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?