Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in Our House

(Here's a pic at my house, where the only lights on are a little lamp and the tree and mantle, at 12:15 am on Christmas morning)

Hi Friends,

Christmas at our house has always been a special time. Since leaving retail (where I worked for seven years after college and only was able to come home for 3 of the Christmases), I have been able to be home for Christmas every year but one of the last five. One of the years, I traveled to Seattle and celebrated with my aunts like we used to when I lived in Seattle and couldn't take vacation because of store schedules. Anyway, every year my mom would say, "You should be here for Christmas, it could be grama's and grampa's last one!" and every year I would tease her about saying that every year, and say that I wasn't going to bow down to her guilt tactics!

Well, it turns out that last Christmas was our last with grampa, and so in thinking back on those years I got to spend with him here, I am so grateful that my mom reminded me of the fleeting-ness of life and encouraged me to come home each year - even when I didn't have much money to get here.

Christmas was the one time every year that my grandparents felt like they could take an extra day off their job and come to my parents' house in Phoenix, so it was often the only time I was able to see them each year. I was really blessed that this year I was able to see my grandparents in June (after graduation) and again in August (right before grampa passed away). The Lord really does know what we need, and I don't know that I could have managed as well if the last time I had seen grampa was a year ago.

At our house, when we were little and there seemed like there were many presents, we used to open one up on Christmas Eve. The rule was that mom and dad picked out the Christmas Eve present – so it was usually socks or slippers; something that we could wear to bed or the next morning. It was always fun to get new PJ’s for Christmas and be able to wear them Christmas morning. That tradition stopped when we were in High School, I guess, but we still have a few traditions.

On Christmas Eve, my mom makes Chicken Enchiladas for dinner (weird, but true!) and then we go to church together. Afterward, mom, dad, ben, and I, either watch a movie or play a board game. (Grama and grampa usually went to bed right after church). While we play/watch, mom and I put together our breakfast for the morning called: Sunrise Sausage Souffle. It goes in the fridge overnight, so it just has to pop in the oven in the AM and no one has to slave over a stove. My mom and I put together the stockings (we still do stockings, for all the family members, no matter what age!) and the get set out that night as we all go to bed, to open in the AM.

In the morning (now that we are older, we sleep in a little), we put on some Christmas music, open gifts, drink coffee, eat and then most everyone takes a nap… while we start working on Christmas dinner: Ham, green bean casserole, “potatoes Christine”, and fruit salad.

Its fun to have these little traditions, but also to be older and know that we can relax about it and not have to be on a schedule or try to make sure things get done at certain times. I always feel like our celebration of Christmas is a celebration of family. I know that technically, that isn’t the message of Christmas, but when I think of the baby with his parents in a manger, I think – well, at those moments, I’m sure Joseph and Mary were so grateful to God for the delivery of this little boy, and they rejoiced in their family. And so I hope the Lord is pleased that on this day when we celebrate his birth, we also rejoice in gratitude for our family: those who can be with us, those who are passed and who we will see again in heaven (my dad’s parents and my mom’s dad), and those who are far away (my dad’s sisters and their families, my mom’s sister and her family).

I am so grateful to the Lord for the men and women in my family tree. I’m grateful for the opportunity to shower them with little gifts that will bring them joy, and which are only a shadow of the gifts the Lord has for us in heaven. And I’m grateful for knowing Christ, the little baby that was sent to earth to redeem all people unto God. May our Christmas be a reflection of his presence in our midst, and also of his sacrificial love. Blessings to you this Christmas day.

Christmas Break Update!

Hi Friends,

I know its been a week or so since I last posted. After finals ended, I packed up all my cares and woes and had a great weekend in LA with friends, before heading to Phoenix for the Christmas holiday. It is a joy to be home, but this trip - as all of them lately have been - has been really busy with not a lot of "me" time to post and update you on life.

This Christmas has had some really fun adventures. I got home and the next day went with my dad to buy a car for my grama - she recently had eye surgery and is now able to drive again, so we are selling her old car and she has this cute new red one (see photo). Doesn't she look great!

On Wednesday, I traveled to ASU with my dad for his orientation!! Awesome, huh! My dad is returning to college this spring semester to continue work on a Bachelor degree. He will be studying earth and space science education. If I can figure out how to get a picture from my phone to my computer, I'll post a pic of this, too. It was really a blessing to be able to attend with him. I think he was a little nervous (at least I was nervous at my orientation this fall, so I think he must have been, too!) and so it was really nice for us both to be there together. I'm really proud of him for pursuing this - he had wanted to do it for a long time! YOU GO, DAD!!

