Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas traditions

This Christmas was really lovely....for the most part.  Izzy got sick, some kind of virus, early Friday morning so we ended up postponing Christmas with Jared's dad and brother.  Izzy and I spent a good chunk of Saturday at the ER because we were worried that she had strep throat and the only other clinic open was Walmart which, we were told, had a 5 hour wait.  Thankfully we were only at the ER for about 3 hours total.  And I may or may not have spilled my green tea all over my chair...while I was sitting in it...resulting in the butt of my pants, halfway down to the back of my knees, soaking up all the hot liquid.  Jared came to bring me another pair of jeans, but of course, we got called back about 17 seconds before he showed up.  I just tried to carry my coat nonchalantly behind my back as we walked past everyone.  Fun times.


Here are a few of our Christmas traditions!

I am officially beginning a tradition of making ornaments each year.  Just. one.  After Thanksgiving I had this big list of handmade stuff to make - cards, 2 or 3 different ornaments, garland, candy, crafts.  And then I got overwhelmed and almost abandoned everything.  I'm slowly learning that I cannot do everything I want and will have to pick a couple of things each year and leave it at that.  So we did ornaments - for our tree and gifts for the grandparents.

We made Santa handprint salt dough ornaments and I used this tutorial.  I've made salt dough ornaments before - 2 years ago - and they didn't turn out flat like these did.  I think the key is to not bake them.  These sat out for about 4 days, which is what was recommended in the above link.  They were pretty easy - the most difficult and time consuming part was the painting.  I thought they turned out really cute.

The kids helped me mix and roll out the dough.  That was the extent of their helping.  Well, except for their handprints, of course.

I actually covered them with a coat of mod podge when they were completely dry, but I guess I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.

Next year we'll go for something different - no salt dough since we've done that twice.

Gingerbread houses.  
Okay, yes...I know.  Everyone makes a gingerbread house.  But.  We do a little something extra that I haven't heard anyone else do.  (I obviously don't converse with a lot of people.)  Growing up my mom always put a few little somethings inside our gingerbread houses before assembling the roof.  Then on Christmas Eve, we would break them open to reveal our treasures.

So, of course, I am continuing this tradition with our little ones.  You can see the girls' gingerbread houses from last year here.


This year I put some bubble tape gum, a chocolate marshmallow snowman, and some nail polish - purple for Addy and blue for Izzy (their favorite colors right now) - into their houses.

First of all.  I may do a lot of homemade, but gingerbread houses isn't one of them.  Tried it once.  Never again.  To me, it isn't worth the stress of spending the extra time to make the gingerbread and trying to cut it perfectly and what not, so now graham crackers and hot glue is the life for me.  It's more about the time spent together than making it flawless.

Secondly, this year I decided to put the gingerbread houses together by myself, I repeat, by myself, while the girls were playing outside.  I finally tuned in to the fact that the girls don't necessarily have to be involved in every step of every project we do.  I realized that they're really more interested in the decorating part anyway.

So, I enjoyed putting the houses together in the peaceful kitchen, alone with my thoughts and concentration.  And then, I was able to enjoy the girls decorating them a few days later without any leftover frustration from them getting in the way (because they're kids and that's what they do) while I'm waving around my hot glue gun.

We kept it simple this year - jelly beans, skittles, smarties, marshmallows, and pretzels.


Christmas Eve - time to demolish.

Christmas-themed books on Christmas Eve.
We usually open one gift on Christmas Eve, as I'm sure a lot of other families do.  This year, however, we are starting the tradition of the gift being a Christmas-themed book, and then we proceed to read them before bed.

Addy got Christmas in the Big Woods and Izzy got I'll Be Home for Christmas (Toot and Puddle).

Kolaches are a 2 or 3 times per year specialty, and one of those times is usually around Christmas.  This time I made them for Christmas breakfast.  It seems like the last time I made these was for the girls' birthdays back in April.  

When my brother and I were growing up, I remember visiting my grandma in Texas around Christmas, and she would always have poppy seed kolaches waiting for us.  I loved them.  They were so good and something we never got except at her house.

Maybe I should explain what a kolache is.  A kolache is a traditional Czech pastry.  (My dad's family is of Czech heritage).  It's like a sweet yeasty roll with some kind of sweet filling wrapped up inside (actually not all kolaches have the filling wrapped up inside - some have an indention in the roll with a dollop of the filling on top - I prefer the former).  My grandma always made poppy seed kolaches (and apricot I think, but I don't recall those), and I make the same.  However, I also make chocolate kolaches (thank you, mom, for coming up with those!).  They're both so delicious.

Here's a picture of a beautiful poppy seed filled kolache.  Yum!

No, she is not drinking sprite for breakfast.  Notice it's not even open.

I always make fudge around the holidays, but unfortunately I didn't take a picture of it!  However, I still wanted to share with you my new favorite recipe.  It's so easy - it doesn't require a candy thermometer - and so creamy and delicious.  It's much better than the chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk version that I used to make.  Here's the link to the recipe.  The only picture I have is of Izzy helping me stir.

