Thursday, December 29, 2011

There's nothing better than Christmas Break!
We are eating up pajama days, snuggles, and hot cocoa!
Be back soon!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Welcome to Christmas with the Criggers!

Merry Christmas!
Come on in!  Help yourself to a plate of Christmas cookies!

 Grab a cup of smooth, rich coffee!

Sit by the fire and warm up a bit!

We know you'll soon be all tangled up in our Christmas excitement!

We'll sing Christmas carols by the tree and admire the pretty lights.

 
Let's head upstairs for a little tour.

The Christmas cheer illuminates every room here!


We hope the excitement of Christmas has illuminated your home and heart, as well!

We celebrate the birth of a baby, Jesus, who came to save the world!

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, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Apricot Memories!

When I was growing up, some special family friends would always bring out a plate of Christmas goodies.  (My friend reminded me that all the kids also always had to sing several Christmas carols as their mom handed us our cookies!  Fun times!)
My favorite things on the plate were the apricot cookies.  I had never been able to find a recipe for these cookies but thought of them every Christmas!  When I flipped through my December issue of Rachael Ray's magazine and saw the recipe for Apricot Cheesecake Pockets, I was so excited to have finally found something close to my childhood memory!  They are delicious!  We may or may not be on our second double batch...for family friends, of course!

Apricot Pockets

2 cups flour 
1 tbsp. granulated sugar 
1/4 tsp. salt (optional)
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature 
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
1 egg, lightly beaten 
1/2 cup apricot jam 
1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar 
Gold sparkling sugar, for decorating

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, granulated sugar and salt.
Using an electric mixer, beat 8 oz. cream cheese and the butter on medium-high speed until fluffy, 1 minute. Beat in the flour mixture on low speed. Divide the dough in half; place each half on a large piece of plastic wrap. Using the wrap to help, form the dough into disks and seal. Chill the dough until firm, at least 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix half the beaten egg into the remaining 4 oz. cream cheese. Stir 1 tsp. water into the remaining egg. Chill both the cream cheese mixture and the egg wash.
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; preheat to 350°. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment. Working on a floured surface, roll out 1 disk of dough 1/4 inch thick. Using a 4-inch round cutter, cut out the cookies and place on the pans. Repeat with the remaining dough disk. Reroll any scraps and cut out enough cookies to total 24.
Transfer 1 of the pans to the refrigerator. Working with the other pan, place 1 tsp. of the cream cheese mixture and 1 tsp. jam in the center of each cookie. Using a pastry brush, coat the cookie edges with the egg wash; fold over the filling. Using the back of a fork, seal the edges. Brush the tops with egg wash. Place the pan in the refrigerator; repeat with the remaining cookies.
Bake the cookies until golden, 16 to 18 minutes. Transfer to a rack; let cool.
In a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar with 2 tbsp. water. Working over the parchment, drizzle the cookies with the glaze. Sprinkle with the sparkling sugar. Let the glaze set.

*I do some without the cream cheese filling and use raspberry preserves--Cody's favorites!
 60 20 80

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Coconut Snowballs!

These coconut cookies are a perfect blend of a soft, chewy butter cookie and a coconut macaroon!  Yum!  They vanish quickly! 

Coconut Snowballs
(Adapted from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food 2004)


1 package (14 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut (5 1/3 cups)
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour

Preheat oven to 350.  Set aside 2 loosely packed cups of coconut in a bowl.  Place remaining coconut in a food processor along with sugar, and baking powder; process until finely ground.  Add butter, and process just until no large lumps remain.  Add egg and vanilla; process just until smooth. Add flour; pulse until a crumbly dough begins to form, scraping sides of bowl as needed (do not overmix).

Scoop tablespoons of dough, roll into balls, and coating with coconut.

Arrange balls on baking sheets.  Bake until lightly golden, 23 to 25 minutes (or less).   Cool on baking sheets 1 to 2 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*To make sure the cookies have a light texture, do not overprocess the dough; it should still be slightly loose and crumbly when you start forming the balls.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sassie Tassie!

Bite size Pecan Pies?  Yes, please!
These Pecan Tassies are the perfect way to enjoy the gooey, deliciousness of pecan pie as a little neat treat!


Pecan Tassies


Crust:
1 cup butter (room-temperature)
6 ounces cream cheese (room-temperature)
2 cups all-purpose flour

Filling:

1½ cups brown sugar
1 heaping cup chopped pecans
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place muffin liners in mini muffin tins.

For the crusts, mix the butter, cream cheese and flour together.  Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

On a floured surface, roll dough out to about 1/4 in. thickness.  Use a small round cookie cutter and cut dough.  Bend into cup shape and place in lined muffin tin.

