Saturday, December 31, 2011

the last day of the year...

Last night, we had a great evening with several family friends for Brent-made pizza, movie (for all the kiddos), and games for the adults.  Great conversation...great friends...lots of laughter...we were repeatedly reprimanded by our children for being too loud. (Apparently, we were drowning out the movie sound!)

But today, we shared a very laid-back family day.

Madeleine kept asking to paint, so we decided to make snow scenes...they had fun using stamps...and different objects as paint brushes (q-tips, toothpicks, bits of sponge).  Now, if only we could see some snow on our own landscapes!

Brent baked some delicious ciabatta bread to accompany our French Market Stew...I could eat freshly baked bread every. single. day.

But this is the moment that I will remember from New Years Eve...

My three, precious children. Snuggled together in the chair where I rocked each one of them as infants. Whispering.  Cuddling.  Planning.  Laughing.  Enjoying.  Together.

I hope you, also, spend this New Year's Eve with those you hold dear.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

An Apprentice

For Christmas, I bought Brent a book he's been excited about for awhile: The Bread Baker's Apprentice  by Peter Reinhart.  We love a good baguette...and since we don't have any good options for buying one locally, we started making them a while back.  Brent decided to take a go at the baguette recipe I had been using, but he wasn't completely pleased with his results...and a friend of his mentioned this book and shared a recipe from it.  

So it began. :)

In the five days since (and including) Christmas, the smell of rising dough or baking bread has wafted through our home.  (I'm currently enjoying the smell of four baguettes right now...three for friends, one to keep.)

I love seeing my boys in the kitchen...and in their "tough guy" aprons!  Wish you could see Nathanael's Star Wars apron here.  I love how he loves being with his Daddy...whether building with legos, cooking in the kitchen, wrestling in the living room, or having epic light sabre duels.

I think I could get used to this...Brent home each day (gotta love vacation time!) and fresh bread on the table!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


When I think of a drink that warms you through, I think of a Chai Latte.  Warm, of course, temperature-wise.  But warm with spice too.  Soothing, smooth, and warm.

A Chai Latte was my "crossover" drink in college.  That and Frozen Milky Ways.  (I happily blame Common Grounds.) The drinks that made me venture from a strictly hot chocolate/hot tea drinker to actually enjoying coffee.  Because if I liked a tea that was a latte, surely an espresso-based latte would be good too, right?

But I digress.

Chai.  I've never attempted to reproduce a chai latte at home until recently, when a recipe in Southern Living this fall peaked my interest.  I altered their recipe a bit, as I really like a vanilla flavor in my chai...and I love frothed milk.

Chai Latte

4 cups milk
1 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, sliced
6 cardamom pods
1 star anise
1/4 tsp. whole cloves
1/4 tsp. black peppercorns
1 vanilla bean (or 1/2 Tbsp. vanilla)*
4 regular-size black tea bags
cinnamon and star anise to garnish

1.  Bring milk, cream, sugar, ginger, cardamom, star anise, cloves, peppercorns, and vanilla bean along with 2 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

2.  Add tea bags and cover.  Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes.  Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a pitcher.  Discard all solids.

3.  Pour a small amount of chai latte into a frother, until latte has doubled in amount.  Divide remaining latte between mugs, top each with some of the foamed chai.  Garnish with a dusting of cinnamon and a star anise.

Yields 7 cups.

*You could also substitute 1-2 tsp. vanilla syrup, stirring the syrup into the latte immediately before serving.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Happy Birthday Matt!

Happy Birthday...

 to an encouraging and fun,

 playful and silly,

wonderfully lovable and sweet

Uncle, Brother, and Friend.

We love you so much Matt...
and we hope that you have a fabulous birthday!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


From our family to yours,
Merry Christmas!

May the Joy of knowing Christ fill your hearts this Christmas
and throughout the New Year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Create with Joy!

I just love crafting around Christmas...I love that my children really enjoy creating.  It's so much fun to introduce projects to them and see them get so excited about the things that they make.

I love it just as much as they do, and just in case you do too, I thought I'd share this project I worked on a few weeks ago.  It's easy, inexpensive, and I just love how it turned out!

I fell in love with this sweet illustration back in November, when I took home a cozy sweater from Eddie Bauer.  It's a good reminder to pay attention around Christmastime to packaging...this fun Christmas print came from a cute shopping bag!

I didn't have the heart to throw away the bag, so I saved it and decided to use it for decoration!

(The best thing about it? It's double-sided!)

You'll need a print design, canvases in an appropriate size for the design, scissors, craft knife, mod-podge, a glue pen, fine glitter, and Superseal.

First, cut apart the bag so that the design is flat. Place the canvas behind the print, holding it up to the light (or a lightbox) to choose the best placement. Then, trace around the canvas on the back of the print.

Cover the back of the print with mod-podge, painting inside the area you've traced. Carefully place the canvas over the mod-podge, pressing gently to adhere the paper to the canvas. Carefully smooth out any bubbles or creases in the paper. I found the heavier the coverage of mod-podge, the more creases.

Paint mod-podge along sides of canvas, pressing paper to adhere as you go. I chose to fold the paper (much like you would wrap the end of a gift) on a diagonal and adhere to the inside edge of the wood frame, cutting any excess paper that would be hidden to prevent extra bulk.

Once you have adhered the sides, use the craft knife to neatly trim the paper at the edge of the frame.

(You can see in the image above that one side of the paper was shorter, as it didn't meet the edge of the wood. That side happened to be the top edge of the bag.)

Here's another image of folding the sides of the canvas. This was my second canvas, which had a different type of backing. There was a nice groove where the canvas met the frame, so I decided to trim the edge of the paper at the groove instead of covering all the wood on this canvas.

Here are the two different sized canvases. You can see more creases on the square canvas...definitely too much mod-podge on that one. I love how the different sizes seemed to create a different "story", given the parts of the illustration shown!

To embellish the illustration, I used a Martha Stewart ballpoint tip glue pen to highlight certain parts of the illustration, and then I covered the glue generously with glitter, tapping the edge of the canvas against the table afterwards to remove excess glitter.

I used the Martha Stewart crystal fine glitter for the snow on the ground, snow on the empty branches, and the birds. I used the aquamarine crystal to highlight the evergreen tree!

I attempted to use an embossing pen and some Rich Red embossing powder (I think made by Ranger) to heat emboss the Joy! on the page.

It was a bit difficult to get good coverage of the pen on the paper...and I got a little to close with the heat gun! But it was fun to experiment with it on one of the canvases anyway!

After dusting away any excess glitter with a fine edged paintbrush, I took the canvases outside and sprayed Superseal to protect the glitter and the surface of the print.

And here's the square finished canvas. (The other finished one is the first picture!)  I'm still trying to decide if I like the red writing in the top corner or if I'll add some pieces to disguise it and make the canvas more of a collage.  The jury is still out! :)

I hope you can turn some beautiful found objects around you into little pieces of art!  I am thinking I will try to do this each year...and soon have a small gallery of Christmas canvases!

Christmas Dinner

While my traditional Thanksgiving meal rarely changes, I like to mix things up at Christmas.  Some year it's a ham.  Some a turkey.  Beef Tenderloin. Mmmmmm.

This Christmas, the main course will be a beautiful Standing Rib Roast.  It's sooo easy.   And melt-in-your-mouth delectable. And while it's not an inexpensive piece of meat, it's Christmas. And it is so worth it.  Trust me.   The recipe is from my Mom...and our family is very thankful that she shared it with us.

If you're still trying to figure out what you'll be eating on Sunday, try this.  And then tell me how much you loved it.

Standing Rib Roast

5 lb. Standing Rib Roast
1 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup black pepper (coarsely ground)
1/4 cup garlic powder

1.  Let meat stand at room temperature for 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2.  Mix the salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a medium bowl.  (This will make more than enough; and what you don't use will keep in a tightly sealed container for 6 months.)  Rub the entire roast with the salt rub.

3.  Place roast rib-side down (fat up) in a large roasting pan.

4.  Place roast in the oven, and then tape the oven doors shut (shown below...I use painters tape.)

5. Roast for one hour at 375 degrees.  Then turn off oven.   Leave the roast in the oven for 3 hours while oven is off. DO NOT OPEN the oven.

5. At the end of the 3 hours, turn the oven back ON to 375 degrees and roast 30-40 minutes more.  Remove roast from oven and cover with foil.  Let rest for 10 minutes.  Slice and serve.

Please make sure you tape your oven.  Your kitchen (and house) will smell SO amazing while this is cooking that unaware people will want to open the oven just for a glimpse.  Even you will be tempted :) so tape your oven closed!


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All the trimmings and bows...

Are your Christmas gifts wrapped and under the tree?  Mailed to family and friends far away?

Most of ours are wrapped and under our tree.  I sent all but one gift via the USPS on Saturday.  (Must make one more mailing trek out today.)  

But I'm still pondering some of our in-town friend gifts and how to package.

And of course, Pinterest holds much inspiration.


This could be such a gorgeous and inexpensive display...especially if you have gorgeous foliage in your yard.

I've already used this technique this season...

I love these enlarged monogram tags!

Super cute.  My girls would love helping put these snowflake tags together.

Sweet and simple.

I LOVE this idea...let the recipient have cookies on hand when they need them!

As we're giving peppermint hot chocolate gifts this year, I love this presentation...

And this one is lovely too!

What are your gift wrap traditions and ideas?  I'll be back later this week with mine...but please leave a link if you've found a great idea or have shared your wrapped packages on your blog!

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Kitchen Tree (and a project!)

So last year, we did some rearranging of rooms right before Christmas. (We switched Nathanael's room with the office and moved all our homeschool books, etc. to the new office/homeschool room instead of the kitchen, where we had been doing homeschool.)

For some reason, we decided to move our dining room table to the "homeschool area space" that had remained furnitureless for  2 years, leaving the former breakfast nook empty.  We dubbed the space the sunroom, because three walls of it have windows or faux french doors. (You can see this space in the picture below.)

I decided that it would look lovely to have a tree in the sunroom.  And it did look lovely.  I had big plans for the tree's decor...sliced & dried oranges, lemons, limes, starfruit. Garlands of cranberries and popcorn. 

Let's just say the tree only got lights. So this year, I promised Brent that I'd decorate it.  

So this year's Kitchen Tree:

The kid's made paper plate angels in Sunday School...Hadleigh's is on top of the tree.  Nathanael didn't want his on the tree...

And on December 8, we made Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments...because they're fun and they smell sooooooo good.

Can't you tell it's fun work?  (They were so excited to use their rolling pins from they received from their Kammy and Pappy!)

We added Martha Stewart's Brownstone fine glitter to add a bit of sparkle.  And we used a straw to cut the holes to tie string through.  (Thanks to Aunt Katy & Uncle Alex, we had quite a choice of Christmas cookie cutters!)

Before they went into the oven...

And then after...the edges of some of the ornaments warped a little...but I think it's a nice effect!

There's still some time to make these and give as gifts for Christmas...and they will last for years!  A friend once made us a garland using gingerbread men!  I found that the more streamlined the cookie cutter, the better...sadly, our gingerbread men and snowflakes had a tendency to lose appendages!

Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments

3 cups applesauce
3 cups ground cinnamon
1 oz. Elmers glue (I used one of those small 1.25 oz bottles)

1.  Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl, adding more cinnamon to make the dough more firm if necessary.  Place on wax paper and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick.  If the dough is rolled too thin, the ornaments will break easily.

2.  Cut the dough with desired cookie cutters, remembering to cut a hole for threading.  I find that a straw works well, as the straw contains the removed portion and is a perfect size!

3. Carefully transfer ornaments to a cookie sheet.  I lined mine with parchment, which helps them not to stick, though the parchment warps a bit and caused the warping of some ornaments.  Bake at 150 degrees for one hour.  Then flip ornaments and cook an additional hour.  At this point, you can either 1) continue to bake them at a low temperature, elevating them on a drying rack so that both sides dry evenly or 2) remove them to finish drying on a counter, flipping every 8-12 hours (for about 2 days or until'll notice that the side facing down will appear darker than the other until it's completely dry.)  

4. When completely dry, use a butter knife to carefully smooth any rough spots along the edge of the ornaments.  Thread the whole with ribbon or twine to secure to your tree!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Thirty years, eh?

My little brother is 30 today.  

And he's far away, teaching English in South I wish I could celebrate this day with him...

He was my first best friend.  Two years younger.  The kind of brother you always hope to have.  A blessing to me and our family.  I don't have any memories before I have memories with him.

He is loyal. Selfless.  He has such a generous heart.  A servant's heart.  Meticulously organized.  He is a  deep thinker.  Usually predictable. (For example, for years he always ordered a french dip sandwich when we went out to eat.)  He is cautious but an adventurer. Very industrious.  He is thoughtful.  He is afraid of heights but bungee jumped in Eduador.  He is funny.  He has the greatest smile.

He is an amazing Uncle Michael.  He is loved by these three kiddos. So very much.  They adore him. And he is so very good with them.

He interjects Dearth Vader in a princess story to keep them all entertained and paying attention.

He plays rough with the little guy and twirls the girls in the air.

They can count on him.

I always have.

Before he traveled the world, the four of us traveled through imaginary lands together.  We navigated the high seas of the guest room aboard an elaborate ship (the guest bed) or an almost-sinking raft (the blanket on the floor).

How I wish the four of us were celebrating your birthday together, telling you, once again, that the wrapped gift was a barbie doll.

Michael, you mean the world to me. To all of us.  You have brought 30 years of blessing and friendship to my life.

It is an honor to be your sister...and I hope that you have a wonderfully Happy Birthday...and many, many more. I love you.  I miss you.

In your honor, we're having french dip sandwiches for dinner tonight. :)

Make this soon!

After the busy fall season, I find myself every year rekindling my love for cooking as winter approaches. 

This school year thus far has seemed so busy.  And when I'm busy, I find myself desiring "creative time" in the kitchen less and less.  I rely on family favorites that I could whip up in my sleep.  

But there is something about Thanksgiving and the cooler weather as we approach Christmas that makes me want to scour my cookbooks, push up my sleeves, and cook (or bake!) something yummy, something that just might become the next family favorite.

A recipe shared by a sweet friend I met right after moving to Oklahoma was the perfect inspiration for this week, which is full of cooking new recipes.  I made this quiche on Sunday night...and it was a hit with {almost} everyone.  

This is a very flavorful easy quiche...and not a very eggy quiche, which is a plus in my book.  It's very meaty, making it great for brunch or dinner.  And the crust? It's the star of the show...salty and sweet.  And oh-so-easy to prepare.  I hope you like it as much as I do.  (And leftovers lasted in my fridge for two days.  That's because I finished the last piece yesterday for lunch. Nathanael was sad it was gone.)  

Can you say "new family favorite"?

Chicken Pecan Quiche

Chicken Pecan Quiche

1 cup flour
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/3 cup oil

1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups chopped, cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/4 cup onion
1/4 tsp. dried dillweed
3 drops hot sauce (optional)
1/4 cup pecan halves (I used the tiny chopped ones ideal for cookies)
2 handfuls of chopped fresh spinach

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all crust ingredients EXCEPT the oil in a medium bowl.  Add the oil and stir well.  Press the mixture along the bottom and sides of a pie plate. (I used my deep dish pie plate from Pampered Chef and it fit perfectly.)

2. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes and allow to cool.

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together sour cream, chicken broth, mayonnaise, and eggs with a wire whisk until smooth.  Stir in chicken, cheese, onion, dill, and hot sauce.  If you're using chopped pecans, add them to the mixture as well...if using halves, wait.  Pour the mixture over the crust. Arrange pecan halves on top of the quiche. 

4. Bake at 350 degrees for 55 minutes until set.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Simply Lovely, No. 8

The sight and scent of evergreen boughs, shaped into a wreath, fresh from the mountains of North Carolina.

A gift that has become a beloved tradition.

Thank you Mom & Dad.  It's simply lovely on our front door.

Friday, December 02, 2011

My December Daily

Each year, since moving to Oklahoma, I have spent the month of December (as well as weeks afterwards) on a project that I love.  

The December Daily.  It's a mini-album concept made popular by Ali Edwards, which you can read about it detail on her blog.  But for me, this project ultimately means slowing down to really capture the special month of December...a month full of festivity, family, and the celebration of Christ's birth.  It has helped me in the past be more organized in planning our family activities during the Advent season. And it has captured and preserved precious memories from years past that I enjoy returning to each December.

The basic idea is to create a daily album before December begins so that each day in December, you can spend more time creating memories than creating album pages from scratch.  This year, I purchased a December kit from Hello, Forever, which included pages for the base of the album, as well as embellishments. 

I was inspired from some Pinterest images, as well as the colors in the kit, to use a vintage book as the cover for album...I was delighted to find this one for a song at a local antique/thrift store.  The colors and the "Merry Voices" title worked perfectly for a Christmas album cover, don't you think?

I covered part of the book with some mistable scalloped ribbon from Pink Paislee, misted it with Studio Calico's Mister Huey Shine (which you can't really see in the picture, but it has the softest shimmery effect in person), added a velvet ribbon and a "Dec 2011" badge from Ormolu.  I'm not in love with the 3" binder rings...but I think it will be the easiest binding to use while creating the album...and I'll attempt something else once it's complete.

I think I'll share pages here and there throughout the here's a peek at the beginning, the title page. (And I'm not done with that tag yet...still thinking!)

And the back of the title page.  I just love that quote.

I have never completed this project in December...and while I'd love to this year, we'll just have to see how it goes.  I take pictures each day...and write down stories that I want to remember, so that I can return to my notes at a later time if necessary.

If you're doing something similar to record this month, please leave a link in the comments...I'd love to see your projects!


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