Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mid Day Mess

It's middle of the day, some day after Christmas. I don't exactly know the day or date because we aren't in the middle of our regular schedule. There is no school to keep track of, I have no lessons going on right now to help me know the date, etc. I'm lost in Christmas break. I called our neighbor kids to have the bring in our trash can after the garbage truck came by since we were going be gone and got a call the next day from them asking if our trash was picked up on Monday or Tuesday. It's Tuesday, but I thought the day I called them was Tuesday. I'm so confused.
Outside it is warm for winter and the snow is melting. Bill is washing the mud off the motorcycles since he never got that done before it turned cold. It just feels off. 
Inside, it's a Christmas mess. Garbage sacks full of ripped off papers still sit in the living room.  Gifts lay strewn about, played with until the next party. Socks scattered into corners as new ones were unwrapped and immediately worn. Bits of cookies are mashing themselves into the rugs. The entry bench holds a yellowing sock snowman, a discarded clarinet, and everyone's Christmas cards, still to be postaged and sent. Downstairs, 100 Nerf darts have littered the floor like a large scale version of Battleship. The kitchen has given up. It would like a little break from the cookie bake-off. I know that the flour sack towel hanging from the oven door is really a little white surrender flag. I feel your pain.

I'm not really complaining. Somehow I think it will make me feel better to take a few pictures of it all and blog about it before I set to cleaning it up. That's what bloggers do, right?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Christmas Song

It's not done...

Okay, it's done now. 
Merry Christmas!

He Has Come

Here are some Christmas thoughts I've been pondering over the last month.

My Bible study this last semester has been studying 1 and 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles. Old Testament. We finished up last week in a very sad place. The people of Israel had rejected God as their one true God. They either treated him as just one of the other gods or despised Him completely in their idol worship. 
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 2 Chronicles 36: 15, 16

There was no remedy for these stubborn- hearted people. God had tried through prophets, messengers, even bringing kings against them as a wake up call. But they didn't listen. And so He took them into exile, into captivity. 

The Christmas carol I singled out this year is "O Come O Come, Immanuel". This Latin hymn was written in the 600's. Besides the beautiful melody, the first stanza really resonated with me.
O come, O come, Immanuel, and ransom captive Israel. 
That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel Shall come to thee, O Israel!

I think the hymn voices the sentiment of those who, in captivity, finally realized their need for a Saviour. It voices my need for my Saviour. As I drawer nearer to Him, my short-comings become more and more apparent. My immediate reaction is "to-do". I need to eradicate the sin out of my life. I need to be more like Him. I need to be perfect. My expectations for myself are so high. I have take myself captive in my pursuit to be worthy of Him. 

Christmas. The birth of Jesus. The remedy. He shall be called Immanuel. God with us. He has come. 

Jesus came not only to save Israel, but the whole world. I'm not perfect. I'm never gonna be perfect. And in my pursuit, I've lost the point of His coming. But He has come to bring hope.  No more captivity. And it is free. This love..
David Crowder sings, "I don't know what to do with a love like this." I don't know either. If I make it a "to-do" then I've lost it again. So I will sit in awe, silence, struggling, surrendering over and over to this love, to His coming. To let it flood over me, fill me.
That is reason to worship. 

Rejoice! Rejoice! He Has Come!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Free Drink at the Movies

I'm just catching up on my subscription reads and caught this one from my cousin, Jill, over at Frugal Plus
Before you go to the movies, check this coupon out. Looks like it has to be an AMC theater and read the other details on the coupon.

Favorite Cut Out Cookies

The real name of these cookies are Sour Cream Cookies. However, that tends to turn people sour towards them (ha ha) before they even try them! You mustn't be put off though, they are really good. In fact, my non-sweet eating husband loves them. I've made 4 batches this season and let's just say the cookie jar isn't overflowing!

Sour Cream (or Favorite) Cookies
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 c. shortening
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. (8 oz.) sour cream
4 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

Cream together sugar and shortening then eggs. Add vanilla and sour cream and mix. Add altogether the rest if the ingredients; mix until combined. Cover and refrigerate until chilled- a few hours up to a couple days.
On a well-floured surface, scoop out about a fourth of the dough, sprinkle with more flour and roll out to medium thickness. These are thick cookies, so no thinner than 1/8. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes until ever so slightly browned.

