I’m a bit late with my New Year’s Greetings, but that’s nothing new! 🙂 (At least it’s still January) Here’s Snoopy, apparently fast asleep atop his doghouse, but in reality he’s thinking deep thoughts about the new year, and wishing the best for you and yours in 2014.We did a gingerbread decorating day with my sister and all of our kids, and after the frosting stopped flying, and the kids rumbled off to their next activity, I assembled this gingerbread doghouse for cookie Snoopy. I used the birdhouse pattern that I printed from the instructions here, and just trimmed in the roof sections a bit and cut out the doorway. Then decorated with royal icing and nonpareil snowflakes. Snoopy is such a comforting image from my childhood! Here’s Snoopy’s doghouse with some Christmas lights that I swiped from my nephew…..They didn’t stay on too long when my nephew finally noticed them….! I just love gingerbread!! YUM! I usually end up making some in February, too, not just for Christmas! Anyways, have a great New Year!
Time for a family movie night! We just had to get around to watching the Narnia movies sometime during our Narnian Christmas theme. Yes, it did start out as a November Narnia theme during the C.S. Lewis memorial week, but now it has transformed into a Narnian Christmas! The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe is the second book in the series, but the first movie (Disney version) that has come out in recent years, so we started with that one. I wanted the kids to enter into the land of Narnia to watch the movie. I’ve been thinking about this theme for awhile, and about ideas to do, so have been gathering a few props. But in the end, I had to throw this movie night together quickly because there happened to be a free, non-school-night that would work.
What images pop into your mind when you think of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe? I guess those three things would be the first obvious ones, the Lion Aslan, the wardrobe full of fur coats which leads into Narnia, and the White Witch who has made it always winter and never Christmas in Narnia. And if you thought of something to eat…would it be the Turkish delight that tempts Edmund into betraying his siblings to the witch? How about that famous symbol, the lighted lamp post, where Lucy first meets the Faun, Mr. Tumnus, in the middle of a wintry wood.
It wasn’t too hard to find some of these things and to quickly decorate my room for movie night. I love the idea of the warm fur coats that the kids push through to get into the back of the wardrobe, and later borrow to wear in the wintry Narnia. Of course I dreamed of making wardrobe doors that would open up and lead into Narnia (I was just going to make them out of large cardboard boxes) but (also of course) I didn’t have time to make all of my ideas. So I passed on the wardrobe and just focused on pushing through the fur coats to get into the land beyond. No fur coats around here, so I used my faux-fur throw (the dark brown color was perfect). Here’s the simple how-to:Get a fur blanket and a tension rod, install the rod in the door frame and drape the blanket over it, that’s all!This is what the inside of the door looked like. The blanket was too heavy to cover the whole door, which would have been cool, but I didn’t have safety pins to pin it, and clothespins didn’t work, so just draped it hanging as long as I could. It gave the right effect, when each kid pushed past the fur “robe” and slipped into Narnia….To create an instant and easy forest did require one purchase. I found this canvas picture of an evergreen tree at IKEA. When I first saw them advertised, I thought that they were kind of strange, especially when I saw that ornaments were pinned on, as if it was a Christmas tree, but now I totally changed my mind and love my canvas tree picture! I scored this one in the As-is section for half-off, but here in Canada the regular price is about $14.50. It looked really big in my room, and only took 5 minutes to tack up on the wall, right along the edge of the ceiling, though it does have a sleeve at the top to run a rope or curtain rod through…It really gives the feel of being in a winter forest, though there isn’t actually snow in the picture. And in the process of setting up movie night, I found out that the tree glows in the dark!! How fun is that? Especially where the lamp post shines on it…Which brings us to the all-important lamp post (lamppost? lamp-post? I don’t know how to spell it…) which I wasn’t going to do without. Another IKEA hack!! I have a small Ikea lamp that cost about $7, it uses smaller round bulbs, so I just pulled off the shade and made a lantern-like top out of black cardstock (heavier than paper, lighter than card). Since I was rushed, I didn’t spend much time on it, and the post at the top is proportionally way too big, but “la idea es esa” you get the idea. I won’t leave the lamp post turned on for long, for fear it will burst into flame. It would probably be great with a night-light bulb in it, but oh well. The top is just a square of cardstock, creased cross-ways and basically just setting on, with 2 dots of glue. There are 4 kinda rectangle shapes glued to a paper circle at the bottom, just to give the illusion that it’s wider and solid at the bottom. And that was it, but kinda cute!It’s not at all sturdy, but fine for just a display. I’m sure there would be ways for making it last longer…oops, I forgot to take a before shot of the lamp….I draped a white sheet over the little bookcase (for snow) and set out a few things…. (hey, right when I typed that sentence out about snow, I remembered that I was going to throw white tissue paper on the floor, so that when you stepped “through the wardrobe” you would “crunch” on the snow!!! What a bummer I forgot!! That would have been super easy but really cool).
