Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas Isn't Easy

In light of yesterday's events in Connecticut, and in light of so many other constant world-wide tragedies, sometimes we just have to remember that Christmas isn't easy for everyone.  This year, all the families from Sandy Hook will be grieving, living in terror and sadness as they open their Christmas presents and look at their trees.

And, there are millions more like them.  Whether families are grieving a recent death, or anticipating a difficulty ahead, enduring the loss of an unborn baby, or fighting off some illness, struggling financially due to unemployment, or maybe their house just burned down...there are so many difficulties in this world.  Or, maybe it isn't even something so "monumental."  Sometimes the difficulties for many people are relational.  After all, getting a lot of people all in the same room who don't have to figure out a way to live peacefully that closely together during the rest of the year is bound to wreak havoc!  In many families, people may find Christmas day a difficult obligation of spending time with people that they just can't find a way to get along with - or people who are using drugs, abusing each other, involved in criminal activity, etc.  These families might be hurting just as much due to relational traumas as others are from different catastrophes. 

This isn't new news for me - as I'm sure it isn't for you.  But, for the most part I think the vast majority of us are able to avoid, avoid, avoid...we make sure that OUR homes are happy and cheerful and ignorant of the burdens others are bearing.  We want to make our own little bubbles as picturesque as they can be.  We want to follow the rules and "be of good cheer," because that's just what you do in December!

Sometimes we seem to think that we have to fake happiness in order to enjoy the holidays.  To be honest, knowing that three of my friends are fighting cancer this year doesn't make it easy.  But, here's my insight this year: 


That's right.  We don't have to avoid hardship in order to be happy.  Actually, the bible says in James 1 that we are to "Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance."  AWESOME.  Truly a good, wonderful, deeply profound bit of wisdom here.  The stronger the breeze, the stronger the trees!  When bad stuff happens, we are faced with a choice: let it make you worse, or use it to make you better.  In order for the crap to make you a happier person amidst it all we must choose to recognize that fighting through these hardships, and learning, and growing, and trusting God's plan will make us develop perseverance.

Perseverance takes time.  I couldn't have recognized these things when I was a child, because enough time didn't pass in my life for me to learn how to persevere.  Hardship did happen to hit our home at an early age for me; on the 7th Christmas of my life, I had to celebrate through tear streaked eyes without my father, who chose to take his own life in the autumn.  We wouldn't laugh and take pictures and celebrate the way we normally did.  That year we would open presents from complete strangers who had pity on our state - people who wanted to bring a little bit of brightness to our dark corner of the world.  That, for me, was the beginning of learning perseverance.  Because even though Dad was dead, Christmas still happened.  The next year it happened again - and life just kept going.  No one stopped while I would stare into the distance enduring a moment of overwhelming grief.  No one at the stores could tell by looking at me that I hadn't slept nightmare free in years.  My teachers at school saw my shining smile and good grades and always thought I was a happy-go-lucky kid.  Many people had no idea of what I was going through.  

Except God.

He knew every tear, every sleepless night, every overwhelming numbed-out moment.  And, He still knows...through the dozens more struggles and sadnesses and traumas and terrible things I've gone through in my life.  He still knows.  He knows about every heart and every person touched by yesterday's events.  He knows every cancer patient, all their children, and every sick person.  He knows all the alcoholics, all their families, all the abuse, all the relationships gone awry.  He knows and He cares.

Then, I can hear it now, "Well, why didn't God stop it then!?"  To answer it simply: He gave humans free will, and sometimes they choose the evil side.  Sometimes it's not that anyone does anything wrong at all - Satan is alive and well on this planet, and he is the root of evil, pain, suffering, destruction, and death.  To answer it more completely: read The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis or The Shack by William P Young.  

In the meanwhile, we all have Christmas to look forward to in only a matter of days.  It can be a happy holiday for all of us - even if we're suffering while the carols are ringing, the lights are shining, and the turkeys are baking.  We can choose to make it a day of joy no matter what...and maybe it has the potential to be an even deeper, more meaningful holiday for those of us who are going through something difficult.

Merry Christmas to all!  (pics from Evalie's first Christmas last year)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Freezer Meals gone CRAZY!

I tend to do WAY too much so many freezer meals that my freezers are having a difficult time closing (and yes, I did say PLURAL freezerS...)

