Monthly Archives: November 2011

Christmas Traditions Part I

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Christmas has always been my favorite holiday.  I love the whole season of good will and cheerfulness.  I love the carols and the wonderful stories about Christmas like A Christmas Carol and The Best Christmas Pagent Ever and of course the story of the birth of our Savior found in Luke II.  Growing up we had many different traditions, I’ll talk about a few of them here and also some traditions I am considering for my own little family.

Picture this: A large family sitting around the dinner table,  or in a living room, with the patriarch of the family reading a book to the others.  Soon his voice falters and he chokes up.  He tries a few times to continue reading the touching story but finally the mother of the family says she’ll give it a try.  She makes it a few more paragraphs before she too is unable to continue.  At this point a brother (he doesn’t cry)  offers to read while the rest of the family sniffs and wipes away tears.  Beautiful, isn’t it? 

Ok, so we didn’t always cry, but I really enjoyed it when we read christmas stories outloud as a family.  Each year we would read a different chapter book, although my dad would always (still does, actually!) read Red Ranger Came Calling on Christmas Eve.  This is one tradition I intend to keep up with my family.  

Next on the list is making Christmas gifts by hand.  We would draw names so we didn’t have to make a present for each of our 5 siblings, and keep the name a secret as we made them a gift.  My dad would help us with woodworking gifts and my mom helped with sewing/crafting.  I remember it being so fun to find out who had your name and what unique gift they came up with.  I still love making gifts today.  They seem more personal, and you put more of yourself and your time into them.  They are love made tangible!

A final idea for Part I of this series is one we are doing this year.  Secret Santa!  The excitement and good feeling you get from this tradition is priceless.  We would pick a family we knew that was either having hard times financially, or someone we felt could use a pick-up.  The 12 days before Christmas we would deliver gifts of many different kinds to the family.  Service is always a good idea, and nothing helps me feel the Christmas spirit more.  

So, now it’s your turn!  What is your favorite Christmas Tradition?

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Thanksgiving Eve

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For a few years now we’ve had the tradition of watching “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on Thanksgiving Eve and eating the dinner he serves his friends; toast, popcorn, pretzels, jelly beans, and a parfait that magically appears just before Linus says grace.  I think my kids are more excited for this meal then they are for the actual Thanksgiving Day dinner. I love this tradition because it means, after spending all day cooking, I don’t have to prepare dinner too.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving traditions?

Yummy Yummy Mincemeat

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I love mincemeat.   Especially in a pie.  Especially in my mom’s pies.  But usually she just uses the canned mincemeat.  So when Alberta gave me a mincemeat recipe to use my pears in, I knew I was destined to make it.  A lot of people get nervous when I mention “mincemeat” and are horrified when I tell them it’s my favorite kind of pie.   It’s true that in the past mincemeat always contained some kind of ground meat, but nowadays you can find plenty of recipes that are just fruit and spices in a delicious combination.

Here is the recipe from the Ball Complete Book of home preserving:
1cup dried currants
1cup sultana raisins
1/2cup coarsely chopped dried apricots
Grated zest and juice of one lemon and one orange
1/2cup lightly packed brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
pinch of salt
10 cups chopped cored peeled pears
1 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/4cup rum (very optional: I didn’t use it)
In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine currants, raisins, apricots, lemon and orange zest and juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt. Fold in pears, being careful not break or bruise them. Bring to boil over a medium high heat. Lower heat, cover and boil gently, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes, until slightly thickened. Uncover and cook stirring occasionally, until think enough to mound on a spoon, about 15 minutes. Add almonds and rum and boil gently for 5 minutes.
Ladle hot mincemeat into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space, Remove air bubbles, wipe rim, center lid and screw band.
Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to boil and process for 20minutes. Remove canner lid, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
So that’s the official version.  Now, here’s what I did.  I didn’t have any dried currents, so I used dried cranberries instead.  I also didn’t have a full 10 cups of pears so I  threw in some apples and plums.  I think you could use any type of pear or apple in this recipe.  In my second batch, I didn’t have enough almonds so I put in some chopped walnuts.  Still tastes great.
Also, if you’re going to use the mincemeat right away (for Thanksgiving pies, for example)  there’s no need to can it.  This recipe makes enough for two pies with maybe some leftover.  I’ve been putting my extra mincemeat on ice cream.  Yum!
Next week, I’ll show you some tasty tarts I made with mincemeat!  Just one more thing to be thankful for!  What are your favorite kinds of pies?

