Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Cozy Christmas Season & A Happy New Year!

After a few whirlwind weeks of Christmas preparations, fun family parties, visiting with out-of-town guests (and more than a few visits from the stomach flu, too!)...

We are finally settling into a quiet routine in our home again. :)

Every year I'm thankful for the official "12 days" of Christmas.  These days after the holiday are truly my favorite time of the Season!  Traditionally, the Christmas Season doesn't begin until December 25 - and continues on until Epiphany on January 6.

So I am planning on spending the rest of this week ~ and next ~ enjoying my family, the glow of our tree, and the coziness of home during these dark winter days.
AND....catching up on some of my blogging, too :)

Here's a few Christmas-y pictures from around the house I thought I'd share with you today.

It's always exciting on the night when Daddy brings home the tree!  This year, the children were able to *almost* decorate it all by themselves.  General requested a little help with the lights, but other than that they handled all of the rest!

Ever since seeing a Christmas Village on display at a store earlier in December, Little Monkey has been asking to start a town of our own.  Just before Christmas, the store had marked these down by 70% (plus I had a coupon!) Chris & I surprised him ~ and all of the kiddos ~ with the beginning of a new collection.... a little church, complete with a silver bell that tinkles in the bell-tower.

I needed something to dress up our front picture window, and it fits very nicely.
To fill in the space, the kids made a few paper-snowflakes to hang on our twig-tree...

...and we added a few snowflake ornaments, borrowed from the Christmas tree.
I think we'll be able to leave this up long past the Christmas season. :)

Inspired by Aunt Ruthie over at Sugar Pie Farmhouse, I decided to go through my cupboards and closets to see what I could come up with for some fun Christmas decor in the kitchen.
I just love re-using things that are already on-hand, in creative new ways!

Cinnamon sticks from the spice drawer, ribbon scraps leftover from last year, white pitchers found at garage sales last summer.

This old candle is sitting in an apple pie-plate, surrounded by a berry wreath that I haven't used in a while....

...and I've always loved the look of adding a chalkboard to a kitchen's decor, so I put one together myself.  Cute?

Maybe you could tell??... it's actually not a chalkboard. :)
It's really a black piece of construction paper taped right onto the front glass of an 11x14 white frame.  Our school chalk worked very nicely on the paper....and everyone thought it looked just like a chalkboard.

I wrote "Merry Christmas" in Italian as a little surprise for my hubby.... which made him smile.... partly because of the memories this phrase brings to him....and partly because, without realizing it, I spelled natale with an "i" instead of an "e" on the end. :)
Made for a few good family laughs, so I decided to leave it as it is!

Our little nativity scene....which used to belong to my parents, and has passed its way through all of my siblings, on down to us.
One of my favorite Christmas decorations of all. :)

Stockings were hung on the railing with care....

Two white stockings for Mama & Daddy, four red stockings for the children....and we decided to hang up our extra fifth stocking this year, for our dog, Duke. :)

Christmas hath a darkness
Brighter than the blazing noon;

Christmas hath a chilliness
Warmer than the heat of June;

Christmas hath a beauty
Lovelier than the world can show;

For Christmas bringeth Jesus,
Brought for us so low.

~Christina Rosetti


Wishing you a beautiful and peaceful Christmas Season, and much joy in the New Year!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Celebrating Advent ~ This Year's Jesse Tree

"There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.  And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord."  ~ Isaiah 11:1-2

~ Thank you, God, for our family.  Help us as a family this Advent season to prepare to celebrate Jesus' birthday at Christmas.  As we think about his family tree, may we grow to love him more and more and to love our own family more. ~  
(prayer taken from Jesse Tree Devotions, by Marilyn Breckenridge)

General was a baby when I made my family's first Jesse Tree.
I can still remember picking out the fabric and wondering exactly how to put it together . . . I didn't have a pattern, and ~ amazing as it is to think of it! ~ those were still the days before the internet had become what it is today.

