Got Resolutions? You’ll Want To Sign Up For This!

Tis the season to make resolutions. Or take on some major changes. Get healthy, lose weight, get organized, grow spiritually–we all have those areas where we know we need to do better.

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Get the new year off to a healthy start!

I’m an affiliate for Modern Alternative Mama and will receive a commission for anyone who signs up through my links. Thanks for your support!

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For Rest’s Sake

I hope you had a very wonderful Christmas! It was most definitely a good, full season for us. I kept myself pretty busy right up until Christmas eve with preparations both at home and church. It all went really well and I certainly consider it time well spent.

However…this lady was a bit tired when it was all said and done. I sort of liken the holiday season as a marathon of sorts, and when it’s all over, you’re ready for a little rest.

And rest I did.

In what my husband referred to as an uncharacteristic move, I actually snoozed on the couch a bit late Christmas morning. I had gotten up early to work on a little breakfast prep, had coffee with my husband, unwrapped presents with the kids–and while everyone was happily playing, I napped.

But that wasn’t the end of it. No. The next day, I burrowed into my nest on the couch with some reading material, a pot of tea, a pillow and blankets and rested and napped some more. Heavenly!

rest readsMy afternoon reading. Abby’s Little House Cookbook (a gift) and my Backwoods Home Magazine.

My husband had a couple extra days off, and since we didn’t really have a vacation this year, we declared it to be our “staycation” and reveled in a little much needed laziness.

In the days since, I did drag myself off the couch to clean and bake and sweep up a multitude of pine needles (the curse of the real tree). I’ve avoided the computer for the most part and spent a little time outdoors.

Have you rested yet?

I’d bet that you ran around like a crazy person in December too. Your family might have even struggled with some illnesses that left everyone tapped out. Have you given yourself permission for a little extra R&R? Because we all need to give our bodies time to recharge and recoup.

Once upon a time, I could go, go, go and go some more and not really feel any worse for wear. But recently, I’ve begun to realize that I need to pay attention to my body, both physically and emotionally for signs that I’m wearing thin. And I’m learning to give myself permission to be slothful every now and then–to avoid exhaustion and illness and burnout.

Hopefully, sometime between Christmas and the return to routines in January, you’ve been able to find some down time. If not, make it happen!

Grab a book, draw a bath, or go for a stroll…Give yourself some time to put your mind and body at rest.

How have you decompressed from all the holiday frenzy?


The First Christmas Song

A few years ago, while planning for our church’s Christmas choir. I listened to a song that has become a seasonal favorite for our congregation. The choir sang it that year, and we’ve all sang it together every year after.

Whenever I’m on the hunt for music, I’m all about the lyrics. I want to give our congregation rich words of truth to sing back to God. And if those words come straight out of Scripture–even better.

Maybe that’s why we love this song. It’s the first Christmas song. Recorded today by Chris Tomlin, but sung for the very first time by Mary herself, before Jesus was even born. It’s one of those spontaneous eruptions of worship recorded for us in the Bible. Where the gratitude and awe over God’s work welled up in her and spilled out in words that still bless us today.

Never had she felt so blessed–so full of the favor of God.

And Mary said:

My soul magnifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful of the humble state
of His servant.
From now on, all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me–
holy is His Name.
His mercy extends to those who fear Him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with His arm,
He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped His servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as He promised our ancestors.     Luke 1:46-55

And as my pastor pointed out this week, we who know Christ are also full of the favor of God. The mystery of the gospel, “Christ IN you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27)

So we can sing Mary’s song too! Praying that we will all magnify the Lord this Christmas. And that our souls will rejoice in God our Savior–for He has done great things for us!

Merry Christmas!


Our Favorite Christmas Eats

What is it about food and the holidays? Is it wrong that I’ve been looking forward to our Christmas Eve little buffet about as much as Christmas Eve itself? There’s just something about food you only eat once a year mixed with all the fun, family and memories that makes the meal even tastier.

So this weekend, I made some last minute prep for our family’s Christmas eating traditions.

Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve, we attend our church’s candlelight service, and then head over to my parents where we meet up with my brother and his family. This is a relatively new tradition for us. We used to try to cram everything in on Christmas day. But with lots of other local family to visit, it seemed like the kids were exhausted and cranky by the time my parents got to be with them.

I help my mom with a light-ish Christmas Eve finger food dinner. Crackers, dips, cheeses, olives, meats, veggies and usually meatballs and sauce or sausage and peppers. This year, our Aldi store was full of great options (even Kerrygold cheese!) and I’ve loaded up.

For some reason, we’re big fans of finger food. And dips. Love me some dips. Here’s some of our favorites:

Christmas Breakfast

We join my husband’s family for dinner on Christmas day. But for the last few years, we’ve had a leisurely morning with a yummy breakfast. This year I’m in the mood for quiche.

Mmm. Spinach and bacon and cheese and eggs all cozied up in a salty, flaky crust. For Christmas, I think I’ll add some diced red pepper to make it more festive. Want the recipe? Click on over here. I finally added it to the recipe page.

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To that we’ll add some sausage patties (cause my husband’s only request was meat) some cranberry scones and some peppermint hot chocolate. Can’t wait!

And for my final baking project, I’ll be making a chocolate cheesecake topped with ganache and crushed candy canes. This recipe is one I’ve used for years, with addition of the ganache on top (mostly to cover the cracks, but also, because it’s more chocolate!)

Last minute prep is under way. I’ve got a few more food gifts to make and wrapping to do. And I think I may be getting as giddy as the kids 🙂

What’s on the menu for your Christmas celebrations?


Holiday Movie Night

holiday movie

Been running like mad to finish up all your Christmas prep? Need some family time this weekend? Why not have a Family Movie Night–Christmas style!

Join me over at Modern Alternative Mama this month to see our favorite holiday flicks and share yours as well!


Homeschool Check Up

We’re in the home stretch! The last final days before Christmas break for our homeschool. In the past, we’ve tended to keep things pretty light at this point in the year. But with older kids comes more demanding work, so we’re still in the thick of algebra, the Constitution, and finishing papers up before the holidays.

Sometimes I feel like I’m constantly sizing up how we’re doing, what’s working. But I tend to do it even more so while we take a couple weeks off.

What’s Working

Our history studies! If you would have told me, when I started homeschooling, that I would be SO into history, I might have laughed at you. I like it now that I’m teaching it. But I never learned much of it in school myself. Never had any teachers that really taught it well.

But this year we are heavy on history. American history. And I have to say that I really do feel a sort of urgency about this. Teaching our kids the founding principles, the great heroes of our nation. So we’re reading the Declaration of Independence, the biography of George Washington, and the famous quotations of those founding fathers. Our focus for most of this semester has been the Revolutionary War.

We’re finishing these history pockets.

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Abby and Wyatt are working through their respective curriculums, completing different writing assignments and doing really well! Ella is listening along and coloring Colonial American Life pages for her own little book.

And we’re all enjoying the Drive Thru History, American History series that I’ve mentioned before. (Next semester, I need to get the second volume.)

Math. Abby and Wyatt are plodding along through their Math-U-See books. It’s definitely a little slower going for the Algebra I. But I suppose that’s to be expected.

Literature. We just finished Reading Tom Sawyer together about a week ago. I had never read it before. I really loved it! (And the kids did too.) Wyatt is pressing me to read Huckleberry Finn next.

Things That Need Some Tweaking

Ella’s phonics. Ella is reading like a champ! I’ve got to say that teaching your child to read has to be one of the most rewarding things out there. But I wouldn’t claim that her phonics workbook has been all that helpful in this department. And where I started out really liking the supplemental spelling program, now I feel like the work has jumped ahead, much too hard, and skipped some intermediate steps.

So this is what I’ve decided to do. I like the progression of skills in her Abeka readers (left over from Wyatt’s brief attendance at a local private school). I’ve found some sites that I’m using to print off practice pages for those skills every week. Then for spelling, we’re taking whatever skills were introduced the previous week and using some of those words, along with a sight word or two. Next semester I’ll add in days of the week and months of the year and stuff like that.

Here’s some sites I’m using:

I’m hoping with this adjustment, she’ll continue to progress and we (hopefully) won’t miss any important things along the way. I’m still going to use our original phonics book, but we’ll be choosing activities that follow her reader a bit closer.

