Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"And since we've no place to go..."

We've been just a little obsessed with the weather lately! They say we've had 5 feet of snow this month, and I believe it. But that's not actually a month's worth, because it didn't start snowing until December 12...

A week later, the kids were shoveling sidewalks...
...and watching the snowplow from the warmth of the living room.
It was so cold that the snowflakes fluttered down and piled up like dainty feathers.
On Christmas Day Lyle and the kids decided it would be fun to build a fire in the backyard!
Here's what our front yard looks like now!
We wonder how long it will take to melt, and how much more we will get before the winter is over... because after all, the first day of winter was just a little over a week ago!

..::shudder::..

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Perfect Peace

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace,
whose mind is stayed on thee.
Isaiah 26:3

Celebrating the coming of the Prince of Peace...

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Christmas Story in Candy

I came across a neat devotional recently that uses different candies to represent parts of the Christmas story. ("Jesus is the 'Riesen' for the season!")My daughter plans to present it when we have my brother-in-law's family over for a Christmas get-together this weekend. She plans to put each kind of candy (enough for everyone to have a piece) in a festive Christmas bag along with the corresponding Bible verse. They have 6 children so she will ask each person to read a verse and pass out the candy for that verse at the appropriate time as she goes through the devotional. I think it will be a really neat way to start our gift-opening time.

We couldn't find Rocky Road bars commercially, so she used this easy recipe to make her own!Hope you're having a wonderful Christmas season!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Vintage Christmas Entertainment

Our family has been enjoying listening to a wide variety of Christmas episodes of old time radio shows this year. It seems that the "holidays" are so politically correct these days that it's almost an effort to remember the true meaning of Christmas. The old radio dramas and comedies from the "golden age of radio" take us back to a simpler, more wholesome time. I like that!


Here are some of my favorites, available free-for-the-listening online:

Fibber McGee & Molly
12-15-1942. Misplaced Christmas Money
12-22-1942. Listening to Christmas Carols
12-21-1943. Looking for a Christmas Tree
12-19-1944. Fibber Snoops for Presents in Closet
12-18-1945. Fibber Paints the Christmas Tree White
12-25-1945. Doc's Gift to McGee
12-24-1946. Fixing Broken Toys for Needy Children
12-16-1947. Making a Fruit Cake from Family Recipe
12-06-1949. Making Christmas Cards

Great Gildersleeve
12-21-1941. Christmas Gift for McGee
12-20-1942. Christmas 1942
12-24-1944. Christmas Eve Program
12-23-1945. Christmas at Home
12-25-1946. Christmas Caroling at Home
12-10-1947. Christmas Shopping
12-24-1947. Christmas Stray Puppy
12-20-1950. Why the Chimes Rang

Hallmark Playhouse
12-23-1948. The Story of Silent Night

Life of Riley
12-17-1944. Christmas Present
12-24-1946. First Christmas
12-27-1947. Special Christmas Present
12-24-1948. Christmas Bonus from Mr. Stevenson

Lum & Abner

12-24-1942. Lum & Abner's Christmas Train Set
12-21-1944. Lum Wants a Leather Desk Set for Christmas
12-25-1944. Lum & Abner's Traditional Christmas Program

The Six Shooter (starring James Stewart)
12-20-1953. Britt Ponsett's Christmas Carol

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Goody Bags

Last year my daughters started a tradition of making holiday goodies for Daddy's co-workers and other friends. We covered boxes with wrapping paper last year, but this year I found these fun "lunch bags" at Dollar Tree, and that simplified things greatly!
Each bag contains a popcorn ball, a baggy of Chex Mix, and 4 or 5 cookies.

The popcorn balls are easy to make. The girls popped up a big bowlful of popcorn. (We use a microwave popper that will pop regular popcorn. I usually add melted butter and salt after it's popped, but for this they didn't.) Then just melt margarine and marshmallows together like you would for Rice Krispy Treats, only substitute the popcorn for the Rice Krispys. Add a little red or green food coloring and form into balls with buttered hands.Our friends seem to like our treats... and the girls sure have fun making them!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Eve Mice

I made these cute little goodies several years ago, and I thought I had posted a picture to my blog at the time. I was telling a friend about them, and I couldn't find that post in the archives. So... I decided to post them again!

