Happy New Year Everyone!

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From our family to yours!


::December:: 17/31

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::Something small::


"Picked just for you" he said. 

::December:: 16/31

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::Holiday Mail::

If there is one thing our family loves about the Christmas season, it's the mail we get from all over the United States. We love mail any time of the year, but especially in December. All the beautiful or cute, glittery or shiny cards and pictures from friends and family are so much fun.

::December:: 15/31

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::Gift Wrapping::


Remember our cinnamon ornaments?

Finished, decorated cinnamon ornaments. I absolutely love how these came out!

    
Ready to use for our presents...

(the littles loved them and had so much fun giving them away)

::December:: 14/31

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::Tradition::

This is the day the boys get so excited and say over and over: "this is one of my favorite traditions! Oh! this is one of the BEST traditions!" They can't stand still on the sugar and flour buckets they've pulled up to the stove to watch as the donuts fry.

Soft, pillowy, puffy dough is everywhere in differing stages of doneness. 

Flour makes it's way on to everything. Florida snow;)

The kitchen overheats and so do I. 

This is the day the hot popping oil leaves it's mark on our arms and hands. But the donuts are worth it.

This is the day (and only day) we can eat as many crispy and sweet donuts as we want!

Because it's tradition! And we love every hot, sticky, sugary, crispy second of it!










A "Sensible" Christmas...

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We've hunted through our bookshelves and pulled our Christmas favorites from it's depths once again. I don't know about anyone else, but our family loves to read. Some more than others, but whether it's reading to yourself or being read to, we do it quite a bit. Every year... it happens. The Christmas stories seem brand new and crisp. Warm and inviting. You always catch something extra special or simply significant that you never noticed or remembered last year....

We want you to enjoy one of our favorites. When we were little, Mom would read aloud before bed or at the lunch table right before we finished eating. These stories aren't too long and are perfect for that extra moment you may have.



The Year We Had a "Sensible" Christmas.

