Thursday, December 31, 2009

Goodbye 2009...

As I wrote my Christmas letter this year, it was a time to reflect on all our blessings. I do my best to be encouraging, to look to the future with hope, and trust in the goodness of God. But I would be lying if I said I was without fear or always full of faith. I can fall into despair and depression just like anyone else. Sometimes I feel like I have so little to give to others, and that my family certainly gets my worst. If I were more godly, I would be sweeter, more patient, and more cheerful. I think we all go through times where we feel like we are not seeing or feeling the Lord with us. Our faith is a choice, especially during such times.

A couple of weeks ago, I was at church Sunday morning. Just as the service was beginning and the worship music started, I had to pray to the Lord to give me a worshipful attitude because I was feeling nothing. A minute later, a family moved into our pew, causing us all to make room.... and when I looked, it was the family of Ellie Potvin, a little girl who has been battling cancer for the last year and a half. Ellie had to stay home and away from germs, but her parents and twin sister were sitting next to us. It was a sudden a reminder to me of how blessed I am. So very blessed. No matter what I think I lack, I have so much for which to be thankful. Amy, Ellie's mom, is trying to be strong and hold everyone together. But as I hugged her after the service and told her I am praying for them, she just dissolved into tears in my arms.

We have taken meals to the Potvin family a number of times in the last year, my kids going with me. The Potvins have welcomed us into their home, people they don't even know, with warmth and grace and joy, introducing their 5 puppies to the kids. Once, when we dropped off dinner, no one was home and we had to leave it in the cooler on the porch. As we headed to our van, my kids skipped down the porch steps and on ahead.... and it was as if I felt a sudden, hard blow to my chest, watching my three, healthy children skip away, knowing that the mother in that home had a child who was gravely ill. It was indeed humbling.

Just this week, the Potvins learned that Ellie, who turned 8 at the end of October, has been given just 4 weeks. Ellie is about to undergo aggressive chemo and many, many prayers are going up for her healing. I cannot imagine what that family is going through. But I can see how the Lord has used this situation to bring them all into His embrace. It is His strength that carries them.

When I pull myself out of my self-centered focus, I see so many needs, so much to pray for. My heart breaks for the Potvins, and for many others who have had a tougher 2009 than I have. I feel helpless. All I can do is pray. So I pray...
  • For Ellie Potvin, her parents Tim & Amy, and twin sister Grace
  • For my sweet, godly friend who is struggling to balance homeschooling four children with caring for her aging mother as she falls deeper and deeper into alzheimers
  • For a friend who tragically lost her sister, and is now raising her young niece and nephew along with her two young children
  • For a family we love and adore who are being ripped apart by infidelity
  • For a family whose husband and father is fighting cancer
  • For friends who are waiting and hoping for children to join their families
  • For those who are in constant pain
  • For those who in financial distress and seeking employment
  • For so many other needs
Something that encourages me in dark times came to me during our Good Friday service in 2008. As I sat through that service, the reality of what the disciples saw and felt suddenly hit me in a fresh and powerful way. For them, it was a time of disappointment, disallusionment, grief, despair, and darkness. All their hope seemed for nothing. But in that darkness, God was doing His greatest work of all: securing our salvation through Christ Jesus. So when I am in a dark time, I try to remember that even if I am not seeing the Lord at work, He IS there, He is working, and He is GOOD. The resurrection is coming! Blessings to you in 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Baby Boy is 13!!!

It seems like just yesterday that I was holding my new baby boy, the answer to my prayers, and marveling over this beautiful child that the Lord had blessed Gil and I with. We have watched Zachary grow through the years into a responsible, trustworthy, brilliant young man. We are so proud of him! We are so thankful for him! Happy Birthday Zac!!! We love you SO much!!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pecan Tarts

Long ago, I found little mini-muffin pans at a store for a dollar each! I snapped up six of them. While I use them to make mini-muffins, mini-quiche, and to sort my vitamins, my favorite thing to use them for is to bake Pecan Tarts! These are a Christmas cookie tradition in our house.

