Marshmallow Mondays


Christmas Cookies
12.15.14, 7:03 AM
Filed under: Holidays | Tags: , ,

It’s my annual holiday cookie post! I’ve been baking like crazy this past week, and today I’m sharing all of this year’s recipes. As usual, many of these are favorites that I make every year, but I always add at least one new kind to try. For the recipes I use, simply click on each cookie picture.

MAGICAL MINT KISS COOKIES.

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These are a personal favorite. It’s basically chocolate dough wrapped around a Hershey’s Mint Truffle Kiss. The fun part about these is that the Mint Kisses have a green truffle filling, so when you bite into them you find a gooey mint green surprise.  The recipe you see when you click on the picture calls for Hershey’s Mint Kisses, but if you want the green filling make sure to buy the mint TRUFFLES. I also like to give mine just a dusting of powdered sugar rather than rolling the entire cookie in sugar.

One tip that you’ll thank me for – place the dough in the refrigerator for an hour before wrapping it around the Kisses. Otherwise, you’ll have one sticky, frustrating mess.

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HERSHEY KISS BLOSSOMS.

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These are slightly different than the classic Kiss Blossoms because I like to use the Hershey’s Mini Kisses. The advantage to using these is that the Kisses are unwrapped, so it saves some time.

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MOLASSES COOKIES.

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These are my favorite to pair with coffee.

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PEANUT BUTTER CUP BLOSSOMS.

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Just like Hershey Kiss Blossoms (same recipe), but with PB Cups.

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SNICKERDOODLES.

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These are Ryan’s favorite, so much so that I had to make a second batch this year because the first batch never made it into the gift tins.

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CHOCOLATE CHIP.

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I have tried A LOT of recipes for chocolate chip cookies over the years. It’s the only cookie that I’ve never been completely satisfied with because they always end up paper thin, weirdly shaped, or too hard. I am proud to say that this year, I have found the recipe that I will use from now on. Not too soft or too hard, and definitely not paper thin, these turned out p-e-r-f-e-c-t.  I will add that I like to use regular chocolate chips (not semi-sweet like the recipe calls for), but that’s just personal preference.

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ANDES CREME DE MENTHE CHUNK COOKIES.

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This is the new cookie I tried this year, and it likely will become one of my Christmas time regulars. I’m a big fan of anything chocolate-mint flavored, which is why the Magical Mint Cookies are one of my favorites. These cookies have that same refreshing, cool mint flavor, and they’re nice and chewy.

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My favorite part is always assembling the cookies into Christmas tins.  Look how pretty and festive!

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Christmas Lights

It was a beautiful night for Christmas nights. Last evening, we all piled in the car, picked up dinner and went to The Kentucky Horse Park to see Southern Lights, a drive-through dazzling display of Christmas lights.

We love the horse park, and it really transforms for this attraction. The kids loved shouting out the various animated characters, themes and well-known holiday figures. The pictures I have really don’t do the displays justice because it’s difficult to get a really clear picture in the dark.  There are some really cool attractions to see, like the animated Keeneland display showing horses leaving the starting gate.  These were just a few of our favorites.

Zoo Animals.

Zoo Animals.

The Wizard Of Oz.

The Wizard Of Oz.

12 Days of Christmas.

12 Days of Christmas: 6 Geese A Laying.

12 Days Of Christmas: 10 Lords A Leaping.

12 Days Of Christmas: 10 Lords A Leaping.

12 Days Of Christmas: 12 Drummers Drumming.

12 Days Of Christmas: 12 Drummers Drumming.

UK Basketball.

UK Basketball.

Santa's Limousine.

Santa’s Limousine.

After leaving, we drove to see the infamous lit-up house on Chinoe Road. As we approached, cars were lining the street to get a close up view. This home is absolutely spectacular.  For my Lexington friends, here’s a fun fact you might not know about this house… The owner of the home is the landlord of Ryan’s office building.

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This was such a simple holiday family outing, but we really had a great time.  I encourage you to do the same with your own families!



2014 Christmas Trees

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at our house!  That’s because we made our annual Black Friday visit to Barker’s Tree Farm to hunt for our 2014 Christmas tree. This is our third Christmas in Kentucky, but the first Christmas in our new home, so we were very excited to bring our tree home this year.

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Since my dad came down from Pennsylvania to spend Thanksgiving with us, he joined us on our tree hunt.

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Ryan is still recovering from his transplant and building up his energy level, but he rode along with us to the tree farm and decided to wait in the car while we walked around looking for “the one.”

If it were up to Lily, this is the tree we would have brought home.

