Thursday, December 31, 2009

My favorite Christmas gifts of 2009

Where has the time gone? I wanted to write a quick post showing my favorite gifts from this Christmas.

This birdsong clock was given to me by my oldest son. He purchased it from the "shop" at our church's Advent festival. I love it. It still surprises me to hear a bird "talking" on the hour every hour, but it's a welcome surprise.

In school my oldest son also made us this PEACE plaque. As you can see, he glued different types of beans and seeds to form each letter. I love it so much!

The snowman plate was my little boy's gift to me. He bought it at the church Advent festival. I've taken down all of our Christmas decorations, but my baker's rack has lots of snowman items on it which I will leave up throughout January and into February. So this plate now has a place of prominence on one of the shelves. I will treasure it every year as I pull it out to decorate our home in the wintertime.

The holly teapot is a gift from my mom. She bought it at my favorite local thrift store and I have already had several cups of Christmas tea poured from it. I will be on the lookout for a matching cup and saucer.

A close-up of the holly motif

The next photos show some great after-Christmas deals I picked up at my favorite thrift store. All the Christmas items were marked down to 75% off this week. I will probably give the two little metal signs shown below as gifts next year. They cost me a whopping 63 cents each!!

I had my eye on this white metal snowflake wreath every time I went into the thrift store during December. I told myself to wait and see if was still there after Christmas and I was so excited to see that it was!! It's original price was $9 and I bought it for $1.13!! Yay for me! It is on the top shelf of my baker's rack right now and will stay there throughout January and February.

Close-up of the metal snowflakes. I love finding great home decor at thrift stores. You can get some awesome bargains. I forgot to take a photo of it but I also bought a really awesome Christmas wreath for my door at the thrift store for 50% off about a week or two before Christmas. That means I paid only $5 for a wreath that would probably be at least $40 at Hobby Lobby.

After Christmas we also bought 4 boxes of 9-foot pine garland with lights from Target at 50% off. We are planning to put them outside on our deck next year. Our outdoor Christmas decor could definitely be beefed up. We also got a stand for a real Christmas tree at 50% off so we'll have it ready for our REAL tree next year. I'm excited about that.
I hope you are all enjoying your end of the year festivities. We will be staying home tonight as we always do. Our New Year's Eve tradition is to pull out the couch in the living room and eat pizza in our jammies and watch movies together. DH is in town picking up the pizza right now and my little boy is asleep on the couch!! Not sure what the big boy is doing..........he's downstairs. Yesterday he started a "news" scrapbook and I think he's working on it right now. I am planning to pull out my scrapbooks from 1999 and 2000 to look through tonight. It was just DH and I back then as we didn't have children yet. I am going to make him sit and reminisce with me. He's already been forewarned. I haven't seen the spark of enthusiasm that I'd hoped for, but he agreed to look at them with me. I am pretty sure that he will enjoy looking back once we get going.
Check back here tomorrow because if all goes well I am going to "unveil" the project I've been working hard on behind the scenes. I'm super-excited about it. Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Hello! I just wanted to let everyone know that I've been messing around a bit with the blog and have given it a facelift. So if you read the blog through a feed reader, take a moment to click through and tell me what you think of the new look. Otherwise, just tell me what you think of the new look. I found the background on Shabby Blogs. I love it so much. I was long overdue for an update. Best part of it? It was FREE!!! Now I'm trying to figure out how to install a customized header. I've found one I really like on Shabby Blogs but can't figure out yet how to add text to the image. If you've done that and can give me advice I'd love the help! Thanks!

PS: I'm working on a new BIG project that I'm hoping to reveal soon. I'm really excited about it! Can't wait to share!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A very Merry Christmas

We awoke to a HUGE amount of snow and blizzard conditions. As you can see from the photo below my husband had to dig out before he could take the dog out this morning. I took this photo sometime before 7:00 a.m. Our boys were up and ready to see what was under the tree by 6:30 a.m. Apparently my big boy had been awake much earlier than that but my husband held him off until 6:30. Because of the snow we did not go to our church's Christmas Eve service last night. I am 40 years old. I can honestly not remember ever missing church on Christmas Eve. It was a little different to say the least. However, we enjoyed a quiet evening at home. We did our Advent wreath and were able to finally light the Christ candle in the center. My oldest son found three stories in his Jesus Storybook Bible that he wanted to read aloud for our home Christmas Eve service. My husband, little boy and I used our fabric Nativity characters to "act out" the stories as he read them. It was quite nice.

