A Sweet Memory from 2013 survived the holidays. Barely. With 4 extra adult children and 3 grandchildren in our little abode, 2014 couldn’t get here quick enough. Now, we are so glad to have family here to celebrate New Years and the Rose Parade, we just wish that we had been in our 40’s or even 50’s instead of our 60’s. In the last 5 days I have cooked the following: homemade meatballs with sauce and spaghetti Creamed eggs and biscuits, hash browns, bacon, sausage Ham, scalloped potatoes, fresh sweet potatoes, fresh green beans, barbequed hamburgers and hot dogs, sweet potato fries. Salad, Sister Schubert rolls, chocolate cream pie with fresh whipped cream. 2 cherry pies. Hershey’s chocolate chip cookies Heavenly Hots, bacon and sausage Ham sandwiches, chicken nuggets, 3 frozen pizzas Filled and emptied the dishwasher 12 times. Emptied garbage 26 times.Changed poopie diapers, watched SpongeBob every morning, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse every afternoon for 4 days .Because Caleb, our 4 yr old is on a Batman kick, we were all given names of Batman characters. He named me “Joker”. I was told that I had to laugh like the Joker in Batman when I talked. But we loved the memories that were made. The laughter and card games were such a bonding time. Our kids who are expecting their first baby, our 7th grandchild, had the opportunity to announce their great news by posing in front of the float that had a baby carriage and baby yellow ducky, with a sign that said, “Baby’s First Parade”. It was an exciting week, but as soon as the last car pulled out of the driveway, we collapsed and slept for 2 hours. We didn’t even talk for 4 hours. The peace and quiet that had escaped us for 5 days was just to good to interrupt. We felt like we had been on a week long reality survival show. We barely survived. If it had been a reality show, we would have been the first ones ask to leave. We didn’t even get a T-shirt that said, “we survived grandkids for a week and all we got was this stupid T-shirt”. No, all we were left with was an empty fridge, a house full of toys that they forgot to take, sticky floors and an energy level so low that it will take us another week just to catch up on our sleep. After the last visit, we did learn a lesson. We learned that if we don’t want to loose small items, such as phones, remotes or fireplace gas keys, they had to be put up on the top shelves of closets. We are still looking for part of the ornamental grill that covers the fireplace, that disappeared last visit. Sunday was our first day without watching SpongeBob or having Caleb running through the house with his light sabor, which of course quickly cleaned off the coffee table of candles and magazines. Both Randy and I feel that we would have been better equipped to handle all this had we been a little younger, say 25-30 years old. But all of it was worth it. We have new precious memories that will last us until next Christmas. A visit any sooner would put us in the old folks home. We think that since it might take us a while to rest up, we will go to them next time. We want them to have the great experience of having house guests. It will be a learning time for them. We will demand having our favorite meals cooked. We will insist that Wheel of Fortune be played all day, at maximum volumne and insist that our prune juice be brought to us at 6 a.m. and our milked warmed around 8 p.m. We will request that our robes be warmed in the dryer and brought to us in the mornings. If we can’t sleep, we will get up in the middle of the night and watch murder mysteries to lull us back to sleep. Since we know that they are use to having cartoons blaring in the background at all times of the day and night, that shouldn’t bother them. Earthquake aftershocks cannot compare with the shock of family at Christmas. Family, you can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. It’s what keeps the holidays exciting! Share this:

Salisbury Meatballs With Alfredo Pasta

1 pound ground sirloin
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup chopped yellow onion, divided
3/4 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tables Dijon mustard
1 tables Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 teas Montreal steak seasoning
3 tables olive oil, divided
1 (15 oz) jar Alfredo sauce
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 (16 oz) package linguine, cooked according to package directions
Garnish: grated Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley

In a large bowl, stir together beef, egg, 1/2 cup onion, bread crumbs (if you don’t have panko, substitute with 1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs, such as Progresso brand),ketchup, mustard, Worcestershire and steak seasoning. Shape mixture into 1″ balls.
In a large skillet, heat 2 tables oil over medium heat. Add meatballs; cook, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and cook until meatballs are done, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another large skillet, heat remaining 1 tables oil over medium heat. Add remaining 1/2 cup onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in Alfredo sauce and cream, and bring to a low boil. Add cooked pasta and gently toss together until heated through about 5 minutes. Serve meatballs over pasta mixture, Garnish with cheese and parsley.

