December 27, 2010

On The Third Day of Christmas My True Love Gave To Me...

13 years of happy marriage!

Yep, it's true. We've been married now for 13 years. Time flies.
We've had twelve dates, eleven months of not being pregnant (not really... it just feels that way sometimes), ten years in Denver, nine children, eight baptisms, seven different pets, six visits to the emergency room, five different vehicles,  moved four times, lived in three different states, two broken bones and only one Christ that has held our family together during all of it. Praise be to Christ for all of the challenges and blessings we've had along the way!

December 21, 2010

Goodnight, Moon.

Did you watch the total lunar eclipse last night?

It was pretty awesome.
I love to watch the stars twinkle at night, and I also enjoy looking at the moon. Especially when you are camping in the mountains and the night sky is your main form of entertainment. God's handiwork is amazing.
           "When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,
             which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son
             of man that you care for him?"     Psalm 8:3-4


So, it was, that Joanna informed me yesterday that she would like to stay up late to watch the full lunar eclipse. I am not quite sure how she obtained this information, that the lunar eclipse was happening last night, or how she knew the exact time it would start (my guess is that she read it somewhere). But, since we are terribly mean parents, we said, "No". C'mon people, it didn't end until 1:30am.... would you let your kids stay up that late? Instead, I promised her that I would take pictures of the eclipse. It worked out great because I was also able to clean the kitchen and wash the inside of my refrigerator (which had hairy green tennants living inside that needed to vacate the premises) at the same time.

What I did feel a little guilty about is the fact that, after reading a bit this morning, I came to realize that this lunar eclipse (which happened on winter solstice) hasn't taken place since 1638. Sorry Joanna!

Here are a few pictures of the moon as the evening progressed.... I tried to take them just about every 15 minutes. 







 

I didn't stay up until 1:30am either. Instead, I went to bed a little after midnight. So, I don't actually have the full lunar eclipse, but at least you get a good picture of what it looked like at the beginning. Pretty neat, huh?

December 19, 2010

Excuse Me While I Go To Vacuum

Our family is incredibly blessed.

There are probably hundreds of things I could list off.... nothing of which have to do with us... just the fact that people are caring, loving and thoughtful towards us. It is truly amazing and I am grateful for each one of you. Even if I don't know exactly who you are................

    You knew this was leading into a story, right?!?

Earlier this evening, I was finishing up dishes from dinner and preparing lunch for tomorrow. ( We are having Runzas for lunch, if anyone is interested. ) The children were at the kitchen table playing with Legos. All of a sudden, the doorbell rings... *ding,dong*.....
If you've ever stopped by to our house before, you know what follows.
A thundering herd of children race to the door to see who can be the first to open it!
Surprisingly, NO ONE WAS THERE!!!
However, there was a lovely gift left on the front porch with a nice card attached, telling us "Merry Christmas".

The lovely gift I am talking about is (drum roll please).....
A brand spanking new Dyson DC33 vacuum !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 Product Details

Now, this person obviously knows how terrible our old vacuum is. Also, they must know how yucky our carpets look. They also know that I've been debating over a new vacuum for a long, long time but just couldn't justify buying a good vacuum when other things always needed our attention. You know, like braces and food for the kids and stuff. And, obviously, they had on a good pair of running shoes and are fairly fast runners because my children don't waste time getting to the door once the bell sounds.

So, thank you mysterious gift giver. We have already vacuumed all the carpets in the house and have been grossed out by all the dirt this vacuum sucks up and by just how much dirt was left behind by our old one. We will definitely put this vacuum to good use.

December 16, 2010

The Twelve Days of Christmas...

Most people are familiar with the Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas", right? We have all tried, be it successfully or unsuccessfully, to sing along when we hear it played on the radio. It's kind of a mind bender to see if you can remember what comes next.... is it 9 ladies dancing and 10 lords a leaping or the other way around???  My children find it to be great fun to sing this carol. We even have a few versions of it on my iPod so we can joyfully listen to it over, and over,and over! Well, this song has had me thinking overtime about this subject lately. Here's a few of the things that have meandered through my head....

