Monday, December 27, 2010

Make it Happen Monday

Ammie at Domestically Obsessed, is taking the week off to spend with her family so I won't be linking up my to-do list this week.  I have lots to prepare for though so I need to make a list anyway!

  • buy primer for our basement (woooo the drywall is finally done!)
  • vacuum....twice.
  • wipe the drywall dust off of EVERYTHING IN MY HOUSE
  • arrange the furniture to make an inviting second guest room out of our junk room ..eek.
  • revamp menu-plan and grocery list to adapt to sister-in-law's candida diet
  • clean up laundry area/storage room
  • get  groceries for our New Years Christmas with my family
  • chop kindling...and then clean the carport...again.
  • make the pillow covers that have been on my to-do list for the last month! They will be the perfect finishing touch for our guest room.
 If you haven't already seen it, I'd like to suggest a new movie for your Christmas traditions.  The Nativity Story is a movie about exactly that. It's not a story about the life of Jesus, just the events leading up to His birth and the exodus to Egypt to escape Herod. If you're a sceptic of "religious" movies (and you have a right to be) this is not your typical low-budget, bad acting movie.  It brings to life the story that we so easily glaze over year after year. How many times have I watched the kids Christmas rendition play through my mind as I listened to the story? Not once have I really stopped to fully grasp the scorn that Mary and Joseph endured from their friends and neighbours. It brought me to tears.  This story is not a "story".  It's not about little children dressed in sheets, fumbling through script lines. It's about a girl. Not a grown women. A girl with more faith than any of us will ever have. A girl who could have been stoned to death and yet chose to believe in her Lord and Saviour. It's about a man who was put in the most painful situation - expose his fiancee and watch her be stoned, quietly anull the engagement to the woman he loves OR trust in his Lord and take her as his wife anyway. How many of us could show so much integrity and faith if faced with the same circumstances? I don't know if I could. I guess that's why He chose Mary and Joseph. Not Tim and Camille.

Watch it and remember the amazing events leading up to the birth of our King - a baby. Remember that it's not a story.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Keep Your Christmas Tree Watered While You're Away

Ok folks, one last post before we head to the in-laws for a week. 

We almost always go away for Christmas but I just can't stand the thought of not having a Christmas tree to enjoy.  This year we're gone for a little bit longer than usual AND my family will be coming for New Years so I want my tree to last extra long.  Wanna keep that yummy pine scent around as long as possible!

I did some searching and I came across this great instructable on making a watering system for your Christmas tree. Since ya'll can head to the site and read for yourself I thought I'd just touch on the important points.

I didn't bother disguising it as a Christmas present since we aren't going to be around, but what a clever idea!  I found some old hose downstairs with two regular female hose-ends and used an old 5 gallon pail we had kickin around.

FIRST KEY POINT:  Measure how deep the resevoir of your tree stand is (if you have one). I just grabbed an old measuring tape.  DO NOT FILL YOUR PAIL DEEPER THAN THIS HEIGHT. You will end up with a soggy mess when you get home.  There is physics involved....but that's not a strong subject for me. Make sure you have water already in the tree stand resevoir.

SECOND: Submerge your hose COMPLETELY in your pail of water. Jimmy it around a bit until air bubbles stop coming up. There can't be any air left in the hose for the siphon to work.

THIRD: Jam your fingers into either end of the hose creating a tight seal while it's still under water. Keep one end in the pail and move the other end to the resevoir of the tree stand. DO NOT REMOVE YOUR FINGER UNTIL THE END IS COMPLETELY SUBMERGED.  This was pretty tricky since there wasn't much room to manoever.

To test your siphon, grab a big glass of water and add it to your bucket.  You should be able to see the water level rise in the stand resevoir.  If nothing changes, take the hose out and try again. Try, try again.  It took me four tries, but the big ends on my hose made it really difficult to create a tight seal with my finger.

I thought this was pretty snazzy! Three cheers for a nice green Christmas tree when we come home!

handmade projects
The Boardwalk Bragfest

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christmas holidays

Well folks, it's gonna get a little slow around here for the next couple weeks.  I had some posts planned around projects I want to do - except now we're a week before Christmas and I have no idea when I'm going to get those projects done.  They'll just have to wait for the New Year.  Until then, my posts will be few and far between as we spend time with friends and family.

The thought I wanted to share today is a follow up to my revelation on Tuesday.  I think it's safe to say that for the majority of women out there, Christmas is a time of high stress levels, anxiety and the like. I am right there with you.  It seems like all year I look forward to spending time with family, but when the time actually comes for us to visit (or them to come here)  I am tired, stressed out and worrying about how things look and who will start the arguement this year.  How easy it is to forget about the real reason for Christmas.

I've just started a book study called Experiencing God.  It is challenging how I believe God speaks to me and how I discern His will for my life.  It has only been a week and I have a feeling this is going to change my life.

