Friday, December 31, 2010

Johnny's Joke Book

I hope you've been enjoying "show and tell" week and maybe even getting some gift ideas for next Christmas.  For my final post, I want to show you a project that I started last Spring and gave as gifts to my siblings and parents this year.  

My Uncle Johnny is known for the jokes that he tells.  He is great at keeping life jolly.  (Incidentally, Uncle Johnny and his wife Patsy are the ones who I made the quilt for this year!)  Anyway, I decided to create this compilation of the jokes and riddles that my Uncle Johnny has told over the years.

I told Johnny and Patsy of my plans in the Spring and asked them to help me out.  They decided to write down the jokes as they came to mind, and then they sent the jokes to me in a series of letters.  I really enjoyed receiving each one.  I put them into book form, accompanied by old family photos and called it "Johnny's Joke Book"!

Here are some of his jokes.

Here are Johnny and Patsy pictured with my Grandma and Grandpa.  When my Grandpa Henry died, less than a year after this photo was taken, Johnny and Patsy, who were named as my Mom's Godparents stepped in and took really good care of both of them.

As I have mentioned previously, my Mom was just a 4-month-old baby when her father passed away unexpectedly.  I love this picture, because it shows Johnny putting my Mom up on his shoulders the way a father would.  Johnny and Patsy sure are beloved in our family, and by me especially.  Johnny and Patsy's only son was born with health problems that caused him to die at a young age.  Now the tables have turned....where they once took my family in as their own, now we have taken them in....and they really do belong to us.
I really wanted to preserve the laughter, humor, and joy that they have brought to our family, and I hope that is what I have done with this gift!
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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Hotcakes 2010

My friend Tara was so thoughtful to take these photos during our Holiday Hotcakes Christmas Breakfast this year.  We're always too busy flipping pancakes to actually take pictures, so these are a real treasure to have!  Thanks, Tara!


Me "Hostessing"...Steve flipping flapjacks.

Stanko brothers from next door--strong-arming over a pancake?

Nici's kids who came bright-eyed and their jammies!


Our Elf on the Shelf keeping an eye on things!

Joao Pedro and the ever-lovin' Brazilian Claudia!


The Bugenhagens...Baby Wyatt, Paul, Grandma, and Amy Jo.
I feel obligated to mention that these are our friends with two sets of twins, 
so three of her kids are not pictured, but they were there!


Guy modeling his Santa apron.  
Autumn getting into a present while we weren't watching.
Tarin and husband Tom.

Tara's daughter Emma and best friend Lauren!


Jack and The Daniels and Watkins Families


Camilla whose birthday is on Christmas Eve.  Of course, we sang to her.
Cheyenne and son Chandler, Beau, Don, and Vicki who brought her famous keish.


Tarin, Miss Kimberly, andThe Eisenhowers 
who brought relatives all the way from England to our breakfast!

Rick and his wife Lori (who I'm chatting with) behind him.
Always willing to pitch in and lend a hand!

We had about 100 friends and neighbors filter through over about 3.5 hours, and thanks to my husband's hard work, and lots of helping hands, it was such a breeze!

The crowd favorite again this year were the fruit toppings and whipped cream!
Note to self...forget the syrup and double-up on the fruit toppings!
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Book of Mormon Paper Dolls

My sister made these little darlings for my kids.  They are "paper dolls" of various characters in the Book of Mormon!  Aren't they adorable?  The figures are actually made of a lightweight cardboard and the clothing, made of felt and various textured materials, feathers, beads and other embellishments, attach using velcro.  Cool, huh?  My kids LOVE them!
Thanks, Sis!
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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our Family Songbook: "A Very Good Place to Start"

I surprised Steve by creating family songbooks for Christmas this year.  

He actually started a file of songs that he wanted to turn into a family songbook a while ago, but he never finished it.  So I picked up where he left off.  I gathered the songs that he sang with his family growing up, songs that my family sang, Christmas carols, campfire songs, echo songs, songs that the kids have learned in preschool, seasonal chants, jump rope rhymes, and even the rules to our favorite silly party games.  

It felt good to record the lyrics to songs that I have only ever heard my grandfather sing--lyrics that I cannot find anywhere online.  Then I added some of my favorite family pictures from the last few years and an alphabetical index. The finished product is 102 pages long and spiral bound.  There is a copy for each family member.

