Archive for December, 2009

Joy to the World!

Things have been winding down here as we all focus our time and attention to the One reason for this entire season of celebration and as we treasure the many gifts that He has given us. I hope and pray that in these coming days you are able to truly celebrate the humble yet glorious arrival of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I pray that each of you enjoy a meaningful celebration of His birth with your dear families, and that you experience Christ in new ways this Christmas.

If you haven’t already but would like to share what is on your heart this Christmas, please visit the post Your Heart This Season and leave a comment so we can all pray with you and praise Him as well for what He is doing in your life, whether it be through joyous celebration or perhaps even through a trial that is causing you to cling all the more closely to Jesus.

We look forward to getting things up and running again here after the New Year! There are some fun plans in the works, including the “Christmas Around The World Photo Challenge! Be sure to snap a good picture or two of your celebration or of the festivities in your city or town to submit. There will be a fun prize for the winner!

Have a blessed Christmas!

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More Almost-Starbucks Holiday Cheer

I haven’t gotten around to my dream of homemade eggnog lattes yet like I mentioned in the pumpkin spice latte post, but we did just discover an amazing “Starbucks At Home” dessert. My husband LOVES the Starbucks Peppermint brownies circa a few years back. He loves them so much that he had them one year as his birthday cake and awaited the advent of November 1st just about as eagerly as I did. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the significance of November 1st, it is the date that Starbucks brings out all of their Christmas beverages and treats. Peppermint brownies and eggnog lattes… about as close to heaven on earth as you can get.
I found this recipe a couple of weeks ago and made it for my husband as part of his anniversary gift, and they are AMAZING! I guarantee you will love them and that they will certainly bring a lot of holiday cheer along with them. Enjoy!
Ingredients
  • 1 (19 1/2 ounce) box fudge brownie mix
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

(I actually just made my own brownies from scratch since we don’t have mixes, and I didn’t add all of the extra butter because I couldn’t bring myself to do it! They were still great though. )

Peppermint Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Frosting

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325. Then prepare a 9×9 inch baking dish by spraying lightly with non-stick cooking spray. Cut a piece of parchment paper to the width of the bottom of your pan but long enough to extend over the edge of the right and left sides of the pan.
  2. Sift brownie mix to eliminate any clumps. Then add melted butter, water eggs and 1/4 teaspoon of peppermint extract. Mix by hand just until dry ingredients are incorporated. (See above alteration if you don’t have a box mix)
  3. Pour into prepared pan. Bake according to package directions. Let cool.
  4. Beat together cup powdered sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter. Mix in another 1/2 cup powdered sugar, then add 1 tablespoon milk and peppermint and vanilla extracts. Spread frosting evenly over the top. Place brownies in fridge to firm up frosting. (Or place them on your balcony in the -15 degree Celsius Northern Russia weather to firm them up real quick as I did!)
  5. Bring 1/3 cup milk and 1/4 cup butter almost to a boil over medium heat. Pour chocolate chips into a heat-safe bowl. Pour milk mixture over the top and let sit for 5 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and whisk until smooth. Use an electric mixer to beat in 1 cup powdered sugar until frosting is smooth. This will make more than you need, so remove 1/4-1/3 cup frosting and reserve for another use.
  6. Spread chocolate frosting over the white frosting on the brownies.
  7. Place back in fridge for about an hour to firm up frosting. Remove brownies from pan and slice into 9 pieces.Have you made any fun holiday goodies this season? Do you have a recipe that you could share either with a link or by pasting the recipe?

    Have you made any fun holiday goodies this season? Do you have a recipe that you could share either with a link or by pasting the recipe?

Holiday Freebies, Fun, and Giveaways!

Download the PDF HERE ! – also available in Español!

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Download PDF HERE! – Also available in Español!

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-Cards

-Gift Tags
-Place cards
-Address Labels and
-Seals

 Download the PDF HERE!

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Here are the PDFS from left to right:

Vintage Rose
Brown and White
Elegant Neutral
Touch of blue
Jingle Red
Simple Beauty
Turquoise Contrast
Green Harmony
Brown + Red
Neutral Squares

Printing Instructions

*Print the document on to a 11-by-17-inch paper (Do not use card-stock or pattern paper).
*For big gifts or boxes you can glue the paper together or cover the box in parts.
*Use natural twine or white cord
*Use round metal rim tags for a short message and enjoy the giving!

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1. “Home-made Vanilla Extract” by Bethany Actually

2. “Pretty Handmade Recipe Book” by Better Homes and Gardens

3. “Personalized Blend” by Martha Stewart.com

4. “Cinnamon Candle” by Martha Stewart.com

5. “Beautiful Biscotti Recipes” by Better Homes and Gardens

6. “Tea Towel” by Better Homes and Gardens

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Follow the instructions here and enjoy!
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A Complete Photoblog-Blogger Design


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Specifications:

-Personalized Header

-Personalized Watermark/Logo

-Drop-down Navigation Menu bar

-Customized Profile

-Wide post area for large pictures

-Post divider

-Wallpaper

-Wallpaper on main area

-Customized bottom navigation links

-Customized comment area

+Share button

+1 Free review

TOTAL VALUE: $225

How to enter ? CLICK HERE for the rules…

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This book:

To enter the giveaway of this gorgeous book by Jill O’Connor – See THESE rules!

I hope you like these little freebies, printables and giveaways because… there’s still more to come!

Your Heart This Season

I wanted to open up this post today just as an opportunity for discussion and to hear from you about what your heart is feeling in the midst of  this holiday season. In an ideal world, this season would simply be full of joy, and anticipation, and pure worship of Jesus. I know however that with this time of year, along with those deep joys and powerful opportunities for worship, other strong emotions often arise.

I know many of you moms may be desiring to treasure the holidays but may be fighting the Christmas rush. I don’t just mean in the sense of shopping, but in the sense of life, in the sense of trying to hold on to tradition in the midst of everything else, in the sense of ministry, and so much more.  It can be so easy for this season of joy to become a season of stress. This time may also bring with it loneliness for many. Many of you live overseas and far away from family and may be mourning the loss of time with loved ones and the loss of beloved traditions. Many of you in the US may live in different states than your extended families and may not be able to be together to celebrate. It may bring about sadness as you are in the midst of what should be a season of joy yet are in the midst of a hardship or trial or loss in your life. If you are experiencing any of these struggles this season, I hope first of all that you experience Jesus as your hope, peace, joy and savior, and also that you know that you are not alone in these feelings!

Whatever you are experiencing in your heart at this time, it would be so wonderful to have an opportunity to share together with one another as you feel comfortable! Please take a moment to share in the comments as well as to pray for one another. Praise God with those who are experiencing a season of joy and happiness, and please hold up in prayer those who are facing various hardships or trials. I look forward to praying for you!

(Post by: Ashley)

Making Christmas Meaningful for Kids

Holidays, especially Christmas, are wonderful reasons to do crafts and other theme-related activities with your children. Since children learn better by doing, crafts and activities help to make the significance of Christmas and the story of Jesus’ birth much more real and meaningful, and they can strengthen age-appropriate skills. Crafts do not need to be elaborate or cost a lot of money to be meaningful and they make inexpensive gifts for friends, neighbors and family.

First I would encourage you to invest in a nativity set that’s safe for your children to play with, one that will not break or be a choking hazard. In addition to the heirloom fancy nativity set, we also have a few sets made from plastic and wood which we allow our girls to explore. Especially our 4-year-old understands the Christmas story and usually she acts out the story with her nativity set. It’s beautiful to see her working out the story of Christmas in her own way, through feeling the pieces in her hands and having the figurines “talk” with each other. Just yesterday she held the two Mary’s (one from each set) and pretended they were friends and rode on the donkey to Bethlehem! Barbara Curtis’ blog, MommyLife, has listed here some suitable children’s nativity sets: http://mommylife.net/archives/2009/10/nativity_sets_f.html

Here are some craft suggestions and websites with more ideas to help your kids celebrate the season:

  • Make a paper chain, either to countdown to Christmas Day or just for decoration. This can help encourage patterning (green, red, green, red).
  • This website has some good ideas; I particularly like the handprint wreath and brown paper stocking. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/crafts/christmas/
  • This website also has some good ideas; I especially like the apple cinnamon ornaments to give as gifts or the Christmas hanger wreath for a door decoration. http://www.kinderart.com/seasons/christmas.shtml
  • Danielle’s Place has a wealth of ideas for crafts for the whole year. Here is the Christmas page: http://www.daniellesplace.com/HTML/Bible_themes_-_Christmas.html
  • Secular crafts involving Santa, stars, reindeer, and Christmas trees can be redeemed by discussing with your children the real stories behind them. An example being teaching them about the historical St. Nicholas and how he loved Jesus and served others by giving gifts or why a star or angel is placed on the top of Christmas trees, to signify those parts of the nativity story. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas
  • Lastly, sites such as Oriental Trading Company carry crafting kits and supplies which make for fun projects, or may give you ideas and inspiration for things to do with your kids. Here is their Christmas page: http://www.orientaltrading.com/christmas-a1-90000+1240-6-0.fltr

What are some projects you’ve done with your kids? Please share so we may all enjoy your ideas!

(Post by: Addie)

Celebrating Advent

The first Christmas after our wedding, my husband and I began to discuss traditions that we wanted our family to have.   Growing up in church, we knew about advent through the lighting of the candles each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.  But we wanted to know more of the meaning behind advent and to bring it into our home.   This is what we found:

Advent is distinguished by a spirit of great anticipation and longing… a cry for deliverance from this world of sin and eagerly awaiting Christ’s return.   It’s also a time of commemorating Jesus’ first coming and reflecting upon all that He has given to us.

A typical advent wreath has three purple candles, a rose colored candle, and a white Christ-candle in the center. (of course, it’s rare to find these on the field… we’re happy to just find 5 candles!)  Purple is the color of repentance and fasting as well as royalty to welcome the coming of the King.  Purple is also the color of suffering.  As we look to Christ’s birth and second coming, we cannot separate these from His death and resurrection.  The pink candle is lit the third Sunday before Christmas and symbolizes joy!

The wreath itself (circle) symbolizes God Himself.  He is eternal and His mercy never ends.  And the light of the candles reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world!  He comes into the darkness of this world and into our lives and brings us new life and hope.  The light is also a reminder to us to live as children of light and to reflect God’s character to others.  As each candle is lit over the four weeks, we are reminded of this time of waiting and anticipation.  With each passing week, the light shines brighter and the darkness is less.  When the Christ candle is lit on Christmas day, we are reminded clearly that the Light has come into the world and that He fulfills his promises.

Each week/candle also holds a theme.   The first candle of Advent is the candle of Hope; the second is the candle of Peace; the third is the candle of Joy; the fourth is the candle of Love.  As a family, we choose scriptures and songs that coincide with these themes throughout that particular week.  On the Sunday when we introduce the new theme, we invite our neighbor over to join us.  The other nights of the week, we celebrate either as a family or as a couple after our daughter goes to bed (we want her to be a part of the tradition, but it can be distracting to have her join us every night!)

I love celebrating advent in these weeks preceding Christmas.  Despite whatever else is going on, I feel like it keeps bringing me back to Christ and who He is… and the true meaning of this wonderful season!

Does your family celebrate advent? Would you like to share some special ways that your family celebrates this joyous season of anticipation?

(Post by: Jami)

Advent Conspiracy

As we discuss the many traditions of Christmas, likely the greatest known tradition of all is that of gift giving. But what should giving look like during this season? I think you will be greatly encouraged by Advent Conspiracy’s ministry whose goal is to encourage believers to worship fully, give more, spend less, and love all during the season of advent. Please take a couple of minutes to watch these clips and to be greatly encouraged and potentially motivated to change how you give!

Also, Vicky at The City Cradle has been doing a great series on Advent Conspiracy. Go here to read more!

What do you do in your family to keep the tradition of giving focused on loving the Lord and loving others? Please share!


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