Friday, December 28, 2012

Friday ~ Ice Skating

The day after Christmas, a day usually somewhat depressing and sad since Christmas day is over, was this year a day of great fun! Fun...on the ice! A group of fellow homeschoolers and my family rented a local ice rink for a few hours and skated the morning away. I found that although the lighting in an ice rink is not ideal for photography, it's still really fun! Not my first time ice skating by far, but it had been enough time since my last time on the ice to make it an interesting few hours. :)

{my sibs and me}



{sweet friends!}

{honorary sister K}

{the honorary brother J doing his crazy stuff on the ice}

{the bro's}


{Karis, me, and hon. sister K}

{and me}

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thursday ~ Christmas Day 2012

I say it every year, was one of the best Christmases yet! The day was perfect: cold, gray, rainy - exactly as a Christmas day should be. Our Christmas day is steeped in heavy traditions, things done at certain times and in certain ways. One of the most unusual traditions that my family does is rather than exchanging gifts in the mornings, we do that in the evening after dinner. I'm not sure how that tradition started, but I'm a firm believer that that's how Christmas should be done: stockings in the morning, gifts at night. :)

Mom and I didn't wield the camera much this Christmas, an unusual occurrence for her and I, but it's still happily etched in my memory as a wonderful day spent with my family, cozying up in our warm, little house that shines it's brightest at Christmas.

{Christmas morning breakfast: cherry crescent ring - delicious!}

{eating breakfast on Mom's special china}

{all of us kids (of the Unmarrieds) with our stockings, each one made and designed by mom, standing in age order}

{...AND...all of us standing in height order. Every year this picture looks different! I'm moving down, Stuart's moving up...ah, the changes a year can bring!}

{my married brother and his wife gave us a big tub of Garett's popcorn. This is NOT your typical "cheap Wal-Mart tin popcorn," this is actual Chicago gourmet popcorn, the real deal! I could eat it all day....ahem, which I may or may not have actually done. :) }

{the Chosen Pine happily festooned with packages of love}

{....tied up with string...}

 {my gorgeous 15 year old sister}

{I think I might just have bragging rights on the prettiest house at Christmas!}

{me and the "ghost of Christmas Present," aka Katheryn}

{welcome to my "Christmas Ambiance}

It was a lovely Christmas, a very special one in many ways. I am so grateful, so blessed, and I love my home, my family and my God.

(click here for pictures from last year's Christmas day)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday ~ My Christmas Ambiance

So far this Christmas season, I have gone to two family Christmases, had two Christmas parties, I have gone out Christmas shopping several times, spend hours driving around with Christmas music playing, I have cruised the streets of town at night oohing and aahing over the neighborhood Christmas lights. I have wrapped presents, sang carols, kept the fire going in the stove, turned up the music, and worked-out to Christmas with Scotty McCreary. I've drank eggnog and hot cider, eaten peppermint ice-cream and Ande's Mint cookies, and consumed all manner of holiday candy while decorating graham-cracker houses. I've counted down the days til Christmas, helped my siblings decide on what gifts to buy for whom and bought a few winner gifts myself. I've gone to a Christmas pageant, a Christmas-time play and watched quite a few Christmas movies. I've listened to my favorite Christmas albums and discovered a few new favorites. I've been busy enough to feel like I've somehow been teleported into the middle of The Christmas Can-Can and found myself desperately trying to keep up with the fellows of Straight No Chaser. But in the best kind of way.

But all those things up there? That's not how I celebrate Christmas. Oh, that's a big part of my Christmas and I LOVE it (well, except for maybe the crazy busyness of this particular year); I look forward all year to doing all those things and more. But the real way that I really celebrate and uphold Christmas in my in the quiet.

