Our family Christmas is over for this year. We will still get together with my sisters for a Christmas gift exchange and meal. This year it will be at sister Emma and Jacob’s house.

On Saturday, my husband Joe, sons Benjamin and Joseph, and Loretta’s special friend Dustin butchered a beef we raised for meat. We raise a few calves so that we have our own beef to butcher. A correction to one of my recent columns: We raise steers to butcher, not cows. A cow is a heifer that has had a calf, and we never butcher a cow. We think the meat from a steer is better for steaks.

The big beef is hanging in our pole barn reminding us how much work lies ahead this week yet. Our plans are to start working on that Thursday and Friday. It will be nice to fill the freezer and canning jars with meat.

Our family had a nice Christmas gathering on Dec. 22. We set the table for all of us. We are 17 now, but 1-year-old T.J. sits in the highchair and Ryan doesn’t eat table food yet. We had a breakfast casserole that we made the night before and put it in the oven so it was ready to eat when everyone woke up. There also was homemade bread, butter and jelly, cheese, hot peppers, doughnuts and cookies, chocolate milk, orange juice and coffee.

It is nice to have something easy so we don’t spend our time together making food. Joe put a turkey on the grill so it would be ready to eat later on. After dishes were washed, we passed out gifts. The children exchanged names, so it was interesting to see who had each other’s names. It was also Joe’s birthday, so he received nice birthday/Christmas gifts. It is always fun to see the excitement of the little children when they open their gifts.

We played games and had snacks and turkey later on. A variety of snacks included veggies and dip, fruit and dip, meat and cheese roll-ups, party mix, Rice Krispies treats, venison jerky, cheese ball and crackers, Christmas goodies, etc. There was much more than we needed, but when everyone brings a few things, it adds up. The turkey and snacks were our food for the rest of the day.

We have so much to be thankful for.

One of the new games we played was a game given to daughter Loretta from Dustin called Marble Chase. It is exciting and keeps your interest.

Son Benjamin left about 4 p.m. to join the youth for a Christmas supper and singing. They opened a plastic-wrap ball of gifts, which I imagine was exciting. Benjamin also joined the youth one evening last week to go Christmas caroling at the homes of older people in our community. They gathered at the community center afterward for a pizza supper.

Also one evening last week, my sisters Verena and Susan made supper for us and sent it over. It was a treat to get out of cooking one evening. They made mashed potatoes, gravy, corn and meatloaf. They also sent cookies and Christmas candy.

We received Christmas plates of goodies from our neighbors, and we didn't make much more than party mix and cookies. Maybe next week we can get around to making something for the neighbors.

I am hoping a few of the girls can go help daughter Elizabeth today. Doctors orders are that she doesn’t do any work, but with 1- and 3-year-old children, that is hard for a mother to do without extra help. She said Tim will be off work today to do her laundry, but I still feel like someone should go help out. Just entertaining the children is a help.

Peanut Butter Popcorn Balls

5 cups popped popcorn

1 cup roasted peanuts

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Place popcorn and peanuts in a large bowl; set aside.

For the sauce, in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring brown sugar and corn syrup to a rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in peanut butter and vanilla. Quickly pour over popcorn mixture and mix well. When cool enough to handle, quickly shape into 10 2 1/2-inch balls. Let stand at room temperature until firm, then wrap in plastic wrap.

Lovina Eicher is an Old Order Amish writer, cook, wife, and mother of eight. Readers can write her at PO Box 1689, South Holland, IL 60473 (please include a self-addressed stamped envelope for a reply); or email LovinasAmishKitchen@MennoMedia.org and your message will be passed on to her.

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