Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas!

"But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons."
Galatians 4:4-5




Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmasing

A friend had a craft birthday party for her little one a few days back--I loved these Christmas trees so much, that I stole my daughter's tree for our living room! 
Wrap a piece of craft paper into a cone shape, tape and cut off bottom to make it flat.
Then go crazy with decorating--pom poms, glitter glue, ribbon and more!
Last weekend we were privileged to catch the boat parade in our downtown. It was awesome! Some of the boats even had little shows on board! The lights in the foreground are all the kids who bought light sabers playing joyously with them.

We made cinnamon ornaments for a fish craft for our aquarium class. This is inspired me and now we have a whole set on the tree.
Mix equal amounts cinnamon 
(cheap dollar store cinnamon is a great way to go with this--each regular sized bottle holds about a cup and makes a lot of ornaments!)
and applesauce
add a little glue 
and some glitter if you like
Then roll out dough flat, using extra cinnamon if still sticky.
Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes and then carefully transfer to a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 200 for a 1 1/2 hours-2 hours.
Enjoy the whiff of cinnamon as you pass your tree!

Needing a little Christmas cheer in the morning or at snack time? Shake some Christmas sprinkles on your Greek yogurt and add a soft brown sugar cookie.
Instant Christmas cheer.

And what of school these days?
I realized that doing school right up to the 21st was a little bit insane, seeing as how I still need to buy and/or wrap so many gifts as well as deliver gifts and make and deliver bread for neighborhood gifts...you get the picture.
So we're focusing on Christmas this week.
Today was the history of Christmas trees. 
We started with a little bit of Christmas tree art--four Saxon math sheets cut up and scattered on a rough sketch of a Christmas tree. Each child picked up a question, answered it and then colored the bit of tree underneath that question. It worked well--the kids got a little math in and we have a pretty Christmas tree on our school table.
After that, we learned the history of the Christmas tree (briefly):
*Ancient peoples recognized the life and beauty of the evergreen during winter by cutting branches and  decorating their houses, often attributing magical powers to the evergreens.
* Evergreens were used in Roman celebration of Winter Solstice celebrations to honor the god Saturn.
* When Christmas was introduced, many Christian leaders adopted the Christmas tree as a Christian symbol of the season.
* Saint Boniface is credited with using an evergreen to help convert British peoples in the 700s.
* Martin Luther is credited with lighting up an evergreen tree with candles to show his family the beauties of the starts twinkling through the trees.
*Queen Caroline and her husband Prince Albert had their family picture painted in front of their Christmas tree. This picture was distributed in the newspaper during the 1820s and the Christmas tree quickly became in vogue.
*Though the Puritans protested celebrating Christmas with something so paganized as an evergreen tree, Christmas trees eventually caught on in the American household as well.
*The evergreen is a symbol of God's faithfulness to us even during the bleak times.
In our household, the Christmas tree is a way to celebrate Jesus well in this season.

We finished up our lesson on Christmas trees by singing O Christmas Tree
and hanging our cinnamon applesauce ornaments on our family room tree.
Have a very Merry Christmas-time!




Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas...

"A Star shall come out of Jacob;
A Scepter shall rise out of Israel"
Numbers 24:17b
even Balaam foretold it...



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Recipes

Decorating, check
Buying presents, check. (only a few more to go)
Wrapping presents, check.
Cleaning, check (until tomorrow at least).
What's left? Ah, yes! The food!
This year I'll be looking back to last year's lists of ten for some great recipes:

10 Holiday Sides-- This list has some of my favorite casserole sides, my favorite roll recipe, and a few salads. Looking back at it, I'm thinking, have I really not made corn casserole since last Christmas!! I'll be making that one soon.






10 Savory Appetizers--Party food central! Old favorites like taco dip and potato skins are right here waiting for you along with a fancy bacon wrapped dates recipe and something I'm making soon, a Cheesy Ham Braid.






10 Christmas Cookie Recipes--I've saved the best for last. These work as festive family night entertainment, gifts for the neighbors, contributions for Christmas parties, and just plain yummy snacks. The Thin Mint Cookies are probably my favorite, but this post has the recipe for my breakfast cookies, which to be honest I can eat by the bagful.





2012 Christmas Menu--I focus on the crowd pleasers and individual requests, and usually everyone comes away happy! This menu has a ham braid (very impressive looking), baked vegetables and of course, a chocolate cake!