To make the filling, mix brown sugar, pecans, eggs, butter and vanilla.  Scoop about a tablespoon into each muffin cup.


Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the tops are set. Let cool for a few minutes in the muffin tin, and then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. The tassies can be frozen or stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The best date night!

Tonight, Cody and I got to see one of our favorite bands in concert!  Rend Collective Experiment did an acoustic concert in a small church not too far from us.  It was fantastic!

Check out Rend Collective Experiment!  They are an Irish group that is shaking up the music world with genius, fresh lyrics that reflect the message of Jesus Christ!  We love them!

They will be doing another concert in the Des Moines area soon! 

This is one of our favorites:





Here's a little background clip:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A little peak...

Here's a quick peek at one of my favorite things from our neighborhood party last night--Christmas Cookies with the Criggers!  (clever, yes? what's that? corny? yes...)

This idea is one of those rare, really awesome pinterest worthy ideas that popped into my head while getting ready for our party.  I needed some way to label the cookies.  I remembered that I had purchased some blingy napkin rings to use as party invites for Cloe's birthday someday (an idea copied and tucked away from somewhere).  I obsessed forever over the perfect fonts quickly printed appropriate labels and slipped them in the frames on the napkin rings.  They were so sparkly and fun!


More pictures to come...

Friday, December 9, 2011

Baby It's Cold Outside!

Woo!  It is COLD outside!  Time to pull out all the hats, scarves, mittens (or mitten if you're five and have already lost one at school...boo!), boots, snow pants, and coats and stock up on good soup recipes!  It's like we get so frozen we have to just slurp our food off of spoons during the winter!  Then we thaw out in the spring and fire up our grills again!  Okay, so maybe it's not that bad...

This chili recipe is from the October issue of Everyday Food.  It's got a super smokey chili flavor and is chili in the literal sense--only chilies involved here, no tomatoes!  The only big change I made to the recipe was with the meat.  I just had two pounds of good quality steaks in the freezer, so that's what we used.  It's a little bit of a spicy soup but can be tamed down by adding extra beef broth.
Enjoy!

Heather's Red Texas Chili

(I snapped a quick picture of Cody's second bowl full!)

1 1/2 ounces dried guajillo chiles  (we found these in a BIG bag at Walmart in the produce section for around $3)
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, plus 1 tablespoon sauce
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds boneless beef, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium white onion, diced small
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons cornmeal
3 3/4 cups low-sodium beef broth


Directions
Place guajillos in a large bowl, cover with boiling water, and weight with a small plate to keep submerged. Let sit until pliable, 15 minutes. Reserve 1 cup soaking liquid. Drain guajillos; discard stems and seeds. In a blender, blend guajillos, chipotle chile and sauce, and soaking liquid until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down side as needed. Pour mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over a medium bowl, pressing on solids; discard solids. Set chile puree aside.

Heat a heavy pot over medium-high. Add oil to pot, season beef with salt and pepper, and cook until browned, about 5 minutes (do not crowd pot; work in batches if necessary). Transfer to bowl.

Reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, and 1/2 cup water. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, until onion is translucent, about 3 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, and cornmeal and cook until fragrant, 1 minute. Add meat, broth, chile puree, and just enough water to cover meat, if necessary; bring to a boil over high. Partially cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour. Uncover and cook until meat is tender and chili is slightly thickened, 30 to 45 minutes.

Top with crushed tortilla chips, avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, and diced onions!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Photo Card

A sneak peek at our Christmas Card!
His Grace Alone Christmas
Shop Shutterfly for unique,Christmas card designs.
View the entire collection of cards.






Feet! Feet! Feet!

Left foot, left foot, right foot, right

Feet in the morning Feet at night


Low foot high foot

Front feet back feet

Left foot Right foot Feet Feet Feet

How many, many feet you meet.

Up feet Down feet

Here come clown feet

Small feet Big feet

Here come pig feet

His feet Her feet

Fuzzy fur feet





In the house, and on the street,

how many, many feet you meet

Up in the air feet

Over a chair feet

 

Here come more and more

and MORE feet

Left foot. Right foot. Feet. Feet. Feet.

Oh, how many feet you meet!

Happy Five Months, Mr. Fancy Feet!
We love you!

*Excerpts from The Foot Book by Dr. Seuss

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thankful...

Well, I definitely didn't stay quite on track with my little Thankful project!

Here are a few highlights as we finish off the month:

Last Sunday, Cody had the awesome opportunity to baptize Cloe!  We are so very thankful for her desire to follow Jesus!

