The best thing about this Christmas season so far has been our success at surprising the kids.

And having them all home without homework needing to be done or places to go.

The fourth day of Christmas was book day and each one was met with much happiness.

Claire really loved a series that her teacher started reading to her class last year. I think I want to read them too.


Each year we try to get Emily some kind of sheet music. Last year I think it was music inspired by Pride and Prejudice. This year it's music from the Harry Potter movie series.


Abigail also received a piano book this year as a way of us telling her that she will begin lessons next Wednesday. She is so excited and I think she will do well with our friend who will be teaching her. We got Sam a really big book about tips and tricks for building Lego's. He's a little skeptical since he prefers going "off book" as he puts it, when he is creating. But it must have some interesting and helpful information because I keep seeing him looking through it and studying it.

Sarah had actually mentioned her book to me a while back and was thrilled to get a copy. If you know her at all you know she is a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn so this book was perfect for her. Written by her children, it's a cross between a cook book and a biography.


Sarah made the from scratch chocolate cake recipe for us last night. It was tasty and she learned that there is a significant difference between baking chocolate and a candy bar.


She was pretty excited when it flipped out beautifully. We were also pretty happy when we realized the recipe doesn't call for flour so Sam could enjoy it with us.


She topped it with homemade whipped topping and it was delicious.


And such was our fourth day of Christmas.


For our family the Christmas season is just getting started. We'll celebrate for a full twelve days, until Epiphany, with small gifts or special activities. We have two families that also mark the season the same way and it's always fun to plan stuff together.

This year we did a gingerbread house decorating contest and oh, my the sugar and creativity flowed freely!

Some of us made our ginger bread from scratch and some of us (me!) used the store bought kits. But we all had to have some gingerbread people to complete our cookie scene.





Fruit roll ups make for excellent roofing trim!



The ginger bread train was loaded with gumdrops and other candies!





The final houses...
It was a fun afternoon with dear friends and a possible new tradition for our annual celebration.





The first day of Christmas break means sleeping in and enjoying a cup of coffee while checking out instagram. The girls use my account almost as much as I do so we have #momsinstagram so people know when it's a teenage girl posting and not a forty something mama...I find these distinctions are important to my dignity ;-)


Else you all might think I wear mismatched socks on a regular basis.


However, I would gladly claim this fun and sweet picture she took of her sisters but then I'd be telling stories and that would be no good.


It was a rainy but good quiet day around our house. I think everyone is just happy to be home.


Annnnnnnnnd the three is up!

Not very big but it's cute. And the best part is that finally, after several years of longing for a genuine real life popcorn and cranberry garland, we successfully made one this afternoon. After asking around and getting a few pointers from a friend we managed to avoid some mistakes and string up some homemade old fashioned pretty for the tree.

popcorn_cranberry_garland_tree_Christmas

Sam was busy making his New Year's Eve play list (DJ Hadding is in the house, Mom) so the girls sat at the table and did the work.



I way over made popcorn yesterday so if you have need for some stale popcorn let me know. (Photo Cred ~ Abby)


The upcoming week is supposed to be warm and wet but with the tree decorated I wouldn't be surprised to find the a/c turned down and the sparkle lights turned on.


Finally!

It's been rainy and muggy and just all around gross weather wise here lately but tonight it is cold enough to enjoy our first fire of the season.


Not going to concern myself with the fact that Christmas day is going to be up in the 70's. Nope, not at all...I'm going to enjoy this fire and pretend that Christmas will be the same :-)


I've been on pinterest for several years now. I have accumulated over seven thousand pins and made over one hundred boards. Obviously I haven't cooked every recipe or done every diy project that I've saved but I enjoy having it all organized and in one place. And sometimes I do cook a recipe or try a project and when it's a success I do a little happy dance.



Tonight I was waltzing around the kitchen because the Christmas gifts for my kiddos teachers turned out so stinkin' cute. I was sad to be finished making them because they were just so pretty and smelled so good that I wanted to keep making them.

