Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cute Gift Idea

My friend Carrie is so creative! This girl works 2 jobs and is a full time seminary student, but still has time for her creative side -- photography, and now her new hobby, making jewelry. Her sealed glass pendants are the BEST I've seen -- I just love them! Here is a picture of me wearing the "simple trees" pendant she gave me. I thought it was my favorite (it still is, probably), but every time I look at her etsy shop, I find new ones I love. Please check out her shop here. She is running a sale at "The Blue Door" in time for Christmas shopping. Leave me a comment and let me know which pendant (or ring) was your favorite.

Before you go out shopping for Christmas, check out some unique handmade items at Carrie's etsy shop!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Don't Forget Advent!

Since Thanksgiving falls so late this year, you may be like me, and not realized that the Advent season is quick to follow. This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, as a matter of fact! Whether or not you rigidly follow the liturgical calendar that gives us these dates, I think you'd agree that it's incredibly important to be intentional about focusing on Christ and his incarnation during this season! If we don't go into the Christmas season with PLANS and INTENTIONS of focusing our time and hearts on Christ, then we surely won't.

What is Advent? Quite simply, it is "waiting for Christ to come". That is the way I try to focus on it with children, talking about waiting on Jesus, to create a longing for Jesus in their hearts. The obvious fruit of this is longing for Jesus' return to earth! So our thinking on Christ and his 1st advent, should also remind us that He will come again!

Josh and I typically celebrate the Sundays of Advent similar to the style Noel Piper describes in her book Treasuring God in Our Traditions. (The link I've posted allows you to read the book for free on line if you wish). We light a candle each week by our Nativity and have a special time of reading Old and New Testament passages on the coming of Christ. If you're interested in doing something every day (say with children, so the countdown seems more frequent), I'd recommend Christ in Christmas which is a compilation of scripture, songs, and readings for each day during Advent. Sundays are special in this book, though, and there is more, including a prayer for these days. We have not been able to keep this book in stock! It is excellent, and I think it might be going out of print, but you can still get a used copy.

Don't you love listening to Christmas music? Maybe you are strict about not pulling it out yet, but plan now to listen to rich, Christ-centered worshipful Christmas music to draw your heart toward Christ. I love it that my friends at Sojourn are making this CD available at a price anyone can afford. Another one of my favorite Christmas CDs is Incarnation featuring Kristyn Getty. The prologue of Kristyn reading John 1 is so stirring, and I love the originality of the songs.

Perhaps you have advent traditions you'd like to share here. I'm hoping many of you use these precious days to still your hearts and ponder the wonder of God becoming a man.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My "Paintings"

I've been working on these little canvasses/wall hangings for the past few days, and I'm pretty happy with them. I could only dream of being TRULY artistic. But this project incorporated some painting and something else I love -- Children's books! I began with 2 very inexpensive children's books from Half-Priced books, and then took them apart for their artwork. I know, it's terrible, tearing up books. At this point, I felt like the value of their illustrations was higher than their value as a whole. One was a Golden book of counting animals, and the other was an old illustrated version of Tom Sawyer (don't freak out -- it was abridged, and only 98 cents).

Tonight is the Holiday Christmas Exchange for the Pendergraph Women's Ministry, and I'm bringing my "paintings" as my gifts. Last year I brought these little sets of children's books, which were wonderful, but I decided to go a little more inexpensive and try to make my own thing. I really like my "paintings", but they don't stack up to those sets of books, in my opinion. Anyway, if you'd be so kind, let me know which one is your favorite! (if you like them at all).

This one is of Tom and Huck, so I made the theme "friends". I was pretty happy with the colors.

I loved this one with the 2 lambs. My friend is adopting 2 babies -- one boy and one girl -- and she took this home because of the little poem, as well as the color scheme! I admit, I thought of her while I was making it.

You might not be able to tell, but on this "N is for Nest" one, the chocolate colored N is 3-D, and really cute and thick. I tend to like the letter N.

This last one might be my favorite, because I like the colors. My sweet friend Jo is from England, and her little girls love horses, so she nabbed this one for them. Just what I was hoping for!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cranberry Butter

Okay, friends, if I become the size of a house, please point me back to this post and show me where I started going wrong. :) I am totally addicted to one of my favorite fall foods -- cranberry butter! MMM. I got this idea from Martha Stewart 3 or 4 years ago to use some of your extra cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and make cranberry butter with it. That has developed from being a great left-overs-from-Thanksgiving idea to the REASON I make cranberry sauce as soon as November hits. Take equal parts softened butter and cool cranberry sauce (made from whole cranberries, not that "shaped like a can" kind) and beat them using a paddle attachment (I use my Kitchen Aid) until the butter is pink and chunky. WOW!

