Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts

fun and games

template by the great Jessica Sprague and supplies from Crystal Wilkerson

A few Christmas' ago, Stumblebum was introduced to the Groves Family Christmas. Lisa brought it, and I remember the game made for the best pictures. We played again this year, and clearly the picture taking opportunities did not disappoint.

The game is easy. It is your basic game of charades, but before you act out your list of words, you roll two dice. On each die there are different things you have to do while acting out your card such as fingers crossed, hand over eyes, hand on head, eyes closed, hum a song, on one leg etc...

I recommend this game for families that need a full participation game for all ages.

I am trying to get my christmas pictures into digital layouts right away. Digital scrapbooking is so quick, and I am beginning to utilize ready-made templates. It means that the Stumblebum layout above took me about 15 minutes to put together...not bad for getting so many pictures showcased on one page.

The template I used is up at as a free download. Plus, Jessica has a video tutorial of how to use the template right on that main page (just scroll down). If you have Photoshop or if you have ever wanted to get a better idea of how digital scrapbooking works, I recommend you buzz over to Jessica's website to watch the tutorial. I think you'll be glad you did.

the favorite gift I got

When I was eight years old I was sure my life would be complete if only I had the Ronco Food Dehydrator. I watched the infomercial religiously. I had it memorized. I wished myself to be one of those two little girls pulled from the audience to test Mr. Popeil's fruit roll-ups. A Food Dehydrator was on my Birthday and Christmas list for years on end, but my mom kept commenting how much cupboard space it would take up and that we could revisit this topic one day when I had my own cupboards.

Well, I have my own cupboards now. And not only that, but I have a fabulous mother-in-law who reads my blog posts and figured it was time I start dehydrating. I unwrapped this gift and yelled, "TWENTY YEARS! Twenty years I have asked for this food dehydrator!" Marlene had done some research and read that Ron Popeil's dehydrator actually got poor performance reviews (the horror! you mean infomercials don't always sell top quality?!!) She said this Nesco came highly recommended. I called my mom later that evening to tell her the joyous news of the sweet reunion of me and my dehydrator and she just laughed and laughed, happy my dreams had been fulfilled.

Rory immediately took it to the kitchen and made banana chips. Currently I am looking up recipes for fruit roll ups. I'll keep you posted. We've got many good days ahead.

credit due to: Template: Laurie Pecotte, Digi paper and elements: Crystal Wilkerson

lots of christmas pictures

I just put together a slide show of my week of christmas goodness (posted below). Be sure to hit the forward button to fly through the pictures...there are lots of them, spanning the Harrington Christmas, the Bredberg Christmas at the farm, New Years and the Groves Christmas Stockings.

I'll write more specifics later but a few highlights would include: family, smurf houses, sledding, lots of niece and nephew time, dad's model trains, tutu's, Quiddler (Kristin, I bought it and Rory LOVES it!), the Gap outlet, good friends on New Years, more tutu's, Stumblebum and perhaps the most exciting...Rory's mom GOT ME A FOOD DEHYDRATOR!!! SHE DID!!! I am anticipating many a post detailing our dehydrating.

It was so good to be home, but we are feeling good back in Nebraska too. It was one year ago tonight we moved to this new state. As we drove back from Minnesota today we talked through how the year had treated us and agreed it was a great 2009. And we're ready for another great year ahead.

Making Lemonade from these lemons...

Well, we had wanted to leave for Minnesota on Tuesday so we could dodge this weather. But I got the flu that morning, and wasn't well enough to go home until Thursday. So yesterday we set out, all packed and ready, and made it a few miles before we saw a horrible accident where both cars had their entire fronts ripped off. It was horribly icy, and we just decided it wasn't worth the risk. The trees were covered in ice and looked like this:

Beautiful, but just not great for road conditions.

So we ended up celebrating Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in our apartment, watching the growing drifts outside, so thankful for our warm home. We missed all sorts of Groves family goodness, and this was really hard on me. The whole family called last night and I was on speakerphone and ended up pretty bummed because I have never really liked missing out. But Rory is wonderful and insisted that make sugar cookies, he made up a new card game, we watched Christmas movies and made a few homemade meals.