Saturday, December 8, 2012

I must die

"Knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." Romans 6:6

"Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Galatians 5:24

"I die daily..." 1 Corinthians 15:31

"I have been crucified with Christ..." Galatians 2:20

Great Christmas Gifts for Kids

Not finished with your shopping yet? Great! I have some awesome ideas for your kiddos right here. And one of the best parts about it is that you don't have to leave your seat to purchase them.
First up is something that I've mentioned many times on Of Such is the Kingdom. These are, in my opinion, the best scripture memorization music out there--Songs for Saplings cds could make great stocking stuffers. For us, they're serving as cousin gifts. (Shh! Don't tell!)
My favorite of their cds is the 123 cd, but I have to say that the catechism question and answer cds (with scripture proofs in each song) are amazing! In fact, while you're at the site, you better just buy all their cds. When my order came, I had an extra cd in my pack as a thank you gift from Songs for Saplings. Sweet!
I'll share a secret with you--our kids are getting events as their "big present" from us. This just kind of fell together by accident. The oldest is getting a night out with momma, best friend and best friend's mom. We're all going to a Secret Keeper Girl Pajama Party Tour event. I'm pretty excited about having help encouraging my daughter to be modest and Godly in the way she portrays herself as a young lady. We'll all go out to eat together before the event. And in honor of it, the oldest is getting these adorable owl pajamas and slippers to match from Target.
The oldest is also getting a whole lot of girly stuff (i.e. tiny curling iron, lip gloss, smelly lotion, etc) in a pretty little jewelry box. She's going to love it!
The credit for the idea for the boy's gift goes to a good friend of mine. All I did was copy her gift for her son exactly. She had talked to a nearby baseball coach about giving batting lessons to her son. And for the gift part, she filled a bat bag with new baseball gear. When she shared this great idea, I immediately asked her if those batting lessons could be "one on two" and set out to purchase the same kind of gift for the boy. He'll love getting to hang out with a buddy, learn how to bat better and have a new batting helmet, bag and bat!
The boy is also looking forward to a trip with his Grandad to Legoland. When the grandkids reach seven, my dad has decided that he'll use some of his frequent flyer points to take them to the destination of their choice. The boy has asked for Legoland. He's so excited that almost his entire Christmas list revolves around this trip. 
his spelling makes my mother-heart melt
The camera, sunglasses, iPod and suitcase are all in preparation for that trip with Grandad.
For the youngest, I picked out the prettiest, fru-fru-iest dress I could find when Penny's was having their Black Friday sale. It is purple and has flowers and ruffles and sparkles and streamers and all the things that make the youngest feel her very best. Her event is to wear her beautiful dress out on a date with Daddy. I can't wait to help her get ready and see her face as she feels like the prettiest and most special daughter there ever was. : )
The youngest is also to the stage where she loves to "read" with me. I'll point out a word like "the" and every time I come to that word, she'll read it. We're running out of little words that she can handle, so I thought these "Ready to Read" Olivia the Pig books would be great.
Many of the books have those picture words--where every time the book mentions the word "house" it will have a picture of a house. That way the youngest can help me read. And really, she's not too far away from being truly ready to read and able to handle these books by herself. Along with a set of these, she's getting a backpack Olivia the Pig. 

So there you have some of our Christmas gift ideas. 
What are your children getting for Christmas this year? What is your family giving this year?









Thursday, December 6, 2012

Christmas Decorating

living room deco
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

tree in kids' room

family room tree


Our neighborhood has an incredible light display just down the road--this is a teeny part of it. It's a blessing to be able to walk through it each year, enjoy the lights and see so many hearing the Gospel story through the advent. 
I think a large part of Christmas 
is reminding us Christians
that
we have so much to
celebrate!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

