Monday, December 26, 2011

On the First Day of Christmas...

I don't believe I learned that the 12 Days of Christmas are the days after Christmas, leading up to Epiphany (the celebration of the Wise Men who followed the star to bring gifts to the Baby King, God's Son).  If I learned about when the 12 Days of Christmas are as a child, I didn't remember.  I do remember learning about that as an adult.  I don't keep my wise men in the stable anymore.  I put them all together for the picture I took for the blog post yesterday, but they usually live across the room, until Epiphany.

For myself, growing up in a Christian home, there are things I took for granted.  I love when other Christians bring things to light for me.  Yesterday at church, our song leader pointed out the circumstances of Mary delivering baby Jesus in the stable.  Imagine all these people in Bethlehem for the census... sure they're tired and cranky... but you see a young mother, about to deliver her first baby.  He pointed out that those of us in the church, if we had been there, mother of our Savior, or not, we would have given up our room and slept in the stable ourselves.  I have given birth to a baby, I know I would have been willing to give up my room for a young mother-to-be.  I wonder how Mary felt... God would have a room for her, if He wanted her to have a room. I imagine she was still praising God, so thankful for the stable.  How does a person have such faith?  I think, that is why she was chosen.  Our Savior came into this world illegitimate and born in a barn.  The world would not take a second look at that child.  But the heavens and the Heavenly hosts proclaimed His birth... and the Wise Men sought Him out to bring Him gifts.  And me, funny child, knew this story practically from birth, and never thought how remarkable having stars and planets line up to proclaim a baby's birth and having Kings who study the stars chase after this baby to worship Him... and not even one person volunteering their room for a pregnant young woman, a baby being born in a barn... like that must happen every day back then (ha!  I don't think so).  As a child and young adult, I didn't realize that Mary and Joseph were not yet married.  I learned that when I read my daughter The Very First Christmas by Paul L. Maier.  There is a disadvantage to some of those children's Bible story books.

Our pastor showed a short video, a funny video about a living nativity.  At the end, the video was serious, the man playing "Joseph" said he could not give up his baby boy.  If he was God, the world would be in trouble.  I have thought about that before, but I still marvel at that sacrifice (something I am certain I didn't grasp as a child).  God planned all that would happen, from the beginning... He knew Jesus would be born in a stable, and die on a cross.  He knew when and where and how.  I can't imagine.  I am thankful that I am human, unable to know the future, because I don't think God made my brain and my heart capable of knowing such things.

"Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!" 2 Corinthians 9:15

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Traditions

My favorite Christmas tradition at my Dad's parents' house involved the manger scene.  Every year, my grandparents put up a manger scene.  Grandma would take the manger scene all apart and assign everyone a piece.  Then grandma would read the Christmas Story and when each of our pieces was named... be that piece Mary, Joseph, donkey, lamb, Shepherd, or the always wanted baby Jesus... we would go up to the manger and place our figures inside.  My Mom made sure we had a manger scene for our first Christmas.  The manger scene is the Christmas decoration that I enjoy the most.  I nearly kept our manger scene up all year last year.

The lights and ornaments on the tree are pretty.  I do enjoy turning down the lights and just enjoying the glow of the Christmas Tree.  We had a tradition when I was growing up of putting up our tree every Thanksgiving.  I am glad I started the tradition of giving my children a new ornament each year, because putting up the ornaments and remembering who gave them to us, or when we made them, or Mom and  Dad made them, was the most fun thing for me in helping set our family tree as a child.

I like taking a family picture each year.  I like seeing how everyone has grown and seeing how clothes and hair change over the years.  Here's our picture from after church this morning: 

Merry Christmas!  
Happy Birthday to Jesus (or Yeshua-"The Lord is our salvation")!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Memories

Tonight I sang an a Capella version of Away in a Manger with a special choir group at church for the Christmas Eve service.  My parents came to watch.  I got to sing Christmas hymns with them at the end of the service.  Singing with Mom and Dad reminded me of good times growing up... in church with my family, even with my Mom's friend and her kids looking at Christmas lights and singing Christmas carols.

