Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Superlatives - 2013

Aaaah, another Christmas has come and gone.  Christmas always leaves in its wake some good memories, new experiences, failed experiments, and special joys.

Here are my Christmas awards.

Best Christmas Creativity:

Love this last-minute brainstorm.  I punched stars out of reversible paper (iridescent/gold) and then stitched them together into a fun and sparkly "bunting."  They got wound around the small tree by the front door.  Yeah, the one usually thickly covered with Hallmark children's ornaments.  This year it was my tree, and I wanted it simple.  Star bunting, lights, done.

Most Shocking Christmas Visitor:

Yes, indeed, one of Santa's elves, straight from the North Pole.  Who knew they grew them so big?  Cousin Aaron delighted all the kids . . . ages 2 to 62!!

Best New Addition to the Family:

Oh my word . . . what can I say about these two precious kids??!!  New cousins, grafted by God from their family of origin into our family.  Welcome, boys!

Favorite Incorporation of Vintage:

I love these tiny, old bottles, that in their past life held everything from rat poison to hair tonic.  I love them even more with tiny white lights, evergreen branches, pine cones, and tiny, glittery glass ornaments sitting atop them.

Biggest Christmas Fail:

If you're going to make monkey bread, stick with the canned rolls, close your eyes to the ingredients on the label, ignore the stomach aches that your gluten-free family members will complain of.  Whatever you do, don't even bother trying to make a gluten-free alternative.  Monkey bread?  Gluten-full or not at all!

Best Christmas Game:

Oh my goodness, we had fun with Scattergories, all of us playing together, Oldest Son's friend included as a part of our dysfunctional, game-playing family.  Too many arguments, too much debate and defense, too much posturing and placating, too much fun!!

Favorite new ornaments:

Mmmm, love these.  I've figured out that when it comes to Christmas decorations, I love a blend of natural and glittery.  What could be better than these shimmering pine cones?

Cutest New Christmas Decor:

Love this precious new Mary, Joseph, and baby that Youngest Daughter made in Kidstuff.  Sweet, simple, natural, homemade.  Definite Christmas keeper.

Best Christmas Gift:

Hands down, having all family members together, opening their stockings in their jammies, laughing over the traditional Christmas red boxers and I-tunes gift cards, hearing the Christmas story, choking down a few bites of gluten-free monkey bread, enjoying the family God has blessed us to be, flaws and all.  Best gift ever.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Light in Darkness

Sometimes the evil and darkness of this world seem so huge, so engulfing.

There is so little I can do.

What is my one light in so much darkness?

I feel the weight of correcting things, bringing peace, making everything right again.

But that is not my responsibility.

Jesus said, "I am the Light of the World."

I am not the Savior.  I am not the Light.  I am not the Peace.

I am not the Hope.  He is.

It is not my job to decide how He will bring His peace or when.

He is God.

But He did tell his followers also that "we are the light of the world."

That doesn't mean just me.

That means all of those who follow Him, who have His Spirit within them.

It's not all my responsibility.  It is corporate.  It is communal.

It is not my job to decide how others will shine their lights or when.

It is just my job to shine.

I may not be able to wash the evil from all hearts.

But I can hold the hands of a rape victim as her body twists from the pain of flashbacks.

I may not be able to comfort every wound.

But I can welcome a widow back to her cold and dark home with a warm meal and ears that listen.

I may not be able to right every wrong.

But I can step up boldly and speak for those who can't speak for themselves,

Those who are too weak physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally . . . .

This is how I choose to shine my light.

Its extent, its results, its impact,

Those are not up to me.

But rather to the One who said,

"The Light shines in the darkness,

and the darkness can never extinguish it."  John 1:5

Friday, April 12, 2013

Farmer's Market Angst and a Tote Bag

Flowers are blooming.  The sun is warm.  Trees are sending out their tentative, baby-green leaves.  And the newspaper is telling us that very soon the open air Farmer's Market will be starting up down town on Saturdays.

So, in expectation of trips to the Farmer's Market this year, I've started knitting, Elisa's Nest Tote, which looks like it was just made to fill with a a bag of radishes, a jar of homemade salsa, and an eggplant or two.

No, that's not me or my pregnant belly.  But it is Elisa's Nest Tote (pattern here).

Last year was the first time I got to go to the Farmer's Market, and I loved it!

The rich, ripe vegetables . . .

. . . mounds of freshly homemade pastas in 13 different delicious varieties . . .

. . . even these gorgeously dyed fleeces.  ::sigh::

Last year I arrived, ready to purchase farm-fresh produce.

And then I found myself inexplicably uncomfortable with this new concept of purchasing from the farmer as he stood right there.  I realized I was wishing for the impersonal bins and bags at the grocery store, instead of looking into the face of the owners of this produce.

I wanted to press the ends of the melons, examine the tomatoes on all sides, smell the radishes---without their nurturer watching over me.  I felt like someone who was critiquing another's loved offspring.

I couldn't do it.  I hid behind my camera lens.

This year, I think I'm ready.  I'll gird up my emotions and boldly take the plunge.

