Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas 2012

We have been happily busy enjoying our winter break, and we had a very nice Christmas!

Last Sunday I shared The Christmas story from Luke Chapter 2 with my Sunday school class, I brought in two new Nativity sets for the kids to play with while I shared the story.

I bought these sets at and was happy with both of them, the Melissa and Doug Set is very colorful, and the kids really enjoyed playing with the pieces and setting it up.  When I brought out the Olive Wood set, which is very tiny and hand carved with very simple details, the kids all thought it was very nice, they really enjoyed its simplicity, and got a kick out of the fact that it came from Olive Wood from Bethlehem.  They surprisingly asked -"So Bethlehem is a real place? You can still go there?"  It was nice to discuss that with them.

                                                        Melissa & Doug Nativity Set

                                             Olive Wood Children's Nativity Set (12 Pieces Set).

After church I got back home and baked more cookies, and put the finishing touches on the gifts.  I am normally done weeks earlier, but this busy year I was behind, and a bit disorganized.  A giant thanks to my dear hubby who, without complaint, ran to the store multiple times all the way through Christmas Eve as it would dawn on me that I needed various odds and ends!  Next year, I hope to be back to my old system of being very organized with the holidays! :)

I decided to frost my gingerbread cutouts with white frosting and currents.

I tried out two new recipes this year, this Andes Mint Cookie recipe from Six Sisters Stuff Blog, which turned out yummy, and was so easy to make.

And these Lemon Cool Whip Crinkle Cookies from  Six Sisters Stuff Blog, which are delicious, and also extremely easy.  Both recipes are made using cake mixes and only a few other simple ingredients.

I had a lot of fun wrapping a special gift to all of us. We are all fans of Doctor Who, I have been watching since high school back when it aired on PBS and Tom Baker was the Doctor  and have shared many old episodes with the family, and we all love the new series as well, since we got rid of all but the most basic cable a little over a year ago, we have been missing the series.  So I got us the series on DVD.  I wrapped it in a box to look like the Tardis (The Doctor's time machine), and of course it was delivered from The Doctor. :)  Sarah and Joe loved it, and were very surprised, we look forward to catching up on the series over break.

For the bow, I found a Tardis printable online to cut out and fold together.  I had a lot of fun with this gift wrapping!

Christmas Morning we all enjoyed unwrapping gifts, and the dogs got in on the action, both of our dogs thought all that wrapping paper was great fun.  Our oldest dog promptly made a nice nest of paper to lay in.

Both dogs were really excited when it was their turn to unwrap a couple of gifts, and loved their new chewy toys and squeaky dolls.  Both dogs were being very entertaining, it was cute!

As soon as presents were unwrapped, I got busy cooking a huge Christmas feast.  I was too busy cooking to take pictures, but the food all turned out yummy- We had Ham, Sausage Rice Casserole, Cheesy Baked Hash-brown Casserole, sweet and sour meatballs, broccoli bacon raisin salad, and Mandarin Orange Ambrosia, and rolls, with lots of cookies for dessert.

We had a house full of family to celebrate with, I really enjoyed seeing everyone.

This week, we have been relaxing, cleaning up, we did a little sale shopping, and yesterday went out to the movies to see The Hobbit, which I really loved!

Tonight we are going to have a fun evening ringing in the New Year.  Good movies, some yummy appetizers, as well as trying out the new fondue pot we got for Christmas, should make for a fun evening!  I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Year's Eve, I am looking forward to the New Year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

52 Weeks of Fairy Tales #43 - The Elves and The Shoemaker

With Christmas just around the corner, elves have been on my mind, so for this week's fairy tale, I have decided to share the classic Grimm's Tale of The Elves and the Shoemaker.

