Friday, December 31, 2010

Good Bye 2010!

Lacey is sacked out after a very full Holiday season...
I want to do the same thing but it's "Back to School" today!

It's hard to believe we're wrapping up 2010 but the calendar doesn't lie. Overall, it's been a full but fun year for our family. When family and friends read my obligatory Christmas letter foisted upon them with the family Christmas photo the most frequent comment heard was, "Wow, you guys are BUSY!"

We ARE busy but it doesn't seem so much so in the day-to-day hum of activity. We've got church activities (but it's actually just the girls who volunteer on Wednesday nights for Awana) and the weekly services, 4H activities, concerts at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, downhill skiing at a local ski hill, Valley Voyaguers - a public speaking/field trip group Daniel and I enjoy, art classes on Tuesdays and the girls both work for my sister next door. I guess with all that, life is pretty full. Then when you throw in visits to the cabin, a trip to Florida, our trip out west in the RV last year... Okay, suddenly I'm starting to feel tired.

We're wrapping up the holidays and while I'm a little sad at the thought of business as usual on Monday, part of me anticipates the clean start of a brand new year. 2010 has been good to us and I wait with anticipation to see what God has in store for our family in 2011.

A friend on another blog posted about giving God her year. I'm going to steal her idea (thanks, Keelie!) and use it as my New Year's Resolution: God, I'm all Yours. Take me, shape me, grow me, mold me in 2011. I only pray that I would be worthy to be used by You. Thankfully, I know that you use imperfect people, history has shown this through Your Holy Word and I trust the Bible.

May God's blessings be abundant in your life and may you come to know Him better in 2011. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Wrapping Up Loose Ends

It's Christmas Eve already! Every year the month of December seems to fly
by and this year was no different. Even with everything on our To-Do list we
managed to have one final cookie bake before Christmas. It was actually
pretty easy because I had made the dough a month ago and froze half
for our Christmas sugar cookies.

A tray waiting to go in the oven. Don't they look yummy?

Leah rolls out the dough and cuts them and bakes them.
After the icing has been applied, Daniel takes over,
adding the finishing touches.

As you can see, sometimes Leah really gets into baking!

I love it when all three children join me in the kitchen.
We have so much fun with our baking/cooking projects.
Of course it doesn't hurt that we all love to EAT!

Mmmmm - these won't last long!

While Leah slaves in the kitchen, I slave at the wrapping station I've set up
in my bedroom. We've got a little portable table that I haul up
along with all the wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbons, bows, etc.

Earlier, to simplify matters I separated each person's gifts into their own box
that I would add to as I purchased gifts for them.
That makes the wrapping job so much simpler!

Our bed, covered with wrapping paraphenalia. That's a powerful motivator -
if you want to go to bed, you've got to finish wrapping everything!

Here we are the next morning: Child #1's wrapped portion of gifts.
I always buy the children books and I don't wrap those or the things
that go in their stocking.

Child#2 and #3's gifts in our closet. Done!

I cheated this year and did the stockings early. I'm breaking with tradition here...
So, shoot me!
That's it. All I have left to do is one final batch of cranberry bread
(my husband likes it fresh) and my work is done. :)
Later today we'll be off to church and then over to my niece's home to celebrate Christmas Eve
with my husband's side of the family. Our niece just bought this beautiful old home in a darling town last summer. We're happy to help her ring in her first Christmas in her "new" home!
Merry Christmas to all of my friends in Blog Land.
May your holidays be memorable and joy-filled!
But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
Luke 2:10-14

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Theodore's Snow Adventure

This morning, Theodore and I went out for our first
snowshoe since the "big snow". It was HARD work! The snow
was about 24" deep and each step meant sinking about 12" and
lifting about ten pounds of snow, boot and snowshoe.

Theodore couldn't run off through the woods because the snow
was too deep. He had to wait and follow me. When I stopped to
catch my breath he looked up at me as if to say,
"What's the hold up?"

We walked by the desolate corn field but didn't
explore out there. The deep snow was wearing me out!

If you look closely, you'll see the mouse highway
from the hideout at the tree trunk. It crosses over
the trail and heads off somewhere in the woods.

Bent over trees, anointed with snow.

The tall tree stump which marks the corner of our land.

Theodore tried to venture off the path but ended up in snow
over his head. He's not very tall and the deep snow swallows him up!

Back on the trail, running back to me.

He's a schnauzer/poodle mix, commonly
referred to as a schnoodle. They have keen noses
and he's always sniffing the air, like he is here.

One of his favorite things to do is roll in the snow.
I've never seen a dog who loves the snow as much as he does!

Rolling around, getting full of snow...

Look out! It's the abominable snow-pup!

Digging and burrowing in the snow,
I'm not sure what he's looking for.

