Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!  On a fripperious note, (yes, just made that word up right now) I like how our Christmas card turned out this year.  Brendan used Photoshop to create our card based on my specs.  He's taking a graphic design class at school, and I finally feel like his education is paying off :).  Yes, it's all about me...

We only had to do one head swap--can you tell which one?  I love that that lush green backdrop is our own backyard.  I feel so blessed to live in such a green and beautiful part of the world.

Speaking of blessings, Christmas always makes me feel such a sense of abundance.  Being with loved ones, keeping meaningful traditions, eating crazy amounts of tasty treats (well, maybe that's not such a great type of abundance ;) ).

We celebrated Christmas Eve by having a dinner with my parents, my uncle and brother.  After dinner, we played a zany musical chairs game while singing "The 12 Days of Christmas".  Then Aaron read Eugene Field's poem "Just 'Fore Christmas" (a tradition in his family and now ours).  The kids acted out the nativity while we read Luke 2, like we do every year.

 Then we sang "Stille Nacht" (Silent Night) as a family to honor our German roots, particularly my paternal Grandmother whose parents both came from Germany and who sang "Stille Nacht" every Christmas when my Dad was a boy.

The history of this world-famous song is lovely.  A pastor of a small town in Austria, Joseph Mohr, was planning Christmas Eve Mass.  He was worried because his church's organ has been damaged by flooding.  He unearthed a poem he had written several years before, and asked a friend of his (Franz Gruber) to set it to music. Gruber was able to write the song and perform it (with guitar accompaniment) that night. The rest is history.

The German hymn has six verses (compared to the English version's three).  It is interesting to see the literal translation of the hymn--the meaning is quite a bit different from the English version we normally sing.

1. Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knab im lockigten Haar,
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh!

1. Silent night! Holy night!
All are sleeping, alone and awake
Only the intimate holy pair,
Lovely boy with curly hair,
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

2. Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Gottes Sohn! O wie lacht
Lieb´ aus deinem göttlichen Mund,
Da schlägt uns die rettende Stund´.
Jesus in deiner Geburt!
Jesus in deiner Geburt!

2. Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God, O how he laughs
Love from your divine mouth,
Then it hits us - the hour of salvation.
Jesus at your birth!
Jesus at your birth!

3. Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Die der Welt Heil gebracht,
Aus des Himmels goldenen Höhn
Uns der Gnaden Fülle läßt seh´n
Jesum in Menschengestalt,
Jesum in Menschengestalt

3. Silent night! Holy night!
Which brought salvation to the world,
From Heaven's golden heights,
Mercy's abundance was made visible to us:
Jesus in human form,
Jesus in human form.

4. Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Wo sich heut alle Macht
Väterlicher Liebe ergoß
Und als Bruder huldvoll umschloß
Jesus die Völker der Welt,
Jesus die Völker der Welt.

4. Silent night! Holy night!
Where on this day all power
of fatherly love poured forth
And like a brother lovingly embraced
Jesus the peoples of the world,
Jesus the peoples of the world.

5. Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Lange schon uns bedacht,
Als der Herr vom Grimme befreit,
In der Väter urgrauer Zeit
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß,
Aller Welt Schonung verhieß.

5. Silent night! Holy night!
Already long ago planned for us,
When the Lord frees from wrath
Since the beginning of ancient times
A salvation promised for the whole world.
A salvation promised for the whole world.

6. Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht!
Hirten erst kundgemacht
Durch der Engel Alleluja,
Tönt es laut bei Ferne und Nah:
Jesus der Retter ist da!
Jesus der Retter ist da!

6. Silent night! Holy night!
To shepherds it was first made known
By the angel, Alleluia;
Sounding forth loudly far and near:
Jesus the Savior is here!
Jesus the Savior is here!

I am so grateful for the Christmas season--for the chance to glory not only in the abundance of friends and family, gifts and treats, but in the abundance of life that only comes through Jesus Christ.

In case you are like me and can't get enough of great Christmas music, here is a link to a video of the Thomanerchor (St Thomas Boy's Choir) singing "Stille Nacht".

 Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Some Last Minute Fun--It's not too late!

Merry Christmas!  Are you having fun yet? :)

If not, here's an idea that I think is appropriate until New Year's at least.

We made gingerbread houses a few nights ago.  In the past, we've done gingerbread houses the hard way (homemade royal icing and homemade gingerbread pieces) and the easy way (canned frosting and graham crackers).  This year, we tried a hybrid approach that worked really well--homemade icing and graham crackers.

The icing only takes about five minutes to make, but it allows the pieces to stick together sooooo much better than canned or buttercream frosting.

