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Embark

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How often do we want something, something big, but we allow fear to overcome our desire to take the first step forward? I have written a little bit about this subject before, but we are coming to the end of one year and starting a new year, and I have been thinking about fear and how it affects my ability to make changes and take the first steps in my goal setting.

This past year I have learned a lot about myself and the things I do to allow fear to stop me in my progress. Consequently, I have been able to push past barriers that have, in the past, been difficult for me to navigate beyond. I have learned that starting is the hardest part. Have you ever noticed, or maybe it’s just me, that when I can take that first step, when I can get out the door, or paint that first brush stroke of color on the completely blank piece of paper, that great things happen?

This life is full of so many new, scary adventures, that aren’t really that bad, usually, once we get going. But it’s often that first step that is so hard. That first step to more success in our personal lives, in our health and well-being, in our career or finding a new career, in our goals, or whatever scares us. Once we get that first step out of the way, well then, we’re in it and we can deal with the various challenges that arise, because we’ve already made that commitment by embarking on a new path.

I’m not sure yet what my new goals and challenges will be for 2022. When I started this blog, I thought I’d do it for a while and see where it went. I have enjoyed writing and enjoyed sharing who I am with you. I am going to continue with my blog, and I hope you’ll continue with me! I have a new printer, and new opportunities, some of them a little bit scary, that will play into the next step in my business journey. I said at the beginning of last year that I don’t set new year’s resolutions, and I still say that. I am not a resolution kind of person. But I do set goals, not necessarily at the beginning of a new year, but as I progress along throughout the year. That will continue. I love to see the progress that I make with each new goal that I embark on. With that progress, I love that it gives me the drive and determination to continue on to new, scary adventures that I can take the first step on.

So, with 2022 fast approaching, if you are a new year’s resolution kind of person, I hope you not only set those goals, but take the first step. And, if you’re like me, I hope you just continue to see ways to improve, no matter what time of year it is. No matter what, continue to improve each and every day, and never let fear determine who you are, or where you are going.

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In Between

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I love the days in between Christmas and New Year’s. They don’t last nearly as long as I would like, kind of like summer, but they are a moment to relax. I enjoy the structure of the school year, but I am not one of those parents that are glad when their kids go back to school. I love having my kids home and the freedom to go and do whenever we want, whatever we want. It usually involves working, especially in the summer, but the time is ours to schedule however we choose. I did homeschool my kids through middle school, and enjoyed that freedom, but never did I homeschool all of my kids at the same time, so we still had to maintain the public-school schedule to some extent.

But this time between Christmas and New Year’s is a magical time it feels like, no matter how old my kids get. The pace is slower, and the time is ours. Because my husband is self-employed, he is also usually home between Christmas and New Year’s as well, so we really can do whatever. So, what do we do? We do have a couple of traditions. One of the things we do, but not always (it is weather dependent), is to go sledding. When my kids were little, we would just sled on the small hills that are part of our driveway. Now that they’re older, we usually head into Wasilla and go to a golf course called Settler’s Bay Golf Course. Their driving range is open in the winter as a sledding hill, and it is a super fun place to go. But, if it’s raining or below zero, it’s not as fun and we tend to choose something different.

Often, we will go and see a movie. That is a real treat for our kids as we rarely want to shell out $10.50 per kid for a ticket, but if there’s a good movie, we’ll take some time over the break to go and see it in the theatre. My kids are super excited to do this, but then sometimes by the time it’s over, they’ve decided it’s just as good to wait for it to come out online so we can watch it at home. Then they have their pillows and blankets, free food, and if they decide they don’t like it, they can go do something else or we can pick a different movie. But, if it’s a really good movie, it’s worth the trip to town.

My kids also enjoy going into Anchorage (the big city). They usually get a couple of gift cards that are redeemable in stores only found in Anchorage, Barnes and Noble being the main draw for most of them. Just like money burning a hole in your pocket, my kids want to go and get stuff before they lose the gift card (which has happened a couple of times)! If we can remember, we also go to the Captain Cook Hotel and see the giant gingerbread town displayed there, eat lunch, and of course hit Costco on our way out of town. This is a fun drive, and spending time as a family is always a lot of fun.

I love the small break, and I love that it is rejuvenating to my mind and body, so that we can hit the ground running when January rolls around and we start into the push to the end of the school year and summer. What are some of your family traditions in between Christmas and New Year’s? I’d love to hear some things you enjoy doing!

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Breathe

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The holiday season is so busy. Sometimes I am not the biggest fan. My favorite part about Christmas isn’t the presents under the tree. In fact, I don’t usually put presents under the tree until Christmas morning. My favorite part of Christmas is the people. I love getting together with friends and family, visiting, enjoying people’s company. That’s what I look forward to more than anything during the holidays. Problem is, it seems I am so busy getting ready for the holidays, that by the time I get to Christmas day, I’m ready to be done and move on to other things. I don’t think this is how it should be.

This year I have tried to slow down a bit. I got my Christmas shopping mostly done early, a few presents here and there for family here locally the last few days, but everything that had to be shipped was gone by Dec. 16. That was a huge relief! I also decided that for a lot of the family I would try to buy from small businesses, and that I would enjoy my browsing. I have done so, and found some pretty cool Christmas presents that I don’t think I would have happened upon had I been in a rush, or not made a concerted effort to stop by many local gift shops.

