Monday, November 30, 2009

Beginning New Traditions

It's been a busy week. I have been working on finishing up several projects and haven't had much extra time left at the end of the day, but it's been worth it. Some of these I completed just in time for Advent. I know I had said that I wasn't going to add much to our Advent and Christmas traditions this year, but I changed my mind. If I waited until I was able to do everything just the way I want it then it would be years before my ideas came to life.
I was fortunate to happen upon a site that has printable Jesse Tree ornaments with corresponding reflections and bible passages to read each night. I printed all 28 ornaments and had my mom laminate them for me. I punched a hole in the top of each ornament, threaded some thin purple ribbon through and secured with hot glue. Done! Now all I needed was a special way to keep these items together.
As I was browsing the shelves at Michaels I saw some small wooden, hinged boxes for $3. I picked one out along with two shades of purple acrylic paint, some foam paint brushes and a spray-on sealer. I took the hinges and closures off, applied two coats of paint in each color, allowed them to dry, then used the sealer. The whole process only took one evening.

Now I have a beautiful box which holds the ornament and reading for the day along with two Hershey Kisses for the kids to enjoy. It's worked out quite well.

I don't have the extra room for a separate tree so we put up our beautiful 7.5 foot pre-lit tree and strung it with purple lights. (We'll keep the white lights off until Christmas day and put up our family ornaments on Christmas Eve.)

Each night we all come and sit by the tree with the box and our Bible. One of the kids "hangs" the ornament and then Steve reads the reflection while I help the kids with their chocolate. Then we open the Bible and read the passages while the kids wander the room. (I'm not going to push them to sit still, as long as they're quiet and in the room, I'm happy.)

I keep the box and the Bible on our mantle as the centerpiece of the decoration. I reused my glass vases from fall by surrounding glittery, snow-covered twigs with small purple and silver ball ornaments then wrapping a wide purple ribbon around the top.

Between these vases and the box stand two 8x10 frames with an image of St. Nicholas and a beautiful representation of the Jesse Tree.

My sister referred me to a wonderful blog where I saw this great idea for O Antiphon ornaments. There are several ways to incorporate the O Antiphons into your family traditions with ornaments, houses or wreaths. Perhaps if I find some more time I may try my hand at putting something together. If not, there's always next year. I am pleased with what we have put together for this year though, and am excited to be celebrating this season with my family.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fruit and Nut Bars

I've been looking for a better snack lately, one that's healthy, filling and full of flavor. I settled on granola bars but wanted to try my hand at making them because store bought are so expensive, not to mention full of preservatives. I decided to use peanut butter to make them more appealing to Steve, who's never been a fan of granola. They turned out great; chewy, nutty, sweet... super tasty. Steve and the kids love them, too which is a huge bonus. Actually, he's told me that I'm not allowed to make any other kind. Not that I'll listen, though. Heh.

2 cups old fashion oats
3 Tbsp chopped or sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped, dried cranberries, cherries and blueberries
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbsp brown sugar

Heat the oven to 400F. Spread the oats and almonds in a thin layer on a baking sheet and toast until golden brown, about 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, Combine peanut butter, honey, and brown sugar in a saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring until fully melted.
Put dried fruit, coconut and toasted oats and almonds in a medium bowl. Pour the peanut butter mixture on top and stir until fully coated.
Press into a 9x9 pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Remove paper from pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
Once cooled, cut and wrap each bar in plastic wrap.
Makes 18 bars.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Preparing For Advent

Did you know that Advent begins next Sunday? This is my favorite season in the Church's calendar; the time to reflect on the history of God's people, prepare with joy for His coming at Bethlehem, and look forward to when He will come again. There are many books, activities and prayers available not only for children but for adults looking to celebrate, learn, pray and enjoy this wonderful time.

I recently found a post by Karen Edminsten, The No-Panic Advent Series. In it she has combined all her posts about advent, making it a one-stop-shop, so to speak, of all her ideas for making this season special. She covers so many great topics; The Jesus Stocking, December Feast Days, The Jesse Tree, balancing secularity with Christian heritage, simple traditions (advent wreaths and calendars, prayers and books), Santa, last minute checklists, and the Twelve Days. It's a very long post but is simply a gold mine of tips, links and ideas.

I have posted before about wanting to start some traditions for this time with my family. The Jesse Tree is top on my list but I have come across so many more wonderful ideas, it's almost a little overwhelming. Taking the advice of more seasoned mothers though, I have started a folder compiling ideas, activities, and websites full of prayers and meditations. There is no way I can do everything in one year, nor should I try, and this will allow me to hold on to these ideas for future years. We'll try more ideas as the years go on and hold on to those that are most meaningful for our family.

As time is in short supply this year I think the only new addition to our calendar will be the celebration of St Nicholas Day. We will make and hang stockings on the 5th (St Nicholas Day Eve) and read his story. The next day they will find a few fun trinkets, fruit or candy in them. We'll read some more, bake some Speculaas cookies, say some prayers and enjoy a special dinner.

What special traditions do you have for this season?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Addie The Enforcer... Part 2

Sitting on the couch next to her daddy after dinner last night Addie was chatting away and holding a cup of juice. Suddenly, her jabber takes on a concerned tone and she begins saying, "Oh no. no juice. Tahm Out. Tahm out, juice."
We watch, jaws dropped open and barely containing our laughs, as she takes her sippy and puts it in the time out corner. "Tahm Out, Juice" she says again as she walks away. A few moments later she says, "OK, ah dun. Sorry? Sorry, juice." and kisses the cup as she returns to her place on the couch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Our dinner tonight is a new favorite; soups are one of the best things about cooler weather.

