re: shrimp bisque soup

aaron: make sure you're eating your soup.  it's cooled off now.

emma: [takes a little taste in her mouth]   mmmm!

me: do you like it?

emma: [nods head dramatically]

[short silence as we all eat more soup]

emma: mmmmmm.  sooooooo healphy.  i can't believe my eyes!

i can't believe my eyes???  where does the kid come up with this stuff?


top ten tuesday

to re-cap the end of 2009...

top ten fave blog posts of the year (no particular order):

1. to fathers of little girls

2. stewardship::remaining faithful through the tough times

3. wordless wednesday::the best thing on a hot day,

4. you know your pregnant when...

5. gibson...is there a gibson marshall in the house...

6. 16 days

7. BFF

8. a million words or less...

9. stewardship::they're not really mine

10. the dreaded picture day

many thanks to our readers, old and new. thank you for all your comment love through out the years, and for sharing in all of our adventures.

happy new year!


christmas day

much like last year, our christmas day was a quiet one spent at home.  it was a welcome respite from the long work week and busy couple of days leading up to christmas.

after singing happy birthday to jesus, we dug into our stockings and opened our presents with christmas tunes playing in the background and the scent of freshly cooked cinnamon rolls filling our noses.


we spent the rest of the day enjoying some of our new gifts, snacking on leftover outback steakhouse (our christmas eve tradition), letting the dishes pile up in the sink and doing absolutely nothing.

thanks to all our family for your generous gifts!

christmas tradition: gifts and stockings

this year we felt convicted to make a change with the way we approach christmas gift giving with our children.  with the christmas holiday highly commercialized in our country (i recall the cvs by our house began selling christmas items in october...gah!), the true meaning of christmas seems to get lost in between all the presents, fancy name-brand items, and the amount of money and stuff advertisements say you have to spend on people to ensure they have the BEST christmas ever.

so this year was it.  enough procrastinating.  enough feeling guilty that our presents may not be "good" enough to give to other people.  enough feeling bad that we didn't get everyone enough stuff (even if it meant racking up more debt).  in reality, the people that truly love us will know that we love them no matter how big or small a gift we give them for christmas (contrary to what marketers will have you believe).  they aren't going to love us any less (i hope!) if our gift is comprised of hugs and kisses or a store bought item.

so our new gift tradition is three-fold.  first, each child receives only 3 gifts (with the exception of our annual pair of winter socks tradition).  one is always something he/she needs and the other 2 are either items they want, wear, read, eat, a handmade item, what have you.  why 3?  the amount symbolizes the amount of gifts Jesus received from the 3 wise men after his birth, and helps bring the whole gift-opening process back to Christ.

second, as a family we purchased a gift to donate as a way to share God's love with others and help us to re-focus on what truly matters.  this year we purchased 3 ducks through world vision, though there are many other  worthwhile local, national and international organizations out there.

third, we have decided to bring back santa claus into our house (when ty discovered the "truth" we stopped the santa tradition).  however, this time around santa is not the bearer of the "ultimate" gift(s).  he is not the guy who brings you the stuff you want on your list, per se.  he leaves behind a little something for the kids to open, but nothing extravagant (emma got a small, wooden puzzle and ty received a metal slinky and batteries) so that he doesn't detract from the purpose of the whole christmas celebration.

and now to our stockings...

our stockings are handmade and personalized by aaron's mom.

when i joined the family i received a stocking of my own, and with each new grand-baby comes a new stocking.  "upgrades" are taken into consideration if you feel your stocking is no longer a valid representation of yourself (e.g ty and aaron).

we also receive an orange in each of our stockings ever year.  this is a tradition passed down from my husband's side of the family.  long ago (i don't know how long), oranges being sold in this area during the winter were very expensive.  so you wait until they're in season.  an orange found in your stocking back in the day was a real treat, because enjoying a fresh orange was a rare occasion during the winter months.



christmas tradition: christmas cards

one of the joys during the holiday season is that people utilize the snail mail system a lot more so than any other year.  and one of the things we look forward to is receiving christmas cards from our friends and family near and far.

now, i know this kind of goes against the "green" concept, but there's just something nostalgic about receiving cards and letters in the mail.  granted, we did cut back our list of people to receive actual cards this year, and will be sending e-cards to those we did not send tangible greeting cards to.

since we've been married, each christmas season we put up all the christmas cards we receive around an open doorway.  when it was just tyler, he used to help me put them up, and now it's emma's turn to help.  the cards are a great opportunity for the kids to learn about family members or mommy and daddy's friends who they don't see on a daily basis.  there are cousins, aunts and uncles from my side of the family that the kids have never met because everyone is spread out across the country (well, the world for that matter), and getting everyone together in one place at the same time is a nearly impossible feat. and so the photo cards have been a hit because the kids are able to connect faces with names (alternatively, we also find pictures from the computer).

aside from the christmas tree and the stockings there aren't any other christmas decorations up in our house, so the christmas cards around our doorway is a fun way to add to the christmas ambience.  thanks to everyone who sent us a christmas greeting by mail!  we appreciate it.