Borrowing some instructions from an old quilt pattern, I sewed my little family a little Jesse Tree banner ~ very similar to what I remembered of my Mom's tree, from my childhood.
It brought many warm memories to my children over many Advent seasons!
But after last Christmas, I knew the time had come to retire our old friend. . .
We had too many sore little fingers (from trying to pin our ornaments through the many layers of fabric). . . and I had made it too small for the number (and size) of ornaments we would have.

Inspired by this wonderful Jesse Tree tutorial over at Shower of Roses ~ and especially by Jessica's idea to add jingle bells for hanging the ornaments! ~ Rose & I headed over to the fabric store for some Mama-Daughter time.  Together we picked out new patterns and colors . . . purple for Advent, and a soft snowy green for the tree.

With a little finesse, we were able to punch holes in the ornaments using a regular paper hole-puncher and a sharp pair of scissors.  A little bit of yarn made some cute ties.... and our new Jesse Tree was ready for the season!  

We made this current set of ornaments last year . . . and I figured they would last through at least a few seasons.  But (to my surprise!) General and Rose both asked if we could make another set this year.  I suppose I'll just have to add this into my list of Advent activities for our Countdown Tree ;)  (Of which I'm hoping to post some pictures & our list very soon!)

"The Advent season provides an invaluable opportunity for mothers to teach our children about the true meaning of Christmas.  And it provides the opportunity for us to concentrate on our spiritual lives and make certain that our hearts are ready to receive the Savior.  Our celebration of Christmas will only be as good as our celebration of Advent.  If you observe this season in your home and save Christmas until Christmas, that holiday will be all the more joyfully experienced."
(from Advent and Christmas for the Christian Family, by Teresa Zepeda)

For more lovely Jesse Tree ideas . . . or to make a quick Tree of your own {a printable version!} . . . stop over & visit Jessica at Shower of Roses, where I'll be linking up today. :)  


Friday, December 7, 2012

On the First Sunday of Advent...

"'The days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will fulfill the gracious promise I made to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah.  
In those days and at that time, I will make a righteous branch sprout from David's line; He will do what is just and right in the land...
This is the name by which He will be called: 
the Lord Our Righteousness.'"  
~ Jeremiah 33:14-16

"Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep.  
For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; 
the night is far gone, the day is near." 
~Romans 13:11-12

~ A Prayer for the Advent Wreath ~

Lord, our God, we praise You for Your Son, Jesus Christ, for He is Emmanuel, the Hope of all people.
He is the Wisdom that teaches and guides us.
He is the Savior of us all.

O Lord, let your blessing come upon us as we light the first candle of this wreath.
May the wreath and its light be a sign of Christ's promise of salvation.
May he come quickly and not delay.
We ask this in His holy name.  Amen.


Wishing you a Blessed First Week of Advent! :)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lilla Rose Party Update

Just a little update for anyone who is still interested in placing a Lilla Rose order....

When I typed up my original post with all of the party details, I set the closing date for Thursday, December 5th.....without realizing it, I was looking at a 2013 calendar :) and the date is incorrect.

The party is actually set to close Wednesday, December 5th (which is tomorrow!) at 6pm.

But that still leaves plenty of time to place an order!

Just pop on over to Joy's Lilla Rose website & register to enter the party and shop.
All orders will be processed and submitted together, after the party closes....and items will be shipped directly to each customer.

Since there are still a few weeks to go before Christmas, all orders will arrive before the Holiday. :)

Here's a fun little video on how to do a few different hairstyles using a Lilla clip...the french twist is one of my favorite fast-fixes ~

Blessings, and Happy Shopping!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Bars

These delicious ~ and super easy ~ bars are a top favorite treat in my home!
The recipe came from a Taste of Home holiday edition, a few years ago...General was actually the one who first found the recipe & requested them.
Last year, he baked a batch of these for a baking contest with our homeschooling group - and won first place!  (We had a very official panel of judges....the Dads. ;)

We'll be making lots of these in our Christmas baking over the next few weeks, to give to neighbors and friends....
And I'd love to share them with you, too. :)

~ Chocolate Chip Raspberry Bars ~

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup cold butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in egg and extract just until moistened.  Set aside 1 cup crumb mixture for topping.