Ella’s math. The girl is working hard on math. But for some reason, memorizing addition facts is coming VERY slowly for her. I’ve tried just about everything I can thing of. Part of my problem is that I haven’t quite figured out her learning style yet, so it’s difficult to zone in on one technique that might help most.

So, in a desperate attempt to find something that would help, I ordered this last week.

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She’s been working with it a lot. I’m hoping that the sheer repetition will give her the boost she needs.

Science. And the last subject I want to tweak next semester is science. Both Abby and Wyatt are working through their different books just fine. But I’m missing the activities and experiments we did together in previous years. It’s tougher this year, since they are both in different books, to keep up with those things. Beginning in January, though, I’ve resolved to work with each of them once a week on their science and do one of the suggested experiments together.

I’m sure I’ll sit down after all the Christmas festivities and try to map out the second half of the school year a bit more. One of the great things about homeschooling is the option to constantly shape your children’s education to what’s important to your family, and what works best for each child. I am finding that keeping up with 3 kids in completely different curriculums requires me to be on top of things more than ever. I believe some extra organization is in order for the coming year!

I’ll let you know what I figure out–but please–share what’s working for you, too!

How’s the school year going at your place?


Our Favorite Christmas Cookies (gluten/dairy free options)

christmas cookies

Today, the first batch of Christmas cookies finally came out of the oven. We’ll start the season with our family’s favorite sugar cookie recipe. I like to use my cookie gun to shoot out little pine tree shapes in rapid fire succession. And we threw in a few stars. Later this month, I’ll probably give my kids a blob of dough and some large holiday cookie cutters and let them go to town, but the cookie gun is my favorite.

We make two versions of most our Christmas cookies. Gluten/dairy free for my daughter and flour/butter for everyone else. Most of the year, I just make the allergy friendly ones for everyone. But we may or may not eat a lot more cookies at Christmas (sheepish grin) and quite honestly, it saves me a bit of cash to not make all of them with the expensive GF flours.

In case you’re in the market for a gf/df sugar cookie recipe, or a new wheat version, give these a try. They’re SO GOOD. And simple to boot.

Here’s the recipe as posted on the recipe page.

I suppose there’s nothing all that “healthy” about these cookies.  But really, they’re cookies.  Since I make almost all my family’s treats with honey, I don’t feel too bad about a sugar cookie around the holidays. To up the nutrition a little, you can use whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour in place of the standard all purpose flour. And sub out the white sugar for sucanat or evaporated cane juice.

But however you make them, you’ll love ’em!

2 1/2 cups flour (for gluten free use 2 1/2 cup gf mix + tsp xantham gum or 1 cup rice flour, 1 cup millet flour and 1/2 cup tapioca flour + 1 tsp xantham gum)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup butter, room temperature–use salted butter for an extra buttery tasting cookie (or palm shortening for dairy free)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temp.
1 tsp vanilla
 
Cream together sugar and butter in your mixer. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix until blended. (Don’t over mix–you’ll get tough cookies.) 
 
If you’re planning on rolling this dough, it’s best to refrigerate it for 30 minutes or so. This dough also works great in a cookie gun. Shape however you desire, sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar (unless you plan on icing them) and bake in 400 degree oven until they just start to brown lightly around the edges. 
 

Other Christmas Cookie Favorites

Last year, as an alternative to refined grains and sugar, we made a few batches of these Flourless Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies. Since Ella can’t do peanuts, we made ours with almond butter and large semi-sweet chocolate chips for a dairy free “kiss.” You can sub the brown sugar for sucanat or coconut or palm sugar. They were super yummy and I was thrilled to give my allergic little girl a taste of a classic cookie.

And perhaps the family favorite is the gingerbread man. I actually can’t share the recipe with you. Sorry. It’s the family recipe of my friend’s MIL. We use our gingerbread men and women cutters and the kids go to town drawing on bow ties and aprons and buttons and hair with a simple white icing. I’m hoping to get to those this weekend.

So I’m curious to know…

What are you family’s favorite Christmas cookies?

Bloggers feel free to share your recipe links in the comments!