Friday, December 29, 2006

Still Enjoying Vacation

Just wanted to let everyone know that we are still alive and well here in East Tennessee. Michael is still on vacation which has left me limited time for writing. I took my mom back to Ky. I will post more later concerning Christmas, apple trees, farm ideas. I am still pushing Michael to post, but he has had his hands full spending time with our kids. One of his FAVORITE things is to do on vacation is to stay up late (and I do mean late) and play video games with the boys. My children enjoy spending this time with their Dad so much. This has been a tradition that has been ongoing in our family for many years.

Well, we have much to do today. The time has come for some of the play to stop here on The Covered Y Farm, and for the work to start. I think the boys will be back to digging fence post holes today. Due to the horrific wind that we endure here, we once again have a yard in need of cleaning. Michael's shop is almost cleaned and rearranged now, but there are a few areas still in need of work. (I told him we could make more room in his shop if he would finish my kitchen cabinets)!

grace and peace,

Friday, December 22, 2006

Vacation Has Begun!

Michael has now started his Christmas vacation. I can't even begin to say how much we have looked forward to this time off for him. He has worked so many hours these last few months, and we are in need of some good old fashion rest and relaxation. That doesn't mean that we wont accomplish any work, but it does mean that the pressure is off for the next few weeks.

Tomorrow his mom and her husband along with my mom will be arriving at our house. We will celebrate Christmas with them on Sunday morning. Michael wanted to have our entire celebration on Sunday. We asked each of the children if they wanted to open gifts on Sunday or wait until Monday. All but one child wanted to wait until Christmas Day. (I'll give you a hint as to which child wanted to open the gifts early...he is the one that acts just like his dad)! My mom will stay a few extra days here in our home to visit with us. I am not nearly as prepared this time around as I was for Thanksgiving, but there will not be nearly as many people. I am ashamed to even admit that my house is still in drastic need of a good cleaning. I am hoping to get all of that done tomorrow. I have started some of my cooking. Tonight I baked my Banana Cake, and I made some more sugar cookie dough. Cooking ahead can pose quite the problem in our family. If I cook it too far ahead of time, the family hunts it down and eats it all up. I now understand why my mom use to hide her Christmas candy and cookies under her bed! With Missy Dog here, I can't hide anything that low to the ground. I ordered a country ham from Ky, and I was terrified the UPS man would leave it on our front porch. I could imagine coming home to find a box torn apart and a big ham bone being all that was left. I was so relieved the ham arrived and I was at home to personally take possession of it!

Our weather has been so warm here for the last week or so it is hard to believe that Christmas is almost upon us. I have to say I have enjoyed the warm weather, but I sure miss the ambiance of the colder weather. I like the feeling of being tucked into a nice warm house with all of my family. It has been nice though to have the kids outside playing without having to drag out heavy coats, gloves, hats, and winter boots.

Well, it is getting late. My coach turns into a pumpkin at around 10:00p.m. so I will close for now. I am hoping that Michael will start posting again in the next day or so.
grace and peace,

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Farm Lessons Can Be Hard

Last March, Michael and I purchased 20 chicks to fulfill our egg needs. We have spent much time since March providing them with all the things that chickens need. We are just now beginning to get enough eggs to really be able to use them. Before this last month, I was hoarding the eggs for my homemade breads. It has been so nice to have enough eggs to finally be able to cook breakfast for our family and still be able to make bread later in the day. Well, today that all came to an end. We have an English Mastiff puppy that is 10 months old. She is very much a part of our family, but Michael has been requesting her to stay outside a bit more. I went to town today and I left her outside to enjoy the sunshine. I came back to find her in her usual spot on the front porch. After coming in the house, I encouraged my daughter to go outside with the 2 year old to play. Moments after going outside she was back in the house. She wanted to tell me that there was a dead chicken in the side yard. (Not good). I told her to go to the other side of the yard and we would clean it up shortly. She quickly came back inside announcing the fact that the other side yard was covered in dead chickens. (REALLY NOT GOOD). I am not a farm girl by birth so I don't do dead things very well. To be honest, I don't do dead things at all. I rounded up my boys to investigate. It appears that the sweet darling mastiff puppy is nothing more than a cold blooded chicken killer. She broke into our older chicken tractor and killed the 9 chickens in there. We are now down to 7 laying hens and one rooster.

