Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Ring Out Wild Bells . . .

To the wild sky,

The flying cloud,
The frosty light.

The year is dying in the night.
Ring out, wild bells
And let him die.

The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die."

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Mmmm, do I spy houseplants?"
Dear Readers,

Yes, the year is dying, indeed. This New Year's Eve, as we reflect on the past year, its sorrows, its joys, goals realized, dreams deferred, we begin to realize the blessing of new beginnings, of holidays and Holy Days. So much has happened in our home this past year; we've lost pets and a precious baby. We've gained new friends (as well as pets) and felt closer to the Lord than ever before. We've learned so much, but we feel that we have only begun to truly learn what indeed this thing called life is. Each day brings new growth, new understanding. sometimes we might resist that growth, and so must repeat the same mistakes, but hopefully those mistakes become fewer overall.

At the cusp of a new year, we have finally settled on a name for our little "cottage". First, we thought of "Tornado Alley Cottage", since that is what it most resembles, but that didn't seem romantic enough. Then we toyed with "Dublewyde Cottage", since that's what it is, but we want to FORGET we live in a mobile home, not be constantly reminded by its name. Then we thought of "Bluebird Cottage", since Mr. Bluebird is the name of the paint it wears, but that name seemed a little flighty. After giving the Name Game a rest for a while, it came to us while reading from the Psalms: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine. . . " Ah yes, a Merry Heart. That is what we need, a daily reminder to dose ourselves with joy. So now we may welcome you to "Merry Hearts Cottage", and hope that you gladly enjoy your stay!

"Why, it's almost like being outside!"

May we each begin our New Year in joy:

J-Jesus first

O-Others next

Y-Yourself last.

With love, from our cottage to yours.


Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Recovery Program

Dear Reader,

'Twas a few days after Christmas, and in our cottage snug
A lot of us seem to have gotten a bug!

The little ones especially have had a case of the sniffles for the last few days, even though our Christmas goodies consisted of no sugar, only medjool dates (so lovely and they taste like caramel) and other dried fruits. Good health consists of more than diet alone, we have been reminded, and we truly miss our sunshine and fresh air! The dry air caused by heating also contributes to sore throats and coughs, so we have been doing our best to humidify it. We mist our houseplants several times a day, and put water on the stove to simmer (adding air-cleaners such as cinnamon, orange peels, etc.).

Tea is becoming a daily institution, with a lovely mix of garden sage, summer savory, and mint being our favorite. And when tea doesn't help, Dr. Christopher's Anti-Plague Formula gets the job done in a hurry (Like Dr. Christopher said, anything that nasty HAS to be good for you!)!

As the novelty of being snowed in wore off after Christmas, we are glad to be blessed today with melting temperatures, with the snow piles melting slowly but surely. The drift that was higher than our bedroom windowsill is down about a foot, and the highway in front of our house looks less like a skating rink than it did.

We did spend a lot of time being entertained by watching various automobile acrobatics during the past week, with at least two cars a day sliding off the road and being rescued by kind folks in big trucks (Should've put one of those on our Christmas list this year!).

Christmas was spent with just the children and us, listening to the wind blow and making sure the animals were fed and warm.

Every Buddy loves a nice warm straw bale!

We made a few feeders for the birds, and peanut butter pine cones, and feel happy to be able to help our feathered friends during the cold time of year.

We read the Christmas chapters from "Farmer Boy" and "The Long Winter" on Christmas Eve, before the girls put on their annual Nutcracker ballet and we read Luke chapter 2, to remind us that Christmas need not consist of much. The girls only wanted one thing each (And AnnaMarie said to take whatever money would be spent on her and give it to orphanages), and I made them sleeping caps, buckwheat pillows, and a few toys out of socks.
Tasha REALLY likes what I made her!

We received a surprise visit from Mr. Claus (Frankie loved it!)
The Candy Cane Dance (They really worked hard on it!)
Tasha as Coffee

Frankie puts on his own show (Never go on stage with kids or dogs!)

Clarice the chenile sock poodle and her friend Bullseye
Our dear anoymous friends finished their Twelve Days of Christmas on Christmas Eve.

Marie Curie?

Frankie's new "horse"

This is my recurring Christmas fantasy, to have just a few homemade presents. But alas, instead of new mittens and a stick of candy, we end up with the amount of presents in the "A Christmas Story" movie!

Joseph and the shepherd girl.