Makes 4-6 servings

One Word

For a few years, I have taken the advice of Debbie Stuart and prayed that the Lord would give me a word for the year. The word which He gives you is a word that will amazingly appear in places you would least expect and you know in your heart that the word you are given is for a reason. For 2017 my word was Tenacity. I had begun to pray and ask the Lord what word He had for me for 2017. One morning in early December I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and tenacity was the word that was in my mind. I had to go look it up because I truly never remembered using it ever, nor did I know what it really meant. When I looked it up, I discovered that it meant “learning to be content with circumstances and to persevere, going forward. For the next few mornings I would wake up thinking that word. Looking back over 2017, I know why that word was the word that I was suppose to study, to take to heart and to apply to my life. 2017 came with some struggles of circumstances which I had never thought would come across my life. God was faithful and provided His grace and sufficiency to me in areas that I needed to grow up, not only spiritually, but mentally. Fast forward to 2018.
Reading an email from a friend who was talking about what she felt the Lord had given her as her word for 2018, I suddenly realized that I had not even begun to think about praying for this year’s word. So I quickly began to pray and ask the Lord what word He had for me this year. Past years’ words for me have been,
“tenacity” “restore” “serve”. So when I was praying, I expected my word to be something along those lines. But once again, on December 6th I woke up thinking about the word “kindness”. I thought about that and wondered why that word was on my mind. But again the next day, “kindness” would just pop into my mind. IT was then that I begin to ask the Lord if that was indeed my word. On December 8th, I woke up and came into the living room and opened up my devotion book as I do each morning. As I opened up Streams in the Desert for December 8th, this was the scripture at the top of the devotion, “Colossians 3:12, Put on as the elect of God, kindness.”
It was the story of an old man who went around town who carried a can of oil everywhere he went, and if he passed through a door that squeaked, he poured a little oil on the hinges. Anyplace he went that needed a touch of oil to stop squeaking or lubricating, making the hard places easier for those who came after him, he oiled them. The devotion went on to say:
“Have you your own can of oil with you? Be ready with your oil of helpfulness in the early morning to the one nearest you. (oh boy, that meant that I had to be continually “kind” to my husband for a year,) It may lubricate the whole day for him. The oil of good cheer to the downhearted one-oh how much it may mean…our lives touch others but once, perhaps, on the road of life; and then, mayhap, our ways diverge, never to meet again.
It ended with “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love.” Romans 12:10
About an hour after reading this, a dear friend from California texted me with this message;
“thought of you this morning as I was reading Streams in the Desert……….hope you have a blessed day” She had never written to me about a devotion before and here she was writing about the same one I had just read.
Then on December 13th, a blog I read from time to time called Two Chums popped up in my email. For “some” reason, I opened it that morning and this was what it opened with, “above all else, be kind”. It was at this point that i quit asking God for more confirmation and declared that my word for 2018 is Kindness. I don’t know why yet and I don’t know what circumstances will be in my life this year. Sometimes it might be hard to fall on the promises of God that “I can do all things with God’s strength” and “nothing is impossible with God” But I can rest assured that “my God will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus”, even His strength to help me show kindness to everyone, no matter what!

If you have never ask God to give you a word, begin to pray about that. It will be amazing how He will reveal it to you and how He will use it for your spiritual growth. Also there is a book called “My One Word” by Mike Ashcroft.
amazon for $9.98

Chocolate Mocha Cake

It has been the first day I have had the chance to just sit and look through my new magazines. When I saw this recipe I got up and headed to the kitchen to make it. But….as I was walking to the kitchen, I began to remember the skillet apple pie that is on the blog and for some reason, I ended up making that tonight instead of this cake. Give us a couple of days to finish off the pie and I will make this cake. It sounds so good with coffee in it and it is a one layer cake so just perfect for 2 people (well actually would feed 4-6, but the way I cut slices, it will only feed us for two nights. Taken from Paula Deen magazine, get your butter out of the fridge and start your oven.

