Saturday, December 31, 2011

Christmas Greetings

**Spoiler alert: if you are a person who thinks you might receive an actual Christmas card sent in the mail from us, you might want to hold off on reading this...**

Let me just preface this by saying I didn't mean to send our Christmas cards out this year after Christmas.  I put a great deal of thought and effort into our Christmas newsletter each year, and this year, I just wasn't inspired until after the big day.  I thought this would be the year without a letter, which saddened me tremendously, because over the years the letter has evolved from something I did for you, my friends and family, to something I did for me.  Which is not to say that I don't think of all of you as I'm writing, just that I've come to realize that while you enjoy the letters, I treasure them.  It is such a treat to read through our previous letters each year to remember again where we've been.

I didn't mean to send our Christmas greetings after Christmas, but I think you'll see why I think it worked out perfectly.

Read on...

Dear Family and Friends,

Merry Christmas!

When I (Scarlet) was in high school, I used to go around saying, “Merry Christmas” all the time.  If you’ve known me long enough, maybe you remember.  I think it must have been my I-am-unique-remember-me response to being one among hundreds of students in my high school.  Oh, yeah, and there was also the turbulence inherent in adolescence—that makes people do strange things.  It didn’t matter what time of year it was—always, my standard greeting was, “Merry Christmas.”  Kind of silly.

            Now that I’m older, and (presumably) wiser, I’ve come to realize that maybe it wasn’t so silly after all.  You see, every day can and should hold a little bit of Christmas, because God, first in the form of Christ, the Son, and now in the presence of the Holy Spirit, has come to live among us.

            And so, I think it’s fitting to remember, after the hustle and bustle and excitement, after the anticipation and build-up, followed by the inevitable let-down of the busy holiday season, that God is here with us.  Every day.  And that is why we celebrate.

            We hope that you have found peace and joy in this truth, even through the busyness of the season which often masks the truth.  We pray that you will be blessed by God’s presence, and experience Christmas joy, every day in the coming year.

Love and peace,
The Bluefield Family
Sawblock, Scarlet, AKD, MC & Roger

 
(if you're new to my blog and you're wondering who those people are, just click on "Cracking the Code" up there near the top of the page)


Sawblock is still enjoying his job as an engineering consultant, working with a variety of different companies to address their engineering needs.  Most recently, he enjoys mentoring other designers and engineers as they join the company, helping them to be successful.  Sawblock is also the volunteer Cub Master for MC’s Cub Scout Pack, and continues to enjoy people-powered sports, especially kayaking with AKD.
AKD is doing well in 6th grade.  His favorite subject is, as always, PE, with science coming in second (if he has to pick a second favorite), and he plans to become a marine bio-archaeologist.  AKD is our go-to problem solver, and he loves to read and to take stuff apart.  AKD played soccer in the spring and fall and continues to enjoy Boy Scouts.
MC is in 3rd grade.  His favorite subject is (no surprise here) PE, and he tells me his second favorite is music.  MC plans to be a football player (wide receiver with the Vikings) when he grows up.  MC started karate last spring and finds it challenging, but rewarding.  He loves staying active, playing football or basketball almost every day.  He also played soccer in the fall and continues in Cub Scouts.
Roger attends preschool 2 days a week, and he tells me his favorite part is playing with the machines.  He loves playing sports of any kind and antagonizing his favorite brothers.

Scarlet continues to work as mom, wife, and homemaker (whatever that means).  She still cares for 4 year old Pal two days a week, and participates in a child care co-op with another mom once a week.  To stay up to date with Scarlet’s activities and ponderings throughout the year, check out her blog at bluefield5.blogspot.com.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A noisy Christmas

So, the other half of the parents, siblings, and nephews came to visit for Christmas this year (click here to read about the first half visiting at Thanksgiving).

We had some good times.  First, Hubby and I went to the dentist.  Are you noticing a theme here?  Every time the Bluefields come to visit, Hubby and I go on a date.  Last time it was the kids' school conferences (which made me cry and gave me a migraine the next day); this time it was the dentist (which caused me to have to skip eating supper because the left side of my face was numb).  We really know how to let loose around here, don't we?

AKD & Roger: Waterworks
 Anyway...we took them to the children's museum. 
Music video with AKD, Chip, Ua, BL, Grandpa Blue & Sawblock
 I think they liked it there.
At the grocery store with Roger and Ua
We played
BL & AKD
 and played
Bbil and MC
 and played.
Ua & Roger
 We went sledding (well, everyone else went sledding: my favorite brother in law and I bonded over ginger cookies--baking, not eating) on the one morning it was possible to sled.
This one was taken in November, but you get the idea :)

We went to church. Twice.

