Silent Night.

The snow is swirling.  The windows are rattling.  And I am sipping a late-night cocoa to pass the time.  I should definitely be reveling in sweet beauty rest, but the promise of an old-fashioned Iowa blizzard makes me giddy to say the least.  

Sleep eludes me. 

Last winter thoroughly disappointed.  I am glad this year she has decided to redeem herself.  And before Christmas of all things.

It is our first winter here on the homestead.  And, of course, our first big snow.  I am curious how long it will take our lonely stretch of road to be plowed.  I can imagine the snow drifts will be deliciously unrivaled.  My camera is eager and ready.

(A flashback from last year’s winter:  Bring it on.)  

The girls are delightfully snug in their beds and undoubtedly dreaming of snow angels and hot cocoa.  The anticipation of such a lovely snow day is rich and welcome.  (Although a trifle unnerving, given my current physical condition.) 

Peaceful.  Quiet.  Still.  

A Silent Night.  

It happens to be their favorite.  The princesses three ask me to sing it nearly every night.  Year-round.  Christmas.  July.  Spring.  Whenever.  

“Silent night, holy night.
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon virgin, mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.”

And it’s even prettier in it’s native German…

“Stille nacht, heilege nacht
Alles schlaft, einsam vacht.
Nur das traute hoch heilege par.
Alder knabe im lockigen har.
Schlaft in himmlischer rue.
Schlaft in himmlischer rue.” 

And since the lights are beginning to flicker, and I can barely hold open these sleepy eyes a moment longer, and a fantastical Winter Wonderland awaits me in the morning… I shall draw this day to a close.

Sleep in heavenly peace…

Love & Coffee.

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Keeping Christmas.

“Keep Christ in Christmas.  Happy Holidays!”

That’s what the marquee down the main street in town says.  Seriously.  Does that seem strange to anyone else?  I mean, I am all for celebrating Jesus, but to me this seems like an interesting (and probably well-meaning) attempt at political correctness.  I guess that after scrolling through that leading intro, I was expecting… something else.

Sometimes I say “Merry Christmas.”  And sometimes I do say, “Happy Holidays.”  I might even utter the occasional “Season’s Greetings,” too.  (gasp!)  I don’t exactly understand why some people get so up-in-arms about that.  After all, we just gorged ourselves at Thanksgiving.  And New Year’s is just around the corner.  There will be others celebrating various holidays in between, and while I may not share their sentiment, I do not wish them to be unhappy.  


Christmas is in full swing here at the homestead.  Well, actually that is a lie.  It’s probably more like “half swing.”  Maybe even a quarter.  Don’t get me wrong, though.  The tree is up.  Presents are wrapped (mostly).  And we have already watched the Polar Express at least 13 times.  

At least.

It’s our first Christmas in the country.  I envisioned it somewhat differently.  Fresh-baked goodness is not pouring from the kitchen like it normally would be.  Not even a trickle.  There are lists of homemade gifts and piles of supplies sitting lonely and unmade.  Perhaps, some time in the dwindling days before Christmas, I will manage to eek out a double batch of sugar cookies for my girlies to decorate.  Or maybe The Man will help me to dig my sewing machine out of storage so I can whip up a few last-minute surprises.  And maybe, just maybe, I will defy doctor’s orders and bake a Bouche de Noel for Christmas dinner with my lovely ladies.

It seems entirely unnatural to be sitting still so much.  My sanity is slipping and my laundry basket is overflowing.  It’s funny how rallying the troops (who are appropriately bedecked in pink glitter and lip gloss) and shouting marching orders (ever-so-softly) from the couch is consuming so much of my time. 

Thank.  God.  For.  Coffee. 

But my angels are sweet.  The Man is amazing.  And baby is well.  

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Love & Coffee.

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Good Intentions.

It still pains me to think of all the awesome things I had planned for this blog during the month of December, but hey… what could a girl do?

I had a laundry list of homemade gifts to make this year (thanks in large part to my new love, Pinterest!).  It was truly a miracle that I was able to finish most of them in time for Christmas.  Amid piles of boxes, we spent several “family nights” putting together many gifts for friends and family.  It was the perfect way to find joy amid the chaos of moving during the holidays and a great stress-reliever for all of us.  

I am somewhat distraught that I did not manage to get pictures of all our craft projects.  It was late Christmas evening, during that drowsy, content, gluttony-induced-near-coma that comes after a perfect day of celebration when I realized that most of my creations were not photographed.  But in that blissful moment, I didn’t seem to care much.  C’est la vie…

 A few of our projects:

Reindeer Root beer  (We used brown pipe cleaners, googly eyes, red pom poms and hot glue to turn cases of IBC root beer into a herd of reindeer.)
Peppermint Cocoa in a Jar  (These turned out amazing.  I will definitely be making more and I will post the recipe and pics!  Could also be a great Valentine’s Day gift…)
Chicken Noodle Soup in a Jar  (I will make more and post this one, too.  A great idea for a gift basket for a sick friend.)
Scarves repurposed from T-shirts  (One of favorite projects from Pinterest!  I gave away all that I made, but I will be posting this one, too.)
Glass ornaments  (We filled glass ball ornaments with all kinds of things:  red feathers, confetti, tulle, glitter, etc.  We used white tulle for the tie to hang them.  We handed these out to dear friends during a night of caroling.  They were beautiful.)

We even managed to eke out most of our traditional goodies, too.  (Another Christmas miracle!)  Although, I didn’t get to post much about them, I added several our of our family favorites for the holidays to the Recipes page.  (Like Grammys’s Sugar Cookies, my great-grandmother’s recipe… to-die-for!)  Some of my favorite party appetizers are up, too, including a great Hot Spinach Dip and Smoky Cheese Ball.

A photographer I am not, but here is our Buche de Noel.

The Buche de Noel cake is one of our favorite treats.  There are many different recipes floating around out there, but this one is the best!  You can find it here on the Recipes page.  Buche de Noel is a French Yule Log cake.  We began this as a family tradition when I was in high school.  My French teacher gave her students this recipe that she learned to love while living in France.  I’m telling you… this is the real deal.  Since my girlies are still young, I love to have them present a birthday cake to Jesus during our Christmas Eve family dinner and this is the cake we choose.  We bake this cake together as a family and for little ones, it truly is amazing every step of the way.  They marvel at how the beating of the egg whites can turn them into fluffy little mountain peaks.  They are equally enthralled by creating a fine winter snow storm as we sift the cake flour.  Not to mention, this delicate cake tastes downright heavenly.

And just for the pure cuteness factor… 

During our move, my two smallest ones raided my treasure trove of scarves and I found my Ladybug playing “Mary & Baby Jesus.”

And then I found my little Lovey doing something similar, only Baby Jesus was now a blonde, with long, golden curls.

I can now see the bottom of my coffee cup, and I believe there is a whole basement full of boxes just dying to be unpacked… Off I go.

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Back in the saddle.

Life has a way of running away from me when I am not looking.  The “Intentional Christmas” I had envisioned for myself and my family was not what I planned, but it was meaningful and enrapturing just the same.  

I am a “Let’s-make-it-look-like-Christmas-threw-up-in-here-the-day-after-Thanksgiving” sort of girl.

That.  Didn’t.  Happen.  

For obvious reasons, moving in December didn’t accommodate that tradition.

Consequently, the Christmas season seemed abbreviated.  And simple.  That was sort of my intention, so perhaps God knew what was best after all. 

We were able to enjoy one full week of Christmas decor (which we wisely limited to the big tree, a small tree, the nativity scene and a wreath on the door).  Originally, my stellar hubby decreed that the tree, along with its accompanying decor would be up until the end of January since we’d hardly had time enjoy it.  However, thanks to my sweet princess (mostly my 2-year-old Lovey), I have a wiseman missing a hand, a wiseman missing his pointy hat, a box full of broken ornaments to fix and partridge in a pear tree.  

They will boxed up today.  With hubby’s hearty approval.

We are finally starting to feel settled.  There are many boxes tucked away in the basement to be gone through later.  A large bag of Christmas gifts remains missing, but what a surprise it will be when we find it (unless, of course, it was inadvertently thrown away with all the other trash that amounts during a big move.)