Makes 1 (8″) cake
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs, room temp
1 teas vanilla
1 cup flour
1/3 cup plus 1 teas dark cocoa (I use Rodelle)
1/2 teas kosher salt
1/2 teas baking soda
3/4 teas ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup hot brewed coffee
Creamy Coffee Frosting (Follows cake directions)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8″ round cake pan with baking spray with flour; line bottom of pan with parchment paper. (I hardly ever use parchment and have no trouble getting cake out of pan)
In a large bowl, whisk together brown sugar and melted butter. whisk in eggs and vanilla until well combined.
in a medium bowl,sift together the four, 1/3 cup cocoa, salt, baking soda and 1/2 teas cinnamon. Stir flour mixture into butter mixture just until blended. Stir in coffee just until combined. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake until cake tests done, about 33-40 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.Remove from pan, let cool completely on a wire rack.

Spread Creamy Coffee Frosting onto cake. Stir remaining 1 teas cocoa and remaining 1/4 teas cinnamon onto frosting. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Makes 2 cups
1/2 teas instant coffee granules
1/2 teas hot water
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, softened
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teas vanilla
1/4 kosher salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a small bowl, stir together coffee and 1/2 teas hot water until dissolved.
In a large bowl, beat coffee mixture, mascarpone, butter, vanilla and salt with mixer on low speed until well mixed.
Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy.
Top cake with frosting.

Let Go of the Nets

Happy New Years to each and every one who has taken time to explore and read chocolate castles this past year. As our lives go through different seasons, so does our passions, our desires, likes and dislikes. New adventures, new challenges and new goals beckon to us as we enter 2018.
This morning, one of our pastors talked to us about the new year. If we are to enter a new year of accomplishing things which we might have failed to accomplish this past year (or years), one thing we need to do is to just “let it go”. To surrender it to God, allowing Him to come along beside us and to ask Him for strength, power and depend upon Him to see us through whatever our task before us.

The scripture the pastor used today was from Matt 4:18 “One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, also called Peter and Andrew, fishing with a net for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, “Come be my disciples and I will show you how to fish for people.” And they left their nets at once and went with Him.”

The two fishermen were called away from everything they knew and loved. They walked away from traditions of being fishermen which probably had been passed down from many generations. They left what was known to them to step into the unknown. Because they loved their occupation, Jesus didn’t ask them to give up the occupation, He just ask them to change what they fished for. People!
It gave me so much to think about. What have I been willing to give up to walk, by faith, into an unknown situation? They left their families and their comfort zones to go with Jesus.
As Randy and I prepare to go out for dinner tonight with new friends, I cannot help but think back about different New Years’ Eves and all the memories which have been popping up on my FaceBook page of years of different memories.
There have been NY Eves spent with friends we have known for years,in Texas, as we had dinner and then prayed in the New Year at midnight, years of spending NYE with other friends in Chicago or Florida, years when we had a lot of our kids back home and we played games and ate until we were about to bust. There were a few years that we awoke about 3 am to watch the floats begin to line up in front of our house in Pasadena for the Rose Parade. Last year we spent back in California ringing in the new year with new friends in California in prayer, after enjoying great food and games.
This year, we will be with new precious friends, here in Arizona. We have had to some years “leave our nets” to walk by faith into new surroundings and circumstances. Never, has our Lord ever left us. He has always walked with us, no matter how hard, leaving some of the “nets” were. He continues to bless us and provide for us, every step of the way. As the pastor talked about a painting, which showed a room which was dark, except for the steps which were lit by an open door where the light shone down upon them from the top of the stairs, may God’s love and light shine down upon each of you this coming year.
Do not be afraid to lay down your nets for God’s best for you.