(Mostly) Paper Christmas Ornaments



If you have some paper and feel a bit of Christmas creativity, you've come to the right place! Here are some great (mostly) paper ornaments I've found around the web:
1. Made from 20 2" circles, this little paper ornament is neat and and unique.
2. These Recycled Flowerball Ornaments are being sold for $4 a piece at cb2. (I think that with a look or 2 we could probably figure out how to make them ourselves.)
3. Find step by step directions for these relatively easy Paper Bauble Ornamentshere. It's really just a matter of cutting, stapling and giving some touches of glue. I think my 8yo would love to try this one.
4. I am in love with this beautiful Quilled Snowflake ornament. It's amazing! And completely made of paper and glue. You can use a quilling tool or just a large needle. 
5. This Lacy Paper Snowflake is easier than it looks. It's all about making a few cuts, rolling some of the pieces and taping. 
6. German Paper Stars are a very impressive feat. They don't look difficult, really, just tedious and time-consuming. The result is worth it, though!
7. Paper Stars are something I remember making in elementary school. Here they are popping up with greater sophistication! Use them as table decoration or hang them on the tree with a bit of ribbon.
8. These Confetti Paper Ornaments are made from folded magazine pages. They are sold here for $21-$30.
9. These Art Ornaments are a great way to preserve and display your child's art work!
10. I love how simple these Paper Flower Ornaments are! Simple and beautiful.
11. A few balloons, a little string, and some glue can come together to make something quite beautiful in these Snowy Balloon Ornaments.
12. These Fabric Ornaments are a simple way to cover a foam ball.
13. For a modern and fun star ornament, try these Spiky Star Ornaments! The hardest part looks like rolling the paper, but even that looks very do-able.
Merry Christmas and happy crafting!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gospel Primer

For my birthday, I was given a book that I pinned to my wishlist a long time ago. I really have no idea which wonderful blogger recommended this book and led me to pinning it, but I am so thankful!


The book is A Gospel Primer for Christians: Learning to See the Glories of God's Love and in my opinion it is a must-read for every growing Christian.
The premise is that we need to rehearse the Gospel to ourselves daily, moment-by-moment in order to live it. Our natural tendencies take us in the opposite direction, and only the Gospel can change our minds and hearts.
In the book, Vincent gives 31 reasons why we should rehearse the Gospel, the Gospel in simple prose form, the Gospel in poetic form and a short chapter on what led him to write this book. The whole book could be read in one sitting, but it is worth reading very slowly. I'm reading two or three of the 31 reasons each morning with my quiet time, but I know I'm going to want to go back and read them over and over again.
Just to whet your appetite...
Reason #17: The Gospel Gives Liberation from Self-Love
...His astonishing love for me renders self-absorption moot and frees me up to move on to causes and interests far greater than myself...the gospel reveals to me the breathtaking glory and loveliness of God, and in so doing, it lures my heart away from love of self and leaves me enthralled by Him instead. The more I behold God's glory in the gospel, the more lovely He appears to me. And the more lovely He appears, the more self fades into the background like a former love interest who can on longer compete for my affections.
Preaching the gospel to myself every day reminds me of God's astounding love for me and also of His infinite worthiness to be loved by me above all else. These reminders deliver a one-two punch to my innate self-absorption and leave me increasingly absorbed with Christ and with God's ultimate plan to gather together all heavenly and earthly things to Him. (see 2 Cor. 4:4, Phil. 3:7-8,  Eph. 1:9-10, 1 Cor. 15:28)






Thursday, November 29, 2012

Christmas Devotions


And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. 
Deut. 6:6-9

I'm sure you know these verses. They were used just yesterday in a charge to the parents of a new baby in our church. They are an example of what a brilliant curriculum planner God is. No one learns without "hooks": ways for them to hold onto the facts passed along. What better way to give a person a hook then to teach them through everyday life?
I'm sure you also know how difficult these verses can sometimes be to act upon. A whole van ride goes by without any discussion at all, much less working through life's issues Biblically. Or the kids get up, it's time for breakfast, they're off to school and you realize, "I didn't even hug them, much less pray with them."
And so God has given us these brilliant times in the year when these verses get just a bit easier because we are completely surrounded by pointers to the Word of God.
Christmas is one of those times. We decorate our houses, we buy and wrap presents, we put up a tree. Everyone is talking about the coming, exciting day! Here is a great way to teach our children the Words that the above verse talks about! Let's don't miss it. It's not about checking off devotions on a list. It's not about being holier than the next person on the pew. It's not even about having wonderful family time during the holidays. It's about Jesus! It's about giving our children the gospel in a way that hooks into their brains. And it's about getting closer to our God.
If you're still not sure that you know just how to pull the Word of God into your holiday in a daily, weekly kind of way, there are SO many helps just for you!

1. Unto Us A King is Born--this free downloadable devotional covers the Christmas story during the month of December (or any other month!) with daily Bible readings and points of reflection.