I had a few days off of "driving errands" and instead worked at home, cleaning house, cooking/baking, and other stuff to help out around here. We had hoped to hear my dad sing in the Messiah concert with the Phoenix Symphony, but he was sick, so he wasn't able to sing the concerts when I was home. However, he recovered in time to sing in a different concert series the next weekend. That weekend we attended the Phoenix Chorale (used to be the Phoenix Bach Choir) sing a fantastic Christmas concert, and then the next day heard the Phoenix Symphony Chorus perform a number of baroque pieces for their Christmas concert. It was a great weekend of really great music!

Following dad's last concert for 2008 on Sunday, Ben took us all out to dinner to celebrate the end of the season and some good news that he had gotten at work. It was really fun for the four of us to be together as a family and laugh, talk, and eat together (especially since I didn't have to do the dishes!).

Tuesday, dad and I drove up to Havasu to pick up grama and bring her to Phoenix for Christmas. We took her new car and surprised her. (She didn't know we'd drive it up that day) The ride back was lovely and today, Christmas Eve, was really a nice day. We did some grocery shopping, grama got a chance to practice driving her car, and we had a really nice service at church. I have only been a little sad about grampa not being here - mostly at church - I really missed him all day today, and then especially for some reason, at church. But it has been such a nice time, that I am having moments of joy, too.

Friday we have to take grama back to Havasu (we'll take her car and leave it there with her, and a second car to get home), and then I head back to LA on Monday for just one day before I head up to Seattle to see my aunts for two days over the New Year's holiday. More to come on that soon. I sure hope the weather allows for my trip!

Another post is coming in just a bit.... stay posted. :)

Christmas Break Update! (photos!)

OOps, posted but forgot to post the photos! Here are a couple:

mom and dad at dinner

Me and mom in our cute red sweaters.

Me and Ben at dinner

On Thursday I stopped by my friend Jill's house to see her new baby boy: Tripp, and see my little friend Jetty. I had made gifts for them before leaving LA. Here's me and Jetty. I think there must have been a delay, because she looked really happy before this pic was taken!

Here's grama in the driver's seat of her new Chevy Cobalt!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Finals Done... Crafting begun!

Jill Atkinson... don't read this post! It involves a little gift I made for Tripp and Jetty - so unless you don't want to be surprised... don't read! :)

Well friends - you know how much I love to sew and craft... but also how hard it is during school to do projects! During the school year, all my 'crafting' time is taken up by reading and writing.

I turned in my last final yesterday at 4:30 and as I was going to bed I was thinking of a friend of mine who recently had a baby. I was thinking of visiting and decided to make my traditional baby gift (thank you to Liz Hehman for the idea) of "designer" burp rags.

So I woke up at 7 this morning (even with out my alarm - sad, huh!) and the idea was still there... so I got started! I already had the fabric and trims, so that was pretty easy. I decided I also wanted to make something for this baby's big sister - who I babysat over the summer.

I knew she would enjoy a little purse and so I searched on line and found a great pattern at this site: .

I modified the pattern a bit, because I had cute coordinating fabrics on hand in fat quarters, which are not 20-24" square. So I made the smaller version, and instead of cutting out 10" squares, I did 9" squares (and made the pocket 4 1/2 "). Fat quarters (FQs) are 18" by about 22", so there was enough to make the purse out of two fat quarters (which are just over $1 each - this purse was a great value!!). In the pattern, the purse has an inside pocket, but I loved the little coordinating fabric so much, I put the pocket on the front, and added some coordinating grosgrain ribbon. I did love the handles from the pattern, but there are no craft stores around where I live, so I used the extra of the main fabric to make little handles*.

*this is easy - just cut two strips, 2-3" wide, 18" long (if you're using the FQ). Fold them right sides together and iron flat (I didn't have an iron, but it would be easier if they were ironed). I sewed a line right down the center, and then attached a safety pin at one end and push it through the center, pulling it through the middle to turn it inside out. Then iron it flat, right sides out. The last thing I did was fold up the ends of each handle just a teeny bit and sewed them, so that there were no raw edges and then sewed them to the inside of the purse itself.

I think it turned out really cute, and it didn't take me long - maybe an hour or so from cutting to completion. Probably faster if I was working at a table and not at a footstool.... :) See pictures below to see how they turned out!!

Here is the little purse - -- isn't it sweet!?
(I was thinking about adding a button at the top and a little loop on the
backside to make a "clasp", too - or a velcro square to hold it shut)

Here it is so that you can see the inside a bit, too - I love this little design!

The burp rags! I thought they turned out pretty great for being made of things I had "on hand",
My little "workstation" - I could have used my fold out table.... but I
was nervous it wouldn't handle the weight of the sewing machine...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Giving Thanks

My Thanksgiving Holiday was full of... family, noise, fun, exhaustion, and the interstate.