After seeing my frustration, my daughter asked me how much it would cost to replace the chickens. I tried to explain to her that it wasn't the money, but the time already invested. We were just now seeing and enjoying the fruit of our labor, and now this. One of my favorite sayings is "take your lemons and make lemonade". I am trying hard to do this with this situation. I understand that in the grand scheme of things this really isn't that big of a deal. It is just a bump in the road, and we can replace the other hens. I am also thankful that it was just chickens and not something that costs much more like say a dairy cow.

grace and peace,

Monday, December 18, 2006

Gift from the Horse

Sunday was Jacob's 10th birthday. He is our 3rd child, and of all of our children he is probably the most like his Dad. Jacob had invited 2 friends over to spend the night and share his special day with him. I was awoken several times in the night with the laughter of 3 boys just down the hall. During the day, I enjoyed watching them head of to the woods with our older son. I think the kids had a great day. I called them in for lunch, and I noticed that each boy was running to wash his hands. I knew something was up so I asked what they had been doing. We found great bombs! (This was said with much know the kind that is way over the top). I braced myself and asked what they were using for poop... it makes great bombs. Lovely...I am sure your mothers' will be just as thrilled as I am. As if all of this wasn't enough, my English Mastiff 10month old HOUSE puppy came inside this evening. I was wondering who had horse manure on their shoes. As the dog came closer to me, I knew who had horse manure on HER shoes. Oh my does she ever stink! She doesn't have any visible signs of manure on her just the lovely stinch from playing in the horse field. I don't have any dry shampoo for her, and I most certainly can't bathe her 130 pound body. I was thinking that maybe I could rub a little vanilla behind her ears...or I may feed her some refreshing candy canes to help with her breath.

As all of this was taking place this afternoon, a friend came by with a gift for us. This was a great gift that was a great surprise. (I promise you this is all true). She brought us 2 truck loads of you guessed manure. She was cleaning out her horse stalls, and decided it would be a nice thing to just bring it to our house instead of us having to shovel it from her field this spring. I was thrilled because this will result in less shoveling for us down the road. (We use composted horse manure in our raised beds). Who could believe that one day could be so loaded with this much horse manure? Such is the life on a small farm!

House updates: I spent much time on my knees today with a toothbrush doing an acid wash on our new tile. This was due to the fact that as we were applying the grout, I did not clean it as good as I should have. So I spent the morning wearing protective gloves with the doors standing wide open scrubbing the tile. Then I had to do a baking soda wash to stop the acid solution. (I was doing this while the boys were throwing horse manure bombs in the horse pasture)!I now am ready to bleach my grout and seal it. My boys are working hard in the new family room/bedroom. They are spackeling all of the dents, holes, and minor damage in the dry wall. They will sand it, and then it will be ready for paint. (Mother's Note to other Mother's: DO NOT BUY AIR SOFT GUNS AND ALLOW CHILDREN TO SHOOT THEM IN THE HOUSE. It makes a mess out of dry wall)! I guess since they were the ones to shoot the guns it is only fitting that they are the ones to fix the walls.

Well, I am off to finish a few dishes and settle down for a quiet evening. I will be heading to bed earlier this evening due to the lack of sleep last night! My children are begging me to watch another Christmas movie with them tonight. I may indulge them with this request, but I would rather be counting sugar plums in my sleep!

grace and peace,

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Weekly Update

Another week has passed here in beautiful East Tennessee. I look around us, and I realize that we have accomplished quite a bit this week even though Michael has had a busy work schedule. First, this was our last week of school for all of our children. We are now on Christmas break!!!!!!! I am more excited than our kids. I love home schooling, but I also love being able to get up and not be responsible for a school day. I get so many projects completed on nonschool days because I have the extra time as well as motivation.

We have spent some time today doing some outside clean up. Our carport had become home to much junk,trash, and clutter. The children all worked together to clean that area this afternoon.