If it were up to Lily, this is the tree we would have brought home.

Rydan had a slightly better vision.

Rydan had a slightly better vision.

This was the fastest we have ever found and agreed on a Christmas tree.  After grabbing our saw and walking just a few feet, we spotted two beauties.  Since we hadn’t ventured far, I had Rydan go tell Ryan to come out of the car, so that he could help us decide.  Seeing him walk towards us knowing that he wasn’t going to miss being part of our tradition really put a smile on my face.  I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

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We gave my dad the honor of chopping the tree down for us, with a bit of help from Ryan.

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Our tree stands about 9 feet tall in the corner of our living room. As usual, a few of our lights from last year didn’t work, so I had to go buy a few more strands. I came home with four new sets of lights (we like a tree that sparkles) and two packs of new ornaments (Black Friday special. I couldn’t pass it up). Then the decorating began.

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Our two little elves.

Our two little elves.

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The finished product.

Those of you who know us or have been following our blog for years, know that we always have two Christmas trees. Our second tree is an artificial one that has either been placed in our formal living room or in our bedroom. Since we have a perfect spot for it in our bedroom at our new house, that’s where we set it up this year.

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This year, we added a THIRD tree. This last tree is a small tabletop tree in our living room, but it holds special meaning. We decorated this tree with our “Hope Kidneys” to honor all those on the transplant waiting list. We will never lose hope for the 100,000+ people on that list, who are anxiously waiting for a phone call that will save their lives. This holiday season, please remember all those who are waiting for life-saving organs and if you haven’t already, please register to be an organ donor. There is no greater gift than the gift of life.

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Thankful
11.24.14, 6:17 AM
Filed under: Holidays | Tags:

Today’s post is to wish all of our readers a very Happy Thanksgiving!  

This is by far our most thankful year to date. We continue to celebrate Ryan’s new life, and we remain so very grateful for the organ donor who made Ryan’s transplant possible. This individual donor has a permanent spot at the top of our thankful list. Every day, he motivates and inspires us to do everything we can to promote organ donor awareness. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with his family, especially during this holiday season.

We cannot talk about the transplant without talking about our entire transplant team, who are a phenomenal group of people that have taken exceptional care of us since the very beginning. These surgeons, doctors and nurses have become our extended family. They provide us with comfort, reassurance, guidance, and remarkable medical care.

We are also extremely thankful for all of our family, friends and neighbors who have helped us throughout this journey. Whether you’ve brought us a meal, watched our kids, stopped by to let Brooks out, donated to our transplant fund, cleaned, mowed our grass, etc, you have made our life more manageable and allowed us to focus on Ryan’s recovery, and we love you for it.

All that being said, it is clear that God led us to Kentucky for a reason, and this year our hearts are filled with thanks for His love, blessings, and the journey that He has placed us on. The light at the end of the tunnel becomes a little bit brighter every day.

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We’ll be spending Thanksgiving at home as usual, and I’ll be cooking way more food than what we can eat, as usual.  This year we have a very special guest joining us… my Dad!  He arrived on Saturday afternoon and brought us all sorts of goodies from Pennsylvania – our favorite chocolate straight from Hershey, Grandma Wiest’s homemade spaghetti sauce, Cooper’s cheese, and apple dumplings from the Gratz Auction. He’s already painted one bathroom, and is working on a second while we are at Ryan’s appointment in Cincinnati today. Having him here right now means so much to us!

Enjoy your Turkey Day, friends!  We sure will.



H O P E

One day a few months ago, Lily and I were having fun with some homemade clay, and an idea struck me when I found my kidney cookie-cutter in one of my kitchen drawers. I had used this to make medals back in June for our Share Your Spare 5K Fundraiser. Christmas is coming, so why not make some ornaments?  So we did.  And we stamped them with the four letter word that has kept us going throughout all of Ryan’s many health struggles. HOPE.

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This morning, Lily and I had the privilege of decorating a Christmas tree with our hope kidneys for an annual fundraiser called “Trees Of Life,” where decorated Christmas trees are auctioned off to support The Kidney Health Alliance of Kentucky (KHAKY).  I am truly honored to be part of this special event, which benefits such a valuable organization that is dedicated to serving kidney disease patients, increasing awareness and early detection of chronic kidney disease, and promoting organ donation.  KHAKY was one of our sponsors at Share Your Spare 5K, so I am absolutely thrilled to be able to support them on this event.

