Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cousins, Friends & Snow!

Monday morning we had family pictures taken out at Glen Eyrie by a new friend Heather. It was so fun to meet her!! And, we can't wait to see the pictures!

The afternoon held a visit with my friend Rebecca and her sister - and in the evening it was a treat to help celebrate Nathan's second birthday!

Tuesday was our day to head up into the mountains to stay at a cabin for the rest of the week so we decided to open a few gifts before we went. While doing that, it started snowing! The little ladies had their first small taste of playing in the snow!

All the cousins - enjoying a movie:
My dad got a kick out of the trail of toys left by all the littles:
Just starting to snow:
Rachel concentrating on catching some snow:
Emily's first impression:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Seeing God's Country

The best place to start with an update is at the very beginning, right?! It seems like forever ago that we did this drive, though it was a mere twelve days ago that we left home on our three day road trip.

Samuel was hardly heard all the way here - super quiet and content little guy. The ladies did well - they enjoyed their car fun kits as well as some other fun things, a few new movies and the landscape.

I spent most of my time either entertaining someone or sewing Samuel's stocking - I did not finish it - but I think he will forgive me...

We stopped the second morning to have breakfast with my Dad's mom and two of my aunts -
it was a fun break from all the driving.

Look at all these birds flying south for the winter!

I'm back!

Hi, friends!!

We are having a wonderful time in Colorado - I have tons of pictures and lots of things to update! I'm sitting in Starbucks right now while Daddy is with the napping little ones at my parents house and I'm planning to sit here and write lots of new posts! I've been anxious to check in with all of you!!

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!

Love,
Monica

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jesus!

We'll be eating this cake today at a Happy Birthday Jesus party! My friends in South Carolina got me started on this idea and I am hooked! So, we're doing it in Colorado this year!!

I found a recipe here - but am going to make some changes. We don't need a huge cake - so I want to only use one box of white cake mix to make the entire cake. I'm going to be on the lookout for some smaller round pans so that we can still make this tall, but it won't be as big around.

So, one box of white cake mix - mixed according to box directions. Evenly divide batter into three bowls. Tint one bowl red, one green and one black (or add cocoa instead).

Pour tinted batters into round cake pans and bake according to box.

Start with the black or chocolate layer on the bottom and top with white frosting. Next layer is red and then green. Finish with all white frosting.

Add a red heart to the top of the cake with red frosting and use one red candle. Note: ours always has a red heart on top of it and I'm not sure what it is technically supposed to mean though I could make up lots of ideas.

Round cake symbolizes Jesus being born into the world (earth is round).
Layer one: sin
Layer two: His blood
Layer three: growing in our new life in Him
White frosting: purity or cleanness
Candle: Jesus is the light come into our world and into our hearts.

Sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, act out the Christmas story and add any other fun or unique ideas to celebrate His birth!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Good morning!

We are safely in Colorado and enjoying our family!!! We're headed up to a cabin today for the rest of the week - so I'll be away, but look foward to catching up next week!

Wishing all of you a Merry & Cozy Christmas!!

December 23

One from the archive - I took this on a walk during Make Your Home A Haven week!

This is a beautiful reminder to me of the gift of new life that Jesus' birth brings us!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Car 'FUN' Kits for Littles

Sometime in the last couple of months, David needed a lot of sidewalk chalk for a project at work. When we bought it, I asked him if we could keep the containers since they were sturdy, had lids and handles and were just going to get tossed! He said sure and I've had them in my closet wondering what their future purpose would be.

I still have seven of the containers even after finishing this project, so you'll likely see them again as something else someday!

But, this time around - I really wanted to make up something fun for the loooooong car trip to Colorado! I did not want to spend anything, yet wanted it to be fun and cute for the little ladies. Here is what I came up with:

First, I papered the outside of the containers with scrapbook paper. I added some old hem tape and a chip board letter - all done with hot glue.

I painted the tops of the lids with chalkboard paint and the insides were papered with more paper. Then I glued a felted sweater cuff to the inside of the lid - it does two things. Inside the cuff is a package of crayons and two pieces of chalk. Under the edge of the cuff are some felt shapes with velcro on the back that can be attached to numerous velcro squares on the outside of the box.

The box is filled with little things I had laying around the house: paper, a roll of Scotch tape (my girls l-o-v-e tape!), stickers, little pom pom balls and a sock puppet. My mom always had a bag of toys that were reserved for long road trips and one of my favorite memories is playing with the hand puppets in there. We would wave at the people next to us, etc...

I just took a pair of socks (pink for the pink lover in the family whose name begins with "e") and some notion scraps. (Angie, will you forgive me for using these as puppets?)