Presents are awesome of course but being present is what I have decided to focus on this Christmas season. Has it always worked? No, I have found myself frustrated with the hustle and bustle more than once this season. But I have tried to slow down and breathe. Today my son asked me if I would play a board game with him. I caught myself feeling rushed, like I didn’t have time to do that. But then I stopped and realized what I was doing, sat down, and played a game with him. It was a much-needed mental adjustment this afternoon, and I am so grateful he asked me to play. I was able to slow down and be present. I was still able to accomplish what I wanted to, as well as paint for a little while this afternoon. It was nice to slow down and breathe and I am grateful that my son came and asked me to play, he was a great reminder of what I should be focusing on.

I am grateful this Christmas season to have had the opportunity to slow down, to relax, and to enjoy the world around me as it’s passing by, because the world will pass us by whether we are paying attention or not. I am grateful for so many wonderful people I know and have met this season as well, who have added to the joy of my Christmas this year. What have you done to slow down, or if it’s been super crazy, what are you doing to make the season bright in your life? I would love to hear your ideas.

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Christmas Tree

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One of my least favorite parts of Christmas, the live Christmas Tree. I love Christmas Trees, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t enjoy going out in the cold, picking out a Christmas Tree, usually in the dark. It’s all covered with snow. We drag it in the house and it’s usually several FEET too large, so we have to cut it down a little, in the middle of my entryway of course. Then we get it up. It’s a real tree, so there are no sides that are perfect. Sometimes we have taken bottom branches and drilled holes in the trunk and added to fill in. But most years I don’t want the mess, so it is what it is. Then it has to sit for several hours dripping all over the towels we lay out on the carpet, making a mess. Then there’s the needles from now until we take the tree outside. They’re not too bad until someone bumps the tree, and then it’s like a pine needle shower.

This year wasn’t so dark. We got out before it got dark, so we could really see the actual tree, and not just random shapes out in the swamp. But, as you can see, there are still towels all around the tree to soak up the dripping, melting snow. So, why do we do it? If it had been totally up to me, we would have had a fake tree years ago. But the kids love getting the real tree. When they were little, dad would cut down the tree and drag it out of the woods so that they could “help” haul it back to the truck. Now, one of the kids, usually one of the boys, cuts down the tree and drags it out onto the road where they can all grab hold and haul it back. Dad and I walk out to the spot, supervise, and walk back to the truck. It’s not too bad.

Now, having expressed my dislikes, there are a couple of things I do like about the real tree. I love the smell of pine. Not that it’s super prominent, but when you’re close you can smell it. I like the imperfectness of the real tree. Fake trees are all perfectly shaped, and really have very little character, so flat sides, or no good sides, they are still more unique than a fake one. This one is going to be weird, but I like that there’s fewer branches. They require less lights and less ornaments. I also like that the uniqueness of the tree goes well with the mostly homemade ornaments that we have collected throughout the years.

I don’t know if we will forever have a live Christmas tree, when the kids are all grown, if they don’t get one for us, we’ll probably go to a fake tree just for convenience. But, while there are still kids willing to wade through the snow in the dark and cold, I think we’ll probably have a real tree. I can handle the mess because it makes for wonderful memories. Do you have a real tree or fake tree? What do you like about yours? I would love to hear a memory from your childhood involving Christmas trees!

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Goodies

I love making Christmas goodies, not only for our family, but to take to neighbors and friends. As my kids have gotten older and busier, I like to find recipes for my favorite candy and cookies that are easier and faster to make. I have several recipes that I love to make every year. Today I want to share two of them with you.

The first is an English Toffee recipe. This recipe was originally in a Church cookbook, the contributor being Hazel Holm. I have changed this recipe to suit my needs, but she was the inspiration.

English Toffee

1 1/4 C. Granulated Sugar 2 Tbsp Water

1/2 C Cold Butter cut into cubes 1 C. Semi-sweet Chocolate chips

Butter bottom and sides of a small cookie sheet (about 13×9, but could use a larger sheet, candy will be thinner) and set aside. Place sugar, water, and butter in heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat stirring constantly. Cook 3 minutes on high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium high heat and cook for 3 minutes more, stirring constantly. Then reduce heat to medium heat and cook 2 more minutes, stirring constantly (at this point it may not take 2 minutes. Watch carefully to make sure it doesn’t burn. When it reaches a nice caramel color it’s finished). Pour candy in butter cookie sheet and spread evenly over pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over toffee. Let sit for 1 minute then spread with an offset spatula. Allow to cool completely and break into pieces. Optional ingredient: Chopped almonds, spread evenly on bottom of pan after buttering.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layered Fudge

Chocolate Layer:

3 C Semi-sweet Chocolate chips 1 – 14 oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk 1/8 tsp Salt 1 tsp Vanilla

Peanut Butter Layer:

3 C Reese’s Chips 1 – 14 oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk 1/8 tsp Salt 1 tsp Vanilla

Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish, bottom and sides. In microwave safe bowl mix Chocolate Chips, Sweetened Condensed Milk, and Salt. Microwave until chips are melt, stirring every 45 seconds to a minute. Usually takes about 3-4 minutes. Add Vanilla and mix well. Pour into prepared pan, smoothing out with and offset spatula, and place in refrigerator.

Mix Reese’s Chips, Sweetened Condensed Milk, and Salt. Microwave the same as for chocolate layer. When melted, add Vanilla and mix well. Remove chocolate layer from refrigerator and pour Peanut Butter layer on top, smoothing out with spatula. You can refrigerate to cool quickly, or cool on the counter. Cut into approximately 60 square and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Can be frozen.

I love baking and do it regularly, but candy making is reserved only for Christmas. Partly because it’s tradition, partly because we really don’t need that much sugar the rest of the year! However, it is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. What are some of your Christmas goody recipes or traditions?