Thursday, December 31, 2009

Killing Time

a little 2009 voodoo

The last day of 2009. Hey, there's something to celebrate, and it's not even midnight yet!

As you can tell, Mr. H and I are not sorry to see old 2009 go.

The Sweet Girl's off at a neighborhood New Year's Eve party tonight, but Mr. H and I have elected to stay home and have a special party of our own. No guests over this year. 

Best not to have witnesses.

I don't know if I can describe our 2009 without using a four (or maybe even a *five*) letter word. Tonight's all about therapy payback. The theme? Killing Time. Take that,  2009! (yeah, that would be Mr. H's pin stuck where the sun don't shine!)

We went out on a fun date earlier today, to pick our mascot for this past year. Here he is:

Official 2009 Mascot

official 2009 mascot

Oh, the things we're gonna do to this guy at the stroke of midnight. The beatings will commence. (heh heh) We will then take a special pleasure in kicking this guy out our front door,  and slamming it behind him! Goodbye forever, 2009! It's gonna be a great night. Ya think Martha Stewart will steal my party idea?

Before you think today's all about murder and mayhem, take a look at what we did earlier this afternoon:

New Years Cookies

New Years Cookies ready to go

We made giant chocolate chip cookies, wrapped them up, and delivered a round of "midnight snacks" and New Year's best wishes to some of our favorite people here in the neighborhood.

We're very much looking forward to a new year. Bring on 2010!


Best wishes to you, too --  Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Words to Live By

 the beginning the end steps 2

For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

                                                                                   -- T.S. Eliot

picture credit

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Neighbor Gift: Christmas Star


Way back in November, I asked our family about Christmas. I knew it was going to be a different holiday this year; the budget would be very tight --  so I asked them to fill in the blank: "It's just not Christmas without ______________."

One of the things that went on that list came from Mr. H -- it was really important to him to do neighbor gifts. So he and I put our heads together and came up with a couple of ideas we just loved -- a little nicer than usual -- and decided these would be our Christmas gifts to each other.

For our empty-nester neighbors, we made the Stress-Free Apple Crisp. We kept one bag/kit for ourselves and had it on Sinterklaas Day. Yummy! We had guests pop in that night, and I was able to offer them warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream on the spot. I *totally* looked like some kind of Martha Stewart that night! Ha! If they only knew....I'm not telling! :-)

For our other neighbors with kids, we made this Christmas Star. The idea is that someone takes the star, does something nice for someone else and leaves this star on their pillow. Then *that* person does something nice for someone and leaves it on *their* pillow....get it? A whole lotta nice going on during the month of December.

I copied this idea from a scrapbooky book I found at the library. That's where I got the text for the tag. To make the tags, I picked up the kind you see in the picture at the office supply store and used an old-fashioned font for the words and then mod-podged it all to make it a little more sturdy. (Click on the picture to see the words more clearly.)

For the star, I went to Michael's and picked up some flat paper-mache star ornaments. I looked and looked for Christmas scrapbook paper to decorate the star with  that would go along with what I had in mind, but I could never find it. So... I made some myself:


Christmas words: ...believe...merry and
...good tidings of great
.... you get the picture.

I painted the stars to match the color used in my words, turned the paper over and cut out a star shape. I antiqued it a little, and then attached it and mod-podged the whole thing. Later, we packaged them up and went out together as a family early in December delivering stars and wishing all our neighbors (who were are *very* thankful for) a very Merry Christmas.

other Christmas stars

There have been many variations on this idea -- you don't have to go to the extra effort I did this year -- I've seen it in elementary schools with simple cut-out foam stars and a little note; here's one that was delivered to us a few years back. It looks like a magic wand! Cute!

This Christmas star was a fun project for me. A labor of love.


Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients
of a truly merry Christmas.

                                                                    ~ Peg Bracken

The neighbor gifts, the 12-day nativity -- all of these projects were ingredients of a merry Christmas for me. ♥

I hope you and yours are having fun December days -- Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Mustard Ring

A bitter cold wind is whistling around the house today, but I'm warm and toasty inside, and plotting out our Christmas dinner. We're serving ham this year, thanks to a Christmas elf sister. Thanks sis! ♥

Now, don't tell sister-elf, but I'm not a big fan of ham. Never have been. But if you serve a mustard ring with your ham -- look out! I will "pig out"!
(pun intended! heh heh)

So what the heck is a mustard ring?

