Friday, December 31, 2010

should auld aquaintance be forgot...

Just for fun, here are 12 of my favorite photos from the past year, one for each month. Some have been seen on this blog, most have not.  And while picking them, I realized that there is so much to remember in small moments.  Too often I look back on a year in a path from one birthday to the next holiday to a vacation to another big event.  And in doing so, miss so much that means even more.  Our year truly is made of our days, one day to the next.  I don't know whether anyone but me can find the meaning in these moments that I do, but here they are, a glimpse of 2010 from my camera:

Monday, December 27, 2010

create: : christmas knitting...revealed at last!

 Now that the gifts are given, and presents all unwrapped, here is what has been keeping me busy the last two months or so!

Two garter-stitch scarves made from Lion-brand Homespun.
 A chevron-pattern scarf and matching hat.

And four more hats!  Plus a lovely looped scarf/ cowl that I mailed to my sister-in-law in Italy, but thoughtlessly forgot to photograph! (Perhaps she'll see this and send me a photo...)

All five hats were from the pattern by Amanda Soule, found here as her "Favorite hat" on her SouleMama blog. Thanks, Amanda!

In all, good fun in good knitting.  Already thinking ahead to next year, and I think that the kids and hubby may need some more hand-knits of their own (both kids got hats earlier this year). Happy knitting!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

christmas joys

Sunday night after a whirlwind week of preparations and celebrations.  Last minute knitting (finished the final gift on Christmas eve around 4 pm).  Baking and cooking.  And finally, finally, Christmas begins.  For us, it begins with church on Christmas eve, and what a glorious service it was.  Loved seeing my kids dance and sing the carols, and the dear daughter wrote a sweet story while the pastor gave his sermon. The story began,

            "I was dakrating the tree and a liut (light) chowd (showed) up. It wus Jesus! ..."

I will treasure that little booklet more than any of my gifts this year.  Love her sweet heart.  Being at church with my church family was a great joy.  After, we gave the kids their gifts from us (every year, jammies and a book about Christmas) and said goodnight. 
Christmas morning we enjoy the chaos shared by every family with young children...wrapping paper flying, squeals of joy and happiness.  Oh, what fun! And then....
Not a lot, mind you, just a dusting. But enough to just add to the magic and the joy. Our parents and James's sister and brother-in-law joined us for brunch, with our traditional egg casserole, and a new favorite cranberry apple cobbler-type casserole...mmm, yum.  More gifts, and a little down time, and then off to my Aunt and Uncles for more family holiday joy and craziness...more food than we could possibly eat, more gifts, and mostly, more family--my parents, two Aunts, an Uncle, and my cousin and her husband and kids.

And tonight, I found out a dear friend's baby boy was born on Christmas morning. Pure joy!

So when it comes right down to it, this is what Christmas was all about for me: celebrating Christ's coming, with my family. It was joy, it was magical, it was all that Christmas should be.

Monday, December 20, 2010

man in a big red suit

No words are really needed for this one... except perhaps,

From her: "...a friend for Eva (her doll), a unicorn pillow pet, Polly pockets..."
From him: "...a tool bench and a fire engine!"

A merry Christmas will be had by all...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

christmas baking, part 2

We spent a wonderful day Saturday making butter cookies with my mom.  The recipe is from my great-grandmother, probably from Germany.  It is like a sugar cookie, but very very thin, and not too sweet.  As my mom says, "Any cookie dough that has a whole pound of butter in it had better be called a 'butter cookie'!"

The kids enjoyed the decorating and the cutting out, of trees and snowmen, stars and holly leaves, dogs, and even turtles (for my dad, who loves turtles!).  And the sprinkling of the sugars is the best part, and one that has to be learned, for each shape has its own traditional sprinkles, not too much, just a little pinch...and beware if you tamper with the color or how many sprinkles to use!

For me, the best part was family...being there with my mom, and my kids, and the memory of my grandmother, Mom-mom, and making cookies in her kitchen.  The smell of cookies almost done in the oven.  And that first taste!

Friday, December 17, 2010

first snow!