The Elves and the Shoemaker is fun little tale that fits right in with Christmas time.  The story begins with a kind but poor shoemaker and his wife, they have come upon hard times, and are struggling to make ends meet. They are very charitable and have often given their shoes to the poor.  The shoemaker can barely afford to buy leather to make his shoes, and is down to his last bit of leather.  With his last bit of leather, the shoemaker cuts out the pieces for one last pair of shoes, as it is getting late, he sets aside his work and heads off to sleep, so he can wake up bright and early and finish the shoes.

That night, elves come into the workshop, and working as fast and as perfectly as ever, the elves make the leather into a very finely made pair of shoes.  The next morning the shoemaker is very surprised to find the shoes already made, and is impressed with the fine craftsmanship.  The shoes sell right away for a very nice price, and the shoemaker is able to buy more shoe leather.  That evening he cuts out more shoe pieces and heads up to bed.  Again the elves arrive that evening and turn the leather pieces into very finely made shoes.

The shoemaker is quite surprised again when he sees the finely made shoes.  The shoes sell very well, and the shoemaker is able to stock up his supplies and his business begins to do very well.  Every evening the elves work making shoes, and every morning the shoemaker is happy and thankful to see the shoes.

This goes on for some time, and the shoemaker begins to wonder who is making these wonderful shoes that have helped him and his wife out so much.  So the shoemaker and his wife make a plan to stay up late one evening, and hide, while they watch for who makes their shoes.  When evening arrives, the shoemaker and his wife finally see the elves who have been making the shoes.  

The next day the shoemaker and his wife decide to do something nice for the elves.  So the wife makes up tiny clothing for the elves, and the shoemaker makes tiny pairs of shoes.  They leave out the gifts for the elves that evening (in some versions there is a Christmas twist, the gifts are left out for the elves on Christmas, along with some some food). 

When the elves arrive that evening, they are so happy to find their gifts, and they put on their new clothes and shoes.  Then, because whenever and elf receives a gift of clothing they are free to leave, the elves leave and are never seen again.  Everything turns out great for the shoemaker and his wife, they have a thriving business now, and although they will miss the elves along with their perfect tiny stitches, they were very thankful for the help that they had had.  They live happily ever after.

The idea of helping elves is found in other folk traditions as well, some of my favorite stories have to do with the Scandinavian Tomten, who are like helpful elves around farms and such.  One tradition is to leave them porridge during Christmas to thank them for their help throughout the year.  Tomorrow I will be posting a list of some of my favorite Christmas storybooks this year, including one about the Tomten.  

I had a lot of fun with the craft for this story, originally I thought I would make tiny elf clothing with little shoes, but when looking for craft ideas I came across a pattern for these wonderful tiny elf shoes, and knew right away I would enjoy making them.

Here is a link to the pattern and craft idea through my Pinterest page.  The whole website looks like fun and is called Jolly Allsorts.  

Elf Shoes

I decided to make mine a dark red with dark green stitching and a jingle bell on the toe (I love Jingle Bells!). They were easy to sew up, using a simple blanket stitch, and using wool felt, which is sturdier than standard craft felt, I also stuffed the toes with a little wool roving to help the shoes keep their shape.  I think these would be so fun to make to hold little gifts, or as a little table favors filled with candies, I definitely hope to make more of these cute little elf shoes!

Between Christmas and school activities I have fallen quite behind in my fairy tale posts, I will attempt to catch up before the New Year, but will most likely have to continue into January so I don't have to rush through the crafts. :)  I am looking forward to sharing a couple more Christmas and winter themed fairy tales during these next couple of weeks.  I hope everyone is having fun getting prepared for Christmas, we are in full Santa's workshop mode here as Christmas cookie baking will begin this evening, I am looking forward to a weekend of baking and Christmas specials!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Holiday Shopping at Ikea

Two weekends ago our family had a very fun Christmas shopping outing to Ikea.  Ikea opened a store in Portland five years ago, and I have been eager to visit for quite some time.  I always plan one fun shopping outing for our family during the holidays, this year I decided we would drive into town and spend the day at Ikea.  I had heard about their yummy Swedish meatballs and huge showrooms and I was excited to check it out.