We spent Thanksgiving with all of Cody's family in southern Iowa.   I am thankful for these two little cousins--just a year apart.  They are both so sweet and laid back. Guess they're leaving all the orneriness for the older kids!

The weather was beautiful on Thanksgiving Day!  Grandpa had a fun little project going on in his backyard.  The kids thought they were pretty big stuff getting to move dirt!  Soon, they'll be enjoying  electricity in the clubhouse Grandpa is building!

ALL the cousins had so much fun together!  I am truly thankful for family!

Now on to December...phew!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thankful...

I realize I've started to fall behind quickly on these thankful posts!  Life is full right now!  Here we go...

Day 16:  I am really thankful that God provided a perfect fit with a little babysitting job two mornings a week.  Not only is the schedule perfect, but really, the boys are perfect, too!  I love them!  It's been fun to watch three little guys--ages 4 months, 1 year and 2 years old--all react and play off each other!

Day 17:  We are all so thankful for the kids' elementary school!  Parent / Teacher Conferences went really well!  We think we have the best teachers in the whole school, and we're pretty proud of our kids' accomplishments, too!  A huge answer to prayer was hearing that Cloe has just taken off with a love for reading and sticks her nose in a book anytime she's given a chance during school!

Day 18:  I am thankful for both my parents and Cody's parents.  The more we work with families, I realize what a special privilege it is to have all of our parents living and also thriving in strong marriages.  We so appreciate that our parents are always willing and eager babysitters!  They also help us in so many others ways...we are blessed!

AND NOW FOR THE BIG ONE TODAY!
Day 19:  We are all thankful for our TWO NEW NEPHEWS!  My sister's family adopted two sweet little boys today on National Adoption Day!  I put into motion some stellar tear-holding-back-moves this morning during the hearing at the courthouse.  My favorite phrase of the day was when my brother-in-law was being read a list of things by the judge and the judge said, "Their forever father."   These two sweet little boys will never need to fear the things that have happened to them in the past.  Their new family is their forever family.  We love them so much!  I couldn't be more proud of my sister!  Maddox is quite fond of her, as well!  He wore his JOY outfit in love for Aunt Joy!  (Sorry Aunt Katie, Aunt Denise, and Aunt Calli...if we can find outfits with your names bedazzled on them, we will buy them, too!)


Phew...that was just the beginning of our packed weekend!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Thankful...

Day 15:  I am so thankful for the sunshine these last few days! 
It's putting a cheerful spin on this super busy week!

Psst...here's a glimpse of my Pinterest projects!  (the scent of Mod Podge is forever lodged in my head!)


Monday, November 14, 2011

Thankful...

Catching up!

Day 12:  I am thankful for fun family times on little day trips!

Saturday, we headed out bright and early for a quick trip to Ikea in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Some Christmas surprises were in stock there and needed to be picked up.
 Woo-hoo!  Swedish Meatballs and fun, inexpensive surprises waited ahead!

Of course, we couldn't drive all that way without a quick loop around the Mall of America!
Lego Woody just makes everyone excited!  The American Girl Store brought so much excitement that I forgot to take a picture!

Eight hours in the car + five hours shopping = one happy, tired family!


Day 13:  I am so thankful for the independence and responsibilities these three sweeties can handle!

Sunday nights we host a small group of young married couples in our home--a.k.a. no kids allowed.  At 7:00, our kids are responsible to take showers, get their pajamas on, brush their teeth, pick up their toys, read a Bible story, pray together, and get themselves in bed. (all without too much noise!)  They have done this so amazingly well for the last nine weeks!  At the end of the evening when our guests leave, I always look at Cody just stunned that our children were able to accomplish such tasks with no problems and no conflicts.  We both are so thankful that they are willing to participate in this way in the ministry we are having with young couples!  Okay...enough mama bragging! :)

Day 14:  I am SO thankful for Christmas music!  
Say what you will, you naysayers out there...you obviously haven't heard The David Crowder Band's new Christmas CD Oh For Joy!

Get it. Crank it. Love it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thankful...

Day 11:  (This one's an easy one!)  I'm thankful for our veterans who have willingly served and fought for our country to protect and preserve the freedoms we so much enjoy!  (I'm also thankful for my dad who served in the navy!)

Happy Veteran's Day!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thankful...

Day 10:  I am really thankful that these postpartum emotions are only temporary...I'm hoping!  

Seriously, there is no reason I should be getting all teary-eyed as Matt Lauer shares the gifts he's bringing home for Ann, Al, and Natalie from his Where in the World Is Matt Lauer trip.  No.reason.at.all.  Stinkin' Today Show.

Now this...