But, hey!?  That's alright this time of year!  It's that season to build up and store up and prepare for the harsh winter months when you just never know if food will be available.  Oh, wait, that's not the case anymore, is it?  It's not the 18th century...I know.  But, still I have to prepare...just in case!

So, here are some of my fav freezer meals complete with links to the recipes...

- Seafood Pasta Casserole (this one is soooo good - I threw in artichoke hearts instead of mushrooms and feta cheese for added flavour - soooo yummy!): 

- Sausage and Spinach Bake (David's fav!):

But, the reality is, I am NOT a recipe girl.  I actually think this might be my "rebellious" side; like, I think, "Who are YOU to tell me how to cook!?  If I'm going to cook, I'm going to do it the way I want to!"  Yeah, apparently some dislike of authority issues coming out in this one ;)  So, I also do MANY freezer meals just however I want.  Here's an overview of more of my favs:

-  Lasagna (don't have a specific recipe for this one - just do it however you like!)

- Beefy Cornbread (you don't even have to bake the cornbread before freezing - so cool):  mix a bunch of cooked hamburger with taco seasoning, salsa, tomatoes and sauce, maybe some beans if you want, spinach, grated carrots...then top this casserole with jiffy corn muffin mix (prepared).  When you bake it, there will be a whole layer of cooked yummy fluffy corn bread on top of the delightful hamburger spicy yumminess :)

- Stroganoff: my mom's classic is cooked hamburger with stroganoff seasoning mixed in, add cream of mushroom soup, sauteed mushrooms and sour cream and you're done!  Freeze this one in a bag with our without egg noodles for a quick easy dinner.

- Butter Chicken: I cheat.  I use a can.  I add lots of random veggies that need to be finished up.  I also throw this one in a bag with or without rice and it's ready to eat after defrosting and heating!

 - "Grab n' Go Burritos" (I named these myself!): throw a big roast (I use beef, but am thinking I might try pork to save money sometime) onto the stove or in your crockpot with a box of beef broth and a couple packets of taco seasoning.  Let it cook ALL DAY or about 6 hours until it falls apart and is super tender.  Pull it apart with forks so it soaks up the flavours on the taco seasoning.  Drain it and SAVE THE SAUCE FOR ENCHILADAS NEXT.  Then, use this meat as the center of burritos.   Mix the meat in HUGE bowls with small diced peppers, cheese, black beans, white beans, grated carrots, mushrooms, whatever you want in your burritos.  Wrap the mix with a tortilla on top of a piece of tinfoil; then fit 7 in a bag.  Grab them on your way to work, or microwave them when you need a quick 300 calorie protein packed lunch!

- Enchiladas: in the USA we can find DELICIOUS enchilada sauces in jars for uber cheap...not so in Canada :(  So, I use the broth from the roast mentioned above as my base.  On the stovetop add to the broth a block of cream cheese, cream of mushroom soup, and whatever tomato sauce you have.  Add some salsa for more kick, and there's your enchilada sauce.  The beauty of enchiladas is that you can really (again) put whatever you like in the tortilla - chicken and mushrooms, beef and beans, cheese and veggies, whatever.  Mix just a LITTLE BIT of the sauce in with the filling, but reserve most of it for the top of the casserole.  After wrapping the enchiladas, line them in baking pans and cover them in the sauce; top with cheddar and pepperjack grated cheeses...mmmmmmm!

Here are some of my tips for making freezer meals:

1.  GO BIG OR GO HOME.  Do NOT skimp on ingredients when you're at the store - when in doubt, buy MORE.  I've literally watched myself plow through 36 tortillas or 4 boxes of broth or 10 cans of cream of mushroom soup and wondered, how'd that happen!?

2.  REMEMBER NON FOOD ITEMS.  Get lots of tinfoil, tons of gallon freezer bags, glass casserole dishes with plastic lids, press n' seal wrap, etc.

3.  GET CHILDCARE.  Trying to do freezer meals with Evalie at my feet not only irritates HER but it breaks my heart; I have to ignore her and focus on the projects at hand.  So, it's only fair that freezer meal cooking happens when the kiddos have some entertainment.

