Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Fun

We had a lovely Christmas Day, just the four of us. We enjoyed our gift exchange, playing games, watching movies, yummy snacks, and just hanging out together. We thought about our families in other places and wished we could see them. And we counted our blessings!

In the evening we went for a drive to "see the lights." We were especially impressed with this lights-set-to-music display across town:

Lyle, of course, was fascinated with the technology behind the display. When we came home, he researched it to find out how it was done. He said, "That would be so much fun to set up something like that. I would love it!" Time and money restraints will probably prohibit that from ever happening. But I guess he can dream!

Hope you are enjoying this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dress-up Time!

 This past weekend my daughter and I enjoyed the opportunity to dress up to attend the performance of the Nutcracker Suite with the Spokane Symphony. My daughter and her friend organized the evening, and had a wonderful time planning their outfits. They went all out with formals and fancy wraps. I think the excuse to dress up was as much fun for them as getting to see the ballet! We went with several friends. It was a fun evening!
Such lovely young ladies!
The mohair/silk wrap and half-gloves I crocheted for my daughter.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wits and Wagers Game - review

My family is somewhat picky when it comes to table games we enjoy. More accurately, Lyle and I are picky. The kids enjoy a wide variety of games, but especially ones they can get us to play with them. Which, admittedly, aren't that many. We are more apt to play games around the picnic table when we're camping, but we will occasionally play games on Sundays or holidays at home.

North Star Games sent me Wits and Wagers Family edition to review for TOS Crew just before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day we tried it out. All four of us loved it! It's a trivia type game, but the answers are always numbers. Questions range from things we should know... (How many feet in a mile?) silly... (How many colors of Froot Loops are there?) obscure... (How many stories was the tallest skyscraper before 1890? --or something like that. I told you it was obscure!) What makes it fun is that you don't have to know the answers. You can make an educated guess... or a wild guess. Everyone guesses on each question and writes his answer on a little marker board. Then all the boards are turned over so everyone can see all the guesses. At that point you have a chance to "wager" on whether you think your own answer is the closest to being right, or if someone else's is. For example, I had a ballpark idea of how many feet are in a mile, but I wasn't sure of the exact number. However, I knew Lyle would know. So I wrote down my best guess, but then I "wagered" on his guess. You get points for guessing or wagering on the closest number without going over. Each turn has the potential of 1-4 points. The first one to reach 15 points wins.

The questions are fun and lend themselves to generating interesting discussions-- which makes playing a game all the more fun, in my opinion. Each question card also lists the source of the "trivia" as well as an extra little snippet of information related to the question, so it's educational as well.

We also played it as a group game for our Christmas party, dividing into 5 teams of 2-3 people each. To simplify it for the larger group, we left off the "wagering" step and just did the guessing part. It took longer because without the "wagering" there is only a potential 1 point per turn. But it was still a lot of fun, and interesting to see who knew the answers to which questions.

Wits and Wagers Family retails for $19.99, and can be found at Target, Amazon, and your local toy and game retailers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Things I Think About on the Night Shift...

   [Written in the wee hours after tending to my sick husband:]
When my sisters and I were in high school we thought we'd like to become nurses. We were avid fans of nurse novels. Our favorites were the Cherry Ames books and Avalon romances with nurse heroines. The stories made nursing seem so noble and glamorous. As it turns out, my sisters both went on to become nurses. (Thank you, Helen Wells and Colleen Reece!) For me, the "glamour" of nursing wore off the summer I was 18. I got a job as a nurse's aid in a nursing home, and soon discovered I wasn't cut out for nursing at all.

That long-ago summer did give me an appreciation for those who are called to the medical field, as well as sympathy for those who have chronic illnesses. I remember one exercise we did in a training workshop that really made an impression on me. We were to make a list of the top 10 most important things in life. I can't remember what we finally narrowed it down to. Perhaps something like family, home, health, memories, sight... Then the workshop leader had us start crossing things off that short list, and told us that many nursing home residents didn't have most of the things on the Top 10 list -- including health. I have never taken health for granted since then.

For the past few weeks my family has been fighting colds and flu, with the last 3 days being particularly difficult. This is unusual for us, as we are typically pretty healthy. Currently, my husband and younger daughter are in bed with fever, coughs, aches, and chills. So I've been pressed into service as a "nurse" once again. It's not been hard. It's all part of being a mother. They are good "patients" and I know they will soon recover. I'm sorry they feel bad and I hope I don't catch it from them, but in any case, it's mostly just a temporary inconvenience. Life gets put on hold when we are sick. Our family isn't up to our normal activities. It's not fun -- and there's certainly no glamour to it, but this, too, will pass.

