Tag Archives: Christmas

Catching Up

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Nathan’s 2014 Calendar – I love these calendars the kids make at school and will be so sad when the year comes that they are all too big to make them anymore.

I’d say it’s about time we do a little catching up.

No, I have not given up blogging.

No, I was not kidnapped by Aliens.

No, I did not move to the south of France to hide away from the world. Although some days, that is still on the table.

We have had a pretty challenging couple of months with some big losses in our family and my heart has been processing it all. Throw in a couple big holidays and a birthday and this unprepared lady just had no time to write or visit my favorite blogs.

I’ve missed you guys.

In early November, we received a call that my father-in-law, who had been battling cancer for last 10 years, was being moved to Hospice care with only a few days to a week before it would be his time. My husband immediately hopped on a plane to be by his dad’s side. Proving that he is absolutely the toughest guy I know, dad fought to live for another three weeks. I am so thankful my husband was able to spend most of that time by his dad’s side. After dad’s passing, our whole family flew out to say goodbye to grandpa. Well, goodbye for now anyway. We know he’s saving us a place at the best fishing hole around.

We stayed with our family in Indiana for a bittersweet but very blessed Thanksgiving.

While in Indiana, we were also able to squeeze in a trip to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis…

Sara was off with her cousins so I only have boy pictures and boy did they have a great time! True to their nature, David loved the history and “fact” finding opportunities and Nathan was all hands on energy. We only lost him once. He knew where we were and was evading. Nearly every gray hair I have is his doing. Nearly. They aren’t all his fault but I’m still sending him the cumulative salon bill someday anyway.

It was hard to leave grandma Judy and the family, the big blue Victorian house, the crisp fall air, the falling leaves, the warm fire and the quiet time.

We love you grandpa and we will miss you everyday. Until we meet again.

After getting home from Indiana, there was not a moment to waste getting ready for Christmas. Christmas cards and letters, decorating, shopping, baking, teacher, neighbor and co-worker gifts, brunch, parties and even a Women’s Ministry event thrown in for good measure! Thankfully, my trusty staff was on hand to help – see picture below., way below.

Oh, and a Birthday to celebrate too!

Happy Birthday, Sara!! One year from now,  we’ll have a teenager. Actually, less than a year from NOW.  Gulp.

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We try very hard to keep her birthday separate from Christmas and just celebrate her. With all that had gone on and all of the “Christmas catch-up” I had to do, Sara was very gracious about having a simple, low-key celebration this year. Low-key was officially supposed to come next year as the last of the “big” parties is sixth grade; says the parental management team. With the exception of Sweet 16 of course.

Instead of a big party, we decided it would be just as much fun to take her and as many friends as I could safely fit in the van to Jump Street where they could trampoline themselves to their hearts content.

Fun. Did I say fun? Oh my will I have to tell you all about it some time. For now, I will just let you imagine a half an hour in a car with six 11-12 year old girls, too many cell phones, too much perfume, lip-gloss and nail polish (all of which were opened, sprayed, dripped and gooped in my car at least once) and far too many pre-teen hormones. They are fun in groups of three or less. Anymore than that and a pack mentality seems to set in. A half an hour EACH WAY. Did I mention that.

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We do have a special birthday tradition just for her that we never miss. Every year, on her birthday, we take her out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory and give her all of her gifts from the family. It is always a special evening and she loves it.  This year’s coveted birthday items – crazy knee socks, floral combat boots and anything with a moustache print on it.

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Nope, I wasn’t kidding. Don’t ask me?? If it is safe, appropriate and makes her happy, I don’t question.

One day soon, I will do a series of posts on some of the kids’ past parties. We’ve had some fun ones! For now you can check out the two I have posted; David’s Duck Dynasty Bash and Nathan’s Despicable Me Party.

In other news, Noodles the Elf on the Shelf was back for the Christmas Season so there was much Elf Management to be done …

The Elf Management team wasn’t quite as creative as last year but we got the job done. Mostly. When you have a six year old who misses nothing and wakes up instantly hyper-focused on a mission to find the elf, it can be complicated if the elf has not in fact been moved because management was dragging into bed at 1am and … gasp … forgot. “Oh, no someone must have touched the elf” came in handy more than once.

And then, all too soon, it was Christmas …

I love Christmas. Everything about it. Next year, my goal is to have posts ready ahead of time so I don’t miss sharing this wonderful season with my blogging friends. Unless you are prepared in advance, It is just too hard to write and keep up with all of the “busy” while desperately trying maintain focus on what truly matters. Lesson learned.

