Thursday, December 28, 2006

'Now, That's A Keeper!'

I've been picking out recipes for January.
I like to start the new year with a month of new recipes and my family has begun to look forward to this family tradition! They didn't always, but 'as we grow, our tastes mature', or so The Dreamer informed me yesterday!

My goal is to try two new 'main dishes' and at least one new soup and sweet treat or dessert each week of January. I like knowing that at the end of the month we will have a few new 'favorites' to add to the menu list. It helps with ' meal fatigue' and keeps my interest in making new things for the family alive.

Sometimes we have tried recipes that are so terrible that we end up calling for PIZZA, but most often I am able to look at a recipe and figure out if we will like it or not. If we all like the recipe my husband proclaims 'Now, that's a keeper' and I add it to my monthly menu list.

My criteria for a new main dish recipe is simple. I like to make everything from scratch - no boxes of stuffing mixes, canned sauce mix or refrigerated biscuits, but I do use some simple home canned ingredients, like tomatoes. I need to be able to make it in about half an hour (preparation time, not cooking time!), and if I can make a second dish for the freezer, I am a very happy woman indeed! We have pretty simple tastes and try to keep our main courses somewhat healthy!

Would anyone else be interested in trying new recipes with me this month, or sharing new recipes that we might all like to try? I am finding my blogging friends to be a wonderful source of new recipes!

I have scheduled new recipes for Tuesday and Saturday for this January since those nights work best for us! If you would like to join me, just let me know and we can support and encourage one another! If our family finds 'a keeper' I'll post the recipe and source here!

Let the recipe search begin!

Quiet Rest

I love the week between Christmas and the New Year - it is a time to spend together and enjoy the gifts we have received, a time for a bit of straightening and organizing, reading new books and playing games. We had planned to go to my parents home for a visit - just the children and I, so we would have spent two days on the road. Since we are staying home to support The Historian in his hour of need, we are enjoying the quiet days at home.

Just a quick update on The Historian; his doctor believes it is kidney stones. He is managing the pain with over the counter medication for now, but the pain is increasing. We don't have the x-ray results yet, but he has all the classic symptoms. He is not able to work, but not enjoying his time at home either since he goes from resting with the soother sac to hot baths and back to resting. He has many books he would love to be reading, but can't concentrate on the words. He isn't grumpy, but he also isn't looking forward to the forthcoming increase in pain. This would probably be a good time for cable t.v., but since we don't watch it much at all, we don't have it.

I am quietly keeping busy while the children are playing inside and outside. I have been wanting to transfer my dry goods to glass containers. After storing them for many years in plasticware, I recently read an article about how unwise this is. I received some nice glass jars for Christmas and have been washing them up, making labels and doing the transfer. I also made 6 more Soother Sac's this afternoon - two for my gift drawer and four for a friend who loved the ones I gave their family so much they want to give them to other family members! I've been reading a bit in the evenings and have done some planning for the new year. Nothing very exciting, but that's fine. We are not getting complete restful night's sleep, so it good to be under no time pressures, and to relax when needed. I hope you are enjoying this week too!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Blessed Christmas

I do pray you have had a blessed Christmas celebration with those you love, and are now busy cleaning up the paper bits and reflecting on the many blessings your family has enjoyed on this wonderful Christmas Day! We have so much to be thankful for, don't we? Immanuel - God with us! Beyond comprehension.

I was about to title this blog ' A glimpse into our less than perfect Christmas', but I could not bring myself to be so negative about a day which had so many wonderful, delightful moments and blessings.

The Storyteller just came in and gave me a great big hug and said, 'Mommy, I have to tell you - this Christmas has been a really wonderful Christmas!', and it has.

I should back up a bit to Friday night - that's when my dear Historian awakened at 2 am with a real pain in his side that just wouldn't subside. He thought it was a 'stitch' of sorts, but decidely more uncomfortable and lasting much longer than any previously experienced 'stitch'. After not feeling well for two days, he finally relented and took himself to the walk in medical clinic where they gave him some medication and sent him home with the likely diagnosis of kidney stones. The poor man! He'll have to see his regular doctor as soon as possible for a more complete work up, but he is in some pain and very tired out with it.

Aside from the lack of sleep, being unsure about my after Christmas travel plans with the children, and being concerned about my husband, my biggest difficulty with the timing of this illness was that I was so counting on The Historian's help. He is a great help in getting things accomplished, when I give him a list and an expected time frame, he is a capable and willing helper. He did the best he could, but much more fell to me than I had planned for.

My elaborate plans quickly fell by the wayside and I was forced to do something I am not really very good at - simplify! I am better at making things a bit more interesting, more complex, more elaborate, more, more, more! Simplify! Hmmm, just how do you do that?

Did I mention that we had invited another 'orphan' family to Christmas dinner - a family if 7? They have some family in the area but were not planning to get together with them this year, and since we have no family here, we invited them to join us. I had planned to have a sparkling clean home, to make fancy veggies, elaborate side dishes, tasty condiments, molded butter mounds and an exciting centerpiece. I had planned ... not to simplify!

Beginning Christmas dinner preparations at 10pm on Christmas Eve has never been a dream of mine. By that time, I am usually ready for bed so that I can enjoy the next day with some measure of restedness, but I was in the kitchen making decisions.

It all worked out - with a lot less sleep than I had planned on, but when I finally crawled into bed beside my restless husband, I felt pretty much 'ready for Christmas'. The last few gifts were thrown into gift bags with some tissue, the stockings were filled and ready for the children to awaken to, and Christmas dinner was well in hand. During my preparations I was in constant prayer for my husband, and at last felt the Lord's peace and assurance replace my anxiety.

We awakened slowly to the happy sounds of our children enjoying their stockings. We leave the stockings on the foot of their beds so that they can stay in bed and open them slowly. We could hear them calling to one another 'Sister, I got a giant sticky hand' and 'Brother, I got some new silly putty - I can't wait to show you how to use it'. There is something wonderful about children who are delighted with inexpensive little trinkets - every little thing was examined and enjoyed.

Our company was a little late - they had some surprise Christmas travellers drop in and say hello, and they had gifts to unwrap and enjoy. They called ahead to explain so I turned down the oven and we sat down with the kids to enjoy watching them open a few gifts each.

When our friends arrived, the hot spiced cider was steaming in the old cider perk, and I had my cheese ball and crackers, along with vanilla sugar almonds and chocolate bark set out to nibble on. The table was set very simply and nicely by The Dreamer, the Christmas music was playing and the candles were lit. We started our meal with jellied Gingerale Salad, homemade cresent rolls and butter. We enjoyed Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes, Cheesy Company Potatoes, steamed Green Beans, Harvard Beets, and Heavenly Ham. We ate slowly, enjoying the meal and good conversation. After a short break we returned to the table to sing 'Happy Birthday' to Jesus and enjoy slices of Boston Cream Pie cake and ice cream. The Historian began to get really uncomfortable again and disappeared for a short rest with a nice warm Soother Sac. After cleaning up the kitchen, we had a good visit. We had prepared some small gifts for each of their family members and everything was enjoyed and sincerely appreciated.

When we the family left, we rested for a while - the children had not had a chance to enjoy the things that they opened before our guests arrived, and because they have a 2 1/2 year old the children had quickly put the things away so he wouldn't be in danger of swallowing any little pieces. After our rest, we enjoyed opening the remainder of the gifts.