Christmas cut-out cookies.
We also always make cut-out cookies for Christmas.  This is the recipe we use.  We almost didn't get to these this year, I guess because I kept putting it off and was busy trying to get all my wrapping done early so that I wouldn't be up til 2:00 Christmas morning (I may speak from experience).  This year I made the dough Christmas Eve morning, and we pulled it out after lunch.  And I did the same thing I did last year - I forgot that the dough needs to warm up a little because it's so hard to roll out when it comes right out of the fridge!  So, we enlisted the help of Mr. Mountain-Macho Man.  (He has since trimmed his beard.  And, don't you just love his shirt?  It says "Cheers" at the bottom, haha)

The girls didn't help me make the dough, but they helped cut out the cookies.

We did not, however, have time to ice them.  Sorry, Santa.

I hope you had a lovely Christmas!  If you have any Christmas traditions, please share!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Joyful things

I'm catching up on the last several weeks.  I entitled this post "Joyful things" because, in the midst of what can seem like everyday-is-the-same monotony, I want to focus on the things that are joyful; the blessings; the things to be thankful for.  Because life is a blessing.  Every day is a blessing; every moment.

There are many times in which I get discouraged.  (Today being one of them.)  Being a mother (or a father) is not easy.  It takes a lot of hard work (and sometimes tears) to raise children.  And mine are still so little, ha!  I've got a ways to go!

The other day I was telling Jared how it's so difficult at times to enjoy the day because it can be so full of temper tantrums and whining and crying and tattling and so forth.  "How do I stay joyful?" I asked him.  He replied, "You just have to see the good."

Simple.  Straightforward.

So true.

(Sometimes not so easy.)
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.  (Phillipians 4:8) 
Being joyful is a mindset.  It comes from focusing on the positive and the lovely.  Sometimes those things are hard to find, but they're there.  Like this lone, beautiful dandelion in the midst of the wilting grass and the dying leaves.

We can choose to be joyful, or not.  And, honestly, sometimes it feels so much easier to choose the latter.  Sometimes the former feels absolutely hopeless.  But's it's still our choice.

Our loving God has given us such a powerful mind, and He has, through His indwelling Spirit, made it possible for us to pursue a life of peace and happiness, filled with His love.

But it's our responsibility to pursue those things, and it all starts in our mind - how we view the world and those around us and, also, how we view God.
Because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  (Romans 1:21)
The more we lose control of our thoughts and the more we focus on the negative, the more we become fruitless.  The more we become fruitless, the more our hearts are darkened.  The more our hearts are darkened, the bigger the pit we dig, and the less likely we will be able to climb out.

Everything begins in our mind.  However, it doesn't stop there; the responsibility grows and spills over into the life we actually live - the things we do.  But I won't go into that here.  That's a different conversation :)

Well.  With that longer-than-anticipated introduction, here are a few of the joyful things from the past several weeks.

The girls love to help out, especially outside.  Several weeks ago they helped Jared cut some of the plants back.  They felt so big and responsible because they got to use his little shears.  I love to see them so helpful.

Izzy is helping to carry the cuttings off.

We then went for a walk down the road.

I let the girls use Jared's binoculars.  (Izzy will be getting her very own pair of binoculars for Christmas this year!)

Trying to spot some birds in the trees.

Addy cracked me up because she wouldn't hold them correctly.  Here she's looking in the wrong end, plus they're upside down.

Another pretty day outside.  Actually this day it was fairly cold - we didn't stay down at the cul-de-sac long (we have a certain cul-de-sac in our neighborhood where the girls play often).

They love to climb around in the trees.

Always finding ladybugs :)
And another beautiful day outside.  This was two or three weekends ago.  Jared was putting Christmas lights up on the house.

The girls love to climb around on Daddy's truck.  The sky was so pretty in the background that I took advantage and snapped some pictures.

Izzy and her kitty.

It was a little windy, haha.  They do love the toy kittens that Nanny let them take home.

And now, some Christmas-y pics.  The girls decorated stockings.

It was going well until I - yes, me, not one of the little children - spilled the sequins all. over. the. floor.  I was not in the mood to take a picture of that :)

Putting up the Christmas tree.

I love this picture.

Helping Daddy with the lights.

Addy had to change into her "princess dress."  She wants to wear this particular dress almost everyday.  I have to sneak it out of her room to wash it.

One night we took the girls to see Santa at the local college.  Afterwards we stayed and watched Frozen on the big screen.

This is not the big screen - just one of them that we watched while waiting in line to see Santa.
Izzy said she told Santa she wanted a Razorback football costume.  Where that came from, I have no idea.  No wait, yes I do...

Addy said...nothing.  Literally.  When Santa asked what she wanted for Christmas, her reply was, "Nothing."  Lol.  At least she didn't cry.

In the lobby, in front of the pretty Christmas tree.

 At Silver Dollar City.

Oh wait, one more.  This is the first time the girls played Battleship.  Izzy stuck around til the end (it was a long one).  Addy lost interest after about 20 minutes.

Just a few joyful things :)