Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday guests

Two weeks ago, we opened our home to a couple of guests who had no family to spend Christmas with. They were going to be in need of companionship, in need of comfort, food and care. There was no way I could say no.

I had never met them before so I must admit that I was a little apprehensive at first. I worried about all sorts of things. How comfortable would they feel in our home? What would they want to eat? Would they mind the fact that we have a dog?

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was probably worrying for nothing. After all, they came with two pages of instructions, a bag of food, two bags of bedding, and a cute little wheel for exercise. And best of all, my son was so excited to have them come home with us!

Apparently a lot of children at school really wanted to take them home for the two-week Christmas break. You see, they live at school.

Here was their car ride to our home...

Meet the gerbils! You can only see one in the picture above but there are two. They are two boys. Brothers maybe?

So far, they have been perfect guests. And so far, yes I have touched them but no, I haven't picked them up. Let's not push it!

The science teacher said that they like to chew up paper towel rolls for fun. Here they are below enjoying their "hobby".

Our dog Lizzy doesn't seem to mind having them around. As a matter of fact, she likes to lay down not too far from them. Maybe to keep an eye on them and make sure they don't get out?!

At 16, she's used to being the only pet in the house you know.

Poor thing suffered a small injury to her paw yesterday and had to go for a trip to the vet. See her little paw all bandaged up? I'm sure she'll be fine in a few days.

I sure hope all of you are enjoying some relaxing and fun holidays with your family and friends. May this new year be filled with sweet blessings and memories to treasure forever.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

The most precious gift of all

Although there is not a snowflake to be found outside my home, I believe that a lovely blanket of snow adds such beauty and charm to this time of year.

Painting by Thomas Kinkade

Wintery paintings like this one remind me of the warmth and love that come from being home with loved ones at this time of year. Let's all sing together...

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays,
'Cause no matter how far away you roam,
When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly face,
For the holidays, you can't beat home sweet home!

We've been away for Christmas in years past but being home with my family is the best! Sitting together, watching a good movie, all of us enjoying hot cocoa overflowing with whipped cream. Does it get any better?

Yes, for me it does, if we're doing all this while watching It's a Wonderful Life. :)

This movie always leaves me thankful for my family and the blessings that God gives us. In fact, the greatest blessing is the one that God gave all of us in the form of His one and only Son. He's the most precious gift of all, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS." Luke 1:30-31.

Despite all the distractions that can surround Christmas, may we honor God by celebrating what Christmas is all about.

Wishing you and yours a joyful and peaceful Christmas!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A perfectly imperfect Christmas

For some people, this really isn't the most wonderful time of the year. Things can be a little overwhelming with all the shopping, gift wrapping, decorating, cooking, baking, cleaning, entertaining and wanting everything to be perfect.

Unfortunately, so many people complain about this time of year, almost as if they dread it. They say "I can't believe Christmas is almost here already"! As for me, I say "I can't believe Christmas is almost here, finally!".

I think what helps me to retain some sense of sanity this time of year is refusing to let perfection be my guide. The truth is I can't handle having to have every little detail be perfect. I don't have that much energy!

No, I'll never have the perfect outfit that matches my kitchen that matches my tablescape that matches my food that matches my drink. And that's exactly what I was thinking when I sat down last week to watch one of my favorites on the Food Network, Sandra Lee.

Isn't that beautiful though? All the red and white everywhere. I sat there on the couch, surrounded by my imperfect decorations, next to my Christmas tree missing its angel which I can't find. And I thought "what a great job she did"!

I really enjoyed seeing all the effort that she put into this episode. Like so many other women, she is an inspiration to me. I thought her table was so pretty I just had to take a picture to show you. But, I sat there enjoying my hot cocoa knowing full well this isn't my reality and feeling completely fine with it.

So, this year again, I will continue to relax instead of letting the hectic pace of the season get to me. I will continue to strive for nice and simple and easy. That's how I stay happy in the midst of such busyiness.

