Jacob's nativity story

Jacob and I spend a lot of time together talking about stories from the Bible, so I figured while I was home, I would read him the story of Jesus' birth from his childrens' Bible. Except his Bible was in the car, and I was cold and lazy, so instead, I told him the story using Mom's Boyds Bear nativity set.

Once I finished moving each piece around and telling him the whole story, Jacob wanted to tell me a story:

"The giants (he moves two tall nutcrackers closer to the nativity set) came to the city and said, 'Don't be afraid! I have good news - Jacob is born!' Isn't that a good story?"

I'll be home for Christmas

I watched Crossroads with Joss Stone and LeAnn Rimes a couple weeks ago, and since then I've been really into Joss Stone. I keep listening to her videos on Youtube while I'm working, and I'm not quite sure why.

Tomorrow morning I'm on my way home to Frederick for Christmas, so I've been finishing up all those last-minute things at home tonight. The last two trips I took, seemed incredibly organized - I was ready to go when I wanted to, and had everything that I needed to. Hopefully this one will be the same.

Two very good friends of mine are firefighters. I admire the work they do, and had you asked me earlier today if there job was dangerous, I would have said, "Of course." But today, a fire at a church in Old Towne Portsmouth reminded me just how true that is.

I heard about the fire at lunch, but as often happens when I get caught up in my own little world, I didn't even put it together that if there was a fire, especially of that size, there's a good chance Hannibal and/or Robbie was fighting it. It wasn't until I read Nick's blog entry, and then later talked to Heather, that I put it together.

In this case, Hannibal was one of a team of firefighters sent into the church, to see if the homeless that often sleep there had gotten out. While inside, they heard the building about to collapse around them, dropped their gear, and got out of there. He's fine, as is Robbie, who was fighting the fire on the next shift today.

Tomorrow I will drive to Frederick to spend the next several days in close quarters with people who can inspire more love and frustration in me than anyone else in my life. We'll celebrate family and each other, and the birth of a Savior who came into the muck of our world to pursue us. Somehow, it seems fitting that today, I'm reminded of just how fleeting life is.

Deck The Halls, part 3 (and done!)

Thanks for the get-well wishes, I'm feeling much better today! And just in time, too, as I'm driving to by parents' house the day after tomorrow.

Here's the last set of Christmas decorating pictures:

I wanted to do a little something in my bedroom, but I didn't want to spend a lot of money on it. I already had this tree, and don't really love the pot it's in (especially because I couldn't keep the tree straight), but I already had it. Maybe next year I'll look for something that's more appropriate to the theme of the room. I used ribbon I already had for the garland and made the ornaments - you can see more details below.

I bought these clear glass ornaments on sale from Michaels, then just added the sand and shells (both were on clearance). This room, once its completed, will have a beach theme, so I thought these were perfect.

This isn't the best photo, even though I lightened it, but this is my bathroom. I bought the snowman stocking holders from Garden Ridge last year and love them, but they're not strong enough to actually hold stockings if you put anything in them. (I found that out when one fell off the mantel and broke). In addition to decorating the window, I added silver bells to the shower curtain rod and bought of cute holiday towels. Next year, I'd love to do more with this room - adding garland, decorating the medicine cabinet mirror, and maybe hanging something from the stocking holders.

This is one of my favorite decorations, a gift from my friend Kate a few years ago. It hangs about the archway between the living room and dining room, and because I loved having something there so much, I ordered a custom sign from Etsy to hang there the rest of the year.

Deck The Halls, part 2

I've gotten sick the last two years at Christmas. Once a stomach virus hit late at night on Christmas Eve, and last year it was the day after Christmas. So, this year, when I start sniffling and my throat felt scratchy literally minutes after everyone left the party, my first thought was that at least I wasn't getting sick on Christmas, and at least it was after this weekend, because I had way too many things going on to be sick any early. Today, after my 2-hour nap in the middle of the day, it finally occurred to me that maybe I was sick because I had so many things going on this weekend.