Notes on cookies: These are very sticky and though you need lots of flour to keep them from sticking everywhere, you don't want too much or they'll get too hard. Also, after mixing the dough, I usually grab by rubber spatula and finish mixing by hand to combine the wet ingredients still in the bottom of the mixer with the rest. Finally, these puff when baking, so intricate details don't show well.

Easy Frosting
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/3 c. shortening
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. milk

Whip together powdered sugar, shortening and vanilla. Add milk as needed to desired consistency.

Notes on frosting: You might as well just double the batch because 1. powdered sugar comes in 2# packages these days and measuring out 1# is a pain 2. you'll end up making a double batch of sour cream cookies and will need it anyway.

What Was I Thinking?

Every Friday afternoon is a cousin swap. My sister, Beth, sister-in-law, Jessica, and I all take turns dropping our kids off at 1 aunt's house for the afternoon and running away to solitude  doing errands, etc. There are 7 that are not in school, ages ranging from 11 to 2 1/2.

This past week was my turn and I was a bit ambitious. I decided we were going to frost cookies and make a craft. So the day before, I went to the store to buy all the items for the craft and I made up the cookie dough, since it needs to be refrigerated. 
Here's how the day went down.
AM: I set about to roll out and bake the cookies before everyone comes. In the process, I get a text from my friend, Kate, saying she's coming over. Yeah! I love Kate and her kids, so we were going to hang out and I also secretly hoped she would decorate my tree for me. Well, it turns out, that was her express purpose for coming over. But I didn't even have it lit yet! No problem for her. She loves doing that and did it all for me! Kate decorated my entire tree for me!! All I had to do was feed her little 'uns some cookies. It looks great. Thanks, Kate!

Lunchtimeish: 7 more kids pour in. I'm sure our neighbors wonder what sort of shennanigans are going on when all the kids are here. It's like we're a clown car; the kids just keep coming! I finish the cookies and make up some more frosting. Then 7 kids (remember, ages 11- 2 1/2?) seat themselves at the table with 7 colors of frosting, 6 or 7 different kinds of sprinkles and cookies stretching the whole length of the table! I was thinking I'd get some great cookie decorating shots. Boy, was I wrong! I barely got any in as I was running around, trying to help the 5, 3 and 2 1/2 year olds be successful. Athan and Luke dropped off pretty quickly. Chiara was very much into it. She needed lots of "lellow" and like shoving the "too hots" (red hots) into the unfrosted cookies. Obi frosted exactly 1 of each shape and then was done. He job after that was supervising. He'd count up the cookies and declare there were 30 left to frost. Later, he'd come back and announce there were still 17. Ariana loved it; there was pink and purple. Gavin kept at it until they were done, although he said that "carving" these cookies was hard.  Cora talked the entire time about how bad store bought cookie dough and frosting was and how good homemade cookies and frosting were. Somewhere in the middle of that I decided that I should also read them a book and I ran to grab Jan Brett's "The Mitten" and read it to them at the table. It was like a  little preschool.

Middle of the afternoon: The cookies are decorated. Amazingly, the sprinkles did not get out of hand. (Partially because after Gavin poured them on the frosted cookie, he would lick his fingers and then press the sprinkles into the frosting. Oh well.) The little ones took a nap, the older ones went out in the snow and Cora and I set up the craft. I saw this craft and just had to do it. Painting styrofoam balls with thick craft glue is not as easy as it looks, but the older kids managed. The end result turned out adorable!! 

Late afternoon: There are now 10 kids in the house. All in all that day there were 12. Needless to say, once they left, I was a little tired but we had fun. The clean-up took all night to do though it wasn't bad, just everywhere. 

Saturday morning: We wake up to a really warm house. Noticeably warm. Bill checks the thermostat and it say 76! Apparently, some little munchkins pressed some buttons while climbing the ladder that was used for decorating the tree. 

(next up: the recipe for the cookies we made) 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Start of Christmas

Now that the production is done, we've finally started to move on to prepping for Christmas around here. Bill finally pulled down the Christmas tubs and other miscellaneous stuff and tonight the kids put together their tree.
Brace yourselves, folks. This tree is like none other. In fact, if you ever had this tree you've gotten rid of it long ago. Hey, it's all us newlyweds could afford! We've kept it around all these years and it's filled it purpose here and there. Now, it's the kids' tree.

It always begins with unpacking the box and finding the top. (Why, yes, Bill is standing on the craft table. He's changing a lightbulb.) 

Putting this thing together takes some thinking. Like those mind-bender, unsolvable knot games. 

