Monday, December 22, 2014

Friends Give Lists of Good Books for Friends to Enjoy

Yes, 2015 is the Year of the Re-Read. But since there are so many books I haven't read, I'm going to accept Jane's challenge once again this year.

I've collected many recommendations from various friends and added them to my Goodreads list. For the past two years of this challenge, I've done the full ten books. Since it really is the only challenge I've ever done, it has been easy. But this year, I've challenged myself to re-read all sorts of books. Will I have the time to do the full ten this year? I don't know, but I'm willing to try.

The 10 books recommended from friends.

1. The Wreath (Kristin Lavransdatter, #1) by Sigrid Undset
2. The Wife (Kristin Lavransdatter, #2) by Sigrid Undset
3. The Cross (Kristin Lavransdatter, #3) by Sigrid Undset
4. A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1) by George R. R. Martin
5. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
6. Sarum: The Novel of England by Edward Rutherford
7. The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth, #1) by Ken Follett
8. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
9. Faith, Hope, and Ivy June by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
10. Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman and Paul Clark Newell Jr.

1. The Tenant of Wldfell Hall by Anne Brontë
2. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and William Weaver
3. In the Presence of My Enemies by Gracia Turnham and Dean Merill
4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
5.Wolf Hall (Thomas Cromwell, #1) by Hilary Mantel

Sunday, December 21, 2014

For Mom

These pictures are for my mom. When talking to her on the phone I was telling her about what I did with my Christmas platters. Since I'm currently in picture-taking mode, I took a picture or two for her to see what I tried to describe.

Do you recognize the things you've given to us?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nut Cookies and Nutcrackers

This year we have a desire to try lots of different recipes.

First up, Swiss Hazelnut Cookies and Almond Stars.

I learned a new thing with the swiss hazelnut cookie recipe. If you are in the nut aisle looking at bags of cashews, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, filberts, pistachios, and almonds, and wonder where the hazelnuts are, wonder no more.

Filberts are hazelnuts. Tis true! But you, being smarter than me, already knew that right? However, since I did not know this little fun fact, I went to several stores without success and wondered if I was going to have to order hazelnuts from the internet. Thankfully someone at church told me and armed with new knowledge, I came home from the store with two bags of filberts.

Waiting to be decorated are Melting Moments Cookies and a third batch of sugar cookies.

One thing Hannah has greatly missed while living at college is baking. She is satiating that desire by baking all of these cookies.

Sugar cookies, check
Melting Moments, check
Swiss Hazelnut, check
Almond Stars, check
Lebkuchen, check

Currently she and Abby are baking gingerbread cookies, which is their father's favorite.

Ellie is keeping them company and manning the camera. Ellie loves to bake too and is patiently awaiting her sister to tire of baking so she can get into the kitchen.

Oh, and Mom, here are my nutcrackers.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Blessed Break

All my children are home. Sleeping in their own beds, filling their chairs at the dinner table for each meal, playing games together, baking together, even ribbing and fighting together.

Let the marathons begin!

The cookie baking.
The music making.
The movie watching.

Throw in reading and gift wrapping, multiple church services attending and family meal planning.
Add in the chaos of leaving for vacation and company coming.

All of it adds up to:

Blessed noise. Blessed activity. Blessed children. Blessed parents. Blessed home. Blessed Christmas Break.


When I was a college student I babysat once a week for a family with a little boy. JP was such a cute, good little boy. I simply loved going over there and spending time with him each week. I started my sophomore year and continued till I graduated three years later. This family became a second one for me. They welcomed David when we began dating and were thrilled when we became engaged. We rejoiced with them when their daughter, Ellie, was born. And oh what fun to watch a baby and a toddler! We were delighted when John and Jane said yes to our request to have JP as the ring bearer for our wedding.

All these wonderful memories came flooding back this year when I realized I finally had a place to put these cute Christmas plates.

John and Jane gave them to me one year for Christmas.
I have always loved them.
They are so cute and folksy, cheery and fun.

Can't you see the determination in their faces? We found our Christmas tree, now home to decorate.

Shall we dance my love?

(Please forgive my inability to hold the camera still. One day I'll take non-blurry pictures. But not this day. This day I failed.)

These cute plates have been stashed away all this time in their box of tissue. A few years I have found a place for them, but mostly they've remained in the box tucked inside the storage tote. This year though, they get to come out of hiding and bring joy and smiles.

To the left of my kitchen sink is the stairwell to the basement. This past August I finally painted it for the first time since we've lived in the parsonage. Then I had David hang this shelf so I could put a decorative platter on top.

I was going to hang aprons on the knobs, but the aprons are too long and drag on the floor. But I did hang that lovely linen my children gave me last year for Christmas. And my mom tied jalapeño peppers we were gifted on twine and hung them on a couple of other hooks. Once they're dry, I'll crush them and put them in a jar. Then whoever wants to have food so hot their mouth breathes more fire than Smaug can add some to their plate.

But back to my Christmas plates. When we got out our Christmas decorations and began decking the walls and tree, I realized this shelf was the perfect place for displaying these lovely plates.

And now when I'm in the kitchen I see these plates and remember John and Jane, JP and Elizabeth, the weekly babysitting, and smile.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Picture Perfect?

I took more pictures yesterday than just the ones of the wrapping station.

Our Advent tree is filling up.

Yes it is blurry. Yes I need more practice.
Or I need to not take pictures after two cups of coffee and no breakfast.
Probably both.

A view of the picnic table decorations.

Does the perspective work, or am I just imagining it does?