Press the remaining mixture into a greased 11x7 inch baking pan.  Bake at 350F for 5 minutes.  Spread with jam and sprinkle with reserved crumb mixture.  Bake 35-40 minutes longer or until golden brown.

Sprinkle with chocolate chips.  Return to the oven for 30 seconds or until chips are glossy.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Cut into bars.

Yields about 3 dozen.


Wishing you a Blessed First Sunday of Advent!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Lilla Rose Party! (& you're invited :)

I'm always on the lookout for lovely, feminine things to wear...
and I also love to find ways of supporting Mama's who have home-businesses!

My sweet bloggy-friend Joy is a consultant for Lilla Rose, and recently Rose & I began wearing Lilla hair clips in place of our usual everyday claw-clips & ponytail-bands.
These have quickly become a favorite new accessory for the both of us. :)

Since Christmas is right around the corner, I thought it would be fun to host a Lilla Rose online/blog party here at Art of Being Mama!

And, you're invited! :)

A few of my favorite things about Lilla Rose...

Pretty to wear...affordable and high quality...and they really work so well, too!
The clips come in several different sizes ~ tailored to suit your hair-type and thickness.
They're available in every color you can imagine!
Besides clips, there are many other beautiful styles to choose from...for all different hair-lengths and 'do's.
Any of these would make a very lovely gift for a special girl (or Mama!)...or a pretty stocking stuffer!

Here is a picture of my hair up in a medium Princess Tiara Dangle....this super-quick twist is what I usually wear with a claw-clip.   (But, unlike a claw-clip, the Lilla clip stays in place all day without having to be fixed. :)

Photo Credit ~ Rose :)

And here are a couple of Rose's favorite styles (shown in a small Roman Stone Lite Sapphire)...

I just love how the pretty blue and silver stands out against her dark hair!
At first I was a little concerned about whether the clip would slip out while she's playing, but it stays beautifully in place.

Rose's favorite thing about these clips is that they are tangle-free. :)

So here are the details of the party ...

When : Today through Thursday, December 5 (party will close at 6 pm CST) 
Where : You just need to log onto Joy's Lilla Rose website, and register to enter the party (personal information will not be shared!) 
Details : All orders will be handled online, and will be submitted/shipped together, after the party is closed on the evening of December 5.  (Orders can only be taken for US residents.)

Blessings, & Happy Shopping! :)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Pumpkin~Cranberry Cake

On Sunday I brought this moist, spicy cake to my brother's house for a family game-night.
It's a recipe from a church cookbook that my nieces gave to me many years ago, at my wedding of my all-time favorites, especially for baking!
(They signed their names in the front of the book, which I love to look at....they were so little back then!  And they've grown into such lovely young ladies now! :)

Anyway....the cake was a hit with my nephews, and all of my boys (and Rose!) gave it two thumbs up as well.
The ingredients list looks a little long at first glance, because there are several spices in the recipe.
But it was super-fast to prepare, and tasted even better the second day!
A new family-favorite, for sure.

~ Pumpkin Cranberry Cake ~

3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
1 can pumpkin
3/4 cup butter (melted)
1/3 cup apple or orange juice
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.
In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, ground cloves and salt.  
In a small bowl, beat eggs and whisk in the pumpkin, butter, juice and vanilla.  Stir pumpkin mixture into then four mixture until well combined.  Fold in cranberries and nuts (if using).  
Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserted into center of the cake comes out clean.  
Cool on a wire rack.  
Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.  Serves 10 to 12.


Linking Up At ~
Women Living Well
Raising Homemakers
Growing Home
Artful Homemaking

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