Don't ask me how it happens, but I think grandparents might have a bit to do with it ;). I guess the "Won't the children feel deprived if the presents don't equal the tree in height" gene must have skipped us, somehow! The older girls are used to it by now, and are so sweet about giving away the things that they know they will have no use for. I try to have a positive outlook on the whole thing, but am still working on the details, especially when I've spent months going through our possessions and clearing out the excess!

I was invited to a lovely Christmas tea!

Oh well, there's always NEXT year, right? I'm just glad the grandparents are so loving and generous. It could be worse!

My present that I bought and gave to my husband to give to me (Don't they say that a present is a gift you give yourself?)- all of Organic Gardening Magazine, 1972

Thank you so much for stopping by, and we hope that you and yours are still enjoying the special feeling that Christmas brings, to help prepare us for a new year. May you feel the love of Him whose season this rightfully is, and may we make each day of the year a Christmas in our hearts.



"Oh! The blessed communion of saints; one member has the benefit of all the other members' gifts, prayers, and ministrations. One prays for all, and all pray for one. What one has, the other enjoys also. It may be truly said of them, All is yours. There is no envy, no haughtiness, no strife or harm among real saints; for why should I envy what is my own? Why should I despise that which serves for my necessary assistance?-and why should I strive against and hurt him whose hurt is my own? Is there any strife between the members of our natural body? By no means; if one be injured and suffers, all the rest run to its relief, and are neither tired nor angry, if the healing does not follow immediately. O Lord, unite us all in hearty fellowship and tender feelings for each other; and stop all open and subtile divisions which are fermented by lofty spirits, who always boast of mighty things, and to be wise above the rest. Suffer not a self-conceited and a party spirit, which is the spirit of the world, to influence the members of thy body; but bless and grace thema ll with true humility; then we shall live in a solid union and uninterrupted harmony."
~Bogatsky's Golden Treasury, 29 December

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas is Coming. . .

And we are snowed in!

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much for dropping by our home.

We feel as though we live in a giant snow globe, as we've been experiencing a steady, beautiful snowfall here the past couple of days, with more snow in the forecast! Hopefully the power stays on, till we get hold of a good wood stove for heat and cooking (Really, we were going to get one last summer, but you know how that goes!).

We've been getting ready for Christmas here, although we don't believe you can ever really be "ready", just like having a baby!

Our church had a Christmas pageant which required us to be in costume, so the children and I went there, while Ken was doing his "Christmas Carol" last Saturday. Frankie had so much fun wearing a dress!

Don't you love Frankie's stylish shoes?

Little Shepherd Boy

A Woman's Work is Never Done!

It really did help us to feel that we were living back in Jesus' day, as the program commenced. I don't know how the women handled those long mantles while caring for a baby and cooking! They must have tied them back most of the time.

The older girls have been running "day cares" for Evangeline and Frankie lately, while the others do lessons with me (Or I work on presents). They have a lot of fun doing it, and by the time they're old enough to babysit, they'll be very well-prepared, I'm sure!

Evangeline is going to have quite a doctor's bill to pay, with her babies ending up constantly in the hospital! They always have "febers".

We found this fun tutorial for flower garlands to decorate the ceiling, and have been making lots of them (This time we've foregone our "less is more" motto.) for the parlor.

This is the second year we've done "Kris Kringles" for each other. We got the idea from Tasha Tudor's Take Joy Christmas book. We drew names from a hat (AnnaMarie gussied them up a bit) to see who we would have, and then our job is to try to do a special secret act of service each day till Christmas Eve, when we all guess who our "Kris Kringle" was.

Oh yes, and we were given two Christmas cats, "Noel" and "Clara" (Named after the girl in the Nutcracker), who are not so sure they enjoy all the loving they are getting!

May you have a blessed day,



One looks behind him to some vanished time
And says, "Ah, I was happy then, alack!
I did not know it was my life's best prime--
Oh, if I could go back!"

Another looks, with eager eyes aglow,
To some glad day of joy that yet will dawn,
And sighs, "I shall be happy then, I know;
Oh, let me hurry on."

But I--I look out on my fair Today;
I clasp it close and kiss its radiant brow.
Here with the perfect present let me stay,
For I am happy now!

~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Monday, December 15, 2008

Thanks Be. . .

