Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007!

Photo by Heather Bauers Photography. Used with permission.

Here's a snapshot of our life in 2007. (Edited text from our Christmas card)

Enjoying our children – Sportster(5), Sister (3) and Smiley (18months). What they come up with never ceases to amaze us!
Playing Sportster & Sister enjoyed swimming lessons, and as a family we went tent-camping trip with our Sunday school community. Daddy & Sportster had fun taking in a Colorado Rockies game, too.
Visiting We enjoyed having many guests in our home throughout the year and have great memories of those times with family and friends. Consider yourself invited if you ever make it out our way.
Working Dear husband as employee, excellent father, chief bedtime-story-reader and avid hockey follower. Rachel as stay-at-home mom, cook, laundress, blogger and coupon clipper. Kiddos find their main work in the business of play and learning to obey and respect their parents.
Improving We finally joined the 21st century and embraced this great invention called a “cell phone.” We also went to work on xeriscaping our front yard and installing a patio in our backyard.
Praying for God's wisdom and direction in parenting, for purpose in living life in this season of rearing young children, for contentment in our circumstances, for healing for loved ones suffering great physical pain and burdened hearts, for growth in our understanding of His Word and reliance on Him.
Thanking God for His provisions great and small. For salvation through His Son. For His mercies which are new every morning. For the Word. For our church home. For a new senior pastor at our church. For loving families. For relationships which challenge and encourage. For shelter and food and clothing. For good health. We serve a faithful Father!

Happy 2008!

Christmas Highlights

We had a great Christmas season. We enjoyed celebrating with our children at home before travelling to see loved ones for the weekend leading up to Christmas. It was a simple celebration with only one token photo taken. Putting the camera away while we opened gifts actually made the experience much more relaxing for all of us. We opened gifts early in the day so the kids would have time to enjoy them before going to bed and so they could show Grandma and Grandpa their new things via webcam that night.

Decorating at our house was light this year. We mostly just put up the tree and a few other things. We have two bins of Christmas decorations which is enough for us, but only one bin full of stuff was put out this year and our house still felt festive. To solve storage and gift security concerns, we decorated with wrapped gifts on our stairway plant shelves and on top of our kitchen cabinets. Just last year in late October our older two children found all the wrapped gifts inside a bag, inside a large box in our basement and opened them all right then and there. Let me just say the joy of wrapping the same gift a second time is just not quite as rich. I also purchased a live clearance rosemary "tree" for $2.50 which was all we spent on decorations this year. Another decoration was a 5 minute project of printing the word "joy" in red ink on scrapbooking paper and putting in a spare matted frame [photo at top of post].

We enjoyed our time spent with family, too, though we ended up "sharing the love" and the flu bug with each family there. Four of the five of us suffered its effects as well. I was able to attend a Julotta service at my parents' church on Christmas morning which was good since our church attendance has been sparse this month due to sick children, which is just par for the course in this stage of life. Our baby is growing up and enjoyed the gifts this year, especially the wrapped packages of others that he tried to run off with again and again.

We are now home and ready to un-decorate and work on getting things put away into their new homes. Happy New Year!

Photo Board

We are delighted each Christmas to receive cards and photos from friends and family and like to display those photos throughout the year on a place other than our fridge. We have had a fancy memo board hanging in our kitchen to hold these photos. It was a MOPS craft a few years ago where we used a picture frame and then inserted a piece of corkboard which I painted and backed it with cardboard. That board was getting too small for all the photos we receive so this year I came up with this. It is simply a painted memo boad (the same one as the advent calendar) hung by a pretty ribbon that was on a package I received this Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Popcorn Treats

