Apparently our big gift this year was books! Between the five of us, we have about 30 new books to add to our shelves! What can I say, we are a family that loves to read!
You know where to find us for the next few days until it's time to head back to work and school and reality.
Saturday, December 29
Tuesday, December 25
Monday, December 24
Week 4: Love ... The fourth Sunday of Advent is the one just before Christmas. All four candles are lit. The prayers acknowledge hope, peace and joy, and then add one of love.
"God of love, You so loved the world that you sent Jesus to be with us. Help us to love others and to welcome Jesus into our lives."
We were not home last night to light our candle so we lit it tonight. Last night we had a very special dinner with two of my Aunts and my Grandmother - perfect for this Sunday of love. I did not seen my Aunts or Grandmother too much while I was growing up so it has been wonderful getting reconnected now that we live closer. This is our first Christmas away from "home" and it is so nice that we were still able to celebrate with family.
Wishing you all Hope, Peace, Joy and Love this Christmas and all year through.
Sunday, December 23
Last night we celebrated. Dinner out - BBQ, hushpuppies, fried okra and, of course, margaritas. Dessert at home - red velvet cake made by my men. There were presents - useful things, thoughtful things, and touching things - and lots of laughing. Lots and lots of laughing.
Now I am 37. The next year will be a good one. I can tell.
Friday, December 21
The teachers' gifts are lined up and ready go. We give (basically) the same gift every year to all of our teachers - Hot Chocolate Mix and something else homemade. I try to keep it kind of simple and it's always something consumable. I know the teachers get a lot of gifts over the years from their students so I don't want to add any clutter (I've got plenty so I just assume everyone else does too!) This year the boys and I made Cranberry Almond Granola to go along with the Hot Chocolate. So good!
Holiday Hot Chocolate Mix
25oz powdered milk
3 cups powdered sugar
3 cups powdered non-dairy creamer (like Coffee-Mate)
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder
Mix all in a big bowl. Store in an airtight container. Approximately 3Tbls per mug of hot water or milk.
*You can also add a 16 oz bag of mini marshmallows and a 12oz bag of mini chocolate chips. We usually add the marshmallows but not the chocolate chips (they don't melt well). This year we found little star and tree marshmallows so we packaged them separately.
Cranberry Almond Granola
Original recipe can be found here. I've used several different granola recipes over the years and I like Stephanie's formula the best.
8 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut
2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup honey
1/2 cup canola oil
1/3 cup almond butter
1 Tbls cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups dried cranberries
We used this list compiled by Bella Dia to print ours.
Topher liked these, Edmund preferred these, and Chaz (always the Jan Brett fan) liked these.
Wednesday, December 19
Monday, December 17
Sunday, December 16
This week we light the pink candle as a symbol of joy. This lesson is a good reminder to us all to find a bit of joy everyday. I know it's so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and sometimes it gets the better of us. I know that, here, there has been a little crankiness creeping in lately. So today we step back a little and think about joy!
Edmund got great joy from lighting the candles on the wreath. (Finally, his turn!) Dinner was Rigatoni with Sausage Portobello Ragu, a tossed salad, and crusty bread. Wonderful!
Our Advent prayer for week 3:
Loving God, we thank you for the joy you bring us. Help us prepare our hearts for this gift. Bless us and help us to bring joy to others through our thoughts, words and deeds. Amen.
Monday, December 10
What do you get when you combine a digital camera, a tripod and mom who has a plan with 3 (no wait, make that 4!) other family members with different plans? You get 1 usable photo and 83 outtakes! (yes, that's right. We took 84 pictures)
We recently set up the camera and took a family photo for this year's Christmas card. It was a real feat but it got done and I'm so pleased with the picture I chose. Of course it was one of the first 5 that I took but you can never be too sure or take too many back ups!
Here are a few that we chose not to use...
Sunday, December 9
It's the second Sunday of Advent. I've added some evergreens to our wreath this week. Three little vases each holding a different bit of greenery - one is Fir, one is Cedar, and one is White Pine.
The second candle is the candle of Peace. I'm trying very hard to keep peace at the forefront of our lives right now. It's so easy, especially at this time of year, to let the stress take hold. We (me especially) try to live up to some self imposed expectations for the holidays and life becomes anything but peaceful.
