Thursday, December 30, 2010

Assembly Required

Kate received this cook book for Christmas. It's an Usborne title. It has step by step instructions for learning the basics of kinds of cooking, how to use kitchen tools, and preparing food with several basic recipes.

I always am on the hunt for a family friendly meal to make for our Hub dinner on Tuesdays and I had to look no further than page 12.  These are easy to make and assemble chicken/vegetable pockets that an aspiring cook can help to make. This time, Maddie had signed up on the job list to "help mom make dinner."  This was a fun one for her to learn as it required some assembly, chopping (most of which I did) and rinsing and drying the chicken.

We simply used:
  • half of a white onion, chopped
  • one green, one red, one orange and one yellow pepper, cut into strips
  • boneless chicken thighs and boneless chicken breasts cut in half (to which Maddie inquired, "Chickens have breasts?". 
  • We assembled the ingredients into pockets of tin foil.
We then topped each pocket with a pat of butter, and a  pinch of salt and pepper. We put the pockets on baking sheets in the oven at 400 degrees for about one hour. The chicken was moist and the peppers were tender and delicious.
An easy meal for the hub and one that worked well for kitchen help.

Bundled Up Beauty

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Homemade Gifts - Part 4

Izzy's homemade gift from me included this embellished hat and fleece scarf. I purchsed the hat from Land's End and added a flower made of ribbon with buttons in the center.  These buttons are sold at Michael's in sets of three - cute coordinating buttons in three sizes.  I sewed the scarf together from Blizzard fleece purchased at Joann's.

I also included in her gift a coupon from me to spend time together learning how to ice skate - something I learned eons ago while gliding across our bumpy homemade ice in the back yard of our house.

I have been thinking of ways to influence Ben and change his mind about setting up our own rink so the girls can just head outside whenever they want and skate.  I can hear the arguments already though, "If we have a rink, where will the igloo go?"  "How will be account for the big tree in the middle of the yard?"  "How will we keep the grass healthy underneath?" As if our grass has a chance anyway. It has not looked the same since we moved here over four years ago."  "The water bill, honey. The water bill."  Etc.

Details. Details.

Well, in the time being, I will take Izzy out and hunt around for a rink.

Regardless of where we end up skating, I think she'll be cute on the ice with her hate and scarf.

Friday, December 24, 2010

One Thing That Unites Us

With my siblings and significant others spread all over kingdom come, it is at this time of year that I am particularly grateful for one tradition we grew up with and one that each of us chooses to carry on in his/her own home. We tune in to public radio (9am central time) on Christmas Eve morning and listen to A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols live from King's College in Cambridge, England.

It is a moment that unites us as we hear the lone voice of the young boy chosen only minutes before the event begins to open the festival with the chorus of "Once In Royal David's City." He is later joined by the full choir and organ (and us!).

It has been shared and sung by our family from across thousands of miles including one phone call that connected Tim and my parents two years ago while he was serving in Iraq. 

From the official website, here is a brief history of this event:

The service was first broadcast in 1928 and, with the exception of 1930, has been broadcast annually, even during the Second World War, when the ancient glass (and also all heat) had been removed from the Chapel. Sometime in the early 1930's the BBC began broadcasting the service on the World Service. It is estimated that there are millions of listeners worldwide, including those to Radio Four in the United Kingdom. In recent years it has become the practice to broadcast a digital recording on Christmas Day on Radio Three, and since 1963, a shorter service, which uses different music and readings, has been filmed periodically for television.

For our family it also signifies the beginning of decorating! We wait until this moment to trim the tree and put up all our Christmas decorations around the house.

It is a moment of unity across states and countries. It is a wonderful way to usher in this most glorious feast.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Homemade Gifts - Part 3

A friend purchased one of these little purses or fabric envelops at the Crafty Planet for $5. Then she made a pattern for all of us in the sewing class to make our own. I have made several and love them!
 They are quick to make and practical in two ways. You can use up those many scraps of fabric you have lying around and they can hold lots of different little items. I am giving some of them as gifts with gift certificates or gift cards in them. 

I like this one with a coordinating fabric inside. It's like a little surprise when you open it.
And this one is a favorite because of the colors! I love the blues and greens.
It just needs a snap and its ready to go.