If you read my earlier post, you know that we try to use what is already available to us when we have a need. Our heart's desire has been to close in our carport and make a much needed family room. We have waited since Spring to work on this project, and it just seems that there never is enough time or money to tackle such a large job. Our basement is a very large room intended by the builder to be used as a family room. However, we have a 3 bedroom house with 5 children so we were one bedroom short. We had our older boys make their bedroom downstairs. Just a few weeks ago it dawned on us that we could really make much better use of our basement. We moved the weight and workout equipment out to Michael's shop. This gave us a huge amount of space downstairs. We have moved the boys' bedroom to one side of the room, and we are making a family room on the other side of the room. We talked about putting up walls, but we felt it would make both rooms too choppy. We will be building a large walk in closet in an area that really hasn't been used for much of anything except storage. Michael will have to frame in a door for this, but that shouldn't take long. We bought paint last night, and I must say the room is coming along wonderfully. I feel like in just a few days that my house has already been enlarged. We bought a couch for downstairs, and everybody seems to be gathering downstairs more. We will be putting our computer back downstairs. YEEHAW!!! It is located in our bedroom. This house was built in the mid 70's and back then large bedrooms were not standard. To get around our bed, you have to push the computer chair up, and suck in your belly. When somebody is on the computer, we crawl over the bed to get to the bathroom. This new family room is a perfect example of using what is in the house. Someday I hope that we can enclose the carport, but for today I am very content. It is so nice to look in my living room and see it neat and tidy. It is also exciting to see the whole family gathering in a space that is large enough for everybody to have a seat. I am amazed this idea didn't come to us before now. We have lived here for 3 years, and I told Michael today that I am so thankful that we listened to him and bought this farm. I was having a hard time saying that 3 years ago!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

What Do You Have In Your House?

We just finished baking and decorating cookies with all of the kids tonight. I love hearing the laughing and playing, but sometimes it is nice to steal away for a bit of quiet. That is why I decided it was a good time to enjoy the cookies of my labor and have a bit of computer time. Don't worry, I plan on getting on the treadmill shortly!

I have spent the last few blog entries focusing on gift ideas that have worked for our family. I am at the end of my ideas for this season, but I did want to share a teaching that has truly impacted our life. The story is found in 1Kings 17:8-16. This is the story about the widow who God used to provide for Elijah. We read that Elijah comes to the widow's house and asks her for a morsel of bread. Her response to him was, "As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar..." Her automatic response was to look at what she did NOT have. As she is obedient to the word of the Lord, we read that "The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke by Elijah".

Now, I would love to tell you that in our home that the groceries never run out, but that isn't the case or the lesson to be learned here. In fact, you have to be pretty fast in our family to get the "goodies" before they are all eaten up! For me the lesson has become the changing of my focus. I do not want to focus on what I don't have , but instead I want to ask myself, "what is in your house?". This change of focus brings a fresh perspective in our life as well as creates an appreciation for the abundance in our life. How has this worked for us? First, we are building a farm from the ground up here in East Tenn. It can be very overwhelming when you look at all the things we don't have and still need to purchase. However, if we stop and look at what we do have then we often times find that we have just what we need. We have used this principle in building a custom cabinet and furniture business. God gave Michael the talent of woodworking, and he used the talent that was in his house/hands to help make ends meet when we lived in Florida.

I also use this principle when I am wanting to give a special gift. I have a dear friend that I always exchange gifts with because we share the same birthday. I wanted to give something that would touch her very heart. She loves teacups, and the Lord lead me to give her a teacup and saucer from my own china that my parents purchased for me before I was married. When ever she drinks tea from her cup, she thinks of me. Whenever I see only 11 teacups in my set I always remember that she has the other one.

During the holiday season, we can get so caught up on wanting to give that great gift to that special person that we lose sight of the true meaning of the season. We look at the lack in our checking account, and we wonder how in the world is it all going to come together. Pray and ask the Lord to show you what you have in your house that could be used. This year my mom gave me a truly priceless gift for my birthday. Two years ago we found out just how sick my Dad was with cancer on my birthday. It has brought a sadness for me on my birthday. This year my mom gave me a bracelet that my dad had given her for an anniversary present. It brought such joy to me because it made me feel like my dad was still a happy part of my birthday celebration. Everytime I wear that bracelet, it makes me smile and I remember both of my parents. My mom had the money to go and buy me a new bracelet, but it sure wouldn't have been the same in my heart.

Michael and I do not have this teaching down pat in our lives. Often times we forget to look and see what the Lord has put into our house. We look at all the things we still have left to do here on the farm instead of looking at all the things we have done in the last 3 years. We see the lack of cows and pigs instead of looking at the addition of chickens and fruit trees and raised beds. It is a different perspective, and with this new perspective comes thankfulness for the abundance in our lives.