4.  DO LOTS AT THE SAME TIME.  While the beef is roasting, sautee the mushrooms.  While the chicken is cooking, chop the vegetables.  While the noodles are boiling, put cheese through the food processor.  NEVER waste a moment or you'll be standing there for DAYS!

5.  DO NOT MEASURE OR BE PICKY.  Seriously, it's going to taste fine.  Do NOT be picky about details or specifics - just throw a little spice in there and it will work out.  Pour an extra can or two of beans - who cares about proportions being the same as last time?  It does NOT matter.  It WILL taste good :)

6.  USE UP EXTRAS.  Have one more can of soup or broth or beans or tomatos or mushrooms or frozen spinach??  USE IT.  Throw it in.  Don't let your cupboards be filled with clutter when that food could be put to good use.  And, especially don't let your FREEZER be filled with anything besides your completed'll need that room.

Have fun cooking!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Our Home is the Winner...

Today was a big day for us!  It was the Northview Home Tour (  We opened up our home for a few HUNDRED people to tour and see our Christmas decorating.  All the funds went to support a local ministry called the Cyrus Centre which helps struggling youth. 

David and I (and our dear friend Jenn!) spent an entire month decorating, shopping, and cleaning.  It's been a blast (well for me, at least...David probably could've lived without all this work)!  We were quite happy with the results as we marveled and prepared for last night's pre-tour for the home owners.

Then, we started walking through the other homes.  WOW.  These houses were MANSIONS!  I'm talking 11,000 square feet of heated marble floors, hand finished venetian plastered walls, stone baseboards, arched metal ceilings, hand crocheted bedspreads from France, fireplaces in BATHROOMS, stone work on 40 acre mountain view lots, the list goes on and on...

So, by the end of the tour we officially designated ourselves as the WINNER OF THE BEST SUPPORTING ROLE: OUR HOUSE MAKES ALL THE OTHER ONES LOOK HUGE!
{What can we say? We do what we can!}

But, hey?  Someone's gotta get that award, right?  Honestly, it was so neat to see people enjoy our home and fill it with love and laughter.  It was especially touching to know that people felt cozy and welcome here - I think what they really felt is LOVE.

Thank you to everyone who shared our home with us.  It was a tremendous blessing to be a small part of a great project in our community!  If you weren't able to tour our home today, then let me give you a little personal one via blogland ;)
As you enter our front door, this is what you'll see...Welcome to a Winter Wonderland!

These pillows were made using iron-on transfers from Staples.  I purchased the images from at the Graphique store.  They're only $1!  

Here are a few views of the Christmas Tree.  This is a real tree - I think maybe the only real tree on the tour??  It's a Noble Fir from Ledgeview farms - we cut it down ourselves, and LOVE the scent.  I have to admit, it wasn't the easiest tree to work with, because it's not a very full tree.  But, with Jenn's brilliance we came up with some ways to fill it in using mesh bows, poinsettias, and glittery sprigs.  We love the colours!

The silhouettes are now donning Christmas wrapping paper as their festive backdrop.  We had to take down our coffee table to make this room work with a tree in it!  But, I love having it in the front window for all to see :)

We hung the stockings along the banister this year - I got each of them engraved with our names :)  The dangling black snowflakes are a symbol of the Earth's pollution, just kidding!  They just worked with my decor - lol.  They're actually placemats from Canadian Superstore with a thread through them ;)

Here's a view of the whole room as you're going upstairs:

Before we head upstairs on our little tour, though...let's have a look at the main living, kitchen, and dining areas...

Along the island, we served cranberry lime punch and chocolates.  We also had a little notice about my dear friend Kristin Erickson who has recently been diagnosed with cancer.  We raised money by selling bracelets during the tour to support her family of four children...over $130 in one day!!!  It was incredible to hear how many people ALREADY KNEW HER and had read her blog here:

The dining room was completely set with our nice china (which I bragged about how our family had given it to us as wedding gifts - thank you again!)  We put Mary, Joseph, Shepherd, and Wiseman on the name cards - lol ;)

The Living Room was definitely one of my favourite areas, because it really features the nativity scene, which was a graduation gift to me from my family (thank you!) David built the cresch for it himself, and even made the manger by hand.  So special.  

