Friday, December 31, 2010

Simple Mom's 20 Questions for New Year's Eve

My back yard on Christmas night.
We had a white Christmas!

Tsh from Simple Mom has compiled 20 questions for a New Year's Eve time of reflecting here. We've printed them out and are going to go through them as a family. It'll be fun.

We have popcorn and chocolate chips (the BEST combination -- you should try it), and we have our questions. Tomorrow she'll post another set of questions focusing on the New Year.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fun In My Back Yard (New Year Reading)

Part of the holidays always seems to be gearing up for the new year.

The New Year is a time of reflection on the past year -- what changes we'll make. What we did well and what we didn't do well. What worked and what didn't work.

As we approach 2011, I wanted to share some great material for reading and contemplating. There's lots of things I need to reevaluate for the coming year -- big things as well as little ones. This was a good place for me to start.

This post in particular is very inspiring and encouraging. Especially for homeschooling mothers/homemakers, but whatever your life situation, it's a very helpful article. Renee talks about things she DOESN'T DO. Keeping it real.

She has different categories and resources in the right margin as you scroll down. Click on these, as they're links to that part of Renee's blog:

Homeschool Help
Better Home & Garden
Soap & Body Care
Vegan Eats & Health
Sewing & Crafts
Family Outdoors

FIMBY (Fun In My Back Yard)

Encouraging information on all these, in one place. Have fun!

I'm off to think about an updated daily schedule for our new year...

Linking up to Holiday Bliss again!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Favorite Christmas House

On our drive-by to look at Christmas lights and decorations, we came by this house.
I love the use of the ornaments.

So elegant and tasteful.

Merry Christmas!

Visit Brenda at Garden of Learning...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Displaying Christmas Cards

Here's how I'm displaying our Christmas cards this year.

Got a little carried away there with the fire...

I'm so tired of them getting knocked off tables or shelves, falling to the floor, and just looking cluttery. My daughter, Pauline, says it makes the room look cozier and homey. I agree.

What do you do with yours?

Join others over at Brenda's Garden of Learning for more holiday fun!

Friday, December 17, 2010

A New England Gingerbread House

A gingerbread lighthouse came in the mail!

Aunt Sharyn, who lives in New England, sent us a kit.
I believe it came from L. L. Bean. Cute!

The children decorated it by themselves.
Can't have a lighthouse without a light on top!

Last year we made just regular ole' gingerbread houses, but this is a first. Maybe we'll wait to eat it. Look at it a few days and think of Aunt Sharyn, Uncle Steve and their family -- up there being cold in New England.

Get your holiday fix here, at Brenda's place.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Egg Nog

One of my favorite holiday traditions.

My 14 year old son, Peter, found a simple recipe lastnight and made some for us all! This is the easiest eggnog recipe I've seen:

Put 4 eggs in blender and blend until foamy. Gradually add 1 qt. milk, 1 tsp. vanilla, and 1/4 cup sugar.

That's it!

It wasn't as thick and creamy as other recipes, though, but was still delicious.

Here's a more complicated, but thicker and creamier recipe:

Cooked Eggnog

Lightly cooking this eggnog kills any possibly dangerous bacteria in the eggs. Combine and set aside:

1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream

Whisk just until blended:

12 large egg yolks
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Whisk in:

2 cups milk
2 cups heavy cream

Transfer mixture to a large, heavy saucepan and place over low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture becomes a little thicker than heavy cream. Do not overheat, or mixture will curdle. Remove from heat and immediately stir in the reserved milk and cream. Pour through a strainer into a storage container. Chill thoroughly, uncovered, then stir in:

2 tablespoons vanilla

Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 3 days. Don't forget to sprinkle with nutmeg before serving!

I take my eggnog very warm. Not hot like coffee, but not cold like a milkshake. Mmmmm..... NOW it's Christmas!

Visit Brenda at Garden of Learning for Holiday Bliss...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Simple Holidays

I collect oil lamps.

I put them on top of the piano for a nice winter decoration.

The green and red quilt my Aunt Carolyn gave us looks nice on the sofa in front of it.

We don't put up a Christmas tree or do anything real fancy for the holidays. But we have fun doing little winter scenes throughout the house. We try to keep it simple. We like it this way for us for now.

A friend, Esther, wrote a post here on how she simplifies her Christmas. Also, visit Brenda for more ideas and thoughts on the holidays, as well as holiday recipes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

SWEET SHOT TUESDAY by 9-year-old

Michael, my 9-year-old son, wanted to try a hand at photography (pardon the pun!). He's a budding photographer and has always looked at life from an unusual perspective.

Sometimes he can be very insightful and profound. When he was about 7 years old, his sister was struggling with a problem we were trying to help her through. Michael had some of the best advice. He said, very thoughtfully and seriously, "Well, why don't you just stand up and count to 100, turn around, sit down, and don't think about it." I've often followed his advice when in a quandry.

Drop by Darcy's at Life with My 3 Boybarians for beautiful photos and great tips.

Sweet Shot Day

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas is About Gifts

Lazy Wednesday's Walk

I was pondering in the last months about what gifts to give this Christmas.

I felt the Spirit strongly urge me to give by serving -- in my family, in our neighborhood, and in our larger community. But how? I asked.

