What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow. ~ Martin Luther

Monday, December 30, 2013

On the 5th Day of Christmas


...we had the Newman side of the family Christmas.

Whooooooo-weeeeee.

Now that all the Christmas gift exchanges are through (except a few little treats from Mama here and there for the 12 Days of Christmas), we are left with what comes AFTER:  The house is totally trashed right about now and I am feeling the overwhelming urge to purge, purge, purge (this, after the children already chose three toys each to donate to Salvation Army BEFORE Christmas-a tradition of ours.)

Nobody stop by unexpectedly in the next day or two.  Or do, but I can't guarantee you a place to walk  ;-)

On the 4th Day of Christmas...


 
 


....some of us went on a road trip to see my Opa.  
(Andrew stayed home with Papa and did manly things.) 

It was an exhausting day filled with hours and hours of driving- but it was a good one, too.

Friday, December 27, 2013

On the 2nd day of Christmas...

 
 





...we nestled in under blankets and read Christmas stories by sparklelight until everyone had become quite sleepy and Papa had fallen fast asleep.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Eve and the 1st day of Christmas



Last weekend, when I should have been finishing up on handmade gifts and doing prep work for the Christmas Eve shindig, instead I chose to be taping doorways and making streaks of paint down dining room walls.

I can't say I *love* the color...I had paint cards on the wall for ages, but the actual 'picking' of a color happened within five desperate minutes at the paint counter at Lowe's.  I love the color in theory but several rooms downstairs are some shade of robin's egg or another and I think it may be just a bit much.  Thinking back I should have gone with my gut and painted it a silvery/light gray instead of a light blue...but it will do.  Seeings how I hate painting so much- it will probably 'do' for the next twenty years or so, knowing me.  I can absolutely, without-a-doubt say I am happy to be rid of the brown stripes though.  Boy, did they bother me.  I much prefer the crisp and clean look myself.  Stripes, begone!
BEFORE

Though admittedly, something must be done with that great big wall once the snowflakes come down.  It is very stark.  Very stark, indeed...which I never really noticed with the stripes.



 

I reined myself in on every temptation to buy flowers for Christmas Eve hosting- oh boy, was that tempting.  Instead I gathered branches and boughs and tucked the fronds here, fronds there.  The children made snowflakes from pasta and popsicle sticks- Adele' was most intent on this- making four more than anyone else.  We spray painted them silver with our leftover spray paint and with them, a few branches for a vase in the kitchen.  That was the extent of our decorating.



I tried to do too much and as is often the case when I try to do too many things at once~ some of the rolls burned on bottom, the fudge didn't set well, the cheesecake was a bit clumpy and during the lasagna baking, some of the pan dripped onto the bottom of the oven, making the delicious smell of burning liquid turning to charcoal waft through the entire house and giving the air a sort-of almost flaming ambiance for our houseful of guests.  It was truly a magnificent experience.



notice the haze in which this picture is taken...and the open door in the kitchen.  My shame knows no bounds.

I am almost always impressed with the great degree and extent to which I fail.  When I fail, I want to do so as flamboyantly and as miserably as possible.  Success!



The next morning, having stayed up the night before until after midnight, Matt and I were very distressed to hear eager chatter and frittering going on downstairs at 4:30am.  And like good parents, we tried to ignore it.  It only earned us an hour or so more before we could not pretend to sleep any longer. The children had waited to open their stockings until we came down~ which endeared them to me even further.  Sweetlings.








 Christmas was overwhelmingly beautiful, with children proudly and anxiously passing along gifts to us and each other with those wonderful grins and snowflakes dancing from heaven and a spoiled Mama and a husband who oozes love and a Boy, given to earth...the Light of the World.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas to you!


The annual Christmas letter~ posted here for posterity and to wish all of you wonderful blog readers a joyous Christmas!  Thank you for sharing in the little moments of our lives that form and stretch and grow us.  It's been a beautiful year. 

Merry Christmas!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~



Greetings from Hopestead!

