Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Isabelle's School Thanksgiving Party & the Terrible Afternoon

I still cannot believe that this is Thanksgiving week! I still have some beach things in the trunk of the car that haven't been put away yet...which, if you know me in real life, gasps can be heard for miles and miles. ha! Maybe my sense of time is slightly askew because I've been working like cuh-razy to complete custom orders (THANK YOU!), and of course it doesn't help that today- a Tuesday- totally feels like Friday because of the few days off. Not that I'm complaining one little bit about that! It was kind of nice to have an early Friday.

And we awoke to sparkly snow! Not nearly as much as in other parts of the country, but it covered the deck and driveway! That was an exciting start (or end?) to the week!

This morning I got to spend a couple hours with Isabelle Kate's class helping out for their Thanksgiving party. I was in charge of Thanksgiving BINGO.  Rocked it. ;) Though my mind was mush all afternoon because I used up all my energy with those darling little cherubs this morning, and now I'm sitting here all twitchy and agitated because of the sad state of our home. I just can't seem to catch up with anything these days! And if by chance I do catch up, I blink and then suddenly I'm thrust right back where I started from...or even further back! Ouch!

There's something about colored pencils that speaks to me and makes me happy. They're so cheerful!

 Can you tell how glazed over her eyes are here? More sugar, anyone?

After school today was just a regular delight. As in, it really wasn't- it was the pits! Everybody was just in A Mood. I wanted to crawl under the covers and hide. But they always find me, so I didn't even bother to mess up my bed. Times like that always make me feel like such a failure as a Mom.

This was poor Isabelle last week and into the weekend- I found this vision after having been upstairs for a few minutes, probably changing sheets or something fun like that. She was sound asleep in her little cocoon! Look, even Ariel is tucked in, ha! Anyhoo, if I could fit in there, that's where I'd have been this afternoon!

Like most everyone else, I've got a super busy day of prepping, cooking, and cleaning for tomorrow. I think I'll just crank up the Christmas music and tackle that looooong list head-on! The smallish people around here had best just stay out of my way if they know what's good for them. Unless of course they're actually being nice!  =)

ps- If anyone is interested in seeing some of Isabelle's Christmas outfits I'm making, I'll be posting them on instagram here. Apparently my identity crisis lives on because I keep changing my username, but this week, it's roseruffleco. ha ha

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Five Things To Do Now To Get Ready for the Holidays

Here are some practical tips for getting in gear for the busiest time of the year, with less stress and lots more joy.

1. Clean your candle holders, vases and other glass/ crystal

These items gather dust like the Boss, and just about every solid surface in our home displays two or three (or twelve) candles and other glass goodies during the holidays. To make them sparkle again, carefully place them on the top rack in the dishwasher and run them through a gentle cycle. Of course, make sure that they're dishwasher-friendly! Lots are! This is one of the easiest things to tackle ahead of time, and nothing twinkles quite like spot-free glass and crystal accessories. Plus, when you're elbow deep in tangled strings of lights and pine needles have found their way to every crevice, it feels so good to have this part already done.

This is also a great time to take inventory of candles, such as tea lights, tapers and pillars. Many are already on sale, and I've found that if I wait for those After-Holiday sales, it's pretty slim picking. Hot pink nativity candle, anyone? Yeah, me either.

2. Vacuum the corners of your ceilings and above door jambs

Not very glamorous, I know, but the holiday season gets so busy and hectic so quickly- no matter how hard I try to not let it!- and this is one thing I don't want to have to deal with during all that chaos. Dangling cobwebs were fine for Halloween. Not so much for Christmas.

Perfectly cleaned homes aren't necessary for friendly get-togethers and meals. We're human, and we have busy lives! Nobody should be judging you, but cobwebs are, well, gross. If you're a regular ceiling corner-vacuumer, then I suppose you've got this covered already.  But I'm not so much anymore, until the thought of some poor guest looking up to find Charlotte and her family perched on my ceiling gives me just enough incentive to do it.

And once that chore is complete, then I can go make a mess in the kitchen with this cutie!

3. Decide on your recipes now and purchase as many ingredients as possible ahead of time (and stick to that list!)

So many recipes for cookies, tarts & pies, rolls & bread, plus festive main course meals, so little time! Pinterest never fails to tempt me with about 1,2000 new treats to try by the time we sit down to Christmas dinner, but choose I must! I have found it best (and less stressful) to plan meals, parties, and even gifts around our favorite standbys, and limit the newbies. 