I know I have mentioned before the wonderful Advent Devotional our family has been enjoying entitled 'Jotham's Journey'. We enjoyed lighting the Advent Candles and finishing the book together before heading to bed. All in all, we missed our family, but it was a blessed Christmas. We chose to make the best of an unforseen difficulty, and while we may remember this Christmas as the 'kidney stone Christmas', at least we were together, and blessed with the friendship of a sweet family who love the Lord and share our values.

I am planning to wait until The Historian can get to the doctor for a complete exam and diagnosis and hopefully some find some relief for the pain before deciding when I am heading with the children up North to see my parents. I would not enjoy a trip knowing that my husband is unwell, though I don't think I can be of much help to him, at least we are here to support and encourage him.

As usual, our children's favorite gifts were the Playmobil toys - a few more wonderful animals for The Dreamer's zoo set, and a Police Helicopter and Headquarters for The Storyteller's modern days set. They also loved 'The Storykeepers' DVD set and the books they were given. They are having a great time together putting everything in place and making up stories about 'characters'.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sweet Day

Oven Baked Caramel Corn - always a big hit for gifts and our own enjoyment!
I made 8 quarts today and will undoubtedly need to make another batch! Or two!

Moving on to cookies - mmmmm! A yummy new recipe to me - Pound Cake Wafers from Mrs. Wilt at The Sparrows Nest and good old chocolate crinkles. The Dreamer loves rolling the balls in powdered sugar.

Anna from Pleasant View Schoolhouse shared her recipe for Ginger Shortbread and they are so good! In the background you'll see a bag of Brownie Biscotti, a recipe I've changed to make my own, and my mom's wonderful Christmas Shortbread - a square that needs cooling time before it is cut and enjoyed. There is also a bag or two of my Vanilla Sugar Almonds there, waiting to be given away!

My sister gave me this simple recipe for Toasted Almond Bark - I let it harden and broke it into chunks to be prettily packaged and given away.

My little taste tester! What a boy!

This morning I was expecting a friend to come with her 5 children and have a baking morning, but she was unable to come. She awakened not feeling well, and knowing that we are just getting over our own brand of germs, and need to stay well for our trip to Canada, she called and we decided it was best to postpone. It was a bitter disappointment for the children, but they were quick to realize that we have already missed one trip to see Poppa and Grammy this year because of illness, and we don't want to do that again!

I had pulled out the recipes, softened the butter and planned the baking day, so I went ahead with some of it by myself. The children enjoyed a day of quiet reading, computer learning games, play and a favorite video series. I normally limit videos to one, but they could not go out in the cold pouring rain, and they weren't keen on helping since they are both still coughing and would have had a hard time keeping germs off the goodies! So it was a '3.2.1. Penguins' kind of day, I guess. Their rooms were already very tidy!

One of the things I like best about blogging is the encouragement to try new recipes. I did so today with good results. For all of you who keep on sharing such wonderful recipes - I thank you! My family thanks you too!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A promise of better things to come!

Grammy with The Dreamer cuddling Peppermint!

I have not been overjoyed with the quality of my close-up digital photography and was determined to learn more about my new camera so that I could do a more credible job. Have I mentioned that the manual was about 4 pages long and essentially told me to insert the battery and have fun? Helpful!

This afternoon I let myself sit for a little while. This is very hard for me to admit since I am the daughter of a wonderful, energetic woman who is very driven and rarely sits. She lives with constant pain but can work rings around me, even now. I was fashioned with a calm and contented personality - I'm afraid if I start sitting, I'll never get up! I'm trying to find a balance in this area - especially since my ongoing health challenges require 'a quantity of daily rest'.

All this to say that while sitting today I discovered the SCN setting on my camera! Wow! No more AUTO only for me! I had no idea there where so many specific settings for digital photography! And on my inexpensive little camera! I am elated! Though I am sure my pictures will not be the quality they would be if my camera were in the hands of my sister, who has been blessed with an amazing eye for photography, I do think these settings will aid me! Maybe if I get used to SCN I'll even venture forth into manual .... maybe! I sure do like the delete feature! I wonder if my Dad is still planning to get 'digital for dummies' for me for Christmas? That might help too!

For all of you who have suffered through my mediocre pictures, thanks for sticking by ... better things are yet to come!

By this time tomorrow ...

I have an index card at my kitchen sink that my mom sent to me some time ago. It says:
"By this time tomorrow I will have accomplished the impossible."
- C.S.Lewis

I am grateful today for this reminder. The children are still struggling with heavy colds and a fresh cold seems to have found me this week! I awakened with a touch of The Storyteller's eye infection also, and am feeling much in need of a good cry or to just crawl back into bed for the day. Since I really don't have time for that, and it would be very unproductive, besides, I have entreated my Heavenly Father once again for strength for today, and grace to face whatever troubles may be added to my day.

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
John 16:33

"In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling."
Exodus 15:30
Do you think it was God's planning to have both of these encouragements 'pop' up in my devotional time this morning? I certainly do! His Word is alive!

"God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
- C.S. Lewis
My troubles are insignicant compared to the difficulties so many face today, and I do not face them alone. My God shall supply all of my needs again today. I am blessed to have an understanding husband - he had no idea that the 'in sickness' part of his wedding vow to me would far outweigh the 'in health', yet he still loves me dearly and is, right now, praying for my strength and trying to be the best encouragement and support he can. I am indeed, a very blessed woman.
Artwork from All Posters

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Vanilla Sugar Almonds

Are you looking for a super quick and yummy gift idea? This recipe is one I have adapted from Jean Pare's Company's Coming Millenium Edition cookbook, and I thought I would share it here. If you are drawn to the nut vendors at the County Fair and have paid an outrageous price for a small sleeve of warm roasted almonds, then you will likely enjoy this recipe. In a season of many overly candied treats, I like these because they are just sweet enough!

Vanilla Sugar Almonds

2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup of white sugar
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

41/2 cups of whole blanched or natural almonds (unsalted)

1/2 cup of melted butter

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees F.
Beat egg whites until stiff and add sugar, salt and vanilla. Fold in almonds.
Pour melted butter into a 9x13 pan and spread the almond mixture over it. Bake for 10 minutes, stir well. Repeat for 3 or 4 times for 30-40 minutes or until no butter remains in the bottom of the pan. Pour out unto waxed paper or parchment and seperate to cool. I cannot say how well these keep - we give most away and the rest disappear quickly!

1. The original recipe calls for a combination of pecans, walnuts and almonds, and omits the vanilla.
2. I sometimes add 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon to the recipe for a nice change.
3. Exchanging the white sugar for brown lends a sweeter, caramel hint to these addictive nuts!

Hint: This week I purchased wonderful fresh nutmeats at Sam's club - the almonds were $9 for a 9 cup bag, working out to about $3 per pound compared to $5+ at most of my local grocery stores. The big bag made a great 'double batch'!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Tune your ears to my voice!

A few years ago, we had The Dreamer's hearing tested. We were sure that there must be a physical problem related to her inabilty to hear and obey our instructions. While the doctor could not find any auditory problems, the difficulty continued.

That's when we realized that it was a problem stemming from her heart - being inattentive to our instruction was an act of willful disobedience.

My husband and I have very quiet voices. In fact, if I yell, it causes me great pain, and I often suffer with a sore throat for days afterward. I also sound like a strangled chicken, so yelling as a 'disciplinary tool' in our home is rather laughable! I do have a 'sharp' tone at times, but it's not too pleasant either.