Ikea is such a fun, huge store, I was glad they had a map!  After getting our bearings, and taking in the huge store ahead of us, we made our way to the cafeteria.  We tried the BBQ ribs, Swedish meatballs with potatoes, cream sauce, and lingonberry jam, and some chicken and very yummy fries.  We also tried their lingonberry drink, which was interesting and similar to a very light cranberry flavor. Since it was a holiday outing, we let the kids splurge on dessert, Sarah tried the most delicious looking chocolate overload cake, and Joe tried the Swedish apple cake, they both looked so delicious I will have to try to find a similar recipe.

After our lunch, we made our way to the showrooms.  It was so much fun seeing all the decorated rooms, staged with all sorts of interesting items, including books that were written, in what we imagined, was Swedish or some other Scandinavian language.  It was so inspiring to see all the different room configurations, they all showed wonderful ideas for making the most of small spaces.  Sarah and Joe got some great ideas for their rooms, and future college apartments, it was fun looking in all the different storage compartments.  Gary and I got great ideas for our living room and office, we are always trying to dial in our media storage and paper clutter.  The showrooms had lots of good solutions.

I was really impressed with the complete mini house set ups, showing how you could set up house in under 600 square feet quite nicely.  Gary and my favorite room was a kitchen set up, being someone who loves to cook and bake, our kitchen is lacking in storage space for all the pots and pans I use, as well as pantry storage, we saw some beautiful ideas.  Certainly some inspiring goals!

Here is a picture of the kitchen we thought was pretty wonderful, love all the cupboards, and the double ovens!

I do not like to put my focus on material items, but it is fun to dream, and get ideas for one's home, and we had fun checking out all the different furniture, and colors, pictures, gadgets and what not.

It took a couple of hours or more to look through the showrooms, and then we were ready to find a few treasures to bring home.

Such a fun selection of items to shop through!

As we finished up shopping and made our way to the checkout, we noticed this huge fan in the ceiling, I thought it was pretty interesting, the whole building is just huge.

We got a kick out of this giant add for their hot dogs, notice the "*not actual size" in the lower corner, we had to get a picture. :)

Here are the goodies we ended up with.

I knew I wanted to buy a lambskin, I had heard they sold them at a reasonable price, and I have wanted one in our home since the children were little, I was happy to find a cozy one.  I also found this fun serving tray with wood slices pictured, I love rustic wood designs, I thought it would be pretty to set out my gingerbread cookies.  I found a very inexpensive potato ricer that will be fun. We also brought home a jar of lingonberry jam, and this great candle lantern along with a big supply of tea lights!

I just used my new tray at the youth Christmas party we hosted over the weekend, I served bacon wrapped bread sticks, they were set out very nicely at first, and looked like branches on the wooden tray, they were such a hit I hurried to get a picture before they were all gobbled up.  :)

We found some cute paper ornaments, and two very cute woodland and Christmas sets of cookie cutters, we can't wait to try these out with our gingerbread and sugar cookies this week!  We also found a cuddly blanket and a very interesting round whisk we thought would be fun to try out.

Sarah brought home a very cute Carrot doll and Joe picked out a classic black alarm clock for his room.

We got a cute hedgehog book, and a Swedish baking cookbook I am excited to use.

They also had a Scandinavian grocery section, so we thought we would try out some spicy holiday soda, some of their coffee, some rye crisp bread (I love rye!), some of the lingonberry juice, and of course a pack of Swedish fish to share.  It was fun looking through all the different groceries, we also brought home a bag of the Swedish meatballs and cream sauce to have later.  We were happily surprised at the checkout when they discounted the price of our lunch from the total, they had a weekend special going on, so that was really wonderful!

All around it was a very fun day, we all enjoyed it, and look forward to visiting again.

This week we are  finishing up our Christmas gift shopping, and decorating, and doing our Christmas baking, I love the smell of gingerbread!

