Dec 31, 2014

Christmas, Blogging and a New Year


And just like that, the Christmas season is over!


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What fun we had though!!  Even if it was the first green Christmas since the year before Olivia was born! But that didn't hold back our Christmassy feelings!  Having the girls home has been great, especially because Dave is off so we all got to enjoy their break together!  And unlike the song, we are not already waiting for school to start again....even if these gals took it upon themselves to dress like little hipsters this season....




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....maybe there's a little more 'city' in these girls then I realize?!?!



We had family in on Christmas eve and on Boxing day and then went to Dave's side of the family on the Saturday.  My brother and his wife could not make it home for the holidays but sent gifts that the kids got to open earlier on Christmas eve - a great way to keep them happy and busy while I prepared food for my mom and her husband later that night.




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Our Christmas morning came...not so early actually....I think we slept in until about 7:30! A treat for us with these Littles of ours!  We tourtured them by making them wait until after breakfast to open gifts!  I loooove drawing it out like that!  And, for the second year, we had no where to go and no one coming that day so we could take as long as we liked!




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And though I tried hard to cut back (see my post here) I still might have....technically tied together two or three gifts...making them one...for their gifts under the tree! I know...bad....it was suppose to be only ONE but I'm learning...I am...cutting back...baby step style! lol!




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So the kiddos got plenty of gifts...not too much...I think...but they had fun and were very excited!!! And even Alice got right into all of it, after her nap that is!  We had the bigger kids open their stockings and presents and while they were busy enjoying their new goodies, Dave and I had our gift exchange.  Alice woke up after and had fun opening...and munching on her gifts.





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I can't believe we just celebrated her first Christmas!  It doesn't feel that long ago we did this with Joseph...though I guess it wasn't really...still, how fast these kiddos are growing!


And yes, I found time to get a few more festive activities in, mostly pertaining to baking for gifts for family.   Last year, after Christmas, my hubby was at the store and picked up (on super clearance sale) the best little gingerbread cookie cutter.  It makes the cut-outs for baking up mini gingerbread houses...and so I have been waiting almost a year to use it!!  And use it I did! Pumping out fourteen of these babies....much to the dismay of my wrists! (later learning that I was using too much icing in my icing bag! duh!)



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Aren't they adorable?  And my lens cap is there to give you an idea of the size, they were about two inches in height but seriously tall on the tasty factor!!!


So that sums up the happenings for the past week.  And now, the new year is on the horizon and with that, marks the fifth 'birthday' of my blog!  January first, five years ago I started plunking away words and images in this little corner of the internet.  I find it hard to believe that I am entering my sixth year of blogging....or more so of rambling! lol!


I have tossed around the idea of whether to continue it or not....my readership seems to have quieted down...or at least those that comment and no, I don't just blog for the readers or the comments but they certainly are encouraging.  I do, however, realize the true significance of what my little blog has done.  It has created a record for me of the last five years....more so the last three, where I really opened up and made it more personal...but a wonderful record of the life of my family for a half decade.  It has been a testimate to the workings of God in our lives, both the big and small and our struggles, joys, and everything else in between!


And not only does this space provided a running record of our lives but it has also brought me a dear friendship!  One that I treasure up dearly! ;)  I also have found great encouragement at the fact that, despite my average to poor English marks in school, I find that I enjoy writing and on occasion, I'm not too bad at it either! hahaha!





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And so the new year is fast approaching and in the fashion of most since adding to our family, we will have a quite night at home.  I look forward to the new year, as I often do, with it's fresh start feeling and the sense of endless possibilities!  I do plan to continue to blog...not sure what it will look like, if I will change formats, feelings...or just keep on keeping on, with my various rambles and notions.  


I feel that 2015 should be a year of me getting more serious about things....maybe being a bit more intentional about....everything! lol!  I have high hopes that both encourage and overwhelm me, but I will take it all, one day at a time....at least I'll try to!


And well, the kids are outside waiting and Dave is getting the baby in her snow suit so we can go take a walk on this gorgeously sunny, last day of 2014.  So I leave you all with a prayer of much joy and blessings for a year that brings you ever closer to our Lord!   


Love to all!!!

- Kaitlin





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Dec 22, 2014

Cranking Out Christmas


Only three more sleeps people!! Oh what fun we have been having this Christmas season! We've been merry making the whole month long, partaking in all sorts of Christmassy fun and really soaking up the season!


And in no particular order here are some of the highlights of the month:


Our girls' school Christmas play!  LOVED IT!!  It was called "Christmas in Black and White" and it was adorable!  My gals were apart of the penguin chorus as they are too little to have speaking parts.  The play is super sweet and has a great gospel message!  My sweet little Ladies did amazing, especially our Olivia who was old enough to be apart of every song and who certainly knew all the words and actions! 



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And no, my Catherine did not 'steal' the show this year - she kept her socks on and did not pick out lint from between her toes! (see last year's post if you want a refresher on that! lol!)  And my favourite part of the whole production was after the evening show when they closed the night in prayer!  It was just beautiful!



Our house was more full for the last week or so.  My mom's two dogs were staying with us while she and her husband were on vacation for two weeks.  All I will say is that it was a great chance to confirm my thoughts that we do NOT need a dog any time soon!  My sister was staying at my mom's and took care of the pups for the first part of their time away....but we had the dogs for ten days which was long enough...a nice treat for the kids but it was great to be able to send them back home at the end of  it all!


Joseph insisted that the dogs have their treats served on a plate! lol!


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My sister was here for a few days as a stop over before travelling back to BC.  She and her boyfriend had moved to Ontario five months ago but things didn't work out quite as well as they would have liked and apparently the pull of the West has won (for now!).  So she and her boyfriend have just completed the five day venture back to B.C.  I'm sad that they went, but I know it's what they need right now....but I will in no way relent on enticing them to return! *wink!*



I've been busy being crafty this year.  From the oodles of decorations around the home, to baking, chocolate making, creating and sewing, it's been busy but fun!  I made three festive pillow covers in one afternoon.  Easy peasy, envelope style ones and all for super cheap!  All three were made mostly with fabric I had on hand and also using some tea towels I purchased at the dollar store! 



Two of the pillow covers I made and my paper Noel sign that I created a few years back.

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One crafty project I did was with two dear gal pals of mine, my besty and the third component to our trio of trouble!   It was something I had wanted to do for some time now but hadn't actually gotten around to it.  So when my sweet friend suggested we get together and get busy I was on board!  Our little project?!  Home made lip balms!


Using only four ingredients, we set to work.  There was a bit of trial and error and a few things we might change for next time but in the end we had some fantastic lip balm!  And one thing you might not know about me (unless you know me outside of blog land) is how much I am addicted love lip balm!





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We made two great flavours; a sweet orange, grapefruit and a peppermint one.  They are all natural and feel amazing, they didn't take that long to make them and it was a great team effort!!  And in the end we all had oodles of balms to give away...or keep!



The kids are super excited for Christmas this year, even Joe...though I know he doesn't 'get it' exactly.  One of my favourite traditions we have as a family is our our annual, hot chocolate and light watching tour.  We make (or buy) hot chocolate (or something else for mom and dad!) and load everyone into the van.  We put on the Christmas tunes and then drive around "ooing" and "awwing" at all the lights.  It was loads of fun and with it being such a mild winter this year, it felt like there were more lights then ever!



Breakfast one morning this month - all four of them,
 bright eyed and chipper and it wasn't even light out yet! 

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I really enjoyed decorating this year...though with hubby still off from work for parental leave we had to watch the dollars a bit more (or should watch the dollars!)  Other then buying four new sets of lights for the tree (because ALL of our other ones had burned out....because I believe it has been a number of years since we bought any new ones) and I spent $5 on the greenery to make the basket on my front porch, I spent no money on decorations.  That might not sound like a big deal to some of you but I love to decorate for Christmas and usually pick up a few new things each year.


Re-purposed and creatively altered decorations!  The greenery is new, but the basket is from last year.
You can see my wreath looking a bit different in this post.  I like a good decorating challenge!

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But the house is all festive, cozy and a little more simplified them most years....and even though I'm enjoying all the holiday decore....I'm already looking forward to taking it down and a fresh start for the new year!!  Yeah...I'm strange like that!



If you remember from last year (this post) where I finally got around to a project I had been wanting to do for some time!?1  It was to make, from my girls' baby clothes, Christmas stockings for them.  I loved the final product and how easy they were to make, so I gathered my supplies once again and got to work on a stocking for Joseph!




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It too, turned out great (if I do say so myself!).  I love how this idea all came together - even though a baby clothes quilt would have been fun, (my original plan for these articles) this idea is much more realistic for me! lol!  And I love how practical, useful and sentimental these stockings are now!  And Joe likes his stocking too!




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So now, next year, I just have to make one for Alice!  I'm already, as she is outgrowing piece, putting some aside with this idea in mind!  


And speaking of my sweet cheeked babe - she's seven months old now!  She's just as much a doll as ever and growing so fast!  She absolutely ADORES her big siblings and refuses to not be apart of anything that we are all doing together.  Which means, even though she's not onto finger foods yet, she insists that she sits with us for every meal! 




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She's such a sweet and good baby and I'm really enjoying watching her grow!  I love seeing her eyes light up whenever one of her siblings walks into the room and how intently she wants to be with them and do what they do!  



But one thing little Alice did not get to be apart of was our traditional short bread cookie making.  Actually...we haven't done this one in a couple of years but this year we got back to it.  It was the first year that Joe could help put the cherries on the cookies and he did a pretty good job!




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This recipe was my granny's and it's a classic in our home.  My granny always used one of those old fashioned cookie presses to make her shortbread and when my dad was younger he found, for 98 cents at a second hand store, the same cookie press his mom used.  So when he made these cookies with my gals, he would bring his press with him.  When he passed away a couple of years ago... (almost three now...wow...) I asked my step-mom for the press.  My Aunt has my granny's original one but now I have my dad's press.  I'm not quite as good as the 'masters' but I think I did a pretty decent job and I'm happy to officially add this tradition to our family's Christmas celebrations!



This year both of my girls are reading, so it's neat to see so much of the world opening up for them!  Even right down to them reading the gift tags, I love it!  And thankfully too because apparently we bought them a lot of books for Christmas!!  My little Ladies are maturing so much lately, yet they are still very innocent and I treasure that!  I love seeing the people they are becoming!  They are so excited for this Christmas and I am excited for them!




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And well...that's a number of the highlights from this busy, joyous, hectic, wondrous, memory making month!  I pray that each of you is wonderfully and amazingly blessed this holiday!  May you enjoy all the good gifts that our God gives to you daily and truly, find joy, in the greatest gift ever given - our saviour Jesus!










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Dec 20, 2014

The Donkey in the Living Room by Sarah Raymond Cunningham :: Review


The Donkey in the Living Room - written by Sarah Raymond Cunningham and illustrated by Michael Foster, is a modern approach to the nativity advent tradition.




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The story opens with an invitation for your family to use this book to begin a new tradition. The author explains how each morning, starting nine days before Christmas, the children in her family would rush downstairs to find a figure wrapped in paper.  They'd open it to discover a character from the nativity scene.  After opening the little package, their father would tell them a part of the story of Christ's birth but told from the point of view of the character that was unwrapped that morning.


The author shares with us, how over time, she began to realize that the true gift of Christmas was not the figures unwrapped each morning but the telling of the story of the birth of Christ.




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The rest of the book is the guide for parents to read to their children, telling their little ones Christ's birth story and all from the points of view of the various 'characters' that were present at that blessed time.


The whole story is written in rhyme and in today's language and slang, including phrases such as, "As Mary's belly was getting ready to pop..." and "The shepherds didn't know what had just hit,".   Not your usual telling of the Christmas story but not with out it's accuracy as well.


I liked how it touched on things such as the census being taken and why Mary and Joseph had to travel to Bethlehem.  I enjoyed the fact that the author included the importance of Christ's coming leading to His death and resurrection.  She really tried to keep the focus that this time of year is to be about remembering who Christ is and what He did for us!



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I certainly loved the illustrations!  They are bright, cheery and fun!  I love the people and the animals are adorable.  Each day has a full coloured picture and also a smaller illustration to give you an idea of where in the stable to place each character...not to mention a few other details.


Over-all, The Donkey in the Living Room is certainly cute and catchy but not exactly for my family and I.  Partially because we already have our own advent countdown and this offered nothing especially new for us.


But if you have young children, (or even for the grand babies) and are looking for something a bit different or just a way to start your own nativity tradition, then this just might be the book for you!  You can also order the book with the matching ten wooden characters, here.









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And if you haven't been counting down the days....there are only five more sleeps!!










The good people at B&H Publishing gave me this book in exchange for my honest review.







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Dec 7, 2014

Gold, Frankincense and Materialism


Have you heard of the three gifts for Christmas idea?  About a year ago now, was when I first heard about it but this is the first year we are putting it into practice.


What is this all about, you ask?


For those of you who don't know...or if you are looking for a reminder, the idea goes something like this.  For your family's gifts you stick to only three gifts under the tree.  The gifts are called gold, frankincense and myrrh....sound familiar!?!?



 
 Now, what these gift represent exactly, is up to your family, but the version we are going with is this;

Gold - a gift that the person really wants
Frankincense - a gift to encourage or build up their spiritual walk
Myrrh - a gift of something for the body (or something they need)


There is a theory that the three gifts brought to Jesus by the Magi held special symbolism or meanings, particularly to the life Jesus had come to live.  Gold represented His kingship, frankincense was a symbol of His priestly role, and myrrh a prefiguring of his death and embalming. So the gifts we receive based on these themes, sort of represent the same type of ideas.  Gold a want, often the more expensive of the gifts.  The frankincense, for our spiritual walk, correlating with Christ's priestly role and myrrh used in preparing the body for burial, thus a gift for the body. (Not as morbid as it sounds, think clothing, jewellery, skates, etc.)





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I had heard of this idea from a friend of mine and thought how wonderfully simple it could make my holiday shopping!  I thought that...until I had to put it into practice!  Because I love... like....love to shop!  I Christmas shop all year long!! Mostly because it saves me mad cash, while allowing me to get amazing gifts but also because I enjoy it!!  But this year it has been different.  This year I had to stop myself and think more about the purchases I wanted to make.  Each gift had to count more, mean more....be thought out more because it was the only one for that category!  It has been different but it has been good!




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One of my love languages is gift giving, so I found this idea of only three gifts quite challenging.  I love to give gifts!! I love to hunt out, (all year, as I said!) that "just right" gift.  The one that says, "I thought of you! That you are important to me and you matter!"  I love to dote on my kids, as they have such joy over the simplest things!  And yes, I love to receive gifts too - not necessarily gifts with monetary value but something that says, you care and thought about me!


So this year as we made the switch to three gifts under the tree, I realized some things.  First, it's freeing!  I don't have to keep shopping, I actually know when I am done now!  I've always struggled (read, didn't stick to at all!!) with a budget when it comes to buying gifts.  But this year, I found that it was much easier to make and stick to a budget (approximately! lol!!) because I only had a few gifts to keep in mind, so once those were bought, I was done!


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Secondly this idea lines up nicely with what God has been working on in my hubby and I for the last number of years.  That having less is sooo much more!!  God has been, and still is, walking us through the journey of purging, not hoarding and learning to live with more needs, less wants and just less over all!  It can still be a struggle, especially as we have added to our family a few times over but we are learning and the ways God has changed us is amazing....pretty much a miracle really! lol!!  So less coming in and 'piling' up under the tree means less to handle in the new year! 


And I think what I like most about this idea is how it goes so much against what our society tells us this season is all about.  It fights against the mentality of materialism that is so dominate in our part of the globe, especially at this time of the year!  Our culture is so much about more, more, more!  It's amazing how we are told to constantly strive to accumulate more stuff!  And the result of this is then to buy bigger homes, to hold all the stuff!  And then when we run out of space in our big homes, there are always storage units to pack our stuff into.  Storage units, that rival many third world houses, just to store all the stuff that doesn't "fit" into our houses!


And through all this emphasis to buy more, spend more and give more gifts we lose sight of the simple pleasures this season can offer!  The idea that people become stressed over shopping, purchasing and what to buy is silly!  I think it's the fact that a sweet simple gesture isn't enough...at least we are told it isn't enough....in fact, is anything ever enough in this culture?!  We are bombarded with the idea that everyone needs everything!  And if you don't have something, then you are less fortunate, lacking or unhappy.


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But it's not true, at least for those of us who's life and hope are found in the root of this season's true meaning.  That our life is found in Christ and nothing, nothing on this earth will satisfy or fulfil us apart from Him!  Now, I know that Christ wasn't actually born on December 25th, and that Christmas may have roots that aren't as Christian as I believe but the fact remains, that Christmas is a time to celebrate Christ!  A time to acknowledge and be in awe of the fact that God came down, became man, born of a virgin, a baby in this world and grew as a sinless man destined to save our souls.


When I focus on those truths this season, I realize just how easy it is to be swayed to the world's thinking.  That shopping, buying and piling up the gifts will bring joy and happiness to my family.  But it doesn't and it won't...not for any lasting time...or value.


I had forgotten, until just a few days ago, that after our car fiasco last year, we were pretty strapped for cash and so my husband and I decided that for he and myself, we were only going to give stocking presents.  We bought no gifts for each other for under the tree and when that memory came back to me, I remembered just how happy I really was that Christmas!!  Me, the "gifts is my love language" gal, felt loved and happy last Christmas!  And I was even more happy when there wasn't oodles of things to find places for in my home or stash away to be forgotten about.





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So I welcome this year's change! I have had moments of guilt or doubt but they are from external, worldly thoughts.  I know we are blessed with or without gifts and the "few" things we have for our kids and each other, will be more then enough!  And instead of shopping, shopping, shopping then wrapping wrapping, wrapping, we are partaking in more memory and tradition making.  Spending more time together as a family and really enjoying each other!


I know that this idea of three gifts is a good thing for our family and I encourage others to consider this idea too!  Not that buying gifts is wrong but maybe to look at the reasons we feel the need to buy so much!?


Three gifts....it's not a lot...but it was enough, for a King!







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