Friday, December 31, 2010

One Little Word

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In several of the homeschooling communities I participate in, having a word that sums up an area of your life that you’d like to work on is traditional. The idea is that you pick a word that will help you sum up something you’d like to be or do in the new year. From that word you focus on the attitude and reflections of what it means to you. Have you ever heard the statement that One little word can make a big difference? 
The thing about that One Little Word is that each and every word is so different, and even when people pick identical words they can mean something so different to each person. I defined my word, for myself, with the intentional definitions that fit what I want to work on and the person I’d like to see myself become based on this one word. Then I wrote them down and framed them, because honestly I need those reminders all the time. 


Wanna know a secret? The first year I participated in this I chose the word Grace. I felt it was a word that reflected a lot of things I wanted to work on. I didn’t do so well keeping it as my focus though, and perhaps it’s because I have this absurd perfectionistic streak that screams rude things like: “You messed up and now it won’t be able to start fresh until next year.” 

I fumbled a lot that first year, but I also made some interesting progress too. Since then I’ve picked other words, and funnily enough I think they have, in some way, all been spin offs of my very first word. Was it intentional? No, I don’t think so.


I start thinking about my word in November or December and eventually I find myself dwelling on one word that I can’t let go of. You wanna know something funny? This year I just couldn’t let go of the word Grace again. I felt the need to come back to it and learn to extend it again. Some people might find that awkward, but I see it as a chance to learn more from it. To expand myself a bit more.

This year will be different, and not because I will permit my perfectionism to shine. Quit the opposite actually, as I’m often trying to burry that stubborn streak. Instead I decided to leave myself notes all over the house. Nothing fancy or extreme, just a few gentle reminders of what I want to focus on.

I have a long list of goals for my new year, but really extending grace to my family is top. Do you have any idea what the extent of Grace even means? I thought I did, but then I started researching it and was amazed at how far that took me.

It made me aware that Grace is so much more then mercy and forgiveness. Which led me right back to where I meant to be that very first year. Studying Grace through the Handbook that guides me through so much of my life. After all if ones focus is in Him then it’s going to be pretty hard to be led off track, right?

So here I am, at the end of the year thinking about a word I attempted to tackle a few years ago and it dawned on me that I can either embrace it or I can run from it. I’m choosing to embrace it, to make the most of it, to run with it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas 2010

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We had a wild, fun, loud, and joyful Christmas. We spent the weekend with family playing lots of fun games and being the house that everyone in the neighborhood stared at, literally. During one hideous display of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas" there was some scrambling and pointing and gawking, all coming from a neighbors home. And really, I can't blame them because I'm pretty sure my own ears will never be the same!

For the first year since Morgan was born my children slept in past six thirty, which had me a little concerned as I sat on the edge of the bed tapping my toes and wondering if I should scream, "Merry Christmas!" in an effort to rouse the house. Not being at home, I kept myself in check but do admit to waking one child.

We had a grand time at the park testing out Jayden's new Hover craft which is just amazing! There's new stuffed animals quickly making best of friends. And our very own Humphrey Hamster who invaded the fruit bowl and make quick work of the last wrinkly, less then desirable, nectarine. We're wondering what kind of adventures he might have in our own home!

There were video chats with far away family, and yes that's a giant water gun my child is pointing at the computer. He thought it was empty, until he pulled the trigger... Nothing was ruined but there was much squealing and scrambling, and grandparents who played along with the whole thing.

There were plenty of Christmas crackers, most of which the kids enjoyed making themselves. There were squeaky balloons, and green finger nails, funky red lips, and a few trinkets that we're still wondering what they are suppose to be. Plenty of typical nonsense style Christmas jokes, all though I'm still holding out hope that one day they'll actually be funny!

We've enjoyed a grand and wondrous Christmas season and are looking forward to a grand New Year before we finish packing away all the Christmas decorations and store the memories for another year.

