Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bringing In the New Year

We have enjoyed our holiday season so much this year. We have had somebody in our home almost everyday since the season began. Now is the time to bring our family close together and pause to see in the New Year. This New Year's Eve will be just for the seven of us. We will be enjoying a snack night of chicken wings, cheese and dips, veggie trays, cheese sticks, and chocolate chip cookies. We will play some games and generally just spend the evening being together. Then around 11:00 p.m. we will turn down the lights and light some candles. The worship music will be turned on softly. We will spend some time as a family praying and worshiping the Lord. Around midnight, Michael will serve our family communion. For some, this may be an odd thing, but it has been one of our most cherished traditions. We also serve communion in a different way than most. We use risen bread instead of flat bread. We know that Jesus would have served unleavened bread to his disciples. However, we chose to use risen bread as a symbol and reminder to us that our Lord rose from the dead. We also serve wine and for those of us who cannot drink wine, we choose to serve the non-alcholic version of wine. For us, communion is a time to eat and drink a meal... not a morsel. It takes time and it is a time of holy worship in our home. It is a time for each of us individually to look into our own hearts and it is also a time for our family unit to come together and worship the Lord. We use our best china and crystal to serve the bread and wine. It is a special time for us.

I always hesitate sharing something so personal on a blog. I am sure that there are many that believe that communion should only be served in a church by a pastor. I am sure there are more that believe that risen bread and real wine should never be served. Those ideas are fine too, but I am just sharing how our family has been lead to celebrate the New Year. I hope I have not offended any with our traditions.

grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Good Christmas

It is just a conversation starter, and people here in our home town usually find a few minutes to stop and chat with each other. The man at the feed store was the first to ask me. It was his way of being polite while he loaded my sacks of feed into the back of the Suburban. "Did you have a good Christmas?" I shook my head eagerly and smiled and said, "Yes, we had a nice Christmas." "How about you?" was my next comment. I encountered the same conversation with several different people throughout the day. It got me to thinking...what makes a good Christmas? My definition would be different from many others. Gifts are fun, but not essential for me. Michael and I have never exchanged Christmas gifts in our entire marriage. In the beginning, there just wasn't extra money for that, and now we don't succumb to the pressure of finding the perfect gift for one another. I enjoy my Christmas season to be full of the things I, fellowship, and food. I don't want the holidays to be full of stress and frustration. There are many traditions that we hold near and dear to our hearts, but they don't involve stress. We make sugar cookies and decorate them as a family. Although it is a huge mess, it isn't stressful. Our cookies wouldn't pass the test of Martha Stewart, but we sure have fun doing them! Our view of Christmas has changed over the years. We pour more of ourselves into our children and less of ourselves into the other things. Good memories are made for all of us.

We enjoyed many special meals throughout the holiday season. This was a picture of our Christmas dinner. Many of the things on the table came from our own garden!

We spent time laughing and playing and just enjoying being together. Many evenings were spent playing Dominoes or card games.

My mom came for the week to enjoy the fun. This was the first year that I didn't cry when I thought of my dad. Christmas day was his birthday, and this was our 4th Christmas without him. I even made the special coconut cake this year for the first time since he died. It has been the traditional Christmas/Birthday cake since before I was born. The last few years I just didn't have it in me to make it or eat it. This year I did. I brought my daughter in when I was making the icing and asked her if she wanted a taste of my childhood. She looked at my with a very confused look and licked the spoon. She smiled because she loved the icing. I explained that this was the cake that we had at our birthdays when I was a child. I shared the memories of the cake, and I know in just a few short years I will also teach her to make the special cake.

My children enjoyed some special time with my mom. She is always very eager to play card games or dominoes with them.

