Tag Archives: Christmas

To Exercise, or Make Fudge? (Two Fun Ideas with Favorite Things for You and Your Friends)

Friends!  Happy New Year!  Are we really in the year 2017?

Happy to report we will not be discussing New Year’s Resolutions this week because research shows those of us who make ‘em, break ‘em.  Just sayin’….

New Year's Resolutions

This week I’m sharing a new recipe which turned out to be a stellar experiment.  I also have an idea I received from a fabulous party I attended.  You may wish to try these with your friends next Christmas, or sooner!

First, the recipe discovery is for Million Dollar Fudge.  It’s easy, it’s delicious, and while you may be irked at my timing, once you taste it, you’ll thank me, trust me. (Recipe’s at the end of this post.)

Secondly, watch how the other idea transpired:  My Spiritual Mom, Lynn Reece, invited all of our Wednesday Bible study gals to her home for a Christmas Brunch. (100% of us refer to her as our Spiritual Mom.) While Lynn was making most of the meal, she did let some of us bring a few goodies.

This group is a beautiful picture of Hebrews 10:25, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” (NLT)


The week before Lynn’s Brunch, she and our other fearless leader, Jane Chilton, attended a cookie exchange where one of the gals brought Million Dollar Fudge.  We all met for lunch the next day while Lynn and Jane rattled on and on and on about this fudge until I could stand it no longer.

“Okay,” I said.  “I think we need some of that fudge to complete our Brunch next week.  I’ll hunt for a recipe, make it, and bring it.”  That was that.

Visions of huge storefront windows revealing expert chefs making fudge, rolling it out onto tables,  floated thru’ my head.  Think  small-town charm, accompanied by delectable aromas wafting thru’ the streets.  I never pass those stores up without marching inside and buying a slice to sometimes share with Hubster.


Once googling Million Dollar Fudge began, I landed on a recipe  from www.allrecipes.com  Per usual, the day evaporated and Hubster would soon be home to pick me up to go to a Christmas party.  I either had to run upstairs for a quick workout, or dash into the kitchen and make the fudge so as not to be up too late the night before Lynn’s Brunch.

Plus, I didn’t want to disappoint my sisters who all really wanted to re-live the fudge experience.  You can guess the exercise flew right out the window and ooey gooey fudge began to appear in our kitchen.  (Scarlett told me there’s always tomorrow.)

Being a complete chocolate snob, I was elated and relieved to learn two kinds of super tasty chocolate are in this recipe:  bittersweet chocolate (I keep a huge container of Nestle’s Tollhouse chocolate chips in our pantry. Know you’re shocked.) and sweet German chocolate.


Arriving at Lynn’s our usual fifteen minutes late, our Bible study gals rushed in, covered dishes in hand. Gathering around the table, holding hands, Lynn led us in a chorus of O Come Let Us Adore Him to open our morning.

Our worship and fellowship looks like this:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” Psalm 34:8

Lynn’s  beautiful table, complete with linen tablecloth, china and silver, made our time together even sweeter.  Doris had fun with the cardinal napkin rings since we lovingly dole out UK and U of L jabs from time to time.  (They were playing each other that evening and well, we won’t discuss the outcome.)

We also belatedly celebrated Olivia’s birthday.  Translation:  Big birthday cake!  Another sure-fire reason we needed fudge to go with it.

Clearly 1 Corinthians 6:19 escaped our brains:  “Do you now know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?  You are not your own…”  (We claim the 80/20 rule which probably regresses to 50/50 at best during the holidays.)


Lynn started the ball rollin’ last year for a Favorite Things Party.  She gave all of us Scrub Daddies. This snowballed into all of us bringing our newest favorite things this year. All eight of us chose one of our favorite things, wrapped them, and presented them, one by one to each other.

The variety and the discoveries are priceless.  (Lynn suggested we limit the expense to $5-$10 dollars/item which some adhered to and some sorta/kinda did if one were grading on the curve.)


From left to right on the top row is: Doris Bridgeman, Gwen Paten, Lynn Reece, Olivia Kirtley, and Reggie Willinger.  Seated left to right is: Jane Chilton, Yours Truly, and Betsy Heady.

For your enjoyment and education, here’s what we received from each other this year:

For you straw lovers, we learned thanks to Doris’ gift, there’s a package of straight and bent stainless steel straws, complete with brushes to clean them.   Saves the environment and your pocketbook. (Amazon has several varieties.)


Lynn introduced us to a nifty gadget called The Eurosealer for anyone needing to seal their bag of chips, or crackers, or anything else you wish to keep fresh.  Once activated, a rolling ball heats up, meshing the two sides together.  Between the Scrub Daddy and this contraption, Hubster is in Gadget Heaven. (Both are available at www.bedbathandbeyond.com )



Reggie gave each of us a Jude’s Miracle Cloth (available at Two Chicks, www.twochicksandcompany.com ) which is amazing on stainless steel appliances, car windows, mirrors, etc., plus it goes in the washing machine! Gwennie suggested cutting it in half, one for inside your house and one for inside your car.