We have a DOZEN decorated Christmas trees on our huge mantel...I love how the nativity looks like it's sitting in the middle of a beautiful forest :)

I created the banner (thank you to so many friends for your consultation on this project!) using cardstock, modge podge, glitter, and my cricut machine.  On the other side, its says Happy Birthday! so we can reuse it over and over through the years :)

Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado is our favourite Christmas storybook about the angel who brought Jesus' spirit to Mary's incredible!  Thanks to David's parents for this awesome tradition - we read half the story Christmas Eve and the other half in the morning.

This Oh Holy Night was a free printable that I found on pinterest and is available here:  Yes, that's right: it's FREE and you just PRINT IT.  Thank you akadesign!!!!

And, a quick note about bathrooms...they're odd little areas to decorate!  I searched high and low for festive shower curtain and towel sets...but there was nothing out there!  So, I tried to work with what we had...Here's the front powder room in red and white:

The guest bath upstairs already has a letter theme going on, so I just added to it:

We simply dangled pretty ornaments along our master shower curtain and called it a day:

Alright...ready to head upstairs???

Our bedroom took on a feathery bird theme:

We did a wreath above our bed and also one on the closet door.  These were feathery wreaths I had originally bought for Halloween, but then added the purple bits to Christmas-it-up!

And, here's our romantic tree inspired by the new gift shop in town, Spruce Collective:

I made these sparkling words with my cricut and more glitter!

Candles EVERYWHERE!  It smells so good in our house right now!

Ornaments dangling from the curtain rods:

More iron-on special pillows:

Now for the finale!  Evalie's sweet adorable room!!!!  We love her nursery anyway, but then dressing it up for Chrismtas?!  What can be prettier?

Her own little mini tree and dozens of snowflakes dancing above her crib:

THANKS FOR LOOKING!!!!!!  Now we're going to sit back, sip some tea, and enjoy our clean already decorated house for the holidays :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Evalie Rose's Nursery

Welcome to the prettiest room in our house!  Evalie's Nursery is meant to encapsulate all that is sweet and innocent...just like our precious little girl :)  

Her bedding (and accessories like the diaper holder below) was handmade by Melissa's Boutique on etsy (find her here:  We were so pleased with the attention to detail, fine craftsmanship, and unique beauty that custom ordering delivered.  The bedding will last Evalie through the toddler years, as her crib converts.

 My mom generously bought these black wooden letters for Evalie's room.  But, for the longest time I didn't know what to do with them!  The black was just too stark on it's own against the lavender walls.  Finally, inspiration struck and this is the result!  I modge podged scrapbooking papers (in music notes and fine print) onto the letters, sanded the edges, and completed it with glitter lining and butterflies.  I think it's just right :)

Evalie's furniture was something so difficult for us to choose!  David insisted on high quality real wood craftsmanship, while I wanted something super pretty and classic in white.  Finally, we discovered Munire furniture ( and fell in love with the Savannah Collection.  David and I are BOTH happy with this life-time investment, and plan on keeping this beautiful timeless furniture around forever :)

A little detail (above); shadow box of Evalie's take-home outfit, umbilical chord clip, hospital bracelet, etc.  Love having these keepsakes out to cherish.

 One of Evalie's special 1st birthday presents (above); a name plate for her door crafted by our dear friend Katy, who was there in the labour room when Evalie entered the world!

I made these wall pictures before Evalie's room was complete.  I used a cricuit and stamps to make art that would perfectly match her room - it's so hard to find purple art!!!  Just recently has she started to notice them and make fishy faces when she sees the cute :)

View from the crib side of the room (above).  This little white stand was displayed at a local boutique with baby books, and I thought it was a perfect creative use for a vintage looking baby doll crib.  Soon Evalie will want to put a doll in it instead of books, but for now it work well to have them out for storytime.

Painting the whole room in stripes was a TON of work.  A few things I recommend when doing this process: a good long level, a sharp pencil, and FROGTAPE.  This product is SO worth the extra money!  It made PERFECT stripes on our walls!  The colours are BM Lavender Mist and Whisper Violet.  They were exactly what I wanted.  And where in the world did I find a purple sock monkey??  Target, of course ;)

 Lastly, a few more precious items on display, including a cupcake painting by our friend Laura - reminiscent of Evalie's gender revelation party (before she was born...of course!)  

Thanks for looking friends!

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