Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas photo shoot...

My heart is full... children are home. Warm weather made a trip to the lake for annual family photos possible. Unfortunately our oldest daughter Micah and her husband Joshua couldn't be with us. 

It always seems like so much work to pull this off each year, but I *love* having these photos to look back on.  Love it!  Here are three of my favorites from this year.

I thought it was neat to have the ducks and Canadian geese behind us in this shot.  What you can't see is that the ground was a minefield of goose, um, "presents" that we had to carefully avoid as we walked.  Yuck! 

Here's how to take a large family Christmas photo: 
1. Try to line everybody up, tallest in back, etc.  2. Remind the little boys to keep their fingers out of their nose.  3. Place the camera on tripod.   4. Try to remember how to set the timer function on my camera.  5.  Get everyone's attention.  6.  Get everyone's attention again!  7. Laugh hysterically over silly little boy antics.  8. Regain everyone's composure.  9.  Get everyone's attention yet again.  10.  Remind little boys to keep their hands down.  11. Push the button on my camera, starting the timer.  12. I run as fast as I can to join the group, while trying to avoid goose poop.  13. I get into my spot and try to look relaxed and "natural".  14. click.

Repeat 15-20 times.  Ironically, the best shots were the first ones in each location!

Here's another one....
And how 'bout one of just the children?
Merry Christmas, from our family to yours!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gluten Free Christmas Cookie Recipes

Guess what? My ovens are fixed! Yay! We are so excited to get at some good Christmas baking once we are done with school this Thursday.

As promised I am going to share two of our favorite gluten free (and "regular") recipes for Christmas cookies with you.

First up: Gingerbread Cookies

Here is my original recipe, with the GF version noted. These are super-delicious soft traditional gingerbread cookies... and they are actually healthy too (well, pretty healthy!)

Whole Wheat (or Gluten-free) Gingerbread Cookies
x1= about 3 dozen cookies

1 1/2c. dark molasses
1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. + 2 Tbsp. butter
1/4 c. water
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
6-7 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or gluten free flour blend... I like brown rice flour or sorghum)
1 Tbsp guar gum (for the GF version)

Blend the molasses, honey and butter.  Mix in dry ingredients, adding more flour if too sticky.  Divide into 4-6 portions, wrap each portion in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Roll dough out on floured countertop to 1/4" thickness, then cut with floured cookie cutters.  (So fun!)  Place on oiled cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes.  Slightly underdone is better than overdone, for sure!  

I will warn you that the GF version is prone to crumbling... we simply don't make these often enough to experiment and figure out a solution for this.  If you have any ideas I'd be glad to hear them.

Gingerbread Cookie Icing
1 c. sugar (not so healthy, but *really* good, I promise!)
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
1/3 c. water
1 unbeaten egg white
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, cream of tartar, and water.  Bring to a boil, cook until sugar dissolves.  Place egg white in bowl.  Beat  with mixer while gradually adding sugar mixture.  Stir in vanilla.  I love this icing.  It hardens and is so pretty and shiny once it sets up.  You can tint the icing with cake decorating colors or food colors.  The children *love* using this!

Here's a photo from last year's decorating bonanza. 
Next up,  Raspberry Kiss Cookies.  I'll admit right off the bat, these are most decidedly *not* a healthy recipe, but they are a big family favorite here.  Dare you to eat just one!

Raspberry Kiss Cookies
3 egg whites
1/8 tsp. salt
3 1/2 Tbsp. raspberry jello (not the sugar-free version!)
3/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 c. chocolate chips

Beat egg whites until foamy.  Combine raspberry jello and sugar.  Add the sugar mixture gradually to the egg whites, beating with an electric mixer (or *very* strong arms!) until the whites (now quite pink) stand in stiff peaks.  Gently stir in vinegar and chocolate chips.  

Drop by small teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 25 minutes at 250 F.  Turn off the oven and leave in for an additional 20 minutes.
Hope these recipes bless your family and friends.  Merry Christmas friends! 

Monday, December 13, 2010

Project Life 12/3-12/10/2010

Aaah, December!  I love this month!  In the past I have tended to take on *way* too many projects but this year I am taking it slower and trying to enjoy the simple moments with my family.  As a result, I am not posting so much here or staying up until 1am sewing, and I haven't done a huge amount of decorating, but I *am* enjoying life here with my family. 

Here are the photos I chose for the past week to add to my Project Life album... one photo plus some simple journaling each day for a year.  *Love* this project.

