Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Post (Finally)

I'm a little late on my Christmas post but I just downloaded pictures today from Christmas weekend. 

This year, we decided to go to my parents house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We surprised my mom by showing up early since Darryl didn't work.  I called her to ask her to leave the door unlocked for us since she would be at the Christmas Eve Service but, than said "How about if you just open the garage door for us now"  She didn't believe us until she actually walked out and saw us unloading LOL

Josh - heading to grandma's.  Notice the shoes?  Yep, those are mine.  He refused to take them off and wore them the whole trip. 

Nate with his laughing frog - ready for the ride!!

 We all went to the Christmas Eve Service together.  Josh was not into sitting quietly through a service so he and I ran laps through the church until I finally locked us in my dad's office.  He drew pictures on Grandpa's white board and ate lots of cashews!!

Once we got home, we enjoyed our normal Christmas Eve Snack fest.  This year we had Shrimp, Cheese Ball and Crackers, Mini Crescent Dogs, and Chili Cheese dips.  Josh's favorite, though, were the peanut butter bars :-)

The last things we did that night was let the boys open their Christmas Eve gifts.  They each got new Pajama's and a musical book.  Nate's plays bedtime songs and Josh's is actually a piano.  After this, we did baths, put on the new PJ's and read "The Night Before Christmas" before putting them to bed.

 The boys each have a stocking :-) Which they don't get to open until Christmas Morning

Nate, waiting for Christmas breakfast, not sure about this look LOL
 Nate got into opening his stocking - trying to save his stuff from his brother!!
Josh loved the little flashlight that grandpa put in his stocking.

Josh got lots of presents.  He loves this sesame street bus.  And he got a big Thomas the Train set which he is figuring out how to put together.  Not to mention a little people fire house, a stuffed elephant webkin, matchbox cars and more.  He was THRILLED!!!

 Nate figured out how to open his gifts slowly.  He got this really neat musical stack able table, some trucks, this great little cow that makes noise when you roll it, a Weebles house and extra Weebles, and more.  He loved every moment of the day! 

We loaded up the car on Saturday night (loaded to the gills) and headed home.  Than we got ready for our little family Christmas.  The kids were in bed so we brought in their toy boxes and bean bag chairs and than put gifts inside the boxes.  We are thinking this will be a tradition - the week before Christmas, we'll go through all of their toys and let them pick out the things they don't play with.  Than, we will leave the toy boxes empty and the night before our Christmas, we'll wrap their toys and put them in their toy boxes. 

 Nate peering into his toy box.
 Josh got a new drum filled with all kinds of percussion instruments (yes, I bought him this LOL) along with a piano, and a 2 in one scooter.  He also got lots of little people stuff :-)

 Nate got a 2-in-1 scooter and a really cool bath toy, plus a driving toy.  And lots of little people things!
 Josh playing with toys as I got them put together - he had a blast on Sunday just playing!
 The train set - Nate loves to tear it apart quickly!! While Josh loves to play for hours with it going "Choo Choo"
The new bath toy - it makes bubbles and plays music.  Both boys love it!

So Christmas was a blast.  The kids were blessed with lots of things from the grandparents, for the church and from others.  My parents surprised us with some awesome gifts too (Like a Tassimo coffee maker!!)  Lots of fun memories and laughs were had by all :-)

Turkey Vegetable Soup with Stuffing Balls

We had this soup last night with the last of the leftovers from our Turkey dinner on Sunday.  It was pretty easy and very tasty. 
This is a Food Network Recipe.


  • Carcass from one 12-14 pound roasted turkey, picked clean
  • 2 large onions, one quartered and one chopped
  • 4 peeled carrots, 2 coarsely chopped and 2 sliced
  • 4 stalks celery, 2coarsely chopped and 2 sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, 4 smashed and 2 chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 10 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more as needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 cups leftover stuffing
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cups shredded leftover turkey meat
  • 1 cup leftover corn kernels


Put the turkey carcass, quartered onions, coarsely chopped carrots and celery, smashed garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns in a large stockpot and add enough cold water to just cover, about 2 quarts. Bring the water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook for 1 hour. Remove from the heat and strain the solids from the broth. Pour the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and reserve; you should have about 10-12 cups broth.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the eggs, flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper together until smooth. Add the stuffing and mix until well combined; cover and reserve.

Wipe the stockpot clean with a paper towel. Heat the oil in the pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until soft and translucent, about 6 minutes. Add the sliced carrots and celery, thyme sprigs, and reserved broth and bring to a simmer; cook vegetables are just soft, about 10 minutes.

Roll level tablespoons of the dumpling mixture into balls with wet hands (see note) and drop into the simmering soup; cook until dumplings float, 3-4 minutes. Gently stir in the turkey meat, corn, and season with salt and pepper, and simmer until heated through. Serve immediately.

Note: Moistness of stuffing can vary; if the dumpling dough is too soft to roll, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it is firm enough to hold its shape while rolling

My Notes:
*I did not have a pot pig enough to submerge the Turkey Caucass so I broke it up a little bit and than just filled the pot up as full as was feasible and let the rest of the carcass stick out of the water. 
* I did not have leftover stuffing since I didn't make stuffing - I made a small box of Stove Top and it was just over two cups of stuffing.  Next time, though, I would make the stuffing in advance - I had to stick mine in the freezer because I didn't want scrambled eggs by adding the egg mixture to hot stuffing!!!
*This makes a ton of really good Turkey stock - for our family of four, in the future I will only use have the stock and freeze the rest for another batch of soup later.  I'm thinking of straining out my soup after lunch today and freezing what is left because there is a ton!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Potato Pancakes with Fried Eggs and Turkey Hash

On Sunday, I cooked a large turkey and the "fixin's" for our little Christmas at home with the kids.  I then went searching for some really good "leftover" recipes and tried this one tonight.  I'll be honest, I was a little scared as I was making it but, in my husband's words, "this is fantastic, I would order it in a restaurant" which means he liked it :-)  This recipe came from Food Network.


  • 1 cup leftover mashed potatoes, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, plus 4 for frying
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped sage
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 8 ounces diced leftover turkey meat, about 2 cups
  • 1/2 cup leftover turkey gravy
  • 1/4 cup leftover cooked corn kernels
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley


Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F.
In a bowl, mix the potatoes, egg, and milk together until combined. Add the flour, season with salt and pepper, and mix until smooth. Heat 2 teaspoons oil on a non-stick griddle over medium heat; pour about 1/3 cup of the batter onto the warm griddle, gently spread it to a circle about 4" wide, and cook, flipping once, until golden brown, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter.
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the red pepper and cook until softened, about 4 minutes more. Add the turkey, gravy, and corn and cook, stirring, until turkey is heated through. Season hash with salt and pepper, stir in the parsley, and keep warm over low heat.
Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil on the griddle over medium-high heat. Crack the eggs onto the griddle and cook until desired doneness. To serve, put a warm potato cake on each of 4 plates; top the cakes with a fried egg and divide the hash evenly among them.

* I made the hash first, than the pancakes and eggs so I didn't need to really keep the pancakes warm.  If you cook together, one could cook the pancakes and one the eggs so they are both done at the same time
* The pancakes were REALLY good - and the yolk acts like the "syrup" so it isn't dry.  If you wanted you could use a little sour cream with chives to dip it in as well
*This would be an easy meal to do anytime - if you have a roast chicken and mashed potatoes - just make extra potatoes and make this recipe the next night.   I actually didn't have gravy left so I just used a packet mix to make some and it was the exact right amount for the hash. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Song of the Week "Love Me"

Have you heard the song out by JJ Heller - Love Me?  The first time I heard this I had to sit in my car until the song finshed - I couldn't stop listening.  What a powerful message the song brings.  Just read the lyics!  Haven't we all uttered those words at some point - "Who will love me for me?" 

He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He's the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, "Dear God won't you please...
Could you send someone here who will love me?"

Who will love me for me
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me
'Cause nobody has shown me what love
What love really means

Her office is shrinking a little each day
She's the woman whose husband has run away
She'll go to the gym after working today
Maybe if she was thinner
Then he would've stayed
And she says...

Who will love me for me?
Not for what I have done or what I will become
Who will love me for me?
'Cause nobody has shown me what love, what love really means

He's waiting to die as he sits all alone
He's a man in a cell who regrets what he's done
He utters a cry from the depths of his soul
"Oh Lord, forgive me, I want to go home"

Then he heard a voice somewhere deep inside
And it said
"I know you've murdered and I know you've lied
I have watched you suffer all of your life
And now that you'll listen, I'll tell you that I..."

I will love you for you
Not for what you have done or what you will become
I will love you for you
I will give you the love
The love that you never knew

Scroll down to the bottom to click on the you tube video - I wish I could add this to my player but it isn't out there so make sure and pause the player to listen :-)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Life on Purpose - Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of "Life on Purpose" - planning your 2011 with purpose so that you accomplish what you really want to do and not be taken over by the "little" things that seem to eat away at our daily lives. 

If you missed the first post or either of the first two documents just click here to see the original post. 

Next, is creating your task map.  You may want to open or download the document first by clicking here so that what I say makes sense.  On this page are two circles, the large circle should include everything that you do for your family or yourself.  The documents gives a few ideas to get you started but just list away.  The inside circle should include your "work" tasks - whatever you do for work.  (If you are a stay at home mom this may overlap or it should also be anything you volunteer for such as room mom, Nursery Coordinator, etc - anything that isn't home related)  Once you have finished with listing everything - take time to underline the 2 items in each area that cause you the most stress and circle the two things that you enjoy the most.  One project you can work on is how to make those two items NOT stressful - whether it be learning more about the item (such as finances, budgeting, organizing, ect) or delegating it to someone else - and another project is how to find more time for the two items that you enjoy the most.   I will admit that this one worksheet is one I struggle with the most - I already have my daily chores broken up into what I do on specific days so I had already done this step, just in a differant way.

Have you ever sat down and thought about your year in advance - making note of the important things each month.  The next worksheet I really enjoyed and I'll share both a blank one and mine (as much as is done now)  With this worksheet, list everything major that you need to do each month for example, Darryl's birthday is in February so in January one of my items is "Plan Darryl's birthday" so that I actually remember to plan for it.  Than I also add in February "Darryl's Birthday".  By doing this list, you can see at a glance the top items that you need to get done each month but it does something else.  One of our goals this next year is to paint the outside of our house so I can look at my month by month plan and see which month(s) I can plug this item into by seeing which months are the least busy.  Obviously, since it is painting, I need to look between April-Sept. and than take a month that is the least full so I know I won't have to work around other items to get it done.  You can see mine here.  This is also the place to write down the things you do once a year or once every three months  like clean out the garage, clean out the attic, change the screens, change filters.  This is a road map of your year.  You may notice that as I share documents, they start to get a little more specific - we started with just a brainstorm of ideas and now we are writing down monthly items . .. .so you can guess that we are going to get to goals, monthly, weekly and daily to do's. 

So, now, take time to fill out your task map and your month-by-month plan.  This is also a good time to pull out your 2011 calendar and fill out birth dates and any items that are already set - get those dates written in NOW so you don't double book yourself (and it can help you fill out that month-by-month document!)

Your Task Map

Month-By-Month Plan

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Theme Word for 2011

One of the blogs I follow, Women Living Well, is one of my favorites for encouragement and lessons.  Courtney's posts often cause me to stop and think.  Throughout December she posted a Peace on Earth December Challenge.
I have not participated in this Challenge - I had some other things I was focusing on throughout the month of December and didn't take the time to follow too closely but the title of this weeks post caught my attention and I read the whole thing.

One of the areas I've focused on this month is "Life on Purpose". I shared a post here with the first steps for setting up this system and have another post that I'll put up tomorrow.  All "Life on Purpose" is, basically, is a way to plan your 2011 so that you make time for the most important things in your life so that those things that aren't so important, don't take over.  I'm hopeful that I can get two more "Life on Purpose" posts up this week as well so you have all the info prior to the new year!

So, when I read Courtney's post about a Theme Word for 2011, it seemed to fit right into what I was doing already.  She challenges each of us to find time to get alone (she suggests going outside but, here in the North, it is way too cold and snowy to think outside!).  The scripture she suggests is Matthew 27 and 28 (but maybe you have a favorite scripture to read too!) than, take time to evaluate 2010 and commit 2011 to living your life completely for God.

There are 5 areas to evaluate - evaluate 2010 and decide what to do for 2011:
1. Evaluate your walk with God
2. Evaluate your marriage
3. Evaluate your children
4. Evaluate your Health
5. Evaluate your ministry

Courtney offers great questions and suggestions for each of the above areas so, if you are interested, read her post to read the full article.

Once done with your evaluation, take time to chose a them word for your year - what one word wraps up all of your goals for the next year.  I know, if you read her article, it will seem like I'm copying her, but I'm really not - something I have felt the need to work on is . . .to Simplify my life.  To take out those things that are not important which includes clutter in my home, things in our schedule, anything that gets in the way of my family relaxing and enjoying time together - laughing, listening, and loving fully.  Time passes much to quickly to have to spend hours every day cleaning and dusting, we have so many fun things we want to do each day!  I want my children and my husband to enjoy a peaceful, relaxing home, which I believe begins with Simplifying those things around us. 

Take time this week to focus on those areas, write them down somewhere for you to see, and look at them daily.  Search for ways to accomplish them - to do one item each week for each goal. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Toy Packaging

So, with two little boys, I spent hours today taking all of their toys out of their packaging.  There were twisty ties to untwist, wires to unwind, strings to break, and those little clips to turn so they unlock.  Oh, and yes, their were even toys that had screws holding them to the packaging.  As I worked on the packages this song ran through my head . . .. .have you heard it?  It is by Sara Evans and is called "Toy Packaging" - I've searched for a video or MP3 I could attach but can't find one so this link at least gives you the lyrics!

Sara Groves - Toy Packaging lyrics |

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas !

I thought I would share our Christmas Card and Letter today since, for the most part, everyone has recieved them.  So, Merry Christmas from Our Family to yours!

I couldn't get our actual card to load but this is the main picture :-)

Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas!  Isn’t it great that it is once again time to catch up with all of our family and friends – some we see often and many that we do not!  Our year has been filled with excitement, unexpected changes, and lots of laughs!

When I sent out our letter last year, we were awaiting the birth of our second little boy!  Nathan Adam Koll arrived on December 22, 2010.  He is quickly approaching his first birthday and it is so hard to believe!  He was our “stocking stuffer” last year and this year, he just wants to eat the stockings J  Nathan is our bundle of e.n.e.r.g.y.  He never stops when his eyes are open – he always has to be moving, chewing, grabbing, crawling, climbing . . . . you name it!  He is taking all those teetering steps and is just itching to be able to race after his big brother!  Nate always has a smile on his face and loves to play with anything his brother doesn’t want him too!!!  Joshua turned 2 on October 22.  He is our thinker.  He can sit and play with his cars or look at books for hours.  He is also the one that will line up all of his cars across the living room floor, step back to take a look before moving one or two just slightly so that they are perfectly spaced.  He is very neat and likes things to be in their place.  He doesn’t enjoy having anything on his hands (like sticky food!) and cleans off the table for me J  Josh is also extremely happy and content and loves music, both playing and listening to it.

With the birth of Nate, we made the decision that I would stay home full time and it has been the absolute best decision we could have made.  I love being able to be with the boys all day – playing, reading and teaching them each day.  Josh and I have “Mommy Time” each day where we work on flashcards, read books, color, sing songs and more.  So, I resigned from Independent Bank in January after working there for 7 years.  This decision was one of true faith and God has provided – Darryl was able to take on a second job doing something that he has done on and off for 25 years (wow!).  What is he doing?  He drives a cab in Grand Rapids!  It is something he really enjoys because he is technically his own boss and he has met some interesting people along the way.  This sacrifice has meant long hours for him – between the two jobs he often put in 80 hours a week, working 6 days a week.  He was still working at Clothing Care here in Ionia as a Route Salesman but this has also recently changed.  After 8 years, he was laid off on December 2, 2010.  We knew that this was more than likely going to happen but we had not expected it quite yet.  The good news is that he was able to switch to full time at the cab company for the time being which will help us meet all of our needs.  God works that way, doesn’t He?
So, lots of changes for both of us over this past year with jobs!  I was able to start babysitting for a friend in November who returned to work after having her first baby.  I enjoy watching the little guy and he is well entertained by my boys too!

Our animals are still doing well.  China has learned to enjoy the boys as they have gotten older but she still likes her couch potato life.  Misty would prefer to not have any children in the house J but she has adjusted well and knows how to keep away.  Ironically, her favorite place to sleep is on the floor in Josh’s room which is right where the boys can get her.  Don’t really understand that one but, she’s a cat, what do you expect?  Strat’s favorite activity is still to sleep.  So we let her to do!!!  She does enjoy the boys which is a little surprising. 

Darryl is still playing guitar in the group Alive!  With the two jobs, it has been more stressful this year especially on weekends where concerts often fall on his only day off, Sunday.  But, it is still a great pastime for him and keeps him playing.  He has also started recording some of his own arrangements which is a hobby he loves even more.  I enjoy listening to his creations!  I still love to Scrapbook and spend as much time as I can trying to get current with my photos.  I also sell Creative Memories on the side but do most of it online so it is slow growing!!  Otherwise, I have gotten into writing my own blog and really enjoy it.  It gives me an outlet to write and share things.  Along with that, I also love to read blogs J  It is fun to find ideas, recipes, crafts, and teaching helps out there in blogland.  Both Darryl and I have gotten involved  in our church Praise Band once again and it feels good to be back plus it gives me a night out every few weeks for practice!  I’m also back to playing piano there as well – I wish I had more time to practice but what can you do?

We did accomplish one house project out of necessity.  When we moved in, there was a slight crack in the bathtub.  Over 7 years, it slowly got bigger until it needed to be replaced.  In March we stepped into a small bathroom redo with putting in a new bathtub, painting and redecorating.  If I say so myself, it looks very nice J  I think (those of you that have read my letters all of these years will laugh at this) my kitchen may actually get its small make-over this next year!  Remember?  That was the room that was supposed to be done FIRST when we moved in so long ago!!!   We are also hoping to be able to get the house painted next summer too (we had planned to do it this year but that pesky crack in the bathtub took its place) so, as always, lots and lots of plans but who knows what the next year will bring. 

Along the way, we also enjoyed some fun times throughout the year.  In May, we took our first family vacation and rented a small condo in the Upper Peninsula near Marquette.  We thought it would be cool in the North . . . but instead, they broke records and it was pushing 100 degrees most of the week.  Who would have thought that we would have stepped foot into Lake Superior at the end of May?  Well, we did!!  It was a very relaxing time with lots of afternoons spent on the beaches playing in the sand.  I will confess that making an eight hour drive with two kids under 2 was a little bit of an adventure in itself but we learned quickly that Darryl fit very well in the back seat between two car seats and is a fantastic entertainer J   From home, we also enjoyed a trip to Frederick Meijer Gardens – we had no idea they had such a fantastic Children’s area and we look forward to returning often in the years to come.  Of course, we visited the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids to see all of the animals (who were sleeping because it was so hot the day we went!) and we found a fantastic Splash Park!  On a very hot Sunday (this summer was EXTREMELY hot) we drove to Millennium Park in Grand Rapids planning on getting in the Lake there but instead, we found this (very neat and clean) Splash Park.  If you have never been to a Splash Park– it is a big cement pad with all kinds of water “things” (for lack of a better word) that shoot water everywhere – out of the ground, through spray guns, and even buckets dumping water as you run under them.  We spent hours there and the boys loved it. (Mom loved it because there was no sand, dirt, weeds, or bugs crawling on me!)  Along the way we also visited several local parks and, of course, went to a huge Pumpkin Patch to run through corn mazes, pick pumpkins, drink cider and get our wagon stolen. What? Yup!  We came out of the Cedar Mill to find out wagon stolen.  Apparently, the thief heard my wailing (seriously – I was so mad, I was very loud!) about how anyone could steal from children, and turned around.  They did return it after making up a not very good story but at least we have a story to tell now J  and yes, our wagon will be clearly labeled as belonging to The Koll’s before we take it out again!

We are looking forward to what this next year brings us; it is exciting to be starting some new things and see where it all leads us over the course of the year.  Some of those exciting things are:  My brother Kel and family will be returning to the states in the spring from Brazil; The McMaster Family reunion that will be coming up this summer; our big family Christmas with all of my brothers and their families this year and, of course, lots of fun activities with our boys!   More than anything, we enjoy our little family and are trying to take in every moment with the two little boys that have blessed our lives. 

May you and your family enjoy the True Meaning of the Christmas Season and make time for each other throughout this very busy season!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Darryl, Jackie, Joshua and Nathan Koll
(China, Misty and Strat  too!)

Friday, December 24, 2010


What a great time of year to talk about Traditions.  I'm a firm believe that Traditions only happen if you create them and keep doing them.  I would gather that most of us have great memories from our childhood based on traditions - no matter how silly they seemed!

First, I thought I would share our current traditions for Christmas time.  On Christmas Eve, we normally go to my parents and attend the Christmas Eve Service at my brother's church.  After that, we gather at my parents for snacks and laughs.  Growing up both Darryl and I opened one gift on Christmas Eve and we are starting that with the boys this year - they have one gift to open :-) .  Christmas morning starts with some special food.  From my family tradition, we have Eggs, bacon, and toast than, from Darryl's side, we have cinnamon rolls and Orange Julius.  It is a very yummy breakfast!!  We also open stockings Christmas morning  - usually just before breakfast.  We aren't allowed to do anything else until all the dishes are done from breakfast - granted, now my mom has a dishwasher so their isn't near the wait that there was when we were growing up!.  Finally, we get to open presents and we follow my family tradition - we open one at a time - it is not a free for all.  It makes the morning last so much longer and you get to watch everyone else receive those special things too! 

Second, I wanted to share some traditions we are starting this year.  I already mentioned the Christmas Eve gift.  We are also going to start reading "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the boys before bed on Christmas Eve.  What a perfect story for that night!!  Than, we will also add reading the Christmas Story on Christmas morning.  I should clarify that my dad read the story often on our Christmas mornings too but as adults, we don't always take time to read it.  We want to make this an important part of the morning for the boys, though. 

Third, we've been doing a lot of thinking about Christmas and how we can instill into our boys the true meaning of Christmas; teach them about giving back; and yet still have the excitement of receiving gifts too.   I did a little research on where the "gift - giving" idea came into Christmas and was surprised to learn that it really came into play during the Victorian Era but the idea was being done as far back as before Christ's birth.  During the Victorian Era, people where filled with friendliness and Charity and gift giving goes hand and hand with that so gifts were given to show kindness.  They didn't just hand out a pile of gifts though - they did things like a Cobweb party where each person was assigned a color and than shown a room with different colored yarn strung through the room.  They had to follow their color to find their gift.  This is just one example.  It wasn't until the 19th century that Christmas met with commercialism and merchants took full advantage of pushing the idea of gifts.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not doing away with gifts :-)  I think it is fun to shop for my family but I just wanted some back ground on this!  So, here are some of the ideas we are planning on incorporating over the next few years (many of these ideas I shared in a post here):

To Teach The Real Meaning of the Season: Taking an idea from here, we will be doing a the Jesus tree next Christmas.  I plan on picking up a small tree for the dining room to use for this and we will use the lessons on the names of Jesus for our family devotion time.  I look forward to making this more in depth each year as the boys grow and eventually having each of them do research to talk about the different names.  There are also some teaching units I want to use in the coming years that focus on Christ birth so that the many of our lessons will revolve around the Christmas story. 

To Teach the importance of giving: We will be doing two shoe boxes next year for Samaritan's Purse.  I plan on doing one for each of my boys.  We will do a box for a boy that is their same age group so that they can pick out the items for the box.  Who knows, in years to come, we may have the means to do more than just those two.  We will be doing goodie boxes for our neighbors.  We'll back some goodies and maybe include a small gift but I think it is good for the boys to walk to the neighbors (with us of course!) and say "Merry Christmas" and give something away.  Another thing we will do that is also fun - is go light hunting.  Once we find the best of the best, we'll come home and write Thank-yous. 

To Count Down to the Big Day: What better way to build excitement than to count the days?  This is where the "just for fun" stuff comes into play.  Again, I've stated some of this before.  I want to incorporate the "Elf on the Shelf" game.  I'm also working on a better book list based on the two blogs I follow to do a book a day for December along with an activity for each book.  We love to read so I think it would be fun for the boys to have a book to unwrap each day as a surprise for the day.  I also am planning on making some advent bags - if I plan well enough, I'll make them big enough to put the books in too - so we can open the bag and take out a small gift each day and maybe have an activity we can do each day. 

Gift Giving: We will still do gifts without a doubt.  What is more fun that letting a kid look through the Toys-R-Us Christmas book and picking out things they like?  Or seeing their faces (or my face for that matter - I love gifts too!)  What I do want to do though, is encourage my kids to also be creative in the gifts that they give - to pick out things for family because it is something they know they will love.  I guess, to teach them that it REALLY is just as much fun to give as it is to recieve, especially when you take time to think about what you are giving. 

Yes, those are lots of ideas but, a lot of the items double up or take just a few moments each day and yet build so many memories!  AND I plan on having everything made for all projects for December by the end of July so that we can just have fun in December.

So, what are your tradtions?  Do you have one tradition that you love?  Enjoy your Christmas and make lots of fun memories to look back on for years to come!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Weekly Song - "I need a Silent Night"

Sunday, someone at my church sang this song, "I need a Silent Night" by Amy Grant.  I loved it when I first heard it last year but really haven't heard it much this year and had forgotten about it.  It is just such a great reminder of what we really need during the busy season.  I know that I planned for a less stressful holiday season but somehow, that didn't happen.  (I think I've talked about this a few times already) One thing I will be adding to next years planning list is this song - it will be my "theme" song that I think I'll listen to each morning to remind myself of what is really important!!

Scroll to the bottom of the blog and listen to this song (make sure and pause the other player) and while you are there, take time to listen to other Christmas songs too!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Happy Birthday Nate!

 Nate was born on December 22, 2009, 14 months to the day younger than his big brother!  He was so tiny!! Yet, he really wasn't - he and Josh were about the same size.
 Doesn't he look so adorable ???

He was the perfect Stocking Stuffer LOL

An now?  Look at how much he has changed!!

Nate loves cars, trucks, and anything that his brother is playing with at the moment.  He is starting to enjoy playing by himself and is figuring out all of the toys around the house.  He sleeps through the night and takes one 2 hour nap a day (like clock work).  He loves feeding himself but still enjoys his bottle too.  Nate is walking but still crawls when he really wants to get around.  He is always happy and has a smile on his face most of the time. 

We are truly blessed with this little guy in our family!!!

Happy Birthday Nate!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Too Cute Not to "Toot"

Isn't it amazing that Christmas is just a few days away?  I love the holidays and work each year to try and make them relaxing and enjoyable.  I started out strong this year but the last week has been down right crazy and out of control.  Making notes on how to not let that happen next year!

I thought I would start this episode of "Too Cute Not to "Toot"with a great new food blog that I found recently. What Megans Making has some great looking recipes  such as:
Cranberry Relish

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
She offers tons of cookies and "sweets" recipes plus many others.  I don't often hook up with food blogs but she seems to have a lot of ideas we would actually enjoy.

Since I started out with food . . .how about this great recipe for Chicken Pot Pie from craftomaniac.
I really like these tree picks that A Glimpse Inside shared this week.  They look so pricey but are so easy to make.  I think they will make a great addition to my tree next year!

This is such a cute idea for a little Nativity set - I think it would make a fantastic gift for a Sunday School Teacher or a Pastor's family.  Craftily-ever-after gives a great tutorial.
I never did post pictures of my porch, mostly because it didn't turn out like my vision and a little because I never get a chance to get pictures!  With that said, I do already have ideas for next year to make it better and it includes some crafts.  I saw this recently at That Village House that would look awesome with the other ideas I have - now my mind is working on how to make it waterproof (she used cardboard boxes and wrapping paper . . )

That is it this week.  I've seen tons of ideas but with holiday things as well all of the latest with my sister-in-law I haven't had as much time to search blogs as I normally do for great ideas.  I'm looking forward to things slowing down a little come January, as they usually do, so I can catch up on lots of things and get back into a more normal routine!

Update on Nora

I thought in this post, I would copy info from my brother Jeff, my sister-in-law Nora and my niece and nephew - all who have written some informative and even encouraging posts as they walk this journey. 

First, from Brittany, my niece:

Today we found out that my mom, Nora McMaster, has stage three lung cancer. She has never smoked in her life, so you can imagine this was a shock to our entire family. On December 29 she will meet with her cancer specialist and her surgeon ...who will be responsible for removing part, if not all, of her left lung. We know that God is in control, but we also know that this will be a hard battle for all of us to face. We ask for your continued prayers and support throughout this time. Any comments of encouragement you wish to leave on this wall for Nora would be greatly appreciated and I know would help her get through the rough days ahead
Than, my brother has posted the following:
Thank you all for your prayers. Nora had her biopsy on the mass in her left lung, and the doctor told us after the procedure that she has stage 3 lung cancer (we are still dealing with the shock that, of all places, its in her lungs when she has never smoked). Next week, on Wednesday, Dec. 29, we have our first appoi...ntment with both the oncologist and the thoracic surgeon so they can prepare the plan of attack
as well as this
 Looks like treatment will involve chemotherapy, radiation, and the removal of at least part of a lung. God has been wonderful in directing us to good doctors who are being proactive and thorough, and He is continuing to do so by giving her the same oncologist that treated Lance Armstrong. Our God is awesome and is gi...ven her the best that there is! Please continue to pray that God is glorified as we walk this road
And Nora wrote this:
 just got home from the biopsy (still loopy from drugs)....The dr has informed us I have stage 3 lung cancer. They have made an appointment with a thorastic surgeon and an oncologist(one of the best in the world, he was lance armstrong's dr) next wednesday..I know God is in control, thank you for your continued prayers
And finally from my Nephew Brandon
 For those who dont know, my mom cancer is stage three, and will know have to be endure chemo, radiation, and eventually surgery to remove part of, if not all of her left lung.........
I felt the need to share each of those so that you have the "story".  Pray for each one of them as they walk this road.  I will continue to post updates as we learn more after her next appointment.
Again, if you would like contact info for Jeff and Nora please feel free to let me know.  I know that they would appreciate prayers, cards, and any other encouragement.  Nora enjoys reading, decorating (so magazines she would enjoy!), and Coffee
Thank you!

Monday, December 20, 2010

What I'm Reading - for fun and my challenge!

 Francine Rivers is a great author, at least from what I've read.  My mom passed this set on to me to read and just warned me to make sure I had plenty of time to read because I wouldn't be able to put them down and she was right.  The books cover the story of several generations of one family and how the hurt and bitterness just eats away until one person is willing to try and bring everyone back together.  I would highly recommend this set of books to anyone.  When I finished, I wished there was one more book just to keep reading about the family yet, the story was finished. 
 Women Leaving the Workplace was one of the books I wanted to read by December.  It was given to me by my pastor's wife before I quit work but when my husband and I were making the decision for me to stay home.  It is on older book - and the info is quite dated.  The income amounts, cost of living comparisons, etc are extremely low compared to today's society BUT the concepts are the same.  I will say that the first chapter or so actually discouraged me and I already stay home.  Larry Burkett did make some very good points though, especially the fact that both spouses need to be on the same page for it to work to live on one income.  He also gives ideas for work to do at home but, honestly, many of those are out dated as well.  Would I recommend this book?  I'm not sure - it isn't a bad book by any means but rather, because it is out dated, I know that there are books much more current on the same topic and would be more applicable for someone to read.
 Sorry for the sideways picture - for the longest time, pictures didnt' have to be flipped before uploading them and, apparently, they do now!  This was my last challenge book.  I was dreading this one the most because I had started reading it this summer and couldn't read it - I thought it was boring.  But, when I came back to it and reminded myself that it was a memoir, not a "story", and I read it that way - it was actually very interesting.  It is about a guy who is put into a prison which also housed the last leprosy patients in the US at the same time.  His crime had to do with check kiting - but he spend a year there and learned much about himself and those he was in the prison with as well.  I did find this story intriguing but, I have to say that there is some pretty bad language in this book -as he writes, he does use the "prison talk" that the other inmates use so it could be offensive to some of you to read. 
Finally, (again sorry for the picture) Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman is actually a book for my challenge for 1st quarter of 2011 but since I had already finished the other books for this year, I figured I would just get started early :-)  When I saw this book come out, I knew I wanted to read it - I've always been a huge fan of Steven Curtis Chapman and was heartbroken when their little girl was killed.  My mom bought this book, unbeknowst to me, and when she finished it passed it on to me!  I really enjoyed reading Mary Beth's story - the book tells her whole story - it was interesting to read about how she and Steven met, to see the history behind so many of his songs, and to read about how his career slowly took off.  Than comes the tragedy in their family when their son accidentally ran over their youngest daughter.  It is heartbreaking to read that section of the book.  I do have to say the last 1/4 of the story is all excerpts (or mostly) from either journals or blogs through the course of the year + since the accident so I found myself skimming that section more than reading it like I did the first 3/4 of the book.  But, even with that, I would recommend this book to anyone to read especially if you are a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Very Happy First Birthday!!

It is hard to believe that little Nate is almost 1 year old!!!  On Saturday, we celebrated with a big first birthday party just for him!!  The theme was Jungle Safari but at this age, I just do a few little things!

 I made him this Lion cake.  It was so fun and so easy!  I must say though, the cupcakes were very dry - sorry to all who tried them.  I had made two batches and Darryl and I tasted the second batch.  They were awesome!  I was so disappointed when I bit into mine at the party and found it not nearly as good as the one I had tried the night before :-(  Oh well!  (And to think, I used a Paula Deen Recipe - I think I might need to pracitce more hehehehe)
 Of course, Nate got his own balloons :-)  (From my favorite Balloon Store . . . The Dollar Tree)

 A special birthday banner and his "year" in pictures.  It is amazing how much he has changed since he was born.

 I found the 1st Birthday banner at Party City for $1.00.  It was huge - I cute it up and put it all over the house

 The whole gang at the party!  This was taken after our game and lunch.  The game we played this time was the ABC game.  It was so much fun.  Very simply, I wrote out the alphabet on index cards.  For a group this size, I did three sets of cards.  They drew names to form teams; each team than divided up the alphabet cards among themselves however they wished.  Once they were ready, I called out an animal name, like Zebra, and they had to get the cards in order so I could read the word.  In between rounds they had change places with someone on the team so they never really knew who had what cards.  We laughed so much. 
 My sister-in-law, Kelly, got this toy for Nate - it lights up and spins and, as you can see by his face, he was mesmerized (I need to state that everyone was mesmerized by it!)  Notice even China, the dog, is wondering what is going on with that thing?

 It did not take Nate long at all to figure out how to open his gifts :-)  He was blessed with some great toys (lots of cars, his own little barn, and more) plus some really cute clothes.  Notice Josh's face in the background?  Darryl and I got Nate a music box for his crib - it is the same one that Josh has and L.O.V.E.S.  He was a little upset because he was sure it was his.  Even now, he is sitting in Nate's crib since I just hung it up - he hasn't figured out yet that they each have one. 

And, of course, cake.  Unlike his brother who didn't touch his cupcake, Nate inhaled his - it was adorable. 

The hit of the day, though, was this:

Yep, a chocolate fountain.  I can't believe I didn't get a picture of it OR the line up to do dipping all afternoon!   It was so incredibly yummy!  My favorite was the pound cake but there was also marshmallows, bananas, and pretzels.  I haven't used my fountain in quite awhile and I'm not sure why?  It is so easy - just melt some chocolate (and add a little oil to make it smooth) dumb it in and turn on the fountain.  The fun begins!  The bonus?  Today, I have a cup of melted chocolate on my counter with a bag of pretzels next to it :-)  All day, I keep dipping pretzels into chocolate.  I told Darryl, I would eat banana's every day if I could dip them in chocolate (I'm not a banana fan!).  So, I do believe, all future parties at the Koll house will have the chocolate fountain! 
The day was just a blast with lots of laughs, great food (If I say so myself), fun times, and just an overall great day.  The boys are both enjoying the new toys today and are both "recovering" from a super busy day.