Saturday, December 24, 2011

Must See Christmas Videos

Ok, so I said that I wasn't blogging for a few days, but I couldn't help but share these 3 videos with you.

Click on the names to go to the YouTube videos. All are family friendly and a whole lotta fun!!

Retooning the Nativity is a cartoon of the nativity that debunks common Christmas myths about Jesus' birth. It reminds us that no matter the story we believe, the truth of Jesus coming to earth as a baby boy to be a light to this dark world and to sacrifice His life for our sins remains the same.

NorthPoint iBand comes from church out of Atlanta. They use iPhones and iPads to play musical instruments, and believe me, it still takes much talent!

The Digital Nativity tells the Christmas story using social, facebook, twitter, etc.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Traditions

Hi sweet friends and blog followers! I am checking out of blogging for about 2 weeks...Cole and I are so thankful to be able to spend almost an entire week with both his family in Greer and mine in Dillon. Christmas break is when we really love being students!!
I know I have promised you a post on my favorite Christmas decorations and the Christmas activities that have kept us busy, BUT I left my computer in Charleston, my camera battery has already died, and I don't have icloud (yet!) to put my phone pictures directly onto my computer (hopefully I will by Sunday!!), but I will post these and other highlights from our break upon returning to Charleston.

I will leave you with one of my family's Christmas traditions that I have been told is sweet, funny, weird, and unbelievable...Ever since I was a little girl, my family has all slept in the same room Christmas Eve night... ALL 5 of us in one room (the sweet part)...AND, we STILL do it (the funny, weird, unbelievable, and I think still sweet part). When my brother, sister, and I got a little bigger and couldn't all fit in the bed with my parents, we made pallets on the floor. When my brother got too cool to do this, we convinced him anyway. When I got married, Cole joined us too! Now all 6 of us sleep in the same room.

What are your family Christmas traditions?

I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Holiday Reading

Exams are over and I am dying to get my nose in a "just for fun" book...Any suggestions?!? 

I left off here with my summer reading. I could pick up book number 5 in Chronicles of Narnia or "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese. 

What have you been reading lately? 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

3rd Annual Cup of Conversation

Exams finished Monday (yay!), and I have had the best time spending Tuesday evening late night and yesterday afternoon in the kitchen preparing to host the 3rd annual Cup of Conversation. It is one of THE highlights of my year. I love having the time to turn up the Christmas music while I cook and then get to share it with my dear friends.

I snapped photos of the food beforehand, but was too busy talking and serving to take pictures during the party. So, surprise, surprise, this post will be mostly about the food!

First off, wine. Each girl brought over their favorite bottle...and some got decorated.

The wine called for a few cheese hors d'oeuvres, of course. I used a coupon from Earthfare this week to get a FREE wheel of brie cheese. I have never baked brie before, but always love it when others do, so I gave it a try. SO GOOD! I didn't really have a recipe, but I googled a few and here's what I did:  I cut an 8 oz brie wheel in half (like a sandwich) and spread apricot preserves and agave nectar on both sides. Then, I put the sides back together and wrapped it in a thawed puff pastry sheet and flipped it over onto a greased baking sheet. It said on the puff pastry box to baste the puff with an "egg wash", which I learned is an egg white mixed with 1 tablespoon of water. I did that, and then popped it in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

This is an all time favorite, Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Cheese Torte. I got it from one of my college friend's mom. This is perfect for a party because you make it a day ahead, so doesn't take up any of the "crunch time" right before guests arive. I make this often, but Cole had never tried it until last night. Unfortunately for him, the last 3 times I have made this one, it was all gobbled up before he got home. He was happy to finally eat this cheese torte I have been raving about.

More cheese...Southern Living's Tortellini Caprese Bites. They are definitely an easy, cheap, and festive holiday appetizer (because of the red tomatoes, white cheese, and green basil)!

Speaking of festive...I adapted my Black-Eyed Pea Dip to include both red and green bell peppers. This is a recipe of my own. I combine 2 cans drained black-eyed peas, 1 can drained corn, 1 red bell pepper chopped, cider vinegar, ranch (sometimes I used garlic ranch, other times spicy ranch, or I will use regular ranch and add garlic salt), and S&P. It's yummy and, minus the ranch, rather healthy.

Pear Chutney Bruschetta made the menu cut. I told you these are amazing.

And then, because I realized I had made the entire menu without meat (does that surprise you?!), I made some ham biscuits.

For dessert I made Lemon Curd with Raspberries and Mint, Chocolate Mousse topped with whipped cream and a ginger cookie, and assorted cakes.

This Chocolate Mousse is a family favorite. To share or not to share the recipe?! I can't decide. If I do, it deserves its own post!
 Patricia helped me decorate these!

