A Handmade Christmas

Not our entire Christmas was handmade, but much of it was. There are a few more goodies I haven't photographed yet that I'll share later on. For now, here's some handmade goodies that you may want to make too:

A wool tic-tac-toe Game

This was a cinch to make. I had a bunch of scrap wool from various projects that I used to make the boys a reusable tic-tac-toe board. They are crazy about it. i think a knitted one would be fun too, although I have no knitting ability. The great thing about the wool is that I was able to leave the edges raw which was faster and gave it the rustic/woodsy feel I was going for.

A Portrait

K Studio does some amazing art. I have had the site saved in my favorites folder for quite a while now and have contemplated ordering something for our family. Since Mike and I had a "no spend" policy for Christmas this year, I attempted to make him a portrait of us using a freezer paper drawn design painted on linen stretched over a frame. He loved it and it was so much fun to make.


These doughnuts aren't entirely handmade, although we often make them that way. Canaan got this wonderful little doughnut maker from my parents and it makes the most fabulous little cake doughnuts, which he has been spoiling us with almost every morning. I actually prefer these to the hot oil dipped ones we usually make. Sprinkled with a little cinnamon, these gems are a danger to any diet. Beware!

These are the boots...you know...THE boots. The winter boots that I have longed for and Mike bought me, only to return after we heard the news of his layoff. On Christmas morning, after gifts were opened, Canaan disappeared and then re-appeared with an enormous box for me. I kind of knew they were the boots. I figured Mike hadn't returned them at all or had re-bought them. I reluctantly opened the box and began preparing my "you know I love these but we have to return them" speech. They were indeed the dream boots.
I slid my feet into their sheepskin lined fluffiness and looked at Mike for an explanation of why he hadn't returned them.
He began to share with me how these boots were in fact not from him, but came as a surprise from a group of my blog readers. An enormous blessing spearheaded by this precious blogger. Immediately the sting of tears came to my eyes...then the flood of humbled and thankful tears poured. It is overwhelming.
I am a giver. I love to give and to find out what others needs are so I can help meet them. As a giver, it is so very hard to receive. I have one friend who literally will take my hands, turn them upward, and say "Megan, receive" when she offers to help and I turn her down.
These boots are so much more than a luxury gift. They are a true representation of the generosity, love and support that mama's give to one another. It is both humbling and incredible to be on the receiving end...and I am pretty sure these boots won't come off until the first 80 degree day of summer.

A Good Read

I am so thankful for blogland and the support and encouragement we can give one another through our online connection. Since Mike's layoff this week, the outpouring of love and support has been humbling and simply amazing. When I am tempted to let fear take over and steal my joy I am reminded that we as a family are ridiculously blessed with health, love, creativity and happiness and in time, money and work will come once again.

In more upbeat news...I am reading a fantastic book right now. "Fannie's Last Supper" by Chris Kimball (of America's Test Kitchen and Cook's Illustrated) is the perfect holiday read and I can't wait for those moments during the day to curl up under a quilt and read a few pages. The book chronicles Chris' journey re-creating a 12 course Victorian meal from Fannie Farmer's 1896 cookbook.
Not only is this book a great read for a foodie, but the historical detail about life in the late 1800's is so captivating. And its not everyday you can find a recipe for mock turtle soup detailing instructions like these:
"Split calf's head in half, remove the brains (reserve for the Crispy Brain Balls recipe) and eyes (discard), cut out the tounge, and clean well, including the nostrils. Cut the head into pieces, sok for one hour in a 30-quart stock pot in slightly salted water."

To take your mind off Crispy Brain Balls, I'll turn your attention to the homemade peppermint marshmallows from The Marshmallows Company that we hand dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with peppermint candy canes. Utterly spectacular, delicious and great gifts for the neighbors.