Dear Readers,

Our hearts are full of thanks today: thanks for kind neighbors who know how to fix furnaces; for electricity to run the furnace (The power was out on Saturday for about five freezing hours); and for the unknown neighbors who are doing the "Twelve Days of Christmas" for us! And of course, we are grateful for you, dear readers, for coming by and sharing a bit of our day with us.

The gift given us for the second day of Christmas~Joseph and a lovely artichoke (Our friends know we love those gourmet vegetables!)A beautiful faceless angel for day number 3

Here are a few photos of my husband for you, of himself as Bob Cratchitt ~

and Jacob Marley (We think he looks a little like the albino in "Princess Bride", but he's creepy enough!)~

And with the older girls at the theatre putting on the show~

And here are a few hints for this frosty time of year:

Be sure to take a little while, if you haven't done it already, to oil your wooden garden tool handles with linseed oil (You will be glad you did; I am still using a shovel and pitchfork that belonged to my grandfather, who died thirty years ago-He was always careful of his tools). You'll need to warm the oil first, and use a rag or paint sponge to apply. Also, keeping the blades in a bucket of sand will keep them from rusting.

When going out in the cold, be sure to NEVER breathe through your mouth~you'll freeze your lungs if you do! The nostrils are made to even out the air temperature before entering the lungs (This is so important to teach children).

Please leave some hot water out for the little birds, who suffer so much in the snow, along with bird seed.

If you have horses, please be sure they get extra oats along with hay, for they need heavier food in the cold.

Elderberries are said to be a good tonic throughout the cold season. They are very high in vitamin C. You can take the capsules, tincture, or concentrated juice. If you were lucky enough to gather some this fall, you can use dried berries, ground up and mixed with honey for children (yum!)

And here is a receipt for "Christmas Plum Pudding for a Large Family", from Godey's Lady's Book, December 1871 (We have not made this up yet, so cannot vouch for it personally!):

"Half a pound of suet, one pound of flour, half a pound of dried currants, half a pound of stoned raisins, two eggs, nutmeg and cinnamon to the taste, half a spoonful of salt. Shred the suet, chop it fine, and rub it through the flour. Wash, pick, and dry the currants; seed the raisins, mix the currants and raisins together, and dredge over them as much flour as will adhere to them. Beat the eggs till they are very thick and light, and add enough milk to form a batter-stir in the eggs, then the spices and salt, and lastly the fruit. Dip your pudding bag into cold water, turn it wrong side out, and flour it well, then turn it back again, pour in the batter, tie the mouth of the bag with a strong string, but take care to leave a space sufficient to allow the pudding to swell. Have ready a pot of boiling water, with a plate in the bottom to prevent the bag from touching the bottom of the pot, put in the pudding, and let it boil three hours and a half. Keep a kettle of boiling water to fill up the pot, as may be required. When the pudding is done, take it out of the pot, dip it for an instant in cold water, untie the bag, and turn it out on a dish. To be eaten with sweet sauce."

Lastly, please be sure to take some time each day to read a little something Christmasy (and worthwhile) to your children, even if it is a very short story. Our favorites emphasise GIVING instead of GETTING!

Love to you,


A Christmas Eve Tribute
(To the author of the "Christmas Carol")

As I watch the old lamplighter
Going down the street tonight,
Making all the dreary vista
Blossom into flowers of light,
I am thinking of the author
Who with many a radiant hope
Lit the prospect of the millions
Who in darkness had to grope.

Ye who call him but a scoffer
May have read the Gospel well,
But ye cannot teach a better
Faith than that of little Nell;
Ye can preach no hope transcending
That which Mr. Peggotty had,
And no charity surpassing
That which made Tom Pinch so glad.

Little Nell, as Dickens told us,
Asked upon her dying night
That she might be buried under
Something that had loved the light;
And I think that as the sunshine
Of his nature was a part,
Through her then he gave expression
To the wish of his own heart.

Therefore he should never slumber
In the abbey, cold and dim,
Where anemones can never
Weep their petals over him:
He should rest where living waters
Flow like liquid music by,
While the birds,
Like musical blossoms,
Hang upon the branches high.

~Clarence F. Buhler
(Godey's Lady's Book)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cold Weather+Dry Air=Time to Make Hand Cream!