It was a snuggly Christmas. Rory mentioned many times that this will probably be the only Christmas in our lives together when he will get my undivided attention...and that this was the best gift he could have ever hoped for. (I am a bit distracted by nieces and nephews...)

And all in all, it was a really nice, calm and special Christmas. We made the homemade chicken noodle soup, and it blew our socks off. I don't even really like chicken noodle soup but wowza. This will be a part of our Christmas tradition forever.

And I made cherry jello with bananas. This is Christmas tradition for me, because my Uncle Don makes Fruit Soup every year...and basically fruit soup is just a fancy way to say prunes-and-other-brown-things-mushed-together Soup. So my mom always made the kids special jello molds that were shaped like trees, stars and bells with bananas in them. I didn't have the molds, but the jello was perfect for my flu tummy and my need for a taste of home.

We made Rolled Sugar Cookies that turned out glorious. Funny thing was that I don't have a great variety of cookie cutters here in Nebraska. Thankfully, I had gotten a gingerbread cutter at a little shop a few weeks ago, a candy cane at Lisa's cookies swap, and a porcupine, squirrel and bear at Betsy's wedding this summer. And honestly, nothing says Merry Christmas like a Christmas Porcupine. I am including this next picture to prove that I actually was happy and enjoying Christmas, though not in Minnesota!

And perhaps happiest with our change of plans was Toonces, who kept messing up our Settlers of Catan playing. This picture below makes the world outside look nice and still, but the wind is whipping out there, believe me. Our hope is to take off tomorrow...though I am learning to sit loose in the saddle. Merry Christmas everyone!

the christmas road

My grandma sends a devotional email to her family almost every day. Recently she wrote about another christmas memory:

Merry Christmas, dear family. We had a little coating of snow last night. Reminds me of years ago when snow was always expected and accepted at Christmas. Dad and Ed Hybbert would plow roads thru the fields where the snow wasn't so deep in order that we could worship on Christmas at Immanuel. Think of all the fences they had to cut and then repair later.

Just picture that! New roads just for Christmas! Plowed through farm fields three miles away.

I love the community picture this paints, neighbors working together all going to a white steeple church in Southern Minnesota to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. Weather didn't stop them...they busted up fences on the way. What a glorious example they were to their children, getting them to church, raising them in the faith, believing with might that God is indeed with us.

Haste! Haste! To bring him praise!
The babe, the son of Mary.

Unto us a child is born!

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. -John 1:1-5

Merry Christmas everyone!

plan b...or c...or maybe even d....

Rory and I had planned to take off for Minnesota tonight. But then the forecast came for this ice storm and we decided that we should head out on Tuesday afternoon to get home before the roads turned too icy. So on Monday night I ran around to 9 different errand places: stores, bank, oil change etc... and began to wrap presents in haste. But then in the middle of the night I got the same flu Rory had on Saturday. I always want to explain how awful the flu was, in need of validation of how violent this bug was...and how I slept part of the night on the bathroom floor because it was convenient, and because the bathroom tiles were so nice and cold on my cheek. Just know that I was sick. Very sick.

Yesterday came and went, and even today I still have some lingering symptoms of this illness. And now, the ice has come and the world outside is stunning with frosty trees and a pretty shine on everything.

But I don't think we're going to be making the trip to Minnesota yet. I just don't feel good enough to hop in the car. And believe me, this is saying A LOT considering Minnesota = Christmas + family + everything-that-is-good-and-right-with-the-world.

So we're trying to seize this funny situation. I have a feeling we will be hanging out in our apartment until this storm clears and the roads are safe (Friday?). I would love to say that I have grand plans of cooking a full Christmas meal for just the two of us, but so far my diet consists of saltines and 7 up and applesauce. So Rory is going to walk to the grocery store and get the ingredients for a homemade chicken noodle soup that I have been wanting to make. And that will be fabulous.

the nativity story

This season we have watched Rudolph, Elf, The Grinch, The Holiday, Charlie Brown, and we've got many more Christmas classics tivo'd. But my favorite movie for the season is The Nativity Story. If you haven't seen this before, be sure to rent it and find a quiet afternoon, a nice cup of something hot, wrap yourself in a comforter and snuggle up for peace, calm and beauty. The movie moves slowly, but is stunning in biblical storytelling and character development. The Shepherds get me to tears every time. And then our Savior is born. It is beautiful.

