Beautiful Day

Monday, December 31, 2012

My Top Twelve Books of 2012

As 2012 closes out, I enjoy looking over the list of books I have read this year.  I am happy to be keeping my average of at least 40 books in a year.  Mind you, this does not include the MANY picture books I read to my children, but is a compilation of personal reads mixed with chapter books or read-alouds with my children.

Here are my favorite 12 of 2012 (not in any ranking order...that would be just a little too hard, but I do honestly have a few that stand out here).  This is probably more of a chronological list of when they were finished.
Loving the Little Years: Motherhood in the Trenches

1.  "Loving the Little Years" by Rachel Jankovic---a humorous and insightful little book to inspire me in the love and care of my littles.  Will certainly go on my re-read list.

Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life
2.  "Keeping House" by Margaret Kim Peterson---I really loved this book for its theological underpinnings about something that might seem so mundane to us homekeepers.  It gave me fresh vision on home duties at a time where I felt bogged down in the everyday, and less-than-inspired.  I promptly finished this book and handed it to my teen daughters, who also enjoyed lessons in the "whys" of what we do.

Hans Brinker or The Silver Skates
 3.  "Hans Brinker of the Silver Skates" by Mary Mapes Dodge---This one is one of my treasures from my grandmother's book shelf. I've had it on the "to-read" list for quite some time.  We read this aloud in mid-winter, which was perfect with the Holland setting and talk of (ice) skating.  We enjoyed this classic literature piece, which was a heartwarming story.

Raising Real Men: Surviving, Teaching and Appreciating Boys

4.  "Raising Real Men" by Hal and Melanie Young---I reviewed this book here.  Definitely a must-read if you have boys.  My favorite practical book on raising boys!

The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance: Nurturing Your Marriage Through the Homeschool Years5.  "The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance" by Heidi St. John---I also reviewed this one.  Loved her humorous and very real writing style on a topic that is of great necessity to home-educating mothers.  I also read her "Guide to Daylight" on time management, which is also excellent (and hence, I squeeze in another favorite book without actually listing it!)

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

6.  "Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey"---a fun biographical read to encounter in my month of British "library-books-on-hold-that-all-arrived-at-the-same-time."  A fascinating read, which I discussed a bit more here.

The Hiding Place Publisher: Bantam Books 7.  "The Hiding Place" by Corrie ten Boom---our Bible Bee studies this year served as a catalyst to also get us back into missionary biographies and stories of great heroes of the faith.  Since this had also been a book I wanted to read aloud for some time, this was the year.  We appreciated it deeply for all of the reasons that make it a great in Christian history.  It was brought to life all the more because we actually had opportunity to visit the Ten Boom museum in Holland when my now-big- girls were small.  One of our favorite picture memories of that trip was a photo of them standing in that hiding place.  Powerful and stirring.

Almost Amish: One Woman's Quest for a Slower, Simpler, More Sustainable Life
8.  "Almost Amish" by Nancy Sleeth---I checked this book out from the library and it was a stirring read for me.  Though I do not subscribe to romanticizing the Amish or their way of life, I did appreciate some of the lessons this woman gleaned from their lifestyle that can be very thought-provoking.  Mostly this book had me thinking about community and simple living.  I really liked hearing how this woman and her family mades some drastic changes in their lifestyle and how they were benefiting from it.  I thought long and hard about this book and it's one that had staying power with me.

A Woman's Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything
9.  "A Woman's Wisdom" by Lydia Brownback---This book came by high recommendation of a very trusted friend and fellow-reader.  In fact, a few of my top 12 books did.  When it comes to this genre of books in particular, I usually know that if she has high recommendations I am going to feel the same way.  And I was right!  I had some of Brownback's books "marked" for a someday read, but when I saw this one, I jumped at the giveaway (and won!).  I'm so glad I did.  This is a certain re-read.  This book is greatly convicting and was very needful for me, personally.  I add my highest recommendation to this one!

Homestead Blessings Cookbook

10.  "The Homestead Blessings Cookbook"---by the West Ladies.  Well, it is a cookbook.  Which means it isn't necessarily a reading book, though there are several vignettes to read in it.  But I like this little gem for me and my homestead-loving daughters.  It's been fun to try a whole lot of these recipes.  We still want an outdoor kitchen someday.

