Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Simple Christmas

The girls with some branches we gathered.
 As most of you know - life has been a bit busy and different for us this year with building our house and living in various unique situations meanwhile. We had thought that our house would be done before Christmas but that didn't end up being the case and so life was just generally still in a state of upheaval and so it made it so that Christmas was a little different this year.

  No hours and hours spent making lots of different homemade gifts. (At least not for me - I think Mara did spend hours and hours on some homemade gifts.)

 No decorating of the house from top to bottom.

 No Christmas lights.

 No Christmas letters sent out (though I printed pictures and we are hoping to get a letter sent out soon with a change of address - we just didn't find the time before Christmas).

And so on.

Though it has always been our goal to have a simple Christmas anyway this year it simply was all we were able to manage and that was fine. In fact it was great.

We did have fun one lovely day last week (we had some days that got above freezing which we truly enjoyed!) going out and gathering some evergreen branches from some of our trees)
 It started with just the girls but Aaron thought it would be fun to join us with his hatchet.
Our rule for Christmas is that all gifts must fit in one's stocking. The trouble was this year is that our stockings were all packed away in storage in a room at Ken's office and we really had no idea where the stockings were in the major stack of boxes. We discussed many alternate ideas such as using our real socks, or maybe boots, or pillowcases but the kids really didn't like those ideas. So the Sunday before Christmas we went to Ken's office after church and had a major hunt and after moving many things we finally found the box with the stockings. I wouldn't have packed them so deep but I thought that we were going to be all moved in by Christmas time.

   The week before that Aaron had gone and found a board to be our temporary mantles piece as our permanent one isn't done yet. He had got all the nails in for hanging the stockings and everything.
In our decorating Mara used some greenery to dress up our untrimmed dining room doors.
On Christmas Eve we came up with the idea of having a Sound Effects Contest. The idea came from all the weird sounds that the boys like to make at any given moment. Mara typed up rules and came up with categories and so forth. Ken (with his lovely microphone - a play one - that he likes to pull out for special occasions) was the judge and moderator. It ended up making for a pretty silly but memorable evening.

Christmas morning. We all slept in (it stays pretty dark down in the basement where we are still sleeping and we were tired) but then got up and had our big traditional breakfast of Vanocka Braid, Hot Chocolate stirred with Candy Canes, Eggs, Bacon (normally we have sausage so we did vary a little) and fruit. Then we opened gifts.

My parents and brother Peter and family came over for lunch and then we played games and had a little music. In the evening we watched - "It's a Wonderful Life".

 It was a lovely day and we had fun enjoying our simple Christmas.

 Did you have a good Christmas? I would love to hear about it!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

We Never Grow to Old

 As I was reading in Psalms this week I ran across a verse that automatically makes me think of my dear friend Ula who went to be with Jesus a couple of years ago. This was one of the verses that she was inspired by and lived out to the fullest.

It says:

    "And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to all who are to come." Psalm 72:18

Ula took that verse as a challenge - a reminder that even though she might be getting on in years and she couldn't hear very well and her health was failing (she lived to be nearly 99 and stayed pretty active until the end) she did all that she could to inspire all of us to live for God more fully - to know His word better and to give our everything to Him. She over and over again told of God's work in her life and all that He could do.

 I have been very blessed with people like that in my life. I would have a very long list if I would start to name off all the Godly gray haired people that I know - ones that don't just "retire" when they grow older but rather use that time to continue to teach, to continue to tell others about God's wonderful power.

 When I was looking for a picture to go with this post I started looking for a picture of Ula as she is who I was thinking of particularly as I remember her talking about this very verse but before I found one of her I found this one of my Grandpa talking to my sister Keren and her husband Benjamin at their wedding this Spring and I found it very fitting to have in this post.
 My Granda is 93 and last I knew he was still teaching Bible classes some of the time at church. His health is starting to fail too but he still does all that He can to tell the next generation about Jesus and what He has done for them. This picture is a very cool one to me as I remember him pulling Ken and I aside at our wedding too to remind us to have a Godly marriage and to always put Christ first and though I don't know what he told Keren and Benjamin at their wedding I am sure it was pretty much the same. That is what is important to my Grandpa.

   Though I still feel pretty young and my hair has yet to turn gray (other than a stray hair now and then) - I want to always remember this verse.