A recipe for it is here or here.

I've found the best way to use the icing is to fill individual sandwich-size ziploc baggies and snip the corner off.  Voila!  Your own icing bag.

I love the feeling of having our whole family in absorbed silence, doing something at the same time.

Usually that only happens when we are eating an especially good meal :).

I bought a few $1 bags of candies, some M&M's and we used up the last of our Halloween candy to decorate these beauties.

So, they turned out something like this.

Kidding, kidding.  This is a picture of a group of gingerbread houses one of my best friend's mom did for the Salt Lake Festival of Trees about five years ago.  She is a gingerbread artist (pronounced (ar-TEEST, in case you're wondering).  So amazing and precise.

This is how ours really turned out.

My house.  I loved my dutch door and rail fence :).

Damon--a demented but proud decorator.

Sawyer, who was so excited he was in constant motion (even as I tried to snap his picture).

Lukas, who made me take about 7 pictures of his house, to capture the different angles.

Sophie, whose house was probably the most detailed, and who totally hogged the red and green M&M's :).

Brendan's was probably the most architecturally correct, complete with chimney, etc.

Maybe next year I'll make real gingerbread again*.  But I have to say that spending only 10 minutes (rather than 2 hours) for my family to have an hour and 1/2 of fun together is a pretty good trade-off.  

What about you?  Have you made gingerbread houses this year?

*Or, I might buy the ones at IKEA--I saw them there the day after we made ours.  $3.99 for a whole house of gingerbread pieces (not including candy and icing, which I like to buy myself anyway).

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Favorite Things 2011

favorite things 2011 button

Posting at Melissa's "Favorite Things" party last year was one of my first posts ever.  After a year of blogging, it's exciting to be doing another favorites post.  I feel so worldly-wise and experienced now... (not too worldly-wise to still be a wholesome role model to my six children--don't worry ;) ).

Anyway, here are some of my favorite things that I've discovered this year.  Rest assured that I am well-versed in what's fundamental about life--aware that the best things in life aren't things, etc., etc., but let's face it--there are consumerist things that nonetheless bring a smile to your face and make life easier and better.

Those are the kinds of fripperies my list is all about.

So, with no further ado:

1.  I love Burt's Bees Almond Milk Beeswax Hand Creme. 

It not only nourishes my winter-ravaged hands, but it smells like an Almond Croissant--another of my favorites.  Mmmmmmmm.  Also, it is the perfect size to fit in my cup holder in my car so I can slather some on at a stoplight when I'm driving my kids around.  For some reason, my dry hands seem to bug me the most when I'm driving.  Or maybe I just don't stop long enough to pay attention until I'm staring at my fingers gripped around my steering wheel...
Burt's Bees Beeswax Hand Creme, Almond Milk, 2 oz.

2.  Taco Time drinks and ice.

The Taco Times near where I live have Coca Cola Freestyle machines, which basically allow you to have up to 100 different soda flavor options.  Plus, their ice is the perfect ice--easily crunchable without being too small and meltable.  My favorite is a raspberry Sprite with extra ice.

3.  The Goodwill.

I really, really love the Goodwill.  My most recent finds were brand-new tartan fleece Gap kids slippers for my little boys for $2 each.  Last month, I scored gorgeous almost-new black leather knee-high riding boots for me for just $20.  Whenever we  need something, I check there first.  80% of my clothes and my kids' clothes come from thrift stores--and I think we dress pretty well most days :).  The only downside is that I think I may have ruined my children's enjoyment of shopping retail forever.  We all have a hard time paying mall prices after shopping at thrift stores so much.

4.  I already blogged about Joe-joe's here, but they are still a favorite.
I am not an Oreo's lover, but I love these.  That Candy Cane Joe-Joe's are only available seasonally makes them all the more desirable somehow.  I dipped them in chocolate for a fairly low-fuss offering at a cookie exchange last week, and they were a total hit.  I think Santa might give our kids extra presents if we put these out this Christmas :).

5.  Ulta is my new favorite place to shop for beauty products.

They actually have the full line of all the drugstore products (like my favorite cleanser, Neutrogena's Pore Refining Cleanser, which Walgreens has inexplicably stopped carrying).  Their salespeople are really knowledgeable, too.  You leave feeling like you got department store pampering and attention for drugstore prices.  I will need to not go there too often, since I really like nice beauty products.  Sigh.  It is a weakness...

5a.  Neutrogena's Pore Refining Cleanser.

