Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas 2009

Christmas 2009

Our Homemade Christmas was a complete and utter success!

Christmas Eve was spent cleaning up the house a bit, grocery shopping a bit, and finishing up last minute projects (Mike). We had our traditional finger foods for dinner, and the girls absolutely adored getting to eat with toothpicks! We had a hard time convincing them that each morsel of food did not need its very own stick, so we went through half a box of the things. However, since no one poked an eye out or punctured anything important, we'll call that a success.

After dinner we pulled out some fabric scraps and the girls dressed up to tell the story in Luke Chapter 2. Of course, the star of the show was Baby Jesus, aka Dixon, who commanded everyone's attention when he refused to lay quietly in the manger (car seat). He had Mary (Brooke), Joseph (Maggie), a Wise Man (Katie) and a Shepherd (Bridget) abandoning their posts in order to offer their own kind of comfort to the crying babe. It was loud and chaotic, but in hindsight, very sweet and lovely.

We ended the night singing carols in the glow of the Christmas tree lights, and sent the kiddos off to experience visions of sugar plums. Mike and I were up until midnight, taking care of all of Santa's work, finishing up last minute projects (Mike), wrapping the remaining gifts, and getting cinnamon rolls ready to pop into the oven come morning. Of course, that came awfully quickly when Dixon decided to start his day at 4:30. The first of the little ones crept upstairs around 5, so we began the festivities!
The girls, ready to open up the boots and tights Santa left them. (Not homemade, but necessary nonetheless.)

Dixon, scrutinizing the wrapping paper before attempting to eat it.

Our little candy cane thief.

One of the advantages of not spending Christmas with extended family (though we love them dearly and have a blast when we do) is that we get to take our time opening our gifts. We let the girls hand out the gifts they made, then watch as their presents were opened. What a great way to teach them how wonderful it is to give--I think they had just as much fun watching as they did opening! So much so, that they all decided they wanted to make their gifts from now on. Guess I'll be spending the next 12 months coming up with new ideas!
Here are the ones from this year:

Apparently Mike overheard me telling my parents that I wanted to get all my recipes organized into the computer and compiled into one Master Book, because I was shocked to open a binder full of my recipes alphabetized! The girls helped him punch holes in the paper and decorate it by gluing on different images and icons. The hours he spent on this project are immeasurable and I really couldn't have asked for a nicer gift for Christmas!

After racking our brains, trying to come up with something we could make for Dad, we discovered that men are very hard to make things for! Maybe I'll consult with a few more men next year about what they'd like because this was the best we could come up with:Since Mike had been rummaging through my lotions and complaining that all mine were too "girly" for him, I found a kit at a craft store, and we proceeded to concoct our own body wash and lotion that smelled a bit more "manly." This was a really fun project! The girls got to choose their scent and color, then add some extras, like Vitamin E, aloe, and shea butter. Their favorite part was no doubt naming their very own product, and putting the labels on the bottles. They were even a hit with Mike!

As you'll remember from a previous post, Maggie's gifts were skirts I helped her make, and they turned out beautifully! Little did Maggie know that her mother would spend Christmas Eve Eve making her one as well!

Not only did Brooke make those cute bracelets I posted earlier, but she also made some of these adorable earrings. They turned out very nicely and I may even take a turn at borrowing them. Of course, she squealed with delight when she realized I made her these little blue ones with a matching bracelet to go with the skirt Mag made her.

Katie's hair accessories also went over really well with everyone. We especially liked this headband she made for Brooke. And yes, I made some for Katie as well!

The girls all thought it was a great idea to make ties for Dixon this year. Because it's only two tiny little straight passes on the sewing machine, I let them do it and they thought that was the best! Our little man is even more handsome now!

Grandma Barbara even got in on the homemade action and made these sweet little necklaces for the girls out of scrabble tiles w/ the first letter of their name. They have been wearing these nonstop!
And the highlight of the homemade parade was no doubt the My Little Pony Stable, Mike made for the girls out of scrap lumber. I Mod Podged some leftover material from the girls' skirts onto the insides and now they have a new-found desire to play with their ponies! He's planning to make little gates for the outsides. We'll see when that will actually happen. Until then, it's a favorite of us all!

