Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Silent Joy of the Days Before

The days before the day when families gather to celebrate the birth of the Lord, are busy days for most. So many preparation taking place that involve food, gifts, gatherings and traditions.


It is always good to take some time away from the busy moments, to stop, reflect, and give thanks.


These two know nothing about the season of hustle and bustle.  Their world is much simpler.


Life is quite simple for my hens too, for these days there is not much to do.  I coax them out of the coop with some straw, and some of them venture out.



But it is not long before they are back in the run, preferring to scratch dirt rather than snow.  Cold feet are not fun!


Beautiful winter sunsets abound....


Snow covered roads make travel more exciting.


Orange flecked golden glows from the sun lightens up the pines.


Rosy sunsets over still waters, and an empty park bench.


Snow's cold embrace beckons me to look for signs of uninterrupted beauty.


So still, so quiet, so tranquil.


Bright red berries set against the backdrop of the white snow are stunning.


In the minus temperatures, our turkey friends huddle.


Frigid air mixing with less frigid air... creating billowy fog drifts along the river.


Native grasses shrouded in hoary frost wave in the stiff polar breeze.


The breath of polar arctic cold takes on a new dimensions along the river.


The frozen pond, silent today.  The remaining geese in our area have no doubt found open water to glide in.

As I ponder the stillness, the quiet, and the beauty around me, I think of all the busyness of this season and how it pulls you away from the calm joy found here.

I hope you will make time to pause, stop and let the beauty of the season wash your soul with its gentle peace, joy and love that it was meant to be.  The greatest gift the Lord has wrought for us began in in a simple cold place.  As I visit my chickens, I cannot imagine how Mary felt, birthing the Lord in such a place, no doubt in the cold, with the smell of the animals, and in her heart, the heartache too - the uncertainty of what all this must mean.

And yet, somehow in that cold difficult night when Jesus was born, hope came to the world, joy resounded from the lips of the angels, and Mary cuddled little Jesus tighter, holding onto his warmth, and wondering.

Today, I still wonder... such tender love, and the miracle of it all.  God, who created me, born in a cold lonely manger... to show how much He loved me, and how He was willing to do all this for all of mankind.

Stop and ponder it today, feel the hope, the peace, and the joy that was brought into this world because of the love our Lord Jesus has for you.  My prayer for you is much like the Apostle Paul's prayer below, that the blessings of the Lord would be rich in your life, that His presence would be powerful beyond measure, and that you would grow in the increase and knowledge of who HE is in this coming year.

Ephesians 1:15-22 
Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, 
and love unto all the saints, 
Cease not to give thanks for you, 
making mention of you in my prayers; 
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, 
may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; 
that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, 
and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 
And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, 
according to the working of his mighty power, 
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, 
and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 
Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, 
and every name that is named, 
not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 
And hath put all things under his feet, 
and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 
Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Amen! 

Dear friends, I am taking a bit of a blogging break, and will see you here, the Lord willing, in January 2017.  Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year! 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Paintbrush Cookies

Our annual tradition of making Paintbrush Cookies for Christmas is something I have done with our kids ever since they were old enough to hold a paintbrush in their hands.  It was a tradition that my mother did with all of us every year too, and it has become the hallmark of our Christmas preparations.




This year, however, with both kids in college, and working long hours, I didn't know if it was something we were going to do.  Perhaps they had lost interest in such a thing, or perhaps we would just not all be able to gather together at the same time.

Last week at the dinner table, the discussion turned to Paintbrush cookies, and my son said, "Mom, when are we going to make the Paintbrush cookies?"  I was surprised to hear him ask me, because I really didn't think it was going to be possible this year with his busy work and school schedule.

Well, I was wrong!



Both kids unanimously wanted to make the cookies.  In fact, it was so important to my son to have this annual tradition that he invited his precious girlfriend to the party too!  I was thrilled.  I got busy making the dough for the cookies, and the party was on a couple days later.



As we gathered round the table, it was fun to pull out all of the cookie cutters from years gone by, the food coloring, the paintbrushes and get the cookie dough rolled out.



My son and his girlfriend were in charge of making the colors for the cookies.  That is always so fun, to see the beautiful colors created each year, some not so pretty (we've had black a few years, lol) but this year we ended up with a pretty purple, lol.



After I began to roll out the dough, my son wanted to take over that job.  He worried about all the dough rolling and how it would affect my hands (I suffer from carpal tunnel).  So I gladly surrendered the rolling pin to him, and he rolled out the rest of the cookies for us girls to paint.




I will provide the recipe for the cookies below.  It is a basic sugar cookie recipe, but the fun part comes in with the paintbrush coloring of the cookies!


Mixing the food coloring with the egg yolk is always so exciting, to see how the colors will turn out.



The nicest creations are always the first batch or two that we put in the oven.  After that, everyone gets tired, and we are just working to finish the creations, rather than make them masterpieces, lol!


The tradition of creating these sugar cookies goes beyond just the cookie ~ it is the fellowship that we all have together as we work to make them.  We share stories from years gone by, like remembering when my kids were little and someone ate their precious masterpiece, and they were heartbroken because they didn't get to eat it.  {smiles}


I brought out the sprinkles towards the end.  This helps to finish up the cookies a bit more quickly, and adds a fun touch to the cookies.



And of course, we sang Christmas carols and hymns together.  It was fun for all of us to harmonize together while painting our little masterpieces, and to sing with all our hearts songs that glorify and worship the Lord on the day of His birth.

Here is the recipe for these traditional Christmas cookies.  If you have young children, or older ones too, this is a great way to make some very special memories that will be treasured for years to come!


