Random Five … Sleigh Bells Ring

It’s Saturday and I’m a day late for 5 random thoughts … here goes!

1.  5 – count ‘em – 5 upper respiratory infections this year – with another landing Tuesday. By 4:30 I was in the Doc’s office, feverish and aching.  Today marks 4 days of rest mixed with work, lots of fluids and antibiotics and somehow I still sound like Kermit the Frog.  But at least it’s not Christmas Eve! :)

2. Opened a package from my cousin recently and to my delight I found this:

Only in Canada, eh?

The  World’s Greatest Toffee.  Only in Canada, eh!  Mmm mmm good.

How do you enjoy toffee with 4 temporary crowns?  Very, very carefully LOL!

3. A friend found out yesterday that her job ends Jan 2nd  – after 34 years of service.  She’s 55 and couldn’t be happier.  Why?  Severance pay & time to spend with her grand kids and sister.   There’s planning and then there’s planning meets opportunity.  I couldn’t be happier for her, either.

I love her Moxie!

I love her Moxie!

4. 3 days left of work for me this year then some much-needed vacation; I plan to be on the ‘whatever’ schedule for the duration! Whee!

funny clock

5. Mid-week, huddled under blankets and feeling miserable, Hubbs brought me a package that had arrived in the mail.   I unwrapped it, read the little note with it … and cried.    Seems my brother and his family were cleaning out an old farm building when they came across 7 sleigh bells on a leather strap — all curled up in a pail.  Turns out these were the jingle bells Dad would add to the team’s  harnesses at Christmas-time.  The sound of all those bells – the crunching of snow beneath draught horses hooves – and our squeals of delight singing, “bells on bobbed-tails ring, making spirits bright, what fun it is to laugh and sing a sleighing song tonight,” – well it was so wonderful to revisit those memories again.  The bell is substantial, it fills my palm, and as I hold it I swear Dad is right here with me.  One word:  Magic.

Dad's sleigh bell; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

Dad’s sleigh bell; an Emjayandthem (C) photo

And how was your week? Care to share your “Random 5″ with me?

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Categories: Holidays, Mom, Attitude, Relationships, Life, Gratitude, Family, Personal, Faith, Home, Thoughts, Animals, Beauty, Blogging, Joy, Growth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Christmas memories ~ Butter Crunch Toffee

Thumbing through recipes last week, I found a tried-and-true candy recipe I’ve carried with me for at least 25 years.  Shared by my first CT neighbor, Debbie, this is one of those candies that tastes like it came from a gourmet shop.  Except it’s not.

Image from Redbook.com

Image from Redbook.com

I met Debbie when I moved us to our teeny apartment on the second floor of a family home in an older, established neighborhood.  It was just my boy and me so we didn’t need much – in fact – we shared a bedroom.  A few doors down was their house – Debbie and Rick’s.  At the time, they had two large dogs in place of the kids that never arrived.  Rick looked like Santa Claus and could fix anything except their relationship.  Debbie, short and stocky, was a good friend and an avid reader — we shared books and she talked regularly of their struggles with infertility. Sometimes she cried about it, especially when holding my curly-haired giggling son.    Sadly, their marriage didn’t last and one day the house was sold – both moved on and we lost track of each other.  So when I read through my notes on how to make this candy, what comes to mind is kindness, big dogs, and unfulfilled dreams.

** Debbie’s Butter Crunch Toffee **

  • 1 1/2 cups slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup crushed almonds for topping
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter, no exceptions
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/4 lb melted semi-sweet chocolate
  • Candy Thermometer
  • ** Makes 2 lbs


  1. In a heavy saucepan cook the butter, sugar and water on medium-high heat.
  2. Cooking rapidly and stirring constantly this will gradually become thicker and caramel in color ~ cook steadily for about 10 minutes or until the mixture reaches the “hard crack” candy stage (300F).
  3. Stir slivered almonds into the caramel and pour onto the cookie sheet.
  4. Melt chocolate and spread over caramel.
  5. Note – (I usually melt the chocolate in double boiler – a small sauce pan sitting inside another saucepan of water set to medium hot — it will melt but not burn that way.  You can also microwave it).
  6. Before the chocolate topping hardens dust the entire mixture with finely crushed almonds.
  7. Let cool then break into pieces.
  8. Store in a covered container. Freezes well.


I live in the Great Lakes State and it is often too humid to make this — so don’t even attempt it on a humid day b/c you will have a dickens of a time getting the toffee to “set.”  I will make this when the temps drop again and it’s frigid and windy outside.    It’s also a perfect make-at-the-last-minute-bring-to-a-party-treat.   Thanks, Debbie.