2. Nativity Advent Calendar--One of my friends has this calendar, and it is fun, meaningful and beautiful! Each day, you or your children can open a tiny door to find a magnet to attach to the nativity scene.
3. The Advent Wreath--This is a count down that could be done even the last week before Christmas. Light some candles in a circle and talk about the coming of Jesus--simple and effective! Even adults sometimes need to touch and see something (like a candle) for words to sink in. The link takes you to some suggested Advent readings, but if you don't like those, there are many more from which to choose! 

4. This advent devotional shows how to create and work through an advent wreath.

5. As I've mentioned before, the Jesse Tree is a great tool for teaching children (and ourselves) that the entire Bible is about Jesus and that Christmas is a story for the entire year. 
(If you're interested, hot glue will hold almost anything to almost any wall, and it peels right off when you are done.Test on a small area first, of course.)
6. What God Wants for Christmas presents and nativity. We will let our youngest open all of these presents over the next week, so that they have a nativity scene on the table that they can play with. The figures change positions at least 10 times a day!

7. If you're into simple plans, this free Advent Christmas Prayer Guide is an exceptional tool! It gives a hymn for each week in Advent and a few verses to read each day to lead up to Christmas. And of course, with a bit of creativity (or just ask your kids to come up with something!) each day's reading could be symbolized with a picture and hung on a tree, just like with the Jesse Tree plan above.
8.Truth in the Tinsel looks like a creative addition to an Advent learning schedule. Each day includes a craft, a scripture, and a little discussion. It would be great for the crafty learners of all ages! (Download it now for $7.99)
9. If you're looking for something just for you or for older children, how about this book of quotes from guys like Augustine, Luther, Edwards, Spurgeon, Piper or John MacArthur? (edited by Nancy Guthrie)  Come Thou Long Expected Jesus 

And just in case all of that just wasn't enough, here's another list of Advent ideas to check out: Advent at Easy Fun School.
Happy Advent! 
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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sewing Party

It is a beautiful thing to see a group of girls gathered around a table with needles and thread, designing and sewing their own clothing!
I very much enjoyed hosting my daughter's nine year old sewing birthday yesterday.
She and her friends enjoyed sewing decorations onto their pre-made skirts.

The table was covered with butcher block paper (with a large "Sew Fun" written on it) and spread with buttons and ribbons. These same buttons were later put into our homemade sewing kit jars.
Our snacks table had a table runner stitched by the oldest on the sewing machine.
Our menu:
Pink Lemonade
Chicken Caesar sandwiches
Button Cookies
Grapes
Crackers and cheese
Cake
The cake was not exactly what I had in mind--but I decided not to overdo and just order one from a grocery store. It tasted yummy and it suited just fine.
For our last project, the girls helped me clean the needles and thread and buttons off the table by putting into their sewing jars. They sewed two round pieces of fabric together (right sides out so that there's a nice little edge of fabric to catch in the top of the jar) and stuffed them with cotton balls. The jar is your kit and the top is your pin cushion.
Even our wreath on the front door got a little sewing decoration.
Smart Ideas for a Sewing Party:
1. Use embroidery needles for small hands.
2. Thread all the needles first. When the girls used up their thread, they handed in their needle to my mom and she swapped it for another needle that was already threaded.
3. Leave plenty of time for creativity. We never made it to our layered felt flowers because the girls had so much fun decorating their skirts. It was no problem, we just sent the hats and the felt flowers home with the girls for a take-home project.
4. Have other sewing projects for younger sisters. There were a few younger girls at the party who had a great time choosing buttons to stitch onto felt flower. Although I didn't have skirts for them, they got to participate and enjoyed sewing.
5. Listen to your guests. We knew it was time for the food when one of the girls asked for the third time, "When do we get to have cake?" She was being funny about it, but I realized she was probably expressing what the other girls were thinking. We finished up the skirts quickly and moved on to the food!
6. Keep it simple and have fun!