I have found that regular cotton fabric works, but home decorating fabric works better since it is a bit stiffer. I also use a lightweight interfacing for these purses to give them more shape.

Here is another favorite and one that Maddie gave to her teacher this year.
Each purse takes two pieces of fabric that are 6.5 inches wide, 10 inches for the sides and each diagonal side is 4 inches long. You simply sew the right sides together leaving an opening at the bottom. Turn the purse and push out the corners. Iron it and sew across the bottom to close it.  Then, fold the bottom up about 2/3 of the way and sew all around the purse. Fold down the top and iron. Add a snap and you're done!

Surprise Visitor

This is my good friend Amy.

She is good at many many things.

One thing she is good at is introducing us to celebrations and traditions and happenings all around the cities and in this case, all around the world.

A few days ago, Amy stopped by the house bearing the Peace Light. This was part of a chain of candle light that originated in Bethlehem and made its way to New York, then across the country to our good and wonderful state here in the middle.

For some background on the peace light, here is a description from the website:    

"Each year, a child from Upper Austria fetches the light from the grotto in Bethlehem where Jesus was born. The light is carried in two blast proof miners lamps on an Austrian Airlines jet from Tel Aviv Israel to Vienna  Austria from where it is distributed at a Service of Dedication to delegations from across Europe who take it back, with a message of Peace, to their own countries. Austrian Airlines then flies the miners lamps containing the Peace Light from Bethlehem to New York City. The goal of this web site is help the light spread like the branches of a huge tree rooted in New York and spreading across the continent."
Here is the flame that was lit by the peace light and glowed in our home for a few hours. I almost had a panic attack that night when I leaned over to the family at a birthday dinner and asked each one, "Did you blow out the candle?!" I was more nervous about the house burning down, but at the same time, I didn't want the light to go out. It was a wonderful concrete connection we had for a time to the birthplace of Jesus.

Thanks, Amy for the few hours of peace you brought to our home this Christmas season. People talk a lot about "slowing down", eliminating some of the craziness of the season, and remembering its real purpose. But, Amy made this actually possible one Saturday and I thank her.

What will she teach us next?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roma di Luna

Cunningham ladies night out recently consisted of meeting at The Cedar and attending a Roma di Luna Christmas concert. They are a fun band with a lead singer with a killer voice. Here is an interview and performances with the husband/wife duo who write the songs and lead the band.

Here's their version of Silent Night from their website.

I would love to attend their annual Christmas concert again next year and take the girls; they do a family concert in the afternoon.

This band is soulful, energetic, passionate, and talented.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Homemade Gifts - Part 2

Christmas this year has involved making more gifts than ever before. I have found it wonderful to make something with my own two cracking dry nail bitten hands and spend the time to plan, collect materials, sew, and wrap. I've made way too any trips to Joann Fabrics, Treadle Yard Goods and the Crafty Planet, but at this time of the year it all gets absorbed into the craziness and hustle and bustle and I know that stage will pass. Right?

One gift I made is a Vikings throw pillow for my godson, a huge football and Vikings fan.  I plan to have my goddaughter over for her birthday to make her own Packer pillow. We have our very own border battle going in the godchildren department.  If these two kids ever meet, watch out. The pillows may become weapons.  "Throw pillow" will take on a whole new meaning.

Here is the one I made for Pierson along with the featherweight Singer sewing machine lent to me by a friend.
 I love this machine! It is portable, so I easily take it along with me to my sewing class a couple times each month. It only does a straight stitch so it is easy to use, no bells and whistles to break down. I can easily follow the directions in the manual to change the needle, thread the bobbin, etc. Did I mention it is easy to use?!  I did a Craig's list search once and found the same machine close by, but didn't pursue it. I want to get more experience at sewing and try different brands of machines before taking the plunge. Because once I own a machine, I have to put it somewhere, and that usually means getting rid of something else. This place can only house so much in the way of hobby paraphernalia.

One tip for the pillow to keep costs down: I bought the Vikings fleece on sale and purchased enough for the pillow front. For the back I used a solid yellow fleece that is not as expensive as the team licensed material.

A fun and easy homemade project!

Homemade Gifts - Part 1

This is actually more of a re-homemade gift.  I found this at a garage sale for $5 and immediately thought of my niece.
 (Of course my favorite part of this picture is the feet poking out.)