Of course there are the gifts that bring huge smiles to my children's faces.
Yes, I would have to say that we had a good Christmas. A time to stop and enjoy being together as a family. A time to reflect on the things that the Lord has done this past year. We are so blessed and so full of thanksgiving for all that He is in our lives. A good Christmas indeed.
grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Break

I just wanted to let everyone know that I will be taking a blogging break during the holidays. Hope y'all have a wonderful holiday season and a very Merry Christmas. I will be back here at the first of the new year.

grace and peace,

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cherry Go Round

My daughter has decided that she wants to learn to cook. She really hasn't ever been that interested in the process of learning to cook. Several weeks ago she brought me a cookbook and asked if she could make Chocolate Chip Muffins. I was delighted. Our boys were delighted when she asked if she could make this Cherry Go Round Bread Wreath. She did a fantastic job and I only watched and gave her verbal instructions. Now I have visions of her cooking all the meals dancing in my head!!! O.k. I know it won't be exactly like that, but you can't blame a weary Momma for dreaming!!!

grace and peace,

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Busy Saturday

The weather has turned cold here once again. Our mountains are sprinkled with a bit of snow and look ever so lovely. Every time I walk past our bedroom window I am mesmerized by the beauty of the mountains. We lived in Florida for many years and there were no hills or mountains where we lived. I always wondered if I would ever take the beauty of Tennessee for granted once I got used to seeing it on a daily basis. The answer is a wholehearted "NO"!!! I stand in awe of the Lord and the beauty that He created for our pleasure.

Today is our Christmas shopping day. This morning I will be taking our second son and doing the grocery shopping for the next two weeks. This evening my husband and I will be heading out to shop for our children. We have never spent a tremendous amount of money on our children for the Christmas season so our children don't expect it. As a parent, that is a nice place to be. I spent yesterday afternoon planning out ALL the special things that we do for the holiday food list. We even give the gift of homemade goodies to several different people so I included those as well. Our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals are easy to plan because they are the same every year. I like good traditions and food can be a great tradition. My family would agree.

I have spent the last few weeks writing down ideas about the Christmas shopping day. By today, I know what I will be purchasing for most everybody on the list. This helps me not to be overwhelmed with the whole shopping experience. I don't even like to shop so this is a day that could be very laborious for me if I wasn't prepared ahead of time. I will enjoy spending the time with my husband. I look forward to any time that we can squeeze out to be alone. We don't do it very often so it is a sweet treasure to each of us. I am sure we will grab a cup of hot coffee and something special to eat while we are out today.

grace and peace,

Friday, December 12, 2008

A Healthy Snack

Several years ago, we started ordering fruit from local baseball teams. They take the orders ahead of time and then the fruit is sent in from Florida. This is almost as good as being in Florida and purchasing the fruit from the groves. We did that a lot when we lived there. I noticed that my kids weren't eating the oranges as quickly as I thought they should. I wondered what the problem was and I did some investigating. I asked each child about why the didn't eat the oranges. Each child said it was a lot of trouble peeling them. I had a fix for that. Now every morning I cut oranges and place them in a bow. I leave the peel on because I don't want to take the time to peel them all either. I leave the bowl in the refrigerator, but I take it out often throughout the day and place it on the counter. As the kids start looking for snacks, they ALWAYS grab the oranges. They usually grab the oranges over the sweet things. I will even set a bowl of oranges on our breakfast table. My kids love this sweet treat, and I feel great because I know they are eating something good for them.
grace and peace,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Best Sugar Cookie Recipe

2 sticks Butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups all purpose flour

Cream together the first 3 ingredients. Add eggs and vanilla, beating well. Mix the dry ingredients together. Add to the creamed mixture. Mix well.Let set in refrigerator for at least an hour to chill. Form into balls and roll into sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and flatten with the bottom of a glass. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

This is our favorite sugar cookie recipe. It makes a lot. If one batch is too much for your needs, freeze half of it and bake the rest. It freezes well if you can keep the teenage boys from eating the frozen dough! Here are a couple of tips for this is a very soft dough and will make a soft cookie. This would not be a cookie to mail to someone. I have even had trouble taking it to potlucks unless I package them very carefully. They are soft and will break easily. If I want to use this dough to make cut out sugar cookies, I take out only the portion I will need to make that batch of cookies. I leave the rest in the refrigerator. After rolling them out, I usually bake them just a smidgen longer so they won't be as soft. We then make up a Royal Icing and decorate the cookies.

grace and peace,

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Morning Farm Chores

I enjoy feeding the animals in the morning especially when its not too cold outside or too hot outside. Yesterday morning was just right. Once I had the kids started on school, I slipped outside to do the morning chores. This was my first time feeding the animals since they have been moved into the backyard. There are a few "problems" with our arrangement. (Somehow I encountered each and every one of them). First of all, there are no fence barriers between the person feeding and the animals eating. I was told to quietly slip into the barn and quickly shut the barn door so the animals don't come in with me. Then I was to pour corn into the barn stall for the sheep. They have an outside entrance so every sheep was suppose to run into the barn and eat the corn. I poured extra corn to make sure I had extra time to do the other chores without having to worry about Peter the Great. Once all the sheep were in the barn eating, I was to slip back outside shut the gate behind them so the 20 sheep would be contained while I fed the 4 cows. Sounds simple enough, right?

