The Life of Jennifer Dawn: December 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best Recipes of 2016

It's always interesting to look at the blog stats at the end of each year to see what the most popular blog posts were. This year is was my food posts and recipes that overwhelming ranked at the tip top of the list for 2016.
At first, this seemed strange to me because I'm not strictly a food blogger. It's usually the craft and DIY posts that reign supreme. Upon further reflection, it didn't seem strange at all, though. You see...this hasn't been a good year for me personally. It's been a year shrouded in the tragic loss of my only sibling and her unborn baby boy and the grief that has followed. It's been a year of leaning on God and my faith in ways I've never had to before. It's been a year of survival.

The truth is that I didn't do much crafting this year. And most of my craft and DIY ideas got shoved aside--to be completed at a later time. My poor kitchen cabinets are still confused on what color they should be. Finding myself crying over a paper punch because I had frequently used it to make paper garlands with my sister was enough to cause me to close the door to the craft closet. Having to hold my breath and fight back tears walking through Hobby Lobby--previously one of our favorite places to go--has me avoiding that place for now. I'll craft again. I'll walk back into Hobby Lobby. I'll pick up a paint brush and finish the kitchen cabinets. I'll just wait until the pain isn't so fresh and raw.

As I stated in a previous post, it's been the essentials that I've focused on. Faith, family, love, shelter, and food have been those essentials. Even in grief, my family still had to eat. I guess you could say that food has been my "love language." this year. The extra twenty pounds I'm carrying around will certainly testify to that. That's a story for a different day, though and I'm planning on shedding those extra pounds in the coming year. You have to give yourself plenty of grace when you're grieving. Cooking has been therapeutic for me.

It's also made me feel close to the memories of my sister which is what I've needed lately. I remember going to the kitchen one morning right after losing my sister and pulling out our family cookbook--one she put together for us--to prepare a quiche usually reserved only for the holidays. The crack of the eggs, the whirl of the mixer, and the smell of a fresh baked quiche were comforting in a strange sort of nostalgic way. Sprinkled around the pages of the cookbook--between the recipes I used to prepare with my mom and sister--were pictures of my dad, sister, mother, and me from years ago. Each recipe seemed to contain its own stories and memories that I could share with my own kids--merging the past and present together.
You've been here with me to witness much of that. The recipes I've shared on the blog this year were ones straight out of my family's cookbook or my own variation of classic favorites. Thank you, sweet friends, for following along. Thank you for your patience as I navigate the rough waters of grief. And thank you most of all for the support, comments, pins, shares, and messages you've given this year.

So without further delay, here they are! Enjoy this countdown of the TOP 16 recipes from 2016.

















For more delicious recipes, be sure to also visit the Top Recipes from 2015. You can find my all-time, most popular posts from The Life of Jennifer Dawn by checking out this post. Thanks for following along on the blog and social media.

Happy cooking, baking, and memory making!
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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

6 Easy Cold Weather Meals & Weekly Link Party

Looking for comforting meal ideas for cold winter days? Few things make the cold more bearable than firing up the oven or stovetop to cook a warm, hearty meal. Enjoy this collection of simple savory meals that are sure to bring comfort and warmth to your kitchen even on the coldest winter nights. From a homestyle pasta to a hearty stew, you're sure to find a recipe that your family will love!
1. Roasted Vegetable Soup / Little House Living
This hearty soup looks and sounds amazing! Use different vegetables or herbs to customize it to your tastes.

2. Mac and Cheese Cups / Simply Stacie
It doesn't get much more comforting than a cheesy, melty mac and cheese recipe. This is one the kids are sure to love!

3. Pizza Soup / Simply Stacie
Two favorites--pizza and soup--combine in this unique recipe! All of the saucy, cheesy, spicy flavors of pizza that you love are simmered into this savory soup.

4. Curry Chicken and Chickpeas / To Simply Inspire
This simple, delicious recipe might just make you a BIG fan of curry if you weren't already.

5. Homemade Bread Bowls / Acadiana's Thrifty Mom
These bread bowls make the perfect vessel for your favorite soups and dips. Yum!

6. Homestyle Goulash / The Life of Jennifer Dawn
This delicious pasta recipe evokes comforting memories of home and hospitality. It's my own variation of a recipe my own mother has been making for decades. Enjoy!