For this reason, we began to use the phrase 'tune your ears to my voice' in order to get our children's attention. It has been effective in training our children to hear and listen to our instruction - and to obey! When they hear that phrase they are to stop what they are doing and turn to face us, they are to cup a hand around their ear and tune in to what is being said. As I was sharing this with a friend yesterday who is also struggling with an inattentive child, I was thinking about how God speaks to me.
I am not the most attentive child my Heavenly Father has. There are so many voices demanding my attention, so much noise in my everyday life that drowns out His still, small voice. His Word speaks to me, but I often take time for just short snaches here and there, little glimpses and not the long thoughtful look I should make the time for. I need to tune my ears to His voice more, for everything He has to say is for my benefit. At times I don't listen simply because I don't like the message; sometimes it is hurtful to see myself through His Word.
Sometimes it takes drastic action to get my attention. Trials and adversity compel me to tune in to God, bringing a better understanding of His love for me. Being homebound with sickness for short seasons leaves more time for listening, sometimes I just need the quiet to open my heart to His voice.
I think Christmas is a time when we are better able to see and hear the heart of God. Throughout Advent we have been reading about the Names of God and my heart has been so blessed to know the The Existing One is my Provider, my Healer, my Redeemer, All-Sufficient, and so much more. His Word is a balm to my soul and washes over me - the familiar Scripture passages are fresh and new with each reading, teaching my heart the wonder of my Saviour.
For many who do not know Jesus as the Lord and Saviour, I sometimes see a softness at this time of year - it is almost as if they cannot help but be drawn to the Voice of God, they cannot help but tune their hearts to Him. There is something unexplainably appealing about the celebration of Christmas. Many who have no time for God in their day to day are irresistably drawn to the Babe in the Manger at Christmas.
I pray that in this season of heightened activity, endless 'to-do' lists, high expectations, stress and over-commitments, we will all find the time to 'tune our ears to His voice' and thus be eternally blessed.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Christmas Tour of Homes

I read about boomama's Christmas Tour of Homes on Kelli's Blog and thought it was a great idea! Obviously many others did too! It was so fun to peek into other blogger's homes and see their creativity! Some were simply inspiring, others, enchanting!

You are more than welcome to come to the front door and enjoy the fragrance of my mixed greens wreath! If you do you'll see our 'magical twinkling lights' wrapped around the pillars that support the porch.
Most folks prefer our side door, and you know what they say about 'back door guests are the best'! The snowflake lights may be the only snow we'll see this Christmas!
This is our old wooden baby sleigh filled with fresh greens, white lights, gold sprays and a cheerful crimson velvet and gold ribbon bow.
There is Peppermint the cat running fast to beat you to the door!

My kitchen shelf serves as a simple reminder that Christmas is about the love God showed in sending His Son to earth. 'Love one another as Christ has loved you ...' is a daily theme in our home.

On top of the corner cabinet in the family room we have a old world snowy winter woodlands theme.

The theme is continued on the mantle where painted tin birds and snowflakes nestle in the branches, snow sprays, pinecones and berries, right in front of the birdhouses where they might make their winter home.

This is our new artificial tree - a first for us! We are attempting to sidestep the Christmas tree allergies that our sweet Dreamer often suffers from. We named the tree Goliath - can you guess why? It looks a bit sparse this year, but I'm planning some ornament crafting in the near future to help fill in the bare spots! We have angels, snowflakes and precious ornaments that are meaningful to the children.

We'll make our last stop the playroom, decorated by The Dreamer herself! We don't have alot of wallspace where we 'do school', so the schoolroom decorations are relegated to the playroom!

That's the end of our tour for now!

I would love to give you a more complete 'tour' of our home, all ready for Christmas! Unfortunately without high speed internet, downloading even a few pictures takes hours, so I'll just give you a glimpse! I wonder if there is a faster way for those of us still driving on in the slow lane? I'll have to look into it.

In the meantime, I just found my menu from our last 'real' Christmas Open House, and I thought I'd share it with you! I made everything from in my own little kitchen and served about 45 people. It was a cold December night and everyone was joining us after trudging through big drifts of snow to various homes in our neighbourhood and singing Christmas Carols! Wonderful memories!


Hot Spiced Apple Cider in the big Cider Urn

Hot Coffee - regular and decaf

Sparkling Cranberry Raspberry Punch with Mint Leaf & Raspberry Ice Ring

Sweet Treats:

Christmas Shortbread Squares

Vanilla Dips

Brownie Bites with Candy Cane Icing

Peanut Butter Balls

Pecan Snowballs

Cherry Flips

Gingerbread lads and lassies

Homemade Caramel Corn

Pralined Pecans

Maple Fudge

Hot Stuff:

Phyllo Wrapped Baked Brie

Spinach Dip in a Pumpernickle Bread Bowl

Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnuts

Mini Bacon Cheddar Quiches

Mini Tortiere (French Canadian Meat Pie)

Three Cheese Triangles in Phyllo Pastry

Cold Offerings:

Cheese Ball and Crackers

Veggie Tray and Dilly Dip

Chilled Shrimp and Cocktail Sauce

Strawberries & Fruit Slices with Honey Yogurt Dip

I think that was it! I had the advantage of a consistantly very cold garage to store the baked goods in so it acted as my extra refrigerator. We actually put an alarm out in the garage next to the food in case it warmed up past 37 degrees, but it never did! It was so much fun! I love to cook for others, but I have pretty simple tastes, so it was fun to venture forth a bit into richer foods at Christmas!

Thank you for visitng my blog! I do hope that your Christmas is blessed with the abiding joy found in knowing Jesus Christ as your dearest Friend. Blessings!

Apple Sauce & Sanity

Our home is peaceful and restful this afternoon. The Historian is home, squirreled away in his office, working on a message to preach tomorrow at a church that is currently without a Pastor. I feel badly for this small church family there since the Christmas season is often a hard time to be without a Pastor. They have not found a regular interum, so The Historian has been asked for a number of Sundays. We have made a commitment that when the opportunity to preach comes, he will take it, as he is able.

Once again, the children and I will probably have 'mini-home Sunday School' tomorrow, since there is much evidence of 'germiness' - we are running out of tissue! This makes things relaxed for me today since I am not worried about preparing our clothes and shoes for the morning. I will prepare a brief lesson for them though, and a craft. Thankfully, I have a big selection of materials to choose from, since I have a lot of Sunday School teacher experience!

We are doing a bit of cleaning, making a big batch of apple sauce and reading! There is bright sunshine outside, pleasant music inside, and the wonderful aroma of apples and cinnamon. The children are playing nicely with one another - setting up 'Christmas Town' with The Storyteller's GeoTrax. We rotate toys and today was the day to pack up the Knights and their kingdom and get out another selection. With the promise of a batting for a snowy land and 'real' pretend snowflakes ( I may regret this as I vacuum it up from all over the house!!!!), the train set made the most logical choice! We only wish there were people to go with this set!

After another week of sickness and stress in our house, I am blessed to be enjoying this day. I know I have a long list of 'shoulds' that may accuse me of 'slacking off' later, but I needed today for sanity's sake. My heavenly Father knows what I need so much better than I! I hope you are having a blessed day too!