In the early morning or the late evenings, I turn off all the lights in the living room. I walk around the edges of the room, flipping the switches that turn on all the points of holiday lights: the lights on the wooden nativity given to us by my aunt in the Navy; the colored lights on the Christmas tree; the lights in the greenery around our porcelain nativity at the central point of the room; the white lights entwined through the greenery on the high shelf that runs across the room; the twinkling lights in the corner wrapped around the red berries and glass candle-sticks. After all the soft holiday lights are on, I light the white candle on the coffee table in front of the couch, the one wrapped around with a garland of red berries. Then with soft, introspective Christmas carols softly playing through the speakers, I curl up on the couch. And it's here, in the midst of the quiet beauty all around me, I celebrate Christmas.

In the mornings, I read my bible, worship the Lord and pray. In the evenings, I just sit and think about the goodness of the Lord and the Christmases past, present and perhaps future. With just the twinkling points of light giving ambiance to the room, everything else comes to a stop and it's just me. Sometimes I just sit or lay there for minutes on end. Sometimes I pray for my family, I pray for myself. I pray for those I know and care about who aren't walking with the Lord. I talk to God about how I feel about life and love, I tell Him how much I love His Christmas and what it really means. Sometimes I just dream. Sometimes I cry a little, sometimes I smile to myself as different thoughts cross my mind. Sometimes I feel that overwhelming sadness that is really that special kind of happy that’s unique for melancholy people.

Whatever I choose to think and mull over as I sit there, it all comes down to what flows from my heart in thankfulness. A thankfulness rooted in what Christmas stands for, what I see in the nativities, reflecting the beginning of Jesus' time of humility, submission and obedience down on earth. The start of our salvation found in a stable.

The past few mornings as I've sat in quiet beauty described above, with my bible open and a mug of eggnog in my hand, I've read the Christmas story. But instead of beginning in the first verse of Luke chapter two and ending in verse 20 with the shepherds, I've begun at very beginning of Chapter One and read all the way through to chapter 2 verse 40. As I've read through these several pages, I've soaked up the full picture of Jesus' birth:

Gabriel appearance to Zechariah in the temple, the promise of a child to him and Elizabeth, a child who would “make ready for the Lord a people prepared,” Zechariah being stuck mute for his unbelief. Gabriel's appearance to Mary, the promise of a conceived Messiah, Mary's humble reply “behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Mary's visit to Elizabeth, how unborn baby John, the prophet of the Most High, moved in the womb at the sound of Mary's voice, and then Mary's Magnificat, “for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” Then the birth of baby John, and Zechariah's return of speech, followed by the Holy Spirit's indwelling of Zechariah and the prophecy that he spoke over his son, “and you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare His way.” And then the census issued by Caesar Augustus, Joseph and Mary's journey to Bethlehem, the birth of the Most High himself, Jesus, born in an animal stable because the inns were too full. Then the angel's visit to the shepherds, “fear not, for behold! I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people,” and the chorus of the heavenly hosts that praised God before the shepherds. The shepherds of one accord searching for the baby until they found Mary, Joseph and Jesus in the stable. How they left the stable and told everyone what had happened, and the wonder of the people of Bethlehem.

Then the naming and circumcision of Jesus and Mary and Joseph taking him to the temple to be purified, because “every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord.” And then Simeon, old, frail and shaking, as I picture him, cradling Jesus in his old arms, blessing God because “my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of this people.” And Anna the prophettess, married for only seven short years and living widowed until she was eighty-four in the temple day and night, worshiping with fasting and prayer. And how, at the very hour that the infant Jesus was brought to the temple, she “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.” And then as it comes to a close, Joseph and Mary's return to Nazareth. And then, the best part of all:“And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.”

That is my Christmas. The fun things, the activities, the parties, the presents and the holiday lights, are tools of my overall celebration of the season of Christ's birth. But for me, in the quiet of my living room, with the soft lights twinkling and the quiet carols playing, that's when I really celebrate Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thursday ~ Starbucks Tuesday Winner!