The Thunder: A Novel on John Knox
11. "The Thunder" by Douglas Bond---We have read many books aloud by Douglas Bond.  I think the Mr. Pipes books are our favorites.  The "Crown and Covenant" series are interesting and we do need to know about the sacrifices and difficult circumstances our Scottish ancestors lived through for the cause of Christ, but the graphic descriptions are often hard for my feminine side to stomach (so I sometimes edit while reading aloud).  While "The Thunder" certainly does not sugar-coat anything, it was a bit less graphic and I just appreciated the whole story about one of our heroes of the faith, John Knox.  My older children constantly asked for me to read another chapter.

The Fruitful Wife: Cultivating a Love Only God Can Produce

12.  "The Fruitful Wife" by Hayley DiMarco---Oh.  my.  What can I possibly say about this book, except that it should be read by every Christian wife who is serious about growing in the fruit of the spirit (which should be all of us).  I liked DiMarco's honest reflections (and I said "ouch" just a few too many times because I have a feeling her personality is a bit like mine)--they add credibility to her writing without detracting from her message and focusing too much on her self.  This book is hard-hitting, yet encouraging and I will be revisiting this book again in the near future.

Now I'm off to start pondering my reads for 2013!  Looking forward to more biographies, more read-alouds (the best time of every day), a couple of classics, more stirring reads, some fun reads, and how it all will (hopefully) grow and change me and the ones I love!  Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Homemade Marshmallows (without corn syrup!)

Truth be told...I am not a big marshmallow fan.  I do like to roast them over a good campfire and melt them into a s'more.  But in general, I don't like how sweet they are.  My children, however, love them.  Every time we go to the store and pass by that aisle, they ask.
"Please, can we get marshmallows for......(fruit salad, hot chocolate...anything?)?"
Mama:  "Noooooo," (as she picks up the bag and reads the label to her self just one more time just to prove she knows why she is saying no), "we don't need them."  (And quietly she says something about how much "junk" is in the ingredient list and wonders what these really are anyway...her health-conscious girls nodding in agreement, but sighing still over not having any in said fruit salad or hot chocolate).
Well, if you are thinking that I never eat anything unhealthy, you would be wrong.  But I am very mindful, particularly about artificial ingredients and colorings, and my motto is, "If you can make it yourself, you ought to."  (Most of the time, anyway).  And marshmallows....well, their ingredient list always makes me squirm.
Last year, we tried making our own for the first time.  They were peppermint ones and were definitely tasty.  But they made a large batch, and we got tired of the candy-cane flavor in everything.  So this year, we wanted to do it again.  I put it in the schedule of fun things to do during Advent.

Then I got out the recipes to prepare.  And made a discovery we didn't like...there was corn syrup in the recipe!  This would not do.  So, after some more research we found a recipe without corn syrup, but it still needed tweaking.  We improvised and created our own tasty results.  There's no way of getting around the sugar.  But at least we can make the sugar as natural as possible and without all of the artificial flavors and colors.   It's really very easy to do!  Ready to try it yourself?

Get out your ingredients.  There aren't too many.  We like this sugar (we buy it from Costco).

Here you can somewhat see how fluffy it looks when it has doubled in volume.  When we first poured in the syrup, we thought for sure our marshmallows were going to be light brown because our sugar is not bleached white and contains its natural coloring.  To our surprise, they turned out white and look like regular marshmallows!  And all without the use of blue food coloring.  Why do they do all that stuff to packaged food?
You could also dust them or roll them in toasted coconut.  You may want to dust
them with extra powdered sugar (or coconut) on the sides so that they do not stick to each other in storage.
And since we had our first snow yesterday (Hurray!), we got to try them out in our hot chocolate or eggnog lattes.  I think they were the perfect touch.  Even for one who doesn't normally go for marshmallows.  I think this will become a regular staple in the house for those occasional touches to fruit salad, hot drinks in the winter, and maybe even the candy cane fudge the girls are wanting to make for Christmas.

****My apologies that the recipe is hard to read.  I am experimenting with some things and always learning ( I have a LOT to learn!).  I hope to try to fix that very soon.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

An Extra-Special First Sunday of Advent

If you are a Christian, you are already aware that today marks the first Sunday of Advent.  It is perhaps our favorite time of the year.  So what makes this one "extra-special?" 