Little cute jars and easy assembly and hopefully a gift idea that the teachers will all enjoy...it was a total win. The funny thing is that one of my more popular blog posts is a quickie version that I made and blogged a couple of years ago. I just never thought to bottle it up and gift it.

I  mashed this pin with this pin and came up with our version of the potpourri. The bagged one was really cute but I have a thing about glass jars and putting stuff in them and I love how they turned out.
(My printer is running low on ink so the only thing I didn't like was how the tags printed...more pink and blue than red and green.)


With the mix of mulling spices, lemon and orange and that touch of rosemary I am not kidding when I tell you it smelled marvelous in my house when these were done. I even had stuff left over and will be simmering a pot on my stove tomorrow.



The joy of a mama and her boy.

The older I get the lower my tolerance for the sappy and the maudlin. Consequently I got over "I Can Only Imagine" well before the radio stations did. "The Christmas Shoes" song made me gag after I heard it two or three times and "Mary Did You Know" has been ruined for me with it's commercial success.

But, while I may refuse to listen to it on the radio, I can ponder the message of that song.

And I wonder and marvel at the joy and love that was between that mother and her son.





It happens sometimes. I know I need a picture for the day and I end up with many pictures hoping to get one that I really like. Sometimes it is hard to choose and other times, like today, I like a few but one really stands out. The funny thing is that I cannot explain why one appeals to me more than another. And sometimes the one I like is the one that causes someone (Claire, my nine year old) to say, "You're going to keep that one?"

Yep, I'm keeping this one :-)



One of my most viewed and pinned recipes calls for poppy seeds. Those tiny little things are kind of pricey so I usually only have them on hand when I am making the sliders but this time I got a pretty good deal on a nice size jar so who knows...maybe I'll look up some recipes that call for them and experiment.


You can find the recipe I use the the poppy seeds in here. And you should make a pan for your next holiday party or gathering. They're really tasty!


Last year's gift that keeps on giving.

My kids love sipping on coffee, tea, or hot cocoa and they love having fun or interesting and pretty mugs to do it with. Unfortunately, I have had to put the kabash on the giving of mugs around here because I simply do.not.have.room for anymore. The really unfortunate thing is that I love mugs too and find myself the biggest culprit in buying them.



It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here, y'all.

Finally.

Normally I am right on top of things and get going on the first of December but it sort of sneaked up on me this year.

Yesterday, my beloved got everything down out of the attic and this afternoon I started pulling it out and figuring out what I want to use and where. Usually, I decorate the mantle with fresh cuttings and candles but I always feel so bad for Sarah. As pretty as it may be her allergies just can't take it and this year I decided not to make her suffer through it.

Turns out twinkle lights and sheer fabric are rather pretty too ;-)

Our advent wreath has been out of course and for some reason tonight it really captured Tom's attention.


Mind you, last year he singed off half of his whiskers being so curious but he doesn't seem to remember.


Not sure if curiosity will kill this cat but we've learned not to leave any burning candles around him.


There is an excitement that comes from getting the decorations out and up. It opens a door of anticipation as we eagerly await Christmas morning.

But it's not for the presents or the time with family only that we long for. It's the day we joyfully celebrate the birth of a King in a feeding trough. It is because of the Light of the world stepped into time and space that we can truly and freely enjoy the presents and family and friends.

This is the week of peace in Advent and I was reminded of these wise words shared by a friend several years ago, "Advent is not about getting your heart all righteous and ready with peacefulness and quiet so that you can have four weeks of heightened worship and a spiritual experience. It is the work of longing and groaning, of fighting for hope in a dark world, of choosing faith when you are discouraged, and rejoicing in hope because all is not lost." (Christine Keegan)

All is not lost and as every Christmas decoration is put out and every candle lit or twinkle light is turned on we grow in our anticipation of lauding the day of His birth.


Please visit some friends of mine who are joining in this month's Circle of Faith...you'll be glad you did.

Julie     Connie   Patricia


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