Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas!

As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Sunshine family wishes you a joyous season and a blessed new year, filled with love, peace and the comfort of everlasting life through the little babe that was born in Bethlehem so long ago! Rejoice, for he still lives in our hearts today!!

I will be taking the next few days to enjoy family, and quiet time with our Lord. I encourage you to do the same! Blessings to you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

WFMW: Receipts in order and Picture Card storage

Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer is hosting a Christmas edition of Works for me Wednesday ... go check out all the tips flowing freely from us to you!

Here are two tips I find enormously helpful.

The first one is for my picture card storage for after Christmas. I take all the beautiful Christmas cards with pictures of your children and place them in a small album. Right now, I'm using a "brag book" sized album, which is plenty big enough. I keep it out all year long so I can look through it and see pictures of family and friends. If I get a letter with it, I fold it up and tuck it behind the picture. If I get a 5x7 picture, I'll cut it to fit into the album sleeve, and place the cut piece behind it so I know who it is. Easy peasy!

The second one is receipt organization. A year ago (or so), I purchased a set of Organizing Bags from Lara Gallagher at The Lazy Organizer. First of all, I love the ruggedness of these bags. They are a thick black canvas-like material on the back, and a thick clear plastic on the front with ZIPPERS to keep everything contained! Love it. Anyway, I keep one of the smaller ones in my purse, and all receipts go into the bag (including shipping receipts). I use the "small bag" which is 6x9", and it doesn't have a handle on it (and I like it like that, too!). Someone once asked me (when I did a purse meme one time) how long I expected to keep my purse in order. My answer? Always. If I keep all my receipts in this bag, then it keeps my purse clean for ... well ... purse things! Here are some pictures for you (sorry they are so hazy -- took them with the cell phone in my car this morning -- real live action going on here!):

Hope some of these tips are helpful to you! Have a great week!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Tour of Homes

If you're looking for a "normal post", then you can go HERE. If not, then welcome to my home! BooMama is hosting this year's Christmas Tour of Homes again! Can't wait to see all the cool things others are doing! These are some of the Christmas decorations we put out this year.

Outside lights are a big part of our decorating, but I love to keep it classic with all white/clear lights. Many of our neighbors actually look like they had the stomach flu when placing their lights on their yard, if you know what I mean ... random, no rhyme or reason, no pattern ... but since chaos tends to overwhelm me to the point of a shutdown, we tend to keep it simple around here.

This year, our Christmas budget was cut dramatically. Instead of my normal "pyramid" of gifts (or stacks and stacks), most are just getting one thing... but along with budget cuts, came the need to cut other "frilly" stuff ... like a Christmas tree. The cost of trees is crazy-crazy now a days, but what's Christmas without a tree? Well, last Sunday morning, we opened our front door to go to church, and guess what was sitting on our front stoop? A Christmas tree. With a note wishing us a Merry Christmas. That was an awesome gift... it means so much more to me than the giver will ever know. This year, I put the old "cookie ornaments" back on the tree, as well as "real ornaments." It looked so cute. (It looks way better with the lights on) I love the angel on our tree. She's pretty, yet not too frilly and fancy!

Last year, I had a miniature poinsettia in my snowman bucket. This year, I placed an ivy wreath in it, and it looks so cute!

The last two years, I didn't dare put out my little Christmas village. This year, with much fear and trepidation, I put it out. Hunter loves to touch it. Mommy hates for Hunter to touch it. But, whatcha gonna do? He loves to see the lights on in the windows, and I love to see it sitting in my family room!

Our Jesse Tree goes on a small Christmas Tree. There are more ornaments on it now, but when I took the picture, we were just getting started on it. I have been enjoying it so much.

Finally, our stockings are hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that no one will notice the dry-wall bucket of ashes to the left. Because, I certainly didn't when I was taking the picture!! LOL!

Well, that's all folks! Just a few small pictures of decorations at my home. Hope you are enjoying your week leading up to Christmas! Make sure you hop on over to BooMama's and enjoy the many other tours she has set up for you!

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas...

NOT! Honestly, I don't think God heard my prayers while I was pregnant for a quiet, obedient little girl who likes to sit still and have tea parties, play with dolls, barbies, and read books for hours on end. No. He sure didn't. In his infinite wisdom, God saw fit to give us a little boy instead. An ACTIVE, near-hyper, non-stop boy who loves all things boy-ish, including construction, as well as destruction of ... stuff. MY stuff. OUR stuff. The HOUSE.

Saturday was such a precious, precious day. Hunter was spanked with the paddle no less than 10,468,392 times. Quite literally. It was so precious. And, in the spirit of Christmas, he broke two ornaments, pulled the ribbons off of the lower half of the Christmas tree, ate 2 of the cookie ornaments ... the ones I made last year (gross), spilled powdered sugar all over the kitchen floor, dumped an entire container of salt on the counter, tried to put wood into the fireplace ... in an all ready existing fire (crazy-nut-head!), tried to plug the lights on the tree into the wall, pulled two (or maybe three, we're not sure, but it really doesn't matter) candy canes off of the tree and broke into them, screamed "NO!" and "MINE!" no less than a gazillion times at me ... the list goes on... really, it does ... but I'm sure you're exhausted by now, so I'll let you rest.

Someone please talk me off the ledge.

Just kidding.

Sort of.

It was an exhausting kind of day, and I'm only praying that it's just the "terrible two's" syndrome, and that my child really isn't going to be this bad all his life. At one point, my husband turned to me, paddle in one hand, Hunter in the other hand, eyes wild, hair disheveled, voice frantic, and said to me: "new rule -- no more spankings for Hunter today." Okay, he really wasn't frantic, wild or disheveled, but we were both feeling pretty close to comatose by the time Hunter's bed time rolled around. The words "don't touch the tree" and "don't touch the fire" and "don't touch" and "don't" and "stop" and "no" all have an empty ring in our home (as Hunter flies from the couch to the floor in a drop-sit fashion). True story.

In fact, this day reminds me of friends of ours that live in Ohio. They had three boys, and one of them was a handful. One day, the father (who was in seminary at the time, so mom worked full time while he cared for the boys) came down to find his son had dumped syrup all over the kitchen table and floor, and I think there may have been a few other liquidy substances involved, but I can't remember the story real well. Maybe ketchup. Or mustard. Or both. I think there may have been either sugar, flour or salt involved, too. It's something you just can't wait to come down to see in your kitchen ... and to find out that your precious, angelic child was responsible for "decorating" for you is a joy you soon won't forget. He's even told stories about how he's had to stop the worship service (he's a pastor) and correct his children from the pulpit because they were hanging off the choir balcony (not really, but it was something equally disturbing) while he was preaching.

The saving grace? All of their mischievous sons turned out just fine ... they are now responsible young adults with great jobs. The youngest? Syrup boy? He went into the marines and now has a great job. So there is hope for Hunter, because he is SOOOOO much like syrup boy. And I'm certain all my friends that have grown children at this point are just sitting back and laughing their butts off at me. YES. I said butt. Not fanny. Not hiney. I can say whatever I want on my blog ... because it's MINE. Sue me.

Seriously though... just so you don't think we're completely abusive parents, we only spank for direct disobedience or defiance. The rest of the time, Hunter is placed in time out where he sits in one particular spot and does absolutely nothing until we tell him he can get up (which is usually about 1 minute per year of age). We're very good at explaining what he's done wrong, and he's very good at saying "sowwy," but I tell you ... he's developing a close relationship with the time-out spot! I look forward to the day that I can go to the sink with a dirty glass and turn back around to find my house is still in order. It's simply amazing what one two-year-old can manage to do in seconds with a permanent marker, a crayon, a glass of tea -- ack! How does he FIND these things?

