Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a year in review~food 2009

As this year comes to an end, with 2010 on our heels, I began wondering about all the food I cooked this year. Sometimes (really alot of times) I get bogged down with the daily preparation of food-but when something comes together and I'm pleased with the result, it makes all the time I spend in the kitchen well worth it (well that and also my crew, who like I've said many times before loves to eat). I remember when I started dating my husband nearly fifteen years ago, he had a way more diverse palate than I had at the time. He loves food, especially Asian and African food. Now me being from the South, I was really only acquainted with Southern cuisine-like chicken and gravy, collard greens, hot-water cornbread, black-eyed peas, chow-chow pinto beans, good, good food-food dear to my heart. When we met he totally encouraged me to eat out of my comfort zone which of course I was skeptical to do at first, but wow I am so glad that I did.
Here are some photographs of food that I took in 2009. Some food in process, some food that is fully prepared~

I'm looking forward to more good eats in 2010 and hope you are too.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

a bloom in December

full bloom, originally uploaded by *nichole*.

a little bit of brightness on a winter day is always welcomed~
thank you amaryllis!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Advent-days 21, 22, 23, 24~in pictures

~Christmas cookies decorated with friends

~table garland made

~pumpkin pie ready for oven

~plaintains chopped, ready for frying

~brussel sprouts prepared for Christmas Eve dinner

Have a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Advent-weekend 18, 19, and 20

small felt balls, originally uploaded by *nichole*.

This past weekend we attended church and stayed close to home-and that's about it really. We looked at Charlie Brown Christmas on Saturday night-which I absolutely love. One of our Advent readings this weekend was from Revelation 21:1-7. My favorite verse from this passage is"Anyone who is thirsty may drink from the spring of the water of life. It doesn't cost anything" verse 6.
For Advent craft/gifts the girls and I made some felt balls and then the following evening they received a blank journal.
My candy making skills have been lacking lately. I have made two batches of toffee so far and both have been off. The first one was a bit salty-the second batch overheated and has a faint burnt taste. Last year I was on a roll with the toffee, so I'm a bit bummed out I'm having so much trouble with it this year. I even went out and got myself a new candy thermometer. I'm not deterred yet, but I am getting a little tired of not maximizing the loveliness of so much sugar and butter together-I won't give up, at least not yet (:

Friday, December 18, 2009

Advent-day 16 and 17

I feel like we have been all over the place this week-here, there, then here and there again. I'm so glad it's the weekend and we have a little down time. The girls had there Christmas parties at school today-they did secret gift exchanges which was alot of fun. The busyness of the week has lead to the kids falling to sleep particularly early (Wednesday). We did get our Advent reading after we got home from our dance class last evening (I'm joining the girls once a week in a dance class, they're naturals, me-not so much). Our devotional reading was from Isaiah 9:2-7, which discusses the coming of the Son. After the reading the girls each received a small puzzle.
My weekend plans include making some toffee and baking cinnamon cookies as well as finishing up some gifts. In my closet of ufo's I found a scarf I was working on a while back, so I'm going to finish it up to give as a gift. I knew those ufo's would come in handy.

~the scarf, now in progress

~our Christmas stockings

~lots of twine for gift wrapping and holiday decorating

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Advent-day 14 and 15

~amaryllis growing

~cinnamon ornaments on the tree

~homemade balm (made with coconut oil, lavender flowers, beeswax, and some essential oils
~a "snowflake"

~growing our tree
Monday evening our reading came from the book of Malachi, Malachi 3:1-4. These verses are about the Lord sending His Messenger, and how the Messenger will prepare the way for Him. After our reading, the girls had some tea and we read some winter poems from the book A Snowflake Fell.
On Tuesday night our reading came from the book Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon. We read the morning devotion for day 25 of December. My favorite quote from this devotional writing is~"The golden name, Immanuel, is inexpressibly delightful. God with us in our nature, our sorrow, our lifework, our grave; and now we with Him, in resurrection, ascension and triumph, and second advent splendor." ~how powerful these words are to me.
Things are slowly coming together as Christmas approaches. Most of my shopping for the kids is done (thanks in part to some online shopping). Flour, sugar, chocolate chips, nuts have been purchased for a weekend of baking.
What are you all baking up for the holiday?
Happy Wednesday!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Advent-day 13

