Sunday, December 23, 2012

Our Christmas Letter 2012

This is the letter we sent with Christmas cards this year.  I always loved reading Christmas letters sent to us growing up, and have enjoyed this tradition for our family as well.  I can never send as many cards and letters as I'd like, so you all can read it here if you're interested...  We'd welcome your prayers as our letter says with much newness as the anticipation grows while we await God's plans for us in the coming months and year!

“From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another” as John 1:16 proclaims.  We found this passage to be a concise summary of our walk with the Lord over the last year as a family.  We pray that you too would say that it is only by His grace that we enjoy the abundance of blessings He bestows in Christ.

Later this month we will celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary.  Time is moving quickly as we reflect on this milestone, while reporting a growing love for one another each day.  This fifth year of marriage comes in the midst of many approaching changes.  Matt completes his Master’s of Divinity in May 2013, Lord willing.  He is diligently applying for full time pastoral positions throughout the country and praying fervently for the Lord to direct his path as he leads our family.  Please pray for us this year as the Lord leads us in the next season of life post-seminary. 

Moriah remains our great joy as a busy two-year-old little girl.  She is often found talking up a storm, laughing, and lately squealing (like only a little girl can!).  She plays with her favorite doll, “Baby Jane” and a teddy bear called “Cubby”.  She also rides “Cocoa” her rocking horse often.  Her imagination is growing, leading to great playtime adventures as a doctor, ambulance driver, and sleigh rider (when we listen to “Jingle Bells”) most recently.  Moriah always looks forward to playing with Daddy in the evenings and on the weekends.  She spends time with Mommy cooking in the kitchen, and is becoming such a big helper as she cracks eggs, and loves to scoop, pour, and stir! 

Matt continues to faithfully serve during his third year as a pastor of our rural Kentucky church.  We have been encouraged by the faith of our members, the interest of a few new visitors, and an upcoming baptism this year.  We praise God for using Matt, for His glory.  Outside of church, Matt works full time as a bank teller to provide for our family.  This job blesses us with flexible hours, and regular days with evenings and most weekends off.  Finally, Matt is completing his studies this year at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  This year has given Matt the opportunity to grow in many practical areas of ministry through his coursework. 

As a nanny I spend my days with Moriah and her two great friends, Mr. S. (4 years old) and Ms. M.K. (18 months old).  We have great fun together and our days are full as you can imagine!  I’ve enjoyed more time to read this year and have found myself lost in many good books.  I also find inspiration as a wife, homemaker, mom, and nanny on Pinterest which gives me a constant supply of recipes and projects to try when I can.  This year the Lord allowed me to rejoice with three friends on each of their wedding days.  It’s always sweet to celebrate the marriages of godly couples that are serving the Lord together. 

We’re so thankful for your prayers and support as our family and friends.  You have been an invaluable source of God’s love to us through your kindness, willingness to help, and generosity this year.  We have “received one blessing after another”.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Homemade Treats - Granola

Homemade Granola

I shared our favorite recipe for Homemade Chai Tea Mix.
Today it's Granola.
This is a great version of granola in my opinion.
I tried making a few other granola recipes before and really wasn't pleased.
This one isn't overly sweet to me, but has enough flavor to
be enjoyed without adding anything else to sweeten it!
I especially love to eat my granola with yogurt and dried cranberries.

a cookbook from my little friend Mr. S. and his family last year at Christmas,
this is one of their family's recipes that I'm thankful they shared!

dry ingredients:
7 3/4 c old-fashioned oats
1 1/4 c coconut
3/4 c brown sugar
1 c wheat germ
1 c chopped pecans or almonds
1 c chopped walnuts
1/2 c sunflower seeds
wet ingredients:
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 c vegetable oil
3/4 c water

Mix all dry ingredients in a LARGE bowl.
Mix wet ingredients separately, then pour over dry mixture and stir to combine well.
Pour granola onto 2 rimmed cookie sheets.
Bake granola at 350 degrees, about 30 minutes total.
While baking, stir granola every 10 minutes and rotate cookie sheets between oven racks.
Cool granola, and store in an airtight container.
(If you add dried fruit, stir in once granola cools.)

More pictures of the process...

with the nuts, not exactly a frugal recipe
though you'll have TONS of granola to enjoy

Mix dry ingredients, make sure you have a HUGE bowl!

you might enjoy making this on a pajama morning :)

well mixed

baking, rotate the cookie sheets as you stir
the granola every 10 minutes

one tray complete

the other, a bit more well done

my mom's Tupperware lives on
for which we are most thankful!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Meal Plans for Christmas Hospitality

Meal Plans for Christmas

This year our families are coming to us for Christmas.  We'll add 6 more adults (4 men!) to our dinners, so my refrigerator is more full than it's ever been in preparation :)  Before our family arrives, we'll enjoy a quiet Christmas here, and have a big breakfast to celebrate, complete with a birthday cake for baby Jesus as Moriah's insisted!  These are the plans...