I constantly find myself praying that my child will one day bounce off of couches, climb walls, color with permanent markers, and break things ... for Jesus. Dead serious. I pray that God will use all his wild energies for HIS glory one day. Who knows ... maybe Hunter is in training as we speak to be a youth pastor one day! Nothing would make me prouder.

Finally, the very friend I mentioned above sent me this link: Solid Rock. The first thing I have to say is: If he's now a Christian, then Praise God for Alice Cooper's salvation. I know that heaven was rejoicing and celebrating something FIERCE when satan was robbed of this child of God. The next thing I have to say ... I still get a creepy feeling when I look at pictures of him saved or not saved! Please note: I'm not judging him, nor am I saying he really is or isn't a Christian -- I don't personally know him, nor do I know his true heart. I'm just commenting on the creepy feeling I get when I look at his pictures.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Thursday Thanks Tank

This has been a long month ... and we're only on the 13th ... so I thought I'd share some things I'm thankful for ... as a sort of reality check for me, if you know what I mean. Head on over to visit Pam at Without Fear for more Thursday Thanks Tank.

1. My husband recently took over the finances, paying bills, balancing checkbooks, etc. At first, I resisted. Now, I'm thankful. I know how hard it is to do, and I'm thankful that I don't have to do it anymore. I find relief in knowing he's taking care of it all -- and he's doing a great job at it. Yes, it has been tight, tight, tight. No, I can't go out and get a Mocha Peppermint when I want. No, I can't just charge a Christmas gift to our family account. But at the same time -- Yes -- my husband is being fiscally responsible, and that blesses me more than words can say.

2. I'm thankful for what little extra money we have in our bank account. So many people have nothing... praise God for what we do have.

3. I'm thankful for obedience and blessings through continued and faithful tithing. We tithe our full tithe, and it is hard ... it really is -- especially when our realestate taxes have gone up AGAIN, causing our mortgage to go up ... AGAIN. This week, my husband wrote in the memo line: "God, help us get through the week." And you know what? He has. He provides for us on a continuous basis -- maybe not in a monetary fashion, but we know he is always there, making sure we're okay!

4. I am thankful for the challenge of Christmas shopping on a small budget. It has taught me to appreciate many, MANY things... especially the home-made kind.

5. I'm thankful for the loving kindness our savior bestows on me on a daily basis.

6. I'm thankful for children that will sing "Twinkle Twinkle" with passion in their hearts.

7. I'm thankful for our church's "Bring Your Gifts" service. We had a wonderful evening of fellowship, song, stories, poems, and scripture. It was wonderful to slow down and savor the moment.

8. I'm thankful for girlfriends. They bring cheer, joy, and happiness (yes, I MEANT to be redundant) to my life. I love them so much, and I especially love doing little things for them.

9. I'm thankful that my one of my bestest-girlfriends said to me "I really need to find religion" the other day. Because I was able to say to her, "let's talk!" I pray for her and her family every day, and I see God's hand moving in her life!

10. I am thankful for family.

11. I am thankful for my Kisses of Sunshine -- Hunter and my husband -- the loves of my life.

So there you have it. A small sample of the many things I'm thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Can't Believe I Really Said That!!

Today, I received an email from my dear friend Molly. She has started an on-line Bible-Study Forum, where we will be studying the book Seeking Him: Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival.

To say that I was excited to join this forum is an understatement. Molly's statement on one of her posts really tugged at my heart. She said:

"To know that I love the Lord but that I've tended to put other things first as of late, well it’s more than a bit embarrassing.

I want my passion back!

I’m in need of a personal revival."

When I saw that, I thought to my self: "Yeah. I need that too. I have passion, but I have also started to put other things first." I had made up my mind ... I would join in on the study. I was so excited. I called our bookstore and ordered the book. A week or so later, they called me to tell me the book was in... and to this very moment ... that is where it remains. At the store.

In fact, last night, Molly sent out an email to see what we all thought about continuing the study in January when we all slow down with our personal lives ... and this is actually what I emailed her ... and frankly ... I'm horrified that I even typed these very words. I said to her:

"I would love it if we could begin in January. I am so overwhelmed right now... Sadly, I don't think I could give it 100%, and I really think it deserves 100%!! I know that's sad, and it's a bad excuse (the holidays) but it's all I can do right now. I still haven't even had a free moment to go pick the book up!"

Did I really say that? "I don't think I can give it 100%?" Have I put Christ on the back burner, because I'm "busy with all my holiday preparations?" You know the ones ... because you're probably wrapped up in them too, but for heaven's sake ... it IS HIS BIRTHDAY we are celebrating! You would think I would be able to sit down each night for a half hour to an hour to study this book!

So this admission that I made to Molly earlier today has been bothering me all day long. Yes, I do study the word and do my daily devotion... but in order to grow, and be all I can be for Christ, it involves in-depth study... more than just a 15 minute devotion. It involves pulling out resource books, asking questions, thinking things through, and more importantly, praying things through.

It seems that this blogger is in serious need of a priority adjustment!

Are you feeling that "holiday pinch?" Are you juggling your priorities, while managing to make quality time with our Savior? Or are you making quality time for our Savior and then juggling all the other things?

Sunday, December 09, 2007

It's a Belated Birthday!!!

Yesterday was Jenn's Birthday (from A Good Cup of Coffee)!

Happy Belated Birthday, Jenn!

Make sure you stop by and wish her a happy day!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Yikes! Too Much TO DO!!

Is anyone else feeling like there is so much to do, yet so little time to do it in??? Yeah. I'm right there with you!!!

I still have to decide on a picture (that means, actually get a good one) for our Christmas cards, then actually purchase them, write our Christmas letter (my mind is drawing a blank!), mail them, deep-clean my house, catch up on laundry, do a little baking, and finish up our Christmas shopping and wrapping -- all while working full time. I know everyone else out there in blogland has the same thing on their plates, so trust me when I say... I KNOW HOW YOU ALL FEEL!!! Oh, and did I mention that I'm super busy at work, and haven't had a chance to read hardly any of my fav blogs??? I'm a wee bit depressed over that!

Last night, I spent 2 hours making my first no-sew blanket. It turned out so stinking cute!!! It was Curious George polar Fleece fabric on one side and red on the other. Once I got into the swing of things, it went smoothly... except ... I have 5 to 6 more blankets to do.

I also have about 12 bracelets/necklaces to put together. The creative part of my brain is seriously cramping!!! So are my fingers and back.

But all in all, I would say, I have less crafts to do than Barbara, who will be doing crafts from here until the last minute before Christmas Day... she'll be the one passed out under the tree with sequins, glitter, glue, and paint all over her. That woman has got some kind of energy! Love you Barbara!!! Wish I could have HALF your energy... and for the record, my husband said we're not allowed to play together. I think he thinks we'll spend too much money at the craft stores, and too much time gluing, sewing, and putting stuff together!

So, because my brain is pretty much MUSH, and because I really have nothing better to say, I'm leaving you all with this list of questions that my Pastorman's wife emailed me... if you want to play along, just let me know in the comments section.

Welcome to the Christmas edition of getting to know your friends.

Okay, here's the blog-version of what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE! Just copy the questions and paste into your blog post. Change all the answers so they apply to you, then post it. Let me know if you do, and I'll come over and read your answers.

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both, but preferably wrapping paper (1 pattern per person)

2. Real tree or artificial? Real

3. When do you put up your tree? First weekend in Dec., but not this year

4. When do you take the tree down? Anytime from Jan. 2-15th!!

5. Do you like eggnog? Love it -- with nutmeg sprinkled on top -- YUM!

6. Favorite gift rec'd as a child? Drum set

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, a children's version. I'm working on saving enough for an adult version.

8. Hardest person to buy for? My father and my sister's husband (if you're reading, sis ... he's getting a boat load of purchased as well as homemade chocolate things)

9. Easiest to buy for? My son

10. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I don't think I've ever had a "worst" Christmas gift at all.

11. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards? Both -- mail to friends and family, email to internet friends

12. Favorite Christmas movie? Anything on the Hallmark channel during Christmas time

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? A little before Thanksgiving, but the bulk of it is usually after Thanksgiving

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? No. I don't have the nerve to! Actually, that's not true. We have a family tradition ... one year, I got my sister-in-law a nice set of Sapphire earring jackets for her pearls (or something like that). I stuck them in the toe of her stocking, then I bought these plastic gaudy gold earrings (that looked like the tops of a pineapple) from a street vendor. She hated them, but thought it was her real gift. So now, we just re-wrap that and pass it on from person to person. It's a fun recycling thing we do.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Beef -- it's what's for dinner (along with shitake mushroom bread pudding -- it's stuffing consistency, not dessert consistency)

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear, always

17. Favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night sung by John Barry

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Both -- we alternate each year

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? No -- not all -- only Dasher, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Rudolph (those are names, right?)

20. Angel on the tree top or a star? Angel on family tree, star on Jesse Tree

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Both, depending on which family we're with

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Busy-ness (I'm a PRIME example) and commercialism

23. Do you decorate your tree in any specific theme or color? Just homemade ornaments, cookie ornaments, pom-poms, and other kid-friendly stuff

24. What did you leave for Santa? When I was little, milk and cookies and a carrot for Rudolph, now, nothing ... we're not teaching Hunter about that

Your turn!!!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

WFMW: Quick "Bare-Pantry-Leftover" Meals

This week, Shannon's Works for me Wednesday is THEMED! Yay ... love those ... because I don't have to scour my brain for ideas! Today, it's the WFMW: What Do I Fix? Edition. When you've had a hectic day, everyone is tired, hungry, and you don't feel well, but still have to fix dinner on whatever is in the pantry... here are a couple easy suggestions (one that I make, and one that my husband made just last night). Usually, we are using leftover veggies, or veggies that weren't fully used in another recipe (like half of an onion, or half of a red pepper, or an extra un-cooked steak).

Creamy Chicken and Bacon Pasta

This is a take-off of the "hay and straw" pasta dish (which is another fast and easy dish to fix). I love this, because it's so fast and easy, and you can toss in whatever you want! I usually will add whatever I have in the fridge (mushrooms, onions, etc.), but if you don't like something on the list, just replace it with something you do like. The key is the spaghetti, cream, and the Parmesan cheese. As long as you keep those three things on the list, you can change everything else. It looks like a lot of steps, but once you read through it and familiarize yourself with the recipe and the instructions, you'll find that it goes a lot faster than you think. I usually have dinner (serve with a side salad and bread) on the table in 15 minutes.

Spaghetti (enough for your family)
2 frozen chicken breasts, sliced into strips
olive oil (for cooking chicken strips)
salt / pepper (to taste)
1/2 onion, sliced thinly (or chopped)
1 clove garlic, minced (use garlic powder if you don't have fresh garlic)
4 slices bacon
6 fresh mushrooms (optional), cleaned and sliced
2 tablespoons real butter
1/2 bag frozen peas and carrots
1 - 2 cups heavy cream (depending on how much spaghetti you make)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (or more, depending on how much spaghetti you make)

My mouth is watering already.

Begin by placing a large pot of water on to boil. Add a mound of salt to the water (about a quarter-sized mound is perfect). When the water comes to a rolling boil, cook spaghetti according to package directions. For a quick meal, angel-hair only takes like 6-8 minutes. For the thick spaghetti (which I adore), it will take 12 minutes.

In a medium-sized frying pan, cook bacon until crisp. Set aside on paper towel to drain, then crumble. To the bacon drippings, pour enough oil into the pan to coat the bottom and keep the chicken from sticking. Add the chicken to the hot pan, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Cook thoroughly, and remove from pan -- set aside. To the same pan, add the 2 tablespoons of butter, and toss in the onion, garlic, mushrooms, and frozen veggies. Cook over medium-high heat until the onions are soft, tender, and caramelized. Add the chicken and crumbled bacon. Cook until heated through. Everything should be done right around the same time the pasta finishes cooking.

Drain the cooked pasta and put back into the pot. Add the chicken mixture, the Parmesan cheese and the heavy cream slowly. Stir pasta well. Add enough cream that it coats the pasta and mixes well with the Parm cheese so it makes a thick sauce. Adding more whipping cream will make it creamier, adding more Parmesan cheese will thicken it. I usually do not go by measurements here, but rather, eyeball it. Season with salt and pepper to taste (it wont need much, but it will need it, because the cream is not salty).

Steak and Noodles

I had to work late last night, and I came home to a delicious meal that my husband "threw together" from stuff in the pantry. He didn't have exact measurements, so he kind of just eyeballed it, too. You can substitute the peppers and onions for the frozen stir fry vegetables.

Egg Noodles (or whatever pasta you have on hand)
1 steak, cut into strips
1 garlic clove, chopped or minced
red peppers cut into strips
green peppers cut into strips
onion cut into thin strips
leftover brown (beef) gravy (we had 1/2 jar in the fridge)
1 envelope Lipton Onion Soup Mix or Beef Onion soup mix
2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce (I think that's how much he used)

Begin by placing a large pot of water on to boil. Add a mound of salt to the water (about a quarter-sized mound is perfect). When the water comes to a rolling boil, cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large (family-sized) pan, add a little bit of oil, and the steak. Cook until done. Add the garlic and vegetables and continue to cook until tender. Add the gravy, the soup mix, and soy sauce. Add enough water to make a nice sauce. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until ready to serve. Serve over pasta.

You can also add broccoli, carrots, or anything else that floats your boat!

Monday, December 03, 2007

A Little "Q & A" and Some Yummy Recipes

Today, I'm going to answer a gazillion questions that I've been asked, but haven't gotten around to. The topics are: Caesar Salad Dressing, Christmas Cookie Ornaments; and Cookie Recipes. If you've asked a burning question that I've missed, leave me a comment and I'll get to it right away! Sorry this post is long, so if you want to get right to the cookie recipes, go to the bottom.

Recently, I participated in Works for me Wednesday and posted about "Safe Eggs," and I included my recipe for homemade Caesar Salad Dressing. The following questions/comments were posted, and I thought I'd address each of them:

Stacey from Just Me and my Guys commented:

"I can't eat the Caesar salad because I can't seem to get past the fact that they have anchovies in them! Got any ideas for that??"

Why, yes Stacey ... I have a couple ideas. Try using anchovy paste. I promise it doesn't have a strong fish flavor at all, and it's not as salty and oily. They sell it in a tube, and I usually find it around the Italian imported foods. If you're worried about the strong fish flavor, then reduce the amount by half, and finger-taste-test it (dip your finger in it) after you process it to see how it tastes. If you're really, REALLY worried about it, then try the recipe without the anchovy paste, just be sure to add salt. Hope that helps.

Amanda (no blog address) commented:

Why not use whole anchovies if you're going for a true Caesar? They really don't taste "fishy," if that's your concern. But I applaud you for using anchovy paste! Bravo!

Thank you for the applause, but it's not necessary. Actually, I chose not to use the whole anchovy for several reasons: I find them to be very, VERY salty (stiff, in fact, from so much salt); I find them to be very greasy when packed in oil; I do find them to be very strong in flavor. I find that if I use anchovy paste, my 2 year old is more likely to eat it, my husband doesn't balk at the fishy taste, and I'm satisfied with the important "body of flavor" that anchovy paste really does add to the dressing. It's one of those "flavor layering" things, I guess.

And finally, "K" (no blog address) commented:

"If I use these eggs can I go back to eating raw cookie dough again?"

(she's referring to using pasteurized eggs)

Well, "K" ... I just don't see why not! If they are safe for a raw-egg dressing, then in my book, they are safe for cookie dough! Woot! Dig in, girl!

Last week, I participated in Momrn2's Christmas Traditions carnival (check it out -- there are a couple new participants that have been added). I posted several new and older traditions that my family enjoys. And guess what??? I got a few questions from that post, too.

Momrn2 from My Quiet Corner said:

"...I think you need to post instructions and recipes on how to make your cookie ornaments. If you already have I missed it somehow!

What a fantastic idea!"

Well, I purchased extra large, gargantuan, beautiful cookie cutters from -- made a large-batch sugar cookie dough from a recipe they sent with my beautiful cookie cutters (recipe follows). I didn't change a thing, either. I just followed their recipe. I decorated the cookies using items sells -- they have everything you need, and they also show samples of decorated cookies when you hover your mouse over the actual cookie cutter. I used things like the White Cookie Icing in a bottle (similar to an Elmer's glue bottle) by Wilton. It dried ROCK HARD (no offense, Wilton), and worked beautifully. I also used various sanding sugars, edible glitters, Luster Dust, and other decorating items from -- I whole-heartedly recommend visiting their site!! (Actual cookie recipes courtesy of Copper Gifts at bottom of this post)

Carey from Sunny Days at the Beach commented:

" a question about your homemade ornaments...from long do they last? Do they last for years? Can you share the applesauce recipe?"

Well, actually -- I packed all the cookies I made last year (because, frankly ... it was a LOT of work that I didn't want to throw away) in gallon-sized zip lock bags. I pulled them out to peek at them over the weekend, and with the exception of a few beheaded gingerbread people and snowmen, they look beautiful! I'm considering spraying them with Krylon's Acrylic Crystal Clear sealer in Matte to seal in their beauty.

As for the homemade applesauce recipe, I think there was a misunderstanding. I meant to say homemade ornaments with an applesauce and cinnamon recipe. Or maybe I should have said, "homemade cinnamon and applesauce ornaments." Either way, you can find many recipes on line (I linked the one I'll be using above). As for a homemade Applesauce recipe, well -- I don't have one, but Sandy at 4 Reluctant Entertainers has an excellent recipe. I'm sure she'll share it with you!

Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie was also looking for large-batch cookie recipes, so as promised above, here are a few tried and true large batch recipes:

Big Batch Sugar Cookies
Use this basic dough to make any of your favorite shapes.

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (less if making thick cookies)
1 teaspoon salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients and add to butter mixture. Mix well. Chill in large pancake shapes wrapped in parchment or wax
paper for 1 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees before baking cookies. Cover baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat mats to prevent cookies from spreading. On surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll dough to approx. 1/8" thick. Use copper cookie cutters dipped in powdered sugar to cut dough into shapes. Bake on baking sheet at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until just beginning to turn brown around the edges. This recipe can
make up to 5 dozen - 4-6" cookies.

Big Batch Royal Icing Recipe
Royal icing is the best for decorated cookies because it sets up so nicely. Cookies can then be used in bouquets or placed in pretty gift bags. Some royal icing doesn't taste good, but by adding flavorings you can make it taste delicious!

3 pounds powdered sugar
4 heaping Tbsp meringue powder
3/4 tsp clear vanilla
3/4 tsp butter flavoring
1/2 tsp almond flavoring

Put 2 lbs of powdered sugar in your mixer bowl. Add the meringue powder. Thoroughly mix the two. Add approximately 1/2 c. warm water or just enough that the frosting is fairly thin. Add the flavorings in the amounts shown or adjust them to your own taste. Add the last pound of powdered sugar and enough water to make the frosting the consistency you want. Divide and color. This icing hardens quickly so keep your containers covered until you are ready to use. For "flow" consistency add warm water a little at a time.

Good "flow" consistency is about the thickness of chocolate syrup.

Outline cookie, flow on icing and allow icing to dry hard before you add the finishing touches.

Chocolate Cutouts
This recipe is great for detailed cookie cutters because the cookies retain the size of the cookie cutter even after baking.

1 & 3/4 cups butter (no substitutions)
2 large eggs
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon water
4 & 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa

Cream together: 1-3/4 cups butter, 2 large eggs, 2 cups brown sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 teaspoon water.

Gradually: 4-1/2 cups flour and 1/2 cup cocoa. Divide dough into 3 balls, wrap in wax paper and chill. When ready to bake cookies, let dough soften slightly, roll out on floured board to 1/4" thick and cut-out with floured copper cookie cutters. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes. Cool on cookie sheet for 1 minute, and then remove. Cool completely and decorate.

Gingerbread Cookies
Copper Gifts made this recipe when they were on the TV show called, Unwrapped on the food network. They used their Large, Giant and HUGE copper cookie cutters.

1 & 1/2 cups dark molasses
1 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup cold water
1/3 cup shortening
7 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix molasses, brown sugar, water and shortening. Stir in remaining ingredients. Form dough into 1 or 2 pancake shapes, wrap, and store in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Roll dough out to 1/4 inch and cut with cookie cutters. Decorate with candy, raisins and icing. Bake for 15-20 minutes (depending on how well done you like your gingerbread cookies).

If making the HUGE cookies (15") from roll dough according to size of cookie cutter. If you are making the HUGE size, use all the dough and roll almost 1/2 inch thick, they recommend rolling dough out between two sheets of Parchment paper. Lightly grease the cutting side of the cookie cutter, remove top piece of parchment paper and cut out HUGE cookie. Remove excess dough from the outer edges of big cookie, then carefully slide cookie and bottom sheet of parchment paper onto cookie sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how well done you like your gingerbread cookies.

Have fun, and ENJOY!!!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Confession Time

Have you ever lived in a home where you just didn't feel like you were "at home?" Well, I have a confession to make... I don't feel at home in my home.

It's a traditional home from the outside, but contemporary on the inside. It's quite contrary to my style, and as much as I try to stay within the style of my current contemporary home (decorated with an "Italian" or Pottery Barn feel), I find myself dying to go back to the style of the first home we ever owned.

I loved it. It was so... ME. It was unique, it was charming, it was a sweet bungalow-country-cottage-garden styled home. It had walnut trim around all the windows, door frames, and floor boards. The doors were all original 6-panel walnut doors, and the windows were original, hand-blown windows with the old pulley system. The house had wonderful angled ceilings, the powder room was tucked under the staircase, it was very bright, very airy, and ... very small. And old. Which is one of the reasons we moved away from it. It required a LOT of maintenance, because the house was all wood on the outside. Paint, paint, paint. Chipping, peeling paint. Another reason is because it was RIGHT on a main road, and if we had children, we didn't feel like it would be a safe place for them to play. And boy, was I right, considering that my child likes to dart into the middle of the road at any given moment.

The house was located in a small historic town. It had a charming front porch, German wooden shingles for siding, and a lovely white picket fence around the front yard. The town was originally founded in the late 1700's. The home was originally built in the late 1800's, and burned down in 1920. It was rebuilt around the original foundation with an addition off to the side. It had two outbuildings, one being a garden shed, and the other was an historic barn. My mom had painted pretty murals on the walls in several of the rooms. It was decorated in a French country style mixed with shabby chic. It was my style of home, and I really miss it. Did I mention ... I LOVED IT??? And, it was ADORABLE?

But, while the house was adorable, it was also cold, drafty, lacked in insulation, and was a money pit for us. We sold it, made a good profit, and purchased our current home, which had been on the market a while because it needed a lot of work. My husband, family and friends poured their hearts into this home. They did so much work, and it's beautiful... it's just not "me." I've tried so hard to "make it me," but to no avail. Don't get me wrong... I'm comfortable in this home. Very. And I'm extremely grateful... I am just feeling a bit blue, and missing my old home right about now.

I keep looking around and I think to myself... the Christmas tree would have looked PERFECT in our living room ... IN OUR OLD HOUSE. And, the bedroom was such a good size ... IN OUR OLD ROOM. And, I wish I had the view we had ... IN OUR OLD HOUSE. But, while it was charming and adorable, it was riddled with problems, and it became an albatross around our necks. So, now ... we've been in our new home for 4 years, and I'm just out of place. I don't have the money to redecorate, but the decor is very nice, and there really isn't a need. I'm just feeling restless, and ... well, out of place.

I know this is silly, but I share all this, only to ask ... Has anyone else felt like that? What have you done to make yourself feel more "at home?"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Christmas Traditions

*Updated below with a new Jesse Tree Link for Rocks in my Dryer*

Momrn2 at My Quiet Corner has invited us to share our family Christmas traditions as we welcome the Christmas season in. Even as I sit and write this, our family traditions are forming in our hearts and minds. You see, my husband and I waited a long, long time to have a child. Fourteen years without a child had passed, but when Hunter was born, we suddenly found ourselves taking a really hard look at how the world celebrates Christmas.

For years, my heart's passion had been giving gifts at Christmas. Many gifts, to be exact, but while I did enjoy giving gifts, my true focus on the meaning of Christmas never changed, because without Christ's birth, I would not have had the gift of salvation, the gift of eternal life, the gift of grace, nor the gift of forgiveness. But still, I would get as excited as a child would, if not more. I love giving people things, but more than that, I love seeing their faces as they open their gifts.

But now that we have a child, I have found that we are spending a lot more time and effort into establishing traditions in our house that actually hold value (yes, more value than a purchased gift). You see, my husband enjoys giving and receiving gifts, too. But he would rather go without gifts, and he would rather place all our time, effort, and true focus on the birth of our Lord and Savior.

Because I love my husband with all my heart and soul, and because I love that he is my soul mate, I enjoy finding small ways to make him happy, and I have found that it has led to my questioning the ways I've done things for a long time... in other words, this year, I've tried to pare down the gift giving, and the flurry of preparations, and find small, but meaningful ways that our family can focus in on Christ throughout this season.

One tradition we will begin this year has actually started a lot of preparation on my behalf, but will lead into 25 nights of reflection, family devotion, scripture reading, and prayer that will be carried on year after year. It is a tradition that I picked up from a dear internet friend of mine, Shannon from Rocks in my Dryer. Last year, Shannon shared with us how her family enjoys a Jesse Tree in THIS POST, and THIS POST, and she shared some insight into this beloved tradition in her family. In THIS POST*, she shared her own ornaments. I have spent part of last year, and part of the past two months studying various Jesse tree devotion books and websites. I have taken devotions from several sources and compiled my own Jesse Tree Devotions with the symbols and stories that take us through the Bible from the beginning of time, through the birth of our Savior on a child's level of understanding. Each night, we will read a story from the Bible, like the story of creation, the story of man's first sin, the story of how King David was chosen, the Ten Commandments, the stories of Esther, Ruth, Rahab, Joseph and his coat of many colors, John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, and many more.

Each ornament is a symbol that represents the stories that we'll read. I made the majority of the ornaments using stickers, scrapbook die cuts, paint, fabric, wood, felt, or Sculpey UltraLight Clay. I placed most of them on wooden plaques, and tomorrow, my husband will drill holes on them and I'll add ribbons to tie them on to the tree. Some ornaments I purchased, like a crown for King David, or a Star of Bethlehem for the prophesy of a child being born in Bethlehem. And then for others, I combined items, like a wooden dowel painted gold and glued to a beaded tree ornament to make a scepter for the story of Esther or plastic wolf and lamb figurines that I glued onto a piece of wood. Some I even made out of sculpey clay, like the stones for the ten commandments, a rams head for the sacrifice God gave Abraham in place of Isaac, or a Rams horn for oil for the anointing of a king. It was truly a labor of love on my part. Each ornament will be wrapped in tissue, numbered according to each night's devotion, and placed at the bottom of the tree. Hunter will be able to open one ornament each night and hear a story that will capture his attention, his mind, and his heart. My hope and prayer is that my son will grow to love this tradition. (pictures at bottom of post)

I began another simple tradition last year. I was facing a dilemma ... a toddler + a Christmas tree full of ornaments = sure disaster. So, I made ornaments from cookie dough. I loved how they turned out so much that I've decided to continue keeping my Christmas tree decorations simple and as home made as possible. This year, I'll continue the tradition by adding to my collection of homemade and simple ornaments with homemade applesauce and cinnamon ornaments. I know Hunter will enjoy rolling them out and cutting them with cookie cutters.

Another simple tradition that my husband and I started even before Hunter was born, is that we give our neighbors each a small homemade gift on Christmas eve, with a special note attached to it. Last year, we gave out boxes of homemade cookies. The year before that, I made chocolate cherry bundt cakes. This year, I'll probably pass out homemade Ice Cream Toppings. It's a small gift, but the meaning of generosity and love carries more weight than the actual gift we give.

Finally, I have discovered that our child is captivated by all the Christmas decorations outside. He loves the lights, and loves to touch many of the decorations. We have always kept our decorations to a minimum, with white lights on the bushes, and a lit tree on my front porch. Last year, I added a lit snowman. This year, I was inspired to create a simple outdoor nativity scene that Hunter could touch without fear of it breaking; a nativity scene that could be put outside year after year. I painted faces on various patio pavers, and used fleece to create simple gowns. I added some sparkly foil trim on the angel, and made the baby out of a wooden egg wrapped in white fleece, and placed it in a plastic container (weighted down with marbles) filled with raffia. I really like how it turned out. I know the neighbors and passing cars wont really be able to see the details from the street, but I wanted to spark their curiosity, and encourage them to come to the door for a closer look, and maybe even ask me about it.

Those are some of our new family traditions that we've started this year. The preparation for these items, along with my personal challenge of paring gift giving down and focusing our hearts and minds on the true meaning of Christmas has placed me in a wonderful, reflective mood, and has readied my heart for the celebration of our Lord and Savior.

For more Christmas traditions, I encourage you to go to My Quiet Corner and check out the others that are participating in this little carnival. But mostly, I encourage you to take a really hard look at your family traditions, and possibly, start something new this year that will help your family focus their hearts on Jesus.

Jesse Tree Ornaments:

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My Wish List

*Updated on 11/30/07 to add: I found this sign and fell in love with it... it would look so nice over our doorway for friends and family to see as they leave our home, but best of all ... it's on clearance! Love it! $9.99 at the DaySpring online store!

Yes, I know ... This is a special, unusual-to-my-style post, but it's really just for my husband, and the hundreds of people who are asking him what GiBee wants for Christmas. Yesterday, he asked me no less than four times what he could tell people that are asking him what I want for Christmas. And if that sentence made any sense to you, could you explain it to me?

I had a hard time coming up with stuff. I know it sounds like a cliche, but all I really want for Christmas is my husband and son to be close to me, seeing the joy on their faces as they open special little gifts I've picked out for them, and food. I do love me some food.

Anyway, I searched the crevices of my brain, which in fact, are very deep, very cavernous, and, well ... dark. Here is a list of my "TOP TEN Gift Ideas for GiBee" that I came up with, which took me for.ev.ah. I'd also like to hear from you ... what do YOU want for Christmas? Because I could use some ideas for myself!

GiBee's Top Ten Most-Wanted Gift Items for 2007
(not in any particular order or desire)

1. Here's an odd item that I pulled out of no where. Not true. I actually saw it on someone elses blog, but I can't remember who. It's a Gorillapod Flexible Tripod for $21.95. It's a tripod for your compact digital camera, and it "doesn't require an elevated flat surface for you to take the perfect shot." I totally want that. You know, for all the "professional shots" I take for my blog. It's an un-selfish request, really ... because I'm just thinking of you... my reader.

2. I love to cook, and I love to collect cookbooks, but lately, I noticed that I have cookbooks that don't really "fit my personality" -- if there's such a thing -- and therefore, must be purged. So, here are three cookbooks I would LOVE to have along with the new and used prices (I would gladly take a used copy): Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis ($21.45 at Amazon; used: $14.88!); A Taste of Home Baking Book ($19.77 at Amazon; used: $16.50); The Taste of Home Ringbound Cookbook ($29.95 at Amazon; used: $13.45)

3. I've always wanted my own little herb garden. This one, an Italian Herb Garden Kit is particularly adorable and affordable at $12.95 or a terra cotta planter, peat pellets, seeds for chives, basil and oregano, and a recipe booklet. I also like this little cardboard growing container for cilantro ... my favorite herb of all. It's only $5.69!!

4. On a practical note, I'd love to have a cover for my KitchenAid Stand Mixer (for a 5-Qt bowl & lift Professional model). It's $29.99 at the KitchenAid store, but ... I'm not picky!

5. A subscription to A Taste of Home magazine would be a lovely gift at just $14.98 for a one-year (six issues) subscription! And, while we're at it... a renewal of my subscription to the Hallmark Magazine would be perfect! I don't know how much it is, but it's somewhere around $15.

6. I would cherish... cherish, I tell you ... receiving any of the following Janette Oke DVDs: (in order) Love Comes Softly ($11.99); Loves Enduring Promise ($11.99); Loves Long Journey ($11.99); Loves Abiding Joy ($14.99), Loves Unending Legacy ($17.99).

7. I love this Steel Name Key Holder at $24.95, although maybe instead of just my last name, it could say... "(insert my last name) Family" or something like that.

8. On another practical note, these snow shoes from Lands End for $49.50 sure would hit the spot! They aren't the most beautiful shoes one could find, but they would keep my feet warm and dry when I go to work.

9. Toby Mac's Portable Sounds CD ($10.99) would be a lovely gift to help get the blood pumping in the mornings!

10. Last, but most certainly NOT LEAST, my absolute favorite thing to get at Christmas would be an original Lisa Leonard sterling silver, "Mini Open Circle Necklace," Hand Stamped with Hunter's name for $48. It comes on an 18" sterling ball chain with a fresh water pearl (although, I would prefer a 20" chain). It is not the one I have pictured below, but it's close, and if you email Lisa Leonard, and tell her "mini open circle necklace, she'll know what to do. Her email is:

Well, honey ... there you have it. A list of things I'd love to have.

So ... what do you ... the readers ... want to get for Christmas? Leave me a comment with your great ideas -- I may have to adjust my list a little!!

WFMW: Shout Color Catcher Sheets

It's time for another weekly "Works for me Wednesday" tip, sponsored by Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer! Be sure to head on over and check out hundreds of other tips!

This is a dreaded laundry tip, but in all honesty, it's a good one. I HATE it when I put one of my sons new outfits into the wash and the color runs all over everything. HATE it, hate it, hate it. I have many clothing items that started off with white shirts and just a touch of red here or there, only to have that "touch of red" bleed all over the white and turn it into PINK.

That is... until my dear girlfriend "A" shared a wonderful tip with me, which I now pass on to you. Shout Color Catcher sheets.

Shout Color Catcher sheets by SC Johnson are dye-trapping cloths that you throw in with your regular load of laundry. Mysteriously, they manage to absorb and trap any loose dyes that can stain your clothes.

The sheets are about 7 inches square, and are a little bit thicker than a normal dryer sheet. When you take them out of the box they are white, but after you do a load of laundry they soak up the dye and usually end up pink, or a dingy purple-gray or dingy blue-gray (depending on the colors of clothes I washed). One even came out completely beet red -- I put a new red shirt I got for Hunter into a load of his colors. I really didn't think it would run, because it was a normal, every-day long-sleeved polo type shirt I got at Target, but sure enough. Beet-red color catcher sheet = saved load of laundry. SCORE!!!

They are so simple to use ... you just throw one sheet into the washing machine with your laundry. That's it! You can use your normal detergents and other laundry products. I usually forget to take it out of the wash when done, and it ends up going through the dryer, too, but that's okay. They are dryer safe.

The sheets work equally well on all fabrics, at all temperatures, and with all laundry products. They currently come in a box of 24, and run around $4.00 per box. I.LOVE.THEM.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Things going on in my home...

After 14 years, you would think that a dog had the right to retain her original name. But, that was all before an un-named child entered her life. Kelly, my 14 year old Maltese, was at one time the sweetest, most patient dog I have ever seen... but again, that was before an un-named child entered her life.

Now, Kelly has become a 14 year old, incontinent, grouchy, snarly, snippety old dog who has a new name ... goo(d) gul (the d in good is silent), or ... "good girl" in adult language.

And did I mention that this un-named child loves to torment lavish "goo gul" with hugs, kisses, petting, tapping, head-rubbing, nose-tickling, belly-hugging, hair-licking lovins? Yes, my child licks the dog, and he also tries to drink her water and eat her food... let's move along ...


Something else going on in my home... Saturday evening, we went out to dinner with some friends and family to celebrate my birthday ... and really, I'm loving being "in my forties" ... but when we came home, our neighbors all had their beautiful and sparkly Christmas lights on. Blues, whites, reds, greens ... Hunter was truly transfixed. My mom (who wears glasses) was in our guest bedroom with Hunter, and he had pulled a pillow over to the very edge of the bed so that he could lay his head down while he watched the lights. My mom (did I mention she wears glasses) was patiently pointing out the images that were placed in the yard across the street from us... and she was showing my son where Jesus was. I had just walked into the room, and I glanced across the street and turned back to my mom in a wee bit of confusion. I asked her, "mom, where are you seeing Jesus?" And she pointed across the street to a huge blue and white blow-up that the neighbors had. She said, "right there... see it? It's an odd nativity, though." To which I had to burst out in laughter, because the "nativity" she was "seeing" was actually a family of Polar Bears. Oh, my word ... we had a good laugh!

Personally, I think if I can save the money, I'd like to put THIS NATIVITY out in our back yard (which can be seen from the main road), but until I can save the money for it (fortunately they are out of stock), I'll settle for my painted paver nativity (I'll share more on Thursday).


Other going's-on... yesterday, my husband pulled out our outdoor decorations. I spent the afternoon putting up white lights on our bushes, and putting together our lit-snowman. It looked puurtee. The funny thing is... Hunter spent the entire afternoon with me outside while I tested the lights and hung them, but when I went out later to hang my wreath up, he came out with me, and when he rounded the corner of the garage and saw all the lights (it was dark by this time), he inhaled sharply and said... "Oh! Oh! Oooooo! Yites! Tree! Yites! MIIIIIINE!" Yeah, he's learned the word MINE. It's really lovely. Worry not. I've informed him that while he's living under my roof, he will actually own ... nothing ... and all things will be MINE. He laughed. And repeated... "MINE." Ha. Ha. Funny guy. I'm sure the MINE saga will continue.


Stuff Going on in the Blogosphere... Make sure to mark your bloggy calendars and join my friends in their Holiday Celebrations!

November 29th -- Share your family traditions! Join Momrn2 over at My Quiet Corner to share your special Christmas traditions! A lot of ideas will be shared, so bring a pen and pad of paper, too! I plan on participating, and I hope you do too.

Boomama is hosting her very special, annual Christmas Home Tour! Yay! It's so exciting. Anyway ... If I don't feel particularly motivated, I will probably just provide a link to last year's decorations, because really ... I haven't fallen into a pile of money -- meaning: NOTHING'S CHANGED. But I can't wait to see what YOUR house looks like! So, do share!

Shannon from Rocks in my Dryer has her very own Bloggy Giveaways blog... where she -- you know ... GIVES STUFF AWAY! Right now! What a great way to get something for Christmas ... FREE! So go! Try it out!

Christmas Giveaway 2007 SweepstakesSpeaking of giveaways ... those crazy twins at 5 Minutes for Mom are at it again ... HOW DO THEY DO IT? both with new babies to boot! They are giving away a LOT of fun stuff, and you really don't want to miss the opportunity to enter your name in one or ALL of their giveaways! Go visit them and sign up!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

And you thought I forgot!!!

Well, I didn't. I have just been so bogged down with ... life. Doctor-visiting-parent-visiting-turkey-eating "stuff."

But finally, here are the winners of the Homemade with Love Giveaway. I drew the names and the prizes in the old-fashioned way ... names on little pieces of paper in one bowl, prizes on pieces of paper in another bowl.

Becky: Scripture Journal Starter Pack
Shalee: Kisses of Sunshine Music Collection on CD
Tammy & Parker: Snowman Paver
Barb at A Chelsea Morning: Picture Ornament Kit
Tons of Sons: Peppermint Ice Cream Topping in Snowman Tin
Robinz Nest: Scripture frame in blues and browns
Erin: Gingerbread Man Paver
Beth: Christmas Scripture Frame

There you have it! The rest of my homemade gifts are just that ... gifts!

As soon as I get everyone's addresses, I'll pop these prizes into the mail ... along with the other giveaways that I have waiting to go out.

Thank you all for participating, and I pray you have a joyous time as you prepare your hearts, homes and families for the Christmas season!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

I pray you take a moment to thank the Lord for all he's done for you, for all the blessings he's given you, for all the times he's given you light for darkness, for the times he's taken your sickness and healed you, and for the moment when he took your sin and shame away. This has to be one of my absolute favorite songs, and I was so happy when we sang it ... the very last song ... at church this past Sunday. It really is an anthem in my life... "
With a grateful heart, with a song of praise, with an outstretch arm, I will bless your name. Thank you lord, I just wanna thank you lord..."

I've put up a link for this song in a You Tube video, but it is poor quality, and it's cut short and has some some background "talkers" ... but at least you can hear the song if you've never heard it before.

So ...
from my home to yours ... have a blessed Thanksgiving, enjoy your family, and enjoy your day!

Thank You Lord

I come before you today; And there's just one thing that I want to say
Thank you lord, Thank you lord
For all you've given to me; For all the blessings that I cannot see
Thank you lord, Thank you lord

With a grateful heart; With a song of praise; With an outstretch arm; I will bless your name; Thank you lord, I just wanna thank you lord; Thank you lord, I just wanna thank you lord, Thank you lord

For all you've done in my life; You took my darkness and gave me your light
Thank you lord, Thank you lord
You took my sin and my shame; You took my sickness and healed all my pain
Thank you lord, Thank you lord

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Little is Much...

Have you ever felt like you just didn't measure up to the Billy Grahams of the world? How about those gals from Women of Faith? When you share your faith, are you as funny as Patsy Clairmont, Lucy Swindoll, Marilyn Meberg, Thelma Wells, Anita Renfro? Are you as Biblically sound as Beth Moore? Are you as eloquent and bring people to tears like Karen Kingsbury? Can you lay the scriptures out like Max Lucado?

Did you ever feel like you just weren't making a spiritual impact in your personal world, or in the global world that you thought you would? Or thought you should?

A month ago, at our women's retreat, we did an exercise that truly shocked me and opened my eyes. We made a list of all the loved ones and dear ones of the women at the retreat that weren't saved. Can you guess how long this list was? I'm sure you can imagine... it went on for two pages, and I know we only skimmed the top of the list of names on people's hearts.

I am blessed beyond measure that my spouse is saved, my family members are saved, and most of my friends are saved. But many of my co-workers and neighbors are not. And when I saw how many women in my church have loved ones that aren't saved, it truly broke my heart. I know that I am not an evangelist. I accept that I'm not a renowned author. I acknowledge I'm not a Biblical scholar by any stretch of the imagination. I know full well that I'm just another ordinary wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend that is trying to make an impact on my small world, but it frustrates me that I can't make MORE change.

I mean, seriously ... wouldn't it be great if we could have all these people in one auditorium, with Patsy Clairmont as the opening act to "warm them up," and Beth Moore to bring home the message of salvation? That would be awesome! But reality? Not so much. They're pretty much stuck with me! The "not-so-funny-not-so-eloquent-not-so-entertaining-wife-mom-daughter-sister-friend."

But you know what? That's what it's all about. Yeah, it would be great if Max Lucado would mow grass with my neighbor-dads and present them with the plan of salvation. And, Wowza! It'd be wonderful if Anita Renfro could sing the scriptures to my neighbor-moms and bring them all to the Lord. But, the fact is, they have me, my husband, and my son. Christ lived out on a daily basis.

I was listening to the radio this past weekend, and I heard a song that really struck a chord in me. It is performed by a Canadian group called Downhere, and the song is called "Little is Much." Here are the lyrics (I hope you find them encouraging):

What is the measure of a life well lived, if all I can offer seems too small to give.
This is a song for the weaker, the poorer, and so-called failures.

Little is much when God's in it, and no one can fathom the plans He holds.
Little is much when God's in it, he changes the world with the seeds we sow.
Little is much, little is much.

Who feels tired and under-qualified; who feels deserted, and hung out to dry.
This is a song for the broken, the beat-up, and so-called losers.

Consider a Kingdom in the smallest seed; consider that giants fall to stones and slings. Consider a child in a manger; consider the story isn't over. What can be done with what you still have.

So just in case you're thinking to yourself ... what's a "not-so-funny-not-so-eloquent-not-so-entertaining-wife-mom-daughter-sister-friend" to do to evangelize her little world during the holiday season? I suggest we each start off by taking the first small step of planting seeds. Maybe you could take a loaf of pumpkin bread over to the elderly neighbor, or offer the mom with six kids to watch a child or two or six so she can have a couple hours to herself to relax, or read. You could invite the neighborhood kids over for a "Happy Birthday Jesus" party, or if you want to start off even smaller, you could invite them over for a Christmas party and send the kids home with a candy cane and a scripture attached to it. How about bundling up your family and a couple others and going caroling and handing out candy canes with an invitation to attend your church Christmas celebration attached to it. Or ... if you have older kids, they could start off too. Encourage them to do little things like "rake and run" or "shovel and run." Take over some homemade Hot Chocolate mix and a batch of brownies to a neighbor.

I encourage each of you to begin planning little ways that you can get out and evangelize your small "world." I know I will be out and about, finding little ways to deliver the message of our Lord and Savior, so know that you're not out there alone, and one by one, we will begin to plant seeds. But, whatever it is you choose to do this holiday season... always do it in Christ-like love, try to always attach an encouraging scripture to a card or a package so you get the Word out, and always ... live Christ out every day.

And remember ... a little is much when Christ's in it.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy Birthday, my friend...

Happy Birthday, Kim!

My friend, Kim from Can You Hear Me Now
is celebrating her birthday today. I'm late in posting this, but Kim, Happy Birthday, dear one.

For those of you who don't know Kim, she is a beautiful person, inside and out. he truly loves the Lord, and her writings reflect her inner beauty and love for Christ. She is truly one of my creative and artistic friends ... not just in an artsy-crafty way, but she is truly an artist, and has an amazing ability to create beautiful things from her hands that glorify our Lord and Savior.

She hasn't posted in a long time, and I'm not sure if she's reading this or not, but if you could, please take a moment to hop on over to her place and wish her a fine Happy Birthday!

Smooches, Kim!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gobble Gobble (some good stuff!)

I LOVE Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays. I love the foods, the smells, and everything behind the sentiment of being Thankful, because honestly, we have a LOT to be thankful for.

And along those lines of being thankful, I am ever so thankful for my family, and for the ability to feed them a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. Today, I'm joining in with Karla at Looking Towards Heaven, and many of you, to share my Thanksgiving menu, along with a few recipes and tips. Mind you, I do not always use "recipes" with exact measurements, so a few of my recipes are "a little of this, or a lot of that, or a pinch, or a handful" -- but I trust you will be able to pull it off without any problems! Make sure you check out all the people participating back at Karla's blog!!

Our Delicious Menu
The most tender, delicious marinated roasted turkey ever (yes, it requires more work, but it's so worth it!!!)
White wine Gravy
Cornbread Stuffing with sausage, dried cranberries, chopped apple and pecans
Sweet Potato Casserole
Mashed Parmesan Potatoes
Roasted Broccoli
dinner rolls (Bob Evans frozen ones - YUM)
cranberry sauce
Pumpkin pie
Apple pie
Pumpkin roll

We may add or change a few things here or there, but for the most part, this is our menu.

Roasted Turkey Marinade
Let me start by saying that while this recipe calls for a little more effort than dropping the bird in a bag, it is well worth it. I taught my mother-in-law, who used the bag method all her life, how to cook her turkey with this method, and now, she gets rave reviews from everyone when she serves it. Basting is key, but it's only once an hour, or once every half hour if you're inspired... but you can do it while you fellowship with your family or watch the games and parades all day long.

1 turkey
1/2 ruby red grapefruit
1/2 orange
1/2 lemon
garlic powder
Chicken or turkey stock (you can use the giblets, neck, etc. to make your own stock, or just use the boxed stock in the store)

The night before, place your turkey in the roasting pan, and rub the turkey with the grapefruit, orange and lemon juices by squeezing the juices over the bre@st of the turkey. This will make it ever so tender when you bake it the next day. Once you've squeezed all the juices out of the fruit, rub the fruit on the turkey. Pulp is a good thing.

Then, sprinkle the garlic powder and cumin and paprika all over the turkey. I usually coat it really well, then go over it and pat it down with my hands.

Cover the turkey with saran wrap, and refrigerate all night.

Roasting the Turkey
The following morning, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and drain off the extra juices from the pan. Pour enough stock into the pan so that it comes up 1/4 way on the turkey. Cook the turkey in a 350 degree oven. Baste once every hour or half hour until the temperature of the turkey is 170 degrees. If the turkey begins to brown too much, just tent it with foil. If the liquid evaporates too quickly, just add more. Basting the turkey is essential!!! Once the turkey is done, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest on the stove top or counter for at least 20 minutes so that the juices go back into the meat, and don't run out when you carve it. Keep the turkey covered with foil until you slice it.

Easy carving tip: When you're ready to carve your turkey, cut out each side of the bre@st away from the bone. Place the entire breast on a cutting board, and slice it against the grain.

Easy Gravy
Pour your pan drippings into a sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup white cooking wine. Bring to a boil. Make a "slurry" of cornstarch and cold water (about 1/2 cup water to 6 tablespoons of cornstarch, possibly more, possibly less -- it should be the consistency of heavy cream). Whisk it into the saucepan a little at a time while boiling. Do not stop stirring, or you will have lumpy gravy. Continue adding the cornstarch slurry until you reach the desired thickness you want. Season it with salt as desired.

Cornbread Stuffing with cranberries, apple and pecans
This stuffing is such a nice balance of sweet and savory. You'll be surprised at how easy it is to make, and how delicious it is!

2 7 oz. packages Pepperidge Farm stuffing mix
1 medium sweet or mayan onion, finely chopped
3/4 c. finely chopped celery
3/4 cup finely chopped carrot
6-8 links raw breakfast sausage, chopped/diced
1 stick butter
1 and 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 can whole cranberry sauce
1-2 granny smith apple, peeled and chopped in small pieces
3/4 cup pecan pieces
3-4 cups (approx) chicken or turkey stock

In a large (family-sized pan) brown onion, carrot, celery, sausage, garlic and cumin in 1 stick butter. Add stuffing mix, dried cranberries, cranberry sauce, apples and pecans. Add 2 cups stock and stir. Taste for salt and add accordingly. Transfer stuffing to a large casserole dish sprayed with Pam. Pour 1 cup stock over. (Can make to here and refrigerate.)

Bake at 350 degrees covered with foil for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake 30 minutes more.

Roasted Broccoli
1 broccoli crown per 2 people
1/2 cup olive oil (more if you have more than 4 crowns)
6 cloves of crushed garlic
coarse sea salt

In a medium bowl, mix the olive oil with the crushed garlic and set aside. Cut off much of the stems and divide the crowns into chunks. Dip each chunk into the garlic and oil mixture, making sure that chunks of the garlic get onto each crown. Place the garlicky crown onto a cookie sheet lined with foil. When you've done this to all the broccoli, sprinkle it with coarse salt and place in a 350 degree oven for about 25 minutes. Check the broccoli by sliding a sharp knife into one of the spears. If it is tender, it is done. If not, continue to cook until knife tender. Do not be concerned if the broccoli starts to brown on top. That's what gives it a wonderful flavor, along with the toasted garlic and salt.

That's all the recipes and tips I have to share today. If you want to try any of these recipes, but have questions, feel free to ask away... just make sure I have your email to reply to (blogger people, see this). Also, let me know what you try, and how you liked it!