Friday, December 15, 2006

More Smiles Today

Well, we are not all well, but there were a few more smiles today! The were also a lot of grumpy moments and short tempers. The Storyteller's eyes are better but he is still coughing and is complaining about a sore ear. The Dreamer has joined in the hacking cough and is not loving her breathing treatments. The Historian came home for an hour from work to sleep off a bad headache, and I am just wondering when we will ever all be well!
I am tempted to whine and complain and be very discouraged, but I am trying to remember to 'count it all joy' and to be thankful in all things. I know it could be much worse, and that this is just a season of illness that will quickly pass. I am comforted to know that God knows all my worries and cares for our children more deeply than I can imagine!
Now, after a day of wiping noses, washing hands, reading stories, writing recipes and calming tempers, I am heading for a good book and a hot cup of cocoa with a chocloate candy cane stir stick!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

No Smiles Left

The Storyteller is struggling for the third day with a bad case of 'pink eye' which he is finding very uncomfortable, along with stinging 'lip-smack dermatitus' and congestion in his chest and nasal passages. He had another warm bath to loosen the congestion, and even though he was surrounded by an army of fine brave knights and soaking in wonderful soothing bubbles (Kiss My Face Cold and Flu Bath), he still couldn't find a smile. I am praying that he will be feeling much better soon - we miss our cheery little guy!

Soother Sacs

This afternoon, The Dreamer and I went into 'Soother Sac' production. These simple sacs of wheat and dried lavender have been so helpful to our family for aches and pains, so I like to keep a few in my 'gift drawer' to give to others.

We made 8 all together, but two were 'claimed' by my helper for her and her brother, and one perished with a slip of the scissors - the Dreamer felt badly, but I think she'll be more careful snipping threads in the future. We reused the lavender and wheat.

This pattern is so simple - finding dried lavender at a reasonable price was my biggest hurdle. I once made 80 of these and sold them at a craft fair to earn money for The Dreamer's adoption costs. It is a basic fabric tube, about 5 inches by 25 inches finished size, filled with a lavender and wheat berry mixture, and sewn at 5 inch intervals to keep the contents in place. I fold the sacs and tie them with a pretty ribbon for gift giving, and attach a tag.

This is what the tag says:

Lavender and Wheat Berries
Soother Sac
Heat in microwave on medium for 2 minutes.
Do not overheat - contents are flammable!
Use your Soother Sac to bring comfort to tired, achy muscles,
a stiff neck, cold feet or hands, back pain, growing pains,
and to soothe youngsters with colic or difficulty sleeping.
Use caution especially when using for children since
contents can get very hot and may burn skin.
Check temperature carefully.

EDITED: January 2010

Need more specifics to make your own? Well ...

I cut two strips of good cotton fabric 25 1/2" x 5 1/2" and iron a 1/4 inch hem on one short end of each piece of fabric. I sew 3/4 away around the rectangle, right sides together, turn right side out and press to make a basic tube. I iron a sharp crease every 5 inches as a sewing guide, than fill. I use a generous 3/4 cup per section - so 3 3/4 - 4 cups all together. I use a 3:1 ratio wheat berries to lavender - but I have used less lavender when I was running out and it was fine. Fill, sew, fill, sew, fill, sew, fill, until the last and than sew the turned under edges together and clip threads. I like to fold it up in fifths and add a ribbon and tag - you can copy and edit the 'tag' message from my blog if you like. I use my canning funnel and a dry measure cup (not plastic since static causes the lavender to stick) to fill since the berries tend to have a mind of their own!


“The making of a perfect loaf of bread is the goal of all those who aspire to excel in cookery; and the art of bread-making requires not only a clear understanding of the underlying principles, but patience and persistence in experimentation and practice until a uniformly perfect product is achieved. The fact that in yeast we have a living organism with which to deal makes the whole process a delicate one, in which every detail is of importance, whether it be a matter of ingredients, proportions, methods of mixing, or temperature.”

The Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery, 1948

While it is true that bread making can be a bit tricky, I am sure that I would never have tried my hand at bread making if I had read this first! I’m glad my Nanny wasn’t so concerned with a perfect finished product when she taught me bread making basics! I’ve had a few ‘flops’ for sure, but nothing that wasn’t edible in some form! I can just imagine a young bride being given this volume as a wedding shower gift and being overwhelmed!

We found this old encyclopedia in the ‘rubble’ left in our home when we moved in two years ago and have just recently taken the time to sort through and ‘distribute’ the contents of those boxes. There were a few ‘treasures’ and this book was one of them. I am finding the contents most interesting and educational; the pictures are quaint and there are foods here that I have never even heard of! Of course, I am just a simple cook!

The attitude of striving for excellence in everyday cookery in this book is so refreshing. A marked difference from that of today where the goal of many seems to be ‘quick and easy’ and ‘real’ home cooking takes place only for special family occasions. I’m glad to be seeing so many blogs where women care about excellence in feeding their families, and where cookery is once again a joy and not a drudgery!


'As impossible as it is for us to take a breath in the morning large enough to last us until noon, so it is impossible to pray in the morning in such a way as to last us until noon. Let your prayers ascend to Him constantly, audibly or silently, as circumstances throughout the day permit.'
O. Hallesby
Pray without ceasing.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Cherry Flips

Just a pinch of dough to cover a well dried cherry! I keep a bit of flour on the counter and just keep dipping my fingers in it since this dough is a bit sticky.

They don't expand much so you can place them closely on the cookie sheets.

The finished product!

When we were the Pastor's family we enjoyed hosting a "Christmas Open House' each year following a Christmas Carolling Walk through town stopping at various homes of 'shut-in' church family members and the local nursing home. It was such a fun evening, and one of the many aspects of being in the ministry that I really miss. I had hoped to get a small group together here to go a'carolling, but we need to get everyone well before I make any plans! This was my most requested cookie recipes, and I have very fond memories of standing with my mum in the kitchen making hundreds of these 'little mouthfuls of heaven'!

Cherry Flips

1 cup of soft butter

1/2 cup icing sugar

2 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons of real almond extract

2-10 oz. jars of marachino cherries, drained, juice reserved, and patted very dry on paper towel


2 Tbsp. reserved cherry juice

2 Tbsp. soft butter

1 1/2 cups of icing sugar

2 tbsp. milk

Cream butter and sugar well, add egg yolks and extract. Gently stir in salt and flour. Do not overwork this dough or it will be 'tough'. With floured hands pinch off 1 teaspoon of dough. Flaten into a round. Place cherry in middle of round and bring dough to completely cover cherry. Roll in hands to make a uniform ball amd place on parchment lined cookie sheets.

Bake at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool.

Stir icing ingredients together. Add more milk or cherry juice as needed to make a slightly runny icing. Ice cooled cookies.

Decorate with drizzled melted chocolate or candy sprinkles. I like to use good quality milk chocolate chipits melted in the microwave in a zipper freezer bag. I use 1/3 cup chipits and microwave on medium for 40 seconds. I snip the corner of the bag after the chocolate is melted and drizzle zig zags over the tops.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The Quiet Bag

Every so often I have an inspiration that proves to be very helpful to my family. One of my inspirations has been 'The Quiet Bag' and over the years it has been a wonderful blessing and 'mother's helper'! I have shared this idea with other moms of young children, and I wondered if it might be something helpful to some of you as well - or even a gift idea for some young family.

Last night we had two functions in a row where the children were required to sit quietly for long periods of time, our Dreamer's piano recital and the children's Christmas Program at church. It was definately a night to grab 'The Quiet Bag'. Not only was it helpful for our family, but several children in the pew with us enjoyed the contents of the bag - we were the quietest row in the church, I think!

Our bag is an old used leather 'one shoulder' backpack style bag which we used to use as a diaper bag, but anything durable and 'husband friendly' will do. The contents vary occasionally as I 'trade out' less popular items and try to keep a rotation of fresh things to do.

