Wednesday, December 30, 2009

There is a good reason I don't get out much

When I tell people 'I don't get out much' they generally laugh a bit or at least snicker! An ordinary mother is out a lot more than I am, I know. Many friends can't relate with my stay at home tendency, because, well - they are out and about. Like normal mothers.

I, on the other hand, am at home. A lot. Partly because my energy levels seem to nose dive when I stray too far from home. Partly because I hate shopping unless I am having an awesome time matching coupons with sales at the grocery store and saving big $$$$. That's fun, but tiring. Mostly I stay at home because I am content here. I feel very blessed to be at home, filling the role God has called me to.

I love being a wife, a homemaker, a stay at home mom and a home educator. I would not have time or energy for half the cooking, baking, reading, gardening or crafting I enjoy if I were out more. I want to be at home, and be content at home. I am not agoraphobic. Trust me, I looked it up. I'm fine with people, open places, and being outside, and I don't suffer panic attacks unless I've lost my bank card and find out it's missing in the line at Sam's when my cart is full of stuff.

There is another good reason I enjoy staying at home. My trips away from home are often met with adventure. A women in her forties with a chronic liver condition should generally avoid too much adventure, or at least the kind of adventure that seems to find me!

Take today for example. Except for a family drive to look at Christmas lights, I have not been out in public since December 21st. Yes, that is more than a week. Between Storyteller's heavy cold, Christmas, and my sinus infection, I have been staying pretty close to home. As in, at home. 24/7. Everyone else has been out and about with the Historian from time to time.

I've been at home.

Today, I needed to get out. You probably won't question why. I certainly didn't.

It is 1/2 price day at our Salvation Army Thrift store and I had a list. Good enough reason to get out for me! The kids were so excited, each hoping to find a real 'treasure' too! It was lovely to just be feeling well enough to get out of the house for a change!

We didn't get more than two blocks from home when we started to hear a loud thumping noise. It was our van. We pulled over, close to an auto body shop, with a really flat tire. I did thank the Lord that we didn't develop a flat out on the highway, or out of town, where the Sally Ann is, really I did. I stayed calm, prayed for strength and called my husband, who recommended trying to change the tire. Something I haven't done for um, 20 years, I think. Two helpful kids and the manual in hand, I was up for the adventure! Really, I was!

There was a screw, Philips style, if you need details, sticking out of our really flat tire. We were in the process of digging out the spare when our good Samaritan, Mr. Brad, came out of the auto body shop and offered to help (can you sense my relief and reverent prayers of thanksgiving?). He quickly put on our spare, we thanked Mr. Brad profusely and suddenly, my Historian pulled up in front of the van. He got permission to close up shop for a bit and come to my rescue, but he was too late! He went back to work and the kids and I headed to the closest tire place to have the tire repaired.

Instead of waiting at the tire shop, we walked to Meijer's and went shopping - my least favorite activity, but a great way to avoid the toxic rubber fumes in the tire shop, and kill 1 1/2 hours. Having not seen what Meijer's had for sale before Christmas (because I just don't get out much), can I say the Christmas clearance was a huge disappointment. Ugly at half off is still - ugly. I wasn't in the mood to see 'potential', I guess. There was s ton of stuff on the shelves, but unless you're loving the 'moose lodge meets disco ball glitz' look, there wasn't much. So we wandered and shopped.

The good thing about getting out is that you see things you might not have before. I now know every kind of bullion our Meijer's carries and even found an ingredient I was seeking for my annual January 'trial of new recipes'. The bad thing about getting out is that you spend money that wasn't necessarily necessary. It was a warm place to hang out, so were were thankful for that.

We finally got a call on my cell that the tire was unrepairable.

We limped home on the doughnut tire and we aren't going anywhere until it is fixed.

And that's why there are many good reasons I don't get out much.

If you need me, I'll be at home - thanking God for His goodness and provision, and continuing to cultivate a quiet and contented heart.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Little Comforts

Our floors are c.o.l.d. - there's no getting around that.

My constant winter chorus is " PLEASE get something on your feet!!!"

