rachel Sircy

I think I mentioned last year that I make Christmas ornaments for our friends and family every year. I have wanted to make homemade clay ornaments for some time, but I haven’t done it because most homemade clay recipes use wheat flour as a base for the clay. I try to keep my home and especially my kitchen as free as possible from contaminants and so I don’t bring wheat flour into my house at all. Once, I had the idea that I could use gluten free all-purpose flour to do the same job, but let’s face it, at more than $4 a pound, it would be cheaper to go out and buy ornaments than to make them out of gluten free flour.

But, I’ve found more and more lately that Pinterest has the answers to most of life’s problems. It was there that I came across pictures of lovely white ornaments made from cornstarch clay. In cornstarch clay, cornstarch and baking soda take the place of flour as the base of the clay. So, I had the answer to my homemade clay problem. Here is the recipe that I followed from a blog called, Kleinworth & Co.:

1 Cup Cornstarch

2 Cups Baking Soda

1 ½ cups Water

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly. It takes a while, but the ingredients will eventually start to resemble mashed potatoes. Once you get to the mashed potato phase, scrape the mixture out into a glass bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel and leave to cool for 30 minutes.

This is what it looks like cooking:

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And this is what it looks like in its mashed potatoes phase:

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At this point, you can roll out the clay and cut out shapes with a cookie or biscuit cutter. I also used a clay stamp and a metal button, to stamp the image of a crown and the words “Peace” and “Joy” into each ornament. Now, the point where I differ with Kleinworth & Co. is after the ornaments are made. Their recipe calls for the ornaments to be baked at 175 degrees for 30 minutes and then air-dried for another 24 hours. I found that this baking process actually dried out my ornaments too quickly and they ended up cracking. So, I actually threw out the first batch of ornaments that I had made and made a second batch, which I allowed to air-dry overnight on the plastic table cloth where I’d rolled them out, After that, I transferred them to cookie cooling racks and allowed them to dry out for about a week. This seems like a long time, but it kept my ornaments from cracking. If you need them to dry out sooner, I might recommend drying them for a shorter time in the oven and then allowing them to air-dry overnight.

Here is the finished product:

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And my daughter even got in on the ornament making fun.

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If your children are celiac, this is the perfect clay to allow them to make hand prints. There’s no risk of contamination with this clay. Although, of course, I wouldn’t exactly recommend letting them eat any!

Have fun and have a Merry Gluten Free Christmas!

New kind of holidays

By Lisa Baker

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

My family did not do our usual Thanksgiving together.  My parents are both doing well and are still in two different facilities.  As a family we have had so much change for us this year.  I feel that we are all still trying to deal with our changes.  Each of us in our own way.  Maybe I should have pushed for us to be all together but I too feel so out of sorts when I think of celebrating the holidays.  I saw my Mom Wednesday after work.

Change is what our lives seem to be all about!

I got a phone call on Monday the week of Thanksgiving.  It was from my Mom’s facility from a gentleman in charge.  He called to tell me that Mom has been and still is doing very well.  So much so that she no longer qualifies for hospice care.  Yes, that is good news.

But that means we have to move her out by the end of the month – yes, the end of November.  So, we are back to square one trying to find a facility geared to her current needs.  That part is kind of bad news.

If you have ever had to go through this you will understand.  It’s not as simple as picking a place and just moving her in.  There is a process.  Paperwork to fill out.  The facility will want to send someone to evaluate her to see if she indeed will qualify for their facility.  Then more paperwork.  If she is approved, you then have to get her packed and arrange for the move.  Find out if the new facility requires anything that needs to be purchased for her.  Then getting her settled.  We are checking to see if it is possible for her to be moved in with our Dad at his facility.  Right now, it’s looking like that may work for us.  I’ve got several meetings to attend concerning this but we are hopeful that it will work out.

It would be so much easier getting to see them both if they are at the same facility and would help us to settle on how we want to celebrate the holidays.

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We did get Mom in with Dad!  She moved in last Thursday.  It was a tearful reunion.  A staff member at Dad’s facility got flowers for him to give Mom.  I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house.  They both seem to be doing very well. Happy to be together again.

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Christmas is only a few weeks away.  So what kinds of gifts are we getting Mom and Dad?

Shower or body wash and shampoo are always great items to gift.  As well as socks. A clock that also shows the correct day of the week as well as the time makes a great gift too.  Clothes are always welcomed but you will need to remember to mark their name inside the clothing items.  Wordsearch books and coloring books are great gifts too.

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Their favorite snacks or candy and even fruit can make great gifts.

Hope everyone enjoys the Christmas season.  Make time to be with all of your loved ones.  Don’t forget the ones that are in memory care facilities and nursing homes as well as Hospice.  Make beautiful memories that you can treasure for a lifetime.

Merry Christmas!

My Not So Great Christmas…

By Marianna Boyce

This blog post was initially going to be about delightful Christmas memories.  When I walked up the sidewalk at Salon on Main for my hair appointment before Thanksgiving, I knew I had to change direction.  Maybe I’ll reminisce about my childhood another year.

The statement on my salon’s marquee outside read, “Where God Guides He Provides.”  Of course, this sent my brain firing on all cylinders.  I could hardly wait to pen my thoughts onto paper.  Their messaging was great!  The memories it stirred?  Not so great!  Just stay with me a minute y’all.

My two adopted granddaughters, now ages 11 and 13 came to mind.  Their young lives have not always been merry and bright. Seven years ago, God saw fit to remove them from the hellish situation they were living.  Even though they now have all the love, care, and attention any child could ever hope for, they are both still haunted by their past.  Material gifts cannot give back the formative years that were lost at such tender ages.  My prayer is they both learn to depend on God in a mighty way and not allow their unfortunate past define who they become in the future.