Chaz lit the candles tonight. Dinner was a roast chicken with rosemary and root vegetables - potatoes, turnips, carrots and onions. Chaz also treated us to some little jelly bowl cookies that he made.
Our Advent prayer this week:
Loving God, we thank you for the peace you give us through Jesus. Help us prepare our hearts to receive Him. Bless our worship. Guide us in all that we say and do. Amen.
Peace be with you.
Saturday, December 8
The weather here has been so mild - 80º in December! We are taking full advantage of living in a warmer climate. Instead of driving around and looking at holiday lights like years past, this year we took a little after dinner walk around the neighborhood. It was such a beautiful night and all the lights made it that much more magical.
It was such a quiet and peaceful stroll. We walked with no destination, no set route, no schedule, and no timeline. We just walked ...and enjoyed ...and appreciated.
Thursday, December 6
This morning the boys woke up to find some little treats tucked in to their shoes! Today is St. Nikolaus Day.
Saint Nicholas is the Patron Saint of children. He also was a man of great character. He did many good deeds and helped those in need. Legend says that he secretly tossed some gold coins in the window of a poor man. The man could not provide a dowery for his three daughters which meant they would not be married and instead sold in to slavery. These coins landed in their shoes or stockings that were drying by the fire.
Now, Saint Nicholas comes on the eve of his feast day bringing little gifts and trinkets to good boys and girls. Those that are not good, however, receive switches from Knecht Ruprecht (St. Nicholas' dark traveling companion) Luckily we were well behaved and didn't get the switches. Thank goodness - it was close at times!
Topher, used to think that the switches were exactly that, light switches! He thought that Ruprecht was going to bring outlet covers and switch plates from Home Depot! He's older and wiser now, though.
St. Nicholas brought each boy a special gingerbread cookie (apparently these were a favorite of his), some gold (chocolate) coins, an apple and a special little pack of holiday tissues. (it's cold and flu season after all) He also left a new book for the family on the kitchen table as well as a few more gold coins. This year's book is Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin.
Saint Nicholas craft found here.
Tuesday, December 4
Tonight Chris and I get to have a very rare night out. A night with other adults and no children. I am really looking forward to it!
A night like this calls for a new handbag. I just love this red corduroy and have had it my stash for some time now. I bought it either last year or two years ago with a skirt in mind. Unfortunately, in my excitement with the fabric, I neglected to pay attention to the direction of the nap. It wouldn't do for a skirt. (Can't have corduroy that runs horizontal!) It's perfect for this project, however.
This bag has very quickly become a favorite of mine so I went back to that pattern for this new bag. For the interfacing, I used some scraps of some bottom weight that I had left from the lab coat I made for Halloween. It gives the bag a little more structure than the flannel (although I really like the flannel, too). I also added a split pocket inside like I did the first time. It's very handy.
I'm sure there will be plenty more of these charming handbags in my future. I must admit, I'm really surprised at how much I love this pattern. It makes a very sweet little bag but the bag has no closure which is something I would normally shy away from. Of course it means I can't stuff my bag full of unnecessary items which is a good thing!
Monday, December 3
A few new books have recently been added to my cookbook shelf. (shelves, really, I have 4!) Not all the new books are actually new and not all are new to me but they are new additions to my collection.
I found The Vegetarian Epicure (1972 edition) by Anna Thomas for less than a dollar. My mother has this book and I've always enjoyed it. (Our favorite lasagna recipe comes from this book) I've been checking this one out from my library and then renewing it until they politely ask that I please bring it back.
Another used book that I picked up was The New Laurel's kitchen. This is one that I was not really familiar with but I'd heard so many good things about. It, too, was about a dollar. It had to come home with me.
I also bought Cooking Free by Carol Fenster. This one I bought new. Chris has several food allergies and intolerances and hasn't been feeling up to par lately. We are on an exploratory mission to see what we can do to get him feeling better.
Another one that I bought so I wouldn't have to keep checking it out from the library is The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. There are so many recipes in this book that I really like. I also like the handwritten look of the recipes. It's like being given a cherished family recipe collection.
There are also plenty of cookbooks that are on my wish list. I love to sit and just read them over and over. (and the more pictures the better!) And since I really love to cook, they also get plenty of use, too.
Tell me about some of your cookbooks.