I'm reminded again to not take health for granted. There are those for whom illness is not a temporary thing, but rather an ongoing way of life. God bless those with chronic illnesses... and those who take care of them.

Counting my blessings...

Monday, December 13, 2010

December Monday

The weather in my neck of the woods: Unpredictable. After the record-breaking snowfall we had in November, I was sure we wouldn't see the ground again until March at the earliest. And then we got more snow, which confirmed my suspicion... but the last few days have been "warmer" (high 30s, low 40s) and raining, so much to my amazement the snow is about gone. If I had my way we would have a White Christmas, with just enough more through January to make it seem like winter. Then when Valentine's Day is over, it can be spring! It doesn't usually happen that way around these parts, though. *sigh*

Things that make me happy: Productive, fun weekends. Working alongside Lyle to get projects done on Saturday, then just hanging out enjoying our home and family on Sunday.

Book I'm reading: The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello

What's on my TV today: We probably won't watch it today, but I added the VeggieTales take on It's a Wonderful Life to our Netflix queue. I like to watch the classic at Christmas time, and thought it would be fun to see the VeggieTales rendition.

On the menu for dinner: Beef and Vegetable Stew. Some nasty virus (or two) has been making the rounds of my family for the past couple months. The kids have both been sick twice, and now Lyle is fighting it. So I wanted something extra-nutritional to help build up our immune systems.

On my To Do List: 
  • Alter a dress.
  • Finish gift-wrapping.
  • Mail packages.
  • Mail Christmas letters.
New recipe I tried: Chocolate-dipped marshmallows on stirring straws. I saw the idea in a magazine and made some up to serve with hot cocoa at our Christmas party. They were a big hit with the kids!

In the craft basket: I'm about to finish knitting a pair of socks. I like to keep a pair on the needles (I knit both socks at the same time on circular needles) because it's a nice, small take-along project. This pair finishes up the sock yarn I had on-hand. Guess that means I'll have to go buy some more. If you insist.

Looking forward to this week: Attending the Nutcracker with my daughters on Friday evening. We're going with a few friends, and we're planning to dress up fancy! It should be fun.

Tips and Tricks: Using printed gift boxes instead of wrapping paper is a huge time-saver (not to mention being "green") for family gifts. In the past few years I haven't been inclined to take the time to make gorgeous gift packages... though I have in the past, and may again in the future. I picked up a good supply of printed gift boxes one year after Christmas, and I've been re-using them each year.  I write the person's name in the corner of the bottom of the box. The following year, I just draw a line through it (unless it happens to be to the same person again) and write the current recipient's name under it. Some of my boxes have been used at least 3 years so far. My family doesn't mind.

My favorite blog post this week: How to measure yarn in wraps-per-inch.

On my mind: My family's health. Hoping we will all be feeling better soon.

Scripture Reading:
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. --John 1:14

Visit Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for more Happy Homemaker Monday posts.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gift Idea for Kids (plus Freebies)

If you're interested in wholesome kid's books you probably already know about Susan Marlow's Circle C Adventures series. These are exciting adventure stories set in the old west. They are written for kids in the 9-14 age range, but my older teen enjoys them as much as my younger daughter. There are 6 books in the original series, which was just finished this year, and they are now available in a boxed set at a substantial discount. You can get the complete set at CBD for $29.99 which is 25% off, or if you qualify for wholesale prices (and homeschoolers do!) Library and Educational Services has the boxed set for $23.49 which is more than 40% off! It would make a perfect gift for the "tweens" and young teens on your Christmas list.

Younger children will enjoy the new Circle C Beginnings series. Only the first two books have been released so far: Andi's Pony Trouble and Andi's Indian Summer. The stories are about the same characters feature in Circle C Adventures, but several years earlier, so Andi and her friends are younger. The stories are early chapter books for emerging readers. I have found that my older children enjoy them as well because they are a "prequel" to the main series. Books 3 and 4 are due out in March, with more to come!
Susan Marlow also has some great freebies to go along with both series. You can download free Activity Packs to go along with the Circle C Beginnings books or free Study Guides to go along with the Circle C Adventures.

