Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Devastating News

Tonight I received devastating news. A friend has died. She was a beautiful, vibrant woman who suffered from mental illness. She was a mother of two who loved her children very much. We met in a La Leche meeting when we were both young mothers. We bonded immediately. I was drawn to her big smile and happy attitude. Little did I know it hid an awful pain. As I began to know her more, she revealed a painful side to me. After an attempted suicide, we drew close. I loved her and ministered God's love to her.

Her split personality became unbearable. Often the person on the phone speaking to me wasn't my friend, but her tortured split personality. The last conversation the alter ego became nasty. I spoke right to it. Right to the evil. I told it not to call. I told it only my friend could call and that I would not entertain evil any longer. The alter ego had taken over. It was present more than my friend. That evil took my friend on December 23. I have a hard time believing the report of suicide. That it's real. The timing was horrible for her family.

It's hard for me to celebrate this New Year. Knowing that 2009 will be without my friend on this earth. I mourn for her children. The pain they must feel. Christmas will be a sad time for them for the rest of their lives. I pray that the Holy Spirit will be Comforter to them.

Death is painful enough. Suicide is unbearable. What pain she must have been in.

Our birthday's were on the same day... She once sent a bookmark to me with our birthday verse handwritten on the back.. Romans 8:28... And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

It's hard for me to see how God will work this for his good... but he will. God did not cause her suicide nor did he want it. But he is God and he will weave our pain into something that can be used for his glory... maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but one day. I'm hanging onto this verse for comfort right now. I know she loved Jesus very much. I know her pain and suffering is over. I know Jesus is holding her close.

I know there was nothing I could do to prevent her death... but I can't help feeling there was something else I could have done. Something I could have said. I miss her.

Pray for her family as they deal with the tragedy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

After Christmas Tea

Christmas was awesome at our house. Happy Birthday Jesus! Everyone felt very blessed. The boys were totally taken by surprise by the Wii. We've all suffered from Wii-itis and had to take Tylenol for sore muscles. We've enjoyed a lot of family togetherness with bowling and boxing. Ahhhh... nothing like knocking out a family member to foster family bonds.
Tuesday I will host my annual Christmas Tea except that this year it will be after Christmas because of a family illness. It will be a little more relaxed this year because of the timing of the tea and because I'm forcing myself to take a step back and relax and enjoy it more this year. I've already baked, decorated and froze a batch of my favorite lemon butter cookies . Martha Stewart I am not... but they taste delicious. I've also made a batch of Gingerbread Cookies and froze these. Sarah gave me a wonderful tin of William Sonoma Gingerbread Cookie mix which I used. She also gave me a gorgeous sleigh cookie cutter. It's my new favorite.
I've also made my traditional almond cake and frozen it also. Recipe below. This year I made it with a wreath bundt pan. I've had a special request for scones, so I will probably make them fresh the day of the party. They're easy.

I hit an awesome after Christmas sale at Marshall's and stocked up on tons and tons of Christmas Crackers. Kids love to pop them open and startle the ladies sipping tea! Toys, hats and jokes go flying everywhere.

Glazed Almond Bundt Cake

1 c. butter, softened
2 c. white sugar
4 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 2/3 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. ground almonds
1 c. milk
1/4 c. milk
3/4 c. white sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. toasted sliced almonds

Toast almonds on cookie sheet with parchment paper for 9 min. in a 350 oven.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour a 10 inch Bundt pan. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and ground almonds. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the 1 1/2 tsp almond extract and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with 1 c. milk, mixing just until incorporated.

Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes and invert on a wire rack. Cool 10 minutes longer. Plce rack on top waxed paper. Combine 1/4 c. milk, 3/4 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp. almond
extract and toasted sliced almonds; pour over warm cake.

Serves 16 Persons

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Seeking Treasures

Yesterday, I went shopping with my friend Becky. We took a detour to downtown in our little town and went to Second Street Antiques and shopped a bit. Upon leaving, we found a cute antique store across the street called Dovetail Antiques run by Christians. Everything was absolutely gorgeous and the prices were nice. I found lots of treasures at both Antique stores. I will be going back after Christmas and try to get a few more treasures on sale.

