December 25, 2013

Christmas Unwrapped ~ Day 25

"Down in a lowly manger
Our humble Christ was born,
And God sent us salvation
that blessed Christmas morn!"

Merry Christmas!

The most powerful message about the birth of Jesus that I have read so far this month... by the great C.S. Lewis:

"In the Christian story God descends to reascend.  He comes down; down from the heights of absolute being into time and space, down into humanity; down further still, to recapitulate in the womb ancient and pre-human phases of life; down to the very roots and seabed of the Nature He has created.  But He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world with Him.  One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden.  He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders."

What a powerful way to look at the Christmas story, I just love it :)

I hope you are all having a fun-filled and joyous time with family and friends today!

I'm signing out for my daily blog posts now, thank you for staying tuned-in to me and my thoughts this Christmas season.

From our chairlift to yours!

(All three pics are from yesterday, Christmas Eve fun!!!)

December 24, 2013

Christmas Unwrapped ~ Day 24

The Virgin Mary

Last year on Christmas Eve I could not stop thinking about Mary and how she must've been feeling... probably because I was 7 months pregnant myself, and anticipating bringing a new baby of my own into this world.  But what I couldn't quite grasp last year while I was thinking about Mary, who was maybe in early stages of labor today on Christmas Eve, was how it must've felt to be expecting to deliver the Son of God into this world??????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I mean it's hard enough becoming a mommy for the first time (and second time), but my goodness, what kind of pressure must Mary have been feeling knowing that her sweet, tiny, precious little baby was going to be the All Powerful, the All Knowing, Perfect, Savior of the World?

"Mary was not chosen because of any human merit
not even for being (as she undoubtedly was) deeply devout, 
nor even for her humility or any other virtue, 
but entirely and uniquely because it is God's gracious will to love
to choose, to make great what is lowly, unremarkable, 
considered to be of little value.  
Mary the tough, devout, ordinary working man's wife, 
living in her Old Testament faith and hoping in her Redeemer
becomes the mother of God."  

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

December 23, 2013

Christmas Unwrapped ~ Day 23

Christmas Cards

Boy do I LOVE sending & receiving Christmas cards!  Which is why I budget for them every year, so I never have to feel guilty about buying and mailing 150 of them!!!!!  :)

 I love watching the fridge fill up with cards.  I can't put them much lower than the picture shows, because the boys will tear them down! So they always overflow to the cupboards around the fridge as well :)

  My favorite part is how it allows us to look at the faces of our loved ones all year long, and to remember how many people have been and still are such an important part of our lives.

(Homemade card by my sister-in-law Abby!)

Here is a lovely sampling of some of the cards we have received so far this year~

(This is not their Christmas card but it's up on my fridge anyway!)


December 22, 2013

Christmas Unwrapped ~ Day 22

The Christmas Truce of 1914

"In our age of uncertainty, it is comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer."

If you have 15 minutes to read this inspiring story about something that happened on the Western Front during World War I, please do.

Happy 4th Sunday of Advent!

December 21, 2013

Christmas Unwrapped ~ Day 21

I'm getting another Christmas wish early!  
(The first wish I got early this year was Sawyer starting to walk... and BOY is he WALKING!!!!)

Erik starts his "baby bonding" leave today, and he doesn't have to go back to work until January 5th!!!!!!!!!!!

NO I CANNOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He has been working his tail off the past few weeks, and he really deserves some time at home.

We have a ski date planned for Christmas Eve,
Auntie LoLo has volunteered to watch our precious boys while my hubby and I get to spend some much needed slope-time together :)
Will post pics!  Maybe some vid too!!!

In summary, if you didn't catch it, I am so happy right now to know that I have my wonderful husband home for the next 15 days :)  It will be a Merry Christmas for the West Coast Knutson Clan indeed!

December 20, 2013

Christmas Unwrapped ~ Day 20

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

I used to make a lot of bread, and every time I made bread I'd use some of the dough to make homemade cinnamon rolls... soooo tasty!

A while ago I felt like I wasn't keeping up with everything in my life, so I did a priority check and cut some things out in order to make more precious time to be with my husband and sons.  Making bread was one of the things I cut out.  I miss my homemade bread now, but it took a lot of time to make, and there is a delicious bakery just down the road from us and it's much easier to buy bread from them.  Plus it feels good to support nice people and their local business!