They are "Christmas Eve mice"!
My Aunt Lilly shared this idea with us in our family cookbook quite some time ago. They are fiddly to make, but not hard. The base is an open Oreo cookie. The mouse's body is a maraschino cherry dipped in chocolate. Before the chocolate sets, stick the cherry to the bottom of a Hershey's kiss and insert 2 slices of almonds for ears, then set your mouse on the cream filling of the Oreo. The tiny holly garnishes came in a small jar like sprinkles.
"'Twas the night before Christmas
when all through the house,
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse..."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

White Christmas?

Remember my "cute" little faux porch? Well, here's proof that it's not really a porch, but is in fact, just a deck with no roof!
It's been snowing steadily for 24 hours and shows no signs of stopping any time soon... so I may have even more dramatic pictures than these before it's all over!

We got a lot of snow last winter-- much more than usual-- but it was later in the season than this, January and February. I guess this means it's time to hunker down and settle in for the winter. Somehow I think spring is a long way off.

In any case, we'll be having a white Christmas for sure!

Here's the view out the front door. Yes, there's a street out there somewhere!

Oh, and Dad? We aren't snowed in! Just thought you'd like to know that!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Tale of Two Christmas Trees

We put up two Christmas trees in our home this year! I've heard of people doing that, but this is a first for me. I don't know if we'll ever do it again... or if it will become a new tradition! I guess we'll see.
One Saturday morning this past summer my husband and I decided to go to some garage sales in a really exclusive neighborhood in our town. One garage sale we stopped at didn't have a lot of merchandise for sale, but the people were very friendly--an older couple. I bought some nice throw pillows that they told us had come out of their new motor-home. They had it remodeled right after they bought it, and these throw pillows just didn't "go"! They also had two Christmas trees in boxes for sale for $20 each. The man wondered if we needed a Christmas tree. He would sell us one for $10! No, we really didn't need one. We had just bought an artificial tree a year or two ago, so we weren't in the market for another one.After we got back in the car Lyle said to me, "You know, our 6-foot Christmas tree is going to look pretty short with the vaulted ceiling in our new house." I hadn't thought of that. The Christmas trees at the garage sale were 7 and 9 feet tall, so I told Lyle to go back and we would buy one of them. I can't remember which one I told him to get, but he came back with both of them! He said the man told him to just go ahead take them both for $10!!We stowed them away in the rafters of the garage. We sure didn't need three trees, but we decided to hang on to them all for the time being, until we decided which one we liked best.

When it came time to decorate for Christmas, Lyle pulled the two "new" trees down out of the garage and we opened the boxes. I noticed that the 9 foot tree said "slender" on the box. I told Lyle that if it was slender enough I thought it would be neat to put it in the entry way, and we could put the 7 foot tree in the living room. As we began to assemble the taller tree, we decided that yes, that would work.Then we opened the box of the shorter tree. I was startled to discover it was plastic! I don't mean nylon... I mean plastic, like the old plastic artificial flowers people used to decorate with in the 1960s! Plastic-plastic! Can you see the shiny plastic-ness of it? We wondered if the tree was that old. If so, it was probably an expensive tree in it's day. Not only that, every branch had to be individually stuck into the trunk. I wasn't going to use it, but the kids wanted to put it together, so we let them. It is a nice full tree, and looks pretty good, except it's not really sturdy. The branch tend to sag with the weight of the ornaments (just like a live tree!) and the trunk wants to lean. I expect we won't try to use it again... but for this year it gets to be our living room tree! (We left the 6-foot tree in its box in the garage this year.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Photography Workflow

Cynthia at Life is Good has challenged us to share our "photography workflow." She wants to know "what steps do you take to get your pictures from your camera to your blog and/or photo album?" And since I'm absolutely positive there has to be a better way than how I do it, I decided to participate in the hopes that some of you could give me to some tips on how to streamline the process! So... your input is welcome!