We have already used it to introduce the kids to some new songs, and they really enjoy looking at the pictures, since they haven't yet learned to read.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Project Cherokee: Steve's Gift to Me

Steve's gift to me was a total surprise:  hand-sewn sheepskin moccasins to keep my feet warm around the house.  He went to great lengths to procure the materials:  the shearling pelt, cowhide for the soles, waxed thread meant to imitate sinew, and a leather "S" needle.

Here's what the bottom looks like.  And here are some photos that Steve took of the moccasins in progress:

He did not work from a pattern, but used my running shoes to get the sizing right.
(I know, he's amazing!)

The blue pieces are shoe inserts that he used to provide padding for my feet.

These things are so warm and super soft!  And because they are made of all natural materials, my feet breathe perfectly.  Using the left-over materials, Steve whipped up some ultra-soft, divinely warm mittens for Autumn.  She loves them!  Once they go on, they stay on, and her sweet little patties stay nice and warm!

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Monday, December 27, 2010

Making Spirits Bright

We had a blast making gifts for each other this Christmas!

Here is the princess dress that I made for Autumn.
She hasn't taken it off willingly since she got it...
She has worn it to church and even slept in it!

I didn't have a pattern to work off of, so I followed the design of the dress that Scarlett got from Santa last year, and I am thrilled with how it turned out.  I hope to sharpen my dress-making skills in the new year, so this is an encouraging start.

Another gift that Autumn refuses to remove is the necklace that Guy made for her.  Guy stamped her middle name and first initial into two flat metal pendants, and I helped him make them into necklaces for each of the girls.  I showed you Scarlett's necklace previously.  Here is Autumn's necklace as viewed through the thrifted jewelry box that accompanied it:

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

I Love My Job.

Scarlett gave Steve an LED Mag flashlight for Christmas, and it turns out those things are pretty great for making wall shadows.  I snapped a few shots that made me smile and the following video:

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In Case You Were Wondering...

...the angel wings were a big hit.

And so was the pancake breakfast!  Thanks to all of the party animals who participated!

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Do You See What I See?

It's Christmas Eve, and of course, Guy was too excited to fall asleep tonight.  He stood looking out his window watching for Santa Claus to fly by for quite some time.  After a while, I laid down next to him, and he told me how happy he was.  I scratched his back until he drifted off to sleep...followed by his signature child-sized snore.  

Scarlett suggested to Steve that when Santa comes, he should go "tippy-toes" downstairs "like she does" to spy on him.   So, we did.  And this is what we saw:


I was worried that Santa might scold us, but he just gave out a "ho, ho ho," and sent us off to bed!  Good night, and thank you Santa, for all of the fun and magic that you have brought into our lives through the years!
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Friday, December 24, 2010

Seeing Ourselves In The Nativity Story

These beautiful ornaments arrived in the mail today.  They are made by Cedar View Christian Gifts and I won them on the Secrets of Mom blog.

The simple beauty of these ornaments really moved me, and had special meaning for me and the journey that I have been on in the last year to follow Christ.  

As I look at them, I realize that we can each find ourselves in the sweet and simple story of Christ's birth.  As Mary, we can deliver our hearts and lives up to Him.  As Joseph, we must quietly serve and bravely follow His words, even when they go against social customs or contradict our human understanding.  As shepherds, we must watch, believe, and follow His chosen messengers.  As wisemen, we must seek Him, learn of him, and go the distance to worship Him.  We must also be willing to lay our very best gifts at His feet, for He is the source of those same gifts!

I think these ornaments are going to stay out on display far into the new year.  Thank you, Heather for sending them my way!

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Letting The Christ Child In

In the last few days, I've really felt an outpouring of the Spirit in my heart.  I witnessed the kindness of others, and it has really touched me multiple times over the last two days.  It's like Christmas just showed up at our door one day, making all of the preparations that we've done all month long totally worth it, because they put our hearts in a good, calm, peaceful, receptive state.

In our family, we have a tradition.  I call it "Letting the Christ-child in."  I do not know where the tradition came from or if it is practiced in other cultures, but it is special.  First let me explain that we actually wake up at midnight Christmas Eve to open all of our gifts, because that is when Santa comes to our house.  I am assuming that this tradition has its roots in midnight mass or Christmas Eve church services somewhere along the lines, although my mother tells me it is an English tradition passed down by her grandparents.

Before we open our gifts around midnight Christmas Eve, we open our home to figuratively welcome the Christ child in.  I have fond memories of one parent standing at the back door of our house and the other parent (with children racing behind them) scurrying to open the front door.  Simultaneously, both doors are opened, allowing a crisp winter breeze to sweep through the house.  As a child, I remember imagining a young Christ-child wandering through the house for that brief, thrilling, magical moment.