Once it's together you string the lights on. We have about 4 miles of lights for this little tree. Again, same set from Bill and my first Christmas (sigh).

Meanwhile, someone must step in and "fluff" the branches in order to fill it out. (Sheesh, people! Do you want this to look authentic or what?!)

I pack all the kid ornaments in the same box as the tree and let them at it. 

This Nutcracker Advent calendar was confiscated after a wild round of White Elephant gift exchanging one year. The kids love it. It's little books with the story written in it.

It's all done. I should have taken a picture with the kids in front of it but we had other things to do.
Like flip over 16 days on our other Advent calendar. This one was made by my grandma for me and my sister and brother when we were growing up. Obviously, I have it now. I think it was made from a kit. 16 days, 4 kids = 4 days of flipping over. Every time Luke flipped an animal over he made its sound. (When it wasn't his turn he was running around the table.)

And when that was over, we began "The Worst  Best Christmas Pageant Ever" by Barbara Robinson! LOVE that book!!! (V didn't join us for that part. We can't seem to get her to sit and read with us yet. Maybe that will change after she receives some of her Christmas gifts from us. :) )

Wednesday night we watched "Elf". Fuuuuunny movie! The kids also helped me color in some stamped snowmen for some gift bags I was going to make. 

This is one of my favorite gifts to make for teachers. So, if you're a teacher to one of my kids: Spoiler Alert. I take a coffee bag that I've been saving since my last trip for coffee beans from my favorite coffee shop in the whole wide world (Burgie's and I've been a lot) and cover it with some scrapbook paper and layer on the snowman, etc. Inside are some homemade biscotti and to go with that is a Starbucks Frappuccino decorated with some paper. Doesn't it look so cute?  

So, that's it for now. We're getting Christmas started here. 

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's a Wrap!

Well, we survived! Barely. 6 days, 7 performances (1 was snowed out). Phew!

Discovering David Dansville was a tremendous success. Here are pictures from the past week.

 Supper with the cast and crew.
 Waiting in line with hot cocoa (and eyes purposely closed).
No shiny orphans here.
Hugs from Grandma.
 Is this your new home, Orphan Audrey?
 Rehearsal pictures
 Oh man, she caught me.

 Cast photos
This is no orphan, this is my girl!

If you missed seeing it, we are really sorry! Really!! 
However... the DVD will be released later on and you can get one of those. Then you will feel slightly better, but still sad because you did not see it in person. I'll let you know when it's available.

Meanwhile, this household is going to try to get back to normal. I just heard it's only 12 days to Christmas!!!! We don't even have a tree yet! Only batch of Christmas cookies done (baked, decorated and eaten)! No Christmas music except for my dear students. No Christmas book reading!! That's okay, though. If I learned one thing from the production is that my Heavenly Father loves me no matter what AND that I don't need a single one of those things to help me celebrate Him sending His Son!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Luke is in the Bible

Aunt Jessica took care of Luke Thursday night while we went to the production. Luke had brought his little Gideon's New Testament Bible, courtesy of Grandpa Ward, along with him. Here's the conversation exchange between Luke and his aunt.

AJ: "Luke, share your Bible."
L: "No he's (Athan) just interrupting me."
AJ: "Luke, you don't know how to read, so I think it's ok that Athan looks at it with you."
L: "No."
AJ: "You need to share or I'm going to put it in my pocket."
L: "Well, I just know it's mine because my name is in it. See look here (opens it to the table of contents and points to his name), it is L-U-K-E."
AJ: "Yes, I see that, but you still need to share."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


We've been making smoothies lately. They are filling, hunger-quenching and tasty. I've narrowed down my recipe to this one.

In the blender jar add:
1 cup orange juice
1/2 c. plain yogurt
1-1 1/2 bananas, sliced and frozen
1/2 bag frozen strawberries
That's the basic recipe, but I also add:
1 Tbsp. Chia seeds
1 scoop protein powder
1 handful spinach

Always add the juice and yogurt first to the blender. Then dump in everything else. Blend.
Chia seeds are some ancient Aztec superfood. I bought my on Amazon but you might find them at Wheatsfield. You don't notice them because of the seeds with the berries.
Protein powder really adds a nice oomph to the smoothie, makes it more filling and the protein helps them "recover" faster.
Spinach is apparently this awesome, vitamin packed leaf. You don't notice it at all. If you don't add berries to the smoothie, you will have a green smoothie.
When I make this, I just change what berries I use. I eyeball how many banana slices and berries I use. 