The craft store (Michaels) had a great plastic lion (used a 40% off coupon!) for Aslan, I really like the expression on his face. We had Susan and her horn from a McDonald’s meal from a long time ago….And of course, a box of Turkish delight! Didn’t have time to try making our own Turkish delight from this recipe from SprinkleBakes that I want to try, and I think (the adults) we were kinda tired of the real stuff anyways, so Henry picked up some of my favorite chocolates….yummy! That went over well! So the rest of the “decorations” were easy, just lots of comfy pillows, and a small white tree with white lights…I had wanted to make chocolate beaver lodges for dessert, but just let it go for another time… We all piled together and got comfy, ate pizza and our Turkish delight for dessert, and enjoyed the Narnia movie! Happy to report that a fun time was had by all. It helps to have heaps of snow outside in the freezing weather and early darkness to make you feel reallllly cozy! Hope this helps with some ideas for a family movie night for your family!
Ok, this might be a little late, but I figure it’s still the season to eat cranberries!! If you like cranberries and if you like meatballs….I’m pretty sure you will like this tasty meal! I have kids who happen to love both (oh, wait, someone inexplicably doesn’t like cranberries, so we just scraped the sauce off for her, one out of 6 isn’t bad) so it was a recipe that got rave reviews! I haven’t made it for years, but every Christmas, I think about it. Finally, for our (late) New Year’s celebration, I decided that I was going to make these festive meatballs, then realized that I don’t even have the recipe….so I had to call Mom. I’m not sure where the recipe comes from, but years ago our church served these meatballs several times and we both asked for the recipe (I just didn’t realize that I had lost mine).
Here’s the recipe followed by my observations,
Christmas Cranberry Meatballs
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 envelope of onion soup mix
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsely
Mix all ingredients together and shape into meatballs and place on a foil-lined tray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake the meatballs for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, mix up the sauce.
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce (the kind with some sauce/jelly and the whole berries, not just the jelly)
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup beef broth
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 tsp. finely chopped onions
Mix sauce ingredients together, heat and pour over meatballs before serving.
That’s the recipe as-is. I always end up doing some substitutions, because I rarely have the exact ingredients on hand. I didn’t have the envelope of onion soup mix, so I looked it up online and the home-made version is mostly just dried onion flakes and beef bouillon and some seasoned salt, so I did that instead….lots of flaked onion! And for some reason, I had it in my mind that the sauce included Russian dressing, and I did have that on hand so just had to use it, so I substituted it for the tomato sauce. I’m sure that in the end I used more ground beef than the recipe says, so I just kind of eye-balled everything else. The meatball mixture didn’t seem to need an egg, but I’m sure that if you did add one it should be fine (I didn’t). It’s probably a good idea to really mince the parsely super fine, (I didn’t and the large leaves of parsely were very obvious in the meatballs, but we didn’t mind). The meatballs are slightly chunky-looking, but you don’t notice it that much with the sauce on. The recipe says to just heat the sauce, but I actually simmered it a bit and put the meatballs from the oven into the sauce for a little simmer. Obviously this recipe made enough to feed 6 people here, but I can’t say exactly how many it would feed at your house, I guess it depends on the size of the meatballs and the hunger of your group! 😉
Every time we eat meatballs I get quizzed “did you make these yourself or are they from the store?” haha!! The funny part is that it doesn’t seem to matter what the answer is, they always gobble them all up. My answer’s about half the time home-made and half the time store-bought. I find that I don’t like those “italian style” frozen meatballs, but everyone else does. I need to make an effort to make them from scratch more often! Then you know exactly what’s in them! I haven’t tried making meatballs with rice in them, should try that…. Have you tried making meatballs in Italian wedding soup? That’s another almost-favorite around here.
