Monday, December 31, 2012

What's the Deal With the Beans and Greens?

Happy New Year everyone!!!  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends.

I was already working on this post when one of my very special friends that lives a great distance from here saw one of my posts on Facebook and sent a message to ask, "What's the deal with the Beans and collard greens?  Do you eat them at midnight?"  I about fell off my rocker!  Bless her heart!  She made my day!  I had been wondering if anyone out there was unfamiliar with this southern tradition.  Seems I was right, so it seems this post was meant to be.  :)

Here in the south we have a tradition of eating black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year's Day.  We say that the peas are for good luck and the collards are for a prosperous year.  If you don't eat plenty of both, it's going to be a hard, poor year.  Well, I'm living proof that this superstition is just that!  lol!  It is still fun to continue the tradition!  As we eat, encouraging the little ones (and some grown-ups!),sometimes, it's fun to remind them of the tradition, but remind them that it is from God that all blessings flow.  It is a great time to ponder all the good things that are possible for the new year, leaving all of last year's troubles and worries behind.

Well, yesterday morning I was playing on the computer when I suddenly realized that today was New Year's Eve and I didn't have my peas or collards.  I kind of sound like our government, huh?  I mean, I've only had 364 days to prepare.  What was my problem?  lol!  Well, Bill immediately told me I had to go to the store!  There was no asking or me putting up a fuss!  ;)  Heehee!  I really thought I was going to be out of luck finding anything I needed since I had waited so late.  We all got ready and loaded in the car to head to the store.  After stopping several times to check on the car that obviously has something burning that we can't locate, we were so relieved to at least find a man in the Wal-Mart parking lot selling HUGE bundles of collards for $2!

These bundles were so big, my kids could hide behind them!
If I could grow something that big, I would feel like a real
farmer!  Seems I'm only good at growing gray hair as my husband
so kindly pointed out this morning!  :)
At minimum, all we had left was black-eyed peas, our food of good fortune (fortune meaning luck).  We should have eaten some before we got there because the shelves were wiped out!  After a few worrisome minutes, we found some at Ingles!  :)  Yay!  Our new year isn't doomed to another series of unlucky events.  Maybe now, we will be lucky enough to figure out what is burning in our car before it's too late!!!

For our lunch or supper or lusupper, lol, we will have collards, black-eyed peas, macaroni and cheese thrown together with items I already had, and a roast Bill will be grilling.  He is one mean, grilling machine!  He could sell his food!  Don't you want to come over?  There's always room at our table for a special friend!

What will you be doing to celebrate the new year?  In whatever you are doing today and the rest of the year, I pray you will be happy and healthy, basking in the light of God's beautiful grace!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Around the World: Pulling It All Together

I felt it was important to do a meaningful activity to wrap up our studies of all the different countries. To do this, Alissa is making a Christmas Around the World book.  On each page I have drawn an outline of a flag with a blank line at the top.  We use the internet to look up the flag of the country we are studying.  Alissa then does her best to recreate it and then writes the name of the country above the flag. 

I have written the highlighted facts we covered on strips of paper that have been glued to construction paper and then cut out.  She will match the facts to the correct country and glue the fact under the correct flag. 

When she has completed the pages, she will make a cover for her book from a sheet of folded construction paper. 

If we do Christmas Around the World again, I plan to have her find and color on an outline of the world map each country as we cover it.  I am still considering doing it for this year, eventhough I would have preferred to do each country one at a time.  Hindsight is 20/20.  In the world of education we call it reflection.  It is essential to improvement!  :)

I hope you have enjoyed our trip around the world!  Perhaps next year, we can share more!  You can look on my Christmas Around the World board on Pinterest for more ideas if a whole year is too long to wait.  :)

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Around the World: Russia

I thought I was through sharing countries for this year, but I just had to share one more! 

In Russia, most Christians belong to the Eastern Orthodox church and it is customary to fast until after the first church service on Christmas Eve when there is a feast.  The feast is usually meatless, but there is one dish that is very popular.  It is called kutya.  We made this dish at the bakery as I helped my sister get all the Christmas special orders out.  This porridge dish was so good that I just had to share!

We only used raisins.  We didn't use the
optional ingredients.

The main ingredient in the dish is wheat berries which symbolize hope and immortality.  I had never heard of or seen wheat berries before, but I so surprised with everything about them!- taste, texture, ease of use, watching them transformation in the pan as they cooked!  I know, I am a little crazy when it comes to ingredients!  lol!

Anyway, the dish is served in a common bowl, meaning one large bowl from which everyone eats to symbolize unity. 

I am a bit germaphobic so we just took the first bite from the common bowl.  lol!

Individual dishes were then served up.  The kiddos didn't really care for it, but the adults that tried it, loved it!  It is such a lite and refreshing dish!

I hope you all enjoyed a peaceful, beautiful Christmas!  May you be blessed with a happy, healthy, prosperous new year!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Around the World: Netherlands

We are so excited that my husband has his truck back and will finally be able to work again.  The last three weeks have been so hard.  The only bad thing is that he will be taking the computer with him, so I won't be able to do my posts each day.  :(  Sooo...I thought I would squeeze in one more country.  We haven't done this one yet, but we did it last year.  I liked it so much that I wanted to do it again this year.  The best part is that I already have pictures for our study of Christmas in the Netherlands!

Last year, I was much more prepared to do our Christmas Around the World study.  I had it all planned well in advance.  Doing so allowed me to do something a little special for the Netherlands study.  I went on eBay and found a pair of wooden clogs for sale from Holland.  One shoe had a woman painted on it, and one had a man painted on it!  The pair was perfect for us since I have one boy and one girl! 

They each have their own shoe to keep.  I hope they grow up and are able to share with their own children the story behind the shoes.

In the Netherlands, children fill their shoes with hay and sugar or some other treat for Sinterklaas' horse.  In return, treats and small gifts are left in the shoes.

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Around the World: Iraq

I found this to be interesting.  One wouldn't normally consider Iraq when considering countries to cover for Christmas, but actually, the Iraqi Christians have a rather beautiful Christmas tradition.  The children read the Christmas story as other family members hold lighted candles.  We did it a little different.  I read the Christmas story from the Bible while the children held/watched their candles.

When the reading is done, the Iraqi Christians light a bonfire of thorn bushes and sing songs.  When all the bushes have burned to ash, each family member takes a turn jumping over the ashes three times and makes a wish.  If all the bushes burn completely, good luck is granted for the new year. 

It would have been fun to build a bonfire and sing Christmas songs, but it rained most of the day here.  There was no hope of finding anything that would burn.  Next year, right?  :)

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Creamy Broccoli, Chicken, and Cheese soup

2 boneless chicken breasts
1 small box of chicken broth (I used Swanson's)
1 head of broccoli with florets chopped off
1 c. uncooked rice
1-2 c. water
1/2 stick butter
1/2 gallon milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 c. shredded five cheese blend
dash of onion powder
dash of garlic salt
salt to taste

Boil the two chicken breasts in the broth in a large pot until done.  Remove chicken from the pot and add in the broccoli and rice.  Add 1-2 cups water if needed.  Cook until rice and broccoli are done to your liking.  While rice and broccoli are cooking, shred the chicken.  Return chicken to the pot when the rice and broccoli are done.  Add in the butter, milk, and cream.  Heat just to boiling, but do not boil.  Add seasonings to taste.  Turn down to low and add cheese.  Stir until cheese is melted.  Serve warm.

Christmas Around the World: Nicaragua

The last country we covered for our studies last week was Nicaragua.  We read that in Nicaragua bells ring out to announce midnight mass and that the end of the holiday season is celebrated with a fireworks display.  We had planned to let the children play with the sparklers while Daddy shot off fireworks, but that just didn't happen this year.  We did, however, make jingle bell bracelets to ring while singing carols.  It was fun to watch my four-year-old complete a craft without my help.  Where did my little baby go? 

Silly kids!

On Friday afternoon and a little while on Saturday, I helped Bill with a woodworking craft.  He has been home so long, he was going stir crazy.  He decided to make something for our friends who are big Auburn football fans.  I drew out a picture of Aubie, the mascot, and helped him figure out how to cut it out.

This is the before,

and this is the after.
There were a few mishaps, but I think he did pretty well, especially considering how long it has been since he's tried doing anything with his saw.  I like working with the saw some too.  Helping Bill with this project spurred a ton of new ideas!  Who knows what may come of it!  :)

Well, Monday will usher in a whole new week of countries to cover.  Perhaps I will be able to share some of our highlights from last year.  I hope you can join us!  Please feel free to share your ideas or projects with us.  We are always on the lookout for new ideas!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Around the World: Mexico

Hello friends.  I pray this day finds you resting in God's love.

A couple days ago, we covered Mexico in our studies.  Mexico is always a fun country to cover.  As usual we started by discussing the country.  For Mexico, we discussed the legend of the poinsettia.

For a craft, I cut poinsettias from felt and let the children help put them together.  I took an old holly bush spray that had gold, glittered berries and cut the berries from the spray to use for the center of the poinsettias.  We just used Tacky Glue to glue them to the center

For supper, we made Christmas tree tostadas and Doritos taco salad.  The tostadas were perfect to let Alissa do once I cooked the meat.  She loved 'decorating' the trees!

They turned out so cute!

Christmas tree tostada and the completed
This was our meal, complete with Jarritos (fruit-flavored soda) from the Hispanic section of the grocery store!  :)  Once, when I went on a missions trip to Mexico, the people of the village we stayed in served these drinks to us every night.  We were told that they were a very rare treat for them.  We were so honored.  I felt guilty drinking it, but we did because the precious people were so proud to be giving us their best.  Is that not the most precious thing?  Oh, yeah...the picture.  :)  Sorry about that!

Yep, I cheated and used bottled dressing for the first time a
a very long time.  It was so late in the day, I just didn't
feel like making my own.  :)
Are you hungry yet?

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Friday, December 14, 2012

No Words

The horrific shootings today have broken my heart.  As a former kindergarten and second grade teacher, it has really hit home.  I have been so sick and sad today.  I won't be doing my Christmas Around the World post tonight.  I am going to take the time to pray a little longer and hug a little longer.  We are never promised the next minute, much less tomorrow.  I pray for God's mercy over broken world.  Come Lord Jesus, come.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Around the World: France

Yesterday was another Christmas Around the World Day.  We finished all our other school work, except math, in the morning so that we could head for my sister's bakery to complete our history and math lessons.  Before leaving, we had talked about the importance of the Nativity in France to tie it in with our discussion of Italy.  Then we discussed how, in France, many attend a midnight mass after which people return to a great feast called Le Rveillon.  What is served at the feasts greatly depends on what region of the country the person lives.  In each region, however, the galette des rois, or king's cake, seems to be popular.  I sure wish I could pronounce all these fancy words!

After my sister was through baking for the bakery, she let the children help her in baking the king's cake.

My sweet, silly girl. I don't know what she was
so tickled about.

Alissa's math lesson was actually measuring ingredients for a recipe, so she measured and mixed all the ingredients herself.  How perfect was that?!

Alissa helped roll out the bottom layer, and then there were a few steps in between.

Then Jacob got to help roll out the top.

Finally, the cake was topped with our creative sugar and finished!  It was supposed to be topped with confectioner's sugar so it looks a little wacky.  It was SO good, though!

We almost forgot the bean!

Our other sister found the bean.  She got to be the queen!  :)

That completes the Christmas Around the World portion of the post, but I told you I would also share a new advent activity I added to our traditions this year.

A while back I saw a pin on Pinterest where someone had taken clear Christmas ornaments and written a different name of Jesus on each one.  Each night of December, one of the ornaments was added to the tree.  I had planned to make 25, but I just simply ran out of time and money. :)  Thankfully, several weeks ago, I found the ornaments for half off at a big craft store.  Maybe I can get to the other half next year, but I kind of like the twelve days of Christmas idea.  We'll see.

To make the ornaments, I removed the tops and stuffed the ornaments with what I had. I replaced the ornament caps and used a paint pen to write a different name of Jesus on each one.  I also wrote the corresponding scripture on the opposite side of the ornament.

These are the names and scriptures I used:
The Vine                         John 15:1
Shepherd                         Hebrews 13:20
Alpha and Omega           Revelations 1:8
Savior                             1 John 4:14
Lamb of God                  John 1:29
Bread of Life                  John 6:35
Wonderful                      Isaiah 9:6
King of Kings                Revelations 17:14
Emanuel                         Matthew 1:23
Prince of Peace              Isaiah 9:6
Jehovah                          Jeremiah 23:6
Rock of Ages                 Isaiah 26:4

Shew!  That was a long post!  Sorry about that.  I hope you enjoyed it, though!  Again, you are always welcomed to share your traditions, too!

Tomorrow's post will focus on Mexico.  Mmmm!  :)

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Around the World: Italy

Hi y'all!  I hope you are all enjoying the Christmas season!  I have been trying to find ways to use what we have to make Christmas special and meaningful this year.  One way is by curling up each night in front of the tree under a blanket with the children and reading one or two Christmas books before our devotional.  When we are through, we take turns picking out a Christmas hymn to sing together.  Another way I have tried to make it special is by doing Christmas Around the World.  I spent a day or two last week researching countries and traditions to find activities and facts I thought the children might enjoy.  This is also an activity I did last year.  The children loved the activities, most of which were ornaments.  This year, I thought I might focus more on traditions and food.

Our first country was Italy.  We read and talked about Italy being the origins of the popularity of the Nativity.  I had saved our main Nativity just for this night.  After reading, I let my little girl pull it out and set it up by herself.  Christmas was seeing the smile on her face and wonder in her eyes as we got to talk about the night Jesus was born.  Precious memories!

I let her put all the figures right where she wished, and I think she did a beautiful job.  We both got tickled when, while cleaning up, she looked at the box I had intentionally placed behind me and discovered she had set it up just like the picture!  While setting it up, we talked about how the wise men weren't actually at the manger the night Jesus was born.  We had read Follow the Star the night before, so it worked out really well to help her understand they had to journey a long way after they saw the star.

Tomorrow's post will focus on France and the new twelve days of Christmas advent activity I have added this year. 

So what do you do to make Christmas special and meaningful in your home?  I would love to hear!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Chirstmas Book Favorites


This morning we pulled all our Christmas books off the shelf.  I am a few days late this year, huh?  :)  We had so much fun looking through them.  I loved seeing the children eagerly reaching for and quickly flipping through so many of them!  "Oh, Mama!  I love this one!"  "Mama!  Can we read this one tonight?"  "Mama!  This is the one where...."  "Mama!  Where is the one where...."  I simply loved it!  There were books scattered everywhere!

I got so tickled when I sat down to start writing this post.  I saw where there was a new blog post on one my favorite blogs, Home Joys .  She had done the exact same thing!  It must be in the air.  You should take a look at her list, too.  She had some that I would love to add to our collection. 

I had a hard time picking out my favorites to share, but I finally got it narrowed down to my top 10.  They are listed in no particular order.

1.  The Glory of Christmas  by Charles Swindoll, Max Lucado, and Charles Colson
The Glory of Christmas

"Max Lucado, Charles Swindoll, and Charles Colson share the true meaning of Christmas, including salvation, power for living, righteousness, relationships, encouragement, and more." copied from the Amazon description.  This is for the adults.

2.  Christmas Treasury  Family Classic Edition
Christmas Treasury

A collection of Christmas stories, poems, and songs. This is a beautiful book for family readings and sing alongs.

3.  The Animals' Christmas Eve  by Gale Wiersum

The Animals' Christmas Eve (A Little Golden Book)

This book retells the story of the birth of Jesus from the view of animals.

4.  The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
The Little Drummer Boy
The poor, little drummer boy follows the procession to the baby king, Jesus, but what gift will he bring?  In his gift is the sweetest meaning of all.

5.  The Beautiful Christmas Tree  by Charlotte Zolotow
The Beautiful Christmas Tree

Mr. Crockett shows his neighbors beauty can be found in unexpected places.

6.  The Littlest Christmas Angel  by Charles Tazewell
The Littlest Angel

The littlest angel worries his little box of treasures is too humble to offer to the newborn king, Jesus.  God certainly didn't think is was.  See what God does with his gift.

7.  Follow the Star  by Rachel W. N. Brown  Originally published as Small Camel Follows the Star

Follow the Star

Small Camel is the newest camel in Balthazar's corral, but his mother knows he will grow in to a strong Camel that Balthazar will be proud of.  Balthazar sees the awaited star, but Small Camel is sure he is too little to take the important journey.  Journey along with Balthazr and Small Camel to meet the king and see why Small Camel was so important despite his size.

8.  The Twelve Days of Christmas  illustrated by Jan Brett
The Twelve Days of Christmas

"A centuries-old favorite holiday carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas" was one of the first to celebrate the secular tradition of gift-giving. This sumptuously illustrated version features not only the gifts of a suitor to his true love but a loving family's Christmas preparations, how to say "Merry Christmas" in 12 different language, and a vast array of charming woodland animals."  copied from Amzon's description.  It was much better than anything I could say!  :)

9.  On Christmas Eve  by Margaret Wise Brown
On Christmas Eve

In the big house, the adults are asleep, but the children who lie anxiously awake try to make no sound as they sneak down the stairs to take a peek at the beautiful tree.  This book captures the beauty and wonder of Christmas .  It is my daughter's favorite Christmas book.

10.  Silver Packages  An Appalachian Christmas Story  by Cynthia Rylant
Silver Packages: An Appalachian Christmas Story

In Appalachia each year, Frankie stood beside the train hoping for one certain gift to be thrown to him.  Did he ever get what he waited for?

I hope you enjoy the list!  Please feel free to share your favorite Christmas book!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Monday, December 3, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

I am so sorry it seems I have abandoned my blog!  I have just been so busy experiencing and absorbing life that I haven't taken the time to stop and write.  :)

Fall is my favorite time of the year for many reasons, one of which is that is signals Christmas is just around the corner!  I simply ADORE Christmas!  I love everything about it, especially that it is the time of year set aside to celebrate the birth of my Savior!  Until recent years, Christmas alone was my favorite holiday, but now, Easter ties for favorite!  :)

My sister and I have started several Christmas traditions since I have had children.  One is decorating my home.  When my daughter was a baby, I was going through a terrible postpartum period.  I was so full of anxiety, I couldn't function enough to put up my Christmas tree.  My precious sister came over to help occupy my hands, thoughts, and time.  To this day, I still cannot stand to string lights!  She comes to my home every year to help.  We do four trees in my home.  I have my "Pretty Tree," my "Memory Tree," and a small tree in each child's room.  Most years, the children and I work on their trees while my sister strings the lights on our pretty tree.  When she has won the battle of lights, she patiently helps decorate under my, sometimes, compulsive directions.  lol!  Bless her!  Well, actually, she doesn't really need much direction.  She is quite talented herself.  She's the one who made the bow for my wreath.  She also helps fluff my pre-lit memory tree.  If there is time left, she helps trim it.  We have so much fun replaying memories, planning new adventures, and laughing- oh the laughing!  It is what we do best!  :)  When she leaves, I usually spend the next few days finishing the rest of the house.  This year, it is taking a little longer.  I wanted to add a few things, but, oh, that crazy budget!  It takes a while when you are adding a piece here and a piece there.  It has taken me over three years to get curtains for one room!  I was able to do a new wreath this year, finally.  The old one was only ten years old!  Perhaps I should have kept it one more year.  lol!

I know four trees seems a bit much, but it is so therapeutic to me. The actual act of trimming the tree is so relaxing. Even more than that, when each tree goes up, it seems to symbolize what God has done in my life. He has brought me so far, taught me so much, and blessed me in so many ways.  Would you like a peek into my home?  I hope so.  I don't want to go through all those hours of decorating just for my family and me.  I want others to enjoy it, too.

The new wreath on the front door.  I love
clearance sales!  :)
Come on in!  This is the living room with the "Pretty Tree" and the nativity my husband had when we got married.

The tree still needs a topper, but I needed to
go ahead and get this post done.

Next up is the dining room.  Just turn around.  :)

The jar, the ornaments in the jar and the garland are old.  The doily is a gift from my other very talented sister.  Her gifts of love are scattered throughout my home.  I wish she could join the Christmas decorating tradition.

This is the Nativity I had before Bill and I got married.  Let's move into the family room.

Yep!  Maybe by next year I can afford a
a curtain or valance in this room.  :)

Shew! It's so bright and warm outside!

This is the memory tree.  Upon it are ornaments that are older than I am.  Several years back, my mother asked what of hers I would like to have.  One of my favorite memories from my childhood is decorating the tree with her, so I asked for my favorite ornaments.  I got them last year in time to put them on my tree.  Some of them are ornaments my brother and sisters made when they were children, some are ornaments I made as a child, some are just ornaments I loved.  I, well, we, now that the children are old enough, LOVE decorating this tree.  With each new ornament removed from the box comes a story of when the ornament was made or where the ornament came from, the trip on which it was bought, and any other memories which may surround it.  Any time we take a trip, we try to find an ornament to represent that trip to add to our memory tree. It is so exciting to see ornaments my own children have made begin to adorn the tree now.

Now for the children's trees.

Alissa's going to get me one day.  It was morning and she was still in her pj's when she wanted to finish the tree with the tiara.  :)
These trees are special to the children and me.  Each year, their aunt gives them a new ornament so that when they leave home, they will have their own special collection of ornaments for their own trees.

But, why do I love having the trees throughout the house?

This is why!  I love walking through the house at night and seeing the glow of the lights, especially as I check on my slumbering children.  When I was going through that terrible postpartum, I had a dream one night of Heaven.  The light of Alissa's tree and room especially remind me of the light in that dream.  The glow of the trees reminds me of God's perfect light.  I think about the birth of Jesus.  I try to imagine what each person that night must have thought and felt.  I think of Mary and how she must have felt knowing she was holding the savior.  Can you imagine?  The songs 'O, Holy Night' and 'Silent Night' and others play through my head.  Oh, it is indeed the most wonderful time of the year!

Okay, I guess before I end up being called the crazy Christmas lady, I should end the tour.  Yes, there is more, but these are the highlights.  :)  I promise there are no more trees.  :D

I know there are several who read my blog who do not celebrate Christmas the same way as I.  I would love to see or read about your traditions if you would like to share.

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!