I remember when Rory and I lived in Montana, we went the nursing home I was working at on Christmas Day. It was a different Christmas Day than we were used to since we were not in Minnesota. But that day we found a unique community when we gathered all of the residents who had not been picked up by any family for the day. I brought Christmas cookies and we reminisced and then watched The Nativity Story together. And somehow it felt exactly how Christmas should be celebrated...with lonely old friends together in sweet community, dwelling on the birth of our baby God, come to save the world.

thoughtful and kind

My grandma Bredberg's christmas card came today. It was a beautiful watercolor that she drew herself. And inside was this note. I just thought it summed up her thoughtfulness and generosity well. The Jago's adopted from Ghana a year ago, so their share of the money went to that orphanage. Pretty cool, grandma. And like Larry the Cucumber says, "Everybody needs a waterbuffalo. Some are fast and some are slow."

crafty christmas

These sweet snowmen are at my sistah Lisa's house. Made out of old socks and beans, each snowman represents one person in their family. So stinkin' cute.

A coworker of mine brought these in today. Her kids made them and she was boxing them up to send them to relatives out of state. They crack me up. And are pretty cute too. They're made out of pop bottles, styrofoam balls, googlie eyes, old socks for hats and fun foam.

Veggie Tree

We celebrated last night at the Carol Joy Holling Christmas party. The evening was lovely...good conversations all around. Plus, it was so fun to see who everyone is married to! I'm amazed by how much time you can spend with a co-worker, but not really know their home life at all.

This tree was on the buffet table. I hadn't ever seen anything like it and found it completely blog-worthy. The shrimp was also presented on a lettuce tree. Super festive and fun.

Christmas Cocoa

We stood in the checkout line at Walmart on Saturday afternoon for about 25 minutes. The place was a madhouse. But, lucky for me, Walmart had strategically placed peppermint stir sticks next to the magazines...a whole bag of peppermint sticks for 87 cents! So I threw them in my cart. And when Gina and Evalyn were over, I made us some chocolaty goodness.

The stirsticks are sort of a soft, quick dissolving candy, which makes them way better than a candy cane because the stick basically disappears by the time you're ready to drink your hot chocolate that is now delightfully minty. Seriously, it was one fabulous cup of hot chocolate.

Chocolate Oreo Truffles

My sister-in-law, Lisa, went to a cookie swap a few years ago at her neighbor's house. When the neighbor brought out her own cookies she said boldly, "These are the best expletive-expletive cookies you'll ever eat!" She then proceeded to reveal the Oreo Truffle. Lisa is hysterical when she tells this story; she was so shocked that such words would be used at a ladies neighborhood Christmas cookie swap!

But, after trying one bite of these babies you're going to want to be the one who brings these fabulous truffles to your next cookie swap. Just watch your potty mouth.

one package Oreo Cookies
one 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
one 24 oz package chocolate almond bark
white almond bark for drizzle design

Crush oreos in food processor or a plastic bag. Blend cream cheese with Oreo until all pieces are covered and creamy...I used my kitchen aid. Using a one inch cookie scooper create balls onto a cookie sheet and then freeze these cookie balls for an hour or two. Dunk frozen balls into melted chocolate. Place on wax paper until hardened. Drizzle white almond bark on top. Let set. Store in refrigerator or freezer (I HIGHLY recommend freezing these things!)
Makes about 4 dozen one truffles.


My sister posted a picture of the gingerbread house her girls made this weekend. And I was so envious. I have never made a gingerbread house from scratch. So when yesterday turned into a snow day, I seized the day!

I made my dough from this recipe. I didn't have molasses, but the friendly people all over the internet said you could substitute corn syrup. The only thing that it really changed was the color of the walls.
I made my own pattern from cardstock. I basically sized it based on how much dough the recipe made.

The genius part of this recipe was the helpful hints written at the end of the directions. It suggested rolling your dough on the back side of your cookies sheets and baking them that way. This way, you never have to move the pieces after you cut them out. You just remove the dough around the cutout pieces. The dough is just too big and fragile to move after it is layed out.