The recipe is pretty simple, but they do take a bit of time. They are very much worth the extra effort, though! All you need is:
  • pie dough, enough for a double-crust pie (this will make about 4 dozen)
  • pecans, about 1.5 cups
  • just 1/3 of a recipe of pecan pie filling (I follow the recipe on the back of the corn syrup bottle, dividing everything by 3)
  • mini muffin tins
  • a just-the-right-size cookie cutter is very helpful, mine is just under 3" wide

First, make pie dough and chill, unless you are using store-bought dough. Next, mix up the pecan pie filling, using just 1/3 of each ingredient (I'll give you my measurements at the end!). I mix this little amount in a measuring cup to make it easy to fill the shells later.

Now for the fun! Roll out about half of the pie dough and cut into circles that will fit into your mini muffin pans. My cookie cutter has a nice scallop that make my little tarts look so cute! I also use this little wooden tamper tool I got from Pampered Chef several years ago. It makes the process of getting the dough to sit just right in the pan so much easier.

After all the pie dough is in the pans, put about a teaspoon or less in the bottom of each shell. (You will have filling left over.) I find that tipping the measuring cup slightly, but using a spoon to push a little bit of the liquid filling over the edge into the pie shell works well for me. Spooning into the shells can be messy. And pouring the filling will probably result in way too much. So helping it over the edge with a spoon gives more control over how much goes into the pie shell.

Place 2-3 pecan halves in each shell (more if your pans are bigger than mine). Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees. Keep close watch on them so they don't burn! You do want them to be nicely browned.

Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then take the Pecan Tarts out of the pans and let them cool further on the wire rack.

If too much filling was used, the little pies may be stuck to the pan, seemingly forever. I have had this happen, and ended up turning all my cute little pies into crumbs trying to get them out. But, I have since figured out a trick... place each pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then the tarts should pop out just fine.

Don't they look good? Each one is about two bites, and not as sweet as traditional pecan pie. These are supposed to go with me tonight to a cookie exchange! If they make it there, I will have to make another recipe of them before Christmas. We love them!

Here is the recipe measurements for the filling:

  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract


  • 1 1/2 cups pecans
  • 1 recipe of pie dough

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Christmas Tour!

I am so not ready for Christmas.... this is going to be a wild week of preparation around here. I have cards to design & order & address, baking to do, gifts to buy, presents to wrap, packages to mail, and more! BUT I have been enjoying our decorations for two weeks, now. My husband and children insist upon having our tree up Thanksgiving weekend. So far this Christmas season I have been a total "Mary" and just basking in the glow of the Christmas tree lights! This week, however, I am going to have to kick into "Martha" mode and tackle the Christmas To Do List! In the meantime, come on in... I will show you around!

Here is our Christmas tree in the family room. I use our formal living room as my office area and part of my workshop, so all of our life happens in this family room and the kitchen! I cannot capture the beauty and magic of our Christmas decor in photographs... but really, they are so lovely in person! (And if you click on the image below, it will enlarge, and you can see one of my favorite things, there on the wall. It is a Mary Engelbreit pie plate that says "Bless this Home". It was a gift from my sweet friend Robin from Colorado... one of my best friends ever!!! I get to think of her everytime I see it!)

I always start my tree decorating with white lights, white beads and white bows. (I have actually tied the same bows on my tree every year for 20 years!) I then add a lot of dark red and some gold ball ornaments. After those basics are completed, out come the assorted ornaments. This year, I let the kids complete the tree decorating. Since we have enough ornaments for two trees, it is quite full of pretty pretties. Many are very bunched together, on top of each other, even. But, you know what? I love it! It is so not perfect, but it is our best tree ever. And I love that the kids made it that way.

When my mother retired, she became a quilter. For my birthday in 2000 her 8th quilt was this beautiful tree skirt she made for me (I love that she labels all her quilts!). I am proud to have it under my tree. And, we do see it for much of the Christmas season... especially these last few, leaner years!

Here is a peek at a few of my favorite ornaments. This one is my very, very favorite, and is from my childhood tree. My mother said it was a gift from my German babysitter, Frau Grau, when I was three years old! We were living in Germany at the time, and my brother was a baby. It is a teeny, tiny Nativity. We always loved that a little tree light would fit into the little hole in the back to have light fall on baby Jesus! Yes, this ornament is almost as old as I am.