I prayed for God to show me what lasting gifts I could give. Gifts that won't be thrown in the trash or given to Goodwill in a year or two, when they're worn out or out-of-style. (Although we can't deny we all love receiving those "temporal" gifts -- they're fun! And we love to bless others in that way when we can.)

So I kept pleading with God to show me how I could give in a special way this Christmas. About then, my neighbor stopped by and said the nursing home where her mother stayed has been asking her for my number. A nursing home and rehab wants us to come and sing to them once a month!

Then He put in my mind to call an acquaintance and ask about help needed in the local soup kitchen. Ends up the man I spoke with was involved with the homeless shelters in DC, same as me. Years ago I was involved in a fulltime ministry to the DC homeless. We had 500 beds throughout the city.

He was familiar with this and we connected right away. I'm sure that was the Holy Spirit bringing it together.

God was so faithful in answering my request. So we'll be feeding the homeless next week, and then again on Christmas Eve.

We'll sing for the lonely shut-ins on Christmas Day.

Maybe we can bring a smile to her face.

At first I thought, Well, don't they get a lot more volunteers around Christmastime? Maybe we should wait until after Christmas, when they probably need the help more. Surprisingly, both places said they actually need more help on Christmas and Christmas Eve -- these are the times when everyone wants to be at home, warm and cozy. Who wants to brave the cold and go hang out with the less fortunate when they could be at home sipping warm cider, singing carols and opening gifts?

So, again, there was my answer. (Mind you, we'll still do the warm cider-singing-gifts-by-the-fireplace thing, just that we don't want that to be the center of Christmas.)

God gave the greatest Gift of all to us, His Son, born lowly in a manger -- homeless and hungry, so that we could have eternal life.

"For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

The people asked When? When did we see you hungry? They don't remember feeding Jesus, or clothing Him, or taking Him in, or visiting Him in prison. What?! We didn't see you!

God answered: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

Soup Kitchen Volunteers 8

Jo March, a character in Little Women, said "Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents." I agree. What kind of presents are we giving this year? Mostly temporal? Or are the eternal gifts of showing God's love through our time and service on the agenda as well?

Isabel, Pauline and Krista

I'm grateful to God for health and the means to help and serve in these small ways. I think of the blessing it is to our children to expose them to these people; to let them see that not everyone lives like we do. To let them experience that these are people just like us. I want my children to question and think, Wouldn't we want the sincere love and attention and care if it was us?

As John Bradford quoted when he saw a group of criminals being led to their execution,

"But for the grace of God, there go I."

Visit Brenda's for more thoughts and ideas on the holidays.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Merry Christmas Brenda!

Here's your gift. :) He ducked below the surface before I could get a better shot! But a hippo nonetheless!

Peace and the Color Blue

Deep Blue. The color just soothes and calms me. It's such a peaceful color.

I decorated this little tree outside in our courtyard. You can see it from the little boys' bedroom window and from the kitchen. It casts a deep blue glow on everything.

I found these cute snowflakes to put on it:

Here's a space with a fall wreath BEFORE:

And AFTER, blue and sparkly:

With no lights overhead

With lights overhead

Certain things give us a feeling of peace. But deep, lasting peace comes only from God. May we seek the eternal peace of Christ this holiday season, as we claim this promise He gave in John 14:27:

"Peace I leave with you,
My peace I give unto you:
Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.

Let not your heart be troubled,
Neither let it be afraid."

Don't forget to take a deep breath, and pray quietly, asking God for this promise for your life this busy holiday season. He WILL answer -- it's a promise!

Head over to Brenda's for more Holiday ideas and thoughts:


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Sweets with George

Join us for Holiday Bliss 2010 over at Brenda's...

Making sweets is such a Christmas-y thing to do. We started making super-easy Peanut Butter pies.

Here's what we used:

Nothing healthy here!

Basically, you just dump everything together, mix it up, then slosh it into the pie crusts.

My 7-year-old, George, heard me starting and really wanted to help. He's such a big boy now, you know. And, it's such an easy recipe -- sure to be successful.

Okay...going well so far...

HEY! Stop that!

Now I know why he was so eager to help...

Okay, almost done...that was easy. Great!

After this, George got bored and ran off to play. As I finished dumping the mixture into the pie crusts and spreading it out, I noticed big huge chunks of cream cheese that hadn't been stirred up and mixed in. (I softened them in the microwave first so it should've been no problem...right?)

Oh well, I thought, I'll just scoop it back out, stir some more then dump it back in. Easy enough.

Here's what happens when you do that:


After stirring, I still couldn't get the cheese chunks out, so I dirtied up yet another bowl, and put it in here to mix:

So then I couldn't use the dilapidated crust anymore, so I kind of folded the crust in, like this:

The final product was this:

And this:

Peanut Butter Pie Gone-Bad Casserole

What started as a super-easy pie turned into an over-an-hour project and a colossal mess. I gave one to our neighbor, and the big one to a family in our church that just had their ninth baby, along with a meal.

The remaining "pie" we ate and my husband loved it. Yay! It was worth it.

Tomorrow: see how I've decorated a little for Christmas.

(By the way, did you guess Disney World yesterday? My very generous in-laws took us there for a vacation. I'll post some more photos from there soon -- they really do Christmas up big.)