When it comes to gift-giving during the holidays I always try and include something unique, handmade and meaningful for the recipient. That could be a batch of my family’s fudge, bath salts, an artisan find made by a local, handmade ornament, favorite bottle of wine or even cooking classes. Gifts are meant to be special and make those receiving them feel important.
Luckily, here in the Ozarks we have an array of locally-made products to choose from, including my own handcrafted health and beauty product line, Mama Lane’s All Natural. From lip balms and lotions to vapor rub and hand salves- I’ve got a great product line-up that will score you a win with your next Christmas gift.
Whether you are looking for single products to add in stockings or other gifts, or maybe you are needing a ready-to-go gift set, I have options for Mommy-To-Be, Gents Trio Set, Ladies Duo, Ladies Trio and I can even custom make you a set with your favorite things.
Lip and Hand Salves are popular options for this time of year, as these products protect lips and hands from getting chapped, the wind and cold. Or, you can choose between body butters or lotions for extra moisturizing, which is something we all need a little extra of in the winter. The Rose Petal Lotion is a soft, subtle rose scent that has become a favorite of my customers, as I infuse organic olive oil with rose petals in a slow process to create an aroma-filled oil. For the guys I offer a Coffee Lip Salve, Men’s Cedarwood and Cedar Leather Lotion and even a Beard Balm.
You can shop online on my Etsy store or message me on Facebook for a specialty order.
Merry Christmas to your family and Happy New Year!
(Photo credit: E.Marie’s Boutique)
That’s exactly how I would sum up 2017. Our little family seems to be on a constant whirlwind of practices, ballgames, meetings, school activities, farm duties, work duties and occasional playdates with friends. It’s something that I think most parents with young children go through at some point. (At least that is what I have learned on the occasional mommy playdate with my girlfriends.)
But, what do we do when it all seems to be stressing the entire family out? What if all the activities are causing havoc on much needed family time? What do we do when we worry about how other moms judge our decisions within our own families? Why can’t our friends just be REAL? What if you are overly concerned with ensuring that the kids are perfectly taken care of, but forget you have a marriage to take care of as well? What if you forget it’s the small stuff in your crazy everyday life that truly matters? What do you do when you realize that you have not been putting God first, nor have you been teaching your children to do so? What if you’ve been living a life that you think you have to keep up with in today’s society, but really just want to be an okay mom with happy kids and genuine friends? What if you realize you’re heading towards a rat race that you don’t want to be in?
You stop, breathe and say FORGET THIS! And, MAKE A CHANGE…
How? Heck if I know. But, I will say this, two books have made a a big impact on how I am focusing on living my life and guiding my family’s life. Sarah Knight’s The Life-Changing Magical Art of Not Giving a F*ck and How to Get Your Sh*t Together. Yes, those titles might raise a brow or two, but you know what…you can take your judgmental brow elsewhere.
These are terrific books that will have you laughing and planning your escape to an entirely new life worth living, for yourself and your family. And, when you finish these books, pass them on to a friend that needs a swift kick in the butt onto a road leading them into a happier, more peaceful tomorrow!
You’ll find yourself implementing strategies learned from the first book in every facet of your life: at the supermarket, at school field trips, with friends, with family during the holidays, at meetings, at home, on the phone, on Facebook, at ballgames, at random places like the bank (true story), the list never ends.
And while you are feeling more liberated in your changing world, I suggest figuring out how your kids schedules and activities are stressing you out, while doing the same to your kids. Its true. We want to be the best parents we can be to our littles. We want to give them every opportunity we can, but that shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of our family’s time together. We can consume ourselves with ensuring every minute of everyday is spent going to the next activity, or on a playdate, or to a practice or wherever- BUT what’s best for your family and kids is time spent together with no schedule. And, that could be just at home playing freely outside or having a simple night in watching movies and eating popcorn and ice cream, laughing on the couch, making memories that will stick with your children when they become adults one day.
In the midst of this total transformation, look at your marriage and remember that even though you now have littles to contend to and ensure they are taken care of, you also have your spouse that needs to know they are loved and appreciated! It’s easy to forget about each other while you are raising little ones, because let’s face it- parenthood is HARD. It’s work! But, you can’t forget to WORK on your MARRIAGE too. Find time for each other every single day to talk about your day, talk about the week’s plans, about your feelings, about the kids, about your hopes and about why you appreciate the other SO much!
Lastly, but most importantly, ensure God’s teachings are present daily among your family. Even if you can’t make it to church every week, find a way to bring HIM into your family and show your children how you believe and live through HIM.
It’s okay to not be perfect. This I have learned. All I need is a happy life full of love, family and friends to make my soul complete. Find a circle of friends that encourage, not compete. Throw the judgement of others and busy filled schedules out the window. Live a life meant for purpose.
Tomato Bisque is one of my family’s favorite soups that always pairs perfectly along a grilled cheese sandwich for a quick and easy weeknight meal. This is one meal I remember my mother making me on cold winter days for lunch after I had been playing in the snow all morning long and needed to “thaw out.”
