Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why I love January . . . a month of promise

For as long as I can remember, I have loved the month of January. Now, there is nothing wrong with the delightful month of December ... it is full of color, lights, trees, advent, beautiful church services, presents, baking, company, shopping, card writing and more.

What a wonderful thing it is to follow this beautiful month of December, with the much slower and quieter month of January. Life gets simpler. It is truly a gift.

Even my home reflects the feeling in my heart. After all the lovely clutter of the holiday, I am enjoying more space and order. A fresh placement of my furniture makes me happy, also.

After all the yummy snacks and food, my January refrigerator is stocked with a much lighter fare. 

January is a month to rest and reflect. I like to spend a quiet night, in front of our very fake apartment fireplace, (which we actually like and use a lot) and re-read all the Christmas cards we received and pray for each friend that sent them. (It is a great time to update your address book, too.)

Often my routines get set aside during Christmas and January is a great time to put them back in place. A more leisurely morning quiet time, exercise, that stack of books to read, and the friend I have been wanting to connect with.

And it is a new year, too. What a bonus. I love new things and fresh starts. Some of my favorite verses in the Bible are Lamentations 3:22 and 23.

The steadfast love of the Lord
never ceases, His mercies never
come to an end, they are new
every morning, great is Your 

New mercies ... every morning. We have so much to be grateful for.

Happy January, friends.

PS. Come back next week for my post 30 things to do in January.

image credit 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How to Take your Christmas Decorations Down in an Orderly and Fun Manner

I am oldish. So I have been taking Christmas decorations down for a long time. Over the years I have developed a system . . . that works for me. Today, I want to share it with you, if you want to try it.

Step one: Enlist the help of your whole family to carry up the Christmas bins from storage. (In our case, bribes help, because it is cold in Chicago and we have to go outside.)

I love the sturdy red and green Christmas storage bins (from Target) and all my Christmas stuff fits in them.

Step two: Choose a stack of your favorite Christmas cd's, to keep you company while you work.

Step three: Pour a beverage or two. (For me, hot tea and seltzer water on ice.) Refill throughout the process.

Step four: Take down the tree first. I have one bin for everything tree related. (ornaments, lights, ribbons and beads) I pack them up and the tree. Now you have more space and are starting to get excited for . . . peaceful January.

Step five: Clean off your dining table. Get a big tray and walk through the house, room by room, collecting your Christmas decorations. Put them on the table. This may take several trips.

 (My mantle for January)

Step six: Have an innocent bystander (fresh eyes) walk through the house to find any bits you forgot.

(Our best Christmas present . . . the girls are home.)

Step seven: Pack up everything on the table in the rest of your bins. (For me, this part is in random order, just anywhere things fit. I do try to balance the weight.) 

Step eight: Beg your family to put their winter coats back on and carry the boxes back down stairs.

I work hard and fast and take a food break when needed. (left overs from Christmas dinner)

Have fun.  

Monday, December 26, 2011

January is in the air

It is beginning to look a lot like . . . January. I woke up this morning with great anticipation. January is one of my favorite months. I can almost hear, taste and smell it. 

I am trying to stay in the moment - that this is the day after Christmas. Maybe I should just relax and enjoy the tree and decorations for one more day. 

But I cannot help myself, as an always forward moving person, I want to take the decorations down ... so tomorrow I can act like January is already here.

What I will do, is poll my family today. If they want another day of Christmas, I will give it to them as my final present of the season.

So, I am off to see what the family thinks ... but later this week, I will be back to talk more about January.

image credit: snowman

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Perfect Christmas Gift

I have the perfect Christmas present idea. It is good

for anyone


for your neighbors that you hardly know

for your friends that are grieving

for the young couple who just had a baby

for the young couple who just lost their baby

for your college kids

for your wee kids

for your aging parents

for your pastors

for your administrative assistant

even, for your enemies. 

These past few months, I have been re-reading some of my all time favorite books, while I eat lunch and just before I go to sleep. Right now, I am in the middle of Tramp for the Lord, by Corrie Ten Boom.

(If you have not read any of her books before, you will want to start with The Hiding Place, which recounts her families experiences during WWII. They were put in concentration camps for hiding Jews in their home in Holland.)

I am in the middle of her story that takes place after the war. Corrie goes to Germany and buys a former concentration camp and has a home for German refugees of the war.