It’s Thursday and that means it’s time to first of all thank all the lovely people who participated in my little Starbucks Tuesday Giveaway Edition! I cannot tell you how much I enjoy interacting with each one of you and how I have come to count many of you as friends, despite the fact of us never having met. You girls really do make my day! 

And so, without further fluff, I have tallied up the submitted comments and the lady who shall be mailed a $10 Starbucks card is none other than the lovely

KatySue Pillsbury!
Girl, it must be your month for winning blog contests! Katysue has been a faithful boggy friend for quite a few months now and I can't tell you how much I appreciate her cheerful, fun-loving personality! She always has something fun to say and I've loved our blog-to-blog interaction! She's a keeper! You go, girl!
Please email me your address at chocolatemilkmaid{at}hotmail{dot}com.

Once again, thank you each (Rissi, Little Lady, Meghan, KatySue, Kerry, & Becky!) for joining in on the fun and who knows? Maybe we’ll do it again sometime.

The Answers:

1) The First Noel
2) Christmas Waltz
3) Here Comes Santa Claus
4) It Came Upon a Midnight Clear (my favorite Christmas hymn!)
5) Hark the Herold Angels Sing
6) Winter Wonderland
7) Michael Buble's "Cold December Night"
8) Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
9) O Little Town of Bethlehem
10) No Place Like Home For the Holidays
11) All I Want for Christmas Is You
12) Dave Barne's "Very Merry Christmas"
13) Come Thou Long Expected Jesus
14) Kristin Chenoweth's "Christmas Island"
15) Island of Misfit Toys

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesday ~ Starbucks Tuesday GIVEAWAY Edition

So, once again Starbucks has found me celebrating not at work, but in an actual Starbucks! Being once again off of work, I packed up my laptop and headed to my favorite Starbucks. Not only was I armed with my trusty laptop, I was also the happy bearer of a filled out Christmas drink card! So, I enjoyed today’s beverage on the house!

Grande Eggnog Latte Frap

I think I’ve had the Eggnog Latte a few years ago and if I’m right, I think it was a favorite of mine. But in the past year or so, it got lost in the flurry of peppermint mochas, a fact of which perhaps was my loss! Whereas it may not have reached superiority to the Pepper-mo (yes, I made that up), it still was a very tasty holiday-infused beverage, suitable for a relaxed afternoon spent catching up on my favorite beast & his lady.

Okay, anybody in the mood for some fun? As I said in yesterday’s post, I love me some Christmas tunes and I’ll wager you do, too! So here’s what I’m going to do! In honor of today being the last Starbucks Tuesday prior to Christmas (Starbucks Tuesday will not be celebrated next week due to it being Christmas Day) and just because I want to, I’m announcing:
A Starbucks Tuesday giveaway!

Below is given a list of phrases from many Christmas songs and carols heard during the Christmas season. Whoever first correctly guesses (without the help of google or any other digital device, mind you!) what songs they belong to, will win a $10 gift card to none other than our favorite place itself: Starbucks!

In order than no one can gain hints from any other entries, I have opted to change the comments on this post to “visible upon approval” – and so you will not see any comments showing up until I have “closed” this give away! And folks, there’s only approximately 6 people who comment on this bog (you know who you are!) so your chances of winning are pretty high!

Once again:
-Name the songs referenced below without the help of google or any other online device! That means this has to be entirely from memory or what’s printed down on paper. 
And really…this isn’t going to be particularly hard! :)
-Leave your answers in the comment section by midnight (PST) on Wednesday.
-First person to correctly name as many of the songs below…wins the $10 Starbucks card! I will announce the winner on Thursday.