Of course I love to try new recipes, but I can't reinvent the cookie sheet every night! One or two new recipes throughout November and December is a good goal. Besides, in our family, Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without our annual Chocolate Spiders or Chocolate-Dipped Mexican Wedding Cakes!

4. Plant your Paperwhites & other blooms

Okay, so technically these should have been planted last week to ensure blooms for Christmas, but I actually plant mine for New Year's, so phew! I'm safe. There are several varieties of plants and flowers on the shelves now- I swoon over Paperwhites so they're always my first choice- and most require at least 5-6 weeks to sprout and bloom. Plant them now, follow the directions given, and enjoy fresh, fragrant flowers throughout the season.

These Paperwhites are from WalMart and cost $5. All in one kits like this are available at home improvement stores, some drug stores, and other discount stores.

My little sickie thought that disc of dirt was the neatest thing to watch after adding the warm water!
We scooped out the soil and placed it in prettier pots, divvying up the bulbs as well. Some years I plant a few one day, skip a couple days, then plant the rest, but...this year it got done in one fell swoop. Or I was afraid it wasn't going to get done at all!

5. Decide what's most important to you and your family, make your plans, and mark your calendars

A little chaos at Christmas time can be exciting and fun; too much, and your body, mind and spirit suffer. Nobody wants to feel overwhelmed and overextended during this most Joyous of Seasons!

Decembers are especially crazy for us because we have two birthdays (the 12th and 15th) thrown in there! Good intentions aren't going to make things go smoothly...we need a plan! And I'm not talking just about attending or hosting parties. We mark our calendars for our annual Family Cookie-Decorating Day, special shopping trips with each of our children, and fun outings like ice skating or skiing. There's time for spontaneous things, too, but without a basic plan, I feel frazzled and unproductive, and those things that we enjoy feel more like boxes to be checked rather than memories in the making.

Furthermore, I'm finding that I need to be super specific about the times I devote to sewing for my shop, Rose & Ruffle, during the holiday rush (thank you, by the way!!!) because I just won't stop until every last order is finished. That can mean I'm tempted to pass on something we might do as a family- which is a horrible feeling-, and that I never have enough time to make special things for Isabelle Kate and the boys. Those things are integral to my daily joy, so I need a plan!

In our family, one of our most important and cherished tradition is the Prayer Basket. Each night during December we gather around the tree and take turns pulling out a name from the basket. Then we pray together for that person, family, school, or country, etc. Someone who didn't get to draw a name chooses a song to sing, and that's how we end our family time together, right before the youngest head off to bed. It's my absolute most favorite thing to do each year.

Taking the time to plan and prepare helps me enjoy things so much more. Like when you're a little kid and you're just bursting at the seams with the wonder and excitement of it all.

For additional ideas and inspiration, check out my boards:
My Christmas Pinterest Board 
My Christmas Breakfast & Brunch Board

Other good Christmas-related reads:
Sarah, from Thrifty Decor Chick, wrote a great post about letting go of the guilt and stress and simply enjoying the season.

Sarah, from the Yellow Cape Cod, shared the secret to decorating your Christmas tree like a pro!

Michelle also wrote about preparing from the holidays on her wonderful blog, Iron & Twine.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

It's Beginning... look a {little} like Christmas!

I've got a looong day of cutting and sewing ahead of me today because yesterday I decided to bring up one little beloved Christmas item.

And of course that one was lonely, so that one turned into...several.

Which meant packing up and storing 99% of the Autumn decorations. 

When I really should have been cutting and sewing. But it sure smells lovely and Christmas-y in here this morning. Now if I could just find an elf to help me...  ;)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Christmas Shopping!

I know that the birth of Jesus is the real reason we celebrate Christmas- the very best gift ever given & received!- but I still get as giddy as a five-year-old all Christmas Eve night and into the morning! I love the anticipation of it all, the stillness in the early hours when I'm the only one awake, tiptoeing (I don't know why, it just feels like I should be!) near the tree, slowly lighting candle after candle until the room is all sparkly-glowy...

Then the house-shaking stomp gentle shuffling of ginormous little feet down the stairs, raspy voiced, uncontainable excitement, more candles lit- only these ones are birthday candles sticking out of coffeecake- and we celebrate His wonderful birthday, probably waking the neighbors with our heartfelt kitchen chorus. I cherish those squeals of joy, the heartfelt Thank you's and shared smiles. I'm talking shopping!

There is a great Holiday Gift Guide on the lovely Casey's blog, We Took the Road Less Traveled, and she has dedicated each day of the week to a specific theme (today's theme is Gifts for the Littles, wink wink). I know I'm trying harder to stay out of the chain stores and instead support local shops and businesses. Go USA! Here are the specific links if you want to take a look:

There are so many talented and creative people all around us, and I've really enjoyed discovering their shops through this Holiday Gift Guide!

Here are a few photos of some new things you'll find in my shop, Rose & Ruffle:

I've got a few marathon sewing shifts ahead of me to get some orders finished, but I'll be back in a few days with a round-up of my favorite Christmas cookies and goodies that I've posted on the blog over the years- they all travel well, are relatively simple & easy, and they make lovely gifts!

I think it's close enough to Friday now to say...
Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Busy Busy Busy

I couldn't let 11/12/13 pass without its due accolades! And I can't believe that Thanksgiving is just around the corner...and then CHRISTMAS! Where has the time gone???

Poor Ethan still can't make it through an entire day at school, so there's a ton of driving back and forth across town. And waiting. Lots of waiting around. But I really do love having him around during the day, so it's totally worth it.

Overall, today was a productive, happy day. I woke up early as usual and saw Bill off, and then did a few things I've been neglecting lately, things that make a world of difference in my well-being: I stretched. Like, really stretched. Took my time and focused on each muscle, each breath, and the most wonderful feeling of gratefulness and peace swept through me. Then I read from my devotional book, craving and savoring Truth. Reflecting and letting go. I refused to turn on the computer to check this or that, and instead, I got lunches and snacks all ready to go, cut out some fabric for pajamas, tidied up a bit, and was generally just a more pleasant Mom during the breakfast shift. I even had enough time to make apple pancakes (and they came out just the way we love them- that perfect crispness on the outside and fluffy, nearly-gooey insides)!

I had a decorating committee meeting at church about an hour after dropping Jonah off there for school, so I laced up the sneaks and managed to get in 4.5 miles during that time. Nice! Granted, it was absolutely freezing cold and my nose was like a faucet for our meeting, but it felt so great to have gotten all this accomplished by 9 am! More sewing sewing sewing, and I've got a little something exciting going on with my shop this week! It just happened to be the perfect kind of day for the ever-wonderful Beef Stew, which translates to: it was like Antarctica outside, and it was all I had in the fridge. =)

Those first choices really do set the tone for the entire morning, which in turn, sets the tone for the entire day. Believe me, I know all too well those harried days when lunches are thrown together in between arguing matches and harsh, snapping words, and though we barely make it out the door, there is anger, hurt, and tears. Oh the tears!. 99% of the time, it's because I didn't choose to manage my time well. What a difference!

Pretty flowers help, too.  =)

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:2

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Best Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Another week is flying by, and I've learned something important: I cannot be trusted with Halloween candy.

Like, ever.


Okay, so I think I've always known this, but yesterday was a good reminder. Sorry, kids. Mom fail.

I may have needed that extra sugar to tidy some things up for my Etsy does always get worse before it gets better, right? And speaking of Etsy shops, I even managed to sneak in a little photo shoot with Caleb, which was so much fun! (I highlighted that on my facebook page if you want to sneak a peek!)

So onto the pancakes...
Until recently, I had never made buttermilk pancakes. Or made anything with buttermilk, really. I think I was slightly intimidated, but I shouldn't have been! There are no strange complications, and they are delicious!

Okay, so truth be told, the frozen blueberries had already thawed by the time I got the first three off to school and got back to make Ethan's pancakes (he is still easing back into school days because of his concussion), so the batter was purple. Thus, grey-ish pancakes. Otherwise, they'd be a lovely golden brown.  =)

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes
2 cups {unbleached} flour
3 Tbsp cornmeal
2 scant Tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp+ ground cinnamon
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 cups fresh buttermilk* + 1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
3-4 Tbsp oil
1-2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Mix together dry ingredients; add the liquids and stir until batter is moistened; then gently fold in blueberries. We cook our pancakes on a griddle or pan with oil on medium heat.

I was worried about the cornmeal adding too much crunch to the pancake, but it adds just the right amount of, well, something good! They're light, but they're incredibly rich and filling, too.
I altered the original recipe from my BH&G trusty cookbook, doubling it as well. Depending on the size of your pancake, it should yield about 15-18. Because of the alterations, I would not recommend trying to "half" this recipe. Unless you're a culinary daredevil, and then I say, go for it!  ;)

*You can also use sour milk if you don't have buttermilk. You can make 1 cup of sour milk like this: place 1 Tbsp either lemon juice or vinegar in a glass measuring cup and add enough milk to make 1 cup total liquid; let sit for 5 minutes before using. (Adjust amounts for 2 cups or more.)