What favorite recipe came to you in an unconventional way? Who comes to mind when you make it?



Categories: Animals, Friendship, Holidays, Joy, Personal, Recipes, Relationships, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Random 5 Friday – 12/12

It’s Friday! It’s Random! Here we go …

1.  I work with someone who lies.  A lot.  He lies so much he forgets which lies are which and gets tangled up in them, like someone trying to walk through a jump rope.  One of these days he’s gonna get busted and land on his face and  I kinda hope I’m around when it happens.

Karma's coming!

Karma’s coming!  Google.images.com

2. Monday I endured 5 – count em- 5 hours in the Dental chair.  4 old crowns were sawed off and I was prepped for 4 new ones.  My face still hurts and soup is my new best buddy.  Bah!

image from cooking-questions.com

image from cooking-questions.com

3.  Speaking of today, I’m off to meetings at the Capitol.  Ever heard the term “Lame Duck?”  Quack Quack :)

Michigan State Capitol

at Michigan State Capitol

4. It’s Friday and I am this happy about it!


Weekend!  Google.images.com

Tonight we’re meeting friends for drinks & yums at a cool old burger joint downtown. Tomorrow night is bowling with friends and Sunday? Sunday I’ll just collapse :).

5.  Saw a great clip this week that helped me in my quest to dodge Holiday stress:




Happy  Friday! What’s on your agenda this weekend?

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Family, Food, Friendship, Holidays, Home, Life, Random, Relationships, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel

Tumult.  Of late, there’s been a noticeable amount of it. Swirling near me. There’s angst and change at work, not for me directly, but close enough that I can feel it. There’s also lines-in-the-sand being drawn between oldest boy and the ex and little ones in the middle. Ugh.

Those are the thoughts that stir me awake at 2:00 a.m.

You know what I mean … that heart-pounding holy-cow-what-was-that and then you realize that was the sound of your brain – and heart – on overdrive.

What is it about the Christmas season that brings so much anxiety to the surface? Is it the expectations? The schedule?  What?

Yesterday I found myself in a 40+ line of women-grabbing-one-last-thing-on-their-lunch-hour-it’s fine, I’m fine!!   About 20 people deep I looked at what I held in my hand and laughed. Laughed out loud.  Set it aside and walked out.  Out. Out the door.  I laughed harder in my car. Laughed like a lunatic with one tiny moment of sanity and drove away, far far away from the madness that can be … this time of year.

I’m out.

Christmas is coming. 2 weeks tonight.  And I’m out … out of all of that.

Instead, I’m turning my focus back to what Dad reinforced for me one winter’s night in a stable far, far away.

Everything else?  Not even a close 2nd.




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. ~ Isaiah 9:6


Categories: Attitude, Determination, Faith, Family, Growth, Holidays, Life Lessons, Love, Men, Personal, Rants, Self Discovery, Thoughts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

It was only a matter of time



If this were my kitchen they’d get a treat. That elf is creepy and I’m so glad we didn’t have him around when the boys were little.  For more stories of Moms rebelling against him click here:

Here are 3 simple ways to enjoy the Christmas season:

1.  Load up the car and go for a “sparkle” tour.  Little kids in P.j.’s, warm cocoa in cups, and a tour through decorated neighborhoods can bring loads of “oohs” and “aahs” and – bonus – all free.

2.  Do something kind for someone else. Shovel a neighbor’s walkway. Bake cookies for relatives, coaches or friends and let the kids deliver them.  The list goes on and on.

3. Count your blessings.   Give each person a piece of paper and something to write with. If they can’t write, do it for them.  Take turns having each one name 5 things they’re thankful for (this will vary by age, often with hilarity).  Place the completed lists on the fridge for a week and, every night at dinner, have each person read another’s list.  It’s heartwarming to hear one child say they’re thankful for the other.  Seriously.  The next week? Start new lists.   Gratitude is like compound interest – the more you do it the more you have.  And this exercise may help lessen your angst, too.


What are your tips for keeping sane through the Holidays?  Is there an Elf on your Shelf?


Categories: Animals, Attitude, Faith, Family, Fun, Holidays, Home, Opinion | Tags: , , , , , | 15 Comments

R5F ~ All you need is love

It’s Friday.  Thank goodness!  And with that, here are my 5 Random thoughts :).