Here are a few more photos of our massive snowfall. You can see how the snow has drifted against our chicken coop halfway up the windows. I had to step through huge drifts to get out there today.

And this big mound is on our deck.

It is still snowing as I write this post at about 6:45 p.m. We usually have our extended family on my side over on Christmas day. As I wrote earlier, we were planning to get together on Tuesday but couldn't due to the weather. We have yet to reschedule that event and my oldest son has asked me several times today when we will have it. I am glad that being with family is such an important part of Christmas for him. When we planned the big get-together for Tuesday we still planned to have my parents over here on Christmas Day. Because of weather that didn't happen either. So it was just the four of us home all day. In all honesty our little family being snowbound and together all day has made this the most peaceful and relaxing Christmas in my memory. We just hung out all day. The boys played with their new toys. I read a book for large periods of time and played with the boys off and on. My husband relaxed some too in between going out and shoveling every few hours so we could at least get out our doors. It was a really nice day and I feel so very blessed to have a family whom I love dearly.

The boys both loved their gifts. I didn't get many pictures of their new toys without the boys in the picture. Below you can see the Hot Wheels race track that my little boy got. He loved it and has played with it a lot all day. My big boy got a few new geography puzzles among other things and is in his room assembling Asia as I write this. He also got a cool circuitry kit and has been constructing projects from that as well.

And I am thrilled to report that today, Christmas Day 2009, was a 4-EGG DAY!! I went out mid-morning to check and found one egg on the floor of the coop and one chicken, Reba, trapped against the wall in the nesting basket!! Poor baby! Apparently someone in the coop had flipped the basket over against the wall and Reba couldn't get out. She probably trapped herself. So.....I repositioned the crate so that can't happen again. When I went out in the late afternoon to bring fresh water I found 3 MORE eggs! This can only mean one all of our hens are laying. I loved that one of the eggs was really dark brown. It actually brought back a childhood memory that I will share here. I hadn't thought of this in about 30 years. When I was in elementary school we were asked to bring an egg to school for an art project. When we pulled out our eggs in art class my egg was the only brown egg in the class. I do not remember specifics, but I do remember being teased about the color of my egg. I also remember feeling embarrassed about having the only egg that was different. And I think I was even mad that someone would make an issue of the color of my egg. Anyway........we made Santa and Mrs. Claus faces out of our eggs. I went ahead and made a brown Mrs. Claus. It's funny how something can trigger a memory like that..........I haven't thought about it for years. Below is a photo of our diverse, multi-cultural, egg collection from today. I am excited to cook these up tomorrow morning. After my last egg post I got a great comment giving me specific guidelines for cooking an egg. Thanks, Annicles. Also, I now know that my good buddy, Amber, is an eggspert at cooking eggs. Who knew? I knew she could bake an awesome cake, but eggs? You learn something new every day!

PS: I almost forgot! This morning I knocked over our Christmas tree when reaching under it for a gift. The leg broke off just as it had on our other Christmas tree. So.........that makes 2 artificial trees that I've accidently broken in the last few weeks. My little boy burst into tears when the tree fell down but recovered quickly when presented with the distraction of opening all his gifts. DH and I decided that this is a sign that from now on we will get a real tree every year. We've talked about it in the past but when we had an artificial one to use it didn't seem practical. Now it seems like a necessity. So that's a new tradition we can look forward to next year.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It was a two-egg day (and other happenings)

Well, this morning after I jogged on the treadmill (I finished the 8-week running program and am now officially a "runner") and took a shower I decided to cook up the two eggs I had gathered from our chickens over the past few days. Only a blogger or scrapbooker would take a bunch of photos of cooking an egg. Since I happen to participate in both hobbies (though much more of the blogging than the scrapbooking lately) I DID take some photos. Below you can see the two eggs ready to be cooked. Is it just me or are those yolks incredibly yellow?

I was originally going to do fried eggs but realized once I got going that I don't really know how to make a fried egg. Isn't that lame? I am sure I could Google it, but I think that is even more lame. So I made fried/scrambled eggs instead. My little boy was excited when I started making the eggs, saying he wanted to eat some. My oldest son was not so enthused. He stated that he would rather eat the eggs from our chickens if they were baked in something instead of cooked on the stove. He also informed me that he really liked them "like Easter eggs", not fried or scrambled.

Here you can see that I went from fried to scrambled since I don't know how to flip an egg without it going everywhere. I am sure my husband could teach me. He is really good with eggs. I think he was outside running when I was doing this.