I don't have a lot planned between now and Friday, when I leave to go home for the weekend, so I'm taking it easy - drinking hot cocoa to soothe my throat, chilling out in front of the TV. At some point, I'll put in White Christmas (my favorite Christmas movie) and have a marathon wrapping session, and I'll store up on alone time hanging out with my dogs until I go to the chaos that is my parents' house.

As promised, here are more pictures of my decorated house.

The window, decorated simply, though I think next year I'd like to add a big wreath in place of the star ornament, and maybe a garland across the top of the window. I love my curtains and the way they set the color scheme for the room. The dining room is, as a rule, my most complete room.

This is a shot of the table, all decked out for the party. The mini trees have lights on them, but they run on batteries and only last a few hours. I made the tablecloth out of curtains from Ikea - there are two matching ones that allow me to completely cover the table when its extended into a square (though, because the curtains are thin and the table is sensitive, I would still use placemats.

I normally store more glassware on these shelves (because I love collecting them), though most of the items were already on the table for the party. I normally have turquoise plates there with quotes, but bought the Christmas plates over Thanksgiving weekend this year. I loved them last year, so when I saw them on sale at Kohls, I went ahead and purchased them.

These are the other shelves, above the sideboard. I bought the wire basket on clearance at Ross a few weeks ago, and I love the way it looks filled with ornaments. For November, I filled it with plastic pumpkins and gourds that I had painted blue.

That's it for now!

Deck the Halls

The party was a great success, and I'm even (mostly) cleaned up. I think this is the first time I've been ready enough for a party that I could easily show off both my office/guest room and my bedroom. Next time, I need to remember to not just double my baked spinach dip recipe, but triple or quadruple it. But for now, I'm just curled up on the couch with the afghan my mom made me. Harvey is beside me (and under the afghan, just like she likes has to be under the covers of the bed at night, because she is a weird dog), and I'm munching on a bit of leftover party food and watching some no-name TV-movie-of-the-week.

Since I was planning to post pictures of my decorated house anyway, I thought I would participate in a little Christmas decorating blog tour.

Christmas Tour of Homes

Once the house was clean and decorated, I took some pictures to post over the next few days. Here are the first:

The front entry is pretty simple, though even this is more than I've done in the past. There are also candle lights, that you can't see, in each window across the front. Between those and the lights of the tree through the living room window, I really like the view when I pull into my driveway at night.

I love, love, love the way the living room is decorated. My tree is a collection of every ornament I have, and I love it that way. I don't need a pretty tree - I'd rather have it be full of memories. I've held back so far this year, and only have three new ornaments - an adorable reindeer one from the dollar store, Santa holding two dogs (to commemorate Harvey's first year with me), and one I made at our ladies' Christmas party.

I've used a lot more garlands this year - they just seem to finish things off, and are really easy to use. I still need to add photos to the stocking holders, and I bought them last year! I've got photos of the dogs picked out, I just need to print them.

Last year, I hung these stars on a red bead garland, but I love them on the pine garland even more.

This is one of my projects for this year - I printed each letter and cut them out on Christmas scrapbook paper I already had, using a rubber mat and Exacto knife. I used black and frameless frames that I already had, so the only real cost for the project was a few additional pieces of cardstock. My mom gave me all the pieces to the Nativity several years ago, but I think next year I need some kind of backdrop so it doesn't just blend in with shelves so much.

Another project - I found these white plates at a thrift store and glued the black buttons on. The scarf and Santa hat each came from the dollar store.

I'll post more pictures tomorrow, especially of my dining room (I really, really love how it turned out), but for now, here's my hot spinach dip recipe. Its from Pampered Chef, though I take shortcuts to make the whole process simpler. And I usually double this.

Hot Spinach Dip (or Hot Artichoke & Spinach Dip)

1 jar (6 oz) marinated artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped, optional
1 pkg (9-11 oz) frozen creamed spinach, thawed
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 small garlic glove, pressed or garlic powder
1/2 cup (2 oz) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375°F. Coarsely chop artichokes, if desired, and add to baking dish. Add spinach, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Add garlic and Parmesan cheese, and mix all ingredients together well. Bake 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

For Iris

There'll be parties for hosting...

