toffee apple dip.

Tis the season for Christmas parties and cookie swaps and ornament exchanges and elastic waistbands! Christmas is one of my most favorite times of year because I love the music the movies the food and the time spent with family and friends that all comes around in December. So much fun!

I have already been to several Christmas parties and ornament exchanges with more on the schedule  and I just can’t wait! But I wanted to let you in on a secret recipe. It’s not exactly going to be a secret anymore I guess. So, I went to a Christmas dinner party on November 30th this year with about 70 women in attendance (maybe more) and we were all instructed to bring something to share. It was a potluck! (Another one of my favorite things in life). Well, at the very very end of the long table set up with the food spread that evening was a dish of beautifully sliced apples and some nutty-looking dip in the middle. Have you ever noticed that by the time you get to the end of the table at a potluck it always seems like you hardly have any room left on your plate? Well tonight was one of those nights where we should have all stopped worrying about looking cute in our new sweaters and carried around a second plate for food piling. So, since the beautiful apples were at the very end of the table, I know that most of us got to that apple dip and maybe only took one apple slice or decided that there were other goodies we would rather have instead of apples.

What a mistake.

That dip had to be loaded with drugs or something! We were like moths to a flame, ants to a picnic, vultures to a carcass! One tiny little apple with a smidge of dip was not enough. And for those of us who weren’t smart enough to get any at all and just saw everyone rushing to the table with foamy drool dripping from our lips should have realized sooner that we needed that separate plate that night for the piling of apple slices and dip. The dip was good. So good that when the apples ran out we were eating it with our fingers.

So, I bet you’re wondering what was in it.

I’ll tell you.

beautiful apples and crack-toffee apple dip

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. white sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese (softened)

1 pkg. heath toffee bits

See those ingredients? Just put them all in a bowl together and stir it up. No joke. That’s it.

I didn’t make the apple dip for that potluck. One of the girls made it from a recipe she got from someone else who made it and she stood up and shared it with us because we were all acting like cannibals. BUT the apples and dip in the picture above are from a Christmas Party I went to the other night with my friends and the reaction was about the same!

A sidenote: I struggle with trying to keep apple slices from turning brown whenever I take them to a get together so I did a bunch of looking around online to figure out what other people do. I found various suggestions like putting them in orange juice or pouring sprite on them (that sounded gross) or putting them in water with lemon or lime juice. I tried putting them all in a bowl of very chilled lemon water. It seemed to work, but I noticed that Granny Smith Apples did a lot better than the Pink Ladies I sliced up. P.S. I used an apple slicer. If you don’t have one of these wonderful gadgets, I highly recommend it. Just make sure the blades aren’t dull or you’ll end up cracking your knuckles on the countertop as you force your entire body weight onto the apple slicer. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience. Also something I learned. Putting your hands in lemon water is a really great way to find where your paper cuts and cracks from having dry winter handskin are.

When life gives you lemons, squeeze the juice into a big bowl of apples floating in water and make this yummy dip!

Love,
janine

grace.

I’d like to think that in this journey we call life, we are constantly growing and learning and desiring to see ourselves become “better” people. And, what I mean by that is that I hope we are consistently becoming more and more aware of the other people in our lives and treating them with selfless love, which should in turn revolutionize our ability to understand those who are different from ourselves with great ease. Those who we may consider to be hard to love.

In the most basic sense, as a Christian, it is my personal desire (and I would hope the common desire of all Christians) to become this “better” person by modeling my life after Christ, who in fact was able to love others selflessly; even those that were deemed unlovable.

Unlovable.

It makes me cringe to think how we casually put people around us into this category of being “unlovable” in our eyes. How easy it is for us to turn our noses up when we disagree with them or turn a deaf ear when we think we know better than they do. Or what about when we simply don’t make time for that  person who just irritates the living daylights out of us. On purpose.

I do this. I do this all the time. I put people into the category of being unlovable simply by not loving them. It is a conscious decision I make and the only reasons I can think of for doing this are selfish excuses. They are just excuses. Excuses of being too busy or too tired or too overwhelmed with my own life situation to allow myself to understand what it might be like to be in someone else’s shoes.