My next thought reverted me to 2016…a year I will never forget!  This was the year I had a not so great Christmas!  Okay, it was really quite depressing, and to be totally honest, it was the most horrible holiday season I had ever experienced in my entire life!  All I remember was the excruciating joint pain riddled throughout my entire body.  All I could think of was myself!  (Selfish much)?  Indeed I was!  My exhausting experience was dreadful!  When heartache, pain, and sorrow come knocking at your door, nothing else really seems to matter.

During that time, not only did I begin shutting out family and friends, I also left out God.  Miraculously, God never left me!  It was just little ‘ole me…and a very big God.  He was still faithful to guide me through some of the darkest days of my life.  He strategically and sporadically placed those precious family members, friends, and even strangers in my life to push me over the numerous hurdles I so painfully endured.  Thankfully, I am much better now.

Maybe you haven’t yet crossed that threshold.  If not, just know that God cares for you too.  If you’re looking for Him, He’s not hard to find.  Just listen for that still, small voice.  He will never barge His way inside your heart and life.  He must be invited.  His timing is always perfect though.

quoteWhile many people are decking their halls, trimming their tree, gathering around a warm cozy fire, baking sweet treats, etc., there are also many that cannot merrily go about their business.  Maybe you are missing your military husband, wife, son or daughter halfway around the world.  Are you a single parent just trying to make ends meet?  Maybe you’re coping with the loss of a loved one or caring for elderly parents.  Does something just seem to be missing?  Do you just simply dread this time of year?  My prayer for you is to  find comfort, peace and joy this holiday season.

For those who can be someone’s Christmas cheer this year, you may very well be an answer to a simple prayer!  A smile and a kind word goes a long way!  If you can do more, feel free to do so!  Remembering the Reason for the Season and also, wherever God guides, He will indeed provide.

May God bless you and your family this holiday season!  Merry Christmas!

Countdown to Christmas (and Cookies!)

By Rhonda Woods

Hello Everyone!

The countdown to Christmas is officially on!  A lot to do, you know, like decorating my tree with new unbreakable ornaments, for the little ones.  Last year’s tree was thankfully assembled and decorated by my daughter-in-law and her mom.  I left the boxes in the middle of the den as my sweet husband’s health took that unforgettable turn.  He was admitted to the hospital the Monday after Thanksgiving.  Less than 3 weeks later, we would return home with the help of all our family, friends and hospice.  Countless prayers and tears.  Precious moments and memories were mixed with what none of us could be prepared for in the short time that followed.  So, with Christmas rapidly approaching, I need a giant umbrella for the imposing “rain”.

It was extremely important to me to have, what turned out to be, our last family photo with him.  I refused to take the tree down and was so sad to have missed the opportunity for the photo by Christmas Day.  As I was finishing preparing the traditional New Years Day lunch the phone rang.  It was my daughter saying she had arranged for a friend to come and take the photo I longed for.  The family arrived shortly afterwards, with the photographer friend in tow.  The boys helped my husband into a chair in front of the tree, and then the race was on to take the group picture and one with each family, as sitting up was becoming more difficult for him. Our last family photo is featured in this blog.  I know for some this would seem ridiculous and unnecessary, but not having that photo would have been a sad regret for all of us.

Family Photo

Cookies! Yep cookies!  My sweet husband loved all kinds of cookies.  He was the best taste tester of the tempting smells that wafted from my oven.  So, this is a great time to share some cookie recipes.  I believe baking can be therapeutic, and your house will smell wonderful without those cookie scented candles!  Bake and enjoy the smiles you will bring to people of all ages, especially during Christmas. Take time to make time for others.  You won’t regret it.

May God bless you and your family as He has continued to bless ours,

Chef Woods

Cookie Recipes

Blondies

Cheese Straws

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cinnamon Sugar Cookies-Std.

Cran-Cherry Cheese Bars

Lemon Bars

Magic Cookie Bars

Outrageous Brownies

Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites

Spiced Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies

Wedding Cookies

The Voice Behind our Christmas Commercial

So far, our 2018 Christmas commercial has received more than 44,000 views on social media. The spot features a beautiful voice singing a song called “You’ll See Christmas.” People keep asking us about the singer: Who is she?

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Courtesy: MandyHarvey.com

You may recognize her. Her name is Mandy Harvey. A Florida resident, the jazz and pop singer and songwriter took part in a season of the television show America’s Got Talent, finishing in 4th place.

Notably, Harvey is deaf. She gradually lost her hearing during childhood as a result of a connective tissue disorder, becoming completely deaf by age 18. Despite her disability, Harvey has performed regularly around the country, garnering accolades along the way. She uses “visual tuners” and muscle memory to help her find pitches.

Harvey caught the attention of Mark Shelley, vice president of Marketing and Communications at Lexington Medical Center, while competing on America’s Got Talent.

Shelley also learned Harvey had recorded several Christmas songs, including “You’ll See Christmas,” which has a message about the true meaning of the season.

“We all get caught up in what we think Christmas is about – gifts, presents and parties,” Shelley said. “But Christmas is really about love, kindness and bringing people together. The message of “You’ll See Christmas” fit perfectly with the story we wanted to tell in our commercial.”

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Mark Shelley (center) directing the Christmas commercial filming.

Shelley reached out to Harvey’s agent and arranged for her to sing a special arrangement of the song for the Lexington Medical Center Christmas commercial this year. We feel proud that she took part in this project with us.

Harvey embodies kindness in many ways. She’s an ambassador for an organization called “No Barriers” that helps people with disabilities overcome obstacles. She has also written a book called Sensing the Rhythm: Finding My Voice in a World Without Sound.

 

You can watch the 2018 Christmas commercial during your favorite holiday programming this season. Merry Christmas!