Nativity Cookie Boxes

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I decided to share a proper photo of our cookie boxes because the photo I'd shared on the original post was not a box of Nativity Cookies. It was simply a random box of cookies that fit the post I'd written.

So here's what a box of our cookies tends to look like when we give it away. On the top you'll see (L to R) Peanut Butter Cookies, Ginger Bread Camels, 7 Layer Bars, Haystacks. Everything else was under it in another layer except for the fudge and candy canes. Our sugar-free fudge was super tasty, but with the wonderfully warm weather we had on Christmas Eve I decided not to put them in the boxes for fear it would melt all over.  You'll also notice that the chocolate"y" items I did include are separated from the other bits by a small piece of wax paper. Normally I do fun little muffin or mini loaf baking papers, but I forgot to scout some out this year and this way worked just as well!

Instead I took the entire pan of fudge with me and told people to be sure to help themselves and take some home after I explained why it wasn't in the box. I could have made it slightly differently and I think it would have held up better and not been as prone to melt, maybe next year.


As for the candy canes. I was short on ribbon to tie the boxes up with so I used the candy canes on the top instead. Morgan printed and cut out the story that goes with the boxes and taped them up under the tails of the candy canes.  As a side note here, the candy canes are the only bit of the boxes that were not sugar-free. For our own box I simply used the peppermint starburst style candies as that was the only way I could get them without sugar. Jayden was slightly miffed because he really wanted a proper candy cane, but he also knew what having one would mean for him so he decided to sulk a bit and move onward.


You can find the Printable Card for these here, if you're interested

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Santa Sacks

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Have you ever had a Santa Sack? Nope, neither have we, but we thought it would be a lot of fun to make some this year. In fact, I was finishing them off on December 23rd in a bit of a rush as I only decided to make each family member one the evening before! I know, but honestly when an idea strikes I can have a really hard time shaking it until I try it out.

My kids have never requested anything from Santa Clause. We've always made it quite clear from the start that the gifts given on Christmas morning come straight from Daddy & Mommy. We have nothing against the big jolly fellow dressed in red, we simply made the choice because we wanted to keep our focus on the God's gift to us.

Mr S's

This Christmas we stayed with family over the Christmas holiday, and we thought it would be easier to stick each family members gifts in one sack and not worry about leaving any behind (which I did anyway) or lose them once we got there or cause great chaos up on Christmas morning. Plus, a Santa Sack is a rather traditional part of Christmas morning here in Australia.. or at least amongst Mr S.'s family.

Morgan's

The history behind them is that when Christmas trees were first being put in homes they were quite expensive and not everyone could afford one. Families who couldn't left a sack or pillow case out for Santa to fill for them instead. Many families still chose to follow this tradition or simply use the sack in place of gift wrap or even with gift wrap.

Mine, because you can be sure the guys didn't want a ruffle!
The boys sacks are a bit bigger because we tend to be a bit more splurge"y" for them. In fact, the items I'd picked up for their stockings didn't end up fitting after I put a few sweets in, which meant they had a larger stash of goodies in their sacks then they'd normally get. Mr S and I tend to give each other smaller gifts so I was happy to make ours a bit smaller.


However, some of them were also based on what material I had stashed away. I had enough muslin (or calico depending on where you're from) left over to make the boys identical bags (no wonder people think they are twins) with different appliques on them. I also made the base of the bags a different color for the ease of knowing which was which at a quick glance.


I had a lot of fun whipping these up and didn't measure it at all. I just went with what looked like the right size and based it on what I had as well. The boys applique is made from felt that I blanket stitched around with my machine. The smiles were satin stitched to make them big and full. Mr S's and mine are basically the size of a pillow case but with a drawstring. The boys are slightly larger.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Technology

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Mr S. surprised me with a fun new camera for Christmas. I've mentioned a few (dozen) times that I needed something light that I can stick in my pocket or bag. Mr S is our official photographer around here and his camera weighs a few hundred pounds. Okay, not really, but man it's heavy and it's not the kind of thing you'll pull out to go on your daily walk. Or, at least I wont, he does.

