Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Years...Do you make promises?

What is it about a New Year that makes us decide the time has come to make promises?
In my mind...I know I can make myself promises any day of the week but somehow a new year makes it seem more important.
And on that note why do I make the same promises every year?
Like for the past 15 years I decide that I will lose those extra pounds I gained during November and December.

It's standard....I always know what my New Year's resolution will be.

10 pounds by swimsuit weather....which gives me lots of time here in Indiana. Cause we know that to break out anything like that until the first of June is just a fantasy.
It does help if I plan a trip south during February.
Swimsuit weather comes sooner.

The whole thing...making promises...slipping back into old habits....realizing I'm in a rut....and therefore making a new promise, is a very frustrating cycle for me.

I like to think of myself as more mature than that, and yet I make these trips far too often. I make resolves to spend more time in the Word, to really grow in my spiritual walk, and for a season I feel especially close to the Father and than I cycle into distractedness or distrust and I find myself wondering "how did I get to this place?"

I don't know all the answers to cycles. I am not educated in Psychology, but I do know that to "give up" is not the answer either!

I can't.

It's part of the journey.

Peeks and valleys

Victory and defeat

Summer and Winter

All I know is that my God says "my mercies are new every morning"....

That is reassuring to me...that tells me that he understands I will need his mercy. I will need to be pulled up from the pit and given a 2nd chance or maybe 365 chances to make it through each day.
So instead of waiting until January 1 to make all these great promises maybe I should thank him each day that I have a new beginning. A fresh start. A place to try again.

So it begins today on December 31....
I believe.....that He is able!

Monday, December 29, 2008

More Christmas fun

The Fun just kept going....And the hips keep growing! We had Christmas for 3 days with my family. Jason's brother and his family came on Sunday...
We have had horrid weather this week! It was cold, cold, cold. And than on Christmas day it warmed up and started raining. We left the kids at grandpa's overnight thinking we would all go out in the morning for breakfast but all that rain turned to ice. The roads were so ice covered the toll road was closed and when we finally did risk our lives to go retrieve our children it was like we were driving on a lake! In fact we met a skater. Yes, a skater! Someone passed us skating down the road! Bizarre!
On Saturday we had a high of 63 and than the wind came. It blew so violently it knocked out our power around 2:30 am. Jason was supposed to preach and I was leading worship so we were pretty much on edge about oversleeping. Very little sleep was to be had! The church also lost power. So church ended up being canceled. Strange, strange weather!
I wanted to show off this sweet picture of my son Jalen.

What a week~ now back to normal life and hopefully normal weather.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Our Christmas celebration

I am a big romantic. No question! Don't even ask how many times those dreamy, unrealistic expectations have been disappointed over the years. Not just by my sweet guy but by life in general. When you live in a world where things are ideal it can sometimes make the real world somewhat dull.

But Christmas changes all that.
It's okay to believe.
It's applauded.
The more delusional you are the better you fit in.
I think that's why I adore this time of year.
I love the whole thing.
I love the dreaming.
I love the lights!

There is something that is so completely breath taking and magical when eating by candle light!

We had a great time eating, singing, laughing and talking. Lots of that. God blessed this family with the gift of gab! Everyone seems to have plenty to say. Which makes table conversation anything but dull.
It means we give time allotments for each child.
And than we attempt to teach the character trait of sitting and being respectful when it is the next persons time to "share".

I think Jason and I both like to thank the other ones family for this very special gift.

So without further ado here is a peek into our little Christmas.

The main course was Fettuccine Alfredo with Shrimp. Along with Crab legs.

Do you want the recipe for the Alfredo? Well, whatda ya know, I'd love to give it to you!

Alfredo Sauce:

1 stick butter

2C. Cream

In medium saucepan melt butter and add cream. Bring to boil. Add

1 C. Parmesan Cheese.

1tsp Garlic salt

let simmer for 12 minutes.

Sooooo yummy!

Serve with Fettuccine noodles.

It's an art form...eating these noodles!

I think the crab is my guys fav... He is feeling very good with himself in this picture! He gets very braggy when he pulls out pieces this size. Oh yeah, braggy he is!

Yes, I feel blessed. I have so much to be thankful for!

Some of my thankfulness lies in this....My children are such an important part of making this family tick. My Husband works very hard to provide for the 6 of us. And I have a chance to give each day to these 5 people I hold dear. Here is Christmas Morning.... We should have posted a road sign: Clean up crew at work.