I do imagine a lot of things.
Like you all patiently waiting for me to take pictures.
Like me being able to do things I used to be able to do.
Like I can sing on tune.
Like I can write creatively and expressively and without grammar mistakes.
Like I like olives.
Seriously, I always think, "Yeah, I like olives," then I eat one and realize, no I really don't.

Now where was I?
Oh yes, on the porch, in my slippers, without a coat, on a cold December morning, trying to take pictures.

One of the two flower boxes. This one is in need of repair. The branches are falling out.

As is the ribbon, which fell all the way to the ground.
And yes I still hadn't had any breakfast, so the coffee was still coursing through my veins which made for another shaky picture. Or else I once again didn't hold still enough.

I didn't want to take the dirt out of the flower boxes so that I could reuse it next spring. That meant waiting for it to thaw some before sticking the branches into it. I must not have pushed them down far enough since they are wanting to fall out. Or it is the wind, which is always blowing, which made them free to fall over.

Yeah, I like that version. We will go with the fault of the wind, because it couldn't be my fault.

When I downloaded my pictures I noticed these three.

These were taken by my youngest daughter, Abby. I think she is developing her older sister's eye for pictures. I'm not sure my middle-aged brain can learn what it needs to be as good as these two daughters. Oh well, I can brag and share their pictures, right?

Speaking of bragging and sharing, Hannah finally posted pictures of our new German smoker and a few other pictures.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pictures, Pinterest, Preparation - Gaudete!

Today was the day. I knew you were all patiently waiting.  Okay, maybe you aren't patiently waiting, which doesn't imply you are impatiently waiting either. Most likely you haven't even thought about me and my notion of needing to start taking pictures again. But I'm good at pretending. I mean, most of my friends live in my computer, so I imagine you are all patiently waiting and that spurred me into action.

So instead of correcting an Algebra test, I grabbed my camera and took some pictures.

For the last three years I have set up a wrapping station at Christmas time. The first year it was a table in a room in the basement, which at the time was the toy room. It had the gift bags of all shapes and sizes in baskets on a corner, along with the various colored tissue paper, the tape and scissors, ribbons and gift tags all along the back. Underneath was the long, plastic, under-bed storage box of wrapping paper we've owned since seminary and which I've grown to tolerate, but not like.

It was wonderful. Each person would announce to all in the house to close their eyes. All would oblige and the person would carry the gifts to wrap into the room, shut the door (the rest of us could open our eyes then), and wrap without fear of being interrupted. It was great fun. Especially the closing our eyes and then seeing the person bringing out wrapped gifts to place under the tree when finished.

But I couldn't do it the same way last Christmas because we made the toy room into the boys' bedroom. They didn't really approve of the idea that part of their room should become a wrapping station and that someone could kick them out at anytime.

Plus the table would have had to be placed in the middle of their room which would make for even more chaos. I'm now constantly telling them to put things away in their rightful place. Just imagine giving them another flat surface upon which to toss this, that, and the other! Shudder.

That meant last year I found a table in our office. The table that is supposed to be my craft table, for scrapbooking or sewing. A table clear and ready for me to sit down when the crafting whim hits and go to work. A table, which in reality, is another flat surface. A table conveniently out of the main area of the house which is perfect for piling on all the things from the other rooms we don't know what to do with. I found places for everything stashed everything under the table,  and set up the wrapping station. It wasn't as nice as the year before, but to have all the things needed for wrapping gifts in one place was again helpful to the gift wrappers.

It is that plastic, under-bed storage box for wrapping paper that just hasn't fit this home. But for twelve years, I haven't had any brilliant ideas. But now there is Pinterest, and last year I joined and searched for ideas. I found what I thought could work, showed it to David and he fixed it for me just before Thanksgiving.

He is awesome.

Here it is.

Isn't it fantastic? What, you don't think so?
It is perfect. I just love it.
Wait, I see your point now. You're right. This just shows the empty boxes we have stashed under the table for wrapping purposes.

Alright then, here is the picture which shows the awesome storage for wrapping paper, tissue, and gift bags.

Awesome, right?
I love it.
It is perfect.

Two magazine baskets from the office supply store to hold the gift bags.

Three Ikea plastic bag holders to hold the gift wrap and tissue paper.

And one table to wrap them all.

All in our store room. Out of the way, perfect to be secretive while wrapping the gifts for family and friends. Plus the storeroom is just that, a storeroom. It is one room which hasn't changed in the twelve years we've lived here. That is a good sign that this can become a permanent wrapping station. But like the one ring of power, this one table will be lost stored away till it is needed each Christmas season.

Now you my dear friends are free to breathe. Your patient wait is over. I've picked up my camera. For good or ill. (Probably for ill for awhile at least till I can learn to take better pictures.) Not to mention that I no longer have photoshop to edit pictures (hint hint Christmas wish list), so you my dear subjects are destined to see soc pictures. That is, straight out of the camera, not the fuzzy things you put on your feet to keep your little piggies warm.

And that Algebra test? I was able to grade it while waiting for pictures to load.

This week indeed is Gaudete week!

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Do You See What I See?

Now that the Christmas tree is decorated, the kids have once again begun their I Spy game.

This is a picture from 2012. We have a few more ornaments now. Yes, my daughter took this one. No I still haven't picked up my camera.

"Is it near the top?"
"Is it round?"
"Is it red?"
"Is it the tractor?"

I guess our tradition of buying them an ornament each year, along with any they receive from others has aided in making this game more challenging. With a tree full of ornaments, it not only is quite pretty, but makes the game of spotting one your sibling sees, serious fun!