1. Why is it that a full work week after just a few days off feels like the longest week ever?    It’s like we jammed 10 lbs of potatoes into a 2lb sack, not kidding. Long days, lots of meetings and trips coupled with all the “to-dos” of this time of year left me reeling.

Made it to Friday!  Google.images.com

Made it to Friday! Google.images.com

2. Text reminders.  It’s the end of the year so I’m jamming in Doctor and Dentist appointments while I can.  Now I receive multiple text messages to confirm my appointments and to remind me of my appointments, too. All so I can arrive early and wait for the Doctor or Dentist who is always … running behind.  Maybe the office staff should text them. Grr.

3.  Started Christmas shopping last Sunday and took today off to finish it.  I’m hoping for an absence of crowds and looking forward to lunch with a good friend whom I rarely see. And if we run over and the shopping doesn’t get done today, so be it. :)

Olive Garden - soup, salad and breadsticks - yum!  Google.images.com

Olive Garden – soup, salad and breadsticks – yum! Google.images.com

4. Speaking of Christmas we had our office Holiday luncheon yesterday ~ about 20 of us went to one of those Hibachi restaurants where the chef cooks in front of you and tosses samples your way.  The food was delicious, the camaraderie was great but I’m not a seal and this girl is not diving for broccoli.

Just say no.  Photo from DailyMail.co.uk

Just say no. Photo from DailyMail.co.uk

5.  Reading the above, I’m sounding snarky. One of my employees recently introduced me to Willy Chirino, a Cuban-born entertainer who covers The Beatles with a Salsa-funk sound.   It was a great reminder that no matter the day, all we need is love.

Categories: Attitude, Faith, Food, Friendship, Fun, Home, Humor, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

The “Un-Christmas” Christmas cookie

*originally published December 6, 2011.

Years of Christmas baking has taught me one thing: make what they eat.

There’s no point spending the money .. and the time .. to bake something pretty if no one’s eating it up.

So, every year, I make what my boys (hubbs included) call, the “Un-Christmas” Christmas cookie:  Chocolate chip-butterscotch chip-macadamia nut cookies (otherwise known as “Mondo” cookies).

There’s no jam, ginger or molasses in sight.

These are the ones my guys go back to time and again and that’s why I bother.  Plus, I rarely make this treat the rest of the year so, in our house, they’ve become a “Christmas” cookie in their own right.

Here’s the recipe for MJ’s Mondo Cookies:

  • 3/4 sticks of Crisco Butter flavored shortening  (no substitutions) (1 1/2)
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar (2 1/2)
  • 2 tablespoons of milk (4)
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla (2)
  • 1 large egg (2)
  • 1 3/4 cup all purpose flour (3 1/2)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (2)
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda (1 1/2)
  • 1 cup of chocolate chips (2)
  • 1 cup of butterscotch chips (2)
  • 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts (2)

(The numbers in brackets are the quantities if you wish to double the recipe; I usually do).

Who says I’m not a Christmas cookie?


Pre-Heat oven to 375 F.

Using an electric mixer, beat shortening, brown sugar, milk, vanilla and egg until light and fluffy.

Add salt and baking soda, mix in well. Stir in flour slowly until blended then stir in chips and nuts. Stir well until all ingredients are blended, especially any remaining flour. *The dough may feel a bit stiff, just take your time and work in the flour.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2-inches apart onto cookie sheets (a single batch makes about 2 cookie sheets full; double batch makes 4).  Bake 12 min. (I usually cook these 6 min per pan then switch pan locations and cook another 6 min).  Set pans and cookies on top of stove for 2-3 minutes before removing cookies from cookie sheet.  Transfer to cooling rack and enjoy!

Recipe makes 3-6 dozen cookies. These freeze well and travel beautifully, rarely falling apart in shipping.   The best part?  Santa loves ‘em!

Hubbs’ idea of heaven ..

There’s one more treat I’ll make for my chocolate-loving fiends and that’s some Chocolate covered peanut clusters.

"I could quit smoking before I could quit eating these" - Mr Hubbs

“I could quit smoking before I could quit eating these” –  Hubbs

Yep – like last year – I have decided to stop watering the weeds.

* * *

How have your Christmas traditions evolved over the years? What’s your family’s “must have” Holiday treat?



Categories: Attitude, Family, Food, Fun, Growth, Opinion, Personal, Seasons | Tags: , , , , , | 18 Comments

Random 5 Friday ~ old toys and traditions

It’s Friday! Time for 5 Random thoughts!  Here we go ~

1.  As is our tradition, the Grand kids spent time going through the various Holiday fliers and circling items for their “wish” lists.   I remember doing this with the Sears Wish Book as a girl.  In fact, my sisters and I would spend hours poring through the book and dreaming of so many pretty things in our stockings come Christmas morning.