Oh yes we did! Sophie's first American Girl doll.

And the socks are so much fun! Don't let this picture fool you...These kids are Such serious children. I can hardly get them to ham it up for the camera. I just had to show you this sweet gift to daddy. When you're 5, chex mix is a treasure. Why not share it with a very special person?!

And here are the kids making their special cards for our special friend in Africa. They were very eager to participate in this activity!
I am so grateful for the gift of his love. Aren't you?
I feel blessed beyond compare.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

The fires have been burning much this week. Oh how I love the smell and warmth of the fire!
We have been sitting next to it to eat dinner all week. Chili soup and Hot ham and Cheese seem to taste better sitting next to the blazing fire.

We will sing and remember the baby in a manger who came to save us from our sins. He is the one and only. The king of kings. The Prince of Peace. The one who will come again. Not as a baby but as the reigning Lord.

And tonight as we celebrate the birth of our Lord we want to wish you and your families a very wonderful, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Mini Van Express"

So I told you we were going to try something new this year.

Let me just say it was a HUGE success!


Our kids were so excited in the beginning and so grateful in the end!

I Got the idea over at Sandy Toes.

We changed just a couple things but this is what we did:

On Friday night when it was time for bed we put a "ticket" for the mini van express on our kids pillows. I also bought them each a new pair of warm flannel PJ's. This was also placed on their pillows. We were playing games with them and afterwards told them to go check their pillows, change and come back down.

Since this was the first time we have done this they had no idea what was happening. They were giggling and squealling about the new PJ's and "what in the world is this ticket for"?

"I wonder what we're going to do?"
Daddy was the engineer who waited to punch their ticket. As they climbed into their seat there was a bag of party mix and a water bottle waiting for them.
"Where are we going"? Was the question they kept asking. And, "We're leaving in our PJ's?"

We turned on a Christmas CD. And told them to pay special attention to the all the cool lights.

One really neat thing that happened as we traveled into town. We passed our old home and the kids began talking about their memories from that house. Sophia had not yet been born but the others remembered really random things and it was so fun to hear them bringing those things to life again.

We drove into a subdivision to look at lights. And then we ended up at Dunkin Doughnuts for hot chocolate and Doughnuts. (The Chocolate was too hot so most of them decided to save it for breakfast:)

On the way home Sophie was falling asleep. Micah told her she better not cause if she misses her stop she may end up in Canada and then she would have to eat Canada Bacon..... They were so grateful they hugged and thanked us countless times and even in their prayers were thanking God for this night.

Such a little thing but I bet they don't forget it!

I love that!

I love knowing that a small part of shaping took place as they felt special tonight!

I love that the wonder of Christmas was alive in the eyes of my kids!

What a wonderful time of the year!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Fondue

Christmas starts early...

This year for my family Christmas we had our fondue a little earlier than normal. My brother Jerry and his family are spending Christmas in Sunny Florida so we wanted to include them in at least some of our Christmas traditions.

This year my mom and dad did something really special. They are donating money for each grandchild(17)to Gospel for Asia. It is a very worthy organization that helps families recieve an animal. If you want to watch the presentation you can go here.

We included several of the kids into the adults table this year. They are now teens or will be soon so they made the big trip up....

We always do Cheese with cubed meats and bread along with vegetables.

The Cheese Fondue

1 1/2 C. Butter- melted

3/4 Cup Flour

1 tsp. Salt

4 C. Milk

4 tsp.paprika

1/2 tsp. Worcestershire

1/2 lb. box Velveeta cheese

1 16 oz cheddar cheese whiz

melt butter, add flour, slowly add milk. let cook 1 minute stirring constantly; add rest of ingredients. Stir until cheese is melted. You can keep this in the crock pot on low until ready to serve.

Then for dessert we have Carmel sauce with fruit. This year we also had Chocolate...Yummy!

The Carmel

1/2 C Butter

2 C. Sugar

2 C. Whip Cream

3/4 C. Light corn syrup

1 tsp. Vanilla

Jar Carmel topping

Melt butter, sugar, light corn syrup and 1 cup cream, Stir constantly. When it comes to a boil add rest of cream. Heat to 240 on candy thermometer. Add jar Carmel topping and vanilla at end.

This is the baby of the group. She gets lots of attention....She is way cute! I believe someone dressed her up in their Christmas gift, Cory?!

Here is my firstborn son Jalen. Look at those blue eyes!

Waiting ever so patient for his gift.