The rules are simple, everything in the bag must be 'quiet', not too heavy, and requires no parental instruction. There is no playing with the contents of the bag at home or even in the car, unless we are on a long trip. It is reserved for special occasions like sermon time, funerals, the Doctor's waiting room, a fancy restaurant, or an 'adult' function where they need to be seen, but not heard. At 9, The Dreamer is expected to listen to the sermon and take brief notes, follow in the Scripture reading and sing in church, but there are still times when it is too much to expect her to be still for the length of time needed, so she enjoys "The Quiet Bag' too.

Now for the contents! We have a variety of things, but these are our favorites. Many have been purchased at the gift shop in Cracker Barrel's Old Country Store, at Wal*Mart, the Dollar Store and in educational type toy stores. There are no batteries or sound producing toys, nothing sticky, messy or glittery. Most of what we have was inexpensive, and of course has changed to be 'age appropriate' as the children have grown.

*Wikki Stix (these are so fun, but get sticky in warm weather, so they only get added to the bag in cooler months)

*Mini Etch-A-Sketch

* Mini Magna-Doodle

*Silly Putty

*Felt Story People, Fuzzy Felts or Felt Kids (a small felt board)

*Magnetic books (Construction set, Thomas the Tank Engine, Horses etc.)

*Sticker books (we like the little Dover books)

*Magnet face 'Willy' - where you use a 'wand' to put 'hair' on Willy

* 1/2 sheets of cardstock paper and mini paint sets (for in restaurants)

*Fun Pad, mini coloring books, maze books

*Fabric Activity Books

*Flip-A-Fish and The Peanut Game ( they are pretty quiet ;0)

*Magnetic Car Bingo

*Brain Quest games

*A mini photo album of family and friends

* Hand sanitizer, a small first aid kit, kleen-x, and dried fruit snacks complete the bag

We have had hours of quiet fun with this bag. When I was describing our use of 'The Quiet Bag' to the young mom beside us last evening, she was very positive and encouraging. I think she was planning to put together a bag for her own young boys. I decided that since she thought it was such a great idea, you might find it useful information too!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Grandma's Scottish Whipped Shortbread

Scottish Whipped Shortbread
(also seen on the Gay Lea Butter wrapper)

1lb. butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup corn starch
3 cups of pre-sift all purpose white flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
cherries to decorate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cream butter. Sift sugar, starch and flour together. Add to butter with vanilla. Beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy . It takes about 5 minutes to reach the consistancy of whipping cream. Drop by teaspoon full on parchment lined cookie sheets and decorate with 1/8 of a red or green cherry, well drained and patted dry. Bake for 15 minutes, do not allow to brown. They will expand slightly, look dry and be lightly golden around the edges. Remove to cooling racks.

These are very fragile, so they are not one to send in the mail!
They just melt in your mouth and are so simple and old fashioned.
If you can keep them around, they are good keepers. Enjoy!

Twinkle Police

I am so glad to be feeling a great deal better, though not quite 100% yet. Today we were able to get out and put up some outdoor lights! The Historian was very helpful with this illuminating job, but after he was done and plugged them all in, we both started laughing! Now we are on the lookout for the Neighbourhood 'Twinkle Police'!

I honestly don't know how I happened to pick up 'magical twinkling lights' on a great after Christmas sale last year. As I am unpacking the wonderful rubbermaid bins that my dad helped me buy and pack up after Christmas last year, I am realizing how unwell I really was. I don't remember anything I bought for this year - but thankfully I'm finding I like everything, and it has come in handy as I am getting around to putting things up. I'm enjoying the pleasant surprises!

Except for the 'magical twinkling lights'. Hmmm.

We live in a neighbourhood where Christmas ornamentation is taken seriously. While the teams of designers lug crates of new decorations inside the homes, the landscape specialists are busy designing light extravaganzas outdoors. Christmas, for our neighbours is quite a production, one which never ever involves 'magical twinkling lights'.

The fact that our home is modest, and could easily fit in our neighbour's garage makes me sure that they know we are not going to hire a design team to get our home ready for Christmas. We are not alone - there are a few 1950's ranch style homes in a row here, but none are sporting 'magical twinkling lights'.

We are hoping against hope that we are not violating some neighbourhood code!

Since the children have both declared these the most wonderful lights we have ever owned, and since we just don't take ourselves very seriously, we are keeping the lights! They are a bit showy for two quiet folks like us, but hey, maybe we'll set a trend! Who knows?

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Cookie Making Day

Yesterday afternoon we hosted our Homeschool Christmas Cookie Making Day. We had 11 kids and 4 moms and we made about 22 dozen cookies in just over 3 hours. Whew!

It was a bit crazy, but a whole lot of fun! I asked the families to bring a pound of butter and to wear aprons. This year I made the dough in the morning because last year we ran out of time trying to make it with the kids.

I used 10 pounds of butter to make a double batch each of Spritz, Chocolate Spritz, Ginger Crinkles, Rolled Sugar Cookies, and Cherry Flips.

The moms were a huge help - I could not have done it without them! We divided the children into three groups and had them rotating through three areas. I provided shirt boxes, gift bags, cello bags, pretty tissue, tags, stickers, ribbon, trims and markers, glue sticks etc. at the kitchen table. They made really cute creative containers to take their cookies home in.

One counter area was set up for decorating cut out cookies and rolling ball cookies, and the third area was dedicated to sugar cookie cut outs. I had the oven in the Grammy Flat and our kitchen oven going. We used two timers, but couldn't always hear it for the din! Miraculously, no cookies were burnt.

It was a fun time - a bit loud at times, but fun. We finally sent them out into the yard to burn off some energy! They packed their boxes and sampled cookies along with some juice. Everyone went home with lots of cookies and they even left a few for us. All in all, a success, I think! Now, I need to get baking some cookies for our family!

Now, I must ask this all important question. What is the appeal of raw cookie dough? As a girl, my mother cautioned me strongly that getting in the habit of eating raw cookie dough was not healthy. Mum said it was the 'height of impatience' and would certainly make for a 'plump' cook! Since I cannot tolerate raw eggs, I have always avoided it. Yesterday the other moms admitted to enjoying eating raw dough! We would have had at least three more dozen cookies if the kids and moms had not 'snacked' before baking! They were teasing me terribly, but really, the thought of raw dough is most unappealing to me! Where do you weigh in on the raw dough debate? I felt as though I was in the overwhelming minority yesterday!

Chelsea Buns

Before inverting on cooling rack.

Chelsea Buns

Here is the recipe you requested! I didn't write it out the other day because it is a bit involved. It is worth the effort for sure though!

My mum got this one from The Purity Cookbook, which was published for many years by The Purity Flour Company in Canada. Her cookbook was given to her almost 45 years ago as a wedding or bridal shower gift and literally fell apart because it was so well used. We were able to find a gently used one to replace it a few years ago - it's a household classic!

Basic Sweet Dough


1 cup of milk


1/3 cup of sugar, 2 tsp. salt & 1/2 cup shortening (or butter works in a pinch)

Stir until shortening melts and set aside.


1 tsp. sugar in 1/2 cup warm water


1 TBSP dry active yeast over top and let sit for 10 minutes to 'proof''. It will be foamy. Stir briskly with a fork and add to warm milk mixture.


1 egg and add to liquids, stirring well


2 cups pre-sift flour combining well and then add 2-2 1/2 cups more flour. Work in the last amount of flour with a 'rotating motion' of your hands (or the dough hook on my KitchenAid Stand Mixer on 'stir' works well).

