Friday, December 30, 2022

Christmas! (Better Late Than Never!)


Christmas Candles

As I sit here preparing to share our Christmas fun with you, I am thinking back over the last few days...which have not been fun. I have been a bit tardy in getting to spend time with you all, mostly because of the fact that I have been a bit under the weather. 

Let's back up about a week, and I will tell you the whole story.

On Friday of last week (the day after cookie day) Aaron, Alysia and I went to get tires put on the car. I had ordered the tires online, but had my faithful long-time friends at Rob's Guaranteed Used Tires in Excelsior Springs mount and balance them. Then we headed to southern Missouri for the beginning of our Christmas adventures. 

We spent Friday night and Saturday morning at my Mom's house visiting with her, as well as siblings, nieces, nephews and one of my cousins. Mom had to work at Prairie State Park on Saturday, so we grabbed a pizza at Caseys and had lunch with her at the park before leaving town.

As we left the park we went out the south end, where we were told we might be able to spot the bison herd...and lo and behold...there they were! It brought back so many memories of when I used to work at the park and helped with the annual bison roundup and vet check, as well as hours of watching them roam in their native habitat.

Bison Roam Freely at Prairie State Park

We then headed to Springfield where we were to meet up with Kayla. Since it was Christmas Eve we knew that there would not be a lot of things open in that late afternoon/evening, but that did not stop up from making a stop at Bass Pro Shops before they closed early for the night. It was so beautiful, and I don't think I have ever been there at Christmas time.

Bass Pro Shops - Christmas Decorations

While we were at Bass Pro we met up with Kayla. We were so happy to finally get her! She enjoyed looking around Bass Pro with us, despite the fact that we were not able to find what we were looking for, and the fact she was on the down-hill side of a cold which we did not know at the time. 

Alysia, Aaron and Kayla at Bass Pro Shops

After Bass Pro and a quick stop at Wal-Mart, we decided to visit Leong's Asian Diner. It is ran and operated by the son of the man who invented Cashew Chicken right there in Springfield, so we had to go check it out and try the original recipe. It did not disappoint!

Leong's Asian Diner Menu

Cashew Chicken and Egg Roll

We stayed the night in Springfield on Christmas Eve (which was REALLY weird). We woke up in the morning to Kayla wishing everyone a Merry Christmas, followed by a request to sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus. As soon as that was over, it was finally time for breakfast and to come home. 

After we got home we confirmed with Kayla that Santa Clause had INDEED visited the house even though we weren't home. I had left him a note explaining why we were not able to leave him milk and cookies, which he had graciously answered with a note of his own. After the relief turned to excitement, there was no way to keep them calmed down, and so we started opening presents. After presents we turned our attention to getting Christmas evening dinner started...a delicious ham with green bean bundles, creamy mashed potatoes, rolls...the works. 

Christmas Table

Christmas Dinner

After dinner we played some of the girls new games (Skip-Bo, Uno, Exploding Minions and Taco Vs. Burrito). Fun was had by all.

Unfortunately, Kayla has been taught to share, and is a very loving and generous young by Monday night I was starting to feel the effects of her sharing her cold germs. By Tuesday afternoon I was stuck in bed with one of the worst head colds I've had in awhile. She was almost over it completely, short of a bit of a cough. Now Alysia has shown minor symptoms. I'm just glad they didn't seem to have it as bad as I got it. I am still not feeling great, but I am on the mend enough that I was able to run some errands today and I even find myself here for the first time since Monday. 

While I am writing this post I am listening to the sounds in my household around me...and it fills my heart with love for this family that God has created. Aaron and Kayla are in the basement garage putting new rotors and brake pads on the rear of the car. I hear them chattering away down there, although I cannot distinguish most of what is being said, interrupted occasionally by the sound of an impact wrench as a tire is taken off or replaced. Alysia is beside me working at her school desk searching for words in the dictionary to make sure she is spelling things correctly. I am listening to the washer and dryer as they remind me that I have a beautiful family to take care of day by day, with laundry being only one of those household necessities.

And with that reminder, I am also reminded that it is time to go start dinner so it will be ready around the time the mechanics surface from the basement. 

In the meantime, I wish each and every one of you a very Happy New Year, and I will see you in 2023!

Monday, December 26, 2022

Christmas Cookies

 As I sit here this evening basking in the "Day after Christmas" glow, I have been contemplating how to fill a single post with everything I wish to share from our Christmas adventures. I have decided that it isn't possible to do that, so you may have to endure more than one post. 

I am going to go back a few days to Thursday evening before Christmas...Christmas cookie day! 

Sugar Cookies

Ever since I was a child, no Christmas seemed complete without a batch or two of my mother's sugar cookies with buttercream frosting. They are so soft and chewy, and are the only sugar cookie recipe my family uses...the only one we've ever needed.

