Summer Adds Up

It will be the 4th of July in a few hours, and we’ve come to that part of the year when everyone sees the back-to-school clothing ads and says in a freakish sort of tone, “Where has the summer gone!?”
Here in Minnesota, it truly feels like summer is just getting started. The lake only warmed up to swim-able temperature a couple of weeks ago. We haven’t even made it to the beach yet! So, in an effort not to join that familiar chorus of summertime blues, I’m adding up all the fun we’ve had since our fabulous Memorial Day weekend trip up north.
Here’s the math:
  • 3 sailing trips
  • 1 swim in the lake
  • 2 tea parties
  • 1 night at the movies to see Up!
  • 4 Arboretum trips
  • 1 piano recital
  • 2 fishing trips
  • 1 afternoon at the Old Log Theatre to see Treasure Island
  • 5 nights of Vacation Bible School
  • 1 afternoon playing in the sprinkler and eating popsicles
  • 2 afternoons playing in the backyard kiddy pool
  • 1 family gathering with BBQ and bubble wands
  • 1 family gathering with Bailey the Dog and Chinese food
  • 2 fun get-togethers friends who feel like family
  • countless picnics and park visits

All this and just one bee sting! Of course, I must mention that I was stung immediately upon entering the Arboretum. The bee flew into the van, stung me and flew back out all in the 15 seconds it took me to show my membership card to the guy at the entrance gate. Welcome to the Arboretum! Ouch!

Notably, Michael was hundreds of miles away on his four-day, guys-only trip to the Boundary Waters when my arm started swelling up. The pain only lasted a few hours, despite the fact that I did none of the five post-bee-sting treatment steps spelled out on www.surviveoutdoors.com. I just sat on a park bench, watched the girls play and tried to avoid the wasp that kept lingering nearby. 

Despite leaving us alone to fend off the bees and wasps, and despite coming home with lots of smelly, fishy laundry, Michael did get some royal treatment on Father’s Day.

Father's Day
Father's Day

 And here’s one of our tea parties; Aunt Lilac and Great Gramma were our special guests.

Tea with the Greats
Tea with the Greats
Great Gramma
Great Gramma
For the 4th of July, this afternoon we made these fun desserts — fruit pizza in red, white and blue. Yum!
another edible flag
Linnea's edible flag
patriotic fruit pizza
patriotic fruit pizza

Love and Hearts

valentines09

Happy Valentine’s Day!

What’s more heart-warming than a sweater knitted with love by your great-grandma? When we were in Washington in November, my grandma and I took the girls to pick out yarn. Then Grandma went to work knitting these beautiful sweaters for them. She mailed them shortly after Christmas. Don’t they look precious on my little sweethearts? 

When we picked up these photos at the drugstore this morning, Laurel (age 3) looked around and said quite matter-of-factly, “Well, it looks like they are ready for Valentine’s Day.” She seemed to think they were getting ready for a party rather than capitalizing on the holiday.

Of course it’s all hearts and love every where we go lately, so how fitting that I’ve been memorizing Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (NIV). I am going to type it from memory just to test myself. Please leave a comment if you notice that I’ve left something out!

“Hear O Israel the LORD our God the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

dsc_05810005

The girls and I made dozens of these sugar cookies today. We wore our matching pink aprons (thanks again, Aimee!) and destroyed the kitchen with sprinkles, sugar, flour and icing.

Sugar cookies were not something my mother ever made, so I’ve never been a huge fan of them. However, they happen to be Michael’s all-time favorite cookie. It’s tradition in our nearly 20-year history of Valentine’s together for me to make and decorate the cookies so he can consume most of them.

About six years ago my friend Dani gave me what I believe is the BEST EVER sugar cookie recipe. The dough rolls out better than any other recipe or store-bought dough I’ve tried. And the cookies are pretty tasty. Coming from me, that’s saying a lot since most sweets are incomplete without chocolate! Anyway, here’s the recipe: 

SUGAR COOKIES

1 cup softened butter

1.5 cups sugar

3 eggs

1 Tblsp. vanilla

3.5 cups flour

2 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Mix all together with beater and chill three to four hours. Roll out and cut into shapes. The thicker cookies are better. Bake about 11 minutes at 350 F (longer if you use airbake cookie sheets). Bake until cookies are just slightly brown on the edges.

dsc_05850009

We also made these heart-shaped lollipops. We got the candy melts and molds at Hobby Lobby a few weeks ago. So fun and super easy!

dsc_05870011

Here, Laurel is get ready to slurp up what we are calling “raspberry floats.” They are perfectly pink for Valentine’s Day or girly parties. You can mix it together in a punch bowl or in individual glasses if you are just serving a few. Here’s what you need:

RASPBERRY FLOATS

2-liter of raspberry gingerale

1/2 gallon of raspberry sherbert

a handful of fresh raspberries

Scoop sherbert into individual glasses or punch bowl. Pour in gingerale to finish filling the glass or bowl. Mix with a fork if necessary. Let stand for about 5 minutes so the sherbert melts a little. Garnish with a few fresh raspberries and enjoy!