And of course, all the while presents were being torn into, our cinnamon rolls were filling the air with their alluring scent while they baked in the oven, begging us to devour them. No Christmas would be complete without this traditional breakfast.
Jealous, huh?

That concludes Christmas for another year.
Can't wait to see what kinds of things our imaginations come up with for 2010!
Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Merry Christmas

By now, most of you have received a Christmas card from us, and those of you who have not, I probably don't have an address for you..hint, hint. Some of you may be visiting this blog for the first time, so to you I say, WELCOME! Here you'll find updates on the Stringhams, some of our favorite recipes, all sorts of fun projects, an occasional rant or two...or three, spiritual musings, and pictures galore, documenting the life of our little (in size, not number) family.

2009 Recap
  • We're still working for the mortuary, and Mike is still running Handy Mike's. I'm still running carpool and taking care of things on the home-front. Sometimes successfully.
  • We spent a lot of time preparing and working in our 900 sq. ft. garden. We are becoming better gardeners because of it!
  • In June we welcomed Dixon into our family and have been loving almost every minute of his precious little life. The minutes we don't love so much are the ones that come at 2 and 3 in the morning.
  • Summer was full of reunions, swimming and ice cream...of course.
  • In August, our Maggie turned 8 and was baptized on the same day Dixon was blessed.
  • The end of summer brought back to school (enter choir of angels here), and canning madness. You're jealous of our peaches, I know.
  • We spent our Thanksgiving at Mike's parents' house, while they were away at his brother's, giving them a bathroom makeover to surprise them for Christmas. It worked!
  • In December, we sold our Expedition. *Sigh* With much food storage packed away, we've begun to get our financial ducks in a row as well, which included downgrading vehicles. So far, we've seen the hand of the Lord many times in the process of preparing, and it's been truly a miracle. We can't wait to see what else He has in store for us!
We are so grateful that each of you is a part of our life. We have been blessed beyond measure in family and friends, and want to wish you all the sincerest of Merry Christmases! May God bless your lives as abundantly as He has ours, and may we remember the gift He and His Son gave to us all.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Projects #4--Brooke's Bracelets

Not to be left out, Brooke finally got her night holed up with Mom in the bedroom, making jewelry for her sisters.
She loved sorting through the beads and figuring out patterns. I thought she did a beautiful job.
Here's a sample of her creations. We still need to make earrings and necklaces, so hopefully this vertigo I've had creep up on me again will go away so I can help. Isn't it always something? Sheesh.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Going Once, Going Twice....

I can't think of a better way to commemorate my 100th post!

I'll be donating a Little Man Tie to this touching cause, so I hope you head on over to the Bloom Site starting tomorrow. Here's a little more info:

Looking for a way to provide service this holiday season? Here is a great opportunity. Starting Thursday, December 10th, there will be a charity auction at BLOOM ( to benefit Claire and Benson Skinner.
As explained by their parents, "Benson and Claire were born with a rare genetic disease in which their liver produces too much oxalate--called primary hyperoxaluria. Claire's condition has progressed much faster than Benson's. She has been on dialysis since she was 3 months old and is on dialysis 3 hours a day, 6 days a week. She is now on the waiting list to receive a combined kidney / liver transplant. It is expected Benson will eventually need similar transplants."
You can read more about the Skinners' experience HERE. (
All proceeds from the auction at BLOOM will go directly to Claire's COTA (Children's Organ Transplant Association) account to help pay for her transplant. Please head over to BLOOM Thursday-Saturday for the auction!

I hope you will check out the auction, help little Benson & Claire, and get some great stuff (Christmas presents???) all at the same time! Happy Bidding!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Christmas Projects #3--Maggie's Skirts

This was a really big project. While I was busy making ties for Dixon, Maggie thought it would be fun to learn how to sew, so she decided she wanted to make skirts for her sisters for Christmas. I reluctantly agreed, thinking we'd just do a simple elastic banded, knee-length skirt, but after seeing this skirt on one of her friends at church, she insisted that was the project for her!

So, we borrowed the skirt to figure out how it was made, and went to the fabric store for Mags to pick out the material. (Which she did a wonderful job doing!) We sent the girls & Dad off to the Palmer's for the football game (Thanks, Tasha! Sorry about that little accident...) and Maggie went to work ironing all the fabric pieces.
She kinda got the hang of the sewing machine, but couldn't run the foot pedal and guide the material with her hands at the same time, so since she preferred the foot pedal (If that's a sign of things to come, I can't wait till she's 16...Yikes!) I let her stick with that, while I ran the material through.

