Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent Fun and My Giving Update

I can't say I was a complete success with the 30 Day Giving Challenge.  I had fun trying to come up with new ways to give and it pushed me to do some things I may have normally claimed were "too much work."

I managed a "Ring and Run" (actually a Ding and Drive) with an anonymous gift; I made cards for Operation Write Home and proceeded to use the cards to give to others; I left a treat for our mailman which he must not have realized was for him and left it there; and other miscellaneous things to help out neighbors and family that had more or less success.

About halfway through the month I slacked off.  "Recording" my giving started to feel pointless as I realized a lot of what I was doing was stuff that I would normally be doing anyway.  But what I took from it was not the benefit of "giving" for 30 days straight, but some encouragement to occasionally go above and beyond what I normally do, even if it's out of my comfort zone.  (I must say it's kind of uncomfortable ringing a doorbell and rushing to your car, trying not to look suspicious, but not knowing what you'll do if they come to the door before you can get away.)

On to Christmas!

I've been wanting a Christmas tradition that would add some fun, but couldn't quite describe what I wanted.  Stockings on Christmas Eve; Christmas breakfast and presents together as a family before church and the busyness of the day; it's some nice time together as a family but it still wasn't quite what I was hoping for.  But I didn't know what I was hoping for.

And then I discovered/thought of/combined from a million sources a form of an advent calendar combined with a Christmas countdown.  But I didn't want candy or trinkets.

So we have 25 days of activities for our family to do.  And it fits perfectly with what I was hoping to accomplish.  A tradition that makes this a season of fun and giving and not just a whole lot of commercial hoopla over one day of "gimme gimme" gift receiving.

I made bottle cap magnets with the numbers 1-25, cut out squares of Christmas paper (that I had to print from my digital supplies), and wrote our activities on the back.  My original plan was to use a cookie sheet since our fridge isn't magnetic.  Unfortunately my pans are airbake and also not magnetic, there weren't any at the second hand store when I looked, and I didn't feel like buying a magnetic board right now.  So I used my mini muffin tin, flipped it over and stuck them to the back.  Although I may need to clear if off or change one of my baking items I had planned for Christmas...


I explained the calendar to Henry yesterday and he went, "Oh, yaay!" and clapped.  I'm not sure he completely understands what we're doing as he's responded this way to random things throughout the past few weeks, but I know he'll enjoy it.  And I'm excited too, especially since I usually put our tree up the weekend after Thanksgiving and this year I've had to wait!

Anyway, check back as I'm excited about this and will be posting regular updates on our activities.  Not sure I'll post each day, but I'll do at least a summary each week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Kitchen Tour

 I do have an excuse for abandoning my blog for a year.

We undertook another major house project beginning in the middle of December 2009.  It involved our living room, stairway, kitchen, main bath, back entry, and making a laundry room in the basement.  Unfortunately, I can't report the project as completed yet.

Someday.

But the kitchen was the biggest aspect, and it is about 95% complete.  I can cook and bake, so I'm not complaining.

For about 5 months this was my "kitchen:"

Our back family room was about the only functioning room on our main floor (the office was functional, but it became a store-all and was sealed off part of the time).  We ate there, I "cooked" there, we lived there, and it was impossible to keep clean.  I lugged the dish pan through the house, up the stairs, and washed dishes in our upstairs tub every night.  

I got through it with a decent attitude by reminding myself that within a year I would barely remember those days (and yes, I knew from experience).
 
This is the "before" and I quick snapped this picture as I was in the process of packing up.  You can see the dining room table, and on the other side of the far wall was a "formal" dining room.  It sat empty except for a stray desk and bookshelf and looked out of place behind the living room.


This shows the layout a little better - the cabinet space was decent, but there was almost no counter space between the sink, cooktop, and microwave.


Post demolition - at least most of it.  The bathroom was next, so that wall on the left side was soon open.  No more formal dining room = a lot more space!




 A view from the other direction - close to the same view as the before picture.

 

A clean slate - the part I love!  It means the end is (sort-of) in sight, and adding color and making it feel like a home again is a great feeling.

  

Unloading the cabinets - this is only part.  There's more you can't see around the steps, some in the dining room, and some to the left of me.  We started wondering if they were all going to fit!




Cabinets going in - this is probably where I got really excited and anxious for the finish.  Unfortunately we still had countertops, appliances, plumbing, and flooring to go.



We bumped out the cabinet for the kitchen sink to add some detail to a long run of cabinets, and I love the "feet" Doug put on it - it looks more like furniture than a cabinet!


My new kitchen taken from almost the exact same spot as the before picture - quite a big difference!


That is my baking corner.  There will eventually be a bench under the window to cover that storage.  My mixer is on a pop up shelf, and I have another little sink over there.  I love it!  The three-tier countertop was a compromise - Doug wanted the raised bar look, and I didn't want to be constantly lifting kids up and down onto bar stools, so we have a table-height counter that wraps around the corner.

Someday the details will be finished, I'll have carpet in the living room, and the other projects will be finished.  Someday.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to Play

 At 7:30 this morning, instead of eating breakfast before going to work, I was outside playing in the snow with Henry making snowballs.
We've also been painting the basement, and Henry has had fun 'helping.'  (Those are all "H's" by the way.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Real Deal

Reason # 5,452 why I use real butter:


I had some leftover margarine after helping with a church supper (where cost was the biggest factor), and I needed to make a double batch of cookies for the auction tomorrow night.  People bake with it all the time, so I thought, "What could go wrong?"  I'll give you one guess as to which one was made with real butter.

And I don't have the time or supplies for a redo. :(

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

30 Day Giving Challenge

Before I get into the main point of this post, I feel the need to point out that it is November 3 and as I drove up the driveway after work this morning, my first thought was, "The lawn should be mowed again."  It's long because of the new grass, but how is it still green?  Crazy.


I found this challenge about a month or so ago and planned on participating, but October flew by and November was here before I knew it.  I don't think I did anything on Monday, but I'll make up for it later.

I like the idea of a month of giving before the Christmas season, and it ties into the "advent calendar" I'm planning for December, so I'm excited to give a little more than I usually do. I may or may not post what I do each day, depending on how I feel about telling people what I did that day.

Yesterday I committed to a donation for Kaitlyn's Fund, a local organization that supports adoptive families. So I'll be making cookies for the next year. :) It's not the baking that held me back from committing until almost the last minute, but it's hard for me to commit to things like this.  In the back of my mind I think, "What if something comes up?"  or  "What if they don't like my cookies?"  Nonsense excuses.  So overcoming my fear of commitment is how I gave yesterday.

As far as family night, it was pretty tame this week.  We walked to a soup supper at a local church, then walked to another local church to cast our votes, with Henry riding on Dad's (tired) shoulders pretty much the whole way. 

Henry and I baked "Dad-sized" chocolate chip cookies, even though there was going to be pie at the soup supper.  They are delicious.  I'll try to post the recipe soon.