You know the song "Grandma got ran over by a reindeer"? Well, Grandma has nothing on me!

I did manage to slip in the barn and get the door partially closed before every animal we own had surrounded the barn. The first problem was that our barn door is extremely heavy. I can shut it, but it takes me some time and I have to really pull. I didn't have enough time to shut it good, but I did the best I could. While I was pouring corn in the stall, I realized that the barn door was opened. Apparently the cows were able to push it open enough for about 10 sheep to rush in the barn and start eating out of feed bags. I panicked for a moment while looking around for Peter the Great. The other sheep are fine, but a ram can be a different story. He was busy trying to open the gate to get into the barn stall to eat his corn. (Apparently I was also suppose to open the gate to the pen, but nobody told me that. I assumed it was already open, but it wasn't). He did manage to get the gate open and he and the rest of the flock were able to eat in the designated area. My only concern where the 10 sheep in the barn with me and the four cows trying to get in the barn with me. I started yelling for my children who were in the house working on school. Apparently my daughter heard "something", but her brother told her there wasn't anything to it so they were of no use to me. I made a daring move and got a bucket of corn and pushed my way past the cows who were blocking my entrance. They complied and I poured the corn on the ground so I could run and get Jacob's help. (Remember I still had sheep in the barn eating whatever they wanted). When I finally got myself out of the barn, I realized that our border collie had escaped his pen. I knew this was very bad because he stirs up all the animals by chasing them. I didn't need the 4 cows going crazy with me in the backyard. I went back in the house and got Jacob. Together we fed the cows and caught the border collie, but that only happened after the dog chased the baby calf and made the other cows mad. We finally were able to get the sheep out of the barn and into the pen with the other ones. I thought the drama was finally over, but then I got ran over by a wayward sheep. I know she didn't mean to, but she clipped me at my knees. I managed to finish the rest of the chores and Jacob and I left the backyard. I promptly called Michael at work and told him this backyard feeding thing wasn't working for me. I think he got a chuckle although he was careful to make sure I didn't hear it over the phone! My peaceful morning chores turned into chaos right before my very eyes. I was just thankful nobody stopped on the road to watch all of the drama!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Enjoying the Season

I have so enjoyed having the living room decorated for Christmas this year. I find myself gravitating to the couch to enjoy the holiday look. The kids too are enjoying the decorations. I found our second son sleeping on the couch instead of in his bed.

Over the last few years I have felt a transition in our holidays. I used to spend much time making the holidays nice for my parents and Michael's family. The focus was on their time with us. The meals that I prepared where whatever they really enjoyed. Now, I find my focus shifting on more of my own children. I am not talking about gifts...I am talking about time and making memories. We discussed having Christmas in Kentucky with our parents. The kids were heartbroken that they wouldn't be home on Christmas morning. So we decided to spend a weekend in Kentucky and celebrate the holidays there and then come back to our home and have our own family Christmas here. My mom will be traveling back with us so that she won't be alone on Christmas day.

I have so enjoyed the entire month of December this year. Keep in mind, I still haven't bought any gifts or really baked any goodies. Those things will come in time. There is something special about just taking time to be still and enjoy the gifts that the Lord has given.

grace and peace,

Evening Time Fun

Since the colder weather has come our way, our family has taken to playing cards together in the evening. One of my favorite card games to play with the kids is Shang Hi Rummy. I grew up playing this game. There is a popular card game out now called Phase 10 and it reminds me a lot of Shang Hi Rummy. It isn't as complicated and it accommodates up to six players. Missy was giving Jacob pointers the other evening on his hand. Actually, I think she was wondering why we were all gathered around the table without any grub!!! Highly disappointing from her point of view!