So along with cutting a few things out that were sucking up my time, I was also blessed to be able to cut back my hours at work starting at the end of October, and now I finally feel MUCH more balance between my home life and work life.  And that makes for a happier Wife, Mom, Co-Worker, and Sister-in-Law!!!

Amen for that!

Anyway I got off on a tangent... 

Sorry, back to the homemade cinnamon rolls :)

I really want to have my homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning next week, and the nice thing about making the rolls ahead of time is that you can freeze them, so it's super easy on the morning you want to eat them to pop them out of the freezer and warm them up in the oven while you whip up the frosting.

So the first step is to make the bread dough!

When I started making bread about 5 years ago I called my Mom-in-Law to get her recipe, because she is the ultimate pro at making homemade bread!  

Over the years i've tweaked it and now it's exactly how I like it. 
This is how my recipe goes:
*P.S. this makes A LOT of dough, enough for at least 6 medium-sized loaves of bread.  You can easily cut the recipe in half, which is what I did for making these cinnamon rolls, but all the measurements that follow are for the full batch.
All you need is active yeast, wheat flour, white flour, salt, oatmeal, instant dry milk, and brown sugar.
Oh and of course a LARGE mixing bowl, and some warm tap water too!
Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of yeast over 6 cups of warm tap water.

Let the yeast do it's thang for a while... usually I wait at least 20-30 minutes.
Then you add 1 1/3 cups dry milk, 1 cup brown sugar, and 1 heaping tablespoon of salt.  
Stir with a wire whisk.

Then I add approximately 2 cups of oatmeal (the Old Fashioned kind is better, and you can add more or less if you want), stir it again and then let it sit for 5-10 more minutes so the oats get a little softer.

Now start adding wheat flour and keep stirring with a wire whisk.  I honestly don't know how much I add, because I just keep adding until it gets hard to stir with the whisk.  It's probably around 4 cups of wheat flour.
Once you get to the point where the wire whisk can't quite keep up, switch to a wooden spoon and start adding white bread flour.
Keep adding white bread flour and stirring with the wooden spoon until you get to the point that you think the dough is "knead-able". 

Sprinkle your work surface with some of the white flour, and then dump your dough out onto it.
Sprinkle some more flour on top of the dough and flour up your hands real good too!
The more flour the better in my opinion... bread dough is sticky!!!
Now knead, knead, knead!!! 

I usually leave the dough right there on the counter while it's rising, and cover it with a light kitchen towel.
Let it rise until it's at least doubled in size, usually at least an hour but longer is better.

Here is where the recipe splits, depending on if you are going to make bread loaves, or make cinnamon rolls.  There are lots of other things you can do with the bread dough too!  You can experiment with the ingredients too, you could add wheat germ... you can make dinner rolls... just use your imagination and have fun with it, no matter what you do it will be delicious :)

If you're making cinnamon rolls, knead the dough out a few more times, flour up your work surface again, and then roll the dough out with a floured rolling pin.

Ok now that your little elf helpers are up from their long winters' naps...
...time to break out some vino!
Oh who am I kidding, the vino was out long before they woke up. ;)

Ok next melt some butter, probably a couple tablespoons, but the amount will just depend on how much dough you're using.
Cover the dough evenly with the melted butter, and then sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over the buttered surface.
Be on guard for snitches!
...brown sugar...
...yep, Bennett definitely sticks to the four main Elf food groups!!!!
"Candy, Candy canes, Candy corns, and Syrup"  :)

Now spread everything out evenly with your hands, and then roll up the dough!
This is gonna make a lot of cinnamon rolls!!!!!!
Good thing I have a huge countertop!

Next take a sharp serrated knife and slice rolls out, and just use your good judgement as to how thick to slice them.
Let them rise a little while on a lightly greased baking surface.
You can preheat the oven while they rise, I usually go to 350 degrees.

Bake for about 17-18 minutes, then cool them on a wire rack.
I really hope they turn out for you if you try it!
And in case they don't, just remember that this is not a professional recipe!!!!!!  :)

Ok when it comes time to frost them, this is the recipe I use:
You can make vanilla cream cheese or orange cream cheese frosting with this recipe.

Make sure the taste-testers approve before putting the frosting on your hot rolls :)