Reggie topped her gifts with Modjeskas, a local treat no one can pass up. The history of this candy is fascinating.  Check it out via www.bauerscandy.com

Also from Two Chicks, Gwennie gave us Captain Rodney’s Private Reserve Scotch Bonnet Pepper Boucan Glaze:  “A Grilling and dipping sauce from the heart of the Caribbean”.  (Our boys go gaga over this because bacon is involved.)

Jane gave us a wonderful, ultra flexible, Mrs. Anderson’s Mini Serving Spatula, only one and a half inches in width that’s perfect for flipping brownies out of the pan or anything similar.  Much better than a regular-sized spatula and easy to find in your drawer, being red.


Betsy had a theme of a good night’s sleep going with her favorite things:  Lavender Bath Bombs to make us sleepy followed by a Rest and Renew satin pillow protector to keep our coifs at bay. (Available at Bed, Bath and Beyond.) Clever, Betsy!


We all agreed Betsy’s packages won the most creative and beautiful award plus she’d written an attribute for each of us along with a Scripture to expound on it on our gift tags.  She was spot on with each of us and we had trouble fitting our heads thru’ the door on the way out.

“A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” Proverbs 15:23 (NIV)

Finally, Olivia and I chose books. (Surprised???) I gave my current favorite du jour:  31 Verses to Write on Your Heart by Liz Curtis Higgs.  My Tuesday Bible study group is reading this as a devotional, attempting to memorize a verse a week.  It’s wonderful regardless of how you use it.  You’ll learn fascinating things about each verse, thanks to Liz, which helps the reader understand it better, making it easier to remember.

31 Verses to Write on your Heart

Olivia’s choice is sitting here on my desk staring at me because I’m dying to dive in….soon.  She gave us French Women Don’t Get Fat—The Secret of Eating for Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano. (Is that some kind of title, or what?)


It appears to have loads of great info’ in non-diet fashion, as well as recipes, many of which contain chocolate.  (Hallelujah.) There’s even a chapter entitled, Bread and Chocolate. (My two very favorite things.)  My guess is you’ll hear more about this soon. Smile.

Finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for:

Recipe for Million Dollar Fudge: (This makes two 9 x 9 pans, so you may want to cut it in half like I did.)

4 ½ cups white sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 tablespoons butter
1-12 oz. can evaporated milk
2 cups chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1-12 oz. package semisweet chocolate chips (I used Nestle’s Toll House chips)
12-1 oz. squares of German sweet chocolate (I used Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate Baking Bar.)
2 cups marshmallow crème

1 – Butter two 9 x 9 baking pans and set aside.
2  – Place chocolate chips, German chocolate, marshmallow crème, and nuts into a large mixing bowl.  Set aside.
3 – In a large saucepan, thrown in sugar, salt, butter, and evaporated milk, stirring over low heat ‘til sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil, and cook for 6 minutes.
4 – Pour boiling syrup mixture over ingredients in the bowl, stirring ‘til all the chocolate is melted.  Pour into the prepared square pans.  Let stand a few hours before cutting (if you can stand it).  It literally melts in your mouth.

Furthermore, your friends and family will love you.

I pray you all have a Wonderful, Happy, Healthy 2017 and am excited to talk with you about a variety of books-n-topics in the New Year.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Friends, Holidays

Surviving the Christmas Season: Part 4 of 4 Traveling with the Holy Family…

“Lunch Ministry”…

Definition: The act of two or more friends meeting for lunch and ministering to one another.

a/k/a Cheaper-than-therapy.

a/k/a The single-most-difficult-activity to explain to our husbands.

So….one day before Christmas several years ago, my friend and mentor, Jane Chilton and I met at one of our favorite lunch spots, the infamous Jack Fry’s. (www.jackfrys.com ) Sidebar: Do not miss the warm brie salad. (Do tell Stephanie, the sweet owner, Jane and I sent you. And please give her a hug. She loves hugs.)


This was to be our Christmas celebration with each other. Before we ordered our iced tea, Jane reported, “We need to run back by my place as your gift is in a box too big to bring into the restaurant.” Wow…mega anticipation grew during our entire meal! This gift-loving gal was beyond excited.

Lunch over with, back to Jane’s we went. En route, I checked my cell phone and had a voice mail from an unknown number, and… the area code was from Lexington. Yikes—such sightings always made me worry about my parents.

Sure enough, the call was from a caregiver of my parents and my Dad had fallen and broken his leg–his femur, no less. They were in the ER of a Lexington hospital.