Turn dough onto an lightly floured board and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Shape into a smooth ball. Place in a greased bowl and turn once to grease top of dough. Cover with a damp tea towel. Place in a warm spot - about 80 degrees. I warm my oven, leave the oven light on, place a shallow pan of boiling water on the rack beneath the bowl , close the oven door and set the timer. Let rise until it doubles in bulk - about 1 hour.

Punch down the risen dough and turn onto a lightly floured board. Divide into two equal rounded balls and cover with a clean tea towel. Let rest for 10 minutes. Use each portion to make any Sweet Dough Recipe.

Chelsea Buns

Place 1/3 butter in each of two glass 8x8 or 9x9 baking square pans. Add 1/3 cup brown sugar to each pan. Melt on stovetop slowly over low burner. Allow to cool slightly. Add 1/2 pecan pieces to each pan. You can also use 9 or 12 glazed cherry halves placed downside up for color in each pan. My mom used to get pretty fancy placing her pecan and red and green glazed cherries 'just so'. Each 'bun' would look like a work of art, but I'm a simple cook!


1/3 cup butter and set aside


1/2 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 cup raisins - we also use 1/2 chopped pecans. Set aside.

Roll out one round of dough on a lightly floured board into a 10x14 rectangle shape. Brush with 1/2 of the melted butter. Sprinkle with 1/2 the cinnamon sugar mixture. Roll tightly, beginning at the short end. Slice with a sharp knife into 9 or 12 rolls and place, cut side down, on brown sugar mixture in square pan. Repeat for other dough ball.

Cover and allow to rise again - about 45 minutes, until doubled. It goes faster if the pans are still a bit warm, or you can place in warm oven with the pan of boiling water again.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 35 -40 minutes. I sometimes have a problem with the edges browning too much before the center is baked. I turn my oven down a bit when that happens. You'll know your oven best. The glass pans are helpful because you can peek underneath and see if the dough is still 'grey' and unbaked. Remove from oven and invert immediately on cooling rack, removing the pan. Be careful of the hot sugar mixture - it really burns! Soak pans at once. Enjoy warm with fresh butter.

Yield: 24 small buns or 18 large buns

This is also the dough my mom used for Swedish Tea Ring at Christmas. Since we are here at home for Christmas, I'll be making those to freeze next week. It is a Christmas morning tradition to pull one out and warm it, garnish with icing, cherries and toasted almonds and serve, along with fresh fruit and hot cocoa.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Sweet Bread

Last night, just as the children were expected home from AWANA with their Daddy, I pulled two pans of Chelsea Buns out of the oven. We enjoyed them for before bed snack and packaged the rest. I was fully expecting to share some with Mr. Neighbour through the Cookie Path, but before I had the chance today to get them over to him, there they were .... gone! A keen observer of all things yummy, The Dreamer stated 'You'll need to make a double batch of those if you want to have any left to share Mommy!'. I guess we need to work a little more on sharing with others!


We awakened this morning to a slight smattering of snow which we were optimistically calling 'flurries'! The children were elated and began to get out their snowsuits before they were even out of p.j.'s! We had an appointment at the orthodontist, schoolwork, lunch and room tidying on the schedule today so when they finally did get out to play they were overjoyed! Now they are praying for more! more! more!

"Poppa and Grammy might send some of their snow to our house since they are too rusty to play in it much these days!" said The Storyteller, hopefully!

Poppa and Grammy live in Ontario, Canada and they get a lot more snow than we do here in our little corner of the Midwest! Hopefully when we go for a visit after Christmas, we will get to play in the real deep snow there!

What is a Meme?

meme (mēm) n. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. To imitate.

Does that answer your question Heffalump?

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Christmas Meme

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider? Do I have to pick?

2. Turkey or Ham? Heavenly Ham

3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree? We just bought our first fake tree - for The Dreamer's allergy concerns.

4. Decorations on the outside of your house? Yes, greenery with white snowflake lights, big showy bows, welcome candles in the windows and a wreath on each door.

5. Snowball fights or sledding'? Sledding if we have any snow! The Levy was so fun last year - there are not too many hills in these parts!

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping? I shop and stash as I see things all year and mail order the last few items! No energy for browsing through stores!

7. Favorite Christmas song? 'What Child is This?'

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies? I'd rather read a heartwarming Christmas story, but I like movies too!

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music? We start after Thanksgiving since we don't want to let one joyous celebration run into another.

10. Stockings before or after presents? Stockings first thing in the morning! Presents all through the day in a 'scavenger hunt' sort of way!

11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them? We would love to have some stop by, and we plan to go a'carolling with the church family soon too!

12. Go to someone else's house or they come to you? My house please...come on over! We are looking for some other 'orphans' to invite since we are 'family-less' at present!

13. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when? We will Christmas Eve, and we have been learning the Names of God for Advent.

14. What do you do after presents and dinner?Clean up and go for a good long walk.

15. What is your favorite holiday smell? Baking and candy making or a fire in the fireplace with scented cinnamon pinecones.

16. Ice skating or walking around the mall? We like to skate better than shop for sure!

17. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day? The Children each get one small gift (usually from one another) to open Christmas Eve.

18. Favorite Christmas memory? Becoming engaged to my dear sweet husband just after Christmas ... let's see, was that a lifetime ago?

19. Favorite part about winter? I love snow, and the rosy cheeks of our children after they have played for hours. I love the new beginning of a new year and also my birthday!

20. Ever been kissed under mistletoe? A fine lady wouldn't kiss and tell, now would she?

If you're here and reading this meme, you're tagged! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Advent Garland

I was trying to describe my Advent Garland to my mom, so I thought I'd post a picture since I know she is a faithful reader. I have not been feeling very well, so I didn't get it up by the first of December, but that's o.k.! By after dinner tonight we will be all 'caught up'.

During the summer I saw a deeply discounted Playmobil Nativity set which I immediately snatched up and hid from unsuspecting little eyes! We are big big Playmobil fans and I knew it would be a 'hit' in our family! A friend told me about a meaningful Advent celebration that she did with her children a few Christmases ago involving a study of the Names of God. Those were my inspirations!

Using 'the glorious names of God' by Mary Foxwell Loeks, I made cards with a very simplified version of her devotionals - 25 in all, along with a corresponding Scripture reference. I quickly rubber stamped the cards with various Christmas symbols and placed them, along with one piece from the Nativity Set in envelopes that I had cut to fit and hole punched. I strung them in order on ribbon and hung them up. Simple!

So far we have learned about Alpha, Omega, Adonai ( Lord, Master), and Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord who is our Righteousness), and have uncovered a baby lamb, a golden challis, a silver trunk and an incense box. I am afraid that they are just too smart because they have already guessed that the treasures are the Magi's gifts for the Christ Child. My non-commital 'we'll just have to wait and see' has not dissuaded them from their conviction.

So that's it! I went with a 'snow in the woodlands' theme on the mantle, recycling things I have used in other places at other times. Everything is just placed there and not hot glued since I'll likely take the same elements and use them in different places next year. Our fireplace lends itself to rustic rather than elegant and since it is in the family room, it is more fitting. When The Historian saw the mantle he was very pleased, and the children thought it was beautiful, so I'm happy. I think it needs something taller between the tall birdhouses, but I have not come across the 'perfect' thing yet .... still 9 more boxes to unpack though! Slowly is the key, since I am struggling with a heavy chest cold now.