  So to those of you that are gray or will turn gray someday please take this verse as a challenge. Never say "I'm retired - it is somebody else's turn to spread the gospel now" or "I've done my bit". No matter what your strength level or how much you are able to do physically there is always some way that you can still tell the next generations about Jesus. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

A Mural and Other Progress on the House

  This week was not our normal schedule but it still ended up being a good one for getting things done. We only had workers at our house basically on one day- Tuesday. But that was a busy day. Our contractor was here putting trim around windows and hanging one of the bathroom doors. The heating guys were here fixing up the zoning for the furnace, putting in the dryer vent and other things and the plumber was here putting in a couple more toilets (and pulling one out so that I  could do the tile underneath it), hooking up some sinks and another shower/tub. It was fun to see all the progress!

   We meanwhile kept working on floors. I also used muriatic acid to clean and treat the fireplace.

The girls and I also got to have a lot of fun working on another project. Mara had thought it would be fun to paint a tree in their room so we decided to give it a go yesterday before the flooring went into that room.
 We decided to put it in one corner where it was unlikely we would put any furniture. First we drew a tree on the wall with pencil. Then we painted it all with a plain brown and then went over it with other browns to try to make it look more like bark. Mara cut oak leaf shapes from sponges and we dipped them in various colors of green to make the leaves.

Megan painted a purple prairie clover on the wall by the base of the tree.
 This is our current finished product but before the floor and trim and we also have more ideas for this area but I will update once we get them done.
 I had a lot of fun painting violets and harebells in our picture.
 Here are Megan's flowers.

This was truly a fun project. One that allowed us to express a lot of creativity. It is one of those projects that feel a little scary to begin but very fun once you get going. We just had to realize that it doesn't have to be perfect for us to enjoy it. Also - if we don't like it or want to change we only have to paint over it.

Today the guys (I did help a little too) made some good progress at getting more flooring done. My music area now has flooring and the girl's room is partly done too.
That is life at our house - What is going on at at yours?

Monday, December 22, 2014

A New Oven = Baking Day

 The excitement of the day at our house was the delivery of our new appliances (stove, fridge, washer, dryer and over oven microwave). We had left all of those things in our old house when we sold and though we did have my "flower" fridge to use and a little old microwave (that Ken had replaced with something better at his office) the other things we had gone without for 4 months.

  We have made it fine. I have a Mom who did all our laundry during that time except for 2 times that I went to the laundry mat. I feel extremely blessed to have a Mother that helps us in such loving practical ways!

  We also have been able to use the oven at our church building which we mostly did on the days that I taught piano lessons there. We basically still made bread every week (Mara became the expert bread maker while I taught lessons) but we didn't manage to do much other baking as hauling all the ingredients needed to another location was a little challenging. So when the oven arrived today everybody was feeling rather excited.

"Can we make cookies?"

"Can I make a sponge cake?"

"I want to make pie!"

"Sure. Go ahead. Sounds good to me too. I'll throw something in the oven for supper too."

The boys made chocolate chip cookies. Megan made sponge cake and Mara had fun making pies (we are looking forward to eating some for breakfast tomorrow) and I directed Mara in making supper as well. (I was busy treating our fireplace with acid).
 Mara at work in our new kitchen. Our counter-tops are still missing but we are making do until they come in a few weeks. We had found some plywood to put on them and then this morning Mom came by with various things that they had that she thought might work for our temporary counter-tops. It is working just fine! Thanks Mom!
They cleaned up the kitchen too (with a little prompting). We are so happy to have a kitchen sink again! That was truly missed! This sink is actually just a temporary one that our plumber had laying around. We will get our sinks when our counter-top comes.

  Tomorrow I may get into the baking too. I want to make some special bread to give to our contractor and others that have worked here.

  I am enjoying our washer and dryer too. They have been busy much of the day! It is so nice to be able to just throw dirty stuff right in the washer here at home.

  What fun things did your day bring? I would love to hear about your day too.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

God Blesses Us

"The earth has yielded its produce;
God, our God, blesses us.
God blesses us,
That all the ends of the earth may fear Him."
Psalm 67:6-7

This is so very true. Each and every day our God provides for us and blesses us. We would never make it without Him. Let's share His love with the world!

Friday, December 19, 2014

A Little Crafting, A Lot of Work on the House and Rejoicing over Hot Running Water!

 At this time of year our home is generally busy with all sorts of little projects destined to be a gift for someone. This year not a lot of that has been going on as we are so occupied with finishing our house. Holidays have rather taken a back seat.

