Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rachel's Birthday

Rachel turned 12 last week! It was Thanksgiving preparation day but we managed to put some celebration in it!!!

The kids all got pillows this year so of course I was up late the night before sewing Rachel's pillow which was a take off of her nickname (Precious) and the Lord of the Rings.

She chose coffee cake for breakfast, mac-n-cheese for lunch, and fish for dinner!

Presents are always so fun!

Monopoly credit card was a big hit!!!!

Rachel had a cake at our Thanksgiving celebration and then cupcakes with the neighbors on Friday.

We stretched the celebration out!!!

And now on to the December birthdays.......

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Planning Christmas

On Saturday I opened my new "Savannah Holly" candle a friend had given me, set my teapot on the festive hotpad one of my Knitting Girls made, cut a slice of leftover cake and sat down to organize our Christmas plans.

 Sometimes I find the month of December to loom in front of me like a very tall mountain on which there is no stopping until I reach the top. Of course it is a very lovely view from the top, but nonetheless, sometimes I am scared to begin.

The demands of five kids, homeschool, (doctor's appointments!), and life in general make it difficult to find time to fit the holidays in! But, now that I've had some time to put pen to paper I'm feeling much better and more prepared to begin the climb.

I made a "December Bucket List" of the things that are important to me during the holidays: reading Christmas books, baking cookies, shopping with Andrew, making a few presents, etc. I also scheduled time for these activities on the calendar -- plus time to do my Christmas morning baking a week or two ahead of time.

I decided last year that card sending would have to be put on hold until the children were older. It was creating too much stress in November and December despite the fact that I loved doing it. I will still send a handful to those who don't have internet connection, etc.

We still keep the tradition of baking cookies for our neighbors. The list for that is long but I will try to keep our cookie list pared down and I have scheduled several days to bake.

There are no expectations from afar of presents to be sent, which greatly de-stresses my preparation. We have also opted for a very simple gift exchange with my sisters which also helps.

I do need to get the house decorated at some point here.....I prefer to wait until December 1 but then the calendar seems quite full. Maybe I can get up the energy to pull it out in the next few days.

I did read through Crystal Paine's latest ebook on Celebrating and Savoring a Simple Christmas. I found it reassuring. While I am already planning to do much of what she said, I felt encouraged to be on the right track and found she had many online resources to help me if I needed them.

I'll be planning our December schoolwork this weekend and I plan to schedule strategic days off now and then to help relieve the stress. I also hope to take off the two weeks at Christmas and New Year and get some household chores done as well as some relaxing -- and perhaps a few social events I can't squeeze into the time before Christmas.

Probably the biggest thing that will help me get through December is if I just relax and let things go that need to be let go and remember that my kids are happy when I'm happy and not stressed. So we will see what December brings....I know there will be some special memories to enjoy!

Note: this post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

We had a lovely Thanksgiving this past week and are now enjoying two whole days at home! Perfect chance to get some rest and catch up on housework.

Isn't the inside of a nutmeg beautiful! 

Cooking cranberries for the pear-cranberry pie:

We had friends over for a Thanksgiving brunch in the morning:

We had pumpkin french toast casserole, spinach and raspberry salad, Portuguese Puffs, bacon-wrapped smokies, and fruit.

Family friends invited us to have Thanksgiving at their house. After the busyness of the fall with all the wedding prep this was a special blessing for all of us!

Carla's house was so beautifully decorated!

And Tweetie bird was his cheerful self (this bird has been around forever and survived being babysat by us when I was a teenager. Mom once thought she nearly killed him!)

The dessert table:

Beauty from nature:

Mom made place decorations:

There were appetizers to enjoy when we arrived:

And fun toys for the kids to play with:

The cheeseballs:

Laura loves being one of the kids:

The turkey looked beautiful and tasted amazing!

I loved the tea trolly!

Rachel enjoyed watching the turkey cutting:

Good food!

Good fellowship!!!

Laura loves her Daddy!

Emily made a cake so we could celebrate Rachel and Carla's birthdays.

The cranberry pear pie:

Laura also loves her Grandma!