I was talking with my sister the other day about the different Christmas experiences we had growing up.  We have not "done" Santa Claus with our children.  Our parents did not confuse us with the myth of Santa Claus.  We did watch the kid's Christmas programs with Santa Claus on tv.  I even remember sitting on Santa's lap once at the mall... I don't remember if I asked to, or what.  My brother, sister, and I always knew  that Santa Claus was not real.  We knew that the reason for Christmas was to celebrate the birth of God's Son, Jesus.  I saw kids at school who were so caught up in Santa Claus, and I remember when they found out Santa wasn't real.  I know some of them felt like they were lied to.  I know I felt like they were lied to.  I felt bad for them.

Since we've always homeschooled our children, and I like to find out the history behind things we do (I think part of that is all the Sociology classes I took in college), I looked up the history of Santa Claus for our kids.  I enjoyed teaching them about St. Nicholas and how he became the myth of Santa Claus people celebrate today.  We started a tradition of celebrating St. Nicholas Day (December 6th, in case you were wondering).  On that day, my children open their stockings.  I had began giving them a new ornament every year for our Christmas Tree, but opening a new ornament just before you take down the tree is not so much fun... so they now get their ornaments in their stockings on St. Nicholas Day.  Then they get to enjoy the ornament for a whole month!

My Dad grew up in a home that "believed" in Santa Claus.  My Mom grew up in a home that only celebrated Jesus' birth.  My Mom's family didn't always have a Christmas Tree at Christmas when she grew up (actually, I think she can count on one hand the times they did); if memory serves me correctly, they didn't usually have presents.  They both went to church and celebrated the birth of Jesus.

So, growing up a grandchild of my Dad's parents and my Mom's parents, my siblings and I (and our cousins) experienced different Christmastimes at each grandparents home.  I don't remember when I realized that we didn't get Christmas (or birthday) presents from my Mom's parents, but except for asking "why" at some point... not getting presents from my maternal grandparents didn't really matter.  My grandma was a wonderful cook, and so are my aunts.  We enjoyed a delicious meal and lots of playtime with our cousins (10, plus 3 second cousins... my mom is the youngest of 6).  I always enjoyed just visiting and being with my Mom's parents and extended family.

At my Dad's parents, when my brother, myself, and our cousins were young (my sister is 8 years younger than me) my grandma would have someone dressed as Santa Claus stop by to visit us. My brother and I had to pretend that "Santa" was the real deal.  We always got presents, but I remember being disappointed so many times... even when we thought they were getting us something we really wanted.  One year we were expecting boom boxes (portable stereo cassette radios)... they were not stereo, they were mono.  I remember an ugly doll that I named after a little girl I didn't like.  My three cousins were all boys and they were not very nice little boys (they grew up to be nice men though).  For the cousins, we drew names for presents.  My aunts took turns with me, until my sister was born, because both wanted to buy for a little girl.  One aunt usually made me things... doll dresses were my favorite (except the ones for the ugly doll, but they did fit other dolls later on); the other aunt always gave me something store bought ( I liked when she got me music boxes).  I did enjoy quiet times with my Dad's parents, and I loved playing with the toy kitchen furniture that my Great-grandpa made my grandma.  We did have some nice times playing kitchen with my cousins in the upstairs of the old farm house.

I remember visiting my great-grandparents (my dad's mom's parents... who were still living when I graduated from college!).  I had a thought today about how I was a little creeped out by my great-grandparents when I was little... I think it was because they were old.  Really, they weren't that much older than my Mom's parents, or my Dad's dad, but they were "great" grandparents.  I remember not really wanting to give them a hug and kiss goodbye.  Great-grandpa's face was scratchy many times from stubble.  As I grew up, I came to know his heart and love him so much!  I look forward to heaven, when I can hug him and kiss his scratchy cheek again (grandma, too... but without the scratchy cheek).  My great-grandma was so sweet, she even paid me to finish an afghan doing hairpin lace; she wanted me to learn that much.  She would give up her coat for someone who was cold, in fact I believe she did one time (maybe more than once that I don't know about).