This morning, Corrie and hymn writer, Fannie Crosby reminded me that the best gift we can give this Christmas is grace, love and kindness

"Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness
Chords that were broken will vibrate once more."

Merry Christmas to you, my dear blogging friends.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cookies for Heroes

I do not bake much these days . . . you know, trying to eat healthier, it is just the two of us to eat a whole batch of cookies, etc. 

But yesterday, I had fun baking piles and piles of cookies . . . for some HEROES.

I wish you could pop in with me today for our Christmas party for WorldVenture retired missionaries. They are some of the coolest people and each a hero. You would hear amazing stories of their service to God in different countries around the world.

A little bag of cookies is a small gift, but it comes with deep respect.

This is a great recipe, that I have shared before. It was super easy to make four batches, so give it a try if you also need mounds of cookies for some of your heroes.

Gooey Butter Cookies

1 stick butter, room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 box Duncan Hines lemon cake mix
1 cup chocolate chips
powdered sugar (for rolling the cookies)

Cream butter and cream cheese. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat in the dry cake mix. Add chips.

Refrigerate dough for two hours or overnight. Shape into walnut sized balls and roll in powdered sugar. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees.

And if you are wondering, while this is a dainty cookie, guys love it. 

Happy baking!

PS. WorldVenture is the great mission organization that we serve with. 


Monday, December 12, 2011

A Quiet December Tradition

Eleven years ago, was our last summer taking students to Europe. (with Royal Servants International) I always saved some spending money for duty free shopping in Heathrow airport, just before we boarded our flight home. 

Sometimes I would buy a teapot, or piles of chocolate for friends, or Whittards tea tins. That last summer, I headed to the bookshop and was immediately drawn to the latest Rosemunde Pilcher book.

It was a really cool large paperback copy, that you could only get in England. I have read that book every December for the past eleven years. It is a sweet, lovely story with a beautiful Christmas theme.

How fun it is to look forward to hours of fun reading, with great bits in England and Scotland. I finished it this morning. 

Next week, I will begin my other December book, Shepherd's Abiding by Jan Karon.

Do you have a favorite December read?

PS. I lent Winter Solstice to my friend Kate, a few years ago. She hated it. "All they do is drink restoring cups of tea . . . over and over again," was Kate's response when she returned the book. My response, "I know, is it not wonderful." 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Soon and . . . VERY SOON!

Soon and very soon . . . I will be listening to one of my favorite sounds in the world . . .

these two lovelies talking and laughing!

Merry Christmas to me!

Monday, December 5, 2011

WHAT? No Internet . . .

While my husband was having a wonderful week of ministry in Indonesia, last week, I was going to finally catch up on all my blog reading. It was my plan to leave hundreds of comments all over the world wide web . . . until my internet went out.

What does one do with a week of no internet? My answer is:

          1. a lot, and
          2. a lot of fun and useful things

I finished a huge project that has been on my list for a long time (sh! it is a present for my husband), listened to hours of beautiful Christmas music, had dinner with a friend, got lots of Christmas shopping done, read a book, hosted a group of lovely girls here on Saturday morning, took a long walk, deep cleaned our apartment, enjoyed some great time with Jenny . . . etc.

What do you think? Maybe I should go without the internet one week a month or at least a day or two a week? Anyone want to join me?  (I double dog dare you.)

image credit: to do list

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Sweet Bonnie

Have you had a chance to meet any blogging friends?

Right before my oral surgery and Thanksgiving . . . I tucked in a wonderful treat for myself. I met the lovely Bonnie, of From a Writers Kitchen, for lunch at Whole Foods.

I do not know how you are . . . but I always feels super excited and a little nervous to meet an online friend. But I highly recommend it. Each time that I have had the opportunity . . . it has been WONDERFUL.

Bonnie and I chatted for a couple of hours . . . and I had the feeling we could have gone on all afternoon. While I already knew some things about Bonnie (like we both love Nicolas Mosse pottery from Ireland), there is always more fun things to learn.

My favorite was that Bonnie put in a few years working at the Pentagon. I asked her what September 11 was like for her, since she could picture the building from personal experience.

Thanks, Bonnie, woman extraordinaire, for a wonderful visit. (Sorry for no photo . . . I forgot my camera.)

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