Its Sunday right after church, and I just got home from our birthday party for Jesus. Ministry with kids is so interesting because, really, so much of what you do is just so corny. But, kids love corny, so that works. We had planned out the day really well, and still, I can't believe how smoothly everything went. Part of it was that we just had an amazing team of people helping - they were just so hands on and involved with the kids, which kept even the little ones involved.

Now, I'm switching mental gears to get ready for my Christmas party. I did a lot of cleaning yesterday, so things are pretty much in order. I'll just spend the next few hours cleaning the living room (the only one I saved to do today), baking, and then getting myself ready. I'm going to try (!) to leave the dogs inside (its cold and rainy outside), which means I need to be just that much more on top of things, so they're leashed and ready when everyone gets here.

So, I'm off to finish last minute preparations!

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style

Whenever I go into downtown Portsmouth, I think that maybe my next house should be there. I could buy a place that had a view of the water from a nice little rooftop garden (though I had better be independently wealthy or make very good friends who likes to garden for fun - and for free, because you know I just don't do that). And how fun it would be to call up a friend and say, let's meet for dinner, or a movie, or whatever, and then just walk there?

But my friend Heather says that all of the basements in Old Towne flood every time it rains, and that flood insurance is just really expensive, even if you can afford it. So, that makes me think buying a place there wouldn't be a really great idea, after all.

My neighborhood isn't very walkable - my walk score is only 42 out of 100. And this is actually very deceptive, because even the places you could walk to, you wouldn't want to, trust me. But some day I'd love to live in a walkable neighborhood.

Welcome to our world

I can't believe its been over a week since I last posted anything.

Yesterday, during worship at church, I read (aloud) an excerpt from Max Lucado's God Came Near. Such powerful stuff. Emmanuel, God With Us - this is something that I've been thinking about quite a lot over the past week. It's amazing, isn't it? God - the almighty, perfect, universe-big God - came to us - broken, selfish, imperfect, self-centered people. I can't wrap my head around it, no matter how many times I hear it, think about it, read about it. I'm probably not supposed to be able to, because I think if we could make sense of it, we would find a way to reason around it.

So wrap our injured flesh around you
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect son of God, perfect son of God
Welcome to our world
- Chris Rice

I think I've finally finished decorating my house. I really do plan to take pictures, but I need to straighten up and do a bit of basic cleaning first. My open house is this coming Sunday, so I'll definitely be done by then. In the meantime, I've got a busy week, with something going on almost every evening. At least for right now, though, I'm liking it this way.

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Except really, I'm not. Its definitely turned colder here, and Delaware last weekend seemed very cold. I don't mind the temperature here - I like that it changes a little during the year. But I don't miss the biting cold, the sleek roads, and scraping snow off the windshield before driving. I might miss the snow days, not that I could realistically claim them when I don't exactly have to leave the house to go to work.

My trip this past weekend was fun, but full, and just a touch insane - spending Thursday night in a hotel in Herndon, meetings all day Friday, my car nearly breaking down in the middle of DC (an area I don't know, at all) at 3:45pm on a Friday, Mom's birthday dinner with the entire family (including potential step-grandchildren to be), spending Saturday night in Frederick while I waited for a part to arrive to fix my car, driving to Delaware on Saturday to spend time with my friend Kate, and back home Sunday night. Like I said, a little insane.

And if I thought our family was crazy and loud before, its nothing compared to what it is when you add two more kids - it really just borders on chaos. Especially when you go out to eat. Jacob had a styrofoam cup at dinner, and while playing with the tiny sword from Katie's drink, stabbed his full cup of lemonade. Since this already created an almost-fountain effect, Vince started to set up something more elaborate - he overturned and stacked glasses, cups and bowls, sometimes dumping their contents on other plates. Should I clarify that Vince isn't one of the kids, at least not technically? No, this is Katie's boyfriend. Who is older than me. Needless to say, I don't think we'll be going back to that restaurant any time soon.

I'm still decorating my house - some of my projects are taking a bit of time. But, I hope to be completely done this weekend, and then I'll take photos and write up a little tour.