Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I try to be realistic when I make my resolutions on New Year's Eve. Nothing too grandiose or unattainable, and usually just a goal or two. So when I came across Ali Edward's idea of picking a WORD for the New Year...I knew it was something that I wanted to do. Here's how Ali describes it:

"Can you identify a single word that sums up what you want for yourself in 2009?

It can be something tangible or intangible. It could be a thought or a feeling or an emotion. It can be singular or plural. The key is to find something that has personal meaning for you. This is not your mother's word or your spouse's word or your child's word - this is YOUR word."

So, my word for 2009 is simplify. I wish to simplify the way I think, the way I act, the way I serve, the way I work. I want to do my best, but not over complicate or overwhelm myself. As a classic Type-A personality, this may be challenging for a while. But I'm putting my word in all those places I see everyday, knowing that a little bit at a time, I can let go of the chaos and live my life more simply, and more fully.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Bin o' Josh

Look what I just found. I really had no idea that Josh belonged in the Fisher-Price bin, but it's just proof that we really just consider the little guy a toy at out house. I'll be more specific next time I ask the big kids to straighten up the basement.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Recap 2008

It has been a wonderfully full and fun couple of days for our we hope it was for yours as well. Here are a few of the highlights, beginning with Christmas Eve:

Tony and the kids finding their "ch'i" over our family's traditional Christmas Eve Chinese take-out dinner...

...enjoying our white chocolate Christmas bears we receive from my Grandma Cranney each year...

...setting out fudge and cookies (Sam decided that Santa wanted white chocolate macadamia nut cookies this year) for Santa and carrots for the reindeer after we read The Tale of Three Trees and the Nativity story in Luke 2...

We have received lots of counsel about simplifying our lives, our church service and our homes this past year, and we took this advice as well as the advice of Elder Oaks to heart. Since we will be seeing much of our family in January and Megs is in Utah this Christmas, it was just our family so we scaled WAY back on gifts for each other and the kids. At first, I was a little worried about how they would react, but they didn't even notice the difference. But Tony and I did. We spent more time resting, playing our new games and enjoying the kids than ever before. It also helped us keep Christ in Christmas this year.

Anna with her treasure box of new Barbie clothes....

...Sam and Tony reading about rain forests...

...and Josh demanding to wear a pair of his new socks from grandma OVER his footie pajamas. In between begging for us to unwrap a mini peanut butter cup for him, that is.

Then last night, Tony and I met up with our good friends Troy and Kristi at Mahoney state Park for dinner and a play. It was so fun to get to visit over dinner and dessert and we laughed ourselves silly at "Every Christmas Story Ever Told." It was such a fun evening.

It seems like the Christmas season went really quickly this quickly that I plan on leaving the tree up until the kids go back to school. Just because.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy (Bunny) Christmas!

My good friend Sarah and I became instant friends when she came to my house for the first time in Great Falls and saw a Happy Bunny sticker on my fridge that my sister had given me. We're crazy about Happy know the cute little bunny that says the really mean things that you wish you could but never would? Well, I got some giggles today at the commissary while wearing my Christmas Happy Bunny shirt.

Please enjoy your week and I'll catch everyone later with our Christmas highlights.

Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sing Along Christmas Story FHE

The amazing Cocoa over at Chocolate On My Cranium has a really great FHE outline for a family sing along telling the story of Christ's birth. Check it out here. It would be perfect for tonight!!

Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My Christmas Shoes

I break with the traditional Christmas posts to bring you the true (and in no way inspiring) story of my Christmas shoes. The day after Thanksgiving, my sister Megan and I spent all afternoon traveling the town looking for a pair of black work shoes for her to wear at her new job. With no luck. So after the kids were in bed, she had the brilliant idea of going out to DSW (which happens to be on the other side of town). I showed her about a million adorable and suitable black shoes and then got bored so I wandered around the sale racks in the back of the store. And I found the most adorable pair of orange and brown wool Steve Madden peep-toe pumps. In my size. But I was trying to be good, so I tore myself away and wandered next door to Archivers while Megan decided that she didn't see anything she liked. Whatever. But the story doesn't end there. After a couple of weeks and two separate dreams about those dang shoes, I drug Josh across town last week to see if DSW still had them. And amazingly, they did. So I brought them home with me. And I wore them to Tony's work Christmas party last night.

