Sunday, December 21, 2014

This Christmas

Chocolate Peppermint Bark  /  Delicious as it Looks

This Christmas finds us in a different state, a new city. We decided to move back to Iowa to be closer to my parents after my mom suffered from some very serious medical complications this past summer. She almost died. I realized how much I missed being near her and my dad. I realized that our lives are so fragile. At the same time, when something like this happens, I realize how strong and resilient life is too. The human body is capable of amazing things, people can bounce back, medical professionals can help heal. Humans are so full of strength.



White and Gold Christmas Tree  /  Delicious as it Looks

This Christmas is more meaningful to me than the past ones we spent in St. Cloud. This Christmas we are so thankful that my mom is still with us. We are thankful that my husband and I were both able to find jobs and move to be closer to her. We are thankful we don't have to drive over six hours in the snow/sleet/ice to be here. We are here.

I've struggled recently with what the holidays mean to me. I grew up a Christian, but now consider myself a freethinker/agnostic/atheist. Can the holidays still be meaningful without religion behind it? This is what I have been asking myself. The conclusion I have come to is yes, they can. To me, Christmas is about being with family and traditions of decorating the tree and baking cookies. It's about twinkling lights brightening the dark days leading to the solstice. It's about beautiful music and songs rekindling memories of happy Christmases past. I can't deny how meaningful this all is to me and how much I enjoy it all. Especially now that we are closer to family.

Angel Ornament  /  Delicious as it Looks
My most prized ornament. A wooden angel my grandparents brought back for me from
Germany when I was a really little girl.

I put up our tree for the first time in years. We haven't even unpacked all of our boxes yet and I wanted to get our tree up. Life has been hard this past year. In fact, life is difficult a lot of years. My family has had more than our fair share of medical issues. I wanted to get out our ornaments and remember. I remembered when my husband and I bought our first tree. It was the year we got married and I was still recovering from my first surgery. I remember hobbling around on crutches in Target and picking things out. I decided I wanted to decorate our tree in white and gold with an angel theme. I was big into angels then and believed I had them watching over me during my stay in the hospital.
Angel Ornament  /  Delicious as it Looks
The angel ornament I brought back from our honeymoon at Disney World. This was bought in
"Germany" at Epcot, keeping with tradition.
Today, I don't believe in the heavenly-type of angels. I believe in the human-type of angels. Humans acting with compassion, intelligence, expertise and kindness towards other humans. I believe in the surgeon, removing a tumor with precision and the nurses and technicians, tending to afterwards. I believe in my sister, sending me flowers when I am feeling particularly overwhelmed with life. I believe in the respiratory therapist, working day in and day out to get my mom breathing on her own again. I believe in the coworker, bringing in a plate of cookies. I believe in the driver letting you cut in when traffic is bumper to bumper. I'm still into angels today and I still love our tree. We all have angels watching over us, they are all around us and we can see them.

Chocolate Peppermint Bark  /  Delicious as it Looks

As you can guess, one of my favorite holiday traditions is the food. For me, it's all about cooking and baking with Mannheim Steamroller blaring. I do have some cookies that I like to make every year and I'm working on converting some of them. I don't have the kinks worked out on those yet, so I will share a new recipe I tried from Food.com: Chocolate Peppermint Bark. Not only is it so good, it is so easy to make. Only four ingredients! I just used a package of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips and a package of Nestle white chocolate chips. It also includes one of the elves' four food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup. I think this recipe is going to be a new tradition in my house!

Chocolate Peppermint Bark  /  Delicious as it Looks


print recipe

Chocolate Peppermint Bark
adapted from Food.com

Ingredients

12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
12 oz. white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
4 candy canes

Directions

  1. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with aluminum foil (I have a cookie sheet that is slightly larger than 13 x 9, so I used that). Add the chocolate chips to a medium glass bowl and microwave on high for about 1 minute and 20 seconds. Stir until chips are all melted. Spread the melted chocolate out on the foil using a spoon or spatula. Place in the refrigerator to harden.
  2. Meanwhile, place the candy canes in a heavy-duty plastic bad and crush with a mallet or rolling pin. (Go ahead and take your holiday stress out on those candy canes!)
  3. In another medium glass bowl, place the white chocolate chips and melt in the microwave on 70% power for about 1 minute and 20 seconds. Stir until all of the chips are melted. Stir in the peppermint extract. Spread evenly over the chilled semi-sweet chocolate. Sprinkle with the crushed candy canes. Chill until hardened and break into pieces.



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