Today marks the anniversary of the day my Tender Warrior proposed to me, 22 years ago.  What is more, it was a Sunday.  And it was the first Sunday of Advent then too.  Young college students that we were and starting to talk about a future life together, we had heard a stirring message about celebrating Advent in the home on the week prior.    That first Sunday of Advent was full of surprises, but I will never forget starting this tradition on that night as we sat looking out over Lake Washington, candle and book in hand.

We did not have any photos of the glorious event.  Back then, I think our lame cameras wouldn't have handled it--the candle lighting the darkness.  Beautiful, but hard to capture on a Kodak Disc or whatever other camera we might have had.  We didn't have any staged friends, hiding in the bushes, to capture photographs like some of our friends do now.  Here, however, is a photo of my Tender Warrior and I a couple of years ago.  We wanted to find the spot and the special bench and show it to our children.  So this was the 20th anniversary picture, I suppose you could say.

This morning, I heard this song on Pandora.  (I love the instrumentals available on Pandora!)  It was mixed in among many beautiful and stirring hymns.  Sometimes Pandora strikes me a little funny in that I wonder how it chooses certain songs when they don't seem to fit the rest of the genre.  However, this song was played.  And I believe the Lord knew it was one I needed for this day and this time.  We have had a bit of a health trial in our home lately, which is why I have been more absent than usual from the blogosphere.  It has demanded just about every ounce of extra energy, time and devotion I could have.  Sometimes it threatens to defeat me. 

So, hearing this....just what I needed. 

I devote this song to my Tender Warrior today.  Thank you for choosing a life with me and for the years of Advent celebrations we have shared together from the very beginning of our marriage and as our family has grown.  May this bless you today as you are working your "warrior" job.  I am so grateful that every year when this day comes, it is marked with an extra special beauty.

Soli Deo Gloria! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Cupcake's Tale (A Story of Forgiveness)

Being a day of celebration, the Lady of the House set about making a special treat, as is her custom.  She settled upon a cupcake recipe.  I felt delighted to be chosen because the Lady of the House does not consider herself a "cupcake" sort of lady.  Something about not yet being able to create something scrumptious enough and that most of hers seem too bland or just plain "cake-ish".  But, she had them in her mind.  And all because she had a gourmet cupcake at, of all events, a poultry swap!  This lady (at the poultry swap) was a true cupcake gourmet and after perusing her menu, The Lady of the House settled upon an Autumn Cupcake.  She shared it with her poultry-loving daughters who were in attendance with her.  And all agreed, it was indeed a scrumptious cupcake.

So, this being the perfect occasion, she settled upon a recipe and made some twists of her own to try to replicate something similar.  The piece de resistance?  A Chai Carrot Cupcake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting.  Just saying the name made her a little bit giddy.  For she really wanted to bless her family with such a treat.

Off to the kitchen she went, busy with measuring, mixing, grating, blending spices, and baking.  Oh, how good they smelled in the oven.  And they looked so lovely and rounded, sitting in those nice fall paper-lined baking cups.  She set them carefully on the cooling rack.  She prepared the frosting and refrigerated it during dinner, so that it could retain a nice shape while being artistically swirled upon the top of the finished cupcakes.

The Lady of the House and the Man of the House talked of them during dinner, among other conversations of the day.  The Man of the House told of a multi-car pileup accident on the highway as he rode the bus into work in the morning.  We noted that it wasn't even foggy, so we wondered how such a thing happened.  The Man of the House suggested a wonderful idea--to share cupcakes with neighbors as a gesture of kindness and light-bearing on an otherwise dark night.  The children were all excited to deliver and so they set about finishing the cupcakes when dinner was finished.

The daughters wanted to help decorate because pastry bags full of frosting are hard to resist when one is creative and artistic at heart.  Pastry bags were soon loaded.  The Lady of the House, being bent toward perfectionism (and not liking that aspect of her character too much, but struggling with it just the same), sought to make them look as beautiful as the cupcake gourmet's.  They were indeed lovely, even if not as pretty as the cupcake gourmet made them.