I think, remembering these things that time, love, example and treasure in heaven are so much more important than gifts, trees, lights... and all those other things that appear so important to our modern world.  There are people around us who don't even know who Jesus is, people who don't know the real reason we began celebrating Christmas.  What a gift we could be giving.

Thank you, Lord, for giving me my family and your Son.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top Ten Reasons for Homeschooling

I loved the CHENI Homeschool Group's Top Ten Reasons Why We Homeschool.  The kids in the group came up with the list.  Check it out HERE.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Homemade Magnetic Poetry

I used some sticker paper that I bought at the Dollar Tree and some 1/2 advertising magnets that we got in the mail, and made our own magnetic poetry.  I just printed out the words and punctuation on the sticker paper, applied the sticker paper to the magnets, and cut them out.  Some parts of  the magnet did not stick very well, but they were cheap and fun to make... and I can make more.  :)

I thought this would get my son interested in making sentences and reading them (worked for a few days).  I have had lots of fun making sentences, and my daughter has, too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cake Mix Cookies

This is such a cheater recipe... cookies really don't take that long to make, but cake mix cookies are so moist!  Also, I don't freak out so much about making them on short notice.  Thomas volunteered me to make cookies for AWANA and his work this week.

I had picked up some cake mixes on sale last month (also had a coupon or two!).  I want to make up some of my own cake mixes in a jar, but I haven't gotten around to making them yet.  Amy Bayliss had a 10 day series on Canning Jar ideas... and I love the idea of making up homemade mixes in canning jars to have them handy.  I really want to eat healthier, but I grew up cooking with convenience foods... and that is a hard habit to break.  This was a Betty Crocker recipe that I altered slightly... I actually made it slightly easier & more versatile.


1 box (or canning jar) of any flavor cake mix
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten

6-12 ounces of chocolate chips, or other chips, or candy pieces (optional)


Mix everything together & spoon onto cookie sheet (I usually do a dozen per sheet).  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 mins.  Edges should be brown, centers will be soft.  Cool 1 minute on pan, then move from cookie sheet to wire rack.

So, here are some ideas:

One year when we visited my cousin and her family, I used vanilla (or yellow, or white) cake mix and chocolate chips for one batch, the other batch I used a chocolate cake mix and swirled milk chocolate and peanut butter morsels.

For our homeschool co-op Holiday Party (we combine Thanksgiving & Christmas) I used a vanilla cake mix, chocolate chips, and crushed peppermint.

Right now I'm making plain vanilla (I think the kids we decorate these), plain chocolate (if they were for me, I'd add chocolate chips!), spice cake and cherry chip... each separately.  The family will take the vanilla and chocolate to AWANA & the spice cake and cherry chip cookies will go to work with hubby.

I think the spice cake would go great with butterscotch morsels, or reeces pieces... and chocolate goes good with almost anything.

Misty's Taco Style Lentils

Tacos are an one of those meals that are so quick to make.  I would say they are a staple around our house.  I was delighted when I tried the recipe for Taco Style Lentils from the Hillbilly Housewife and the family all like them.  Taco Style Lentils makes tacos even more affordable and easy to keep ingredients on hand... since lentils and rice are not as perishable as meat.  The recipe from the Hillbilly Housewife includes bullion cubes, so I altered the recipe slightly, because I cannot seem to find bullion cubes that do not have MSG in them.  Here's my version of the recipe:

3/4 cup dry lentils
3/4 cup brown rice
1 package homemade taco seasoning (or other package taco seasoning)
4 cups water

Add all ingredients to a 2 quart saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cover with lid, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 45-50 mins.  You can also make it in the crockpot on Low for 6 to 8 hours.  The author of the recipe had never made it on high, but the rule of thumb is usually about half the time for High, so probably 3 to 4 hours.

Serve as you would taco meat... Taco Salad, Burritos, Taco Shells.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Misty's Easy Taco Soup

This is a combination of other taco soup recipes I've tasted and a taco style lentil recipe I've used from the Hillbilly Housewife website.  I made up this recipe, along with a Simple Chili recipe, and left them simmering in crockpots for after church, when we were having another family over for lunch. I love the way the house smells when something is simmering in the crockpot.


1 lb hamburger-cooked (you could make this with turkey burger, or another can of beans)
1 can black beans
1/3 cup brown rice
1/3 cup lentils
1 can diced tomatoes
1 or 2 cups of water (depending on how soupy you want it, or how long you'll be gone)
1 package homemade taco seasoning (or other taco seasoning)

Simmer in the crockpot on Low, or on the stove top.

Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips. You could also serve with baked potatoes, or corn bread.

Misty's Simple Chili

I made this Chili Recipe and my own version of Taco Soup before church one Sunday and left them simmering in two crockpots.  I also turned the oven into a slow cooker for baked potatoes; I washed them, pricked them with a fork, and wrapped them in foil.  I put them in the oven at about 250 or 300 degrees and they were so yummy! I could have pulled out another crockpot and made the potatoes inside that instead, but Ellie prefers the potatoes in the oven (Wyatt prefers them in the microwave).  I love crockpot meals for after church and other busy days.  My hubby used to say "Chili and tacos are the same thing, and I prefer tacos."  Today, he actually asked for chili, so I thought this was a good day to share this recipe.


1 lb hamburger (or turkey burger...or you wouldn't have to use meat at all)-cooked
2 cans dark red kidney beans
1 can chili ready tomatoes (or crushed tomatoes)
1 can diced tomatoes with garlic and onion (or some other diced tomatoes with peppers, etc.)
2 Tbl and 1/4 to 1/2 Tbl chili seasoning
approx 1/2 Tbl onion powder

Simmer in crockpot on Low, or on stove top.

My Favorite Homemade Taco Seasoning

My scribbled recipe card says I got this recipe from, but I'm not sure I could find the exact one again.  We had a family over from our old church that has a son with a gluten allergy.  I never thought about that being an issue with taco seasoning, but his mother mentioned it.  I looked at the packages in the store and was surprised at the ingredients.  I have become a label reader and had narrowed down my pick of seasoning to one, but that one appeared to have gluten ingredients...and I had wanted to start making my own seasoning anyway, so this seemed like a good time to try it out.  I actually tried three different recipes.  My family deemed this one the winner:

1 Tbl chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flacks (original recipe says OR 1/8 tsp cayenne)
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin (original recipe says 1 & 1/2 tsp OR 1tsp)
1 tsp sea salt (I usually leave this I have some Himalayan sea salt I might try now)
1 tsp black pepper

I watched a vlog on the Grocery Shrink one day about how she does a little assembly line of her mixes and she inspired me to do the same.  So, I pull out my snack size baggies, all the seasonings and appropriate measuring utensils, and package up a bunch of these at once.  I store them a tin, ready for use!  I use one package per one pound of meat.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farmstead

We so enjoy living history that we participate in doing living history ourselves.  Not surprising that our first field trip of the new school year was to the Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop and Farmstead in Kansas.  Mahaffie had some free family nights during the summer, and we enjoyed the one on the Civil War (Civil
War reenacting is what we do).  We got some great ideas for the next Civil War Days for the kids club.  We also enjoyed our very first Stagecoach ride!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

History of American School

I read a really interesting article about the history of education in America from the Christian Law Association.  Our current system of mass education was led by Horace Mann, who fought for a government-controlled education based on the Prussian model.  Instead of allowing various religious groups to establish their own schools, the state would instill more secular beliefs in the children.  Thus began what would be today's unbelievable interpretation of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights as "separation of church and state".  Just to clarify, the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution reads:  Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.  Somehow removing prayer from school sounds like a breach of our First Amendment Rights.  I was glad to see in the side notes that the Board of Education in Texas still has an understanding of our Bill of Rights.  Did you know that Texas is the only state that was an independent Republic before joining the union of the United States?  I often wonder if things got too bad in the U.S. government, if Texas would once again become an independent republic.  Also interesting, to me, is that our state governments have had the right to establish laws concerning religion.  Anyway, if you're interested in the article, you can read it by clicking here.