 Coffee in hand.  And a lovely book awaiting me on the coffee table.  Now if it would just snow…

In the nick of time…

I’m back.
A few thoughts:
Moving this close to Christmas should be illegal.  (Still missing one large bag of Christmas gifts.  My sweet hubby asked if it could have been mistaken for trash.  Please, don’t even go there.)
The novelty of a laundry chute will consequently produce more laundry.  And invite temptation to do things like send a ball hurtling down at whomever’s head may be beneath aforementioned laundry chute.  (Here’s hoping that both of these things will lose their sparkle soon…)
I should always ask for help before moving a dresser up the stairs by myself.  (And that’s all I am going to say about that.)
I don’t believe I have ever been this tired in my entire life.  
One of the best decisions I made in the last two weeks was packing my coffee machine last and unpacking it first.  (Probably the one and only thing that went according to plan.)
I have the most incredibly fantabulous friends who have 100% spoiled me by helping me clean and pack, moving an endless assortment of boxes, bringing me dinner so I didn’t have to cook (more than once),  taking care of my kids and just letting me cry once in awhile, too. 

There has never been a better time for coffee…


Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.

“Hello, Monday.  How kind of you to drop by…”

I know full well that for me these next two weeks will be a challenge.  

I am:

a.  moving to a new house.
b.  directing a Children’s musical.
c.  preparing to host all my family for Christmas in the aforementioned new house.

Not to mention keeping up with all the regular things like having clean clothes to wear or feeding my family.  Or all the Christmas things like addressing cards and wrapping gifts.  


After the kids were in bed last night, my handsome hubby looked at me and directly told me I was not allowed to talk about anything stressful for the rest of the evening.  We have two weeks of that to look forward to.  So he played a video game while I watched Cake Boss and played on Pinterest with a cup of hot peppermint tea.  Wonderfully relaxing.

And today we will tackle a massive agenda that rivals Santa’s famous list.  At the top of that list is locating this:  Mocha Nog.  I love eggnog almost as much as I coffee.  Almost.  Anderson Erickson, an independent Iowa dairy, make the best eggnog.  Nothing comes close.  Last August, while attending the Iowa State Fair, I had the opportunity to sample this new creation.  Verdict?  Mocha Nog is pretty much heaven in a cup.  And it’s officially beginning to arrive in Iowa grocery stores.  

So armed with a steamy cup of coffee, an iPod full of fresh Christmas music (just downloaded this one for $5:  100 Classic Christmas Songs)  and hopefully a tall glass of Mocha Nog later… I am ready to go all Chuck Norris on my list.  

“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am”
Philippians 4.13 (MSG)
Think about this…

On the move.

Well, I’m here.  And oh-so-tired.  As much as I am trying to keep things organized and relaxed during this Christmas season, I find myself completely worn out.  And December doesn’t even begin until tomorrow.  

My alarm clock’s snooze button has never experienced as much action as it has seen over the last several days.  Every morning for the last week, I have hit the snooze button incessantly and repeatedly, eating away my precious mornings… seven minutes at a time. I am just plain tired.

I ran into an acquaintance while out running errands a few days ago and she remarked, “You look tired.”  How kind.  Did she not realize I had just spent the better part of half an hour applying my makeup, styling my hair and selecting the perfect outfit that day?   I am not sure that it is ever appropriate to tell someone they “look tired.”  (Unless, perhaps they have just finished a marathon or are running around in their pajama pants at Walmart.  Two scenarios that will never happen for me.)

Everyone knows I am a planner.  And I have all those lists.  Gifts to make.  Goodies to bake.  Cards to write.  And on and on and on.  You might be thinking… “But you have nearly a month until Christmas.” 
That is certainly true, however, there is one little thing that came up rather quickly and unexpectedly.  We are moving.  Soon.  Before Christmas.

Not like cross-country moving, just across town, but moving none-the-less.  Our family is pretty well-versed when it comes to this.  I’d say we have it down to an art.  Because of the nature of hubby’s job, we have done a whole lot of it.  However, being good at moving doesn’t make it any less work.  Especially with three kids in tow.

I am happy (Yay.  New house.  And more bathrooms.), but I find myself delaying the days as long possible (hence the alarm clock incident), because I know how much work each day holds for me right now.  Purging is hard, but necessary and a bit exciting. (I already have piles of clothes, toys, and shoes for Good Will.)  The idea of a fresh start is always a thrill. 

The Great Christmas Plan of 2011 is still in place, albeit consequently altered and already off-schedule.  So forgive me if my Christmas cards are late and my goodies are less plentiful.  (Seriously, it’s just killing me to not have one single Christmas decoration up yet!)

Let’s just say, I’m glad that no matter where my family will be or what we are doing, we will all be together… and there will be coffee.