(I started this post last night... my browser froze up... and I have to rewrite... ugh, how I hate it when that happens!)

I left early Wednesday to head to Lake Havasu City to pick up my grama (5 hours) and then we drove together to Phoenix (4 hours). I was really glad to have her with me, as the drive was long and the second-half was very dark. We had some nice conversation and got caught up while we drove together.

As a surprise, my aunt Becky and uncle Danny flew in for the holiday. My grama really had no idea, so it was fun to ask things like, "What are Beck and Dan doing for the holiday?" and hear the things they told her to keep the secret. It was the first time we had been with my aunt and uncle since my grampa's death this summer. And it was the first time I was home for Thanksgiving since before I worked at Greenville College - so 6 years at least! So it was a really special celebration for all of us.

I think some of us were worried it was going to be sad, and some of it was certainly bittersweet, but it was also good. It was good for my aunt and uncle to have more time with grama, because I know its been hard to feel like they were supporting her from so far away (they live in wa), and I think it may have helped their grieving process. It was good for my grama to not be alone for a few days and have all the family experiences that she loves - her kids and grandkids around her, wine flowing freely, entertaining conversation, etc. And it was good for my mom, who loves Thanksgiving most of all, to have her family all around her.

The weekend as a whole was fun and successful, if not overwhelmingly loud (at least when they were all there...). It was one of our best t-day dinners ever - the food was outstanding. We managed somehow to get through the cooking of it without too much bickering, though my mom and aunt can bicker at least as well as my and my brother! :) And we got some good family photos.

My two favorite memory snapshots: 1) praying before dinner - my uncle prayed for the meal, and then my grama said she wanted to pray, too, and brought us all to tears with her sweet and simple prayer of thanksgiving. 2) shopping and breakfast the day after thanksgiving with my mom, dad, and brother - the first time all four of us had gone together, and it was fun to be up before dawn and sharing that experience.

Pics posted above from the Thanksgiving weekend. I hope that YOU enjoyed your holiday as well, and were reminded of the goodness of God and all you have to be thankful for!

Monday, December 1, 2008

200...8 things.

Well, just 8 things, actually. My friend Sarah tagged me and so here i go answering categories in groups of eight. The lists below are not necessarily in order, but rather the first eight things I thought of when I read the category name.

8 Things I Am Obsessed About Right Now:
1. Walking and getting back in jogging shape
2. Finals
3. Winter break (2 weeks!!)
4. Australia (the movie)
5. Christmas music (I am renewing my love for Jim Brickman)
6. Making friends and developing community
7. My church - love it!
8. Watching the Office and 30 Rock with friends

8 Words Or Phrases I Use:
1. Oh my gosh!
2. Peace out.
3. What up.
4. Are you sure?
5. That's what she said...
6. Ugh.
7. Mmmm. (when people are talking about smart things)
8. ? (probably you readers have a number of things I say - feel free to put them in the comment section)

8 Shows I Love To Watch:
1. Amazing Race
2. Heroes
3. Survivor
4. CSI (original)
5. The Office
6. 30 Rock
8. The Mentalist
(there are others... holy cow, I watch a lot of TV. add to this: the Starter Wife, the Unit, Private Practice, and when they return in January: Burn Notice, Monk, and Psych..... USA has great shows!)

8 Things I Did Yesterday:
1. Drove 8 hours from Phoenix to LA (technically, that counts as 8, right?)
2. Picked up my reading glasses from Target (which turned out to be actual glasses... not readers...)
3. Ate at In-N-Out
4. Watched the "Amazing Race"
5. Unpacked from my Thanksgiving trip
6. Finished "Blue Dahlia" by Nora Roberts
7. Talked to the Fergasons, Banks, and Naomi on the phone
8. Hugged my parents

8 Favorite Places To Eat:
1. Mandarin Palace in Renton, WA
2. Red Lobster
3. In-n-Out
4. Sonic
5. Rancho Nuevo in Vandalia, IL
6. Mom and Dad's house
7. Cafe Cappucino in Waco, TX
8. Panera

8 Books I love:
1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin
2. The Eight (ironically) by Katherine Neville
3. any book by Nora Roberts
4. Dream Big: The Henrietta Mears Story
5. Amy Carmichael of Donhavur by Frank Houghton
6. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller
7. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier
8. any mystery by Dick Francis or Agatha Christie

8 People I tag:
1. Chalea
2. Alexis
3. Mel (now you are double tagged... so you have to do it!)
4. Katie Chan
5 - 8.... I'm not sure who reads my blog, so the rest of y'all do it!