I had the hardest time trying to come up with something to write about in this years’ Christmas letter- but I muddled through somehow knowing in my heart of hearts that Christmas just wouldn’t be the same for you without a proper update from us.  (rolls eyes)   So, here is what we’ve been up to (in a nutshell):
Matt: Drove more than 40,000 miles this year for work.  Tore down part of the old chicken coop before it fell down. Fixed up the part that remained.  Sawed up a bunch of boards from our own logs.  Painted the milkhouse.  Has the most gorgeous, mischievous twinkle in his eyes. *swoon* Re-sided and repaired barn.  Laid down all new flooring in cow barn.  Made a countertop for the kitchen.  Tackled children every Saturday morning as they woke up and came downstairs.  Dug up the old Silo and put gravel in its’ place.  Split firewood.  Bred our Jersey cow.  Sold logs felled by pipeline going through.  Made Rebecca laugh hysterically too often to count.  Works incredibly hard for his family.
Rebecca: Made 6,570 plates of food (give or take.).  Began homeschooling THREE children this year.  Worked a large garden this summer.  Canned up nearly 100 quarts of tomato products alone.  Added some berry bushes to the place and a few filbert trees, along with plenty of perennials shared by neighbors and an asparagus bed!  Went to the emergency room (TWICE) and felt like a dork when it WASN’T a heart attack (but was thankful it wasn’t!). Opened an Etsy shop to sell photo calendars, postcards, and other various handmade goodies.   Counted every day that Judah stayed alive a huge success.  Had several photography sessions, including two weddings.  Cried plenty.  Laughed more.  (see: Matt)
Corynn: Turned TEN this year!  Rollerbladed miles this summer.  Biked many more.  Visited neighbors as often as she was allowed.  Learned to crochet. Went to New York City and Radio City Music Hall.  Has perfect ringlet curls after her hair gets wet.   Is a voracious reader and a lover of books. Still struggles with certain times tables.    Wants to learn to play piano.  Enjoyed taking care of the miniature horse we were given this year named Skeeter.
Andrew:  Turned 7 this year!  Went to Radio City Music Hall and New York City with Corynn (and Grandma & Grandpa).  Plays with Playmobil daily.  Relates everything in life to cows.  Referenced cows in conversation approximately a dozen times a day.  (That would be about 4,380 times this year…but who’s counting?)   Had a bout of Lyme’s Disease that was, thankfully, taken care of before it escalated further.  Fishing with our neighbor was the highlight of his summer.  Is over the moon excited about our Jersey cow “Penny” giving birth this summer. (And doesn’t stop talking about it.)
Adele’: Turned 5 this year!  Loves to help me cook, especially on Pizza night.  Began speaking more clearly and maturely this year.  Colors often.  Draws mermaids and princesses with eyelashes and crowns.  Loves homeschooling.  Her hair still doesn’t grow but her arms and legs have!  Has the most awesome laugh imaginable.
Judah:  Turned 3 in September.  Shoved playdoh up his nose in order to have a beard like Papa.  (Playdoh up nose does NOT equal a beard in my book, but hey- I am not three.)  Colored his face with permanent marker for the same reason.  Climbed out onto the roof...TWICE. (See: Rebecca)  Wears bigger shoes than Adele’ (and weighs five pounds more).  Wears big boy undies now!  (Hallelujah!)  Helps cleanup at church more enthusiastically than some teenagers.  Is obsessed with pocketknives and excavators.  And when I say obsessed…I mean OBSESSED.  Melts his Mama’s heart when he isn’t driving her crazy.

I am incredibly thankful for these children and this husband and these busy, infuriating, precious days.  I know that this new year ahead of us will be just as full of trials and triumphs as the year passed, but I pray that we will continue to fix our eyes upon the Lord through it all and count it all JOY.
May it be so with you as well. 
Merry Christmas to you and yours~
from Me and mine.
Rebecca, Matt, Corynn, Andrew, Adele’ and Judah

Friday, December 20, 2013

FInances on Fridays continues...

         I never would have guessed how many people were interested in hearing me prattle on about silly things like washing Ziploc bags and shoving money in envelopes each week until I suggested stopping weekly financial posts last week!   I was not only happy to hear from you but happy to know I haven't been BORING YOU TO DEATH.  It seems to me, as long as some of you find it worthwhile, I will continue to post financial bits on Fridays.  Thank you for the feedback and encouragement, as always- I love it.  LOVE it. 
 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Because we are hosting Christmas Eve next week for my side of the family (about 20-25 people in total), and hosting always costs money (especially for me because my temptation is to always go overboard when hosting things)  I am thinking about ways to cut back costs while still getting the house spiffy looking and offering delicious foods.

One of the best way to make a house sparkle before a party is not to buy sparkly things (my temptation) but to CLEAN it until it sparkles.  So giving it a good cleaning will be first order of business.



