Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Five Ways to Have a Great Vacation...

1. Easy meals - our meal tonight includes seven ingredients: beef, red wine, coffee, ketchup, sweet potatoes, butter, frozen peas. Perfect make-ahead meal. We returned from the day to a delicious smell of roasting beef. I typically prepare most dinners when we're on family vacations - it allows for healthier and more relaxing meals.

2. Lots of laughter. Doesn't this picture just make you smile?

3. People you love.

4. Long days with nothing to accomplish. Today we visited Huntington Beach State Park. Bequeathed to the state of South Carolina by Anna Hyatt and Archer Huntington, the park is comprised of 6,600 acres - including three miles of coastline. Beautiful salt marshes contain alligators, mink, and bald eagles.

Anna and Archer built a moor-style brick home in the 1930's, employing 100 local craftsman to create their home, Atalaya. Anna was a world-famous sculptor - her husband was an art historian and philanthropist. Later in the week, we'll be visiting her gardens that include many sculptures.

5. Sun, sand, and waves are recommended - but not required.

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Tween Room

For part of our girls Christmas presents, we (well, mostly me) decided to update Kate and Emma's room. We discussed having bunk beds built, but then decided that the red metal ones we were storing in our basement would be fine. I then shopped for coordinating desks, duvets, and "tween-like" accessories. In total, we probably spent less than $300. Rob wasn't too excited about spending our Christmas Eve assembling furniture, but judging by the screams of the girls, I'd say it was a total success. We heard things like, "this is the best Christmas ever".

While we worked on the room, the kids played in the basement. I told the girls that we were working on a sewing project and that they couldn't see their room until Christmas morning [because we needed the space in their room for a sewing machine]. On Christmas morning, they opened all of the presents and the last presents they opened (the "big present") were matching duvet covers. I told them that the duvets were what Rob and I were sewing the evening before. I asked if they wanted to put the comforters on their beds....we all walked into their room and the screaming began. It was so cute to see them clutching their comforters and shrieking at each thing they discovered. I can just picture them doing their homework, playing, and making the room "their own".

Thank you, Rob, for all of your hard work. It was fun working together and the result includes two very happy little girls!

We're On Vacation....

After hosting a Christmas Eve brunch for 27 people, Rob and I wished our guests farewell. We immediately set our sights on assembling furniture for our girls bedroom. We finished around 11pm and went to bed, excited for Christmas morning. Our kids woke us at 5:50 am - we opened presents and visited family all day on Christmas, finally arriving home again about 8:30 pm. We had originally planned to leave for a vacation to South Carolina the morning after Christmas, but because of an impending snowstorm, we adjusted our plans. We instead started our trip 10 hours south at 9:30 pm - arriving in Pawleys Island, SC at 7:30 am the next morning.

In my mind, Christmas 2010 will be remembered as the longest day(s) in history. I felt like we lived through a tornado - and came through the experience battered but still in one piece. We've done a lot of relaxing so far - and looking forward to later in the week when the forecast is for 70 degrees. We've taken family walks, checked out the beach, shopped in little beach towns, and thoroughly enjoyed a burger joint [where we signed the walls and threw peanut shells on the ground].

Pawleys Island is approximately one hour south of Myrtle Beach, SC. We're hoping to visit Charleston, find some fun in Myrtle Beach, and to perfect the art of relaxing together as a family. We were joined this morning by Rob's parents and his youngest sister, her husband and their precious little guy, Jacob. We've never visited this part of the country before and we are excited to take in some history, enjoy some warmer temperatures, and of course, eat lots of good food! Stay tuned.....

Here's hoping your "after Christmas" involves a little rest, too!

Here are some sights from our first two days -

part of our chilly morning walk - we're staying at a golf course community

Josh is enjoying the fact that the ban has been lifted on his ipod
some local oysters being prepared
Josh posing in an antique store with a $3,000 elk mount
on the beach
we kind of love our new camera!
a great burger joint we discovered
enjoying our burgers at River City Cafe

If anyone is familiar with the Charleston/Myrtle Beach area - do you have any suggestions for fun family activities?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A New Tradition....

In the past, we've hosted a Christmas Eve gathering for family - after our church services.  This year we decided to have an earlier gathering - a Christmas Eve brunch.  It was really fun and even more delicious.

We had all of the ingredients for a festive time

friends and family

A picture-perfect fire

And lots of delicious food:

panettone for french toast

Pepperoni rolls for my brother-in-law

The spread included: spanish omelette, empanadas, fresh fruit, fennel and orange salad, spinach and artichoke dip, french toast panettone, chipped beef gravy with potatoes, breakfast sausages, and baked eggs florentine with baguette

Everyone brought something and no one left hungry! 

