Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!

I'm not sure how much I am going to be blogging in the next week or so - I kind of have some things to do! So I am going to use this post to wish all who read my blog a very Merry Christmas! When I started blogging last year, it was a creative outlet for me. And a chance to journal what happens in my life for my kids someday. I had no idea that I would meet and learn to love so many special people around the world. It has truly been amazing. God has used many of you to speak truth to my heart, calm my spirit, and give me hope and joy. And I thank you. I want you to know that you are prayed over and loved in return. It's a strange relationship we have to be sure - but it is a relationship - and I treasure it.

I also wanted to share with you something I do in the busyness of this season to keep me focused and centered on the birth of our Lord and Savior. I have done this since I was 16 years old. I can't remember missing a year. It is so very easy for me to get caught up in the "doing" of the season and run out of precious time to reflect on the true gift of Jesus. Sometimes I think it is a disease I have - trying to do and be everything. I think you all know what I am talking about - you all probably have the same "disease". But every year I carve out some time to read this book:It is Two From Gallilee by Marjorie Holmes. and it is the most amazing "fictionalized" account of the birth of Jesus. And it takes you into the hearts and minds of Mary and Joseph and how it was for them in their day. You can almost feel yourself in the story and when I finish it, it is almost like I have woke up from a dream. It is that real. And when the end of the book comes and Jesus is born - you feel like you have endured the labor pains with Mary and the desperation of Joseph as he tries his best to provide for his wife and child. And tears flow. And hearts fill up with thankfulness to our God for caring about us so much that He was willing to do what He did for the sake of us all. It really happened - it really truly happened. My heart can barely contain it.

I do need to get a new copy of this book. I call it my "take-apart" edition. I literally take each page out of the book as I read it!It's that good! Or I'm that old! But if you have the opportunity to read this book - I hope you do. And you can know that I will be reading it in the next couple of days - to get my heart back in the right place.

Merry Christmas dear friends! I pray this time of the year will "restore to you the joy of HIS salvation"!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Holiday Home Tour - 2007

Christmas Tour of HomesIt's here! It's time! I have waiting anxiously for Boo Mama's tour of homes to see everyone's Christmas decorating skills. I love Christmas decorating! All my photos can be enlarged by clicking on them. (That is if you want to see where the dust bunnies live and where I missed cleaning!)

So, welcome to my home! Here you are coming up to the front door. Please come on in and share some hot cocoa with me on this chilly, but snowless December evening. Sigh. I miss the snow. I grew up in North Dakota and it knows how to have snow for Christmas there. I like snow from Thanksgiving until New Year's Day. Then I want 85 degrees. But I digress. Back to the Christmas tour. I'll share the cocoa recipe at the end of our visit.

This is my living room - where we like to read or sit down and just visit with each other. It's small and cozy. We are all about family and togetherness in our home.My tree is probably 90% homemade ornaments. I love all things homemade. I think my favorite Christmas decoration in this room is the stockings that I cross stitched years ago for our family. You can read more about them and get a closer look here.

My daughter Jess helped me put together the snow village this year. I think she did a great job! I finished by hanging snowflakes above the little town.

I love books - and I LOVE Christmas books. I always try to buy one or two every year. This year I displayed them on a little sled. The little blue one in front was one my daughter Michelle got on her very first Christmas from her grandma. Now she is going to have a baby and I am going to be the grandma. Sigh. Life is just good sometimes.

This Willow Tree Nativity is what I got for my birthday this year. I just love the simplicity of it. I can look at it for the longest time and I keep getting new impressions and thoughts about it. I look forward to adding pieces to it throughout the years.

This is my plant shelf. I love decorating it but I don't do too well in high places. However, no one else is willing to do the work this involves. So every year I "suck it up" and climb the ladder and balance greenery, lights, wooden beads, and bears all on the edge of the shelf. I've never fallen yet. And I do enjoy the way it looks. Otherwise I would never do it.

And this is a favorite pictuer I cross-stitched years ago. It is a family of bears that "bear" our names! It
just makes me happy whenever I look at it - so sometimes I leave it hanging all year long.

