Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008

I hope all of you have been enjoying your time with family and friends over the Christmas break. Our Christmas 2008 was one to remember, for lots of reasons! The time went by too quickly -- here we are at New Year's Eve already -- a bright, cold day.  As for tonight, we're off  to our neighbor's party to play, talk and eat until midnight. We'll drink sparkling cider and bang pots and pans with them at the stroke of midnight...

How do you ring in the new year?

Here's one of my favorite passages about New Year's. Enjoy.


Bright Winter Day


The last day of the
old year
was one of those bright, cold, dazzling winter days, which bombard us with their brilliancy, and command our admiration but never our love. The sky was sharp and blue; the snow diamonds sparkled insistently; the stark trees were bare and shameless, with a kind of brazen beauty; the hills shot assaulting lances of crystal.




Even the shadows were sharp and stiff and clear-cut, as no proper shadows should be. Everything that was handsome seemed ten times handsomer and less attractive in the glaring splendor; and everything that was ugly seemed ten times uglier, and everything was either handsome or ugly. Bright December Day

 There was no soft blending, or kind obscurity, or elusive mistiness in that searching glitter. The only things that held their own individuality were the firs--for the fir is the tree of mystery and shadow, and yields never to the encroachments of crude radiance.December Shadows
But finally the day began to realize that she was growing old. Then a certain pensiveness fell over her beauty which dimmed yet intensified it; sharp angles, glittering points, melted away into curves and enticing gleams. The white harbor put on soft grays and pinks; the far-away hills turned amethyst.


"The old year is going away beautifully," said Anne.

-- Anne's House of Dreams, Chapter 16, New Year's Eve at the Light

Evening Light:

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Words to Live By: December

Where there is great love...

In case you can't read the inscription on this ornament it says...

Where there is great love, there are always miracles.

                                                                                                       ~ Willa Cather


This little quote has never been more true for me than this past month. I can't leave this month behind without looking back and noting the great love we have felt and the little miracles that happened to our family all December long.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

Snowy Christmas 2008

Oh, the weather outside is frightful... but the fire is so delightful....

...yep, that pretty much sums up our Christmas Day. We've been getting snow on and off for about the last week or so, but the big storm arrived Christmas Eve. We had just enough time to get home from a family Christmas dinner at my sister's house before the wind and the snowflakes really started flying. It snowed all night and didn't stop until late afternoon Christmas Day.

I can't think of anything cozier than being "snowed in" on Christmas Day. (We didn't venture out all day - not even to shovel!) We lit the fireplace, we snacked, we napped, we phoned relatives, we played with our gifts, and we watched Christmas movies. We enjoyed a Christmas dinner -- just the three of us -- and watched more movies until bedtime.  The weatherman says 6 more inches for tomorrow -- bring it!

Let it snow...let it snow...let it snow!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The Nativity 

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and may the Lord bless us all in the new year!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Words to Live By

Christmas Gifts


Christmas is not as much about opening our presents

as opening our hearts.

                                     ~Janice Maeditere

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Little Gifts

Hugs and Kisses Santas

...then dash away, dash away, DASH AWAY ALL!  Yep, it's gonna be that kind of day today. Busy. But it's a good busy. We're into the last few days before Christmas! School is winding down, Christmas lists are being checked off, and my thoughts are turning to little gifts to do for neighbors and friends.

Here's what we did earlier in the month for some families we go and visit -- super cheap Santa mugs with Hershey's hugs and kisses and a candy cane inside. Add some cellophane and curling ribbon from the house and there you have it! I don't know that we'll be able to do all the little gifts we want to do for our "can't be beat" neighbors this year, but here are some great ideas I've seen out there:


Christmas pillows made from clearance Christmas placemats at Pretty Organized Palace

Gifts in a jar from Organized Christmas

Cookie Stack from No Fuss, Fabulous

Mandarin Oranges and book from No Fuss, Fabulous

Wrapping Paper Gift  from No Fuss, Fabulous

M&M Christmas Story

Do you do neighbor gifts? What are you doing this year? I would love to hear your ideas.