And here is where my tale starts to get more personal.  I was thrilled to be topped with such lovely decoration and to be turned from something somewhat plain looking, to something fancy.  Perhaps the Lady of the House was like my fairy godmother?  Regardless, we all were finished and sat awaiting the basket to be carried to neighbors.  Some were set aside for them and some were set aside for her family when they concluded their gift-giving and reconvened for their own family time, looking forward to hot cider and some more of their Reformation story.

Upon their return, they set about preparing cupcakes for the table.  They thought the cupcake tree would be just right for a centerpiece.  The Daughter of the House carefully put the first cupcake on (which was me).  And then it happened.  Off I toppled, landing in a puddle of cream cheese, turned upside down on the floor.  This upset her greatly.  The Lady of the House was also rather frustrated and did not respond kindly to her daughter's accident.  Along came the Man of the House and being just a little annoyed at his daughter's drama, he too toppled a cupcake.  This upset the Lady of the House even more.  There we were...a pileup, as it were, of a few cupcakes.  And a pileup of fragile emotions and tears.

The Lady of the House was discouraged at her own failures and was no longer in a happy, celebratory mood because she was so irritated with her own sin.  Her daughters were heavy-hearted because their Mama was heavy hearted.  The Man of the House, being a steady man who is quite adept at calming the sometimes dramatic emotions of his wife and daughters, sought to turn the attentions of his household to brighter thoughts.

It being late, the Lady of the House had plenty of work ahead to prepare her household for bedtime.  But first she sought out her two daughters, one at a time, to seek forgiveness.  Such moments are always bittersweet; bitter for the sin that caused the offenses, and sweet for the power forgiveness has to cleanse and make anew.

As she embraced one of her girls, she remembered the story that the Man of the House shared at dinner; the one about the six-car pileup.  She said to her daughter that she thought that this was a picture of what just happened in her own household and how one person's frustration feeds another's until there is left an accidental pileup--one that needs a gentle hand to come in and untangle all of the mess that was made to set it all right again.

After settling little ones to bed, the Lady of the House began to breathe deeply at the calm that comes upon a household at bedtime.  Though still in agony over her own failures, she was beginning to see above them.  As one little daughter climbed out of bed to have her skin treated for mysterious, persistent itchiness, the Lady of the House gently rubbed the salve upon her then accompanied her back to bed.   As she did, she smelled a familiar smell still lingering in the air and said to herself, "It smells like cupcakes in here."  The thought made her smile, as she remembered a quote from Lark Rise to Candleford that she had heard only the night before: 
It is only by making mistakes and hurting one another that we learn the greatest of human joys:  forgiving and being forgiven.
That oh-so-pleasant, lingering aroma--the one left by us cupcakes--served as a poignant reminder that forgiveness is indeed sweet.  The Lady of the House is ever grateful for such a kindness from her Savior.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day in our Home

Today concludes our annual month of Reformation study.  That just means we spend the month of October each year with a focus in our literature on an aspect or hero of the Reformation.  Don't know what this "Reformation Day" is all about?  There are many resources on the internet, but you can visit this one for a brief description.  In short (very short), October 31, 1517 was the date that Martin Luther pinned his 95 Theses to the door of Wittenberg Hall and was a huge catalyst to the Protestant Reformation in Europe.  Luther tends to be what people think of when they think "Reformation," but the scope of people and events all over Europe is so much broader and fascinating!

So what, or who, have we been keeping company with this month?  We chose John Knox.  We have read some books on him in the past, so this year we chose this historical fiction book by Douglas Bond.

And since we are focused on John Knox, it's the perfect time to learn more about Scotland!  So we checked out some resources from the library on Scotland--books, travel videos, and music, of course.  I have yet to try out some simple recipes, but you can be sure I'm not going to have haggis on my menu!  This study has been very fun and I have learned a lot.  We thought maybe we should trace our family lineage to Scotland so we could have an excuse to have a family tartan and Tender Warrior might just wear a kilt (not likely), but any lineage to Scotland would come through my side not his.  The children decided after one of our travel videos, that Mama should be able to play the bagpipes since I play the Irish tinwhistle and the bagpipes are much like a recorder with some air blown in a bag.  Alas, while I think it would be fun to try and I do enjoy listening to them for a little while at parades, I suppose it doesn't fit me too well.  I like strings and harps and flutes and the piano.  Now we are all ready to visit Scotland someday (maybe when I get to England, hmmmmm?)