Anyway, I've been realizing that when I worry about things and allow them to consume me, I am essentially saying that I don't trust God. I am saying that God is not big enough to handle my problems, His strength is not enough for me.  How horrified I was! You have no idea how many minutes/hours/days I spend stressing about this and that - stupid little things that mean nothing in the long run.

In the same breath, how many times have I worried about God using me for his work? How many times have I answered back, "No Lord, choose someone else.  I'm not good enough. I don't speak well enough.  Why would they listen to me?"

I read a profound statement this morning:

When you believe nothing significant can happen through you, you have said more about your belief in God than you have declared about yourself.


God cares for us.  He longs to be in the closest most intimate relationship with each one of us. Don't let your doubts and pride get in the way!  He longs to use you in ways that you can never imagine. 

So in this Christmas season, I challenge you to spend it one day at a time. Take a deep breath and remember that God carries you in the palm of his hand.  He will make sure that tomorrow takes care of itself, if only you let go.  Chances are, if you're worried about things being perfect, you've forgotten the true meaning of Christmas after all.  And in the midst of the chaos, don't forget to spend time with Him and ask Him to join you in the celebration!

I wish you a very blessed and merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Week's To-Do list

NEW TODO small button

I got a pretty obvious message from God in my morning devotions in the form of Matthew 6:33-34. It goes something like this:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Heard. Understood. Acknowledged. Doesn't get much clearer than that! Isn't cool how He brings things into perspective when everything seems to be spiralling out of control? If I follow Jesus one day at a time, I will be right at the center of God's will every step of the way. Gotta get my priorities straightened out!

Alright, so last week wasn't a complete failure...but I certainly didn't get as much done as I was hoping. I don't know about you, but it seems the more I get stressed about the length of my to-do list...I get less and less done.  It's unreal. 

Last night I sat down and made a list, which unfortunately involves some things from last week but I've already managed to cross a bunch off this morning so I'm on a roll!  Here she is:

- finish meal plan for Christmas (on New Years) with my family
    ***waiting to hear back from my brother how long they will be staying 'til I can finish this one**

- clean the fireplace brick - this is really not necessary but it's on my list anyway

- clean toothbrush was gross...and I just know a certain someone who would notice

- vacuum crumbs from cutlery tray...also gross

- wipe out fridge

- wrap presents...this is possibly the EARLIEST I have ever crossed this off my list!

- make guest bed

- mop kitchen - waiting for hubby to wake up so I can vacuum it first

- cut kindling and clean up carport (I'm secretly hoping hubby will see this on my list and do it for me :) Here's hoping!

If all these things get done then I'm hoping to start on some fancy pillow covers for my guest room and living room.  I was hoping to have these done eons ago but I have come to terms with the fact that this REALLY isn't a priority.

EDIT: Look at all the black lines up there! I am so proud of myself - I got so much done today. I might need to make a whole new list to start tomorrow!
What's on your list this week?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Baking - Peppermint Ammonia Cookies

Don't let the "ammonia" scare you away!  Back in the day, baking ammonia - otherwise known as ammonium carbonate - was used as a leavening agent, similar to baking powder. Unfortunately it's really hard to come by these days -unless you live in Abbotsford, BC!  So many Mennonite ladies have asked for this ingredient that Safeway has actually started carrying it behind their pharmacy counter! ....but only in Abbotsford.  I searched Kamloops high and low for this treasure and came up empty handed.  I had hoped to make these cookies for a baking exchange tomorrow and I didn't have time to import it from the coast!  Lucky for me, the good ladies at Mennonite Girls Can Cook found a recipe that's close enough to the real thing so this recipe will have to do for now - 'til my Mom can bring me some baking ammonia next time she comes.  Grandma's recipe also calls for Oil of Peppermint but she said regular ol' peppermint extract would be fine.  I didn't bother looking for the real stuff.

This is my Grandma's recipe for those who are adventurous and are willing to track down the ingredients.  For those who want to take the easy route this is the Peppermint cookie recipe I used - sans ammonia.

EDIT: Unfortunately these cookies aren't anything like the peppermint cookies my Grandma makes. I wrote this post before I tried the recipe. The baking ammonia really does make a difference in texture and taste.  These are much more "cakey" - if that's a word.  They're still good so please do try the recipe...just not what I was hoping!

Peppermint Ammonia Cookies

1/2 cup          butter
1 1/2 cups      white sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 tsp        baking powder
4 1/2 cups      flour
1 cup             whipping cream
1 tsp             oil of peppermint
1 1/2 Tbsp    baking ammonia
1/4 cup          boiling water

Dissolve baking ammonia in the boiling water.  Cream the butter and sugar together thoroughly, adding eggs.  Add peppermint oil.  Mix baking powder with 2 cups flour and gradually add to creamed mixture alternating with the whipping cream. Add the additional 2 1/2 cups flour.  Mix well.  Chill dough an hour or two.  Sprinkle countertop liberally with flour and roll out to about 1/4 inch.  Use a small round cookie cutter to make circles (an empty tomato paste tin is a good size).  Bake at 375F for 8-9 minutes or until the bottoms are JUST really really really don't want to overcook these!