And here is my sister, Cindy with her husband Allen.
And this picture shows just how secure I am.
What a bunch of weirdos we are!
Here I am with my brother Jerry.
It wasn't my idea!

Just keeping it real!

Friday, December 19, 2008

A little Naughty but Nice

When I find something I love I am compelled to share it with you. Secrets like this I cannot keep to myself.

My friend Julie makes this yummy dessert and I am very naughty when she brings it over!

Recently I acquired the recipe myself so I could be naughty more often….

I took it with me to one of our Christmas parties this week. And now to relive the guilt I have from eating it too frequently I want to pass it to you.

So, here it is:

Chocolate Cappuccino Trifle

1 chocolate cake mix – bake as directed

Mousse Pudding:

2 tsp cappuccino mix

2 tsp. hot water

1- 14 oz can sweetened, condensed milk

1/3 cup cocoa powder

2 tbsp. butter

2 cups cream; chilled

1 16 oz cool whip

Combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, butter, dissolve cappuccino in hot water and add in medium saucepan. Cook over low heat stirring constantly until butter melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool.

Beat whipping cream until stiff. Gradually fold cocoa mixture into whip cream.

Cube cake and put on bottom layer of glass bowl. Add layer of mousse, cool whip, cake, mousse, cool whip, cake, mousse, cool whip. On top you can drizzle chocolate syrup or I like to shave some chocolate. You can also add bit of chocolate chunks around the sides if you want some texture. This is such a light chocolaty dessert!

I will be posting about our Family Fondue dinner tomorrow. It will include the recipes for cheese and carmel fondue.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I am a fairly random person. I Really like variety and "no planning" ahead kinds of activities. But when it comes to Christmas traditions I hold on pretty tightly.

I think it's about security.

A link to my past.

My childhood.

My mother always had a manger scene for us to play with...Well I don't think she ever said that it was for that. But I was allowed to "touch" the pieces. I played with it for hours and she never said I couldn't. She also started the tradition of Fondue on Christmas eve. It is one we still practice today...even with 30 people.

I love it!

I started some traditions with our kids when they were very young. I have thrown some out because they weren't as brilliant as they first seemed but others have stuck.

One tradition that stuck....It's Ringing in Christmas.

Very simple thing but even my oldest child thinks of it as a highlight. Before we read the Christmas story on Christmas eve I take these bells and go to some part of the house far away from Jason and the kids. All the lights are off. I carry a candle and the bells. I ring the bells and then walk...ring and walk...all the way to the place they all wait. And as I round the corner or come down the stairs they always greet me with smiles and shiny eyes.

Than after I get to where they are we sing a Christmas song together. Jason reads the Christmas story. And they usually open 1 gift...I know, I know, its only Christmas eve.
Sorry for using this picture once again....But those are the bells I use.

Another tradition we have done for the past 5 years is a trip to Chicago on the train. We live several hours from the city so we take a train into the city and pay only $36 for the entire family. Kids ride free.We do this one Saturday sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We go very early in the morning and walk Michigan Ave.
The neat thing about this is our kids get to experience the culture of the Big city. There are always people playing instruments or singing right there on the street. And the windows and trees and buildings are just beautiful~ We always have lunch and get to the Lego store and American Girl store. We hit the train about 6:30 p.m. and head home so we can still sleep in our own beds at night. We are always exhausted...but what a great time! Several years we have taken friends and family with us.

For dinner On Christmas eve we have: Bread, garlic oil, fettuccine Alfredo, shrimp and crab legs. That isn't a meal I make everyday so it is really special. Especially the crab legs.

We also want our children to be aware of other needs around the world so we will be giving a gift to our little girl in Tanzania and spend some time making pictures and letters for her.

I love to try new things. This year we are going to try something new. I'll let you know how it goes.

What are things you do with your kids to make the season special? I'm always up for new ideas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Party

This year for our small group, we had an "adults only" Christmas dinner. Since we are so blessed with so many wonderful little ones we don't get the chance to just "talk" without interruption. It was very nice to spend an evening together. And I had the privilege of planning dinner and hosting them in our home.
We did miss Norm and Carol very much~they were sick and couldn't be with us.

Ed and Julie

Carla and JB

The Menu:

French Bread

Papa Vino's House Salad


Smashed Potatoes

Grilled Pork Chops


We had so much fun laughing together. What a bunch of crazies!

Heather and Donovan-the ever flexing man....