Tis the season to thank those who help you all the year through! I really appreciate the care my children receive while I work out at the Y, so I wanted to do something to express our thanks to each staff member. Since we are using what we have this Christmas I had to get creative. I had to think backward and first consider what kinds of packaging I had available and it was pretty slim paper plates in the house, no treat bags and also no disposable food storage containers or platters. What I did have were baggies, the good old-fashioned kind that you tie shut. Now, on to the ingredients. Marshmallows that had seen fresher days (i.e. too smashed together to use for hot chocolate), a few kinds of sweet add-ins and popcorn. I've got it...popcorn balls. I mixed a few recipes I found online and came up with these.
Popcorn Balls
1 lb. marshmallows
1 C. butter
20-22 C. popped popcorn (for me this was 2/3 C. of unpopped kernels)
1/2 of 6 oz. bag of craisins
6 oz. raisins
1 C. peanuts
1/2 of 11 oz. bag of M&Ms
cooking spray, butter or a bit of oil - for your hands
1. Before you turn on your stove:
- run a sinkful of hot soapy water
- line two baking sheets or your countertop with wax paper.
2. Make popcorn and remove any unpopped kernels. Then place in very large bowl. 32 cup capacity should do it.
3. In medium bowl, mix together craisins, raisins, peanuts and M&Ms.
4. Melt butter, then add in marshmallows over low heat, stirring frequently until melted.
5. Pour melted marshmallows over popcorn. Quickly dump pot into soapy water.
6. Stir like crazy! A heat resistant spatula is best. Wooden spoon, not so much.
7. Add the mix-ins and stir quickly.
8. Spray hands with cooking spray.
9. Quickly form into balls and place on wax paper.
10. Wash up your dirty dishes and your popcorn balls should be ready to package.
This made 33 popcorn balls, each being about the size of a small apple.
Once these were made it was on to the packaging. I wrapped each one in a baggie and tied with ribbon. Without any other containers on hand, I put these in a plastic tub, the kind spinach comes in when you buy it at a wholesale club. I put a piece of green tissue paper at the bottom for color, filled it up with the individually wrapped popcorn balls, and placed a thank you card loosely on the edge. At the bottom of the notecard I provided the ingredient list, just to be on the safe side with allergies and such. We'll bring these into those fine folks tomorrow.
Here's a rough cost breakdown.
popcorn - gift from extended family
marshmallows - $1.00
butter - 1.00
craisins - .75
raisins - .75
peanuts - .25
M&Ms - .50 (sale & coupon)
baggies - .50
ribbon, card & tissue - .25
Total Cost = $5, or about 15 cents each
This took under one hour of my time and I hope it will bless them this season.
Below is a bonus for the grandparents of some other sweet things in our house tonight! Smiley was already in bed. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Advent Calendar Board

Last year I saw so many cool Advent calendars that I thought we should really try to have one this year. Being inspired by this catalog and its display of ornaments, I set to work to create a loose impression of this while adding special activites behind each number for our family to enjoy during this season as we celebrate the Savior's birth.

I took a corkboard we had and gave it a coat of deep red paint. It was already red, just not quite the right shade. I then punched out little tags of printed scrapbook paper, stamped numbers for each day and used a hole punch at the top end of each tag. I typed a list of simple, fun and educational ideas and formatted the ideas so two would fit on a 3 1/2 by 5" card when printed. I then printed the cards, cut them in half, punched a hole in the top of each half and mounted a date tag with a gold tack onto the board. The things we have done or will be doing this month include:

Put up the tree
Enjoy hot cocoa with Christmas music
Take a drive to see the lights
Read the Christmas story
Make gingerbread loaves
Deliver gifts to friends & neighbors
Read Christmas cards from friends & family
Go for a moonlight walk to see lights around us
Watch a Christmas movie
Go to the zoo
Eat a candy cane
Put up outside lights
Sing Christmas carols
Discuss Advent in general
First Candle: Good Shepherd / Hope / Prophecy
Second Candle: Forgiveness / Peace
Third Candle: Joy
Fourth Candle: the Son
Christ Candle: Our King has come!
Cut paper snowflakes and hang
Go get Daddy at work & get a holiday coffee
Bring a food donation to Care & Share
Attend a concert
Go see a live nativity
Decorate sugar cookies
Make cookies

So far the kids have enjoyed getting a card down to read and do each night and look forward to that time. This was a super simple project and was designed not to add more items to do this season, but rather help us be more purposeful with our celebration and family time. This was also a frugal project.
Corkboard - on hand
Paint - $.70
2 pieces of scrapbook paper - $.50
13 note cards - $.02 (clearance)
rubber stamps and ink - on hand
tacks - on hand
Total cost = $1.22

After Christmas is over we will store the cards and date tags for another year in an envelope and put the corkboard to other uses. Even though this is not elaborate, I hope we will be able to get a tradition going that will be enjoyed each Christmas in our home. As our children grow and it becomes easier to do some things outside the home we'll easily be able to change out the cards to suit our family's schedule, attention spans and resources.