Monday, December 27, 2010

2 Credits in Homemaking

This winter DD got a lesson in sewing.  She actually made a SMART goal (a Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely goal for a Girl Scout Interest Patch) to design and sew an outfit of her own, but as we got closer to Christmas and saw that we were going to have to do some major pageant costume renovations, I suggested tying in the two goals together.  So she adjusted her SMART goal to relate to the costumes.

I think this was a good decision for her as she began to realize how difficult sewing can be.  It is one of those things that looks so easy when you look from afar and so hard when you do it yourself.  We had to work on one of the three kings costumes.  We used the old costume as a rough pattern for the cutting of the new costume.  And we had to basically use all found material as the Sunday School had little money for materials (If you look really closely at the right arm sleeve, you will see where we salvaged the material we were cutting.  We used an old sheet. ).

We used old sheet binding and made some of our own to dress up the costume and give it some richness.  As DD finished all the cutting and pinning, she got to move to the cherished position of sewer. As she wasn't completely confident about this new skill and needed a little bolstering, she decided a superhero might be in order . . . so let me introduce you to Super HomeMaker.

I'm not sure that the cape made her any better at sewing, but it sure did give her some flair.  Now I dare you to find that in a Home Economics class in school. That is if you can even find a Home Ec class since most have been cut due to the municipal and educational budgets.
Sewing, I think, is one of those skills that you will never have to wonder how that will help you in the future because you will find out over and over.  DD has no intentions of becoming a seemstress, but she is starting to learn some skills that will help her you for many years to come.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

How to Catch Your Kids if they are sneaking candy

This candy dish has been through our family for at least three generations. 

I first remember it at my grandparents house.  The trick with this dish I think is the v-cut around the edges.  It is impossible to get the candy without making noise.  No matter how carefully you try to remove or replace the top it clinks, alerting everyone to your candy thieving.  So if you are an adult, I recommend purchasing one.  If you are a child, perhaps this is the dish that you want to carry with greasy fingers.

It was amazing to see this Christmas Eve to see yet another generation trying to sneak their way into it.

Gifts that Go Beyond Christmas

This year one of the most incredible gifts that I received came from my Aunt Judy.  My aunt and uncle began working on our genealogy several years ago and gifted us with a terrific volume of information which they continue to keep up.  This year though they added a whole new element.  In their travels, they discovered that one of our relatives William H. Shaw kept a war diary between the years of 1861 - 1865.  She got permission to borrow the hand written document and transcribed the entire document into a typewritten document which she had copied and spiral bound for all of the branches of the family.

I actually spent my Christmas Day reading this diary.  Some days are boring and quick, but many pass on information that made me cry and cringe.  Stories of men dying, their blood splattering across him.  Stories of stealing split rail fences to make fires.  Stories of penning notes for fallen comrades. This is a Christmas present that will be cherished not just by me but for generations to come.

I'm thinking if I could find one of the many letters William H. Shaw talks of writing,  I could possible say thank you well enough.

Here are the notes from his diary on December 31st, 1864 that should make you realize how truly blessed we are:

"31st, Saturday. Stormy, some snow, this is the last day of the year.  How many commenced the year with high hopes and expectations? but how soon blasted.  How many who commenced the coming year will live to see its close.  Shall I?  God grant that I may live to see my friends once more."

FYI - he does live to see his family again, except a daughter who dies while he is in service.  The second to last entry on Sunday, July 2nd, 1965 says, Pleasant, we were paid off and got our discharge papers today, and it has been one of the happiest days of my life.  A free man and a citizen once more.

May you all be blessed in this coming year and may none of you endure what our relatives did during that bloody time in our history.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Cards are Posted

This year seems to be flying by.  I barely have time to breathe. So I am more thankful than ever for DD.  She actually wrote our Christmas newsletter and created our Picniked picture.  My only job was to get them printed off and stamp them.  She even addressed the envelopes.  And even with all that help, I didn't get them out until today.  So for those of you in Cyber Space, here  is your Christmas Card:

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Frank Lloyd Wright's Affair Makes for a Great Read

Do you keep a list of books that you hope to read in the future?  I do.  This book has been on the list for a while.  I suggested it a few book club meetings but no one seemed to gravitate toward it.  Finally, I just picked it up on my own.

I absolutely loved this book.  I wasn't sure what to expect at first.  I actually thought it was going to be a farce, but it is actually historical fiction.  The affair really happened as did many of the "facts" of the book.  It is the in between stuff that has been made up.