Well, those tears are just from the laughter..."Moooo-ooom, it's so bright!"

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thankful...

Day 9:  I am thankful for our children's program {CREEK KIDS} at Willow Creek.

 (these are our Sparks kids)

Our AWANA kids stuffed 50 boxes with things they had brought for Operation Christmas Child :: Samaritan's Purse.

I L.O.V.E that our children are learning the importance of having a generous heart!



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thankful...

Day 8:  The copycat in me is so thankful for this:






You know you love it, too!

What are you pinning today?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Thankful...

Day 7: I am so thankful for Mondays!

I realize for most people, Monday is the most dreaded day. For us, Monday is Cody's day off. I actually think Monday is my favorite day of the week! During the summer, we try to always do something special with the kids on Mondays. Since school has started, we've tried to make this day a super fun "together" day. We've snagged some great Groupons and Living Social Deals to help with that! I sometimes sneak in a few other things...like Maddox's well-baby checks and shots. Who wouldn't want help with those appointments!?

What day of the week are you most thankful for?


PS Maddox did not get the memo Saturday night. In fact, he started Sunday at 5:00 am. Painful, really. Today was 6:00 am. We're hoping tomorrow will be back to 7:00 am! For the grandmas: he now weighs 14 lb. 10 oz. (40th percentile) and is 26 1/2 in. long (90th percentile). Crazy, we might have a giant in our family!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thankful...

Day 6:  I am so thankful for this:

You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?   
Well, this one really is!

I am so thankful for our church--as in all these people!  LOVE THEM!  Seriously.  So many really awesome testimonies, friendships, talents, and life stories all coming together.  Love.

I am thankful for the worship that we get to have together!  Singing together for HIM!  It's great!  LOVE our talented, dedicated musicians. 
Learning from God's Word!  Awesome!  You should listen to the podcasts here.

I am thankful that my children eat.up being here.  Even at 7 am on Sunday, they are all smiles.  (the donuts probably help!)

I am also thankful for this building.  It's such a beautiful facility!  (even if it does sit out in the middle of a corn field!  for real!)

Most of all, in this picture, I'm thankful that this is our life.  Cody is the guy leading the worship here.  I love his job, and he does too!

We're so thankful for Willow Creek Baptist Church...everything that those words represent here!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thankful...

(Do you think this little guy gets enough attention?)


Day 5:  Another milestone...Maddox, we're thankful for another month with you in our family! 

You are four months old today! 

You smile and drool...and drool and drool and drool! 

You laugh and coo and talk to us in your own sweet little gibberish! 

You aren't rolling yet (like your brothers and sister did at this age),
probably because you have three adoring little people always at your beck and call. 

I'm okay with this, too. 
I'll savor your dependency as I know it will be fleeting all too soon!

You have a grip that's as tight as a kung-fu fighter.

You stand strong on those little legs and can plank with the best of them!  (Daddy's pride and joy!)

Happy Four Months, our little blue-eyed baby!




P.S.  There's this little time change thing happening tonight called Daylight Saving Time.  Please, oh please, oh please, take part in this happy celebration of falling back.  Mama needs this extra hour of sleep. so.so.so.badly.  Thanks, Little Man!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thankful...

Day 4:  I am thankful for children that are willing to work hard and help out!

Since Maddox was born, our kids have been really pulling a lot of extra weight around the house.  Blame it on having a baby...a c-section...four kids...lack of sleep...laziness...whatever...I just cannot seem to get my act pulled together again and get things done like I use to!  


Every fall, we always hit an orchard and load up on apples.  This year, time was fleeting and a freeze was eminent when we finally made it to an orchard.  To our surprise, the orchard owner said we could have as many apples as we liked as long as we used our own bags.  Unfortunately, I had only one flimsy shopping bag and Cloe's piano bag in the car that day.  So, we headed back the next day armed with large bags ready to be filled with tart, juicy apples!

Eager to roam the orchard!
 I know it's dorky, but I LOVE their matchy matchy puffy coats!
 When we'd picked all the apples we could reach from the ground, these two little monkeys scrambled up the branches for more!  Cloe and I stood at the bottom while they plunked apples down for us to catch.

This was the best part--after letting the apples simmer all night in the crock pot, our little team formed an assembly line.   Cloe was the smasher, Carson was the dipper, and McClain was the "host" who ordered more dipping and smashing.  (Can you tell they love game shows?)  Of course, everyone had to take a turn at each job.  The reward for helping was a heaping bowl of fresh, hot applesauce!
(Even Maddox got to sample some...shhhh!)

Our freezer is full of applesauce ready to be enjoyed all throughout the winter thanks to some really sweet, helpful kiddos!