Naturally Healthy Babies and Children

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Last winter, my family went through so many illnesses I lost count.  It seemed like we caught everything that went around and I think my sons immune system was constantly down from getting illness after illness.  It was not fun.  Not fun AT ALL.  So as I see (and feel) winter coming, I have decided to develop a new passion.  A passion for health and wellness,  so that we will never get sick.  EVER!  

Of course the first thing I did was check out some books from the library. 🙂  Naturally Healthy Babies and Children by Aviva Jill Romm and Disease-Proof your Child by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.  were the two books I got.   In Aviva’s Book I read “When we teach children that illness is something to avoid at all costs and to overcome as quickly as possible, regardless of the means of doing so, we deny them the right to take time to heal, honor their illnesses, convalesce, and grow.  We are denying that illness is a natural part of health, and we make sickness the enemy of their bodies.”  She also says that how you care for your child’s health sends them positive or negative body images: wholeness or alienation.

Well, OK.  I figure I’ll change my goal from NOT SICK EVER to tending for my kids while they are sick in a positive way, allowing them to fully recover in hopes that we won’t get sick again right after!  Aviva says “The goal is not to arm ourselves against illness, but to avoid unnecessary or repeated illnesses that arise from lack of nourishment, insufficient rest and relaxation, inadequate exercise, or even a lack of warmth and caring from others in our lives.”  Then I read about all sorts of herbal remedies and good lifestyle habits for all sorts of ailments.  I was really excited to get my “herbal medicine kit” ready and grow some medicinal herbs in my garden or maybe go harvest some from the wild!  I also couldn’t wait to try out some of the remedies myself to see if they really help.  I got my chance two days later when my son-you guessed it- got sick!

He fell asleep early Wednesday night and woke up @5 on thursday morning  saying he needed to “hiccup”.  Unfortunately, he meant throw-up.  Alot of the herbal concoctions call for herbs I have never heard of let alone have, but I did have ginger root and cinnamon which are supposed to calm an upset stomach.  I grated the ginger and made a tea out of it and some cinnamon.  When I gave it to my son, though, he didn’t care for it, and threw-up shortly after taking a sip.  After that there was no WAY he was trying it again.  I also tried a heated salt pack on my daughters stomach (she was throwing up the next night) which seemed to delay her next bout of vomiting.  I was throwing up the next day, and then my husband was last to suffer through it.  By that time, the house was a wreck and I was done trying anything but T.V.  One thing I tried that did work well was Aviva’s Electolyte Replacement Drink which both the kids loved (it’s quite sugary) and it helped keep them hydrated without me having to go to the store and get Gatorade.  Here is the recipe for the drink:

8 oz. water (warm or at room temperature)

1/4 tea. baking soda

A pinch of salt

2 Tbls. or more of honey, sugar, or maple syrup

Just mix everything together and give it by tablespoon or 1/4 to 1/2 cup every half hour or so. 

I am excited to learn more about alternative ways to treat illness.  It was nice to have some different things to try in the hopes that they eased being sick a little.  I also like the image of a competent, loving mother nursing her sick child back to health.  It’s a beautiful picture, and a nice feeling.  The reality, though, is usually that I am sick along with them, and then who nurses me back to health?

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

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Assorted Red and Green Apples 2120px

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It’s fall!  And since I grew up in the middle of an apple orchard, nothing says fall to me like apples, especially homemade apple butter.  I have always loved apple butter and I often wondered why my mom didn’t make it very often.  Then I tried making some myself.  After standing in front of a hot stove for the better part of 2 hours and getting hot butter splattered on me for the last half, I understood.  So when I found a recipe for apple butter in a slow cooker I was pretty excited.  I ended up combining my favorite apple butter recipe from my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving with the instructions I found.  Here is my version, with pictures! Read the rest of this entry

Favorite Childrens Books

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I recently wrote about a book I was reading  called A Picture Perfect Childhood by Cay Gibson.  (Click Here for that post) Since reading the book and changing a few things about the books we read at our house, I have found a PLETHORA of awesome wonderful books!  The illustrations on alot of them are seriously breathtaking, and the stories hold me and my 5 year old captive. 

I also love how in the book one of her lists of recommendations are by month, and she has some interesting books about holidays.  She also has every month at least one book about each of these subjects: Art, Music, Poetry, Science/Nature, Language Arts, Shakespeare, Math, Geography, Fairy Tale, Myth, and Tall Tale.  I really liked branching out into all these different topics!  We got alot of the books recommended for November, and these are my favorites.  I would suggest most of these books for 5 and up.  The

Front Cover

The Tempest by Marianna Mayer/Lynn Bywaters 

                     A retelling of Shakespeare, the illustrations were beautiful, and the story compelling.