Mamah (May - ma) is married when Frank meets her.  She and her husband are actually his client.  But I guess, alas, love is love and they begin an affair which causes Mamah to leave her family, her children, and even her country for a while.  The book gives insight to Frank, to women of the era, and to the complications of an affair.

I won't give anything else away, but the ending is shocking.

I hope you will pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

How Do You Know When You Are Old?

A definite sign that you are getting older is when you plan a date with your husband around going to the doctor.  DH and I don't get out too much alone, but we saw that we both needed to do blood work for the doctor. So, we planned a blood work date.  What does that mean?  That means that we are going to get up earlier than usual, go do our blood work, and then plan to have breakfast together before we both head in opposite directions for work.  DH joked that we are practicing for retirement.  I figure that you have to take it where you can get it.  If I have to squeeze in some time together at 7am and get a needle stuck in my arm for it, it is all worth it just to have a few minutes with my husband.  Plus, I have to admit I still appreciate someone holding my hand when I get a needle.  Ok, DH isn't the hold the hand kind of guy, but he make a few smart remarks and at least I'll laugh while they're taking my blood.

This week blood dates, next week AARP.  Where did the time go?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last Minute Christmas Presents

I've been busily trying to get ready for Christmas.  This Christmas the budget is a little lean, so I've been trying to think a little outside the box. This gift actually cost me $0, as I already had all the supplies.

I was looking for Christmas ideas on the blogoshpere when I came by this.  I spent some time perusing her website and was amazed by the talent Cathe had.  In the case of these napkins, it was more like being reinspired because my birth-mother has given me some homemade napkins in the past, which I love, but I had never thought to make my own.  This project was so easy that I think that I will be on the lookout for some more napkin like material.  I also made the napkin rings which are just a combination of silver wire and glass and pearl beads.  There is no patterns in the beads.  I made three loops and then just twisted a long end several times around the three loops to tie it off.  Simple but I think pretty.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hints to Keep Your Sanity When You Start a New Job

I have started a new job.  I took a part-time 20 hour a week or so job, but right now they need a little more of my time so I have been working about 30 hours which certainly makes life a little tight with all of my other volunteering, homeschooling, and trying to continue to visit our former foster child and help my father (who lives about 1.5 hours away).  So far I have found a few things has really helped keep me on track:

1. Lay out your clothes the night before.
2. Update the kids' chore chart and make sure that they keep up their end of the bargain.
3. Don't add any more responsibilities until you acclimate to the new schedule.
4. Be regimented when you are getting  ready then you won't forget anything and the family will know what to expect.
5. Write out homeschool plans and set a scheduled time aside to review their work or go over new ideas.
6. Take advantage of mail order medications, direct deposit, etc.  The more you can limit running around the more time you will have at home and prevent yourself from feeling like a spinning top.
7. Plan to share your child driving / responsibilities with your spouse.
8. Plan dinner before you leave in the morning.  Take out any foods that need to defrost etc.  Use the crock pot wisely.
9. Write your calendar out for the rest of the family so they know what to work around.
10. Use your time wisely.  Plan out your trips to include several stops. Pre-post your blog. Multi-task i.e. review homework and wash dishes at the same time.

As I continue with this job, I'm sure that I will come by even more hint that I will pass along and if you have any, I would love to hear them.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Choosing the Perfect Christmas Tree

In our family, choosing a Christmas Tree is a true art.  It can take hours.  People who have tree hunted with us have sworn that they will never go with us again because it can be such a painstaking process.  This year's hunt was an exception.  We did a lot of up front looking i.e. driving around, but once we got out and really looked for a specific tree, we accomplished our search in record time.  If you want to see our antics and the final perfect tree.  Check out A Cup of Tea with Mom and Me, the blog mostly maintained by DD but which I post on occasionally.  She actually filmed, cut, and posted a little video of our tree hunting day.  Fortunately, you do not have to drive around with us for the hours of searching out the perfect tree farm. You just get to see our success.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How to Plan an Alternative Market

So many churches at this time of year hold craft fairs, but the church we have joined up here does something a little differently. Gina, the minister's wife, started a tradition of an Alternative Market. Vendors are invited to sell their wares as long as they are selling products that give 100% of their profit to support a non-profit. This year there were people selling jewelery for NEMI, items for the Senior Center, and candles for some organization I did not catch. There were booths with information on gifts that could be purchased from SHIN, Amnesty International, BAMS, our church's Carilon Fund, Church World Services, Heifer International, and probably a few that I didn't notice. Hopefully, next year we'll be able to recruit even more. I ran a booth that introduced people to KIVA loans which make a great Christmas gift especially for teenagers.