Just a few pictures from the walk home from the bus-stop yesterday afternoon. Love seeing the snow through my kids eyes--an inch might as well have been a foot to them.  Beautiful "icing" on our Christmas decorations.

You can see the hat I knit for my beautiful girl this winter! Just a very simple roll-brim in LionBrand Homespun. Perfect colors for my "pink and purple" girl!

you might note this was done on the driveway, there really wasn't enough snow, otherwise!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

christmas baking, part 1

 Today we finally began this year's Christmas baking! The little guy and I baked 14 dozen cookies (3 varieties) together this morning, and my daughter and I did another 4 dozen of a fourth variety after school. We did the "easy" ones today:  all drop cookies with chips of one form or another.  Some of the more complicated ones will come later this week, but this was a great feeling to get such a great start on the baking marathon.

Christmas cookie baking is a long standing tradition in my family, with many recipes handed down from generation to generation.  My great-grandmother's butter cookie recipe is the stuff of family legend (more about this later this week), and many other cookies are annual "must haves" from my grandmother's generation.  It seems like we always had at least six or eight types of cookies at my house growing up, and it appears that I am, indeed, my mother's daughter as I carry on these traditions. I love it.

As much as I love many of our traditional cookies,  I have also come to love finding new cookie recipes, adding to our repertoire, tweaking the list from year to year.  Some, like the Chocolate-Studded Dream Cookies, from the Nestle' people, have become annual favorites.  We always make them with mint chips of whatever variety we can find.  And we always include the original Toll House Chocolate Chip cookies, because, well, you don't mess with a good thing.  Made with margarine, not butter, for a little extra lightness.  This year we added Betty Crocker's Mint Chocolate Chip cookies, which are fun because they are green! And mint is oh-so-yummy.

The last recipe for today is one that was passed to us from a former co-worker of my husband.  They are Strawberry Chip Cookies, and such an easy recipe: 
  •  Combine the following:  1 Strawberry Boxed Cake Mix (Duncan Hines or Pillsbury), 1 egg, 1/4 c. flour, 1/2 c. vegetable oil, 1/4 c. water, and 1 cup white chocolate chips.
  • Drop by teaspoon on ungreased cookie sheet, and bake 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees F. 
I'll leave you with some more photos, and my one favorite cookie baking tip:  Parchment paper lining the cookie sheets.  Miraculous stuff and I don't know how I lived without it. 

The sifter belonged to my grandmother, Mom-mom.

official taste tester
Happy baking! More of our baking adventures, later this week....

Monday, December 13, 2010

christmas is coming...the list

Not the list for Santa, unfortunately, although if he'd send me a couple elves on loan for a few days, that would help out quite a bit on the rest of the list.  The list is the one of "to-do's" percolating in my brain. Better to get it out and start making progress on it.  Here goes:
  • KEEP CHRIST FIRST AND my own mind, in my kids hearts, in light of all the other items below!
  • Christmas cookie baking: must include Harlequins, Great grandma's butter cookies, Chocolate chips, press cookies, and probably several other varieties that I will be reminded of once the recipes come out.
  • Gingerbread house making and decorating, with kids.
  • Names sewn onto kids' stockings (note: this has been on the list for several years, this year I've at least bought the materials!).
  • Christmas cards finished and mailed.
  • Baby Jesus ornament made for felt advent calendar (as seen in this post) before the 24th!
  • Last few decorations out of storage.
  • Deciding on the Christmas schedule of when to see family and friends, and to try to do it all and see all our loved ones we can.
  • Activities for this week:
    • Daisy scout meeting
    • Nursing home visit and Christmas party with our church home group
    • Visit to the Nutcracker ballet with my girl and the Daisies
    • Go see Santa! Get great photos...
  • Wrap presents...thankfully most are purchased already!
  • Finish Christmas knitting projects:  one and a half hats to go, I think!
  • Normal weekly activities:  laundry, cleaning, menu planning, grocery shopping
You know, now that its out there, I am not nearly as overwhelmed.  This may look like a big list, but its entirely doable, bit by bit. I'll keep you posted this week...hopefully with some good photos to share!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

to nap or not to nap?