The List:

1) …they looked up and saw a star shining in the east…
2) …painted candy canes on the tree; Santa’s on his way…
3) …all is merry and bright; hang your stockings and say your prayers…
4) …look now! for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing…
5) …pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.
6) …a beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight…
7) …and walk proudly to the mistletoe tonight…
8) …hang a shining star upon the highest bow…
9) …and praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.
10) …from Pennsylvania folks are traveling down to Dixie’s sunny shore…
11) …I’m just gonna keep on waiting underneath the mistletoe…
12) …with the both of us this house might bust, what a blessing…
13) …Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth Thou art…
14) …how’d you like to hang your stocking on a great big coconut tree…
15) …a packful of toys means a packful of joys…

Happy guessing, my dear bloggy friends!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday ~ To the Tune of my Christmas

I think unanimously most everyone would agree that one the one thing that really makes Christmas Christmas, is the music we listen to during this most festive time of the year! Whether it’s old-english carols, orchestral pieces, a capella numbers, soft instrumental, country ballads or popular pop songs, there is  a wonderful wealth of Christmas music to be had, and sometimes when faced with such a wide variety to choose from, it’ s a bit overwhelming. In a good way. :)

So, I’ve compiled a little list of my top favorite Christmas cd’s, in no particular order.

1. Michael W. Smiths’ Christmas. This cd would probably rank amongst my top five Christmas cd’s of all time. “All Is Well” is probably one of my favorite Christmas songs as well. I love the calming instrumental pieces that slowly build to the rousing upbeat rendition of Angels We Have Heard On High.

2. First Call’s a cappella Evening In December. Okay, folks, this cd harkens back to the early days of my life, and we still listen to it on cassette ta pe. The title track is close to my heart, being the sentimental nostalgic that I am!

3) Kristin Chenoweth’s What  a Lovely Way to Spend Christmas. Not a fan of  her work (other than a few choice pieces from Wicked) in general, but I do love her Christmas cd! “Come On, Ring Those Bells” always gets me singing it out!

4) An Old-English Christmas is another album of my childhood. With chorale pieces and instrumentals, it’s one we often listen to during the December days.

5 Michael W. Smith’s It’s a Wonderful Christmas. What’s not to like??

6) Okay, ladies, who doesn’t like this one? Michael Buble’s Christmas was a welcome addition to the scene last year and I happily paid the $13 bucks at my local Starbucks as soon as I could following it’s release. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a special fondness for “Cold December Night.” Hmmm, ladies?

7) David Archuletta’s Christmas from the Heart was another addition to my collection last year and it does not disappoint. Mostly straight renditions of tradition Christmas carols, I appreciate the fact that a current artist would record an album of 90% Christian carols, in a society where no secular artist puts any carols amongst their album’s tracks. Go, Archy!

8) Clay Aiken’s All is Well, as well as his other album Merry Christmas with Love. Despite the facts of the actual man himself, he sure knows how to crank out a Christmas carol and bring new life to it! Like David Archuletta, this is another album where a large amount of the track numbers are tradition Christmas carols. His versions of “All is Well” and “Mary Did You Know” give me the goosebumps every time!

9) Quiet Christmas. This is a breathtakingly beautiful cd of traditional songs played so restfully on the piano. This is one of the albums that I play on the nights I turn off the house lights, plug in the tree, light some candles and just “soak” in the full beauty and wonder of Christmas.

10) Julie Andrew’s Greatest Christmas Songs. It’s Julie Andrews, ‘nuff said.

11) Tom Howard plays beautiful instrumental Christmas songs on this special edition Thomas Kinkade-inspired Christmas cd. We bought this years and years ago from a traveling Thomas Kinkade show. You can’t find this particular cd anymore and so as it’s one of my all-time favorite Christmas cd’s, I cherish the burned copy that I made from the original.

12) Maranatha’s Long Play Christmas. Okay, we’re talking LOTS of memories to be found for me on this old cassette tape! Even though it’s obviously dated from back in the 80’s/90’s, I still love the heart behind this album. From the children’s choir to the everyday church choruses intermixed with the traditional Christmas songs, I love how it really does encourage worship of Christ at Christmas.