"Socks or slippers - NOW!"

The standard reply ' we do have something on our feet Mama - skin!' Humph! Is there any wonder why two frozen footed children get so many colds? I think NOT!

My husband has the wonderful good sense to wear slippers, provided by my Mum. They are not very pretty, but they are warm and they don't smell, because I wash them. Often. They have specks of white paint on them because he wore them when he was touching up the paint on his closet shelves last winter, but he still loves them!

They hang out all day in the sunroom/mudroom, waiting for their owner to return from work. The floor in the sunroom/mudroom is ceramic over cement - and it used to be a breezeway between the house and garage. The floor is colder than snow. Someday, we will pull up the WHITE ceramic tile and lay down some warm brown, dirt hiding tile ... with Warm Floor coils under the tile. Someday.

In the meantime, my husband comes home to cold slippers and never complains, but I have decided that will change - tonight!

Today I took 4 minutes and made slipper warmers for my husband! It is simply a bit of manly fabric cut into two pieces about 6"x14" and sewn together - not quite the whole way around. I turned and pressed, than filled each end with 1 1/2 cups of wheat berries; sewed the opening closed and sewed across the ends to keep the wheat berries in place.

It's very similar to my Soother Sac's, but not as many wheat berries, since it won't need to stay warm long, just take the chill off some slippers!

So simple, but it worked! The 'slipper warmer will go into the microwave for about 1 minute on high and be placed in the Historian's slippers just before he gets home from work!

Just a little bit of toasty warm comfort!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

A big 'thank-you' to Peggy for hosting 'The Simple Woman's Daybook' each week! It's such a great way to start the week with a focus and reflect upon the goodness of God!
Be sure to click on the picture below to visit Peggy and see the other journal keepers!

FOR TODAY - The last Daybook for 2009!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Outside my window... white! Last week's snow melted and we didn't have a 'White Christmas', instead we enjoyed a wet Christmas, but yesterday we got another nice covering of snow! It is very cold this morning, but we are determined to bundle up and go out to play as soon as chores and school are done!

I am hearing ... *scales* Dreamer is practicing the piano right behind me. The washer spinning out the clothes, and History Class for the Storyteller in the family room.

I am thinking ... about how much I cherish the week between Christmas and the New Year! I hope we use it wisely!

I am thankful for... a warm home, cozy on this cold cold day!

I am praying for ... insight and direction. The Historian has asked that I ponder two difficult questions, and I am struggling to know how to answer.

I am remembering ... the happy giggles of our children as they opened their Christmas stockings long long before the sun got out of bed!

I am wearing ... jeans, a red turtle neck and warm navy blue sweat shirt! Cozy - and skirts don't fit well under snow pants!

I am going ... nowhere but out to play in the snow later!

I am reading ... recipes, blogs, and my devotional

I am hoping ... for some more time to sew this afternoon

On my mind ... friends near and far

From the learning rooms ... easing back in with a half day of History, reading, science and math - and lots of snow play!

Noticing that... we seem to be on the mend - finally! Storyteller is breathing well (he was sounding like Darth Vader at night), and the Historian is coughing less and has more energy. I have been fighting sinus issues for 5 days now- finally the headache and pressure are easing up!

Pondering these words...

"But I've got this unshakable belief that a home can be wonderful, even if you don't have it all together. I believe that God takes the little bit that you have, and He can make much of it.

I believe that Sanctuary is possible.

And I believe that Sanctuary happens one small thing at a time. "

- Rachel Anne Ridge at Home Sanctuary

From the kitchen... we're enjoying leftovers and Christmas cookies aplenty!

Around the house ... floors and bathrooms need attention!

One of my favorite things ... gardening catalogs!!! They'll be in my mailbox any day now! than I'll need my garden notebook, a hot cup of tea, and perhaps a winter storm, all the perfect elements for springtime dreaming!

From my picture journal ...

Mackinaw and Periwinkle received 'made with love by Mama' knitted clothes for Christmas - knit with much more love than skill using the instructions from Knits for Bears to Wear by Amy O'Neill Houck

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Joy upon joy ...