We are reaching that point with the little guy where napping suddenly seems optional in his mind...not in his mama's mind yet! He's almost 3 (in February) and I was able to hold out on the nap with my daughter until she turned 4.  Wondering if I'll be able to hold out that long with him. Right now he will nap great (2 hours plus) about 4 or 5 days a week, and not sleep at all the other days.  Why is it so important? For one, he still needs it.  Otherwise evenings become a mess of fussing and tiredness (and that's just me...oh wait. him too!).  For two, mama needs those moments of peace, to regroup and be ready for the evening ahead--for daughter coming home from school, homework time, dinner preparation and evening with all four of us together.  Praying this boy gets back into the rhythm of his nap soon!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

joy in our home

Temperatures in the thirty's all week, and windy, make it easy to hole up at home.  And there is no time of year when it is more pleasant to do so than the Christmas season.  Warm sweaters, a candle lit, one of my many Christmas CD's on the player.  And, especially,  I love the decorations...ours probably run the full gamut from tasteful to tacky--but each has a story and each brings me much joy.  And truly, isn't that what Christmas is meant to do?

Joy is in children's excitement, and talk of Santa, gifts purchased, carols sung.  Joy is my little guy who this very minute is in his bed (supposedly napping!) and I am hearing "Glo...oooo...ria" (as in "Angels we have heard on high") which is so very sweet to my ears.  Joy is them learning a little more of the story of Jesus's birth each night as we do our Advent devotions.  And joy is my own meditation on a holiday that celebrates much more than a miraculous virgin celebrates GOD WITH US.  And if our God could make himself a man in order to have a relationship with me, then certainly he could do it in any miraculous way he chooses, including a virgin birth.   Christmas is a time for joy.

And so I share with you some of the joy I find in our home right now:

I pray you are finding JOY in this season of Christmas!

Monday, December 6, 2010

memories are made...on facebook?

This was a fun little facebook app today, and I found so much JOY in reviewing the memories I recorded over the past year. Facebook may steal more of my time than I'd like to admit, but look! It records the lovely little moments too.  Hope you enjoy even a fraction as much as I did. Publishing it full size even though it doesn't really fit the frame...just so you can read the small print!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

it's beginning to look a lot like...

 ...Christmas, everywhere you least in our house!  I am so happy to be getting the decorations out, and we did the tree on Friday night.  First the kids did, oh, about the lowest 3 feet of tree, with unbreakable ornaments and their "special" ones they have gotten or made each year, and then later, with them in bed, we finished the top.  Our tree wouldn't be featured in any design magazine, but it is so special to us...nearly every ornament has a story, some from our childhood, some from our forebears (I have a tiny knitted sock from my grandparent's tree), and many many from our 8 years of marriage and the past 5 years of celebrating with children. It's theme is love, and family.

As the decorations come together this week, I know there will be more photos.  And then there is the baking to begin!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

create:: advent, old and new

We received my husband's childhood advent calendar from his mom, one which she had obviously put many many hours into creating when he was young.  It has 24 felt and sequined tree ornaments with incredible detail, and a felt wall hanging with the "tree" to hang one ornament on each night.  The felt-and-sequins motif must have been the holiday craft of choice in the 70's, as my childhood Christmas stocking was the same style.  I love it's timeless, yet retro, look.

Unfortunately, the advent calendar had suffered some with age: the wall hanging was discolored, wrinkled, and missing a bead or two; one ornament is missing, and several needed minor repairs.  So over the past week or so, I have "resurrected" the calendar, making an entirely new wall hanging, and I am working on the ornament repairs and making one new one to complete the set.  We decided to make the final ornament baby Jesus in the manger, as He is the reason for our advent preparations and Christmas celebration.

So, without further ado, here are the photos, one of the old calendar (on the right) with the new one in progress, and the second is our "new" calendar, proudly displayed in the family room, just in time for December 1st and the first ornament hung tonight by my daughter.  The photo doesn't show well that the new wall hanging is on a glittery white felt I found, which adds a snowy feel.  The only other differences are the added felt trunk to the tree, and a slightly different layout to the bead hangers for the ornaments.  I wanted to recreate it staying as true to the original as I could.