Quickly I told Jane of the phone call. We hurriedly opened our gifts. To my delight, Jane gave me a lovely sculpture of Joseph, Mary, and Baby Jesus. (I love it so much it stays out all year, decorating our home.)

Holy Family

I put it back in the tremendous box, securing it in the back seat. Jane prayed for me and for whatever I’d be facing, and off I trekked to Lexington.

This was one of many trips to Lexington throughout Daddy’s rehab, etc. to heal that badly broken leg. Hundreds of hurdles to jump presented themselves.

By then, Mother had quit driving. Getting her rides to the hospital and subsequently to the nursing home were just a few of the hurdles.


On about the fourth trip over to Lexington, several days later, I glanced in my back seat, and there was the very large box from Jane. Unnoticed until now, the words “HOLY FAMILY” were printed along the tallest side of the box.

I burst out laughing and called Jane. Not missing the parallel here, I decided:

Toting the Holy Family back and forth with me to Lexington was a huge source of comfort.

Peace Of Mind.

Not that I needed them per se, since we believers are all blessed with the Holy Spirit within us…but especially during difficult times, we sometimes forget our Advocate is WITH US all along.

Yes, that Christmas season, the Holy Family logged many miles from Louisville to Lexington and back again. Who knew that such a big box filled with the blessed family could be such a security blanket?

As we reflect upon Christ this Christmas, may we take the time to rejoice:

O Holy Night

In a message Billy Graham preached at the White House in 1973, he said, ”When others cynically ask, ‘Where is this Prince of Peace in a world filled with so much trouble?”

Reverend Graham continued, “But the real Christmas message goes far deeper. It answers all the great questions that plague the human race at this hour.

The Christmas message is:



And Reassuring to us today.

I believe it can be summed up in three words:

A Cradle,

Wooden Baby Cradle

A Cross,

Wooden Cross on Dramatic Sky

And a Crown.”

Gold crown isolated on white background

Let’s close by reading (or perhaps singing?) the beautiful lyrics to O Holy Night. (Originally composed by Adolphe Charles Adam in 1847 to the French poem “Minuit, Chretiens” by Placide Cappeau, Placide used the gospel of Luke for his inspiration. It was John Sullivan Dwight who wrote the English translation.)

My prayer is for these words to literally help us all fall on our knees, savoring the Christmas Season:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,

It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth

Long lay the world in sin and error pining

‘Til He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn’

Fall on your knees, Oh, hear the angels’ voices

O night divine, the night when Christ was born;

O night, O holy night, O night divine!

O night, O holy night, O night divine!


Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.

O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,

Now come the wise men from out of the Orient land.

The King of kings lay thus lowly manger;

In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!


Truly He taught us to love one another,

His law is love and His gospel is peace.

Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother.

And in His name all oppression shall cease.

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,

With all our hearts we praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,

His power and glory ever more proclaim!

His power and glory ever more proclaim!”


Fall on your knees.

Rejoice, our Savior is born.

Savor your Christmas Season.

Our family wishes you and your family a Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy Blessed New Year!!!

Hoagland Family

Our precious Hoagland clan descended upon Hyde Park, near Cincinnati recently for a fun, overnight shopping spree. Left to right on the back row are Gordy, John Jr. and Lauren. Left to right on the front row are LT, Woody, Goldie the Golden Pig (No idea what her real name is!!!), Yours truly and Beloved Hubster John.

‘Til next time!

And as we used to say prior to Christmas Break at school, “SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!!!”

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Filed under Family, Friends, Holidays

Sure Cure for a Bah Humbug Attitude…

Hello Friends!  Just wondering, now that Thanksgiving’s past and that Christmas décor’s been up since Halloween (in some stores that is, surely not in this household!), if you have a KICK in your step while shopping, or if you are SLIP-SLIDIN’-AWAY, Scrooge-like?

Grunge Scrooge With a Small Gift

Don’t even talk to me if you’re done with your Christmas shopping.  And don’t even look this way if you’ve shopped and wrapped.

Christmas isn’t happenin’ today, the way Jesus intended it to.  For that, I’m certain.  Every single year I try to think of ways to “taper down” on the gift-giving, think of the less fortunate, donate to new charities/ministries, and yet I still wind up looking more like Santa’s helper/enabler than a child of God.  Big sigh.Santa's Elf on Sign EdgeThe commercialization of Christmas makes me say “Bah humbug”…and I’m determined to NOT let it get the best of me. Lord, please help us to focus on you.  Matthew 6:33 reminds us: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Praying Friends

So, now that the Christmas season’s officially “on”… no thanks to some poor souls opening up on Thanksgiving Day (really?), Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc., I’d like to give you one prescription sure to bring a smile to your face, and a cure for any “Bah Humbug” attitudes trying to surface.