   On the house end of things it was an extremely exciting week for us - We now have a hot water heater and it is hooked up to a shower and a (temporary - as we wait for the counter-top and our final one) kitchen sink!!! We didn't realize how much we appreciate those things until we went without them in our home for nearly 4 months. I know that through time and even many people now - live without those luxuries and do just fine but I sure am thankful for them! We also are pretty excited to have are cabinets installed and I am over halfway done with the tiling. Things are going well.

   We did do a little crafting at our homeschool group gathering earlier this month and I thought I would share some of the pictures that I took from that time.

One of the Mom's taught some different fun paper folding at one table.
 Snowmen (which we think will work good to put homemade dry hot chocolate mix into for a gift) were made at another table. This was a fun recycling project as a lot of cream for coffee is used at church and all these bottles were saved from that and this was a great way to use them up.

Another mom and I had a table for birch projects. She helped them make bookmarks and I had other birchbark art available to make. I had fun making samples for that with Megan's help.

One mom brought sugar cookies to decorate - always one of the most popular stations in the eyes of the children.

 One mom was asked by the Salvation Army if we could help assemble some gifts to hand out to people at nursing homes. The kids (and moms) had fun decorating these little boxes and putting candy inside. They put together 300 of them.

  Yesterday we then went to the nursing homes and an apartment building for the elderly and we handed them out. It was a lot of fun. My kids and I also did our singing at the nursing home and we had fun singing carols and they seemed to really enjoy listening. It is a blessing to be able to spend some time with the elderly among us.

    Have you been making things lately? I would love to hear about any projects that you have going on or have already completed!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sing of God's Strength!

 Psalms 59:16 "But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength;Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your  lovingkindness in the morning."

There are days when I just don't think I have the strength I need to get done the things that need to get done. How grateful I am to have a Loving Father who has strength to spare. We sure have found that singing about our Wonderful God leaves us remembering who He is, what He can do and how we can trust Him and count on Him for strength. Each day He provides!

  I hope you find time to sing of about Our wonderful God as you go through this week! 

Putting the Flooring in the House

 When we were deciding what things we would do ourselves when building this house, one of the things that we chose to do was flooring. I am not sure why for sure that one was decided on but I think it is because we had done wood flooring before and thought it was kind of fun and also I had briefly helped a friend with some tiling and then also watched others tile a few times. We figured it would help save quite a bit of money and so we could get nicer flooring as a result.

  I didn't want any carpeting in this house (I don't like all the dirt and allergens that carpet has and collects) and so we are doing only solid wood and ceramic tile. In the basement we have the cement which I want to look into sealing in some way someday.

   This week has been a very busy one of working on flooring. We needed to push to get it done as the cabinets were arriving and the cabinet guy wanted the floors in first and we certainly didn't want to hold up the cabinet guy as the plumber said we would finally be able to get the rest of our plumbing after the sink cabinets and the flooring by the toilet was done. Currently we have one toilet -which is fine- and then we can get water either from the pressure tank or the outside faucets. A shower with hot water in our own house and a sink in my kitchen- with hot water- are treats we are greatly looking forward to- also a washing machine will be pretty nice. So we pushed hard to get our flooring done.
My brother Peter has this really cool air nailer especially for wood flooring that he loaned to us. The boys loved using it.
The girls were busy helping too but when I went to take a picture they were goofing of so they decided to do this pose for the picture. :-)
Wood flooring can go fast. It was so fun to see it in place. It really seemed to finish off the room. An additional benefit to putting down flooring other than getting things finished is that now we don't have some much dirt filtering down to the basement. Before when people moved and worked and especially when anybody swept tons of dirt would come down through various cracks. One of the main cracks was over my cooking area which made life interesting at times and another was over our bed. We are very thankful for less grit in our food and our bed!

  Another benefit to doing all this flooring is strengthening our muscles. It has been a while since they had been so tired. :-)
Doing a lot of sweeping was necessary before we laid any flooring. It is amazing how much dirt can build up during the course of building a house. On Friday my parents came over for the morning (and brought lunch to eat with us) and helped us with the flooring. Mom did a lot of cleaning up and Dad helped my get started with tiling.
Our first step to tiling (after the sweeping) is laying done backerboard since none of the rooms that we were tiling were on cement. The backerboard that I got had fiberglass in it which left the kids and I all itchy after handling it. We tried to be careful but still this wasn't our favorite job. We had to cut it to fit and then we put mortar down and put the backerboard on top and then we screwed it down, used fiberglass tape to tape the edges together and spread mortar over that. It was quite the process. The reason to do all of that is so that you have a very solid surface for the tile so that they won't break so easily. Hopefully it really is helpful because it was a lot of work and a fair amount of money. I was so glad to have my kids to help though they weren't always so glad to be helping. :-)

The tiling came next. Mara went to work to figure out how they would be laid. Then Dad helped us to fine tune that plan when he came and we got started.

