Friday, January 29, 2010

Etsy Sale to Benefit Kazakh Trip

Many of you know my friend Alaina, and if you don't know her personally, you may "know" her from our cooking blog The Cooks Next Door. Alaina is headed back to Kazakhstan at the end of April on a mission trip with Two Hearts for Hope to minister to orphans in several orphanages there. Part of the time will be spent building a playground for these children, and other time will be spent being with the actual children themselves.

Alaina has to raise all her money for the trip and so I'm hosting an Etsy sale through the month of February on her behalf. ALL SALES (100%) will go towards this trip. There are plenty of cute aprons and lots and lots of felted flowers (and a tea cozy or two) in the shop. So, hop on over and have a look!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ten Things to be Thankful For Today

1. The dishwasher is still working despite the malfunction code it sometimes shows -- and Lemi-Shine is making my glasses clean! (Thanks for all the advice Heather!)

2. The new-to-me Kitchenaid that is sitting in my kitchen (!!!!!!)

3. Books, books, and more books from the library to enjoy and peruse

4. My sister pushing my hundreds-of-pounds-heavy cart through Costco

5. Good health during this pregnancy (something to be VERY thankful for)

6. Safe travel this week on slippery roads

7. Having a girl old enough to make muffins and pancakes on her own

8. I have a few more days until the next deadline for the food blog :)

9. I can spend some of my time making beautiful things

10. My kids getting appointments with Give Kids A Smile (a small miracle)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Coffee, Chocolate, Friends....

Yesterday I went on a little foodie tour with Emily which culminated in sitting at Starbucks with another friend, drinking coffee and savoring a whole box of truffles! Wow, was that fun! I highly recommend it. I can't give you more details on the chocolate now, because I'm planning an article for The Cooks Next Door in February. Let's just say it was a terrific way to spend $12 (well, a terrific way for Emily to spend her $12 -- thanks Em!).

In between the chocolate shop and the coffee we stopped at The Flying Cupcake to check it out.

The inside of the shop was adorable! Think Shabby Chic or Cath Kidston.

Everything was done in "my colors." Aren't these tables so cute!

And the displays were precious!

Never mind that the cupcakes weren't quite gourmet. It was still a fun place to visit!

Oh, and a sneak peak of one of the chocolates (each was divided in 4).

The other two partners in crime.

I took cottage cheese with me and was careful to eat very well for the rest of the day and am pleased that I am alive today with no adverse affects. :)
For a bit more on the Cupcake Shop, check out my article over at The Cooks Next Door.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

2009 Reading Review

Tonight I am sitting down to tackle a number of things on my to-do list, one of which is my 2009 review of books, which is three weeks overdue!

I just barely made it to my annual reading goal this year, and I only made it because of the chapter books I read aloud to the children. In some ways I'm satisfied that I'm not reading as much -- it was in my years of illness that I began reading and reading and reading. I find that not having read as much is a reason to give thanks that I am so much better.

That said, another reason I didn't get as much read is because I watched Monarch of the Glen -- all the series! And, I spent all that time sewing flowers for my little business, so in a way it was necessary. However, this year I'm thinking I need to try my hand at books on tape so I can actually keep "reading" enough books as well as doing the hand sewing I need to.

I did try reading a few books to review for a publisher, which was a good experience but I found it detracted from the books I really wanted to read.

I was happier overall with the books I ended up reading this year (as compared with the previous year). My goal is to keep "reading richer" and to try to make up for lost time in American History and the Classics.

All right, now for the books. I think I'm just going to list them all, since I appreciate my friends' lists and getting ideas from what they've read.

Holding onto Hope by Nancy Guthrie
A good, concise book on suffering. The author lost two infants.

Shimmering Images by Lisa Norton
A helpful and inspiring book on writing memoir.

Imagine London by Anna Quindlen
Somewhat of an annotated bibliography of London. Not as great as I expected.

Keeping House by Margaret Kim Peterson
An enjoyable and inspiring book on housework from a theological perspective.