I also read a couple of interesting articles at Parent at the Helm.  One was about how three out of five community college entrants needs remedial help.  Many are coming into school at only a third grade reading level!  The other article was about how young children over the past 60 years have changed the way the play because of a change in toys, change in our society and environment.  The changes have been detrimental to children's cognitive and emotional development.  The conclusion was that kids need more time to be creative and imaginative in play, and we all need to be in less of a rush to be drilling them in facts for testing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

White Chicken Chili

I had a cold this week, and didn't want to pack anything in my lunch for work.  I wanted soup, but didn't want to heat it up in the microwave in the break room.  So, I had chili at Wendy's from the dollar menu.  Wound up being like $1.64 for a "small" size chili with four saltine crackers.  It was perfect.  I even felt better after I ate it.  I paid more attention to the chili when I ate it the second day (I usually work two days outside the home each week)... the chili had onions and peppers in it, along with two kinds of beans and some meat.  When I grew up, us kids didn't like onions and peppers, so chili was tomato sauce with beans, ground hamburger, and a package of Chili Seasoning.  Mom and Dad would spice theirs up in their bowls, if they decided to.  Now that we are all grown, they really spice chili up... but that's another story.  The side of the Wendy's Chili Bowl said that the chili was low-fat and high in fiber, which are great things in my book.

So, I have been in a chili mood.  I don't make chili very often, because my hubby always says "Chili is the same thing as tacos, and I prefer tacos."  The kids, of course, listen to what Dad says and are pretty uninterested.  I am thinking what a great immune booster chili could be during the winter months and how eating chili seems to be clearing up my cold.  Then I go to a different grocery store on my way home because they have a bunch of sales going on and I want to pick some of the sale food up.  I am working on a price sheet (to compare common items at the different stores around me) and I was checking out the price of canned beans... on sale for 39 cents!  At Aldi (usually the cheapest) for 55 cents.  Also, many different versions of canned diced tomatoes for 39 cents each.  They also had a huge roll of hamburger for a great price.  I couldn't resist.  I stocked up on chili fixin's.

I had cooked some chicken in the crockpot to make chicken pot pie (recipe coming soon!), but I knew I had more than enough.  I also remember I had a package of white chicken chili seasoning in my seasoning package tin (now filled with homemade season packages, but this was still leftover since I make chili so infrequently). 

Just before we left to go on a bike ride, I tossed these ingredients in the crockpot (which you could put on a stovetop just as well, but I wanted this to be hot and ready when we got home... and making the house smell good):

White Chicken Chili

1 14.5 oz can of petite diced  tomatoes with sweet onions
1 15   oz can of great northern beans
1  11 oz can of mexican style corn
2-3 cooked breast chicken pieces (could also use canned chicken, or leftovers)
1 package of white chicken chili seasoning (or your own seasoning mix)
1 cup of water

Everything is already cooked, just needs to be heated up.  I put the crockpot on low and we were gone for 5 or 6 hours.  I'm sure the chili was ready before then, but it was not over done.

I'm sure 15 or 20 minutes on the stove, or maybe even less, would also do the trick.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Parent's Pool

Wow!  I haven't written in so long.  I was looking at my drafts and realized how behind I was.  I thought this would be fun to post.  As the weather is getting very cold around here.  The kids are I were talking about how depressing having the daylight for so short a time is.  I thought posting pics of summer fun would be nice.

My parents got this pool the summer my baby sister turned one year old.  So, I was almost  nine years old.  I spent every summer there growing up.  We never took fancy vacations when I was at home.  I never ventured more than one state away in any direction until I was in college.  The pool was our vacation each year.  I learned how to care for the pool as I grew up.  Chlorinating and vacuuming the pool became my job, and I still remember how to do all that.

Mom and Dad had to replace the liner after the pool hadn't been used for a few years (after I got married).  My kids have been able to enjoy the pool for a few summers now.  I enjoy seeing them play together where my brother, sister, and I used to play.  I wish I knew where the picture of the three of us in a blow up tire was; I would have to scan that and post the picture here.