It's a pale yellow creation -- very pretty, and if you see it on the table, you might be fooled into thinking it's a light lemon dessert. But this little side dish belongs with the ham, not the desserts. The few times I've seen this served, it's been done it a pretty mold (like in the picture). How does it taste? That's a little hard to describe -- there's a light, chiffony, sweet and sour thing going on there -- but the mix of flavors is a perfect match for ham. It's delicious!

Be brave! Give this recipe a try. I promise ham will never be the same at your house...

Mustard Ring
serves 4

4 eggs, beaten well

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon dry mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

...then, dissolve:

1 envelope Knox gelatin

3/4 cup white vinegar

1/4 cup water


Mix all together. Cook in double boiler, or a thick pan. Stir until mixture becomes thick. Keep stirring until done. Let it cool.

Add 1 cup whipped canned milk. (freeze milk to 'slushy').

Pour into a mold, or a bowl if you prefer. Refrigerate until firm and set.


My recipe is from a dear family friend, but you can also find another recipe here.


picture credit

Friday, December 18, 2009

December Days

Adventskalendar days

The advent calendar says the December days are hurrying by --
here's a peek at some of what we've been up to....

Christmas stars

Christmas star neighbor gift craft... more later on this project...

 Apple Crisp Stress Free neighbor gift

Distributing neighbor gifts...this one's the Stress Free Apple Crisp gift.

Wooden Shoes visited by Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas and wooden shoes ... and presents!

Sweet 16 balloon

The Sweet Girl turned 16 last week!

Birthday breakfast

Cinnamon rolls for her birthday breakfast...

Sweet 16 party invite

... and a skating party with lots of friends to celebrate!

Birthday girl by birthday candlelight

Can't forget cake and candles and birthday wishes...

12 day nativity Joseph

...and 12 day Nativity continues...


Wishing you happy, busy, fun December days!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

St. Nick Project 2009

12 Day NativityWe're pretty well-acquainted with a guy named St. Nicholas around here -- and December is his big month. We get to see him a couple of times in December; early in the month, and then again on the 25th. Everybody loves Santa Claus/Sinterklaas /
etc. -- these legends all spring from one man -- St. Nicholas. He was real, and a very good man.

What a wonderful legacy his good life left behind. Learn more about St. Nicholas, by clicking  here.

Mixing in a little service in Christmas is a must for Mr. H and I. It keeps our family's hearts in the right place during the season, and this year more than ever, we needed that. We call it our St. Nick Project -- why? St. Nick is pretty famous already here at our house, and it's the perfect way to celebrate this good man and follow his example of doing good for others.


This year's St. Nick project is a 12 day Nativity.  We're delivering one piece of the nativity (with a note that includes a thought about that figurine) to a family we've picked in the neighborhood. We wait for it to get dark and we deliver the next piece, ring the doorbell and hurry away. Love that part! Getting away before they can see us...

We've arranged it so that the Baby Jesus will be delivered on Christmas Eve. That night, we'll stay and deliver it in person and the note will also come with our testimonies of the Savior. Can't wait.


I love the project we picked this year. It's kept our focus on Christ; the reason for the season. We're also focusing on someone else, instead of feeling sorry for ourselves or having the "gimmees" consume us. My favorite part of the project is being together in the car and reading the nativity note together. The text I'm using for each piece is borrowed from a book I have, and the words are beautiful.

Okay, I lied. My favorite part is the running away after the delivery. But the note is my very next favorite part. ;-)

I'm going to post more pictures about our 12 Day Nativity, and the text of the notes that go with them on the Celebrate blog, but it will be *after* Christmas. If you don't have an invite to that blog, click my email button on the sidebar and send me your email address and I'll get you set up...

Does your family do a service project tradition at Christmas-time? I'd love to hear about it!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Good Ship Christmas


So, how are your December days going? Ours have been full! Full of errands, events, to-do lists, birthdays, Sinterklaas, anniversaries, blessings, and even some changes here and there.