Thinking About Memoir by Abigail Thomas
Basically her own memoir with writing exercises; not as good as Shimmering Images

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montmomery
Sweet romance about a 29 year old around 1900. New to me -- satisfying ending.

For These Tough Times by Max Lucado
A book on suffering but a bit too concise.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
The best novel I've read all year!!! Similar to a Jane Austen; set in England in the Industrial Revolution.

The Five Love Languages of Children by Gary Chapman
Good, balanced book about loving children

A Cup of Tea by Amy Ephron
A novella set in 1917 NY City. Very sparse, short chapters. Abrupt and sad ending.

The Shack by William Young
Was not able to finish this as it went so strongly against many of my theological convictions. I should probably not even open myself up to comments on this one(!!) but if anyone would like a review, Michael wrote a very helpful review for publication which I can forward you.

Reading the Classics with C S Lewis by Thomas Martin
Inspiring book though a bit dense at times. Essays on each time period or genre and what Lewis thought of them.

In the Footsteps of Paul by Ken Duncan
Nice, pictorial book of Paul's life.

From Clutter to Clarity by Nancy Twigg
Good book on uncluttering from the inside out -- deals with contentment, worry, distrust, self-acceptance, saying no, busy-ness, possessions, technology, stewardship and giving

Free Prize Inside by Seth Godin
I think this is the first book on marketing I have read. While I didn't find all of it applicable to me, this book actually gave me the idea that launched me into felted flowers which "blossomed" in an amazing way as the year went on.

An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor
I loved this GP version of James Herriot, but struggled with the profanity.

Cherie Blair: Speaking for Myself by Cherie Blair
I enjoyed this book immensely as it gave me the life story of the wife of the PM in office when we lived in Scotland.

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Let's just say it's not my genre.

Romans Vol. 4 by James M. Boice
Very much enjoyed the Romans commentaries; most particularly Vols. 1 & 2. I found myself disagreeing with certain things in this volume.

Service Included by Phoebe Pamrosch
Entertaining book about life as a waiter at a high-end restaurant -- somewhat crass in parts.

Lenten Lands by Doug Gresham
CS Lewis' stepson's story about CS Lewis and his mother, Joy. Enjoyed this and found it helpful to see a glimpse of the suffering that went on in that family.

Get Known Before The Book Deal by Christina Katz
Growing an author platform before you try to publish a book.

A Moveable Feast by E. Hemingway
Enjoyable descriptions of Hemingway's life in Paris in the 1920's. Minor crudeness.

Mistress of the Monarch by Alison Weir
Excellent biography of Kathryn Swinford, John of Gaunt's mistress and then wife. (John of Gaunt was John Wycliffe's patron at one point). Enjoyed this very much and found it absolutely fascinating. Weir is one of my favorite authors -- she has a few more books to be released soon!

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
Enjoyable memoir with recipes but couldn't keep myself focused so will have to actually finish reading this book another time.

The Bird in the Tree by Elizabeth Goudge
Very good novel about giving up romantic love to do the right thing morally. Set in Britain prior to WWII. Goudge does tend to be overly descriptive for my tastes, but I enjoy reading her now and then.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket
LOVED this book full of photos, essays and inspiration on domestic art.

Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow
Highly recommend this book dealing with discontentment, worry, anxiety, etc.

How to Pick a Peach by Russ Parsons
Enjoyable, informative book about the food we eat -- what varieties, how they are grown, how to cook them, etc.

Reasons not to Move to the Country by Judy Rumbold
An hilarious little read about a lady who moves from London to the country.

An Irish Country Village by Patrick Taylor
Sequel to the Irish Doctor mentioned above. Once again, good except for language.

The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink
Hadn't read this book in about 12 years and found it a helpful reminder.

The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis
The kids are really into the Narnia books right now and we listened to several on our car trips.

The Silver Chair by CS Lewis

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Wow -- what a novel! Mine was 1448 pages (okay, this is another reason I didn't get as much read this year!). The novel is set in the south during the Civil War and I found it very eye opening, being a northerner, born to northern parents.