After dinner we played a really "confusing" game of Maui, Maui….Google this game if you want to laugh with your friends. Remember not to take it too serious!

Here are a couple of recipes you may enjoy making:

Papa Vino's House Salad

This only requires 5 things:

Bacon (fried and chopped)

Blue Cheese Crumbles

Calamata Olives

3 hearts of Romaine lettuce – chopped

1 Bottle of Papa Vino's Salad dressing (which they sell at the restaurant…if you don't have one nearby it is basically a light Italian dressing)
Toss and Serve

Smashed potatoes

13 thin skinned potatoes

½ Cup Ranch dressing

¼ sour cream

½ stick butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Scrub and cut your potatoes and put them in a microwave baker. I cooked them in my microwave for approx. 30 minutes.

When they are tender smash them, skins and all with a potato masher. When they are mashed they will be chunky, this is fine.

Add your dressing, sour cream, butter and seasonings and continue to mix well. Put into a 9x13 pan. This can be made a day ahead. When you're ready to serve, heat oven to 350 and bake for 30-45 minutes.

Grilled Pork Chops:
We rarely grill in the winter but it is such a treat to have that grilled flavor in the middle of December.
I marinate my chops in this sauce…this is the secret to moist, tender chops
4 Tbsp lime or lemon juice

½ C. Oil

4 Tbsp vinegar

2 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

2 Tbsp salt

1 Tbsp. garlic salt

1 Tbsp. Paprika

Blend together and pour over your chops. The longer you marinate the better they are. I like to give them at least 8 hours, however I have, in a pinch, given them 4 hours and they still turn out fine. Grill your chops and…BAM!

They are super moist!

Finally, on to the Cheesecake.
You know people get really freaked out with cheesecake. I love to make it because it really isn't that hard and you can actually make it weeks in advance. I made mine 4 days before the party. It is actually encouraged to let your cheese cake "mature" a bit before eating it. So with a little planning you don't have to worry about that last minute prep. I made New York Style and Pumpkin Cheese cake but today I will give you the New York –Style Cheesecake, which takes me back to my Pampered Chef days…



26 regular size butter cookies(about 1 ¼ crushed)Or 1 ½ Cups Graham Crackers

4 tablespoon butter-melted


4 Packages (8 oz each)cream cheese, Softened

1 Cup Sugar

1 teaspoon lemon(or Orange)zest, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon lemon juice (or orange)

4 eggs, room temp (set in a bowl of hot water for 10 minutes to bring them to room temp)

½ C. Sour Cream

½ tsp. vanilla

1 can pie filling(optional)

Preheat oven to 325. For Crust, place cookies in resalable plastic bag; crush into fine crumbs. Melt butter in microwave. Mix crumbs and butter together. Spray spring form pan. Press crumb mixture into bottom of pan. Bake 8 minutes.

For filling, place cream cheese in mixing bowl. Add sugar, flour, lemon zest and juice. Beat at medium speed 3 minutes until well blended. Add eggs; mix at low speed 2 minutes. Blend in sour cream and vanilla.

Pour filling into crust. Bake 55-60 minutes or until center appears nearly set .

I like to turn my oven off and crack the door so my cheese cake doesn't go into shock and crack. I leave it in there about 30 more minutes and then remove from oven. Run a paring knife around the edge of pan to loosen. I keep my form around the cheesecake until ready to serve. Run a knife around the edge again before taking form off.

What a great evening with friends! I am so blessed to have so many friends like you!

And one more thing....

Can I just say that I have some pretty awesome kids? Sometimes they just completely impress my socks off! We weren't sure what they should do tonight since the party was at our house...We toyed with the idea of dressing them up in bow ties and aprons and have them help serve plates of food. Or perhaps they could just stand on the stairs singing as the Van trap children did, "Goodbye". But in the end we just decided it would be fine for them to quietly stay up in our room with a big bowl of popcorn and a movie.

They eagerly agreed.

When I was praising them for their above average behavior they assured me it was a very good night for them indeed....Great! Let's try that tomorrow night again..HeeHee!

Tomorrow I will be posting some Christmas traditions we like to do with our children.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Carmel Winner

A new week....And you know what? We have so many Christmas parties this week I only have to cook 1 night! And really not even then, because I plan to heat up leftovers from our party last night. I will post pictures of the party with the recipes of the dishes I served on tomorrows post.

But today we have a winner!

The winner was DIANE YUTZY...Yeah, Diane...I will contact you on FB to get your address.

