Sunday, December 28, 2008

Sunset Christmas Night

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Psalm 19:1 (ESV)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Traditions

View of Candles and a Christmas Tree Through a Window
Candles and a Christmas Tree Through a Window

We have some Christmas traditions that don't change from year to year, but we also like to try out new traditions too. This year we've added a couple that I think we will keep.

We keep all the Christmas cards we receive in a decorative basket in the entryway. This year we are bringing the basket to the table at supper and one of the kids picks a card out of the basket, When we pray before we eat, we pray for the family who sent us the card. It's a nice way to remember to pray for our friends and family.

The second tradition that we are trying out is "secret pals". I thought it would be fun if we put all of our names in a hat and each draw a name. We are going to try to do nice things for our secret pal (preferably free things) and then we'll all reveal our pals on Christmas morning. It's fun to watch the kids try to think up what to do that won't get them "caught". They are enjoying the "sneakiness factor" of the whole thing. I'm hoping that this will promote a little sibling love and togetherness.

If you have any great free secret pal ideas I would love to hear them. So far they have done things like make beds for secret pals, leave pieces of candy on pillows and write notes in handwriting that's supposed to look like someone else's.

What are your favorite traditions? Do any of them change from year to year?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Gingerbread Houses

Instead of making "real" gingerbread houses, the girls and I made gingerbread house cookies yesterday. We used the Betty Crocker gingerbread cookie mix (super good sale plus coupon made it a great deal) and this idea was on the back of the mix.

We cut out 8 squares and 8 triangles (for the roof) to make the cookies, and I made this icing (except I halved it). If I had planned this ahead of time it would have been fun to have some little candies or more colors of food coloring to decorate the cookies, but the girls had a great time with what I had on hand.

These cookies were so easy to make, required no special equipment or even cookie cutters and tasted good too. I think we'll definitely put these in the "make again next year" file. :)

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Old Fashioned Christmas

Victorian Home Scene
Victorian Home Scene

Mike and Bobby are off pheasant hunting with friends this weekend, so I planned something fun for Greg, the girls and I last night. We have a local museum that puts on a "vintage Christmas" every year. Museum volunteers dress up in Pioneer and Victorian style clothing and do traditional Christmas activities by lantern and candle light. The public can wander through the displays and buy hot apple cider and hot cocoa. Much of it is outside and unheated so the hot drinks are perfect. There were couples dancing to fiddle music, ladies knitting and singing Christmas carols, children helping "grandma" to bake cookies at the wood stove and even cowboys with their chuck wagon and campfire. Not a TV or computer in sight. Although it was sort of strange when we caught a glimpse of one of the "off duty" volunteers talking on her cell phone while dressed in a pioneer dress and apron. :)

Every year I want to turn around and leave when we pull up and the parking lot is full to overflowing, but I'm so glad we always stay. We have a good time and it puts us in the mood for some simple Christmas fun. Last night we had some nice talks about how hard it would have been to live back then without central heating and running water, but how families were so close and relied on one another. My girls have decided that we should make some pioneer style dresses, but I'm not sure my sewing skills are up to that. Are there such things as "super easy" patterns for those sorts of dresses?

What about you? Does your town have any special Christmas traditions?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Candy Cane Cookies and Christmas Garland

This afternoon the girls and I made candy cane cookies. I found the recipe at The Homespun Heart. They are really good and it was fun rolling the dough and forming it into the candy cane shapes.

Candy Cane Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 tsp. peppermint extract
2 1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. red food coloring

Cream together butter, shortening, sugar and egg until light and fluffy. Add extracts. Gradually stir in flour. Divide dough in half. Add food coloring to one half and mix well. Wrap each half in waxed paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour (or you can freeze the dough at this point). Preheat oven to 375. Roll cookies to long ropes twisting together one of each color to form the candy cane shape. Bake 9 to 10 minutes. If desired, brush with egg white and sprinkle with crushed candy cane.

The girls also made this Names of Jesus garland along the lines of one we saw at The Homespun Heart. She has a tutorial if you want to know how to make one.

The girls love to be crafty and this was a fun and easy project for them. I didn't laminate it so it may only last through the season, but that's OK. We can make another one next year. :)

Have you done anything Christmassy this week?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Russian Tea Cakes

These are the cookies from yesterday's pictures. I made them Saturday and they are already all gone! They were SO good! They just melt in your mouth.

I found the recipe at

1 cup butter softened (I used real butter)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup finely chopped nuts (I used pecans)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Powdered sugar

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in a large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.
3. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.
5. Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on a wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.

The recipe says it makes 4 dozen cookies, but I made mine a little big so it made about 3 dozen.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Decorations

We've had so much fun decorating our house for Christmas this week. I thought I would share a couple of pictures with you. I love it when the house looks so festive and smells like Christmas cookies and cinnamon potpourri.

Last night we finally had everything finished and spent a quiet evening by the fire in our snuggly PJs watching TV and enjoying the pretty lights on the tree. It was warm and cozy and such a treat. I can't think of anything I would rather be doing on a Thursday evening.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting Ready for Christmas

A Close View of a Decorated Christmas Tree
Decorated Christmas Tree

Mike is home today (he had to work Friday) so we are getting all the Christmas decorations down from the attic. He has the ladder out and we'll be on the roof shortly...well, he'll be on the roof and I'll be standing on the ground fretting and praying. :) I don't do heights and it scares me as much to have him on the roof as it does to be up there myself.

The kids will be so excited when they get home!

I'll be scarce around here today because I also have some cleaning and laundry to catch up on. Hope you are all having a wonderful Monday!