Mission accomplished! It's time to go
back home and get warmed up.
Theodore and I took our first snowshoe in a couple weeks today and it was quite a workout. Lacey, perhaps wisely, did not follow us and someone let her back in the house while Theo and I adventured out in the wilderness.
We have a series of trails that the dogs and I like to go snowshoeing/hiking/exploring on. It's been too cold and I've been too busy to get out lately and I needed to break a new trail. Whew! Every single step felt like I was being sucked back to Earth with an invisible force field. It wasn't long before I was huffing and puffing.
There's something about being out in God's beautiful creation that fills a void in me. I start to get depressed if I get stuck inside for too long. Now that I broke the trail today, I want to try to make it a point of getting outside every day.
Enjoy God's beautiful creation and celebrate winter, wherever you are!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mother/Daughter Cookie Exchange

The closet is full and boots, mittens and coats
are spilling out into the front entry.
A sure sign that a party is in full swing!
Hannah and Emily. We are so blessed
to have Hannah's family back in our area!

What are Emily and Jessie so excited about?
Could it be all those yummy cookies?!

Leah and Caelynn.
Isn't Caelynn adorable? I have a softspot
for little girls and party dresses with big bows in their hair.

Another adorable little girl, Ashlyn and her mom, Andrea.
Big smiles from wonderful friends!

Leah and Amanda, looking festive for the party.

Errin (my sister), Karen, Hope and myself.
Are we happy to be together or because we got all our
cookies finished for the party? Both!

Friends visiting, cookies to share and sweet treats to eat.
What's not to love?

This was taken before ALL the cookies were placed on our dining room
table. Even with both leaves in, the table was completely full.
That's a lot of cookies!

My girls were aghast because I did not do a post on our third annual "Mother - Daughter Cookie Exchange". I guess I just got busy but thought I'd throw a quick post in (is there such a thing?) about our holiday party that we host at the beginning of December every year.

It all began with my eldest daughter, Emily, who loves to throw a party. She had been asking me for years to put something like this together. Finally, three years ago, we went ahead and did it! We created invitations, mailed them to our friends and had our first cookie exchange. Now we're three years into doing it and just had another wonderful evening with friends a couple weeks ago. It is fun to make up a bunch of cookies and swap with friends to get a large variety of treats. We ask each participating family to bake ten dozen cookies to exchange and when we get together, we swap.

It forces me to get the house cleaned and decorated early in the season which is always a good thing. We like to have the party before we put the tree up because we usually have full house. This year there were 35 of us! We invited our entire 4H group. What a lovely bunch of mothers and daughters.

Usually we play a game but this year we were having so much fun visiting that we didn't even get to it. Here's to friends and fellowship at the holidays. May your holidays be blessed with friends and a few sweet treats, too!
P.S. I need to add that we are equal opportunity cookie exchange hosts. For those wanting to attend without a daughter, I graciously offer to share mine for the evening. Women without children, women with sons, come one, come all, you are welcome here!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cranberry Bread Baking

Ingredients assembled and mixed.

Cranberry chopping station.

Bread pans filled and ready to go in the oven.

Eight loaves of goodness baking!

The first four loaves cooling on the cooktop.

Now we're up to eight loaves.

The grand finale (for yesterday morning's baking, that is)
16 loaves of cranberry goodness!

Here's a few, tagged and beribboned,
ready to bless friends and neighbors.

I am known in these parts for baking and giving away large quantities of cranberry bread. I usually bake and give away about 80 loaves. Add in a dozen or so extra loaves for my family to consume and I'm pushing 100 loaves of that wonderful baked treat!

The girls used to say, "Mom, you're not going to make cranberry bread again, are you? Everyone is probably getting tired of it!" In reality, people began asking them (hopefully), "Is your mom making cranberry bread again this year? We love it!" That's when they realized that perhaps their mother was on to something. Let's face it, nothing beats warm cranberry bread with a cup of hot tea on a cold winter's day.

This year I decided to simplify my life a great deal by ordering disposable aluminum baking pans and clear plastic lids for each pan from What a treat! No more endless washing of bread pans. I love it! Although, I still bake our personal loaves in the bread pans, but that pales in comparison to the number of loaves I bake for others, so it really has made a difference in my workload.

I've gotten to the point that I won't even pull my trusty KitchenAid mixer out unless I can do four batches. Once the ingredients are out and the oven is warm, I'd rather keep at it. I've got a few baking marathons ahead of me between now and Christmas, good thing I'm efficient!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Kind of Day

Ringing the bells for the Salvation Army.
Daniel's got antlers with bells on them over his Santa hat for
an extra-special effect!

My latest cookbook finds from the library.
I can't wait to look at them!

Today was a low-key day, the kind of day I like. In fact, I'd call it my kind of day.