I want to close with one of my favorite Bible verses that has given me so much peace over the years. It is found in Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope".

grace and peace,

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bounty from the Farm

I am still on the theme of gifts from the heart, and what better gift than sharing some of the bounty from your farm. I spent many hours this summer making applesauce, apple butter, blackberry jam, and other yummy canned goods. These are always a wonderful spare of the moment gift. I purchase extra baskets when I find good deals, and then I can put a farm basket together quickly. If I have extra time, I may bake a loaf of bread to add to the basket. I also use our honey as special gifts. During the canning season, I pick up small jars and then I have little gifts to give to the piano teacher or the Sunday school teacher. I always include a loaf of homemade bread with my small jar of honey. If I know somebody loves honey butter, I will also include honey butter in the gift. Be creative and look and see what you have extra stored on your pantry shelf. We send gifts to friends that live out of town. If I do a farm basket for them, I also include a picture of the kids while they are picking the items needed for the basket. We have lots of pictures of the children picking apples or extracting honey with their Dad. I will write a note about the day, and this gives the person receiving the gift a small glimpse into our children's life on the farm.

I had hoped to have our soap ready for gift giving, but we were several weeks behind in production. Oh well, it will be there for other gift giving occasions. I am also wanting to learn how to make soy candles next year so our family can enjoy them as well as making wonderful gifts.

I have a happy note to share about the farm and our third son, Jacob. Jacob and his Daddy did the farm chores this morning. Jacob told his Dad that we need to get more animals because he wanted more outside chores to do. I about fell over at this announcement, but I know what his true heart is. Jacob likes doing any type of outside work WITH his dad. I know that over the Christmas break Michael and Jacob along with the other boys will be working on repairing our fences. Yes, Cheri, we will get that cow off your hands as soon as possible!!!

I have already started working on Michael's honey do list. He gets 11 days off over the Christmas holiday. We will have to balance work on the farm and playing at the house. As long as we have a good plan, we usually get both done quite nicely during his Christmas break.

grace and peace,

Sunday, December 10, 2006

More Gifts from the Heart

As I shared in an earlier post, I try to think about gift giving with gifts from the heart in mind. I focus a lot on the kitchen aspect of gift giving because that is where I spend so much of my daily time. We as a family also spend a lot of time in the work shop. Over the past several years, Michael has created some fabulous holiday gifts. I think the one that was the most treasured was a gift that he made for my mom. My mom loves to plant flowers and herbs. She always potted flowers on her patio sitting on the ground. Michael made her a beautiful potting bench that has truly been her pride and joy. She decorates it every summer, and she now has a great location to repot flowers or display her herbs. One year Michael made gift trays. They were serving trays that could be used in a wide variety of ways. We filled the trays with natural straw like material. We added fresh baked goods to some of the trays. Other of the trays were filled with candles or soap. We made one tray as a "Family Game tray" complete with hot coco mix, cards, sweet goodies, and several different types of card games. This was a great gift for the whole family. We have made bird houses to be used as gifts as well as picture frames. Be creative and think about what the person you are wanting to give a gift to really likes. Go from there. Michael's mother received some special quilts from her mother. These quilts were really very special to her so Mihcael made his mom a beautiful quilt stand. She was thrilled to display her quilts on a stand made by her son.

It is so much easier to run to the mall or Walmart and purchase a quick gift. It doesn't take much thought. Instead it just requires some money which you may or may not have. Instead take an inventory of who you are purchasing for this year. Think about what he or she really enjoys, and make something special for that person. I would love to learn how to knit for this very reason. My most treasured baby gifts have been the ones that were hand made for me. They truly are priceless in my heart.

Sadly for our family this year there just hasn't been time to be in the shop and create these special gifts. I am hoping that after the first of the year Michael will be able to make our daughter a cradle for her special baby doll. We had wanted this to be a gift for her this Christmas, but due to his work schedule it just wasn't possible. I think she will still love it just the same if it shows up in her room sometime after the first of the year as a "I just love you gift". I am thinking that maybe for her next Christmas the boys and Dad can make a wooden doll house for her complete with furniture. I doubt that there is any way that it could be a surprise, but we will just have to see what we can work out!

grace and peace,

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Saturday Fun and Chores

We have enjoyed a nice Saturday. It has been very cold here the last few days so we decided to work inside as much as possible. We spent part of yesterday moving weight equipment out from our basement which is our older boys' room into Michael's shop. We are wanting to make the boys' room double as a family room to add a bit more space to our home. Now we have to rearrange the shop to accommodate the extra items.