Let's go into the dining room and kitchen - the place where I spend most of my time! Notice the garland hanging in the archway - I came up with that idea because I had too many ornaments for my tree and I wanted to display them.

This is my dining room. This year the girls in my office cleaned out the office Christmas ornaments and decided to discard some stuff. They were going to throw away those beautiful vintage Christmas balls - I rescued them and hung them from my chandelier. Some of the original boxes they came in were marked 29 cents. Can you imagine?

I did a snow scene in the kitchen window over the sink this year.

For years I collected the Christmas Oreo tins that came out every year. It made me sad when they stopped. Please ignore the spiderwebs I just noticed. They must be left from my Halloween decorations ;)

I also collect lots of other tins. They are so much fun to dust.

I love putting my Christmas Tree quilt on the bed every year. I leave it on all winter. With the flannel sheets of course.

I love the little tree I put in my bedroom this year. It is decorated with little red hearts. Appropriate, I think.

Would you like the recipe for the Hot Cocoa we just enjoyed? Here it is:

Homemade Hot Cocoa
1 quart of heavy whipping cream
4 Hershey bars

Place in a pan over medium heat until chocolate bars melt and it is hot enough to drink. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. (With all the fat and calories in this drink - it's best if you only serve it at Christmas!)

Thanks for stopping by my little home on this fun tour!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Potpourri Friday

Oh what a week! I have had something to go to every single night. 'Tis the Season after all!

My husband and I went on our annual over-night Christmas shopping extravaganza last weekend and we had an awesome time. It greatly helps him to break up the shopping into "segments" with things like dinner, a movie, breakfast, and lunch thrown in the middle of it all. He is a good sport really - he just has that "man gene" that dislikes shopping malls. Making our shopping trip an overnight get-away was one of the better ideas we have ever come up with. He was greatly encouraged to have two sons-in-law to shop for this year. After 26 years of daughters this was greatly refreshing to him. It was weird for me. I was glad to have my husband along for this new adventure.

One of the fun things we did was see the movie, "Dan in Real Life". If you have not seen this movie - you really should. It was so, so, so, so good. My husband even loved it. It was funny, sad, sweet, happy, and makes you want to see it all over again when it is done. If you have time this Christmas season and are looking for a great family film - this one should do it for you.

Tonight we are taking two of our "adopted" grandkids Christmas shopping to find gifts for their parents. I'm looking forward to this. They each have a certain amount of money to spend and I'm sure it will be great fun to see what they choose. Then we will come home and wrap the gifts for them to take home and put under their tree. I think watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and munching on some gingerbread cookies will be squeezed in too. In my book there is nothing like doing fun Christmas-y things with a six and an eight year old.

I was so thrilled yesterday to find out that I was the lucky winner of these Santa Stars. Made by Barb herself! Barb of A Chelsea Morning. My goodness - I didn't even know how to behave. I was beyond excited! She is practically famous you know. And she picked me. Or the random number generator thingy picked me. Whatever. I won! I can't wait to receive these sweet little ornaments in my mailbox!

This week in my devotions, I have been reading the Christmas story from the different gospels. Usually I always read Luke chapter 2. But it is fun to read it in the other gospels as well - it sheds new light on a familiar topic. This morning I was reading from the book of Matthew. It made me think a lot about Joseph and what a man of integrity he was. So often we focus on Mary and the emotions and feelings she experienced. I can see why God chose Joseph to father Jesus. Won't it be fun to visit with him in Heaven?

This weekend holds lots of excitement. Besides the afore mentioned shopping trip we are going to Jessica's drama class's presentation of a living interactive Nativity. I've not been to one of those before and it sounds like fun. We are having our church candy-sacking (we sack candy in brown paper bags and give them away on Sunday morning) Christmas party where we play the white-elephant gift game - it is ALWAYS hysterically fun. And then on Sunday morning we have our children's Christmas program. Always a blessing. Somewhere in there I'm going to squeeze in some quality time with my BFF Bernina. We have some serious Christmas presents to finish! And oh, I AM going to get my Christmas cards finished this weekend - I am - I promise!