I hope this will become a new Christmas tradition.  It was a different sort of party, with all of the guests leaving before 5:00 pm.  I love when our little house is filled with great food, even better people, and lots of Christmas cheer!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Not A Silent Night

As we so often forget, Christmas, the Real Christmas, didn't happen conveniently for anyone.  It wasn't convenient for Mary or Joseph.  It wasn't convenient for Herod.  It wasn't picturesque.   It was, however, God sending Love to us in a very relatable way - who as a mother has not put herself in Mary's place? 

Can you imagine being a teenage mother, traveling for days and finding yourself in labor?  There is nowhere for you to go.  You only have your young husband for comfort and support - and he's not even the father of your baby.  But, you have the promise of your Creator that in your womb rests the Hope of the World.

I think the song, "Silent Night" could not be more misleading.   Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm, All is Bright - if you read the same Bible that I do - you realize that God specializes in showing Himself in scary and otherwise unlikely situations.  That's why they're called miracles. 
 This song was our special music this past Sunday in church.  I'm not "up to date" on my Christian songs, so maybe everyone has already heard this song.  As I listened to it for the first time, I found it very powerful.  A good friend remarked yesterday, "it's difficult to have a mother's heart in this world".

Here are the lyrics - click here to listen see the video - depicting scenes from the movie, "Nativity Scene".  Even if you think Christmas is only a sweet fairy-tale, you may find it very moving. I think it describes the birth of Jesus in a very real, very gritty, and not necessarily pretty way. 

Labor of Love - by Andrew Peterson

It was not a silent night
There was blood on the ground
You could hear a woman cry
In the alleyways that night
On the streets of David's town

And the stable was not clean
And the cobblestones were cold
And little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
Had no mother's hand to hold

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love

Noble Joseph at her side
Callused hands and weary eyes
There were no midwives to be found
In the streets of David's town
In the middle of the night

So he held her and he prayed
Shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb
He was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the faith
That could make the mountains move

It was a labor of pain
It was a cold sky above
But for the girl on the ground in the dark
With every beat of her beautiful heart
It was a labor of love
For little Mary full of grace
With the tears upon her face
It was a labor of love

Merry Christmas to one and all - may you experience the miracle of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I'm Exhausted....

I haven't wrapped one present yet.  My house looks like it could stand up and walk away.  I haven't finished Christmas shopping yet.  I'm hosting a brunch for 20 plus people on Friday and haven't even decided on a menu.

I just spent three hours with 21 first-graders.  That's why I'm exhausted!

 We made gingerbread houses, practiced the number grid, had two recesses, enjoyed snack, had a "family meeting", did "count-around", worked on "jobs", said the pledge of allegiance, did the weather, the calendar, and sang three songs.  All in three hours.  Annie cried again.  The kids loved the cinnamon rolls - I even got a thank-you note already!  It was really, really fun (especially to spend time with Emma) - but I am wiped.  Seriously. 

Oh, and just so you know, the present labeled "me" has been opened. Emma decided she just couldn't wait anymore - it was silly putty - for all of you that were proud of her for waiting, I don't know what to tell you!

A Good Camera

I am a consummate cheapskate.  The only luxuries I really feel passionate about are toilet paper and Magic Clean Erasers.  Rob has wanted a new camera for a long time.  He thinks he has found the perfect one - I've tried to hold him off as much as possible - but it seems he's saved his pennies and will be picking up his new camera later this week.  It's hard to argue with him when you see things like this....

 My brother-in-law sent me these pictures he recently took of the kiddos (with his new camera) - the crispness of the pictures is undeniable.  The only problem?  Rob will be staring at our new camera.all.day.on.Christmas.  sigh. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tales From First Grade....

Today Emma brought home a bag of packages.  Remember how I told you her teacher had instituted a system of rewards and penalties involving "money"?  Interestingly enough, we've done pretty well remembering gym shoes and library books.  Each week Emma is able to earn more money.  Occasionally they are allowed to "shop" in her teacher's store. 

So, back to the packages she lugged off of the bus.  Can you believe that she shopped at the "store" and bought Christmas presents for everyone in our family?  And, she wrapped them.  The first thing she did when she walked up the steps from the garage - was to put the packages under the tree.  She is so excited to give us all of our presents. 

