Saturday, December 29, 2012

2012 in Pictures














Happy New Year, and we love you all!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve! Let the parties begin!

Back in October, I started a huge excel spreadsheet list.  On this list, akin to Santa's master list, was a list of every gift, given by me, my husband, and each of my children, to everyone they needed to give to.  (Each other, a cousin, an aunt/uncle/friend, etc).  I typed in what each person was giving in black, and once it was purchased I would change the color to red.  On the next sheet of the master list was a long list of every baked good I planned to make and another list of who those baked goods would be going to (30+ boxes).  Next to that was a shopping list of what I needed to buy to make all those baked goods.  Again, all of this was typed in black.  When I had started, but not completed, a baked good, I changed it to blue, and then when finished, red.  And yet another sheet had a menu of every meal we would eat this week and all the parties and schedule we would be keeping, what potluck items I was bringing, what I had to buy, even when I had to get things out of the freezer.  All of this was black, and when I completed it or bought the items I needed, I would change it to red.

This morning I was able to change the last few black spots to red.  It is SO satisfying to flip through this list that I've been using almost daily for the last 3 months and see this sea of red (in a good way).  It is all done.  I'm not quite as organized as my mom, but I have enough of her in me to take immense satisfaction and joy from completing all my tasks and knowing I did a great job.  You might think I'm crazy, but that's just the way I'm wired.

It's all done.  Every project plus a few bonus projects, every gift wrapped, every goodie baked and delivered, every purchase made and every event prepared.  Now it is time to just relax and breathe in the Holiday Spirit.  Today is Christmas Eve.  It is snowing outside and it is gorgeous.  We had a fun Christmas tree omelet for breakfast with avocado and little drips of ketchup for ornaments.  The kids are playing outside in the snow with Cody, and life simply could not be more perfect--not even I could plan it that way.

Merry Christmas, everyone.  May you have a beautiful, simple, and Christ-centered holiday.  We love you and send you our best wishes and love.

Love, Lisa, Cody, Lee, Annalisa, and Katie.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Naughty or nice?

Our kids broke the legs off our Elf on a Shelf.  I told them they killed one of Santa's elves, and that they would have to be extra nice to get out of this hole.  Lee simply replied, "Well, it's okay.  Santa has more elves."  I know I was a bit extreme, but really?  I think my kids are just as destructive as any others, but sometimes it's pretty frustrating. 

But, they are sweet and tenderhearted and eager to please, even when they make messes or dump out an entire bottle of my expensive peppermint essential oil, or rip the nativity advent calendar I spent hours making to shreds... I know they are just trying to make the house smell nice or they want to find Baby Jesus... they have their own reasoning.  My children most certainly are children, but they are definitely on the nice list.  Especially when they look like this:


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Life's pretty good, you know?

Like so many others, our hearts are completely broken over the horrific massacre in Connecticut yesterday.  At times like these, sometimes it's hard to remember the good around us--the beauty and the joy--but, it is still there.  This morning, I went outside in the fresh snow and I haven't been that happy in a very long time.  It's the simple joys like a child's voice, a blanket of new snow, a smile and friendly gesture of a neighbor, or homemade pancakes for breakfast that really are what life is about.  And, at least for us, life is full of those simple joys.  It's pretty great.
A few clips of yesterday's Kindergarten Christmas Program: 
video

video 
And a little video of Annalisa singing:
video

Our next door neighbor has a 4 wheeler with a plow and was having a blast doing everyone's sidewalks this morning.  He took Anna for a little ride and she said it was "WAY fun."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some things I love

I love singing Christmas songs with friends.  I love sitting in the living room with no lights on but the Christmas tree.  I love listening to my kids talk themselves to sleep.  I love watching snow fall.  I love nibbling on treats friends bring to the house.  I love waking up to the smell of warm bread coming from my bread machine.  I love when my husband volunteers to do the dishes.  I love working on projects and seeing the final results come together.  I love this time of year!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Foggy Morning

Maybe I'm weird, but I have always loved foggy mornings.  I like going outside and feeling the mist around me.  I don't really like driving in fog because it's scary, but I love being somewhere with hills and mountains and going up out of the fog and seeing it blanket the city, and then diving back down in it like a swimming pool.  It's a bit mysterious, a bit magical, just fun for me. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Yum!

'Tis the season to get fat, right? :D  I LOVE baking at this time of year!  I have a stack of recipes that is only made for Christmas.  Because they're only for Christmas, and because I always make them at Christmas, they taste like Christmas to me.  Fudge, homemade caramels, my Great-Aunt's Peanut Butter Cups, peppermint anything/everything, peanut busters... oh yeah.

I'm just getting going on my baking.  Yesterday was fudge and homemade peppermint marshmallows.  Katie loved the marshmallow coated whisks.  A lot.  Proof:

I can't wait to share all these goodies with friends!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Countdown to Christmas

Thanksgiving is past, and it's time to start the Christmas countdown!
Pretty humbly decorated tree, but it's ours, in our living room!

See how smart I am? I made our countdown candy chain with 3 pieces of candy per day instead of 1, so that each child can get a candy every day.  Sometimes I amaze myself.

It hit me today how good it feels to be excited for Christmas.  I've been excited in the past, don't get me wrong; it's just been a long time since we've had any kind of security at Christmastime, and when I was stressed about what the future would bring, it was hard to really get into the spirit of Christmas.  When I think about it, it's easy to see what was giving me such stress: last year we were building and had just barely moved out of our temporary house, in with my parents (for which we were so very grateful, but it was certainly stressful); the year before that, we had just moved into our temporary house after the most horrendous and emotionally difficult months of our lives; the year before that we were hurting for money, big time, and it was only because of the thoughtfulness of others and blessings from the Lord that we had anything under the tree at all.  Well, of course it is always because of the blessings from the Lord that we get to celebrate Christmas to begin with, and we are always very grateful for our little bit of prosperity... but this year is different.  This is our first Holiday season in our own home, that nobody can take away from us.  Cody is making more money now than he ever has, and while we're still hunting around for new job opportunities, we have enough to buy the gifts we want to.  The knowledge that we have enough, and even a bit to give back to others, gives me so much peace and tranquility.  I am grateful that I get to focus on helping others and watching my children enjoy the Christmas traditions I treasure instead of worrying about what will happen in the New Year. 

I hope you are all getting excited for Christmas too!  

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

I was so thrilled to be able to make my first Thanksgiving dinner in our new house!  I want to kind of journal it, because the dinner worked out so perfectly.

The preparations started several days in advance.  I got the turkey out of the freezer (22 pounds!) and into the fridge on Friday prior to Thanksgiving.  On Tuesday, I made cornbread for the stuffing, roll dough and hung out with friends.  Wednesday, I prepped the stuffing vegetables, I made pineapple cheese jell-o, pomegranate and lime slush, and I went to my mom's house to make pies with my sister and mother.  We made 17 pies that day: Apple (using a few frozen pie fillings I'd made at the end of October), Pumpkin, pecan, rhubarb, blueberry, and mincemeat.  On Wednesday night we had "Pie Night" and cut into a few of those delicious pies.  It was nice to enjoy pie separately from the Thanksgiving dinner, although we had some Thursday as well. :)

Lastly on Wednesday, I put the turkey in the brine.  There was still slushy ice in the cavity of the turkey, but otherwise it was thawed and ready to go.  We used my pressure canner pot to hold the turkey and brine because the turkey was massive.  The brine had lemon and orange, and a bunch of fresh sage and thyme from my mom's garden--amazingly not destroyed by frost yet!  We took the insulation out of the vent of the cold storage room so that it would be plenty cool in there, and let the turkey soak down there for the night.  We monitored the temperature.  My sister Sara will be happy to hear that.


Thursday morning we spiffed up the house and kitchen, and then my mom and dad came over and we cooked.  I made a few snacks in the morning: coconut oil popcorn and a purchased shrimp tray, and my mom brought a vegetable tray with ranch dip.  I put cornbread sausage stuffing in the crock-pot, made Alton Brown's recipe for green bean casserole, orange glazed yams, mashed potatoes, and rolled out the rolls to rise.  The turkey actually didn't go into the oven until nearly 1 PM.  I didn't stuff it with stuffing, just the vegetation from the brine.  I rubbed it down with olive oil and then seared it at 500 convection roasting for 25 minutes.  Then I put in the probe thermometer into the deepest part of the turkey breast, covered just the breast with aluminum foil, and turned down the oven to 350, on the convect roast setting, and told it to hold temperature at 155.  While the turkey was roasting, my mom and I finished the cooking (already mentioned above) and Cody set the table, while my dad "napped" and the kids helped him "nap."  :) 

The Turkey was done at about 3:20, so we pulled it out, covered it, and let it rest while I baked the rolls and warmed up the green bean casserole.  My mom made the most fabulous gravy from the turkey drippings, using the extra long burner on the stove top.  The kids and Grandpa put slush and Sprite in the cups, and Cody carved the turkey after it had rested.  Everything was done amazingly on time, and we put it all on the table and sat down right at 4 PM.  The food was SO good!  The turkey was juicy and tender and flavorful.  The gravy was silky and delicious.  The mashed potatoes--to which I'd added some cream cheese and mom's homemade chicken stock--were divine.  My great-grandmother's recipe for yams turned out fantastic, as always.  The rolls were high and light and buttery.  I really liked the cornbread stuffing, but it wasn't as traditional as other types of stuffing, so yet again I'm on a quest for the perfect homemade stuffing recipe, that doesn't go in the bird or oven.  Hm... I'll have to ponder that one.  My dad made a very delicious whole cranberry sauce, and when we sat down we all held hands and prayed, each saying something we were grateful for.  Then we had a few toasts with our plastic cups full of slush--yum!--and dug in. 



After dinner, we put the turkey and food away, started the dishwasher, then went for a walk around the block as the sun was setting.  It felt good to stretch a bit after all that eating, but we were still too full for pie when we got back, so my parents left a few pies with us and they went home.  Then we watched a movie and ate pie just before bed, at about 7:30. 

On Friday, Cody worked a bit in the morning, and then we headed down for Thanksgiving part-two with Cody's family.  That was a lot of fun, and it was great to visit with family.  The kids loved playing outside in the gorgeous weather, and Cody's mom worked tirelessly to make the big Thanksgiving dinner--no small feat for 32 people!  We came back that same night and slept very well. 

I love Thanksgiving and the start of the Holiday season.  I hope you all had a great one!  We have much to be grateful for.  I know so many people without jobs or in poor health or other desperate situations, and I'm always reminded that no matter how bad things are, we still are blessed with much.  We have good friends and amazing family, God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, beautiful children who are happy with so little, and a wonderful world to live in.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!