Henry Appers 

FOR AS LONG as I could remember our family had talked about a sensible Christmas. Every year, my mother would limp home from shopping or she would sit beside the kitchen table after hours of baking, close her eyes, catch her breath and say, “This is the last time I’m going to exhaust myself with all this holiday fuss. Next year we’re going to have a sensible Christmas.”
   And always my father, if he was within earshot, would agree. “It’s not worth the time and expense.”
   While we were kids, my sister and I lived in dread that Mom and Dad would go through with their rash vows of a reduced Christmas. But if they ever did, we reasoned, there were several things about Christmas that we, ourselves, would like to amend. And two of these were, namely, my mother’s Uncle Lloyd and his wife, Aunt Amelia.
   Many a time Lizzie and I wondered why families had to have relatives, and especially why it was our fate to inherit Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Amelia. They were a sour and a formal pair who came to us every Christmas, bringing Lizzie and me handkerchiefs as gifts and expecting in return silence, respect, service and for me to surrender my bedroom.
   Lizzie and I had understood early that Great-uncle Lloyd was, indeed, a poor man, and we were sympathetic to this. But we dared to think that even poverty provided no permit for them to be stiff and unwarm and a nuisance in the bargain. Still we accepted Great-uncle Lloyd and Great-aunt Amelia as our lot and they were, for years, as much the tradition of Christmas as mistletoe.
   Then came my first year in college. It must have been some perverse reaction to my being away, but Mom started it. This was to be the year of the sensible Christmas. “By not exhausting ourselves with all the folderol,” she wrote me, “we’ll at last have the energy and the time to appreciate Christmas.”
   Dad, as usual, went along with Mom, but added his own touch. We were not to spend more than a dollar for each of our gifts to one another. “For once,” Dad said, “we’ll worry about the thought behind the gift, and not about it’s price.”
   It was I who suggested that our sensible Christmas be limited to the immediate family, just the four of us. The motion was carried. Mom wrote a gracious letter to Great-uncle Lloyd explaining that what with my being away in school and for one reason and another we weren’t going to do much about Christmas, so maybe they would enjoy it more if they didn’t make their usual great effort to come. Dad enclosed a check, an unexpected boon.
   I arrived home from college that Christmas wondering what to expect. A wreath on the front door provided a fitting nod to the season. There was a Christmas tree in the living room and I must admit that, at first, it made my heart twinge. Artificial, the tree was small and seemed without character when compared to the luxurious, forest-smelling firs of former years. But the more I looked at it, with our brightly wrapped dollar gifts under it, the friendlier it became and I began to think of the mess of real trees, and their fire threat, and how ridiculous, how really unnatural it was to bring a living tree inside a house anyway. Already the idea of a sensible Christmas was getting to me.
   Christmas Eve Mom cooked a good but simple dinner and afterward we all sat together in the living room. “This is nice,” Lizzie purred, a-snuggle in the big cabbage rose chair.
   “Yes,” Dad agreed. “It’s quiet. I’m not tired out. For once, I think I can stay awake until church.”
   “If this were last Christmas,” I reminded Mom, “you’d still be in the kitchen with your hours of ‘last minute’ jobs. More cookies. More fruit cake.” I recalled the compulsive way I used to nibble at Mom’s fruit cake. “But I never really liked it,” I confessed with a laugh.
   “I didn’t know that,” Mom said. She was thoughtful for a moment. Then her face brightened. “But Aunt Amelia—how she adored it!”
   “Maybe she was just being nice,” Lizzie said undiplomatically.
    Then we fell silent. Gradually we took to reading. Dad did slip off into a short snooze before church.
   Christmas morning we slept late, and once up we breakfasted before advancing to our gifts. And what a time we had with those! We laughed merrily at our own originality and cleverness. I gave Mom a cluster-pin that I had fashioned out of aluminum measuring spoons and had adorned with rhinestones. Mother wore the pin all day or, at least, until we went out to Dempsey’s.
   At Dempsey’s, the best restaurant in town, we had a wonderful, unrushed feast. There was only one awkward moment just after the consommé was served. We started to lift our spoons. Then Dad suggested that we say grace and we all started to hold hands around the table as we always do at home, and then we hesitated and drew our hands back, and then in unison we refused to be intimidated by a public eating place and held hands and said grace.
   Nothing much happened the rest of the day. In the evening I wandered into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator, poked around for a minute, closed the door and came back to the living room.
   “That’s a joke,” I reported, with no idea at all of the effect my next remark would have. “I went out to pick at the turkey.”
   In tones that had no color, Mother spoke. “I knew that’s what you went out there for. I’ve been waiting for it to happen.”
   No longer could she stay the sobs that now burst forth from her. “Kate!” Dad cried, rushing to her.
   “Forgive me. Forgive me,” Mom kept muttering.
   “For what, dear? Please tell us.”
   “For this terrible, dreadful, sensible Christmas.”
   Each of us knew what she meant. Our Christmas had been as artificial as that Christmas tree; at some point the spirit of the day had just quietly crept away from us. In our efforts at common sense we had lost the reason for Christmas and had forgotten about others; this denied Him whose birthday it was all about. Each of us, we knew full well, had contributed to this selfishness, but Mom was taking the blame.
   As her sobs became sniffles and our assurances began to take effect, Mom addressed us more coherently, in Mom’s own special incoherent way. “I should have been in the kitchen last night instead of wasting my time,” she began, covering up her sentimentality with anger. “So you don’t like my fruit cake, Harry? Too bad. Aunt Amelia really adores it! And Elizabeth, even if she doesn’t, you shouldn’t be disrespectful to the old soul. Do you know who else loves my fruit cake? Mrs. Donegan down the street loves it. And she didn’t get her gift from me this year. Why? Because we’re being sensible.” Then Mom turned on Dad, wagging her finger at him. “We can’t afford to save on Christmas, Lewis! It shuts off the heart.”
   That seemed to sum it up.
   Yet, Lizzie had another way of saying it. She put it in a letter to me at school, a letter as lovely as Lizzie herself. “Mom feels,” Lizzie wrote, “that the strains and stresses are the birth pangs of Christmas. So do I. I’m certain that it is out of our efforts and tiredness and turmoil that some sudden, quiet, shining, priceless thing occurs each year and if all we produce is only a feeling as long as a flicker, it is worth the bother.”
   Just as my family came to call that The Christmas That Never Was, the next one became the Prodigal Christmas. It was the most festive, and the most frazzling time in our family’s history—not because we spent any more money, but because we threw all of ourselves into the joy of Christmas. In the woods at the edge of town we cut the largest tree we’d ever had. Lizzie and I swathed the house in greens. Delicious smells came from the kitchen as Mom baked and baked and baked….We laughed and sang carols and joked.
   Even that dour pair, Great-uncle Lloyd and Great-aunt Amelia, were almost but not quite gay. Still, it was through them that I felt that quick surge of warmth, that glorious “feeling as long as a flicker,” that made Christmas meaningful.
   We had just sat down in our own dining room and had reached out our hands to one another for our circle of grace. When I took Great-aunt Amelia’s hand in mine, it happened. I learned something about her and giving that, without this Christmas, I might never have known.
   The hand that I held was cold. I became aware of how gnarled her fingers were, how years of agonizing arthritis had twisted them. Only then did I think of the handkerchiefs that Lizzie and I had received this year, as in all the years before. For the first time I saw clearly the delicate embroidery, the painstaking needlework—Great-aunt Amelia’s yearly gift of love to, and for, us.

