It's The Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us and the Avis house could not be more excited. We are Christmas junkies! Who’s with us?! 

 

Does anyone else remember a time, not too long ago, when we did not even begin to think about Christmas until after Thanksgiving? Radio stations and stores waited until then to play music and retailers would hold off on Christmas merchandise until Black Friday at least. Now all things Christmas start so much earlier. And I’m not even mad about it. I say, bring on the holiday cheer as early as possible!

 

One reason I love starting the season earlier is because every year I feel as though I scramble to get all the fun, festive things checked off my holiday bucket list. When we start earlier it gives me that many more days to squeeze all the holiday festivities and traditions in.

 

One thing I love to do during the holiday season is bake cookies. But you want to know one thing that always feels stressful and rushed? You guessed it: baking cooking. 

Photo Nov 28, 10 51 17 PM.jpg

 

Here’s the thing, the kids always want to be involved, and I want them to be…I really do. But it’s so much better in theory. The truth is, when I’m signed up to bring two dozen cookies to my son’s class and another two dozen to a Christmas party, enlisting the kids to help turns into whole bowls of flour dumped on the floor and sticky fingers going from their mouth to the batter contaminating the whole thing making our cookie time together counterproductive. There is a time for baking with the children, and I am looking forward to that, but if I want to make four dozen beautiful cookies void of my children’s germs, then I prefer to do it alone.  

 

This year, I made a brilliant plan and did a whole morning of baking AFTER I sent the kids to school. It was glorious! I turned on Christmas music along with the oven and got to work. 

 

I recently got a few bags of CRUNCH Dark Jingles and I’m obsessed. These candies are basically a Crunch bar shaped like a bell…dark chocolate and crisped rice dreams coming true. They are delicious, and I keep a candy dish around the house because their colorful foils are so festive! So the other day I was eating one of these festive Crunch bell-shaped dark chocolates and thought, “These would be perfect in a cookie!” And that is exactly what I did. I literally put one of these in a snowball cookie and our lives are now complete!

Photo Nov 29, 1 21 45 AM.jpg
Photo Nov 29, 12 36 54 AM.jpg

 

Here is the recipe I used:

 

Here’s what you need:

·      1 11/2 cups  butter, softened

·      33/44cup  powdered sugar

·      11/2 teaspoon  salt

·      1 tablespoon  vanilla extract

·      3 cups  flour

·      24 CRUNCH Dark Jingle bells, unwrapped

·      11/4 cup  powdered sugar, for rolling

Here’s What you do:

1.     Heat oven to 375*F.

2.     Cream together the butter, 3/4 cup of the powdered sugar, and the salt until fluffy; blend in the vanilla.

3.     Gradually beat in the flour, blending just until combined.

4.     Shape dough into 1 1/4" balls.

5.     Wrap the dough around one whole bell

6.     place 1" apart on ungreased cookie sheets.

7.     Bake 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are set and bottoms are lightly browned.

8.     Sift the 1/4 cup powdered sugar over the hot cookies; cool on baking sheets 10 minutes.

9.     Carefully transfer cookies to wire racks and cool completely.

10.  Dust with additional powdered sugar, if desired. Store in airtight containers.

You will make these, and you will thank me. They are so bomb diggity and your friends and guests will bite into them and be very impressed. You’re welcome.

But this is not all that happened this morning when I kicked the kids out of the kitchen. I thought, “these bell-shaped candies are so adorable they should not be hidden inside a cookie.” So, I made a second batch of baked goodness in the form of a peanut-butter blondie with CRUNCH Dark Jingle Bells…whoa! So delicious. You basically just take any recipe you have for a blondie and you stick an adorable Crunch Dark Jingle Bell on the top before you bake. Easy peasy. 


Photo Nov 29, 12 37 39 AM.jpg

And that’s not all that happened this very productive, childless morning. Not it is not! 