13) And last but certainly NOT least, is my main man himself! Dave Barne’s Very Merry Christmas! There is nothing disappointing about this cd and I’ve listened to it way too many times already this season! Can’t stand yet another unoriginal version of “Baby, it’s Cold Outside?” (gag) Dave’s got another guy/girl echo song called “Christmas Tonight,” that besides containing none of that slight innuendo of “Baby’s It’s Cold Outside,” is way more fun and catchy! And the girl singing is Hillary Scott from Lady Antebellum. 

What are some of your favorite Christmas albums? I need some new suggestions!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday ~ Up on the Rooftop...of a Graham-Cracker House

Last night our dining room was the scene of much master-minded construction. Armed with graham crackers, bowls of candy and frosting, we squeezed around our table and began dreaming up our own little house. Us being all my siblings (minus the Married's) and our "honorary siblings" from next door. It was so much fun! Sugar abounded along with the laughter and I tell you what, I was truly impressed with the originality and talent that each person put into their houses/church/castles!

{intense creativity; actually, it was more like, "lets just stick this candy here..."}
{Karis & K made this impressive castle complete with "moat" and draw-bridge}

{Scott made a church; notice the "nativity" in the front year, somewhat reminiscent of Veggie Tales!}

{this is my little house...but unfortunately, it's little four walled cuteness looked disturbingly like an outhouse next to everyone else's larger creations!}

 {this is Seth's "church;" being the avid ham-radio operator that he is, his had to have an antenna}

{main street}

{the construction crew!}

{photos by both me and mom; the lighting in our dining room is horrible, so sadly, the harsh flash was necessary}

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Thursday ~ Littles In Leaves

On Saturday, as we were all in our van driving our newly-chosen Christmas tree home, we passed the street where my sister and her family live. As we looked down the street at their house like we do every time we drive by their road, we saw all four of them bundled up against the chill afternoon raking leaves out in their front year. There was a loud unanimous cry of "Lets stop! Dad, can we stop?" So we did.

 Whether we actually added in their leaf-racking or just added more happy chaos, I really can't say, hehe, but it was fun nonetheless! But after about 20 minutes of playing in the leaves and talking, we piled back into the van and once again resumed our little journey home. Oh, how I love my family!

{photos by mom; edited by me}

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wednesday ~ Triple Twelve

Because such a thing with never happen again in our lifetimes...

at 12pm

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday #2 - Christmas Tree Extravaganza Two-Thousand-and-Twelve

Sunday night was the scene of bedlam and chaos but of the best variety, as we as a family gathered together to decorate Christmas Tree 2012! The tree was voted in unanimously as this year's Chosen Pine on Saturday morning, trussed up in our trailer and brought home by a van-load of eight happy people. I happily fulfilled my role of stringing the lights, a role I stepped in to fill when our oldest sister married.

 With hot cider (mom's special recipe, you don't know what real cider is until you've tried this!) simmering on the stove, I unpacked the green tub that contains all our boxes of Christmas ornaments. What ensued was our family at it's best. There was a stark resemblance between an active beehive and us kids as we swarmed en mass around the Chosen Pine.  

{Karis and her special ornaments}


{see this old shoebox? This humble looking box marked in a very childish scrawl reading "Kellie's Ornamins," holds all my Christmas Tree treasures. Being as how I have a crazed fetish for tree ornaments, it's bursting at the seams!}

{the ornaments from Katheryn's box}

The night always ends with a group shot of all of us kids in front of the tree. Yes, there really is a tree behind that mob.

See those six kids up there? There's an age range from 28 to 13. That's a span of fifteen years. But to us it doesn't feel that way. We're as close as peers and think of each other that way. We're a tight-nit bunch who laugh together, be silly together, do goofy stuff that only we think is funny...but we also pray for each other, stand together in trials, and carry a blood-bond that I know can be very rare amongst siblings. I am so blessed to have these godly people as my brothers and sisters. Let's "do it again." :)

Have you gotten your tree yet? What's your favorite ornament? I'm crazy about Christmas trees and ornaments - tell me about them!

{click here to see pictures from last year's tree extravaganza!}