What did we do today that makes it so special? Well, for one, we braved the elements for over an hour ringing the bells for the Salvation Army at County Market. People were so generous, they really made it seem worthwhile and the time flew by. It was c-c-cold, only about 5 degrees above zero, but we rang the bells, sang Christmas songs and had a great time doing it. Daniel and I got into the spirit of the event by donning our Santa hats as well. The girls were too cool for that but they tolerated our exuberance.

I did a little grocery shopping and warmed up a bit after our bell ringing and then we all went out to dinner at Culvers including my dear husband who joined us. Now, I know Culvers is not gourmet food but we enjoyed our butterburgers anyway. ;)

After that Mike and the girls headed home and Daniel and I made a stop at the library where we lingered for almost an hour, looking at and picking out books. I don't know what it is, but I love hanging out in a library almost better than any other place. It's like I'm in a time warp there, completely unaware of my surroundings and the passage of time. What books so enchanted me? Well...

I was inspired by my blog friend Shelley's post earlier today showing all her lovely library books focusing on healthy cooking and eating. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Shelley should be flattered indeed because I was motivated to order a few of the titles she took out from the library that you see in my stack. I can't wait to peruse them and pick out a few new recipes to try. Thanks Shelley!

So, now we're all home, the girls just finished watching a movie that they picked up from a separate trip to the library and it's time to call it a night. I lose my internet at 10:45 so if I've got any blogging to do, it has to be done before then.

I don't know if I confessed this on my blog before, but I used to have a real problem logging off the computer for the night. I'd read a whole host of blogs, check up on the happenings on facebook, read the news, check out my eBay auctions, etc. Anyway, time would get away from me and I was staying up too late. Sooo, I reset my router to "turn off" the internet at 10:45pm. The thing is, I used to be able to override this time device and I did it all the time, kind of defeating the whole idea. Since then, my computer had a virus and my computer guru fixed it. When he did, I lost my easy access to controlling the router and voila! No more changing the router access "just this once..." That means it shuts down at 10:45 and I get to bed at a more reasonable hour.

Hope your day was just a good as my low-key day. The perfect kind of day...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Good Old Fashioned Blizzard!

A fox squirrel hiding from the snow on our deck.
Doesn't he look miserable? Usually they're after the birdseed
at our birdfeeders and I let the dogs chase them away but
I let this little guy stay put.

Here he is, a little later, watching me in the kitchen
from the railing.

The day after. The truck has thigh-high snowdrifts around it!

Those are my shrubs and rosebushes that are about 24-30" tall,
just peeking out of the snow!

I'm thankful I filled the birdfeeders before the storm.
I'll bet the birds and squirrels are too!

Looking down at the truck from the bonus room above the garage.

Here's a different squirrel, taking a nap on the top of our column
on our deck. He was there for over an hour and it was subzero temps
outside! I thought he'd frozen to death but when Daniel went out
to check it out, the squirrel jumped up and ran away.
Their blood must be made of antifreeze!

The troops coming to rescue us! It's my brother-in-law and nephews
from next door. They made a pass down 2/3 of the driveway so that Mike
and Daniel could get in when they got back home. Thanks guys!

My brother-in-law Neal, hard at work. It's good
to live next door to family when your husband is gone and a blizzard hits!

We're getting hit with a good old fashioned blizzard today here in Wisconsin. I'm not that old, but old enough to have experienced the winter blizzards of the 70's and 80's which I've heard referred to as a mini-ice age. Not sure about that but I do know that the winters were much snowier back then. My younger brother and I used to be able to do back flips off the roof of the machine shed into the big snowdrifts below. Yep, no doubt about it, we got more snow back then!

When my children hear stories like this, they sigh and pine for snowy winters like yesteryear. Until today that is. My middle daughter tells me she's had enough of this snow and she wants it to stop snowing! We're invited to go sliding at our friends' home about five miles away and we probably won't be going. Not only do they have the best sliding hill around, they even have their very own tow rope! Their oldest son built it last summer and fall with a little help from his father. Very cool! Sigh - if only we weren't snowed in and could go and give it a couple runs...

The weathermen tell us the snow will be ending this evening but tomorrow brings extremely cold temperatures and lots of wind to whip the snow around. It's too early to tell but we will probably get over a foot of new snow, added to the ten or twelve inches we already had. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Instead of playing outside we're wrapping a few gifts, listening to Handel's Messiah (saw the production at St. Paul's Cathedral just a couple nights ago - magical!) and drinking hot tea. All in all, not a bad day. I'll feel better when my husband and son make it home safely from our cabin 125 miles away. We're hoping tomorrow will be a better day for travel.

Stay warm my friends!
P.S. This post was written on Saturday and not posted until today. The guys made it home safely and we're all plowed out now. It's bitterly cold now though - subzero temps all day long. Let's hope tomorrow is warmer for Bell Ringing for the Salvation Army!