Yes, that says "to: my birther" - and "me" (she got herself a little something, it seems!).  

As we were waiting for Kate's bus, she told me about the drama surrounding the shopping.  Apparently, a little girl in her class shopped her little heart out and her grand total was $300.  She didn't have enough money and promptly started to cry.  Emma said they were trying to get their "morning work" done and Annie had to find a "quiet place to cry".  So, she went to the courtyard and cried until she felt better and then came back.  Isn't that the cutest/saddest thing ever?  First grade teachers should be sainted. 

Tomorrow I'm heading into Emma's school to decorate gingerbread houses!  I really can't wait - those little six-year olds are just too cute.  Then I'll get to share her birthday treat with her classmates - guess what she requested?  cinnamon rolls.  They are rising in the kitchen as we speak.  I'll try to remember to take pictures - no promises....

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Just Waiting....

for a little of the white stuff!  Kidding, kidding.  But, it's beginning to look a little Christmas-y around here.  Here are our pilfered things - the boxwood wreath and the arborvitae garland - what do you think?  Not bad for free, huh?

This is our front porch - I'm going to light the tealights in these lanterns when we entertain next!

My mom was able to help me salvage these wreaths.  I had three hanging on our front window and we tried to string lights on them - except we only had enough for two.  It was not cute - not cute at all.  It looks much better, trust me.  Thanks, mom.  


our birthday girl with her waffles and ice cream for breakfast!

In case you've forgotten, my aim is to inspire homemade cooking!  I am cooking lots lately - I have a luncheon for 21 tomorrow plus Emma's birthday party in the evening.  

 Here are some of the ingredients for my baked potato soup (or as Mrs P likes to call it, devil soup). 

Yesterday I made molasses cookies, lemon bars, and a flourless chocolate cake.  Today I'll be making baked potato soup, leek and goat cheese quiche, and a batch of cinnamon rolls.  I'm not kidding.  We are invited to watch the student speeches in Kate's class today - so I thought I'd take in cinnamon rolls for Christmas presents for her teacher, principal, and school secretaries.  Kate is doing a presentation on Ruth Graves Wakefield - she invented the Toll House Cookie.  I'm making a batch of cookies for her to share at the end of her presentation.  She's worked so hard to learn her speech and they worked on power point presentations in school.  **

I'll take lots of pictures of the presentations, the celebrations, and most of all - the food that we enjoy over the next few days - stay tuned!

**click on the highlighted words for recipes!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Seven Years Ago

Have you ever tried to send back a blessing?  Have you ever faced something in your life that you didn't want to?  Asked God, "why me"? "not now", or "no thanks"?  Such was the case for me when we found out we were expecting our third child.  I know it sounds heartless.  Our youngest was one year old, I had found a perfect little part time job and our life was manageable.  Thank goodness it didn't stay that way.

Seven years ago at 12:12 am our little Emma Louise was born.  I really don't know what it is about the "baby" of the family, but they present such a different dynamic.  Each of our kids are special in their own way, but Emma is my baby.  I have noticed that she doesn't really need me any more and it makes me sad.  She is growing up, getting more and more interested in fashion and acting older every day.  She still has an active imagination, but she's doing fairly well in school and loves every second of the social interaction.

Some recent quotes I've heard lately, (regarding the gingerbread houses we're going to make together at school) "Mommy, can I pick out your outfit when you come into my school [so you don't wear something like that]?  She wants me to wear my leather blazer to decorate gingerbread houses.  No.  Another quote (regarding our recent trip to the State Capitol in the rain), "I don't like this place, I like my country, Pennsylvania, better".  On every visit to a house where people have heels - she's digging in their closets the second we arrive. 

Seven years ago I was chugging 3oz of castor oil mixed with orange juice.  It tasted a little like chap stick, but boy did it work [fast]! :)

When we told Josh that we were having a girl he remarked, "oh, good - that way Kate will have someone to play with while I'm at school".  And was he ever right.  Those girls love each other more than anyone I've ever seen.  They fight, but they make up fast.  I found them this morning snuggling in Emma's bed (at 5am) - Kate remarked, "I needed somebody".  It is my prayer that they remain close through their lives. 

I'm making her waffles for breakfast - with strawberries, bananas, and a scoop of ice cream!  She wanted Josefina, the American Girl doll for her birthday.  We'll have a family birthday party for her on Friday night with some of her favorites: hot dogs, wings, green beans, baked potato soup, fruit salad, green salad, and many other yummy treats. 

Happy Birthday to my baby, Emma - please stop growing up!