Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sketch Challenge

Because I really enjoy working with layout sketches, I decided to make up a layout based on the sketch that we posted on Two Scrapbook Friends blog. This is the sketch that was provided:

We will be giving out a great prize to one lucky person who posted their layout on our Gallery.

Here is my creation.

If you haven't tried working with sketches, you should! They can provide just the right inspiration for a great page.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What a Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone enjoyed Christmas with their family and friends and that you are looking forward to ringing in the New Year. We had a wonderfully merry Christmas with my family and I put together a couple of mosaics to share some of the photos I took!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Family Photo

It is a family tradition to have a photo taken of us at Christmas time. Well, it is my tradition. My family tolerates my desire for an updated family picture each year. And if we don't get the perfect picture within the first 2 minutes, things get ugly! Smiles are forced, shoving and elbowing happen between pictures and threats of walking out, leaving us with one less family member in our photo, all take place after the first couple of shots.

This year we spent Christmas Eve at my sister Mary's house and she was behind the camera. She was really good at getting all of us to cooperate and we ended up with a very nice photo. Thanks Mary!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. The decorations are up, the gifts are wrapped and the cookies are all baked. I am finally ready for this most blessed of holidays. Or am I?

The four weeks leading up to Christmas is the season of Advent; a time of spiritual preparation and waiting. In spite of the busyness of working, shopping, entertaining, etc. I have tried to set my eyes upon the great gift that Christmas is to us. In the quiet moments of the late evening or early morning hours, I have tried to focus on what Christmas is truly about.

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel…

But, have I spent enough time preparing a place for my Savior during this holy season? I have posted a ‘Welcome’ sign on the stable of my heart, but what condition will He find it in on Christmas Day? I pray that it would be a welcoming place for the Christ Child, but will there be room for Him? Will it be too crowded with other things, worldly things?

Lord, help me make room for my Jesus…

One thing I know to be true is that Jesus truly will come into my heart when I invite Him. And regardless of the condition it is in, He will bring His light, His love and His peace and make it a worthy dwelling. I trust that He will transform the cold areas of my heart into warmth, the broken areas into wholeness, and the indifferent areas into love. It is never too late to invite Him to be born anew in us and to experience the true gift of Christmas!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Stockings Were Hung By The Chimney With Care...

Unfortunately, many of our family and friends do not live close enough to visit our home during the Christmas season, so I thought it would be nice if they could visit us via my blog…

Come on in and enjoy your visit!

May you feel the warmth of our home and the love in our hearts towards each of you during this special season.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter's Beauty

We have had a major visit from Old Man Winter the past couple of days. Lots and lots of snow and below freezing temperatures. Really cold. You know, the kind of cold where the snow crunches under your feet when you walk. The kind of cold that makes you want to grab a blanket, sit by the fire and not move until there are signs of Spring out your window. The kind of cold that really makes you hate Winter even more than you normally do!

This morning, with fresh snow covering the 12-16 inches we already had, I decided to venture out to take some photos. As I trudged through the snow in our yard, shivering but determined, I realized that winter truly does have a beauty all it's own. Each time the sun bravely peeked out for a few seconds, there was an actual sparkle to the snow that made me appreciate the wonder of this season.

I still prefer to be inside where it is toasty warm, but Winter's beauty has me totally captivated - at least for today.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I've Been Tagged!

My friend Karan tagged me on her blog! I need to list seven random or weird facts about myself... so here goes.
  1. I am an eternal optimist! I truly believe that behind the clouds the sun is always shining!
  2. I have been accused of being a June Cleaver! (Doesn't everyone put on their make-up and jewelry before working in the garden?)
  3. I am a baby powder freak. I love the way it smells, the way it feels and the way it keeps me cool and comfortable. Unfortunately, my dh does not like the fine white dust it leaves on our dark green bathroom counters...
  4. My favorite TV show is Fringe, a great, new science-fiction series! Plus it is a 'remote-free' show -- it has only half the number of commercials and they are only 60-90 seconds each. (Definitely no bathroom breaks during that hour!)
  5. I love classical music.
  6. I collect tea pots, bird houses, stones from the beach and mini-plates.
  7. I hate, hate, HATE Winter! But - I know that Spring is just around the corner!! (see #1)

Now I am going to tag my friend Janet! You're it!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Traditions

I love holiday traditions. I love the things that we do each year that are connected to a particular time or celebration and hold a special significance to us. Take Christmas cookies for example. We all have our special Christmas cookie recipes that are made only at Christmas time. Most of my favorite recipes came from a family member or friend and each time I bake them I think of that person and the time or the place when I first tasted their yummy creation! My Grandma’s Tollhouse Chocolate Chip cookies, my parent’s Cherry Bit cookies, my sister-in-law’s Chocolate Nut Fudge, and my friend’s Marzipan Squares all hold special memories for me and Christmas would not be complete without them.

When we were planning our Two Scrapbook Friends Christmas party we decided to include a cookie exchange as part of the fun. Carolyn, Janet, Karan and I all made cookies for each other and it was fun deciding which cookies to make and how to package them. I decided to bake my new favorite cookies – Cadbury Cookies. This recipe came from my scrapbook friend, Keri. She shared these delicious cookies with us at a couple of scrapbooking events and they have become not only one of my favorites but my family’s as well.

These wonderful cookies are a chocolate lovers dream! They are a bit crispy on the outside and like a chewy brownie on the inside.

Not only does cocoa go into the dough…

but, they have a special caramel surprise baked inside each one!

The cookies gets rolled in sugar before baking and when they bake they crack slightly making a beautiful pattern on each one!

I found these sweet reindeer plates at the store and decided they would be perfect to hold the cookies for each person.

I added a couple of peppermint candies and voila! my gift to my friends was complete.

As each person brought their cookies, you could see the love and effort that went into each package.

Janet made delicious Hershey Kiss cookies!

Karan made melt-in-your-mouth shortbread!

And Carolyn surprised us all with not only delicious cookies, but beautiful hand-made gift tags that we can use at Christmas!

Baking for others is such a wonderful gift from the heart. Why not surprise someone with a plate of home-baked Christmas cookies this year. You could even try making Cadbury Cookies! (Thanks Keri!)

1 cup butter
1 cup + 1 Tbsp. white sugar, divided
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
6 - 7 regular size Caramilk bars

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and 1 cup sugar and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix well. In separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture and beat together until just combined.

Shape dough around each Caramilk square. Roll each cookie in sugar and bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. (They will be slightly cracked on top.) Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Triple Take

I had to laugh. When we went shopping on Thanksgiving weekend my two sisters and I all ended up buying the same black, grey and white scarf. It is adorable and when would the three of us ever be together where we would actually be wearing the same scarf?

Well, wouldn't you know that we all showed up at church the next day wearing our newly purchased scarf! I thought it was very funny, but Mary actually made Dianne take hers off. (Notice that she wasn't willing to take her own off!) They were sitting right next to each other and I guess Mary thought it was a bit too obvious.

Since we are all close in age, there were times when we were little that our Mom would dress us in similar clothing. I guess it was easier for her to just find one nice outfit and buy three! When you are little it really doesn't matter. In fact, it can be somewhat cute. But when you are all grown women - not so cute!

It reminded me of another time when we looked like triplets. The three of us were away for a sisters weekend one summer. Dianne and I stayed at a local Inn while Mary was staying at a cottage with some friends of hers. On Sunday morning we agreed to meet at church for Mass. As Dianne and I got ready we realized that we were both wearing tan shorts (church appropriate length!) and black t-shirt tops. We looked at each other and commented on how funny it was that we both packed the same thing to wear on Sunday. Neither of us had anything else to put on so off we went to meet Mary at church.

When we arrived, Mary pulled up, hopped out of her car and was wearing, yes, tan shorts and a black t-shirt top! After some embarrassed giggling in the parking lot and realizing we could do nothing to change our appearance, our thoughts quickly changed to more important things, like getting to our seats before Mass actually started.

Now you have to realize that this particular church is a lovely white church that probably only holds a couple hundred people and where everyone probably knows each other on a first name basis; a small white church where you might hope they wouldn't notice one stranger in tan shorts and black top, but three?

As we walked in and looked for a pew, I held my head high as if it were totally normal for three grown women to be dressed exactly the same for church on Sunday, all the while silently praying that no one would notice...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Happy Birthday Tyler

Today was a special day. My oldest son turned 21.

How is it that 21 years can go by so quickly? It seems like just yesterday that he was born and I held him in my arms for the first time. I remember realizing at that moment that I have never felt a love so strong in my entire life. He has grown to become a wonderful young man that we are extremely proud of.

To celebrate we went out to The Keg for dinner. It is a great restaurant that has the best steaks.

We all enjoyed our dinner immensely and then shared a fabulous dessert.

My life has been so richly blessed by my wonderful son. He is sensitive and caring, intelligent, hard working, good-humored - a real gift from God. My prayer for him is that he will always know how much he is loved. Happy Birthday Tyler!

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