::December:: 13/31

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::Christmas in FL::

I little piece of "winter" from my neck of the woods...

::December:: 12/31

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::Thankful for the simple::

for coffee with siblings on a hot winter night.

for long talks and closeness to God. 

for trials.

for twinkling lights and fragrant green pine.

for miracles.


      Alexis prepared our coffee cups one late night and it was perfectly beautiful. It's so Christmasy! Doesn't it make you want a cup?!

::December:: 11/31

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::My view today:: (from my window)

Many Christmas projects going on around our house these days...

::December:: 10/31

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::The life of a pastor's son::

This picture didn't really fit into a category for my "December a day". This is Samuel the night of our Christmas concert. Struggling with a cold, laying in between storage boxes, in his full Christmas outfit, waiting to sing his "number". I couldn't be more proud of this little guy pushing through his sniffles! And this picture really says it all. We are a pastors family. You do what needs doing:)

Sarasota...

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Our family will be in Sarasota FL this Sunday night. The concert starts at 6:00p.m.

Anyone is welcome. Please come join us!

Don't Forget!

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Tomorrow night starting at 7:00p.m. our church will be singing and playing Christmas carols and music! Anyone is welcome and we would love to see you!



::December:: 9/31

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::Twinkle::

One of the most looked forward to things in December? Filling our house with Christmas cheer and making it glow at night with lights. 


Small town Christmas...

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I love where we live. It's quaint and homey and everybody knows everybody. It's simple; laid back. We like it this way. True, it's changed here and there as years have passed, but everybody, pretty much still knows everybody:)

We have "Christmas in the Park" every December in "town square". We always hope the weather is a tad crisp so we can pull on a sweater and drink hot cider. This night, a cool front seemed to arrive just for us!

For the past five years we were the ones up there singing and playing. It was a nice kind of different to be standing in the darkness, watching the lights and listening to the music from the other side this time. 

And the trumpet player stole the show... 




This lady is beautiful. We love her. San Antonio wouldn't be San Antonio without her. She served as MC and had us laughing throughout the night!

::December:: 8/31

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::Cinnamon and Spice::

This is our second year making cinnamon ornaments. They smell so good and the boys love rolling the dough. It's the next best thing to the "real dough" they say. I want to eat one every time I pass the counter where they are drying.  