As the cookies were baking, I decided to get a head start on some stocking stuffers. Every year for Christmas my husband and I are very strict about how we divide our time with our families: we do every other year with every other family. Last Christmas was with his family and this Christmas is with my family. We never travel on Christmas day and we don’t spilt our time either. But we do make a special time to celebrate with which ever family we are not spending Christmas with. So this year my husband’s family will be joning us for an early Christmas celebration. All this to say, the kids get two stocking (lucky!). So I got their stockings stuffed and ready to go for when we celebrate early with my in-laws. 

IMG_5480.JPG
IMG_5482.jpg

I saw these Big Chewy NERDS Reindeer at Target and had to grab them. I got one for myself as well, remembering this candy from my childhood, and loving how they are moving from a small sized candy to a chewy candy. (side note, this product was a finalist in the Most Innovative New Product Award in the Seasonal category at the 2018 Sweets & Snacks Expo! You can visit http://www.ferrarausa.com/brands/to learn more)

As you can see, these adorable Nerds Reindeer are made to hang perfectly on the outside of the kids’ stockings, making them the perfect stocking stuffer. 

 

Now, the kids are about ready to come home from school and I am feeling oh so accomplished and loving this head start I have on my holiday bucket list. 

A Word About True Love

I became a parent for the first time a little over seven years ago. 

When my daughter first entered my life, I had been treading water in a sea of desperation, doing all I could to make it to the shores of parenthood. The obstacles in my way, trying to pull me under, drowning my dream of motherhood, included years of infertility, invasive procedures and surgeries, adoption classes, piles of paperwork, and thousands of dollars. 

Until one day, exhausted and gasping for breath, I got a call about a three-month-old baby girl who needed a mamma. 

I couldn’t have been more elated.

The second she made me a mamma, I was full to the brim with love for her. Like a heart eyed emoji.

A few years later, having realized this motherhood thing fit me like the perfect pair of jeans, I decided to grow my family by adopting another little girl. My second daughter, Truly Star, entered my life when she was a week shy of six months old. Upon learning about her, I felt deep, deep love for her, and the feeling of love followed me through the first few weeks of her entering my arms.

Then something changed.

My new daughter was gorgeous and funny and smart and healthy. She was the kind of baby most adoptive parents dream of adopting. But as the newness of her faded, so did my feelings of love. I learned later that this is part of the bonding process, and that it’s normal for adoptive parents to struggle with this, but at the time I felt like a total failure.

My waning love for my new child had me shocked and feeling inadequate and, at times, hopeless.

Maybe you’ve had a feeling like this, like there is someone in your life you’re “supposed” to love—a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child—but you just find it so hard.

The gap between what you are “supposed” to feel for that person and what you actually feel has you feeling desperate and hopeless and maybe even badly about yourself.

That’s how I felt with my daughter.

During those early months I found myself in tears, on my knees before God, searching for a way to love my daughter well. I wanted that emotional connection I thought I was missing. Then I remember the verses in the Bible that talk about what exactly love is:

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corn. 13:4-7).

I looked up the words and read and re-read them and began to realize:

Love has very little to do with emotion, and everything to do with action.

As I read the words it was as though God was saying to me, “Heather, your love for your daughter is not found in the emotions you feel towards her, but in your actions towards her.”

From that moment on I held tight to these truths of what love is.

I began to see my relationship with my daughter as one full of hope.

And as I made a choice to really and truly love my daughter by being kind and patient and seeking what is best for her and protecting her and never giving up on her, my emotional feelings of love grew and grew.

Today my second born daughter is almost five years old.

And hey, I’ll be honest, there are days when the feelings I have towards her are anything but warm and loving. Some relationships in our lives are harder than others.

But I know now what real, true love is.

And everyday, especially on the tough days, I’m grateful to be able to love my daughter well by the ways in which I treat her and respond to her, despite how I’m feeling.

Because I am her mother, and she is my daughter, and I love her.