Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Looking Back and Thinking Ahead

Several of my Bloggy friends have recently given recaps of their lives in 2008. At first I wasn't going to, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do it. I think in some ways it will wrap up the year for me and help me be more ready to move forward into 2009. I also think it will be an excellent way to remember some of the many ways God has blessed us this year. So here goes!

January was a fairly uneventful month. We did our usual activities: playing that the nursing home, participating in church activities, and getting together with friends. Little Man turned four months old in January. His big milestones this month were rolling over, learning to reach for toys, saying "Mama", and trying rice cereal for the first time.

In February we took a road trip to Chelan, WA to visit some dear friends and to meet their two-week old little son. We also began looking at houses to buy. Almost two weeks after looking at the first one, we made an offer on it. Things moved fast! Little Man went to his first basket ball game ever at the local college as well as beginning to seriously eat solid foods like pureed squash.

In March we closed on our house and moved from our apartment the Saturday before Easter. I was SO excited to have my own washer and drier! My husband packed a lot of work into the two weeks between buying the house and moving in. He is such a diligent and skilled worker. Little Man's major milestone in March was sitting up by himself.

April started out with my husband's parents giving us a visit. Later in the month, his sister came to see us too. Little Man had a big month. He got to swing at the park for the first time, he said "Dada" and "up", he waved "by-by" for the first time, and he got two teeth!

May had more unusual activities as we went out East for a funeral of one of my husband's family members. We stayed a couple of nights with his brother and sister-in-law in their lovely New Jersey home then drove though New York (I was excited since it was my first time ever being there, even though we didn't have time to do tourist stuff) to Connecticut where most of the extended family live. Little Man got to meet aunts and uncles, great aunts and uncles (and great-great aunts), second cousins, great-grandmothers, and so on. He was as good as gold and charmed everyone. A couple of other milestones in his life were pulling himself up, learning to feed himself cheerios, saying "thank you" and "ducky", and walking with help.

June was another busy month as we had the wonderful opportunity to have one of my childhood friends from Brazil stay with us for a week. We had such fun taking her on a day trip to Yellowstone (she was fascinated by the geysers), going on a day trip on horseback up to a mountain lake (some friends from church guided us and provided the horses and gear), and staying up late talking. We also made another trip to Chelan, WA, where we played wedding music for the above mentioned friends' little sister's wedding. Little Man had some exciting firsts with going to Yellowstone and riding a horse with me (he was in his baby pack). He also learned how to crawl and get himself into a sitting position. In June I started going to the local farmer's market/craft fair to sell cards and other crafty things. I continued going every Saturday though July and August.

In July we celebrated my husband's birthday. It was another fairly uneventful month with the exception that Little Man stood alone for the first time and got his third and fourth teeth.

In August we went on a lovely camping trip in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks to celebrate our two year anniversary. We enjoyed hiking, admiring scenery, taking freezing cold dips in mountain lakes, and taking lots of photos. My dad's dad visited and got to meet Little Man. Little Man's biggest milestone was taking his first step.

September's biggest event was Little Man's first birthday. His grandparents and Aunt came to visit, and we had a joint celebration for him and his friend who was born two minutes after he was. It was so much fun seeing them interact as they opened presents and messily ate cake. In September these same friends had their little girl, and it was fun to go visit them in the hospital. In addition to his birthday, Little Man had a lot of big happenings in September. He got three more teeth, he started signing "more", and he started playing peek-a-boo. I am so thankful for my Little Man, for the joys and challenges he brings as I teach him and watch him grow. Oh, and I started blogging in September.

In October I had my birthday. I was excited to be able to make tomato soup from tomatoes that I harvested from my own garden! I also made apple butter and canned peaches. We had our first snow of the year on the 10th. October was another not-too-eventful month.

In November, I voted, of course. It was actually the first time I have gotten to vote because of how my age falls with the election years. We celebrated Thanksgiving at our house. We enjoyed having my parents over. Little Man really took off with walking, started getting his molars, and got his first hair cut.

We started December by going to Utah to get together for an early Christmas celebration with my husband's family. We had a lovely time. We celebrated Christmas day with my family. The biggest excitement in December was finding out that I am expecting again and that Baby #2 will be arriving sometime in August. And now we are getting ready to ring in the new year with our friends (the ones whose son shares a birthday with Little Man).

I am so thankful for this year: for the learning and growth that I have had as I strive to be a better wife and mother, for the special friendships that I had the opportunity to build on, for the priceless memories from trips and other "extra" that I will treasure.

