Cocoons is one of those holiday cookie recipes that evoke memories of tradition. Little white, melt-in-your-mouth balls of powder sugared goodness are a sure bet when it comes to pleasing folks!

The cocoons recipe is a recipe from John’s mother who made them only at Christmas time. I have tried to hold fast to the tradition but I falter! They are just too good to only have a the holidays. I have served cocoons at bridal showers, baby showers and parties for parties sake.

Cocoons have been a family favorite holiday cookie before I began the GAPS diet and still are! I have tried to make a healthier version by converting some of the ingredients but they are just not the same! So I have decided that although they do not fall into the traditional foods category, they are a taste from John’s childhood and memories are important to preserve!

Be sure to make your cocoon balls small – they cook faster and you get more powdered sugar per mouthful!

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Angel Wings

One of my favorite cookies pre-GAPS diet was Angel Wings.

I say pre-GAPS because as you probably already know, the GAPS diet does not allow any processed sugar. Honey is allowed since it is a monosaccharide and easier to digest but not process sugars.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I eat things just for taste and although the healthiness of the foods I eat are important, there are times when I just want a particular taste. That is the way I feel about Angel Wings! They are a holiday cookie that have a particular flavor. While I have tried to make a healthier version by converting some of the ingredients, Angel Wings just do not taste the same. So, since this is a recipe from John’s mother (who made them only at Christmas time), I decided it was too sacred to tamper with – it now falls into the 80/20 Rule and I just don’t worry about it!

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not at all flippant about the foods I eat or feed my family. After all, I have experienced first hand the healing power of REAL food! I know Angel Wings don’t fall into the traditional foods category but, they are a taste from John’s childhood and memories are important to preserve!

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Sand Tarts

sand tarts

Sand Tarts is another holiday cookie recipe from my mother-in-law which we make every Christmas.

Sand Tarts are traditionally a very hard cookie, in fact, if they are not hard – like almost teeth-breaking, they are not right! That is why you roll the out thinly – so you can get them in your mouth at an angle and bite sand tarts with your back teeth! This way, you are less likely to crack a tooth   ;)

Sand Tarts are delicious when enjoyed with a cup of coffee. Dip the Sand Tart into the hot coffee and let it soak up some until it is a bit soggy like you would with Biscotti. Not only does it taste good it saves your teeth!

Although Sand Tarts do not fall into the traditional foods category, they are a taste from John’s childhood and memories are important so we choose to enjoy them!

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Sugar Cookies

sugar cookies

Like Cocoons, this sugar cookie recipe is a holiday tradition.

Now, I am sure most people have a favorite sugar cookie recipe so, why would you need mine? Well, one bite (OK, two then) says it all!

half eaten sugar cookie

Well, just in case you don’t have a sugar cookie recipe- here is our family’s recipe which I obtained from John’s mother. She made sugar cookies every Christmas. They were a real tradition around their home and I have continued the tradition with my children.

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Tea Time

Have you ever had a tea party with your family? If not, you should try it! Even our older boys love it! This is a tradition we started while living in Switzerland. The winters were extremely cold and the warm tea with goodies seem to warm us all. Alright, I know what you are thinking! How could she know what cold is, coming from southern Alabama. And, you are right. To those of you who live in the northern regions of our country, a Swiss winter may not be “extremely” cold. But to a southern girl, it is “Extremely” cold!
We have dishes I purchased while in Italy that are reserved for special occasions like a tea party or an Italian dinner. They are reserved because they can not be put into the dishwasher and must be washed by hand. With dirty dishes from 10+ people, washing becomes a monumental task for the person who has kitchen clean-up.
During our tea party, we normally serve cookies, cheese, crackers, fruit and sometimes party sandwiches. Christmas time makes for an especially inviting tea party as the holiday baking provides many appetizing cookies.
Everyone gets a cup and saucer…
Even our 13 month old! Her cup is actually a Polish pottery espresso cup which is more durable than the Italian dinnerware.
For the first tea party of the season, I gave her tea in her cup, which you can see, she must have help with. The caffeine did a number on her and we were up most of the night! She was not cranky, just wide awake. From now on, she gets her tea cup but with juice in it!
Tea parties do not have to be huge productions. They can be as simple as hot tea and something small to snack on. Or, they can be elaborate and include sweets and any finger foods you desire.