Who said you had to wear red and green to a Christmas party?

Not I.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Looking Like Christmas

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! The house is decorated with old favorites and new favorites...

...neighbor gifts are done and waiting to be given...

...Christmas cards are arriving from dear family and friends...

...and we woke up to a beautiful blanket of snow.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Homespun Nativity

One of the ways we try and remember our Savior during the busy Holiday season is by displaying Nativities in our home. We've collected several over the years and the kids have their Little People Nativity that they get to play with during the Christmas season. So when I saw an adorable handmade primitive style Nativity in The Country Sampler Magazine last year, I clipped the picture and filed it away for future inspiration. So when I came across it again this past weekend, I thought I'd use Josh's nap time to make one. I hope to do a couple sheep too, but they will have to wait for another day. This is how it turned out...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hand-Dipped Pretzels

Look what we've been up to today!

Tony was in need of some gifts for the families he visits for church so Anna and I spent some time this afternoon hand-dipping pretzels in chocolate! In addition, the white ones got a dusting of red sugar sprinkles and the chocolate ones got a dusting of green sugar sprinkles, courtesy of Miss Anna. I packaged them each separately with a coordinating ribbon and placed one of each into a red felt gift bag I scored in the $1 Spot at Target. I love the way they turned out.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Yumminess

I had the opportunity to host book group last week and so I used my friends as guinea pigs for some new treats! I also promised to share the recipes, and time seems to have gotten away from me a teeny bit, but here they are.

From the left, I made Jeni's Graham Cracker Brittle, Winter Crunch Bark, Chocolate Macaroon Bars, and my yummy Wassail kept warm in my STUNNING new birthday crock pot. (You know you're getting "old" when you ask for, and actually get, a crock pot for your birthday.) Here are the recipes:

Winter Crunch Bark (Pampered Chef)

1 pkg. (20 oz.) vanilla or chocolate flavored almond bark
3/4 cup walnuts
3/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
2 cups rice crispies

Line 9"x13" pan with wax paper, allowing extra to extend over edges of pan. Coarsely chop walnut. Place 1/2 of nuts, 1/2 of cranberries and all of rice crispies in a bowl and set aside. In another large bowl, melt almond bark in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds. When smooth, stir into walnut/cranberry/rice crispies mixture and mix well. Pour into prepared 9"x13" pan and immediately sprinkle remaining walnuts and cranberries on top and press into bark mixture. Allow to stand for 30-40 minutes or until set. Using the wax paper, pull bark out of pan and break into 2 inch pieces. **You can substitute cranberries and walnuts with 3/4 cup macadamia nuts and 1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, toasted lightly in the oven.)

Chocolate Macaroon Bars (Pampered Chef **the original recipe used a pizza stone...I used my bar pan instead.)

1 pkg. fudge brownie mix (plus ingredients to make brownies)
2 egg whites
1 pkg. (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg. (14 0z.) sweetened flaked coconut
1 pkg. (2.25 oz.) sliced almonds
2 Tbsp. (1 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare brownie mix according to package directions. Pour batter into bar pan. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until brownie is set. DO NOT OVERBAKE. Remove to cooling rack. In a bowl, combine egg whites, coconut, and sweetened condensed milk. Spread coconut mixture over top of brownie to within 1/4" of edges. Sprinkle with almonds. Return to oven and bake 20-25 minutes or until edges of coconut are deep golden brown. Remove to cooling rack. Place chocolate and oil in small microwaveable bowl and melt, stirring every 15 seconds. Drizzle chocolate over bars. Cut into bars.

Hot Wassail Mix

2 cups Tang
1 (3 oz.) pack presweetened lemonade koolaid
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Mix and store in an airtight container. Use 3/4 tsp. mix with 1 cup of apple juice for an individual serving or 6 Tbsp. for each 64 ounces of apple juice.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Dinosaur Tacos

It has been such a busy weekend full of Christmas packages, birthday parties, Christmas card pictures (thank you, Holly!) and family movies in the basement. And tonight, I finally have all our Christmas cards stuffed and ready to send out. So I just now snuck the girl out of bed, threw her in the car with me and we drove through Christmas-light lit downtown to drop them all in the mailbox at the local post office. On the way home, Anna, out of the blue, asked me...