Desperately busy. Which leads me to December 26th and hibernation. I am an extrovert who becomes an introvert for about two weeks a year; December 26th until the day the kids go back to school.  I’m done. Finished. Spent. Turtle in her introverted shell. I may stay in my PJs all day. I may watch movies with the kids all day. In my PJs. ALL DAY. For many days.

Needless to say, I am not a New Year’s party girl. Well, I’m not really a party girl at all (anymore – for any of my college friends who might be reading) unless it is a dinner party or a birthday party or there’s cake. You know what I mean.

New Year’s Day consisted of bike riding and a picnic out back oh, and we did share the week with one very special and adorable house guest “Buster” or “Sassy McNoodle” as we like to call him.

And New Year’s Eve?

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Well this is about as exciting as it gets around here folks! H.I.B.E.R.N.A.T.I.O.N. Only one kid made it to midnight. I’ll give you one guess. Yup. The youngest. Party animal – just look at that face.

JanuaryAnd so, here it is the middle of January and sadly, 2014 has not had an easy start. We just returned from Oklahoma after saying goodbye to Gary’s incredible cousin Mike who passed away just after the New Year. I will tell you about Mike sometime as I will tell you about dad. For now, I will just share this from a card that was sent to us by Gary’s uncle Chuck after dad’s passing …

My prayer for you is a little light in the midst of this darkness. “We will never be the same as we were before this loss, but are ever so much better for having had something so great to lose.” – Leigh

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Indeed we are. And we are grateful to the God who loves and sustains us and we praise Him in all things. We trust in Him an look to Him for comfort even when we can’t find understanding.

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This one’s for you cousin Mike – Boomer Sooner!

Yes, it has been a difficult and busy few months for our family but we are moving forward and I am so glad you and I are finally catching up. Thank you for hanging in there with me and for your readership and friendship. A special welcome to the new visitors who have stopped by and the readers who have so graciously followed Welcome Company. I have a long list of recipes, ideas, plans for the Hacienda, stories to share and adventures to come.

I am looking forward to all that 2014 will bring.

I hope each and everyone of you had a wonderful holiday and got some time of your own to “hibernate” with those you love most. May 2014 be a year of blessing, adventure, friendship, family and fun. And may we be thankful to the God who loves us in all that may come.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13

Blessings my friends!

 

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Noodles’ Christmas 2012 Final Report

This is Noodles the Scout Elf reporting in from the North Pole where I am enjoying a little R & R after a very busy Christmas at the Brewer house. I had so much fun with my family this year and I miss them so much since my departure on Christmas Eve. There was so much to do, so much to explore and so many fun things to play with – I can hardly wait until next year! But for now, here is my final report for 2012 and a few highlights from some of my most memorable moments and favorite adventures.

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Advent is a wonderful tradition, I loved hearing the “Christmas Story” and getting to enjoy a piece of candy from behind the little red door each night. My kids like it too!

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Candy is by far my favorite elven food group!

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One of my favorite and most daring adventures was defending the castle and the princess from the fire-breathing dragon. Yes, you heard right the FIRE BREATHING DRAGON.

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There he is … The FIRE BREATHING DRAGON! And you thought I wasn’t serious. Later, I was even knighted by the queen (she’s the one there in the purple and yellow gown) for my bravery. So I guess that officially makes me “Sir Noodles”. Santa was so proud!

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I did a little decorating. Elves are known for their tree trimming skills.

Boy, I was having so much fun and then, on Friday, December 14th, something really terrible happened and a lot of little kids and their teachers died. And my heart was broken.

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And all I could think about was how much my kids mean to me and how I needed to let them know I love them and am watching out for them. My family prayed a lot for those families in Connecticut and I don’t know if they know it but I was praying too.

The next night was hard too. My family was gone for a Christmas Party and sleep overs. I missed them so much but did a little tidying up to keep myself busy. I tell you, that sweet “little one” must have re-arranged the “Merry Christmas” blocks a thousand times. Fixing-Blocks

But I put things back in order, and he left me a little piece of his cookie as he rushed by to play the Wii. Funny, after I fixed them, he never touched the blocks again. I sure do love him.

The next night, I was eager to make a new friend so I paid a visit to this really cool house I saw while I was busy defending the castle from the FIRE BREATHING DRAGON – remember that? I did tell you about the FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON, didn’t I?

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Anyway, about the really cool house, turns out there’s this girl who lives there, her name is Barbie. She said I could drive her car so we could go look at Christmas lights but the elevator in her house was broken so she couldn’t get down. Luckily, the “Rescue Heroes” were near by and were happy to give us a hand. And then we were off …

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to enjoy the Christmas lights and share a candy cane.