Click on picture to enlarge ...

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Blessed Christmas Friends!

From our home to yours,

we wish you a time of blessing and joy,

of special delights, and long held traditions,

family and friends,

the laughter of children,

and many sweet times of remembering the joy and wonder of the season.

Emmanuel! God with us!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rectangular Wreath Tutorial

Last year, I decided a departure from round evergreen wreaths was in order.

I grabbed some thrifted picture frames and went to work securing the fresh green boughs to my rectangular frames with florist's wire. Perfect! All was well until I went to hang them up. After a few days, they began to sag - terribly!!! I quickly realized my mistake - picture frames are stapled together. Staples don't hold up to rain and wind and heavy evergreen boughs. I removed the wire holding the boughs, rescued those fragrant boughs, and dug out my old stand-by, the round wreath frames. I re-wired my boughs in place, put on the bows, and called it good.

In the back of my mind, I knew I still wanted to do something different for this year, but over the summer, I never got around to figuring out just what kind of material would make the best frames for my wreaths. Since I hang my wreaths from Command by 3M hooks on glass doors and windows, I knew it had to be super lightweight, so wood was out.

Wandering through the plumbing department one day in early December, I spied - PVC! Strong, lightweight, cheap and paintable. The only NASTY element - the glue. When I say nasty, I mean, as in DEATH THREATS all over the packaging. Seriously. I took my neurological life in my hands and took the whole project outside - and still got a headache! I used a skill saw to cut the PVC because we don't have a special tool for the job - it took about 20 minutes.

So here it the result - 3 ten foot lengths of 3/4 inch PVC and two contractor bags of elbows.
Four 12x18" frames and one 18x24" frame.

A little plastic spray paint (which doesn't cover well when there is snow in the air and you're wearing gloves to paint, but that's o.k.!), and 4 bundles of evergreen boughs - cuttings from the Christmas Tree business just down the road. A hint here - pick the softest, moistest, most fragrant boughs they offer - your hands will thank you!

Start by securing a hanger at the top of your frame - I use 18" of strong floral wire, doubled and wrapped in florist's green tape. I use needle nose pliers to make sure it is very secure - these will get heavy.

After securing the wire to the frame, I began cutting bundles of greens and wiring them on tightly. Since the boughs will loose moisture and shrink over the season, 'tightly' is a key.

I went right to the corner and than overlapped the ugly ends with the first bundle on the next side.

Does everyone know there is a 'good' side,

... and a 'not so good' side to branches?

I like to mix it up, but for the most part, I choose to put the best side up when wiring on those branches! I like to use many small bundles rather than big clumps of greens since the smaller bundles tend not to roll around the frame like the big bundles do! Go all the way around and just shove the first bundle aside while you wire the last one in place - or ask for help if extra hands are around. Take a minute to fluff it all up, look for bald spots and make sure it's all secure.

Next, the hair cut - because no matter how hard you try, you will have some wild hairs there that need a trim. One tip here - cut from the top of the offending branch, on an angle, so that the resulting white cut edge doesn't show.

Last, a bow, and you're ready to hang - though you could get all fancy and add pine cones, or whatnot. I was embracing simplicity (and running out of time)! The ribbon is from Sam's Club- it is crimson velvet on gold, and I love it on my red door!

When the work is all done and you've used some olive oil to get the 'sticky' off your hands, have your son make you some nice hot chocolate! Doesn't he do a great job? I don't mind the chocolate dribbles one bit!

My spare bits and pieces of greens found their way around the old frames, and are transforming my thrifted urn into something wintery!

So, now the wreaths have pretty much survived the season, so I can proclaim them a success. I know it is too late for you to use this tutorial this year, but tuck it into the back of your mind for next year - and enjoy a little change of pace with your evergreen wreaths!

TOTAL COST for 2 round wreaths, 4 large rectangular wreaths, and one x-large rectangular wreath - $24, and I plan to re-use the PVC frames for many years to come!