Because did you hear? Christmas is almost here, finally!


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A box of thanks

It may be small....

But it contains big thanks!

Everything that my son makes with his hands is a treasure to me and this little box of thanks is no different. I always keep it out as a reminder to be thankful everyday.

It's filled with little strips of paper and the idea is to simply write down what we are thankful for, especially as we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Then last week, his class made a special craft to celebrate Thanksgiving. Are you ready to see the cutest salt and pepper shakers?

It's Mr. and Mrs. Pilgrim of course! It does appear that Mrs. Pilgrim's hat is a little lopsided but that's because she was in a hurry when she got dressed. :)

For his part, Mr. Pilgrim's hat tilts to the back to reveal the top of the pepper shaker so they both serve a purpose, they don't just look good!

She and her dear husband will be on our table tomorrow to join in the festivities. I just hope they don't get sick when we turn them upside down during the meal. That could be trouble!

Sending lots of warm wishes to you and yours on this eve of Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy a special day and plenty of good home cooking with your loved ones. May your box of thanks overflow on this Thanksgiving and always.

Many sweet blessings!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a message in the sky!

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in YAH, the Lord, is everlasting strength. Isaiah 26:3-4

Last Saturday morning, I went for a walk in my neighborhood. The weather was beautiful, sunny and warm.

I was deep in thoughts which slowed down my pace a bit. I was thinking about a certain situation that lately has been heavy on my heart. Then I looked up and saw a plane that was writing a message in the sky. The message read: TRUST GOD.

At first, I thought "how neat!" and then I thought "how thoughtful of You God to answer me in this way, knowing that I can't possibly miss this message". Talk about the right answer at the right time!

Instead of little me trying to figure things out on my own, how much better to let God handle it? I sure don't have all the answers but He does.

Then the next day, on Sunday afternoon, as we were out with some friends, another message popped up in the sky. This time I did have my camera...

TRUST JESUS. Is it just me or is He trying to tell me something?!

I'd say it's something that probably not just myself but many of us need to remind ourselves of. And I'm sure getting the message loud and clear. Sometimes that's just what I need to get the point. Make it plain and simple and put it right there in my face where I can't miss it.

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

Hoping you're having a great week and may each of you be full of God's peace, love and strength. Those are indeed some very sweet blessings!


Friday, November 6, 2009

Shortcut chocolate bars

Let me start by admitting that I keep several of these bars tightly wrapped in my freezer at all times. These and a few brownies. After a quick pop in the microwave, they're as good as new. Or pretty close anyway.

What I like best is that they're so easy to make and yet they're super delicious. My kind of treat!

Here's what you'll need:

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 17-ounce rolls refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough

Preheat your oven to 350 F. In a saucepan, combine the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter. Cook and stir over low heat until the chocolate is melted. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the nuts (I don't use them but you may choose to) and the vanilla.

Cover a 15" x 10" (or any pan similar in size) with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. You don't have to use foil, but I always do because it makes clean-up a cinch and anything to make clean-up quicker is a good thing! Then, press 1 1/3 rolls of the cookie dough into the bottom of the pan.

Next, spread the melted chocolate mixture evenly on the cookie dough and resist the urge to dip a finger in it. Some of you have self-control, I'm sure. :)

Dot the remaining cookie dough on top of the chocolate mixture. It doesn't have to be precise, so now is a great time to call in little helpers you may have around.

Bake for 25 minutes or so but be carefeful not to overbake. When the top is lightly browned, it's done.

I find these bars even better the next day because they're extremely moist the first day so it's a great recipe for when you need something you can bake a day or two ahead of time.

Now, let it cool for a while and then cut into bars. The size of the bars will be up to you!

Wishing you God's blessings too numerous to count and may they all be as sweet as chocolate!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hello pumpkin!

Growing up, I used to enjoying watching my mom carve pumpkins right before Halloween. She used to do a great job at it too.