Oh, by the way, in all the hustle and bustle of this week, don't forget to notice the other "little gifts" each day brings.

Blue Sunset

Have you ever seen a *blue* sunset?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Little Smokies Appetizer

Little Smokies Crockpot Appetizer

Okay, so we're down to the wire on Christmas and that means holiday parties.  Need a quick and easy appetizer? Here you go. (Everyone I talk to either knows and loves this tasty recipe, or they've never heard about it and angels sing when they find out how easy it is.) By the way, I apologize for that picture. That looks more like Halloween, than Christmas. Oh well. Photographs bad, but tastes good!


Little Smokies Appetizer


equal parts grape jelly and chili sauce

package(s) of Little Smokies (cocktail wieners)

Empty ingredients into a crockpot or slow cooker. Turn on high for at least 30 minutes, or until nice and hot.  Stir.  That's it. You're done.


You can make as little or as much as you want of this recipe. I recently made enough for a large party (over 50 guests). Here's how I did it:  I got out my large crockpot, put in 48 oz. of chili sauce, 48 oz. of grape jelly (see? still equal parts), and 4 packages of Little Smokies. It took about 2 hours to get nice and hot. A smaller amount takes much less time to get hot.


Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas Decorations 2008

There are a couple of holiday house tours going on out there in Bloggyland, so I thought I'd put out there what I've put out here. I won't be linking to any of  the tours, though;  after seeing my humble decorating attempts, there would probably be some snickering and someone would put a complimentary eggnog in my hand, call me 'dear', and politely show me the door... ;-) Have you seen some of these rooms?! There are some incredibly talented people out there!

With our December bend in the road, this Christmas isn't exactly how I pictured it happening. But a saying, that is quickly becoming my favorite, comes to mind:


It is what it is.


No, I'm not ready for HGTV (snort! never will be...) but...the house is toasty warm, the Christmas lights are twinkling, the Christmas music is playing, and something is smelling good in the kitchen. I have my DH here and the Sweet Girl will be home soon from school. It's home. It's simple. It's sweet. It is what it is, and it's a blessing.

Here's a few things we put out this year... roll your mouse over the photos for more details... click on the photos to enlarge.



Kid friendly Santa hanging on the doorknob

Mary E calendar print with a 3 dollar mat and a frame

snowman offering treats to visitors


Living Room

Simple swag hung on floor lamp

The candy themed tree we did this year

2008 tree detail

CD player tucked in a corner for Christmas tunes

Christmas CD's creatively concealed but handy

Christmas jars filled with doodads I got from around the house and my Christmas plaque

details on the Christmas jars - a leftover bell garland and a  foil garland and leftover red ornaments



I like having a gingerbread theme in the kitchen. How do you like my improvised table centerpiece?

Gingerbread Kitchen Collage


Family Room

It's a Wonderful Life Mantle

Sinterklaas vignette

a nativity and photo of the baby Sweet Girl pretending to be Mary

our Christmas movie basket

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Words to Live By

 Family and Christmas Tree


Heap on more wood! The wind is chill:
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our Christmas merry still.

                                                                         ~Sir Walter Scott


Winter has found us here; hope you are cozy and Christmas-sy where you are...


picture: Christmas Tree

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Best Gift

Little St. Lucia

Our little St. Lucia, holding a Lucia figurine we found that looks just like her

Happy Birthday, Sweet Girl! How appropriate that you were born on Luciadagen. You have been a true Bringer of Light to our little family, and we love you dearly. Have a wonderful day today!  ♥♥♥

Here is my Favorite Christmas Song of All Time. This one goes out to my much wished for December baby girl -- you were, and always will be, the best gift that I ever got!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Traditions: St. Lucia

It didn't take my hubby long after we were married to figure out that Christmas was pretty special to me and that I celebrated the season in many ways.  He enjoyed my German and Dutch Christmas traditions, and after a time we decided we wanted to honor his heritage, too; he has Swedish roots.