But the best part? Susan has written a 4-part bonus short story about Andi which she is posting on Andi's Blog just in time for Christmas! Part 1 is up now. Be sure and check back to read the rest of the story. I know I will!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Favorite Christmas Recipes

Is anything more cozy than the fragrance of Christmas baking? We love to make goodies to take to parties and get-togethers, and to make up goody bags to give out to friends and neighbors. Here are some of our favorites (with recipes I have posted previously):
Diary of a Stay at Home Mom is featuring Christmas recipes each Thursday this month, if you're looking for more ideas.

What are some of your favorite holiday food traditions?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Purity and Holiness

The girls and I have been reading When God Writes Your Love Story together. It is an excellent book on preparing for marriage. I especially appreciated this insight:
"Several generations back, Christianity in this country began to swing in an unhealthy direction, focusing on the holiness and righteous standard of God while excluding the crucial elements of love and grace. Christians tried to live uprightly in their own strength, without the enabling power of the Spirit of God. The result was a stiff religious legalism that pushed people away from the faith in droves.

Today, many have swung to the opposite extreme. Trying to balance the unloving, super-religious hypocrisy of past generations and redeem the bad reputation it gave to Christianity, a large number of modern pastors and Christian leaders have overemphasized the unconditional love and forgiveness of God. As a result, quite a few key elements of the true Christian life, such as holiness, righteousness, and purity have become taboo subjects in many churches...

But we cannot separate purity and holiness from the Christian life. God is love, but He is also holy. It is impossible for us to walk in darkness and light simultaneously. We cannot serve both sin and the kingdom of God at the same time. We cannot live a life of impurity and remain in unhindered fellowship with the King of kings." --Eric and Leslie Ludy, When God Writes Your Love Story

Monday, December 6, 2010

"The Way to a Man's Heart..."

Coming up with the perfect gift for my husband is always a challenge. I want it to be something special that will express how much I love and appreciate him. Over the years I've learned that men don't want sentimental gifts. At least, my husband doesn't. The gifts he seems to appreciate the most are practical things, especially if it involves food! Isn't that funny? Something that he's going to eat, and then it will be gone. Here are some gift ideas along that line that my husband really enjoys.
  • a tin of chocolate chip cookies made from his mother's recipe
  • a batch of fudge
  • a batch of chocolate no-bake cookies
  • a box of See's chocolates 
  • a poster-board size card with a silly message using candy bars to spell out parts of the greeting (I've done this several times before, but I can't find where I've blogged about it. You can just Google "candy bar card" for ideas.)
  • a giant Hershey's candy bar
  • a big bag of M&M's (Do you see the pattern here? The man does love his chocolate!)
  • a cheese tray
  • breakfast dates on Saturday mornings (On work days he goes to work too early to want to take the time to sit down to eat, so weekend breakfasts are a treat for him.)
I try to mix it up a bit from one occasion to the next just to keep him guessing... and I usually try to throw in a few other practical gifts-- like tools, socks, and underwear. I know. It sounds boring to me. But what can I say? That's what he wants!

Interestingly enough, when I called my Dad yesterday for his birthday, he told me all about the wonderful apple pie Mother had made him. He described how she served it with whipped cream and how delicious it was. He didn't mention any other gifts. Yup. I'm pretty sure the old adage still holds: The way to a man's heart is through his stomach!

Visit Chrysalis for more Marriage Monday posts on "Joy for Two at Christmas."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Holiday Hospitality

We hosted a small gathering of friends in our home last night. It was not an elaborate party, but everyone seemed to have a good time. It made me wonder why we don't do that more often. It seems our society in general has moved away from visiting in homes to other types of social gatherings.

Of course, there are other ways to show hospitality. Going out for dinner or coffee come to mind. Those are nice gestures, too, but in these economic times can be prohibitive. Entertaining at home is much less costly-- especially when everyone brings a dish or two to share.

When I was growing up we kids loved to "have company." I remember coming home from school one day to find that Mother had cleaned the house up especially nice. "Who's coming over?" we wanted to know. She laughed and said, "Do we have to have company to clean up the house?" I guess we just knew that was part of the deal.

While I wish I was the type of housekeeper who always kept my house "company clean," I'm not. So, yes, it requires a little effort to get the house in order to have friends over. But it is so rewarding. I love it when friends accept an invitation to "Come on over!"

Don't  you?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Advent Resource

As we've been studying Ancient Times this year, we've been reading Bible stories that follow along with the chronology of World History. Interestingly enough, as we approach the Advent season we have reached the time of the Roman Empire in our history studies.

