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Food for Thought, by Minister Hugh Bradford

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”  — James 1:17

God sent a star to light the world Forever — The Way, The Truth, The Life – The Son.

Make popcorn balls for family and gifts, by Leslie J. Ansley

pballsI had a cousin who made popcorn balls every Christmas. Cousin Allyne lived just up the street a smidge, and her kids were near my age, so that was nice. She was very creative and had a ballet and tap-dancing school in her basement. (I took ballet, my brother and sister took tap.) The first time I saw one of those silver aluminum Christmas trees with that lighted color wheel was at Cousin Allyne’s.

Every year, she’d make popcorn balls. They’d be wrapped up in colored cellophane – red, yellow, blue, green – and placed in a large bowl or on a platter. They were really good. However, years later – pretty sure I was in elementary school – a classmate brought some caramel popcorn balls for a bake sale and I was hooked. I only had one, but never forgot them. They were softer and chewier than Cousin Allyne’s, too. I love caramel corn and make it several times a year, with and without nuts, so am going with the caramel version posted here.

Found this recipe online, but altered the ingredients and directions because it called for way too much popcorn and the directions were too vague for first-timers.

Cousin Allyne passed eight years ago, and I still can’t imagine wrapping up popcorn balls in any way other than colored cellophane, closed with a twist-tie or ribbon (or dental floss, ’cause you’re gonna need it). They’re great for holiday parties or to give as gifts.  Enjoy.

CARAMEL POPCORN BALLS

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups unpopped popcorn
1/4 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Pop the popcorn and store in oven to keep warm. Use a pan, oven-safe bowl or cookie sheet large enough to stir the popcorn in after you’ve poured the caramel on top.  Popping tips: Pour about 1/3 cup of kernels into a standard, lunch-sized brown paper bag, fold the top closed and microwave on “popcorn” setting.  (Or, if you prefer, use about 3-4 bags of unflavored microwave popcorn.) Be sure to dump any unpopped kernels.

In a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer inserted, combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup. Stir well and bring to boiling over medium heat. Stir in condensed milk; simmer, stirring constantly, until thermometer reads 238 degrees F (114 degrees C). Stir in vanilla.

Pour caramel over popped corn and stir to coat. Let sit for about two minutes so it can cool slightly and firm up a bit. Butter hands lightly – or, put Ziploc sandwich bags over your hands – and shape popcorn into balls about 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

For extra fun, add peanuts or M&Ms to the mix, maybe even chocolate chips (they will melt).

You’ll end up with 18-24 popcorn balls.

Fun with kids: Make snow people out of socks, by Donna Wright

socksnowmenFollowing are instructions for making Sock Snow People with children at least age 4 and up.

Small buttons and pins can be dangerous for younger children so use your discretion on the age of the child.

Parent supervision is necessary for this project, which parents and children can do together.

Step-by-step instructions:

Use a pair of crew socks.

sock1

First, cut off the top of the sock from the foot.

sock2

Turn the sock inside out and attach a rubber band tightly to the top of the sock.

sock3

Then turn the sock right-side out again.

sock4

Fill the sock with rice. Make sure to pack it down as you go so the sock gets a nice round base.

sock5

Rubber band the top of the sock closed and put another rubber band 3/4 of the way to the top for the head of your snowman.

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Now, decorate! Tie a scarf around your snowman’s neck and add eyes, nose, and buttons. (Below, map pins were used for eyes. You can color white ones with a Sharpie.)

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Use the toe of your cut socks to fashion a stocking cap. You can either sew or glue on your buttons, and add embellishments – twine, bows, ribbons, etc – as needed.

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