I have larger/large-ish pores on my nose, and this cleanser keeps them clear and makes them look smaller.  I use it at night and in the morning.  My 16-year-old son uses it, too and he has really nice skin (especially for a 16-year-old boy).
Neutrogena Pore Refining Cleanser

6.  My Microplane Grater/Zester

 I love all things lemon, lime and orange.  However, I used to dread making anything with citrus peel or zest, or just omit it from recipes entirely, because it was such a pain.   It would take forever to get the 2 or so teaspoons of peel, and I ended up having to chink out the last bits of peel from my grater with a toothpick because it would stick mercilessly.  No more!  I just made a double batch of lemon bars, and I grated all the lemon peel in maybe 3 minutes.  The peel comes right off with a gentle tap on the side of your bowl.  Hot dog!  It is super, super sharp, though, so you have to keep the included cover on when not in use and store it somewhere little prying fingers can't touch it.

Thanks for visiting and letting me share my favorites with you!  I hope you'll stop by Fundamentals and Fripperies again sometime soon!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Guest Post at Choose to Thrive

Exciting news!  Today I am guest posting at Nike's Choose to Thrive.  I feel so cool and grown-up somehow :).  I'm showcasing fabric gift bags for Christmas, and they are awesome (sorry so un-humble, but it's not good to lie, is it?).

Anyway, if you haven't seen Nike's (pronounced Neeka) blog before, I highly recommend it.  She is a real blogger (as opposed to me, a pretend blogger), specializing in making and doing amazing things (crafts, clothing for her kids, decorating) for practically nothing.  Her mantra is "Rock what ya got" and she does that so, so well.  We share a lot of commonalities as well: Washington and Utah backgrounds, wry, slightly self-depreciating senses of humor and we have a dirty dozen kids between us.  In short, I just think she's pretty awesome.  I hope you enjoy her as much as I do!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Really really REALLY Cool Flooring Idea

A few weeks ago my family and I rented a house for a few nights down in Olympia, Washington so we could have a fun stay-cation with my in-laws who were visiting and my brother and sister-in-law, who live about and hour and a half away.  My husband grew up in Olympia, and we love the small capitol city vibe there.  We found the house (on a great discount since it was the off-season) here.

The house had a beautiful view of the Puget Sound, and would have had a beautiful view of Mt. Ranier (if it hadn't rained all weekend-doh!).

It also had very interesting, gorgeous flooring in the kitchen and great room.

Isn't that cool?  My sister-in-law and I spent some time trying to figure out what it was made of, and I finally caved and just called the owner of the property.  She said that it was an epoxy cement that was troweled right over the sub-floor (including the tile that was already on the floor in the kitchen!).  Then she had a local artist paint it.  She said that she told him that she wanted it to look like the ocean and a sandy beach.  This is what he came up with.  



On a practical note, she said it was followed with 4-5 coats of sealer.  Being a beach house and a rental, it has seen lots and lots of traffic (the owner says it hosts several weddings a summer).  It has been in place for seven years, and she is only now thinking it might be time for a recoat.

The downside is the cost--she said they paid $12 a square foot.  Yikes.  That's at least 3 times what I want to pay for flooring.  And no, I didn't ask how much she paid outright--I have some manners, after all.  I did discreetly ask how the process compared in cost to other flooring options like tile and hardwood...then she dished up the details :).

Maybe I'm crazy, but this looks like a floor I could do myself. The cement is pretty smooth, but has some texture (i.e. you don't have to be a perfect cement person).  Plus, there is no wrong way to paint the floor--it would probably be pretty fun.  And I really love it.  It is so versatile and unusual and organic-looking.  The big question is: am I brave enough to pour cement on the floor and just go for it?  Still mulling that one over...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pie! Pie! Pie! (and Chocolate Mousse Cake Recipe)

Thanksgiving is only a few days away (did you know? :) ).

Anyway, I'm hosting 16 people, which will be fun but hectic.

I love all parts of the Thanksgiving meal, but I really, really, really love pie.  So does the rest of my family.  We may love pie a little too much, in fact.

We even have a family song about pie.  My husband writes and records songs as a hobby.  A few Thanksgivings ago, in an attempt to keep the hungry hordes out of my way in the kitchen, he made up a great song.  It is aptly entitled, "Pie" and features a resounding chorus of "Pie! Pie! Pie!" (repeated about a million times).

Our pie obsession may have gone a little too far.  Most Thanksgivings, our pie to people ratio is 1:1.  That's when I started to realize that we may need a pie intervention sooner rather than later.

However, since we have so many people coming this year, I am happy to report that our pie to people ratio will be more like 1:2, which feels a little more respectable somehow.  We will be having: 2 pumpkin, 1 apple, 1 peach, 2 key lime, 2 chocolate cream and a pumpkin cheesecake.

In the meantime, my little brother's birthday was on Sunday, and I made him a Chocolate Mousse Cake with a shortbread crust.  Really, I think it should be considered a pie--it has a crust after all.  I guess cheesecake does, too, though.  Confusing.

Anyway, pie/cake distinctions aside, it was delicious.  It is sort of like eating a great big truffle in a shortbread cookie crust.  In other words, heavenly.  It is perfect when eaten just a little warm with whipping cream (don't even think about using Coolwhip) or a scoop of ice cream on top (or both, like we did ;) ).  Also, this crust is great to use for any pie that calls for a graham cracker crust in case you're still looking for pie inspiration.

Shortbread Crust

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
1/2 tsp finely shredded lemon peel OR 1/2 tsp extract (almond or vanilla)
1 cup flour
2 T sugar

Mix all the ingredients together until you have a cohesive rubble (I use my Kitchenaid with the flat paddle).  Then press into the bottom and an inch and a half up the sides of a Springform pan (or pie plate, if using it for a different recipe).

Chocolate Mousse Cake/Pie

2 8-ounce packages (16 squares) semi-sweet chocolate, chopped up (or use 16 oz. good-quality chocolate chips, like I did)
1 cup whipping cream
6 beaten eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour

Melt and stir chocolate and cream over low heat until chocolate melts (or microwave on medium or using your microwave's melt setting).  Transfer to a large bowl.  Combine eggs, the 3/4 cup sugar, and flour: beat 10 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored.  Fold 1/4 of the egg mixture into the chocolate mixture, then fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg mixture.  Pour into crust-lined Springform pan.

Bake in a 325 degree oven for 55 minutes or until puffed around the edge and halfway to the center (center will be slightly soft).  Place on a cooling rack.  Cool 20 minutes and remove sides of pan.  Cool for 4 hours.  Chill leftovers.  Serves 16 (it is really rich).

If I don't manage another post before then, I hope you all have a happy, delicious, blessed Thanksgiving surrounded by the people you love!

Oh, also--I was very moved to read about another blogger's experience with a premature birth and loss of her baby here.  Definitely grab a tissue before you follow that link, though.  What a sweet, faithful Mama, and what a poignant reminder to me to make sure I tell my Heavenly Father how grateful I am to be the mother of six healthy children.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lessons Learned Lately

I am either delusional or optimistic.  Either way, I never finish my to-do list.  Maybe I will again someday when I don't have so many beloved "distractions" around who need such constant attention.  Then again, maybe I put more on my to-do list than anyone could actually accomplish, ever.  And really, I am not necessarily looking forward to all my "distractions" leaving.

Having someone else do your remodeling costs a lot of money.  We have received multiple bids for flooring, windows, garage doors, totally re-doing our master bathroom, replacing our all-galvanized water pipes and doing some electrical updates.  We are sitting back and letting the high costs absorb until we are willing to cough up the dough.  If the shock doesn't wear off, we may have to figure how to carve out time in our hectic lives to do-it-ourselves.  Noooooooo!

Costco shopping is a 4-hour chore, if you count putting it all away.  I love Costco, but it is very time (and money :) ) consuming.

I love hand-me-downs.  I have been getting the next size of clothes out for Lucy, and it has been fun to see lots of cute things that Sophie used to wear, as well as donations from cousins and friends.  It's also been fun to package up the things she's grown out of to give to some friends at church who are expecting baby girls.

Volunteering at school is fun.  I was an art docent (taught an hour-long art class) in Lukas' class this week and it was precious.  We did chalk drawings of leaves in the style of Georgia O'Keefe.  Some of his classmates made me drawings and notes to say thanks.  One of the kids (who had chalk all over his face and on his arms up to his elbow) came up and said: "This is the funnest thing I've done all week."  Awesome.

80's sitcoms sure were innocent.  We've been streaming "Alf" from Amazon (lots of free content with a Prime membership) and our kids think it's hilarious.  It is definitely in the "so-stupid-it's-funny" camp, but I was struck by how much edgier/raunchier lots of prime time T.V. comedy is now.  Times they are a changin'.  

Getting anything extra accomplished around my house takes a looooong time.  It seems like a two steps forward, three steps back sort of deal.

Trying not to eat sugar for a month is hard, but I feel a lot better when it is a very restricted part of my diet--doh!  One of my good friends threw down a "No-sugar November" gauntlet and I couldn't resist.  Yes, if she jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge, I would be right behind her :).  I am definitely a sugar-a-holic.  I need a 12-step program, but I am doing a pretty good job myself, one day at a time.

When your newly daytime potty-trained 4-year-old (hooray!) falls asleep on the couch sans pull-up, and a voice inside you tells you to put a pull-up on him "just in case", you should listen to that voice.  Just sayin'.

And last, before climbing on sculptures in parks and having a fun photo-op with your family, you should really read the signs nearby.  People walked by and I thought they were just smiling bemusedly at my cute family's antics, but I think they were thinking, "What a bunch of idiots!" to themselves.  I can hardly blame them.

I have a few fun posts planned for next week (I've been sewing up a storm!), so stay tuned!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Some Boys' Room Touches--ADHD

I think I have ADHD--which in this case, stands for Attention Deficit Home improvement Disorder.  I flit from project to project and room to room.  I envy the methodical people who can just do one room at a time until it is all done.

So right now, I'm bidding out on remodeling our master bathroom, bidding out on windows and garage doors, looking at hardwood and carpet for upstairs/downstairs, putting together a color scheme for soft furnishings (curtains and pillows) for the living room and trying to de-junkify (what? that's not a word??) my laundry room.  Oh, and doing a fun chalkboard project with the top of our old piano bench.  The bottom finally gave up the ghost, or at least, was about to.  We decided to put it to sleep before someone sat on in and it collapsed beneath them.

Maybe all the years of motherhood have rendered me incapable of concentrating on one thing at a time.  I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.  For me, it is usually energizing to have my finger in a million pies at a time.

Anyway, I made some progress with the little boys' room this summer that I still love looking at.  I still need to do more in there (buy a bunk bed, paint where the popcorn ceiling removal left scars, figure out something to do with the ugly louvered closet doors and mini blinds in there).  In my random, haphazard fashion, I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.

But until then, check out this cute corner (and ignore the leaning lampshade of Pisa...).

I bought the dresser from a seller at the Second Saturdayz Market in Seattle (again, stoopid misspellings just irk me--har har) in June.  She had refinished it, and I just fell in love with it.  Especially for her price,which was just $150.  Not my usual standard of frugality, but worth it to me to have something cute that I don't have to take two weeks' of Lucy's unpredictable nap times to do myself :).  I am getting to the point that I have more time to do my own things now, though, and it feels grrrrreat!

Anyway, a  few more details on the dresser:

Ah, love it, love it.

As for the stuff on the top of the dresser.  I spruced up the lamp with a sign I bought at the Railway Museum in Swindon, England when we lived there for the summer about 5 years ago.  I am a sucker for graphic, vintage-ish, tin signs.

I tied it to the lamp with an old leather necklace cording that had broken in the middle.

The buckets from Target hold each boy's special collection.  Here are Sawyer's rocks, gathered from walks through the neighborhood.

And one I found in his bed under his pillow.  Little boys just make me smile.

Last but not least, the boys' church ties in an antique egg basket I found at the D.I. in Sandy, Utah for $2. I especially love the bow tie.

Anyway, now back to my regularly scheduled programming of a little here, a little there--slowly making our house into a home.

I'm linking up to: Miss Mustard Seed's Furniture Friday  and  Weekend Bloggy Reading

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Family Time Warp

I was quickly browsing through my local Value Village this morning, ostensibly for "Kip"-style glasses (a'la Napoleon Dynamite) for Damon's Halloween costume, when "Let's Do the Time Warp Again" from the Rocky Horror Picture Show came over the loudspeaker.

I actually find that song incredibly annoying, but I have felt like I was in a bit of a time warp the last few days.  I finally decided to load all the pictures from our old CPU onto our new computer.

Yeah, we upgraded two years ago--wanna make somethin' of it??

Anyway, I found lots of adorable pictures of my kids which no one else will likely find as fun as I do, but I also found some before pictures of our kitchen in Utah.  We replaced the counters, appliances, put in a granite tile back splash, had the finish on the kitchen cabinets renewed and installed pulls.  We budgeted carefully and found great deals.  All told, we spent around $5,000 and dramatically changed the look and feel of the space.

View #1 Before

View #1 After

View #2 Before

View #2 After

View#3 Before

View #3 After

View #4 Before

View #4 After

Ahh--I love it when a plan comes together {{pat my own back}}.

It's gratifying to see what a difference we made in the life of that kitchen, and to know that I can make some happy changes to our home now, a little at a time.

Speaking of which, we are receiving a new fridge today after some unnecessary drama getting it in our kitchen doorway.  Let me just say that the old adage to measure twice is good advice.  With new appliances, the kitchen looks--and functions--so much better.  The rest of the things I want to do in there are mercifully much, much cheaper.

Does anybody else besides me like to relive the glory days of successful projects long after they are complete?  Feel free to brag to me...