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Well hello, friend!
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year! I started my daily Stories all month long with some variation of this greeting, and I still have one day left, so it makes sense to say it once again. I find so much joy in the holiday season, and I can’t help but share it each day. I hope you find this joy too!
As I reflect on the past few months, it’s safe to say that the fall season into the holidays is what I look forward to all year long. So much so that I make, bake, and create to the point where I tend to forget to actually enjoy the season. That’s why I’m sending this newsletter out on the last day of the year. At first, I meant to write a newsletter in mid-December all about the recipes I typically bake. When that passed by before I knew it, I instead meant to write a short and sweet note right before Christmas to say Merry Christmas. But I was swept up in the moment with my family, and the weeks flew by.
So that brings us to the last day of 2022. This newsletter is coming at an appropriate time when we’re all reflecting on the past year. Personally, I cannot believe the year is over, but it has been filled with some pretty great moments. Christmas capped it all off with family moments that were perfectly imperfect in every way.
The week after Christmas is both sobering and joyful, with newly created memories and a quiet house. My sister and her family have returned home, and I’m still enjoying the twinkling lights for just a bit longer. During this slow time, I’m glad we’re taking the time to catch up. I have my cup of eggnog (left over from Christmas), and I hope you have some delicious to sip on too! Let’s chat!
Let’s talk about food.
If you’re like me, December becomes a baking and cooking frenzy. Let’s run through a quick recap of everything I made:
- To start off, I baked large batches of my brown butter herb party mix to give as gifts. Everyone loves this addictive mixture, and I always seem to eat about half of it while it’s cooling. Whoops!
- I added peanut brittle and English toffee to my gift list as well. When making English toffee, a good question arose in some of the messages I received. Many asked why their chocolate layer separated from the toffee after it was cooled and sliced. This happens when the toffee and chocolate are chilled too quickly and at too cold of a temperature. The same thing can happen to peppermint bark. The solution: avoid chilling too quickly at too cold of a temperature.
- For our Christmas meal, we had my recipe for a pork rib roast, which has become my stepdad’s new favorite, twice-baked potato casserole, and green bean casserole with crispy shallots on top. Each recipe was a big hit!
- For dessert, I baked my grandma’s gingerbread spice cake and served Crème de Menthe ice cream. It’s super delicious, minty, and refreshing, and a recipe you must try! We make a large batch of this ice cream yearly and eat it all week.
- Cookies are never in short supply during the holidays, and this year, I made several different types: chocolate-covered cherry cookies with my mom, candy bar cookies, which take a traditional peanut butter cookie and smash a mini candy bar inside, molasses crinkle cookies, and of course our family’s favorite peppernuts.
With New Year’s Eve parties happening this evening, there are never too many recipes for appetizers. Here are a few of my favorites you can make last minute:
Let’s talk about the garden.
Well, if you need a reason that I wasn’t in the garden over Christmas, let me tell you about the weather. The Thursday before Christmas, the temperature dropped, and a small blizzard blew in. Perfect weather for a white Christmas, right? The wind chill was close to -30°F, which is a bit too cold, even for me. Funnily, I used my garage as a refrigerator and even set the ice cream outside. It froze quicker than in my freezer!
Due to the cold, I brought two small boxwood topiaries inside that were sitting on my back patio. While they can survive normal winter conditions, the wind chill worried me. One of them was frozen to the step, and after trying with all my strength, I took a blowdryer outside and finally warmed it enough to free the container from the step. The boxwoods now look happy and healthy in my garage, and they will go back outside soon.
We’re now heating up to 50°F, an above-average temperature for early January. I’m not too fond of these swings in the weather as I find it hard on plants that I count on to stay dormant.
Quick tip: I’ll water any shrubs in the containers on my front porch during the warmer weather, as their roots can be active. If you’re in the same temperature swing as me, you may want to do the same thing.
Other than that, there hasn’t been much happening in the garden, which I’m thankful for. I’ll have more than enough to look forward to when spring begins to creep in and the temperatures stay above freezing. For now, I’ll sit back and enjoy the indoors.
Let’s talk about Kip.
Kip had a great Christmas! Friends sent him a few toys, and he has grown quite attached to them. Plus, he opened some presents from my sister and me and hasn’t put them down!
Regarding his health, we’re watching one of the medications he takes daily. The immune suppressants are strong, and they can have adverse side effects. One impacts his liver enzymes, and we need to do some testing and potentially switch the medication. Most likely, that means a trip to the University of Illinois sooner than expected for their specialized check-ups. Kip also has a urinary tract infection that has been hard to cure. Antibiotics do not work as well on Kip, and the doctors are deliberating to find a more effective way to treat it. That said, Kip doesn’t seem to notice anything and is as happy-go-lucky as always!
I’m just overjoyed that Kip is happy and able to do as he pleases. Each day I’m thankful to have Kip in my life. This experience has taught me a lot about what it means to care for an animal. There’s no question that when we bring a pet into our lives, they are under our care, and I would do anything for Kip. I didn’t quite understand this until Kip, but I’m glad he taught me this.
That’s it for this year! I’ve so enjoyed putting together these monthly newsletters, even if it seems like I always get to them on the last day of the month! It’s been great to chronicle what transpires each month, and is a bit of a love letter to the year. I hope that you’re able to reflect on the past 365 days in the next day or so, recall all of the highs, and move past any of the lows. It’s a fresh start with 2023, so let’s make the best of it!
Until we talk again, stay warm and filled with joy!
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