Friday, December 30, 2011

Nines' Feast...

This is my wife, my bride... the woman I adore.

She is truly one of a kind! I know you already know quite a bit about my sweet wife from reading her blogs, but let me just tell you a few things about her.

She is a tireless worker. Nina sets her hands to serving her family and others. As some may know, this has been a fiscally challenging year for us. Besides the quilts that she makes for her loved ones, she set about filling the tree with gifts for everyone made from her hands and heart. She made wonderful, soft flannel pajama pants for me, dresses  and Maggie bags for Eva and Bekah, a quilted travel bag, scarf and an embroidered notebook cover for Laurie, embroidered notebook covers for John and Jacob, a travel bag and scarf for Mary, a quilt for Lupe, a picture frame with several pictures of the family for Dan and Joe, pillowcases for Paul and John... and countless other things for many others. I know I am leaving out many other things she has made for other loved ones, but I hope you see my point. Besides these gifts she spends a uniquely special day with each of the kids preparing their feast. She plans the meal with the kids ahead of time. The day of the meal begins with a lunch with Mama, at a restaurant of their choice, shopping for the meal items and gifts, and coming home and preparing the meal. I participate in only one meal... my own, after which I am exhausted and need a day or two to recover, Nina does this with each member of our family and stays as excited and interested in every precious event.

Nina has the most unique, special way of looking at things. She enjoys and savors the simple blessings God gives us. Her ideal day is being at home, enjoying her family, soaking in the beauty of God's creation around her house, and being able to create something beautiful from the fabrics she collects. But the unique way she has always approached pleasing God is what astounds me most about my wife. Nina has the ability to look at each segment or element of her life and seeks to do that in the way that is most pleasing to God. She does this, I believe, without bias. It doesn't matter if everyone else has always done it a certain way, she will- to the best of her ability- go about trying to do it the way she believes that is most pleasing to God. It shows her special faith and trust in God, and her strength to do what she believes is right- that amazes me.

My sweet bride is able to see with much more clarity than most of us what things are really important and what things are less important. And I love her for that. She inspires me to be the man she deserves. I am her biggest fan, and the most blessed man I know!

Now I'll let my sweet wife describe her feast. I love you, Nines. I love all of you, and I love you to pieces!

Blush blush blush,,,

He forbade me to edit that so it'll stand, though honestly, I do believe he's biased.  Which is a good thing, I suppose, in one's spouse.

I fixed a country "feast."  I'm not a good cook, but I know how to fill a bunch of hungry folks.  I fixed a couple pork roasts in advance and had them in the freezer so all I had to do was pop them in the crock pots on my feast day.  (I don't mind being sequestered with one of my sweet children, but I'd rather be with my family than all alone in the kitchen.)  I pulled the pork and we had some plain and some BBQ.  There were green beans, baked beans and baked potatoes. There were two trays of summer sausage and cheese with crackers for the appetizer and iced tea to drink.  Since I had a country theme going, I found these silly rubber hillbilly teeth- you know with missing teeth and rotten teeth.  Just some goofy fun for their gifts.  I made homemade "cookies and cream" icecream ahead of time, also.  The reaction to the icecream was surprising.  I just didn't expect such...enthusiasm. But they loved it and that's the end of our seasonal Feast Days!  Thanks for joining us!    

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Bill's Feast...

How do you describe the love of your life?  He's sweet, caring and thoughtful.  He appreciates me- I hear him say so quite often.  While it's not the point, it's nice for some one to notice your hard work.  He's extremely generous- I can't count the times he's emptied his wallet for someone else.  He's persistent- he'll work on a broken car door lock for two days- emerging triumphant.  He's real- the guys at the prison, where he helps teach a Bible class, like that about him.  Bill's very hardworking, coming home stiff and sore, but his family comes before work.  He's tough. (Something I don't usually mention, but about 9 years ago a virus attacked the nerve that passes through his skull on the left side of his face.  While some of the nerves have grown back, they're not the same and most of his face is paralyzed. If you cover half of his face with your thumb, the face on your left is what he would look like if this hadn't happened.  What a great smile!  Can you imagine how annoying it is to be unable to do a lot of the little things we take for granted- wink, squint, lick your lips, drink from a glass without a straw, chew without chomping on your cheek, pronounce words clearly that involve your lips, laugh without feeling self-conscious, even frown. I know it bothers him but he never complains.  Never. Life has a way of throwing you curveballs and he is so good at making the best of things. He and the older boys have fun joking about it and, on the bright side, he has no wrinkles on the left of his face.) He spoils me, making sure I'm happy.  He puts others before himself- he has a servant's heart.  He freaks when I clean the fridge- he thinks something is wrong if it isn't packed to the brim and will grab his coat and head to the store.  I try to limit that activity- just to soothe him.  He's a take charge kind of guy and knows how to getterdone. Bill is wonderful and we love him pieces.

Bill's Feast had a godfather/good fellas theme.  He stuffed his cheeks and used his best Marlon Brando voice to invite his guests into the feast- kinda funny as I don't think the younger generation understood the connotation.  He decorated the room like one of those clubs where the mafia hangs out with their don.  Red table clothes with tapers jammed into bottles.  Some decks of cards scattered around.  We picked up a Dean Martin greatest hits CD for $5 at Walmart.  I'm lovin' that and it really set the mood for his feast.  He found these enormous root beer mugs at the dollar store for his gifts and had an assortment of soft drinks and juice- along with tea.  He provided Little Cesar's pizza and bread sticks for his meal and then I made a tiramasu for dessert.  Never made one before.  John was suspicious when I had him make a cup and a half of espresso.  All the recipes called for raw eggs.  A whole lot of raw eggs.  Too any people to take that kind of risk, so I improvised with some vanilla pudding and instead of mascarpone cheese I used just plain cream cheese.  And I couldn't find lady finger cookies so I had to use vanilla wafers... see where I'm going with this? I have no idea if there was any resemblance to the real thing, but it was very good all the same. Bill always gives the kids a giant chocolate bar at his feast (he LOVES his chocolate.)  It's tradition.  And every year he tries to make them think that there won't be any chocolate this year.  They never fall for it.  He hides them and they have to figure out where they are.  This year, they were perched on the blades of the ceiling fans. We had such a good time. Peanutbutter would have tasted great with all my children under the same roof...          

Monday, December 26, 2011

Paul's feast...

Paul is 17 and he makes me smile. Unfortunately, this is one of the few smiling pictures I have ever taken of him so some of you may not recognize him. He has his own unique way of looking at things, but he's very consistent so there's not any mystery.  Paul's a deep thinker.  He waits a while before he says anything, but he's thought it all out, thoroughly, and his arguments- while unique- are usually based in pure logic.  But life is rarely logical, so he has his work cut out for him trying to convince us!  Paul just got his driver's permit- (we have the kids wait til they're 17 for their learner's and 18 for their driver's.)  At any rate, I have to say kids learning to drive can be stressful on the parents- no surprise there- but Paul learning... a walk in the park.  Because he's thought it all out for years in advance, he gets behind the wheel and ... well, let me tell ya...  It's been the most fun I've ever had in this process!  I mention that the speed limit is 55 in this section of road but that it increases to 60 after the bridge.  He simply says that he won't be going above 55 because it isn't fuel efficient.  Works for me.  (Remind me to leave a little early when we need to get somewhere on time.) When a car passes us he yells, "I'm saving the world here!"  When we come to our road, he starts to stategize for the incline coming up a half mile down... building speed in the dip- coasting up the hill- just barely making it over the crest without applying the gas.  His fist in the air, "Fuel crisis averted!"  So no shenanigans for him and no speeding.  How cool is that for Mom's nerves?  And, as you can tell, Paul has a great sense of humor.  He's in love with a gal named Veronica- a dilapidated Volkswagen bus sitting in a barren field by the road that he's been mooning over.  Apparently they're fuel efficient. He loves the kids and is very generous with them.  And he has a thing for beverages. Weird, really, but there it is.  He doesn't do dessert, but get him a bottle of juice and he is one happy camper.  He collects unusual combinations and will visit various stores because of their variety in juices.  He's a wonderful guy and we love him to pieces. 

His feast theme was "simplicity."  And it was.  He had pizza rolls for his appetizer, chicken tenders and fettuccine alfredo for his meal.  Apple crisp and ice cream for dessert.  His table was minimalistic with two farmer's lanterns and that's all.  He even used paper plates to make clean-up simple.  His gifts were bowls in different colors- so that Eva, the dish washer, would know who hadn't washed their own cereal bowl in the mornings.  Very thoughtful.  It was relaxing and we only had to return to the store once to buy more food because he was afraid we wouldn't have enough- worried he hadn't thought it out enough.  I think the chance of driving might have had an influence in that decision.           

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rebekah's Feast...

Bekah is 10 and she's a real sweetheart.  She's a homebody- if the other kids plan a trip to the store, she'll opt to stay home with me.  She likes to cook, garden and sew but isn't too fond of housecleaning or laundry.  Sounds like her mom.  Bekah is very bright and learns easily.  Even though she's kind, she won't take any guff.  If you sucker punch her, she'll punch you back- even if she has to chase you all over the house to do it.  I'm thinking that has something to do with the 6 brothers...  Yesterday, she said to John, "You're making it very hard for me not to get mad- and I'm not supposed to get mad."  She leans towards being shy and hates it when all heads turn towards her.  Then she gets embarrassed and she cries- which gets her more embarrassed... I get lots of hugs from her. She's a delightful girl... and we love her to pieces.

Bekah had a Chinese feast.  That girl loves her Chinese food.  I take the kids out to eat before we shop for their feast and when I asked her where she wanted to eat she said, "Chinese, of course!"  It didn't matter to her that she was having the same for dinner.  Her appetizer was Pocky sticks and onion rings and cheese- and before you think that onion rings aren't Chinese- they have them at the buffet for the gringos.  She had rice with broccoli/chicken stir fry and also Mandarin chicken.  She left some of the chicken plain because her daddy's a gringo. She had fried biscuits with sugar on them and little ice cream cups for dessert.  I just loved what she found for her table decorations.  We were looking for some of those round Chinese lanterns, but couldn't find any.  Instead, we came across these very pretty acrylic take-out boxes that were frosted and looked so pretty with our red votive candles.  We had a little bit of extra tinsel that lying around them.  Why don't we decorate the table more often?  It adds such a fun touch to the table and could make the everyday seem special. Her gift was chopsticks.  A very enjoyable feast.      

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lupe and Mary's Feast...

The great thing about our feasts is that friends and family want to get in on the action.  And that's fine by me!  Their feast was the day immediately following Jacob's...hmmm, think there's a connection?  Lupe is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet.  She's generous and thoughtful.  I've never met a harder worker- I do believe she could keep up with my Dad- only she would go much faster.  We think alike on so many things and that's a rarity- I hope she sees that as a compliment.  Lupe is attentive to the small children- always making time to listen to them and ask them questions.  And of course the children love her to pieces.  As we all do.  Mary(17y) is a lot like her Mom.  Sweet, generous and thoughtful.  She's very intelligent and a deep thinker.  Mary has a good sense of humor.  She's very mature for her age.  And very tender hearted. She wears her cowboy boots with pretty dresses and loves animals- she has a blind horse that she barrel races.  That would make her very trust-worthy dontcha think?  She makes her morning tea with milk instead of water and well... we just love her to pieces.

They made a Mexican feast- imagine that!  Wow, was it good.  The best I've ever had.  They made flour tortillas and meat to put on them.  The meat wasn't spicy- but very flavorful- with tiny pieces of potato in it.  There was Spanish rice and some kind of chipotle shrimp- which was amazing!  That was very spicy.  Her pico was incredible- with avocado.  And all the other fixin's.  And someone else did the cooking!  How cool is that?  It was a GREAT feast!   

Monday, December 19, 2011

Jacob's feast...

Jacob is 18 and he's still hanging around at home.  Not that he's very happy about it, but that's just how things are working out for him, so far.  Do you remember how you felt when you were 18 and ready to get on with your life?  I'm so glad that I'm past that.  He's doing really well with trying to be patient and waiting on the Lord.  Contrary to what the shirt may say, he does have a job and a car- just no money and he's not in a band.  Jacob has great social skills.  He's personable and makes people feel like family.  He's been known to mooch meals off some of the older ladies at church- which they just love.  He's usually not so subtle in the asking department, "Some of your shepherd's pie would taste real good on, say, Monday."  Something very satisfying about cooking for an appreciative and hungry young man.  And he'll pay them back with some yard work or moving something heavy.  If I've been busy for more than a few days, he'll stop me and say, "Mom, it's been awhile since you've talked with me."  Capable of saying what he's thinking. Jacob's a very good thinker- quick.  After Bible study, he'll slide in next to me on the pew and say, "and what about... and did you think... and doesn't that sound like..."  He's always been very creative.  He's been collecting items for his own forge.  An anvil is sitting around here, somewhere.  He's been hiring the small ones to clean out a corner of the barn to set up shop.  Jacob's an incredibly dear young man... and we love him to pieces.

Jacob has always been a huge fan of red meat.  I don't think that in all the years we've been celebrating our feasts that he has ever served anything but red meat.  What a guy!  He made cheese steak sandwiches and seasoned fries. His flank steak was cooked to perfection- melted in your mouth.  (He used to have a crush on Rachel Ray.  He was pretty disgusted when she got married. But she certainly scored points with him on her directions for cooking the steak.  His appetizer was a really pretty fruit salad.  Jacob's gifts were plastic candy canes that were filled with different candies- chocolates, Skittles, Runts, Gobstoppers and Sixlets.  Jacob has always had a phenomenal sweet tooth.  There was coffee cake for dessert and Jones Soda to drink.  The table was gorgeous with fresh cut pine, white twinkle lights, and hurricane lamps.  Shiniest crystal I ever saw in this house.  He had little red bead wreaths with gingham bows and fresh red and green apples nestled in the pine.  We had a lovely evening.
pucker up, baby!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wearing Grandmother's jammies

the real Abraham...

Abe's Feast...

Abraham is 8 years old and has a very..... well... let's just say exuberant personality.  Most 8 year old boys have lots of energy and he's no exception.  He wiggles and squirms in school and struggles to stay on task. Abe amazes me in his willingness to share.  If he has a special treat and someone asks him for a bite, he never hesitates in saying, 'OK!" and gives a very generous portion.  He just isn't stingy.  He has an unusually varied vocabulary which, no doubt, comes from having 7 older siblings.  Just now I heard him use the word "equivalent" in it's proper context.  Abe has a very cheerful nature.  When we were shopping for his feast, I became discouraged and frustrated because, after choosing just the right items, their cash register crashed and I couldn't buy them. I had to call Will for moral support.  I should have just turned to Abe and said, "What do you think?"  While I was dialing the phone, he says, "Look at it this way- you made your kid happy!"  I'd taken him to lunch and what turned out to be a window shopping expedition and he was happy.  Wasn't that the whole point?  He's extremely easy to please. Abe is also very affectionate and I can't leave the house without letting him know so he can get his hug in.  He never takes a nap or goes to bed without a hug and a kiss.  He's a sweet kid and we love him to pieces.

the late Santa

A Christmas Crime Scene.  That's the theme Abraham choose for his feast.  I don't know how... or why... but that's what it was.  It all came together very easily, oddly enough.  His decorations... Well, he wanted to make a masking tape outline of Santa.  Cracked me up when he said he didn't know where he could get a Santa body to trace.  He did just fine without the body, dontcha think?  Then he scattered around some spent shotgun shells- complete with their own numbered card markers. There were some evidence bags- a lollipop, a tuft of deer fur, and a list of naughty kids- one name was half-torn off and the remaining portion looked suspiciously like Jacob's. The table decorations was a toy police set he picked up from the dollar store. Abe made his own police line tape and the crime scene was set.

His gifts were little mini- Wooley Willys.  You know, those heads that you create hair on with metal shaving and a magnet.  Those were the "mugshots."  His appetizer was soft pretzels. The meal was stake-out food.  Hamburgers and chili-dogs, individually wrapped so they look like fast food. With grape pop in cans.  The dessert was, of course, Jack's donuts. My apologies to police officers everywhere- but there's a stereotype for a reason, right?  We all had a really fun time. The kids had to try out the floor for their own crime scenes.  Dropping like flies, they were.
the fetal position is rare but it happens

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Always smilin'
 John's Feast...

This is John and he's 15 years old going on... I'd say about... 5.   He's just such a big kid.  Literally and figuratively.  He's the tallest in the family, so far.  The fact that he weighed nearly 11 pounds and was 23" long at birth shoulda clued us in.  As the fifth son, he doesn't let anyone else tell, intimidate, imply or force him into being someone he's not.  John is the epitome of practicality and doesn't even consider what anyone else might think of his quirky ways.  If it works, it works and that's the end of it.  What little sense of decorum he has, he overcomes quite easily.  He's confident.  John's extremely easy to please and excite.  He's the resident inventor and all-around visionary.  I'm thinking that he needs to get busy with that one brilliant invention that's gonna support us for the rest of our days... he made a Leiden jar the other day.  What's that?  Well, it collects and stores stray static and then you can release it with a pretty sizable electrical jolt.  Nothing heart stopping- might should avoid it if ya have a pacemaker.  His materials for the project were a sour cream container, some foil and tape with a couple pieces of wire.  Funny thing about John... there's really nothing he considers outside his ability to make.  I think that's where the "5 years old" part comes in.  A whole lot of times it doesn't turn out as he plans... but he doesn't seem to get discouraged.  Just revamps the plan or trashes the idea as too much trouble or not enough raw material.  A really fun guy... and we love him to pieces.
objects in picture are every bit as big as they appear

John prepared a very nice feast.  For an appetizer, he had chocolate stuffed croissants and honey roasted peanuts.  There was homemade hot cocoa- with french vanilla marshmallows- and an assortment of pop for his drinks.  The main meal was poppy seed chicken and these honkin' huge rolls.  With John, bigger is always better.  He used an entire 5lbs of flour in those rolls. He served them with cinnamon butter.  He had candy bar cake for dessert but, oddly enough, no one had any...wonder why?  That's OK, they all agreed the cake made a mighty fine breakfast!  His gifts were matchbox cars- the classic type, and the girls got little sun catchers they could paint themselves.  His table was decorated very tastefully with fresh pine and candles.  Kinda different from last year's "Alien Invasion" theme... Maybe he's more like 15 than 5 after all...

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tip your head sideways... Sorry, but it was too cute not to share.

Mundane Monday...

Not exactly. I've been busy.  In a good way.

Eva just finished her first hunting season.  12 years old is the traditional age.  She didn't get a deer, but I know she enjoyed her daddy time.  The season is over and there's meat in the freezer.  Will harvested a roadkill, last night.  Now, don't shudder!  If it's fresh, it's perfectly kosher and it would be such a waste of it's life- and death- to lay there by the side of the road until... well, then we can shudder. 

Now it's time to box up the hunting supplies so that my guestroom doesn't look like a camouflage monster has moved in.

the infamous ladder

'Tis the season to be jolly!  Love this time of year!  Always have.  I made some curtains for my window over the kitchen sink.  With the serger that the-man-who-loves-me got me for my birthday, last summer, it only took me about 20 minutes.  How's that?  The fabric was free, so it's a win-win. Aren't they merry?  Yeah, there are dishes in the drainer, and dishes on the sideboard... what did you expect? It is what it is, my friend.  I'm here to say, we all have our parts to play.  I'm here to make you feel better about your so-called mess.  I'm pretty sure that there's only a 5 minute window, each day, where there aren't dishes in the sink. I guess I could have made the effort to pick up a little... but how would that make you feel better?  And it's all about making you feel better.


Bought some "old fashioned' candy the other day.  I'm looking at the box and I'm looking at the bag... tryin' the find some common ground.  Maybe that one red and green striped one- which happens to be made in Columbia.  Says right there on the box, red and green striped candy made in Columbia.  the rest are made in the USA.  OK, that's a mystery in and of itself.  I just can't figure that one.  Wonder what that conversation sounded like?  But what a disappointment the candy was.  My Grandma used to have a dish of candy out at Christmas time and I was all hopeful this would be a lot like that.  Ya know, but not really.  It fell way short.  So I'll continue to search.


This is a toilet seat cover- complete with floor mat.  I...I... I just don't know what to say about that one... 

Friday, December 02, 2011

 Feast Days!!!

The moment we've all been waiting for has arrived.  How thrilling!  For those of you who may not be familiar with our feast day tradition...

Quite a few years ago we decided that the season was filled with too much "Give me, Give me!"  So we came up with the Feast Days as a way to encourage the "Serve you, serve you!" that needs to be in all our hearts.  We drew upon the example of Queen Ester and how, by serving meals to her King and also her enemy, she changed the fate of an entire nation.

At the end of each November, the children draw a number from a bowl to determine the order of their feast- we have about two feasts per week leading up to Christmas.  Each child meets with me, individually, and we secretly plan a special meal to serve to the family.  They give special attention in choosing foods they know the other children love. On the day prior to their feast, the two of us go out for lunch together and then shop for their feast ingredients.  They choose simple, inexpensive gifts and decorations- spending no more than $12, usually. Everything is hidden and, on their big day, the kitchen and dining room is curtained off and the cooking and decorating begins.  (The children tend to choose a theme for their feast to simplify the meal planning and the decorating.)  When all is ready, they invite their guests into the feast with great ceremony.  Will reads some scripture and after a prayer, the child goes around serving each person the meal. Clean-up is their responsibility, also.  It's a real treat for all of us. So without more ado...

Eva's feast...

My, how she's grown!  Eva is 12 years old.  I find describing the children, as they get older, more of a challenge.  They get more complex, you know?  Or maybe I just notice more of their complexities. Eva has a simple way about her.  What you see is pretty much who she is.  She's tends to be direct- in the most kind way.  Some people are brutal at this, but it's not in her heart.  Eva is easy to please and flexible. She has a very strong sense of what's right and wrong- much to her younger sister's annoyance. She's extremely friendly and, as with all our children, has an incredible imagination.  You should hear the stories she and Bekah make up!  They spend hours curled up in their bed concocting the most amazing story lines- full of twists and turns and some humor thrown in- "just to break the mood."  Eva is a happy worker and never complains or pouts. Thoughtful of others and their feelings. A real joy to us and we love her to pieces.  

rockin' out
 Her feast had a rock theme.  At first, I thought she meant "rock" as mineral, but no, she meant rock as in rock stars and all that.  She wanted to surprise the kids and do something they wouldn't expect her to do.  She accomplished that!  She hung CD's from the ceiling and put laser-shot Mylar on the table- along with tinsel and some blue lights- it looks fantastic, doesn't it?  Isn't she just hamming it up?  (Her oldest brother, Joe, is laughing as he's looking at this picture, I'm sure.  Dan is rolling his eyes, but grinning- we so wish they could be here!)  She had some music jamming nice and loud when she invited her guests in.  She found sunglasses at the dollar store as her gifts and the kids all agreed to pose for a picture- rock star style.  There were grapefruit halves for the appetizer- pre-sectioned. She had buffalo wings, boneless bbq bites, and potato wedges for her main meal. Sparkling grape juice was her beverage and the dessert was chocolate cupcakes with mohawks in multicolored icing. As usual, everyone was smiling as they rolled away from the table. Thank you Eva!