After each cookie sheet of gingerbread house was baked, I let them cool and then placed all of the pieces in the oven at 200 degrees for three hours. This makes each piece super hard and brick-like.
It took both Rory and I to assemble. I started with the back and sides and waited until these parts were cemented together with the frosting. I had to keep the frosting covered at all times. It hardened to cement within 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick it was piped on.

I had limited goodies on hand to decorate the house. So I colored noodles and used other things I found hiding in the cupboards.

We had lots of pretzel sticks, so it quickly was decided that this would be a log cabin gingerbread house. Surprisingly, it didn't take too long to cover all the walls. We were watching Disney's Prep and Landing and I was so full of the Christmas Spirit I could hardly stand myself!

This morning we went out to our grocery store and got a few more candy-type goodies. I finished with the chocolate stars, dots, caroling cinnamon bears and peppermints.

I think gingerbread houses will be my new snow day tradition. You sort of do need a whole day for the project. But it is so fun to play with food, so fun to create and construct and to binge on the candy as you create your own happy home. Plus, our apartment smells amazing, inviting and cozy.

snow day

We've got a blizzard here in Omaha, blowing strong and leaving us quite content to stay inside watching the growing snowdrift on our deck, illuminated by christmas lights. I have had a delightful day. Honestly, there is nothing like a snow day. To be given a surprise day off might just be the most delightful feeling in the world. I'm a planner, so even a Saturday or Sunday typically have some sort of agenda pre-planned for them. But not a snow day. A snow day is a surprise day ready to do all those projects that have been waiting for "a day to myself."

In honor of this snow day, I did the following:
1. Made a gingerbread house
2. Talked to my sister for a good while
3. Made supper in the crockpot
4. Took my blog entries from my other blog and transferred them to this blog
5. Watched a lot of hgtv

Number four on that list really is all thanks to my beloved, techy husband, Rory. He worked hard on this project today. And now, if you go to the side panel and look at the archives list, you'll see that my blog now begins in September of 2008, because that is when I began the other blog. But now the two have become one and I am so pleased to have all these thoughts and pictures and adventures gathered together in one place. Be sure to check out the October 2008 entries. Oh my word, did we see some beautiful places on that roadtrip last year!

abc book

My mom had this super fun idea to make an alphabet book for her five grandkids using pictures from our family to show things that begin with each letter. My brother has three kids and my sister has two kids and the five kids span five years of age: Penelope is 1, Sonna is 2, Simon is 3, Mara is 4 and Claire is 5. One, two, three, four, five.

We worked this weekend picking our digital papers and lettering and these are my first two pages. The picture of Simon in the doll bed was a hysterical morning at my parent's last thanksgiving when apparently he got out of his bed and couldn't find it again, but found this doll bed and fell back asleep! I still laugh out loud when I see that picture. And Claire had a similar experience when she (at her own house) fell asleep in Betty-the-dog's bed.

I've got fun pictures that mom has gathered for all 26 letters and I'm so excited to put it all together. I'll keep you posted!

C is for Cookie

Well, Monday was the cookie swap. And it was once again, fantastic, wonderful, delightful and the perfect way to kick off the Christmas season. My sistah, Lisa, invites ten ladies and we each bring 12 dozen packaged-for-delivery cookies. The morning begins with breakfast while sharing our cookie story. Usually, at least one person will have had a minor catastrophe while trying to make her cookies and this always makes for good story telling. Prizes are given for the best stories. This year the two prizes went to Deb who made Krumkaka for all of us using a krumkaka iron over her stovetop, one at a time. She won for her patience and stamina! And another prize went to Jill who made cookies that went in the oven at 400, and then the oven is turned off while the cookies take shape for the next SIX HOURS! Her prize was obviously given, again, for the time she put into her cookie. Sara was definitely in the running, since she drove from Denver and arrived home at 4 am the morning of the swap. Thankfully her cookies were in the freezer, and she looked really good for four hours of sleep!

Lisa decorates the house beautifully, with plates and name cards set out for each of us to display our cookies. This leads to a morning full of sampling. Amazing. The morning progresses with games and basically, there is just a lot of laughter that follows. We played one game where we had to guess the price of 13 different cookie ingredients and then add up how off our price guesses were. I was off by $18.78. I was the biggest looser. :)

This was Lisa's fifth year hosting the cookie swap and each year a group picture is taken for our recipe book that holds everyone's cookie recipe with a picture of each cookie. It's quite the organized and well executed event. Thanks Lisa for another morning that far surpasses Disney World for me.