He ended the message by telling us that,
1. We have to let go of where we thought we would end up and move forward into something new.
2. The fear of letting go keeps us from having the best of what God has for us.

Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.”

May 2018 be a year when we finish stronger than we began! Happy New Years and God Bless you as you “let go of any net that keeps you from His best that He has for you.”

Silent Night, Holy Night

Each day brings us closer to celebrating the birth of the Lord Jesus, and the anticipation continues to grow. The lights around town take on a brighter glow. The Christmas carols being played on radio become more precious as we sing along to “Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, all is bright”. We dream about actually having a silent night to which we could just sit and reflect on that Holy Night so long ago.

Maybe our days around Christmas are not filled with wonderful memories, or we are not going to be spending this year with friends or loved ones who for various reasons, will not be sitting around our tables. Some years, we can only dream about “I’ll be Home for Christmas” because circumstances dictate otherwise. In those years when Christmas in our homes, is not the Christmas picture we have seen and dreamed about in so many Normal Rockwell pictures or Hallmark movies, we begin to ponder, just what was the night like when Jesus Christ was born. Did He really come to give us life and that this life could be abundant with hope and faith? When will our hectic lives give us nights when all will be calm? Was it a Silent Night when Jesus was born? Probably not. Bethlehem was full of people who had come to partake in the census. It only became a Holy Night because of the birth of the Savior. He came as a little baby, destined to take up His cross for our sakes. But the stillness which He offers to us is a stillness in our hearts. That because of Him, circumstances of loneliness, depression and/or sickness can still offer all of us, hope of an eternal life to come, when sin will be no more. That is our hope in Christ Jesus! Where or who are we putting our hope in this Christmas?

As I approach December 25th, are my thoughts on that Holy Night so long ago. Am I continuing to live to bring Joy to my world? Is my life such that others watching me would “give glory to God in the Highest?” Do I give my heart a chance to be Silent for even a night, that my hopes and dreams are only on the Christ Child? Am I remembering that “little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie, the hopes and dreams of all the years are yet in thee tonight.”

Good Christian Men Rejoice,for that Star of Wonder, Star of Bright, Star with Royal beauty bright; continues to pursue us, continues to love us and desires that we might recognize that Holy Night, when the stars shone so brightly! It was the night of our dear Saviors birth.
From the cradle to the cross! Because He lives, we can face tomorrow”
Revelation 21:5 “And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold i make all things new”.
A dear sweet friend of ours use to sing a song every Christmas, Ring the Bells, Ring the bells, let the whole world know, Jesus Christ was born so many years ago.

May my heart be silent in awe of wonder before Him and my heart kneel before His throne.

Joy to the World, the Lord has come, let earth receive her King!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Biscotti

Rediscovering some of my Christmas with Southern Living books (this one was 2001), I found several recipes which I want to make this season. Since it is so much fun to make biscotti and I have a friend who I will not name (but looks like she stuck her finger in a light socket to style her hair), that continues to ask me to bring her more biscotti every time I see her. So Spikey Hair Lady, will try this recipe to see if get meets your approval.
This is my friend who Randy tells her that he has to sit in front of her at church as he can’t see the preacher if he sits behind her. Of course, after she sees this post, we probably won’t be friends much longer and I will get to keep all the biscotti for myself.

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
3/4 teas baking soda
1/2 cup finely chopped peanuts (they tested with cocktail peanuts, I will use my Virginia peanuts I buy at Costco)
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
*I deleted the 1/4 teas salt recipe called for since the peanuts were salted

Ingredients for Dipping Biscotti in
1 cup semisweet chocolate mini chips, divided
1 1/2 tables creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 tables shortening

Beat 1/3 cup peanut butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, beating until blended
Stir together the four, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.(if using salt). Add to peanut butter mixture, beating on low speed until blended. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead in peanuts and 1/2 cup mini chips.