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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

A big 'thank-you' to Peggy for hosting 'The Simple Woman's Daybook' each week! It's such a great way to start the week with a focus and reflect upon the goodness of God!
Be sure to click on the picture below to visit Peggy and see the other journal keepers!


Monday, December 21, 2009

Outside my window... our weekend 'winter wonderland' snow is melting, but more is expected! We can still see the grass, but we'll take all the white stuff coming our way this year - it's much cleaner than mud, and that's our winter alternative!

I am hearing ... *cough* hack* sniffle* sigh* Storyteller was up multiple times in the night and has awakened with 'the worst cold this winter' - praying he doesn't share again! I am feeling better - but I had to have a lot of extra naps all week and over the weekend I did some big time sleeping! The questionable joys liver disease! When I mentioned sleeping 12 hours to an older lady at church, she joked that if she ever slept that long, they'd be taking her out in a hearse!

I am thinking ... about all that needs to be done before Christmas, but really how much more important it is to sit and cuddle with my boy, and make jello, soup and toast - much more important than cleaning or baking!

I am thankful for... so many many things! Saturday was Dreamer's Christmas piano recital - she has come a long long way this year! Storyteller sang his little part in the church Children's Christmas program on Saturday night and Sunday night and it was wonderful. New friends invited us out for dessert after the concert and that was a joy.

I am praying for ... contentment and joy

I am remembering ... the joys of Christmas past

I am wearing ... jeans, a moss green mock neck and a waffle weave vest - for cleaning, cooking and cuddling - all on my 'list' for today

I am going ... nowhere that I know of!

I am reading ... my lists and some cookbooks!

I am hoping ... for some more time to sew this afternoon

On my mind ... Christmas! Emmanuel - God with us!

From the learning rooms ... a week off! Yeah!

Noticing that... even though our boy isn't feeling well, he is cheerful and loving!

Pondering these words...
the Christmas songs touch my heart in ways no other music moves me. I am pondering 'O Holy Night' sung by the trio at church last night - deeply moving.

From the kitchen...
Scottish Whipped Shortbread in the oven!

Around the house ... cleaning, wrapping, resting, anticipating!

One of my favorite things ... the laughter of our children

From my picture journal ...

Dreamer went out early Saturday morning to take pictures of the snow - this is a bit of our backyard and the neighbors too!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

'Urning' it's keep!

When all of the Christmas stuff at Goodwill was 1/2 off in July, I spied this urn filled with really cheesy sparkly poinsettias. It was heavy, but I snatched it up! $7 seemed a bit high, but then I spied the $69 Target price tag still on it, so I was happy.

When I got home, I disposed of the poinsettias and put them aside to re-donate. I wasn't sure about the 'blown in foam', but I left it for now and just vacuumed off the red and black sparkles. It turned out to be the perfect place to perch a grapevine pumpkin for fall.

For Christmas, I plunked a fresh 'made by Heather' evergreen wreath on it, and 'shopped' the yard for sticks! It was too cold to spray them white and add glitter, but I like the natural look just fine anyway! It's perched upon an overturned black plastic plant pot which has a bit of burlap hot glued to it - I 'shopped' the shed for both!

So, I wonder how I should transform this urn for spring ... but for now, I'm just enjoying it 'as is'!

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Holdout

I guess I am the last 'man' down in our little family.

First, the Storyteller - than Dreamer and the Historian, and now the Mama.

My oh my! I have watched my family go round after round with headache, cough, sore throat and exhaustion for about two weeks - now it is my turn. As they continue to hack and improve, I get to begin round one! I do hope I fare better since I have much to do and little energy as it is without adding a cold to the mix!

For today - a shortened school day, lots of hot tea, my heating pads, a warm blanket and some fun knitting - in between naps! God is so good to provide us with such joy and comfort in the little things! Just when I really rather be having a pity party, I am reminded that there are so many in truly terrible situations - this is merely a bump in the road!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009


A ten minute save for a *favorite* shirt! Convinced he will outgrow this thrifted t-shirt before the warm weather allows him to wear it again, he's been layering with a plain white thrifted long sleeve crew - and getting way too overheated.

Every other day.

Mama to the rescue.