Here are some things I am looking forward to in the next year:
~Maybe taking a trip to Oregon.
~Having Baby join us in August.
~Feeling Baby move for the first time.
~Enjoying time with my husband.
~Watching Little Man continue to grow and develop.
~Teaching him and enjoying him every day.
~Finishing (and starting) projects. ; )
~Trying doing craft fairs instead of the farmer's market.
~Trying some new recipes.
~Growing in peace and wisdom as I seek to walk with God.

But I'm not counting on making too many plans yet. "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away." (James 4:13, 14)

Here is what I am counting on: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1:6

I'm looking forward to seeing what God brings next year.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Those pesky emotions!

Yes, today has been one of those up and down days for me. Arg. Those pregnancy hormones have making my life a bit harder recently. But I really wouldn't want to be emotionless, or even to be stuck with only one emotion. I have to smile as I think of the folk tales in which princesses are cursed with laughter being their only response to life's circumstances or to who can only cry no matter how amusing the situation in which they find themselves is. Either one would be an awful place to be!

I find that the key to handling roller coaster emotions is remembering that God is bigger than my feelings, no matter how huge or important they seem, and He wants me to always be subject to the control of His Spirit. In fact, while understanding what my hormones are up to is a helpful way to explain why my emotions are haywire, I must not use them as an excuse to be ruled by my feelings.

"We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ." (II Corinthians 10:5)

"Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit." (Proverbs 25:28)

So that's what I've been thinking about today.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

As most of you know, I find that planning my menu out ahead of time helps me to shop more efficiently since I can make out a complete list that helps me avoid needing to run to the store all the time. It also helps me thaw the right meat the right days and be more prompt with dinner preparations. Some people like to plan all three meals, but I prefer to only plan dinner since I work well with a little bit of flexibility. Even the dinner plans are somewhat flexible, though I do try to abide by them.

I like doing my menu plan in two week segments. These next two weeks I have a few more unusual meals planned than usual. I also am picking up a few meals that were planned but didn't make it in the busy-ness of Christmas time. So, anyway, here goes. Oh, and I usually serve a veggie too, though I don't write it down every time.

December 29-4
M-Garlic-ginger chicken strips, rice
T-Tomato Soup, mashed potatoes, meat balls (double batch, freeze extra for future use)
W-Not sure yet
Th-Pork Chops with stuffing and cream of mushroom soup, rolls (company's coming!)
F-Roasted Chicken
S-Chicken pot pie
Su-Pasta with hamburger red sauce

I am also planning on making chicken broth to freeze for future use from the chicken carcass. I am hoping to be able to cook up all my garbanzo beans since they are getting old and make a bunch of hummus to use for healthy snacks and spreads. I think the extra will freeze nicely.

January 5-11
M-Boston baked beans and brown bread (we're giving this another shot since it didn't happen last time)
T-Pasta with grilled chicken and white sauce
W-Chicken risotto
Th-Stew (crock pot)
F-Meat loaf, roasted potato salad
S-Leftovers or my husband's choice (maybe I can get him it make it) ; )
Su-Lamb Roast with potatoes and carrots

More Menu Plan Monday

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Baby Budgeting

So, I know this isn't even remotely holiday-ish. In fact, I don't even really feel like it is a "me" thing to write about, but it is something I've been thinking about recently with Baby #2 on the way.

As a first-time mom last time around, I often found myself confused and overwhelmed thinking about how we could afford all the stuff that seems necessary for meeting a baby's needs. This time I feel much more confident and would like to share a few tips and ideas that I've gathered over the last year and a half.

My top tips are to think creatively, out of the box, and to resist your urge to buy those highly marketed and overpriced but oh-so-adorable products if you don't need them. Here are a few categorized tips.

Baby furniture:
~Check used furniture, but don't assume that it is the best price. It seems like used baby furniture is often overpriced. Also, if you are buying used, make sure all the parts are there. We got Little Man's second-hand crib for free, and though it has a few issues and isn't quite the beautiful piece of furniture I had envisioned, we saved a ton of money and it works nicely.
~Try to use what you already have. For example, we used the dresser that I used in high school for Little Man's clothes. The top, padded with a thick blanket, can double as a changing table.
~Try doing without. We don't have a changing table, and I find that the top of the dresser or the floor (depending on the height of your dresser and squirminess of your baby) works well. Another example is do you need a bassinet and a crib.
~Consider a booster-seat type high chair that straps on to a kitchen chair or a portable high chair that clips onto a table or counter. They tend to be less expensive and take up less floor space than standard high chairs.