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And then I returned her home, safe and sound. She let me keep the car a little longer.

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Did you know Barbie’s Dream House has the best bath tub EVER! Barbie was kind enough to let me borrow it. We elves love to take marshmallow baths you know. You really should try it sometime, Marshmallow baths are the best!

The next night was Sara’s 11th Birthday.

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Elves LOVE birthdays, after all Christmas is Jesus’ Birthday and He is the reason we celebrate. I gave Sara a beautiful scarf that I brough back from the North Pole. She LOVED it and wore it out to her birthday dinner at the Cheesecake Factory that night. Here’s the best part, my family came home with leftover cheesecake (those pieces are huge) and one of them was Peppermint Bark – MY FAVORITE! How did they know?

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I told you a was going to take that helicopter for a spin. It was soooo much fun!! That chicken on top of the ledge in the kitchen was pretty interesting too, he has some good ideas on solar energy and clean fuel.

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I did a lot of visiting this Christmas and stopped by this quaint little village to chat with the very tiny but oh, so friendly people who live there. I still can’t figure out how Santa does the whole chimney thing though.

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One night, I watched my favorite move of ALL TIME! I love popcorn!

Oh, I can’t forget! Remember that FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON, I think I might have mentioned him …

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well, I trained him and am now a certified Dragon Rider. Here we are with our friend Griffin just hangin’ out on the chandelier.

Before I knew it, it was Christmas Eve and time for me to say goodbye.

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My kids aren’t perfect but they sure do try hard and are so funny and I love them so much. I want to be sure they remember me, a year is a long time after all, so I left each of them a little something special.

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Well, until next year, this is Noodles the Elf, or Sir Noodles the Dragon Rider – whichever you prefer, signing off!

May you have a blessed and wonderful 2013.

And Keep Believing!

“Simply Having A Wonderful Christmastime”

My blog has officially been neglected. I can’t believe it has been ten days since I last posted but as usual, Christmas has gotten away from me. My efforts at planning, preparation and time management were just not enough to accomplish all that I piled on my plate. This is not unusual. I am a work in progress. The good news is despite one visit from Monica (read about her here)  and a few sleepless nights, I truly had a wonderful and blessed Christmas. Now, after a couple of days to regroup and renew, which included a much-needed “Castle” marathon on TNT, I am back and am excited to share some of the highlights of our Christmas.

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For us, Christmas starts immediately after Thanksgiving when the trees, garland and lights go up. I love decking the halls and tend to over do it (shocking, I know) but it is always festive – not always finished, but festive none the less. Christmas-Decorating-3

The Christmas Tree(s). My husband likes colored lights and I like white lights so we compromised long ago and decided to do two trees. Is that truly a compromise? A fancy tree with white lights in the main living area and a fun and festive tree with colored lights in the family room. Truth be told, I love them both.

Decorating the family room tree or “kid tree” as we now call it, is a big family tradition complete with hot cocoa and Christmas songs on the radio. Just as my mom did when I was a kid, I put up the garland and the lights and then daddy and the kids hang the ornaments (and then I move the ornaments to more suitable locations after they go to bed) …

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Nathan has the honor of putting the star on top of the tree, with a little help from daddy of course.

Along with decorating, there is always a lot of baking to be done this time of year. A LOT! This year, I baked for friends, for charity, for parties and for family and neighbors. The good new is when you bake so many cookies, after a while, the last thing you want to do is eat one. I wish the same could be said of french fries.Cookies

We also enjoyed lots of celebrations and parties including a couple of birthday parties right smack in the middle of all the hustle and bustle – but that is for another post.

We enjoyed giving to others.

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You are never to young to experience the joy of giving.

And we remembered what had been lost …

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Two of the little boys killed in the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut were Tiger Cubs in the local Cub Scout Pack, one of the first responders was their den leader, one of the lost teachers had been a Venture Scout and three other scouts lost siblings that day. We remembered them at our Cub Scout Christmas Party by taking donations and cards and letters of sympathy and well-wishes.

As we remember what has been given …

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We also celebrated ongoing traditions and started new ones, like our first year with Noodles, the elf on the shelf.Bob-the-Elf-Rock-Climbing

This is Bob, the imposter elf, rock climbing on the fireplace. You can read about Noodles and Bob here.

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A gift from Noodles when he departed Christmas Eve. Watch for his final Christmas Post for 2012 as he will share the last of his antics and adventures while visiting with us.

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Dressed up and heading out for Christmas Eve services.

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Comfy and cozy in Christmas Eve pajamas and new slippers.