Without Work

Mike received a call last night that he will be laid off at the end of December. Ummm...didn't really see that one coming. He was in Presidents Club and in the top 3%in the nation for his company. But with the economy (blah, blah, blah) they are completely eliminating his region of employees.
To escape reality Mike and I have done something we've never before done as a married couple...work on a puzzle. A big 1000 piece puzzle that is challenging enough to take our minds off the issues at hand and let us just absorb the shock of the news. I am suprised at how gratifying and calming this puzzle thing is. Very therapudic, in fact.
Anyhow, we're less than two weeks out from Christmas. I am pretty bummed that this level of stress has now come into to our festive, joyous time of year. Yes, we are maintaining a good outlook and we are confident that in the end everything will work out, but in the midst of a mini crisis like a one income family losing its' income...its scary.
So while talking it through last night on the couch Mike and I looked at each other and said, "so I guess we should return the gifts we got for each other this year." The boys gifts will stay put under the tree, but I will be returning Mike's new watch (we went ahead and showed each other what we were going to give) and he will be returning the *sob, sob, whimper, whimper*, winter boots I have been wanting for 3 years now and he finally bought me.
~A little pity party is ok, right?~
We have certainly been through tough financial times before. The year Canaan was born we made only $13,000 as missionaries. After Ezra was born we had just returned from missions work and had so little money we couldn't afford to pay the gas bill to heat our water. But we are both resiliant, very ingenuitive, have great work ethic and high spirits. Most of all we have a deep faith in God and know that He has great plans for our lives. Its just kinda hard for us to see the forest for the trees in times like these.
This verse has been in my mind all day:
Matthew 6:26
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

I love the version from the Message Bible:
"Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds."

So for now, its back to the puzzle.

The 3 "P's" ~ Popcorn, Puzzles and Pregnancy

Its a snowy day here at the Smith Homestead. A snow day..in fact. The only way we can make it through days like these is with a schedule. I really hate to schedule my days, especially snow days, but Canaan just can't seem to function without them. He is a creature of habit and loves a plan. So that's what we did at 9am this morning. We made a plan. 9:30-10:30~play with blocks, Lego's, etc... (building time) 10:30-11am~puzzle time....and so it goes.

The puzzle time seems to be a big hit today. Both Canaan and Ezra have graduated to a new difficulty level which has been exciting and challenging.

Popcorn. Well since it is snowy and this mama hasn't been to the grocery store in a while, there are many bowls of popcorn to be eaten. Add in some homemade applesauce I canned this fall, some chicken noodle soup to be made a little later on and some surprise banana splits for this evening ~ I think we're set.

No, I am not pregnant. But my friend did start a new magazine recently. She sent me a copy and I am just blown away! I am so proud of her...on so many levels. She has overcome alot in recent years. A child with debilitating seizures, a near divorce and a change in life's path...its been a rough ride but she has emerged more full of life, beautiful and resilient than ever. You can check it out online here
Just further confirmation of what I already know...us mama's really are capable of anything and fulfilling our dreams.

Keeping It Together

About this time every year the walls start closing in at the Smith Homestead. The clutter of the season (Christmas and wintertime alike) get to be a bit much. Instead of cleaning continually, as I usually do, I have just let much of it go this week. By no means is it cathartic but it is what it is. Mittens and scarves are mingled with toys and games which are mingled in with fabric and writing drafts which is also mingled in with marshmallow ingredients and Christmas cookies.
About this time of year I also wish for a pina colada on the beach somewhere and a 6000 square foot house to get lost in for a while.
Not too much to ask for on my Christmas list, right?

A complete list of items on the table...and yes, those are deer antlers sprouting out of our antique typewriter.
4 stretcher bars for a Christmas gift project in progress
1 Pirate Ship
2 candles, a coat, water, a watch, 2 stretched canvas' ready to gift, Mod Podge, a printer, a business plan, 2 advent calendars, a 1994 Kentucky State Fair cookbook, a list of marshmallow orders to fill, a grocery list, a carved wooden toy chair from this years Ohio State Fair, twine and a VHS of Its The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.
Now to get this cleaned up for dinner...