Classic Paul Harrington

We're still in Minnesota, soaking up every minute of family time. Last night we were flipping through the channels and my dad announced with his tv guide in hand, "this is a hallmark movie called, A Dog named Christmas. Stay tuned for the sequel 'A Cat named Easter.'"

Perfect Paul Harrington humor.

I am off this morning to The Great Cookie Swap. I can't wait!

brown paper packages tied up with string

...these are a few of my favorite things...

I have a few staples that I tend to give for gifts. And I thought it would be fun to share my old faithful's in case you have someone on your list for whom these gift ideas might be perfect.
1. My all-time-favorite-gift-to-give is The Jesus Storybook Bible. I don't care if you are six or ninety-six, this is the Bible for you. The subtitle of this Bible is, "Every story whispers his name" and as you read each Old Testament story, the last paragraph points to Jesus. And as you read each New Testament story, the last paragraph points back to the prophesy fulfilled, the promise made true. It has solid theology, beautiful pictures and inspired writing. 2. When I was little I played for hours on end with my whiteboard and whiteboard markers. I gave this gift to my niece, Josie, a few years ago for her birthday and now each year I just get her new markers at Target. Because there is nothing like juicy whiteboard markers.

3. I became a believer in the power of aromatherapy when I found Mrs. Meyer's

Clean Day Dish Soap (Gardenia Scent). Honest to goodness, doing the dishes became more enjoyable. And that is saying a lot. I gave this as a gift to my sistah's for their birthday and we all look back at that season with our Gardenia dish soap as the happiest of dish washing. Unfortunately the Gardenia scent is hard to find in stores, so you have to order it online...which is a deterrent for me. But at $3.99 I may just order a bunch in bulk for future gifts. You may find it odd to give dish soap, but just wait until you smell it.

4. Another favorite children's book, for all ages. You Are Special by Max Lucado is my favorite book of all time, all about small wooden people who spend their every day giving each other stars or dots depending on what they can do, what they look like, how they articulate themselves. But one little wooden person has no stars or dots on her. She says they don't stick to her, because she visits the woodcarver every day. It's a beautiful analogy for us and how we let others judge us, but how God made us free of other people's judging. Again, ages 6 to 96, this is a great book.

5. Nothing can beat mod podge and sponge brushes. Every age can mod podge and the projects of creativity that can come from this stuff are endless. I recently saw kitchen cupboards that were covered in ripped scrapbook paper via modpodge. They were stunning and perfect for the creative workspace I saw them in. (You can get mod podge and sponge brushes at Michael's or any craft supply store.)

6. I've always been a huge fan of punch balloons. No matter what amazing present you pair a punch ballo0n with, the punch balloon always gets the attention and played with first. Cheap, delightful and easy to find in the party supply aisle.

7. I am throwing the Ron Popeil Food Dehydrator on my list, not because I have ever given one away. Nor because I have even ever received one. But it is on my list because I asked for a Ron Popeil Food Dehydrator for seven years in a row of my life for christmas and for my birthday. I had the infomercial memorized and was sure my life would be complete if only I could make my own banana chips, beef jerky and fruit roll ups. I still think it would make a lovely gift, and therefore made this top ten list.

8. Table Topic cards. I love these things and the conversations they spark. There are all sorts of topics from travel to girls night to family to date night. Rory and I have the travel cards in our jeep and whip them out when road trips get long.

9. Along the lines of modpodge, I think giving art supplies to kids or crafty types is another super thoughtful and imaginative gift.

10. My mother-in-law has kept a 10 year journal for as long as Rory can remember. There are only four lines for each day, and just the noteworthy things get written down. The first year it is like any other journal, but because all ten years of the same date are on the same page, this journal gets better and better each year. Simply by opening to November 23, I can see what we were up to last year at this time, and the year before that etc... It's a very simple memory keeping technique and makes for some great story sharing. My bff, Heidi, uses hers as her kids' baby books, writing down notable moments or funny things they say. Perfect and simple.

Anyone have any favorite gifts to give to add to the list? Leave me a comment! I'm in need of more ideas since my family and friends have been saturated in the gifts listed above!