Now as an adult, I don't care for Halloween (at least not the spooky side of it) but I still enjoy beautifully decorated pumpkins, gourds and other seasonal fruits. Here are a few that I gathered from Country Living for inspiration. Not sure which ones I will try, they are all so interesting!

I really like this one below, I think it's so pretty! The sweater too...

What about this lovely lantern design?

Here's a view from the top of another favorite of mine. Is it a pumpkin or a flower? Looks like it's both!

Check out the wallpaper - another case of designs that blend in.

My mom used to decorate with candles. Maybe that's why I think this one is so special. :)

How high can you go?! The colors, the shapes, the sizes, doesn't this pretty tower have it all?

Have you or will you decorate this fall? I'd love to hear how you use pumpkins, gourds or other fruits in your decorations.

May your day be joyful and full of sweet blessings!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Enjoying teatime

One of my favorite moments of the day is when I get to enjoy a nice cup of tea. I drink all kinds, but mostly I prefer green teas and white teas.

Lately, I have been enjoying this one from Harney and Sons. It's a green tea called "Citron (lemon) Green".

If I'm at home, I like to put on some wonderful music, such as piano or harp. Often, I listen to Jim Gibson's music, and this cd is one I really enjoy.

A soothing cup of tea along with lovely music somehow instantly takes any care I have to a far away place. Isn't teatime wonderful? I sure think it is!

In fact, I like teatime by myself, just as much as I like teatime with a group of friends...

But my very favorite way to enjoy teatime is to share it with a very special loved one.

May you enjoy tea and special friends to warm your heart today and always!


Sunday, October 4, 2009

By the lake with a boy and his dog

The lake in our backyard is one of my son's favorite spots. The fishing is good some of the time and even when it's not, well it's always a great place to relax, enjoy the breeze and the peaceful surroundings. Even with neighbors all around, it's surprisingly always very quiet.

Whether or not a friend or hubby joins him while he's fishing, my sweet boy is rarely alone for very long. In fact, he's usually joined by a small 4-legged companion named Lizzy.

Yes, our family dog loves to tag along to enjoy the fresh air and the company of her boy...

Aaah, to be as carefree as a boy fishing and his dog keeping him company!

Wishing you a relaxing day and week ahead. May we all remember to slow down and enjoy the scenery. :)


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Beautiful autumn

Here comes autumn, and what a beautiful season it is! The colors, the shapes, the textures, all give it a glow no other season can boast. It is a season that is warm and comforting just like a dear old friend. Plus, how fun is it to enjoy all the beautiful decorations of this season?!

Photo courtesy of Martha Stewart

Even though the temperatures get a bit colder, it is to me a season full of warmth. The kind of warmth that comes from family and friends gathering together over a fireplace or cheering the home team at a football game or simply the delicious smell of pumpkin bread baking in the oven... how can any season compare?

And speaking of warmth, I must thank all of you who have left me such sweet and comforting words over the summer following my mom's passing. I don't know any of you personally and yet, I truly felt embraced by the support and kindness flowing through your comments. Thank you so much for warming my heart the way each of you did and for all of your prayers.

Now, I'm back to my little blog after taking the summer off and I'm happy to welcome you back. :)

Warm hugs and sweet blessings!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Summer break

A week ago, I received the sad news that my mom passed away unexpectedly. We lived in two different countries for the past 17 years (she lived in Canada and I'm in the US) and although I did not get to see her very often, she was very much close to my heart and in my prayers always. We loved each other deeply and the distance between us had never changed that.

The sadness of losing her will last for a while but I know that the Lord came to get her because He had chosen it to be her time and as His ways are not our ways, I will not try to understnd why it is so. Losing her made me reflect on my own motherhood and the little bit of time that I have with my own child. My little guy is already 7 and I want to treasure as much of our time together as possible, making family memories to cherish for years to come.