1. I always thought I was being a little "original" when, after you sing "5 golden rings!", I would add a little "da,da,dum, dum" after it. Guess what.... it wasn't original at all! I think I was simply copying Miss Piggy from the Muppets in their performance of this carol way back in 1979 when I was a very impressionable toddler. Here is a link so you can check it out yourself.   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eHR3J_RP1Do&feature=related


2. I do have a favorite version of this carol, mostly because it's a little goofy and different than everyone else's take on it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Fe11OlMiz8

3. I do, with my whole heart, believe that this was probably a song written by Christians to be a type of catechismal song to teach children the Catholic faith. I mostly believe this because Wikipedia doesn't. And also because Christians are truly the only ones interested in Christmas and therefore wrote all the best Christmas hymns and carols. Argue with me if you want, but I'm not going to change my mind.

4. My guess is that most people believe the 12 days of Christmas are the countdown to when Christmas begins and have no actual idea what it is supposed to represent.

5. I would love to get 5 golden rings for Christmas. I like white gold by the way, just so you know.

6. I think Christians should assert themselves and NOT get into Christmas frenzy. Maybe the Lutherans could start a type of Christmas reformation and only do Advent activities in the days leading up to Christmas Eve. No shopping, no decorating, no putting up of the Christmas tree, and then....

7. On Christmas Eve put our trees up and decorate them.

8. Actually celebrate the festival day of Christmas as the first day of Christmas!

9. Celebrate the 12 days of Christmas by then doing our shopping (think of all the great sale prices you'd be getting!) and singing our Christmas carols and hymns to others. Baking our cookies and doing our Christmas crafts.

10. You could have an option of letting your children open 1 gift a day until Epiphany or just wait until Epiphany to open your gifts. We have a lot of kids, so this might get expensive for us if we opened a gift a day... for 12 days!

11. Revel in the fact that the world believes Christmas is over and is now looking forward to boozing it up on New Year's Eve or getting ready to join Weight Watchers. We can finally have a Christmas time that is free from commercialization and marketing schemes.

12. Celebrate Epiphany and take our trees down.


Maybe this is just wishful thinking on my part as I've been feeling frazzled by all the pre-Christmas craziness. But, my husband and I have talked about doing this. Maybe next year we will implement it. Until then, presents need to be wrapped, more cookies need to be baked and Christmas programs and parties are in full force this week.
Kyrie Eleison....

December 14, 2010

Powdered Sugar Mania

Powdered sugar.
Soft. Delicate. Subtle.
Simply Christmasy.


      It does seem that powdered sugar, confectioners' sugar, or sticky sugar (what my little one's refer to it as) is a mainstay in holiday baking. It adds a soft dimension to cookies, a little sweetness and is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. It also works as a "cover up" for mistakes, especially if your cookies that should be shaped like balls tend to look more like footballs. It's a fun ingredient for the children to work with. 
   We accomplished a bit more cookie baking these past few days. We baked Mexican Wedding Cakes or Snowballs (I think people refer to them as both), Thumbprint Cookies, and a new type of candy that I had never tried before called Oreo Truffles. 
Here the girls are rolling their cookies in powdered sugar. These are the Mexican Wedding Cakes.


This is what they looked like when we were all done. Not too shabby of a job! They taste delicious as well.


We used basically the same dough recipe to make Grandma Nemitz's thumbprint cookies. All-time favorite.


After they were baked, we filled them with powdered sugar frosting flavored with peppermint and a little dab of green food coloring so they would look festive!


Here you have a picture of the inside of the oreo truffles. My witty husband had an idea of what they looked like, but since it isn' too appetizing, I won't share it. This was a recipe shared with me by my friend Terri. It's really simple: 1 package Oreo cookies ground up in the food processor, 1 package cream cheese. Mix the two together, and then frost with melted white chocolate. Divine chocolatiness!

And they look great too! We added some sprinkles on top for fun. So easy to make and they are wonderful!


So, off to the kitchen to check some more things off our list to do. I have a few requests to make caramel cashew corn, chex mix and fudge. I guess you know what will probably be next!

December 12, 2010

Pfeffernusse, Springerle and Pomanders!