After we have let the Christ child in, we begin our celebrating, gift-giving, and partaking of party food!  I am thankful for the Christmas season, and for the gift of good family traditions that help us learn about, celebrate, and center our lives on the Savior.  I hope that you will experience His presence and love where ever you are this Christmas.  

Merry Christmas!

Update: Here is an addendum about the origin of this tradition from my Mother.  She says, "My maternal grandparents, being British, were members of the Church of England, Anglican or Episcopalian, I'm guessing (I ought to look that up to be sure). They had a very late church service on Christmas eve and afterward, as a family they would walk home, singing carols as they went. Arriving just about midnight, they let in the Christ child as they re-entered their home and then opened gifts. My grandmother would often rehearse this part of her family history with us."  Thanks, Mom!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Hotcakes

Image from our first Holiday Hotcakes Invitation

We are gearing up for one of my favorite holiday traditions of all time.


I borrowed the tradition from a family friend of my parent's generation who invited all of her dearest, long-time friends to her house for breakfast on Christmas Eve Morning.  As teenagers, my siblings eventually decided that they would rather sleep than socialize with old-timers, but I always hauled myself out of bed for the annual tradition.  I cherished the hour-long car ride alone with my parents and grandparents.  But even more-so I enjoyed seeing them interacting with their friends, people who knew them when they were young.  Somehow, they seemed younger on the ride home.  They smiled longer, laughed louder, and when the reminiscing was finished, there was a calm, quiet, feeling of satisfaction that only comes from being surrounded by people who love you.

When I got married, Steve and I started this tradition for ourselves and named it "Holiday Hotcakes".  The invite usually says something like "come as you are" and "serving  up endless pancakes" and "kick off Christmas with neighbors and friends".  The menu is pancakes, sausage, OJ and milk, so it's pretty low-key and easy.  Some people even come in their jammies, while others come in Christmas garb!

The first Christmas that we held Holiday Hotcakes in our new neighborhood was three years ago, and there was a really awesome turn-out.  I think we all truly felt the Christmas spirit as we celebrated and wished each other well.  It was a very sweet blessing for our little family to have neighbors come out and fill our home with such love, especially since we do not have family nearby to spend holidays with.  I hope that our neighbors know how much their friendship means to us!  It means a lot.

This year, I am anticipating even bigger turn-out (I truly believe in the mantra "the more the merrier"), so we're gonna need a LOT of Bisquick.  I haven't done the math yet, but I'm thinking 6 jumbo boxes at least....But if I find that is not enough, I'll be able to get by, because I recently discovered how to make "homemade bisquick" in a pinch!

I have shared the ancient secret of bisquick-making over at Old School today.  It is an extreme honor to be able to guest post for The Damsel, since she has been such a dear friend and generous mentor to me in the blog world during 2010.  So head on over there where I will divulge my secrets!!!  And please wish The Damsel a Merry Christmas for me, won't you?

*PS - You can view photos from Holiday Hotcakes 2010 by clicking HERE.
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Let's Pretend I Sent This to You In the Mail

Because I would, if I could.

Merry Christmas, Friends!

From our family to yours!!

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Monday, December 20, 2010

The Postal Worker Who Kept Christmas

Meet Becky.

Becky is the woman who runs this post office.

I actually drive past another post office in my hometown of Lewisburg and go two extra miles to another town to go to "Becky's Post Office", because Becky is that kind of a person.  She is patient.  She is kind.  She is sweet to children.  She is helpful and knowledgeable about her job.  She has suckers for the children.  She smiles.  She laughs.  She looks up zip codes, and even helps you pack up your stuff, if you need it.

Becky is a superstar in my book.

Becky is Christlike.

Whatever she is being paid by the USPS, I am sure that it is not enough for the services that she actually provides to her customers.

I went there today with my kids to mail our Christmas gifts to family.  I went there knowing full-well that today is the day that the USPS receives the most packages of the year.

I thought, "This will be the test.  If Becky is cheerful and helpful and patient today, on the busiest of days for a postal worker, then she has real integrity."  And you know what?  
She was awesome, true Becky through and through, just what we've come to expect from her and from the other workers at this particular post office.

My favorite thing about going to Becky to mail stuff is that without fail I leave there feeling happier, warmer, more peaceful, and of more worth as a person, just for being in her presence.  Thank goodness there are people like Becky in the world.

Thank goodness for people like Becky, who keep Christmas in their hearts all year long.

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