And here's the final product. I think we may have a little seamstress on our hands if her mother can be patient enough to let her do another project. Time will tell.

Christmas Projects #2--Katie's Hair Clips

For those of you who know Katie, you'll know it's all about hair for her, so it's no surprise that she chose to make hair clips for everyone this year. (Everyone except Dad & Dixon. Though they would look lovely on them, we're still deciding what to do there.)

So here's the stash she began with. A sea of ribbons, bows, flowers and sparkles!
A little girl in heaven, really.

Once again, I helped with the hot glue and with tying bows, but for the most part, it was all her imagination!

We did a lot of red, white and blues so the girls could stick with their dress code at school, but she was really quite thrilled with her creations. Especially when I told her I was pretty sure her sisters would share them with her.

Christmas Projects #1--Bridget's Letters

Let the handmade festivities commence! First up: Bridget. When I asked her what she wanted to do for her Christmas presents, she immediately said she wanted to paint. Of course. At first, she wanted to paint hot chocolate mugs for everyone. I guided her toward something a little less...breakable. We picked out big wooden letters for everyone and proceeded to paint and embellish with flowers, ribbons and sparkles.

I helped her with the hot glue and tying the ribbons, but other than that it was ALL her and her glorious imagination. Unfortunately, we wrapped them before I remembered to get pictures of the finished product. Guess we'll post more after they're opened!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Hanging in There

Sorry about the lack of postings lately. That roller coaster called life has been sending a few loop-de-loops this way, leaving me feeling a bit like this:

But like this unique Christmas decoration, we're still hanging in there, and I'll try to get the photos of our various projects uploaded & posted soon.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Tree Runneth Over

We started our Gratitude Tree at the beginning of the month...

...and look how it's grown!

What a great thing to be able to really think about all things we're grateful for.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Sweet Pork Burritos

This one's for Julianne.

If you've never tried Sweet Pork Burritos, you simply must!  I'd heard about them from friends, saw them advertised on TV at certain restaurants, but I'd never actually tried them, (or necessarily wanted to) until a few months ago.  I was looking for a crockpot recipe.  Something new.  Something different.  This seemed to fit the bill, so we tried it.


I cannot get over how incredibly yummy these are!  They rival virtually any food I've ever eaten, including prime rib and shrimp.  Those of you who know me know what a big deal that is.  So, here it is.  A little piece of heaven.

Sweet Pork Burritos
2-3 lb. Hunk O' Pork (Can be a roast, boneless ribs, loin, etc.  Whatever you have or whatever you can find for a good price.)
2 C. brown sugar
1 jar (14 oz. or so) of your favorite salsa (If you don't have a fave, might I suggest El Pinto brand? SO, SO good!  We use 1/2 Mild Salsa and 1/2 Medium Green Chile Sauce.)
1 can cola (Don't use diet, but caffeine free works fine.)
Throw all the ingredients in the crockpot on low for 7-9 hours.  About an hour or so before serving, take the meat out & shred it, then put it back into the pot to let it keep soaking up all that deliciousness.

Serve on a flour tortilla with Spanish rice, black beans (canned, drained), cheese (we like colby jack) & sour cream. Of course, you can add or omit whatever you & your family will eat.

For a quick and easy Spanish Rice recipe, use this:

Spanish Rice
1 1/2 C uncooked rice
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3/4 can water (fill the empty tomato can 3/4)
1 t chicken bouillon
1/2 packet taco seasoning

Throw it all in a pot, bring to boil, then cover, drop heat to low and cook for 20 minutes.  Stir and serve!

So, tomorrow morning, throw this together and your taste buds will be dancing come dinnertime!
Let me know what you think!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Homemade Christmas

A few years ago, I got really disenchanted with Christmas. We'd bought the girls a bunch of things we thought they'd LOVE. And they did. For about 2 weeks. I was given a few things that didn't fit, and ended up returning my ENTIRE cache of gifts and never getting replacements for ANY of them. I was really troubled and discouraged by this and spent the next few months really questioning the entire Christmas season. Has gift-giving always been this way? Is this what I put so much time and effort into? Do I even remember the gifts I've been given over the years? If so, do I appreciate them and the thought that went into them? How do I make Christmas enjoyable AND memorable? I made a vow to never just go buy "stuff" again, and that has evolved into something truly deep and meaningful for me and for my family.