[and to those who didn't, we won't hold it against you :p ].


wordless wednesday::got bacon?

a 15 pound box out of a 1,350 pound palette.  it's been 2 days since we cooked the 15 pounds and the bacon aroma still lingers (at this point i don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing).

more wordless wednesday here and here .

top ten tuesday

okay.  i know it's wednesday.  between a sick little girl and finishing up some handmade gifts top ten tuesday had to be put on hold.

so here is this week's list from one of our favorite christmas movies.

top ten favorite quotes from the movie "elf" (in no particular order):

1. "you sit on a throne of lies!"

2. "i'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins."

3. "you did it!  congratulations!  world's best cup of coffee! great job, everybody!"

4. "buddy the elf.  what's your favorite color?"

5. "the best way to spread christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear."

6. [re: singing] "it's just like talking, except longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down.

7. he's an angry elf."

8. "this is the north pole."  "no it isn't."  "yes it is."  "no it isn't." "yes it is!" "no it isn't, where's the snow?"

9. "if you see a sign that says 'peep show' it doesn't mean that they're letting you look at the new toys before christmas."

10. "does somebody need a hug?"

do you have some favorites from this movie or from another christmas movie?


dad-son dude night

just like emma had her special christmas date with dad, saturday was tyler's turn (though we don't call it a christmas date).

individual daddy time is so important for the kids, it doesn't matter how old they get.  of course with ty, he doesn't go out on a date with aaron or anything, but they do spend time building stuff or having jam sessions in the basement.  guy time is a great way to communicate and connect with each other without feeling pressured to talk (if that makes any sense at all).

so, for their special christmas DUDE night the two of them went tobogganing.  a perfect winter activity to do together!  toboganning is offered through the cleveland metroparks and for $8 dollars you can tobogan to your hearts content.  they both had a blast going down the 70 foot drop and came home grinning from ear to ear.

check out the promo video to get an idea of what they did...

and of course, it wouldn't be a dude night without some minor injuries.  some scraped knuckles and a little blood made the whole night complete.


christmas tradition: jesse tree

our jesse tree is the first new christmas tradition out of three that we have started this year (i'll cover the other two another time).

i originally had planned on starting a jesse tree two years ago after coming across shannon's post about her jesse tree, but for some reason never got around to it.  well, i know the reason...i wanted to make my own ornaments and by the time i got it together christmas was literally around the corner.

if you are not familiar with the jesse tree, it is an advent calendar of sorts but includes daily scripture reading beginning from creation all the way to the birth of Jesus.  the purpose of the jesse tree is to bring the focus on the true meaning of christmas, why we celebrate it, and to show how all the old testament prophecies point to the coming of Jesus.

we used the daily scripture and devotionals from here, though there are many other resources you can use (or augment or make your own devotionals to suit the unique needs of your family).  simple mom provides you with a simple explanation and how-to along with links to other jesse tree resources.

the majority of our ornaments are based on the pictures from the devotionals site and most are made from felt.  most turned out great, though there are some that i'll re-make again for next year.  our tree is simply a twig with lots of branches (for ornament hanging) placed in a big mug with brown paper to hold it up.  i like the understated simplicity of the twig and how well it displays the ornaments.

we all have learned a lot during our special jesse tree time.  you can often hear emma eagerly ask what we'll be learning today for our jesse tree, and it makes me smile to see such eagerness!  with tyler, we have had some great discussions following the scripture reading, and he has surprised us on a few occassions with some of his responses.

 one of the best things about this new tradition is the meaningful time we are able to spend together as a family.  we are so glad we can incorporate this new tradition into our christmas celebration!


homemade baby food: squash and sweet potatoes

since peas are a no go for our little chunk, we moved on to a couple of other veggie foods that are not in the legume family.

sweet potatoes are easy to prepare for babies and are done much like you would when making mashed potatoes (except no milk, butter or seasonings).  after rinsing and peeling the skin, chop the sweet potatoes and place them in a pan with just enough water to cook the potatoes.  once the potatoes are tender you can mash them up with a masher or probably even stick it in a food processor/blender to make it even more smooth.  if you filled the water just right, you won't have to drain any excess.