Sunday, December 2
The candles are out and the wreath is on the table - we have entered the season of Advent. This is a favorite part of the holiday season for me. December can often get a little chaotic and hurried and the simple act of slowing down on Sundays is such a welcome respite.
The first candle is traditionally lit by the youngest family member. (Those that are too young have the privilege of blowing them out) This year, Topher is old enough to light the candle. He's feeling very proud and oh so grown up!
That first candle symbolizes Hope and we say a little prayer as we light the candle.
Dear God, We place all our trust and hope in you. We pray that you will send your son Jesus Christ into our lives, to guide and protect us through difficult times. Amen
(Our Advent song can be found here. I'll try to find a sound clip of the tune.)
Thursday, November 22
Our day was a quiet one. Just the 5 of us ...and the Macy*s Parade, football games, a few board games and plenty of food!
I took very few pictures, opting to be part of the day instead of observing it. This one, however, is my favorite. I love that his eyes are closed while he really savors that turkey leg. That boy really knows how to enjoy his food!
I also love this Thanksgiving Journal and have decided to start one of our own. A few of of the things for which we are giving thanks this year:
~ crayons and paper
~ the sun and the stars
~ Leif Ericson discovering America
~ a neighborhood with lots of other kids
~ health insurance
~ that our family is so happy in our new home
And, of course, all of you who stop by to see what I have to say. Thank you.
(a couple of family pictures here and here)
Tuesday, November 20
They sat and read to each other for a good part of the evening. Chaz helped Topher sound out words and they both were giggling non-stop at the silliness of some of the pictures. No fighting... no pushing... no yelling. I love these quiet moments.
(and yes, Chaz is still wearing a Halloween shirt, but it's a favorite of his so I let it go)
Monday, November 19
The house smells wonderful - just like Fall!
We've several large batches of applesauce and I had to quickly get it in to the freezer before it all disappeared. I have 8 cups in the freezer, 4 in the fridge and 4 already gone. We used to buy apples by the bushel from the orchard for next to nothing. They were seconds so they weren't too pretty but for something like applesauce, they were perfect. I haven't found an orchard here so I buy they apples at the market when they are on sale.
I don't peel my apples when making applesauce. Instead I push them through my food mill after cooking and strain the peel that way. I also make my applesauce in the crockpot so I can leave it unattended. My crockpot holds about 6 lbs of apples (I use tart apples) so I core them, slice them, and drop them in with about 1/3 cup of brown sugar and 1 tsp of cinnamon and turn it on low. Cook it all long enough to get nice and soft then put it through the medium screen on a food mill. (If you don't have a food mill, just peel the apples before cooking)
The boys love cranking the apples through this apple peeler/corer thing. The apples come out spiral sliced but still together - an apple slinky!
So very good!
Sunday, November 18
Saturday, November 17
We picked up Topher's new glasses last night. He didn't want new glasses and insisted he could see just fine with the old prescription but his prescription did in fact change and his old frames needed to be replaced so new glasses it was. As soon as he tried on them on, he excitedly told us that he COULD see better and his loooong eyelashes were no longer smooshed up against his lenses! (he once asked me if I could give his eyelashes a hair cut because they were too long!)
New glasses + better vision = a very happy boy!
Friday, November 16
Thursday, November 15
We have been trying some new recipes around here. We've also found a few new-to-us foods. Most recently - millet .
Since we really enjoyed a couple of the recipes, I'd thought I'd let you know about them. They are definitely going in to my recipe box.
Mark Bittman's Autumn Millet Bake (found via 101 Cookbooks)
(They both made excellent leftovers for breakfast, too!)
Wednesday, November 14
Tuesday, November 13
Monday, November 12
Sunday, November 11
The boys have been itching and twitching to go to the town library and today was the perfect day. Actually this weekend was a library weekend. Chaz, Topher and I went yesterday while Chris and Edmund were camping and then we were back again today. There are always plenty of new books to discover!
This time we came home with:
- 2nd Chance by James Patterson
- The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen
- The Gluten-Free Gourmet Cooks Fast and Healthy by Bette Hagman
- Kid Style Nature Crafts by Gwen Diehm and Terry Krautwurst
- Texas Toys and Games by The Texas Folklore Society
- Tall in the Saddle by Anne Carter and David McPhail
- Eating the Plates: A Pilgrim Book of Food and Manners by Lucille Recht Penner
- Mayflower 1620 by the Plimoth Plantation
- Daily Life in the Pilgrim Colony 1636 by Paul Erikson
- We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season by Wendy Pfeffer
As well as several books on Greek Heroes and Mythology, a few on Squanto and a Calvin and Hobbes that have all been spirited off to various bedrooms for an afternoon of reading (before I had the chance to make note of the titles).