Singing Christmas Tree and Cherishing Family

This past week, just a day after posting about the mall shooting in my own part of the world, news broke of the horrifying and deeply heartbreaking elementary school shooting in Newtown.   Children are such precious gifts, the news of this shooting was both frightening and beyond tragic.  Posting about fun Christmas happenings just didn't feel right, and after two shootings in just one week, it is hard to not be anxious, but with the reminder of the brevity of life, I want to cherish every moment I have with my family.

The high school's Singing Christmas Tree Performance took place this past weekend, and I will say, hearing all the beautiful choirs in our community warmed my heart.  Hearing my own children sing with their choirs is such a gift, everyone sang so beautifully.  

When the youngest choirs from our elementary schools sang, I could not help but tear up, such sweet souls!  They made us all chuckle with their curiosity of the cat walks and stage lighting, one little girl was waving to Santa, who was sitting in part of the set, she was so excited to see him.  They were all so cute. :)

The performance ended with the Hallelujah Chorus, which is always so beautiful to hear.  

I saw the whole performance three times, as my daughter is a Senior this year, it will be her last year as a student performing in the tree.   All the seniors were sentimental about their last performance, not a dry eye in the girls dressing room I hear, afterward all the seniors got together at a diner, and reminisced, sang and laughed together all evening.  Such a wonderful time, the whole weekend filled me with joy.

Events, like the recent tragedies, remind me how important it is to enjoy life and cherish the time we have with our loved ones.  I will continue to keep all those affected in my prayers, I can only begin to imagine the depth of their grief.  

One of the  passages in the Bible that I enjoy is Romans 12:9-21 on Love.  The verses that stood out to me were-

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Romans 12:12 (NIV)


Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Romans 12:15 (NIV)

and the passage ends with this verse-

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.  Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Prayers for Clackamas Mall Shooting

This week we had a very tragic and frightening event in our county, the shooting at the Clackamas Mall here in Clackamas County, Oregon.  I was so sad and frightened when I heard the news, this is the mall I have been happily visiting since I was a teenager, where I bring my family on the weekends for lunch, where we, just last week, spent the afternoon picking out outfits for the kid's Winter Formal dance.  My husband was at his office, not more than five minutes away from the mall when the shooting occurred,  my sister was planning on bringing my little niece and nephew to see Santa after work, I am so glad they were not there!  I cannot imagine how horrified everyone must have been. You hear about things like this happening, but you never quite expect it to happen in your own part of this world.  My heart and prayers go out to everyone who was affected by this tragedy, for quick healing to those injured and for those who lost their family member or friend.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Star of Bethlehem Wood Craft

This last Sunday was the second week of Nativity, and so for my little Sunday school class, I brought another fun craft to go along with our nativity lesson.

This week I wanted to do a Star of Bethlehem craft, I wanted something that would be easy for the children, and not have too many complicated instructions.  So I decided to make use of the wood tree trunk slices that we made from last years Christmas tree, and with a paper star, some mod podge and fine glitter came up with this craft.

I got out my ruler, and came up with a star pattern that would fit on the trunk circle, traced it out onto yellow cardstock and cut them out with an exacto knife.

Using a sponge style paint brush, spread a layer of mod podge (glossy variety) over the surface of the wood, set the yellow star in the center, cover it with another layer of mod podge, sprinkle on some fine gold glitter (I prefer Martha Stewart glitter, it is much finer than the classic sort of glitter, and works well with this type of craft, as long as the glitter is a tiny fine size it should work), after the glitter is sprinkled on, add another layer of mod podge to help distribute the glitter over the surface.  Let it dry for about fifteen to twenty minutes, then give it one more coat of mod podge.  Then let it dry overnight.  

The surface is nice and shiny, with specks of glitter.  The kids really enjoyed spreading on the mod podge, and swirling on the glitter.  They enjoyed the novelty of working with wood instead of our standard paper.  The big chunky wood pieces are fun to hold, and when they see the star they will remember our story.  This wooden round craft makes a nice paper weight or decoration to tuck into some greenery.  If you had thinner pieces you could also drill a hole through the top and hang them on the tree.

