He's my calm when everything is going crazy.

The voice of reason in the midst of irrational thought.

He's the place I go when I need to hide.

My strength when I cannot.

He makes me laugh and upon occasion, cry.

He gives me balance and aside from my children he's the one who causes my heart to fill near to bursting with love.

He is my beloved and I am his.




Fresh bread. There is nothing quite like that smell. Or taste.

I remember the first time I really tried to make bread from scratch. I got together with a friend of mine and I believe we had some success...in brick making maybe. I think if we had dropped one of our loaves we could have put a hole in the floor.

Another time someone gave me starter for that delicious sweet Amish friendship bread. You know the really high maintenance one that has to be fed every day and can't be in a metal bowl and can only be stirred with a wooden spoon while you stand on one foot and recite the alphabet backwards in Latin? At least that's how it felt to me before the container it was in exploded all over everything.

Since that fiasco I have pretty much limited myself to nothing more than eating homemade bread.

But several months ago a kind bread making friend not only gifted me with one of her loaves of sourdough but also some of her starter. I will admit that I was leery of the gift but I am happy to say that I have not killed the starter nor have I made any bricks to form a new patio or pathway. I have however consistently found success with this very forgiving and easy to use sourdough starter.

Today's picture comes from my very first attempt at making a pretty artisan type bread. It looked really pretty and the taste was good too. I'm still not sure I would call myself a bread maker but I am feeling a little less like a total novice these days.

I really wasn't sure if I had ruined this because I actually flattened it our with a rolling pin before adding the seasoning I wanted and braiding it.


Obviously my artisan skills still need a bit of work but when your trial and errors taste this good, does anyone really mind?

Oh, you know what? I need to try this out on the brown sugar and cinnamon loaf next time!




In which I get sort of artsy. And as usually happens a few times during this project I couldn't choose just one photo.

I love frosty and sparkling winter mornings, don't you?

I've tried free lensing before but I don't practice enough to be really good at it. But I did like the way this one turned out. Maybe it's the purple hues but I am making it my choice for day ten.


While I may not free lens often I do enjoy a little reverse lens macro. It's amazing to me how the light can change and the hue and color tone of an image shift within seconds from one frame to the next when taking pictures. Maybe that explains my whole fascination with photography.

I liked the underlying brightness to this image which is why I just couldn't not post it. Beautiful winter mornings should be shared though so enjoy!






So what does it look like to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas? We get asked this a lot when people find out our holiday season is a wee bit longer than the norm. Most people are curious but also seem leery of how much work might be involved. But honestly, once you get the hang of it it's not difficult at all. The important thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be perfect down to the last detail.




As a matter of fact how it looks today for our family varies quite a bit from how it looked when we started however many years ago it was when we started. I imagine as our children grow and marry and grand children come along that it will look even more different then than now. Essentially the framework is in place but every year you have the opportunity to flesh it out differently depending on circumstances, ages and interest of the kids, etc. You are only limited by how creative you want to be. Things can be as big and special as you wish or as simple and uncomplicated. As a family of seven there are some activities that we rarely do because of how expensive it can be. We don't eat out as a family often and a trip to the movie theater is practically right out. These are the kinds of things we add into the 12 days mix and I think it makes them a bit more special because they don't happen often.

Like I mentioned in yesterday's post we have a few days that repeat every single year so let's start there. These are the events or activities that we did once and the children begged, pleaded, and possibly mutinied over not having until we made them an annual part of our celebration. 

A hockey game. I know absolutely zero about hockey and my children know even less. My love may know a little bit more than all of us since he has lived up north before. What we all know is that one of the first families to join us in the 12 days knows a lot of stuff about hockey and we go to dinner (Sonny's Bar B Que) and an Ice Flyers game with them each year. Nothing about this can vary. Not who goes with us and not where we eat. I've no idea why it is so or why my normally peace loving non-violent children become blood thirsty hooligans but that's just the way it is.

Sweet Frog. Yep, a trip to the yogurt shop. This is also an activity that we do with friends although they don't mark the 12 days as we do. But frozen yogurt with our family is as much a tradition for them as it is for us. We've got some hilarious stories to come out of this yearly adventure and the telling of them is all part of the process.

Gingerbread house contest.  We do this with several other families and is a sweet messy day and also usually involves a meal. This year there are so many of us participating that we've moved it to the church. Each family brings supplies and we put everything out for people to use. And snack on. We've loved how these days have sprung up and it adds so much to the sense of community we share.

Favorite things basket. I get a large basket and buy all the fun stuff that I always or nearly always say no to. Giant jars of nutella and or Biscoff cookie spread. Lemon curd. Yoohoo drinks. Pop Tarts. V8 Fusion. Certain cereals. Particular chips or snacks. All the things that either don't fit our everyday grocery budget or are so awfully bad for you that I can't do it on a regular basis. No off brands either, the real deal name brand. Something everyone will enjoy but some things are put in because of a specific child. Like the lemon curd. Anyone can enjoy some but it is in there because Claire loves it.

Giving Days. This is hands down my favorite part of the 12 days. We didn't start with these days but once we added them I wish we had come up with idea sooner. Each child has a giving day assigned to them. On that day they don't receive any gifts but give the gifts to their siblings. (As our oldest daughter became an adult she added her father and me in to her giving day which is really special.) The giver also gets to choose a menu and do the cooking for that meal.  

Christmas stockings. This is the last gift given on the last day every year. It's a fun way to wrap up the whole thing.

For those who are are a little intimidated by what seems to be such a large undertaking let's break things down a bit.

There are 12 days. The first day (Christmas morning) they each get a gift. Usually that one thing that they've been asking for. 

Subtracting the five giving days from the remaining eleven days brings us to only six more days.

Take away five days for each of the days mentioned above and there is only one more day to buy an individual gift for each of the kids.

Ideas for individual gift days have been random choices suited to whatever each child is interested in.  We've also chosen to do themed days...shoe, game, music, etc.

You can choose to do a service project as a family, visit a nursing home, have a baking day and then deliver the goodies to the local fire or police department. Have a craft day.

One idea that I literally thought of this morning and will implement next year is a gift card day. Through the year I plan to randomly buy $10 gift cards to places that strike my fancy and suit my kiddos likes. That way I can give them a variety of cards and the cost is spread out over time thus protecting my budget and relationship with my beloved.

I'm sure that you probably have ideas all your own that I have never even thought of. I'd love to hear them and also if you have any questions feel free to ask!

PS Someone mentioned it might be helpful to see how we lay it out. So here is look at how I write things out.

Day 1    Christmas Day (one gift from us all the stuff from grandparents)
Day 2    Hockey Game Night
Day 3    Giving Day for one child
Day 4    Gingerbread House Contest
Day 5    Favorite Things Basket
Day 6    Giving Day
Day 7    Individual Gifts
Day 8    Giving Day
Day 9    Sweet Frog
Day 10  Giving Day
Day 11  Giving Day
Day 12  Stockings

Normally, I try not to do back to back giving days but with the date of our hockey game it couldn't be helped. And the only reason I try to not do it is strictly for the sake of variety. They don't mind either way.

PPS Another question that came up...our children are ages 22, 17, 16, 15, and 11. We've been doing the 12 Days for the last five or so years.


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