Thursday, December 23, 2010

See You Next Year!

This year has been marked as one of rest.  It's definitely been a unique time that I've treasured as it's been a privilege to take this sabbatical opportunity.  I've learned a lot about myself and realized that sometimes simple resting actually takes great discipline.

heart leaf

I feel the need to exercise some discipline in ending out this year.  I also feel it is a very appropriate action to end the year by taking some time off.  I used to not give myself permission to take time off from this blog, but part of the process of resting has been realizing that I don't have to put these crazy expectations on myself.

I absolutely love blogging, and I love reading other blogs, but I've realized that de-plugging is not only healthy but necessary for me.  It allows space for more important things to come to the surface.

leaves

So...I will be away from this space (and blog reading and email in general) until January 2nd.  I look forward to coming back refreshed and inspired!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you!  Praying you also find rest in the midst of the season along with the joys of family time together!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas This And That

Wow!  It's only a few days now until Christmas!  I always feel the anticipation as the day draws near! 

wrapped gifts

This year I kept reading about the Green Grocery Bag Challenge, encouraging people to use reusable packaging rather than the traditional paper wrapping.  I have to say that I was quite intrigued, but decided I would have to tuck that away for another year.  No need to get stressed out over packaging!  However, as things settled down a bit (hand knits completed, all knitting orders filled), I started exploring cloth wrapping for those odd shaped gifts.  Felt was the way to go for a quick job and it happened to be scraps from past projects!  Starting slow is always good for me, but I'm looking forward to sewing more reusable packaging in the years to come!

sugar cookies

decorating cookies

The kids had a blast decorating sugar cookies the other night!  At one point I heard Emma G say, "With teamwork and love, we got that cookie done!"  Music to my ears and a perfect ending to an already fabulous day!  (Side note...when your oven is on broil instead of bake, your cookies turn out very brown on top and slightly doughy on bottom...smile...)

elf hat

My Christmas hand knits are (almost) complete, but of course browsing new knitting books is slightly dangerous.  That Pointy Elf Hat is seriously calling my name!  Less than 2 hour project?  Hmm...

Seriously though, it's home stretch time and not time to be adding more things to the list, but I do want to point out my Creative Christmas posts I've been doing over at Today's Mama.  You can always tuck away ideas on Ornaments, Stocking Stuffers, Gifting, Food Gifting, and Packaging for next year! 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Then Sings My Soul By Robert J. Morgan

Then Sings My Soul Special Edition 

Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan is a collection of 150 Christmas, Easter and all-time favorite hymns.  It includes the words and music to the hymns as well as a brief history to go along with it.  It's a beautiful collection!

We've used the Christmas hymns this past week as we've sung one each night at dinner time.  I really enjoyed the history to accompany the hymns (although some of it was too wordy for the kids).   The deckle edge also gives it a very interesting look and feel.  I really love having so many hymns in one place.  This is definitely a book I will cherish and use for years to come!  I would highly recommend it be added to your library!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Lights

manger scene

The other night we drove around looking at Christmas lights.  With Christmas music in the background and hot chocolate in hand, it was so beautiful to see the lights that light up the night at this time of year.  Perhaps what I love most about it is that it's something we have fun doing together as a family.

joy

Wishing you lots of family time and JOY this holiday season as we celebrate our Savior's birth!

Visit here to see great places to see Christmas lights in the Dallas area!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Blackberry Jam

blackberry jam

I made this batch of jam the "real" way meaning that I actually cooked it in the pot.  It was much easier than I thought it would be and I love how it turned out!

Ingredients

56 oz. fresh blackberries
1 cup apple juice
1 pkg. no sugar needed pectin
honey

Directions

Wash blackberries.  In bowl, crush fruit with potato masher (I don't actually have one, so I crushed them with a whisk).  Pour into pot with apple juice.  Begin heating over medium heat and gradually stir in pectin.  Bring to a roiling boil.  Add honey.  I used probably about 1/4 cup (I forgot to measure!).  Test the jam by taking a spoon and dipping it in.  As it cools, it should gel up a bit.  When it's to your liking, turn the heat off and spoon into jars.  It will thicken as it cools in the jars, too.  This batch made about 8 1/2 jars, and it was delicious!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Evidence...

...of an ugly Christmas sweater party.  It's hard to see, but that thing is sporting some shoulder pads!  I'm racking my brain trying to come up with something creative to do with it now.  Any ideas?

ugly christmas sweater

On another very important note, the winner of the giveaway is cat song!  Please email me with your address!  Thanks for all those who entered and began following.  Have a great Saturday!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shooting In Black And White

I'll admit that shooting in black and white is a stretch for me.  My eyes are naturally drawn to color and the dramatic effects color creates.  Taking away the color forces me to look for other ways to take dramatic eye catching photos.  The other day I set my camera to B&W and set out to take non-color photos.  Looking for interesting textures and taking them from different angles brought me the dramatic results I wanted.

swings

fountain

post

weathered wood

casting shadow

leaves

no dumping allowed

made in usa

bread dough

These photos did go through the editing process.  I used Flickr with the Boost and Holga-ish effects.  Now back to color!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Teacher Gifts

I knew I wanted to do something special for the kid's teachers.  Although I didn't want to break the bank, I wanted to give something meaningful and special to say thank you for taking the time to teach my kids.

apple butter and bread

With six different teachers between the two of them, it was time for some easy gifts that (hopefully) would make them smile!  I went with three different things that I have been loving lately...apple butter, homemade ciabatta bread from THE book, and a bread bag to put it in.

from josh

I do hope, as the kids hand them out today, that it will make their teachers feel much appreciated for the hard work they do!

homemade bread

I'm always looking for fun, crafty things to make as gifts.  Do you have any fun teacher gifts you've given lately?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Reason

It just wouldn't be right to talk about all the holiday decorating, the baking, and the gift giving without talking about the reason we celebrate Christmas.  Christmas seems to be the busiest time of the year with shopping, parties, and various activities.  Sometimes I can't help but wonder if it's a ploy to try to get us distracted from the reason we celebrate.  Don't get me wrong.  I love all the festiveness this season brings.  I just make sure to keep my priorities on track. 

then sings my soul

The other night we went to a Christmas musical.  It was so nice to watch and be reminded of the Savior's birth.  Before it started, I asked Joshua what the most important thing was about Christmas.  When he responded with giving, I started to get nervous.  It's not about presents!  But then he went on to talk about God giving His Son, and I smiled.  That's right, my boy.  It is about the perfect gift of Jesus.

angels we have heard on high

In order to make this season more about Jesus, we've started reading singing a Christmas hymn and the history behind it at dinnertime.  It's fun and a lovely reminder all at the same time!

What kinds of things do you do during this season in order to keep priorities on track?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Our Basketball Player

Joshua is playing basketball, and I have to say that I'm really proud of him.  He's a kid that's not intimidated by new territory.  He steps into it and always does his best.  He's the only kid who has never played basketball before.  We told him, though, that if she asked who had ever played cricket before, more than likely his would be the only hand raised!  The closest thing to basketball in S. Africa is netball which is played by girls, and it's actually quite difficult as there's no backboard!

running

We went back and forth on letting him play, because there's always the question, "Will we be here?"  But then we were reminded of one very important thing that we always try to implement.  No matter where we are living physically, we must make it home and settle into it for that season.  Otherwise, we are constantly living in this weird unsettling state. 

thinking

Now we get to enjoy watching Joshua play 8 games of this sport he is learning about!  There's lot of dribbling and ball passing going on around here!  I don't mind (unless it's in the house, of course).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Another Christmas Giveaway

GiveawayDayButton

I know I just did a giveaway but I have another one for you!  When I read about Sew Mama Sew hosting another Giveaway Day, I just couldn't help myself.  Tis the season for giving, right?  That and giveaways just have a way of luring me in.  So you have the chance to win the following items!

One set of 5 note cards in the Butterflies & Bees theme

note cards 

note cards

3 5X7 unframed flower prints

flowers

blue flower

orange flower

And a necklace made from rolled paper beads!

red and gray beads

The details...

Giveaway is open internationally.

1st Entry  Simply leave a comment!

Additional Entry  Become a follower.  If you already are a follower, then that counts, too!

Please remember to leave a separate comment for each entry!  Giveaway will end Friday, December 17th at 9 PM when I will use random number generator to determine a winner!  Be sure to visit Sew Mama Sew for other great handmade giveaways!

Comments are now closed.  Thanks for all those who entered!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Food Reviews

cranberry sauce

I know Thanksgiving has passed but with another holiday coming up quickly, I thought I would share my thoughts on the new dishes I served for our Thanksgiving feast!  I tried three new dishes and I can honestly say they all turned out great!  I would definitely serve them again!

Turkey ~ I brined my turkey.  This was my first time to cook a turkey, and the brine was a very easy way to make it tasty!  Next time, though, I will check the turkey before the recommended cooking time.  I forgot to consider that my current oven cooks really hot!

Cranberry Sauce ~ Oh, my!  This was so good!  I substituted the cup of sugar for 3/4 cup agave.  I made it the day before and thought it tasted pretty tart.  However, it sweetened up in the fridge overnight and was perfect.  Loved it!

Cornbread Stuffing ~ I almost omitted the sausage but decided to go ahead and add some spicy chicken parmesan sausage.  I'm so glad I did!  It gave it such good flavor.  I mixed it up the day before and baked it on Thanksgiving day.  If you do it this way, make sure you add a little extra chicken stock.

Did you try any new holiday recipes?

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