I bought it and saved it for a long winter day to work on fixing up for her birthday.

Here is the fixed up version. Ben helped by reinforcing the rockers, sanding, and painting, and the girls helped with the pining, ironing and sewing of the bedding. One doll will be very comfortable indeed.

Venturing Into Editing and Layout Design

I have been working on our alumni newsletter in email format and finally completed it!  With the help of sharp eyes and talented folks around me I think we have a good format and that it flows well.

Check it out on the Trinity website!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Neatest Drawer in the House

 And it belongs to my kids.

As Fall approached and the first day of school loomed, I thought about ways to better organize spaces that the kids use for homework, crafts, snacks, lunches, etc.  Our IKEA kitchen island serves many purposes with its three deep, wide drawers. But, it was becoming a bit of a nightmare to keep organized since it served purposes beyond kitchen needs.  So, I relegated the craft items to a cabinet in the dining room. This cabinet now houses all things drawing, cutting, painting, playdoughing, etc. It also now serves as a homework spot for the girls. They empty their backpacks right after school and sort their homework items here. They each have a shelf.  This way their stuff is tucked away most of the time and only exposed when they need it.  Because of our small spaces, I need to find ways to make rooms multi-purpose without having all the purposes exposed at once. I just don't like clutter. Also, I want the girls to develop the habit of keeping their own things neat and tidy.  When the table needs to be set for our family dinners, I want them to have that one spot out of sight to put away homework.

Anyway, back to the drawer. I now had an empty drawer to use. I decided to splurge for containers at a store like The Container Store, but it is called something else. I did not pay attention to the store's name. I was on a mission for organizing tools.  I needed durable containers that will last another 12 years. That is how much longer we will have bringing-their-own-lunch-to-school-kids.

I ended up being able to create a space for each child's lunch bag and their own color containers.  The drawer is accessible for them to use and has enough room for snacks and other foods they can pack in their lunch.

The result?

I have no hand in my kids' daily lunches.  They do it all themselves. 
Now that's worth the price of each and every little container.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Lunch Buddy No More

You may not find it appetizing, but I love it. Sushi. And I have come to make it a part of my week. Most weeks. I started to treat myself to sushi once a week on Fridays. I call it Sushi Friday. I love Sushi Friday.

Last Friday, I got to share it with my favorite person. He has been coming home from work for lunch for the last four years. It is just a part of the day. To see him ride his bike up the driveway, greet us with a kiss and smile and proceed to put together the oddest ingredients usually piled on a tortilla and carefully weighed on the scale. We all have our own way, I guess.

Well all this changes today. My lunch buddy has a longer commute to work and will not be able to join me on a daily basis. It will be strange and hard to not have this contact in the middle of the day. Especially when it is the time we are both wide awake, both ready to talk and listen and both not too exhausted yet from the days work.

What a blessing it has been to have a job so close to home. The job stays the same but the location changes.

Man, there really is something to convenience serving a relationship well. Time is precious after all.

I wish it didn't have to be this way.

Looks like I will have to plan to bring Sushi Friday on the road and visit the new place.

Mornings Like This

I live for mornings like this one. 

When you get to see the sun rise.
When a car comes along once every 20 seconds instead of the normal once every 1/20 of a second.
When you wonder just how much more weight can this old tree take?
When you think, "But if we split this wood, it won't look as pretty."
When you question, "Am I shortening the life of the swing by leaving it outside?"
When the kids rush to be out with PJ's still on and breakfast not yet eaten.
It is one of the most peaceful, quiet, beautiful mornings of the year. And you don't want it to end.

But it does.

Only minutes later. You hear the motors start on the snowblowers, the traffic picks up, an ambulance screams its siren and you spot your kid making faces at the neighbor through their back door.
 Moment is gone.

Lord, I pray there are more mornings like this.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Let the Children Play

Funny how things happen. I had a conversation today with 3 other women and we discussed the abundance of toys out there. I mentioned I had recently been to Babies R Us to purchase something off a registry and I was totally overwhelmed by the floor to ceiling amount of stuff. After raising three babies, I am convinced that it really does not take that much can get by with little or just everyday things around the house stuff to raise kids.  One person mentioned hearing an interview on NPR with the founder or CEO of Toys R Us and his defending his store items with the claim that kids need toys and fun. I agree partially. Kids have a high need for fun. I think though that a few toys can aid in their fun. Most toys are one dimensional and can't get much use because they are not designed to. Also, fun can be found in more things or opportunities.

