Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Blessings

It was a wonderful Christmas......Worshiping with friends on Christmas Eve

New flannel pj's to wear on Christmas Eve

Light hearts, silliness, and laughter

Soft stuffed puppy dogs

New Legos

And the much desired ipod!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gluten Free Friday

It's actually Saturday today - forgot to post this yesterday!

My Favorite Breakfast Smoothie
This always tasted so good and healthy after coming home from a run with Kory!

2 bananas
1/4 cup frozen blueberries
5-7 frozen whole strawberries
1/4 cup soymilk
1 heaping Tbsp almond butter
1-2 tsp flaxseed meal

Place all in blender and blend until smooth. You can even sneak in some frozen spinach, kale, or avocado to add to the vitamins and protein.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas: Strange and Foolish

We're out of the Christian music loop here in New England, but we recently got wireless in the house, and the kids and I have enjoyed listening to KSBJ out of Houston, TX on our computer this season while doing schoolwork. They've been playing Christmas music since Thanksgiving. One song in particular has stayed with me in the past few weeks. Here's the chorus:

Why me - I'm just a simple man of trade?
Why Him - with all the rulers in the world?
Why here - inside this stable filled with hay?
Why her - she's just an ordinary girl?

Now I'm not one to second guess what angels have to say, but this is such a strange way to save the world.

It reminds me of some verses I like to go to when I'm trying to logic all this faith stuff out....

For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debator of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?
For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
I Corinthians 1:18

Both his birth and His death were strange, seemingly foolish, and unexpected. Not the way I would have done things. Praise Him, that He extended grace enabling me to believe the foolish message that He came as a baby, lived a sinless life, suffered and was put to death in my place. My sin was forgiven in that act and I can now know Him because of it all.

What a gift.

May you also believe and rejoice in the strange wisdom of God's gift this Christmas.

NFL Dad

From out of the backseat, on a quiet ride to church.......

Cooper: (soberly) "Mom, I wish Dad was healthy enough to play in the NFL."

Me: (cracking up) "Healthy enough????"

Cooper: (incredulous) "Yeah, I wish he never would have hurt his back - then he could play!"

So, I guess now we can let you in on the REAL reason we came to New England - Robert's signing with the New England Patriots. Too bad he herniated that disc a couple of years ago. I suppose church planting/pastoring isn't a bad alternative, but the salary cut was a bit of an adjustment.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Gluten Free Friday

This is an adaptation of my favorite butter/sugar cookie recipe from Susan Branch's Christmas from the Heart of the Home Cookbook. I used it for years before discovering Celiac Disease, and find that it works much the same using GF flours with only a couple of adaptations.

GF Sugar Cookies
(Can be used for rolling and cutting)

2 1/4 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
5 egg yolks
5 cups GF flour (mine was a combo of rice/tapioca/potato)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla and mix well. Beat flour and salt into butter mixture until well mixed.

Roll dough out onto floured surface, and cut into desired shapes. The dough will likely be very soft, and you may need to add more flour. Refrigerating the dough will also help stiffen it. Sprinkle with colored crystals before baking, or ice the cookies after cooled and sprinkle on top of the icing.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. They don't need to brown and will be very fragile until completely cooled.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Time for Tea

Kayla had her 3rd annual Christmas tea party last Saturday.
She invited 7 girls over for the occasion. There was cookie decorating - both sugar cookie cutouts and gingerbread men. I always plan several activities, but every year we hardly get to all of them, because the girls are so meticulous about the craft or cooking project. Last year we did graham cracker gingerbread houses, and they were beautiful, but it took up most of the time! I can't help but observe the differences between girls and boys at this event. No one asked if they could eat their cookies, but there were requests for extra cookies to decorate "so I can give one to every person in my family." So sweet! There were no loud or rude noises, much politeness, "Hannah, would you please pass the multicolored sprinkles," and barely any movement away from or in their seats! Now, my boys love to decorate cookies, but the manner in which it is done looks a bit different!
They had a choice between peppermint hot tea or hot chocolate - each with a mini candy cane in a real tea cup. We read two Christmas stories - The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado, and The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walberg while they were drinking their tea and eating sandwiches, chocolate dipped strawberries, cheese , crackers, carrots, and orange slices.
We played "Pass the Parcel" which is a really fun version of hot potato where you get to unwrap one layer of a gift and find a treat inside if the "parcel" lands in your lap when the music stops. (We learned this from our South African friends Trish and Craig!)