And then Netflix had to go and bring us the first two discs of LOST season three. How in the world I am going to fit this in is beyond me. But we have to watch season three since season two left us hanging. We have to know things like what is going to happen to Jack and Kate? And is Sawyer really as uncaring and selfish as he lets on? And what in the world happened to the psychologist - did she really die? And did Walt really betray his friends? Is he really going to get away?

Perhaps I really only need 2 hours of sleep a night.

And then in any spare seconds I have left, I will be busy taking pictures and writing a post for this:
Christmas Tour of Homes I can't wait! Truly - I can't wait to see what your beautiful homes look like this time of the year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Making a List - Checking it Twice - And a Free Baby Bib

I'm checking off my projects every day now! I shared these ornaments for my girls in my last post: They really liked them!

Every year I make a Christmas ornament for my husband's Church board members. I would love to do more to show my appreciation for their volunteer service, generosity, and care they provide for us the pastor's family. I hope that my feelings come through in some small way. They will get to pick the one they like best. This was the first time I have ever cross-stitched with beads and it was really fun. I also really like the white and gold. (Click on the picture to see a more detailed version). We will be giving these away tonight at our Annual Christmas Board dinner. I'm really glad to have these finished.

I have my sister's name for Christmas this year. She had my name last year. A couple of years ago we had both seen a beautiful wallhanging in a Christian book store that we both absolutely loved. We tried to win it in a contest they were having but neither of us did. Last year for Christmas my sister ordered the pattern and bought the fabric for the first square and that was my Christmas gift. I loved it! She mentioned that when I was finished with it she would love to borrow the pattern and make it herself. Did I mention that my sister doesn't sew? Immediately, an idea formed in my mind. My sister helped us so much with my daughter's wedding last January that I wanted to show my appreciation to her and I knew that making this quilt for her would be perfect. Then when I drew her name for Christmas this year it seemed that it was meant to be. So I began. I decided to do two wallhangings - one for her and one for me. What I didn't know was that each square was HAND-SEWN. Not one bit of machine sewing is involved until you join the panels. Good grief! And I didn't remember it being so big. This little project has taken me literally all year long. Well, I finally completed hers. Mine still has the backing to put on but I'm thinking that will wait until AFTER Christmas! Here is my sister's: I still have a small amount of hand quilting to do on it, but that won't take long (that's why there is still safety pins in it.) Whew! I'm so glad that is finished. I'm beginning to be able to breathe again.

So that leaves two bathrobes for two little boys and a little nightgown for a little girl, and two dish cloths to knit to make a set of 12 for a gift, and I think I can wrap up the 2007 Christmas craft extravaganza! Hallelujah!

And a free offer. Go here right now! I haven't heard these before but they look adorable. I am looking into getting these for my little grandbaby for next year's Christmas gift. They look adorable!

And I wanted to leave you with another beautiful Christmas song. This one is called "Some Children See Him". It's an old song but you don't hear it much anymore. Powerful words. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Potpourri Friday

Okay, the days are going faster now. I'm in a rush finishing projects and gifts for Christmas - and guess what? I think I'm going to make it! I'm not there yet, but I'm going to be! And I am excited because my husband and I are going to keep a tradition this weekend that we started several years ago. We leave after work on Friday and go to the big city. We eat dinner out, go to a movie, and stay in a nice hotel. We get up Saturday, after sleeping in of course, and have breakfast together in the hotel restaurant. Then, my friends, we hit the mall! We get all our shopping done in one day. This is helped by the fact that I have done a lot of online shopping beforehand. I love online shopping and I am not so much a mall shopper. But we make it as fun as we can and it becomes part of our Christmas present to each other. We are both looking forward to our overnight shopping trip.

I bought a Christmas present for our little unborn grandbaby! How fun is that?! When I saw it I just couldn't resist. So this will be wrapped and under the tree this year with a tag that says

"To: Savannah or Tyler
From: Your Grandparents who already love you to the moon and back!"