I tend to come home from my daily walks on the beach and the boys pester me with all sorts of questions as I unload sea glass and other finds from the beach. They want to know all about what I've seen and are always disappointed when I take them down later and the same items are no longer there. Like the day I spotted a chin strap penguin on our beach, or the mummified shark (complete intact), or when our silly dog tried to sniff the oncoming horde of crabs attempting to burry themselves in sand.

Anyway, Mr S picked out a camera he felt would fit the need I'd mentioned and there was much delight when I discovered it on Christmas morning. In fact, I was so taken aback I actually asked him if it was the real thing of would I find something else hidden in the box! After all, he did wrap a dvd in an old keyboard box to throw me off.

Now this nifty small camera has a huge manual with it. Huge in the fact that it's twice the width of length of the camera. As I was thumbing through the manual on Christmas Day I noticed something that grabbed my attention. It stated that the camera had a mode where it would recognize a human face and then a smile on said human face and it would only snap the picture when the human face had smiled. I found the entire thing very funny and mentioned it to Mr S who instantly popped my camera into this mode. Then I asked people to help me test it:

It picked up this beautiful smile instantly when Mr S tested the mode.
It was happy to take this photo too with two smiling faces in it.

We told Nana to smile big for the camera, and when it didn't recognize her smile she did this.
Which caused this reaction on the other side of the table, Mr S is actually attempting to wipe away tears of laughter!
The moral of the story is, never attempt to test your new camera modes on people jacked up on Cheezles and Sparkling Grape Juice because clearly the excitement is just too much for them! All though personally, I still think it was that liver and salmon pate but I might be wrong.. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Water Fun

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Let me share some funny stories with you, because our home (and life) seems to be full of them.. Jayden is a water bug. He always has been. He lives to be in the water, except when his eczema is scabbed over, but we won't discuss that small issue. The point is he adores water in any and all forms. This child has never run screaming or complained of bathing in his life; he'd be over the moon if we permitted several baths a day!

So with the knowledge that summer is suppose to be here, and by "suppose" I mean, we shouldn't still need woollen socks, jeans, and jumpers. We should, in all fairness, be in shorts and t-shirts and barefooted... but I'm getting off track. The point is, with summer upon us Jayden has been begging for a water gun. I've ignored his please and managed to escape this need for some time now. It's not that I have a problem, per say, with a water gun, it's that the weather just hasn't been water gun warm enough.


My boys have also always been mistaken for twins. No joke. When Morgan was an infant he was 5 days younger this one of his cousins. When the two would be out in public the question always came up. Then Jayden arrived, and he was a very tall baby. He caught Morgan up in height and has never looked back. I'm constantly asked if they are twins, so when I purchased the kids swim suits for Christmas and they weren't with me I nearly fell over when the fellow asked me if I had twins. I was completely taken aback until I realized what I was purchasing. 2 matching swimsuits in the exact same size (12's for the record.. Holy Stinking Cow!), 2 pairs of sunnies the only differing feature was a truck or car on the side, and 2 small nerf guns that could clip on their pants. Needless to say the clerk was taken aback when I informed him I was not the mother of twins. Mr S and the boys laughed themselves silly when I told them I was asked if I had twins, that was before they saw the gifts.


Christmas morning dawned bright, warm, and down right beautiful. After gifts were open and breakfast was consumed Nana walked outside and announced to the boys that they'd forgotten to open a package each from her. The boys were in awe as they'd all ready opened their gifts from Nana, but they didn't hesitate to rip the paper off and scream like maniacs when they discovered she'd bought them matching water guns that can hold a litre plus of fluids at one time!


Swim suits were donned, cousins were rounded up, guns were filled with water and the noisiest, wettest, funniest water fight you've ever witness ensued. These crazy toys can squirt the entire length of the cousin's back garden so the boys had quite the range on them!