After we were blessed with our Sweet Girl, we knew exactly which tradition to pick... St. Lucia!


In Sweden, in the very early morning hours of December 13th,  the oldest daughter in the family rises before the rest of the family. She then wakes and serves everyone saffron buns (Lussekatter) and coffee. She always wears a white gown with a red sash and has a wreath of candles on her head. She is the bringer of light on the darkest day of the year. You can read more on the tradition here. saffron_buns

We celebrate this tradition, but with a few minor adjustments. We celebrate this tradition on December 21st, our darkest day of the year. (December 13th must be Sweden's.) The Sweet Girl was actually born on Luciadagen (Lucia Day) and we wanted her to have her birthday, with no extras. Just her day. (And now you know why we chose St. Lucia Day to celebrate!)

Also, we don't drink coffee and the price of saffron prohibits our frugal budget most years from making the buns the proper Swedish way. So the menu has morphed into hot chocolate and warm cinnamon rolls. This does just fine, and is a little easier on the cooking skills of a daughter.  Let's be real, here, people. I am all for making  it easy as possible for my girl to get up in the early morning hours and serve me a warm breakfast in bed! I do look forward to making the saffron buns sometime soon with her, though.

Check out our little St. Lucia, from a few years ago:

Our Little St. Lucia

Where does the time go?  (Uh, the wallpaper most assuredly did go! This was right after we bought the house...)

Happy St. Lucia Day... tomorrow! :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Traditions: Sinterklaas

I love this time of year, and I love it even more thanks to parents who incorporated our heritage during our December celebrating. You've read about my German traditions; so let me tell you what we do for my Dutch side...


Sinterklaas is December 6th. We all put our shoes out on the night of the 5th in hopes that Sinterklaas will leave treats and presents there during the night. If you're clever, you will leave hay and carrots for Sinterklaas' horse (we've left grass -- it works if that's all you've got! LOL) This shows what a good little child you are.

Shoes out for Sinterklaas

In the morning, you wake to presents in your shoes (uh, that's if you've been good -- you will find a switch in your shoes if you've been bad -- yikes!)! At our house, we always find a small present and a chocolate Black Peter or Sinterklaas and a big chocolate letter.

One year, we shared this tradition with another family in the neighborhood; we sang the Sinterklaas song my mother used to sing and shared limericks. That's another tradition you can do -- you make up a funny poem about a family member -- no one is safe. They are so fun! My Sweet Girl's into her teen years and we have more fun with this little tradition nowadays. She is really creative, so you can imagine the limericks we can come up with around here!


At this point, I've already got my German goodies in the house, so all I buy treat-wise for Sinterklaas is stroopwaffels. Here's what they look like: stroopwaffels1

and here's what they look like at my house:

Hey who ate all the cookies

Yep. Gone. This happens every year. :-)


I have a little vignette here in the house with my Dutch things:

Sinterklaas vignette

How do you like my Sinterklaas nutcraker? Here's another one:

another Sinterklaas nutcraker

I think I like him better -- he's less detailed than the other one -- but he has switches in his pack! Love it! (you may have to click the image to enlarge)

I love these traditions. It's been fun passing them down to the Sweet Girl. She takes center stage in the Swedish tradition we do in December...tune in tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Apple Cranberry Crisp with Eggnog Sauce

This sounds perfect for the holidays, doesn't it?  This is another recipe I got from my sister Debbie, so you know it's going to be de-lish! I'm not even gonna try and give you a point count on this one ... LOL   Just enjoy!


Apple Cranberry Crisp with Eggnog Sauce



2 (3.4 - 4 oz.) containers refrigerated vanilla pudding

1 cup eggnog



2/3 cup flour

1 cup quick cooking oats

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup butter or margarine

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar


Fruit Mixture:

5 cups sliced, peeled apples (Deb suggests Golden Delicious)

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries


Mix sauce ingredients together and refrigerate. In a medium sized bowl, combine fruit ingredients. Spread evenly in an ungreased 9 x 13 pan. 