I remember as a child sitting around the table with bowls of colored frosting as we slathered the icing onto the cookies with knives and used sprinkles to decorate them, anticipating that first yummy bite. Now as an adult, I use piping bags and decorating tips in order to decorate them with fancy designs. I still have to make multiple batches every year, for lots of different holidays. 

Cookies - Summer 2020

Thursday evening I baked and decorated 44 Christmas trees to be given out to various family and friends, as well as have a few for our own Christmas dinner. I listened to Christmas carols while I baked and cooled and frosted and sprinkled.

My daughter and husband assisted. Aaron even decorated a couple himself, since a few were for his work friends. 

I'll end today's post with the recipe, and I hope you'll make these wonderful cookies for yourself!

Becky's Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
5 cups flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Add milk, baking powder, salt, eggs and vanilla. Blend well. Add flour a little at a time until all the flour is mixed in. If dough is sticky, extra flour may be added. Roll dough out about 1/4-inch thick and cut with cutters. Bake at 375° F. until cookies are slightly browned around bottom edge and little spongy on top. Ice with Wilton Buttercream Icing.

Wilton Buttercream Icing

1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and shortening with an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add coloring if desired and beat until mixed evenly. 

*As a side note, I prefer gel food coloring, as it doesn't thin out the frosting. Enjoy your cookies!

Friday, December 23, 2022

24 Hours Until Kayla!

Kayla helps cook at Thanksgiving

We are just 24 hours away from picking up Kayla in Springfield, Missouri, and this momma can hardly wait! 

Kayla enjoys a pineapple cupcake from Cupcakin Bakery at Crown Center 

Kayla is a bundle of energy that can make a person tired, but our house seems a bit duller every time she goes home. We are looking so forward to getting her home for Christmas and New Year's Eve. We will take her home on New Year's Day in the evening. 

Kayla takes a nap while waiting for Thanksgiving Dinner

Alysia is looking forward to having her sister here for a week of adventure and shenanigans. They may be energetic, noisy and messy when they are going crazy together, but I love every second of it.

We are heading to Springfield tomorrow afternoon, where we will pick up Kayla sometime in the late evening. We are staying down there Christmas eve night, and then will come home Christmas morning.

Once we get home, we will open presents and make Christmas dinner. Our Christmas dinner menu is as follows:

Mashed Potatoes
Green Bean Bundles
Pumpkin Roll (Kayla's Favorite - Find my mom's recipe on her blog!)
Coconut Cream Pie
Sugar Cookies
Sparkling Grape Juice

A Very Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine!

Thursday, December 22, 2022


Last week we had friend Ruth over for the evening and we were making traditional German Lebkuchen for a fun Christmas school project.


Lebkuchen is traditionally a spicy dark German cookie that was heart-shaped. The name means something akin to sweet cake, and is commonly made at Christmas time. They are decorated with a very thin frosting, which dries and hardens quickly. The cookies can be eaten (Yummy!) or hung on the tree as decorations. Or, I guess, both. Hang them on the tree and when you get hungry grab a decoration off the tree. Just make sure you grab the lebkuchen! 😂

Nowadays, there are so many recipes for the cookie, ranging from spicy to sweet, light to dark, with just about every imaginable ingredient, and now are made in all shapes.

We chose to stick with a more traditional recipe, which I will share with you here. Happy lebkuchen making, and Merry Christmas!

Ruth sifts our dry ingredients as we make our Lebkuchen


2 egg yolks
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 - 3 tablespoons lemon juice
Food coloring

Preheat oven to 400° F. Put honey, butter and brown sugar in a pan over low heat and stir until melted. Sift flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, ginger and cinnamon into a bowl. Add the egg yolks and melted butter mixture into the bowl and mix well. If dough is too sticky add enough extra flour that it is not sticky, but should still be very soft. Roll out to 1/4" thick. Cut into desired shapes. Use a straw to poke a hole near the top, making sure to leave at least 1/2" of dough between hole and edge of cookie. Bake 8 minutes or until done. Cool for a few minutes and then remove to wire rack to cool completely. 

Meanwhile, mix powdered sugar and lemon juice. Divide into 2 or 3 bowls and color with 1 small drop of food coloring. Pour into disposable piping bags and tie bags shut tightly. 

Once cookies are cool, snip of very tip of piping bag. If the hole is too big you will not be able to control icing as it is very thin. Decorate in fun whimsical designs. Leave to dry. They will be dry to the touch in a few minutes, but leave out for an hour or two to ensure they are completely dry all through. Use narrow ribbons to thread through the holes and hang on tree if desired.


Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Christmas Catering Job

Amanda and Aaron at the Historic Pharis Farm

Yesterday I had the honor of catering a meal for some of the folks that work for the Clay County historic sites at the historic Pharis Farm outside of Liberty, Missouri. I know a few of the ladies that work in several of the sites, and one of them called me to see if I would be interested in providing lunch for their annual Christmas get-together. This particular lady has eaten my cooking many times over the 16+ years that I have known her, and I was thrilled to get her call! I gladly accepted, and I planned several menus so they could pick.