Why would you ever complain, O Jacob,
   or, whine, Israel, saying,
“God has lost track of me.
   He doesn’t care what happens to me”?
Don’t you know anything? Haven’t you been listening?
God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
   He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch his breath.
   And he knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
   gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
   young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength.
   They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don’t get tired,
   they walk and don’t lag behind.

Isaiah 40.27-31 (MSG)

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Holiday Rhythm.

It’s Tuesday.  

After Thanksgiving.  

I am vigorously downing my coffee and still trying to get back into the swing of things.  It’s that time of year when things begin to race at me at a startling pace, but I am determined to remain calm and just enjoy every moment.  I am determined not to burn the candle at both ends this year.  I have a pretty good plan.

Recently my friend commented that I seem amazingly calm considering all that has been heaped onto my plate this year.  I am learning that most of the things I tend to get worked up over, really are not that important (especially when it comes to Christmas) Influence the things you have control over and let God handle the rest.  It’s all anyone can do… and it works.

My little Lovey will only be 2 at Christmas time once.  And I want to savor it.  Peanut and Ladybug are old enough that they will remember the magic of this Christmas well so fostering lasting traditions is high on my priority list.  

Mostly, its about time.  People will make time for what’s most important to them.  And making memories with my sweet family is just that.  Very important.  

I am having an Intentional Christmas.

And it will be orchestrated to the tune of music.  Some of my best Christmas memories are eternally tied to the songs which seemed to be only background music at the time.  I have fond memories of decorating our tree, stringing lights and baking sugar cookies to the the rhythms of my father’s classic Christmas records.  Yeah, that’s right… vinyl.  (Sad to think that my children have no earthly what idea I am talking about.)

I am a sucker for good music.  Especially Christmas music.  And it’s pretty cool when you can get it free.  Not too long ago I posted about‘s free monthly mp3 list. (You can read about it here:  Music To My Ears.)  As Christmas approaches, they are rolling out even more free holiday tunes.  

My iPod is going to love me.

Here are some of my favorite Christmas songs available at right now:

The Bell Medley (Nice children’s choir version.)

Christmas Time Is Here (Awesome piano.)

Jingle Bells (Nice and jazzy.)

O Holy Night  (Pretty version of the classic song.)

O Little Town Of Bethelehem (A sassy saxophone rendition.)

I fully expect that as December approaches, Amazon will be spreading even more Christmas music love…

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This post is a part of Frugal Tip Tuesday and Simple Lives Thursday.

Falling Back.

Time Change.  One of my favorite moments of the year because it’s a sign of things to come.  Things like early darkness, (I find this incredibly cozy), colder weather (an even better excuse to sip more coffee), and the holidays.  

It can also be a time to “fall back,” and re-evaluate and prepare for the upcoming excitement of all things homey, sparkling, and smelling of cinnamon spice.

I am a planner so I adore the list-making.  Christmas cards. Gifts.  Party Planning.  Menus. Holiday goodies.  Even a list for the grocery store to buy those ingredients you only buy once each year is special.

It’s easy to get caught up.  Distracted.  By the parties.  By the sales.  By the the things that don’t really matter. 

This year I have decided to have an Intentional Christmas.  This means I choose to intentionally set my own priorities.  It seems that there are so many demands thrust upon me during this time of year:

Host this event.  Send this many cards.  Spend this much money on that person and that much money on this person.  Bake treats for this and bring hot cocoa for that.  Go caroling.  Build a snowman.  Buy cute Christmas frocks for my girls.  And a partridge in a pear tree.

And then I wake up December 26.  And it’s over.  And I’m exhausted.  And although we had a great time, sometimes it feels like I just finished running a marathon.  It’s easy (and dangerous) to reduce Christmas to a series of lists.

My priorities are revealed in the places where my time and money are invested and this year I plan to make some adjustments.

I want to make sweet memories with my little ladies and my sensational husband (like letting little hands measure out all the ingredients to our traditional Buche de Noel even though it will take three times as long to make).  I want to be a blessing to someone less fortunate than us (because I remember what joy this kindness has brought to our family through others when we needed it most).  I want to teach my sweet girls the value of a thoughtful gift (and not merely a trinket haphazardly snatched from the Walmart holiday gift aisle).

I want to remember the birth of my King in the most intentional way that I can.  My darling 4-year-old said to me last week, “Just forget about the presents, it’s really about a baby.”  Perhaps I have demonstrated something right so far, but even so…

We are well on our way to the grand crescendo of Christmas and things are going to be delightfully different this year. 

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