Monday, December 29, 2014


Anyone else feel like this after enjoying all the goodies during the holidays?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Let No Tongue On Earth Be Silent

For most of the last year I have learned the habit of carrying my hymnal with me to the communion rail.

I sing while I walk forward.
I sing the words of the communion hymn as I wait for others to be fed with the body and blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins.
I sing the words as I walk back to my pew.
I sing when I sit in my pew while the rest of the congregation is fed.

Through all this singing, I've learned something about this new habit. It is a good act of Christian piety.

My mind wanders far less now that I have the words of the hymn in front of me than it used to when I  didn't carry my hymnal.

I always knew that I should be pondering nothing earthly minded. Like the clothes of other parishioners, or if I was going to trip over my own feet, or when the kids were younger, "Are they behaving in the pew?" But try as I might, my eyes and ears often led my mind away from prayer and pondering into distraction.

Now that I carry my hymnal and sing the words, more often than not, my mind is focused on Christ. That He is truly present. That He is feeding me His very body and blood. That He forgives me. That He loves me.

This past Sunday when I communed I was kneeling at the rail during the first verse of the hymn, "Lift up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates." (LSB 341)

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates!
Behold, the King of glory waits.
The King of kings is drawing near;
The Savior of the world is here.
Life and Salvation He doth bring;
Therefore rejoice and gladly sing.
To God the Father raise
Your joyful songs of praise.

What a beautiful picture those words bring when sung at the communion rail. As the words
"The Savior of the world is here," were sung, Christ's body was place on my lips. Because I had just been singing and reading the words of the hymn, I was focused on what actually was happening at that moment. Jesus is my Savior right here, right now, and He brought me life and salvation right then in His own body and blood.

Yes, this new habit of carrying my hymnal and singing the hymns while waiting for my turn at the table of the Lord's Supper is a good thing. Just like I've learned to fold my hands and bow my head and close my eyes to pray, I've now learned that hymns are a great way to keep my mortal flesh silent.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Panic, Work, Enjoy.

Every time a holiday or vacation or some big event is approaching I will have some sort of panic attack. Not health related, except for what the yelling and stress does to my body and the psyches of my children who are usually on the brunt end of the listed actions. Just a panic of time running out and there is still so much to accomplish.

I've learned though over the years that this is coming. That it will happen. That I will despair, get edgy, and be annoyed at those sitting around while there is stuff to be done. In learning this about myself I've also learned that somehow it all gets done. If one thing doesn't, it is okay. If more than one thing doesn't, it is okay. I might have liked to have it differently, but it is still fine.

I've also learned that when I feel the panic coming, I need to make a list. Simply writing everything down that needs to be done and showing myself and the children helps. Because then we start tackling the items one after the other. And generally it all gets done much faster than I anticipate.

The panic subsides as the work begins and progress is seen in checking off the to-do items.

Yesterday was that panic day. I got official word that I am now hosting Christmas dinner for the family (19 people). My sister-in-law was going to host, but on Sunday, she came down with the illness her daughters had. Can you imagine her panic? I could so I said I would take hosting off her plate for her. Yesterday when she wasn't any better she graciously accepted the offer.

My panic began. I wasn't going to clean the house before Christmas. Now we need to. All the baking we've done has made a big mess and we will take care of that. Christmas linens and outfits need to be cleaned and ironed. Meals prepared plus the turkey and ham for Christmas dinner. Not to mention the preparations for vacation time right after Christmas.

Yes, panic happened yesterday. Which meant a big list was written and today, the kids and I are ready to tackle it all. At least I don't have to plan the Christmas menu nor shop for the food. I will just go to my sister-in-laws today and get the food from her. Cooking is the easy part.

Yesterday panic. Today work. Tomorrow enjoy.

Merry Christmas to all!

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!

Monday, December 08, 2014

St. Nicholas vs. St. Peter

In keeping with tradition our tree and Christmas decorations were put up the weekend after Thanksgiving and finished on St. Nicholas Day. Thanks to my mom who always put up lots and lots and lots and lots of Christmas decorations, I love to do the same. I can still remember helping her decorate all the shelves in the back room, tape up Christmas cards from years past all around the door posts of every door frame in the house, and set up the lighted houses all around the tops of the kitchen cabinets. She still loves Christmas decorations and her home is beautiful and cheery with them all around.

I don't have near the things she does, nor the house which aids itself to lots of tchotchkes, but we do enjoy putting out what we have. I suppose those who have been in my home might disagree with me and tell me I have more than I realize. But only those who've also been to my mom's will understand that mine are few in comparison. What my children and I have done is figure out what we like and have worked on using those things.

The nativity set always goes on the round lamp table with the Christmas linen from Austria underneath. The nutcrackers have found their home in the corner of the dining room bench. The front porch has its own tree and the flower boxes are filled with cut pine branches, ribbon and pinecones and big round ornaments. While the picnic table is adorned with more cut pine branches, pine cones and half gallon Mason or Ball jars filled with "snow" (i.e. Epsom salt) and a candle which I will burn come Christmas Eve.

There are other things too, but one of our new favorites is the dining room table centerpiece. A few years ago David finally figured out how to make an Advent wreath for us. It is dead center, always on some lovely linen. Last year we added a new tradition to our Christmas gift giving. When we set out our advent "wreath" this year, St. Peter was there right away and began filling our home with various incense smells. (Flavors? scents? Please add the appropriate word since apparently I do not know.)