With any recipe that has few ingredients, only use high-quality seasonings and ingredients. You will notice the difference. If you are afraid of the half-and-half, well I can’t help you there. It’s a bisque and isn’t meant to be a “skinny bisque.” It’s meant to taste rich and divine, not bland and lifeless.
1 medium onion-thinly sliced
1 tablespoon butter
2 cans stewed tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
1 heaping tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 whole cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons chopped chives
In heavy saucepan, sauté the onion in butter for 5 minutes, Add tomato, bay leaf, brown sugar, basil, cloves, salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 25 minutes.Remove bay leaves and cloves. Puree rest. Strain if you want a very smooth soup. (I like the little pieces of tomato) Add cream, milk and heat well, do not scald. Serve sprinkle with Parmesan and croutons.
Have you ever had bread pudding? No-Then you are missing out. There are a lot of recipes for bread pudding out there…just go and Google bread pudding and see what pops up. I recall even watching Paula Deen once make a bread pudding from Krispy Kream donuts. I never tried it myself, but I’m sure it was tasty too!
This pudding is a very old dessert that was known as the “poor man’s pudding” way back when it was made with stale bread. The English would moisten the bread with water, add some sugar and other spices and fruits and maybe candies if they had them.
This pudding is made from lots of different breads such as croissant, French, brioche….any type of bread works. Another change to the recipe from then to now is that the bread is soaked in a rich custard mixture, instead of just water.
This recipe is one that I came up with over 10 years ago, after much experimentation in the kitchen. My favorite bread to use is brioche bread, but croissants will do. You can also vary this recipe to add more flavor with such things such as nuts, dried fruits, alcohol, zests, chocolate and fresh fruit, or even a drizzle of caramel. I use this recipe as a base, then add to it depending on what I have in the cupboard. Apples and caramel for all, cranberries and white chocolate chips for Christmas and everything in between.
Day Old Bread Pudding
3 extra-large whole eggs
8 extra-large egg yolks
5 cups half-and-half
4 tablespoons of melted butter, cooled
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 croissants, preferably stale, sliced horizontally
1 cup raisins and chocolate chips
1 large peeled and cored tart apple, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a mid-sized bowl, whisk the eggs, half-and-half, butter, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Set aside.
Slice the croissants in half horizontally. In a 10 by 15 by 2 1/2-inch oval baking dish, distribute the bottoms of the sliced croissants, then add the raisins apples, and chips, then the tops of the croissants (brown side up), being sure the raisins, apple and chocolate chips are between the layers of croissants or they will burn while baking. Pour the custard over the croissants and allow to soak for 15 minutes, pressing down gently.
Place the pan in a larger one filled with 1-inch of hot water. Cover the larger pan with aluminum foil, tenting the foil so it doesn’t touch the pudding. Cut a few holes in the foil to allow steam to escape.
Bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake for 40 to 45 more minutes or until the pudding puffs up and the custard is set. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Chicken Corn Chowder
2 large chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (season the chicken before cooking)
1 cup of red onion, diced
1/2 cup carrot, diced
1 cup celery, diced
6 cups of new potatoes, diced
3 cups water, plus 2 cups chicken bone broth
1 stick butter
1 tsp thyme
Cooked and crumbled slices of bacon (about 5 slices)
2 cloves garlic
Sprinkles of crushed red pepper
2 cans evaporated milk
2 cans of creamed corn
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot add butter and sauté onions and garlic. Do not burn the garlic. Add potatoes and water/broth and cook until the potatoes are tender. Add the rest of the ingredients and reheat to a slight boil and continue cooking for 15-20 minutes, until thickened.
Need a quick and easy recipe to impress your holiday guests or a dish to take to an upcoming holiday party? Look no further than my Cheesy Crab Dip.
This is a hot dip I serve with toasted French bread and the best part…you can prepare it the night before and cook it right before your event.
The key to any good recipe is the ingredients you use, so choose wisely on the crab and cheese. I only use lump crab meat for this dish, which I get from my friend Chris Perkins, who owns Express Foods (a seafood delivery business in our region). You can also find his lump crab meat at Horrmann Meats in Springfield, MO., or at Farmers Market of the Ozarks every Saturday from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, year-round.
I promise this dip will be your new favorite part of the the holiday season! Cheers and Merry Christmas…
Cheesy Crab Dip
(I double this recipe for parties)
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened
½ C. mayo
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 lb. lump crabmeat
1 C. shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
½ C. thinly sliced green onion and tops
¼ C. diced red bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ C. diced green onion
1 juice of a lemon
2 tsp. hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1 T.Worcestershire sauce
1 loaf of bread toasted, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combined cream cheese and mayo in a bowl; mix well and press garlic into batter, mix well.
Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
Spoon into a casserole dish and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve with French bread slices.