Well, it's the next day now...I didn't quite manage to get this post finished yesterday, but I did get to hold a 2-month-old baby girl in the nursery all night last night!  =)

Caleb was tossing and turning moments ago, and in the past, I might have gotten annoyed. So worried that I'd have to stop what I was doing, as if that could be so important. Today my heart chose right. Iron unplugged, flannel gently folded, all that can wait. I tiptoed upstairs into his room, and he asked me to spend a few minutes with him (we had a lovely mini-conversation about hover crafts, air force piloting, and how he will ever choose which branch of the military to join) because he isn't feeling so great. Just him and me, side by side, early morning declarations of love whispered low between us.

One day I will wake up, and these children of ours won't be here. And I will long for more time to have cuddled and held hands and whispered low in the dark.

Okay, now I'm late...I'm thinking it's a cereal kind of morning for us!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Our Weekend & Late Halloween Pics

This has been a difficult week. I know I have soooo much for which to be grateful, but I find my perspective both lacking and faulty lately, and I've spent my time licking old wounds. Reflection is one thing, while wallowing is a beast of entirely different proportions.

Another huge blow in our adoption journey has left me feeling like a raw nerve, perpetually at the ready to feel more sensation -pain- than I can handle.

Parenthood has been particularly challenging this week. I have felt like a failure so many times in the course of just one day that it's really the only feeling left in me. Failure. Yikes. That's so hard.

Not only have I wondered why, but how. How to get unstuck, to capture moments of joy and name them for what they are. I don't want to waste time, to let these days pass me by without cherishing them. But sometimes it's just so hard.

We decided to hit the road and venture out to the coast yesterday after lunch. It was a beautiful day- perfect weather, laughter, sand between summer sun-abandoned toes, that magnificence of the vast sea which makes you feel so small in this great big world. And then the other stuff, impossible to tune out no matter how hard I tried. Cruel words, fits, rages, tears, callousness, grumbling, just plain meanness. The joy sucker-outers.

I tried. I really did! I can't say the battle was won, but I was trying. I hope that's better than giving up.

Here are some of the moments and scenes I wanted to hang onto:

This Mama and her little girl caught my attention- they were both so cute!
Poor Mama could not get her to look into the camera, but she kept on trying!

These photos were taken at Rye Harbor State Park. From there we headed south to Hampton Beach, where we hoped to let Ryder run free, but...4 horses were trotting along the shore and we were terrified of what Ryder might do to them. When we thought they were a safe distance away, we let Rydie off, only to have them circle back around and end up right where we were. Slightly annoying, though they were absolutely stunning to watch. 

All of my pictures from the beachy part of our day are on instagram - you can find me here if you want to see.

Then my parents came over to celebrate birthdays- my Mom and I are exactly 2 weeks (plus a few years) apart, so we ate dinner together -and ate ice cream cake, my favorite!- and watched a movie. Bill rented Parental Guidance last month and to my surprise, I loved it! Like, LOVED it! I enjoyed listening to my Mom and Dad howl in laughter at all the same parts we do, too. It's a great family film, and it's incredibly touching. Keep your Kleenex close at hand.

Today half of us aren't feeling well. Scratchy throats, upset stomachs, a variety of ills. I don't have it in me to get us to church. Which makes me feel even lousier. Maybe ice cream cake for breakfast will do the trick?

Friday night we had some friends over for the kiddos, and it was such a tepid, gorgeous night that we all played in the backyard with glow sticks. A trillion stars twinkled overhead. Lots of belly laughter. Friends. I was trying that night, too, and I'm glad because none of it would have happened otherwise.

Lastly, I realize that I did not get even one photo of everyone together on Halloween. FAIL. That's never happened before! Ethan still isn't back to normal, so he didn't even want to go. At the time, I suppose I didn't think much of that, but now, looking back, I don't like it at all. Makes him seem to grown up, and the years are racing by too quickly as it is.

I am glad, however, that I spent the time doing the little photo session with Isabelle ahead of time because it was pouring rain on the night of Halloween. After her friend's party, and then the rain...well, it's safe to say the dress is already past its prime. I know she'll enjoy dressing up this winter, though, and I won't have to worry about her messing it up then at least. Ha

Caleb the wounded soldier- that red food coloring on gauze looked SO real!

Jonah the evil pig- Don't ask. I didn't. Just went with it. Bill did the pink make-up for him.

And Cinderella, complete with sparkly eye shadow and lipsticked lips. She was really happy!

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