Guten Tag! Hello!
We started baking the pfeffernusse, or "pepper nuts", yesterday and finished making the springerle today. I was, once again, reminded that Germans must really adore anise. It's in their liquor and their cookies. I actually like anise and so do my children which is kind of interesting. It's a taste that you either like or hate.
Again, I had some little helpers in the kitchen. Susie helped me roll out the pfeffernusse into logs. We made them really, really small like pencils because it's fun to have little cookies.


Then, we put the dough logs into the freezer for a bit so that they would get really hard so that we could cut them into little,tiny cookies. The girls waited patiently for them to bake.

Finally, it was time to taste a few. And, we were pleasantly surprised. They had a light anise taste (we used a secret ingredient) and they were actually really, really good!!!!

Here's a little tidbit of information about Pfeffernusse cookies from Wikipedia.

Pepernoten are originally a Dutch treat, baked during 'Sinterklaas', a feast on 5 December (6 December in Belgium and Germany) on which little children receive gifts from the holy St. Nicholas, the partial inspiration for Santa Claus. In Germany, Pfeffernüsse are traditionally made during the Christmas season.


Next on the menu, were Springerle cookies. I love to eat these but I have never, ever attempted to make them. Last year I found, of all things, a springerle mold at our goodwill store. I bought it and decided that I should try it out. It worked pretty good, except the pictures were kind of crazy. Lighthouses, cherry blossoms and I think a donkey head. I don't know what the significance is of these things, but they did turn out pretty good. So, my apolgies in advance if I give you a donkey head cookie for Christmas. Please don't take it personally.
The dough kind of reminded me of some type of ancient sanscript. It was pretty fun to do actally. The only hard part is that these cookies are time consuming. After you imprint the image, you have to cut them out and then let them dry overnight so that when you bake them the image stays. But they turn out so beautiful looking, even with crazy pictures stamped on them. Success!

The name springerle means "little jumper" or "little knight". Their origin can be traced back to at least the 14th century in southeastern Germany and surrounding areas.
The stamping technique may be derived from the molds used in some Christian traditions to mark sacramental bread, and the earliest molds featured religious motifs, including scenes from Bible stories and Christian symbols. Later, in the 17th and 18th century, heraldic themes of knights and fashionably dressed ladies became popular. Themes of happiness, love, weddings, and fertility remained popular through the 19th century.


Last, but not least, we made some orange pomanders to put on our matel. They were a great activity for the children and they smell so wonderful! Other than making orange pomanders, what are whole cloves used for anyway?



Our day of German baking and crafts is completed and there is still so much more I'd like to make. We'll see what we can do in the next few days.....


























December 10, 2010

Remembering Our Past to Enrich Our Future

Recently, I have been made aware of just how sentimental I am in nature. It was brought to the forefront when I decided on a whim, like usual, to clean out a closet. We have a spare bedroom, of which I had shoved everything possible into that closet to deal with later. School pictures, baby photos, various art projects, trophies, old newspaper clippings, birthday cards, baby cards, thank you cards, get well soon cards.... do you see a pattern here?
After I opened the boxes and dumped out heaps upon heaps of cards, I realized that I have a problem throwing things away, especially cards. And, as I pondered this in my pile of paper, I realized that I hold memories with each of those. A signature by Adrian's grandparents, who died a few years ago, is a link to the past. Their signature was part of who they were, and it's a part of my children. The same goes for cards with signatures of aunts, uncles, parents, friends. I was having a hard time deciding what should go and what I could keep. Finally, I came to the conclusion that I didn't have to keep every card that had a memory. One would do. So, thankfully, I won't have to be scheduled as a guest on the show Hoarders yet.

This "cleaning" episode has also made me ponder whether or not people concern themselves with the past anymore. After all, technology is always pushing us into the future, making us guess what might be around the next corner. It's great. Technology has allowed us to do wonderful, incredible things. But, I think we all need to slow down a bit occasionally and think about the past, about our ancestors and our heritage. What did your grandparents or your great-grandparents value and why? Did they struggle or was life easy for them? What pleasures did they seek and would it be something that you would consider fun or pleasurable in this age? We can learn a great deal about life from our ancestors tribulations and achievements. It can enrich your own family.... all you need to do is spend a little bit of time researching your family. Ask your parents questions, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents... you may be surprised at what you uncover!

I guess this post is leading me into the next post.... which will be about "old" family cookies and traditions. I only hope that my cookies turn out half as good as my mother's or mother-in-law's!

December 8, 2010

How Much Wood, Can a Wood Splitter Split?

At our house, we like to "occasionally" burn a little wood in our fireplace. Okay, okay, we usually always have a fire going in the fireplace. It helps us keep the heating costs down and it makes our home cozy feeling. Plus, the smell that fills the air is something so earthy, so comforting, so welcoming! For that reason, we are always on the lookout for people cutting down trees or giving away wood. It's not a small task to load huge chunks of cut down trees into the truck, only then to have to unload it when we get home and then split it. We usually rent a log splitter, so there is a little bit of money we put into it as well. However, it's totally worth the effort. We have a wood pile in our backyard now that will most likely be enough for this winter and hopefully a little bit left for next winter.

The two oldest boys enjoy using the log splitter. They have been supervised enough that they know to be careful and we are comfortable letting them help.


Peter was out helping too. His main job is helping daddy stack the wood along the fence. His birthday was just last month, and one of his gifts was this coonskin hat. Isn't he cute?


I am thankful that Adrian grew up in Michigan, where there was always lots of wood to gather. He is good at finding us firewood and I think it's one of his favorite chores to do.

December 7, 2010

Gingerbread

The children love making gingerbread homes. I like for them to enjoy being creative, but this is not one of my most favorite projects. Whose bright idea was it, anyway, to build homes out of cookie dough and frosting? Well, here is a link if you want to read the history behind the making of gingerbread homes. http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-history-of-gingerbread.htm   It is fairly interesting. You see, normal, everyday people like myself didn't even try to construct these things. They left it to a guild. Smart cookies.

So, even though my homes were a bit crooked, and we had to use an unbelievable amount of royal icing to hold these babies together, the children had a fantastic time decorating them!

Gingerbread fun!




<><><><>
<>
<><><><>
Sweet tooth delightment!






Yoda, trying to use the "force" on his gingerbread house.

Adding the finishing touches....
The Charmer and his home, overloaded with gum drops.


December 6, 2010

Peanut Butter Blossoms (my version)

These are one of the easiest, most kid-friendly cookies that we make around Christmas.
The recipe is pretty simple. First, you make some peanut butter cookie dough. I use an old recipe that came from an old German lady in my hometown. After you make the dough, you find some kids that need some type of activity and you recruit them to roll the dough into balls.

Here, I found two princesses roaming the house and one little Jedi master that we'll call Yoda.
This is a familiar pose of Yoda. I think he might be trying to use the force on the girls.





After you have the dough rolled out into neat little balls, you roll them in sugar and place them on the pan to bake in the oven until they are nice and brown and crackly looking.

Then, you need to find another unsuspecting child roaming the house to unwrap a whole bag of Hershey's kisses. We tweak the recipe a bit by using caramel filled kisses.
When the cookies come out of the oven, you place a kiss in the middle of each cookie, pressing down gently. And, that's it!


Don't they look scrumptious? A kid and adult favorite!



Below is the recipe for the best peanut butter cookies on this side of the Mississippi.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda

Combine the first 4 ingredients and mix well. Add egg to this mixture and mix well. Sift dry ingredients together and add to above mixture. Form into balls about the size of a walnut and roll in sugar. Place on cookie sheet and press with a fork. Bake 10 to 15 minutes at 300 degrees or until nice, golden brown. So, so yummy!!!!

December 5, 2010

Christmas Baking Begins!

I like Christmas cookies. The reasons why are almost too numerous to mention.... the aroma that fills your house, the warmth that fills the kitchen (especially our kitchen, since we "like" to keep our house at a toasty 62 degrees.... that subject could have a whole blog post devoted to it someday) , the wonderful feeling you have when licking the cookie batter off the spatula, the exercise requirement I get while rolling out cookies, the geometry lesson the children have while rolling cookies into balls, the wonderment of pressing molds into cookies to reveal (always to the the little one's amazement) a special little imprint left behind, the artistic expression of frosting, the only bling I spend money on these day...sprinkles, the list could go on and on.

So, I am going to try and post all of the Christmas baking we will be attempting at our house. I am not a master chef or pastry queen. Most of the time my treats taste better than they actually look! So, if you're looking for some new, wonderful recipe, you may or may not find it here. But, at least my extended family can catch a glimpse of what we are up to, and if anyone else is paying attention, well... I'm sure you'll get a good laugh at our expense.
ENJOY!!!

December 3, 2010

Thanksgiving.... a week later.

Isn't Thanksgiving dinner one of the best meals of the year? It is one of my most favorite. And I love the meals made from leftover turkey. Oh, and all the pies too. Yum...
However, since we were on the road this past Thanksgiving day, on the way back to Iowa for the funeral, there was no time for turkey preparations. We did pack chicken sandwiches to eat at a rest area off I-80, that was about as festive as it got.

Our neighbors took this into account and, being the kind and generous folk that they are, made us an entire Thanksgiving feast when we arrived home! Now, just so everyone knows, we live in a BIG city... doesn't this sound more like small town behavior? I LOVE it!

I opened the doors to our house, and all of sudden, a flock of people were arriving with different goodies in hand. A turkey (that was delicious) golden-brown, giblet gravy, stuffing, cranberry compote, a huge fruit basket, mashed potatoes, squash, green beans, asparagus, warm bread and two pies which were apple and pecan, and sparkling cider! It was such a wonderful meal and it meant more to us than words can say. So, this year, I am thankful for the wonderful family that God has granted to us. I am thankful for a Christ who guards us each day. And, I am thankful for warm, caring, compassionate neighbors who made us feel very welcomed home indeed!!!
                       All of the wonderful items brought to our table. My neighbors can cook!

                                     Yum! Yum! Yum!

December 1, 2010

LeRoy


Well, November turned out to be an interesting month. So many things happened, life changing events.... I wished to write each one of them down. I even contemplated trying to write every day, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It felt like a waste of time to be sitting, typing on a keyboard, when life was passing by right before my eyes.



On November 10th, I flew back home to be with my family as my father lay, dying, in the ICU. He is a tough, old farmer though and he proved those doctors wrong. He fought for another 13 days before the angels came and carried him home. In that amount of time, I was able to witness so many, many things that would take weeks for me to write about. I could tell you about the bravery of my father, how he tried his very best to make his broken body keep going. I could tell you about my mother, her devotion to her husband. How, in the end, it was the bond of 51 years of marriage that enabled her to understand what my father was trying to say, even when he couldn't speak. It was a type of love that I had never really witnessed from my parents, they were so private in that respect, that broke my heart for them both. Then, there was the gentle, kind way that the nurses and doctors tended to my father, how they tried to comfort my mother. A simple story of how our health care system isn't broken. No, I would argue, we have the best trained nurses and doctors in the world. The stories of other families on the ICU floor, who all understood that death walked those hallways. A type of bond that was unspoken, yet acknowledged. The helpless feeling, that I know my brothers and I had, of trying to help our parents when we really couldn't do a single thing. I've spent time with my family, but it was this time, these past few weeks, that will forever be remembered.



My father was a quiet man, whose stories would most likely make a good read! He was a farmer, a humble man who went about his work without complaining.... at least, not as much as some. He was a good neighbor, a person who helped others when they needed it because it was the right thing to do. He was a godly man. He knew who his Savior was and was not afraid to profess his faith. My mother and I would say the Lord's Prayer and sing "Abide With Me" every night before we left his bedside. He would feebly try to fold his hands. He understood we were saying prayers, he confessed his faith with us in that simple fashion. He was a devoted husband, a good father and a kind grandfather. We will miss him greatly.


Below is the text for one of the hymns we sang at his funeral. It was a wonderful, Lutheran service filled with the hope we have of the resurrection. Our children sang this hymn for Grandma.





Jerusalem the Golden by Bernard of Cluny

Verse 1: Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest

beneath your contemplation, sink heart and voice oppressed

I know not, oh, I know not, what joys await us there!

What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare.


Verse 3: There is the throne of David, and there, from care released

The shout of those who triumph, the song of those who feast

And they who with their leader, have conquered in the fight

Forever and forever, are clad in robes of white.

  I loved my father and still have sorrow over his death. But, I also rejoice in the fact that we will see him again one day with all those saints who have gone before us. What a blessed assurance we have in our risen Lord! May the peace of God fill each of you as well.