Now it's time for...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

5 Delicious Christmas Cookie Recipes & Weekly Link Party

Christmas is almost here! Let the baking frenzy begin. I have homemade fudge, magic cookie, bars, peanut butter pinwheels, and cookies to make today. Some of these baked goods are being packaged up nicely and given as gifts. Others are being saved for our Christmas festivities. All of this baking is sure to make the house smell...well...smell like Christmas!

Does anyone else have a lot of baking to do today or during the next few days leading up to Christmas Day? Looking for a delicious cookie recipe to try this season? Here are five delicious recipes to take a look at. Any one of them is sure to be a BIG hit with your family and friends. After all, what's Christmas without some tasty Christmas cookies?!
1. Old-Fashioned Soft Molasses Drop Cookies / Views from the 'Ville
I love recipes that have been handed down through the generations. There's something so special about a tried and tested recipe that's chock-full of memories. And that's the case for this blogger's recipe for Frosted Molasses Cremes.

2. Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies / Strength & Sunshine
Love the taste of chocolate and peppermint? Then you're going to be a big fan of this tasty treat. Oh, and did I mention that they are gluten-free and dairy-free for those with allergies?

3. Easy Shortbread Cookies / I Heart Vegetables
These look scrumptious! And the best part is that it only takes three ingredients to whip up a batch.

4. Gluten-Free Snickerdoodles / Strength & Sunshine
Here's a holiday classic! This particular recipe offers a few twists, though. These cookies argluten-free, allergy-free, vegan, sugar-free, and oil-free. That means that everyone coming for the holidays can enjoy one...or a few!

5. Pie Crust Cookies / The Life of Jennifer Dawn
Filled with jam and cut like Christmas trees, these pie crust cookies are perfect for the holiday season!

Now it's time for...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hot Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidayTreatMaking#CollectiveBias

Looking for a simple treat to enjoy with your family or one to gift to others this holiday season? These Hot Chocolate Rice Krispies® Treats made with Kellogg’s® Rice Krispies® are the perfect option. They're super simple to make and taste delicious. Enjoy this fun twist on a favorite holiday treat!
When I think back on the holidays from my childhood, baking in the kitchen with my mother and sister still stand as some of my fondest holiday memories. There were peanut butter clusters, cookie bars, Rice Krispies® Treats, and made from scratch hot cocoa--just to name a few. It only makes sense that my own kids would love crowding around me in the kitchen to whip up tasty memories just like I once did with my own mother.
In keeping with tradition, we plan to share many memories together this holiday season over steaming mugs of hot cocoa and holiday treats. In fact, these Hot Chocolate Rice Krispies® Treats are the perfect combination of two classics in one tasty treat. Get your taste buds ready because they are scrumptious! And they're just as simple to make as the classic recipe. Keep reading to see how to whip up this treat with your kids. It's sure to become a holiday favorite!

Coca-Cola Fudge Recipe

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Company. All opinions are mine alone #SmartWayToShareJoy #CollectiveBias

Looking for an easy homemade gift idea? The holidays are the perfect time to mix up a scrumptious batch of homemade fudge. Tucked away inside a decorative tin, it makes a thoughtful gift for neighbors, family, and friends. I love making homemade gifts--especially the edible kind--and this recipe for chocolate fudge calls for a secret ingredient that's sure to provide a tasty surprise!
What's the surprising ingredient in this chocolate fudge recipe? Well, I'll give you a clue. I grew up with my mom using it as the "secret" ingredient in a marinade and in a recipe for a frosted chocolate cake. Any guesses? It's Coca-Cola! Yes, this batch of ooey-gooey fudge has Coca-Cola cooked right in.
Recently, I modified my mother's traditional cake recipe for Coca-Cola Cake to make Coca-Cola Cupcakes. What is it about Coca-Cola that makes baked goods so sugary sweet and moist?! And since I know it's delicious baked in chocolate cake and cupcakes, I decided to try it in fudge and make Coca-Cola Fudge. I love adding my own twist to my family's beloved recipes, and it just wouldn't be Christmas without a batch of homemade fudge. Paired with a glass of Coca-Cola, it's a treat that even Santa would choose over milk and cookies. Wanting to enjoy this holiday treat for yourself? Keep reading for the full recipe!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Patchwork Ornament Craft for Kids

These Patchwork  Ornaments are a non-traditional decoration that would look bright and cheery on any Christmas tree. It's a stunning craft that will have kids bursting with pride over the treasured keepsake they've created.
For the past four years, I've participated in a kid-made ornament hop hosted by Mama Miss. We've added a Christmas Scene Ornament, Embossed Nutcracker Ornament, and Painted Wood Slice Ornament to the collection of amazing kid-made ornaments all shared by fellow bloggers from the Kid Blogger Network. This year our ornament was inspired by the endearing children's book Coat of Many Colors by Dolly Parton. Have you heard of the book? The lyrics from Dolly Parton's best-selling song "Coat of Many Colors" come to life in this simple tale of love and family.