Last night we had dinner with friends from the school our children attend-it was a great night of fellowship. We even exchanged gifts-my first time participating in a white elephant gift exchange-very fun. So another late night, but we did get to our evening reading when we got home. Our reading was from John, John 1:11-18. My favorite verse from this passage is "The Word became a human being. He made His home with us. We have seen His glory. It is the glory of the one and only Son"~verse 14.
After our reading the I read the girls a story from Richard Scarry's The Animals Merry Christmas. They fell right to sleep as I was reading. I love the illustrations in this book, (which I think I purchased two years ago) we also have this book, a wonderful book of poems about winter.
Leftover chicken pot pie is for dinner, I'm feeling pretty exhausted today-more sleep and a megavitamin should help for tomorrow.

Hope you all had a great Monday!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Advent-day 11 and 12

Oh my-we are half way there! Less than two weeks till Christmas. I seem to always be amazed at the speed in which time moves, really I never get use to it.
Friday evening the youngest member of our family was so tired that she fell asleep right on the couch-her little snoring signifying the full day she had experienced. So last evening we continued with the calendar and for our reading we went to the book of Isaiah. In Isaiah 42:1-9 the Lord speaks of His Chosen Servant, which is His Son, Jesus. My favorite verse from this passage is~"A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth"~verse 3 (from the New Kings James Version). After our reading the girls got little bags that included colored pencils, candy, and some stickers. They then looked at the movie Eloise. We had a restful evening, which is what we needed. I have so much still to do for the holidays, but I keep having to put myself in check because I don't want to feel overwhelmed (which easily happens)~gifts still need to be purchased, food/desserts need to be made, and some tasks simply have to be delegated. But one thing about Advent is that it helps me to focus-focus on whats really important, relationships-with my family, with others, and most important with Christ.

(p.s. remember the peppermint debacle well here's a little look~

I don't think using raw turbinado brown sugar in candy making is a good idea. But I used a chunk of this stuff to sweeten my coffee and it was pretty good, it added a shot of peppermint too (:

Friday, December 11, 2009

Advent-day 10

For Advent last evening our reading came from the book of Matthew, Matthew 1:18-24.
Again (like we had read in Luke previously) we are made aware of the obedience of Mary and Joseph. Obedience in such surprising circumstances. Mary to become a mother so young, Joseph to become a father to a child who is from the Father. Obedience is the result of trusting (having faith), faith in the Lord's will to complete the work at hand. So does faith result in obedience, or does obedience result in faith? Both work hand in hand. As I think about Mary and Joseph I admire tremendously their faithful obedience toward God.
After our reading the girls made cookies, chocolate chip in fact. After gobbling down a cookie each, they brushed their teeth and went straight to bed.
Today we managed to get out of the house. I warmed up my car for at least half an hour so it would be "thawed out". The girls went to school (I got them there by nine) and then I went to the big box store to get lights for the tree. I got the lights and also a couple of other things. One thing I notice about shopping at such big stores is how people have to often stand back to take in the selection of stuff. I was in one aisle looking for aluminum foil-but boy I had to really zero in on what I exactly wanted. Did I want heavy duty? lightweight? pop-up squares? 50 square feet? 75 square feet? recycled? which brand? and so on and so on. But of course this doesn't just stop with foil, its basically the same with other products. That's why when I go shopping at such big stores I feel like I spend so much time in them- trying to decipher through all the "noise".
I picked up the Reynolds wrap 50 feet, heavy duty, "same length in less packaging". Choice made.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Advent-day 9