Here's what it looks like

The giant straws are for Bubble Tea, which is kind of like a smoothie made with tapioca (eew!). I found these in a grocery store when we were in Florida but I looked online and guess what? You can get them on Amazon!! Or maybe your local Chinese foodstore, too.

Can You Tell Singing Isn't His Favorite Thing To Do?

(I'd crop it but the pictures turned out kind of blurry and cropping it makes it even blurrier.)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pepsi Roast

This week is going to be nutty.
This week is going to be fun.
This week, there's a lot to be done.

(thank you all for indulging me in my 3rd grade level poetry)

This week is the Discovering David Dansville production at our church. We are having overnight guests. My father-in-law is coming. I've got to feed him something that will make him feel welcomed again. To the rescue... Pepsi Roast!!
This is my favorite way to serve roast, although PW's roast is really good too, but not nearly as easy.

Pepsi Roast
1 rump roast (any size)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 package dry onion soup mix
1 can Pepsi (or Coke)

Place the roast in the crock-pot. Slather the mushroom soup over the top. Sprinkle the soup mix over that. Pour the Pepsi around it. Cook on low all day. 
To make gravy, remove roast, cover and keep warm (put in microwave but don't turn it on) and pour broth into saucepan and heat until boiling. Make a mixture of cold water and cornstarch in a small bowl, then whisk into broth, heating until thickened.

So the part about the gravy is pretty loosey-goosey and you'll have to play around with it, but it is really good. You will want to drape it over mashed potatoes or noodles (that's what I'm making this weekend).  The whole recipe is really good. Your husband may want to take it for a work pot-luck. (Just remind him that crock-pots spill very easily in trucks :)

A word on roasts: I like rump roasts as a nice slicing roast. I like a chuck roast as a fall apart roast. You could use either one. Both cook well in a crock-pot. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

How Did We Get Here

Up until recently, I haven't really felt led to write about how we got to where we are by having V live with us. For me, apparently, things take time to work themselves out fully. If I were to have written about our decision earlier on, it might not have taken on the depth that I have now. I may have been too caught up to see it all. I don't know. But I do know that now I feel like it is time to work on getting our story out there. Here's the beginning of how we got to where we are now.

One of our elders in our church, Rog, had sent an email out to many families expressing the need for host families for kids from Rosebud. I received the email, thought it was interesting but prayed and decided that if Bill didn't bring it up we shouldn't pursue it. I knew that if Bill wasn't on board, forget it. I forwarded it to him and waited. Well, he brought it up. (This is big because I have a lot of "ideas" and though he doesn't think most of them are bad, most of them just don't fit in the bigger picture.) So we started talking. And we started praying.
Aunt Denise was living with us at the time and she piped in her two cents, which was, she thought it would be neat and fun. So like her. Typical missionary. "Oh, let's just invite a complete stranger to come live with us. And we can learn all about her culture and share Jesus with her. It will be fun!" 
Our friend, Angie, came over to stamp later that week and she told me not good things about Rosebud. And a bit about what Rog and Lisa have already gone through with their two students. We didn't get any stamping done that night, but we learned more and I was torn. It was going to be hard.
Then we went to Rog's informational meeting with the two other families who had expressed interest. And I was sad. Sad that there is a nation within our own nation completely lost. Stumbling in the dark. And I was scared. This was going to be hard, I didn't think I could do it. But God quickly reminded me that I couldn't, but He could. We went home and prayed. We knew our families would support us. And that is one of the super great things about our families, because it has already happened. We have opened up our arms and hearts and taken in three kids already who weren't born into our family. We adapt so well. 
As the weeks wore on, we were getting closer and closer to a decision. I was always amazed that it wasn't just me bringing it up. Bill was thinking and talking too. Then we went on a long run and talked more. At the near end he said, "Something isn't right and maybe this is just what our family needs to get out of where we are." Wow! Those were words I was praying that he would say someday. I nearly started crying. And that kind of sealed the deal in the sense that we were going to do this.
So we set out to talk to Audrey, a very crucial person in making this work. We planned a great night out with dinner and a movie and that's when we discovered the pests. No kidding! It was just like Satan was out to thwart us from the start. And I spent the worst summer of my life fighting head lice. Audrey wasn't too sure. But her heart was still open and she was willing to follow our lead.
So we said yes, we would host a Rosebud student.
And that's how were got here. 