Anna: "Mommy, do you know how a dinosaur makes a taco?"

I, of course, answered in the negative.

Anna: Well, the Tyrannosaurus takes a big taco shell, puts in a human, adds a little cheese and eats it. Easy!

I don't know about you, but I'd like mine with a side of guac.

**Holly took this picture of Anna this weekend in between family photo shoots.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Inspired Christmas Tags

I love to wrap gifts. With real wrapping paper and tying on real ribbon, curling ribbon, or twine and adding a handmade tag. Last year, I found this darling green stripe paper at Target on clearance and squirreled it away for this year's gifts. And just a few weeks ago, I saw this post over at Zakka Life Crafts and knew I could duplicate the idea for my Christmas gift tags this year. I loved this red retro fabric and am so glad now that I didn't throw away my scraps! I bought a package of mailing tags at my local office supply store, used my Image Tree typewriter stamps to stamp the recipient's name on the tag, cut a piece of my fabric to size with pinking sheers and stapled it to the end of the tag and attached it to the gift. I love the way they turned out. Thanks for the inspiration, Jessica!

Sorry for using your gift as an example, Sarah. Just act surprised when it comes!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

4th Photo Tag

I having trouble keeping up with my google reader the past few days, but I have some time today and I hope to be getting around to all your blogs and leaving fun and witty comments.:-) In the meantime, my friend Christina tagged me with the challenge to post the 4th photo in my 4th folder. And isn't it a cute one.

This is our Anna at about 2 1/2, the morning she decided to put her Dora "big girls" on all by herself. That is Joan trying to reach in to fix the twist...Tony was deployed in Baghdad and she had come up to keep us company.

Play along if you'd like and have a great Thursday!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas In A Can FHE

I know this is old news to lots of you, but we used our Christmas In A Can for our FHE last night and it was a wonderful experience so I wanted to put it out there to hopefully enrich other families. My dear friend Jen shared this wonderful idea with me and we made these kits as part of our November enrichment meeting and included the story as part of a family home evening lesson. The entire lesson can be found here. Basically, it is the story about Santa sharing the symbols of Christmas and how they each are reminders of Christ. We used a quart-sized paint can to hold our little objects and a folded FHE lesson sheet, decorated the outside and voila.

Part of the lesson encouraged the members of our family to look for the symbols of Christmas in the world around them and remember how these things can remind us of Christ. This morning on the way to school, Sam saw a wreath and shared it's meaning.

Love it.

**For more ways to help your family to have a Christ-centered Christmas, please visit Tip Junkie's Talk To Me Tuesday!

Monday, December 1, 2008

DMV Horror & Cold Hands, Warm Heart

What is it with the DMV? I had to go renew my driver's licence this morning and it was quite an adventure. Don't get me wrong...the ladies who helped me were all very nice. But maybe its because I went when normal people are working that I ran into the strange ones. There's the lady who (bless her heart) didn't have any teeth and ended up in my line, only to discover that she was looking for the public defender's office and not the DMV. Yikes. But the worst part was after I actually got my licence. When I got to the parking lot (and if you're squeamish, don't read this next part) I got Josh into his car seat and went to get into the front. I happened to look down and see something gross that someone had hacked up and spit out. And while trying to keep my breakfast down and avoiding the unpleasantness and get into the car, I whacked my head on the edge of the car door. And then, I kid you not, I looked over to make sure nobody had seen me and a guy in a 25-year-old Pinto held together with duct tape was actually laughing at me. At least I got the bruise on my forehead AFTER my new driver's licence picture.

And here are the gifts we came up with this month for the ladies we visit teach. I'm a sucker for stretch gloves so I got a few pairs from the $1 bin at Target and placed them with some silver shred, a couple packets of Stephen's hot chocolate and some truffles in a big cafe mug. Wrapped them all up in cellophane and attached a little tag that I dry embossed "Cold Hands, Warm Heart" on. A little silver sparkle ink along the edges and a snowflake brad and we are ready to go for the holidays!

Happy December!