::Friday 12/3/2010
A quick early-morning picture of the Christmas tree taken from our kitchen.  I love the reflection of the lights on the floor and door frame.  Caused me to ponder, "Am I reflecting Him as I go about my simple everyday life here?"
::Saturday 12/4/2010
A sneaky shot capturing the youngest boys playing with the Fisher Price nativity set.  Most certainly their own creative version of the Biblical account, but fun anyway.  Love seeing them enjoy each other so much.
::Sunday 12/5/2010
Joshua has been making his own sword and shield, then painting them.  If he has any free time I can find him creating something.  He ended up painting them some really bright colors later this day. He was so proud of his work.
::Monday 12/6/2010
One of the first really cold mornings we have had here.  Joshua went out to help take care of the animals and proudly came back with this ice that he removed from the goats' water bucket.  Pretty cool!
::Tuesday 12/7/2010
I was busy for a minute during school time today and when I turned around to check on the boys I saw this.  Josiah was helping Jon read.  Moments like this *really* make my day.
::Wednesday 12/8/2010
This morning I found Timmy hiding and playing under the hassock.  When I asked what he was doing he replied, "It's my Christmas house!"  That little cutie!
::Thursday 12/9/2010
I *wish* I would have taken my camera with me, but I didn't.  This evening my parents took Tom and I, plus three of the older children to see "A Christmas Carol" put on by the Kansas City Repertory Theater.  It is the 30th year for this production.  Never fails to make me cry.  If you live in the area and have opportunity to attend, do.  You won't regret it.  Thanks again, Mom and Dad!
And there you have it... another week zipped past.  I am going to try to post some of our favorite gluten-free Christmas cookie/treat recipes later this week, but I'm learning not to make any blogging promises!  I'll try anyway.

I know that it is not all that important in the whole scheme of things, but if you think of it, please pray.  Our oven (both the top and the bottom of our double oven) quit working today!  Yikes!  And we have so much baking that we planned to do, plus we will be hosting Christmas here.  Oh my!  The last time I had a problem with our oven the part wasn't available state-side and had to be shipped in from New Zealand (we have a Fisher and Paykell oven).  It took a month to arrive.  sigh.  So we shall see what happens this time.  I'll keep you updated, k?

Have a fabulous week!

Linking up with:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Project Life 11/26/2010- 12/2/2010

Yet another installment of "Project Life" here, my ongoing album this year, filled with one image/day + journaling for the whole year.  We all *love* this album here~ it is so fabulous to flip through the year, one week per two page spread at a time.   If you are considering tackling something like "Project Life" next year, I'd encourage you to do it... you will *love* having a fabulous visual documentation of your life!  I will say this though, be sure to keep up with your journaling!

I think I have decided to include my "December Daily" album right in with my Project Life album.  That way I won't have to make or purchase another album and I won't have to feel pressured to create each day if I don't have time or photos to do that.  I can simply add extra pages with favorite Christmas photos and journaling to the three-ring Project Life album.

Anyway, on to photos from the past week:

::Friday 11/26/2010
It's a Black Friday tradition here... no, not shopping (I do not like shopping in crowds, but the sale of  $1.99 fleece did entice me to get out briefly this year).  The big event here is that some of the younger children get to go over to my parents' house and help them decorate for Christmas!  This involves not only decorating the tree, but also eating out (*huge* treat for our kids) and getting to spend the night!

The next morning the little boys arrived at our house by 7:35am!  They couldn't understand why the other children were still asleep.  "My!" I said, "What time did you boys get up?"  "Oh, we only got up at 4:30am. Don't worry Mother, we were so quiet that I'm sure Nana and Papa didn't hear us!"  Oh my!  My poor parents!  : )   Such good memories for the children though... so good!  Thanks, Mom and Dad!  I love you and appreciate all that you do for us!
::Saturday 11/27/2010
This was chicken butchering day here... sorry if the photo is a little "ucky," but that's how it is.  I do love having that fresh organic poultry meat in our freezer.  Hey there, Jessica!  We missed you this year... perhaps you can come by next spring when we do this!
::Sunday 11/28/2010
I love photos like this one... capturing relationships here.  The boys were helping as we did the final cleaning of the chickens, checking for feathers that we missed, etc before nestling the birds in the freezer.  I *love* the fact that our children help out with the many chores around here so willingly (most of the time!)
::Monday 11/29/2010
Timothy discovered Play Doh today.  I think he spend more than an hour while we worked on school, totally immersed in the fun of molding, cutting and shaping.
::Tuesday 11/30/2010
Like my new Vibrams?  I am back riding my bike now that I am seven weeks out from my hip surgery and I am getting closer and closer to being able to add running back into my workout schedule.  I am pretty sure that one of the contributing factors to my "femoral neck stress fracture" was poor running form, so I am determined to rework my form.  I am primarily using the info presented by Danny Dryer in his book "Chi Running."  The Chi Running web site is full of helpful information if you are interested in that.  The premise of Chi Running is that thickly cushioned running shoes can promote a running stride in which your foot strikes the ground out in front of you, rather than directly under you.  Enter the Vibram 5 Finger shoes.  They are minimal and encourage you to land with your foot directly under you when running.  Plus they are super-cute, don't you think?  (please excuse the slightly blurry photo... I'd retake it, but it's dark now and life goes on...)
::Wednesday 12/1/2010
Happy birthday, Timothy!  I can't believe that you are four years old already!  I had so much fun watching you enjoy your birthday today.  Every time we sang "happy birthday" to you (several times!), you clapped and sang along, totally delighted to be the center of attention.  When it was time to open your gifts, you didn't just tear into them, but very carefully removed the tape and wrapping paper from each present, so delighted with each gift.  I love watching you grow up and am so grateful that I get to be your Mommy.  You are a pretty cool addition to our family!
::Thursday 12/2/2010
Each day since Thanksgiving the children have been asking to decorate our Christmas tree.  Every day something kept us from working on that project.   This evening, as I was working on some homeschool record-keeping, I vaguely heard Gabriel (15) announce to the younger children, "We're going to get out the Christmas tree!"  The next thing I knew, they had carried our artificial tree upstairs, plus all of the boxes of Christmas Decorations!