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Opening gifts Christmas Morning.

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Santa even left a little something for Gracie.

So much to be thankful for and so many things I want to remember about this Christmas.

Nathan’s first eggnog and the pure delight that washed over his face as he smelled and then tasted, exclaiming “mmmmm, it is sooooo good! Like bubble gum milk!”

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Funny guy.

The generous hearts of my kids as they showed immediate willingness when asked to give up Christmas gifts and instead spend the money to help others. How they were still filled with joy and understanding as we talked about that decision Christmas morning and remembered why there were only a few presents to be opened.

Christmas Eve services when it was announced that our church met our goal of digging 8 deep water wells and feeding ALL of the vulnerable children and orphans in one of the poorest and most ravaged regions of Malawi Africa. And when it was revealed that at last count we were actually tens of thousands of dollars over the goal, my son said “WOW! Now maybe some of those children can even have seconds!” He knows that to them, life is one cup of porridge each day and his heart was hoping some might get to have another. It truly is better to give than to receive.

The beautiful Christmas stockings my sister Dana made for my kids that were just like the ones our grandmother had made for us. Look for this story in a future post.

Nathan talking to my mom on the phone and asking her why she hadn’t come home for Christmas because he thinks her home is or at least should be with us.

My deconstructed Christmas Eve dinner because I just couldn’t do it ALL. Another future post.

The hugs and thanks of elderly neighbors for the gift of a simple plate of cookies and of being remembered. I need to remember to visit them more often.

There are also a few things I have learned this Christmas …

We gave up a lot and we didn’t miss any of it, kids included. We can give more.

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If you don’t open the damper on the fireplace, merry and bright become stinky and hazy.

No one notices or has less of a Merry Christmas because you were never able to finish the outside lighting and finally gave up and boxed it all back up and put it in the garage. Let it go.

When you have two little boys, two scooters are better than one – luckily, David was easily convinced that it would be a good idea to spend his Christmas money from grandparents on a scooter of his own.

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Yes, we ride scooters in flip-flops and Wellies.

Burgundy mushrooms are definitely worth getting up at 6am to start so they can simmer in butter and wine for nine hours. Pioneer Woman’s Burgundy Mushrooms.

The answer is five. Five years old is the age when you finally work up the courage to ask Santa for the scooter and monster truck you are hoping for instead of bursting into tears and burying your face in your mom or dad’s shoulder while clinging to them for dear life when he asks you what you want.

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At five years old, you are a big boy.

If I can’t get my family to eat brussels sprouts that are baked in a creamy cheesy gratin then I am NEVER going to get my family to eat brussels sprouts. Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Carmellized Shallots.

Hot cocoa is best with a little bit of fresh nutmeg grated over the whipped cream.

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I know this as well, next year I may or may not improve my time management skills. I will probably be exhausted again and over do it and despite my best efforts, Martha may try to take over and Monica might even show up a time or two. I also know that despite all of that, I will continue to seek the true meaning of the season and will be ever grateful for the Savior who came and died that I might have everlasting life. I am imperfect. He is not.

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Merry Christmas.

May you find peace and contentment in these last few days of the season. God Bless.

A Flood of Memories from The Icebox

This post was supposed to be about cookies. My Grandmother’s Icebox Cookies. But in the process of looking for a (as in one) picture of her to go with the recipe, I found myself spending the morning digging through hundreds of photos and remembering countless special moments from a childhood filled with them.

There are so many things that make me think of my grandmother. I lost her almost 30 years ago but rarely a day goes by that she isn’t with me. She was such a big part of my childhood and I have so many precious memories associated with her. She truly was my very first best friend.

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She was a wonderful lady and a good cook. The queen of the baked ham and Jello mold. A simple cook and not an overly confident one but her meals were always delicious, often prepared fresh from my grandfather’s incredible garden. My grandparents are the reason I didn’t know kids weren’t supposed to like vegetables. What is better than a carrot pulled straight from the ground and washed off with the garden hose? Not much.

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A foot wash after some barefoot gardening.

There is so much I remember about my grandmother. She was fastidiously neat, clean and tidy bordering on germ-a-phobic. How many times did I hear from the neighboring stall in a public restroom, “YOU’RE NOT SITTING DOWN ARE YOU?” In fact, the current state of my kitchen floors probably has her begging the Lord Himself to allow her 10 minutes in my kitchen with a mop and bucket. I’m also pretty sure she deserves at least some of the credit for my freakishly strong quads.

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Grandma and Grandpa having a little fun.