dsc_05760001

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

christmascard08

This year’s Christmas card photo was taken in November on a scenic old railroad bridge over the Dungeoness River in Sequim, Washington. Gramma Martin was riding in the rental car with us and told us we ought to stop and check out the bridge. Heavy rains earlier that week made the Dungeoness River rush rapidly below the bridge. It was a beautiful spot, especially with the fall foliage. Here are some other favorite shots from the bridge.

dsc_02800001

dsc_02940001

Whiter than Snow

snowbunnies1.gif

Except for a few small patches, nearly all of the snow that had been covering our lawn since Dec. 1, 2007, melted earlier this week. We all rejoiced to be finally rid of that old snow; it had turned ugly and gray over the last three months. 

On Wednesday Linnea was able to ride her bicycle and play outside all afternoon. Laurel blew bubbles and scooted around on her trike. Neighbors we hadn’t seen in months came up the street to chat. The hope of spring that had sustained us through this long, bitter winter was finally becoming a reality!

But today it’s a different story. It’s Good Friday and the first full day of spring according to the calendar. But just like Jesus’ disciples felt on Good Friday, we’re feeling confused and discouraged. It’s snowing. Actually, it’s blizzarding. We must have nearly six inches of fluffy white stuff out there right now, and it’s still piling up! We’ve lost a little hope. 

So what does snow have to do with Good Friday? After David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan came to him and encouraged him to repent of his sins. David wrote Psalm 51, and in verse 7 he says to God, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

Likewise, Isaiah 1:18 says “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”

All week I’ve been reminding Linnea and Laurel that Easter isn’t about brightly colored eggs or tasty chocolate bunnies. It’s about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. It’s about Jesus paying the blood sacrifice so that we, like David, can be made whiter than snow.

So even in the midst of a March blizzard, we still have hope. We have hope that spring will arrive and the rain will wash away our snow. The grass will reappear and turn green. The birds will return. The trees will bud and the flowers will bloom.

Though our hope for spring may come and go, our hope in Jesus will continue. He cleanses us and gives us a fresh new beginning. He will not disappoint us. He is risen indeed!

‘Tis the Season to Share the Joys of Christmas!

A close friend of mine e-mailed me this fun little Christmas survey, and I thought I’d share my answers here, too.
      

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? I use wrapping paper if the gift is rectangular or somehow boxed or being mailed. I use gift bags, too.

2. Real tree or artificial? Now that we have kids, it must be real! And certain body parts should become partially numb in the pursuit of selecting the perfect tree on the farm and cutting it down!

3. When do you put up the tree? the weekend following Thanksgiving

4. When do you take the tree down? shortly after Christmas when it becomes more of a fire hazard

5. Do you like eggnog? No! Give me hot chocolate instead!

6. Favorite gift received as a child? my “Mandy” doll because she came with a doll bed and lots of doll clothes that my mother made for her

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes – we have a Fontanini set that my aunt began for us about 10 years ago, and she still adds to it. The figures go in a stable that Michael and I built together several years ago. Also, this year I bought the Fischer Price Little People nativity set for my daughters. They love playing with it! It is fun to watch them bring all sorts of other little toys (cars, dolls, etc.) to “go see baby Jesus!”

8. Hardest person to buy for? It’s a different person every year.

9. Easiest person to buy for? Linnea – there’s so much girly stuff out there for her age, and she loves it all!

10. Worst Christmas gift ever received? concrete blocks wrapped up to look like a big, heavy gift (I think there was a check in the attached envelope, but it was still disappointing to unwrap!)

11. Mail or email Christmas card? mail it!

12. Favorite Christmas Movie? “It’s a Wonderful Life”

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas? in the summer or while on vacation; I always try to do the bulk of my Christmas shopping BEFORE Thanksgiving because we end up mailing many gifts out of state

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? sure

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? home-made cinnamon rolls, fudge, chocolate desserts, hot rolls, ham, cranberry sauce, Chex mix, sugar cookies

16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? red or clear but NOT multi-colored

17. Favorite Christmas song? I have two favorites: “The Holly and the Ivy” and “O’ Come, O’ Come, Emmanuel.”

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home? stay home out of the snow or go to my aunt’s house nearby

19. Can you name Santa’s reindeer? Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and Rudolph

20. Do you have an Angel on top or a star? a star on top but lots of angels elsewhere

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? morning, except maybe one gift Christmas Eve

22. Most annoying thing about this time of year? greedy people and people who are uptight about calling it “Christmas”

23. Did you believe in Santa when you were little? I did. But it was always a little creepy thinking about some strange guy coming to our house in the middle of the night. We don’t “do” Santa at our house now because it’s confusing and distracting, especially with a December birthday girl in our family!

24. White Christmas or no snow? White Christmas, of course! Those of us who live in Minnesota deserve a white Christmas for all the cold and snow we deal with in fall/winter/spring!

25. What is your Christmas wish for this year? May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!