This morning I found a free resource that I plan to use along with our history and Bible studies this month. It is the Jesse Tree Advent Devotional Book. You may download it for free by subscribing to A Holy Experience blog. It includes daily devotionals for the Advent season telling the story of the Old Testament leading up to the birth of Christ.

It also includes artsy "ornament" print-outs to go with each devotional. The idea is to put one on the tree each day, or use them however you would like. I think they will be great additions to our Book of Time, as we'll be doing this devotional at the beginning of our school time each day.

Often families take the month of December off from doing their regular school work to focus on holiday activities. I think this could also be the foundation of a very special Christmas unit study, if you wanted to add in some supplemental reading and crafts. Just an idea! Enjoy!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Irish Chain Quilt

It's pushing two years since I first posted about my Bedroom-Makeover-in-the-Works. I wish I could announce that it is finally finished... but, no, it's still in the works. I have, however, finished the quilt. My mother pieced it for me and I hand-quilted it. She also made matching pillow shams. It was time-consuming, but we are both so pleased with how it turned out.

Next up, I need to decide on what to put on the window. I did start a crocheted curtain like I mentioned in my earlier post, but I'm not sure if that's really what I want or not. It's been awhile since I worked on it, so I should probably get it out and think about it some more.

I have also considered white-washing the walls, so that the wood grain still shows through the white. Lyle's not crazy about that idea. I think I would like it... but what if I get tired of it? I'm not sure it would be possible to take it back off, and then I'd have to just paint over it. So I think I'll just leave the walls the way they are.

How would you decorate if your bedroom had knotty pine walls?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Crochet Fun

 I recently snagged this "loverly" collection of close to 200 afghan patterns at a thrift store. It's one of those build-a-binder collections, where you subscribe and get so many patterns a month to put in your binder. There are sections for antique styles (my favorites!), mile-a-minute, granny squares, quilt-inspired, geometric, afghans for babies and kids, and more! I have enjoyed poring over the pictures, trying to decide on my favorites. I like the "antique" patterns best. Ahhh... if I just had all the time in the world to crochet... and an unlimited supply of yarn...

 One pattern in particular caught my eye... well, two actually... Sunbonnet Sue and Overall Sam. They made me think of my Aunt 'Lene. Earlier this year she finished a Sunbonnet Sue quilt that my grandma had started. Since then she's made several other quilts, which she posts about on her blog, Meditations and Memories. I happen to know that Aunt 'Lene crochets, too, so I think I'm going to mail these two patterns to her and see what she can make of them. I think it would be cute to make one afghan with blocks from both patterns. Whaddya think, Aunt 'Lene? Up for a little blog challenge from your "favorite" niece? I bet some of your little great-grand-young'n's would like this throw!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ready or Not...

 I've always thought of Thanksgiving as a fall holiday. Not this year. After a beautiful, mild fall, winter arrived abruptly a few days ago. The calendar says it's still almost a month until winter starts... so what's up with all the snow and cold already?
 We're not talking about a soft, fluffy early snow flurry. It's cold-cold and we experienced a real Little-House-on-the-Prairie-style blizzard earlier this week. The snow piled up and the wind blew it all over the place.
 A couple weeks ago we had a non-snowy wind storm that blew our aging fence over. Lyle was able to brace it back up as a temporary fix. During the blizzard we wondered if it would hold. It did. I thought it was interesting how the wind carved the drifts along the fence as it blew from north to south. It's weird that that there is almost-bare ground in places, and high drifts in other places.
 Finally, the wind stopped... but the snow has continued to fall.
I guess it's time to just hunker down for a Long Winter. We are grateful for health and safety... a happy family... a warm home... and all the food we need.

Hope you're having a wonderful Thanksgiving, whatever the weather is doing where you are.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November Monday

The weather in my neck of the woods: Gray and damp, and dark very early. Typical November weather.
Things that make me happy: Hanging out with my husband.
Book I'm reading: Too Much Stuff by Kathryn Porter, and When God Writes Your Love Story by Eric and Leslie Ludy.
What's on my TV today: No idea. Whatever Lyle is in the mood for if we have time to watch TV this evening. He enjoys winding down with a show or two before bedtime, and I just mostly keep him company by crocheting and listening to whatever he's watching.
On the menu for dinner: Beef stew.
On my To Do List: Homeschooling, work, packing for a trip this weekend.
New Recipe: My daughter made a wonderful pumpkin cheesecake in honor of our anniversary.
In the craft basket: 4 exquisite balls of mohair and silk yarn that I am crocheting into a formal wrap for my daughter.
Looking forward to this week: Heading to Helena, Montana this weekend to represent Sonlight at the Education Options Symposium.
Tips and Tricks: A small pumpkin makes a pretty nifty "vase."
On my mind: Lyle and I have been reading our pre-marriage letters together, reminding us of decisions we made and experiences we had long ago. It's been a good time to reminisce about the past and plan for the future.
Devotionals, Scripture Reading, Key Verses:
Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock. Luke 6:47-48.