Here are a few other ideas to make things frugally festive for the Christmas Eve party I have come up with:

~ wash up glasses I got at a yard sale last year instead of buying disposable cups. Make some colored jingle bell goblet hoops to distinguish the cups. 
~ use real silverware instead of plastic
~ use regular plates for meal.  Plain paper plates for snacks.
~ re-cover a nasty, stained pillow for the wooden rocking chair
~ use candles (in canning jars?) outside instead of Christmas lights (can't string lights outside this year because the plug went bad last year.  *sniff*)  This may or may not happen, since the party starts at 2 oclock...still daylight.
~ wash throw pillow covers for living room until they shine.  Refrain from buying new ones even though the old ones are old and flat.  ;-)
~ make snowflakes with pasta and popsicle sticks and spray paint with leftover spray paint.  (A good craft for kiddos and a great decoration for food table.)
~ The meal will be lasagna and homemade bread.  These are cheap things to make and can be made ahead of time.  I am splurging on a few appetizers and desserts though.  Cheesecake, anyone?!  ;-)




A few financial efforts of the week:

~ used last of Adele's birthday cake icing to frost (in neon blue) a batch of cinnamon rolls.  They weren't the MOST appetizing looking things in the world but...the dough was leftover from last weeks' pizza night and the icing was getting pretty old so I used up two things that could have gone bad in the fridge with one yummy breakfast.

~  I made a batch of banana bread and a batch of banana muffins using up over-ripe bananas before it was too late.

~ made a double batch of homemade yogurt
 

~ used up the last (and stale-ish) marble bread slices atop homemade French Onion Soup for lunch one day.

~ Made more homemade gifts using supplies I had on hand: a neckwarmer for Andrew, a drawstring farm play mat, a winter bonnet with scarf for Adele', felted mittens for Judah, a baby backpack.

~ Matt did a few more things in Santa's workshop too.  (Shhhh!)

 

~ Matt put plastic over some of the coldest windows.

~ The dryer began to stink last week when I was running it and we discovered the plug was a bit melted.  This freaked us out a bit (naturally) and so the dryer is out of commission until we figure out what exactly to do.  I have been drying ALL our clothes on nails down cellar or on the curtain rods in the laundry room ever since.  It has been interesting.  Especially when I had to change the sheets and quilts on Judah's bed this week!


~ Did some mending.this week even though I have been trying to hold off until after Christmas.  It was necessary.  Mended a pillow, a Christmas dress of Adele's, another dress of Adele's, a sweater, and two pairs of Matt's jeans.

~ Made a pillow cover for the nasty, stained pillow.  Made it with a velcro enclosure so it can be washed later. (Had a PERFECTLY sized remnant of white muslin to use and the PERFECT size of velcro to use too.  I *LOVE* it when that happens.) Wrapped it with a red ribbon I had bought at the end of the year Christmas clearance (for 90% off at JoAnns!).




~ Matt fixed dryer situation himself by replacing outlet.  (Handy man, he.)

~ was given a brand new comforter/shams/ bedskirt and valance that someone bought and then decided they didn't want (???).  I am much more a quilt girl myself so it is taking some getting used to having a shiny, cream comforter instead of lovely patches of cotton...but our bedroom is freezing cold and it IS nice and warm. So, for now, I guess I will keep it.  ;-)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Preparations


~PRETTY~

 

I unraveled this neckwarmer no less than seven times.  First the circle was twisted.  Then, after finishing it, it looked too big and ran out of the yarn remnant I had, then it was twisted, x2, x3, x4.  Etc. Etc.  Finally, I decided to make a rectangle and stitch it up.  I was ~HAPPY~ to be rid of it.  (And that is an understatement.)




Is this or is this not the COOLEST coat-rack IN THE WORLD?


 
"The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below."

~FUNNY~



Hopestead is Santa's Workshop Central, or so it seems these days.  Andrew is busy stitching up ornaments, Corynn is drawing up a storm, Adele is wondering when I will help HER make gifts.  (I am wondering too.)   Matt has made just about the coolest gifts in the world this year...but none are for me.  :-(  All of this, always- ALWAYS with Pandora crooning Christmas tunes in the background.  And quick quizzes from Corynn "Who is this, Mama?"

"Frank Sinatra"

"Yep."

I get it *almost* every time.  She's getting pretty good at distinguishing Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Michael Buble herself.

I am way backed up on showing you the gifts I have been making.  Maybe next year I should have a 'present-along' or something.  One of these days I will show you the rest...

I made 50 copies of our Christmas letter at the library.  (I hate not having a working printer.)  The librarian was shocked that I could possibly need that many.  Turns out, I need about 18 more.  Going today to get them printed.  Just wait 'til she hears. 