Here is the finished product. Let me tell you.............those eggs were AWESOME!! Seriously. Once they were done my oldest son decided he wanted to try them. So the boys and I all had a fork and that egg disappeared faster than a ripe banana in a chicken other words, it was gone in under a minute. After we scarfed down the egg, I decided to go out to the coop to see if any more eggs had been laid. I think it was about 11:00 a.m. when I did this. I was pleased to find another little brown egg (there hadn't been any when I was out in the coop earlier in the morning). When I brought it inside my little boy wanted me to cook it right away (which I did) and to eat it right away (which he did). The new egg was laid right under our nesting box so later in the day my husband went out and removed the nesting box I posted about yesterday. We decided it may be too small for the hens to lay in. He replaced it with a plastic milk crate that we just put right down on the litter in the corner. When he was doing all this he also found a white egg in the coop!! So that means that two of our hens are now laying eggs (and that's why today was a 2-egg day). I am so proud of those girls! They are awesome! I can't wait to eat more of their eggs. They are so tasty.

Moving on to other news since you are likely sick of hearing about eggs. My mom invited us all over to her home this afternoon to exchange gifts. Traditionally we go to my parents' house on Christmas Eve to eat a meal, exchange gifts, then go to the Christmas Eve service at our church. Because of the big snowstorm that we are supposed to get tomorrow our Christmas Eve service has already been cancelled and we are likely to be snowed in for a few days. So we got together today. It was fun. My mom always finds really fun gifts for the boys. Below you can see my little boy's hands. He got a Playskool race car driver helmet. It comes with a hand-held control/steering wheel that has all kinds of cool sound effects. The helmet has a microphone that you can talk into. He LOVES it. He played with it so much when we got home.

One of the gifts my oldest son received was a little magic tricks kit. He immediately went off to my parents' bedroom to study a trick. Below you can see him and his volunteer (AKA Daddy) doing a ring and rope trick that he learned.

When we got home I holed up in my craft room to sew the boys' Christmas Eve pajamas. I had painted their shirts earlier in the day. I didn't have a sewing pattern........I just grabbed a pair of pants for each of them that currently fit them and used that as a pattern. The PJ pants went together really quickly and I think the boys will be excited to open them tomorrow night. Below you can see the shirt and pants together. In hindsight I kind of wish I had bought red shirts instead of the dark blue because I think that would have looked cuter with the flannel I bought. Oh well!

This last photo makes me go "WAH!!". I took the PJ pants I made last year for each boy and laid them on top of the new ones, all lined up at the waistband. In the photo you can see how much longer I had to make the ones for this year. Of course I want my children to grow and be healthy...........but I still feel wistful when I think of how fast they are growing up. I want to hang onto and treasure every moment with them. I love them both so much!!

The boys and I were also pretty busy today trying to finish some more of our Advent books and ornaments. I will do some posts on those soon. I am positive now that our Advent book activities will have to trickle past Christmas Day. Even though I planned only 15 (not 25 like last year) we have so far only done nine. Again.........oh, well! We've enjoyed doing it and hopefully the boys will be up for finishing all of them. Then I can stash the ornaments away for the Festival of Trees next year!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A bit of everything

Be forewarned..........this is a very photo-dense post. I am too lazy to do a bunch of separate posts so I'm playing catch-up and writing one big post to describe all that's been going on here since I posted one week ago. First let me say that the reason I finally found time to blog tonight is because we had to cancel a family get-together that was supposed to be at our house TONIGHT because there is a big ice storm moving into the area. I was really bummed out because the boys and I were really excited to have everyone over here and we had made a bunch of stuff to give out to the guests. But, I would rather have my loved ones be safe, so instead I am catching up on blogging.