And if all else fails, at least I'll look good with my tote bag!!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Gluten-Free (A Contrast)

I grew up in a wheat culture, just like most of you.  Wheat is what I knew for baking.  Add a little yeast and oil and you had pizza crust.  Add some leavening, sugar and fats and you had cookies.  Add some buttermilk and you had pancakes.

One canister did it all.

And then . . . the big gluten exit and oh my goodness did life change.  Now all of baking is centered on one question.

What can I do to make this bread product taste like it is made with wheat???

Aah, there is the question.  And to answer the question, one must have lots and lots of different flours to mix and add.

I used to have a canister of Wheat Flour.

Now, I have canisters of Rice Flour
                                      Oat Flour
                                      Tapioca Flour
                                      Potato Flour
                                      Arrowroot Starch
                                      Pizza Crust Mix
                                      Pancake Mix
                                      All-Purpose Mix (for cookies)
                                      Xanthan Gum

My pantry is bulging!  There's scarcely room.  I finally corralled all the miscellaneous bags (folded over, clothes-pinned, leaking from different openings) into nice smooth glass canisters.  This comforts me.  A little

My how life has changed.

Before the gluten-free life:

After the gluten-free life:

My pantry and I are still adjusting!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Even in a Subdivision

It's no secret that in my ideal life I'm living on 10 acres of property where dogs and children roam free, make tire swings, dam up creeks, and climb high into trees.

My ideal dreams do not ever delve into the resulting chiggers, water snakes or the time it would take to maintain such property.  So, the ideal reigns supreme.

The reality is far different.  We live in a clipped and manicured subdivision with a list a mile long of all the things one must never do to violate homeowner association policies.

I love my house to bits . . . spacious, light and airy, perfect floor plan.  My setting . . . well, I do chafe a little.

So, I'm effusively thankful that there are ways that my kids can still interact with nature . . . even in a tightly controlled subdivision.

There are the woods not so far away, a small creek that actually has running water when it rains and a pond across the street.

A pond in which to find tadpoles and turtles of all sizes and designs

And lately turtles have been all the rage.

Oh, the scurrying when a little head peeks above the water.

The evaluating of the catches.

The pouring and combining of buckets.

The execution of water quality control.

The mad dash of the specimen inspection committee.

And the inspecting itself.  Amazing one-on-one investigation of awesome creation.

And can I even begin to express my delight that this is the current footwear of choice?

p.s.  All turtles were returned safely to their pond habitat at the end of the day's activities!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Silk Tie Dyed Eggs!!

When you think you have decorated Easter eggs every way possible . . .

When you have dyed, tie-dyed, stenciled, colored, sticker-ed, waxed, and crackled . . .

When you think there cannot possibly be another way to embellish the "incredible, edible egg," never fear, some brilliantly creative person with think of a new way!!

This year, we tried "silk tie" dying our eggs.

We found our instructions here.

It was a good bit of work, what with the snipping of the old silk ties, wrapping the eggs, tying the silk on tight so the dye would transfer (note to self:  next year use rubber bands!!), wrapping each egg in its own white cotton pouch, wrapping again, and boiling in water and a bit of vinegar.

But oh the fun of unwrapping each little surprise package and discovering how the pattern had transferred from the soft silk of the tie to the hard, smooth egg shell.

Delightful Easter fun.  Go figure . . . this year there really was something new under the sun.  At least to me!!

Friday, March 29, 2013

What To Do When Spring Just Won't Come

Okay, friends, here are some facts ---

I live in the sunny South

It is 2 days away from the end of March

The daffodils came up 2 months ago

It was 29 degrees out when I went out walking this morning

At some point, one must ask if spring is really ever coming at all this year or if it will be, in a Narnia-ish way, always winter and never Christmas.

In that spirit, I have come up with a few ideas of ways to continue to keep hope alive that spring may indeed arrive and that there will be days when I will walk out my front door and begin panting, wishing fervently for the chill of winter!

Idea #1 - Fill the house with daisies.

Or whatever flower says "spring" to you!!  Lots of them.

If spring won't bloom voluntarily on the outside, I say force it to bloom on the inside!!

This reminds me that somehow, somewhere the sun is shining and flowers are blooming in that warmth and may it come here quickly.

Idea #2 - Roll out the sugar cookie dough and cut out flowers.  Lots of them!!

And let the kids decorate in colors as bright and bold and (::ahem::) garish as they want, thick with sprinkles in combinations that make the eyes slightly dizzy.

If the grass refuses to be anything other than the color of khaki Docker's and the trees stay bare and brown, at least color and flowers will be exploding on the kitchen table!!

Idea #3 - Drink hot tea.  Lots of it!!

This tea especially.

Oooooh, yummy!!  I have been drinking this multiple times a day with generous ladle-ings of honey and cream, and it seems to be working.  I believe I have successfully tricked my insides into being warm enough to think spring is here and therefore prohibit them from striking and forcing me to stay in the bed, covers over the head, until the temperature outside registers at least a spring-like 68 degrees.

So that's how we're coping with the spring that's slow in coming this year!!

And I do believe it seems to be working.

How about you??  Have you found a way to bring spring inside??