The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

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Leave it to Christmas to bring me out of my silence.  I sat down today and realized it was November 29 and that we start our Advent calendar on Saturday.  I had nothing planned.  As most of you know, this is one of my favorite traditions.  I’ve written about it before here, here, here, and for a really honest account here.

Our hope as a family is to keep this season calm, special and focused on Jesus, family and friends.  It seems that the desire scale back and focus on those in need and what really matters grows each year.  This year, Jeff and I were really impacted by the election spending numbers.  Right on the tail of that, comes the projected holiday spending figures and they make me sad.  So, so much good for those who really need help could be done with that money and instead the figurative “we” find ourselves leaving the Thanksgiving table early to add to the abundance we already have.

Some of the post I’ve seen recently that have a variety of ideas are at Rage Against the Minivan and Tara Whitney’s Blog.  There are, of course, tons others.

There are so many people and organizations ready to help make this a truly impactful and meaningful Christmas.  Since the posts have already been written, I’ll simply link to them.  I’ve already signed up for Pure Charity and can’t believe how easy it is.  We’re also doing some different things gift wise around here.  Yes, our kids and the other littles in our family are still getting gifts (though they’ve always been limited) but we’re doing something new for everyone else (and we’ve asked them to do the same for us).

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Anyway, I really came here to share this year’s advent plan.  My hope is that it will give you ideas of ways you can make this season more about people and love and less about stuff.

  • Christmas Market and Tree Lighting in Spilimbergo
  • Read “The Legend of the Candy Cane” and make candy cane cookies
  • Make cards for family and friends
  • Make paper snowflake garland
  • Choose two toys to donate
  • Make gratitude garland
  • Watch “Polar Express” and eat Christmas cookies
  • Make gingerbread house
  • Gingerbread pancakes for breakfast
  • Bake sugar cookies
  • Decorate cookies
  • Leave anonymous encouraging notes
  • Make hand and foot reindeer
  • Write a letter to our Compassion kids
  • Go see the Nativities in Pofobro
  • Make teacher gifts
  • Watch “Rudolph”
  • Have a picnic dinner under the tree
  • Take goodies to school for friends (Rollo pretzels)
  • Make treats for the birds
  • Take an evening walk and have cocoa afterward
  • Go to the Christmas Market in Villach
  • FaceTime family and sing carols
  • Read the Christmas Story from Luke

Bean Roasting

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We’re a DIY family when it comes to most things.  Especially things of the food and drink variety.  Jeff has home brewed beer since 2000(ish) so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he set his sights on other projects, including coffee.

In a recent beer supply order, he added a pound of green coffee beans.  He did a bit of reading, some Facebooking with my brother (I love how country crazy seems to run in the family!!) and he was on his way.

Bean roasting

It was so easy, done before before work, using our air popper (retired after our WhirleyPop acquisition) and finished off in a cast iron skillet over a camp stove.

Freshly roasted beans

The final result was delicious with no bitterness.

First product, home roasted beans

Is it worth the effort?  I think so.  The price per pound is about the same and the satisfaction of finishing it off just so is priceless.   Besides, how many people can say they roast their own coffee?

 

On knitting

Over three years ago, my sister, Susan and her family made their first visit to Ft. Collins.  Susan and I were able to get away for a few hours (as I recall it was Valentine’s Day) to explore Old Town.  We both had wanted to learn to knit and thus made our way to a local yarn shop.  With zero knowledge we each bough needles and yarn determined to produce something.  That evening, after a family dinner, the guys headed off to the movies while Susan and I settled in with YouTube determined to learn to knit.  (Yes, it was Valentine’s Day, you can tell none of us care since we spent approximately zero time with our spouses.)

Fast forward three years.  I started and restarted my scarf several times.  (Note to self, a scarf is a crappy first project for those with immediate gratification problems.)  Susan started and restarted and now doesn’t remember the stitches.

All of this to say, life happens.  And knitting is a challenge.

But, I found my way back.  The project that brought me back was actually not knitting related at all.  It was Interwoven another wonderful collabaration from the women of 3191 (along with Quince & Co.).  I first saw this project mentioned on their blog while we were still in the states and ordered it to be waiting for me when we arrived.  I fell hard and immediately ordered yarn.

That’s when my shift from half-hearted knitter to lover of yarn began.  The yarn I bought was good quality yarn but it didn’t feel like this.  I made a few necklaces and then picked up the knitting needles again once we were unpacked.  I finally got it (thanks to lots of practice and buying the book “Stitch and Bitch.”

As of this weekend, I’ve finished four hats and learned to purl.

I’ll be honest they aren’t perfect due to my approximations of the pattern (my needles are a bit smaller than what the pattern called for though I tried to account for that) and apparently very tight knitting style but I really like them and am so proud to have finished them. I’m even dreaming of a sweater.  (I better start now in order to finish by 2015.)