I captured this shot of the littler boys checking the lights....  I do love Christmastime!
Are you enjoying this advent season at your house?

Linking up with

Monday, November 29, 2010

Project Life 11/12-11/25

I've taken a little time the last few days to work on my Project Life album. I haven't posted my PL photos lately, partially due to being busy here, but also because I feared that I might be boring everyone. The downside? While I did get my photos printed and placed in the album, I don't have my journaling cards done. at. all. : (

Fortunately I do have the posts that I did here during the first half of the year to look back on. Moral of the story, (for me) even if it is not "perfect," I must take the time to write down my thoughts because they are, it seems, very fleeting.

That being said, even without the journaling cards in the album yet, I love this album! The super-cool thing about it for me is that the photos are chosen, and actually printed. It is amazing for me to look back on our year this way. Amazing.  So, so much better than having tons of photos languishing on my computer. 

Will I do Project Life again next year? Most definitely... apart from the rapture, or something like that. : )

Speaking of which, did you know that there is actually a service (run by athiests, I'm guessing) who will promise to take care of your pets when the rapture happens! Of course you must begin to pay the monthly fee to them now..... but I digress.

::Friday 11/12/2010
For the first time in more than two weeks, we had rain!  It was so dry that the rainy dreary autumn day was quite cozy and welcome.
::Saturday 11/13/2010
I had wanted to experiment with making gluten-free donuts for some time.  Today was the day!  I am not a huge fan of fried things, but I must admit, these were quite good.  It can be a difficult thing to get GF bread-type things to stay together, but these worked!  Yay!  I'll try to post a recipe later this week.
::Sunday 11/14/2010
The barn that we can see across the street.  It is almost abandoned, but I think it is pretty... plus we get a better view of it in the autumn.

::Monday 11/15/2010
We have new babies!  One of our Nubian dairy goats freshened this evening~ triplets!  Honestly, there aren't many baby animals cuter than these~ *love* the long, long ears!

::Tuesday 11/16/2010
Our oldest son Nate is serving in the US Army.  He is a chaplain's assistant stationed in Ft. Benning, GA.  We all *love* Skype time with Nate!  Unfortunately,  Nate can't come home this Thanksgiving, so we have to enjoy our time visiting this way for now.
::Wednesday 11/17/2010
Woodburning stove weather~ finally!  Tom and I seriously considered replacing our very old Hearthstone wood stove this fall, but decided to only replace parts and keep it going for another year.  The new ones are *so* pretty, but cheaper is way better and it does keep us quite warm and cozy.
::Thursday 11/18/2010
Took a few photos of the little buckling that was born on Monday so we could list him on Craig's List.  We already have a nice buck and since one buck is plenty (trust me!), we went ahead and sold him so we could have the milk for our family.

::Friday 11/19/2010
One of our very favorite things to do if it is at all nice is to go take a walk or run on the trail at a local lake.  We all went there today~ I *love* being outside and walking with the children!  This smile is so "Abbie!"  (She wanted me to be sure to tell you that her hair doesn't usually look quite that messy!  I think her hair is beautiful~ I'd love to have half as much hair as she does!)
::Saturday 11/20/2010
A full moon.  I googled "how to photograph the moon" and tried several different settings on my camera and used a tripod.  I actually got a clearer photo showing more detail of the moon, but I liked this one best in the end.