Pilgrim's Inn by Elizabeth Goudge
Sequel to The Bird in the Tree mentioned above.

Banner in the West by John Macleod
A spiritual history of Lewis and Harris (outer Hebridean Islands off Scotland). This book was interesting and informative, but did take me a long while to finish!!

A Deeper Kind of Calm by Linda Dillow
Good, short book on clinging to Christ in difficult times.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
Gripping novel about the Jews in Paris during WWII. One of the best novels I read this past year.

The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater
A year in the kitchen with one of my favorite food writers. Loved it!

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
First time ever to read one of the Bronte novels. Enjoyed it very much, despite the length.

The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis

Farmer Boy by Laura I. Wilder

Justin Morgan Had a Horse by Marguerite Henry
Lovely old story about a horse and a boy in Vermont long ago.

Washington Square by Henry James
First time reading Henry James. Felt disappointed with the ending but watched the movie based on this book and everyone convinced me the ending was justified.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
Story of a trumpeter swan (without a "trumpet") and a boy and how their lives intertwine.

Miss Pickerel and the Geiger Counter by Ellen MacGregor
I enjoyed these little mystery books when I was young.

Hope's Crossing by Joan Goodman
Set during the Revolutionary War. A Patriot daughter is taken to Royal country and this tells her fight to return to her parents. Would highly recommend this book for reading aloud to children.

Raiders from the Sea by Lois Johnson
The kids enjoyed this book about the Vikings and their raids on Ireland. Rachel read the rest of the series herself.

Ollies Cabin in the Woods by Robert and Katheryn Hessong
Indiana history story about a boy growing up in the pioneer woods.

Now, if you'd like to know what went on today over here, you can check out my mom's blog.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Trip to the Zoo

We got to go to the Zoo yesterday! I found out Sunday night that most attractions in the city would be free with a canned food donation on MLK Day. We haven't been to the zoo in several years, so we thought it would be a great chance for the kids.

Despite the freezing (32F) temps, we did have fun -- mostly because there is an indoor dolphin show and indoor ocean and desert exhibits.

And penguins are just too cute!!! I think they smell, at least at the zoo, but they are just adorable, and some of the little ones have the cutest little tufts of hair sticking out from their heads.

It's cold again, but with no snow, making for gray kind of days. Our dishwasher is giving us all kinds of problems due to hard water, soap, etc. I'm going to have to wash by hand all our dishes for the next few days and see if I can get things working better. It's the grit that sticks inside the glasses and sandpaper feeling on the dishes that is so annoying.
When I have a moment I'm sewing pink, lavender and blue flowers, or trying to knit another row on my cardigan. I need to get serious about preparing for the baby -- finding one or two pieces of furniture, figuring out the bedding, and making a diaper bag (which I'm mentally designing).
Now it is time to go wash some of those dishes and put some laundry away before tackling dinner. All in a day's work....

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thinking about Haiti

On Friday we spent some time in school learning about Haiti. Michael happened to be at the library and was able to pick us up some books we could look at to give the kids an idea of what life is like on Haiti.

Afterward we compiled a poster, prayed together, and gave the kids an opportunity to donate some of their own money towards the relief efforts. I think it is hard for many of us to really comprehend the horror of it all, but every little bit of understanding makes a difference.

I decided rice and beans for lunch would be appropriate. We added cheese, which I don't think is authentic, but it meant we all actually ATE the lunch. :)

Our family has chosen to be apart of the relief efforts by supporting the work of Compassion, an organization we trust and have been connected with for a number of years.
I am amazed and impressed with all the support and generosity throughout the blogging community. Money Saving Mom has compiled a list of bloggers who are donating for every comment received, or otherwise participating in the relief effort. You can find her list here.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


My kids finally had a real sledding experience on Monday. Michael very kindly agreed to take them to a hill in a nearby town and let them see what sledding is supposed to be.

I thought it was wiser to stay in the car and watch, and this was as close as I could get.

