Wednesday, December 30, 2009
My family and I are enjoying some holiday downtime together and I plan to return to regular posting this coming Monday.
In the meantime, I hope you all are enjoying this time of year. In the next few days we will spend New Year's Eve with friends and eat our traditional New Year's Day dinner of pork roast, rice and gravy, greens, black-eyed peas and cornbread. This is a meal we only eat once a year but I look forward to it all year! After that it's time to take down all the Christmas decorations and gear up to return to school and (some sense of) a normal life. With Curt out of work, normal is being redefined minute by minute.
We appreciate your continued prayers for his job search and all the offers of help that we have received in many different forms. Thank you so much and happy new year from the Whalens!! We are anticipating a great 2010 and waiting expectantly for what God is going to do in our lives. We hope you are too.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Before I go I wanted to share with you something I have been meditating on this Christmas. As I have been reading through Ann Voskamp's Jesse Tree Devotion, I have found many truths about Jesus' coming-- things I had never seen before, which I love.
I pray that you all have a blessed Christmas filled with joy and surprises... and Him.
Monday, December 21, 2009
I am listening to... the sound of the movie Christmas Vacation, which is on as I type. That movie still makes me laugh. When Aunt Bethany wraps up that cat and Clark is holding it and the package is moving all around... good film moment there.
I am wearing... a gray and white argyle patterned sweater and black pants. Both from Old Navy. Both picked up on sale earlier this fall.
I am thankful... for the clothes and the food and the roof over our head.
I am pondering... if there can be such a thing as too much family togetherness? :)
I am reading... On Strike For Christmas. A cute little book that's perfect for this time of year about a group of moms who decide to simply not do Christmas so their families will appreciate the lengths they go to to pull off the Christmas they take for granted. Great light reading.
From the kitchen... Gingerbread cookies with daddy, cut out Christmas cookies with homemade icing with mommy, eggnog bread
I am creating... a menu for this week. What should we have for Christmas Eve? I was going to do a turkey but am now thinking... no.
I am thinking... about my answers to "the question" my friend Karen Ehman wrote about in her blog post today.
I am going... to try to relax and enjoy this week.
Around the house... Christmas is everywhere, in every room.
One of my favorite things... doing the fun little things with the kids in the time leading up to Christmas. Saturday we went to a class and decorated cookies and cakes. Sunday we visited with Santa at Starbucks and enjoyed free hot chocolate for the kids.
A picture thought I am sharing... Christmas at Starbucks with a visit from Santa!
Friday, December 18, 2009
Most of you have already seen my tweets and/or Facebook statuses but this will tell "the rest of the story."
Yesterday morning Curt was asked to cut his business trip to VA short and be at a mandatory meeting. He told me when he got this news that he had a bad feeling. Preferring to be an ostrich, I stuck my head in the sand and assured him it was nothing to be worried about. I truly believed the best. I mean, it's a week before Christmas after all. Nothing bad could happen... right?
And so when the phone rang just 30 minutes after the meeting began, I wondered how he was calling so fast. When he told me he had just been let go, I truly thought he was kidding. I mean, it's Christmas. And we have six kids to support. What kind of people would do that??
So just like that we went from a one-income family to a no-income family.
The good news is, he does have severance that will get us through for awhile. We appreciate your prayers. We appreciate the emails and encouraging comments on Facebook and the phone calls. We appreciate any leads you might have. We are willing to move and are not limiting our search to Charlotte-- as much as we love our home we have to be realistic.
Life can change in an instant and ours did yesterday morning.
I might be around less in the coming days. In addition to normal Christmas craziness I now am sharing a computer with Curt. This is going to be tricky since I have a book to write and he will be using the computer to find a job. The company took back the computer and cell phone they were providing for him. I can honestly say I had no idea how impacting this was going to be. The ramifications are still rippling out.
Perhaps one of you out there has a laptop you aren't using or don't need. If so and you feel like passing it along to a needy family, I would say that we officially qualify now. We would immensely appreciate it. You can contact me privately if so.
The hardest part was last night when we told our 9yo. The other kids took it in stride really, saying they had faith he would get another job and expressing their frustration with the company for doing this at Christmas. But our 9yo just cried and cried. As Curt held her he looked at me and said, "This is the part the men who made this decision should have to see."
This was something no 9yo should ever have to face. Especially at Christmas.
God will provide. He was not surprised. We trust in His plans. He is sovereign. We know all this is true. Now it's time to live it.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Cute place settings
That were at this table. This was very elegant, I thought. I loved the hand stitched tablecloth.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
This year my mom got me this mercury glass hurricane and we filled it with apple cinnamon potpourri in Christmas reds and greens! This sits on my kitchen island. I like it because it doesn't take up much space, which is practical for my island where I do a lot of food prep.
Here's a view of my kitchen table. That centerpiece was what I had sitting on my island last year. I changed things up this year. Those paper plate wreaths are leftover from a craft project we made last year. The kids were so excited to hang them again even though the tissue paper is fading.
Thanks for touring my home. Please do stop by again!
Monday, December 14, 2009
I am thankful for... a fun weekend for our family that was focused on church and friends.
I am wearing... my Ocean Isle Beach sweatshirt and gray track pants, fuzzy black NC State socks.
I am remembering... Christmases past. Tis the season.
I am going... to bake a lot this week. That's the plan at least! I have one with a fever and throwing up so I am not sure my best-laid plans will hold up. But I am hopeful.
I am reading... a Paula Deen Christmas magazine that my dear friend Karen Ehman surprised me with. She knew that with my edits finished I would want some Christmas inspiration. I am also cuddling up at night with my collection of Christmas cookbooks from Gooseberry Patch.
I am hoping... to get through what is shaping up to be a busy, stressful week with a smile on my face and joy in my heart!
On my mind... shopping lists. Does everyone have what they asked for? This will be a question that dominates my thoughts and haunts my dreams until Christmas morning.
From the learning rooms... Christmas books.
From the kitchen... baked goods aplenty. My list is bold, but doable.
Around the house... the tree is up but still needs to be decorated. Sad, but true. The rest of the house, though, looks very Christmasey. I had hoped to participate in posting photos for Nester's Tour of Homes today. But that did not happen and I am okay with that.
Plans for the week... doctor's appointments aplenty. It's "that week." You know, the one that you look at several weeks ahead of time and say to yourself, "Why do I do this to myself??" But you know you just have to put your nose to the grindstone and gut it out. I do not like weeks where we have to run a lot. And this is one of those weeks. Instead I am focusing on being thankful to have doctors and medicine, and transportation to get to those appointments. The week will be capped off by my parent's annual Christmas party, which is a part of Christmas Curt and I look forward to each year.
One of my favorite things... lazy nights as a family with a fire going, a big mug of peppermint tea, and no particular place to go.
Friday, December 11, 2009
And be sure to check out the posts over at She Reads about Tom Davis' ministry to the orphans of Ethiopia. He filmed some great videos just for She Reads that talk about his book Scared and his work. Definitely worth a few minutes of your time. And if you haven't picked up a copy of Scared, do it! Our quarterly She Reads newsletter just went out so if you haven't subscribed yet, you can do so over at www.shereads.org.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Here's what my week looks like, day by day:
Monday's focus is HOME. After busy weekends, I need to arrange that day around our house. That is the day I clean, organize, do household projects, make phone calls, and focus on my to-do list. This means I don't schedule appointments, meetings or get-togethers with friends on Mondays as a rule.
Tuesday's focus is ERRANDS. Everything I run across on Monday that needs to be done out of the house I put on a list for Tuesday. That means that most every Tuesday I am running most of that morning. I can generally accomplish all my running for the week in that day. Whatever doesn't get done goes on my list for either the coming weekend or the following Tuesday.
Wednesday's focus is WRITING. My preschooler is gone those mornings so I use the quiet house to write. Because I have spent Monday and Tuesday cleaning, organizing, and running, I can sit and write without a million things pulling at me. Ideally.
Thursday's focus used to be BIBLE STUDY but my Bible study moved to a new location far from my house and I don't have that focus anymore. For right now my daughter and I generally have something planned to do on Thursday mornings. It's a good time to plan to get together with friends or meet daddy for lunch. With the Christmas season upon us, I think for right now Thursday's focus needs to be Christmas shopping, baking and preparations. Thursdays for me right now are a bit more "loose." I think it's good to have a wild card day if you can.
Friday's focus is WRITING again. This is another preschool day so I take advantage of that time to work.
Of course, when I am on deadline or in edits, all of this goes right out the window and nothing goes as planned!
I hope this idea helps someone. When I speak of focus, I really mean the time prior to 2:15 when I start running carpool. Once 2:15 hits, I am either in the car or helping with homework or preparing dinner, etc. I am very UNfocused and kind of all over the place once my kids start arriving home. But having focus for some part of the day is better than no focus at all!
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
This would make a great gift and if you get really ambitious, you can make 6 loaves at once like I did!
2 large bananas (very ripe... black)
1/2 cup melted butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 bag of chocolate chips (1 cup)
Beat egg and add sugar, butter and bananas (which have been mashed with a fork-- kids like to do this). Add this to the flour, soda and salt which been sifted together. Add chocolate chips and mix well. Put in greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until it begins to leave the sides of the pan.
This makes a nice dessert as well served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipped cream and some warm caramel sauce drizzled over top. We eat it for breakfast and a whole loaf is gone in one morning!
ETA: This just in! I just found these yummy looking banana chocolate chip cookies (scroll down to get to the recipe... it's there). I definitely know what I am trying next time I find some "past their prime" bananas!
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
Becky Spencer shares 60 ways to make the holiday meaningful.
Stephanie Shott shares 25 tips for a Christ-centered Christmas.
Edwina Cowgill shares her thoughts about receiving what God has for us this Christmas. She has blogged each day of advent about the gifts God has shown her for that day. Good stuff.
I hope these blog posts and the ideas they contain are inspiring to you. They were to me!
I am taking the next several days to get my life back in order now that my edits are finished. I will be popping in and out here at the blog, but am also trying to be sensitive to the time my family needs. We are decorating the house, baking goodies, running long overdue errands, and I am rejoicing in the dailiness of life. I hope you are too!
Monday, December 07, 2009
Burgers, French Fries
Black Bean Chili over Yellow Rice
Slow Cooked Pepper Steak over rice
Pretzel Crusted Chicken, green beans, couscous
Meatball Stew, French Bread
Chicken Milano over linguine, broccoli
Roasted Pepper Chicken, Brown Sugar Carrots, Baked Potatoes
Desserts: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake
For more menu plans check out www.orgjunkie.com
Sunday, December 06, 2009
I am thankful for... being FINISHED with my edits!!! I just hit send and it was a great feeling! I am sure there will be some other tweaking involved but the major push is O-V-E-R. And just in time for Christmas!
I am wearing... jeans and a pink sweater with a faux-fur collar that I just love.
I am remembering... the people who have helped me with my novel all along the way. You know who you are. Thanks for the advice, the prayers, and the encouragement.
I am going... to try to make these this week. They look mucho delicious and especially perfect for this time of year! A package of these with a box of gingerbread tea would make a sweet gift for someone. I can just see them wrapped in some gingerbread printed ribbon.
I am reading... the new issue of Writer's Digest. It just came in the mail this weekend. Hooray! And it's on writing a novel. Perfect!
I am hoping... to get lots of Christmas preparations going this week now that my edits are behind me.
On my mind... a new novel that just might be a Christmas story. :)
From the learning rooms... Christmas books aplenty. Baking and crafting too.
From the kitchen... a menu plan is in the works. I will post it tomorrow for Menu Plan Monday.
Around the house... decorating for Christmas. My mom and I have a date tomorrow for her to come over and help me. She has a good decorating eye and we enjoy sprucing up my house for Christmas together!
Plans for the week... actually, nothing. A row of white blocks on my calendar is a beautiful thing to see!
One of my favorite things... time alone with my husband. We had a great time in Charleston together. He went with me for my speaking engagement since it was his birthday and we were able to turn it into a short getaway. Dinner at Fleet Landing restaurant was wonderful and the time to finish lots of conversations was priceless.
Friday, December 04, 2009
As you read this I am most likely en route to a Christmas conference in Eutawville SC. The ladies at this church based the conference on my ebook, A Recipe For Christmas Joy. We are going to spend the day talking about how to experience Joy this Christmas and I can't wait to see what God does during our day together! I spoke at their retreat last fall and I am so excited to see them all again!
If Christmas is on your mind today, be sure to check out my post from yesterday about ways I am trying to have a simple Christmas this year. And be sure to leave a comment letting me know some ways that you are simplifying your Christmas. I could always use help in this area and I learn so much from you guys.
I hope that your weekend is filled with joy and that you are enjoying your Christmas season however you are choosing to spend it. I will see you back here next week!
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Lately I have been feeling the urge to simplify and downsize our Christmas-- take on less, commit to less, and spend less. I have been actively looking for ways I can do this. There have been several ways I have found that I wanted to share here:
- Think through the activities we participate in: I love to do special things for my kids at Christmas. As I sat and debated the different excellent options in our area, I started calculating the cost to participate in these activities. As I did so, the costs started adding up and the activities were no longer as enticing as they were. This was a good exercise for me-- to literally count the cost. And so, this season I am actively looking for free or very inexpensive things we can do. Because my desire to do the fun things didn't go away. Each weekend my aim is to have a fun activity planned and so far I have been able to do that. This weekend I will be gone speaking but my mother in law is taking my two older girls to a tea they attend every year at her church. The following weekend we've been invited to a cookie exchange that we will attend as a family and the girls and I are headed back to wonderful Zoe's house to bake our traditional baklava! The following weekend I am hoping to do a little Christmas tea here. During their break I have found some fun craft and storytime activities the library is offering. None of these things cost much, if anything, but they provide us with the chance for memories and fun, and a diversion from the ordinary-ness of life. That's all I really want for my children where Christmas is concerned. Who says I have to spend tons of money to do that? It took some looking and some creativity, but I did find affordable options. We can all invite another family over to bake cookies and sip hot chocolate for just a few dollars but a lot of fun memories.
- Purge: I decided to get rid of some decorations I have stored year after year and never used and also some decorations that had seen better days. It was hard to part with these things that had been part of our Christmases for years, but it was time. Sadly, I loaded them into the car and took them to Goodwill. I know that just because we are tired of looking at these things doesn't mean someone else will be. After I dropped them off, I felt much better. Lighter. I highly recommend purging your stash of Christmas stuff this year when you drag it all out. Instead of packing stuff to go back in the attic, really ask yourself: If I am not using it this year, am I really ever going to use it? If the answer is no-- even if it's Aunt Gladys' prized heirloom-- get rid of it. Be ruthless. Purging is good for you.
- Hold onto my expectations lightly: I saved a lot of money this year with our Christmas cards. A few weeks ago, my friend Molly tweeted about a good deal on Hallmark Christmas cards. I zipped over there, designed a card I loved, and was about to press that little "proceed to checkout" button when Curt told me I needed to wait on that purchase. Grudgingly, I waited. When I went back several days later, I was dismayed to find that the coupon code had expired. And I had designed a card I now couldn't afford! I had to let go of my desire to have cards. I realized that the world will go on without the Whalen family Christmas card.
Imagine my surprise when, just a few days later, my friend Sherri tweeted about another deal. Seehere.com was offering cards for half off. I hastily gathered my kids together and snapped a photo of them. It wasn't the best setting (our family couch), the kids weren't matchy matchy (which just thrills this mother's heart to bits but they are revolting more loudly each year), the card wasn't as cute as the one I originally designed at Hallmark, and it wasn't the best picture they've ever taken. I didn't care. I was on a deadline to get the deal this time before the coupon code expired. And semi-decent cards were better than no cards at all. I ended up with 100 cards for $26-- nearly half the price I was going to pay for my half-price cards at Hallmark. I was tickled. (The special is over but I think they are offering other deals if you want to check them out. Their prices are very reasonable.) The point was, I held onto my desire to have cards lightly. When it didn't work out, I let it go pretty quickly. When it got added back, it was a nice surprise. But I didn't get so tunnel-visioned that I broke the bank to have what I wanted in my little vision of that dangerous thing known as "the perfect Christmas." This is a lesson I learn a bit more each year.
- Make gifts instead of buy them: I am making gifts for the kids' teachers. I realized that, with six kids now in school, contributing $10-$20 per child, per teacher, was going to be expensive. (In the past I have contributed to the class gift of a Visa giftcard, which is a great thing to do if you can swing it.) I have decided to bake some goodies for them instead. Last night I baked 6 loaves of chocolate chip banana bread. Four are now tucked into the freezer to pull out as gifts. I have been searching online for some other gift ideas and hope we can make several items to make a nice gift basket. This wasn't that much work and I would much rather put effort rather than a lot of money into the gifts we are giving. If you want to make gifts, check out this Works For Me Wednesday blog carnival. There are lots of suggestions for gifts you can make. (Go down to the bottom of the post for the links.)
- Reduce my workload any way I can: I am planning way simple meals these days. This week we've had tacos, spaghetti, make your own subs, etc. The point is to think of meals that free you up to do other things. All of these things could be made in the morning, put in the crockpot and the day is free to take care of shopping, baking, errands, or editing a novel, as it is in our house. I had to do some thinking and planning but by doing that, I saved time and money. I wasn't sending my husband out for expensive takeout and we still ate decent. Not gourmet, but decent. This is something you might want to think through if you have an especially busy or demanding schedule in the weeks to come. I have a list of simple and easy meal solutions in my ebook if you'd like to check that out.
- Keep my first priority: No matter what we have going on, I am committing to keep my time with God each morning a priority. During Advent, I am going through a devotion by Ann Voskamp called The Glorious Coming: A Jesse Tree Celebration of Advent. It's not too late to buy this wonderful ebook and get started, as I am only the 4th day. This daily devotion features a scripture reading and an application that shows how all of God's plans pointed to Christ's coming, starting with creation. This devotion is meant to do with your whole family but I am just doing it for myself.
- Ask God: This devotion from Holly Good has inspired me that gift giving does not have to cost us anything financially. When we listen to God, He can inspire some pretty special gifts that surprise us and bless others. Be sure and read Melissa's blog post on her inspiration behind the gift.
Maybe with your financial situation, it's best for you to look around for what you can let go of. Maybe there are some things stressing you out that you need to say no to. Whatever your situation is, it's time to get serious about cutting what needs to be cut. My friend Molly has a great vlog this week on learning to say "no." Check it out at http://www.gomominc.com/. And check out Micca Campbell's "Tips For Reducing Holiday Stress."
You can have a joy-filled Christmas this year. Don't let the current economic climate or your family's busyness steal that from you. Let go of some things and see that life-- and Christmas-- does go on when you do.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Leave me a comment and let me know what one thing you are doing this week to prepare.
I will go first: I started decorating yesterday. And I ordered my cards on Monday and expect them in a week. And I got a good bit of shopping done on Black Friday.
So far, so good.
Stop by tomorrow for a post about having a simple Christmas.