grace and peace,

Monday, December 08, 2008

Winter Farm Update

We have had so many fence issues over the past few months. About a month ago, after chasing sheep for over 4 hours from our neighbor's farm, Michael made a decision. He penned all the animals, except for the horses, in a very small pen off the side of our barn. We have never confined our animals in small quarters before now. He expected to have the first section of fence completed within a few weeks. What we didn't know was that two different sicknesses would hit our home and Michael would end up hurting his back! The animals stayed in the pen several weeks longer than expected, and the fence still isn't completed. On Friday, I spent the afternoon doing fence repairs to our backyard fence. Michael still wasn't able to be the muscles for the job due to his back. He was the brains and I was the brawn! I learned how to use a fence post remover and a fence post driver. He stayed with me and talked me through each one. It really wasn't that hard except for almost dropping the fence post driver on top of my head! In just a few short hours, our backyard fence was ready to house animals.
We understand it isn't the best thing to let 4 cows and 20 sheep have free range to a buffet of hay, but we really didn't have any other choices. We could have put the hay in the front yard where no other animals reside at the moment, but that is even a little too rednecky for me!

The animals are sure enjoying the opportunity to stretch their legs. They have enjoyed what little grass that they could find. The horses are still in the pasture. They don't mind as long as they get their bucket of feed and their own hay bale to munch on at their leisure.

Our children aren't allowed in the backyard while the animals are living out there. My daughter did complain about having cow patties in the backyard. She didn't think that was the proper backyard decoration! I can't imagine her thought process there!!! We aren't for sure how long the animals will be enjoying the yard area. It all depends on the fence building. I actually enjoy the animals in the backyard. I always have. I like being able to look out my kitchen window and seeing all the beautiful animals. I also like the fact that I know that it is much healthier for the animals to have a large area to roam instead of being penned up in a tiny space. I think Peter the Great would agree!!
grace and peace,

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Sunday Scripture

"Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Proverbs 4:23

Saturday, December 06, 2008

White Bean Chili Recipe

Yesterday I was in a bind to find something for dinner. I also knew my time was limited and I needed a quick fix. The problem was I haven't gone grocery shopping since way before Thanksgiving. I was out of many staples in my pantry. I pulled out a whole chicken and decided to make homemade chicken noodle soup. As my chicken cooked in my big stock pot, I started looking around for recipes and I found the recipe for White Bean Chili. I changed my mind and made the chili instead. Oh my, was it ever good. This will become a family favorite!! Hope you enjoy the recipe.
grace and peace,

White Bean Chili

1 pound dried Great Northern Beans

2 medium onions chopped and sauteed in olive oil

3 cans chopped green chilies, undrained (I used my home can jalapenos in place of the chilies)

4 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons ground cumin

6 cups chicken broth

5 cups chopped cooked chicken breast

4 cups Monterrey Jack Cheese (I used Cheddar Cheese because that is what I had on hand)

1/2 teaspoon salt (I increased the salt a bit)

Boil whole chicken to make chicken broth in a large stock pot. Once the chicken is done, remove and let cool to debone. Measure out the chicken broth.Add beans, onions, chilies, and seasonings to the six cups of chicken broth in the stock pot. Let cook until beans are done. Add chicken and cheese and let simmer until the cheese is melted.

Friday, December 05, 2008

A Quick Kitchen Decoration Idea

My daughter loves the Nutcracker Ballet. She has always wanted a nutcracker. She was at Lowe's with her dad and asked him to buy this nutcracker. As you can see, he didn't say "no." I like nutcrackers, but he just didn't seem to go anywhere in my kitchen which is where she wanted him to be. Then I had a light bulb moment. I took the old clear glass bottles that I had gotten long ago from my grandmother's junk pile. I used food coloring and water to give them a festive look. I stuck the Nutcracker in between the bottles. I was pleased with our kitchen window decoration. It cost us about $8 for the Nutcracker and the food coloring. The bottles of colored water act like sun catchers and are truly bright and beautiful. I did have to warn my children NOT to drink the colored water. My teenagers were just sure I had come up with some great concoction!!

grace and peace,

Thursday, December 04, 2008

A Proud Momma Moment

Matthew (#2) was awarded All-Conference this year in football. He was pretty pleased with himself. He had a great season, and we were proud of things that he accomplished in the game of football. He thought about playing football in college, but at this point he doesn't think he wants to make that commitment. He wants to finish high school and continue on with college. In the state of Tennessee, high school students are allowed to participate in dual enrollment. That means that they are allowed to take college courses at the local community college and that course counts for college credit as well as the high school credit. This has been a great incentive for him. He has enjoyed every college class that he has had, and he has worked hard to make good grades. We have watched him grow into a man before our eyes and we are pleased with the decisions that he is making.