Date Your Man!

red rose

Date? Husband? Why?

Occasionally, I will plan a date, whether it be an evening or afternoon out or just a movie night for the two of us, without my husband knowing about it. He loves it! I love it! After 25 years of marriage and 10 children, I still love being with my husband. A date is special time for us to be together. It is easier now with older children to watch the little ones and they get to do fun things if we are gone during the daytime (as opposed to a movie night that we have after they are in bed). I planned a date yesterday to go out for a few hours to finish some Christmas shopping. I would love to tell you what I bought but the older children read my blog – it would spoil their surprises! I have so much fun buying for them, even on such a tight budget. Most of my shopping has been finished for a couple of months. I guess I am a bit obsessive about it, but if I am not well underway by June, I feel like I am soooo behind! I shop clearances and sales, using coupons when possible, throughout the year to purchase gifts which (especially now) would be prohibitive with so many to buy for. Anyway, we picked up the last gifts yesterday and I am DONE! Now, for the wrapping.

Sometimes times wrapping presents becomes a date for us. My tradition for wrapping all my gifts is to pop in the “Runaway Bride” video and wrap. I know the movie so well, I do not have to look at the screen but just listen and enjoy. We can be together, husband and wife,  have a date and wrap presents.

Back to yesterday’s date…
We did a bit of shopping and then went out to lunch.

Towards the end of our date, we hit a couple of more stores, one I never seem to have time to visit, and then we returned home. Upon our return, we found the children watching a movie after baking sugar cookies much of the day. I can not say it was silent, but, All was calm!

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Lights, Lights and More Lights!

We may go overboard with decorating for Christmas but it is so much fun! I think the best part of it all is experiencing it with children. I wish my desires were as simple as theirs. It is a shame we lose the excitement which little things bring as we grow up!

Since the artificial tree we purchased after Christmas last year was of the pre-lit variety, we have quite a few extra strands of light. The hallway, as you can see here, is decorated with garland and lights. They work well as night lights but are a bit too bright. So, we unplug them for bedtime.

The boys went all out and have Christmas light going from one corner of the room to the opposite corner and then sort or higgly piggly. The effect is a sort of glowing, drapey spiderweb! We did insist that they unwrap it from the ceiling fan just in case it got turned on!
The girls room is more sophisticated with the lights attached at the ceiling and going around the room in a more orderly fashion.
Hopefully our power bill will not be astronomical this month. Even if it is higher, it is worth it to see their enjoyment of such simple pleasures. (We do turn them off when leaving the room!)


Artificial, yes, I can not believe it, our Christmas tree this year for the first time in 25 years is artificial! And…I love It!
In our early years of marriage, John was in graduate school (we had very little money), we would go into the woods and cut a cedar tree. They did tend to look like a Charlie Brown Christmas tree but I thought they were beautiful! Once he was gainfully employed, we began buying “real” Christmas trees.

Last year, we were surprised as we examined how much money we spend on Christmas trees. Surprised, not so much at the price, because they are not all that much more than in Alabama. Our surprise came as we tallied what we spend not only per year, but the price multiplied by “x” number of years. It is amazing how your perspective changes as your financial situation changes! (There are no woods here in west Texas to cut cedars!) This realization made us begin to look at artificial trees. When we build our house to overlook the vineyard, our ceiling will be high enough to accommodate a 12 ft. tree, so that is what I had in mind as we looked. Deciding to wait for a real deal, we again purchased a live tree.

While visiting our second oldest son after Christmas, we were shopping and found an amazing deal on the artificial tree pictured. Well, actually, it is not all pictured – the lower two sections are still packed away as the ceilings in this rental house are 8 ft. As you can see, there is no room for the star on top which is bent over a bit at the top.

I do miss the fresh pine scent that is lacking in the artificial tree. But, I know that fresh scent can be obtained with candles – I am waiting for a great deal or better yet, a freebie! Regardless, the children had loads of fun decorating. Our tradition is for the top ornaments to be the children’s “First Christmas” ornaments. You can not tell from the picture, but they are there! From there, they put other special ornaments that grandparents have given them. And, each child knows exactly where their ornaments are – they are very selective in their choice of spots!