I love going to the library with the boys. They find a topic they are interested in and gather as many books as they can. Sometimes we study the same subject for several weeks before moving on to something new and equally exciting.
Friday, November 9
Thursday, November 8
I'm back in the full swing of things once again! Meals are planned ahead, groceries are bought once a week (no more daily trips to the store) and dinner is on the table with out any last minute scurrying. For those of you following along at home, here's what for dinner this week.
Beer Roasted Pork Shoulder with Pan Drippings Gravy
Crispy New Potatoes
Sauteed Red Cabbage
Parchment Baked Pesto Salmon and Vegetables
Mushroom and Garlic Frittata
Chunky Green Chili
Curried Vegetable Soup with Turkey Meatballs
Cumin Spiced Chicken and Pears
Steamed Green Beans
Wednesday, November 7
We are 3 months in to this project so it's time for a little update. There are so many that are "in process" but these are the ones that I can confidently mark as done or on the way.
1. Find a Pediatric Ophthalmologist for Topher - done! and new glasses have been ordered
3. Join a book club - done! joined 2, actually
9. Read 5 books on my bookshelf that I have not yet read - in process! 1 book read
11. Correspond (phone, email, post) with Alison at least every other week - in process!
21. Put $2 a week (143 weeks) in my jar - in process! $24 so far
22. Sell something that I have made - done! Emily Tarantino Creates
23. Print business cards - done!
24. Design labels - done!
25. Purchase bakery boxes - on hold (rethinking my need of these)
26. Look in to a Flickr Pro account - done! and registered
42. Use the “green bags” for grocery shopping - in process! so far so good
54. Go to the rodeo - done!
71. Find a new Weight Watcher’s meeting - done!
86. Find a local farmers market - done! looking for a CSA now
95. Learn to crochet - in process! making granny squares for this
Anyone else have a list??
Tuesday, November 6
One of my favorite things to wear is a simple cotton shirt. I always roll the sleeves three times, making them about 3/4's length and perfect for staying out of the way while I go about my day. Sometimes I wear them alone. Sometimes I wear them with a little cami underneath. Sometimes they are solid. Sometimes a print. Sometimes even a stretch cotton. One thing is the same though, they always make me feel comfortable.
This one is probably my favorite. It's soft and broken in. It always comes out of the laundry ready for another wearing - no ironing needed! This is my "go-to" shirt, for sure.
I just realized that I've had this one for almost 20 years! It's still in perfect condition, too. (I still have the wide-wale corduroy skirt that I bought to go with the shirt. It's also in great condition. I just need to whittle my waist a bit so I can actually breathe while wearing it!)
See more of the Self Portrait Challenge here.
Monday, November 5
My boys love to help in the kitchen. They get excited about making their own sloppy PB&J's, they love the independence of pouring their milk and cereal, but most of all, they love to help make dinner.
This Saturday was Chaz's day in the kitchen. He was in charge of dinner from start to finish. He sat with his cookbooks and poured over them searching for just the right recipes. He picked out his meal and did a great job creating a nice balance and made sure all his dishes went well together.
Of the three, he is the one that enjoys being in the kitchen the most. He watches the cooking shows and takes notes. He saves his money for cookbooks. He's thinking of become a chef.
Garlic and Herb Angel Hair
Next was making his grocery list. He wrote everything down that he was going to need and then he and I looked through the panty and crossed off those things we already had. He and I took the rest of the list to the market. He was so proud of himself! He had his own cart and his own grocery bag. Very grown up and very independent. He carefully looked over the items he was selecting and made sure he picked exactly the one he wanted. It was not a quick trip to the store but it was a very good one.
Chaz was so happy to do somethings that he hadn't before. He cracked the eggs all on his own and didn't get any bit of shell in the mix.
He sauteed the garlic all on his own. Neither he nor the garlic were burned.
The meal was wonderful! Made even more special because of all that went in to it. Chaz was pleased with himself. I'm so proud of him!
It was a simple meal but it was a feast!