  1. Take pictures. I'm still getting used to my new camera, so I try to take several of the same subject, using different settings and different angles. I don't always end up with what I had in mind, but I'm learning!
  2. Pop the memory card out of the camera and plug it into my card reader. This is so much easier than having to connect the camera to the computer. (I don't have a dock for the camera, so I don't know if that would be easier or not.)
  3. Select "open folder to view files" and then drag the files into this month's picture folder. (Pictures --> Lyle Cook Family --> 2008 --> 0812.) I have other folders for "Extended Family" and "Friends" where I store pictures people send me also.
  4. Once the pictures are on the hard drive I put the memory card back in the camera immediately. I've learned if I don't do it right away I may forget and then get somewhere with "no film" in the camera!
  5. Open this month's folder and click to view them with Windows Picture and Fax Viewer. As I look at them the first time, if any are blurry or bad, I just go ahead and click the delete X at the bottom of the viewer to get rid of that one right away.
  6. Sort the remaining pictures into sub-folders for this month. I always have an "At Home" folder and a "Blog" folder, and then folders for special trips or events.
For blogging:
  1. I edit pictures I want to use on my blog with Photoshop. I just leave them in the "Blog" folder until I'm ready to post on my blog, and then I'll open Photoshop and at least reduce the image size, if nothing else. Sometimes I'll add special effects or text.
  2. I use the the Add Image feature on Blogger to add pictures to my blog. I almost always choose Center and Large for photos I've taken myself.
For albums I've mostly used a combination of Photoshop and desk-top publishing to design my own scrapbook pages in the past, but this year I discovered Smilebox and I love it! It's not as flexible or creative as doing my own, but they have a bunch of cool pre-made templates to choose from and it is super-quick! So here is how I currently do my albums:
  1. Open Smilebox.
  2. Decide what layout design I want for the pictures I am going to work with. Perhaps an outdoor theme for camping pictures, or a road trip theme for vacation, etc.
  3. Drag the pictures for this batch into Smilebox.
  4. Insert them in the boxes. Move them around or zoom if needed.
  5. Add captions.
  6. Send the finished album via email to my mother, my sister, and anyone else who might be interested.
  7. Save jpgs of the album to my hard-drive.
  8. Copy the jpgs to my thumb drive.
  9. Give thumb drive to my husband and ask him to print the pages for me at the print shop where he works.
  10. Receive printed pages from my husband. Insert them into page protectors from Staples and put into binder. (I usually make my pages 8.5x11" so they fit in standard page protectors and binders.)
I rarely print individual photos, like we used to with our film cameras. I mostly share pictures via email or online, and then print full pages for my albums. (I do still have years' worth of printed photos to scrapbook, though, from before we had a digital camera. Maybe I'll get caught up some year!)

I would love to hear your suggestions for further streamlining this process! Any tips for me?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Anticipating Christmas

This year as I've watched the Christmas lights and decorations go up all over town, and as I make my own preparations for Christmas, I've been thinking about the special anticipation each December brings. The little children, especially, get so excited for Christmas to come! The festive decorations and music everywhere you go just adds to the expectancy.

I wonder what the expectancy was like that First Christmas? How many people were anticipating the Christ Child? He was the long-awaited Messiah, but many people didn't recognize Him when He came. I wonder if they were too wrapped up just in the busyness of their ordinary daily lives to realize that He had come?

Are we anticipating His Second Coming like a little child anticipates Christmas?

His mercy is on those who fear Him
From generation to generation.
Luke 1:50

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

99 Life Experiences

I saw this on someone else's blog, and thought it would be fun to do. The bolded items are things I've done. (There are quite a few I'd still love to do... some I know I'll never do... and a few I would really rather not do!)

Feel free to copy this to your own blog and bold your experiences. Let me know if you do! I'd love to see your list!

1. Started your own blog (Duh!)
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity (Although, I don't really think about it that way. God has always met our needs, so we can never really give more than we can afford!)
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain (Not Everest or anything... but a small one, yeah.)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty (Well, we started to the top anyway! I think we got about half way up and realized that the line was moving too slow for the amount of time we had. So we went back down.)
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (Umm... if you haven't, and you aren't blind... I think you need to get outside more!)
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (My satisfaction does not come from money.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing (Not rappelling with ropes and gear, but on hikes, yeah.)
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (Do home movies count? No? I didn't think so.)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63.Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check (Unfortunately... unintentionally... *sigh*)
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt

73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (My little toe! That's it!)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person (Yes! This was one of my long-time goals and I finally got to go in 2006!)
80. Published a book (Does a self-published cookbook count? I think it should!)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper (On the front page, above the fold even! Our tiny little town had a front-page feature about the library's story time. And there I was with my toddler on my lap!)
85. Read the entire Bible

86. Visited the White House

87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (Okay, I've never had to do the actual killing, but I have helped pluck freshly-butchered chickens and I think that should count!)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury (I've been called for jury duty once, but was eventually excused.)
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

Looks like I got a lot of livin' yet to do!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad!