~Real~
This month I didn't follow the "Go uptown once a month" goal but I guess that is to be expected since Christmas is in 6 more days.  This is an extraordinary month.  Today I am going for grocery supplies for the different parties we are attending/hosting next week and for Christmas.  This will be separate from our monthly grocery trip because (while I keep telling myself NOT to go overboard!) I will still need a few special ingredients that will likely swallow up my normal food budget.  So I am going uptown today which is shocking because...

 yesterday Matt's parents took the children for the WHOLE DAY while I went out getting the last minute presents/stocking stuffers I needed and running a few errands.  Besides handmade gifts and a few online purchases, this was the only Christmas shopping trip I have done.  I couldn't really get any groceries at the same time because Matt met me uptown after work and we had a bit of a date to top off the evening.  After dinner, we went to Lowe's to get a new faucet for the sink and paint.

Matt hates plumbing.  He's been putting off the leaking sink for so long because he hates plumbing so much.  I hate painting.  I've been putting off covering up that horrible dining room wallpaper for so long because I hate painting so much.  But, I figure, if hosting Christmas Eve here wasn't impetus enough for me (and him!) to finally do it, nothing would be.  So I am going to be packing up the dining room and putting a fresh coat of merry & bright on it this weekend.  And I might just have a bright, shiny new faucet by Christmas too!

Two trips uptown in two days.  'Tis the season, I suppose.

 

round button chicken

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

SchoolhouseTeachers.com: A Review

 photo ST-Logo-v21_zpscd8f2982.jpg

I am super excited to be doing my first real review of the year for The Schoolhouse Review Crew and what a doozy it is!  I was given the opportunity to try out the yearly membership option to www.SchoolhouseTeachers.com.

www.SchoolhouseTeachers.com is a website chock full of extraordinary resources put out by expert teachers of innumerable subjects and interests that will support and encourage parent-led and self-directed family education.  The website offers innovative educational options for everyone within a family, from the littlest ones of the bunch to the biggest.    Since our family consists mostly of preschool and elementary aged learners, as I perused the website I stuck close to those categories mostly.  But (me being the nosy girl I am) I did pop on over to the middleschool/highschool age groups for a looksee at what SchoolhouseTeachers.com had to offer them and what I found was no less than 43 different topics of study!  Wowza.  Things like guitar lessons and filmmaking, French and chemistry, Classics-based writing and Sewing...really a whole gamut of goodness. (I fully intend to make use of some of those online learning opportunities myself this year!) 

The younger children were certainly not excluded though!  Twenty-eight different categories for the younger grades, many the same or similar to the older age-groups, just tweaked to accommodate a different maturity level.  There again I found guitar lessons and classical history, home economics, and art techniques but there were other unique electives such as a Tinker's club (where a motorized car is built!  How cool is that?!), literature kits and lapbooking, violin and even "Homegrown Preschool" activities. 

With older children doing "real school" consuming much of my day, at times I forget to include the younger children in a rich educational environment.  I'll be honest~ sometimes I just pray that they would find something quiet and productive to do (for once!) so the biggles and I can concentrate already!  Homegrown Preschool gave me a gentle nudge to be more intentional with Adele' and Judah by providing learning opportunities through play.  There was the suggestion to add glitter and peppermint oil to playdoh and then provide colored light pegs and Christmas tree cookie cutters to make decorated clay trees. This would provide little bodies with sensory fun, fine motor skills practice along with color sorting and counting.  There was the magical milk experiment for some fun science.  There was the idea of taping a square on the floor to help children learn to sweep.  There were plenty of books suggested for reading this month and even some crafty ideas to go with them.  These are just some of the brilliant ideas for preschoolers.

The older children and I took a look at the Art techniques for the month of December, specifically, Holiday Textures in Watercolor.   We first set up a still life of ornaments and drew a pencil drawing (lesson #1 offered great tips and strategies), we then painted them in watercolors using the different approaches in lesson #2, and this week's lesson is painting textures on top of hard and soft lines we painted last week.  We all very much enjoyed this activity and the hints we learned about using watercolors. 

One more thing I have to mention~ I loved the huge selection of DAILIES available.  These are special things that (wait for it....) are small, DAILY opportunities for education.  There is the daily grammar and sentence diagramming, the daily copywork, the daily math challenges and daily spelling words...and my personal favorite:  THIS DAY IN HISTORY.

This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this chock-full of goodness site.  The yearly membership option is  $139.00 and during the month of December they are running a buy one, get one sale...meaning you will have access to the site for a whole year and you can give a membership to a friend as well.  Or you and your pal could split the cost.  Just sayin'..  ;-)

Psssst!  Each membership comes with some extra perks too!

 photo schoolhouseextras_zps3a20c85f.jpg


To find out what other people are saying about SchoolhouseTeachers.com:

Click to read Crew Reviews

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Crew Disclaimer