The kits will include a copy of this little lap book - isn't it cute?!

Another favorite thing of mine to do in the car is play BINGO! I know the girls are kind of young for this concept, so I just made a picture Bingo game for them. I think we'll just put stickers on top of the pictures as we find the items.

I am interested in hearing your best ideas for entertaining little ones in the car for long periods of time. I look forward to filing these away for our next trip!

December 22

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Fun: Week Three

Friday night, we packed up hot cocoa goodies and some cookies and headed over to David's parents to carol! Of course, we only sang one song - but they did not mind! Then we had yummy treats together.


After their house, we drove to see some Christmas lights! I always love doing this!! And, this house was a favorite because of the gigantic Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and oh my, the entire yard was covered with decorations!

I have done lots of baking this past week - we had a family Christmas dinner with David's family before we left for Colorado.

And, Samuel discovered how much fun it was to pull on ornaments this week!

We experienced the Nativity and I did lots of wrapping. Now, we're on our way to Colorado!

PS: For those of you who wanted to see my wrappings from last year - here you go.

Home

My mind has been filled with thoughts of home lately - and this post says what I was thinking much better than I could articulate. I hope you get a chance to read this, it is worth the time!

Sometimes I find it hard to be a mom who stays home. Not one who doesn't work outside the home, but one who isn't going all the time. Our home simply runs smoother when we are HOME.

Very recently, I have gotten lax about this again and it is heavy on my heart to be committed to being home more.

How about you?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mmmm - Homemade Rolls!

I made these delicious rolls last week for a family Christmas dinner we had here before heading out of town. We love the King's Hawaiian Rolls from the grocery store and I wondered if I could make them. These were very good - next time, I would cut the pineapple juice down a bit and add milk or water in place. But, they were delicious and made great sandwiches with leftover ham the next day!

2 (1/4 oz.) packages active dry yeast (2 Tbsp.)
1 1/2 c. warm pineapple juice (I think I'd do 1 cup next time and 1/2 c. water or milk)
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. mashed potatoes
2 eggs
1/4 c. melted butter
1 tsp. salt
4 1/2 - 5 c. flour
1 Tbsp. melted butter

Combine yeast and pineapple juice until dissolved. Let stand until foamy - about 5 -10 minutes.

Add sugar, potatoes, eggs, 1/4 c. butter, salt and 2 - 2 1/2 c. flour. Mix on medium speed about four minutes.

Stir in enough remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover with a slightly damp towel. Let rise in a warm place, until doubled about 1 hour.

Divide dough into equal portions and place in prepared baking dishes. Cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake until rolls are nicely browned.

I divided mine into 24 rolls, but some of them were pretty big, I think this would make more next time!

December 18

Packing up all my goodies to go over the highways and through the cities to Colorado Springs!!!
A Colorado Christmas at a cabin in the mountains - here we come!

Note: I have a few more posts scheduled and then will take a break over Christmas - hope to be back to posting sometime around the New Year.

The littles and I will be in CO for most of January enjoying family time together ~ so I'm sure I'll have lots of adventures to share from there!

Merry Christmas to each of you and your families!

PS: Just a reminder that my comments are moderated and I will be away from the computer for a few days, if you don't see your comment show up, you'll know why!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

As if you needed more...

...ideas from me on how to use brown kraft paper for gift wrapping. I know, I should just be quiet on this topic - you all know I love it and you all have your own wrapping of choice.

I did a mixture of wrapping this year and not as elaborate as last year! But, a few just jumped out at me as turning out really cute and I could not resist sharing, if you will indulge me!

Ok, I will now leave you alone about this at least until next December - hee hee!

December 17

Can't you just smell the sugary yummy-ness?! More pix here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

He did it again!!!!!

Remember the apron? I mentioned to a couple of friends that perhaps I should start calling Goodwill - God-will, meaning He will provide!!

Last week while Emily was at ballet - I took the other two and ran to the Salvation Army thrift store. We had fifteen minutes tops to just breeze through quickly! When I opened the door, I spied something that (gasp) oh, could it be?

First, the background. About two months ago - I was feeling inspired to create some sort of reading area for my littles in an unused space of the living room.

What I really wanted was the little Pottery Barn Kids Anywhere Chair (or chairs) to put there, some sort of lighting and some sort of book storage. So, I priced the chairs (around $100). Nope - that was not going to work.

A friend mentioned getting them off of ebay - checked that - ($60-$75) still out of my budget. I thought about making a cover and buying the inserts. I thought about making the insert and buying the cover. I thought about trying to make the whole chair.