We had fun reading through some of the various Nativity books I have collected over the years, this week I brought in two little pop up books that all the children enjoyed looking through, as well as a newer book I found a few years ago, that has a built in music button as well as stars that light up and twinkle which was a fun surprise when I was done reading the story.   

For a special treat I brought a big bag of Satsuma Mandarin oranges for snack time and some cookies, the mandarin oranges were sweet and the kids enjoyed them quite a bit. It was an all around fun week in Sunday school, and I look forward to more Christmas crafting over the next two weeks.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Easy Paper Angel Tutorial

Last Sunday was the first week of Advent, and every year I like to have special crafts and activities to share with the children in my Sunday school class.  I like to keep my ideas easy and budget friendly, and simple paper crafts usually fit that bill.  I share the various parts of the Christmas story over the four Sundays in December, this week our class heard the part of the Christmas story where an angel tells Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25) and Mary (Luke 1:26-38) that Mary is pregnant with baby Jesus.  So for the first Sunday in advent I often like to do an angel craft.

This year I wanted to try something a little different than the angels I have done in the past, so I scoured Pinterest for ideas, and kept seeing a very cute folded paper angel similar to the one above.  None of the links had tutorials, so I spent an evening cutting and folding paper until I got the desired pattern that I thought would be easy for the kids to follow.  The older kids had no trouble with this craft, the little ones had helpers to fold the paper.  They all enjoyed having a nice ornament to take home.  So I thought I would post a step by step tutorial of our fun craft.

The materials are very simple- regular white copy paper, glue sticks, tacky glue, white string, scissors, stapler, and glitter if you like.

Cut a sheet of paper in half from top to bottom like this.  I like to use my paper cutter and do a few at a time, you could also fold it in half and cut along the line.

Take one of the halves and accordion fold along the short end, like this, until you have folded the entire length.  Folds are roughly half and inch.

Here is what it looks like all folded up.

Press the paper together, and lay a white string or white embroidery floss along the nicest looking side, fold the paper accordion in half to find its center, then staple the center , along with the string like shown below.

Turn it on its side, and fan out the accordion like this, and tie a knot in the top of the string to use as the ornament hanger, then set aside.

Take the other half sheet of paper, and this time accordion fold it along the long end, horizontally.  Continue folding until you have folded the entire length.

Then fold it in half, and cut it into two equal halves, like this.

Then fold each of the halves in half again.

Next the two halves need to be glued together, lay one down flat, and glue along the bottom.

Then glue the two halves together like this.  Again, glue on the bottom of this piece  and bring the two halves together, so it forms the bottom half of the angel.

Here are the top and bottom ready to be glued together, using your glue stick, apply glue to the bottom of the top piece, and slide the bottom half into the top half.  Press them both together until the glue is holding.

This is what the body of the angel will look like.

If you have a circle punch, that is the best way to make the round paper for the face, I punched out 1 1/4 inch circles from white paper for the faces, if you don't have a punch, find a similar sized circle, like a tiny biscuit cutter, to trace and cut out your circles.  Draw on a simple face (it is fun to see the different faces the kids come up with), put a dab of tacky glue in the center top of the angel body, like shown below, and gently press on the face, the tacky glue will seep down in and give the angel more stability when it dries.

You can leave it simple, with a drawn on face, or you can add a touch of glitter, I used silver tinsel glitter for the halo, and crystal glitter for the cheeks and edges of the wings on the one below.  I really love how simple the white paper looks, plain white paper is very easy to fold, it could be fun though, to experiment with patterned paper, some of the angels on Pinterest were made with colorful scrapbook paper, it gave them a completely different look, and would be easy to match to your decor.

Here is the angel on my little tree.

I love how the tree lights shine through the white paper.

I hope you enjoyed the tutorial.  This was a fun advent craft to make, and one I look forward to making again.   Hope everyone has a nice weekend!