Needless to say, cousins needed hoses to help defend themselves, and that blob of yellow in the right hand corner, that's a pile of sponges. Some of us threw a few of those down onto the water fighters, until they attempted to turn the hose on us. Then some of us withdrew to the back corners in an attempt to save cameras from getting ruined!


It kept them busy for the better part of an hour and then a few couldn't handle the cold anymore and it was suggested we conserve the water for a while. Funnily enough, I supplied my guys with new suits and skipped the idea of new beach towels this year.. normally a staple with a sand pail under their stockings (or in place of a stocking) this didn't stop a certain little water bug though...


Nope, not one bit. He decided to blunk his bottom inside a pail of cold water and "drip dry" right into the bucket. His cousin decided to give it a go too and see how it worked. The best part? When we told Jayden he needed to come dry off so we could slather him with eczema cream the wet of his body and suit caused a suction in the bucket and we had to pry the bucket off of him. This caused another round of laughter followed by the unmistakable sound of a suction cup being pried loose!

Homemade Christmas Ornaments

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I've mentioned that each Christmas we make scented ornaments. It's something we've been doing since Morgan was 10 months old, or basically his first Christmas. The idea came from a Family Fun Magazine and it was so simple we've kept it up for 9 years now, with the exception of last year when I could not score enough cinnamon to make these little ornaments.

The first year I made the ornaments I traced Morgan's itty bitty hand onto paper, cut that out and then traced around it with a knife on the dough. Thus I created lots of little handprints and had enough from one batch of dough to give them away to each relative and still had a few handprints to spare. When Jayden was born I had to make a double batch in order to make that many handprints, but rather then an excess of leftover handprints we pulled out cookie cutters and let Morgan go to town on the extra dough.

Our apartment smelled heavenly that Christmas. The neighbors probably thought I was baking gobs of cinnamony goodness as I dried and hung ornaments. We had the sweetest little snowmen and angels hanging from our Christmas tree with a few store bought items.

By Jayden's second Christmas a double batch of dough was barely enough to make all the needed handprints! There was no spare dough for anything and I was slightly disappointed not to expand our collection of homemade ornaments.

Morgan's '06 hanging just over his '10 handprint
When we made them in 2006 we made a double batch and found we had just enough dough to cover all needed handprints, some of which are still carefully stashed away in the cupboard waiting to be mailed to relatives in America. I'm a tad slow, can you tell?

In 2008 I made sure we made up a triple batch of dough so the kids could pull out cookie cutters and go wild! We ended up with such a fun abundance of homemade ornaments that we had some hanging on the tree, some on a book case stretched through the dinning area, and another set that we string up in the bathroom.


In 2009 we couldn't all the ingredients we needed and it was a small relief to not have to juggle how much dough to make. It's also a little sad to think one day I'll be looking back on my ornaments and wonder what size my kids hands were that year. Maybe, just maybe, my son's will carry on this tradition and I can adore those new handprints instead of fussing over what isn't..

In 2010, I couldn't find big bottles of cinnamon, but I did raid 3 grocery stores for small packets of cinnamon in order to have just enough for one batch of these ornaments. It gave me enough handprints to share with both sets of grandparents and keep one set for myself. That's a grand total of 6 handprints. I couldn't decide if I should laugh or cry so I made this funny choking sound and Mr S thought I was eating the dough. We did, however have just enough left over to make 5 funny snails with our newest cookie cutter. Four of them made the cutest little present toppers for four cousins.

As for how we give out the handprints.. Well, ours are often have a bit of twine running through them and are hung on the Christmas tree or the wall of the house, but the ones we give away tend to look like this on top of Christmas parcels:


I'll also add that due to some unexpected circumstances this month I was making these ornaments the week of Christmas this year. That's not normally enough time to let them dry out, especially if your area is humid or excessively cold. So on a whim I threw my oven onto the lowest setting (90 c) and popped them in on two different trays. I shut the oven and then did the unthinkable. I left the house.