Shape dough into a 13′ x 3″ log on a lightly greased baking sheet (or ungreased parchment lined sheet). Bake at 325 for 40 minutes or until firm. Remove to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.
Cut log diagonally into 1/2″ thick slices with a serrated knife using a gentle sawing motion; place slices on uncreased baking sheets. Bake at 325 for 7 minutes; turn slices over and bake an additional 7 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool.
Combine remaining 1 cup chocolate chips, 1 1/2 tables peanut butter and shortening in a small saucepan. Melt over low heat and stir to mix.
Dip one end of each biscotti in chocolate mixture. Place biscotti on wax paper until chocolate hardens.
Yields about 28 slices

Rodelle Baking Cocoa

Last year i discovered this wonderful cocoa, so rich and dark in flavor that it has replaced my regular cocoa in almost every recipe!

This year it was at Costco for $6.99 /25 oz bag so i bought enough bags to last me until i go to a nursing home or Jesus returns (personally i pray for that to happen first, maybe I’ll be raptured with a bag of Rodelle in my hand!)

Wanting to make cookies for a car trip to Sedona tomorrow with some friends, i looked up some recipes on my blog of which i hadnt made in a while and wa la….these popped up! So first batch is out and instead of the ganache filling the recipe calls for, i used Hershey kisses for the middle! Using the Thumbie, it is so easy to make perfect indentions for the kisses! Am also making some of these using raspberry jam in the middle! Love the flavor of raspberry and chocolate together! If you dont have Rodelle cocoa, you can use Hershey, they just wont be as chocolatey!

(Dont want go make Hershey people sad because I like Rodelle better, I want them to know NOTHING is better than a Hershey kiss, except a kiss from my hubbie)IMG_1642

Gingerbread Latte Cake with Vanilla Whipped Cream Frosting (taken from Southern Living)

When I said I was going to finally get the chance to sit down by the Christmas Tree and look for recipes in my new magazines, it was so fabulous to see this cake pop off the page. Every year, the anticipation of Starbucks making their gingerbread frappes and lattes,just begin the Christmas season off so tastefully. When I saw this beautiful gingerbread cake recipe, visions of sipping a gingerbread latte while savoring every bite of this cake did me in. Thank you Southern Living for continuing to “wow” us with exciting and luscious recipes.

Cake Layers
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting pans
1/2 cup chopped crystalized ginger
2 teas baking powder
1 teas baking soda
1 teas salt
1 teas ground cinnamon
1/4 teas ground ginger
1/4 teas ground nutmeg
1 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 cups hot strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup molasses

Espresso Simple Syrup
3/4 cup hot very strong brewed coffee
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Vanilla Whipped cream Frosting
3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teas vanilla bean paste (or 2 teas vanilla extract)
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Prepare cake layers; preheat oven to 350. Process flour, crystllized ginger, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a food processor util crystalized ginger is finely ground, about 1 minute. Set aside.
Beat salted butter with a electric mixer on medium, until creamy. Gradually add light brown sugar beating unit light and fluffy.
Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Stir together coffee and molasses in a glass measuring cup. Add flour mixture to the mixture alternately with coffee mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating on low speed just until blended after each addition.

Place egg whites in a glass bowl. Beat with a electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form. Gently fold egg whites, in thirds into batter, folding just util incorporated after each addition.

Spoon batter into 3 greased (with vegetable shortening) and floured 9″ round cake pans. Bake in preheated oven until cake tests done in the middle, about 19-22 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Espresso Syrup. Bring coffee and granulated sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium high. Boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1/2 cup, 5-6 minutes.

Remove cakes from oven when done and cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Transfer from pans to wire racks; brush evenly with warm espresso syrup. Cool completely. About 1 hour.

Prepare frosting while cake layers cool.
Beat cream and vanilla bean paste (or extract) with electric mixer on medium high speed until foamy, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar beating until stiff peaks form. Do not over beat as it will turn to butter.

Assemble cake by spreading frosting between layers and on top and sides of cake. Gently press crushed ginger cookies around the bottom of the cake sides, if desired or sprinkle some caused ginger cookies over the top of cake.