Baby Clothes:
~Accept hand-me-downs! Save the one that are too big: they will be grown into.
~Buy second-hand. You can get so many cute nearly new (or new) brand name baby clothes at thrift stores and yard sales for a fraction of the original price.
~Stock up ahead of time: if you see it, it's a great deal, and you have the money, buy it, even if it's too big. Try to keep in mind the upcoming seasons, though, and estimate what size your child will be when they change.
~Shop clearance racks (keep in mind, though, that you have to have good sales resistance to avoid giving in to those cute non-clearance items!). I was recently able to get polo shirts for $1 and $0.50 respectively for Little Man at J. C. Penny.
~When your child grows into a new size, try working with what you have stocked up from gifts, hand-me-downs and thrift stores for a week or so, then go and buy clothes to fill in the gaps that you've discovered, if necessary.
~If you don't need baby clothes, don't wander aimlessly though the baby clothes section. ; )

~Consider cloth diapers. Even though they are more expensive to get started with, they save a lot of money in the long run. We like to use cloth diapers and home and switch to disposables when we are out and about.
~Try store brand diapers. The name brand ones are super nice when Baby is tiny, but once the baby is a little bigger, the store brand ones can work nicely.
~Store brand wipes are a good option. If you feel that you need to use more eco-friendly wipes, research making your own. There are several techniques and ingredient lists out there.

~Make your own baby food! It's easy. Simply cook the desired food, puree it in your blender or food processor (adding water if necessary), then freeze it into cubes in an ice cube tray. Once the food is frozen, pop the cubes out and store them in freezer bags.
~Consider investing in a baby food mill. They are handy for pureeing small quantities of food.
~Once the baby is past the puree stage, feed them small, soft pieces of what you eat.
~Avoid buying expensive small packages of specialized baby snacks. Small containers of goldfish crackers (or cheerios, or saltines, or graham crackers) work just as well.

~Don't feel like you need to wash all of your baby's clothes separately using a special baby detergent. Unless your baby reacts to your normal detergent, use it on the baby's clothes.
~Don't feel like you have to have the most elaborate, high powered swing or the baby bath tub with the most bells and whistles. The smaller, simpler versions often work as well as the larger, elaborate ones.
~Don't buy every toy marketed as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Invest in a few carefully chosen, durable toys that you would like to have for all your children.
~Try making your baby's blankets. Fleece blankets are super-easy to make, and the fleece goes on sale frequently. Flannel quilts are so nice too.
~Brand name baby toiletries (shampoo, etc.) aren't necessarily better. For example, Little Man had a reaction to Johnson and Johnson shampoo, but he does fine with the store brand.
~You can use a large purse, a tote bag, or a back pack as a diaper bag.
~Consider investing in a car seat that converts from a rear-facing infant seat to a forward-facing toddler seat. There are some cons, but you only have to buy one car seat instead of two.

So there are some ideas that have worked for us. I hope that they help someone. So, did I leave anything out? Please share your handy baby-related tips. I'd love to hear them; maybe they'll help me with Sprinkle (I think that's going to be Baby's pre-ultrasound name). ; )

Friday, December 26, 2008

Another Quiet Day

Today was another quiet day. I worked on my calligraphy projects for my parents' Christmas [ahem, or should I say New Year's] present. I am making a scrapbook calendar for them. Each month will have the month's calendar (of course), one to three photos, and a calligraphy verse that complements the photo(s). I got three of the twelve calligraphies done yesterday and today. Tomorrow I'll work on finishing some more of them.

Little man has enjoyed "playing" the piano since he was a few months old. Recently he has decided that he wants to sit on the piano bench by himself. He's getting to be such a big boy! I took these pictures while he was playing the piano today.

I can hardly wait until we can start teaching him about the technical aspects and the joys of musical communication.

We also took an enjoyable yet cold wintry walk. It is so fun to pull Little Man around in his sled and to be able to enjoy the crisp, snowy world.

Another little thing that happened today for which I'm very thankful is that my husband put up clothesline in our basement. This has multiple benefits. It will save on our bills because it limits the amount that the clothes drier is used, the clothes will dry quickly since they are near the wood stove, and the evaporating water will help humidify our house, which we desperately need.

I am looking forward to another quiet day tomorrow as I enjoy my son and my husband on his days off of work.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Treasures

It finally warmed up enough to take Little Man out to play in the snow! We had a ton of fun pulling him around the street in his little sled, introducing him to the snow, and making snow angels.

We gave him a set of classic wooden blocks for Christmas; he likes them and can already stack up to three on top of each other.

My dear guys taking a breather after wrestling.

My parents gave Little Man an old lap top they had that was collecting dust, and he loves it. He has been enjoying having a computer that he can touch, "type" on, and play with the mouse. It has been a lot of fun.

We had a relaxed, laid-back day with my parents that was a true relief from the crazy busyness that has been going on lately. I hope that you had a joyful and peaceful Christmas. What are some of your treasured moments from the holiday?

Monday, December 22, 2008


Today I cleaned and tidied and worked on laundry. I'm glad. My home is much nicer to be in now. I also made this eclectic little Christmas table decoration with various things I had easy access to around my house. Its components are not all perfect matches, but it's fun, and I like it.