Homemade Cinnamon Ornaments

What you’ll need:  (only 3 ingredients!)
1 cup of applesauce
1 1/2 cups cinnamon (I found cinnamon for $1.00 at Dollar Tree. I bought 4 bottles and only used 2 for one batch.)
2 Tablespoons cloves optional (the little boys think cloves smell very strong so I only put a pinch in, although next time I'll definitely put more as it really boosts the smell after they are dry)
Cookie cutters in different sizes (our boys are old enough at this point to be responsible with a small kitchen knife so I let them get creative with making their own shapes and designs)
String for hanging (this is the fun part! You can use your imagination and hang them with anything! I have some cute bakers twine and leather strips.)
I also added 1/4 cup glue to the mixture. This is optional. Last year I left this ingredient out (because we didn't have any on hand) but this year I did add it hoping to make the ornaments more durable. I believe it did make them a little more firm. Small confession. We still didn't have any "kid" craft glue on hand so I recruited Peter to run down to Dads shed and "borrow" some of his wood glue. This worked great! Deviating from the recipe can be a good thing! :) 
Mix 1 cup of applesauce with 1 cup of cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix, mix, mix. This is the kinda recipe where you’ll need to really incorporate the spices. Make sure you don’t miss any wet spots. Add the additional 1/2 cup of cinnamon, cloves and continue to incorporate. If it’s too wet add more cinnamon, too dry add more applesauce. But be patient. It takes time to mix so don’t add cinnamon or applesauce till you’re absolutely sure it’s well mixed. Also, you can use your hands if you'd like, but I used a spoon for the mixing part as cinnamon is very drying for the hands. Once the little guys start rolling and shaping it's not too bad because you have less contact. I kept my trusty bottle of Curel nearby for the little fingers afterwards.
Scatter some cinnamon (like if you were rolling out cookies with flour) and roll out applesauce/cinnamon dough to 1/4″ thick. If the dough is too wet it will make a huge mess and stick to your rolling pin.
Use your cookie cutters to cut out the shapes. I noticed the first time around my dough was too wet and the edges were straggly. Once I added more cinnamon the edges were clean.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the shapes on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. The shapes can be really close together but not touching; they won’t rise in the oven. Using a straw to carefully make a hole through each shape. Stick the ornaments in the oven for 2 hours. The juice from the applesauce needs to evaporate. The range in cooking time depends on your house, humidity and climate. My house is warm so I had them in for 2 hours and then took them out and let dry for 24 hours. Some recipes say the ornaments should be rock hard but mine do have some bend-ability. We are fine with that. If you feel like yours are too soft, give them some more time in the oven and let air dry for longer. 
We haven't decorated our ornaments yet but we plan on using fabric paint to give ours some bedazzlement. Fabric paint it perfect for this because it dries very nicely and isn't messy. Use your bakers twine, yarn or string of choice and thread through your ornaments. Also, you don't have to keep these ornaments strictly for a Christmas tree. Use them as name tags for presents and packages or place in your package for an extra spicy aroma. Make a garland with them! Our little guys want to hang a few in in their room to "make it fresh". Not a bad thing for  a little boy room right?
Enjoy and Merry Christmas!!

P.S. the ornaments are not edible. Do. not. eat.

::December:: 7/31

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::Sparkle::

Around the Christmas season, glitter and sparkle is right up there near the top on my "favorite things" list. It seems to make everything that was ordinary and plain, shiny and new. 

::December:: 6/31

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::SWEETS::

This is what you need when you decorate for Christmas into the late hours...

::December:: 5/31

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::Something New::

The littles have a new wardrobe piece this year for Christmas. Suspenders. 
Titus is trying to tell us how they feel on him. And what he thinks about them. And what happens to his pants when he wears them... 


                                           Photo credit: Anita  (she takes most of these photos I must say. I just like to use them)
                         

::December:: 4/31

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::Festive::




::December:: 3/31

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::Christmas is::

Celebrating Jesus Christ.

Going to Sams with the littles to buy that gigantic container of cappuccino they sell, brewing a pot of coffee and roasting marshmallows over the fire.