The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Marianna Mayer/ K.Y. Craft   

                      My daughter loved this one, again the illustrations are intricate and VERY well done.  The classic story-but well told.  My husband got tired of reading this one, it was pretty lengthy.

Pegasus by Marianna Mayer/K.Y. Craft

                      Another favorite of my daughter.  Again, AWESOME pictures, and the classic story of Pegasus and Bellerophon fighting the Chimera.  Warning for sensitive children: the monster is quite fearsome!

Louisa May& Mr. Thoreau’s Flute by Julie Dunlap and Marybeth Lorbiecki/ Mary Azarian

                         I had no idea Louise May Alcott lived near Henry David Thoreau!  This was a fun book about Louise writing her first poem at 8 years old. 

The Secret of Saying Thanks

The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglass Wood/Gred Shed

                          This is such a feel good book!  Also a tear-jerker, but it doesn’t take much to get me to tear up!  When I first read this to my daughter, I had to pause for a bit to get my emotions under control, and she began to cry (very fake) as well.  Pretty hysterical.  Beautiful soft illustrations and a good reminder to give thanks in all things. 

The Wise Old Woman

The Wise Old Woman by Yoshiko Uchida/Martin Springett

                            Fun retelling of a Japanese fable, teaches the importance of valuing your elders, for they are wise!

My kids Favorites:

 

Davy Crockett Saves the World by Rosalyn Schanzer 

                               My kids both loved the over-the-top way in which the story is told.  Fun.  I didn’t love it, but my kids did!

Carnival of the Animals - Camille Saint-Saëns; Commentary by Barrie C. Turner; Illustrated by Sue Williams

Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saens by Barry Carson Turner/Sue Williams

                                  This was so fun to listen to the music and read a little about each animal.  My 3 year old sat by and looked at the pictures, while my 5 year old just danced and danced and danced to the music.  Great book, great music.

 

So those are my favorites this month!  I’ll let you know what treasures I find next month- and you let me know some of YOUR favorite I can check out!

Upcycling

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Upcycle symbol

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I hate throwing old clothing away so I’m always looking for cute and fun ways to upcycle it.  For example, I made a nightgown out of my old bedsheets that had a huge hole in them. They were my favorite sheets, high thread count and so soft, I couldn’t throw them away! Now the nightgown is my favorite.

Here are some other upcycling projects I’ve found; some I’ve tried and some I’d love to try. Enjoy!

What is your favorite way to upcycle?

The Fabulous Wonderful Awesome Bike Trailor Make-Over…well, kinda

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This is our bike trailer. 

It’s in kinda rough shape.  We got it used about 4 years ago and since then it has been sitting outside in all weather conditions.  As you can see, the years have NOT been kind. 

On a different but not completely unrelated subject, picture this.  It was Monday about 3 weeks ago and my house was a mess.  You couldn’t walk through any room in the place without picking your way around a paraphernalia of things and the dishes were piled on the counter, the laundry piled in the hamper.  Despite all these pressing things I had to do, I went outside to empty a garbage bag (did I mention the garbage’s were also overflowing?)  and I walked past this dilapidated trailer sitting forlornly on the side of our apartment.  “Ya know, it’s not such a bad little trailer after all”  I thought.  “It just needs a little love.”  

I was filled with an all consuming desire to fix up this little trailer, which is structurally sound, but lacking in the looks department.  “I have all the stuff I need in my closet!”  I thought, thinking of some outdoor canvass I had leftover.  I didn’t have any netting, but I got the idea to use the old netting which was in OK condition. 

Well.  Long story short, when my husband returned home that evening, the kids were running wild (in their pajamas no less), the house was in even WORSE condition, and the wife (that would be me ;)) was very upset and frustrated with this awful project.  So, here is the finished product.  It turned out too small, and is not well sewn together, but hey, at least there are no rips!  Also, I had wanted to change the color of the trailer body somehow, but that didn’t happen.  So although it is far far away from the glowing picture in my mind that day, at least I tried, right? 

        

 

Have you ever had a project go wrong?

 

Daily Bread

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Cover of "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a...
Cover via Amazon

In an effort to save money while still eating healthfully, I thought I’d try making my own bread.  Sure, you can find bread pretty cheap, but when it comes to whole grain bread the expensive stuff is way better tasting.  Besides, if you could have homemade bread with about as much effort as it takes to go buy it, wouldn’t you?  With that in mind, I purchased a copy of “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day“.  I had checked it out at the library and it looked like a good book to add to my collection.  I have to admit I was skeptical of the title.  No way could baking bread be that easy.  But I was determined to give it a go. Read the rest of this entry