Christmas Lights

Our children really enjoy decorating for Christmas both inside and out. Even though our rental house is small and on an out of the way country road, they were not deterred. They outlined a portion of our house’s profile with lights. Not many other people may see it, but we enjoy it.

Last night we made a drive to the near-by, small town to look at the Christmas light displays. There is nothing like it to increase your festive spirit, especially when viewed with a van full of children.

The highlight was a house and yard whose many strands of blinking lights were choreographed to musical selections. As you pulled up to the house, a sign instructed you to tune your radio to a particular frequency. Their private, low-power station broadcasted chosen songs to which the lights blinked, flashed and faded. It was fabulous! Since we were one of very few viewing (it being a weeknight), we sat through almost two whole sets. From then on, as we pulled up to another house really decked out with lights, our younger boys would ask us to “turn it on” too. They thought all extensive light displays should play to music – wouldn’t it be neat if they did!

Staying Fit – The Never Ending Battle!

Fitness and exercise icons

Staying fit is definitely a never ending battle, a lifelong challenge. Several people have asked me recently, what I do to stay fit.  As you can read here, I have and still do enjoy several different forms of exercise. I still love bicycling on my trainer and do it frequently. The  primary program I use now is the Chalean Extreme.  I purchased the Chalean Extreme last January with Christmas money that my mother gave me. I admit, this was not a frugal purchase. But, taking into consideration, the cost of a gym membership, the gas and time to get to a gym, it has been a worthwhile investment.
The Chalean Extreme is a 3 month program which is divided into circuits. Each Circuit is a month long training program involving three days working with weights and two days of cardio.

The first phase is the Burn Circuit. This phase is geared toward revving your metabolism. The goal with each exercise is to do 12 repetitions. When you are fatigued to the point of not being able to do a single rep more, this is called “failure”. This is the point you desire to achieve. This shows you have lifted heavy enough. Toward the last few exercises, you “get extreme baby!”.  That means, that though you have reached failure, you eak out 3 more ultra-slow reps with the goal being to build muscle. It is muscle that allows an increased metabolism enabling  you  to eat more without weight gain.

 The second phase is the Push Circuit. It is geared toward building muscle so as to burn fat. Three days a week you lift heavier than the previous month and two day a week are again cardio. Your goal in this circuit is 8 reps per exercise pushing your limits beyond what you think yourself capable of doing.

 The third phase is the Lean Circuit. It is in this phase that the girls and I noticed the most visible results. You are still lifting with heavy weights but your “extreme sets” are with each exercise rather than as in previous circuits, only the last few.

The girls and I went through all 3 circuits in Jan., Feb. and March of this year. Each of us dropped a size in our jeans! Then, the vineyard work picked up with a lot of hoeing and we felt as if we were getting enough exercise with just that! We started back doing the Chalean Extreme in October and again are enjoying the hard work of a good exercise program. We are in week 3 of the Push circuit and looking forward to moving into the Lean circuit week after next.

I decided  to purchase directly from Beachbody for the complete program including bands that are very effective (my daughter uses). Along with the 6 DVDs including 15 workouts, I also received a body fat tester, a thigh toner band, the Fat Burning Food Guide, the Muscle Burns Fat Guidebook, a motivational CD and a Healthy Eats Kitchen Makeover DVD. I have been very pleased with the customer service I have received. They have a lifetime warranty (for an additional charge) which for me, with little ones is helpful in replacing scratched DVDs. I would recommend, if you purchase from Beachbody, remove the DVDs from the folder they come in and place in them in a DVD holder. I did not do this and it has been the source of several scratched DVDs for me!

Whether you are looking for a Christmas present or a new workout for the New Year, I can recommend the Chalean Extreme from personal experience. The 10-Minute Trainer and the P90-X, I can recommend on the word of people I trust. If you are not completely satisfied. Beachbody offers a 30 day money back guarantee.

was not compensated for this review and the opinions are my own. I purchased the Chalean Extreme for personal use. 

Photo Credit: ©