::Sunday 11/21/2010
Tom and Jake raced!  It was Tom's first full marathon and Jake's first half-marathon.  The weather was warm (nice for us as spectators!) and the guys did fabulous!  I was so proud!  ( I know, wrong date on the photo... gotta' change that)
::Monday 11/22/2010
Yet another warm day finds us taking a walk at the lake.  I simply had to capture Timmy's curls.  It was almost tropically warm when we began walking, but as we walked a cold front came through.  It was really exciting to feel the wind shift and cold dry air rush in~ thankfully we stayed dry, just got a little cold before we made it back to the car.
::Tuesday 11/23/2010
Today, I had perhaps the biggest surprise of my life!  Nate came home for Thanksgiving!  Only our oldest married daughter Micah knew that he was coming.  Check out the following video that Nate made as he traveled home to bless us.  This is the first time I have used Blogger to upload a video.  I hope it is big enough so you can see it. 

::Wednesday 11/24/2010
I can't even begin to tell you how much fun we had with Nate home those few days!  We laughed and played, hugged and laughed some more.  Today wasn't warm at all, but it found us, once again walking and playing at the lake once the girls and I finished the majority of our Thanksgiving cooking for tomorrow.  We decided to pose for an impromptu family photo and this is what I got!  The puppy is our married daughter and son-in-law's puppy, Fusion. (We were "puppy-sitting" for a few days)  He decided that since we had all stopped walking it must be time to kiss!
::Thursday 11/25/2010
Thanksgiving.  I am so blessed.  My heart is filled to overflowing.  Life is so, so rich here.  Thank You Lord.

Enjoying life here,

Linking up with

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seizing joy....

Ann Voskamp recently posted this excerpt from her new book on her blog.  It resonated so deeply for me that I had to post it here.

"and I know all our days are struggle and warfare (Job 14:14) and that the spirit-to-spirit combat I endlessly rage with Satan is this ferocious thrash for joy. He sneers at all the things that seem to have gone hideously mad in this sin-drunk world and I gasp to say that God is good. The liar defiantly scrawls his graffiti across God's glory and I heave to enjoy God... and Satan strangles and I whiten knuckles to grasp real Truth and fix that beast to the floor."

"God is good."  Some weeks I wrestle more than others to proclaim this.

How do you declare His goodness in your daily life?
I search for Him, eyes learning to focus in new ways through the viewfinder of my camera.
I do come, thirsty, to His Word, seeking, and finding Him, faithful and steady when life isn't.
I purposefully number His blessings in my life, recounting His faithfulness.
"For You, O LORD, have made me glad by what You have done, I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands."
Psalm 92:4
How do you "grasp for Truth" and battle Satan in this "ferocious thrash for joy?"
Finding Him faithful here as I wrestle to find joy,
and Oh! the joy I do find!

Praying that you are experiencing and rejoicing in His faithfulness as well,

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Some "almost-December" links for you

http://wwDefinitely getting into pre-Christmas excitement here.

Before I get to some Christmas links/ideas, I thought I'd post a link to the cutest Thanksgiving banner.

I think this would be a great project this weekend... if you want to recreate something like this "on the cheap," check out the Graphics Fairy for adorable vintage images that could work for a similar project.

Are you making a Christmas notebook/planner this year?  I started one last year and am adding to it this year....  check out Molly's here, and Marta's here.  Such a cool idea!

For the third year, I'll be making a "December Daily" album.  Each year I am a little happier with the results, but no matter how each album turns out, I *love* looking back at them.  For an overview, check out Ali's post here.  Basically, for me it is an album celebrating the 25 days leading up to Christmas.  (Some people go beyond the 25th with their album, but after 25 days I'm usually "done.") Trust me, we don't do fabulously creative Christmasy things each day, but everyday life is so *sweet*, especially that time of year.  Love documenting it and having those photos/memories to look back on.

This year our children are excited about purchasing a goat through World Vision for a needy family overseas!  (We have raised Nubian dairy goats for 10 years now, so we know what a blessing the fresh milk, etc is)  We are so, so richly blessed here.  While I have not always had the funds to purchase exactly what I want to eat, and I can remember times in the past that I was sad that I could not afford to purchase fruit for the children, I have never had to go a whole day without food as the mother relates in the video below.  Can you imagine how heart-wrenching it would be to be unable to feed your children?  You can watch the following video to see the difference a goat can make in someone's life.

And then there's Christmas music....   yep, we're already playing Christmas music here.  What a grand
celebration Christmas is~ God incarnate come to earth for us!  How about a Christmas music freebie?  Check out Sara Groves site for a free Christmas concert album download!  How cool is that?  Some of our other favorite Christmas albums:

Having a little problem with formatting here.... sorry this looks so "strange"...  if you want to see the album links/photos and you are reading this in a reader, I think you'll have to go directly to my blog.

Have a wonderful weekend!