It's amazing on biscuits, warm rolls, toast, plain bread -- you know, all the health foods. :) It's a week and 4 days until Thanksgiving, and I might be able to last, with the help of a few rolls and cranberry butter.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

November is C.S. Lewis Month

Where did November come from? Suddenly I'm a whole week into it, and just now realizing that I've not yet chosen what book to read in honor of C.S. Lewis. Every year I read at least one book BY Lewis, and perhaps others that are about him, or that he liked. Any of you who have read my blog for some time know that near the end of this month, we have a birthday party in his honor, which always involves drinking gallons of tea and plenty of read-aloud. You can read about past celebrations here and here.

So this month I think I'll read E. Nesbit's The Story of the Amulet, which will complete the trilogy that Lewis cherished reading so much as a child. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, Lewis says "the last [book in the trilogy] did most for me. It first opened my eyes to antiquity . . . I can still reread it with delight." Since Nesbit is also one of my favorite authors, I'd better read what Lewis still found delight in as an adult!

I'm also going to read at least parts of Myths of the Norsemen. Again, as a young man, Lewis loved myths, and especially loved "the north". I believe this is the book that he found on his neighbor's bedside table and discovered a bond of friendship because they both loved it so much.

But what Lewis book to read? I have read almost all his very best (in my opinion). I could do a reread, but I'd like to go for something new. I think I'm going to read a lesser known book of essays called The World's Last Night. We have this really incredible old hardcover copy with a great vintage cover -- it's really my friend Misty's, she left it at our house probably 2 years ago. I'll be very careful with it, and besides, knowing Misty, she would be SAD if good books weren't being read, even if they are old and valuable.

Will you join me in reading C.S. Lewis this month?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thanks for your 2 cents!

I really appreciate all the helpful comments you all gave me on cheap food! By all means, you don't have to stop the suggestions, but I wanted to post again and let you know a couple of things I am implementing in order to take those "2 cents" to the bank! :)

#1 -- today is Aldi shopping day. Praise the Lord I have a half day this week because I'm working on Saturday, otherwise going to Aldi is an evening totally gone, and I just don't have any of those left over! Our Aldis in L-ville are pretty spread out, not anywhere near the ritzy-ish neighborhood the campus is in, so I really want to go when I have time.

#2 -- meal planning for 2 weeks! I have NEVER done this. Not completely. After about 10 meals, I get tired of trying to think of things, and I just think "and then I'm sure something will come up that I can use". Great strategy, right? :) I've got a shopping list made from a FULL 2 weeks of 21 meals a week, all to be bought at Aldi. We're going to see if we can make it work. This is my trial run. I tried to think of meals that overlap ingredients (drawing from the once-a-month cooking stints that we did when I was a teenager and my mom had babies).

#3 -- a baking/cooking day. I've decided to block out a Saturday in the near future and just dedicate it to making stuff to put in the freezer. So many of you suggested soup, so I'm pretty sure I'll be fixing a soup to freeze, as well as pizza dough for calzones, and biscuits (2 new things for me!).

#4 -- the great pop debate. . . this is still being tabled. Josh and I LOVE pop (or soda, or whatever you call it). We haven't been buying it as much lately, but I know Josh especially misses taking it in his lunches. Around here we can never find the kind of pop sales they have in northern Ohio, so it's either drop $5 on a 12 pack, or skip the pop. We try to do 2 liters, but it's still not cheap. So we're thinking about counting pop as part of our "entertainment" budget! Is that crazy? Haha!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Cheap Food

I am trying to do my part to help with tightening up our budget, and I've really been rather stumped when it comes to the groceries. For whatever reason, I've had a hard time trimming it down! I think I just like variety too much, so it's hard to plan otherwise. I already save pretty well on meat because I buy so little (we eat a lot of eggs, PB, tuna, beans, etc).

So thrifty friends -- what do are your helpful hints for saving $ on the grocery bill? I'd love some feedback so I don't feel like I'm only eating starch! I mean, Ramen noodles bring back that college spirit like nothing else, but it probably is not the healthiest staple out there. :)

PLEASE post some of your favorite cheap foods/meals for all of us to benefit from!