Families Warm The Winter Blues

January so far is anything but dull. Outside my window panes, the meadow and all her barren beauty, offer a frail salute to the new year. The maple trees need a good cold and snowy winter to produce ample sap in the spring. As we inch toward even more snowfall days, I’d say it looks a lot like a good ol’ traditional Michigan winter is underway. Today’s whirling whiteness asserts this winter is wild and woolly.

These days, we find beauty is in the stillness. We’ve settled snug for winter with a few episodes of speeding swiftly and smoothly down the cold, hard snow. Nothing could warm our hearts more than gathering close with piles of new good picks from the library and a whistling kettle nearby.

Today could appear dismal if we had grand eventful plans, but the simplicity of the smell of rosemary, sweet potatoes and apple cider fills me with gratitude for the chance to hold all my loves and keep them close. And when we do have to spend the day out, we relish the delightful consciousness of home waiting at the end.

Some of our favorite things this January are:

  • woolly socks – I wear these everyday

  • peach tea- reminds us that the sun will shine again

  • making candied nuts- recipe is at the end of this post!

  • felt sewing- hard to mess up and easy for kids

  • making indoor s’mores- first time trying, so fun!

  • new picture books for read alouds- we order online and swing by for pick up

  • game nights- this is our new favorite

  • Nathan reads missionary biographies sometimes in our bed and kids pile up- currently reading this one

  • chicken pie- our absolute favorite recipe coming soon!

  • robust soups and this crusty artisan bread

  • fleecy jogger pants- we live these 🙂

Candied Nuts

3 cups whole almonds, or halved pecans/walnuts

1 cups sugar

4 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside. In a large skillet combine nuts, sugar, and butter. Cook over medium heat, carefully stirring constantly for 10 minutes or until sugar melts and turns to a rich deep brown color. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Spread the mixture onto the parchment liked cookie sheet. Allow them to cool and the candy will harden. We often fill a pint jar with these and give them as a hostess gift . They are delicious eaten straight or sprinkled on salads.

with love, Damaris

Time For Tea and Cookies!

These sugar cookies are a delicate salute to Christmas. Nothing speaks tradition more than cut-out cookies! The hint of citrus keeps this recipe from being anything but dull. These favorite cookies are my mother-in-law’s recipe, which I have treasured since my first Christmas as a wife. The cookies are soft and delicately sweet, and I’m sure you’ll find them to be jolly good! The children and I made this recipe twice this week. They’re so good that the first time we made them, we didn’t even wait to frost them!

Over the years, I have learned that aesthetics don’t improve the taste of sugar cookies. So I brought out the frosting for the children to have their creative way with the shaped cookies while I sat on the kitchen bench and read ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas.

I’m also sharing with you a delicious spiced tea that is sure to keep you warm and feeling all festive. Not to mention how cozy your house will smell! It makes quite a bit, but it keeps in the fridge for a long time. I make a large stock pot of it, and serve it for two different gatherings warmed up in the crock pot or simmering on the stove.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/3 cup butter, softened

  • 1/4 cup shortening

  • 2/3 cup sour cream

  • 1/2 t lemon extract

  • 1 egg

  • 2 2/3 cups flour

  • 1 teaspoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cream the butter and shortening with the sugar with a mixer. Add the sour cream, lemon extract, and the egg until incorporated. Roll out the dough on a well dusted surface (powdered sugar or flour both work well) to 1/4 of an inch thick or less. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake in the middle rack for 7-8 minutes or until the bottoms have just a hint of gold. Allow the cookies to cook on the pan before handling. Frost the cookies and decorate to your liking!

Winter Spiced Tea

  • 5 cups of water

  • 5 tea bags

  • 1/2 cup honey (sugar works fine)

  • 1/2 cup lemon juice

  • 5 cups apple juice

  • 5 cups cranberry juice

  • 2 cinnamon sticks

  • 2 star anise

  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds

  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves

  • 1 teaspoon cardamom pods

Make an aromatics bundle with the coriander, cloves and cardamom: wrap them in a piece of cheese cloth or a coffee filter tied with food safe cord (butcher twine). If you don’t have a way to make a little bundle, just add all the spices right into the pot (we do it this way most often and serve it with a few seeds that settle at the bottom of the cup). You can use other spices that you might have on hand. Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Turn the heat off and add tea bags. Stir in the honey until dissolved and remove tea bags after 5 minutes (when steeped). Add the remaining ingredients including the spice bundle. Garnish with a slice of orange or lemon. Enjoy it both warm or cold!

with love. Damaris

Crafting Little Joys

Even the car ride to our homeschool community day, with four of our seven blessings loaded up, is busy. We rehearse each of their presentations, we drill their memory work, and go through all the new material once. Then as we’re almost arriving, there’s a stop light we always find red, and we pray while we wait. I pray for them to be respectful and preferring of their classmates. I pray for them to honor and obey their teachers. To listen and learn. But this week, in the midst of all of this mental and physical hustle, I saw beyond the road; I was struck by the beauty of a swath of fog lingering in the treetops. I recognized it as one of God’s many paintings, and the awe of it filled me with a sense of worship. My heart rejoicing in the wonder that He is not only the oxygen of my every moment, but He is the artistry of each moment too. Why my Tuesday morning story? Because we all need to find His pleasure and rejoice in it!

In the midst of daily rhythms and routines, we need to purpose to find and create small pleasures in our days. I know that you and I long to give our families our everything, but the discipline of reveling in moments will help us be faithful in our mundane. Motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint, and filling our hearts with little joys helps us persevere and thrive, not just cope. Here are some ideas of small things to help us craft little joys in our days:

~Write down an encouraging verse on a card (chalkboard?) and color a border or pretty flowers on it (some ideas at the end of the post)

~Light a seasonal candle

~Fill an essential oil diffuser with a calming blend (chamomile+lavender+sandalwood)

~Sneak a few minutes alone to make a batch of muffins or scones

~Brew a cup of coffee and enjoy it in a special mug

~Use a scented soap or gel in the shower

~Take a bath with salts for 10 minutes

~Flip through the pages of a lovely magazine

~Buy some flowers and split up the bouquet in small vases all over the house

~Sip an aromatic tea while enjoying your favorite view from a window

~Take a 10 minute walk

What about you? What would you add to this list that gives you that respite to savor?

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John16:33

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

with love. Damaris

Family Currents

The enormous happening at our house this week was the visit of Spanish grandparents whom we call Yayo and Yaya! While my parents are here for a few days, we have a little something special planned for every day of their stay – birthday celebrations with cake and ice cream, multiple rounds of UNO, a Toys R Us visit, Arby’s lunch, hair curling, sewing projects, a petting farm, and sweetest of all, Nathan and I went on a date on his birthday! We will miss them so much when they fly back to Spain in a few days!!

We make a pot of this smooth tea almost everyday! It tastes especially delicious in the afternoons when we are all slowing down and begin to wish it was almost supper time! It is decaffeinated (perfect for the little guys) and a pleasant combination of spices. We always enjoy the tea with a little cream (or milk) and honey. It’s the best chai when served hot, warm, or iced! Is there a favorite family drink at your house?

Our girls love to fill the rooms with sweetness and joy! They delight to cut flowers and make rooms bright and cheery! Sweet Williams are the most picked lately since they have a brother with the same name -ha!

with love. Damaris