I found these little papa and mama bear dolls at a sweet little shop one year, long ago. I have always loved them. I put them in a prominent spot to signify Gil & I. Right next to them, is an ornament commemorating our first Christmas together! I met Gil on New Year's Eve 1995... In 1996 we had our first date, got married, celebrated our first Christmas, and then on December 28th, welcomed Zachary into the world! It was a very good year.

We rearranged the family room to make room for the tree. The kitchen table is over to the right, in front of that window.

And here is a view from the kitchen! I just love my Nesterfied garland on the mantle! I used the same garland last year, too!

Again, I cannot even begin to capture it's beauty, but it is two garlands put together, with white lights and other greenery stuffed in. I have fake poinsettias and feathers in the two corners. I love adding bows, too!

This year, I took other relics from my childhood and added them to the garland... I have these old cookie cutters that are so beautiful. Last year I had the bright idea to use them as ornaments on our tree. But this year I thought it would be more fun to highlight the collection all in one place and put them on the garland!

Here is my last stop on the tour today... a happy little corner of my kitchen counter! I am just loving that in addition to celebrating Christ and His glorious birth, Christmas is an opportunity to reflect on family memories. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Tour of Homes with The Nester

I am so excited to particpate in The Nester's Christmas Tour of homes! Click on her button above to see more "tour" homes and Christmas ideas.

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the Season...

Merry Christmas! I know I have been missing from my blog for quite a while. I have no excuse really... I really do admire those bloggers who post so faithfully and share every little detail of life. I do long to be so transparent. I guess when I get busy, stressed, worried, and unfocused, I tend to isolate myself. And here I have a perfect, supportive outlet I could be utilizing!

We do have our home decorated for Christmas! That is done. My husband (and my kids, too!) insist that we decorate as soon as Thanksgiving is over. I will enjoy sharing our decorations with you as part of the The Nester's Christmas Tour of Homes on Monday! I have a pretty button over on my sidebar that will take you right to the list of all the wonderful bloggers also participating!

As far as other Christmas preparations.... essentially I have nothing done, except for a couple of short lists created. I am heading out later today to do my food shopping. We don't have a Christmas photo of our family, no Christmas card design yet, not one gift purchased, and really, no plans to make anything unless I get inspired very quickly! Did Christmas sneak up on anyone else?!? I am not really stressed about it -- yet. But I realize I have two weeks, and probably, lots and lots to accomplish.

So what did my husband and I decide yesterday morning? We should plan a Christmas party!!! So that adds a couple extra things to my list... I designed the invitations last night and they were uploaded for printing this morning, as well as emailed out. Please come if you can!!!

I also had another divine inspiration yesterday. Allowance for my kids just has not been in our budget for a while, so they are in need of shopping money. So we are offering our services and holding "Parents Day/Night Out" times! Our friends can drop off their little ones and our 3 wonderful children will play games, do crafts, and have snacks for them. (I'll will be here too, of course!) 12/17, 3-8pm 12/18, 3-9pm 12/21, 10am-8pm 12/22, 10am-4pm! Donations accepted, and RSVP's needed!

I want to share this beautiful project I am working on! I was commissioned to create a wedding album. I am loving all these gorgeous photos I have been playing with. I am ready to upload the proofs for approval, then will get page prints made that will be put into a scrapbook album for my client. I love that with digital scrapbooking, you aren't confined... sometimes I have hardcover books printed, and sometimes I print individual pages that go in traditional albums! this project is using our new Black & White Power Palette. I am loving the designs!

Below is a detail from this page that I just love and have to show off!!! The bride wanted Ruth 1:16 in her book. StoryBook Creator Plus 3.0 has this wonderful feature that lets me easily place text "along a path". If you click on the picture, it should give you an even closer view of how I had the verse wrap around the circular photo and across the page! This was my very first attempt to use this new feature! I am so excited at how it turned out!

Have a great day! How are your Christmas preparations going?
Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin