November 28, 2011

Christmas Decor!

Me, looking oh-so-fabulous at 39 weeks pregnant and decked out in a tree-skirt cape.
Pardon the crazy hair, it was Saturday....

Now I know that most of y'all have been trying to be well behaved and keep yourself from strewing tinsel and pine branches about in preparation for Christmas but *I* thought that I would be holding a baby by now and decorated for Christmas accordingly! :-) So today I have a brief picture tour of the bits and pieces of Christmas decorating I've done...

 Here we have our "fireplace"! Complete with stockings (although I still want to get one for BabyGirl even though I probably won't be able to put a bunch of stuff in it since she'll be so little...). When I packed up our Christmas stuff in AZ I conveniently left the lights and red stuff wrapped up in the garland so this year it was breeze to unfold and plug in! 

Over on the wall by the bookcase (you can kind of see the bookcase in the left corner of the top picture) I have some 3D snowflakes that I made following this tutorial. (Side note: In step six, I overlapped the points and cut off the extra pointy bits and used those straight edges for taping the pieces down. Also, instead of being able to staple the two sections of three together, step ten, I had to use a glue gun because I couldn't find a stapler skinny enough to hold them together as tightly as I wanted them. And I used card-stock so I didn't need to staple all the arms together, step 11, but I can see how that would be helpful if you were using a thinner paper.)

Over the front door we have an interesting mix of stuff! A red velvet bow tied to some sprigs of holly and some golf-ball jingle-bells. They're cute and they're not on the actual door so they don't jingle every time someone comes in. (A plus, I think. Jingle bells are are cute for about the first 10 rings. :-P)

(Note our hospital bags all packed and ready in the corner there next to Noel's shoes...)
Then, inspired by pinterest I cut out words from... well... if you can't figure that out then I'm not telling. :-P Anyway. It was super easy! (The second time. The first time I tried to be clever and print out letters on construction paper, which isn't made in handy 8.5x11 sheets by the way so I hand-cut them down to size, but after half an hour and getting only 1 1/2 inch tall letters I gave up on straight lines and cut them out free-style!) And the garland over the hutch is another "I was all clever last year and left it all put together" moment.

And here is our tiny living room window all prettied up with snowflake ornaments! (We have two other giant windows but I didn't have enough ornaments or patience to do this with them. :-P )This is one of my favorite bits I think. I just used a piece of red rick-rack tacked up to the corners of the window and grey thread (or whatever string was already attached to the snowflakes) to tie everything onto it.

 We are planning on getting a tree this year so I will put up a picture of that as soon we have it all lit and decorated. :-)

 Are y'all breaking out the Christmas decor yet? Do you have a set date you usually break everything out on? And what about Christmas trees, do you go get a new one every year or do you like the easiness of artificial?

 Merry Christmas to You!

November 26, 2011

5 Things I've Loved for Blaze

Obviously, a huge part of my job description these days is "mom"! So for my list this Saturday, I thought I'd tell you five of the things that have been most helpful with Blaze (barring the obvious like diapers, crib, etc).

1. A door-length mirror (got mine on sale for $3!). I have it lengthwise on the floor, propped up against our bookcases. Blaze will sit in front of it and make adorable faces at himself for quite a while. :) I heard that a mirror like this helps babies develop better coordination, too, because they can see what they're doing.

2. A bouncy seat. I have this one. We took the toy bar off because the toys would just hit him in the face and they were an awkward distance for grabbing. Blaze still loves this, although he is SO close to being at the weight limit. Right now he is even sleeping in it a bit, because he has a cold and being upright seems to help him breathe better.

3. This youtube video. When Blaze was newborn, I would play it to help him go to sleep in the wee sma's. And to help keep me relaxed, too, because I tended to get a bit despondent at 3 am with no sleep in sight. Right now, with his cold, I've been playing it again to help him go to sleep.

4. Random household objects (garlic press, basket of measuring cups, anything with an interesting shape and texture). Now that he can grab, lean, and roll, he wants to be into everything! I try to give him lots of things to explore so that he doesn't get bored. The garlic press was especially a hit. :-D

5. A clock. Blaze was a pretty fussy newborn, and has been pretty fussy at nights for a bit. The clock (or cell phone :)) helps me narrow down why he's crying. For instance, if it's 3 am and I just fed him at 2:30, I am pretty positive that he's not hungry!

November 23, 2011

Christmas music...

Yep, I've done it! I've started listening to Christmas music. Thanksgiving is tomorrow, anyway! I'm a bit under the weather so I'm not sure what we're going to do for Thanksgiving (my lovely friend who invited us for dinner is pregnant, and I'm pretty sure she does *not* want the flu). I wanted the house to be tidy anyway, so I played a little Christmas music for some pep and energy while doing my clean up.

Our Christmas music choices are a little limited. :) It's a cultural thing -- when two people come from two different families, chances are they like different kinds of music. Sure enough, I like Bing Crosby and a host of other 40s crooners, while Ryan likes medieval Christmas chants. He thinks the crooners are fluffy, I think the chants are gloomy (I do like some chants! Just not at Christmas. Call me a philistine if you will. :))

The one thing we both like is Christmas carols, so that's what we listen to. My first choice is Robert Shaw & the Robert Shaw Chamber Singers' album Songs of Angels and the song that's been giving me a little spring in my step today is "Susani" (That's a Grooveshark link -- haven't been able to find this version elsewhere yet!).

Hope you like it! What's your favorite kind of Christmas music? And do you know any other good albums of carols?


November 21, 2011

Some Harvesty Poems

In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought I'd post two poems today. This first one is a very favorite of mine, by Gerard Manley Hopkins (who is another favorite of mine ;)).

Hurrahing in Harvest

Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks rise
Around; up above, what wind walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?

I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour; 
And, eyes, heart, what looks, what lips yet gave you
Rapturous love's greeting of realer, of rounder replies?

And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic--as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!--
These things, these things were here and but the beholder 
Wanting; which two when they once meet, 
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.

And this second one is one that I wrote in honor of my mother's Thanksgiving dinners, which I'm very sad to be missing this year.

Watching mashed potato cities
rise and fall in the space of an moment,
laden with all the gold of Ophir,
pardon my mistake,
that must be gravy,
red-gold with cider and turkey brine. 

For those of you who don't like poetry, here is another picture of Blaze. He is fat enough to be a Thanksgiving turkey, so it still fits with our theme. Enjoy your holiday!

Love, Courtney

November 19, 2011

How many books do you read at a time?

I am never reading just one book. My usual mode of operation is to have several stacks of books by my bed table. Variously mixed in will be Bible studies, cookbooks, craft books, novels...a little bit of everything really. Right now I am at various stages of 5 "reading" books (other books for browsing would include cookbooks and craft books).

My Life For Yours by Douglas Wilson has been wonderful fodder for discussion in our Ladies Group. This book walks through the house using each room to discuss all of the wonderful ways we have to lay down our life for others and grow in grace.  I can't recommend it highly enough.

Naked Wine by Alice Feiring is the tale of a woman who sets out to make wine with nothing but grapes. I am not far into it so I can't give a good review of it but the portion I have read has been well written and interesting.

Fasting Made Simple by Paula White is not as trite as it seems by the title. I was suspicious at first but am almost through and have gotten a lot out of her wise discussion of this mysterious topic (mysterious to me, anyway). It has always seemed to me that fasting was part of a scheme to get God to do something, as if He could be coerced. Paula White has done a really good job of giving a better biblical perspective and helping to clear the clouds in my mind about fasting.

Postmillennialism by Keith A. Mathison is, as it is named, a book about postmillennialism. I have to admit that I have been working very slowly through this book. There is a lot to grab ahold of and chew on and I have enjoyed this book a lot. I am half way through now and hope to pick up speed.

Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball is a book about a New York woman who met a farmer and how her life was turned upside down as she transitioned into a farmer's wife. But her husband, Mark, was not just any kind of farmer. Her farmer had a dream to have a farm that supplied ALL of their food needs and the needs of select others. He uses horses to farm, as the Amish do, and will do almost anything to not use any sort of machinery. Their relationship is not Christian but it is an interesting story about sinners who build a farm from scratch. I am one chapter from the end and I have really enjoyed this book.

November 18, 2011

Washing Dishes for God

"At base, hospitality is about providing a space for God's Spirit to move. Setting a table, cooking a meal, washing dishes is the ministry of facilitation: providing a context in which people feel loved and welcome and where God's Spirit can be at work in their lives. Hospitality is a very ordinary business, but in its ordinariness is its real worth." -- Simon Holt, quoted in Tim Chester's A Meal with Jesus

(Silly Blogger isn't letting me upload a picture right now. Too sad!)

November 16, 2011

Another day, another song.

It's Wednesday! And I have another song for y'all. :-)
 I love bouncy oldies love songs, I just can't help myself, so hopefully y'all like them too because that's what I've got for you this week!

You're The One - The Vogues
the Youtube Link.

Have a happy Wednesday!

November 14, 2011

Stuck in the Middle...or Joy?

It’s that time of year again; the time when everyone is thinking about Christmas but can't do anything until Thanksgiving has passed. To me, I was officially stuck in the middle. I don’t know about you all, but this drives me bonkers. I like to do things when the idea *first* comes to mind. Needless to  say, constantly having to stall myself was getting a little annoying.

Then it hit me the other day, while I was brooding over not being able to hang up my, ‘Happy Christmas’ sign, that I was letting all my joy be swallowed up by my holiday-modernism. What is “holiday-modernism?” It is the belief that holidays should be prepared for at least, one month ahead (if not two) of the month the holiday is actually in.

Being able to celebrate Thanksgiving in such abundance (as we do) is a gift from God. We should rejoice in it. My distain for this time of year was just as bad as saying, “God, I’d rather be unhappy and see ugliness than be joyous in the all the beauty you have surrounded me with.” It is true there are no “Thanksgiving” songs, but there is always Fred Astaire. Yes, the decorations are the same as they were last month; but they were made with the same enthusiasm as the Christmas decorations, are just as beautiful, and are still a sign of God’s goodness. God gives us beautiful things not only so that we can be happy but more importantly, so that we can rejoice in him and give glory to his sovereignty.

This means, all my Christmas decorations will have to wait their turn so that I can rejoice in them at the proper moment -- not forgetting to give thanks for what God has given me at present. So after all, I was not stuck in the Middle, I was choosing discontentment over joy. 

“This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Do any of you have those moments where, you’re so busy looking for the future, you forget to realize the blessings you have right in front of you? 

November 12, 2011

Saturday List

What are you eating for dinner this week?

Mmm, I wish this was on our menu! Delicious cheeses from the farm of some friends.
I menu-plan our dinners week-by-week to help keep us within our food budget. Here's what we're having this week:

Sunday: Burgers (Ryan's favorite! -- and I love that are hardly any dishes to wash afterwards)

Monday: Pasta with Chicken Alfredo sauce, and carrots prepared somehow or other (roasted? steamed?)

Tuesday: Black beans, taco-seasoned burger, and rice with salsa, sour cream and maybe avocado

Wednesday: Thai Red Chicken Curry (found on Noble's food board on pinterest :))

Thursday: Crispy Sweet Potato Fries, with some sour cream dip if I find a recipe I like. Every other Thursday we go hang out with some of our friends for a book study, and we all bring a finger food to share. So we will eat more than just sweet potato fries, but that's what I'm bringing. ;)

Friday: Meatballs & Gravy, my mom's oven-roasted potatoes (the secret ingredient is onion soup mix!), and broiled zucchini with butter, garlic and parmesan on top.

If you do a menu plan, I'd love to hear what you're having in the comments! I'm always on the hunt for awesome dinner ideas. And if you don't menu plan, do you have favorite dinners that you fall back on a lot?

November 11, 2011

Thoughts on Hospitality

"The context of hospitality is to be love--fervent love. The word for fervent does not refer to a fever pitch of emotional enthusiasm but rather to constant and continual exertion as an athlete running a race. A Christian people are to be dedicated to this. They are to think about how to use their house as an instrument that will enable them to pursue hospitality in a strenuous way."

 - Douglas Wilson, My Life For Yours

November 9, 2011


Don't know about you, but I'm always on-the-go -- errands, work, etc. Much to the amusement of anyone who looks over, I'm a steering-wheel-head-bobbing-thumb-tapper, I love singing while driving. My latest, on-my-way-to-somewhere-band is, She & Him.

What do you all like to listen to in the car?

November 7, 2011

Perfect Holiday Pie Crust

Confession: We LOVE pie crust in our family... flaky, buttery, lovely pie crust. And while we all have opinions about what is best IN the pie crust we all agree on the pie crust itself.

Since I talked about getting pie crust ready early for Thanksgiving here is our favorite pie crust recipe to share with you all.

This is our beloved cookbook that taught me and my daughters how to make beautiful pie crust without having to include shortening. As you can see, it is a VERY used page in a very used cookbook. What I wanted to point out is that the trick to pie crust is not so much in the ingredient list...a humble 5 ingredients... but in how you handle those ingredients. As hinted at in the fact that the recipe, though only 5 ingredients, is an entire page long. But WAIT, don't run off in fear. It only looks complicated...I made 6 pie crusts in a half hour this evening...truly simple. So let's get to it!

First, credit where credit is due. This recipe is from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman.

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 sticks COLD unsalted butter
ice cold water

Measure flour into a food processor bowl fitted with an S blade. 2 1/2 cups flour equal 12 1/2 oz on a scale.
Add in the salt and the sugar and pulse a couple of times to mix.

Slice the cold butter and add to the food processor. Process for 10 to 15 seconds until the flour resembles cornmeal.

Measure 6 to 10 tablespoons of ice cold water into the flour mixture. This is the only place I deviate from the recipe. The recipe says 6 tablespoons but I can never get the flour to ball together with less than 10. I have no idea why. 
Stir with a fork until the dough balls together. Pick up the dough with your hands and finish pressing it lightly into a ball. Then tear the ball into two equal pieces. 

Wrap each ball in plastic wrap, flattening it down into a disc, and then again in aluminum foil to freeze them for later. Mark Bittman says it freezes almost indefinitely.

When you are ready to bake your pies take the dough discs out of the freezer and defrost in the refrigerator. Do NOT bring the dough to room temperature. While it is still cold roll out the first disc on a well floured surface and lay in your pie plate. For a double crust fill the pie and then get the second crust out of the refrigerator and roll it out. After you have the pie put together return the pie to the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before baking. The key to a perfect pie crust is keeping the dough cold. 

Happy pie baking. I would love to hear back from anyone who gives this a try about how it turned out. 

November 5, 2011

You Can Never Be Too Prepared

I can feel the excitement of holidays approaching in the air. We feel extra anticipation around here because Noble's baby is due this month! And with all these activities creeping up on me quickly I am trying to think of what I can get done now to keep the our Thanksgiving dinner from being something I might be less than thankful for.

Five things to prepare for Thanksgiving

1. Plan the menu now. Can't start preparing if you don't know what you are preparing for.
2. Start watching grocery store sales for your turkey.
3. Make enough pie dough for all the pies you'll need. Pat it into a disc, then tightly wrap in foil or plastic wrap and freeze. Let the dough defrost overnight before baking.
4. Make cranberry sauce and either can it up or freeze it for later.
5. Shop now for all of the things you will need that aren't fresh, ie chicken stock and canned pumpkin.

Does anyone have other things they accomplish early to prepare for Thanksgiving? I would love to hear about it to help me be even more put together.
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November 4, 2011

A Bit of Friday Wisdom From 1913

So I have this awesome little book "Don'ts For Husbands, Don'ts For Wives, 1913", it is quite an entertaining read with plenty of solid bits of wisdom thrown in. As I was looking through it I had such a hard time picking just *one* bit to share with you, but I did, so here is a don't for wives on decorating:

 "Don't expect your husband to want to spend evenings at home if you don't make home the most comfortable place. Don't stuff your drawing room with priceless knick knacks that he will knock over when he stretches out his hand for an ash tray. Don't have chairs that look nice but are not comfortable to sit in, nor cushions that may only be looked at. It is a mistake to suppose that a man likes best the home of the 'pattern' housekeeper. He doesn't; it makes him want to kick things about."

(Okay, okay, I couldn't do just one. I laugh every time I read this: "Don't let your husband wear a violet tie with grass-green socks. If he is unhappily devoid of the colour sense, he must be forcibly restrained, but-- Don't be sarcastic about your husband's taste in dress. Be gently persausive and train his sense of fitness.")


(I got mini-pumpkins for our house this fall as poor Noel is allergic to flowers.)

November 2, 2011

Dancing in My Kitchen

This is the song I turn to when I need to think on things pure, good, honest, and lovely. There is so much joy in this song. I can't not smile while I crank this up and dance around my kitchen. Anyone care to join me?

The Sound of Summer Running by Alison Brown on her Stolen Moments album.