 We have now tried all kinds of methods for cutting tile and none of them are very easy. Oh well - hard work is good for us! Dad put a diamond wheel on the skill saw and used that some. Ken and I found it very challenging to use. It sure was nice to have Dad do the cutting for a day!
Friday we got this upstairs bathroom done. I was happy with how well the paint and tile went together as neither were the color that I had thought they were. I think Ken accidentally ordered the wrong color of tile and the paint was different than I thought from what I saw on the little swatch.

 Yesterday (Saturday) we thought it would be a good time to get the tiled laid in front of our busiest door (the one that goes into the garage) while there weren't any workers here. That section of tile included our main floor bathroom, a small hall, a coat closet and the laundry room. Mom offered to send over lunch, pick up Aaron and Megan and have us spend the night at their house because we would be blocking off our access to the basement. So we went to work.
 This is my cutting crew. We decided to lay the tile diagonally as we think that looks neater and my brother assured me it wasn't hard and gave me some instructions and told me that he didn't think there were really any more cuts. Well - I still do think it looks neater, it wasn't very hard following Peter's instructions but I am pretty positive there are quite a few more cuts and harder ones to boot. But that is all right. Dad had loaned us a tile snapper but his ended up being to small for any of our tiles so Ken got a new one. Once and a while we could get it to work pretty nicely for us but mostly it didn't. There seemed to be a problem with how the scoring part had been constructed. Meanwhile Ken needed to work at his office for the day and so Mara, Jonathan and I carried on working on the tile and hoping to get done by supper time.

  We used the snapper and then the nibblers to get the cuts we needed but it was a very long and tedious process. We got the bathroom done but were just starting on the hall when supper time came. I called mom to let her know we wouldn't make it for supper and called Ken to tell him that we needed his help and some pizza. He came and brought the pizza and went to work trying to help us and promptly decided that our cutting methods just weren't going to work and that we needed a wet saw. So off he and Jonathan went (Jonathan was pretty happy for a break) and they found a fairly inexpensive one at Home Depot.
 Tiling started going faster with the saw to cut things and Ken to help do the measuring. It was still a pretty late night but we did get everything but the laundry room done. That will be a job for sometime this week. I do still need to put the grout in (and did some prepping for that this afternoon) but it is good enough to walk on.

  By the way- our walls really aren't that bright yellow - they are a really creamy yellow but photos in the evening can really do funny things to colors.

  This week looks to be another busy week of flooring but tomorrow I first plan to take a drive to the stone place to pick out my counter-top slab. That should be rather fun and probably one of the most expensive shopping trips I'll ever go on.

  I hope you have a great week! If you have any flooring tips I would be happy to hear them. If you want to come help me tile - that would be okay too. :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Birch Bark Decorations Giveaway

 This week I thought it would be fun to join in on the Sew Mama Sew Blog's giveaway day. I planned to get the post up on Monday but then we ended up needing to push really hard to get some flooring done at our house as the cabinets were coming (they are going in this morning!) and so we have put in some late nights and hard working days and blogging really took a back burner. I will post about flooring soon but meanwhile I decided to still go ahead and join in the giveaway at this late date.

  Last week at our homeschool group I had fun teaching how to make some Birch Bark art made in an Ojibwe (native american tribe from our state) style. They also remind me of Scandinavian decorations. Whatever the origin- I had fun making them in my own particular style. I hope to share some other creations later but just now I am offering for somebody to win some birch heart hangers. Two are pictured here but I will be sending the winner 5 of them. These are around 4 inches wide and could be used as ornaments on a Christmas tree or you can hang them in your window or whatever you want to do with them.

   We are blessed with a lot of birch trees on our property and we had to cut a few down when getting ready to build our house and so I have a good supply of birchbark to work with and I thought it would be fun to make something to share with you.

  To enter to win this giveaway please:

  • Leave a comment telling me about a nature craft you have had fun making or any other thoughts or ideas about creating things from nature.
  • If you would like a second chance to win please become a follower of my blog and leave me a comment telling me that you have done so.
  • Please leave your e-mail so that I will be able to contact you should you be the winner of our random drawing.
This giveaway will be open through Sunday (midnight) and I will contact you right away and get your gift out to you right away next week.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Do We Really Believe?

