Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Morning

I awoke on Christmas morning at 4:45 am to the sounds of my oldest (the one who could sleep until noon if I let him) telling me that he was ready to get up. In an attempt to make sure the rest of the family stayed asleep I got up with him and we waited for the girls and Mike to get up. Finally they woke and we snapped a few pictures before they tore into their gifts. I have always done the Christmas Shopping in our family however, this year Mike picked up a few things at some "black Friday" sales and I supplemented with some online shopping of my own. Each year I tell myself that we are just going to do three gifts for each child and somehow I don't stick to that commitment. I so want Christmas to be less about the over and abundance of gifts and more about the grand celebration of of the birth of Jesus and while I did go overboard once again on the gifts I do think that for the first time we were able to take some time to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. I didn't get many pictures of Christmas because I was trying to multi-task and between trying to monitor the breakfast casserole and buttermilk biscuits plus watching the kids open their gifts I didn't get as many pictures as I would like.

Before the opening of gifts.

Grace received a few science and craft kits....we are going to be busy.

Emily got a few kits of her own.

Can you tell he's been up for hours....

This was a dress up kit that Mike bought at an after Thanksgiving Sale at a discount store. We already have tons of dress up stuff but this ended up being the item that the have girls played with the most.

Cody taking the "relaxed" approach to opening gifts...or maybe he is just tired.

Grace was thrilled with a new jewelry box. Gotta have a place to store all her bling.

Christmas Day ended for us with a feast that I have to confess was not one of my best meals. In fact I normally look forward to left overs but I was eager for this meal to find its way to the garbage disposal. I am not sure why but I found myself in a bit of a fog on Christmas day and couldn't seem to get myself together in the kitchen. I had planned our traditional favorites for Christmas Dinner which are dishes that I have cooked many times but for some reason didn't pull them together this year. Perhaps it was because I tried to make changes in the recipes to make smaller portions since it was just the 5 of us or maybe it was because my kids were absolutely wild and crazy and wouldn't give me a moments peace to read a recipe It was too cold for them to go outside and burn off some of that energy so they ran circles around me in the kitchen (a FL Christmas may not be white but at least the weather typically allows for some energy burning outside activity while Christmas Dinner is prepared) Nevertheless, Christmas Dinner left alot to be desired but my husband praised me and said it was delicious. And so another Christmas as come and gone leaving us with some wonderful memories of our first Colorado Christmas.

I realized that I left out a picture in my Christmas Eve post of Grace holding her Chatty Girl Book so here she is. This is such a wonderful Christmas story.

And here is a pic of the Toffee Tiramisu Cake

Christmas Eve in Colorado

Christmas Eve was such a nice evening as we celebrated quietly with our family. From the moment I awoke I knew that this celebration was going to be very different than any other Christmas Eve. The day didn't hold anything overly special and we didn't begin any new traditions as I had hoped but our night was very worshipful which I will treasure.

Our celebration began with attending a Christmas Eve Service at our church. It was a beautiful time of praise and worship and preparing our hearts for celebrating the remembrance of what our God did for us on this special holiday.

Of course I had to snap a few photo's of the kids dressed in the Christmas outfits.

I love to duplicate certain photo's each year on special days and this is an attempt to take the same picture that I took of Cody and Emily on Emily's first Christmas with us. It didn't turn out just like the one 2 years ago but I thought this one was cute.

After church we came home and I began preparing our dinner of Beef Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans and Mixed Green Salad with Walnuts and Cranberries. We enjoyed a Toffee Tiramusu Cake for Dessert that was sinfully delicious. While I was cooking the girls made a few phone calls to FL.

Dinner turned out yummy and was a hit with everyone which is a rare feat in our house.

Our after dinner festivities began with the opening of the Chatty Girl book exchange gift. Each year The Chatty Girls exchange names for a book and we enjoy opening the book to see who sent us the gift. This year Grace was included in the exchange. It is such a special tradition that I think all the Chatties love.

Grace receive a very special book from Grace

And Emily received a wonderful winter story from Bekah


We then opened our gifts sent from our family back in FL.

Our kids, like most, love opening gifts and were so excited to receive such special and thoughtful presents from all those who love, adore and miss them in FL.

Emily adored a little guinea pig

Of course there was a Breyer Horse for Grace

The girls each got digital cameras so they can take photo's like their mama

Melissa and Doug food (we got cookies and cupcakes) was such a hit with the girls as was a tea set in a picnic basket

Cody couldn't wait to load his itunes gift cards and his Flip Camera has been going non-stop since he opened it and much to his delight he found all his requested books under the tree.

The night ended on such a warm note as we lit the last Advent candle and sang Joy to the World. I had wanted to read The Night Before Christmas and "Guess Whose Coming to Our House" but the night escaped and the kids were tired before I had a chance to read. As we were snuggled in our warm beds with "visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads" I counted my blessings that for the first time since Cody was born I wasn't going to be up all night assembling a last minute gift.

Oh What Fun It Is To Bake With Two Girls By My Side

Two days before Christmas, Grace reminded me that we had not done our Christmas baking. I realized that I had completely forgot to plan for baking. Each year the girls and Ihave always spent at least a day of baking all kinds of yummy treats to give away as well as for us to snack on but this year I really didn't have the energy or motivation to spend a day baking but seeing the longing in my little girls face I mixed up a quick batch of sugar cookies and the girls baked and decorated cookies. It was a delightful afternoon and brought joy to my heart to see how much they love to be in the kitchen with me.

After the baking I just had to get a few pics of the girls in there Christmas attire.

My silly billy girl!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas from all of us!

We wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderfully blessed New Year! May your homes be filled with all of the things you love. Here are a few pics of our 2009 Christmas Photo Shoot. It was the coldest day of the year I think but I loved getting some shots in a beautiful area here in town with the snow in the background. It is the first year that we have had snowy pics for our Christmas Card.

This one made the final cut for the card.
I loved this one but my kids look miserable.

This one made the card too!
As did this one.

This one was under a rock bridge...Mike thought it was a good spot our kids did not
We included this one on our card too....gotta love those multi photo Shutterfly cards
My husband being silly

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Change of Heart

Our God is so incredibly amazing and I absolutely love how He can reach out from Heaven and touch us so intimately. We don't always recognize those touches but when we do...WOW! I experienced one of those touches last night. It was more like a prick of the heart in reminding me of who He is and what He has done for me. Of course this was right on the heels of my posting yesterday about how bummed I was that it wasn't "feeling like Christmas". Well, as I sat in worship last night I knew that I was in for a good attitude adjustment from the first few words of our pastors' teaching. He encouraged us not to miss the moment of coming into contact with the not over shoot our destination and wake up in January and wonder what we had missed. He went on to remind me that it is not the nostalgic celebration of Christmas that changes us but the power of the season is WORSHIP. Yes, worship. How in the world could I have allowed myself to get so caught up in the "events" that create nostalgia and warm fuzzies that I literally was ignoring my need to "fall on my knees" and worship my Savior and what a unique opportunity I have with a season of quietness in my life to truly engage with "an open heart" the Incarnation. Each year we all have this special time of celebration to purposefully move away from the trappings that the world offers to become superficial and frantic in our celebrations and truly approach the living God.
I love being convicted in my is not always pleasant but reminds me that my heart is still soft. Oh how I always want to maintain a heart that is tender to my Lord. So, I came home last night with the music of "O Holy Night" filling my mind and a new attitude of the heart to take my emotions away from the "events" of Christmas that give me warm fuzzies and take the time to fall on my knees and deeply engage the coming of My Lord. I pray that you will do the same.
With Love and a Repentant Heart,

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Memories

I have been strolling down memory lane over the past couple of days. Why? I am not really sure. Perhaps it is just the nostalgia of Christmas or maybe it is because I am just plain homesick. As much as I love so many aspect of being in Colorado for Christmas it just hasn't felt like "Christmas" here. I told some friends the other day that for some reason I think Floridans celebrate the season a little more than Coloradans. Perhaps, in FL we always felt like we had to over compensate for it feeling like the middle of summer. I know that when we were in FL we always had special things that we did during the holiday season. There were tons of activities at the kids school and the relaxed mood of all the teachers was so much fun for me and the kids, I love all the Christmas programs and Christmas parties. Yes, it was a lot of work but looking back now I realize how much I enjoyed it. We always made a couple of trips to Disney (which I really miss), I loved going Christmas shopping with my sister and stopping for coffee along the way and it just seemed like everyone was so joyful and happy when I was out and about. It was so nice being able to go outside and not freeze. In all honesty, so far there really hasn't been anything special about this time of year. In fact other than my house looking all Christmasy it seems like just another day. I know much of my inner feeling has to do with the fact that as a homeschooling family who has a retired husband/father, all days are pretty much the same. I guess I am really longing for there to be something exciting and different to remind me that this is a special time of year. And so I have tried to create some specialness through bringing Christmas past to Christmas present.
One of my most favorite traditions is holiday baking which includes baking Mee-mee's Red Velvet Cake. I actually have made it twice already this year and I just love it because it reminds me of a very special friend and her wonderful family as well as a hilarious Thanksgiving/Christmas memory. So here it goes....
When I was in college at Samford University my best friend and room-mate's grandmother would always bake the most delicious Red Velvet Cake at Thanksgiving and she would return to school with it for us to snack on during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. It was a treat that we loved and made final exam week so much better. Well, anyway during my Junior year I spent Thanksgiving with her family and on our way back to Birmingham with her little mustang packed to the gills we were in a car accident. I had been sitting in the front seat holding the Red Velvet Cake while we were travel down I-75. As we approached Chattanooga, TN traffic came to an abrupt stand still and we were rear-ended by someone traveling very fast. Her car was smushed and we were jolted but our only concern after the impact was if the Red Velvet Cake was ok. It was so very hilarious in that we were not concerned at that moment over ourselves nor the condition of her car....all thoughts were of the cake. (we had proper priorities back then) So, each year I bake this yummy cake and think of my precious friend Lissa and her wonderful Mee-mee who brought lots of Christmas cheer to us during Christmas at Samford. And here's a peek of something that makes me feel good all over with every single bite......
Pondering all these things, I felt within my spirit that God is so longing for me to have my heart turned toward him and to spend this season soaking up His beauty and the miracle of what I am celebrating, His great gift that transforms me every day of the year. He always has a way of taking us to places (sometimes kicking and screaming) to grow us and force us to do life in a different way. I do remember in the busyness of years past forced us to work really hard to make sure that we built into our Christmas events, times of reflection and simple celebrations of Jesus and as much as I loved all the excitement and fun activities of Christmas Past, filling Christmas with Jesus shouldn't be "work". So instead of bellyaching about how lonely I am and how is miss my busy Florida Christmas I rest in the fact that our family has been called to Colorado and within that call I have to put my attitudes aside and allow Christ to bring about the change in me that He so longs to perform. As I write this I am reminded of a quote I recently read by Cyril of Jerusalem. He said, "It is the sincerity of your resolution that makes you 'called'. It is of no use your body being here if your thoughts and heart are elsewhere." So if you are blooming where you are planted, seizing every moment God has offered you, I am so happy for you but if you are like me....feeling like a palm tree in the mountains, may you grasp deeply the words of this quote and realize that bringing the body, thoughts and heart onto the same page will bring about great transformation in the depth of your "calling" where ever that call my be. Wishing you many meaningful moments as you prepare for the celebration of Christ's birth.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Homemade Teacher's Gifts

Whew! I just finished putting together all our gifts for the many teachers in the lives of my kiddo's. It is a task that I truly love. I enjoy giving gifts to those people I adore and like to make them special with all the wrapping and trimmings. Being a former teacher, I know what it is like to recive presents that are truly gifts from the heart of parents and students so I have always wanted to present the men and women who pour alot into my kids, gifts that they will not only use and enjoy but have a specialness attached to them. Well, this year was a little difficult in that I haven't really gotten to know Cody and Grace's teachers that well. I was really at a loss concerning Cody's teachers and was going to resort to the simplicity of giftcards until I came across this in a Paula Deen magazine......

It is a Taco Chili Mix. I made certain that it was tasty by trying it a few nights ago and after determining that it was DELICIOUS, I decided to made a bunch of these cute little jars for all of Cody's teachers. My nana always told me that presentation was everything so I found the jars at Target for $3.99, the ribbon at Hobby Lobby and dusted off the cobwebs of my Creative Memories scrapbooking tub and created the tags. Oh, how I hope his teachers will enjoy having a chili mix already prepared on a cold snowy night, I know that I would. Here's the assembly direction in case you want to try for a gift or just for your family.

Taco Chili Mix
1 cup of dried kidney beans
1 cup of pinto beans
1 (2.5 ounce) package of taco seasoning mix
1 (1 ounce) package of ranch dressing mix
3 tablespoons of minced onion
1 tablespoon of chili powder
2 teaspoons of cumin
In a decorative jar; layer kidney beans and pinto beans. In a small bowl, combine taco seasoning mix, ranch dressing mix, onion, chili powder, and cumin. Spoon into a plastic bag and place over beans. Seal jar and decorate with ribbion and cute recipe tag that gives these instructions:
Taco Chili
Makes 6-8 servings

1 jar of Taco Chili Mix
5 cups of water
2 (16-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (20-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chilies
1 (1-pound) package ground chuck, cooked and drained
Tortilla chips, shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
In a large Dutch oven, add beans from Taco Chili Mix
and water to cover. Let stand for at least 8 hours; drain.
Stir in Taco Chili Mix seasoning bag, water, tomato sauce,and diced tomatos, stiring to combine. Stir in cooked ground chuck. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat, and simmer for 2 hours or until beans are tender. Serve with tortilla chips and cheese, if desired.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things!

I just love it when I discover some special treasures through someone's blog so I thought I would share a few books that I found this year that have made the anticipation of Christmas more special for our family.
Each year I recieve the Southern Living Christmas Edition and I will have to admit that for the past couple of years I haven't enjoyed it but this year's issue is great...lots of beautiful decorating ideas and recipes that look yummy.
I picked this up at Barnes and Noble because I was looking for some nice Christmas reading. I love Max Lucado and his ability to capture the true essence of Christmas in these stories was so beautiful.

I am not very creative and given that we are not going to be sharing Christmas this year with our family I was searching for some Traditions that we could establish as a family that we would cherish and love. This book is chocked full of wonderful ideas to make the celebration more meaningful and special for your family.

I have had this book for quite a while but with the busyness of Christmas I never had the time to do this as a family. We have done the first two Sundays of advent and they have been so incredibly special. There are devotions, hymns and special activities for the kids.