Posts Tagged With: Christmas

Tasty Tuesday: The Versatile Wreath that Lasts Beyond December

Surprisingly ,  these days you will almost always find crescent rolls in my refrigerator.  This ingredient is essential to my new go-to recipe: the savory ring/wreath.  I have eaten these before – Pampered Chef parties used to feature them often.  (You can find a few variations on  Once I realized that this was a quick dinner and was a great way to use up leftover meat and vegetables, I have made this often.  Another good reason: they are always a hit around here!

First, you unroll two packages of crescent rolls.  Overlapping them around a pizza pan or baking stone, you will create the beginnings of a wreath shape. (The wider ends of the triangle overlap as a circle in the middle.)

Wreath 1

Press the edges together.  Then add your filling.  You will need 3-4 cups of filling.  This time I used leftover sausage, roasted red peppers and alfredo sauce.

Wreath 2

This was almost too much filling as some did spill over the edges.  (A good excuse to clean my oven!)  Then you fold the narrow part of the triangle to the center, tucking it under.

Wreath 3

Bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes.  Basically you are browning the rolls and heating the filling.  You always want to use cooked meat – raw would not cook up well at all, plus would not be good with the dough.

Wreath 4

Suggested combinations: ham & broccoli; pepperoni with pizza sauce; taco meat/cheese (a variation known as the Taco Ring in Pampered Chef circles).  Options are almost endless!  This is a wreath you can enjoy year round.  A great idea for ringing in the new year if your plans involve staying home as opposed to going out!

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Recipes from Nebraska | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Julotta and Candlelight: Celebrating Christmas Day and Night Across Nebraska

Recalling the brisk “take-your-breath-away” cold, those dozens of steps to the car felt like a mile on those dark Christmas mornings.  Growing up, we were often at my grandparents farm house for Christmas.  This meant that before dawn, we would be heading down the road to church for their annual Julotta service.  (In case you are not Swedish, this word means “Christmas before dawn”)  When I was younger, the service used to begin at 6 a.m.  Lately  Monroe Evangelical Free Church near Phillips, NE, they gather together at the still-dark-but-not-quite-so-early seven a.m.  We would sing carols and listen to a message about the meaning of Christmas.  I am sure I had moments of complaining about the early hour, but now that is such a meaningful memory for me.  I miss that tradition!

Winter Nebraska Church

A country church that was just moved on to Wessels Living History Farm near York, Nebraska.  Monroe used to have a similar look when I went there as a child!  (Now the church has grown and expanded!)

Fast forward several years to when I was a newlywed.  His family tradition was attending the late 11 pm. service.  Greeting Christmas just after midnight at church was also meaningful.  Both services involved songs and stories about a Savior.

Today our family attends a mid-afternoon Christmas Eve service.  With children, that just seems to work the best.  The church varies as members of my family attend different locations.  But the message does not.  And often all services end the same way – with a candlelight version of “Silent Night.”

Perhaps you also used to annually attend a Christmas service as a child.  Maybe you have been out of the habit.  Never too late to try again, many churches offer the hope that can only be found in the Prince of Peace.  I had originally thought about listing the locations and times of services across the state.  But with 93 counties that are filled with churches, Nebraska has thousands of service options.  Instead I just wanted to say that attending a Christmas service is what is important to my family.  Maybe this would be a good tradition for you to start as well.  While a church is not the only place to find the meaning of Christmas, most sanctuaries are a good place to start.

If you are struggling to find the true meaning of Christmas this season, this video may be encouraging to you.  Beginning with Linus sharing the Christmas message (from the best Christmas television special!), this song talks about the reason for this season.  A great reminder for all of us!

P.S. Tomorrow for “Wordless Wednesday,” I plan on featuring some of the sights of this blessed season.  Then other than some “Odyssey Through Nebraska” pre-posted Facebook links, you will not hear from again until next week.  I am ready to spend some time with my family!  (And catching up a bit on my scattered life too! 🙂  Merry Christmas!

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A Guide to Gift Cards: Last Minute Shopping Across Nebraska

Like everyone, I have family members that are a bit challenging to shop for.  (For some odd reason, my teenage nephew just does not seem to want me to buy clothes for him anymore? 🙂 )  So, I often rely on gift cards.  Now I have developed a strategy in helping stretch the amount of the cards.  After all, while you can buy other gifts on sale, gift card face amounts do not lie.  And gift cards are not on sale.  Unless you know how to shop for them …

First of all, sometimes Black Friday brings gift card sales.  For the last several years, Hy-Vee has had a deal where you bought 3-4 gift cards at a time, and you can get $5 off each.  Yes, I realize it is too late for this year, but just file that little info. away.  Closer to Christmas, stores might again be offering sales on these – worth checking around!

Second, many stores offer a “bonus” if you purchase a certain amount.  Usually you can even split the amount on several cards.  Either you get an extra amount on the card for free or sometimes a free meal card!

Raising Canes in Lincoln

Third, certain places actually give to charity if you purchase a gift card from them.  The best example is Raising Canes in Lincoln.  If you purchase at least $15 worth of gift cards, they donate 10% toward a charity that buys toys for underprivileged kids!  Double the giving!

So, those are a few trips on buying cards to give away.  But I will be honest – our family stocks up on these cards during December to use for us.  This way in the remaining months of winter, we can eat out for a bit less money.  Our favorite place to do this in December was  Runza.  We bought the $25 gift card, then used it buy our lunch that day, going home with a free meal certificate.  We  “may”  have done this a few times :-), and now we have “free meals” to enjoy after Christmas.

Dinos in Lincoln

My husband and I recently did this for a date lunch as well.  When dining at Dino’s Eastside Grille, we purchased $25 gift card.  We received $5 free!  We paid for the meal with our gift card, and now we will get to dine there again on another date with our remaining balance!

Happy giving (and eating!)


Categories: Annual Events, Frontier Trails, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Metro, Panhandle, Pioneer Country, Prairie Lakes, Region or City, Sandhills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Last Minute Gifts: “Paint Yourself Silly” in Lincoln

For the past two years, my kids have participated in the summer reading program at Indigo Bridge Books in Lincoln.  One of the prizes both summers was a free hour of painting pottery at Paint Yourself Silly in Lincoln.  This has resulted in the creation of unique Christmas gifts for the past two years in a row.

Paint Yourself Silly Projects

Now these are obviously not all of our creations – just all of the possibilities.  For the past two years, my kids have painted coasters.  Individual works of art.  They have now each painted one set for Daddy last year, then for both sets of grandparents this year.  (I will post pictures of their completed projects on Facebook soon.  They are giving away their final set today!)

Paint Yourself Silly Kids

They love getting paint on a “blank canvas,” and I love the fact that coasters can be a useable keepsake.  As opposed to pieces of paper that constantly fall off of the refrigerator…  I enjoyed watching them to determine their designs.  The best part – I am not tempted to help, since then I would have to pay for an hour of painting.  The project is truly theirs.  Then the mess is truly “Paint Yourself Silly’s” – no clean up required.  That is another great part!

Paint Yourself Silly Paint

The paint selection process is even fun, and they have added glass fusing and mosaics to their project possibilities.  If you bring a friend on Fridays from 6-9, you can paint for half price.  And if you wear comfy jammies on the first Friday of the month, you can paint half price from 9-midnight.  Plus they have a flat fee if you want to “paint until you faint” all day.  Several discount options.

The normal fee per hour of painting is $6 an hour if you are above 10, and only $4 an hour for kids under 9.  The pottery is purchased separately and varies in cost based on size and intricacy.  They also have birthday party and other event options (including preschool story time).  Plus they have a location in both the Haymarket and in Southeast Lincoln.  Hours vary at each location.  We all love to go to Paint Yourself Silly and highly recommend the experience!

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Friday Night Lights: Seeing Christmas Displays Across Nebraska

I love driving around this time of year – streets just seem happier this time of year with all of the lights!  I would love them up to shine all winter, but my husband usually shuts them off sometime in January (and most people are done earlier than that!)  I guess I had better enjoy them while I see them!

Nebraska Christmas lights 2

The light pictures above and the at the bottom of the post from our favorite place to drive by every year!  I think I might even be able to sing along with their song sequence by now!

In most small towns, finding the best decorated houses is a bit easier.  With lights on many a corner, finding the most fun displays in cities and larger towns is a bit challenging.  So I thought I would provide you with a few links of some of the best lit homes across the state.  At least according to my initial search – I am sure I missing many beautifully decorated homes. If you know of a great display in your area, please post a comment below or a link on my Odyssey Through Nebraska Facebook page.

Central Nebraska

Christmas lights from Central Nebraska Adventures (Displays and other holiday events)

Minden: Nebraska’s Christmas City

Christmas City

Photo from Minden’s above website!


Christmas on display in Beatrice


Lincoln Journal Star’s Holiday Light Displays


Divots Conference Center “Celebration of Lights” in Norfolk (admission)


Family Fun in Omaha’s Listings of Amazing Christmas Light Displays


Historic Main Street Alliance Displays

Scottsbluff View of Christmas Lights


Despite searching the larger towns in this region, I could not find any published record of any great displays.  If you know of any, please post them.

Nebraska Christmas lights

May the lights shine brightly wherever you are!



Categories: Frontier Trails, Lewis and Clark, Lincoln, Metro, Panhandle, Pioneer Country, Prairie Lakes, Region or City, Sandhills | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Officer’s Quarters at Fort Robinson in Northwest Nebraska (Thank you, military!)

At first writing about Fort Robinson as being a place to be home for the holidays might seem a bit odd.  After all, other than possibly being open for their annual December historical Christmas dinner, Fort Robinson State Park is basically closed from November through March.  So, the officer’s quarters are shut for the winter.  No holiday decorating taking place in these homes from time past.

Fort Robinson Officer's House

A view of one of the officer’s quarters from a distance.

Yet as I have seen “commercials” on this Christmas, I became more and more convinced that this needed to be my focus today.  You know the video clips where military families from overseas send their greetings?  The ones that often bring tears to my eyes.  Where soldiers and often their families are far from the U.S., so that we can be home for the holidays?  Where we are living in relative peace and safety, and where they are choosing to forgo that privilege, at least for a season.

The setting would have been similar back when these Fort Robinson officer quarters were occupied over one hundred years ago.  The soldiers may have been at “home” for the holidays, yet they were far from their original dwellings to protect the peace of a fledgling frontier.  Sacrificing comfort and security to provide those very things for others.

Tomorrow I will write more about the quarters and the soldiers that called them home.  But for today, I just wanted to say thank you.  To our military, thank you for serving our country and for fighting to ultimately win peace on earth.  Thank you for sacrificing your freedom to provide that very thing that you currently lack.  After all, is there any better time to be grateful than this season?  That first Christmas a young couple were also far from home.  Their sojourn and birth of their son would provide me with the opportunity to find ultimate freedom.  Another undeserved gift and sacrifice.

As I ponder all of this that has been given to me, I cannot help but think of a song that I heard again last night.  The one that, according to Ace Collins in The Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, was written during the midst of war.  1942 – a time when this nation was longing to have hope that conflict would soon be over.  A meaningful song still today as it reminds us to pray that someday everyone will get to be home for the holidays.


Categories: Military and Memorials, Panhandle, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Delicious Delice: European Dining in Omaha

Delice sign

To be honest, my kids were a bit skeptical. In fact they complained a  bit at my choice of restaurant.  But I knew it was a place that my Mom and I would definitely enjoy.  And I knew the kids would like it also if they gave it half a chance .  And I was right – they are clamoring to return to Delice: The European Bakery and Cafe that is located in Midtown Crossing in  Omaha.

Delice Christmas

Their decor is already warm and welcoming.  Add in Christmas decorations, and one could not help but feel at home.  The day was brisk outside and dining near a fireplace was a treat.

I always forget until I am halfway through to take a picture of my meal.  I think I was hungry.  I took the server’s recommendation and ordered the Italian quiche.  I was a bit skeptical because I am not always an olive fan.  Glad I gave it a try – so very good!  My Mom  had the healthier turkey sandwich which she definitely liked also.  My three boys had chicken sandwiches – 2 spicy and Parmesan to be precise.  I managed to sneak a bite of each – definitely a big step above your typical sandwich -delicious bread!  My daughter had the chicken noodle soup – as close to homemade as I have ever had at a restaurant.  (Yes, I managed to take a bite of this too – I definitely had enough lunch that day!)