And since it is tradition, albeit a new one, this past St. Nicholas day found a new smoker along with chocolate coins left on the table for the family.

Now St. Nicholas himself joins are table and we have lots of smiles while watching him and St. Peter puff out smoke during our daily prayers, or just while we sit around in the evening.

Hannah took lots of pictures of our new St. Nick and I'm certain will post them on her blog. However when she might do that I don't know. She claims she is busy with last week of classes of the semester and preparing for finals.

I suppose I should really get back into the habit of taking my own pictures and editing them and no longer rely on her. But she takes such good pictures and I can be quite lazy, so iPad pictures it often is.

But I do appreciate real things, hence the fresh pine branches on the porch and the smell of incense from smokers, not to mention the multitude of cookies and candies we begin baking this week. Maybe I should go pick up the camera.

Never mind my own dilemma, I hope you are all enjoying the traditions you have in your family. A blessed second week of Advent to you.

Time to enjoy our dueling smokers.

And get out my camera for a better picture.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

My Reading Challenge 2015

I have declared that 2015 will be the Year of the Re-Read.

It has been way too long since I have read Tolkien and Lewis, Rowling and Austen. Good authors and their books should be read and re-read. Following is what I want to re-read.

J. R. R. Tolkien:
The Hobbit
The Lord of the Rings trilogy

C. S. Lewis
The Narnia series
The Space trilogy

J. K. Rowling
The Harry Potter series

Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice
Sense and Sensibility

I would also love to re-read The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett, as well as others (Vince Flynn, David Morrell, Robert Ludlum) But I don't know how much time I will have this next year. The ones I listed above total 24. I might just stick with these as I know I will also want to read some books off my to-read list on Goodreads, plus any I find that look interesting off the library shelf, not to mention my own shelves which have books I have yet to read. Oh and I decided to join a reading group that fellow homeschool moms started over a year ago. I'm jumping in beginning in January with Anna Karenina. Those will take time, I'm sure, not to mention the ones I read with my children for their education.

Trying to make a list for yourself and don't know where to start? Join me in the Year of the Re-Read. And if you choose, you can pick the level based on this challenge Jane linked to. It looks like I am shooting for "Living in the Past."

Reading Challenge Update

I accepted the reading challenge from Jane for 2014. I do not think I have ever updated on how my list went. As you will see I finished all but one of the books, including the two alternates. I finished the last one in November. Below is my update for each book on my list. I kept the list in the order I listed them in the original post. Therefore the finished dates are not in chronological order.

The List of Books I Plan to Read:
1. The Quest for the Secret Keeper by Victoria Laurie - Finished January 21, 2014
This is the third book in the Oracles of Delphi Keep series. If you or your children have not read them, run to the library and get them. They have become a favorite of our family and are on children's wish lists to own their own copies. We are all hoping the fourth book will be released soon.

2. A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy - Finished January 31, 2014
I don't know who first told me about Maeve Binchy, but I'm grateful. What delightful character-filled stories. Engaging and easy reads, I have found that when I'm in a reading slump, picking up one of her books is a sure way to jumpstart my reading bug.

3. Over Sea Under Stone by Susan Cooper - Finished November 11, 2014
This series was recommended by friends. Hannah read them and really liked this one, the first, but said she felt the rest weren't as good. I liked this one and will probably read the rest in the series in the future to see if I agree with her.

4. The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander - Finished February 15, 2014
Friends had been telling my about this series, The Chronicles of Prydain, for awhile and my daughter Hannah kept saying I needed to read them. I read the first awhile back, then this the second. I didn't read the remaining three until July. But I loved them. Great characters, plot and themes. I think Taran is a great character to teach all of us good life lessons. If you haven't read this series, do. It is also a favorite of our family and many of the children have found their own copies in thrift stores or have them on their wish list.

5. Eragon by Christopher Paolini - Finished May 31, 2014
My daughter Ellie asked me to read these. I didn't really like this book. It seemed like it was trying way to hard to be like Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. It really pointed out to me that one can utilize very well various dress-ups in writing, yet it doesn't flow well. A true master, such as Tolkien makes it effortless and seem easy. This is the first book in the series and I did read the second, Eldest, after this one. But when Ellie confirmed that there were two more books and not just one, I couldn't bear to read those. I may still yet, but I simply couldn't bear to read anymore in a row.

6. Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning by Nancy Pearcy - Never read. My library doesn't have it and the two times I went to library loan it, I wasn't home to get it when it became available. I do want to read this and will try to get to it in 2015.

7. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Finished July 12, 2014
I really enjoyed this novel. After loving Oliver Twist, the first Dickens I ever read, and feeling tortured by A Tale of Two Cities, I was nervous for this one. But it was great, intriguing, thought-provoking, and one I will read again.

8. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith - Finished February 11, 2014
Great mystery written by J.K.Rowling. She has a way of making characters so real. I love Cormoran Strike and his secretary Robin. I read the second book in the series, The Silkworm, finishing it September 27, 2014. I look forward to more!

9. The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald - Finished October 19, 2014
Another book recommended by Ellie. It was a delightful tale and would be a very good read aloud.

10. The Help by Kathryn Stockett - Finished August 6, 2014
This was an excellent book. I could relate to so many of the characters and "hear" many of my own family members in the dialog.
1. Bad Monkey by Carl Hiaasen - Finished October 19, 2014
This was a weird book. I don't think I would recommend it to anyone.

2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Finished October 30th 2014
I really liked this book. I found the description of flying kites fascinating as well as life in Afghanistan.