I guess I'll start by summarizing what I've done in the past week. OK...........last Wednesday night I went to my MOPS Christmas party which was very fun, as always. We had an ornament exchange. I forgot to take a photo of the one I brought's a glass snowman with green accents. Love it! On Thursday last week my oldest son had his winter program for school. The theme of his program was "Peace". His role in the program was to read aloud a report he had written about Nelson Mandela. He got up in front of an auditorium filled with people and read his report out loud. He was so poised and read with such expression. I was so proud of him that my eyes welled up with tears as he read. He is such an awesome kid!! On Friday I went out to a local Mexican place with a few friends to celebrate the 40th birthday of my neighbor. On Saturday the boys and I went over to Amber's house. She is our daycare provider. My little boy goes to her house two half-days a week. She always hosts a Christmas get-together for her daycare families and had a breakfast this year. There is always a special guest who appears during her get-togethers----------Santa Claus! And he always has a gift for each child. My boys got two new games from Santa...........Chutes and Ladders and Yahtzee. These are great additions to our games collection. Thank you, Amber! I went shopping Saturday afternoon and Saturday night the boys and I and my mom went to a Christmas pageant at a mega-church in our area. We met my friend Julie and her family there. (DH was home with the dog. We have to keep him on a rigid medication schedule. He has made it almost 6 weeks without a seizure, the longest he's ever gone and we don't want to mess that up!) The pageant is amazing.........almost like (I imagine) a Broadway show. There are live animals (camels walking past us only 1 foot away) and angels who truly fly across the set on zip-lines. There was real snow falling on us during one part and there is always just an amazing and touching reenactment of the first Christmas story along with an inspirational modern storyline. I am so glad we went.

During the past week in my preschool classroom, the children and I were busy making parent gifts. Below you can see the one my little boy made for me!! If you are curious about this project, read this post over at my school blog. These would be great to make if you need to still whip up a last-minute gift. They take only a few minutes and turn out really pretty.

Last Friday I read this post on WhimsyLove and instantly knew I wanted to make some of these to give my female relatives at our get-together that was supposed to be tonight. When I was out and about on Saturday afternoon I stopped by my favorite thrift store and picked up 5 vintage spoons for about 75 cents. They had the half-price colored tag on them!! I typed up the story from Nikki's post and printed it out on cardstock. I used a corner-rounder to decorate the corners and then I adhered them to another color of cardstock and fancied up those corners. I tied a ribbon around the spoon and stuck an ornament hanger through the back so the spoons could be hung on the tree as shown below.

I punched a hole in the corner of the story and tied it to the spoons as shown here.

I love the message behind this story. I truly believe that the best IS yet to come. Hopefully I can still get-together with my family soon and pass out the spoons I've made.

When I went to Hobby Lobby Saturday I picked up supplies so my boys could make an ornament for each person at our family gathering (the one that now ISN'T tonight.........can you tell I'm disappointed?). All the holiday items were at least 50% off, so I got some great deals. I wanted the clear glass ornaments but they only had the frosted ones left. I have seen lots of initial ornaments around the blogosphere lately and wanted to copy those. I wasn't totally thrilled with the sticker letters I found, but they were glittery and Christmasy.

We stuffed red gift shred into the ornaments as shown. This was much harder than you would think as you pretty much had to do it strand by strand. My little boy soon tired of the project after this photo was taken. I can't say I blame him!

After filling them with the shred, we attached the top, added a letter sticker, an ornament hanger and a ribbon. We made 15 ornaments in all and have some left for future crafting.

The photo below shows one finished ornament.

Also this weekend I made a ton of chocolate pretzel rods to give as gifts to Sunday School teachers, school teachers, bus drivers, etc. OOPS! I guess DH needs to get a bag since he is the bus driver for our oldest child who attends a private school!! I think I have an extra one, honey!

Here they are all packaged up and ready to give out!!

We also have exciting news from the chicken coop. On Saturday I went out and found a perfect little brown egg frozen to the ground in the chicken run. I had to pour warm water on it to get it off the ground and the shell broke in the process. I didn't get a photo of the FIRST egg due to this! Below you can see Sarah and Abby hanging out on the roost in the chicken run. I have suspicions that Abby is our egg-layer.

On Sunday there was another perfect little brown egg, this time inside the coop on the floor. It was still warm to the touch when I brought it inside. Since we didn't have a nesting box in the coop yet, DH and I had to scurry to put something in place with the hope that our egg-layer would soon find a proper place to deposit her daily treasures. The next two photos show two little sets of hand holding our first (unbroken) egg!!

We decided (for ease of time and labor in very cold weather) to repurpose an old kitty litter bucket to use as a nesting box. DH just used a screw to attach it to the wall of the coop as shown below. On Backyard Chickens I have read that it helps the chickens know what it's for if you put some fake eggs in it. So you can see two plastic Easter eggs in it in the photos. On Monday there was another perfect little brown egg. It was found below the nesting box, not inside. But the two eggs IN the nesting box, the fake ones, were mysteriously moved to different places so there has definitely been some fowl play involved. haha

Below you can see the nesting box relative to where the roost is in the coop. Today I could find no evidence of an egg anywhere. So we'll have to see what happens next. Very exciting developments in chicken farming I must say. I have yet to cook one of the two eggs we've retrieved. DH seems a bit squeamish about the whole thing but I've just been too busy. It's kind of scary that we have moved so far from our agrarian roots as a society that we are cautious to eat food that comes directly from the animal of origin. When you think about it, there's nothing more natural than eating an egg laid by your own hen, is there?? I'll let you know once I cook it if it's the best egg I've ever had.