Delice Food

As you can almost see from the pictures, they have many different quiche combinations, pastry puffs and sandwiches.  They also have a full coffee/drink bar.  And their desserts all looked so luscious.  To leave without trying one would have been a bit sad.  So, I picked a “seasonal” limited time concoction.  We shared their eggnog creme brulee for dessert.  That alone was worth the trip.  Loved the flavor combinations.  II no longer have to convince my kids of the merits of eating at a bakery.  Especially this one.  We will be back again someday!

P.S. Thanks, Kim, of OhMy! Omaha for suggesting that we try dining at Midtown Crossing.  We are so glad that we did!  And the free three hour parking was a definite bonus -we could take our time!  I love that feature of public parking in Omaha!

Categories: Cornhusker Cuisine, Eating Establishments | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lauritzen Gardens: Omaha’s Hidden Paradise

Lauritzen Gardens entrance

Our trip to Lauritzen Gardens was like visiting paradise, especially in the midst of a very chilly day.  Located on the edge of Omaha, a nature reserve in the midst of a city is unexpected.  And quite beautiful, inside and out!

Lauritzen Gardens Poinsettia Triptech

Right now the Garden has their annual poinsettia display – over 29 varieties.  (And yes, those are pictures that I took while there – aren’t the flowers simply breathtaking!)

Lauritzen Gardens Christmas Building Collage

Nestled among the flowers are natural wood sculptures representing many of Omaha’s buildings.  (I think my son counted 34 of them!)  These are also quite the sight to see!

Lauritzen Gardens trains

My youngest definitely loved seeing the trains that ran throughout the flowers.  Actually, I think we all really liked that part!

Lauritzen Gardens floral displays

Their displays made you want to wander about, finding secret places of beauty!

Lauritzen Gardens Hallway Gallery

This is the hallway the connects the main gallery with the education wing.  A work of art in itself, plus they rotate displays of artwork.  (The shadows made it challenging to capture the artist’s painting well, but they were lovely!)

Lauritzen Gardens Winter

Despite the chilling weather, the kids and I took a short hike.  This would be a great area to explore in warmer weather, although we enjoyed looking around even in the cold.  My son and I also saw a hawk perched on a tree out front.

Lauritzen Gardens tropical edition

They are in the middle of expanding their facility to include a tropical gardens area.  This will add a wonderful element to all that they have to offer.

Lauritzen Gardens for Children

Our favorite part was making natural ornaments for the birds.  My kids loved stringing fruit loops, cranberries and peanut shells onto wire.  Evidently these ornaments are quite popular with the wildlife – they only last a day or two!

In the summer, they have a children’s garden.  They also have backpacks that you can check out to enrich your experience.  Lauritzen Gardens has a done a wonderful job of making the place friendly, warm and welcoming for the whole family.  We are excited to go back again in the future!

A big thank you to the Omaha Convention and Visitor’s Bureau for providing the tickets for us to visit this lovely place!

Categories: Metro, Photography, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Place of Fairy Tales: Joslyn Castle in Omaha (Part 2)

Joslyn Exterior Castle View

If I had to pick one home in Nebraska that I have always wanted to see, Joslyn Castle in Omaha would be at the top of list.  Since I always love going to homes that have been decorated for Christmas, I knew that getting to see Joslyn Castle in December would be incredible.  So, when the Joslyn Castle Trust graciously agreed to let us in to take a few photographs this week, I was definitely excited.

Joslyn Exterior Details

Wandering around the first floor with a camera resulted in many, many pictures – such an incredible place!  My eyes were almost on beauty overload!  So, this will be a longer post, but hopefully you will enjoy my view of Joslyn.  My ultimate goal is to convince you to visit yourself.  While it was fun being able to go from room to room, I think I would have enjoyed a tour even more.  I always like knowing the story behind the place.

Do you feel the same way?  You have 2 more Sunday opportunities to experience Joslyn Castle at its holiday finest.  Tours are happening at 1,2 and 3 p.m. this Sunday the 15th and the 22nd.  If you have an opportunity to go, I would highly recommend the experience!  (Note: adults are $6 and Seniors/students are $3.)  Now on to my pictures and a bit of the story …

As the wealthiest Nebraskans at the turn of the century, George and Sarah Joslyn wanted their home to reflect their means and station.  So, they purchased over 5 acres on the outskirts of Omaha (now considered mid-town) and spent 11 months having their dream home constructed.  This was an amazing feat due to the abundance of woodwork and the sheer size of the project.  As spectacular as the home is today, I am certain that it would have been even more beautiful when the place was furnished.