Later today my sister in law emailed a link to this article. Give it a read. It is good and speaks to something I have thought about since my kids were very little.

I still marvel at how they can take two sticks or two pencils and turn them into people. Or take two blocks and make a table for their pencils to eat at.  And how much they can participate in the stuff/chores of home and enjoy it as well.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Time & Marriage

While plunking down way too much money at Lund's (it happens more than I care to admit with the store being close to home), I did the usual averting of my eyes from the tabloids and instead spotted the Time Magazine cover "Who Needs Marriage?"  I was immediately intrigued, but chose not to spend any more and looked up the article online to read for free.  Here it is in full and I recommend reading it all.  A few lines stuck out for me and I think there is a lot more to delve into with these in particular, but the whole thing is fascinating to me.

Excerpts I found interesting and worth thinking about:

"Promising publicly to be someone's partner for life used to be something people did to lay the foundation of their independent life. It was the demarcation of adulthood. Now it's more of a finishing touch, the last brick in the edifice, sociologists believe."

"So, people are living together because they don't have enough money to live alone, but they aren't going to get married until they have enough money. That's the catch. In fact, the less education and income people have, the Pew survey found, the more likely they are to say that to be ready for marriage, a spouse needs to be a provider."

"Indeed, 41% of babies were born to unmarried moms in 2008..."

"The basis of marriage changed in the last century," says Seth Eisenberg, president and CEO of the PAIRS Foundation, one of the biggest relationship-education operations in the country. "But very few couples have had a chance to learn really what are the new rules of love and intimacy — not because the rules are so difficult to learn, just because no one told them. To interpret that as meaning there's something broken about the institution of marriage itself would be a horrible, horrible mistake."

I think we have a lot of work to do as a society to fight for marriage. The general trend of declining interest in marriage, not knowing how to do relationships well, and feeling like you need to have a certain amount of financial well being to even think about entering into marriage is disturbing to me. I am not saying that there ought not to be conversation and much thought put into financial stability and being married and having a family. But at some point, you need to recognize that the relationship is its own entity and can be cultivated and supported with many other things that cannot be bought, sold, saved, invested or traded.

Tell Me A Story

The first song I remember my dad singing to me is

Tell me a story, tell me a story, tell me a story remember what you said. 
Tell me about the birds and bees and how to make a chipmunk sneeze. 
Tell me a story and then I'll go to bed.

He would always get crazy with his voice on the last word and it was a fun and sweet way to head off to bed as a little girl.

Two days ago I got out a tub of those foam stickers (not my favorite thing), but we have them, so we'll use them. I gave Izzy a piece of blank paper and let her go at it putting stickers all over. When she was done I said, "Tell me a story about your picture."  Well, she proceeded to tell me all about Gordon the Butterfly who found two flowers and.... I am pretty sure she did not have all that in mind as she placed the stickers, but she created a long tale anyway and then asked for help with writing a title, the text to her story, and binding the whole thing with a cover.

I am telling you those stickers went a long way to open up her imagination and creativity.

Who knew she even knew the name Gordon?  No idea where that came from.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Breath of Heaven

So I had a moment today of sitting in a cluttered chaotic space and I glanced over at a shelf in our dining room. This is what I saw.
Mary. Alone. Waiting.

Today Izzy started our Advent tradition of popping out a character from a Nativity book, and each day until the 25th, the kids take turns adding a person or animal and building the Nativity scene.  Izzy had cleared off the shelf of its normal contents. She left the dust. Oh well. And for one day Mary will stand alone.

It just humbled me and moved me to see her there with no one around and yet the hope and expectation of companionship, God's fulfillment and His glory is not far off. 

It is the moments that seem so long.  

Then an Amy Grant song came to mind, Breath of Heaven. I have always loved this song.  It is beautiful.  A song of Mary.

I found it on youtube with video from the movie The Nativity Story accompanying it. 

Take a look here.