Sunday, December 3, 2006

Making New or Making Do

Every year about this time I feel a crazy and almost irresistable compulsion to make all new Christmas decorations for our home. I visit beautiful shops with lavishly decorated trees and greenery and think 'I could do something like that at home'. Everything is so beautiful and appealing, and I would love for my home to have the same special appeal at Christmas. The problem is I don't have the time or energy to make all new decorations or even for a trip to Hobby Lobby to get all the 'stuff' I would need. There is also the matter of the 14 boxes of Christmas stuff we just brought down from the attic. The attic is at 'capacity load', so what I would I do with more stuff?

Every year, after this crazy compulsion hits me, I sit down with a nice hot cup of tea and think about one thing I could make or do differently - something managable, or as my mom says 'do-able'. Yesterday, I began to wonder what makes the Christmas season such a time of discontentment for so many.

I thought about my Nanny's approach to Christmas decorating. There was something so comforting about knowing that every year the same decorations would be brought out, carefully fluffed up and repaired as needed and placed in the familiar places of years gone by. Faded ribbons were lovingly replaced and the worn ribbons stored for some 'future' need. When an unfamiliar object appreared it was usually the result of a gift from my Aunt or Mom, or a 'new' craft idea picked up while on vacation in Florida. The new object became the center of conversation and it's virtues were pointed out to all with satisfaction.

My Nanny was content with what she had used for years - sometimes making small changes, but essentially making her home a special place for her family in much the same way each year. I think many of her generation approached Christmas decor in the same way. My Great Aunt had a more extensive collection of delightful objects, most of which were made by her own hand, but every year the same basic things went up in the same places and were enjoyed by all. They were raised in a 'make do' world and had that mindset. They had been through tough times, and they knew the value of making the most of what they had to work with.

We are living in very different times. Every where we look someone is telling us that we will be happy when we have that certain 'something' . In an effort to sell a product, advertisers are breeding discontent. No one wants to wait for the desired object of our 'happiness' and that's why we are a nation drowing in credit card debt.

It is any wonder that so many of us trying to reinvent our home each year? We cannot be content with the same things as last year. We need something new, something better, something different - we see what others have and we want the same things.

As much as I love to decorate and make our home beautiful, I don't want to do it because I am discontent with what I have. I want to decorate our home as an expression of my love for The Saviour whose birth we celebrate, and as extension of my love for my family. I enjoy the outlet of creativity, but I don't want to be in competition with an ideal presented in a book or magazine, or a friend who has creatively and beautifully made her home ready for the season.

My ramblings may not make sense to you but these are just a few thoughts that have been milling about in my head as I unpack the things that help to make our home a place of peace during the Christmas season.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Upper Body Workout

A few days ago I decided it was time for my favorite upper body workout - a visit to the library!
I had intended to sit in the quiet alone for one sweet hour and enjoy looking at the books I had selected and then take only my ideas and a few scribbled notes home. Well, maybe one our two would make it home ....
God had other plans. He brought a sweet woman who I used to attend a wonderful Bible Study with into the library for a Divine Appointment. As we talked I could sense that she needed to share her journey with me. I mostly listened, offered a bit of encouragement, and promised to pray for her and her children, as they seek a new place to live. We were both encouraged after our brief visit, and I am glad to have spent my precious quiet time with her. I didn't get even one book perused before it was time to head out to pick up The Dreamer at ballet.
So ... the books came home with me! All 40 pounds ... my upper body workout!
However, I am so glad I brought them all home! The Southern Living Christmas Cookbook has at least ten recipes I'd like to try - I just need to plan a get together! Nell Hill's Christmas at Home is way over the top for our humble dwelling, but I can take a few ideas and scale them to our budget and setting for sure! Pottery Barn Bathrooms just added more confusion to the decisions I soon have to make concerning our upcoming bathroom renovations - there are just so many lovely 'looks' to choose from. Eclectic Style left me wondering once again where does one get a lovely wardrobe for $10 and a dresser for $1 - I am obviously not shopping the right Thrift Stores!, Martha Stewart Living's Holidays had a few good recipes and made me laugh - it reminded me that I live in the real world of home decorating, which for me includes small children and a budget. Household Wisdom had some lovely and practical ideas for the home, and Susan's Branch's Christmas from the Heart of the Home is full of inspiration for a family Christmas celebration.
The best part is that my body needs this time of reading and reflection. I'm tired, and there is nothing nicer than gazing at lovely books, gleaning a few great ideas and resting a weary body. I am not very good at resting, but hopefully, if I get enough rest I will have the strength to actually try the ideas. If not, I can file them for another time in my scrapbook of ideas for the home.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Oh! Christmas Trees!

"Children need Christmas trees, and not artificial ones either. The artificial ones have no fragrance, and some of them play tunes, which is dreadful to think of."

Gladys Talser

I must say, I just couldn't agree more! My search for the right artificial tree for our family lead me to a wonderful florist's shop and garden center near my home last evening. While The Dreamer twirled about a beautiful ballroom learning a bit about ballet and giggling with other happy little girls in pink tights and black leotards, I looked with dismay at artificial trees. After much looking (I had 15 minutes all told!)I found what I thought was the perfect tree. Tall and slim, it would have fit nicely in our front window - but the price took my breath away. I looked longingly at the fresh cut trees lining the garden center area and breathed their natural fragrance, and left - without a tree. Obviously Gladys Talser is not taking into account the possibility of children having allergies, but we must. I am now going to make this a matter of prayer. Which I should have been doing all along ...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Reading

Today we gathered together our favorite Christmas books and tidied the children's book shelves while we were at it! I thought I'd make a list of what we will be reading for the next month or so throughout the day and as we put the children to bed. We have been very blessed with books! Our basket overfloweth! Both children love to be read to and with each changing season the assortment in the book basket changes, so we don't ever get tired of the same stories. We are indeed rich in books, however not all of these books are from a Christian perspective. Some might even be in the 'twaddle' category, but our family has appreciated each book for it's own merits. Enjoy!

Christmas Reading
Jotham’s Journey by Arnold Ytreeide
Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado
What Nick and Holly Found in Grandpa’s Attic by Melody Carlson
Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett
The Stable the Bob Built by Big Idea Books
Once Upon A Christmas by Alice Gray
Ivy’s Icicle by Gary Bower
Jingle Bells a Candy Cane Book
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado
Christmas Songs a Happy Day Book
Mary’s First Christmas by Walter Wangerin
My Father’s Angels by Gloria Gaither
The Gift of Father Christmas by D. Morgan
The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne
Clopper The Christmas Donkey by Emily King
Cow and the Christmas Surprise by Todd Aaron Smith
Mary’s Story an Arch Book
Snow Puppies by Disney
I Wonder … Did Jesus Have a Pet Lamb? by Janette Oke
Favorite Christmas Carols a Happy Day book
The Night Before Christmas
A Christmas Longing by Joni Eareckson Tada
The Indescribable Gift by Richard Exley
Spunky’s First Christmas by Janette Oke
The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne
Polly’s Christmas Present by Irma Wilde
Baby Jesus is Born an Arch Book
The Star of Christmas a BiggIdea Book
Ordinary Baby, Extraordinary Gift by Gloria Gaither
The Pinetree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
Mole Hole Holiday - a Little Golden Book
Sing a Song of Christmas
The Littlest Christmas Tree by Thornton W. Burgess
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
The Littlest Angel by Charles Tazewell
If You Take A Mouse To The Movies by Laura Numeroff
Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis
The Quiet Little Woman by Louisa May Alcott
The 12 Days of Christmas by Helen Haidle
The Night the Stars Sang
The Candy Maker’s Gift by Helen Haidle
A Child’s Christmas by Thomas Kinkade