Joslyn Castle entrance alcove

The Grand Staircase hall.

Joslyn Castle 2nd floor Looking Out and Down

The view from the 2nd floor stained glass windows and the view looking down from the 2nd floor staircase landing.

Joslyn Castle Room with (interior) views

Which direction to choose?  So many beautiful options!

Joslyn Morning Room

The front morning room was used as Sarah Joslyn’s office.  I know that I would be perfectly happy to sit in this room and work!

Joslyn Library

The other main front room is the library.  Etched glass bookcases covered several of the walls.  They now contain pictures and memorabilia from the house and family.

Joslyn library photographs

Pictures of George and Sarah Joslyn grace several of the walls.

Joslyn Music RoomChapel

The music room occupies the front side of the house to the west.  Joslyn Castle does rent out parts of the first and second floor for many special occasions such as ceremonies and receptions.  Including weddings.  Almost as if this room was intended for this purpose …

(Note; We were so excited to have Grammi join us for the day.  My mom is pictured above with the kids!)

Joslyn Music Room Balcony

This small balcony area is the same level as the first floor.  There is a view of the conservatory – a miniature indoor greenhouse area resplendent with flowers and plants.

Joslyn Conservatory of Flowers

The conservatory is located on the back north part of the house.  The etched glass garden door is original.  A small path winds through the garden areas.  This area can also be seen just off of the Great Staircase Hallway. 

Joslyn Drawing Room

Due to the opulence, at first I thought this room was used for dining.  I found out that it was actually their main living and entertaining area.

Joslyn Dining Room Fireplace and Tree

The dining area is adjacent to the living room.  With the dark woodwork and ornate carvings, the room feels warm and cozy.  I was told that some of the woodwork is incredibly rare and would be impossible to replace since some of these types of trees are actually extinct now or challenging to find.

Joslyn Dining Room Collage 

The built-ins house family heirlooms and also display pictures of how the home used to look furnished.

The Joslyn Castle Trust takes care of operating and overseeing the maintenance of the home.  Their ultimate goal is to restore the home to way it looked when it was first completed in 1903.  This is an overwhelming and expensive undertaking.  By purchasing one of the items on their “gift tree,” you can be a part of the process.

Joslyn Gift Tree

Each of the tags on this tree have gift suggestions of varying prices.  These purchases will assist the Joslyn Castle Trust in preserving this mansion.

Joslyn Mansion and Carriage House

A side view of the castle and the carriage house.  (I think I would be perfectly happy to call even that lovely smaller building home!)  This building has now been converted into office.  The former green house (not pictured) located in the back of the castle now houses the Joslyn Castle Trust.

We loved visiting the Joslyn Castle -a home for the holidays!





Categories: Friday Photography, Metro, Nebraska History, Photography, Region or City | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrate “National Poinsettia Day” at Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha

I have a feeling that for most of you, “National Poinsettia Day” is not on your radar today.  This is not the case for Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha.  They are prepared to help you celebrate this day by sending the first 100 families through the door home with a poinsettia.  (And not like the ones you can buy at any grocery store either – a fresh poinsettia that they grew in their garden area!)  “Poinsettia Day” tends to be a rather popular event, and they anticipate giving most of them away by noon, so you want to go early.  They are open from 9-5.  Admission for adults is $6 and children age 6-12 are only $3.

Lauritzen Gardens Poinsettia Tree

Perhaps the best reason to go to Lauritzen Gardens – their display of poinsettia plants is truly magnificent.  But by having docents in their poinsettia area, they also want you to leave with more knowledge about this holiday flower.

Lauritzen Gardens poinsettia flowers

What we learned on our short visit yesterday – the red on the plant is actually leaves.  The flowering part is in the center and is often quite small.  So for the above type of poinsettia, the flower is the yellow part in the center.  I will be writing more about our wonderful Lauritzen Gardens experience tomorrow.

P.S.Later today I will post which home for the holidays we visited yesterday.  I decided to take a bit more time to learn a bit more information.  Otherwise my post would just be pretty pictures without as much meaning.  So, later today you will know where we were! 🙂


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