The gluten free pumpkin pie:

And now we are eating pie leftovers and getting life organized for the month to come.......

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Recipes

While I am busy baking for Thanksgiving, I thought I would share a few recipe links for recipes I will be using today and tomorrow. Happy Cooking everyone!

Pumpkin French Toast Bake
Spring Spinach Salad
Bacon and Brown Sugar Smokies

Ina Garten's Pumpkin Pie
Pear and Cranberry Pie (adapted from crisp)
Rustic Apple Tart

My favorite Green Beans Blue Cheese Salad

Cheeseball -- Three Ways

Celebrating Lithuania

Last week, just before launching into the marathon of doctor's appointments, two friends of mine had me over for lunch. They had prepared a feast to introduce me to the foods of their home country of Lithuania. I could not have had more fun! Entering into someone else's culture and getting a taste of life in another part of the world is a treasure that expands the heart and mind. 

We started with beet soup -- it is so pretty and delicious, not to mention good for you (although some might argue about the sourcream!)

The main meal included two kinds of rye bread, two kinds of potato salad (which goes by another name). The most traditional potato salad is the one with beets. We had polish sausages with sauerkraut and a potato pudding with onions and bacon as well as salad vegetables of tomatoes and cucumbers. Everything was delicious!!! It all went together so nicely and each of us lingered over the treat it was to enjoy this.

Another surprise was to find that my friends had decided to celebrate my birthday a month early. Alex had procured a special Lithuanian dessert all the way from Chicago. It came wrapped up like this:

It is known as a Napoleon Torte and it had layers of pastry, a cream filling, and apricot jam.

It tasted AMAZING!

Rita showed us her latest knitting -- so beautiful, and lovely merino wool too!

And Alex has been having fun with ruffle scarves -- aren't they pretty!

There were even presents!

The lunch went by far too fast and it was sad to leave that special moment and get on with life. But I am so thankful for the chance to taste some Lithuanian dishes and also to understand more of what the Lithuanian people have been through in the past 60 years with the Russian occupation and then finally freedom.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mondays are for Grace

"Let us not seek greatness directly.
Let us devote ourselves to little things, and we will be great."

-- St. Augustine

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tennessee Vacation

Last week found us in the car and bound for Tennessee and a week of rest with Christina, JK, John, and my mom. We were taking a "wedding recovery" week.

Sunday evening the newly weds even managed to join us for Sunday dinner! That was fun to all be together.

The goal of the week was to rest so we didn't pursue lots of crazy activity. We did make sure we were fed well and took turns cooking dinner for the group each night.

It was fun to be in a space that wasn't our house and we all enjoyed the change of scenery.

One day we all took a hike together.

And had a picnic:

Laura and John spent a lot of time playing Zingo together. (sorry for upside down pic)

One morning Christina and I visited most of the thrift stores in the town -- four of them in fact! We decided that thrift stores in big cities (like ours) are much better than thrift stores in smaller towns.

But it was fun to look!!!!!

David and Laura are buddies and Laura thinks the world of David.

As we drove in on Saturday we couldn't believe our eyes when a full size billboard announced there was a yarn shop at our exit! Mom, Christina and I drove over for the Wednesday morning sit and knit and met some very nice ladies!

Thursday afternoon the kids helped me set up a tea room for the ladies to enjoy:

One made a sign, another the menu. James decorated the table with a centerpiece, and Rachel served.

Laura was happy to sit at her own table to enjoy her treats.

Tea played a big part in "wedding recovery". Mom picked up a box of 80 TJ Irish Breakfast teabags to bring on Saturday. By Wednesday we were at the supermarket looking for more -- we did find Yorkshire Gold! 

 Thursday night we roasted marshmallows in the fireplace at Auntie C's condo. It was lots of fun!

 And then on Friday it was time to pack up and say goodbye.

On the way home we stopped in Nashville, TN to visit the parthenon replica. It was perfect timing with our study of Ancient History.

The Athena statue inside was very impressive and gave us plenty to talk about.

Couldn't get this pic in the right order but we did spend time playing in the woods and making houses.

 And then it was back to life as usual. :) We were all thankful to have the chance to get away.