"Although we had no money,
I was rich as I could be,
in my coat of many colors
my mama made for me."
The Book
I bought this book for the kids a few weeks ago intending for it to be a Christmas present. In light of the horrible fires that destroyed our nearby community of Gatlinburg and all that Dolly Parton is doing to help our dear neighbors here in East Tennessee, I decided to make this book the inspiration for our ornament craft this year. And so, the kids got an early Christmas present. We cuddled together on the couch to read this sweet tale from Dolly's childhood. The story is about a patchwork coat that her mama made her with a few scraps of fabric and a whole lot of love. Lydia Grace looked at me when the story was over and said, "Mama, that was a great story!" And it really is! It's a heartwarming tale with a beautiful moral. Enough of me gushing about it, you'll just have to read it for yourself.
The Craft
Inspired by the patchwork coat from the story, the kids and I made patchwork ornaments using fabric scraps. I'll warn you, though. This craft gets a little messy, but the fun you'll have is worth all the mess. My three, five, and seven-year-old each had a blast making their very own patchwork ornament. Ready to give this craft a try? Grab your kids and let's start crafting!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rustic Christmas Farmhouse Decor & Weekly Link Party

Our family has been running a little behind on decorating this year. I finished the front porch last week and just got the tree up a few days ago. There are still a few more decorations to put out. I'm keeping things simple this year, though. Simple and cozy! Yes, that's what feel likes home to me.

How has your decorating gone this season? Did you go with a certain theme or style? We'd love to see your holiday decorations, recipes, crafts, and DIY projects linked below. Or you can also tell us about them in the comments below.

 In the meantime, enjoying gleaning inspiration from these talented bloggers. This week I'm featuring lovely farmhouse decor perfect for the holiday season. From a burlap stocking to pops of red plaid, here are several decor ideas to bring a Rustic Christmas Farmhouse vibe to your home.
1. Painted Burlap Stocking / Gluesticks Blog
Picture an entire row of these hung along the mantle. Dreamy! I'm loving the contrast between the burlap and the delicate lace around the cuff!

2. Farmhouse Holiday Wreath / Timeless Creations, LLC
What a gorgeous wreath! And it only takes a few supplies and mere minutes to make!

3. Rustic Deer Silhouette Printable / The Organized Dream
This printable gold deer over buffalo plaid is perfection! Just click on over to grab your free copy to print and frame. This is one that I could see myself leaving up all winter long.

4. DIY Wooden Advent Tree / A Fireman's Wife
Here's a project the kids will love! The little bags hanging on the tree can hold scripture cards, candy, and other goodies for the days leading up to Christmas.

5. Tartan Chair Covers / Of Faeries and Fauna Craft Co.
It's amazing how festive a few pops of red plaid can be. And these chair covers are the perfect way to add holiday flair!

Now it's time for...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas Advent Calendar Puzzle

The countdown to Christmas is on! Does your family have a special way that they count down the days? There are so many ways to orchestrate a Christmas countdown or advent calendar--opening a small present, eating a treat, or reading a book each day. The list could go on and on, and I'm sure you've seen dozens upon dozens of ideas all over the internet.

For years my family used the handmade Advent calendar linked here. Each day the kids would open a numbered tin to reveal a verse, pieces of candy, and biblical figurine--to go along with the verse. The verses would collectively tell the story of Jesus's birth.

This year I decided to try something a little different, though. We are going to use the Christmas Advent Puzzle shown below. The idea for an Advent Puzzle just hit me the other day, so I quickly whipped up this whimsical printable.
We are still going to read verses from The Nativity Story each day during our daily Bible time. That's a crucial part of our Christmas, but instead of opening the tins each day, I thought this printable might be a little simpler. I created and started it with the kids on December 1, but just now got around to sharing it here on the blog. Tis the season for busyness. But I'm loving this simple idea and I'm so excited to share it with you!