Thursday, December 28, 2006
Monday, December 25, 2006
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
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
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!
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.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
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.
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Saturday, December 16, 2006
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.
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
Christmas Shortbread Squares
Brownie Bites with Candy Cane Icing
Peanut Butter Balls
Gingerbread lads and lassies
Homemade Caramel Corn
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
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!
Friday, December 15, 2006
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
Lavender and Wheat Berries
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,
NO CURE ~ JUST COMFORT
EDITED: January 2010
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 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!
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
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'!
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
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 Magna-Doodle
*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
(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!
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
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.
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
Wednesday, December 6, 2006
Tuesday, December 5, 2006
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!
Sunday, December 3, 2006
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
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
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 ...