I went on a date with my favorite mother in law and my favorite sister in law-who-lives-east-of-the-Mississippi-River while the boys did who knows what (I'm not sure I want to know).

Good times!

As you might imagine, with 5 boys, aged 2, 4, 4, 8, and 11, in the house, it was pretty noisy around here.  And it wasn't just the boys--some of those grown-ups have some loud voices, too.  Adding to the cacophony was the fact that we didn't have any snow to send the kids out to play in, and all of the indoor playgrounds around here were closed during their visit because of the way the holiday fell.  It was kind of funny--about 2 minutes after our guests were out the door, the fam was still in the living room, when AKD looked around and said, "wow, it's pretty quiet in here."  It was that noticeable.

I think the noise and activity bothered all of the adults at one time or another--some of the adults were bothered more than others.  And I'm pretty sure that each of the kids was bothered at least once during the course of the visit (judging by the younger ones screaming for everyone to be quiet ;) and the older ones retreating to their rooms). 

At one point, I just closed my eyes and listened, and I thought, yes, this is loud, and could be annoying, but just imagine how different it would be, how hollow and sad, if one of those voices was missing.

For so many, including my family, Christmas just isn't the same because one of the voices is missing.

So it was music to my ears: such joy to listen to the sounds of my boys playing with their cousins.  And I pray that we will celebrate many more noisy Christmases, together, in the years to come.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

More Christmas projects

I'm feeling a little "under the gun," wanting to tell you about all of these wonderful Christmas projects before Christmas.  Which is actually a little silly, because (and tell me honestly now) are you really going to run out and buy all the supplies you need to make these before Christmas?  No, you're not.  (unless you are a crazy person like me).  If you decide you want to make any of these, you will bookmark or pin this post and do it next year.

If you remember.

See, and that's the problem really.  I know that I need to post about these before Christmas or I'm not going to post about them at all.  And I really want to share these with you, so buckle your seat belt: here goes.

 Wooden letters j and y glued to a wooden snowflake from the craft store.  Don't forget the glitter!

 Yes, that is a pineapple upon which these stars are hanging.  Don't ask why.

 Clay pot nativity set--I love that the kids can play with this set!  Instructions from Family Fun magazine (it's easier than it looks...if you have a glue gun).

 Disregard that dust in the background--I'm planning ahead for next Halloween.  Roger said Mary was kissing baby Jesus (awwww!), and remember our angel from this post?

 Christmas necklaces and bracelets--use ribbon (and beads with big holes) for a more festive look.

 Nativity pack from 1plus1plus1equals1.com--I'm so glad I found this site--such a great resource.  I love that you can print just the pages you need (although, for some reason, every time I've tried to print page 13, my printer started doing strange things--I think I've figured out a way around it now, but I need to restart the 'puter to try it).  Like our cool feather-y pencil?

And that's all.  That wasn't so bad, was it?

Merry Christmas, with love, from all of us at Camp Scarlet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Gingerbread

It seems like making gingerbread houses (or trains, or sleighs, or whatever else is out there these days) is the thing to do.  I remember thinking, as a child, that it seemed like a fun thing to do (but I can't remember ever getting to make one), so now that I'm an adult, of course I need my children to fulfill all of my here-to-for unfulfilled childhood wishes.

Someday, I will make a gingerbread house from scratch (it will probably be with my grandchildren, but I was encouraged to learn that now you can buy gingerbread house cookie cutter sets, so at least I won't have to measure, which has honestly been the biggest stumbling block for me), but in the meantime, there are kits.

But the kits are kind of expensive.  Of course, when you're living vicariously through your children, cost somehow becomes less of a factor.  So that's an option.

{Just in case you still need one, these houses are available from amazon with free shipping (just click the pictures).}

The option that I choose for my family is to make "gingerbread" houses using graham crackers.  Last year, Honey Maid even had gingerbread flavored graham crackers (I haven't seen them yet this year).  I know!  Isn't that great?

Using graham crackers as a base, prepared frosting, and candy from the bulk bins at your grocery store (or, if you're really planning ahead, or your kids had a really big haul, candy left over from trick or treating), you can make a whole village for about half the cost of a kit. 

Added bonus: each kid gets to make his own (those of you with more than one child, you recognize the value in this).

 First, cover a sturdy piece of cardboard, or a cutting board, with aluminum foil.  Then, place a heaping spoon-full of prepared frosting in a small zip-lock bag, squeeze all the air out, seal, and cut off one corner.  You will use this bag to place the frosting where you want it.
 Start with a base of graham crackers.  If you have younger children, you might want to do this yourself ahead of time and let it set for a bit.  I always pipe a line of frosting on the bottom edge of the cracker, too, so it'll stick to the board.  Remember that you can use a serrated knife to cut the crackers if you need a shape other than square or rectangular.
 Once the base is built, start decorating!  Use your ziplock bag to apply frosting to your structure, or to the candies, and place the candies on the building.  I got out a muffin tin to hold the candies--much easier for the kids than reaching into bulk-bin bags all the time.
 Ta da!  Roger added a Peeps Christmas tree to his front yard, and MC used chocolate covered pretzels to make a fence.
Triple bonus: you're likely to have leftover supplies, which means you can eat these and make more to display!  :)

Have fun!

P.S.  Next year, we're making a train.

Monday, December 19, 2011

One last shameless plug for Amazon

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Shadow

As I set out for my walk in the early darkness this morning, I noticed that the light from the moon was bright enough to cast a shadow.  It wasn't bright out, by any means, in fact I was glad my neighbors were not out and about yet, since I was none too visible, but the light reflecting onto the earth from the half-moon cast a shadow as I walked.
When I was about halfway done with my walk, I noticed that I couldn't see my shadow any more.  The light from the sun, even though it wasn't up yet, overpowered the feeble reflection from the moon.  By the end of my walk, as I turned to walk up the driveway, I noticed that I could see my shadow again, this time cast in the light from the sun, even though the sun still wasn't yet above the horizon.

These observations got me thinking about light again, how the sun and the moon both provide light, but the light from the sun is so much more powerful that the moon's light disappears in the light of the sun.  The light from the sun is so much brighter that just a fraction of the sun's light causes the moon's light to fade to obscurity.  And these thoughts brought to mind these verses from Isaiah, chapter 60:

19 The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
20 Your sun will never set again,
and your moon will wane no more;
the LORD will be your everlasting light,
and your days of sorrow will end.
In coming days, when He returns, the light of Christ will be even brighter than we can imagaine.  His light will be so luminous, so radiant, that the light of the LORD will overpower even the sun's rays, and there will be no more darkness, no more fear, no more sadness, no more pain. 

He will wipe every tear from their eyes.
There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
Revelation 21:4

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cooking with MC (and sneaky math)

When Ty-Guy and his family were visiting, he rode with our family in the 'burban whenever we were out and about.  One day, the conversation turned to Christmas cookies and Ty-Guy mentioned that he really likes Oreo Truffles.  Well!  Mention Oreo and truffle in the same sentence, and you've got my attention.  Oreo is not just milk's favorite cookie--it's mine as well.  And truffles!  Mmmmm.
AKD, Ty-Guy, Roger, Con-Man, MC
Then and there I decided that I needed to add Oreo Truffles to our family's list of Christmas treats to make.  So I asked Aunt Buckwheat for the recipe, and seriously, folks, these are so easy, but look impressive and taste delicious!  If I ever get invited to another cookie exchange, guess what I'm bringing (you can keep that in mind, if you're doing the inviting).

EASY OREO TRUFFLES

1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 pkg. (16.6 oz.) OREO Cookies, finely crushed (about 4-1/4 cups), divided
2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted

MIX cream cheese and 3 cups cookie crumbs until well blended.
SHAPE into 48 (1-inch) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.
REFRIGERATE 1 hour or until firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.

The Oreos had been sitting, in plain view, on top of our fridge, for days. If you ask MC, he'll tell you it had to have been several weeks. He. wanted. those. oreos. And made sure to tell me that at least 10 times a day. I kept saying, no, we need them for the truffles, to which MC would respond that I needed to hurry up and make them. Now. Or yesterday--that would be even better.
So, of course, I asked MC to help me make them the other day when we had a free evening. Finally.

But we weren't just making truffles. Oh, no. We were learning about multiplication, too.

As you can see from the recipe, we needed to mix 3 cups of oreo crumbs with the cream cheese. But remember, we wanted to be able to eat some of the oreos, so we didn't want to just go around willy-nilly, crushing all of the oreos if we didn't have to. So first, we counted out 10 oreos, placed them in the food processor, and let it do its thing. We poured the crumbs into a measuring cup and discovered that 10 oreos produces about 1 c. of crumbs (thank goodness it worked out so well--it would have been more difficult to do the math if it had been, say, 7/8 of a cup or something).

So I asked MC, if 10 oreos yields 1 cup of crumbs and we want 3 1/2 cups of crumbs (I didn't have the recipe in front of me, so I guessed--turns out I guessed wrong, which is sad, because that means we didn't have as many oreos left over), how many more oreos do we need?


It's a story problem, people! Or a number story, as they're calling it these days. Mrs. W would be so proud.  MC correctly calculated that we needed to crush 25 more cookies. So I asked him to count out 25 cookies and put them in the food processor. He laid them out on the counter in rows of 5 to easily keep count of how many he had. As he was placing and counting, MC said, "it's an array, mom! I'm making an array!"  And he thought he was just making truffles.
Sweet!  And I'm not just talking about the truffles...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Angels

Pamalama, this is just for you! 
Right now you can buy a Unicorn (pillow pet) on amazon.com for only $9.99!

For just $1 more, they'll send you a book about a Unicorn, too!

Anyhoo...angels.  We've been talking about angels at Camp Scarlet--can you guess why?

 But we didn't want to just be all talk, so we made these cute clay pot angels. 

First, paint a small clay pot white (ours are 1.5").  You will want to do a couple of coats if you want your angel's robe to actually be white.  Optional--sprinkle glitter on the pots while the paint is still wet.

Next, draw a face on a wooden bead or doll head (ours are 1").  Optional--add hair.  Either draw it on, or glue it on--you could use ribbon, yarn, or moss.

Glue a pipe-cleaner halo on top of the head.

For the wings, fold a length of wired ribbon so that the ends meet in the middle and gather with a twist tie.  Glue wings to angel's back and adjust as desired.

If you'd like to hang your angel on a Christmas tree, use a wooden bead for the head, and glue a loop of ribbon inside the hole before gluing the head to the pot.

A couple of days ago, I told you you'd have to come back to see what we made with our de-sap-ified pine cones, and folks, you're in luck, because today is the day!  And, since this post is about angels, and you're such smart people, I bet you can guess what we made. 

Yup, angels.
 After the cones cooled, we painted them white.  We just held them upright and used a foam brush with downward strokes.  Before the paint dried, we sprinkled the cones with glitter.

Next, I hot glued on a wooden bead head, pipe cleaner halo, and a ribbon for hanging.  The wings are poinsettia bracts and holly leaves left over from my wreath project.  I also added a bouquet of berries.


8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
Luke 2:8-14

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Winner

Hey guys, thanks for entering my amazon.com gift card give away.  Today's the 14th, which means the contest has ended.  Random.org's random sequence generator helped me pick a winner by generating a random sequence:

Random Sequence Generator

Here is your sequence:
4
2
1
7
8
5
6
3
Timestamp: 2011-12-14 18:13:00 UTC

Which means the winning comment is number 4:

Pamalama Alanana said... 
I finished up my christmas shopping online 2 days ago! I bought my uncle a humidifier, my dad a nice sweatshirt, and I bought myself a camping percolator and 6-5 gallon containers for water, since our new cabin has no well.

Pamalama, watch your inbox for your amazon.com gift card (and don't forget to go through my amazon search box when you use it :)!

My project

{Photo Credit}
Ever since I saw this wreath hanging up on my brother's home, I knew I had to have one like it.  His is one of a kind, made by an artist and donated to an auction that my brother attended.  I thought it was beautiful, and when I found out that I couldn't buy one just like it, I instructed my brother to take several close-up pictures for me so I could try to duplicate it (by the way, still waiting...)

Last year, I bought a 36" artificial wreath, along with this beautiful garland, on clearance, for $3 total (what a steal!)
 When the craft stores started rolling out their Christmas merchandise this year, I bought a few more things, but I wasn't quite sure how to put it all together.  And so, my undecorated wreath, plus the stuff, spent a couple of weeks on the floor in a corner of my bedroom, getting in the way.  Hubby, bless him, didn't complain once...at least, not to me--what a great husband :)
 I don't know what got in to me the other morning, but I finally overcame my lethargy and general malaise with regard to Christmas decorating, and had the kids help me get out the rest of our Christmas stuff.  While I was taking one last look around in our storage area, making sure we had everything, I spotted one more thing:
They were green, with gold, glittery accents, and there were 3 of them!  Perfect for my wreath, and just what I needed to get motivated to finally start.

My wreath had to have lights, so first I tore apart an old lighted star that we weren't using any more, and wrapped the lights from it around my wreath.  The ribbon came next.
 And then, I just started gluing, and here's what happened:
I love it!  I was thinking all that stuff might be too much, but then I remembered my tendency toward under-doing these kinds of things, and the fact that it'll be hanging up on our garage, so the only people getting a close look at it will be people who bring a ladder with them, so more is probably better in this case.
I added a bow, then texted Hubby to warn him that he had a job to do that night :)

Perfect.
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