She was a lady and very proper but also funny with perfect timing, grace and poise. She never missed a beat. At least that is how I remember her. I remember how beautiful and pulled together she always looked. I also remember the nighttime routine of face cream, curlers and a foam/net hair wrap that were all paramount to her being fabulous the next day.

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I remember getting dressed up to go downtown and visit my grandpa at the bank where he worked as head of maintenance and then to lunch at the Crescent – a fancy department store with a wonderful cafe. Back in those days, you did not go downtown in black yoga pants and flip-flops; at least not in my grandmother’s world. Heck, I still don’t go downtown in black yoga pants and flip-flops and I go everywhere in black yoga pants and flip-flops. I’m a mom. In Arizona.

Santa-&-I-blog-readyThis picture is from one of our trips downtown where I was dressed to meet Santa in my taffeta skirt, lace tights and a beautiful butter yellow poncho and hat grandma had knit for me. How I cherished those outings with her. What I wouldn’t give for just one more.

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I remember how she would rub my forehead as I was falling asleep and how she sat and rocked me first thing each morning even when I no longer fit comfortably in her lap and the tips of my toes were starting to just brush the floor.

I miss her. I don’t think I realized how much until just this moment.

I’m sure by now you are wondering how all of this ties into cookies and where the promised recipe is. My grandmother may not have been Julia Child in the world of savory but when it came to baking, she was in her element. I spent a lot of weekends with my grandparents and I remember my grandmother always having a “little something” awaiting my arrival.  I remember the chocolate cake with white frosting she made so often because it was my dad’s favorite; and the cherry pie that was mine. I remember the amazing birthday cakes she made and decorated especially for me. Doll cakes, a horse cake, a beautiful yellow layer cake covered in handmade sugar flowers. All made with so much love and care for the sole purpose of making me feel special.

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At Christmas what I remember most were the delightful “spritz” cookies she made. Delicate perfect little cookies in the shape of trees, wreaths and stars beautifully decorated with holly leaves and berries. And I remember her Ice Box Cookies. The ice box cookies that started this whole post and the flood of memories that has come with it.

A week or so ago, In my preparations to get started on some Christmas cookie baking, I sought out a recipe I had discovered earlier on a wonderful blog called Piping Dreams. When I went back to the blog and found the recipe I was looking for, Fresh Cranberry, White Chocolate and Sea Salt Shortbread, I read through the comments and saw that another lady had asked about a recipe she’d been trying to find for quite some time. A recipe for “Refrigerator Cookies”, which sounded almost identical to my grandmother’s Ice Box Cookies that I remember from Childhood. I hadn’t thought about them in so long and had never actually made them myself. I did a little digging and found the recipe and went back and shared it in the comment section in the hope that it might be what she had been looking for.

And then I made a batch myself. With my grandmother standing right there next to me in my kitchen on my floors that are so in need of her attention. My rushed and busy spirit so in need of her attention. I don’t know if they were what that particular lady had been looking for but they were just what I had been looking for.

Seeing those cookies on the tray after baking was like looking through the eyes of my six-year-old self. They were just as I remember. They tasted just as I remember. A little bit of my Childhood recaptured through a recipe for a simple cookie. I will make them every Christmas from now on and I will think of my grandmother and remember how much she loved me and what she meant to me.

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My Grandmother’s Ice Box Cookie Recipe

shown above nestled alongside

Fresh Cranberry, White Chocolate and Sea Salt Shortbread from Lauren at Piping Dreams.

Oh, I also remember how she put my grandpa’s whiskey into a musical decanter that would chime out and alert her every time he poured a drink. Sorry, I just needed to laugh a little.

Noodles’ Weekly Elf on the Shelf Update

I can’t believe I met my family just a week ago, it seems like I’ve known them forever – I already love them so much! I have three kids; Sara, she’ll be 11 soon and I can hardly wait for her birthday party, David is 8 and is so clever and funny like me and Nathan is 5 and is so lovable and full of energy, hey, he’s like me too! And of course, mom and dad and Gracie the Dog too.

I have had great fun keeping them all guessing, getting into things and watching over them. On Monday night, after I reported to Santa at the North Pole, I flew back and went fishing for Swedish Fish in this cool pond right below the shelf I first landed on to introduce myself.

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Did you know that candy canes are not just one of the four food groups? They make great fishing poles too! And then you can eat them when you are done fishing, which is awesome.

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Boy did the kids think I was funny and clever when they found me the next morning. Funny though, the dog seemed a little confused and kept sniffing around the pond. Maybe she likes Swedish Fish too.