As I was looking through some old pictures, I came across this one of my dad when he was a teenager. He was probably 17 or 18 in this picture, and it was obviously taken in December. It was probably not too long before he went away to Bible college. (Or maybe he was home from college for Christmas break.)
What I love about this picture is how young he was, yet he was already committed to following God's will for his life. It took a lot of courage for him to leave his home in Louisiana at age 17 and travel by train to Illinois to put himself through Bible college. But he did it because he felt that's what God wanted him to do. It was after he had been at college for a year or two that he received God's call on his life to become a pastor.

Through the years Dad has never wavered from that early commitment to stay in the center of God's will. There have been hard times, but there have been many blessings, too. As his daughter, I am so appreciative of the Godly heritage he and Mother have given me. I am trying my best to pass that heritage to my own children.

Happy birthday, Daddy! I love you!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Calendar Plate

My mother always uses her "good china" for special occasions -- Thanksgiving, Christmas, company dinners -- and when I was a little girl, any time the table was set with Mother's good china, I had the privilege of eating from this "special" plate. See? It's a calendar of my birth year!
I have four siblings and none of them had a "special" plate. One time I asked Mother where my plate came from and why the others didn't have one.

"Oh, it was in some stuff Grandmother had... and since you were the only grandchild born in 1965, she gave it to you."

It wasn't like Grandmother to buy such things for gifts for the grandchildren. She was much more practical than that, and besides her gifts were usually hand-made. I wonder if she received it as a gift for Christmas 1964 and when 1965 was over she "re-gifted" it to me? Or maybe it was in a box of stuff she got at an auction?

In any case, it was my "special" plate and so I got to eat off of it on special occasions. That's why the design is beginning to wear off. It's amazing to me that it has survived all these years without getting broken!

Visit Coloradolady for more Vintage Thingy Thursday posts.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Family Fun on the Oregon Coast

It didn't work out for us to get together with extended family this year for Thanksgiving, so we decided to have a mini-vacation on the Oregon coast. We got up early Thanksgiving morning and drove all day, arriving at our hotel just before it got dark.

Here is a view of the beach that was just outside our room. It turned out to be gray and drizzly all weekend, but we knew it probably would be.
Still it was warmer than it had been at home (in the high 40s/low 50s) so the girls enjoyed getting their feet wet in the cold waves!

We had a very simple Thanksgiving meal in our room that evening. The menu was turkey (which I had cooked at home and brought along), green bean casserole, instant potatoes, canned corn, green salad from a bag, store-bought rolls, and sparkling apple cider. Usually I like to cook from scratch more, but this is what we did this time!

On Friday we did some indoor sight-seeing in the area. We visited the Tillamook cheese factory. If you don't live in the west, you probably aren't familiar with Tillamook cheese. I wasn't, until I met my husband. He's from California, and raved about Tillamook cheese. It's a favorite of his.

Then we went to the Tillamook Air Museum. It is housed in a HUGE hangar that was built for blimps during World War II. I had no idea that blimps were used in the war... but I learned that they served as escorts to the aircraft carriers as they could "see" much farther from the air and then radio back to the ship. (There are not any blimps in the museum, but quite a few vintage planes.)

Saturday was the foggiest, drizzliest day of the weekend. We visited the Cape Mears lighthouse. It was closed for the season, so we didn't get to go inside, but we enjoyed the hike down to it. It was interesting to me that the lighthouse wasn't very tall. I assume it didn't need to be because of where it was built on the shoreline.

This is a view of the ocean from beside the lighthouse. I can see why a lighthouse was needed at this point... and I wonder if the light was much help in a fog as dense as this one?

On Sunday we headed home and drove north along the coast on Highway 101 for a bit. We drove out of the fog and into the sunshine!

The fog bank in the far distance is where we stayed! Amazing the difference a few miles can make!

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend!