Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Cheer

There are many, many things that I love about the Alleghany Highlands.  I'm going to share one thing that is especailly close to my heart, one that I hold in high esteem.

I've told you before that every Monday is "trash day" in our part of the county.  The girls get the biggest kick of running out and saying "hi" to the "trash guys," telling them about something that's recently happened, probably even airing a little Morris dirty laundry here and there and generally just connecting with a few guys who they consider their great friends.

Last year we were bowled over when they pulled the big white truck up to the end of the driveway and got out with two wrapped Christmas presents for the girls.  Read about it here.....
Today, I got a lump in my throat when it happened again.  I dunno, maybe I'm just a little emotional today or something, but it really touched my heart. 

 The girls were so excited because this was the last Monday before Christmas....and they couldn't WAIT to give their friends cards, fudge and cookies that we'd made.  They excitedly talked about their friends ("I love them!" and "They're my best friends!") as they made glitter-loaded cards for these great guys.

For the girls, this was all about GIVING and not receiving.  Not once was a reference made to them "getting" anything from the "trash guys*."  The word "exhuberant" comes to mind as they looked forward to giving their presents. 

*Hannah has called them "the trash guys" from the first time she went out to see them. 
The name has stuck, although they signed last year's cards "The Trashmen." 

We were just finishing up our first half of school when the cry arose, "TRASH GUYS ARE COMING!"  And two little girls strapped on their flip-flops, grabbed a glittery stack of cards and treat boxes and trotted out in just-below-freezing-temperatures toward Johnson Creek Road. 

The pictures show the rest of the story...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Music at Temple Baptist Church 2010

I finally got the kids' Christmas videos uploaded to YouTube!

Abigail's class is called the "Mini Miracles," and Hannah's is "GROW Choir." 

Click here for the Mini Miracles Christmas Presentation!

The GROW Choir's video is split into three sections so it could be uploaded in segments; otherwise it would have taken hours to upload.  If there are any problems with these links, please let me know and I'll do what I can.  I tried to get everyone's kids in the video, but from my location (directly behind the director!) it was tough focusing on everyone, especially if your initials are GG!! :)

GROW Choir Part 1
GROW Choir Part 2
GROW Choir Part 3

Please, please, please leave comments at the end of this post!

She's A Girly Girl

Again, I didn't have my camera handy for a photo op....

When I was little, threats of coal in my stocking or switches under the tree simply paled in comparison to the mere suggestion that one of the brightly wrapped packages addressed to me and poking out from underneath the tree contained slips.

Slips of what?

Slips of.....oh, I don't know....filmy, diaphanous, silky material that felt slimy against my legs and were hot and simply horrible to have to wear on Sundays or whenever I had to dress up.  I was so glad when I graduated to denim skirts and was able to convince my mom that heavy weight knits didn't require those awful things.  I didn't even think that little girls wore slips anymore until one was given to the three year old in a sack of hand-me-downs last week.  But apparently these filmy (ick! slimy!) things are still available for little ladies. 

Well, fast forward to this Sunday.  Believe it or not, sometimes Sunday mornings just aren't smooth going for us - its the only day that all four of us have to be out the door at the same time before noon, and well, for some reason that is often a struggle!  I thought I had conquered this week's morning of chaos by waking up an hour early and getting clothes out before the girls were up.  I pulled out a "new" dress for Abbo to wear and ironed it.  Its a sweet red checkered dress she's never worn before that buttons all the way down the front.  Alas, with temperatures in the teens when we left for church, she needed something under it.

The slip!

I dug it out from where it was hanging in her closet.  I had a momentary flashback and knew that I'd never be able to pull something like this on our six year old whose sense of "style" (as in, thrift store/WalMart chic) more approximates my own, but figured I might be able to get away with it with the little one.  I expected I might be able to put something over on her if I acted quickly, but I didn't count on the opposite reacation:  Her eyes lit up when she saw it and she immediately rubbed the skirt to her cheek (ewwww!), closed her eyes and said, "mmmmmm...." 

So I popped the slip over her head and went to her dresser to grab a pair of tights.  I turned around and there was the three year old modeling a new look:  a gossamer slip and purple flip flops. 

Me:  "C'mon, Abbo, you have to take off the sandals to put your tights on."
Her:  No.
Me:  "C'mon, its too cold for flip flops.  Maybe in the summer."
Her:  No. 
Daddy, coming in the room:  "I don't care if she wears flip-flops."
Her:  Daddyo said I can wear thems.
Me: (trying not to lose it, after all, today was going to be a chaos-free Sunday)  Maybe if there weren't still 6 inches of snow on the ground and maybe if the temperatures were above freezing, but she HAS TO WEAR TIGHTS.  AND SHOES.
Daddy:  You're right.  Abbo, put on the tights.
Her:  Well, I'm wearing this dress then.
Me:  Yes, but you're putting this pretty RED dress over that dress.
Her:  No.  This dress is soft, see?  (Rubs hands over slip and skirt).  I wanna wear DIS dress.
Me:  (Gagging)  We wear our dresses OVER our slips, now come here......
etc., etc.

Eventually, the dress went on and was buttoned up and there were no drafts between the button holes.  I have to admit, a slip (ptoey!) was perfectly appropriate in this situation.

But now, I'm afraid I might never get the slip off of her.  She insisted on wearing it to bed over her jammos.  Just before I tucked her in, picked her up and put my hand on a damp spot on the front of her. 
Me:  "Why are you wet?  Is this pee-pees?"
Her:  "No, I like to chew on it."
Me:  (Shudder, gag....)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Santa in the Highlands

We've had all sorts of run-ins with the red-suited man over the last couple weeks.  I thought I'd share some of them.....first up is a link to pictures from a WONDERFUL visit with that Jolly Old Elf in Clifton Forge.  The link will take you to Fire and Light Gallery, a shop showcasing the incredible talents of two local men - a photographer and a blacksmith.  An unlikely pair? Well, you'd have to see it for yourself. 

Santa Pictures at Clifton Forge Presbyterian Church - sponsored by Clifton Forge Main Street. Brace yourself....they are unbearably sweet!

Abigail: http://fireandlightgallery.com/site/#/gallery/breakfast-with-santa-2010/img-1378/
Abigail: http://fireandlightgallery.com/site/#/gallery/breakfast-with-santa-2010/img-1379/

Hannah: http://fireandlightgallery.com/site/#/gallery/breakfast-with-santa-2010/img-1381/
Hannah: http://fireandlightgallery.com/site/#/gallery/breakfast-with-santa-2010/img-1380/

These videos include some friends from church.  Santa visited the kids after their Christmas performance this past Wednesday, and though I can't tell you exactly what was whispered in Santy's ear, I think the video tells the whole story.

Hannah & Ethan with Santa
Goldie, Abigail, Grace and Simon with Santa

Stay tuned for videos of the Grow Choir's Christmas Cantata performance.  I just have to figure out how to splice the different links together so it somewhat flows.  BELIEVE me, you don't want to miss it!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Peanut Butter Chewies

One thing that is important to me as I school is making basic things like math and reading relevant.  To this day, in order to remember certain fractions, I picture a cherry pie and decide whether I'd rather have 1/8 of it or 1/9th, etc. as I was taught back in 4th grade.

We're beginning early fractions with Hannah and I found a perfect recipe that includes basic fractions.  For our "lessons," we used different sized measuring cups (e.g., 1/3 or 1/2) and added them together to make a whole. It was great to see Hannah "get it"!

My friend Andrea coincidentally* posted it to Facebook the day before we began fractions.
(*I don't really believe in coincidences, do you?  God loves us and is REAL in our daily lives!!)

Anyways, this recipe is from back at our Triple-R Ranch camp days.  I remember making sheet pan after sheet pan of these things, mixing them in the big Hobart floor mixer, and eating them until my jaws hurt.  They're a wonderful recipe because they take no time at all to prepare, and you "always" have all of the ingredients on hand. 

RRR's Peanut Butter Chewies

1 cup white sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups peanut butter
4 cups corn flakes*
1/2 cup salted peanuts (optional)
1 tbs. vanilla

(*I had some leftover "Uncle Sam" cereal that I added to the cornflakes, which is why these look dark.)

Stirring frequently, bring sugar and corn syrup to a full rolling boil.  Allow to boil for 1 minute. 

Remove from heat and add peanut butter.  Stir to melt.

Add cornflakes, vanilla and nuts.  Stir gently.

Using a cookie/meatball scoop onto wax paper.  Allow to harden.

Store in fridge or freezer, allow to come to room temperature before eating (unless you have an uncle who is a dentist and provides free services....)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Snow and Santa

After warming cups of hot chocolate for Andy and the girls (and an espresso for me) at Old Forge Coffee, guess who we saw in True Value Hardware over in Clifton Forge on Saturday?

The back yard this morning....

Off to church!

Clifton Forge Christmas Parade

Last Friday - a hometown, small town Christmas Parade...my favorite! It was sooooo cold - flurries, even! But it was a good time and I'm always glad we've gone. This was our 3rd year in a row! As usual, the girls got loaded up with candy and enjoyed that as much as anything else!

Boy Scouts Color Guard

(A & A:  This one is for you!  See what a little chi-hoooah-hoooah can do?  Pull a sleigh!  Santa Dog!)

 "He has sent me [Jesus] to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness from the prisoners."

Special Olympians

"Cheeze Claus."  Nothing like him!  He collects money all year to buy toys and presents (and bikes!) to give to kids along the parade route.  My girls have gotten prizes every year and have come to look forward to them!

Smile, Donald!


Thanks, Nellie!  And Clifton Forge!

The Big Guy Himself!
***A sad note to the parade....the line stopped midway to allow for squad members from the local rescue and fire departments to respond to a call on I-64 near Island Ford Bridge.  An accident including three tractor trailers resulted in a fatality for a local man from Clifton Forge.  News of the tragedy spread quickly through the crowd....many thanks to the rescue personnel who worked long hours in the cold to get the road opened again and everyone home safely...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Advent Calendar #1 (?)

My pal Emily called the other night and asked if I'd whip up an Advent calendar for her....WHAT?  My first thought was, "Gosh, now I have to really mo-ti-vate and psych myself up to do something that I've been putting off for two years!"

Well, actually, I did it, and it wasn't so bad!  Now I can't wait to make one for us.  I'm hoping to work on it tonight and tomorrow so check back later to see how I did.

Anyways, just a picture for this one: 

Its complete except for the dowel that goes through the top and a gold cord to tie to the ends for hanging.  You can't see here but each Christmas tree has a slit in it midway in which to insert lollipops (as shown) or mini candy canes.  And the felt background is red, not fuchsia....

Thank you, Emily for motivation to finally make an Advent Calendar!  I love it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Salt Dough Ornament Craft

This "easy" craft has taken us three days to complete - but the chunks of time were perfect for the attention span of the Littles.  Its got all kinds of good stuff rolled into one activity: manual dexterity, fine motor skills, measuring, texture, counting....

I found several recipes for the dough online.  We used:
2 cups AP flour
1 cup salt
1 1/2 cups (give or take) cool water
extra flour - half a cup or so

I also added a bit of glitter and tiny glass beads for a snow-like effect.  I couldn't really tell it was there in the cooked ornaments, so I either used too little or it just didn't work.

Anyways, put the ingredients in a big bowl and mix with hands. No pictures of this, but I divided the recipe equally and let each girl mix her own. If it was too sticky we added a little more flour.

Other tools/ingredients:
tips of skewers (for "carrot noses")....cut the end of a skewer off with wire cutters, then use a pencil sharpener to make another point, cut that, etc.  You could use toothpicks, but they seemed too thin to me, but it would work in a pinch.
Orange paint (for "noses")
Black felt or fleece (for top hats)
black beads (for "coal eyes" and mouths)
fabric scraps for scarves
tacky glue
paper clips for hangers*
dry paintbrush to wipe off excess flour

After the dough was mixed, we pinched off golf-ball sized pieces and rolled them with our hands into spheres. 

We dipped a cup in flour to prevent sticking and smashed the ball down into a round disc.  Then, using the pincher grip of thumb and forefinger (little fingers are especially good at this), we pinched a "neck" about 3/4 of the way down the disc, like this:

After making the neck, we poked in bead-y eyes, skewer-carrot noses and popped the snowman heads into the oven to dry.

This is what took so long.  We dried the heads at 200 degrees for about 2 hours, then left the oven closed for a day and a half.  Truth was, yesterday was just too busy to get back to the project, and the extra day allowed them to dry completely. 
While you're waiting, cut out hats and scarves.  The scarves should be about 4" long and pretty thin.  If you use fleece, cut it on the stretchy grain, give it a good tug so it will curl.

Take 'em out of the oven, tie scarves around their squatty necks and glue on hats cut from felt. 

I didn't even know that Hannah knew how to tie...but she did a half hitch and I showed her how to double it to make it stay in place.  You can see that snowman had an extra eyeball growing out of the center of his forehead which I picked out with my fingernail.

....if any "necessary" eyeballs fall out after they've been baked, a dab of tacky glue will do the trick.  Just brush out any excess flour first - in this case, I had two overzealous flour stampers dipping their cups in flour to smash the "snowballs."

Have the girls pose with their favorites....

Here's the group....

Here's some closeups.....

Honestly, I wonder if my girls have even SEEN snowmen!!

* I completely forgot to do this, but this is how you SHOULD make hangers for your snowmen.  Take a metal paperclip and pull the inner loop out from the outer loop so it makes a giant "S".  It should break but if not, wiggle it back and forth until you have two 3/4 oval shapes.  Press the ends of the clip into the back of the snowman heads BEFORE YOU BAKE THEM somewhere near the top center of the back of his head.  Put it in there deep so you only have about 1/4" of the loop sticking out.  Picture an upside-down "U" shape.  Bake that in the head and then string some ribbon, yarn, string, etc. to hang it on your tree. 

I'm pretty sure any family members who read this will be seeing these snowmen again...