The menu Miss Bonnie picked included:
Garlic Cheddar Chicken
Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans
Hot Rolls
Apple Pie
Chocolate Pie

Late last week I went grocery shopping and got everything purchased. Monday evening I started my prep work by making my pies.

Yesterday morning I got up early and got my roll dough going. Afterwards I did all the rest of my cooking and prep. Once everything was ready other than a couple things I planned on cooking/finishing there, Aaron helped me load everything up and we headed to the Pharis Farm. 

We fed 13 people, all of who seemed quite happy with the food. 

I had a great time planning and prepping for this event, which ties into my someday dreams of having my own small catering business. 

I have literally been cooking since I was a small child. I grew up cooking quite often for my family...a total of 8 people. Then I worked as a teenager in a small cafe in the tiny town that I lived in called Mary's Flower Cart Cafe

Amanda in the summer kitchen at Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Site, circa 2008

In 2006 I started cooking in the summer kitchen at Watkins Woolen Mill State Park and State Historic Site, where I ran (amongst many other duties) the historic foodways program, which included planning meals from the historic Watkins' Cookbook and cooking/baking on a woodstove. I made approximately 25-30 meals per year this way, serving anywhere from 8 to 75 people at a time with these meals depending on event, which is where I first met Miss Bonnie. I was very involved in historic food researching and foodways, as well as cooking, during the entire time I worked at the historic site (March 2006-November 2021). 

It was truly an honor to serve these wonderful folks who help preserve the amazing history of our county, including several sites that are visited by guests from around the world including the Jesse James Birthplace outside of Kearney, MO where notorious outlaws Frank and Jesse James lived. I hope to maybe have a chance to serve them again in the future...

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Welcome and Introduction

 Hello, and welcome to my very first post on my brand new blog!

As Christmas approaches I have been very busy with special tasks, and along with them, the constant advice from my mother (Rebecca from Rebecca's Hearth and Home) that I should "start a blog"! So here goes. I'm not sure what kind of content will fill these pages, but I'll start by introducing myself and my beautiful family.

My name is Amanda. I am a 36-year old homemaker and homeschooling mother. I worked for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for 20 years, but I left employment there in 2021 after much prayer and soul-searching. My life had changed a lot during that year as I had married, and shortly thereafter started homeschooling my new daughter as she was fearfully behind in her studies. 

After I left state government, I pulled an 8-month stint in retail management while trying to homeschool, but the Lord laid it on my heart to leave the career world and focus on my family. I have been doing just that for the last 5 months, and I have never been happier.


In June 2021 I married my husband and the love of my life...and inherited 2 amazing children. Aaron works in industrial maintenance in a local cardboard factory. He is responsible for machinery maintenance and repair. He is an amazing husband and father, and works hard to provide for us so that I can stay home and focus on our home and family. He enjoys adventuring with me and spending time with our family, as well as working on anything mechanical.


Alysia is our oldest daughter. She just turned 12 and is growing into quite the young lady. Alysia lives with us full-time, and loves all things girly including glitter, sparkles, unicorns, princesses, tea parties and more. We started homeschooling in 2021 as Alysia was behind in her studies when we got full custody of her. We are working hard with the hopes that she will catch up in a couple of years. I became a mom when she came to live with us, and I am so thankful that the Lord provided this blessed relationship that we share. She considers me to be fully her mother and she is my daughter. God made her for me, as people that don't know the situation think she looks like me, and she even shares some of my mannerisms. Alysia loves music, dancing and art, as well as helping me cook.


Kayla is our 10-year old daughter. She lives with her mother in southern Missouri, but comes to visit us as often as possible. We have her for about a week at a time around Thanksgiving, Christmas/New Year, and spring break. We also have her for an entire 3 months during the summer, and we usually go see her around her birthday or any other time that we are able to. She is our silly wild child, and is a mixture of girly and tom-boy. She loves big, poufy dresses and sparkles, but is just as happy with a wrench in her hand and grease on her face as she works alongside her father in the garage on some project or another. She is almost fearless, which gets her into some trouble from time-to-time and triggers mom's fears a lot. She loves all things geology and cave related, and loves to collect rocks for the rock bed she has created out by our carport. Nana (my mom) bought us a rock tumbler for Christmas, and Kayla is going to flip her lid when she sees it. I have a feeling it will be going non-stop when she is here for the summer so she can fill her rock bed with pretty rocks!

Our family loves to travel and adventure, and we are excited about the opportunity to share some of our life with you. It may be special projects that we are doing, somewhere new we've been, restaurant reviews, recipes, menu plans, or just what's going on in our life at the moment. Either way, we invite you to our "Lair"...the name we've lovingly given our home...and into the journey we call life! Welcome!

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