Before I get into all the other ‘January’ posting stuff, I just wanted to show you a few photos from our holiday. I guess that you could say this is one of my hobbies, it’s something that I’m driven to do, just can’t stop doing: it’s taking photos through the windshield of a moving vehicle. Seriously, I can’t help myself. It’s a super-frustrating hobby, the windows are dirty, I have no zoom, and all the cool scenery is flashing past, and I usually see something fabulous then notice the camera is off and in 2 seconds it’s gone!! But I always do it. Over and Over again. (this is starting to sound more like an addiction and less like a hobby).
I’ve decided to post these photos as a slideshow. I was going through them and narrowed down the ones to post here on the blog, and when I was uploading them was surprised to notice that there were 45!! Forty-five photos of scenery from our minivan window!! (I’m feeling slightly insane as I type this). And those are only the ‘bestest’ ones. (I shouldn’t have told you that, now you won’t want to see them all! It only takes 2 minutes to watch them though, really!)
Just a few more comments, then on to the slideshow!! These were taken on Christmas Eve morning, as we left Edmonton, Alberta and started on the 8 hour drive to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. (We actually made it in seven and a half hours this time with only 2 potty breaks! ha!) It was an amazingly beautiful drive as we watched the sun come up over the prairies. I just love love love the prairies. Maybe because I was born there, or maybe just the huge sense of openess and freedom. You can see the whole sky at once! And watching a sunrise is a very very rare event for me. I also want to mention that Christmas Eve morning the temperature was -25 degrees Celsius, plus windchill made it 30 degrees below zero! (that’s minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit). It was a frosty morning. We were well prepared with our emergency kit (candles, matches, radio, stuff like that) snow pants, sleeping bags and food. My window was so frosted up that I scratched some hearts in it and just had to take a few photos (even my fingerprints crystallized)…. All of a sudden we could see a rainbow!!! (and it wasn’t snowing or raining!) It was such a gorgeous morning, watching the prairie winter wonderland flash by as we listened to glorious Christmas music. I don’t even feel bad anymore about the crazy amount of photos I took….I’m happy to look at them and remember that special morning!
“Christmas time is here….” that’s the theme from A Charlie Brown Christmas, I can hear it playing inside my head. There’s something cozy and comforting about watching Charlie Brown and Snoopy’s Christmas cartoon (that’s older than I am! haha!) while snow falls outside. The kids love watching it to. Is it because it makes us think back to simpler times? Remember the sad little tree that Charlie Brown finds, and the kids give it a bit of love and spruce it up?
I really don’t know why I’m mentioning that cartoon, it just popped into my mind, and seemed to fit (in my mind anyway) with the home-made Christmas idea. This year I was trying to make a bunch of home-made stuff for Christmas, instead of buying new things. I keep finding amazing ideas online that I wanted to try, but have run right out of time!! So I thought I’d post some photos of the things that I did get done because I know it will make me feel better to see the loveliness on my blog, instead of surrounded by the boxes and mess and clutter that are here in my house!! (No I am not going to post a photo of the mess that surrounds the decorating…that would ruin all the loveliness, even though it would show my real life!)
Our Christmas tree is a “throw and go!” tree, as my son called it: throw the ornaments on and then go away! I let the kids do most of the decorating with only one box of ornaments….I don’t know why. I guess I was too exhausted to pull anything else out, and they were happy to do a “candy cane tree”. (Ok, I did buy something new, those wood & fabric words for a buck each!). This is the first time we’ve ever had a color-coordinated tree. So that was nice for a change! ;) Here are some ideas I found online to print out… Advent things, Cookie things (for teacher gifts and just for us to eat on a cold winter’s evening), trying out some new recipes…. Ornament things, Gift things…..I just had to snap some photos of the presents my daughter wrapped, they are so cute!! She wrote out all the tags with our names on in English and in Japanese characters! And a few anniversary things, Our six year old photographer took this 19th anniversary portrait of us, we had just kissed at 19 hours and 19 minutes on the 19th of December for our 19th anniversary! Now that’s home-made stuff!!
So that’s a few glimpses of our kinda home-made Christmas decorating and traditions and stuff….really, our life is not as together-looking as it seems in this blog…..I just have to mention that so that I don’t feel like I’m lying too much with all the perfect-looking photos. I have perfection ideals in my head, but just can’t make them work out….so I take photos of the stuff that turns out…and once-in-a-while of the things that don’t turn out! 🙂
Merry Christmas to you!!!
That’s what I’m calling them! “While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads…” mixed with snowflake ballerinas and the nutcracker’s Sugar Plum fairy…make a lovely Chrismas decoration. I found them on pinterest, of course, and just had to try them out!! Here’s the blog called Krokotak where I found them and printed out the patterns from, though the original idea came from here, though it’s not in English.
They are fairly easy to make, if you like cutting up paper! Cut out a ballerina silhouette from cardstock (or 2 pieces of paper glued together). Make a snowflake from paper. Cut a slit in the middle of the snowflake and gently pull it onto the ballerina, to make her “tutu”. Hang them up and watch them pirouette!!
I know, my sugar plum snowflake ballerina fairies are hanging by large clothespins gripping their heads….it wasn’t meant to be, but I was in a rush, and the clothespins hanging on twine have been there since Henry’s bday ( I had photos hanging from them). So the season changed and now it’s Christmas ornaments and Sugar plum fairies!
The only different thing I did from the original version was to cut out one silhouette from paper printed with that Christmas Mouse story I did the other day…I thought text on a ballerina would add visual interest…and it does. (no, they are not tatooed fairies!!) I love watching them “dance” in every little breeze (from the hot air registers) that comes their way! After Christmas (if I ever get the Christmas stuff taken down and packed away) they will make cute hanging ornaments for the girls’ room until winter’s over….still lots of time left!!!
Here is the story I wrote of Nicholas and the Christmas Mice, to go along with a new tradition of Christmas Mice Mischief.
Listen, my children and you will hear an interesting (if not completely accurate) tale from the long ago…
Once upon a time, far far away in a little village called Patara, there lived a man named Nicholas. He lived alone, for his parents had passed away from a terrible sickness when he was younger. They had left him a home and plenty of wealth for him to have an easy life. Nicholas decided that he wanted to obey Jesus’ words to “sell what you own and give the money to the poor,” so he used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick and the suffering. He dedicated his life to serving God. Wherever he went he helped out both people and creatures.
He couldn’t bear to see anyone in pain without helping out. Even the smallest little animals were helped. One time he saved a mouse from a mangy cat who was playing with the little mouse like a ball of yarn. Another day he pulled a small mouse out of a washtub where the little thing was drowning in the soap suds. Once a trap had captured a young mouseling by the hind leg and Nicholas set it free. And one cold winter night a starving mouse crept in to warm himself by Nicholas’ fire and scavenge for crumbs and he didn’t have the heart to sweep it back out into the cold, so he let it stay.
Needless to say, these little creatures were forever grateful to Nicholas for saving them from certain death. They refused to leave him and settled into his home, determined to help him and cheer him up and be his family.
The little mice quickly caught on that Nicholas had some secrets! He had been helping out the people in his community. Using his inheritance, he tried to do good wherever he could, but didn’t want to let anyone know that it came from his hand. The little mice would watch as he put on his cloak with a furry hood and quietly leave the house in the dark and damp of the night, not even lighting a candle to see by.
At his return, right before the sunrise, the little mice would blink open their eyes at the squeak of the door, and peek out from their cozy beds. At first they wondered what Nicholas was up to in the dead of night.
Then one day he let them in on his secret doings, for he needed their help. He explained in a modest way how he was trying to help his neighbors, and how he didn’t want anyone to find out who the secret helper was. Down the road aways was the small cabin of a poor fisherman and his three daughters. They were so poor that the fisherman feared that no one would want to marry his daughters and that they would become sad old maids.
Nicholas wanted to share some of his gold coins with the fisherman so that his three daughters could have lovely weddings to fine young men. The problem was that Nicholas couldn’t figure out a way of getting the gold coins into the fisherman’s hut at night, because the little home was always guarded by an old but fierce and loyal dog who wouldn’t let anyone near his master’s home.
The little mice pleaded to be allowed to help. “It will be a dangerous mission, but worthy of your courage and generosity, my dear little mice,” said Nicholas. His jolly face beamed down at the four of them, pleased to have company on this lonely midnight adventure.
The small group of mice climbed onto Nicholas’ shoulder and nestled close in his furry cloak as they set off into the dark night. Nicholas had the gold coins in a small sack which he held tightly, but every now and then the mice could hear a faint jingle as the coins clinked together, as there were several of them in the sack. Before long, they were nearing the fisherman’s cabin and Nicholas slowed his pace.
“I will go to the other side of the house,” whispered Nicholas, “in order to distract the watch dog. When you hear him barking at me, you must quickly make a dash for that window which is slightly open and somehow get the coins inside. Can you do it my little friends?” The little mice squeaked with agreement and excitement! There was nothing they loved better than an adventure!
Nicholas carefully set them down on a tree stump and handed them the gold coins, then turned to the corner of the cabin. The old watch dog sprang to life and started in chase of the shadowy figure. Their hearts beating like little drums in a parade, the mice ran, clutching the coins in their tiny paws. Up the side of the rough wooden house and onto the windowsill they climbed in a flash! There was just enough room to squeeze through the crack where the shutters stood slightly open. They could hear the barking of the dog getting louder and knew that it would be only moments until the fisherman woke and saw the midnight visitors.
Hardly daring to breathe, much less squeak, the mice glanced around for the safest spot in which to place the coins. Not far from the windowsill was a small fireplace and by the glowing of the last embers, they could see that by the hearth there was a sewing basket, a pile of aprons and some long fuzzy stockings hanging from some pegs in the wall so they could dry out by the heat of the now sleepy fire. The sewing basket, they winked at each other! Quickly creeping to the edge of the window ledge, each little mouse hefted a gold coin and aimed for the safe-looking sewing basket. Most of them had good aim, and 3 gold coins plopped into the sewing basket, but the fourth went spinning off the side and plunked down into the ladies’ stocking and slithered down into the toe!
No time to waste! The fisherman gave a groan and was dragging himself from his bed as the four little mice whisked back through the open window. Just in time too, for Nicholas appeared at that moment and held out his hand hurriedly to the mice. They jumped and clutched his hand as he ran off, away from the grouchy dog.
Safe and sound back home, Nicholas could tell from the bright eyes and happy grins of the mice that their mission had been accomplished! He chuckled at their excitement and suggested that everyone go to sleep before the sun rose, but the little mice were already busy planning their next midnight adventure!!
And so that helper of children, grown-ups, sailors and animals, himself had help! He took care of the little band of mice, and they in turn helped him. His busy days and nights were livened by the antics of the friendly little mice. When they weren’t helping him on his missions, they were bound to be up to some mischief in his house!! There was no keeping them still!
Their favorite time of year was near Christmas, when Nicholas would set up a small nativity scene and read to them the story of that very First Christmas. The little mice would snuggle up to hear the story and gaze with wonder on the manger. Then soon they would be off on another “helpful adventure,” doing their part to spread cheer and love and kindness. Through the years, the little band of mice grew and had their own little families, but they were always faithful to the ideals of their human friend and taught their mouselings the joy of giving and helping. If you ever spot a helpful little mouse in your house, forgive the mischief it might cause and remember that we can all be helpful and bring joy, no matter how large or small we might be!