For my own personal reading time, I chose this book from the library:

This is the first "adult" book I have read by Liz Curtis Higgs.  I have to say my all-time favorites of hers are her children's Parable series books.  I have not read any of her Christian's just not my genre.  She does have a series based on Scotland.  And she admits she has fallen in love with Scotland in all of her travels and studies for her books.  So this book reads like you are her travel companion.  It's kind of an interesting way of writing a book.  I enjoyed it and her humorous style of communication.
As for children's videos, there aren't too many out there yet, and I haven't seen one on John Knox yet (or Martin Luther) that would appeal to me.  But here is a series on Heroes of the Faith called Torchlighters that we learned about through Bible Bee.  It is produced by Voice of the Martyrs and I think it is very well done for a children's series.  To date, there are just 10 titles.  We've enjoyed a few of them throughout our Bible Bee studies.  As for the Reformation, the one on William Tyndale would be most suitable.
We do love fall and the beauty and bounty that God has provided for us.  We also love history and appreciate the history of the church.  We think it's important to spend this month and this day celebrating these things and shining a light in the darkness that surrounds us.  That has meant we have tried different approaches over the years to do this.  Some have been successful and others.....well, we thought we could have done better, but we trusted that the Lord used it anyway.
So, we will wrap up the month with some cozy apple cider and pumpkin recipes (maybe I'll get to those Scottish recipes yet, but perhaps not today) and some good stories in the evening.  My littles still like carving pumpkins (no scary faces or evil symbols here!) and I do realize some Christians don't agree.  We just use the opportunity to go through the "Pumpkin Patch Parable" book and use the pumpkin to tell the story of salvation.  Just one way we seek to redeem the day...because all things were created for His glory.  And we are always learning, always reforming.  "Sola Reformanda" is our theme.  Not only for this Reformation-themed month, but for every day of our lives for His glory.

Linking up today at:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Handmade Birthday Love

There are so many reasons for me to love this time of year.  At the top of the list is that three of my children were born in this beautiful season.  I have the warmest memories of walks in fall sunshine illuminating brightly colored leaves as I prepared for the births of these dear ones.  It also means that this is a busy time of year celebrating birthdays (along with Reformation Day and Thanksgiving, and any other excuses to make apple or pumpkin "something" to eat!)

Nostalgic mama that I am, it is one of my greatest satisfactions in life to create handmade gifts for my children (and even my husband, though it's a bit harder to do).  I'll admit there are times, especially in this season of my life, that I don't finish all of the projects on time.  But I press on.  I still don't like that my baby's first year photo album isn't up to date yet (not even close, really).  But I am determined it will get done.  Maybe by Christmas?

I tend to receive many last-minute inspirations when it comes to celebration ideas, or gifts to create.  I'm not sure why it seems to come like this, but I accept it as a special gift from the Lord and now I start to look for how He will surprise me with an idea and it becomes great fun.  I pray for the ideas to come, even when it seems so last-minute, and I am amazed (I don't know why!) at what shows up.

For example, last week I was preparing a birthday cake for my Littlest Princess.  She had said for months that she wanted a fall garden party.  And she wanted a basket cake.  So my picture was something with a fall theme and autumn colors.  But this was not at all what she had in mind.  She was just thinking, "garden and flowers" and not at all fall colors!  To her, flowers come in bright pinks, yellows, purples.......all those delightful colors little girls love.  So I wasn't sure what kind of flowers I was going to put on her cake.  Especially when time was running low.

I was preparing the icing for her cake and needed to make a quick reference to the recipe.  I headed to my bookshelf to my trusty Wilton cake idea book and catalog (dated 1992!  The first one I ever bought).  As an aside, I am SOOOO thankful that I spent some time learning the art of cake decorating before I even had children!  It has served me over and over again for many years and is another delightful avenue of creativity for special occasions.  Back to the story.......I pulled out my idea book and on the front was just the inspiration I needed!  I turned to the page with the instructions.

I showed it to my Little Princess and she was delighted.  We just adapted the colors slightly and her cake was not heart-shaped, but round.  (And, of course, not as perfect as a magazine, but perfect to her, which is what counts).


I managed to get a skirt done for her, and paired it with some consignment sale finds for tops.  I have also passed on this handmade joy to my girls, so they are usually happily creating something too.  Country Girl knitted these lovely wool socks for the birthday girl.  The last pair she made are now outgrown and they were her very favorite socks.
Baby had a birthday too.  It was apple theme.  I had a lot of fun with his projects.  I knitted my very first garment (if you don't count fingerless gloves or scarves or diaper covers).  Or at least my first sweater.  Can you see that XOXOXO (hugs and kisses) pattern? 
I enjoyed it so much that I decided to make one for my Little Princess too.  It's in progress though and didn't make the birthday deadline.
I may not be up to date on Baby Warrior's photo album, but he is my only one to get the special gift of his own fabric photo memory book.  It is full of love from all of the family to him.  I had this idea for months, thanks to this book.  But I couldn't seem to get it into the project queue and even have it come together until the last week.  The final project was just beautiful.  Everyone wrote special messages to Baby.  We love to look at it together.

Princess Girl embroidered this sweet little apple for her brother's book

Birthdays do tend to take me some time.  But I think it's a worthy investment into giving life to my family.  I think there can be a natural tendency, particularly as children enter their teen years, to let birthdays slide just a bit.  At least it seemed to be true when I was growing up.  I can still remember the day when it seemed my whole family forgot it was my birthday.  It was nearly heartbreaking to me.  I don't think it is always intentional.  I think it is just that, though...not being intentional.  When children get older, I think we can be lulled into thinking that it doesn't matter to them so much.  But I don't believe it's true.  Everyone wants to know that they are cherished.  And birthdays provide a perfect opportunity to give that reminder.  So I have made it my ambition to care for my loved ones in this way.  The time it takes is my small investment, my deposit if you will, into their hearts.  I bless them as a reminder that they are cherished by their Creator God...and by the family He entrusted their lives to.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Soothing Sore Throats with Herbal Popsicles

This past week we've been visited by a strange throat virus that has given the children that had it all the same symptoms.  Namely, a low grade fever, a loss of voice and a severely sore throat.  As it's been working its way through the household (we're hopeful that not all will succumb to it), I have been looking for ways to both prevent its onset and soothe those who are ailing.

Personally, I really like herbal teas whenever I'm feeling under the weather.  But I find it difficult to convince my children that herbal tea is comforting.  Most of the time I give up trying with my younger ones and just go straight to the glycerite herbal tinctures, instead reminding them to drink water constantly.  My older children, however, are starting to appreciate herbal teas when they are ill.  Especially where a little honey is concerned.

I had the notion this week to make some herbal popsicles.  Something I have wanted to do for quite a while and it seemed like no better time than the present.  I did a little research with Friend Google and discovered that the best looking ones were the ones that were half herbal tea and half fruit juice (that means 100% real fruit juice, not artificially flavored ones).  Then I took stock of all my herbal teas and had a very bright idea (at least, I think so).

I've had this tea in my cabinet for too many years.  I picked it up, thinking it just might convince my littles that herbal tea is good.  It makes the claims anyway.  It even has a cute giraffe on it, so who could resist, right?  Wrong.  So there it sits.

Aaahhhhh, but what if I mix it with fruit juice and put it in a popsicle?  Off to the kitchen I go to make my magic elixir.  Into the freezer for several hours and we'll test them out in the afternoon.  And do you know?  It worked!

Now, when fighting illness I am generally very cautious about sugar.  It is documented to suppress the immune system a few hours following ingestion.  Yes, juice has natural sugars in it (and so does honey).  But this is one of those exercises in judgment and I personally don't have a problem with some natural fruit juices or Recharge, especially once the illness has set in.  I might be more picky when I know we have a chance of beating it up front.  The key is keeping it natural (don't ask me how much I dislike Gatorade or Sunny D and the like).  I think it fits with my philosophy of eating foods in the ways God designed them.  And if you are fighting fevers, hydration is of utmost importance.  I have yet to find a child who will turn down a popsicle. 

I keep these Cool Fruits fruit juice freezers on hand in my freezer for wintertime illnesses just in case I don't have any at the ready when I need them.  And then I have the problem of children wishing they could be sick, just so they can have one!

