Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Well, my kitchen is a wreck, cooking prep is complete, gifts are wrapped and awaiting placement under the tree.
From the Gayners, have a very Merry Christmas!
And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.        Luke 2:16-20 ESV

Friday, December 21, 2012


Just a few days to Christmas now. In my mind, I want our days leading up to Christmas to look something like this: 
 And this:
 And sometimes it does. But sometimes, it can also look like lots of laundry (at least it's clean)...
 ...and an unmade bed...
...because Christmas, just like any other time of year, can get messy.
Lately, I've been tempted to succumb to discouragement and weariness because Christmas isn't always peace and joy. Those things haven't been absent, but there's also been a fair amount of dashing about, frantic list-making and plan-plan-planning.
I'm realizing a little each day, though, that while things are a little crazy (and perhaps some of it is self-imposed?), it's another reminder that this is why we celebrate Christmas in the first place - that our world and our hearts are so very messy that we need Someone to come and set things right. This messiness is why Jesus endured birth in a stable (messy), life in a family (definitely messy), and death on a cross (horribly messy).
Slowly, I remember that my messes - both big and small - don't have to stay messy, but in the hands of the Redeemer, can be made beautiful.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My first Cookie Exchange!

Sunday night was my first cookie exchange! I'd seen the idea online and decided (almost last minute) that it would be such a fun thing to do.
The seven of us enjoyed cherry almond cookies, pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip, chocolate chip & pretzel, peanut butter reindeer, cookies & creme cookies, red velvet brownies, chocolate-covered saltines, and gingerbread.  So much yum.
Toby printed out a bunch of little number for each (kind of) cookie and some voting ballots for ladies to vote on best looking, most unique & overall favorite. They were so cute, and a much better job than I could have done! 
While each of the winners got a little something special, each lady was able to take home a little homemade ornament as a "thank you for coming". The pattern is here.
It was so much fun and definitely something I'd do again. Perhaps a new holiday tradition?
One thing's for sure - 6 dozen cookies don't go too far in this house...

Monday, December 17, 2012

More Car Seat Covers

Remember the car seat cover I made for Caleb? Well, it seems I'm not the only one who likes it, because requests have been made to cover other car seats. Since I have plenty of fabric to use, I'm happy to help. Here's another I made for one of Caleb's friends from church (and her mom).

 This one has some of my favorite fabric scraps in it, and is lined with a pink jersey material.
 This may be another way to give clueless strangers a good guess to the gender of your baby, saving embarrassment from them and irritation from you. (ahem)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Teacher gift idea

It's been our first year at our homeschool co-op, and I'm regularly amazed at what these amazing moms manage to accomplish for their own children and for mine, so I wanted to give them a small token of Gayner appreciation. But what can I do that is simple, inexpensive, homemade and not another baked item? Pinterest to the rescue!

I had pinned this recipe to make Crock Pot Lotion Bars ages ago, and when I saw how easy it was and how many it made, I knew this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try.

I was able to order everything I needed from Amazon, and the crock pot liners were from the supermarket. My cupcake tins are actually silicone, which means I didn't need the liners and they still popped right out!
 I went and bought some of these perfectly-sized containers from the dollar store (10 for $1)...
...wrapped them in clear cellophane wrapping paper and tied with a ribbon and a homemade label...
...and the job was done! In fact, it was even easier than that, since I had one kid wrap the containers, one kid tie the ribbon and one kid add the label. We totally rock the assembly-line production.

All the teachers loved their gifts, and I was so happy to be able to show our family's appreciation for them without killing myself with all the making. Success.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My little stars

Last night was our Homeschool Co-Op Presentation Night. I had singers, dancers, speakers and kids who just managed to contain themselves. It was so fun.

So proud of my bright, shining stars.

Caramel Cake

Like everyone else, I read Kathryn Stockett's The Help last year and loved it, followed by taking the Man to see the movie. Even he enjoyed it.
So, when I saw this recipe for "the" caramel cake, I had to give it a try.
One Sunday morning that saw Dan poorly enough to keep him home from church but not poorly enough to keep him in bed, we decided to surprise the rest of the troupe by having this for dessert.
 It's not a difficult recipe, but it is time consuming, since you're making your caramel sauce. As you can see, mine is a bit runnier lighter in color than it was supposed to be. I also had to make it in two layers, rather than three, as I am currently lacking a third cake pan.
Who cares, though? It was delicious. Everyone was so excited, especially when they found out that it was "famous". I hadn't thought about that, but it's true - how often do we eat food that's been featured in a movie?
A total aside - I love that face.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Toby decided to be a good friend to the birds this year by putting up a few bird feeders. It didn't take long before a couple feathered visitors told their buddies about all the free food, cause there has been so much avian activity! It's been great to see the nuthatches, juncos, woodpeckers, chickadees and titmouses (titmice?). Of course, the squirrels are turning up, too, which means we have a ball quietly creeping out to the deck, having a big ole' shout, and watching them jump a mile and scurry off. I'd be tempted to think that they would learn their lesson, but they don't seem to. No bother - we like the entertainment they provide.
None of us were quite prepared for this handsome fellow, though. I wouldn't have thought that he'd come to visit our feeders, though perhaps he had his eye on some of our visitors?
 We're not sure what kind of bird of prey he his, some kind of hawk, we're guessing. Regardless, it's always so cool seeing one perched up high, regally surveying his domain. Always gives me a thrill.

Monday, December 10, 2012

How it is

I may be the kind of mom that makes her kids eat oatmeal...
...but I'm also the kind of mom that lets them eat it with a scoop of ice cream.
I'm not all bad, then.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Shirt Smock

A good sturdy apron, really. whose pattern is found in this book.
 Perfect for all around coverage, and a nice big pocket for carrying around all the little tchotkies little girls "need". A single button fastening on the back means they can get it on and off pretty independently.
Two happy customers. Worth it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Meet "Emily"

You know your children have reached a new stage of creativity when they begin making things with no help at all!
With instructions from this book, Abigail made herself a sock doll:
 Yarn hair, button eyes and a drawn nose and mouth completes the face. The book suggests ways to embroider facial features, but I think Abi was keen to complete the project.
I have it on good authority that some sock-doll clothes are currently in the works...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Everyday Madness

I took all 6 kids food shopping last week. It's not as crazy as it sounds, though I wouldn't exactly call it a sane decision, either. First we went to Aldi, and we did fairly well. With one shopping cart for Dan, Ellie and Caleb in his car seat, all the food went into a second cart. There were a couple of hang ups at first, with taking up room and getting in other shoppers' way, and of course the spilling of sour cream on the floor, but we got into a pretty good groove. We were in and out in less than an hour. Not too shabby.
We had another stop to make at Giant, though, and this proved to be just that bit too much for them. No crying, screaming or temper tantrums - that's not our style. No, my kids go the other way - they make everything into a game, and not just a normal, don't-step-on-the-cracks kind of game, but a let's-race-down-the-aisles-and-hurdle-the-displays kind of game. Today, there was hiding in the shopping cart (not a successful game, as it happens), running and sliding down the aisle, and shooting boxes of sandwich bags into the cart (okay, so that was me).
Of course, once these games begin, it's hard to know where they end, so there was also climbing through the van, under and over the bench seats, not to mention a small biting episode (and not the child you'd think, either).
All that said, this crew of mine can really work well together. We got the shopping done, van unloaded and groceries put away with no bloodshed! Plus, fun was had. How often do I get to say that about a shopping trip? I call that a win.