Dear Readers,

This morning we had a fun time visiting with my good friend who lives down the street. I showed her how to make a simple, yet effective hand cream for dry skin, and I'd like to share the recipe with you (This is similar to the recipe given to Tasha Tudor by Rosemary Gladstar, in case you were interested!):

Winter Hand Cream

1/2 c. comfrey tea, rose water, or distilled water
1 Cup olive or coconut oil
2 TBS liquid lanolin
3 TBS lecithin
3 TBS beeswax (We used candelilla wax, so we "guestimated")
essential oils of choice
1/2 tsp. tincture of benzoin for preservative (You don't need this if you keep it refrigerated)

Our "oily" ingredients

Directions for making cream: Make a tea of comfrey root or leaf ahead of time (or just use distilled water or rosewater), straining and allowing to cool. Pour off your 1/2 cupful (Or even a bit more, there's a bit of leeway in the recipe) into a measuring cup.

In a double boiler (Or on VERY low heat), melt the following together: Olive oil, lecithin, lanolin, and wax (Beeswax takes quite a bit longer than candelilla), stirring constantly.

Once this has melted, go ahead and add the tea or water, stirring with a whisk or fork all the while (You CAN stick this in the blender, but it takes forever to clean out.) Once the ingredients have mixed well, I add any essential oils that are strong enough to mask that "sheepish" smell from the lanolin, and benzoin to retard mold growth.

I then stick it outside (You could use the refrigerator) till it sets up quite a bit. Once set, bring it back in, mix it again really well, and then scoop it into jars.

We used baby food jars this time, but little jelly jars are great, too. A little of this cream goes a long way, so this recipe makes enough to share with plenty of friends!

~~All cooled off and ready to scoop into jars~~

Add a nifty label and ribbon, and you have an easy, much-appreciated gift.
p.s. Most of our ingredients were purchased from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a lovely day.



"Dear Santa,
Could you please bring Tasha a doll for Christmas?



"Every occupation, plan, and work of man, to be truly successful, must be done under the direction of Christ, in union with His will, from love to him, and in dependence on his power." ~Muller

"Let all children rememer, if ever they are weary of laboring for their parents, that Christ labored for his; if impatient of their commands, that Christ cheerfully obeyed; if reluctant to provide for their parents, that Christ forgot himself and provided for his mother amid the agonies of the crucifixion. The affectionate language of this divine example to every child is, "Go thou and do likewise." ~~~Dwight

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Lots of Fun and Christmas Things

Dear Readers,

Good morning to you, wherever you are! We are enjoying a beautiful, diamond-studded day here in Idaho. But boy, is it cold! While hanging out the laundry, we felt sympathy with all our pioneer forbears, "freeze-drying" their laundry all winter long~~ But the freshness that that laundry brings into the home is well worth the price, we think. In fact, here is an article from December 1892's "Ladies' World" Magazine, that we should heed:

"We cannot too often tell our readers how important it is to air bedding, bed-clothes and the clothes that are in use, every day that it is possible. Everyone knows what freshness wool and cotton materials gather when exposed to the sunshine and the winds of a wintry morning. When they are brought in they fill the room with absolute fragrance, a sense of purity which makes its presence felt in the impure and heated atmosphere of our apartments in a most remarkable manner. Try it every clear day, and don't forget that the mattresses and feather beds, bolsters and pillows will part with their peculiar body odors, and bring in an abundance of oxygen and vivifying ozone, if you will only hang them out of the window for a couple of hours in windy weather every few days."

The next paragraph I'm not sure if we'll heed or not!

"It is said that the juice of fresh onions rubbed into the scalp at the parting where the hair is growing thin will cause a wonderful renewal of hair growth."

We have been busier than a two-headed chicken in a pill bug patch (For those of you without chickens, that means REALLY busy!) these past couple of days, getting the house into order (We even stopped to wallpaper the hall, which really needed it),

We were blessed to find just enough wallpaper for $3 at a thrift store.

making door knob ornaments for the local nursing home,
writing Christmas cards, and working on presents.

I finished this pillow with Victoria's picture on it, for my in-laws yesterday. It was very easily made with a second-hand pillow as the base. I printed off Victoria's picture onto special printer fabric (I've heard you can make your own, too), fray-checked the edges, then sewed the trim all around the picture, attaching it to the pillow. You don't even have to sew, either. I've used fabric glue before, and it worked really well.

Oh yes, and my new winter church hats (Of course we didn't need THESE until watching Wives and Daughters!;-) ). Custom-making your own hats is really easy, if you can find some old straw hats with "good bones" at a thrift store (Or if your children like to smash your gardening hats!).

A hat AND a hug is just too much!


All Done!

Thank you for stopping by, and may you have a beautiful day!