Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christmas in October?

I'm busy baking Triple Chocolate Sour Cream Brownies and listening to the Christmas Blues on Pandora (you heard me right, Christmas music). It's so relaxing. A few days ago our basement had a slight flood (more on that another time) and we had dishes galore after not being able to use water for a day. And I listened to Christmas music then too. It helped me get the job done with a smile on my face.

Today I was thinking why I am so in the mood for Christmas this early in the year. I wondered if it's the amazingly warm temperatures we've enjoyed throughout October (74 degrees this week). I wondered if it's because we've been moving our Christmas stuff around in the basement trying to organize all our crap precious things.

It was during my prayer time that I realized that I'm just excited about Christmas this year. I'm excited to be in our new home. I'm excited to take out our Christmas decor and deck the halls. I'm excited to shop for my family. I'm excited to work on some extra special crafts to make the holidays more jolly. I'm ready to get out the Advent calendar and plan some special things for our family to do together to remind us of the gift of Jesus. I'm ready and I'm excited.

I think this happiness is oozing from me because last year I just wanted to make it through the holidays. Last year was filled with loss, depression, fights with God, learning hard lessons, rededicating my life to Christ and God's will, being humbled and filled with God's grace and righteousness. And I was hurting a lot last Christmas. I put on my happy face for my boys so that they would still remember Christmas as a happy time. I reluctantly decorated the house but there wasn't any real joy in the process. We skipped our Advent adventures all together last year. I barely got gifts wrapped and under the tree by Christmas. It was just a sad time of year for us.

I'm sure that this Christmas will have it's share of tears - happy and mournful - but there's a bounce to my step that wasn't there last year. I pray that God continues to show me grace as we get closer to Thanksgiving and that it can truly be a time of thanksgiving. And as we approach Christmas, that our Advent days will be filled with the hope of Jesus Christ.

So, if you hear me humming Christmas tunes while shopping for groceries, don't roll your eyes. I'm just ready to celebrate!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

The other night I had a craving for some pumpkin and chocolate and instead of heading to Dairy Queen in this chilly fall weather I made these Pumpkin Swirl Brownies from Betty Crocker. I am a lover of all things pumpkin and this is a quick go-to recipe if you don't have time to make pumpkin pie or if you don't want to run out to DQ. :) Enjoy!

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies
from: Betty Crocker

1 pkg (3oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
1 egg
3 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (I use fresh)

1 box Betty Crocker® Premium Brownies Ultimate
ingredients listed on box

1. Heat oven to 350°F (325°F for dark or nonstick pan). Grease bottom only of 9-inch square pan with shortening or cooking spray. In small bowl, beat all filling ingredients with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Set aside.

2. Make brownie batter as directed on box, using 1/4 cup oil, 2 tablespoons water and the egg. Spread 3/4 of the batter in pan. Spoon filling by tablespoonfuls evenly over batter. Spoon remaining brownie batter over filling. Cut through batter several times with knife for marbled design. 

3. Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted 1 inch from side of pan comes out almost clean. Cool completely. Cut into 4 rows by 4 rows. Store covered in refrigerator.  

They don't make good leftovers so you'll have to eat them all in an evening - so invite some friends over to share. :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

"Vintage" Baby Quilt

My dear friend Wendi and I share a love for vintage things. She has more of a shabby-sheik flavor to her vintage and mine is more farm-house. For instance, she owns a vintage chandelier and uses vintagey pink in her decorating. :) My colors or more red and aqua and I have a barn light hanging in my kitchen. We enjoy junking together at barns out in the middle of no-where Iowa and stopping at little shops that repurpose old things into new treasures.

She designed her baby's nursery around a vintage pink and aqua. And it's gorgeous. Love the touches she added around the room. Since this was her third baby and her second girl, I thought it would be nice to make her something special so I suggested a quilt and she loved the idea. After a great day of driving through the countryside looking at some great refunked junkery we stopped at our local fabric store (which is amazing, by the way) and she picked out some perfect fabric for her baby's room. I finally got to work when I heard she went into labor. :D

It didn't take me long to sew this quilt as I had a great plan (drawn out for me by one of the employees at said fabric store) and got to work. I took one afternoon to cut all the squares and sewed them together. The next morning (while waiting in the car for my husband to give plasma (that's what pays for his seminary classes)) I hand-quilted the whole works together. And then that evening finished the edges with the machine.


Honestly, I had a hard time giving this quilt away. It was the first quilt I made that looked good. I've made some cute quilts but this one was good. The squares were even, the quilting was sweet, the edges were perfectly sewn and there wasn't a lumpy back which always seems to happen to me.

And then there's the fact that any time I make something for a baby gift, I think of my babies. My babies who are now little boys and my babies in heaven. I feel like I put a little of myself and my boys into these projects. It may seem weird, I know, but those blankets and burp cloths are made with a lot of love and it really is hard to give them away, but it's also very therapeutic for me. Giving someone a gift helps me cope with my loss. Creating something with love calms my spirit and I am thankful to God for that gift.

For your viewing enjoyment, here are a few more pictures of the nursery. :)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Cleaning the Basement

We are finally tackling the basement and all the stuff it stores. There's some junk that we need to sift through and decide if we want to hold on to things until next spring and have a garage sale or just dump it off give it to Good Will or Salvation Army. There's a pile of kitchen gadgets that need a home until I need to use them. And lots of filing to do.

There's also this huge daunting pile of maternity, post-maternity, 0-3T clothes sitting in a corner. There's a box of baby shoes. A box of burp coths, bottles, liners, breast pads and nipple cream sits among the pile. Then there are the mixed boxes of outgrown clothes that didn't fit into the original sized box: a 2-T winter coat, some 3T jeans, a 24 month long-sleeved white onsie, a bunch of baby-sized hats and mittens... The list goes on and on. And this stuff takes up so. much. space.

I look at it and wonder if it's worth keeping. Seriously, it's the bulk of our storage items and it's really hard to look at it. We're wondering if the attic would be a better storage option because we don't know when or if we'll ever use this stuff again. And that just breaks my heart. Today I put away a pair of booties that I kept out for Elihu last year. I found it in a box of mis-matched items that were thrown together for the move. We're wondering how long we should hold on to this stuff until it's time to get rid of it. To have the best garage sale ever with boy clothes from 0-3T, maternity clothes from small to extra-large, and lots of baby supplies. If we ever do have that sale (and if it's because we weren't able to have more children) I don't think I'll be able to be at that sale. It will just be too hard to watch my precious baby's things sold for a quarter. I will hold on to a few meaningful items and maybe even regift some unopened items (you've been warned) but most of it will be sold. And I don't know if I'll be able to witness that.

I know this is a lot of hypotheticals and worries but I just needed to get some of them out of my head. My heart is burdened by all that stuff in the basement as I wonder about God's plan for our family. I pray that God grants me peace no matter what happens and that I can willingly open my hands and let my stuff go as God calls me. For now, the items will sit lovingly piled in the basement along with our box of wedding memorabilia, kitchen gadgets, crystal bowls, fondue pots, and decorative items.