a candle above the kitchen sink

Hey there. Is it possible to have cabin fever this early in the snow season? Well I think I'm getting a bit of the fever this evening. The girls have been handling staying in all day pretty well (we ventured outside yesterday, not today-the high was 10 degrees I think), -but of course siblings do what siblings do-disagree, then agree, then disagree-again, then agree-again. And I won't lie, it sometimes gets the better of me, but hey it's all a part of growing up (says the mother who grew up as an only child, to herself all. day. long.
Well we did manage to get some more Christmas decorations up and finally we got the tree up. Seems like the lights have gone missing though, so I've got to get some more tomorrow. We like to put the lights on first before the other ornaments of course, but at least the tree is up.
Our reading for Advent last night came from the book of Micah, Micah 5:2. This verse discuses how a Ruler will come from Bethlehem, from the nation of Judah. I love to see how passages of the Old Testament come to fruition in the New Testament, and understanding even more the connection between them.
Hubby was in charge of the Advent treat/gift last night so the girls got ice cream with chocolate syrup (yummy)!
On the knitting front I finished a pair of hand warmers for my oldest girl~

just in time for winter I'd say.
Hope you had a great Thursday.
Stay warm!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Advent~day 8

Lots of snow today. We all stayed close to home and much wasn't accomplished. We did venture outside for a little, before the whipping winds sent us right back inside~

treats left for the many critters in our backyard

snow on trees
For Advent last evening we made the cinnamon dough ornaments (which I posted about yesterday). They are currently drying out in the kitchen. Once done drying we will stick some ribbon or string through the hole we made at the top of the ornaments so that we can hang them on the tree. We didn't get to our Bible reading last night, but we will get back on track -our schedule was a little wacky yesterday.
Today I tried to make homemade peppermint sticks and well that bombed. As soon as I poured the candy syrup out onto the parchment lined cookie sheet, it started hardening immediately. Now I have something that looks like peppermint brittle. I then tried to bake up some macaroons, and that too went awry. So today was not a successful baking/candy making day for me, but oh well. I did make some french onion soup and that turned out pretty well.

stock for soup

One out of three-not exactly passing, but at least it was our main meal that passed the test (:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Advent-day 6 and 7

We had a busy weekend with church and friends. On Sunday night one of our friends had dinner at her apartment-with African food (mostly North African) being the theme. There was Moroccan chicken, chickpea crepes, greens with ginger, rice, beans, fruit salad-good stuff. Needless to say we got home really late that night (the kids fell asleep in the car in fact) so that meant we would continue our Advent celebration on Monday night. So last evening our reading was from Mark. The passage is Mark 1:1-13, John the Baptist preparing the Way for Jesus. My favorite verse from that passage is~I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" verse 8.
After our reading the girls received a Charlie Brown coloring book and some markers. They colored for a little bit last night before the fell asleep. Today we have been somewhat off of our normal schedule. School got out early today because of this~

yes, snow. Lots of it is heading our way and I know tomorrow will be a full snow day for us. With the girls home maybe I can finally have them help me finish up the Christmas decorating. Also this evening we got around to making some cinnamon dough ornaments~

I saw the cinnamon dough recipe in a magazine but I changed it up a bit here's my version~
1 large jar of ground cinnamon (3.88 oz, 110 g)
about 1/4 cup of all purpose flour
2 large tablespoons of ground cardamon
2 large tablespoons of ground cloves
2 large tablespoons of salt
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
small amount of water
combine all ingredients, if dough is on the dry side add just a small amount of water until right "dough like" consistency is achieved. Place some extra flour on waxed paper and roll dough out (not to thin, not to thick) and use cookie cutter to press out shapes. Punch small holes at the top of the ornaments (I used a wooden skewer from my kitchen drawer to punch out the holes). Let the dough dry out for 2-3 days. Paint, decorate, or just leave plain.
They smell delightful!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advent-day 4 and day 5

~amaryllis just planted

For the last two evenings of Advent, we ended up reading the same passage. The passage is Philippians 2:1-11. This passage talks about how we should try to have a more Christ-like nature. My favorite verse from this passage is~He took on the very nature of a servant. He was made in human form ~verse 7. What does that exactly mean, taking on the nature of a servant? More specifically what does that me for in my life journey. I know for myself that at times I can be selfish, concerned about myself, my rights, my needs, and my wants. Really I have to get out of my comfort zone to have the "nature of a servant". Getting out of my comfort zone, yes-is something I struggle with as well (I'm definitely a work in progress :). I make excuses, I get lazy, I think "well someone else can do a better job helping out than I" and so on and so on. Breaking out of this mindset is something I have to do-because a servants heart is a heart close to God, and that is exactly where I want my heart to be.
After Friday night's Advent the girls received a gel pen and a piece of candy. Saturday night they got bowls of ice cream with peppermint sprinkles (: We then looked at some movies.
I know in this space that I share a tad of my domestic life. I have realized to some that talking about spiritual issues on a blog may not be a particularly "popular" thing to do. But for me my everyday-domestic life is strongly influenced by my spiritual life, and to avoid talking about how important my relationship with Christ here would only make me a fraud. I am human, a broken one at that-I know I need Him, I know.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Advent-day 3

We had our first snow last evening, just a dusting but its super cold out today.

Its feeling a little like December now (mind you it was about 60 degrees on Tuesday).
Now I wanted to share a little bit about how we actually celebrate Advent. Every night we come to the family room for our devotion, after devotion one of the girls takes down the date card from the calendar and then I have them both stamp the back of the card. The card then is placed back on the calendar with the stamp side showing, signifying that we are celebrating that particular day. After the stamping a small gift or craft ends the celebration.
For Advent devotion last night we read Isaiah 11:1-12. These verses discuss the Branch, the Branch that is from Jesse's family line. This passage describes the Branch-which is Jesus-as a tree that will take root and produce fruit. My favorite verse from this passage is~ "He will put godliness on as if were His belt. He'll wear faithfulness around His waist~ verse 5. I too should aspire to put on these garments in my daily walk with Christ.
The gift for last night included a small chocolate and a craft. We made a couple of felt flowers with craft kit I found on clearance at the store.

I often determine craft nights based on my energy level. Last night I was off from cooking so I had a little extra steam to make the flowers with the girls. I hope to continue to share a little bit with you each day about our Advent celebration. To me this is about record keeping-so I can look back and say "Ok, this is what we did on the 15th day of December." You know my memory needs all the help it can get.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Advent-day 2

lights in the kitchen, originally uploaded by *nichole*.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy. It is for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. Here is how you will know I am telling you the truth. You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.
Luke 2:10-12 New International Reader's

The above verses were part of our Advent reading last night. What strikes me about the above verses is the way Christ came to us. He didn't come to us with a lot of pomp and circumstance, but instead He came to us in the humblest of ways~in a manger, wrapped in cloth, with young parents-amazing really, unexpected totally.

After our reading the girls received a small Hello Kitty notepad, stickers, and a Hershey's Kiss (they are always excited about their small gifts-which of course makes me smile).
I also got around to putting up some lights today in the kitchen, since I'm in the kitchen alot to begin with I just wanted to make it look festive. It seems for us that its easier to just do a little Christmas decorating day by day, than just tackling it all at once. And as for those wondering about the fruitcake take a look~

definitely a keeper (:

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Advent-day 1

Advent Calendar 2009, originally uploaded by *nichole*.

This is our Advent calendar. A couple of weeks ago I was in the thrift store and found this large quilting hoop. It had a small crack in it, but I wanted to buy it nevertheless. I got up to the register (determined to pay cash on this particular day) and once everything was added up-well, the sales total was over my cash budget. I told the cashier to keep the hoop and then I proceeded to purchase the rest of my items, but when I got to the car I still wanted the hoop. So I began looking around my car for loose change and I came up with enough to go back in the store to purchase the hoop, yay!
So for this calendar I simply took some fabric placed it on the hoop along with some ribbon material, tightened the hoop up (I had to use my glue gun to fix the cracked area of the hoop). Then from the ribbon I hung the cardstock numbers (which are from last years calendar) with small clothespins.
For our first night of Advent we read Luke 1, Mary's Song-in which Mary reflects about the Lord's goodness for she is chosen to give birth to Christ. What I like so much about this passage is that it shows how God can use everyday people to serve His purpose-the only requirement is that one just has to be willing.
After our reading the girls got a small lollipop and a tiny tree growing kit. We will water the seeds nightly and maybe we can grow our own Christmas tree (:

To be perfectly honest, it has been a bit of a struggle for me to get in the holiday mood. Yet when it comes down to it I know that beyond the tree, the lights, the many decorations (which I do immensely enjoy) that the reason to be full of cheer this season is that daily I see God's grace and mercy in action, and for this I remain both hopeful and thankful.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What to do on a Tuesday night? How about making some fruitcake~

Today was an extremely long day which included grocery shopping, picking the girls up from school, running to piano practice, figuring out dinner, then heading out for tutoring-yes a long day indeed. So why in the world, would I (especially since I got home close to nine o' clock) have the urge to make fruitcake? Really I'm still trying to figure it out myself-but I think I have a clue. In the recent issue of Sauveur magazine there is a picture of a Swedish fruitcake that looks absolutely beautiful. It doesn't have that dense, heavy look that is often associated with the fruitcakes we often see this time of the year. So what I did was I went ahead and made a "tester" and if the cake turns great, I know we have a keeper on our hands. Now mind you, I know that I can't make a "tester" for every treat I see-otherwise we would have complete sweet tooth overload over here :) but I do like to at least test a couple of new holiday recipes this time of year.

note to self:Fruitcake and coffee=tomorrow's breakfast

I did finish the Advent calendar today. I used the same cardstock numbers I made last year. I'll post some photos of the calendar tomorrow and share a bit of what we did for our first day of Advent.

Hope you had a great Tuesday, and remember anytime is a good time for fruitcake!

Monday, November 30, 2009

giving thanks and Advent

~flowers on the table

~pecan pie

We had a great Thanksgiving weekend with our family. Lots of food, laughing, and noise (of course with plenty of kid cousins running around my sister-in-law's house). I am very grateful-for so many blessings seen and unseen. The Lord has been good to my family and I hope to keep in my heart a song of praise and a song of gratitude.

For the last two years we have started the tradition of an Advent calendar. Last year I used cardstock to make our calendar.

~a snapshot last year's calendar

Right now (ok December 1st is tommorrow right?) I need to come up with something fast. I think I might just take what I did last year and change it up a bit-since I like a little change. Usually for Advent we share a verse from the Bible with each other (in the evening, before bedtime) and then I give the girls a small treat like a journal, pens, stickers-which I purchase from the dollar bin at Target or elsewhere. Other nights the Advent treat may include baking something simple, making hot cocoa, or doing a small craft.They are looking so forward to tommorrow night and so am I.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

reading and dreaming

I love books. I buy a lot of books, and have a huge pile of them on the floor beside my bed. In the photo above are a couple of things I've been reading through (one a magazine, one a book) which make me yearn for some type of farm life. Yes I've have probably romanticized living on a farm (with bees and chickens, mind you) to some degree-but I have a dream, a dream of at least giving this type of life a try in some type of way that works for us as a family. Really the book I have been reading about bees is pretty fascinating. Bees truly work as a unit, each type of bee has a purpose, function, job which totally relates to keeping the hive thriving- its amazing. Reading, dreaming, doing, then adapting if need be seems like a pretty good formula to me (and it doesn't necessarily have to be in that order you know?)
But of instead of reading about bees I think its time to crack open a cookbook. Pie crusts need to be made because I know Thursday will be here in a jiffy!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

thrifty Wednesday and holiday thoughts

thrifty Wednesday, originally uploaded by *nichole*.

Did some thrifting this morning and found all sorts of little treasures~napkins, a book, a potholder and some wool yarn. Really I love finding craft stuff at the thrift store, but at times it just reminds me that instead of just obtaining craft stuff, I actually need to make something with this stuff. I've been trying to find some more time to craft and knit lately, usually right before bed-and truth be told, sleepiness seems to overwhelm me after only a few stitches have been knitted. I know if one really wants to do something he or she will make time for it, so that's why I'm making time to sleep (:
The holidays are fast approaching and I've been wondering what my take should be on gift giving this year. Most likely it will be the same as last year-making those on my list something to eat-homemade candy and cookies-just trying to keep in line with my ideals of homemade, handmade goodness. To me buying people gifts is a bit tricky, but hey-giving them something that they can eat-well to me that is a win-win! I have some craft ideas brewing too, but I'm not going to be overly ambitious with anything. I want things to be manageable and doable, so that I am able to avoid being a grump for the holiday season. For Thanksgiving next week and we are headed to my lovely sister in laws house for dinner-my contribution will be pecan pie and this. I can't wait to see everyone and enjoy the laughing, talking, and wonderful chaos of family togetherness.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

macaroon madness

Today I whipped up some macaroons and of course I just had to fiddle around a bit with this recipe (I don't think I handle simple recipes well, I'm complicated so I added a bit of vanilla extract and a small amount of flour). I also ended up using these huge coconut flakes. Well maybe I should have just stayed on course. These macaroons are tasty nevertheless, but the bigness of the flakes make them very chewy-great for exercising the jaw muscles I suppose.
Do you like macaroons? And if so share your foolproof recipe with me-I won't change it up, I promise (:

Friday, November 13, 2009


This is a turkey that my daughter made in her kindergarten class (I don't think he has a thing to worry about, even though Thanksgiving is fast approaching :)

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

knit away

I knew it would happen. As soon as the weather turned cooler, the need for some wool in my hands became so clear. I'm still working on the bag, here it is so far~

can't wait to see it all done up and felted.

A trip to the local yarn shop yielded some malabrigo cosecha in my hands. The oranges, browns, greens are just wonderful representation of the Thanksgiving season-so that's why I'll now call this cowl my Thanksgiving cowl~

Knitting, with its rhythmic, repetitive movements has a way of letting my mind just focusing on what is at hand-literally. It helps my mental outlook and lets me realize (even when some of my stitches are less than ideal) that you just need to keep on keepin'on, both living and knitting.

(Sorry, but really its kinda of impossible for me not to look for life lessons everywhere- it's just me I guess :)

Happy Wednesday friends!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

a sweet note....

Hello, how are you doing? I haven't been in this space for a while because the days seem to be going super fast and when I do have a little time with the computer, I have been too drained to blog. The past couple of weeks have been a little rough for us, someone dear to me-my grandmother- has been having some health issues lately-and this has been heavy on my heart. Yet, when I call to talk to her she always makes me laugh with her wonderful sense of humor, and really she usually winds up cheering me up rather than vice versa. Please keep her in your prayers, truly I would appreciate it so much.

Also I just wanted to share a sweet note that my youngest gave to me. Lately she loves writing me notes. She started kindergaten this year and I'm amazed at how much she loves it. Her class is small (less than seven kids) and her school day is only for half a day-which is perfect for us. Her only homework every night is to read a book with either me, her sister, or her dad. I see her sounding out words (I love that the school teaches phonics along with the alphabet :) and then remembering her sight words in the process of putting sentences together. It's so exciting to see her world of discovery-one moment at a time, one day at a time.

One day at a time.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

a few glimpses of our Sunday

~apple pancake all done

~still making use of those apples, making an apple pancake

~getting the veggies home before the hard frost hits

~green tomatoes picked before the frost

I was feeling a bit under the weather earlier this week, having a bit of a sore throat just feeling blah-blah-but now I'm feeling much better and like my old self (this syrup was quite helpful in helping me with my blah-blah's). We finally had our hard freeze last evening (the official end of the growing season) and it promises to be a chilly day. My main plans for the day include~

*a little shopping (the kids need new winter coats and maybe I'll manage to find something for myself :)

*hopefully a little knitting (yes, I'm still knitting up my bag) preferably with a cup of this tea-which is rocking my world.

*relaxing on the couch this evening while taking in The Next Iron Chef.

Hope you have an enjoyable Sunday and see you soon,