I also enjoyed decorating the house with greenery and berries. I love challenging myself to throw together different arrangements without spending any money....just a vase, oasis, and clippings from outside. See my post here on the Christmas wreath.
I sure didn't have many leftovers, so I hope that means the food was enjoyed by all! I am looking forward to next year already!

Enough blogging for my day to dwindle the to-do list...Off to help Alicia address wedding invitations and then heading to celebrate the year-end with Cole at The Ocean Room at Kiawah!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Favor Por Favor!!

My college roommate and dear friend, Jamie, is campaigning for her mom to win a $500 gift card from Food Lion. Mrs. Christy entered her famous Ricotta Cheese Cookies into the Food Lion Holiday Bake-Off. She is SO close to winning, and needs your help before Wednesday! Click on the link below (in red) and search "Ricotta Cheese Cookies" by Christy Nichols to vote.

Food Lion Holiday Bake-Off

Thank you!!!

I can't wait to try these! They look like the perfect cookies to take to a holiday cookie swap. Thanks for sharing your recipe Mrs. Christy!
Ricotta Cheese Cookies

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1-15 oz. container Food Lion ricotta cheese (softened)
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 teaspoons Food Lion lemon extract
red and green crystals

Mix sugar and butter until fluffy.  Add ricotta cheese, vanilla and eggs.  At low speed, mix flour, baking powder, and salt into ricotta cheese mixture until dough forms. 
Drop by tablespoon onto cookie sheet lined with parchment paper for perfect browning and easy clean up. Bake in a 350℉ oven for 15 minutes or until golden.  Cool on cookie sheet for two minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. 
Icing:  Mix confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth.  Add lemon extract.  Spread onto completely cooled cookies and sprinkle with red and green crystals.  Refrigerate when icing has set.  Use wax paper in between layers of cookies. 

Layered Peppermint Cheesecake

When I saw this recipe in this month's issue of Southern Living, I knew I had to try it! One of my favorite Christmas desserts is a moist pound cake, topped with homemade peppermint ice cream and drizzled with chocolate syrup. This Layered Peppermint Cheesecake sounded right up my alley. 

I cannot make a cake for just Cole and myself...bad I have been looking for any excuse to try this one. A perfect opportunity came around when I was asked to make pumpkin cheesecake for the Williams' family gathering this past Sunday. Instead, I opted for Peppermint Cheesecake. I gathered the  help of my sister and mom, and we went to work in the kitchen. 

The recipe is complicated...obviously because it is 5 layers, but also because the many ingredients and time involved. My mom is a cake expert, so I wasn't worried! We made the layers Saturday night and planned to assemble the cake before serving on Sunday. The peppermint layers were to be frozen for 4 to 6 hours before assembly, so this seemed perfect. Unfortunately on Sunday morning, after a good 15 hours in the freezer, the peppermint cheesecake was not frozen...uh oh! What did we do? After reviewing the ingredients and process, we can't seem to think of anything we didn't follow exactly. Of course, Mom had the wonderful idea of making the layers into a peppermint that is what we did! Even though it is not the masterpiece above, it was delicious no doubt!!

I can't decide if these are good or bad dessert napkins...
either way they are too funny!!

Merry Christmas to you...

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Potato and Pesto Soup

My friend Erica made this soup last season and recommended it to me. I put it on the menu for this past week, and it did not disappoint! Cole loved it...but what man doesn't like a hearty potato soup?!  If you are looking for meal ideas for this week, this is perfect, especially since the temp has finally dropped below 70!

Here it is (with a few minor changes that I made). T=tablespoon and t=teaspoon

Ingredients: 3 strips smoked pancetta or bacon, 3 lbs potatoes, 1 medium onion, 2 T olive oil, 20 oz. chicken stock, 20 oz. milk, 5 oz dried conchigliette (seashell pasta), 5 oz. heavy cream, chopped fresh parsley, S & P to taste

The recipe also calls for a homemade pesto sauce. In the summer I would have jumped on this, but unfortunately my basil plant has seen better days. Instead, I bought pre-made pesto from the grocery store. This made this soup easier and quicker to make, even better for a weeknight meal.  

Method: Finely chop bacon, potatoes, and onions. Cook bacon in a large pan over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add oil, potatoes, and onions. Cook for about 12 more minutes, stirring, until onions are starting to turn brown. Add stock and milk to pan. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add cooked conchigliette pasta and let simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and ready to eat. Blend in the cream, S & P, parsley, and pesto sauce (about 1/4 cup or more, to taste). 

Potato and Pesto Soup
Yay for Christmas china!
Thanks Erica!!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Lord always teaches me new things!!