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Meal

This Thanksgiving our family is staying home. 
Home. 
I can hardly believe it myself. We are not having guests over that day, so I'll only be cooking for our five. I love the thought of cooking a special meal for these people I love so much, serving it on my fine china, lighting candles and sharing food and thankful memories together.
I'll cook a huge meal for lunch and I'm sure we'll eat on it for dinner as well. Here's what's on the menu:
1. Ham: It's the easiest holiday meat and the yummiest according to our family. We like ours hickory smoked and well cooked.
2. Mashed Potatoes: these are the hubby's request whenever I ask what he'd like for a big meal like this. I should really make them more! I chop my potatoes, boil them until they cut easily and then blend them with my hand-held while adding plenty of milk and butter. This is the way the hubby's mom makes them and as long as they are served right away, they are super yummy!
3. Macaroni and Cheese: this will make the kids so happy!
4. Green Beans: we like the frozen ones from Aldi. They are really great just steamed with butter and salt. We can all eat them like candy. : )
5. Squash Casserole: I kinda want to make corn casserole, but with potatoes and noodles, I think I'll make this squash one instead.
6. When I was a little girl, my granny would make everyones favorite dessert. This was part of what made the holidays so special. There would be pecan pie (for my dad) and chocolate drop cookies (for me) and chocolate cream pie (for my aunts) and banana pudding (for my cousin) and I can't remember what else. There was always so much dessert! I'm not going to go quite that far, but I am planning to make this cinnamon swirl cake 
which everyone in my family really loves.
7. The kids and I will also make cookies, and I think I'll let them choose which kind. (Snickerdoodles, chocolate chip, oatmeal with icing...)
8. The boy really likes those chocolate drop cookies, so I'll probably make a batch of those as well.

And the next day and the next we'll be eating off all this food! One of the things I plan to do with our leftover ham is put ham and cheese and mustard in one of these yummy bread braids.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Encouragement


Waiting is hard.
No one expects it to be easy, but as the waiting stretches out, the mind games begin.
The hopefulness begins to wane.
The discouragement begins to grow.
The last few weeks have been just that kind of time. There is occasionally the thought of
"It could never happen."
"This might be a lot longer wait then I can even imagine."
So a couple of weeks ago found me almost praying (does anyone else do that?) for encouragement.
I complained to a few friends. I mentioned to my husband that I was fighting discouragement.
I whined to God.
And then a friend placed a box of tea and a bar of chocolate on my front steps with an encouraging verse.
And another friend gave me a purse (it's surprising how encouraging a purse can be!) just for teaching her daughter some ballet.
And someone who has walked this road before me sent me an email:


"Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; 
you shall weep no more. 
He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. 
As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 
And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, 
yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, 
but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, 
"This is the way, walk in it," 
when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left."
(Isaiah 30:18-21 ESV)

And then I smile because he heard. 
He knew the cry of my heart
even when I was too immature to utter it.

So whatever you wait for, whether it be a home or a husband or a child or 
(let's be honest; this is what our hearts really long for)
heaven,
may you know and then be reminded when your forget,
that
this is the way
and 
blessed are all those who wait for him.




Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Sewing Party


Many months ago, the oldest asked for a sewing party. Of course I began to search pinterest for ideas. I was not disappointed. First of all we found our inspiration for our invitations from two places--these very cute cards to purchase and this blogger's great idea of gift and card in one. Both of their cards were neater than ours, but I was pleased with the way ours turned out. The inside says what kind of party the girls should expect and the when and wheres. 
I also include this statement on my kids' invitations now:
"Small or hand made gifts only please." 
For a while I asked people to bring money for a good cause, and there were a few parties where I specified "no gifts" but I have come to a happy middle between an overwhelming amount of gifts and no gifts at all--I love it when guests know they don't have to spend much (or any) money on the gift. Often you get a much more meaningful and treasured gift this way.
For food for the party we will have small sandwiches and these cute as a button cookies. I'll do a tray of crackers and cheese and some veggies and fruits. The party will be at a snack/early dinner time.  The oldest can help me make the food the day of her party. We'll have a sewing cake as well, which I need to order. 
I like this one the best of the ones I've seen online (it doesn't need to be very big) but I need to talk to my friend who decorates cakes and find out what she could do. A smaller, simplified version of this cake would do well.
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And at a sewing party, of course we need to sew! We're going to make simple skirts before the party out of fleece (no need to hem) and the girls are going to embellish them with ribbon at the party. 
Our skirts will look something like this when we're finished with them.




A while back I bought some wool hats at Penney's a bit like this one. They were on sale for $1 a piece! They are plain, so we are going to make some stacked felt flowers like these.

And last, but not least, we're going to make these simple sewing kits, so the girls can take their enthusiasm with a needle home with them. 

So there you have our grand plans for the sewing party. The oldest will only turn nine once, right? We're going to have fun with it!