And then I am reminded of grace.

I’m not talking about Grace Kelly, though I would love to write a post about her sometime! (note to self: watch Grace Kelly movies and reflect upon your experience) I am talking about grace. Grace. Grace — God’s grace. The unmerited, unhindered, favor we receive from God though we have done nothing to warrant it. And I think about the grace I have personally experienced and waded in, practically up to my neck, when I should have been completely parched and dry and how simply refreshing it was. Invigorating.

I want to learn how to better extend the grace that has been given to me so that I am better able to love others. I want to simply love more, just because. For no reason. No strings attached. No excuses.

I want to be more like Christ.

Let’s journey together in extending grace and love to those we have deemed hard to love or just simply unlovable. Let’s do this together.

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:12

Love,
janine

tradition.

One of my favorite things about marriage is tradition!

Tradition. Just saying the word gives my heart the warm-fuzzies.

Growing up we had all kinds of silly traditions in my family. Some merely grew out of daily routine, like each of us eating 3 cookies and drinking a glass of milk out of a red tupperware cup after dinner each night. Some revolved around holidays like our tradition of putting an orange or yellow light at the top of the Christmas tree so santa mouse would come and leave tiny presents for us in the tree on Christmas morning. Some traditions evolved into more involved activities, like this santa mouse thing I mentioned where each year when we put up our Christmas decorations we would bring out santa mouse. Santa mouse was a tiny mouse figurine (the original was really cute and had fake fur on it but our dog ate it so we had to replace him with a small plastic figurine of Stuart Little) that would “hide” throughout the house. Each year one of us would hide him in a starting position and if someone found him, they would hide him in another spot, all the way until Christmas and the last person to have hidden santa mouse would be the winner and got to open their santa mouse present first. So, maybe that’s a little silly and too involved, but man was it fun and it was something we enjoyed doing together.

Traditions are something to look forward to and traditions are something you create with the ones you love. And that’s what I love about marriage. Creating new traditions with Andy. Some traditions we have carried over from my family like eating milk and cookies after dinner and using specific milk-and-cookie-cups. (Thank you Taylor and Jay Phillips for getting us 10 plastic monogrammed cups that we use for this tradition each day). Some have carried over from Andy’s family like raising our very own Shar Pei. (Andy’s family raised three in a row). And some traditions we are creating for our own family!

Waffles.

Saturday morning tradition-waffles.

Our first tradition that came out of a weekend routine. Waffles.

Our first married Saturday in our home, I woke up early and made Andy waffles. Needless to say, he loved it and most Saturdays I wake up and let him sleep while I make waffles for him. Sometimes when I say waffles I mean I make pancakes too, but to me it’s the same idea because it all calls for Bisquick, an egg, some milk, with the only difference being what you cook it in.

I love traditions. I love making them. I love seeing them evolve out of everyday actions. And I love hearing about the traditions of other families. Do you have any you’d like to share, because I would love to hear them!

Spend time with your family and write your own story.
Love,
janine

a surprise.

Yesterday, my dear, sweet husband had something up his sleeve…

my men. charlie and andy.

Don’t worry, it wasn’t the chicken pox or a severe case of ring worm, it was an eleven week old chocolate-colored shar pei with a pink(ish) nose and grey-brown eyes who is so positively adorable that he made me want to melt into a puddle on the floor the second I first laid eyes on him. The cuteness is just that overwhelming. If you don’t believe me, just look at the picture I took about two hours after Andy brought this little boy home. And if that still didn’t work for you imagine that little bundle of wrinkles with a case of the hiccups… (the puppy, not my husband). Teeny tiny little hiccups that sound more like they’re coming from a petite pink pig instead of that furry little puppy. He has had them about four times in the past 24 hours. Precious.

We named him Charlie.

Charlie Crum.

Charlie has been in our lives for just over a day now and he already feels like part of the family. I’ve already been planning doggy play-dates for him, studying up on ways to train him to be a friendly and obedient dog, and yes, researching recipes for homemade dog treats. I’ll make sure to share the recipe once I try one out!