In my previous post, I mentioned that BSF has taken me to the book of Hebrews. Chapters 7-10 were on the agenda for this past week, and they focus on comparing the old versus the new covenants in the Bible.

If you aren't familiar with this, here is a short recap:
OLD covenant= Laws given by God to Moses and the Israelites, people had to obey these laws in order to have favor with the Lord, involved Levitical priests to go before the Lord once a year in tabernacle, animal sacrifices were necessary to forgive sin, only laws and no freedom
NEW covenant= Jesus came as the one superior sacrifice for all our sins, intimate fellowship and direct access with the Lord possible now, animal sacrifices and priests no longer need, law now written in the hearts of believers, believers have a permanent and unbroken relationship with the Lord, grace and complete freedom in Christ offered

I'll be honest and say that I thought I was very familiar with this topic in the Bible, I mean that is the difference of the Old and New Testament (testament means "covenant"), and I was...BUT, oh, I had more things to learn this week! First off, 4 chapters a week was kicking my butt! I started in on the usual assignments of questions and was stumped time and time again! They were just TOO HARD! Instead of persevering and praying through them, I was SO frustrated, did not have a good attitude about them, and didn't even finish. (If you know anything about BSF, this is a no-no). You may know, or have noticed above, that the sacrifice/penalty for sins always involved the shedding of blood. In the old covenant  this occurred through animal sacrifice, and in the new covenant through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. The hard questions asked...How did Christ secure our eternal redemption? What spiritual effects resulted from shedding of the blood? Why was the shedding of blood necessary to ratify both covenants? Why do you think God requires blood to forgive man's sin? I DON'T KNOW. BIG QUESTION MARK.

And so, when I thought I knew it all, I learned this...
I am sure you all are familiar with the story and Adam and Eve and the fall of man recorded in Genesis. Sin entered the human race when, through an attack of Satan, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They doubted God's word and trusted in their own ability to discern good from evil. Immediately after sinning, they realized they were naked and were shameful for being exposed. AND THEN in chapter 3:21 it says, "The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them." This was the FIRST SACRIFICE MADE FOR SINS. God had to kill an animal (shed blood) in order to make these garments to cover Adam and Eve. THIS is why the shedding of blood was necessary for both the covenants. This event foreshadows the sacrificial system of animals in the old covenant and the eventual sacrificial death of Jesus as an atonement for sin of the new covenant. From the beginning, shedding of blood was necessary for the sacrifice/consequence of sins. I am blown away with what I have learned! This is so cool to me!

Have you thought about this concept before or heard this explanation?

Happy Anniversary

My parents have been married 31 years today! 

Monday, December 5, 2011

An Anchor for my Soul

BSF has taken me from Acts to Hebrews the past few weeks. It is a HARD book, but I am trying to understand and learn it!

Hebrews 6:19 says "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf."

Just like an anchor holds a sailboat safely in position, a believer's hope in the person and saving work of Christ guarantees stability. Although a boat's anchor goes down into the ocean and is secured underneath the ocean floor, a believer's anchor in Christ reaches upwards to the heavens and is secured at the very throne of God. This week I couldn't help but think of this idea as I drove over the Charleston harbor every day. What a cool display of this analogy to see sailboats anchored in our harbor! Nothing in life is secure or sure except for the promises and hope of Christ. I am thankful my soul has an anchor in Christ, but I need to be reminded of this often because it is easy to fall prey to circumstances.

This verse reminds me of one of my favorite characteristics of God. He is UNCHANGEABLE. His being, perfections, purposes, and promises are all UNCHANGING. This truth is an ANCHOR FOR MY SOUL. This is in stark contrast to mood changes, I wear out, my days are numbered...I can find rest, hope, and security in Him, the One who doesn't change. He can always be trusted because He always keeps His word and is never moody or capricious. Isn't this encouraging?!

Psalm 102:25-27 "In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years never end."

Hebrews 13:8 "Jesus is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Psalm 9:9-10 "The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you."

Where is your hope? What anchors your soul?

If Christ is your anchor, do you trust that His promises are true? Do you rely on Him for your security and significance? Are you satisfied in Him alone?

This is the theme of Molly's blog.  Click here for more thoughts on Hebrews 6:19. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Quick Tutorial

MANY of you have expressed frustration lately posting comments to my blog, so here is a short tutorial.

1. Read the blog post!
2. At the very end click "Post a Comment" or "Comments".
3. Type in your comment.
4. Choose an identity/select a profile. If you use Gmail, choose Google Account. If not, choose Name/URL.
5. Type in your name. Click "Continue."
6. Click "Post Comment".

If this doesn't seem to work, click here for another online tutorial.

I hope this helps!! I love hearing from you all!

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