I write about me waiting for Bill because it is super important. In fact, since Bill is the head of the house, for me to have gone on without him or push him to make the decision, would have been sinful and disastrous.
I write about Aunt Denise in a kidding way, though she did say those things. But she is a missionary and her heart goes there and says those kinds of things more readily than mine does. Perhaps she was a bigger cheerleader for us to do what we could do more than anything else.
I write about Angie because what she said about Rosebud was true and her words were timely. Her children and husband have been there. Up until August we had never been there. We had no idea.
I write about Rog and Lisa because their hearts are already sucked up into what God, only God, can do in Rosebud. 
I write about Audrey because of how she fits into our family. For us to have not brought her along would have been very difficult for her. 

It almost seems too short of a story to make any impact at all. And it is the very short version, I guess. And the very shortest answer is God. Jesus. We felt lead to be obedient in this way. 

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has not pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 1 John3:16-18
As we studied this passage in church, I felt called to write about it and write out our story for you.

Dear friends, if your hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. 3:21-22
Look at that backwards: if you will- do what pleases him and obey his commands (see the rest of your Bible!), you will not be condemned. Then you will have full confidence before God and receive from him ANYTHING you ask. (but I am not talking a prosperity or name and claim gospel here- it is heart matters)

We felt called to obey him in this way by taking in a Rosebud student. Some will be called to obey His commands a different way. But, as believers, we are all called to obey. Are you obeying God? If so, go before him with full confidence, ask him, receive it. That makes me excited!! We're living it! We're seeing it happen! In fact, I'm not asking enough because in all the little things he has answered. 
Yes, the obeying his commands and actions are hard. Really hard. Not gonna lie to you there. (see all my other posts)
But the asking and receiving. That is beyond words. That is hands lifted, full out worship, uttered as only the Holy Spirit can intercede before the throne. My literal body cannot contain nor express such worship. 
It is not for our name or our glory that we are doing this thing. It is for God's glory, for His namesake! That is how we got here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Crash and Burn a Thanksgiving Dinner

We were going to be traveling the day after Thanksgiving and we've been a tad bit busy, so Bill said to keep the meal low key.

Menu plan:
Green Beans

I was going to make just a boneless turkey breast, but the grocery special was for a full turkey, so that's what I got.
Fresh green beans are easy.
Salad is light and I found a great recipe that sounded perfect for a Thanksgiving meal.
Hey, I'm not that much a rebel. Rolls are on the menu.
The whole meal was planned around the turkey and the dessert, apple dumplings.

How to:
The turkey was delicious. I keep it simple. Basted with butter, seasoned with salt and pepper. Yum!
How can one go wrong with green beans. Only I would have eaten green bean casserole.
I'm skipping to the rolls. Audrey's only request was Rosemary Rolls. The store was all out of frozen roll dough, so I made the dough the day before hand. Drape raised dough with melted butter, fresh chopped rosemary, sea salt and more butter.
The salad. It was Maple Roasted Butternut Squash with Apple Cider Vinaigrette. It was delicious. The vinaigrette was homemade. Chopped butternut is tossed with olive oil and maple syrup then roasted. Toast some walnuts then toss it altogether with some fresh parmesan. It was delicious. Amanda , you would love this salad! 
I'll move on to dessert. I found a recipe for apple dumplings. Sliced apples are wrapped in crescent dough. A "sauce" made of butter, sugar and cinnamon and poured over the apples. Mt. Dew tops it all off. Please serve this with ice cream because you need something to cut through it all. 

I thought it was all delicious. I nearly had a slight heart attack with all the sugar and butter in the dessert, but it was still really good.
The rolls, turkey and green beans were slammed down by my family.
My salad? Well, we were talking about what we wanted for Christmas and Ben said he wanted something that would eat his salad for him!
The next day we were talking with Bill's brother and sister-in-law and Tia asked what kind of pies I made. I said none. I did not make any pies this year. A hush fell over the conversation. It was like they were all mourning the loss of an unmade, unbaked, uneaten pie. 
I also did not make any potatoes or gravy of any kind. Nor any cranberry sauce or stuffing. I do not know that my father-in-law will return for quite some time to our house for Thanksgiving. 

I do know that I didn't spend all day cooking. I didn't have to manage keeping potatoes hot while whisking gravy. I didn't have a pile of dishes so high that it was time to eat again when we were done. I also know that we had a home-cooked meal, we had plenty to eat, even if we didn't like all of it, and we were together.