"We write to taste life twice - once in the moment and in introspection."

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas quilts

Now that I have a little time to do so, I'd like to show you some of the stuff I've been sewing.

I had fun working on this "Compendium" quilt, which is a compendium or collection of "orphan blocks" and projects I or the girls had started and just weren't going anywhere for various reasons. It was like working on a puzzle to get things to all fit together, but maybe more fun because I got to figure out the puzzle as well as put it together. I was a little afraid that my aunt wouldn't like it so much, but I should not have feared. She loves it! I still have to get to the quilt shop where I can rent the quilting machine (with the gift certificate my darling husband gave me) so I can quilt it for her.

This quilt has been in the works since last Christmas off and on and I finally got it to a usable state. It still needs the binding, but we've enjoyed it on the back of the loveseat anyhow. It's only a lap quilt size and doesn't have any batting, just a flannel backing. But it's just right for our living room which has the main source of heat, the wood stove, in it.

The next big project in "the Quiltery" is to sort through stuff, throw some away, give some away, cut some into more useable pieces (strips and squares) and thoroughly organize it, probably using Bonnie Hunter's scrap saver system. I'd show you a picture of the "before" but it would be too horrifying. Maybe I'll show a picture of "during" a little later.

Because I again am so blessed, I

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent Activities - Days 16 - 19 plus some quilting

Again, while I haven't kept up with posting the Advent activity cards, we have pretty much kept up with the doing of them here at our house. Here are days 16 - 19:

Day #___Jesus is Immanuel.

Matt. 1:23

Activity: Imagine! God is with us! Think about what Jesus left in heaven for our sake. Think about the honor He gave up to become a frail and helpless baby. What about the riches He left to be born in a not so lovely stable? How about the unbroken unity and fellowship with His Father which was totally broken as He hung on the cross. But He was willing to live among us and to sacrifice for us because He loves us so!

Today we watch the movie “Herod the Great, Jesus the King - The True Christmas Story” by Ray Vander Laan.

Day #___Jesus is a Servant.
Isaiah 49:3; John 13:3-15

Activity: The King of the Universe humbled Himself to the point of washing dirty, dusty feet of those who should have been humble enough to do that job for Him. How about us? Are we humble and willing to do things for our family and others that may not be very pleasant things to have to do? The best route to godliness and spiritual growth (which I hope is our greatest goal) is to imitate our Master. Let’s be joyful and willing servants.

Today we’ll paint our little nativities. (These are simple, tiny ceramic nativities that I clear-glazed so that they can be washed and repainted every year.)

Day #___Jesus is the Lamb of God.
John 1: 29

Activity: In the Old Testament, we learn that a lamb was often sacrificed for the sins of mankind. The Passover lamb had to be one that was perfect - no spots or bad health. The sacrificing of a lamb was to illustrate that the wages or payment for sin is death. The lamb died for the people. Jesus came as a perfect lamb who once and for all fulfilled the requirement of death for sin. His death was our death if we acknowledge Him as our substitute, Savior and Lord.

We’ll bake our Sour Cream cookies with our lamb cookie cutter as well as make Sour Cream and Chocolate Pinwheels.

Day #___ Jesus is our Redeemer and Savior. Philippians 2:5-11

This baby born in a manger later grew up to die on a tree. Through His death and His forever conquering of death because He rose again from the dead, we are redeemed, or bought back, from the power of sin and death. He carried all our ugly sinfulness on that tree and left its power forever buried when He came back to life. We are saved from being slaves to sin as well as from the eternal punishment for sin. Oh, how thankfully we should live!

Let’s get our tree and decorate it today. (As I said before, we saved this activity for so late because we had to wait for the Guinea Pig to get home from college. It just wouldn't have been the same without him.)

I had hoped to show you a lap quilt I've been working on, but our very slow computer + dial-up wouldn't cooperate, so I'll have to show it later.

I hope your Christmas season has been a time of understanding what a gift God has given us, though actually it is quite beyond our understanding.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent Activities - Day 15 & Recipe

As our advent activities continue, we come to day 15. The card (tucked into John 6:35) says:

Jesus is the Bread of Life. John 6:35
Why would Jesus call Himself the Bread of Life? Could it be that bread or food is one of the most basic needs and Jesus wanted people to realize that He is our most basic need? The Jewish people were wanting Him to produce bread like they said Moses had given them manna, not realizing that their need was so much greater than the mere filling of their bellies. Do we do the same theing, focusing on our physical needs and wants to the neglect of our spiritual and total need of Jesus? Meditate on it today as we bake and freeze our "sweet bread" of Christmas Morning Cinnamon Rolls.

