We're in the transition between the celebration of Christmas and the reevaluation of a new year; here's some of what I've been thinking about.
We just don't know all the long-term effects of our actions... but he does; he who knows the end from the beginning.  He tells us My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee, and "I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done" (Isaiah 46:9-10).

I know that God has directed my paths, that I benefit most from this when I pay attention and listen for his counsel and direction.  I'm grateful for the struggles and learning he's helped me through; they prepare me to become more like he is, and to better serve him and his children.

 
 
Did you ever learn the song that starts, "Here comes Suzy Snowflake"? Our family was asked to come up with a musical number for a party... and that's what we chose.  And my girls got some great dress-up skirts out of it.  (I told them they're early Christmas presents... and now that we've performed, the skirts get wrapped and put under the tree.)
On the Youtube video below, she shows you a quick way to cut strips of netting: roll the tulle without creating wrinkles; cut the roll into 3” strips.  She used 4 colors, 1 yd each, for a 2-4-year-old’s skirt.  For that shorter skirt, she cuts each strip in half.  She says it takes about 45 minutes to make one; we spent about an hour apiece but that was with my 11-year-old doing most of the tying.
I  used her method but made longer skirts- the biggest of the two was 27" long, the small one was 24" long. So I made the strips 54" long for the first, 48" long for the second. When I got to the fabric store, I found that the more delicate-looking Illusion netting, 108" wide! so I could get twice as many strips per yard- was on sale for $1/yd, so I got that instead of the coarser netting.  I used almost 5 yard for the bigger skirt and about 4 1/2 yards for the smaller one. For the larger snowflake overlay skirt (18" long), I bought turquoise sparkle tulle, folded it in sixths cut a circle with a 22" radius (needed 1 ¼ yds); cut out a circle for the center, and cut it like a very simple snowflake.  The smaller overlay (14" long) only required 1 yard.    By the way, there's a great website that allows you to create snowflakes online and see what they'll look like before having to cut any actual paper.

The snowflake crowns were cut from the bottom of a plastic gallon-sized milk jug, then my girls colored the snowflakes blue.  See the slideshow for photos of that.
 
 
Are you trying to eat healthier but really, really crave fudge?  This one uses healthy fats and honey.   It's also dairy-free and gluten-free for those who need to avoid those.  

Avocados are high in three amazing fats: both phytosterols and PFAs (polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols) are documented to be anti-inflammatory, and oleic acid, which helps our digestive tract absorb fat-soluble nutrients.  Coconut oil is healthy for many reasons, including being anti-inflammatory and having a high lauric acid  and medium-chain fatty acids content.  
But enough about that.

The big question is, doesn't avocado totally mess up the flavor here?

No.  I have a pretty discriminating set of tastebuds, and the only way I can detect the avocado is by a faint fruity flavor.  Because of that, some of my favorite variations of this fudge include fruit:  orange zest or oil, chopped dried cherries (and toasted almonds!), and the like.  This fudge is really only a slightly thicker version of my ChocolateTruffle Pie.

The recipe below includes both orange and pecans; if you don't want them, just omit the pecans and orange zest or orange oil.

You can also use this recipe to make truffles; cut into squares, then quickly roll each square into a ball; roll in cocoa powder or chopped nuts to coat.

Orange-Pecan Fudge            makes about 3/4 of a pound 

1 ripe avocado, peel and pit removed
1/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. water
zest from half of an orange (about 1/2 Tbsp.), or 2 drops orange essential oil
3/4 tsp. vanilla
pinch of salt (1/16 tsp.)
1/4 c. toasted chopped pecans

Line a 5 1/2 x 3 loaf pan (or 2-cup rectangular or square container) with foil; spray with nonstick cooking spray.   Set aside.
Put the water, zest (should be about 1 Tbsp), honey, coconut oil, cocoa, avocado, vanilla, and salt in a blender or food processor.  Run on high for 1-2 minutes, until smooth.  Pour into prepared pan.  Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours until set.   

Store in the refrigerator or freezer.  If freezing this, let pieces thaw about 10 minutes before serving.  I don't know how long it will keep in the fridge because it gets eaten so quickly.   But the one piece that survived us for a week and a half was still good.  Any longer than a week, though, it'd be better preserved in the freezer.  Wrap tightly.

 
 

Yesterday I got to have lunch with some friends at a neighbor's house.  We each brought something; Emily, whose house we met at, made Apple Butternut Squash Soup; this link goes to the recipe on her website.

I had lots and lots of Romaine lettuce on hand, thanks to another friend...  so a salad seemed in order.  I started out intending to make honey-mustard dressing, but it lacked something... so I looked around the kitchen to see what to use.  In went some orange peel and the white parts of some green onions.  

Oh.

That was good!

Next about a pound of lettuce and the green parts of three green onions were mixed with around half of the dressing; just enough]to lightly coat.  Then four or five sliced hardboiled eggs went on top, 4 oz. of cubed cheese, and a big handful of toasted pecan pieces.  
Everyone loved it, except the person who didn't try it because she's allergic to eggs and nuts. :/

This would be delicious brushed onto chicken a few minutes before done baking.

Honey-Orange Dressing  Makes about 1 cup

1/4-1/3 c. honey (depends if you want this more sweet or more tangy)
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1 tsp. prepared mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper (I used 2 drops of essential oil)
2 Tbsp. onion (I used the bottom 1 1/2" from 3 green onions)
1 1/2 tsp. orange zest (I used about half the peel from a clementine)

Throw everything into a blender; puree until smooth.  


 
 
Picture
photo credit: Alex Grichenko
This December, would you like a daily thought, song, scripture, story, and/or activity to help you feel more of the calm spirit of Christmas?  My friend Amy over at LDS Holistic Living has a Christmas Advent Calendar you can use or download for free.  It's designed specifically with members of the LDS faith in mind, but anyone can find great things in it.  If you're interested, you can get the calendar here.

Meanwhile, here's a sample:

The Real Story Behind the 12 Days of Christmas


Catholics in England were prohibited by law from practicing their faith, both in private and in public from 1558 to 1829. Being a Catholic was treated as a crime. There was no restored gospel at the time, however there were good Christians who knew without doubt the true church was not one that was mainly created merely for the convenience of King Henry the Eighth who wanted to sin and have a church justify his actions. So in secret they continued to teach their children their  religion. 

"The Twelve Days of Christmas" was written in England during this time frame. It was written to help children learn about their religion. The entire song is writing in symbolism and hidden meanings because it was illegal to have anything in writing that would indicate adherence to the Catholic faith. To be caught could mean imprisonment, hanging, or drawn and quartered.
Christmas referred to a twelve day period that starts with Christmas day. "The Twelve Days of Christmas" referred to a twelve day period that began Christmas day. While the world may have celebrated Christmas for about twelve hours, these Christians celebrated it for twelve days as a reminder that the gifts of God are with us for twelve months of the year. It also represented the idea that we should be thankful for the gifts of God and follow His teachings for all twelve months of the year and not just one day a year. 

The song begins, "On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me..." The "true love" represents God, as our greatest love should be for Him. The word worship means that which we love the most. The "me" who receives these presents is the Christian man or woman.

1. The "partridge in a pear tree" was Jesus Christ who died on a structure made from the wood of a tree. In ancient times a partridge was often used as mythological symbol of a divine, sacred king.

2. The "two turtle doves" were the Old and New Testaments - another gift from God. Doves symbolize peace and the Gospel contained in these scriptures, when practiced, brings peace.

3. The "three French hens" were faith, hope and love - the three gifts of the Spirit that abide (I
Corinthians 13). The French hens can also represent God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

4. The "four calling birds" were the four Gospels which sing the song of salvation through Jesus Christ.

5. The "five golden rings" were the first five books of the Bible also called the "Books of Moses."

6. The "six geese a-laying" were the six days of creation.

7. The "seven swans a swimming" were "seven gifts of the Holy Spirit." (I Corinthians 12:8-11, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4:10-11)

8. The "eight maids a milking" were the eight beatitudes.

9. The "nine ladies dancing" were nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)

10. The "ten lords a-leaping" were the Ten Commandments.

11. The "eleven pipers piping" were the eleven faithful disciples.

12. The "twelve drummers drumming" were the twelve points of the Apostles' Creed.