Yep, I went to town to pick up Christmas photos and ink and then went to watch a parade in a completely different town. Stayed for a lovely dinner with Nana and then returned back home again. One pan was done, the other wasn't. I flipped the "undone" pans ornaments over and popped it back in for another 30 minutes. Then I pulled it out and left both pans on the counter to cool overnight. They were perfect and cut down big time on drying time!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Message From Us To You: Christmas 2010

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Hey!  For unto you a child is born!

For unto you a child is born this day in the city of David, a Savior which is Christ our Lord. And this shall be a sign to you, you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, Everlasing Father, The Prince of Peace. 

Wishing each and everyone of you a very Blessed & Merry Christmas! 
May you know and feel the peace of Him this Christmas as you celebrate His birth with your family's.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Nativity Cookie Printable

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Here's the promised printable to go with the Cookie Box I shared about in November. You can click on the image above to obtain a copy or click here for the pdf which does not have the watermark stamp on it. It prints two to a page and is set up for how we'll be using it this year.  Still looking for a quick and simple way to share the true meaning of Christmas and give away goodies at the same time? Michele has shared another idea that is absolutely fantastic! We might use it this year for our neighbors.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

'Tis The Season..

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Yes, that's two different trees. There's a third one, mini, that stays up year round with our birds on it. The boys join an ornament swap with other homeschoolers each year. Over the years we've collected enough ornaments that the boys decorate one tree with just those ornaments. They have so much fun waiting to see what's coming and then trying to decide if they know which book the other family studied and based their ornament on. So the ornaments from years based go on the tree with white lights, the ones from the current year go on the mini tree, and our family tree which we put presents under has the multicolored lights.

Christmas Parade 2010

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It's always been a long standing tradition in our family to go watch the annual Christmas parade(s) in our area. It's something we did in America and we continue to do so here. Honestly, I love parades! I miss the big exessively long one we use to see in America. I'm talking so long you'd be luck if your rear didn't freeze to the sidewalk while you watched it. I recall taking quilts and getting up periodically to move just to keep from freezing. We are, however, grateful and content with the parade we can see here.. in the summer. All though the parade on Thursday happened on the 16th day of Summer, I will confess we were in long sleeves, long pants, and regretted not bringing a blanket.

There was much anticipation as we awaited the parade's arrival on our small stretch of the road. We could hear it long before we could see it and the boys became antsy. The minute we could see lights flashing Jayden jumped up clutched my hand and refused to let go as he stood there and waved to every single person in the parade. In fact he looked just like this through most of it:


You might think he was looking for the people passing out candies, or the motorcycles, or the horses (who weren't there this year), but no, he only had eyes for one thing..


And he didn't once complain they were too loud or cry because he was too busy waving like mad and wondering if the ambulance was coming and if it did if the man who came and fixed his leg would be in it today. He was sad that it wasn't present, only the St John's Ambo was present, and it was dead last just in case anyone in the parade needed to "drop out".


We think this is suppose to be Santa Clause, but we were more amazed at the size of those hands and how big the entire thing was! It hung off the front of a semi truck.


Then there was this bear. We're still in awe of it's size and wondering where on earth they found it. Not to mention where they store it, because clearly it's as big as that brick shop you can see in the background! Amazing..

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Homemade Gifts

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I didn't vanish off the face of the earth over the past few days, I've been buried in the craft room working on a last minute project for our nieces/cousins. You see, we had this grand plan to get the girls each a bracelet and make three of them a ribbon message board. Only, when we went to get the picture frames I couldn't get what I was after and instead of stressing out and running to a hundred different stores I suggested we revamp our plans. The guys wanted ideas and when I suggested a covered slightly quilted notebook cover I'd seen they agreed that it was a grand idea.

So, with a 9 days to go until Christmas, and we'll be visiting with family on the 24th, so that really only left 8 days, and we still have to finish off our Christmas baking before then.. Yeah, there was a bit of a scramble around here to get it all done in, but it happened!


They are really simple, and I deviated a little from the instructions, and oddly enough despite using the exact same measurements and having the exact same notebooks they all came out a bit different too. Weird, huh? My guys were especially keen on all the colorful ribbon. Morgan loves that bright rainbow ribbon and has used it a few times on his own craft projects, I honestly can't remember where on earth I got it from though!


I ended up doing a quick search for some fun little embroidery patterns because I loved the effect of her altered journal cover. Unfortunately my store didn't have the ric-rac I was after, so I skipped that part.  Anyway, after searching done some simple and fun patterns we selected one we felt matched each person, or that we thought each person would like the most. It was a tough call and I still have a few patterns left that I'll have to find something to do with because they are really sweet!


I managed to stitch this one up yesterday afternoon while listening to an audio book. I'm not super happy with the purple flowers at the top, but the overall effect is nice and I loved the bright colors. Hopefully the receiver will as well. I had some cute egg material on hand that I used to make a quilted patch up the back of it, but I didn't get a picture of it. I found the bird pattern here.


So these monkeys are for the same monkey lover we made the cake for. I hope she enjoys them. I added the polka dots on the hats because otherwise the hats didn't look quite right. I added that same quilt strip up the back of it too. I envisioned some of the cute sock monkey material I've seen on craft blogs, but I've yet to spot any in my craft shops. You can find the monkey pattern here.


Is that bear cute or what? Morgan was slightly disappointed that the bear wasn't colored in and didn't really like it "plain". He loves color so that didn't surprise me too much, but hopefully the child receiving it won't mind. I ended up adding the blue ribbon with invisible thread because I thought the front needed a bit more of something.


Here's the back of it. So, the quilt squares might not seem like much, but they all meant something to me for this particular person. The grass and rock is a fat quarter I picked up to make a block for a school quilt based on the book Going On A Bear Hunt. The turtle material was used because the receiver is also asking for a turtle, and the bear material was.. well bear like considering the cover! You can find the bear pattern here. You will ignore all those threads I clearly need to go and snip, won't you?


And here's the last one. I do believe the girl on the cover is meant to be singing, but it took me a few minutes to see that myself. It's just that I don't think she has a giant pink nose and all, you know? I dunno, maybe she's screaming because a bird is sitting on her head, but the bird is awful tranquil looking for the girl to be screaming. Anyway, Mr S swore this was a perfect fit for the person we made it for and I went with it. (Believe it or not, the person receiving this was the flower girl in our wedding.. now she's driving and babysitting our kids.. makes a person wonder where on earth the time went!) I ended up pulling out some buttons shaped like flowers that I had instead of embroidering billions of flowers on the cover. I'm hoping the buttons won't make it hard to write on the left side of that notebook! Where I couldn't fit buttons close together I did 3-4 french knots to look like a flower bud.


I love the way the quilting on this one worked out because it wraps all the way around the book and runs up the side. If you open the notebook the bottom strip runs inside of it onto the flaps that help hold the notebook in place. All though, Morgan was convinced I'd made it into an L shape on purpose because the young lady we're giving this to happens to have a name that starts with an L. I didn't do it in purpose! I just needed something to fill in the space under the girl on the front and I didn't want to put her name on it because I hadn't personalized any of the other journal covers! You can find the pattern for the girl here.


And there you have it, 4 lovely notebook covers! I'm planning to make one for myself as well, but in a more leisurely manner.. you know between batches of cookies and present wrapping. I'm still waiting on presents to arrive in the mail which is causing lots of excitement over the mailman's daily arrivals, and of course when I go in my room to open all packages and letters the children clamber outside the door attempting to see if they can peek in through the crack. I wonder how long it will take them to remember I have a ground floor room and if they walked outside they could peer straight into my bedroom??

Notes: There are no instructions for actually altering the cover. I simply cut the size material called for on the "back" and then folded over the 3-inches you'd sew for the pocket and seam and then centered it from there. However, after making four of them, I'm trying a different method for the one I'm working on for myself. We'll see how that goes!