Photo courtesy of Mennonite Girls Can Cook

Monday, December 6, 2010

Make It Happen Monday (night)

Oki doki - Christmas is just around the corner, can you believe it? I'm way past that though. I'm already stressing about New Years.

Wanna know why?

My family is coming.


Last time that happened was a year and a half ago.....and it didn't end well. Enough said.

My list of things to do this week involves starting to get ready for them to come. Basically, cleaning, cleaning and MORE CLEANING.  My house is never clean enough for my mom.

Ok now that I've got that off my chest I can get on with my list!

  • wash guest room bedding and make the bed (somehow this part never gets done)
  •  buy a million drapes and decide on a set for said guest room
  •  finish sewing decorative pillow covers for said guest room ( hoping to do a post on this project!)
  • mop the kitchen
  • make 8 dozen cookies for the baking swap next Monday - that number is daunting...I may need to enlist the hubby
  • work on my harmony part for the kids Christmas production (I'm part of the adult choir)
  •  hopefully make a batch of biscotti to wrap up as Christmas gifts for the families of my piano students
EDIT: Well, I've gotten so much done this week....but hardly any of it was on my list!  The bedding is washed...the bed is not made though and I'm hoping to tackle the middle three today.  My baking swap will have to wait 'til tomorrow!

Yikes, somehow I feel like I've bitten off more than I can chew.  Some of the cleaning can wait but we're leaving for Christmas with my hubby's family on the 22nd so my time is starting to run short! And we don't even have our Christmas tree up!

What's on your list this week?

Frugal Coffee Tip

First off I just wanna say I was featured on Making Monday's Marvelous Day at C.R.A.F.T!!!  Woo wooooooo Check out the awesome buttony bling I got on my side bar now! My Rustic Christmas String Art project was cheap enough to catch Jamie's eye! Can't go wrong with some partical board, mismatched nails and some leftover twine. Thanks so much Jamie!!!

On to my tip of the day.

For all you serious coffee junkies like me - I'm talking to the junkies not the connoisseurs here.  If you're REALLY REALLY picky about how your coffee tastes...go ahead and move on 'cause this is probably not for you. 

This is for all you ultra cheap, Mennonite-(or Dutch) - esque lady's out there.  You know, the one's who reuse tin foil and zip loc baggies? That's me!

Next time you make coffee, leave your old filter and grounds in (GASP) and add half the amount of new coffee.  For example I make six cups of coffee usually, so yesterday I added another three scoops to the six that were in there from the day before!  And it works! If anything it was a little stronger than I usually like it.  This morning I added another two scoops two the....nine old ones...hehe.  This time it was verging on weak BUT I betcha it would've been good had I added THREE instead of two! Gah I'm so cheap I can't help but think of how my can of coffee will go so much further now..woooo hoooo!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Christmas Baking - Peppernuts!

The real Mennonite name for these tasty morsels is pfefferneuse but Gramma always called them peppernuts.  I should start a Mennonite cooking series or something!  These little bite-sized cookies are mostly savory but a little bit sweet.  They're a nice change from all the sweet cookies!

Anywho, since we're not spending Christmas with my extended family this year :( I thought I might try some of the holiday baking that my Gramma ALWAYS has made for us when we come!

I found a few recipes that had some really strange old-world ingredients so I thought I'd call Gramma for her special recipe.  This is the real deal peeps!

Old Fashioned Peppernuts (Pfefferneuse)

1/2 cup    butter                        
 3/4 cup    white sugar                
3/4 cup    brown sugar              
1 Tbsp    honey                        
 1 Tbsp    molasses                         
1 egg                                         
1/2 tsp    vanilla
4 cups     flour (divided)
1/2 tsp    cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp all-spice
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp   star anise (not the same as anise seed ...but can be substituted if necessary)
1/2 tsp  cinnamon

1/2 cup sweet cream

 Cream butter and sugars.  Add honey, molasses, egg and vanilla.  Beat well.  Mix all spices with 2 cups flour.  Add this to the butter/sugar mixture alternating with sweet cream.  Mix well as you go.

Refridgerate several hours.

After refridgerating,  take a big handful of dough.  Work it with your hands to soften it up but not too soft!  Roll into a thin rope and slice into 1/2 inch pieces with a sharp knife.  Place pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes.

Before putting them away - preferably while still warm, throw them in an empty ice cream bucket and add 1/2 cup or so icing sugar.  Cover bucket and shake, shake, shake to coat the cookies!


PS: I linked this tasty recipe up to Donna's Saturday Night Special party at Funky Junk Interiors