Friday -

Saturday -
possibly out with friends after church

Sunday -
Jiffy cornbread muffins

from Plain Chicken

Monday -
homemade pizza with sausage and vegetables

Tuesday, Christmas! -
orange juice, chai tea, apple cider, coffee, tea, hot chocolate (we're well stocked!)
cinnamon rolls,
(both orange like Matt remembers on Christmas morning and regular
from a can this year, I may try Pioneer Woman's in the future)
fruit salad
sour cream pound cake with strawberries and whipped cream for Jesus' birthday cake

from Kitchen Life of a Navy Wife

Wednesday -

Thursday -
snack: hummus, pita chips
spaghetti (with Lotsa Pasta marinara sauce)
and spicy turkey meatballs (they've been waiting in the freezer),
garlic bread,
oven roasted broccoli

from Food Network

Friday -
snack: Lotsa Pasta dip, crackers
taco bar with Crock Pot cilantro lime chicken, and ground beef,
hard and soft taco shells,
toppings (olives, lettuce, cheese, sour cream),
cilantro lime rice
black and refried beans

from All Recipes
from Skinny Taste

Saturday -
snack: cheese ball, crackers
buttermilk pot roast with potatoes, carrots, and onions,
roasted asparagus,
Bisquick rolls

from Taste of Home


Sunday -
for church pot-luck
(in rural Kentucky... my selections have to be pretty "normal" to be enjoyed!
since we're multiplying the size of our tiny church with our additional family
members we're bringing a lot to the Christmas pot-luck):
Christmas cookies
(magic cookie bars, caramel brownies, Swedish thumbprint cookies,
chocolate gingerbread cookies, sugar cookies)
mom's macaroni and cheese

for dinner -
snack: summer sausage, Amish cheese, crackers

chicken (or turkey) and wild rice soup

from Betty Crocker

homemade treats - chai tea mix

Homemade Chai Tea Mix

If you need a last minute Christmas gifts this could be just right!  I'd happily receive this anytime :)  

Last year I gave this homemade chai tea mix to a few friends,
and Moriah and I made it yesterday as an early gift for Matt.
I first enjoyed this after our friend Dollie made it for us
as a wedding gift given with other kitchen items.
Five years later, it's still a favorite!

Chai Tea Mix
1 c nonfat dry powdered milk
1 c powdered non-dairy creamer
1 c powdered French vanilla creamer
2 1/2 c white sugar
1 1/2 c unsweetened instant tea
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp white pepper

Combine all ingredients thoroughly in blender.  To serve, mix 3 (heaping) tablespoons with hot milk.

*My blender isn't really fancy and has worked for this particular recipe multiple times... but if I wasn't sure about my blender I might not try this unless I was okay with replacing it soon.  Mixing dry ingredients only seems to work the motor a bit more, and I'd hate for it to break permanently as a surprise!

Here are some pictures to illustrate the process...

lots of spices, but otherwise nothing too expensive
your blender will be FULL, it's okay!

As you blend you can see the color starting to change.
My blender seems to blend so that the ingredients on the top are pulled down
through the middle and work their way back up... it all needs to be well combined!

The final product...

Enjoy on a cold winter evening!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

rainy day thanks

On my first full day off work for Christmas break, I've realized I have SO much to be thankful for...

1251. rain here, not tons of snow like in Kansas City right now
1252. being able to get out in our weather and do a marathon grocery shopping trip
1253. a rain coat for Moriah, a consignment splurge that got great use today!
1254. family coming to visit us, all at once, a big family Christmas that we've never had in our home (even if it's going to be crowded!)
1255. food to share with our families, and some extra snacks and treats too
1256. room in our budget for this special occasion
1257. space in our kitchen to store the food until we start cooking
1258. the rain that stopped just as we got home and I unloaded it all
1259. a little helper who's a good sport while grocery shopping
1260. lots of friendly faces that love to talk with Moriah while we shop
1261. the prospect of homemade chai tea and granola soon (I can post those recipes too!)
1262. sweat pants and a hoodie after my first outfit got soaked going in and out
1263. a good day for Moriah to nap well
1264. Christmas treats a good friend delivered yesterday, tasty today!
1265. a Christmas bonus and a large debt paid

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Moriah's Alphabet Photo Book...

ABC Photo Book

Here's a sneak peek at one of Moriah's Christmas gifts.  I wanted to make something extra special for her, but didn't make time for a felt book like I'd anticipated months ago.  She's been talking so much lately about things that have happened in the past and has been asking lots for me to "tell Moriah about when I was tiny baby" :)  She's SO grown up now at the age of 2 in case you didn't know!  Making a Photo Book allowed me to use my favorite pictures of her over the last year, so that we could all enjoy them together, and talk about special memories.  I had to get pretty creative in thinking of an applicable letter for each picture, so you can laugh at the stretches I imagined.  I used Picasa to add the text to each photo and saved it as a new photo file.  As I put the photo book together, I realized you can now add text and layer it onto photos with their editing tools.  I'll probably save time and do it that way in the future!

As a nanny, I spend lots of time with our little friends at their house with Moriah as well.  If you think it looks like we must be somewhere else, we are!  Some of these fun toys are theirs also, and we're so thankful they're willing to share with Moriah as they play together.  I made one of these with Mr. S. and Ms. M.K.'s pictures as well as a Christmas gift for their parents.

It was a fun way to remember our year!  Once I got started with this theme I thought of others that would be fun as well.  A color Photo Book with pictures to practice color recognition, a counting Photo Book, a seasonal Photo Book showing fun activities for each season or holiday, etc.  When Moriah was little I used a free photo book promo to make a really tiny one with pictures of each family member, so we could remember their names together as they live out of state.  She loved looking at the faces of the people who love her so much!

Here it is, A to Z with Moriah :)

Naked jaybird!
*one of the funny things she says before bath time :)
we'll keep the picture unpublished!