It began with a trip to the fabric store, where I bought some foam and some fabric. I spent my evenings that December busily sewing three little pillows for my three little girls. I found some beautiful paper and my favorite pen and proceeded to handwrite a letter to each of them. (Mike also writes them a letter.) I told them how much I loved them, what I'd seen them accomplish over the last year, gushed over how wonderful they were, and left them with my testimony of prayer and what it has meant to me in my life. They now use those little "prayer pillows" every night to kneel on as they are learning to communicate with their Heavenly Father.

The next year I chose to make little fabric covered journals and fun, feathery pencils for them. They were to be used only during the sacrament to help them think about the reason we partake of the bread and water. They could either write or draw a picture of something having to do with Christ. One week I asked them to write/draw something that Jesus made. Another week it was write/draw about why we love Jesus. Again, I wrote a letter to each of the girls, telling them how much I loved them, what I'd seen them accomplish over the last year, gushing over how wonderful they were, and leaving them with my testimony of the importance of keeping a journal and recording how we feel about the Savior.

There are a few things that I love about my new direction for Christmas.
1) I'm giving my children something they will use--and use often--so that it doesn't become just another present.
2) It may not matter to them now, but someday, they will cherish the letters they got from Mom & Dad every Christmas.
3) They will always have a record of their parents' testimony of specific principles of the gospel.

I have a renewed love for Christmas now and have decided to pass this on to my children. This year, we're having a "Homemade Christmas" where everything given will have to be made by the giver (with a little help from Mom & Dad, of course). The girls have already decided what they want to make and we've done some shopping for materials already. I think I get asked hourly by at least one of them if they can start on their project yet. I will be documenting the excitement as we go along. It should be an interesting ride! I hope this will make Christmas more memorable for all of us, and help us to focus on the reason we have Christmas in the first place.

The principle I'm focusing on this year will be the Sabbath Day. I plan on making that Sunday Box I mentioned a few months ago and have a really good start on items to go in it already. (Thank you for going out of business at 70% off Ben Franklin!) Since Dixon's a little too small to benefit from the Sunday Box just yet, and trying to keep with my Sabbath Day theme, I scratched my sewing itch and made these oh so adorable little man ties!

I gave the bigger ones away (as payment for Maggie's piano lessons...thanks, Eden! Your boys were so HANDSOME in them today!), but I'm totally excited to make a BUNCH more now that I have a pattern and it takes me only about 20 minutes to whip one up! And yes, I realize that this is supposed to be a Christmas present, but how could I resist??? Now I have an excuse to go buy some darling fabric and make some more!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Mathematics of Being Right

I love having discussions. I've always felt like I have wisdom to impart on anyone who would have the ears to hear me, and I love hearing how other opinions align with my own. When I come to conclusions about things, it's usually because I've thought things through carefully, leading me to the right answer.

I started thinking this morning, that life, and even individual cirumstances, can be compared to a math equation. (I know. Math has never been my strong suit. One could therefore argue that life isn't my strong suit either, but let's save that discussion for another day.) We (and by "we" I mean "I") tend to go through life comparing our answers to others' answers, after all, that's how a teacher knows whether or not a student understands a concept--by looking at the answer. If the answers aren't the same, then a mistake has been made somewhere along the way. The teacher then pinpoints the mistake and the correct conclusion can finally be formed. I've always had an inclination to play the role of teacher, and have thought of it as my place to inform or correct someone where possible, so they can have all the information they need to make the "correct" decision. (Though I think I've always maintained that people have a right to their opinion--even if their opinion is wrong. I would just view this as someone being mis-or under-informed. Hence, in need of my correction.)

While there is some validity to this analogy, I now realize that I was fundamentally off base. You see, not everyone is given the same equation in life. Suzy may have a square root thrown into her equation which will completely alter not only the way she works her equation, but also her results. She may get an answer that is completely opposite to mine. Dan may not only have a square root, but also some exponential inserted into his equation, making his answer different from either Suzy's or mine. Does that make anyone's answers wrong? Nope. It makes them all exactly right, according to their equations (and provided they worked the equation right, which is another discussion altogether).