My mom and I saw a neat old school desk (bench type) and I thought about that. I thought about bean bags, I thought about pillows on the floor or small wooden rocking chairs or completely giving up!

All the while, I knew what would be just perfect is some small scale actual furniture that was made for little people! I scoured the internet for something affordable. Nada.

I could not come up with any solution that would cost any less than $60+ that was what I liked. Until last Tuesday!

Are you seeing where this is going? Yes, when I walked in that thrift store - there was a Pottery Barn Kids Anywhere chair in the color I wanted - red! It was $5. Yes, it went home with us!

It was quite dirty - in fact I was wondering if it was stained. But, as David said - even the foam was worth the $5, so I decided to take a risk. It also had a name embroidered on it: "Gaven" and someone had tried to remove part of it and done a very poor job.

But in spite of all of this, I still took a chance. I am soooo glad I did!!!

I tossed the cover in the wash after using a little Spray and Wash - it came out perfect! Looks brand new! I took all the foam outside and sprayed with disinfectant. Then, I sewed a small piece of blue fabric over the name and it was done before I went to bed that night!

First thing the next morning, they discovered they could both squeeze into it! They have had so much fun with it already (and a few little squabbles over whose turn it is).

Thank You, Lord, for closing all the doors that were not right until this one! Thank You for providing in such a generous way for our family. We did not have to have a cute chair to sit in and read, but it was a blessing to me that You gave it to us anyway. It did not even have to be the exact color I wanted, but You care about even the little things and You chose to shower this blessing on me anyway.

Lord, I know that sometimes others wonder why I say my ideas come from You. I am convinced this is true and this is one example of why - You not only provide the idea, but then provide the way for it to come about!

It reminds me of Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart." It has long been my belief that when we are focusing on Him, the desires of our hearts are FROM Him and His desires for us. So, He delights in fulfilling His will in our lives! I am not delighting in finding the perfect reading chair for my children no matter what the cost. I am delighting in Him, He gave me the idea for the reading area and then He provided fulfillment of this desire.
Psalm 78:4,
"...we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done."

Do you have a story to share of God's provision? Let's praise Him together for His generous provision for us!

December 16

I must really love my husband! (PS: I won!)
More December Photos here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Walking the road to Bethlehem...

Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to participate in an interactive Nativity experience. Aside from the insanely long wait - it was a very neat experience. I left so completely exhausted that I haven't even really processed everything in my mind. This is my attempt to do so -

Note: It wasn't very conducive to take pictures with three little ones and so many other people around - but we did take a couple. Above, sheep in a pen in the marketplace of Bethlehem and below - the stable scene.

Upon arrival, we were assigned a tribe - the tribe of Benjamin. And, names and occupations. My name is Abigail for the evening and I assist my husband in his profession of tent-making. In my hand, I held my citizenship papers and a coin to pay my taxes. I knew that the Roman Centurions awaited.

A soldier burst in to the tent our tribe was in and startled my sweet baby to tears (Samuel was in the wrap) - at first I was very upset. How dare a "pretend" soldier come in and scare my children. I don't want them to remember this experience as frightening. Then in my heart, I paused and realized that no soldier in that circumstance would have done any different. Jews were all the same to the Romans and so they told us over and over. Staring us down, speaking brashly and hurrying everyone along or stopping us at their will. I had a tiny glimpse of what it felt like to be belittled for what you believe, for being a despised people - regardless of age.

They told us we were like sheep - smelled like sheep - acted like sheep and how foolish we were for being "dreamers" and following to Bethlehem in hopes of seeing a baby prophesied 800 years previous.

The soldiers moved us along at their desired pace through the woods. We were traveling to Bethlehem to pay our taxes and to be counted for the census. Along the way, we saw Scripture come to life as we watched an angel appear to Mary, Mary's visit with Elizabeth and Joseph's dilemma regarding what to do regarding their circumstances, the wise men planning their journey and Herod's evil plan to kill all males two and under - I clutched my little Samuel a bit tighter and struggled to explain to Emily who wondered why he would do that.

We moved through the woods - it was dark and late. We must cross the Sea of Galilee to reach Bethlehem. So, we boarded a boat and crossed the "sea" ~ the soldiers talked of lightening the load and tossing someone over (of course, they did not!).

Citizenship papers were scrutinized and some were questioned about their identity when we arrived at the other side. Roman soldiers towered over us on large white horses whose noses were above my head. Arrogant, uncaring and self-centered, the soldiers ruled by generating fear in those under them and they let you know you were under them.