The next day, Kayla said "Mom, I want to have another tea party like that. My favorite part was drinking tea and reading Christmas stories."

I'm so glad that was her favorite part, and I can see these girls gathering for years to come to celebrate the season with some girly fun!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

#13 Random Fact

I know....it's only supposed to be 12 things, but I have to add...

13. Aside from church on Christmas Eve for a candlelight service, my next favorite place to go at Christmastime (or any time for that matter) is..... Starbucks! What is it about that place that charms me so? The warm wall colors, hard wood floors, chalkboards announcing the newest seasonal drink, the cool music, soy chai lattes? And during the holidays, the decor is even more delightful to me. I don't know, but some marketer/designer/publicist has my number (and a few other people's as well, I see), and I am completely unable to walk past the green mermaid sign without becoming mesmerized and compelled to enter, order, and sit awhile.

12 Random Christmas Facts....

...not concerning the historical holiday, but surrounding my own thoughts and experiences, since I was tagged by Megan at Sorta Crunchy for this "Christmas Hoopla". OK, I'm not so good at quick random thoughts and avoid this type of exercise usually, but here goes....

1. I used to think the words were, "Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer yoogled down in history."

2. Two of my favorite and most memorable childhood gifts were "shoe skates"(you know, instead of the strap on metal kind of roller skate) and a matching Gloria Vanderbilt outfit - courdoroy pants/ matching sweater with large swan insignia on front.

3. Wendy Reardon told me that there was no Santa at a Brownies meeting in the second grade, and when it was confirmed by my mom, I felt very grown up to have this secret knowledge that my siblings did not.

4. My sister and I were convinced that the red flashing radio tower light we could see from our bedroom window was Rudolph.

5. I have never seen the Nutcracker Ballet. I really want to though, and hope to take my own little ballerina next year!

6. But I have seen the Rockette's Christmas Spectacular in New York City with my whole family thanks to the gift of my sister, Melissa and her husband Jeff! They went too, and it was spectacular!

7. I hate the thoughtless consumerism that goes on, but absolutely LOVE it when I can buy my kids something I know they really want. Stuffing their stockings is equally as enjoyable

8. As a child, I became a proficient gift wrapper at Rowland's department store in Uvalde,TX during the season. (It was a family owned business)

9. My grandmother, Memo, made something every Christmas that she called "Divinity." I HATED it, and for some time just the thought of it could make me gag. Now I think it was simply meringues, and I LOVE this gluten free treat! (Especially mint chocolate chip ones!)

10. My two favorite Christmas albums are Carpenter's:An Old Fashioned Christmas (Karen Carpenter's voice always reminds me of Christmas) and Christmas with the Rat Pack. Consequently, my daughter's favorite "Christmas carol" is "Baby, it's Cold Outside."

11. When my sister and I didn't share a room, we used to "move in" together for the Christmas season, and decorate with extra tree lights, etc. Actually, now that I think of it, I don't think we ever lasted until Christmas Day - too much proximity.

12. I never watched "It's a Wonderful Life" in it's entirety until 2 years ago - but I'm so glad I finally did.

There you have it, and since I think I'm now supposed to "tag" others, then how about Margo, Kim, Courtney, and the Campbells. (Sorry guys, this feels a little like a chain letter!)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gluten Free Friday

Lentil Chili

Another one from my friend Sara... So yummy!

3 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp oil (canola, olive, veg)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
5 cups water (or combo of water and broth)
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp chili powder ( I use less for the kids, and my chili powder from Whole Foods is really HOT!)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sugar
dash pepper
6 oz. tomato paste

Saute garlic, onion, bell pepper in oil 8-10 minutes. Add water/broth lentils, seasonings, and paste. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1 and 1/2 hours stirring occasionally. Add water if necessary. Lentils should be tender.