I was reluctant to sacrifice the still white long sleeved crew, so I simply used that shirt as a 'pattern' to cut out some nice cotton t-shirting from the 'stash' and quickly constructed these fooler sleeves. They were easy to attach with the serger - I love nice thick stretch knits for their easy flexibility.

Even more, I love being the one to make that great big silly smile that is currently plastered on the Storytellers face!

"It looks just like a *real* hockey jersey Momma!"

Grammy - I guess I'd better ask you to be on the lookout another Maple Leafs t-shirt! 'Experienced', of course!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

A December Afternoon

This afternoon, Dreamers friend, Miss L came for a visit! I can't share any pictures, but let's just say, two little brothers are going to be very warm and cozy after December 25th! Both girls did a great job of making some cozy flannel p.j. pants for their younger brothers - I am sure the boys will be as pleased as the girls! We ended the afternoon with some brownies and snickerdoodles, and a little felted flower project. This is the kind of afternoon that makes me feel I am very very blessed to have a daughter who likes to create and craft too! She is entirely blessed to have a friend who likes to make things too! I wish I had had a crafting friend when I was her age - it would have been so fun! I am blessed now though to have sweet friends with various similar interests - kindred spirits all!

Both little brothers were otherwise occupied - our Storyteller went to the Historian's workplace for the afternoon and Miss L's brother went Christmas shopping with his Mom! We know you'll keep this TOP SECRET ... after all Christmas is just two weeks away, and even 9 and 11 year old boys can wait that long!

* The picture is of four dear friends - my mother-in-law is bringing up the rear in the line! This picture was taken about 62 years ago on a wintery hog killing day! My mother-in-law resides in heaven after loosing a courageous battle with cancer 7 years ago - she would have been 78 in a couple of weeks.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Do you Danish?

In my crazed obsession quest for a different sweet yeast bread recipe for our Christmas morning treat, I've flipped past the 'Danish Pastry' recipe at least 10 times. Perhaps that's why our years in a small town in central Ontario are so much on my mind - we really enjoyed the wonderful bakery that sat nestled among the friendly shops along the Main Street. That, and our prayers have been with a family who has so many troubles lately - I've mentioned our friend who recently had brain surgery which went really well, but she is currently very unwell, and befuddling her physicians. We've just been back in Elmvale in our hearts and minds as we have lifted this dear family in prayer time so often of late.

Perhaps that's why I just couldn't pass the Danish recipe again without giving it a try. After cleaning three bathrooms, the fridge, vacuuming through the house, mopping all of the floors, catching up with some laundry, dusting and tree decorating, cleaning a certain messy boys room, making dinner, baking cookies and of course, a full day of school work - I didn't have a great deal of energy left last night, so I decided if I was going to do Danish, it would have to be easy - and it was! Truly!

I made the dough last night and shaped and baked them this morning! Yummy! Enjoy!

Easy Danish Pastry

Scald 1 cup of whole milk and set aside to cool to lukewarm.

Combine 1/4 cup warm water with 1 teaspoon of sugar and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle 2 1/4 teaspoons of dry active yeast over top and let sit for 10 minutes. It should get really foamy and creamy - and if it doesn't, either your yeast is old and dead or your water was too hot, so start again! Stir to dissolve.

In large stand mixer bowl measure 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cut up 1 1/2 cups of cold butter into the flour mixture and using the paddle blade on your mixer or a pastry blender, 'cut in' the butter until the lumps are about the size of small peas!

Beat 2 large eggs really well; add cooled milk and yeast mixture and stir well.

Add milk mixture to flour and butter mixture using the dough hook on your mixer. This will be a soft sticky kind of dough, and I added about 1/4 cup more flour at this point because it wouldn't pull together into a ball. Butter a medium sized bowl and a piece of waxed paper (one side). Dump the ball of dough in the buttered bowl and turn it once to coat with butter. Place the greased wax paper over the dough and cover with a tea towel. Place in fridge overnight.

At this point I lined the cookie sheets with parchment paper and assessed the jam situation. We had lots of dribs and drabs of homemade jam on the go so it was the perfect time to Danish!