PAINTBRUSH COOKIES

3/4 cup butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2-1/2 cups white flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp water
Food coloring

Cream butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Blend in the flour, baking soda and salt.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  In small bowl, mix egg yolk well, and add water.  Using small custard bowls, divide mixture between them evenly.  Add a few drops of desired food coloring to each cup.  Place a clean paintbrush in each cup.  

Roll chilled dough out to 1/8 inch thick on a lightly floured surface.  Cut with cookie cutters into desired shapes.  Place on ungreased baking sheet.  Paint designs on cookies.  Bake cookies for 6-8 minutes, or until light brown on edges.  Remove pan from oven and cool for one minute before removing to wire rack.  Makes 4 dozen.  (I usually double the recipe).  




















Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Winter's Sparkles

The sparkles of winter have finally arrived!



I am thrilled to finally have the snow! This past weekend, snow finally began to fall, and a glorious sight it was to see!


My chickens... thrilled?  Not so much!



These two...  happy as could be!  Snow is so much more fun to play in than dirt!


Ruth is one of my few chickens who will venture out in the snow... but not for long!


My garden resting quietly under the blanket of snow.



My bird feeder is busy again... lots of birds stopping by for a nibble!



Mosaic patterns of light and snow on the branches of every tree.


Unique snow pattern on my bistro chair.


Annie's favorite season has finally arrived.


She couldn't be happier!  Well... and neither could I! Although I don't eat the snow like she does... I feel her enthusiasm, lol!


Amazing how the patterns of the snow seem so lifelike! It almost seems like a  hand reaching out of the tree towards me!


Now this is the part of snow that I don't like... the messy roads!


Frozen snow-covered rose hips left behind for the birds who no doubt will find them soon.


Glorious sunshine creating joyful beauty in every direction.


My winsome friend often ignores me and Annie as we walk by, in her busy-ness to graze, but today she took a quick moment to glance at me, and I was rewarded with this beautiful photo of her!


Just a look, and then back to business!


A lovely spot in our neighborhood, love the wooden gate and posts!


Something about the lines of fences, roads, and skies always catch my eye... as I walk, I am looking for the little things, or the big things, or anything that speaks to my heart.  This view always does.


A worn and tired outhouse sits beside a weary fence, yet today, they are beautiful clothed in the gentle embrace of the snow.


This gate sits, no longer used, needed or wanted, yet today... made beautiful in the soft rays of the sun and gentle coolness of the snow, and brings a smile to my face as I walk by.


An old farm implement... placed alongside the road, forgotten and forlorn, but today, graced in the delight of snow.


Frothy, lacy edges of the cedar tree in perfect waffle formation.


Views so familiar, yet changing,glorious, moment by moment!


A walk through our forest with the dogs... Roger listens well enough to be allowed off the leash... Annie, not so much.  And so on the leash with Annie, and roaming Roger, we wanted through the quiet snow-graced forest.


Gentle beauty abounded, as did tracks.  Annie wanted to be off to the races, but held back by the leash, she sniffed and bounced around, wanting to see and smell it all.


Oh the beauty of this tree... always a joy to see this fir clothed in snowy garments, so stately and regal.



Back from our walk, the chickens called out to me... please, please do something about the snow!


New additions to the coop!  In the dead of winter?  Yes. Yes indeed. My husband and I are such softies.  We had gone to the feed store to buy feed, and the owner told me of 6 baby chicks who she was keeping under a light.  A customer had brought them in.  Their mother apparently hatched out a whole passel of chicks out in the woods, and one day came walking into the coop to show them around. Sadly a raven passing by saw them as a food source, and got the mother and most of the chicks before this man had realized what was happening.  He didn't have the resources to keep them alive (i.e. not wanting to run a heat lamp) and brought them into the feed store.  My husband and I thought one of our hens would take them in, so we brought them home.  Well, that didn't go well.  Both my good mothering hens were not broody, and chose to peck them instead :(  So... under the heat lamp they went.  Not the best investment, but I surely couldn't do anything else at this point.  So here we are, in the dead of this arctic cold winter, raising chicks.   Crazy, yes, sometimes I think that might be us, lol!  But, come spring, I will have six hens laying fresh eggs, and that won't be so bad :) Especially when all the other hens will be broody.  So, it is what it is, and we will make the best of it!


All the hens and 2 roosters gathered in the outdoor area of the coop, most of them unwilling to venture outside.


I checked on my greenhouse, and I couldn't even believe it!  Most of my plants are still green!  What? I really was not expecting this, after temps dipping down close to 0!   But I am so grateful for that greenhouse!


Mr. Sal left the cozy coop and ventured out into the snow.


He wasn't thrilled at all by the snow, nor by me trying to get his picture!


One leg, and then the other... he stood out there for a few minutes....


Before deciding enough was enough, and it was back to the coop!  I have spread straw outside for them, if they want to get out and stretch their legs, and some of them do, but then head straight back for the coop.  The snow needs to be gone, they've told me!

We are enjoying the snow, so thankful we have gotten some, about 6" or so.  This week we have another bout of the polar arctic air upon us, and our temps dipped down last night to 3, and tomorrow night will be in the minuses... cold indeed, but yet we are so glad for the snow on the rooftops and around the house, as it adds a layer of insulation and helps keep the heat in.


My heart is full of joy today, for many reasons, but for those of you who have visited here, you know that having snow is one of them :)  The glorious creations of the Creator in this season, and every season, never cease to amaze me, and praise to Him for all His many blessings are full in my heart today.

This time of year is so busy with preparations to celebrate the birth of the Lord, but in my heart, I want to never forget His lovingkindness to us, and I want His praise to always be on my lips, in every season!