Garnish with cheese and chopped green onions.

Winter Wonderland

Well, we survived the blizzard yesterday - got about a foot of snow in only a few hours. This angel is in our front yard, and yes that big white blob and the little ones are snowflakes!

Let's see if you can guess what my early (and only) Christmas present is this year...

Early this morning...I love having a red brick house in the snow! Kory trekking up the road to deliver papers at 6:15am this morning. (This picture means I am also delivering papers at 6:15am)













We love our customers that shovel their walkways like the one on the left, or at least I love those customers! Kory enjoyed trying to locate the deepest snow and taking that path.

Resting on the route.
Cooper, the snow angel.
Kayla making tunnels, and below as Lady Elizabeth.
And unfortunately, our scheduled Homeschool Christmas Medieval Feast didn't really happen, because it was just too hard to travel. A couple of moms that made it were in their cars for two hours in order to travel only a few miles. Since the snow didn't start until 12 noon, many schools and businesses sent folks home midday which made for disastrous driving.
The few of us that made it enjoyed the warmth of the church building, hot wassail, meatballs, a book exchange and some sword fighting!

Did you guess that I got a new digital camera for Christmas? It took me a while, but I am loving digital photography! Take tons of pictures, experiment, and then only keep the good ones. I remain a bit anxious about not having a paper version of pictures, though. It just doesn't feel right after years of film development and scrapbooking!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tree Tradition: Take Two

It was the straw, or should I say the pine needles that broke the Mama's back this week. I knew our tree was seeming a bit dry to the touch, and needles seemed to be dropping prematurely. But on Tuesday just the vibrations from walking in the house were bringing them down in what sounded like a rain shower each time. Add to this the long list of things to accomplish this week, holiday entertaining on the weekend, and some frustrating parenting moments and it equaled a tearful call to Robert from piano lessons to unload - the tree was the last straw.So, when we arrived home from piano lessons and several errands, a very sweet husband had taken the 30 spare moments he had in his day to undecorate the tree, neatly lay the ornaments and lights on the living room floor, and vacuum up all of those dropped needles which amounted to an entire trashcan full by the time it was over!
By Wednesday evening(thanks again to a loving hubby), we did have a new and decorated tree, but not long after hanging the final ornament the entire thing fell over spilling water and decorations everywhere!

All is well now, and we hope that this does not become our new tree tradition!

(And so much for my bragging on the $18 deal we got! $18 for tree #1 + $35 for tree #2 = $53.00 - and we've never paid that much for any tree!)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Second Sunday in Advent

And the ransomed of the LORD will return
And come with joyful shouting to Zion,
With everlasting joy upon their heads
They will find gladness and joy,
And sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Isaiah 35:10
It is always a great joy to spend one Sunday during Advent with a baptism service!
Here is Cindy leading us in music of celebration for the occasion. On Sunday evening we gathered at First Baptist Church since our church building does not have a baptistry (i.e. dunking tub) Ours is an old Methodist Church building and the Methodists sprinkle instead of dunk!

As each person comes into the water to be baptized, another person reads their testimony, or story of coming to faith in Christ. This is Aly and Eric. They were recently married at our church. Cindy read Aly's story which told of much apprehension about Eric's faith, not wanting to go to church, and leaving the room while he and others studied the Bible and prayed at home. Over time Aly described feeling compelled to come to church even without Eric - so compelled she would drive straight to church and not even stop at Dunkin' Donuts! (You hardly ever see Aly without an iced coffee in hand.) Her story made all of us laugh and cry. It was beautiful, and I don't know what we ever did without these two - they are gifts. Aly now calls herself the "Hospitality Queen" since she has taken the job of making coffee every Sunday among other things, and Eric plays in our worship band - amazing electric guitar and vocals. ( I'm not really a huge fan of electric guitar but when Eric plays, well that's a different story!) You can also find Eric here.

And with their signature knit caps - the Krum Children - eager to go out to eat which was the other fun activity of the evening. Chili's - complete with chips and salsa for appetizers - WOW! Back at home we had hot cocoa around the Advent Candle.And one extra photo to show you the every-spare-moment-activity of my kids - snowboarding and sledding down our very icy backyard hill. Coop is a natural, of course. I think his interest was heightened when last week his allergy doctor asked him if he was a snowboarder, as he "had the look." He also looks the part of surfer in the summer and electric guitarist/drummer pretty much year round. Lord, have mercy......please!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Gluten Free Friday

Crunchy Cornbread

1 cup GF flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
! cup milk (soy/rice/almond OK, too)
1/4 cup oil
1 egg
Crushed corn chips (Fritos)

Mix dry ingredients together. Add milk, oil, and egg and stir until blended. Pour into greased 8x8 baking dish or muffin tin, and sprinkle crushed corn chips on top. Bake 20 minutes at 400 deg.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

First Sunday in Advent

We've made attempts at celebrating Advent for many years - desiring to emphasize the "coming" of Christ into the world (the word "advent" comes from the Latin adventus which means coming or arrival. Thank you Latina Christiana!), to experience the anticipation and longing for Him in our hearts. Most years we don't accomplish our lofty goals, but this year I think we've planned something that we can actually pull off.

Here are our Advent Bags which we have done for several years. There is one for each day in December until Christmas Eve. The kids open one each morning as soon as they wake up. Inside are an assortment of small treats - Hershey kisses, small candy canes, pencils, lip balm, coupons for a special outings (e.g. today the treat was doing schoolwork at the Barnes and Noble cafe), chocolate coins, toothbrushes, etc. As you can imagine, this is a much anticipated December activity! A friend of mine does the same activity, but with adorable scrap fabric bags with drawstrings.This year we have also planned special activities for each of the Advent Sunday afternoon/evenings. On the first Sunday, we invited our friends, the Baglows, over for a devotional time followed by dessert. Robert did a blindfold activity with the kids and talked about walking in darkness. He talked about how the Prophets of old encouraged God's people to repent and wait for the certain coming of their Savior. Then we lit the first candle, which we called the Prophet Candle and had a special chocolate souffle cake. The kids ended the evening watching America's Funniest Videos and Extreme Makeover:Home Edition (not especially spiritual, but a HUGE treat for the kids!), the adults lingering over their coffee and enjoying conversation.
(sorry about the photos - digital camera gave up on us on race day - don't think it liked 27 degrees - and hasn't been the same since - these were taken on Robert's phone!)

Future Sunday activities include a baptism service at church followed by dinner out, a choir concert and dinner with the Speight family, and lastly and afternoon at the Nuesslein's home to participate in their family's Advent celebration. Can't wait, and I'm sure more descriptions and pictures will follow!

What do you do for Advent?
Or what traditions do you have at this time of year?

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 9:2

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Quest Update

Kory has completed several items on the list of challenges for his 12 year old Quest.
Two challenges were met this week - a sewing machine project and running a 5K. He's also read several of the books on the list in the past few months: The Master Plan of Evangelism, The Great Divorce, and I Kissed Dating Goodbye. (This last one he consumed in about a day, interestingly enough!)

The sewing project was a pair of flannel pajama bottoms. Here he is cutting the fabric out around the pattern.....
Using the machine....

And modeling the finished product!
He did a great job - I was impressed! I'm also amazed with this kid's cooking abilities. We didn't include any cooking challenges in his Quest, but he's experimented and learned a lot about cooking in the last couple of months. Robert and I have been the recipients of several breakfasts in bed because of this new skill!
And here we are at the Hot Chocolate Run - a 5K race held in Northampton, MA each December. Despite the temperature of 27 degrees and wind chill of 17 degrees, we had a lot of fun doing this! We've been running together in the mornings since August to prepare. We finished the race in 32 minutes. The winner finished in 15 minutes! We were just proud of ourselves for running the entire way! Maybe we'll work on time next year!
So proud of this boy - he's one great kid!