On the homemade gift-making front I've been busy. Below is a photo of a little doodad I made for my oldest son's teachers. As I mentioned above, their winter program theme was "peace" so I decided to make these little word-art knick-knacks for his teachers as a gift. I had seen something very similar in a Country Living magazine a few months ago. Luckily I had a thrifted Scrabble game in my crafting stash. I just sawed off the letter-holder pieces to the right size and glued the letter tiles onto them with Elmer's glue. Easy peasy! These would be great to make for Valentine's Day, spelling LOVE or other sentiments.

In keeping with my "give thanks" pillow from Thanksgiving I decided to make up some "believe" pillows. I gave one to each of my classroom assistants who are also my youngest son's teachers. I also gave one to Amber, our daycare provider. And I kept one for myself since I am also my son's teacher and since all his other teacher's got one................. I love how these turned out. I am already thinking of "let it snow" on blue burlap for January, "love" on red for February, "get lucky" on green for March...........OK..........maybe not that one!! :0)

Also for Amber, our daycare gal and my good friend, I made a Christmas apron. I didn't use a pattern, just kind of winged it. I started it Sunday night and finished it yesterday. I gave it to Amber today and to my face she said she liked it. Actually, I know she really did like it because she loves aprons. I loved the really big rick-rack. Aprons are so easy to whip together. I can't believe I don't actually own one. I need to change that!! Maybe a good Christmas break sewing project.

Here's a closeup of the rick-rack trim and fabric.

The only other handmade gift I need to finish (I mean, start and finish) is pajamas for the boys. I made them a set of pajamas last year and wanted to continue the tradition. I already have the shirts and fabric so I'll start those tomorrow. They'll be ready to wear by Christmas Eve. Whew! Now you can see why I haven't posted in a week! In case I don't post again before Christmas, please have a blessed day with your family. And treasure the reason behind the season. There is truly no greater gift than Jesus. My wish is that each of you reading this would know and embrace that truth this year.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Festival of Trees

On Sunday afternoon our whole family headed to our local county historical museum to see their annual Festival of Trees. My MOPS group has decorated a tree for this festival the past several years so I usually take the boys to it. However, this was the first time DH had been there. In addition to seeing all the lovely trees we had a special experience. One of the volunteers started playing the antique player piano for my boys. She invited them to help her "pump" it. Below you can see the feet of my oldest son as he "plays" the song "Winter Wonderland." You should have seen the look on my boys' faces when the piano started playing all by itself. My big boy was so proud to have helped play the song and was talking animatedly to the other guests at the museum about his experience. He later whispered to me, "Mommy, what do you think is the best part so far?" I said, "Is it when you got to play the player piano?" He said, "YES!" It was very interesting to see how the piano worked and how you can change the songs it plays. The volunteer estimated the piano to be about 100 years old and said it was in great condition. I think my maternal grandfather had a player piano in his parlor. Mom, is that right? What ever happened to it? What a bummer that it is probably lost from our family forever. boys enjoyed looking at all the trees. They also liked choosing their favorite tree in the "adult" and "youth" category. One of the most unique "trees" was this one completely made from Diet Coke cans.

Below are some pictures I took of some of my favorite trees.

This one was GORGEOUS. I loved the lime green and red together. So pretty!

This one I also loved. It was decorated by the public library. It was covered with Little Golden Books. (The theme of the festival was the celebration of the museum's 50th birthday. So lots of the trees sported a "gold" theme.)

Being a former 4-Her, I loved this white tree with green accents (green is also my favorite color) that was decorated by a local 4-H club.

The next tree was the one I voted for because it was decorated by my MOPS group. It was called "Moms have hearts of Gold" or something similar to that. Great job fellow MOPS gals who decorated this one!!

I also really loved this red and purple tree decorated by our local Red Hat Society.

I am already thinking it would be fun to have my boys decorate a tree for next year's festival. The theme is "Homespun Holidays". I'll have to get my wheels turning to think of what we could do. Maybe we could just use the decorations we're making this year for our Advent project. Anyway, I'm sure we will enjoy next year's festival as much as this one.