I am beyond blessed to have a very fun cousin.  Her name is Bonnie, but we in the family call her “Martha”, as in Stewart.  She’s one of those creative types:  she can whip up the most gorgeous bow you’ve ever seen. Friends now recognize them sayin’, “Now THAT’S a “Bonnie Bow”!!!

Bonnie will also try any new recipe.  She’ll paint a room an entirely new color when the mood strikes.  Furthermore, she will absolutely, positively, do anything for anyone, at any time, just for starters.

A few years ago, Bonnie came up with this fabulous idea…  She invited a group of our friends, a/k/a “the Butter Babes” over for a gift wrapping party.  Soup simmerin’ on the stove, Christmas music in the air, pool table covered as our wrapping station, and we move in for the day.


What’s great about this is she sets the date way ahead of time (novel idea!) so we know when our deadline is…as in if you want to wrap a pretty package, you’d better have done some shopping and have packages in tow!

The five of us man our stations and the wrapping begins.  (Did I mention her endless supply of reams of paper and enough ribbon to extend to the moon?)  Oh, but the conversation around the table is the best.  You’re wondering if there’s a message here! Or what’s so spiritual about a wrapping party?

Well, you’ve got to know these Butter Babes.  These are some serious Bible study students and teachers.  These are some very close friends and mentors. These are some serious prayer warriors. They share meaningful Scripture. They share prayer requests. They share answered prayers.  They have lived a lot of life.  We laugh.  We cry.


One of my favorite verses depicting this friendship journey is found in Proverbs 27:17 which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (NIV)  It’s a huge blessing simply doing life with the help of dear friends who teach you to ultimately lean on the Lord.

Nary a  “Bah Humbug” erupts from this bunch. Nope, the Butter Babes would flat have a meltdown if such a phrase surfaced.  (Oh, I could have fun with that last phrase…)

Proverbs 27:7b says, “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.”  Refreshing it is to be surrounded by such sweet sisters.  No Scrooges allowed!

Let me show you one more favorite verse to go along with our prescription:  Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. “

The “sure cure” for a Bah Humbug attitude can be found straight out of the three above phrases I’ve italicized:

Spur one another on:  This means we cheer each other on toward the finish line…as in our Heavenly Home.

Not giving up meeting together:  Keep regular gathering times with your friends.  How many times have you heard “friends are cheaper than therapy”?  It’s always nice to have something to look forward to.

I have another group of friends which includes a retired school teacher.  (Several actually, but one in particular is the glue that holds us together.)  Periodically, Jayne will shoot us an email with the tagline being:  “Random Dinner”.  She randomly picks a night and we show up to catch up.  Try it.  You’ll like it.

Encouraging  one another:  This goes hand in hand with spurring one another on. All three of these are great fuels for fanning the flame of friendship.

Kelly Minters Nehemiah

Kelly Minter’s most recent Bible study on Nehemiah—A Heart That Can Break offers a PERFECT DEPICTION of what I’m attempting to recommend to you regarding friendship.  She opines*, “The world doesn’t need more wealth, strength, power, or skill as much as it desperately needs trustworthy people.  My heart is never more at rest, my soul never more at peace than when I am in the presence of a person of integrity.

I find relational serenity in never having to second-guess what the person really meant, not having to dodge gossip or duck drama.  When I have the assurance that a person’s word is true, motives pure, and intents just, I have found a rare treasure indeed.”

Look again at those two above paragraphs.  Did you see that cool phrase, “relational serenity”?  What a sanctuary! What a safe haven!!!

Whether it’s a wrapping party, or a lunch out somewhere, or a Starbucks rendez-vous, I pray you’ll set a date with some of your friends and sail cheerfully thru’ this Christmas season, in relational serenity, sans any “Bah Humbugs”.

Purposefully celebrate Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Remember Christ’s Birthday.

Savor God’s gift.  As Liz Curtis Higgs said, “Let’s be forever grateful for the One whose birth changed everything.”  (Click here to see an interview with her…)


‘Til next time!

(This December post is happily dedicated to my long-time friend, cousin-by-marriage-who’s-more-like-a-sister, partner-in-crime in shopping, encourager extraordinaire, Bonnie Johnson. May blessings be abundant to you and your sweet family this Christmas season!!!)

*Lest you think I toss out unique words frequently, this one, “opine,” was a new one to me. Can’t believe I haven’t discovered this word ’til now.  I’m practically a professional at offering my opinion!  May we all opine with tact.

I ran across it twice in two days in two different books!  Both worth recommending:  one by Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage:  Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God and the other by Robert J. Morgan called Angels—True Stories—What Angels Do For Us.

Tim KellerRobert J Morgan


Filed under Friends, Holidays, Scripture