It has snowed a lot today. I am enjoying both the beauty and the less cold weather the cloud cover brings.

Oh, I am tired and am going to sign off for the evening.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Last Week's Parade of Projects

I got a lot of sewing projects done last week. Even some that weren't really important to finish.

Like this cute quilted tote bag. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it yet. I have to feel out a few people's opinions about it before I decide. hehe. ; ) I used up the last of my beloved chocolate brown vintage flower fabric while making it.
Here it is reversed. I worked hard to make the pocket look like that. ; ) There are a few minor design glitches in the tote, but overall, I like it very much.
I also made another tote bag for myself. I love the chunky, loosely woven fabric, and I've been wanting to buy some and use it for a couple of years now. I was excited to finally find something to use it on. I love the way it looks contrasting with the chocolate brown embroidered fabric.
These two tote bags were inspired by me making a tote bag of the same chocolate brown and loosely woven brown as a Christmas gift for one of my good friends. I was delighted to see that I had so much extra fabric and went to town on making tote bags. ; )
I also made a simple, more short person friendly baby sling out of the heavy, embroidered chocolate brown fabric. (I think I have close up photos of it way back in September because I used the same fabric for my bedroom curtains; I liked it so much I had to get more!) I think that the sling could be even a few inches shorter, and I think I'll alter it again. Unfortunately, Little Man seems to have outgrown his super-clingy stage. Oh, well, I can use it with Baby.
This is a clever idea that I got from one of my bloggy friend's pictures of her projects. She posted a link to a pattern, but I like making my own. Here's the result:
Like the tote bag, it has a few glitches, but it did turn out cute. I'm looking forward to filling it and giving it to Little Man for Christmas. I'm anticipating at least a couple of quieter Sundays at church due in part to entertainment from this handy little project.

See how nicely it folds up? It's compact and portable. I'm thinking about maybe trying to make and sell some of these (or variations on it) to sell at local craft fairs next year.

Tomorrow I am going to work on cleaning up the grand project and unfolded-laundry mess in my dinging and living rooms. Maybe I'll post "before" and "after photos to motivate me. Or maybe not since I don't know if I want to be quite that humble.

Welcome Warmth

Today, at long last, (wow, that sounds like a melodramatic Jr. higher) we got our wood stove safely installed in our basement. Or perhaps I should say my husband did; I sat in the relatively warm upstairs while he worked away. (I'm so thankful for him!)

We had to make two trips to Bozeman (two hours away) to get our special-ordered, hard-to-find 8 inch double wall stove pipe with 45 degree angles. It cost more than the wood stove did (we got it used for a good deal, though). : }

But now we can have a blazing fire in it without putting our house in danger of burning down.

The house is already much warmer. Yay! This is reason to celebrate.

So Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Yesterday I found out that the average five-week-old baby (five weeks after conception, that is) is about the size of a sesame seed. And guess what! The sesame-seed-sized baby (about 2 mm) already has a tiny beating heart that circulates blood through its body.

Words fail to try to express my thoughts and feelings.

I am awed.

I am in awe of our all-knowing, all-powerful, loving Creator.

God's Guidance

This morning I realized that I had experienced a wonderful series of guidances from God. It just hit me, and I had to marvel. I love how God works in my life in ways that are subtle yet visible.

This time I wasn't even particularly looking for it, though I did pray a few times about what I should do. The situation was simply cookie deliveries. Yep, that's right. God revealed the work of His Spirit to me during cookie deliveries.

See, this year I decided to try to make little plates of cookies and candies for each of the widows in our church as well as for a few of my friends. I hoped to deliver each plate and accompany it with a visit. Well, as you know, tidy little schedules hardly ever work as planned. Mine didn't. I had to deliver almost half of the cookies at church today.

But here's the cool part. I delivered cookies to every person who wasn't able to make it today, either because of bad health or because of travel plans (except one older lady, who lives half an hour out of town--I couldn't drive out there during the week, and she can't get out too much in cold weather). So, I was able to deliver all the left over plates of goodies this morning at church!

My favorite example is this: I have a very busy friend who is hard to touch base with. She is a college student with a lot of family in town, and I am a busy mom and wife. Well, the first day I went to do deliveries, I called before I left, and she didn't answer, so I left her a message and figured we'd get together the next day. At the tail end of my deliveries, as I was driving by her house, I spontaneously decided to see if she was there. Well, I caught her just as she was getting in her car to go out. Since her errand wasn't urgent, she invited me in, and we had a lovely visit. It turned out that she had suddenly decided to go our of town for the holiday and was leaving early the next morning. If I had waited, I would have missed her.