Grandkids making 2014 Xmas lists

MJ and AB happily circling …an Emjayandthem (C) photo

2. Oldest boy took this picture before we all dished up yesterday – he’s so much taller than me that I’ve never ever seen my stove from this high up!  I would have to stand on a step-stool to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! He’s 6”3 1/2″ and towers down over my stove.  An Emjayandthem (C) photo

3.  I don’t care how much prepping I do ahead of time the work is done the day of the Holiday ~ I stand and simmer and stir ~ for hours on end.  I love to cook and lose track of time but it’s no wonder I slept so well last night :).


I felt like this last night! Google.images.com

4.  As our grandson was happily playing new games I’d downloaded to my tablet, I asked our grand-daughter if she might like to play with my Barbie horses.  You see, we keep some Barbies and other toys here but, like me, she’s not into fashion shows or shopping.  Her eyes widened when my 40+ year old horses – Thunderbolt and Pancho – arrived on the scene.  Before long she had established a kitchen chair as the stable and her adventures had begun!

Happy to share my childhood toys with her! An Emjayandthem (C)  photo

Happy to share my childhood toys with my MJ! An Emjayandthem (C) photo

5.  I’m not a wine girl but this made me giggle.  And with that, I’m off to a date night with Hubbs and a big juicy burger!

all about the baste


Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving!  Do you remember the Sears Wish book?  What childhood toys have you shared or encouraged in your children and grand-children?  How does a burger sound right about now?


Categories: Attitude, Family, Fun, Holidays, Home, Love, Personal, Random, Random observations, Share, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Thankful for my glass

After a 5 hour road trip yesterday I was nearly too tired to make the cheese ball.  Until youngest boy reminded me that this is, after all, the official start of the cheese ball season.  So they are made and desserts will be prepped today.  We’ll gather with friends later tonight for easy eats and a raucous visit.  A cozy sleep and this cook will be up early to stuff the bird and play with the Grands. I’ll have two little kitchen helpers to saute and stir – while chatting and giggling and checking on the boys and football.

A gentle reminder from a friend that time of year is difficult for many. Not everyone enjoys a close family or a host of good friends and, for some, the holidays can bring intense loneliness and sadness.  Loved ones who have passed on are missed more than ever.   So on this Thanksgiving Eve I say this – “Go where you’re celebrated, not just where you’re tolerated.”



Set aside the “how it’s supposed to be,” and the “melon collie” and if you’d like a warm & noisy seat at our Holiday table please consider this is your virtual invite.





I'm thankful. Google.images.com

I’m thankful. Google.images.com

I’m happy to have a glass and am willing to share it – Happy Franksgiving everyone!

 An Emjayandthem(C) photo

Our dog Frankie. An Emjayandthem(C) photo


Ephesians 5:20 – Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord.

Categories: Animals, Attitude, Faith, Family, Food, Fun, Holidays, Personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Sunday in threes

1. From breaking a century-old record for November snowfall last week to 50F and rain today – what a weather swing we’ve had here in west Michigan!  I woke up to an uncommon sound for this time of year  – the drip – drip – drip – of rain. Bizarre. But the coffee sure tastes good this morning.

big cups... Google.images.com

big cups… Google.images.com

2. Making the grocery list this morning, I realized we’re only a few days from Thanksgiving.  It snuck up on me, again!  I blame the Christmas ads and holiday music for the distraction.  We’ll have our boys and grands – just the 6 of us – so it’s time to get out the cloth napkins, crystal bowls and decorations :).  And, as youngest boy happily announced, this week marks the official start of Cheese ball season!  For my recipe (and his favorite appetizer), click here for my Look No Further Cheese ball recipe. 

one end of her table

Grandma’s Holiday table .. it took her days to set up!

3. I finally bought a tablet! No, not the AARP one, although that was tempting.  HSN.com has a great deal on a 10″ tablet – in my color choice which was  purple.  It arrived Friday and I have been happily playing around with it ever since.  For more on the deal, click here.


What are your Thanksgiving plans?  Any new toys land in your lap?  What food kicks off the Holiday season for your family?

..a cute lil' cheeseball .. all dressed up for the Holiday!

..a cute lil’ cheeseball .. all dressed up for the Holiday!






Categories: Attitude, Beauty, Blogging, Faith, Family, Food, Holidays, Home, Joy, Life, Personal, Products I love, Technology, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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