In another medium bowl, combine 2/3 cup flour, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon; mix well. Cut butter into mixture with a pastry blender. Sprinkle over fruit mixture. Bake at 375 degrees (F) for 35-40 minutes or until deep golden brown and bubbly.

Serve warm with chilled sauce. (This also tastes good cold!)

picture: apple cranberry crisp

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Christmas Traditions: Celebrating Your Heritage

One of the reasons I love Christmas the way I do, is because my parents have always woven in our heritage into the season. My dad was born in Germany, and Mom is from Holland. So, of course, we celebrated the holidays in a Dutch and German way! When I married my husband, we kept my traditions and decided we would also celebrate his Swedish roots at this time of year. We are a busy bunch in December -- we have much to celebrate.

On the German side -- we've done Advent Calendars as long as I can remember. My first one was from my Omi -- full of beautiful glittery pictures and surprise pictures behind every little window. I was enchanted. Later, Omi and Opa sent us German advent calendars every year; and these had chocolate ... and I was even more enchanted! LOL

I still get the same kind to this day. I just love the German art.


At my Omi's house, I would always find plates of German treats out at Christmastime when we would visit. To this day, I am instantly 5 years old when I taste a certain lebkuchen and have marzipanstollen (marzipan Christmas cake).

Marzipanstollen and lebkuchen

We used to do an Advent Wreath every Sunday when I was growing up, and this is a tradition I would love to get back to in my own little family. I haven't done it in years. I'd really like to get back to this spiritual tradition on Sundays during the season.

German Advent Wreath

More later this week on what we do for our Dutch and Swedish celebrations.

Do you incorporate your heritage when it comes to Christmas? What do you do?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Everyday Unwrapped

Emily of Chatting at the Sky is inviting all of us to notice the joy,"...the messy, the lovely, and the unexpected" of this season. Read her words from last week about doing this here. I'm with you, Emily. Especially this year, I want to capture the everyday, special little moments of this season. They are gifts.

Here's one of mine:

Kissing Baby Jesus

my nephew showing me Mary kissing Baby Jesus

This is the very essence of Christmas to me -- one word --


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Books

Christmas Books

Do you find there are little things that you and your family do every year at Christmastime? And if you didn't, it just wouldn't be Christmas? Lots of little traditions that weave themselves together to make it special...  Yep, me too.

One of the things I love about Christmas are Christmas stories. We collect another book or two every Christmas. We keep them in a basket, out where anyone in the house can grab a Christmas story, curl up in a chair and get cozy.

Christmas Book basket

Some of my favorite memories have been... reading "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" aloud and then not being able to finish the last of the book because I was crying so hard! LOL Pulling out the old Little Golden books of Rudolph, Frosty and Santa's Toy Shop and feeling like I'm 5 years old again looking at the pages...and last year when our little toddler nephew Matthew was here -- he was crazy for Frosty the Snowman! We read that book over and over, and we danced and sang the song together endlessly! :-)

Does your family have favorite Christmas stories/books? Please share! (Remember, I'm collecting!)

One more thing -- here's a Christmas Book and Activity Advent at the Crafty Crow blog.  You get a Christmas book to read and an activity to do every day. Love it!

Happy Anniversary, Mr. H!

To my sweet honey-man --

Happy Anniversary, sweetheart. I can't believe we are talking 21 years already! We're way too young for that to be true. (wink) You are a great dad, and a wonderful, loving husband.

I know we joke about being George and Mary Bailey. I know it's been a hard week. I just want you to know I think you are the very best of men! No matter what -- it's been A Wonderful Life. I love you. Looking forward to the next chapter in our lives together!

(I REALLY wish I had more time to go through all our pictures and do this properly...but like the Nester says -- it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful!)

you and me

the three of us  Driving already

the girls in the bluebonnets

the Lieutenant picture now we both have moustaches, dad


cheering her on

squishy kiss