In order to spend as much quality time enjoying my family and the special activities that summer has to offer, I have decided to take the summer off from my blog and maybe longer depending how I feel come autumn.

I hope each of you has a great summer, with many fond memories to look back on. In the meantime, here's a short but beautiful poem written anonymously that I would like to leave you with today.

May there always be work
For your hands to do,
May your purse always hold a coin or two,
May the sun always shine
Warm on your windowpane,
May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain,
May the hand of a friend always be near you,
And may God fill your heart
With gladness to cheer you.

Enjoy your summer, your loved ones and your many sweet blessings!


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sugar or lemon?

Ah, sugar and lemon you say?

Those are two things often served with tea, of course. But if I asked you which one would you rather be, would you need to think about it for a while?

These six things the Lord hates, yes seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies and one who sows discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19.

I'd like to share with you an excerpt from Tea time with God which I really enjoyed on the topic of sugar and lemon (or how sweet and/or sour our words can be).

Afternoon tea is traditionally a time for reflecting on the day and chatting with friends. Perhaps because it comes at a low-energy time of day, we may be more careless in our conversation and include not-so-kind opinions about others.

At the very time sugar and cream are being slipped into the tea, verbal raspberries, lemons and sour grapes may slip into the conversation.

Consider sharing this little poem with your tea-mates at the beginning of your time together.

I Know Something Good About You

Wouldn't this world be better
If folks whom we meet would say
"I know something good about you"
And treat you just that way?

Wouldn't it be splendid,
If each handshake, good and true,
Carried with it this assurance:
"I know something good about you?"

Wouldn't life be happier,
If the good that's in us all,
Were the only thing about us
That people would recall?

Wouldn't our days be sweeter,
If we praised the good we see;
For there is a lot of goodness,
In the worst of you and me?

Wouldn't it be fine to practice,
This way of thinking too;
You know something good about me,
I know something good about you?

- Author unknown

How perfect of a poem for teatime or anytime, don't you think? I hope you enjoyed it.

So, again I ask you: sugar or lemon - which one would you rather be? There's plenty of room so come and jump in the sugar bowl with me! ;)

Many sweet blessings!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Savoring time

Lately, I have been busy as a bee! Busy with life, wondering how come time goes by so much faster than when I was a young girl. Is it just me or does it seem like days and weeks (even years!) simply seem to fly by nowadays?

Since there isn't a time machine out on the market that can help me slow down the minutes of my days, I will just need to slow down and savor them as I know they will be memories soon.

Over the past few months, we've been enjoying Little League baseball games, one of our son's favorite sports. This keeps us busy with weeknight practices and Saturday games and we love every minute of it!

In the midst of everyday life, homework review, school activities, various sports functions, dinner, laundry, errands, and so on, I do find it relaxing to sit down for a few minutes to enjoy a cup of one of my favorite teas. Have you ever tried this one?

And if I'm blessed enough to enjoy my tea along with some friendly conversation, then you guessed it, there's always a little something sweet to go along with it!

Or if I don't have anything baked, a little chocolate is always wonderful. Which one would you go for? I'm a dark chocolate fan myself.

But trust me, my life isn't all tea and sweets and a neat little tearoom to enjoy it in. With an active boy and a husband who lives and breathes sports too, it's hard not to trip up over balls sometimes!

When you have a 7-year old boy, you need to do things a 7-year old boy enjoys doing and sharing a lovely teatime isn't on his list these days! No, a lot of times I find myself playing catch in the backyard, cheering over every little and big fish that he catches (and releases), and sharing some of the humor that makes a little boy laugh the kind of laugh you just want to bottle up! In fact, that's what we have in this book:

If you haven't read it you must, especially if you have a little one in your life... or a dog with flatulence issues! It is such a cute story about this great dog Walter. I was at Barnes and Noble laughing so hard I just had to buy it!

But, in the midst of the busyiness of life, family and home, I hope I never forget that the only reason I am this blessed to have a family that keeps me busy from morning until night and to have a home that takes forever to clean is absolutely by the great grace of God. To Him, I owe everything. And I need to spend more time reading His word, hiding it in my heart.

Lord, please help me to slow down and savor each moment of my life, today, tomorrow and always. In Jesus' name, Amen.

May your days be filled with lots of joy and laughter, with the love of your family and friends and with satisfaction in all your accomplishments, big and small.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Krispy Kreme hug, anyone?

Yes, this dessert is just like a sweet Krispy Kreme hug! It's the perfect way to end a mothers' day brunch or any other meal for that matter.

I first made it a couple of years ago and it was such a hit that everyone asked me for seconds... and the recipe! But be warned, it's extremely sweet. With the main ingredient being the original glazed Krispy Kreme donut, what else could be expected?!

I saw Paula Deen make this recipe one day and I just had to make it. A viewer of hers sent it to her and boy, am I glad he did!

It's a super-easy bread pudding, oops, I mean donut pudding. From someone who absolutely doesn't like bread pudding, take it from me: this isn't your mama's bread pudding! If you'd like to try it, you can find the recipe by clicking here. Note that the glaze calls for rum and although I substitute regular milk, I'm sure it's delicious either way.

And as we approach mothers' day, I'd like to wish all of you moms, moms-to-be, and hope-to-be moms, a wonderful mothers' day. I just learned that there's a brand new mom right in my own backyard, quite literally! Here, take a look:

Aren't they so sweet? When I see her with her babies, I'm reminded that although not all moms are human, we share some common characteristics. A mom is a mom regardless of whether she has hair, fur, feathers, or fins!

Thank you for stopping by today and many sweet blessings to you and yours! :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lemon dreams

I must have had lemon dreams last night as I woke up this morning with lemon on my mind. Of all things... lemon!

Photo courtesy of Country Living Magazine

Yes, I woke up and thought of so many wonderful ways that a lemon can turn any dessert into something light and fabulous. Sure, lemon chicken sounds pretty good. But I have a soft spot for desserts and that's the path I'll be taking you on today. Ready?

It all began with visions of a lemon meringue pie...

But then these cute-as-can-be lemon creme cupcakes came along and reminded me of why cupcakes can turn any ordinary into a party.

Speaking of a party, doesn't this cake look delicious?

But maybe you're one of those strange people who couldn't care less for cake. Do you think a lemon bread pudding topped with whipped cream might be just the right thing for you?

Oooh, aaah, that bread pudding looks like such a great dessert! It's unpretentious and doesn't have to look pretty. But if pretty is what you're looking for, can I tempt you with these lovely tea cookies?

Or these adorable tassies?

And for a yummy partner to a morning glass of orange juice, I think we should seriously consider these lemon poppy seed muffins.

I probably would make them in a regular muffin pan but mini muffins look so cute, dont' they?!

Now if it wasn't for a lack of time, inclination or proper occasion (all right, it's mostly the lack of talent I'll admit!), I might attempt this Martha Stewart lemon experiment...

But I'm seriously scared to! I'm sure it's absolutely delicious but it's so out of my league it's not even funny. And would you believe that all of the other scrumptious desserts I've shared with you today can be found in one simple place? Can you guess where?

Ta-da! They're all on Betty Crocker's website which you can go to by clicking here. Yes, they're all Betty's recipes and you know what that means? It means they're right up my alley!

Now, I'd love to have you share with me which of these treats is calling your name. Make yourself comfy and I'll pour us some ice cold lemonade. I just made it! ;)

Would you care for a lemon ball to go with your lemonade?

Or a lemon bar?

I say try them both, life is short!

Well, thank you so much for visiting me today and for letting me share my lemon dreams with you. I hope you won't be surprised if you start craving lemon desserts too!

{Hugs} to each of you and sweet blessings to you and yours!