Some people would call these occurrences mere coincidences, but I believe that God was guiding me, giving me wisdom in my priorities. I am so thankful to have realized this morning that He gave me wisdom in the seemingly small situation of cookie delivering because I often pray for His guidance, and He gives it, but I forget to thank Him. Today I remembered.

And I want to remember tomorrow too.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Our Casual Concert

This evening we had the privilege of playing a casual Christmas concert at our local Coffee shop. In our small town, almost all the stores close by 5:00-6:00 p.m. (seriously, I could probably count the ones that stay open later than that on one hand) except on the three Friday evenings before Christmas, where the festive event known as "The Christmas Stroll" takes place, and they all stay open until 8:00 or 8:30. It's fun. You get all bundled up for the freezing cold weather, walk around enjoying shopping, sign up for a drawing at many of the stores, and then go to the drawing at the end of the evening. Last year I won a $10 gift certificate to our local book store, and my husband won a Patagonia brand winter hat.

Anyway, all that rambling explanation to say that we got to play at the coffee shop during the final Christmas Stroll of the year. Quite a few friends came to hear us play considering how late we were on getting the word out. The music went well, and we had a wonderful time! When we came home, we both kept exclaiming, "That was so much fun!" Now I'm winding down and feeling ready for bed...

Oh, and here's the Baby update: I called the Doctor's office today to make my first appointment, and they used their little chart thingy to determine that my estimated due date is August 19 (our wedding anniversary!), which puts me at about 5 weeks. That doesn't quite seem right to me, but oh well, Baby will come when he/she is ready! ; )
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

So, the big news is...

That this afternoon we found out that Baby #2 is on the way! I think the due date is around September 2nd. We are simultaneously thrilled and sober. Having a baby brings so much joy, but a lot of responsibility comes along with the joy. I know that there will be new challenges with being pregnant while having a small son to care for and then with having two little people around but am looking forward to growing and learning and experiencing each day's joys. ; ) Hehe, I'm so excited! (and I hope it's a girl this time!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Cheer Shared

Today my flute student gave me a Christmas wreath her mom made. This is not a normal-everyday wreath made silk materials. It is a lovely real-branch wreath accented by juniper berries and fir cones. It is beautiful.

I was touched and delighted. The gift was thoughtful. I hung it inside where it brings the smell of Christmas into my undecorated house. Christmas cheer shared.

Later in the day, I made plates of cookies to distribute to friends and lonely people who I know. Christmas cheer to be shared.

I brought up my card table, draped it with a festive table cloth, moved my Christmas cookies onto it (after all, the dining room table it to eat meals at!), and placed it with our gifts under my Christmas cheer wreath.

I am looking forward to giving these bead and wire leaf earrings to a good friend as a Christmas gift. She loves pinks and blues. Christmas cheer to be shared.

Yesterday I made this little angel pin for a lady I wanted to visit who can have no gluten because of allergies (a plate of cookies just wouldn't cut it). When I took it to her this evening, she loved it. Christmas cheer shared.

This afternoon I made some cookie deliveries and gave of my time to lonely folks and treasured friends. Christmas cheer shared. Tomorrow I will make more deliveries and look forward to more sharing of Christmas cheer!

Christmas Cookies (and Candy)

One treasured tradition that I did not have to make do without this year was Christmas baking! Oh, how I love searching for recipes, finding the perfect ones, and concocting tempting confections. I did decide that it would be wise to strictly limit myself, though, to three kinds of cookies and two kinds of candy.

And it almost worked. I just "had" to make three types of candy, but I did stick to three kinds of cookies.

I started out by making white chocolate fudge. It was surprisingly simple and oh, so tasty! I substituted toasted chopped cashews instead of the pecans since they were what I had on hand, and they were still amazing, so I imagine you could play around with the nut selection. (I'm thinking pistachios and dried cranberries for next year!)

I also made Chocolate Crinkles, yummy chocolate cookies posted by Kate. I think they are like two-bite sized brownies, but my husband says they're not quite like brownies. These will definitely be on my make-again list, and I probably won't wait until next Christmas, either!

I attempted to make some mint meringue cookies, but the egg mixture was a total flop: goopy and stringy instead of fluffy and light. So, I added a bit of shortening and some baking powder and flour. They ended up being thin, crispy minty cookies, which while not what I was aiming for, worked well enough.

My third kind of cookie was one of my long time favorites, Split Seconds. They are so pretty yet so easy and quick!

My second kind of candy was Brazilian Brigadeiros. Another super-easy, very yummy recipe. (Sorry I don't have a photo of them!)

And last, but not least, I made penuche! Penuche is a German brown sugar fudge that is unbelievably sweet, that is, until you see the ingredient list, then you can believe it. The first time I ate it, I "fell in love" with it, and every Christmas since, I've made it!

I am going to share the recipe that was passed on to me by my mother-in-law. She has carried on the line of penuche-making-tradition from her great-grandmother. And now I get to be a part of this sugary heritage. Anyway, here's the recipe. My comments are in brackets.


2 pounds brown sugar [yep, you're reading that right; it's a whole bag! It really does make better penuche if you use good brown sugar. Last year I learned that the hard way when I used store brand instead of C&H]
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts

Use big pan! [This is really important! The sugary mixture takes up much more space when boiling]. Combine sugars, milk and syrup. Bring to a boil and cook for 12 minutes or to the soft ball stage. [If you live at a high altitue like I do, look up a list on candy-making temperatures: the desired temperature goes lower the higher you get.] Remove from heat and beat till very thick. [I usually let it cool until it is 110 degrees before beating it so that I won't wear me and my mixer out by needing to beat it for ever.] Add butter, nuts and vanilla. Pour into buttered cookie pan and cut while still warm. [That's a 9x13 pan, by the way. My penuche always turns out much softer than my mother-in-law's does, so I have to wait until it's cool to cut it, then I have to take it out of it's pan, turn it over, and let it sit over night. Keep an eye on yours to see when the best time to cut it is.)

Monday, December 15, 2008


I love holidays--cooking, decorating, celebrating, and I love traditions. We moved frequently while I was growing up, so seasonal celebrations changed almost yearly; however, we had a half-joke that went like this: if we do it two years in a row, it's a tradition. I treasured those traditions and enthusiastically helped my parents stick to them.

Then I got married, and my husband and I began forming our own traditions. This year I have had to realize that while traditions are fun and good as "servants," I can't let them take over my life as "masters." When I do, it makes for needlessly guilty moments and a lot more stress than I need. I'm thankful to be beginig to get it figured out this year.

For example, I'm not decorating my house for Christmas this year. I'm sad to be temporarily letting go of this treasured tradition, but at the same time, I am very relieved. We went to visit my husband's family the weekend after Thanksgiving, so the time that I would normally have spent decorating was spent in a flurry of getting ready to travel. By the time we were recovered, I would have only had the decorations up to enjoy for 2-3 weeks. And honestly, thinking about keeping a busy toddler out of them and then having to take them all down and pack them up again in January was discouraging and daunting. Plus there are some other things that I feel are very important to do this year, and I don't want to take the time away from them.

I think that one of the big things I have learned is that the outer trappings are not what make Christmas what it is. What makes Christmas "Christmas" is what we make of it. I want Little Man to grow up remembering this as a time of joy and peace, of giving and love for others, without the stress that seems rampant around holidays. And if I have to cut a few things out each year to achieve that, I am willing to.

Now, back to all those important things...

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

First off, I want to tell you about an awesome fudge recipe I found and made. I always thought that making fudge was a mysterious art that requires years of work to perfect. And maybe some recipes are, but this one isn't. I was pleasantly surprised. Click here for the recipe for the yummy white chocolate fudge I made early this week.'s the menu for Monday, December 15-Monday, December 29

Monday, the 15th: crock pot chili
Tuesday, the 16th: tacos
Wednesday, the 17th: chicken risotto
Thursday, the 18th: fried chicken and scalloped potatoes
Friday, the 19th: snack before concert, maybe sandwiches at coffee shop after concert?
Saturday, the 20th: leftovers or spontaneous fixings

Sunday, the 21st: sandwiches
Monday, the 22nd: Italian sausage stew
Tuesday, the 23rd: Garlic-ginger chicken strips and rice
Wednesday, the 24th: TBD
Thursday, the 25th: Brazilian dinner for Christmas at my parents' house
Friday, the 26th: Spaghetti and meat balls
Saturday, the 27th: Leftovers
Sunday, the 28th: Crock pot roast

Monday, the 29th: Homemade fettuccine noodles with my husband's choice of red or white sauce (I'll bet he goes with white). ; )

more menu plan monday

Brazilian Candy Recipe

In my search for Christmas baking recipes, I came across this recipe for a Brazilian candy called brigadeiros or "brigadiers". I can't express my delight and general excited thrilledness over finding it! I'll try to give you at least an idea by giving you some background.

See, my family lived in Brazil for four years; I spent my fifth through ninth years happily enjoying every minute there and trying to convince the world that I was a Brazilian and not an American. ; )

In Brazil parties of all sorts and sizes are a very big deal, and one of the requirements for parties and receptions was yummy foods. Imagine a little girl (very aware of her own cuteness, I'm afraid) sitting at a party enjoying the most important part of the whole deal (in her mind, at least) as she tucked away doces (bite sized sweets) and salgadinhos (bite sized salty treats).

The first chocolatey-gooey bite of brigadeiro brought back a flood of warm memories; eating them almost makes me feel like a little girl again. And guess what. They are super easy to make!


3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter

In a small saucepan, bring the cocoa powder, condensed milk and butter to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook and stir until thickened. Transfer to a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled. Roll into 1-in. balls; roll in sprinkles (or finely chopped nuts, or powdered sugar if you are a cheap-skate like me). Store in the refrigerator.

cold without, busywarmth within

Actually, it's been pretty cold inside too. (The frost on the window in the picture is inside our house.) Our poor overworked furnace isn't doing so well keeping our house warm. Considering that it's currently -15 degrees with a windchill of -31 degrees, we are not surprised. Still, we moved our mattress out to the living room where the gas fireplace keeps the chilly air slightly more at bay.

Yesterday we got somewhere between 6 and 12 inches of snow--it's hard to tell how much it actually was because the wind blew it all into drifts, so in some places it is much shallower, and in others it is significantly deeper. It is so beautiful! I am excited to have white Christmas...

Little Man loved watching the snow fall (he also loves crackers with peanut butter, can you tell?). I wish I could have taken him out to play in the snow, but I didn't think it would be wise to take him out in the bitter cold.

Yesterday was just the day for sitting curled up reading (or blogging), but I resisted the urge and instead finished a couple of projects whose looming deadline (today) prompted my self-denial. ; ) Not that they weren't fun too...

The first project that I finished was a custom Christmas card for a lady in our church who wanted to give it to a coworker for a Secret Santa deal. (I blotted out their names in the picture, because some people are nervous about the Internet, and I didn't have the chance to ask permission.)

She gave me the wording she wanted in it, and as you can see, I turned it into a festive calligraphy card. I decided to mount the words on a fairly simple background and am so pleased with the classy way it turned out.

I also finished a baby quilt as a gift at a baby shower I attended today. It is bright. I think I am going to call it "cherry rose pinwheels". "Cherry" because that's what the bright pink and green remind me of, rose because of the tiny rosebud print that pulls it all together.

We finished off the evening by going over to our friends' house (the ones I took family pictures of) where we made home made ravioli. husband is an amazing cook!

We were excited to use the new pasta roller they got us for Christmas. We have been wanting a pasta roller for years now, and when they brought it out to give to us, I was almost speechless! It works so quickly and efficiently rolls out sheets of pasta that what would normally take a lot of time and effort.

Tonight our church had its annual Sunday School Christmas program. My husband and mom teamed up to write and direct it, and it went so well! I was so proud of them. Little Man was a cute little sheep, but sadly, I forgot my camera, so I have no photos. :(

I am looking ahead to another full week as I am hoping to finish my Christmas baking and make deliveries of plates of cookies. In addition, we are playing at the nursing home of Tuesday. We also have a small Christmas concert at a local coffee shop on Friday evening! I'm so excited!

I should close this long post and move on to my menu planning!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm back!

I'm home! And I'm oh, so glad to be here even though I truly enjoyed our trip. There is nothing like being able to sleep in your own bed and cook in your own kitchen...

But we really had a delightful time visiting my husband's parents. All three of his siblings were able to come too, so it was a large, noisy, and generally fun family gathering.

My in-laws had so much fun spoiling the two grandbabies, smothering them in kisses (my mother-in-law) and reading the "special" version of The Pokey Little Puppy to them (my father-in-law).

It was the first time the two little people were together. Little Man is about five months older than his cousin, and they soon became fast friends.

They played together, shouted to each other from their separate rooms at nap time, explored together, and kept us all entertained together.

They even expressed interest in the same people and things. Here they are admiring my husband's guitar playing.

My sisters-in-law and I had fun cooking with our mother-in-law, shopping, laughing, entertaining babies, and playing games with the guys.

We enjoyed going miniature golfing as a group with everyone, exchanging Christmas gifts, eating at Einstein Brothers for breakfast (while the babies were cared for by Nonnie and Grandpa), and so much more. It was a relaxing though exhausting good time! ; )

Now I have come home to recover but find myself busier than ever blogging, preparing for our Church's Christmas program, attending musical events (and maybe playing in one of them), addressing envelopes and mailing Christmas CDs, baking and delivering cookies, making my parents gift--not to mention normal things like cleaning, grocery shopping, cooking, eating, and sleeping. ; ) But that's all right. After all, Christmas only comes once a year, and I can always catch up on sleep in January...maybe...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Friends and Family Pictures

Today I had the privilege of taking family/Christmas pictures for some of our very good friends here in Montana. This was my first attempt at taking formal photos of anyone other than my son, so I was simultaneously excited and a tad nervous.

After over 100 pictures (I was snapping them quickly since it can be a challenge to get good pictures of two babies), we called it a day. I came home, uploaded the photos, and found that I did get some good ones.

We have a unique and fun story that we have about us and these friends, and it's one that I don't get tired of telling. ; ) We found out that we were expecting our first babies about the same time. In fact, our due dates were only two weeks apart. Throughout our pregnancies we joked about being in the hospital at the same time.

Well, we did end up being in the hospital at the same time. We were, in fact, right next door and our boys were born two minutes apart! It has been so much fun seeing them grow and develop together and become friends. It has also been fun having another mom to compare notes with and discuss "baby stuff" with.

Their little girl arrived about a year after their son, and as you can see, she is one precious little princess. ; )

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Our Christmas "Cards"

Last night we finished recording the music for our Christmas CD "card"! We worked primarily on "Mary, Did You Know?", and it is our best yet. We are getting to know our equipment and editing programs as well as just feeling a lot more relaxed about the whole recording process. The combination makes for some happy music. ; )

Here are links to our music if you would like to listen:
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel
Silent Night
Ubi Caritas

Unfortunately I can't post the link for "Mary, Did You Know" since we are still working out licensing. We want to be careful to be as honest as possible to the original artist. But if you really want to hear it, you can buy a copy of the CD for $5. ; ) E-mail me at benjamin.and.christina at if you are interested.

We are planning on signing the CDs with red and green sharpies and sending them out with our family picture (shown above). We were hoping to get them mailed before our trip, but I don't think that will happen. I'm going to aim for right after it, though, so they will still arrive in plenty of time.

Quilt Sewing and Suitcase Packing

I did it! I finished my second Celtic fair quilt this morning. I'm so very pleased with how it turned out. I was really hoping to get all three of them done before this weekend, but I don't think I will have time...

This is definitely my favorite of the three. I like it so much that I'm having a really hard time thinking of selling it. : } I love the pattern, the colors and prints, the borders. But I will sell it (I hope).

Thursday we are leaving on a six hour drive going to an early Christmas get-together with my husband's family. His sister is driving from northern Montana, one brother and his wife are coming from New Jersey, and the other brother, his wife, and their daughter are coming from Arizona. So, this family get-together is a big deal.

Little Man will get to meet his cousin for the first time (she is about five months younger than he is). It will be fun to see them interact. I will enjoy getting to spend time with my sisters-in-law again. I am interested to see how it works out now that there are babies in the equation. ; )

I really should go...I have so much to do before now and Thursday morning. Folding laundry, washing dishes, packing, cleaning, more packing, putting the folded clothes away, maybe getting our Christmas cards out, more recording, teaching a flute lesson, getting the spare room ready for my sister-in-law to stay in over night, playing music at the nursing home, not to mention sleeping and eating!

But it's a good kind of hurry. I may update again before we leave, and then again, I might not. ; )

Monday, December 1, 2008

homemade flannel diapers--a labor of love

A few weeks ago Christina wrote a post about her distress about her homemade diapers disintegrating, and her happy solution for stopping the damage. At that time, someone asked for the directions for how I make the diapers. Hence this post.

Here is the pattern I use. Please kindly excuse my lack of artistic ability. : ) For each diaper, I cut two of the pattern out of cotton flannel. I have made some with the same fabric on the inside as on the outside, but with these I chose to use yellow on the inside to minimize the bright stains that newborns will make.

I would also note that these diapers are a bit large for newborns. An alternative is just to make the diapers smaller--I also made a few that were 12 inches in length and in width, which were still a bit large for a 7-8 pound newborn. At first we folded the top or bottom a bit in order to adjust the length to his size; still, he soon outgrew the smaller diapers even without them being folded.

I lay them out on the fabric like this to make the most of the fabric.

After cutting out the front and back of all the diapers, I attach about 4 inches of narrow elastic to the wrong side of the outside piece of the diaper. After backstitching at one end, I pull the elastic taut and zigzag over the elastic about 3/4 of an inch from the curve of the leg. The picture should give you an idea of where the elastic goes.

For the absorbent padding, I used four layers of cotton quilt batting cut to approximately 4 inches by 15 inches. These are sewn to the wrong side of the inside piece (the lining) of the diaper.

When the elastic is on the outer piece, and the padding is attached to the inner piece, they are ready to be lined up, wrong sides together, and topstitched together. For these diapers, I topstitched around at about 1/2 inch, and then zigzag stitched the edge. If you have a serger, I think you could combine the the topstitching and zigzagging. I also take one topstitching line through the middle of the diaper from top to bottom (or from bottom to top) in order to secure the batting.

Here is a finished diaper. When I first started this last batch of diapers, each one took about half an hour to assemble and complete. By the time I had made a few dozen, I could complete one in 20 minutes. It is a labor of love that I don't think I could ever do for money.