Wearing cozy sweaters and big, fuzzy slippers. (in our air-conditioned house)

Pulling out our Christmas music notebooks, printing sheet music, listening to "that song" over and over and practicing, practicing, practicing! 
The Christmas season is probably our busiest for singing. We have been pulling all the siblings into the living-room these last few nights to go over our songs. With a concert coming up pretty soon, we need to smooth the wrinkles out of our individual parts. 

Anita had her camera out this time, but no one knew she was videoing! My two favorite things in this clip? Samuels concentrated facial expressions and Titus' colorful Tie-dye shirt from this years VBS:)



::December:: 2/31

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::Furry Friend::

Simon (or "cookie" as Samuel has affectionately nicknamed him) is making himself right at home around here...



::December:: 1/31

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::Comfort in a mug::

Today is the first day of December. It seems like only yesterday we were pulling out the Christmas lights for 2014! The blog has been pretty quiet, but I hope to be posting more often through this Christmas season. 


You're Invited!

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Please come and join us. We would love to see you!




Hello December...

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Be Full Of Joy...

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Sometimes it's a stub of chalk and a blank chalkboard that reminds you there is joy in the little things. 


"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Romans 15:13

Happy Birthday!

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Happy 26th Cilicia and Alexis!




(Actual birthday was August 14th...I am a bit delayed these days.)

Pancakes and M&M's...

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The other night at the dinner table, about 2 days before Samuel's birthday, a few of us were sharing something we were particularly thankful for. Samuel piped up and said he was so thankful for Treasure's "tradition" of making him pancakes with M&M's on top, for his birthday.

"I'm thankful she does that for me every year...ON my birthday. It's so fun." He giggled and looked her way.

Tradition? Is doing it twice considered tradition now?

Oh. Ok.

We can do that. How can you not after seeing his adorable little face?

Let's just grab our keys and make a quick run to Dollar General for the M&M's we don't have right now. And let's remember that he'll be up extra early on his birthday making sure he can see you at the stove, (even though he tells you he had: "NO idea you were going to do that!") so set your alarm.

Because, he's the birthday boy. And birthday boys are oh-so special. It's exciting to turn 10. And we remember how excited we were on our 10th birthdays. So excited in fact, that one of us almost fainted in the Mosi parking lot and then threw up the rest of the day. (because we were just way too excited to eat breakfast.) And of course it was just the best birthday ever and we won't ever forget it...

Samuel is one exciting, adventurous, sparkler of a little boy! We love him dearly. We thank Jesus for giving him a tender heart and a huge smile and a conviction even at his young age to live his life the way Jesus would want him to live it.

Happy Birthday Samuel! We know your birthday was on the 4th, but we celebrated it this weekend, and we just want you to know we love you very much.

Happy Birthday!

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Happy Birthday Treasure! 


Love you...

Happy Birthday...

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Happy 24th Olivia!



Wait to See...

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Tonight the boys were around me on the computer while we watched a mama bunny save her baby bunnies from a snake. Then I scrolled and we listened to a man with amazing talent imitate animal sounds. I kept scrolling and came to a picture of a young couple on their wedding day, holding hands around a corner wall so as not to see one another. I was about to keep going as the boys have no great interest in sentimental "stuff" like that, when Peter quickly and a little quietly said: "that's sweet". And then, of course I think he's sweet.

Samuel looks at Peter a little blankly and pipes up: "What? I don't get it. What are they doing that for?"

Jony has his explanation: "Sam, it's a tradition. They can't see each other for like, a WEEK before they get married. It's crazy."

I give him "the look" while trying to keep a straight face.

Jony: "What? Isn't that true? Remember Ronald and An? (our cousins) A whole week before they saw each other at the altar!"

At this point Paul and I can't hold the laughter. So I tell them it's not like that for everyone, it was just that way for Ronald and An because Ronald is from the Dominican and that's his special tradition.

Me: "For most brides and grooms it's only the day of their wedding that they wait to see one another."

"Ohhhh...wow." And then they study the picture a lot more closely. Because an explanation will make you do that sometimes.

Olivia
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