This last week, I felt like I was on a ship being swept along by the powerful current called December Days. The calendar I go by has gone from monthly to daily -- you know, the kind where you plot out hour-by-hour where you'll be and what you're doing? Yeah. And I bet your December days look just like mine. :-)

Our "feast of the heart" continues. I have felt content and happy, despite reality encouraging quite the opposite reaction. You could say I'm enjoying the voyage this year, despite some choppy seas. I'm wrapping myself up in the music, the decorations, Christmas books and movies, the snowy weather, some service projects, and yep, even the crazy December schedule. Being this busy must mean I have a lot to celebrate, and lots of friends and family to do it with!

Posts and pictures coming soon...

So, how's your December voyage so far?

picture credit

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Words to Live By

heart ornament 2

The joy of brightening others lives,
bearing each others burdens, easing each others loads
and filling each others hearts with generous gifts
becomes the magic of the season.

                                                                    --W.C Jones

Thank you, dear family, for your magic this weekend!

picture credit

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Countdown to Christmas

my traditional advent calendar

We're all counting days this month...the kids can't wait for December 25th, and well... the adults are counting down for a whole different reason! ;-) (can we get it all done in time?)

Every December, for as long as I can remember, I've received a German adventskalendar. The PeA brand is the one my German grandparents would send us every year. Now I make sure I find PeA's for my little family. It's just not Christmas for me without it! In fact, when we had a little family meeting about this year's Christmas, the feeling was unanimous. It's just not Christmas without advent calendars...

Since I was a little girl, the very first thing I would do every December day, is hurry down and open up the day's door and let the German chocolate melt on my tongue. I did that just this morning. LOL  Here's mine this year... complete with a German Oma! That little touch makes it completely wonderful.

 A calendar with an Oma

My very first advent calendar was also German, and from my dear Omi. Instead of having chocolates behind each door, there were beautiful pictures. The whole calendar was beautifully illustrated and glitter was on all the snowy parts of the picture. Magical.

Advent calendars add to the "magical" of this time of year, don't they? I've seen some pretty elaborate advent calendars out there -- I really like the house versions. What I really love is the idea I've seen of folks putting Christmassy activities in each door, to do each day, instead of toys or candy. What a great way to celebrate the season with your family.

How do you count down the days to Christmas? Do tell!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neighbor Gift: Stress-Free Apple Crisp

Stress Free Apple Crisp Neighbor Gift

An important part of this Christmas season and the 'feast for our hearts' for Mr. H and I, were making neighbor gifts this year. Here is one of the two ideas we used to share with our very wonderful neighbors. Stress-free Apple Crisp!

You know the story. We all get frazzled during the holiday season. We try to do it all, and make it nice for folks that are dear to us. Well, here's a way to have your cake and eat it too! Wait. Better make that "apple crisp", not "cake". Whatever. :-) This is a nice way to share a no-stress, warm dessert with a busy friend. I got this idea from a book I found in the library. It's called Christmas Gifts of Good Taste 1998. 

Here's how you do it...


First, put together your apple crisp kit:Apple Crisp Topping

4 cans (21 ounces each) apple pie filling

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup chilled butter or margarine

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, oats, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in pecans. Divide the topping into 2 Ziploc bags; store in the refrigerator. Give each bag of topping with 2 cans apple pie filling and serving instructions. (makes 2 kits)


Include the serving instructions with your kit.

To serve: Spread 2 cans of apple pie filling in a lightly greased 9 X 13 baking dish. Sprinkle topping over the apples. Bake in a 400 ° F oven, 19- 21 minutes or until filling bubbles and topping is golden brown. Serve warm.

About 12 servings.


Get the gift ready for giving.

Apple Crisp Serving Instructions

I printed up a  couple of little tags with a frazzled Santa clip art and fun font. I then packed each gift bag with 2 cans of apple pie filling, the Ziploc bag filled with the topping (making sure I labeled it "keep in the fridge" and "contains nuts"),  and the instructions.
<------------  Here's the instructions tag.

I attached the friendly tag with warm holiday wishes from our family on the outside of the gift bag, and voila! All done. A neighbor gift that comes completely from our pantry, computer and printer? Priceless.

Well, okay maybe not. But frugal, for sure!


Merry Christmas!