Wednesday, December 9, 2015

gathering of friends

Holiday Party Numero Uno is over and I feel pretty darn good about the evening.  I invited just a small handful of my close lady friends over and asked them to each bring a gift representing one of their favorite things.  Each guest was also to prepare a spiritual analogy or thought, bringing us closer to Christ, to go along with the gift.  They were also to bring either an appetizer or a treat.  I was thrilled to share the evening with these special ladies.

We began the evening with lots of nummy food... I'd made our favorite buttery garlic mushrooms.  A new recipe... pomegranate cheeseball that was divine.  There were veggies and dips and cheeses and the delicious sweet, sticky chex mix with the almonds, that I would rather eat than just about anything on the earth and beautiful cupcakes and I'd made little no-bake peppermint cheesecake desserts. 

Yes, the food was wonderful.

After we were comfortable and had eaten, we answered my "table talk" questions, even though we were not at the table.  The answers were fun and I always love hearing others' stories and traditions.  I was amazed to hear the story of a grandmother who'd made a stuffed animal for each grandchild for Christmas.  Another story of a porcelain doll being handed down touched my heart.  I think what touched me the most was the many times "Family" was mentioned in our answers.  Family, truly, is the most wonderful gift!

Next, we played a silly game... the plate game that I'd shared on yesterday's blog.  Oh my.  It's trickier than it sounds and was so much fun to see each other's "art".  Looking at them brought about some great laughs.

I had visited with Liza and Buddy about my game ideas and was thinking about making up a Christmas version of Taboo.  Buddy suggested googling it. He did and found the beginning of a Christmas Taboo, then I spent an hour or so doubling the list with my girls' help.  It was so fun to come up with the list.  I typed it up, printed it out on cardstock, cut them into cards and we played the game last night.  We laughed a lot during the game.  The best laugh of the night was when one friend said, "We ride on these."  Another friend said, "A sleigh!"  Another friend said, "We do?  We ride on them?", looking at the person next to her.  She said, "I've never ridden on a sleigh."  There was teasing and one of the gals said, pointing to the gal giving the clues, "She owns more than one!  We all ride on them!"  It's true.  We have friends who are cool enough to own horse drawn sleighs...but not reindeer sleighs... we're not that cool.  wink-wink!

After the game, we were all pretty relaxed and ready for our gift exchange.  I'd really given this activity a lot of thought before even mentioning the party to anyone but Doug.  I felt like this was the main reason that I wanted to host the party this season... not for a gift, but to be able to bring the holiday back to Christ.

I asked each of the ladies to write down their name on a strip of cardstock and fold it, then put it in a bowl.  We passed the bowl around and everyone drew a name.  Then, we went around the circle and the recipient would read their name.  That person would then pick up the gift from under the snowman tree and hand it to their recipient.  As they opened their gift, the giver would share why this gift was one of their favorite things and shared their thoughts about the gift that reminded them, in some way, of Christ.

I won't share everyone's, but I will share my own, as it's been on my mind for the past week.  My gift was a darling two-tier serving piece and a 6' red table runner with stitched snowflakes.

 My favorite thing is entertaining.  It's a gift from my heart to those that I love, everytime I do it, whether it's a ward party or for family or friends.  I love it!  Over the past few weeks, Carol and I have shopped almost every day.  I've planned and made lists of lists.  I have wrapped gifts, planned meals and gatherings and decorated every room in our home.  AND....I.HAVE.LOVED.EVERY.SECOND.OF.IT!

 However... on Sunday, the kids and I visited Doug's YSA ward for Sacrament Meeting.  Doug was conducting.  As we began to sing the sacrament hymn, "In Humility, Our Savior", I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for our Savior.  I opened my planner and wrote down a few thoughts.  (I will save those for a later post.)  My thoughts of the Savior was consuming and emotional.  I opened my scriptures to Luke 11, where Jesus went into the village and entered the home of Martha and Mary.  Martha was running around, "decorating, wrapping, planning, cooking..". and I read the words of our Savior, "Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things:  But, one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her."  As I read "Martha, Martha", I could just feel this "Sophia, Sophia".   Overwhelmingly, I could feel it.

And so, my message/analogy/thought was that while we are so so busy preparing, doing what moms/wives/grandmothers do, there is a "good part", that we need to make certain is included in these busy days and all of our festivities.  There is a reason for this season!  My goal is to make sure that we keep that reason front and center every day!

All of the messages were thought-provoking.  As Doug and I hottubbed after the party was over, and I reviewed every minute of it, in my most sanguine version, he could feel my gratitude for such wonderful friends and for the spirit that we'd felt during the party.  That was what I had prayed for!  Prayers answered.  HAPPINESS!

Oh, and I tried the eggnog, mentioned on yesterday's blog.  I'm now an official eggnog fan.  Oh, yeh!

A few Christmas ideas for the day... from last night...

Peppermint CheeseCake

This sounds way complicated, but it literally takes about fifteen minutes start to finish!  Super easy and very tasty!

24 oreos, crushed
4 Tbsp. melted butter

Crush the oreos in a giant ziploc bag and then pour the melted butter over them.  Mix and knead well, until blended.  Pour about one inch of oreo mix into the bottom of 12 cups.  (The clear plastic 7 oz. cups work well for this.)

1 1/3 cups of whipping cream
3 Tbsp. Powdered Sugar

Mix together and keep separate.

6 oz. White Chocolate (I used white chocolate chips)
12 oz. whipping or heavy cream 
12 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. peppermint oil or extract
red food coloring

Melt the white chocolate and let it cool, but not enough to get hard again.  In a separate bowl, mix the cream cheese with 5 Tbsp. powdered sugar and peppermint oil.  Add red coloring until it's desired pink.  Whip in the melted white chocolate.  Gently fold in the whipping cream.  You don't even need it to all be pink.  A little swirly effect looks great.  Scoop about 1/3 cup of the pink mix onto the oreo crumb layer.

Cover with more whipped cream.  Garnish with crushed candy cane.  OH MY!

 Table Talk Questions
these would be fun on Christmas Eve with family or at a family party!

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
What was one tradition from your childhood that you plan on carrying on through generations?
Is there a must have in your stocking each year?
Did you have any special traditions about opening the gifts?
How old were you when you knew the “truth” about the Magic of Christmas? How did you find out?
If money were no object, name three things on your wish list this year?
Is there a gift that you’ve wanted for a long time, but, never received?
Are you more of a Grinch or Griswold?
What’s your favorite Christmas song?
Share a “feel good moment” from one of your Christmas’.
Do you come from a Conservative during the holidays Christmas family or an over the top Christmas family?
What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Why?
Are you a Last minute shopper or ready months before?
What’s the most special gift you’ve ever given?
If you were to write a brag letter for the past year, what would you include in it?
When you hear the song “Rudolph the Red nosed Reindeer”, what memory comes to mind?
What’s your favorite Christmas song?  Why?
What’s the most special gift you’ve ever received for Christmas?
What’s your favorite Christmas tradition? 
Did you know your gifts before you open them?  (Do you buy your own?  Do you sneak peak?)

The holidays are so grand!  Life is so good!

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