Visit Diary of a Stay-at-Home Mom for more Happy Homemaker Monday posts.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Red Velvet Tote - review

I have to tell you about the gorgeous red velvet embroidered tote I received just before our trip. Yes, it's a review product, and yes, I agreed to post about it in exchange for a bag... but honestly? I love it! The picture just doesn't do it justice, so I wasn't really sure what to expect. First of all, it's much larger than I expected... roomy enough to carry my netbook, knitting, small purse, and miscellaneous other "necessities" that I seem to think I need to take with me most everywhere. It's definitely dressier than the canvas tote I usually carry. The velvet is so plush, and I love having my initial embroidered on it. (I could have had a 3-letter monogram or my first name, but I opted for a simple "K" just because I think it's a pretty letter!) It has a leather strap, so it's pretty sturdy. It is fully lined with a zipper pocket, plus an extra little zippered pouch on a little tether. It closes with a snap, and also has a snap on each side to bring the sides together to make a narrower-looking bag. Oh... and it's red!! I <3 red accessories. Thank you, Simply Bags!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Anniversary Trip Wrap-Up

 We are home from our 25th anniversary trip. It was truly a "second honeymoon" in that we didn't do a thing we didn't feel like doing... just relaxing, sight-seeing, and enjoying being together. It was so wonderful to be able to get away for a few days. Above is a picture of the lane leading to the bed-and-breakfast where we stayed.
 On Thursday we met a friend for lunch, then visited the zoo and the Microsoft visitor center.
On Friday we went back downtown. The change in weather was dramatic. Friday's drizzle was much more typical for Seattle than Wednesday's bright sunshine had been, but we thought it was neat to experience the extremes. We went to the aquarium and took a little harbor cruise that day. (We had bought City Passes which included tickets to almost everything we did in the city. It was a very economical way to see the sights, and we found each one very interesting and worthwhile.)

Now we're home again, pretty much hitting the ground running, as per usual. It was so nice to go away for a few days to celebrate, but more than that we are grateful for the solid relationship we enjoy with each other on a day-to-day basis in real life. We are so glad God brought us together!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Collectorz - review

I have always loved the public library. When I was growing up I dreamed of having an extensive home library. As a homeschooler, that dream has become a reality... and now the problem has become keeping my collection pared down to where I have room for it. Just about every room in our house has at least one bookcase. They are loosely organized in a way that makes sense to me, but I often lose track of which books I own and where they are when I need them.

Recently, as a member of the TOS Crew, I had the opportunity to review the Collectorz software for cataloging books. It is pretty straight-forward and very easy to use. All I had to do was type in the ISBN from a book cover and it would automatically list the title, author, cover art, and other pertinent information for that particular book. Or if you have a barcode scanner, you can simply scan the bar code. I haven't had the time to enter my entire collection, but I can see that it would be a helpful program to have to better organize my library and keep track of my books. Collectorz also offers similar software for DVDs, CDs, and other types of media.

The Book Collector Standard Version costs $29.95, while the Book Collector Pro Version costs $49.95. The Pro Version has extra features for larger collections.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Day in the Big City

We have been enjoying perfect fall weather in the northwest this week. Yesterday was our day to take in the "big city." Seattle has a reputation of being gray and damp most of the time, so we were thrilled when it turned out to be another clear, sunny day. Great walking-around weather!

We spent the day browsing shops and visiting museums, and then went up in the Space Needle in time to watch the sunset. As usual, my camera doesn't begin to do it justice.
The sunset tinted the city and Mount Rainier (in the distance) a soft pink. It was such a beautiful evening.
It was dark by the time we got back to the ferry. We went out on the deck to see the city lights. Again, my camera's limitations, along with the vibration of the boat, makes this picture a poor representation of the actual sight.
It was a beautiful ending to a beautiful day!