I’ve ordered more needles, have yarn on hand and am ready to start another one.  I also ordered a few crochet hooks in hopes of making some Granny Squares.

The best part of all of this, is that these four hats are headed to Craft Hope Project 16.  And that is something that makes me very happy.

{One reason I think it took me so long to fall in love with knitting is that the first project I started (and restarted) was a scarf using relatively small needles and thin yarn.  Let’s just say that as one who likes to quick progress, that was a bad combo.}

Cold Day(s) in Pictures

I’m still short on words.

However, thanks to cold bitter temps I’m long on pictures to share.  The weather here started turning Monday afternoon and we were home until Wednesday morning when we just couldn’t take it any more.  By that point, I had used up all of my tricks.

Here’s what we were up to.

Cold Day 1

We made goodies for PTO.  Too bad my meeting was canceled and we couldn’t let them go to waste.

Cold Day 2

We painted on canvas.

Cold Day 3

There were waffles for breakfast.

Cold day 4

Crafts were made.

Cold day 5Books were read.

Cold day 6

Jack and I started a house out of craft sticks.

Cold day 7

Our art was hung in the hallway.  I love this!! We will definitely be doing this again.

Cold day 8

Cookies were made.

Cold day 9

And, we wrapped it all up with a black eye thanks to a collision at the bounce play place.

I think it is safe to say we were all ready for school yesterday.

 

The wreath idea came from Aimee who found it here.

Four Books Two Ways

Book wreath
One of my goals for 2011 is to read 52 books in 52 weeks.  I love reading but it has often taken a (rightful) backseat to other things in my life.  Now, things have settled a bit and the kids are a little older.  This seems like a realistic goal.

I’m off to a good start.  So far I’ve finished two books and am 75% done with a third.  It feels good.  They are:

Comfort and Joy by Kristin Hannah, an easy read that I finished in one “sick” day.

Still Life with Chickens by Catherine Goldhammer, Loved it!  The beginning of my “farm lit”

The Dirty Life:  On Farming, Food and Love by Kristin Kimball.  This is the one I’m just finishing but again, I love it!  We are dreaming big around here and this fits right in.

The fourth book in my recent past turned into a wreath. I didn’t sacrifice the next great novel for this project but used a “chick lit” book I had on hand. It turned out beautifully though I haven’t been able to get a great picture.  While some may find a project like this offensive, I found it heartwarming.  I love books and its great to see one on my wall.
I’m also well on my way with another goal, 365.  I’ve missed a day already but that’s ok.  I’m working on giving myself grace.   I won’t post all of the photos here but you can find them on my Flickr.

Finally, my heart has been heavy for Joanne this week. She is a 38 wife and mom of two who suffered a massive stroke on Tuesday.  There are just no words for what their family is enduring right now.  Please pray!

Snow Day

Snow Day 1

The first day of decent snow finally arrived here in Northern Colorado. The morning was spent taking the kids to the dentist and running errands but the afternoon was filled with all kinds of snow day goodness.

Snow shoes
Trying out new snowshoes.

Snow day crafting
Crafting

"Mad Hungry" Cocoa and peppermint whipped cream
Homemade hot chocolate from “Mad Hungry” topped with peppermint whipped cream.

Throw in movies and an awesomely sweet 12 year old neighbor who did most of our shoveling and you have our day.

It’s still snowing so…more tomorrow.

Picture the Holidays

As I mentioned, I signed up for an online photography class called .Picture the Holidays.  It’s really not so much of a class as it is daily inspiration.  Tracy is leading Picture Winter starting January 1 and I encourage you to sign up if you are interested in capturing life through photography.

Anyway…I thought I would share some of the images I’ve taken so far along with their prompts and my comments.

 

Holding onto graditude

Prompt:  Holding onto graditude

A beautiful sunrise on a difficult morning is such a blessing.

Reframing the Season

Prompt:  Reframing the season.

All you need is love

Prompt:  All you need is love

A heart shaped rock found in WA sits on my windowsill until my love returns from Iraq.

You hold the key

Prompt:  The key

Getting outside and playing with the kids is the key to bringing me back to where I should be.

Every little thing

Prompt:  The view from here

This is the view from my deck.   These shells are part of a mobile the kids made during our trip to the beach this summer. Such beauty and sweet memories.

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Prompt:  Every little thing

The sun shining on our stockings as it rises.

Express yourself

Prompt:  Express yourself

I hope like this paperwhite, something beautiful will come out of this season of growth.

Reflecting the season

Prompt:  Reflecting the season
It's a sign

Prompt:  It’s a sign

Sometimes the waiting is the best part.