Yippee! After I ordered it I began to worry about the recall issues and the lead paint/China thing in the news. I sure hope it's okay. I wouldn't think you could still buy things if they are dangerous - could you? Oh my, it's been a lot of years since I have had to worry about these kinds of things - I'll have to get back into practice!

This Sunday evening we will be having our traditional tree decorating evening. And I have finished the girls ornaments for this year! I have made one for them for each year of their life and when they make their own homes - they get to have them to decorate their very own tree with. I gave Andrea her box two years ago for her first married Christmas. This year I will be giving Michelle hers. It's always bittersweet for me. But I digress. I want to share with you what I made for the girls this year:

They are cross-stitched little Christmas villages on navy aida cloth. Navy is very hard to cross stitch on because it is harder to see the squares. They are done. I also make an ornament for me because once I give all the girls their boxes, I won't have anything left! Mine, however, is not done. I'll finish it after Christmas. And Tara honey, if you are reading this, I will hang your decorations for you but your new one will be waiting on the mantle for you to add when you get home! Yes, my girl is coming home from Boston for Christmas! Amen and Amen!

Some of you have asked for the Tea Time Tassie recipe that I talked about in this post. They aren't hard to make and they taste wonderful. And they are fancy looking too. So here is my mom's recipe that I got from her 29 years ago.

Tea Time Tassies

3 ounces cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
Blend softened cheese and butter. Mix in flour. Shape into 2 dozen 1" balls and press into small muffin tins.

1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. salt
Beat until smooth. Chop 1/2 cup pecans. PUt small amount of pecans in bottoms of pastry in tin. Add some of the filling. Place a few chopped pecans on top. Bake @ 350 degrees for 25 minutes.

I am going to leave you today with my most favorite Christmas song of all, "Mary Did You Know?" This is my favorite version and is sung by Kathy Mattea. The words in this song move me every time I hear it. I especially love the line that says, "When you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God". Doesn't that just give you chills up and down your spine? And then the line, "This child that you delivered will soon deliver you"
My. Goodness. Perfect theology in 9 words. Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Christmas Cookie Exchange

Every year my four daughters, three sisters, and my mom join together for our annual Christmas Cookie Exchange. The date this year took place on Saturday evening. So of course that meant that Saturday morning found me and two of my daughters in my kitchen baking all of our best recipes. It was quite the day so I decided to take pictures and document all the fun.

Here is how you KNOW when you have a good recipe:

Every year I make Teatime Tassies. This was one of the first recipes I asked for from my mom after I got married 29 years ago. It's practically vintage!

My BFF KitchenAid is working hard once again.
oh wait, my Bernina is my BFF, hmmm... can a girl have two BFF's?

This is my TeaTime Tassie baking pan. I love it because it makes 2 dozen Tassies at a time - a real time-saver.

And this little tool changed my life. I used to have to finger-press all the little pastries on at a time for each little Tassie. It took forever. Then I found this little tool at The Pampered Chef. It is amazing and I LOVE IT.

It works like this:

Then I put in the filling and pecans like this:

Here are some fresh out of the oven:

I added little bags of candied nuts to each of my bags-

In the meantime, Jess was busy working on her creation. She found the most delightful little reindeer cookies and she worked very hard on those.

And in the other corner of my kitchen, daughter #3, Andrea, came over to make her cookies. She chose a sugar cookie recipe. Half were decorated snowmen and the other half she used a beautiful snowman cookie stamp. I loved the stamped cookies - they looked very old-fashioned.

So we wrapped them all up and went to my sisters house and look at all the lovely packages we had:

After we exhanged cookies we do what we do every year - we went to a movie. This year we chose August Rush. It was a very sweet story about a little orphan boy trying to find his parents. We all loved it.

Oh and I wanted to share with you a picture of what my sister does as an Advent countdown with her kids at Christmas. I think it is the cutest idea.

She puts a little treat into each and every day the boys get to remove something from the day's stocking. It is usually little candies or snacks. I just love how it looks.