In the morning, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F, take the dough from the fridge and flour your counter. Cut the dough in 1/2 - it will be stiff because, of course all that butter has hardened, but don't fret! Working with one 1/2 at a time, flour your rolling pin and roll out in a large rectangle, about 8"x16". Cut into 4 inch squares. Bring all four corners of each square almost to the center of the square and press in to make a small indent for your filling. Place each one on parchment lined cookie sheet, about 2" apart. Repeat with second half of dough. You should have 16 pastries. Beat an egg and add 1 tsp. cold water to make an egg wash; brush over the pastries. Let the pastries sit on top of the stove for 15 minutes.

Now is the fun part - plop a teaspoon of jam, apple butter, or prune butter in the middle of each - or a small cube of cream cheese, or lemon curd ... or whatever you can imagine!

Bake for 20-22 minutes or until puffed and golden. Remove to cooling rack. Glaze with thin icing made of 1 cup confectioners sugar, 1 tablespoon of milk and a dash of pure almond extract whisked together.

Makes 16 melt in your mouth Danishes, which are sure to disappear quickly!

NOTE: It took longer to write this than it did to make them - honestly!

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

A big 'thank-you' to Peggy for hosting 'The Simple Woman's Daybook' each week! It's such a great way to start the week with a focus and reflect upon the goodness of God!
Be sure to click on the picture below to visit Peggy and see the other journal keepers!


Monday, December 7, 2009

Outside my window... my, oh my! We awakened to a skiver of snow! I know a certain little boy and girl who will be delighted!

I am hearing ... The occasional car going by and the click clack of my typing - 'hunt and peck' if you must know! In the background I can hear the washing machine, the chatter of our boy on the phone with his patient Grammy - he had to tell her about our snowfall!

I am thinking ... that the Storyteller has a special talent for sharing germs! The Historian has been 'fighting something' all weekend and has awakened with a sore throat.

I am thankful for... warm outdoor clothing for our children so that they can really play outside and not get cold! I'm also so very thankful for hot showers to wake me up each morning!

I am praying for ... a friend who is grieving, a new friend who is on on bedrest and anxiously waiting for the arrival of their first 'homegrown' boy after adopting many years ago, my Mum who is in such pain, a friend who is having a terrible time since her recent brain surgery, and for our own concerns - my health. The ups and downs of liver disease are often quite discouraging, so my daily prayer is for strength, wisdom and healing. As God wills.

I am remembering ... that winter boots for Storyteller have been on my list to buy, but I have not taken care of it! I need to make it a priority today! I'm glad that God blessed us with a skiver and not a huge dump of snow!

I am wearing ... long denim skirt - the 'vintage denim' look, a moss green mock neck, and a moss green rag wool zip front cardigan - oh, and thick black tights to keep my legs warm!

I am going ... to take Dreamer to piano and ballet later. The Storyteller and I will run an errand or two before picking up Dreamer and heading home.

I am reading ... my daily reading, 'The Scent of Lilacs' which I pulled off my shelf for some 'light reading', patterns, recipes and a few blogs.

I am hoping ... to have more energy this week as last week was really low key. I have lots to do as always, but some special projects on the go too, so I'll need some extra strength!

On my mind ... Christmas! Emmanuel - God with us!

From the learning rooms ... Dreamer needs to get her final draft of her Alexander Hamilton Report completed, and the Storyteller needs some extra work in multiplication and division facts! We'll try to make it fun!

Noticing that... a fine layer of dust needs to be removed before I can finish putting up the Christmas decorations.

Pondering these words...
"See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15-17)

From the kitchen...
This week we will begin our Christmas baking! Our butter order came - it was processed November 22nd, so that's some really fresh butter! I can't wait to get started!

Around the house ... dusting, decorating and disaster management! No doubt we'll have some unexpected company that will catch us in our mess!

One of my favorite things ... the encouragement of God's word preached boldly.

From my picture journal ...

This is last year's 'Birthday Cake for Jesus' - I wonder what the children will request this year?

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