We saw a scene of Zachariah being unable to talk and still we traveled on to Bethlehem. Each of us were tightly clutching our citizenship papers and coin for taxes. We knew we would not be able to get into Bethlehem without it. Some of our tribe talked of trying to overtake the soldiers - I think this was more of a modern day idea as I'm not sure it would have worked out very well in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

Finally we were at the gates of Bethlehem where a greedy tax collector was arrogantly counting his coins and demanding his pay. It was at this point we were required to surrender our citizenship papers and pay our tax upon entering Bethlehem. There were people everywhere, the town was brimming with out of town visitors.

We found ourselves immediately in the marketplace, each one trying to sell us his/her wares. One was selling doves for the sacrifice, another fish or salt, there was a woodcarver, potter, etc... And, we found ourselves outside the inn where the innkeeper informed us he had no room. He offered food and drink, but nothing more. As each merchant worked at selling me their wares, I realized I had no money - I had just spent all I had to get to Bethlehem and pay my tax. One offered to sell me a candle for my baby - unthinkable to me - but would someone in Bethlehem have considered such an offer?

Through the marketplace again, we saw sheep, chickens, ducks, small ponies, candle makers and herb/spice sellers. Exiting Bethlehem at the other side, we found ourselves in a big open field where a fire crackled warmly. We gravitated to the fire and nearly stepped on two sleeping shepherds who lie nearby. They were unhappy that we were there and disturbing their precious sleep. Suddenly, they received a special visit from an angel declaring that they were invited to see God's Son - Jesus - who was in a stable nearby. We ran with them to hurry and find the place of the birth.

Oh, the stable - filled with hay. A young couple held a tiny baby. I wish it had been a quiet and reverent moment - could I kneel and worship Him too?

Lord, You came into a harsh place. The surroundings were unwelcoming in the least. The sacrifice made by God to send You - how can a father send his child into something so undesirable. Love.

How could You respond righteously in such surroundings? When treated as the lowest of the low by the Roman soldiers - You remained perfect and sinless. Love.

You came so humbly. So purely. So divinely. Only God in His infinite love and wisdom could have orchestrated such an event.

And, now, dear friends - I wonder if you have this perfect love in your heart and life? Admitting we need Him to take away our sins and allowing Him to do so, receiving His free gift of forgiveness and salvation - accepting Him - these are all we must do to have eternal life with Him.

Forever with Jesus.

Thank You, Lord, for letting me come afresh to the manger and experience You anew this year. For the opportunity to experience the closest thing I ever can to the night You were born into this world. It was a hard road - just as following You can often be. But, it was a good road - just as walking with You and being in the center of Your will is.

Orange Placecards


Last year, right around Christmas, I found myself blessed with an abundance of oranges! So, was looking for some creative way of using them.

I was inspired, again, by a Matthew Mead article in Country Home and decorated the oranges with whole cloves. Above you see - spelling a word and propping them up on upside-down ice cream dishes.

Place cards were made as well and put at each place - just the first initial of each guest. They don't show up very well in this picture, but looking back - it was the only picture I had!

After Christmas, my Dad sliced these all up and we put them in the freezer where I've been able to use them throughout the year to run through my garbage disposal making it smell great!

What is your favorite place card idea? I haven't decided what to make this year, so look forward to some inspiration!

December 15

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Rusty Robin

This morning, my mind is aflutter with ideas, thoughts and questions about this endeavor. And, I hope you will share your opinion as I plan what the next step is!

Would you share your thoughts? Head over to The Rusty Robin to weigh in...

Winners!

Winners of The Gift of the Christmas Cookie are:

Cheryl
Jenny
Maria K.

I've sent each of you an e-mail already - thanks so much to everyone for sharing their great ideas on giving!! Have a great weekend!

Christmas Fun: Week Two

Here's what we've been up to in the Christmas department this past week!

Boat parade at the downtown waterfront area! Sorry for the picture quality - I mostly just want to preserve the memory for the little ladies!

Hot chocolate bar, peppermint brownies and a viewing of The Polar Express with two ladies who stayed with us traveling with a Christian University praise and worship team.

Note: I know there will be varying opinions on viewing of movies with Santa as the theme. Truthfully, I struggled with this more than I thought I would. In the end, I could not think of a different movie to watch instead, but I don't think I will make plans to watch this again anytime soon. It just felt like a complete contradiction in what I'm trying to teach them about Christmas.

Play in the leaves! Not at all Christmasy, but something we did this week!

Had Emily's Sunday School teacher and her three children over for a fun morning! We made snow globes,

birdseed pinecones,

snowman cookies and had fun playing together!


Making, delivering and eating of Christmas cookies! And, the decorating of gingerbread houses!

How about you?