I especially wanted to mention Jotham's Journey, An Advent Adventure by Arnold Ytreeide. We read this for the first time last season and we were so taken with the story - we were on the edge of our seats! We laughed, cried and were completely terrified at a few points in the story, and the ending is just so heart warming. The truth of Scripture is woven throughout the tale and it really made us focus our hearts on the Christ Child. As a side benefit the far reaching and often catostrophic results of the sin of one small boy are clearly depicted, and our children were amazed to know that they too can affect the lives of others with their wrong choices. We have decided to read it again this year and can't wait until Sunday to get started!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Home Sweet Home

I am unexpectedly home this evening - and shamelessly breaking Brenda's rules about tea at the computer. I should be at AWANA with the children tonight, but I have completely run out of steam. Thankfully, The Historian has come to the rescue and wisked them off for a rare treat, namely 'fast food' at Culver's and he will take them to AWANA afterwards. I suspect that he'll drop out to Farmer Dave's and watch him milk and feed the cows while he waits for the children to be finished. The Storyteller has worked really hard this week and had three memory verse sections to recite and The Dreamer will hopefully finish her book tonight - and maybe even get the next one so we can get started on it! She struggles with memorization terribly, so is a bit behind the other children, but she loves AWANA!

I am too tired to read tonight, but maybe I will watch a video that The Historian brought home thinking it would appeal to me. I think it is called 'Christmas Child' and is based on a Max Lucado story. Perhaps it will help to motivate me to get up in the attic tomorrow and get out the Christmas bins. 'Fall' is safely tucked away for another year, but I have not had the energy to give the house a good cleaning and then start the decorating. The posts of others have really inspired me, so hopefully I will have some new ideas for using our decorations in a different way this year! We have a multitude of decorations!
I was explaining to my friend that that is what happens when beloved family members die and you are given all of their precious Christmas momentos. It is a bit overwhelming! Every year we sort through again and try to keep just those that hold special memories and pass the rest on. Every year the letting go gets easier.
We are in the market for an artificial tree this year. We strongly suspect that Our Dreamer has allergies to the real trees we have always enjoyed, but we can't pin point one species that has caused her to have an asthmatic flare up, so as much as we hate plastic, we are looking at artificial trees. I need to decide soon I guess, since we usually decorate December 1st.
My tea is finished - with no spills, thankfully, and I must rest now! Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day and my strength will be renewed by The One who gives me strength for each new day!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hold Still?

Lest The Storyteller feel left out of Mommy's blog, I'll put a picture of him on Thanksgiving Day here for good measure! I have decided the 'sport' setting on my camera is best for our Storyteller, since action is his middle name and holding still is a fate worse then death for this active little fellow!

I, on the other hand, am almost falling asleep here while I impatiently await the good news .... your images have been uploaded to blogger ... after clicking done you can change your post or publish ...! I am watching for a good deal on high speed internet now that our computer is more up to date!

Poppa's Dollie Dot

This picture was taken on our walk on Thanksgiving Day as well. It was warm and lovely, so we thoroughly enjoyed the great outdoors! Grammy was taking a picture from the front of Poppa and The Dreamer, so I thought I'd try a long distance side view. My dad is thinking of getting me 'Digital Photography for Dummies' for Christmas - since my camera's owner's manual is 4 pages long and basically tells you how to put in the batteries, I'm thinking it could be really helpful! As always ... so much to learn!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Quiet

We had a wonderful week with my folks last week, and a very nice Thanksgiving, but we are very tired. Dad and Mom are on their way home and we are praying for their safety on the long journey. It is so wonderful to just enjoy a restful Sunday together - to quietly relax and reflect after worship and fellowship this morning, and to honor our 'Sabbath Day' as a day set aside for the Lord. We looked at this verse in Sunday School this morning.

Isaiah 58:13
13 “ If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath,
From doing your pleasure on My holy day,
And call the Sabbath a delight,
The holy day of the LORD honorable,
And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways,
Nor finding your own pleasure,
or speaking your own words,
14 Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD;
And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth,
And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father.
The mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
As New Testament Christians, we generally celebrate Sunday as the 'new Sabbath', because it was on the first day of the week that Christ was raised from the dead. However, I believe that it is not the specific day that honors God as much as setting aside one day each week for Him, for the refreshment of our bodies as well as spiritual encouragement. What an amazing reward He has for those who put aside their own pleasures for one day to call the day the Lord's and delight in Him. He will hide us in the safety of His hand in the high places and cause us to find our joy and contentment in Him. Priase the Lord!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Winter's Coming

If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.

Anne Bradstreet, 'Meditations Divine and Moral,' 1655

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thanksgiving Day Walk

We had a very wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving Day! It was such a blessing to have my Dad and Mom from Canada here for a visit! We had a relaxing brunch in the morning and then my mom and I strapped on the aprons and got to work in the kitchen. She is an amazing pie maker and had the pumpkin pie whipped up and in the oven in no time! She is unaccustomed to my 'tools' and doesn't really like my marble rolling pin, so it didn't go as well as she would have liked, but my it was tasty!

When the rolls were baked and the turkey in the oven, with my Cranberry Pecan Dressing tucked safely inside the bird, and the bird roasting in the oven, we went for a walk!

We are so blessed to have a Nature Center near by! Membership is inexpensive and helps to support all of the wonderful educational programs there. The buildings were not open, of course, but the trails and grounds were perfect for a good long walk. We had a great time and I took the opportunity to try out my new camera more. I am finding that I still have a lot to learn, but it is fun! I do love the 'delete' button!

With a hearty appetite, we came home and put the finishing touches on our meal and then sat down together to enjoy it. We 'plated' the meal, since there were only the six of us, and passing hot dishes with certain energetic young ones can be dangerous.

We are overwhelmed with thanks to God for all of His wonderful gifts to our family! Just being together for a small family celebration is a rare and special treat! We have much to thank God for each day, but it is wonderful to set aside a whole day of thankfulness. I hope your day was as blessed as ours.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Fresh Air

They love the 'holding hands' mitten! It is one mitten with two cuffs for holding hands!
The Dreamer's eyes are usually so bright, but not with a cold!
No one can say this little girl doesn't love her brother!

Yesterday afternoon the children were begging to go outside to play. Even with colds, I believe in fresh air and the benefits of playing outside! Warmly dressed with hats and mittens, warm socks and rubber boots because our yard is a mud puddle, they ventured out for some fun. Marbles on a slanted driveway turned out to be a real giggle - I could hear them chasing them all over the driveway! Despite the cool, damp air, they were warm and had a great time! I called them in and their cheeks were pink and eyes were shining. They both slept really well last night! Their colds don't seem any worse this morning, but we are home from church to help keep from spreading them to the other children at church.

My parents left their home in Northern Ontario this morning for the 10 hour drive to our home. We are really looking forward to their visit, but I pray the children don't give them their colds! Our Storyteller is a 'kiss on the lips' kind of guy, and our Dreamer is a 'cuddle in close' kind of gal, so we have warned them that they are going to have to be careful to keep washing their hands and stay out of Poppa and Grammy's faces! We are praying for their safety today on the roads and for protection from germs when they get here!

We are looking forward to a lovely visit!