Here is the recipe for our traditional wonderful Cinnamon Rolls. I hope you give them a try - they are so moist and not so "sicky-sweet" as some.

Family Tradition Cinnamon Rolls (modified from Cooking From Quilt Country)

(325 degrees for 10 min.; raise to 350 degrees for 5 min.)

In a small saucepan, boil: 1 medium sliced potato (enough to make ½ c. mashed potato)

Mash with fork (do not add milk or seasoning)

In large mixing bowl, mix thoroughly:

1 ½ c. warm water

½ sugar or honey

½ c. vegetable oil

½ c. mashed potato

1 egg

2 tsp. salt

4 tsp. active dry yeast

Add: 3 T. nonfat dry milk powder (not totally necessary)

3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix well. (Can beat with electric beater for 3 min.)

Gradually add: 2 ½ - 3 c. whole wheat flour

Mix and knead for about 10 minutes, till dough is stiff yet soft, not sticky.

Grease a large, deep bowl with oil; form the dough into smooth ball and place in bowl. Oil the top of the dough also. Cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place until it has doubled, about 1 ¾ hours.

Punch dough down very thoroughly to break up any air bubbles. Form again into a smooth ball, place in the regreased bowl, turning it over so the top of the dough is also greased. Cover, and let rise for 1 hour.

Punch dough down again, then transfer to a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a rectangle 15 x 12 inches - it should be about 1 ¾ inches thick. If you prefer smaller rolls, divide the dough into two rectangles and/or roll it out thinner.

Spread the dough with: 1/3 c. butter, softened

In a small bowl, mix: ¾ c. brown sugar

1 ½ T. ground cinnamon

Sprinkle sugar mix over the butter. Tightly roll dough up from the long side. Pat the ends towards center to “square” them up a little. With a serrated knife, cut the roll using a sawing motion into 1 ½ inch rolls.

Place slices cut side up, 1 ½ inches apart, on greased cookie sheets or 9x13 pans. Cover with a tea towel and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake the rolls for 10 minutes, then raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake 5 minutes longer. Remove from oven and invert pans onto wax paper-lined wire racks. Allow to cool completely. Frost.

Not-Too-Sweet Frosting

In mixer bowl, beat:

½ c. (1 stick) butter, softened

2 T flour

1 c. confectioners’ sugar

Speck salt

1 t. vanilla

Blend well. Frost rolls.

Sometimes I’ll arrange the long tube into two or three large circles, cutting slits every inch or so and then bake and frost with green frosting to make wreath-looking rolls.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Activities - Days 9 - 14 Catching Up!

Aagh! I didn't keep up with posting the Advent activities. No surprise, but still disappointing. So, now I'm catching up. We did keep up as a family but just didn't get them posted.

Day 9 card reads:
Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor. Isaiah 9:6; 2 Cor. 7:6
Activity: Jesus has all of God's wisdom and has given it to us through His Word. The Holy Spirit brings it to our minds as we learn His Word and He gives comfort and wise counsel through it. Today we set up the next two oldests' nativities.

Day 10 says:
Jesus is the Mighty God.  Isaiah 9:6; Rev. 5:8-14
Activity:  As God, Jesus is worthy of our worship and obedience. One of the best gifts we can give to Him, indeed we owe Him, is obedience. As He said, if we love Him we will obey Him. It's the least we can do for him and actually, we will be happier if we do obey. "There's no other way to be happy in Jesus thatn to trust and obey." Today we get to enjoy baking sugar cookies, most of which we'll freeze for future decorating.

Day 11 reads:
Jesus is the Everlasting Father.  Isaiah 9:6; John 10:27-30
Activity:  God has blessed us with an opportunity to know Him as Father through the loving earthly father He has given. Fathers love, sacrifice, encourage, inspire, strengthen, teach, hold accountable, provide and carry burdens for us. Our Heavenly Father does all this without sin or tiredness! Today we'll have a special Father/Daughter Christmas Tea.
(Another lady in our church helped me to prepare a tea for all the fathers and daughters of our church. We had lots of delicious goodies, a fine talk from our pastor about the relationships between fathers and their children and games of family teams as well as individuals. It was fun to make up a game of matching fathers and daughters of the Bible. You could just make a little tea time at home for your own family members to simplify this activity.)

Our family at the Father/Daughter Tea.

Day 12 says:
Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6; John 14:27
Activity:  Jesus brought a peace that is everlasting, not just for the moment. We can have peace in our hearts even though there seems to be chaos and commotion going on all around us because we know that He is in control of all things and we have nothing to fear nor anything about which to worry.  Today we get to hang our stockings.

Day 13 is:
Jesus is the Light of the World.  Luke 1:78-79; John 8:12
Activity:  Sin has darkened our world. The light of truth, joy and peace cannot shine through the sinfulness unless Jesus breaks through that awful darkness and reveals Himself as the Light that allows us to see the Truth - God Himself.  Today we get to hand Christmas lights in the windows and outdoors.

Day 14 (today) says:
Jesus is the Cornerstone. Ps. 118:22
It is upon Jesus, His Godhood, His life on earth and His death and resurrection, that all our faith is built. Just as a rightly laid strong cornerstone causes a building to be put up correctly and to stand strongly for a very long time, so Jesus builds His church correctly and strongly. It's all about Him.  Today we building little buildings ourselves of gingerbread or graham crackers and decorate them with candies.

The Guinea Pig's graham cracker house from 2006.
This week we got to make use of the versatility of this advent system.  Since, for the most part, this plan doesn't have to come about in any certain order, the cards have blanks for the day numbers, so I pencil in the numbers as they fit into what's happening otherwise in our lives. We had originally planned to do the gingerbread houses on Monday with some friends, but realized that would be rushed because of a doctor appointment in the afternoon, so we changed the cards and are doing the gingerbread houses today instead. We have also made it that we don't actually get our tree till the day after The Guinea Pig gets home from college because it's such a fun family activity (snowball fights, cutting our own tree, throwing Mom into a snowbank, having hot cocoa, decorating the tree together, getting ornament hangers from the Hanger Doober Dude, etc.) that he couldn't be left out of it. So you can rearrange things to fit how your family does it.

I hope you're enjoying your Christmas season and are using many Christ-centered ideas.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Advent Activities - Day 8

Continuing to post our Advent Activity plans, the card for Day 8 (tucked into Matthew 21) reads:

Jesus is our Prophet, Priest and King.  Acts 3:22-25; Heb. 4:14-16; Matt. 21:5-11
Activity: A prophet is a messenger, one who tells God's word and foretells God's doings. Jesus brought the good news of salvation from God as well as foretelling many things which did happen and have yet to happen. A priest represents the people before God, delivers offerings to Him and brings God's forgiveness to the people.  Jesus pleads our cause before His Father, delivered Himself up as our offering to God and brought forgiveness to all who believe in Him. Jesus is our King who rules our lives and worlds and who is worthy of our adoration. Today let's decorate our home to honor our King and the celebration of His birth. We'll save the lights till later.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Activities - Days 6 & 7

I got to thinking that, just in case anybody actually wants to do some of the advent activities we're doing, I should post them a day or two ahead of when they would be done so you could prepare for them. So I'm now posting days 6 and 7.

Day 6 card (tucked into Psalm 19) will read:
God gives us the gift of His word. Psalm 19:7-11
Activity:  To remind us of the sweetness of God's law, today we will bake Jesus' birthday cupcakes. 
*(Into six of the cupcakes we have baked foil-wrapped slips of paper which say things like "Present Passing Pal," "Turn on tree lights," "Turn on window/outdoor lights," "Put first ornament on tree," "Put star on treetop," "Pass out the stockings." Each of our six children get one of these cupcakes in which is hidden their privilege for the season.)*

Day 7 card (tucked into John 3) will say:
God gives us the most precious gift of His Son, Jesus.  John 3:16-17
Activity:  Through God's giving up His Son for us, he has given us so many gifts. Jesus is our Salvation, our Redeemer, our Master or Lord, our Friend and He is our only comfort and hope. From now till Christmas Eve, our advent will focus on some of the names given to Jesus so we can see what a wonderful gift He is. Today we will set out the two youngest girls' nativity sets. 
*(We have given each child their own nativity set throughout the years since we have wanted our decorations and thoughts to be primarily about the true meaning and event of Christmas.)*

While I'm doing these posts, I also want to show you some of our special decorations and share some favorite recipes, so today I'll share this wallhanging which I put together last year.

The story behind this is special to me. You see, my mom made the center crewel work years ago and just never got it framed. She asked if I'd like it, which of course I did, so I brought it home to think of what to do with it. I "just happened" to be doing a star themed Block of the Month at the local quilt shop with Thimbleberries fabric which "just happened" to go perfectly with the colors in Mom's crewel. So they came together in a very happy union with a four embroidery blocks of "Wonderful Counselor," "Mighty God," "Everlasting Father," and "Prince of Peace" added to the mix. I hand-quilted it and it now hangs in our dining room.

Because of His precious gift of love, I

Advent Activities - Days 3, 4 & 5

Well, I guess I knew I'd have trouble keeping up with posting an Advent activity every day, so I'm playing catch-up now. It's been busy with voice recital and working on the voice teacher's quilt as well as our own Christmas preparations and then running a fever with an awful headache for a couple of days. But, hopefully that's done with!

So, here's the Advent card for Day 3 (tucked into Romans 6):
God gives us the gift of eternal life.  Romans 6:23
Activity: Since we're so blessed with the gift of eternal life, let's share the joy by writing our Christmas letter to our family and friends. You may pick you own photo to go with it (with Mom's final approval).
*(We let each of the children write or dictate a paragraph - or page if you're the resident wordy one. That may be changing as some are getting tired of doing this.)*

The Advent card for Day 4 (tucked into Ephesians 2) says:
 God gives us the gift of faith.  Ephesians 2:8-10
Activity: Since we have been given this precious gift, by which we are saved from sin, we want to share the faith with others. We can get a start at that by making good relationships with people.  Today's activity is to make gift bags to take to our neightbors and to the librarians and health care helpers. Also prepare for tomorrow's gift-giving to church members.

The Advent card for Day 5 - today - (tucked into Ephesians 4) says:

God gives us the gift of grace and spiritual gifts.  Ephesians 4:7-16
Activity: Even as we are to pass along the spiritual gifts God gives us by ministering to our church family, today we will also pass along material gifts to our church family.
*(Since we have only seven families in our church, it's not a monstrous thing to give a gift bag to each family. Last year, we had the fun of having each family over for desserts throughout the Christmas season and gave their gifts then, but this year we're just handing them out at church and may plan to have families over after Christmas when Guinea Pig is home from college. This activity didn't actually work out for today because there was a glitch in our Cinnamon Jelly making, so we have to re-do and hand out the gifts next Sunday.  The best-laid plans...Oh, well, it teaches us flexibility.)*

We're also counting down the days till the Guinea Pig gets home from college. The younger girls made a paper chain to count it down. I wish he could have been home to hear three of his sisters in their first-ever voice recital.  They did great!


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Advent Activities - Days 1 & 2

I know I'm a "day late and a dollar short", but "better late than never". The plan is to post a series on our Advent activities and hope that I keep up. :)

We start by hanging this wallhanging which was a little-by-little work of several years.  The Log Cabin Christmas Tree pattern came from Quilt in a Day and is fairly simple to put together. 

Then I decided to turn it into an Advent calendar by cross-stitching the numbers and adding them to the bottom.  Little plastic canvas circles hung on hooks became ornament pouches by sewing two together for sliding in little slips of paper.  In previous years, those slips of paper have said what activity we do for that day.  This year is a little different.  To start our 24 days, we're looking at seven of the gifts that God gives us, culminating in the seventh being Jesus himself.  Then we're focusing some of the names of Jesus. So in each ornament is written one or two Scripture references. The Scripture references lead us to the Bible wherein is tucked the advent card for the day. 

Yesterday's card (tucked into James 1)said: 
Day 1 - God gives us wealth and every good gift.  Eccl. 5:19; James 1:17
Activity:  Find the $10 bill hidden shomewhere in the main living rooms of the house (not in bedrooms or bathrooms).  Whoever finds it get to put it in the Jesus' Birthday Bank (*something we collect thoughout the year and give to a worthy charity at Christmas as our "gift" to Jesus*) and get to keep the $1 bill hidden iwth it.  There is no time limit on this, butyour responsibilities must be done before you may spend time searching.  When it is found, we will prepare the Jesus' Birthday Bank money for mailing or taking.

Today's card (tucked into Galatians 5) reads:
Day 2. God gives us the Holy Spirit.  Acts 2:38-39; Gal. 5:22-26
Activity:  It is the Holy Spirit in us that enables us to do anything good or right.  Relying on His power to help you, write on an index card what gift of righteousness you want to give back to Him this coming year and keep it in your personal devotions caddy so you can pray for His power and be reminded to work on it daily.  Let's remember to pray for each other's spiritual growth also.

These cards are 1/4 of a sheet of paper, printed on red cardstock.  I hope to post photos of them along the way, but my computer is being particularly slow today.  Maybe I'll even figure out how to make a separate page and put the whole plan up there, as soon as I get it all written. :)  Inspiration struck late this year so it's all a little fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants.

Since this post has been kind of a rush job in between getting breakfast for people, I'm happy to try to clarify any confusions I may have caused.

Blessed beyond measure, I