Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Day Two

The second day of Advent was the first day of Christmas School for my gang.

Nothing beats a Dutch Baby for a great start to a great season. Yummm!

Also known as a German Pancake, this gets some protein in with the carbs I crave in the morning.  I don't know if there is anything authentically German about this, but the name fits in nicely with today's geography studies.

We make our Jesse Tree part of Christmas School, doing it only on weekdays. The first day of Jesse Tree is marked by a hunting for the perfect branch. Each child scours the local backyards for a branch with a curve and little knobbies. It's just how we like them. Traditionally Jesse Trees are displayed upright in a pot, but we like ours on the wall. I use the removable 3M tabs & hooks to hang ours right over our Advent Wreath.

It looks a bit plain at the moment, but the daily ornaments will soon jazz it up. This year, we're using ornaments from Homeschool In The Woods. They make up a very small portion of the History of Holidays unit study pack. I'm pinch my pennies pretty tightly, but this is worth the investment. We've only used homemade/hand-drawn ornaments before because my children hate "Fakey" looking things. When they saw the print-out of Amy Pak's gorgeous drawings, they were happy to make the switch.

Today, we made Peppernut cookies that went with yesterday's Norway studies. I was skeptical about making a cookie that included black pepper, but these were AMAZING. Definitely a keeper. We'll be making more to share with the neighbors.

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent Day One

The first day of Advent - Ah! The magic!

This morning, we were excited to see that our church is also observing advent. We were also excited to see cinnamon rolls served during Sunday School. After church, we enjoyed delicious food and good company at Grandma's house.

We explore the Advent Wreath on the first day of Advent. Ours is old and cheap and definitely showing its age. But it has served us well and will continue to do so for a while. Want to know how to make your own dilapidated Advent wreath? Well then, you came to the right place!

Pick up a cheap wire frame and a cheap wreath. Ours joined our family already old and dilapidated, from a secondhand shop. If you would like new, check out Joann Fabrics stores after the first week of advent when they go on sale.

A Simple Advent Wreath Tutorial:

Take four candleholders and shove them up through the bottom of the wreath and frame.

I feel the need to point out here that I am not, I repeat NOT, giving my wreath "the bird".  Look closely and see that I have two fingers holding up this contraption.

Find the candleholder through the top again and clear a spot for the candles through the branches.

Reflect on your fingernails while you're at it and consider taking more vitamins to keep them from peeling like that.  Shameful.

Sometimes I need to twist some of the branches around the candle to keep them held upright.

Then consider using a little lotion on your dry, crepe papery hands.

Place a larger candleholder in the center, for the Christ candle.  We never remember to buy the proper color candles for Advent.  They aren't available in our town and require a small expedition to find them.  We've become accustomed to cranberry candles and hardly even try to remember any more.  Whatever colors you choose, insert all of your candles and you're ready to go!

I also inserted some extra greenery and wrapped bits of metallic ribbon through mine.  To be honest, I'm not a fan of the end result, but it's how we've done it for years now.  The flowers and bows stay attached to the wreath year-round in the box and seem to have grown together somehow.  There is no changing it now.

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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for my crappy stove

Thankfulness requires contentment.  A thankful person is a content person....content with what they have.  Content with where they are.  It doesn't mean they wouldn't change things if they could.  It doesn't mean they will not always strive for better.  It means they will not waste time bemoaning what isn't. Instead, they are thankful for what is.

Most days, I think I'm thankful, but then I stop and whine about something or other and realize I have a long way to go.  My stove is my reminder to be thankful.

The content face I should have

It is ugly as sin and older than dirt, it has been with me since...forever.  I honestly can't remember where it came from.  It must have been in the first house we bought. It would have looked nicer then, since I have no memory of its beginnings.  If it had been awful then, I would probably remember hating it.  Through the years, it's white finish has been scratched to reveal black.  It's black finish has been scratched to reveal dull grey.  The knobs require a special touch (read: extreme pressure) to turn just on, but only sometimes, so that occasionally when you push like crazy, you find yourself sliding all the way around.  The large burner on top has completely burnt out (literally, it caught on fire) and the drawer underneath doesn't actually close, it just shoves into place.  mostly.  when it wants to.

Three meals a day.  Every day. Every week. Always, I cook on my small three burners that are not level, causing my food to slide to one half of my pan and I slide my large pan halfway onto my small burner so that the half with food can cook on the half of the pan that covers the burner.  And I complain.  "I cannot WAIT until we get a new stove.  A black stove to match our black kitchen."  But we have all white appliances. "Yes, but our new kitchen will have all black appliances."

A more accurate representation of my content face.

But that new kitchen is never at the top of our priority list and my white appliances continue to rebel against their expected duties.  And I continue to complain.

A small video at church on Sunday reminded me of what I already knew: a thankful person is content.  Cooking that Sunday, I recalled the overwhelming nostalgia that overcame me when I retired our old high- chair. Wow, that thing was ugly.  And uncomfortable.  And inconvenient.  But not at first.  It started beautifully, it just didn't age well.  I never seemed to notice though.  I just appreciated its faithful service.

My stove started fine and didn't age well, just like the high-chair.  But how many soups and stews had been simmered on that stove for my sick sweethearts? How many grilled cheese sandwiches had been fried up for a quick lunch?  How many pancakes flipped? Green tomatoes fried? My babies grew up with good memories of Mama cooking in the kitchen and not one of those meals could have happened without that faithful, ugly stove.

My dream kitchen.  Yes, I realize it's not black.

I cannot say that I now feel emotionally attached to my cantankerous stove.  But since my revelation, each meal I've cooked has been a reminder to be thankful for everything that I have.