 squash was also fairly simple to prepare.  after washing the outside, slice in half and empty out seeds.  place them cut side down in a baking pan filled with water about 1/2 inch high and bake in oven (or microwave) until tender.  once cooled, just scoop out the meat with a spoon.  no need to at any water additional water.  it should be soft enough for baby to eat (gibson didn't have any problem with the consistency).  if you want to make it extra smooth, just stick in the food processor/blender for a bit.

 i used the freezer cube method like the apples and pears, to store both the sweet potatoes and squash.  since gibson eats a bit more at each meal now, we usually use 2-3 food cubes as 1 serving.  i also mix up the types of food he eats during a meal (as long as their foods that he's tried already).  one favorite was a mixture of applesauce and squash.  i don't think i would eat it, but i can see how it might taste good.


featured on great lakes green pages

my etsy shop was recently feautured on the great lakes design collaborative's blog as part of a series on buying local/eco-friendly products for christmas.

this blog is maintained by some good friends of ours.  check out some of their other blog posts on other local companies, supporting local businesses, green ideas, and cool happenings in the 216.


wordless wednesday::cookie day

an all day baking and decorating affair resulting in lots and lots and lots of cookies (previous cookie days here, here, here and here)...

next year we are going out for fondue.

more wordless wednesday here and here.


top ten tuesday

we love games (i especially love board games...scrabble anyone?) because of its inherent bonding nature.  nothing brings families and friends closer together than a good, old-fashioned game (although monopoly is questionable...especially when you have a husband who likes to bend the rules a bit to win the game even at his own wife's expense).

so in honor of the super-fun game night party we had last saturday, this week's list is a compilation of our favorite games.  and when we say games, we're talkin' old school.  no guitar hero, mario kart, wii, psp, and such.

 our top 10 favorite games to share with family and friends (laughter guaranteed with each play):

1. apples to apples

2. pigmania (are you surprised that this one is on our top 10?)

3. uno

4. rummy

5. topple

6. twister (make sure you're dressed appropriately for this one. and please refrain from eating any beans if you still want to keep your friends).

7. yahtzee

8. monopoly

9. cranium (we don't own this but it's a fun one to play)

10. clue (a childhood favorite of mine)

 what old school games are in your home?


daddy-daughter date

this morning, my husband and emma are off on special breakfast date.  they try to do a daddy-daugther time once a week, but it's usually a stop at a coffee shop for a little snack, or (in the summer) slurpees at the 7-11.

but this morning date is special.  emma even got a note inviting her to the special occassion (good thing she colored in the "yes" box).

daddy put on a tie, and dressed to impress.  we bought special tights for emma to match her kilt, and i braided her hair because dad likes it that way.  and no one else gets to go to breakfast.  just the two of them.

okay, i'm getting a little choked up here just thinking about the significance of having these special daddy-daughter dates.  

these daddy-daughter dates play such an important role in a girl's life, because dad is the primary male role model she will always look and compare to.  when men come calling (i hope not for a LONG time...maybe when she's 30), emma will know exactly how she should be treated because of the way her daddy treated her. 

it is such a beautiful thing.


kitchen gift guide at smitten kitchen

i love this food blog.  i love drooling over all the food she makes in her kitchen.  if a computer had a scent feature, i bet all the food would smell divine!

i've tried a number of the recipes here, from the sweet potato wedges (we've served it for the past 2 thanksgivings) to the sandwich bread.  there are recipes on here to suit all palletes.

the most recent post is an excelletn kitchen gift guide of the 10 most practical kitchen items (you know how i love my lists!) for the budding chefs in your life: build your own smitten kitchen - a practical gift guide.


christmas tradition: decorating our tree

we haven't always had an artificial tree.  for the longest time, we insisted on having a real tree.  you really can't beat that fresh scent of pine filling your home.

i dreamed of having this yearly tradition of going out to a christmas tree farm, all bundled up with the kids, and picking out the perfect tree for us.  it worked with 1 child.  but with number 2 and number 3, driving 30-60 minutes just to get to the tree farm, nursing in the biting cold...well, it didn't sound like so much fun.  plus there are all those prickly needles that poke at little (and big) feet.  no thanks.

so we have embraced the wonderfulness of a fake christmas tree.  and what is more fake than a white tree?  (well, actually, a vintage, aluminum tree would be pretty sweet too).

anyway, decorating our tree is one of our family traditions.  as we bring up the tree, ornaments and decorations, we put on some of our favorite christmas tunes to accompany us during our tree trimming affair. 

this occassion is one we make sure no one misses (not even the dog).

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