As you can see, most of the snow was already worn away by the constant use when the kids are out of school. Our kids had a blast and played hard for a good hour before trudging back to the car.
The snow is beginning to melt and temperatures begin to climb out of the teens and twenties back into the thirties.
We are all thinking about the very sad news from Haiti. In a way it seems very far away and unconnected to the world we live in and yet, because of modern technology, it is a part of our world, and thus we have a responsibility to do something with that knowledge. As a family we are talking about what is going on and praying for the situation and perhaps in the next few days it will become more apparent the best way to be of practical help. I think I will be doing a lesson on Haiti with the kids on Friday -- perfect timing for them to learn about this part of the world and who lives there and to be encouraged to pray for this country.
Life is busy and it's hard to find time to update this blog! Tomorrow is school and food shopping and then maybe I'll be home for the weekend.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Christmas Presents -- Homemade

I feel like we made more things than I have pictures for, but probably that's because the children were busy with their own little projects and I didn't capture them all.

I think I did already post a picture of James in his hat, but this was definately homemade:

Andrew worked hard to design and sew this quilt for his cousin, John. He laid out all the pieces in the right order and then sewed each row of squares. I put the rows together and he helped to tie all the little knots in each square corner.

One of the kids made this shield for David out of cardboard and tin foil. :)

This is a terrible picture of the felted bag I made for mom.

And I just loved this little mouse ornament -- can't remember if I already posted him. Anyway, I made felted bird, after bird, after bird during December. It was my month off of flowers and so the birds took over. Lots of fun.

And now I'm back to flowers -- wait until you see them. They are so pretty!!! And there's some knitting going on as well.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas Food

Around here, food is an important part of the holiday. We began Christmas with brunch: fruit salad with lime zest, Alaina's spinach-egg casserole, cardamon bread, greek yogurt, and a beautiful candy-cane tea ring.

Cardamon Bread is something my mom started making about 15 years ago. It is so good, and fragrant with the scent of cardamon.

Isn't this gorgeous?! It was a gift and we all thoroughly enjoyed it!

Spiced cider punch (non-alchoholic) was set in the front room:

Mom brought a beautiful, festive veggie tray for appetizers:

The brunch table transformed into appetizer table:

One star of the Christmas dinner table was this fennel gratin. AMAZING! I'm sure the recipe will appear on TCND sometime in the next year.

Plenty of dessert options including the flaming Christmas pudding:

Christmas cookies are so pretty!

And those were the food highlights of the holiday. And now, I need to go order some more library cookbooks and then get into the kitchen and cook something up for dinner!

A Beautiful Christmas

Finally, I've managed to get some Christmas pictures uploaded!!! Christmas was a lovely day, even relaxing, and it will be a special memory in the years ahead.

Here is the tree on Christmas Eve, all ready for Christmas morning:

Mom sent over flowers which Emily arranged. They made it look bright and festive:

The children are allowed to come out of their rooms at 8 a.m. and open their stockings (without waiting for us). Later, before we begin opening presents, Michael reads from Luke 2.

Here are the excited children:

Breakfast was taken in the living room so we could eat and open presents at the same time:

Thanks to my new camera the day looked bright and full of light, instead of gray, rainy and overcast like it really was:

The kids loved eating in the living room with the food right in reach:

And presents were so fun to open!
James loved the hat I knitted for him:

All the kids were thrilled with the playmobile pieces we picked out for them:

Festive presents for Emily:

Tea: a necessity on Christmas Day:

Andrew was so excited to receive a real tool kit:

Rachel spent the day building a lego house:

And the boys played with their new toys:

My new silver goblets (found at Salvation Army for about 60 cents each!):

Grandma came around 1 for the rest of the day:

And then Uncle JK, Auntie C and baby John:

After more presents, and the advent of John and Cornelia W., we sat down for a delicious Christmas dinner (food requires a separate post):

Kiss the Cook:
After dinner there was a "White Elephant" gift exchange with not-so-white-elephant gifts. (I got a gorgeous silver bell):

And some sang carols at the piano:

And the sisters gathered for a picture:

And then another Christmas was over.