And in the Spirit of the Season I decided to be generous and pick one more # out of the hat and so my second winner is:

STACIE from Indy...Yeah Stacie~ I will also contact you on FB...

Thank you all for your kind, kind, comments. You all sure know how to make a girl feel good!
I'll see you tomorrow~

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I am somewhat stunned by the rudeness that can be encountered this time of year.

I just don't understand!

I understand busyness….I don't understand bullyness(I think I just made up a word, cause Word doesn't recognize it…but I like it… so it stays)

I'll give you an example. This week I ran out to buy my niece a Christmas gift at Target.

I was just going to buy 1 thing…well, who am I kidding….1 thing, Really?

I got a little side tracked in the girls section. Oh, they have the softest PJ's this time of year. So sweet with snowmen on green and pink plaid.

I was very taken with these little "must haves"… moving my cart around the rack…looking for the right size. Not realizing it, I accidently pushed my cart into a path of a lady who appeared to be about 10 years older then me.(here's a tip: always assume she looks at least 10 years older than you. It just makes you feel better about your own age!) She had a very disturbed look on her face.

"EXCUSE ME", she said in a very sarcastic tone.

Not nice!

Not kind!

Too bad someone didn't have their espresso yet today!

I quickly apologized with "I am SO sorry"!

And I was.

I didn't try to block her path!

It's not like I ran up behind her and scraped the back side of her foot with my cart!(better known as the heel; my children's specialty)

I think she realized that she may not be looking very pleasant nor was I intentionally trying to make her life more difficult. So with a little less intensity but still huffily, she moved her cart forward and said, "I guess you're too busy looking".

Wow! I just stood there and shook my head.

Merry Christmas! Aren't the holidays great!

I don't know what situation she just came from, it may have been very difficult. And I don't want to pretend I never have bad days, cause I do!

Note to self: Recognize when I need to just give my own self a "time out" and go to my room…alone…and wait out the bad attitude.

Because you know what, no one likes to be bullied. Not family, friends, strangers, co-workers, waitresses, my husband, or kids.

Today I want to remember to be especially kind to others,even if they aren't kind to me. I want to be thoughtful not only with the gifts I choose but with my actions and words.

I want to say "it's alright…even when I'm steamed".

Give grace….Give grace!

Isn't that what this whole thing is really all about?!

Editors Note: The open house giveaway will continue through the weekend. It will close Sunday at midnight so it's not to late to sign up if you haven't already

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Open House<

WELCOME Friends to my Online Christmas open house....

I wanted to invite you all over for a cup of coffee and some yummy cookies but for this open house you may be on your own with the snacks and beverages.

This is the front door to our home. Don't worry about wiping your feet as you enter today.

Of course my window table which you saw in a previous blog

My sled that sits on the porch.This is as you walk into my dining area

See that arrangement by the china hutch? It's sticks from my lawn. I just spray painted them white, added a little sparkle, and hung silver ornaments. I found a glass vase in storage, put some Sea Salt in the bottom and I have a cheap, unique, charlie brown tree.

And a left turn to the living room.

This is my seasonal shelf. This view is back towards the kitchen. It sits up high where no little hands can reach it.

These chairs are just wrapped with a runner and tied in a bow. I found them last year after Christmas at 90% off!

This is my fireplace mantle. Its a little tricky since I don't have an even shelf underneath my garland but this is what I came up with.

Here's a close up view of my homemade garland. Here is the manger scene that has sat out every Christmas since my children were small. I picked it up at my aunt Fran's garage sale one year and it is just the best! The reason I love it so much is because it is unbreakable. My children have spent hours, playing with these pieces. Baby Jesus has been everywhere in my house~

And these cute little carolers sit on top of my piano. Again an after Christmas special last year.

Here is a picture of our table. I had it set for some guests that came over for lunch.
And the centerpiece on the table. Ikea ring a bell with anyone? That lamp is from my little excursion a couple weeks back.

Oh, and those are red martini glasses with a little sea salt in the bottom...

And finally our Christmas tree with all the memories of years gone by....The kids love to hang their special ornaments on the tree and I'm okay with that. I like that they feel like it's their thing.

We often make a paper chain to count the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We didn't this year. They didn't even ask~~Maybe that's a sign they are getting older and can now read the calendar.

Thank you so much for coming today! I would love to see how all of you decorate for Christmas! New ideas are always fun to copy! I wish I could give you each a hug goodbye~