I've started collecting different Christmas tea cups. I want a mismatched set to use one day at my annual Christmas Tea. This year, it will be an After Christmas Tea as my youngest wasn't feeling well the day before the party, so it was postponed. Here is my latest acquisition.

I also found two beautiful Christmas postcards from the early 1900's that I had to have. One of them says "Bethy* Christmastide". I've never heard that saying before and I couldn't find anything online about it. If anyone knows about this saying, please let me know. "Bethy" is my childhood nickname, so I had to have it. (*correction, Renae correctly identifed that it says "Bright Be Thy Christmastide". Thanks Renae.)

I also found this cappuccino piece of artwork that fits perfectly in with my "coffee" wall. Right now it is on the counter top in a stand next to my cappuccino maker.

I also got two new pieces for my Anchor Hocking Wexford glass collection. This wasn't an expensive set when I first started collecting them, but the prices have gone up. I felt blessed to find these two pieces at such a reasonable cost.

This morning as I was making breakfast, I was thinking about our shopping trip and how I was scouring the store for Christmas Tea Cups. I searched every corner for my treasure. God spoke to my heart that He wanted me to search just as hard for Him because He was the true treasure. As usual, this morning in church someone had a Word of Knowledge that confirmed just that message. Everything that seemed to come forth in church today was about "treasure".
Matthew 13:44 (Whole Chapter) "Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, which, when a man hath found, he hideth; and for the joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.
I love that picture in my head. He stumbled upon something valuable. He sacrificed all to have it because it was worth it.
As we exchange gifts, let us remember the greatest gift ever given. Our creator coming to earth to sacrifice himself willingly so that we could be with Him always. His blameless death covering our darkest sins. The most expensive gift ever given is for you.
I Corinthians 6:30 - For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My momma told me... You better shop around...

You better shop around... Boy did I ever learn that this week. Our air conditioner has been slowly dying for the past few months. Our regular a/c guy, Mr. Lambert, of Lambert Air Conditioning of Houston gave us the awful news that our a/c had to be replaced both inside and out. I nearly fainted when he told us how much it would be. We wanted to avoid paying for this on credit, so we had to save up for it. We sweated out the last few months until we had enough to pay for it.

Being a smart shopper, we asked for referrals from our homeschooling group. We got several good recommendations and proceeded to get estimates. The first estimate was $1,798 more than Mr. Lambert had told us. The second estimate was $1,571 more. All these system were exactly the same system, installation, parts and warranty.

It was kind of shocking. I can’t imagine what the extra $$$ was for. A nice Christmas bonus... a new diamond ring... Needless to say, we are going with Lambert Air Conditioning and Heating. We have used this family owned business for many years and have always been pleased. We were shocked at the discrepancies in price.

This was an eye opening experience and just confirmed my resolution to shop around before I purchase high dollar items.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More Christmas Decorations...

In my quest to keep things low key this year, I am slowly putting out Christmas decorations. I put up my mantle decorations, my nativity scene and my Currier & Ives Christmas Village. I've wrapped my kid's gifts and they are ready for Christmas morning. Dad took the boys Christmas shopping last night, so I was able to complete my second session of gift wrapping.

For the last few years we have stuck with three gifts each for the boys and one big gift for them to share. Jesus got three gifts, so they do too. Three seems to be the perfect number of gifts.

Every year I have a Christmas tea. I always go a little overboard much to the delight of my guests. This year, in keeping with the scaled down Christmas, I've only invited a few friends and I'm not calling it a "Christmas Tea" so I don't feel obligated to go all out. So far, it's working. I'll do a little baking today and I'll bake scones tomorrow so they are fresh. I have my Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum Spice and Gingerbread Spice Tea ready to go. I'll also make some decaffeinated Community Coffee. I'm keeping myself in check! I do love to entertain.

This year with our nativity set we move Mary and Joseph closer to the barn every day. On Christmas Eve, they will be in the barn and on Christmas Day the baby Jesus will appear.

We visited with family and friends out of town this weekend. Kids grow a lot in one year! All the nieces and nephews are getting tall and my nephew brought a girlfriend to the celebration. The sea of gifts this year was amazing. We pick names, my MIL gives everyone a gift and we have a white elephant, so we only get three gifts each. But somehow my sister-in-law's little tree was bursting with Christmas cheer this year. What recession? I feel very blessed this year!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Decorations

Here are a few pictures of my Christmas decorations. We scaled way back this year.

My Christmas Tree. I love a theme tree.

My Christmas table..

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Crackers - Start your party off with a bang!

Christmas Crackers or Christmas Poppers are a European tradition that I love. These are little cardboard tubes all decorated up with fun surprises in them including a paper hat, a really cheesy joke and open with a bang. Our family tradition is to let any guests that come over during the Christmas holidays open one. My boys get to open one with the guests also. As you can guess, they love Christmas company. They are a huge hit with all the kids. They trade amongst themselves if they get a gift they deem is too "girly" or too "boyish" but most gifts are suitable for either. You will be hugely popular amongst your friends and their kids!

You can purchase them at most party supply stores and some department stores. I found some excellent quality ones at my local Marshall's discount store. If you can find some that are easy to open, you can sneak open one side and slip in a few more little goodies. I did this one year for a Christmas party and slipped in lipstick and charms for the ladies.

Start a fun family tradition and make some memories with Christmas Crackers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Make Gift Wrapping Easy

OK, maybe not "easy" but definitely easier. To make it "easy" you would have to hire an elf to do it for you... Well, that's not gonna happen so let's find a way to make it easier. Don't wait until the last minute to wrap the gifts. Giving yourself a designated time to wrap them gives you some freedom to create beautiful gift wrapping. If you are wrapping your kids gifts, maybe send them off for some "dad" time at the park. I usually wrap my gifts in two sessions. First, all of our friends and family gifts and later our kids gifts.

First gather up all your wrapping supplies: tape, scissors, bags, boxes, bows, gift toppers, gift tags, wrapping paper... I like the "Christmas Picks" you can get at the hobby store for beautiful gift toppers. Many stores are discounting them now.

Then clear off an area in your house to do the gift wrapping. Don't get sidetracked and start spring cleaning this area... just push stuff around so you have enough room for your wrapping supplies. I used my kitchen because my island is a nice height to cut the wrapping paper.

Then organize each wrapping item into piles... all the bows in one pile, all the paper in another... Again, I used my kitchen because my kitchen chairs, table and cabinets make nice areas to put my piles.

Then grab a gift from its hiding place and get wrapping. The key to staying organized while wrapping is to put all your supplies back into their piles when you are finished with each gift so you aren't hunting around for supplies in the middle of wrapping and slowing yourself down.

I like to make my own bows with wire edged ribbon. Only wrap one side of the box with ribbon to save money. My sweet friend Rhonda showed me how to make bows a long time ago and I've been making them like this ever since. They look professional and they are very easy.

I'll try and show you step by step how to make a bow with wired edged ribbon. I apologize that I'm using semi-transparent ribbon in the demonstration, but it is actually what I used this year for my gifts.

First tie a length of ribbon around the package and leave some long tails.

Next cut three lengths of ribbon about 24" long.

Next put all three of the lengths of ribbon together and fold the ends lengthwise and snip it off at an angle to make a nice "v" shape to finish off your bow. Do the other side too.

Fold one of the three lengths of ribbon so that the ends slightly overlap in the middle.
Twist in the middle.

Do the same to another.
Put both in an "x" over the knot of the ribbon on the package. Tie the tails over the "x"
Fold the last length of ribbon and twist. Place over the "x" and tie on with the tails.

Cut the long tails into the "v" shape by folding each piece of ribbon in half lengthwise and cutting at an angle.
Form each of the ribbon loops into a full circle so that it is nice a fluffy.


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