Oh and sweaters. I can’t forget sweaters. I want to put sweaters on him. I never wanted to be “that dog-person” who put a sweater on their puppy, but my goodness the weather is cold here and I just feel terrible that Charlie nearly shivers when he relieves his little precious self in 20 degree weather!

So, consider this your introduction to the “other” man in my life now. I’m sure there will be plenty of stories about him as we try (and hopefully succeed VERY soon) to housebreak him and keep him from gnawing on everything in sight. For those of you who have already done these things, any suggestions or references you have used that helped out would be greatly appreciated! And, if you need to experience the cuteness for yourself, stop by and smoosh his wrinkly face! He loves it.

If you can look at a dog and not feel vicarious excitement and affection, you must be a cat. ~Author Unkown

Surprise someone you love, but it doesn’t have to be by giving them a puppy, a note will do.
Love,
janine

follower of Christ.

All these words mean nothing.

Everything I’ve said, every time you drooled over that delicious barbecue chicken recipe or giggled at thought of me trying to type while eating fresh-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies. It all means nothing.

So, I’m writing a blog that means absolutely nothing? Not exactly. What I’m trying to say is that compared to the presence of Jesus Christ in my life, all the laughter and joy that comes from being a wife to a wonderful husband and all the beauty that comes out of painting, sewing, creating and cooking just means nothing.

I feel like I’ve told my “story” a million times, but I’d like to make this one million and one.

I was so blessed to be born into an outstanding family who, without a doubt, love me more than I know. They brought me up in church, they taught me right from wrong, they provided me with more than I needed to succeed in life, and have always supported me one hundred percent. Even when I told them I no longer wanted to go to college to be a teacher, but wanted to be an artist; they supported me. My family came to every one of my plays, band concerts, marching band performances, choir ensembles, piano recitals, and school art shows. I simply could not and would not ask for more than that. It’s more than enough to know that you have people in your life who support you and are proud of you and cheer you on.

Then something changed. I didn’t get to prepare for it, debate whether or not it would happen, or stop it from altering the way my life would look from that point forward. My parents got a divorce. They still came to my plays, band concerts and marching band performances, but they sat in separate sections of the auditorium. They were still proud of me, supported me and cheered me on, but as individuals and not as the same mom and dad who planned awesome two week vacations to Montana or Lake Michigan in the summers. It just changed.

The foundation of my life and everything I looked to for comfort and consistency was fractured.

Okay, so I grew up in the church and knew about God and Jesus and Jonah and the whale and Adam and Eve and all that stuff. I knew the stories, the songs, and when to stand up or sit down I even lit the candles on Sunday mornings. I should have known that God was there for me that He had my back, and I guess I knew that. But what I didn’t understand was that this God, the one who created the world and walked with Adam and Eve, knew me. He knew my life had been fractured before it even happened and was there to comfort me when I needed solid ground to stand on. I just didn’t know that part yet.

So there I was, a fourteen year-old girl with divorced parents whose life has just been turned upside down. A child who grew up in church singing all the songs and standing up and sitting down at just the right time, and I didn’t know that there was someone who loved me more than my family did. I didn’t get it. I didn’t get it for months. Years, even. But here’s the beautiful part; I started to realize that there was this insatiable emptiness in my life as I chased after things I thought would bring me comfort, and somehow before my eyes, all of those things I had grown up in church singing about and reading about and hearing about started to make sense when nothing else seemed to. I finally realized that what I needed had been something that was there all along. I needed Christ in my life. I needed to believe that there was a God who loved me SO much that he sent his son to die for me and for my sins because he no longer wanted to be separated from me! Wow. I wish I could say that’s all it took and I was better the next day. But it’s not.

It has taken years of healing and understanding, lots of forgiveness and shedding of anger and bitterness for me to be able to stand here today on solid ground believing the truth of God’s word. And for the comfort and consistency? I look to Christ’s example of how he lived his life, loving God and loving others before he loved himself.

I am a follower of Christ.

Love,
janine