When my children were all small, people would say just wait until they are teenagers. Well, there are days that the teenage thing is hard. I won't deny that. These older kids have their own opinions and are learning to carve their way into the world. Sometimes we have liked the path that they are on, and sometimes we have not. We have always tried to guide them back to where they are suppose to be with love and discipline. The walk with teenagers is a true walk of faith with the Lord. The first time Matthew pulled out of the driveway by himself driving a car was a very humble experience for me. I stood there looking at my child driving away realizing that I was helpless at that moment. If he made a mistake, I wasn't going to be there to grab the wheel or correct him. I almost panicked for a second, and then I realized that I had to trust the Lord with this child. Gone where the days that I would be with him every second of his life and instead I would have to trust the Lord to guide and direct his path. Some days it is easy and some days it isn't. However, it has been such a rewarding season in our life to watch this child grow into being a man and to have a close friendship with him. We still are the parents and our word is the final say, but we can enjoy the friendship that we have developed with him over the years. I am enjoying the next part of this journey with him, and I am thankful for the wonderful memories made.

grace and peace,

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Homemaking Thoughts

Sometimes I feel down right lazy. I JUST cleaned this house yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. I don't WANT to do it again. Obviously is doesn't stay clean very long so what is the point??!! Yes, I have this very conversation in my head on various days... Some days I overcome my feelings and other days I just give into my desires. The funny thing is that when I am motivated by an outside force, I can clean by leaps and bounds. For example, if we are having company I am miss clean bee. I don't even take time to have this conversation in my head. I just get up and get started!

I have often thought about the women of long long ago. The ones who would have lived in the 1700 and 1800's. If they didn't work, their families would have starved or frozen to death. Talk about a motivator!!! I am not wanting to head back to the 1800's. After all, I do enjoy a good cup of java right out of my Bunn coffee maker in a nice warm house. I wonder if the women of those times ever just didn't feel like doing all the work. Did they ever get tired or was being lazy just never an option? I would love to read a real diary with some of their heart felt thoughts in it...perhaps there might be some keys to answer my questions.

I do know that my own house won't clean itself so I must get to it this morning. It is such a nicer place to be when things are in order. Just by cleaning out and organizing the laundry room, I have eliminated stress in my life. While my home doesn't have to meet the criteria of magazine cover, I do enjoy it to be clean and tidy. My family enjoys it much more as well. The moral of the story for me...stop whining and start cleaning!!

grace and peace,

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

School Notes

It seems just like yesterday that Seth was "doing school" with a passie in his mouth. Now just a few short years later he is actually learning to read. Today I spent time with him teaching him to read short vowel words...mat, sat, cat... It has been quite awhile since I have taught a child to read. Hope is now 10 and she has been reading for along time. I knew all of my life that I wanted to be a teacher. I just didn't realize that I would be teaching my own children at home. I never could have imagined the excitement that I feel each and every time one of my own children learn something profound to them. Seth was tickled pink that he learned some words today. I am so glad that I was the teacher to get to experience this joy of learning with him.

grace and peace,

Monday, December 01, 2008

The weather has turned cold and we are settling in to shorter days and cozier nights. This morning I woke to the mountains dusted in snow. Our living room was crying out for a cozy fire, but we still haven't cut any wood as of yet. Last night our family came together and put up our Christmas decorations. We do not have a lot of decorations so it is a fairly easy job. We ran into a bit of a problem. We can't find one box of our Christmas ornaments. This box contained some of my most precious ones of all, and I had a hard time last night overcoming the sadness I felt upon losing them. I have a feeling that they were thrown away the day that we were cleaning out the shed. Michael is more confident that they are somewhere here. He knew it was bothering me last night so he bundled up and went to search the barn. He found the dog crate, but not the box of ornaments. We did finish the decorating and we even enjoyed some eggnog for the first time. I don't know why it has taken me 40 years to give eggnog a try!
As I am writing, snow has started blowing in from the mountains. Although I don't think it will stick, it sure is beautiful for now. I think hot cocoa and a good read aloud book with the kids in front of the Christmas tree are in order.
grace and peace,