Noodles-ReminderThat first day, the kids had a little trouble being nice to each other and listening to their mom so I thought a little fun and friendly reminder of what Santa expects was in order. I even sat on a cool silver sled so that mom could move me easily in case anyone seemed eager to touch me.

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Night number three. I could not longer resist the cookies mom had been baking (after all, I am an elf and for us the four food groups are candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup) and I was just sure she wouldn’t mind if I helped myself to just one. Boy am I so glad I did!

Noodles-Advent-ConspiracyI’ve heard my family talking a lot about something their church does at Christmas time. It is called Advent Conspiracy. The boys came home on Sunday with cups and the family has been putting coins and dollars into them to collect money to feed orphans and vulnerable children in Africa. I knew the kids would love it if I helped out. What I didn’t know is how good it would make me feel too. Now I understand why my family wants to celebrate what Christmas is really about and Worship Fully, Spend Less, Give More, and Love All. I can’t wait to tell Santa all about it and about how generous the hearts of my kids are.Noodles-in-Spidey-MobileSince I arrived, I have been eyeballing all of the fast cars around here and finally, the need for speed got the best of me and I had to take one out for a spin. The Spidey Mobile was AWESOME!! I remember seeing a helicopter around here somewhere, but I was going so fast I can’t remember where. I’ll have to look for it because I’m definitely going to need to try that!Noodles-and-Baby-Jesus

My reports back to Santa have been mostly good. I’ve had to tell him of a little bit of bickering and fighting, back talk and messy rooms but I’ve also gotten to tell him of how much love my kids have and about their big hearts for Jesus. About how they pray and say they are sorry and try hard to do what is right. I love my kids and am so happy I get to be their elf.

Be sure to stop back by and see what crazy antics I come up with next week! I have heard rumors that I might be getting some “work done”, a little velcro to my hands, some wire in my arms and legs for increased flexibilty. I’ll be like a bionic elf or Wolverine. I like that, WOLVERINE, it has a nice ring to it.

Love,

Noodles, Elf on the Shelf

Set Aside Busy for Brunch and a Deep Breath

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Christmas is just around the corner and we girls are BUSY. Have I mentioned that on top of everything else, I have a daughter with a birthday the week before Christmas? BUSY!! This time of year is hectic and our TO DO lists have never been longer. We overload, overcommit, overextend, overdo, and overwhelm … ourselves. It happens. It just does.

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We do all of this while desperately trying not to overlook the WHY of it all. We are celebrating the birth of Christ and the gift of salvation He lovingly and freely gave to us. We know that is what it is all about and it is important to us that in the busy-ness of it all, we slow down a bit and give ourselves time to breathe, time to reflect and time to be grateful. But how do we do it?

Prayer and personal quiet time with God is imperative to our well-being, perspective and spiritual health and is the first place to seek Him and find His peace. God loves and desires that time with us and He puts it on our hearts to need Him and to seek Him. But he has also created us to need each other and to desire connection. He loves to see us gather together in fellowship to enjoy each other’s company and share all that He has given us. “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or fancy, in fact it is so much better when it isn’t. This past Thursday, I was so blessed to have a group of women that I have spent the last few months in bible study with come to my home for brunch. Brunch is by far one of my favorite ways to open my home and welcome others. It is easy, it is low-stress and for whatever reason, it is always special. This Thursday brunch was just that, special.

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It was a time to take a breath.

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To reflect on the time we had spent together in the study of God’s word.

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To break bread together and share a meal that everyone had a part in preparing and pulling together.

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To remember and rejoice in the true gifts of the season.

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To set ourselves right and enjoy each other’s company and the company of our Savior.

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To model for our children what it means to share life and gather together in fellowship.

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To be blessed by the wisdom of a Godly woman who encouraged us to come before the Lord with reflection on the state of our hearts and minds and partake of the elements that we might be reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and give thanks for the real gifts of the season.

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” 1Corinthians 11:23-26

May we continue to remember, Lord, what it is we celebrate this joyous season and thank you for the moments we spend together in fellowship, filled with your spirit.

Introducing Noodle the Elf on the Shelf

This year, “Elf Management” has been added to my seasonal resume; along with Head Baker, Interior Decoration Supervisor, Exterior Decoration Assistant, Lighting Designer, Personal Shopper, Party Planner, Event Planning and Coordination, Stylist, Hostess,  Executive Chef, Head Wrapper, Card Designer, Christmas Letter Writer and Keeper of Traditions.

Elf Management means that yesterday, our family officially adopted an “Elf on the Shelf” and named him Noodle. In true Brewer fashion, the beginning of this tradition was anything but simple.

I knew it would be. That is why I haven’t attempted the Elf on the Shelf Tradition before now. The fact is that no one in the under ten crowd around here just goes with the flow, accepts anything without a thorough line of questioning or is likely to “buy into” the idea of a tiny plastic elf watching their behavior, coming to life at night and flying to the North Pole and reporting to Santa. They all believe in Santa (although David has begun relentlessly questioning Santa’s legitimacy) but that is because he is a part of their own imaginations and is not sitting on a shelf where he can be scrutinized and inspected for authenticity.

Initially, it was my overly analytical, slightly cynical, too smart for his own good eight year old that I was most concerned about. I was absolutely convinced there was no way he was going to buy into this and I tried my best to prepare for the barrage of questions I would get from him.

Why would Santa need an elf to watch us? Can’t he just check the naughty/nice list? How did he know before? We never had and elf before. Or maybe he isn’t actually real. Challenging head tilt, penetrating stare. Why does it look so fake? How can it just sit there all day? How can it see and hear us if it is frozen? Does it eat? Does it go to the bathroom? How can it know what I do at school or when I am not in same room or when I am outside or when I am beamed up into a space ship, kidnapped by aliens and transported to a distant planet where they make copies of my giant overly inquisitive brain to implant in their robot army? How? Why? How? Why? How? How? How?

Do you see why I ramble?

To make matters worse, I messed up from the get-go. I decided to buy the plush elf doll rather than the little plastic version. I thought it was cuter and a little less creepy than the plastic doll which, truth be told, is a little creepy. Also, I really didn’t want to spend $29.99 for the book and the elf. So, I opted for the plush one which as it turns out is actually just intended to be a toy the kids can play with since the cardinal “Elf on the Shelf” rule is NO TOUCHING your elf, making him off-limits for playing.

Bob-The-Imposter-for-blogBob, the soft and cuddly imposter Elf. Nathan now calls him Chippy.

I could have lived with this except for the simple fact that the plush one doesn’t look remotely like it could watch you all day and then come to life when you are asleep and the plastic one does (a little) – which is probably why it is creepy. My friend Eileen introduced Elf on the Shelf to her kids this year too and her 4-year-old daughter won’t go anywhere near it, won’t even enter the room it is in. Just a little creepy.

Trying to pull this off with the plush elf was just not going to happen. A.) my children would never buy it (see reasons stated above) and B.) I have a five-year-old who loves all things soft and cuddly, has severe impulse control issues and is incredibly resourceful, rendering this irresistible plush toy elf useless in my attempts to implement this Christmas charade tradition.

I tried it, here’s how it went.

I placed the plush elf on the middle shelf of my baker’s rack with the “Elf Story” DVD and a note that read, “Hi, I am your elf. Sent by Santa to watch over you. Please give me a name, but don’t touch me or I’ll lose my magic. Watch my movie to learn more about me.” Remember, I was too cheap to buy the book and I thought the “visual” might be more convincing. I was wrong. After the video, Nathan walked up to the shelf, poked the elf in the leg and said “Dat not real. Dat not like the moobie. Dat haff noooo magic.” And then David (the skeptical 8-year-old) screams “NAAAATHAN TOUCHED THE ELF. DON’T TOUCH THE ELF. YOU CAN’T TOUCH THE ELF. HIS MAGIC IS GONE!!!!” Nathan, sensing he is being accused of a terrible crime, shoves David to the ground and shouts back “IT NOT REAL, DAVID!” David, “YES IT IS, Nathan, you always mess everything up!!”

David is now asking me in a very worried voice, “will he have elf friends who can get him get to the hospital at the North Pole?” (this is what happened in the elf movie). To which Nathan yells from his room (where he is now sitting on his bed in time-out) “DAVID, IT NOT REAL! – I TOLL! YOU! DAT!” And then, suddenly, David looks at me with relief as a great realization washes over him“Wait, wait, we’re okay. The movie said that the elves don’t get their magic until they are named. We haven’t named ours yet so he didn’t have his magic yet when Nathan touched him so he had no magic to lose. So once we name him, he’ll have magic and it will be okay.  Nathan from his room, “DAVID. It not real.”

Ironically, it was Nathan who ended up naming our elf. In an attempt to convince him and get him onboard, I asked him what he wanted to name the elf and he said, “I no, no (I don’t know)? Maybeeeee NOODLES!” Perfect, we all loved it. Noodles it is. But he still wasn’t buying it which was evidenced when he touched Noodles on the leg right after having named him. Poof. Magic gone. David beside himself. Sara rolling her eyes, looking at us all like we are lunatics (in the way only a nearly “tween” can) and stating “I’m going to my room to watch Ant Farm (tween girl show).”

Wow. I have grossly misjudged this on so many levels.

What am I going to do now? In an effort at damage control and salvaging this “Happy Christmas Tradition” it became obvious that it would be necessary to introduce the “real thing”. After church, I left the kids with a friend and ran to Target to purchase the $29.99 elf/book combo bringing my grand total for this new adventure to, well, more than it needed to be. Incidentally, they only had girl elves left. I do have a daughter but she is almost eleven (more later on God’s sense of humor at giving me a  daughter with a birthday the week before Christmas) and more interested in Ant Farm, so I was looking for a boy elf. I bought the girl just in case and drove to two other places that had nothing but dust and a few pieces of lint where all the elves had been. Girl elf it is, the skirt is sold separately and I’ll paint over her ear-rings, they’ll never know.

To introduce the “real” elf without completely losing all credibility and hope of belief, I came up with this letter:

Dear Family,

I am your true elf and today I’m making my appearance. I heard there were children here who might not believe so I placed a stuffed elf to fill in for me. I wanted to sit hidden, quiet and neat to see what I would see, how an elf you would treat.

I’m a little sad to say that you were not very nice yesterday, to each other or my stand-in, I call him Bob. I hope that will change on this day, my first true day on the job.

Nathan, you touched the elf with your finger, even when your mom said if you do, I would have to linger. My magic would be gone and I would be stuck, an elf not believed in and so out of luck. Thankfully who you touched is a toy, a decoy placed by me to test the curiosity of a small boy. You were right, he’s not real but I surely am so please treat me carefully so I don’t get in a jam.

I hope you have learned to see that you need me and learned not to touch and not to be greedy. I’m here now for real to watch over you and report back to Santa all that is true.

I hope that I can tell him of Christmas Cheer and of all the other things that he so likes to hear. Things like …

Kind words and clean rooms, good attitudes and responsibility, finished homework and helping hearts, trying hard and being thankful and others coming first.

I don’t want to have to tell him about anything else ’cause telling Santa bad stuff, well that’s the worst!

I hope I can tell him how I see you pray; everyday for loved ones, each other and those who are hurting, for hope and for peace, for forgiveness and grace for everyone less fortunate all over the place.

I love the name Noodles, it is silly and fun and I like being here where there is always so much sun. I am so happy to be your true Christmas Elf and sit here watching upon this comfy shelf.

So remember don’t touch, be kind and BELIEVE because I am only here until Christmas Eve.

Love,

Noodles, your Elf on the Shelf

We discovered the new elf this morning and read her his note. And I held my breath.

Noodles-for-BlogThe real “Noodles” waiting to be discovered.

You should have seen the look on Nathan’s face when “Noodles” addressed his indiscretion directly. I almost felt bad, almost. Then when Noodles admitted that the first elf was not real, the tables turned and Nathan yelled out “SEE, I TOLL YOU – HE NOT REAL!” And then, miracle of miracles, when David approached the shelf (the top shelf this time) on the baker’s rack Nathan yells out “DAAAAAVID, DON’T TOUCH IIIIIT!” He bought it. He believes. And then David says, “I won’t, I know this one’s real he totally looks real, not like the other one.”

All this time, Sara is eyeballing me discretely, sensing my deception but thankfully not calling me on it. I didn’t even have to bribe her; because I would have.

I have no shame. I am a terrible person. But I have pulled it off. I have deceived my children for their own sake (at least two out of three) and I am victorious. The Elf on the Shelf tradition is established.

I have given Noodles permission to give a Sunday update here on my blog so you can see all of the mischief he gets into and if management is creative enough to keep the web of decit magic alive.

Nathan-&-Noodles-for-BlogWho me? Touch the elf? No way, I would never! Twice? You must be confusing me with someone else. (Soft ear-muffs for a boy who is sensitive to noises, in case you wondered if he was pretending to be Princess Leia).

By the way, I thought I would share that I was in Barnes and Nobel this morning and they had 462 Elves on the Shelves (or however you say the plural) and at least half of them were male. The boys were with me getting a treat after a doctor’s appointment and I found myself explaining why Barnes and Nobel had 462 of Santa’s special helpers in their store. Why are they all stacked up like that? Why doesn’t that one look like ours? Is it a boy? Is ours a … GIRL? How do you get them out of the box if you can’t touch them? Oh yeah, they don’t have their magic yet. Did ours come from the store or did it just show up? Did we have to pay for it or did Santa really send it to us? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Really, I do this to myself. I blame Lucy.