After attending a Christmas party for our children this morning, we came back home and chilled out for a bit. Then we started making soap. I really enjoyed working on this project. It has been a long time since we last made soap. We made three different batches...1.Peppermint 2.Lime moisturizer bars 3. BeesWax and cocobutter soap. Soap making is like planting seeds. You have to be patient to see what your end product will be like. I don't like the waiting part, but in 4 to 6 weeks I will know how well we did.

Michael and I always make soap together. It is a fun project, and we enjoy the time spent together. Michael is a very precise person. I am very laid back for the most part. Michael actually works in an environment that he must be exact in everything he does. I do not. I was messing with the lye without wearing gloves, and he commented on it. I replied that it wasn't a big deal because if you get lye on your skin you can use vinegar to stop the burn. (This is true). He looked at me as if I had two heads and replied back something about Dr.'s being able to sew your fingers back on so we might as well cut them off on the table saw!!!! I put the gloves on for his sake, and everything went fine for the rest of the afternoon.

After soap making, we cleaned up the kitchen and started hair cuts. Michael cuts our boys' hair, and this saves a tremendous amount of money as well as time. Our 2 yr. old hates having his hair cut, and last April he ended up having a buzz cut due to his lack of cooperation. I really didn't want that to happen again so we have put off cutting his hair at all. He cooperated this time with much coaxing, and Michael did a great job.

This pretty much sums up our Saturday. We are all relaxing tonight, and I will soon start putting little people to bed. I usually like having everything ready for church the night before. However tonight I think I will just head off to bed and get up a bit earlier in the morning.

grace and peace,

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Gifts from the Heart

Several years ago I was in a dilemma. I needed a special Christmas gift AND Birthday gift for my Dad, but I just couldn't come up with any ideas. Money was tight and everything my Dad liked required some cold hard cash. I started praying. I prayed harder because I really wanted this gift to be special, and God answered my prayer. The Lord told me to give my Dad a gift from the heart. I sat down that night and I started writing down memories of my childhood that included him. After less than an hour, I had composed a beautiful writing that I titled "A Daughter's Memories". I went to an art store and bought special paper and a special pen, and I wrote it out on that paper so that I could have it framed for him. Let me tell you, if I had spent a thousand dollars on a gift for him it wouldn't have been near as special to him as that gift from my heart. It cost me precious little, but it meant so very much to him. I wrote another one about my memories of his job and gave that to him on the day he retired. At his funeral last year, we had each one of those "pictures" displayed on an easel because they meant so much to him.

Don't get so caught up with the perfect gift that requires a lot of money. Ask the Lord to give you ideas, and wait and see just what He does for you. My motto for gift giving is to make it gifts from the heart if at all possible. This year I bought my mother a nice sweater and shirt. She will like it, but it wasn't anything from my heart. It was just a gift. I was in Cracker Barrel looking for something specific, and I found my gift from my heart to my Mom. When I was a child, my mom loved Googoo clusters. She would buy them for herself and threaten any of us with our life if we ate any of the clusters from her box! A few months ago, I mentioned her googoo cluster selfishness and we had a great laugh. She thought that the company had quit making googoo clusters, but my talking about them made her crave one. I found several boxes of Googoo clusters at Cracker Barrel. I bought them, put them in a basket with a little note about being a selfish googoo cluster eater. This one gift will mean a lot to her because it deals with my memories from childhood.

Christmas Day was also my dad's birthday. He told stories of not liking his birthday on Christmas when he was a child because all of his gifts got combined together in one. After this I purposed to always do something special for his birthday. He also told me a story from Paul Harvey about a little girl who gave her Daddy a beautiful wrapped present. When he opened it, the box was empty. The Daddy told the girl that she shouldn't give empty boxes as gifts. She replied that the box wasn't empty it was full of her hugs and kisses. My dad shared this story with me when I was around 19 yrs. old. After that for his birthday, I would find the most beautiful box and fill it with candy Kisses and Hugs. I wrapped it as beautiful as I could, and I would give it to him on his birthday. My dad's last Christmas/Birthday was in 2004. We knew he had just a few months to live, and that Christmas and birthday would be his last. I once again gave him his box with candy kisses and hugs, and it truly was a gift from my heart.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Simple Christmas Memories

As a child, my parents put a lot of emphasis on Christmas. We always had a wonderful Christmas day full of nice gifts. Only a few of my childhood Christmas gifts stand out in my mind. One year when I was around 9 years old, my mom and I baked sugar cookies and decorated them together. This memory is very vivid for me, and I remember just how much fun that day was. As I got older, my mom continued to allow me to do more of the baking and candy making. By the time I was an early teenager, my mom allowed be to do most of the candy making with her supervision. I have many stories I could share about these memories, but I can't recall one of the gifts that I received durring those years. What does that tell you? It is a reminder for me that Christmas isn't about gifts or food, but about our Lord and Savior and spending time as a family making our own special memories.

I said in a earlier post that I would share some simple ideas that our family has used to help make memories for our family as well as others. One of the obvious places to start with your children is in the kitchen. When we lived in Florida, we lived on a very tight budget. We did not have extra money to buy gifts, but I still wanted to teach my children about giving. For the month of December, I planned very cheap meals so that I could pull some extra money from our grocery budget. I used that money to buy the extra ingredients to bake cookies, make fudge, and candies. After I layed the baby down for a nap, the other children and I made sugar cookies and decorated them. We took large stick pretzels and dipped half in melted almond bark, and made chocolate covered pretzels. We also melted candy wafers and made painted candy by painting molds with different colors of chocolate. After painting, we poured the molds with either white or dark chocolate. Then pop in freezer and in a few minutes out comes a beautiful piece of chocolate candy. We made a large batch of hot chocolate mix (I will include that recipe at the end of the post) and put some mix in pint jars. We tied a raffia ribbon around it, and placed a pint jar of it in a basket. We added the baked goods, and we had a wonderful gift to give to friends and neighbors. I have also baked bread with my children and made honey butter to make a bread and butter basket complete with hot chocolate mix for neighbors. I included a hand written note or card, and I also wrote a scripture verse for each basket. Keep it simple. It is about sharing the love of Jesus with people and having a special time with your children. A word of caution, your kitchen will be messy!!! Anytime you give a child a cookie with some homemade icing and sprinkles, you will have much to clean in the end. But it is so worth it. Also keep the baking at your child's age level. When my children were all 8 and under, I baked the cookies myself. I had the kids help me color the icing and ice the cookies. They were then able to use sprinkles to decorate. Now that my kids are older, they are a part of the mixing and baking of the cookies. We can use more elaborate cookie cutters because the children now have the ability to decorate more precisely. Don't forget to make extra cookies and hot chocolate for your own children. This is also part of the memory making. may gain weight during these projects!!! Don't tell me that I didn't warn you.

grace and peace,

Instant Hot Chocolate
one box (29.6 oz) Nonfat PowderedMilk
6 oz jar non dairy coffee creamer (I use Coffee Mate)
3 cups Nestle Quick
1 1/2 cups powder sugar

Mix together in large bowl. Stir well. Store in airtight container. To make hot chocolate add 1/2 cup mix to a mug of hot water. If you want it to be extra rich, use hot milk instead of water. You can top it with marshmellows, marshmellow creme, or my favorite is homemade whipping creme! Michael likes to add a half cup of this mix in a large mug. He then pours hot coffee over it. It becomes like a mocha coffee.

Peppermint Brickle Candy

package of white almond bark
peppermint candy canes crushed in small pieces

Melt almond bark according to package directions. Add crushed peppermint candy. Pour out onto cookie sheets in thin streams. Let harden. Use the end of a butter knife to break into pieces. This is a great gift giving idea. Just place the candy in pint jars and tie with a Christmas ribbon. (Almond bark can be purchased at Walmart in the baking section).

Monday, December 04, 2006

Weekend Happenings

Here are a few pictures from this weekend. We had many fun filled Christmas happenings this weekend. Our family decorated our Christmas tree on Saturday. As you can see, Michael was the one who climbed to the top of the house to put up the Christmas lights. This is the first year we have ever put Christmas lights outside. We inherited the lights from my mom and dad, and they sure look beautiful on our home.

For our family, we celebrate Christmas the entire month of December. I always want my children to remember the time spent together during the Christmas season instead of just receiving gifts on one morning of the year. We spend time in the kitchen baking cookies and candy. We spend time in the shop cutting out wooden ornaments and painting them for our Christmas tree. Michael and the older kids have spent many hours in the shop over the past years making special gifts for family members. Our second son Joshua has a wonderful eye for picking the perfect gift for our younger children. He comes with me on my Christmas shopping trips to help me choose for the other children. As a family, we spend many evenings in front of the Christmas tree just talking and enjoying the beauty of the lights. Matthew and I did this Saturday night until after midnight. (Why is it that teenagers always want to share their heart after 10:00p.m.)? This year I planned a special outing for Hope and I. As you can see from our family picture, Hope is our only girl in the bunch. She loves doing girl things, but often times our family focus is on activities for the boys. Hope jumps right on in there with the boys activities and always has a great time. This year I wanted to have a mom/daughter girl event. She loves ballet, and we went to see the Nutcracker performed by the Kingsport Ballet Company. Before the show, they hosted a formal tea party for the little girls. Hope was thrilled. The dancers in the ballet were the ones to serve tea to all the little girl guests at the tea party. Then each girl had her picture taken with the cast of the ballet. This was a BIG deal for Hope. We enjoyed the ballet so much, and it was great to have a girl outing. We purchased a special Christmas tree ornament to remind us of the fun of the evening. The ballet evening was part of Hope's Christmas this year, and I know we made wonderful memories for years to come.

I pray that your family will come up with ways to make the holidays special for you. As the month continues, I will share other ideas that we have used in the past to make memories for our children as well as others.

grace and peace,
Here are the pictures of the Jacob's and Hope's gingerbread houses. If anybody has a recipe for a tried and true gingerbread cookie,please send it our way. The kids have all decided now that they want to EAT gingerbread cookies. I think it would be fun to make some little gingerbread men and enjoy eating them. Thanks!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Chain saw operator???

Today Michael was at home and we decided it was time to finish the tree clean up. I am not for sure how long the pine tree has been in our front yard, but we decided that today was going to be the finish of the yard clean up. (Who wants to put Christmas lights up on the house with a huge pine tree sprawled on the front lawn)? We finally got the tree removed, and our yard looks MUCH better. As we were cleaning up the branches, Michael asked me if I would like to learn how to use the chain saw. Now if you knew my husband you would KNOW why this question surprised me so much. He likes to be in control of everything...Especially things that can cut off body parts!! I am thinking that teaching the 15 year old to drive has gone to Michael's head or something. I decided it was a good time to learn how to operate a chain saw so I told him yes. He lovingly instructed me how to lay the saw on the branch and angle it to cut through the tree. Well, you see I am not used to angles so I did what was natural to me...I started sawing back and forth just like I was cutting bread. He kindly pointed out that I was not using the right technique, and he once again showed me how to correctly use the chain saw. After many different reminders on his part, he finally said, "Julie, I shouldn't have to tell you so many times"! I noticed his tone changing, and his loving voice changed to exasperation. I got so tickled because I have cut so many loaves of bread by "sawing" my knife back and forth that I just automatically went to that same action. I am proud to say that after many reminders from my husband and more than several lessons, I now can operate a chain saw. Mind you I won't be running out to cut up firewood anytime soon, but it felt good to learn something that has always seemed scary to me. After the chain saw lesson, he didn't offer to teach me to drive the truck up the steep incline in 4 wheel drive. I guess he figured he had done enough teaching for one day!!!!

I was at WalMart today buying my groceries. (Yes, we still buy a lot of groceries at a store). I noticed that Wilton Cake Decorating Company had a prebaked gingerbread house that was already assembled. It was a kit that included the icing, candies, and house neatly packaged for under $10. I ended up picking up 2 houses so that our 9 yr old and 8 yr old could enjoy a craft. We will not be eating these houses so I wasn't worried about the quality of the cookies. I just wanted my kids to experience decorating a gingerbread house. I was amazed at how much fun the kids had with this project. They spent the whole afternoon icing and decorating and designing. It was such fun to watch them "build" their house. My daughter asked if we could decorate a gingerbread house every year, and I told her that maybe next year we could bake our own and do a real gingerbread house. She was very excited at the prospect.

I am so thankful that I acted on the prompting of the Lord to purchase the houses. I get so caught up with being frugal that times I miss what the Lord would have me to do. I also feel that EVERYTHING must be homemade, and I make many things too complicated. It was so peaceful today to enjoy a simple store bought craft kit. It wasn't complicated at all, and the memories that were made were truly priceless.

grace and peace,