We set up in our Fellowship Hall area. Each vendor had a table which they could decorate as they pleased. Advertising was done in advance and signs were put out on the actual day. Gina put out some coffee, tea, and hot cocoa and put together a table where people could make ornaments if they liked. It was all fairly low key. This was the first year that I participated. DD did our booth last year as I was working. This year, she was busy and so I did it. Next year hopefully we can booth do it as it is a very worthwhile idea. The gifts you buy at an Alternative Marketplace give not just to the recipient of the gift but also to someone else in need. What a great way to remember the reason for the season.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Gingerbread Houses: A Tradition Not to Let Slip

This week we continued a family tradition that we started when the kids were very young. Actually, I am unfairly taking credit for this. This is a tradition my husband brought to our family. We buy a basic gingerbread house kit (I suppose we could take this to the next level and make our own gingerbread, but the point of this is a holiday memory not holiday stress) and some extra decorations (i.e. shredded wheat, Necco candy, gum drops). Depending on the kit, we may make additional “frosting” with confectioner’s sugar and water. We also find it helpful to have a few canned goods to hold the house in place while the frosting dries. And then one night, we pull everything out and go at it. In our family, usually that means the kids and Dad do it. But this year, we brought the kit to visit our foster son. Z has been moved to residential living due to his needs, but we continue to see him and love him. This was an excellent project for all of us. Although clearly our children are getting a little older because this year’s house was resplendent with the traditional gingerbread men, gumdrops, and icing icicles but it also had a peppermint stick cannon, a gumdrop dragon, and a gumdrop alligator.

This tradition has offered me one of my all time “perfect” memories. Several years ago, the kids and my husband were making a house at the table and I was making Chex Mix in the kitchen. Christmas carols were playing in the background and the lights from the tree were twinkling. I remember pulling the Chex Mix from the stove and turning to put it on the counter. As I turned, I was filled with the feeling that this was it. This is what life is all about: perfect, simple, joyful.

I remember making gingerbread men myself as a child. I remember those little silver ball cake decorations that now sport a warning, “Do NOT consume. For decorative purposes only”. And I still like to decorate gingerbread men if I have a large group of children, but gingerbread houses are the perfect holiday family activity.

Holiday memories are not made by the gifts we receive but by the time we spend together.

TEST: I challenge you to remember 10 gifts you received over the course of your life. Now try to think of 10 Christmas memories. Which list was easier to make?
One of my kids' memories might be: the year their mother cut a snowflake out of a papertowel.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas is a Season not a Day

Boy, have we been busy with Christmas this weekend.  Friday, we made gingerbread houses which you will see a post about tomorrow. Saturday, I worked at a Alternative Market (like a Christmas Bazaar) which I will post about later in the week, I picked up DD from a Girl Scout event, and then began the search for our Christmas Tree. And finally, today, we celebrated the second Sunday of Advent at church, had our second Christmas Pageant rehearsal (which I'm thrilled to say seems to be in good shape), found our Christmas tree, and have it fully decorated.  Some people might think it a bit crazy, but I really like dragging out Christmas.  I enjoy Advent.  It is like when you savor a tasty candy in your mouth.  If you chew it, the taste is gone in just one or two bites; but if you suck on it, the flavor lasts so much longer.

If you are looking for some ideas to spread Christmas out, check out my article posted over at Associated Content: Countdown to Christmas: 25 Family Friendly Ideas to Celebrate the Season.  Keep your eye out to see all the other interesting things our family will do this holiday season and please let me know what you are doing.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Flannel Sheets are Best for a Cold Night

You guys must have thought that I was crazy when I listed flannel sheets on my Thankful List last month. Well, that is everyone that doesn't have them. Oh, my goodness! I have never had flannel sheets before and last month I broke down at Wal-mart of all places and bought a pair. Let's be honest, money is tight. I needed sheets and flannel was the a really good price for a king sized bed. I think they were like $24.99 or so - no more than $30. They came in a little flannel box and are kind of red and green striped (which I thought would be cute for the holidays too).

When I put them on the bed, I was thrilled to have a new set of sheets, but I was not prepared for how wonderful it really was. Those sheets are so soft and so warm. In the winter, we keep the heat down, sometimes at night it will go down into the 50's in the house so warmth is a must. I used to sometimes find myself so cold that I would get up and add layers of clothes. In these sheets, I sometimes find myself sticking my foot out of the edge to cool down.

I love them so much, I may even run out and buy another set. Sometimes happiness comes in the little things.