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My goal for everyone who sees this post or attends Trees Of Life is that they can gain some hope from our story. Ryan was just one of the 100,000+ people waiting for a life-saving kidney. He was in end-stage renal disease with no other options but to receive a transplant. This tree represents the hope that we hung onto so tightly, and the new life that resulted from it. We share our story now to ignite hope in those who need it most.

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As I stood back and looked at our finished tree this morning, it hit me again that my husband is not on the waiting list anymore. I created these hope kidneys prior to Ryan’s transplant, so the fact that we can be part of something like this and offer our success story as hope, is something that I hold very dear to my heart. I also realized in that moment that I forgot to bring something for the top of the tree, but I quickly remembered that our family gained an angel on October 11, 2014, so maybe, just maybe that angel can shine down on this tree, brighter than any star could have.

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This holiday season, please keep all those waiting for life-saving organs,as well as all of the donor families, in your thoughts and prayers. The waiting list is long one, filled with people anxiously waiting for their phone to ring. Having lived that way for five months, we know what a battle it is to keep hope alive. For those who have been living that way for many years, you can only imagine how hard it is to not lose hope day after day, month after month, year after year, all while suffering health problems that become worse as time goes by. Sharing our story is just one way that we can help to keep that hope alive in those who are struggling with their wait.

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By “hanging some hope” on this special Christmas tree, we acknowledge each of the 100,000+ people waiting for a life-saving kidney, and we want them to know that we will never lose hope for them.



I Wish… 2014
11.10.14, 2:15 PM
Filed under: Holidays | Tags: , , , ,

I had to look at the calendar when our Toys R Us and Target Christmas catalogs arrived in the mail over a week ago. The month of October, which normally feels like such a long 31 days, now seems like a blur because of Ryan’s transplant. Today marks one month since we received “the call,” and here we are making Christmas wish books with the kids, and looking forward to spending our first holiday season in our new home, more thankful than ever before.

As usual, Rydan and Lily couldn’t wait to cut their “wishes” out of the toy catalogs and decorate their 2014 wish books. Rydan’s is filled with numerous Lego sets, Minecraft sets, Nerf guns and WWE action figures.  Lily’s is filled with a variety of Doc McStuffins, Peppa Pig, Hello Kitty and Furreal Friend toys.

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Creating these wish books began when Rydan was just three years old, and we’ve made it a holiday tradition ever since.  I’ve kept every single book that they’ve each made, so it’s always fun to look back through and see what their interests were over the years. This is a method that works really well for family and friends who are looking for gift ideas.  Give it a try with your little ones!



Halloween 2014

Readers, I have not forgotten about you.  I know I’ve missed two weeks in a row of Monday posts, and I am so sorry!  This is the first time I have neglected my blog in five years, but hopefully you all understand and know that there’s been a really good reason for my absence.  (And in case some of you don’t know, please refer to my last post on October 13th.)

I will be honest, I didn’t even think about the first post I missed, which was two Mondays ago.  That’s the day that Ryan was discharged from the hospital after his transplant.  It wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon when I realized I hadn’t written anything.  Ironically, the following Monday (10/27), was the day that Ryan was re-admitted to the hospital for dehydration.  We’ve had some ups and downs throughout the week, but he did come back home last Wednesday.

Today, I am happy to report that Ryan is doing very well.  We are back in Cincinnati today for another check up, so please visit our Match For Ryan Facebook page later today for a report on the appointment.

Now, as you can imagine, life has been very full since Ryan’s surgery.  I hesitate to say that it’s been crazy or chaotic, because even though it feels like we are in a tornado some days, our hearts are filled with gratitude for the gift that Ryan has received.  As he continues to recover, I appreciate your patience with my blog.  I can’t promise that I will have a new post every Monday between now and the next few weeks, but I will definitely do my best.  We literally are taking one day at a time, and some days are filled with unexpected bumps in the road.  This recovery period is simply a phase we have to fight through, but Ryan is well on his way to a new life filled with good health.  We’ve learned to take each day as it comes and deal with each obstacle with patience while trusting in God’s plan.

Friday was one of those days.  An unexpected kidney biopsy left us feeling very discouraged, but as the day went on and little blessings fell around us, we realized that there was no need to become overly discouraged with something so out of our control. Our transplant team continues to take extreme care and caution to ensure that Ryan’s new organs are protected, and for that we are ever so thankful.  Because they know we have two little ones who were eager to go trick-or-treating, they made sure to get us out of the hospital so that we could make it home in time for Halloween.

It was extremely cold and rainy, so I carried my little witch with my zombie following close by, and we made a very quick loop around the neighborhood.  We returned home shivering, but with full bags of candy.  Mission accomplished.

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