1.5 - 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup tomato sauce
30 oz chicken broth
1 can cream style corn
2 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
Thyme and Oregano to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan

In a crockpot combine onion, carrots, potatoes, tomato sauce and chicken broth. Season lightly with thyme and oregano. Add chicken and cook 3.5 hours on high.
Remove chicken, cut into bite sized chunks and add back to soup along with the corn and zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and cook an additional 15-20 minutes.

Serve with Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tired? Surely You Jest.

This is what "wind down before bed" time looks like around here. I promise, they don't eat sugar for dinner.

From Movies

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Gabe has developed an aversion to wearing pants. It's to the point where the only bottoms he will wear are overalls and only because he can't figure out how to get them off. Pajama bottoms aren't safe either. After nap time the other day he had stripped off his diaper along with the pants. Whee.

Addie can count to 15 now. She can recognize some of the numbers, but sometimes gets carried away with the counting and skips ahead. She will correctly count items though. Peas, cans and blocks are slid one by one as she counts them out. She can also draw a circle. Really. Drawing is one of her favorite activities.

Juliana has started laughing. But only for her daddy. It's quite possibly the cutest sound I've ever heard; quick, chirping giggles that leave her daddy in a puddle. (Just in time for a visit from her Aunts, too. They'll be thrilled.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Veterans Day

To those everywhere that have sacrificed and served. My grandfather. My Uncle. My father. My friend.

A Nation's Strength

Not gold, but only man can make
A people great and strong;
Men who, for truth and honor's sake,
Stand fast and suffer long.

Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly --
They build a nation's pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.

-Walt Whitman

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pardon me?

Addie was standing at the bottom of the stairs yesterday trying to get her fathers attention. "Daaaaadeeeeeeeeeee!" she called out. "DAAAAAAAAADEEEEEEEEE!!!!" Steve, however, was in our room with the door closed and was unable to hear her. After waiting for another moment, considering her options, she decided to try the "mommy" approach. Oh no, she didn't turn to me for help, she did a great imitation. She reached up and knocked as hard as she could on the wall and said, "Seeeeeeeeeeeeve!" "SEEEEEEEEEEVE!"
Daddy emerged eying her curiously. "What did you call me?"
"Tanks, Seeve!" Was her only response.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Well, we tried...

These past few months I've had a great time trying out new baking recipes. From new sweet bread and cookies to pies and brownies, we've had something new in our kitchen almost every week. As delicious as these recipes have been, they haven't been helping our wasitlines, and it's something we need to be more conscious of. So yesterday I got down a book from my cabinet that I've had for a while but never really went through or tried out. Secrets of Fat-Free Baking.

I have a weakness for chocolate and was looking through the book to find something quick and easy that I could make with ingredients I already had on hand. A recipe for Honey Oatmeal Brownies seemed to fit that bill so I set about mixing them up. The original recipe calls for honey and unbleached flour but as I didn't have either of these I used orange marmalade (there's a whole chapter about substituting sweeteners) and whole wheat flour. I had the brownies in the pan in less than 5 minutes and the whole process cleaned up before Steve came down from getting the twins to bed.

On the whole we weren't impressed though. I have a feeling that chocolate and orange, though a popular combination of flavors, is something of an aquired taste. The texture of the oatmeal didn't really help matters much. I could tell Steve really wanted to like them, he came back after his first bite for another taste, but shook his head and gave up on them. I wasn't quite so bothered. The orange flavor was quite strong, I have a feeling it would have tasted better with the honey or perhaps a raspberry preserve.

On the plus side though the kids gobbled them up, and I didn't feel bad about them eating brownies. Also, they only have 75 calories and 0.5 grams of fat per serving. That's impressive. Although, if you're turned off by the flavor and texture so you head back to your stash of halloween candy, it kind of defeats the purpose. I'm hopeful that other recipes will turn out better.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Afternoon Out

We took the kids out to a park yesterday for some fresh air and to burn a little energy. We're all getting over some mystery illness and had been cooped up for far too long, but the bright blue skies and cool, crisp air did much to lift our spirits.

The kids played on the parks large playground for a while before we started a walk down one of the trails. They had a great time pointing out leaves and squirrels sauntering down the path with us.

We got to see a few unexpected sights as well, like a huge spiderweb spanning the path (which I only narrowly missed walking through) and a giant praying mantis chowing down on some unfortunate bug.

The kids did get tired eventually and asked daddy to carry them. It was a little bittersweet, noticing how big the kids were getting and realizing that we won't be able to carry them both together for much longer.

When they weren't being carried by daddy, however, they were more than happy to join hands and trot off on their own.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Last night was the first Halloween that we dressed the kids up for trick or treating, and we had a great time. They went as pirates (I figured this will probably be the only year I can dress them as I wish so, darn it, they're going to coordinate!) They were anxious to get started and losing patience as we got everything together, but we made it out the door around 6:15.

Addie was very outgoing with everyone she met, saying hello, pointing out decorations and showing them the stars and moon. Gabe was more reserved, but always replied when prompted. We had been practicing saying "Trick or Treat" for several days, that may have been the best part for them. "Tick oh tea!" they would say when the doors opened. Then they would thank them and get out a wish for a Happy Halloween. Addie starting condensing her responses to "Tick oh Tea! Tanks! Ta Ta!" Gabe's attempt at Happy Halloween came out as simply "Ween!" So precious.

Some of the houses had dogs and Gabe became rather frightened. He refused to even walk up to several houses, opting to wait with me in the driveway. Only after a few of the homeowners came out and assured him they didn't have dogs did he cautiously make his way towards them.

By the time we had walked the streets of our neighborhood they were tired and the baby getting fussy so we headed home. We made one last stop across the street from our house. After getting his candy Gabe turned around and sat down on the step with the woman, plunked down his pumpkin and put his feet out. I think it's safe to say he was done.