We enjoyed the pink sky and grey frosty trees when driving to town yesterday morning.
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may adequate, equipped for every good work."
 2 Timothy 3: 16 & 17

Do we truly believe this verse - that ALL scripture is inspired by God with many uses?

 This evening at church it was brought up how many young adults are leaving the church (Statistically- world wide) even though they were raised there. When asked "why?" many of them said that it was because the leaders or other in the church were hypocrites.

   This evening the discussion went on to say that a large way that hypocrisy is happening in the church is when people will say that they believe the Bible and that it is the inspired word of God BUT.... The earth may really be millions/billions of years old and creation took a long time OR God may have used the evolutionary process to begin life OR We don't need to worry about certain instructions in the Bible because that is only for that culture OR That word doesn't really mean what it sounds like it means.

 When people don't take the whole Bible as the inspired and accurate word of God that should be followed completely it is going to cause people to say: "Why should we follow any of it?" And truly, I think that makes sense - Either believe it - or don't. It isn't really going to help you to just believe parts of it. We are told in Revelation to either be hot or cold - don't bother with the Lukewarm stuff - God doesn't want that at all!

  I really feel pretty passionately about this subject. If you believe the Bible is what this verse says it is then I challenge you to read it and study it and try to follow it as it is with no twisting to go along with whatever you may have already thought. We don't want the world to be telling us what to think nor do we want any wrong doctrine from our past - Only the Bible!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Natural Stone Fireplace

 We now have a working fireplace at our place. It is so fun to use to make a fire to both warm us up and to watch as it flickers so merrily. What a pleasure it is!

The fireplace is thanks mostly to my brother-in-law Travis. He is married to my older sister Anna and they live in the Twin Cities. Travis now works for the railroad but he used to work in Masonry and when we said that we wanted to put a fireplace in our house he volunteered to do it. That was a pretty wonderful gift.

  We wanted a natural stone fireplace and we decided to do one with an insert (it doesn't take the months/years to make that a true masonry fireplace can). Ken ordered the insert and the kids and I were in charge of collecting rocks. We went through all the piles of dirt that were dug out of our basement and found many rocks. We also went and looked for rocks over in my parents pasture area. We also made many a trip to a farmer friend's rock piles and hauled a bunch of trailer loads from there. This summer/fall rock hauling helped to build up our muscles. :-) Even though we didn't use all the rocks Travis needed to have plenty of selection as some don't work as well as others.

Mara and Margaret
Back in September Travis and Anna and family came for around a week and laid the foundation for the fireplace and also got the fireplace itself started. Travis did pretty nearly all the laying of rock. My nephew Harrison mixed up the mortar, Our Contractor, Ken, Travis and my brother Peter and me a little built the frame and we ladies (Anna, my niece Margaret, Mara and I) hauled rocks, cleaned rocks, brushed the mortar and did what we could to be of assistance. Others including my brother Luke also came one Saturday that I was gone and helped with the work on it. Many hands helped in some way on this project.
Peter working on the frame

Anna and Travis
 It was so fun to watch the fireplace go up. It was kind of hard for me to be able to envision just what it would look like ahead of time and so it was a fun surprise to see it basically completed.
 Cleaning up the mortar.
 The hearth was the last step.
 The last day that Anna and Travis were here we ran out of mortar. There was just this small spot that didn't have enough. I was actually glad of it though as Ken's parents were coming later that week and I thought that it would be fun to have them bring a small rock to put into our fireplace. I already had a rock from my parents land (can you find the heart shaped one near the middle) and thought one from Nevada would be neat as well. Ken's parents brought a really unique and pretty crystal one that they had found on one of their hikes (they like to collect rocks when hiking) in Nevada. The picture above shows me putting that rock in and finishing putting the mortar in.

 We sure have enjoyed being able to have a fire!
 We do still need to add the mantelpiece but it is already cut - it just is drying more. My Dad has a sawmill and so He, Travis and Peter worked to make some lumber and mantelpieces (more than one just in case) from a really big tree that we had to cut down in order to build our house.  I also need to clean the fireplace and am planning to using an acid that will help to even out the color of the mortar (because it was laid in various conditions - including rain- it has variations of color) and it will clean the rock too. I am also thinking about sealing it to give it more of a "wet" look but am not sure if I really want to do that or not. If you have an opinion on that I would love to hear it.

This project took a lot of time (Thanks again so very much to all those that worked on it!!!) but I think it was worth it. It will be enjoyed for many years to come!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin