Beautiful Day

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!


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