Operation Christmas Child: Making a Difference for Less Than a Starbuck’s Latte.


For Christmas this year we decided that we did NOT need any more toys. NEWS FLASH. We already have one million and one, so instead of exchanging names or giving gifts to each other, my sister and I made an executive decision to get our kids together to make boxes for Operation Christmas Child. I mean, why not give to kids who actually “need” something this year, instead of hoarding more to ourselves and our children?

Ah, that feels so much better.

So last week we did just that.


First, I snagged these clear Rubbermaid totes at Walmart for $.94! 94 cents, you guys! Whaatttt??? I mean, that is less than 1/4 of my favorite chocolate bar at Whole Foods. And not even half of a Starbucks latte! (I venture to say it will probably make more of a difference than the wording on the side of their cups ever will, but that’s for another time.:))

Light bulb!

So we each went out and gathered tons of fun “stuff”, some from our toy boxes, some from the store- stickers, paper, toothbrushes, pencils, hats, crayons, band aids, socks, wind-up toys, balls, flip flops, soap, etc- and then got together at my house to fill the shoe boxes.

My mom had instigated the idea after she helped pack and ship boxes at OCC last year and was completely impressed and inspired by their heart and mission to help children and so, of course she came too!



We had a total blast, wrapping and filling our boxes and it was such a delight, watching our kids get into the spirit of giving! They loved picking out things that “they would want” and giving it to someone else instead.

In all it was a wonderful day, we packed eight boxes full to the brim, and we all learned again how much more blessed it is to GIVE than to receive. How fun it is to come willing and ready to bring what we have, than to long for that which we don’t!

What a joy and what a beautiful life lesson  for .94 cents! May it stay with us this holiday season and forever, and may it go deep in the hearts of my children, and all who receive it!

Thank you, Operation Christmas Child, for the opportunity to bless others through your ministry! Love and Merry Christmas to all! -The Hostetler’s

How about you? Do you have a non-profit you like to give to as a family? A favorite way to bless others over the holidays? Share your ideas in the comments, and let’s make it a Merry Christmas for everyone this year!


The Hot Vegan: A Spicy Pumpkin Latte

Now that it’s officially fall, and I’ve officially had my baby, I’ve officially started drinking.

I’ve officially started consuming all manner of liquids. Especially hot ones. Like hot cocoa. Hot apple cider. Hot tea. Hot wine…

Um. Hot wine, Ruthie? Well, it could be hot. So it counts, right? And it warms a person’s innards. So…there ya go! (I knew it popped into this list for a reason.)

I am drinking all kinds of things like coffee and mochas and lattes. And oh, did I mention, COFFEE??!!

Lord knows how excited I was when my baby popped out and I could drink coffee again! It was really only six weeks, max, that I had gone without. I had been drinking very moderate amounts throughout my pregnancy, with no adverse effects, until about my 35th week or so. That’s when the small child inside me had officially run out of room and so he would kick me in the ribs. Especially when I had coffee. And especially when I would lay down and try to sleep!

Now we all know how hard it is to sleep when you’ve got a baby’s foot in your ribs. Well, at least us mothers do. Sorry guys. You will never know how hard it is.

So I abstained, with the hopes that I would get some relief from the relentless acrobatics. I withheld myself from the java for a whole month.

But now that the babe is out, I am back at the watering trough and probably more excited than I should be about drinking my favorite form of poison.

You can imagine how excited I was when I saw this recipe for a vegan pumpkin spice latte over at Healthy. Happy. Life.

I knew I had to make it. Or at least something like it.

Since it was officially the first week of fall, I knew I needed to make something orange-ish, something “hot” to celebrate. And what better way than with a creamy pumpkin latte?


I mean, will you look at this please? It’s like Autumn in a cup.


And there’s that favorite saucepan of mine. Really, how could it not be good when it comes from such a pretty pan?

I gotta say, I went a little gung ho with this recipe. I think I made seven lattes in one day. It was that much fun! And they were that good.

Kathy’s version called for a base of soy milk, but I’m not a fan of the soybean, so I made my own almond milk for it. I dumped in some pumpkin and spices to my liking, then added a little maple syrup for sweetness and sipped away at my concoction. It was good, but I felt it needed a little something, a little extra oomph.

So I busted out the coconut oil. Cuz that’s what I do when something needs a little extra oomph.

I plopped some into my latte mixture and then whipped up the hot liquid in my blender.


And boy oh boy. Was it ever luscious! It would have been perfectly dreamy as it was.


You know I can’t ever leave well enough alone. You know if there is something creamy and fluffy to be added, I will add it.

So that’s what I did. I whipped up some coconut cream, jazzed it up with some sweet sappy syrup straight from the maple tree, and swirled it on top of my latte.


Bam! It was perfect! So perfect, in fact, that I gave it a name all its own. From here on it will lovingly be referred to in our house, as “the hot vegan.” Because that’s what it is.

Sexy. Hot. Smooth. Just as a pumpkin spice latte should be.

Try it and tell me you don’t love me.

The Hot Vegan

(Inspired by the Vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte at Healthy. Happy. Life.)

Prep Time: 2 hours, 30 min.

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients (1 Large Latte)

  • 1 1/2 cups vanilla coconut almond milk (recipe below)
  • 1 shot espresso OR 1/4 cup very strong coffee
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp canned pumpkin (unsweetened)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 heaping tsp EV coconut oil
  • dash of ground ginger

Vanilla Coconut Almond Milk

  • 3/4 cup almonds, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 3 1/2 Tbsp organic cane sugar
  • 1/4 tsp pink salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 3 cups water

Whipped Maple Coconut Cream

  • 1/3 cup coconut cream, skimmed off the top of a can of chilled coconut milk
  • 1 tsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla


First make your coconut almond milk by adding all ingredients to a blender and blending for about thirty seconds. Strain through a nut milk bag.

Place the almond pulp back into blender with 1 1/2 cups water. Repeat. This will give you about a quart of milk.

Save 1 1/2 cups of this to make your latte, and place the rest in your fridge for other uses.

For the latte, add all ingredients to a small saucepan and heat to almost boiling.

While that is heating, make your whipped maple coconut cream.

Skim off the top part of your coconut milk (the cream!), to make about 1/3 cup and whip to desired fluffiness. Fold in maple syrup and vanilla.

Pour the hot latte mixture into blender and blend for 20 seconds.

You will now have a steamy, frothy latte. Pour into your favorite mug and top with whipped coconut cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

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