But just as in summer, I prefer to make my own.  It's cheaper, usually healthier, and you can customize them.  So here's the recipe I used for my herbal popsicles.  There are so many possibilities and you can vary the teas to deal with any ailments you are facing in your own family.  Since we had sore throats, this was my recipe of the day.  I also made do with whatever juices I happened to have around.  This is what I came up with.

Soothing Sore Throat Popsicles

2 Throat Coat for Kids (by Traditional Medicinals) tea bags
2 cups boiling water
2 cups fruit juice of your choice (I used a mixture of pear and cranberry juices)

Boil your water and pour over tea bags.  Steep tea 20 minutes.  Add your juice and stir until combined.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

Again, you can substitute your own tea blends.

I can't believe it took me so long to try out this great idea!  I hope it will be of help to you and your precious ones as the cold and flu season begins this year.  I'm sure we will be keeping some on hand in our own household.  Especially when I have very happy children at the thought of a popsicle.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Dance at the Shire

When the invitation came across my email, it seemed high time to go.  The invitation said, "Bilbo's Belated Birthday Ball."  One of the themed balls held a few times a year by a local English Country Dancing club.  That means not only was it one of my favorite ways to exercise, but it had the bonus of having a "Lord of the Rings" theme.  Which means I wouldn't have to twist Tender Warrior's arm to go.  Not that I do anyway.  He is so sweet to oblige me when it comes to historic dancing and he enjoys it as well.  Even when I make him get up in the middle of the living room to dance my favorite Emma and Mr. Knightley dance in the newer version (my favorite!) of "Emma."

The weather was beautiful and the location perfect for such an event.  Truly, it looked like a place that hobbits could dance.  And hobbits there were (some even with fur on their feet)...and elves (pointy ears too), an Aragorn with the hair to prove it, Legolas (without the trademark hair) and well, even a Black Rider or two (though the invitation warned to not come in scary costumes as this is a family-friendly environment).  And the beautiful gowns....oh my.  Made me want to break out my sewing machine.  Though I don't have so much time to spend on creating beautiful gowns right now.

I took the opportunity to try out some LOTR-inspired hairstyles, thanks to YouTube.  I so enjoy styling hair and I am very grateful to have daughters who let me.  This one was inspired by Arwen's "Helm's Deep" style.
And this one is Eowyn-inspired for my blonde girl.  Now we have very fine hair around here (not like those LOTR ladies), so we do our best and we often have to use lots of bobby pins and extra ponytail holders.

It was a gloriously perfect fall day to dance outdoors until dark.  So many took the opportunity to dance in true hobbit fashion with bare feet.

Love this couple on the end.  They look so authentic.  The young hobbit definitely knew what he was doing.  This young lady's costume is adorable and I love the flower wreath in her hair (my girls were admiring those too).

Sun was setting and moon was rising.  How much more lovely can it be?

As night fell, the festivities moved in to the barn.  This lovely barn was where the refreshments were served.  Did someone say that hobbits like to eat??  If you saw the spread, you would know.  It fast disappeared with all those hungry dancers even though it looked like so much at first! 

Pardon the orange light (still trying to get those indoor settings right without flash photography), but you can see the fun continues indoors as well.  My Country Girl and Adventure Girl were determined to stay to the end because the final dance was their most anticipated....Mairi's Wedding, a good 'ol Irish circle dance (and it's pretty easy as well!).  Part of the reason they so anticipated it was that they've been learning to play it on their fiddles.

The only thing missing from Bilbo's Birthday Ball must have been Gandalf's fireworks.  I'm sure the owners of the farm well appreciated that one (and probably wouldn't have allowed it)!

It was a bit of a late night, but surely rejuvenating to our minds, bodies and spirits to have had such a delightful time out of doors with beauty for the eyes, ears, and even taste buds to behold.  I think we shall have to make this a more regular occurrence!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lord of This Ring

Call me sentimental.  It's very true.  I admit there are some aspects of it that get me into trouble, especially when I am wanting to declutter my house!  So I am working on not attaching sentimental value to things that really aren't useful or necessary.  They are only THINGS, after all.  And I'd much rather be surrounded by the people I love than the things that remind me of them.  Not saying that those things don't sometimes have a very good purpose.  Just saying my focus needs to remain on the truly valuable.

But THIS......Lord?  I had to ask again and open my hand and let go and be taught. 

The last two weeks have involved a lot of thought, a lot of wrestling, and a great reminder of Ephesians 6:10-18.  I wrote about this here.  And in the midst we have been clinging to one another and to the Word, yet feeling darts thrown our way rather consistently.  It has been very evident that we are in a spiritual battle.  Marriages in this country (and around the world, I dare say) are at the top of the list in this battle.  Why?  Because marriage is God's covenant communication with the world about His own love for His bride, the church.

At the end of a really rough week came one particularly rough day.  My Tender Warrior had been "hit" from many sides that day.  Then he said those words....."I lost my wedding ring today."  Down came my own tears and a flood of emotions.  It wasn't just that the ring was gone, though it was that.  It felt like some symbolic attack at a time of vulnerability.  I struggled through my own emotions, searching for how to encourage my husband.  We had a planned date for the evening, so I took Baby Warrior to my beloved rocking chair to settle him for bed, and I prayed.  I believe God said to me, "Think upon what you do have, not what you're missing.  He needs to know your love for him especially right now."

With the peace from that small time alone with the Lord, I could sincerely and lovingly tell Warrior, "I don't care about the ring.  I would much rather have YOU and no ring, than a silly ring without YOU."

It took me awhile to start remembering how many miracle stories we have regarding our wedding rings.  We have each lost our rings at least twice and had them miraculously returned.  And I'm not kidding when I tell you these stories are miraculous.  But I was starting to think that this one might just be outside of the realm of a miracle.  It seemed most likely somewhere on a college campus and I had visions of a poor college student finding it and pawning or selling it.  Not so full of faith, am I?

But I prayed.  I prayed He would somehow return it to us.  I prayed that if indeed someone found it, it would come into the hands of a believer and an honest person who would at least make an honest effort to find its owner.  I prayed to have it back most of all because, in the midst of this challenging time, I felt keenly of how much I wanted our marriage to stand as a testimony in this dark world full of broken relationships that there IS such a thing as covenant commitment and lifetime love.  I know it is merely a ring and a token.  And not even everyone wears a wedding ring.  But to me, in this world of brokenness, the token means something powerful.

Over the next few days I kept reflecting on the moment I put that ring on his finger, declaring my forever love for him.  Even more so, I kept hearing the words of our pastor at the time, who married us.  He gave such meaning to our ceremony all throughout it, that I have never forgotten his words.  I heard him giving his own testimony that he said he would never wear a ring, but that when he married his wife he changed his mind.  He wanted the world to know that he had a special relationship with one person in the whole world that can never be broken.  And that it was a symbol of Christ's love, which is unbroken for his bride.

The last time Warrior lost his ring, it was while hiking a mountain.  Ironically, it was a mountain in the town in which we were married!  How we got it back was nothing short of a miracle.  Since he was hiking a mountain, and it was in the era of the "Lord of the Rings" films (and my husband is a GREAT fan of LOTR, both the books and films), I came to affectionately say that God had shown Himself to be the true Lord of the Ring for us.

I recalled that and I prayed.  We would pray together at night, sometimes in tears, that God might once again return it to us.  But with each day, it grew easier to resign ourselves to thinking we might not see it again.  I had even started thinking about what I would do to creatively replace it.  But I so wanted that confirmation from Him and I so wanted the miracle.

The next morning, Warrior was making his lunch for work.  He opened his lunchbox and there it was!!  He was convinced that he had lost it amidst his gym workout and he had last remembered it in his pocket (yikes, now I'm starting to hear Smeagle/Gollum saying, "pocketses!").  It was a shallow pocket and so he figured it just had to have fallen out somewhere by accident.  He has no idea how it could have landed in his lunchbox.  He even took the same lunchbox to work the previous day and had not seen it in there, but had searched everywhere around his office for it.  After four days, my Beloved's wedding band was back on his finger and oh, how delighted we were and how thankful we are that He chose to give it back to us!

Most of all, I felt this amazing confirmation from the Lord, again telling us He wants us to stand firm as a testimony of what marriage is intended to be, showing us He cares about the smallest of things in our lives, and saying once again that He is indeed the Lord of This Ring...the Lord of This Marriage.


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