It's so easy to make judgments on others' conclusions according to our own equation. In fact, this is almost always the case. You can see how this could be and IS a problem, especially for one like me who has a bad case of correctionitis.

Judgement comes as a natural result of needing to make decisions. Without being able to judge, we would have no ability to chose and therefore have no agency. Judgement is a good and necessary tool in this life, but as with everything else, Satan tries to use even good and necessary tools to his benefit. We are commanded to "Judge not, lest ye be judged." We are warned to refrain from making judgments about others, especially when we aren't privvy to all the details involved in someone else's life. At the same time we're commanded to "Judge ye therefore righteously." Some judgments must be made. The only way to judge righteously is to ask the Lord, and to rely on the Spirit to guide us in our attempts to come to correct conclusions. We are faced continually with decisions that require our good judgment. Only Christ knows what even the smallest of factors may be in each of our lives, guiding each of our decisions, so is it any wonder that "He inviteth all to come unto him"? How else can we possibly judge righteously?

SO, this judger has some work to do. Again. I'm still totally opinionated--don't see that changing much. But I hope that I can slow my judgment reactions by remembering that everyone's equation is different.

So, please, don't judge this judger.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

In Bloom, Literally

So, you're heard me gush about the new blog BLOOM before, but may I please gush a little more?
Head over there today and you'll see that they've posted an article written by
--you guessed it--ME!

Also, don't forget to check out my tutorial on enlarging your blog photos.

How to ENLARGE Photos on your Blog

I’ve had a couple of people ask how I make my photos so large on my blog, so I thought I’d attempt a tutorial on how to do it.

Start by adding a picture to your post. In the top right corner of your composition box, you’ll see two tabs. “Edit HTML” and “Compose.” You should already be on “Compose” Click on the “Edit HTML” button, and you’ll see something that looks like this:

This is the code for the picture you just uploaded. I highlighted the things you want to pay attention to. First, in red, the width & height of your photo. I just double the numbers. So, in this example, I change 300 to 600, and 400 to 800 (or whatever your dimensions happen to be). Second, in blue, I make sure that wherever I see “s(a number)-h” that it is at 1600, and “s(a number)” that it is at 800. For example, in this photo, we see “s1600-h” which I leave at 1600. We also see “s400” so I change that to “s800.”

After you’ve made the changes, click back over to your “Compose” button and you should have a photo that fills your column.

Good luck, and let me know how it works for you!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

All Because a Good, Honest and Loving Boy Was Born

Many, many, many, many years ago, in the border town of El Paso, a little boy was born to good, honest and loving parents who would teach him how to be good, honest and loving. He would grow up with the bright Texas sunshine bleaching his blonde hair an even brighter shade of white as he spent his summer days trying his hardest to become a fish at the local pool. He loved the smell of his oiled leather mitt and donned it as often as he could as baseball became his life. Even the burn in his legs and in his lungs from running the stadium stairs day after day couldn't keep him away from The Diamond. Soon it was time to leave his good, honest and loving parents for higher learning and of course, more baseball. Little did he know that his travels would take him far beyond the boundaries of his baseball league, as The War came and he was called up by the Navy to serve his Country. While stationed as a Recruiter, he met a good, honest and loving girl whom he asked to be his wife. And so it began. This good, honest and loving man and his good, honest and loving wife journeyed together to different parts of this great Country, adding five precious little children to their family along the way. They raised them to be good, honest and loving people, and after beginning journeys of their own, are raising their children (all twenty of them) to be good, honest and loving people. All because a good, honest and loving boy was born this day, many, many, many, many years ago.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Yesterday evening while I was cleaning up the kitchen, Mike let out a holler from the bathroom.

"OH, NO!"

As it turned out, he'd broken the toilet seat. I went to inspect, thinking that the plastic bracket that attached the lid probably broke away, from the girls always climbing on it. Instead, this is what I found:

"Were you standing on it?" I asked.
"Um, no. Sitting." came the reply.

After laughing till I cried, all I could think was--

Thank goodness!





And of course, Mike's answer to quick fixes is almost always, duct tape.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Watching our Gratitude Grow

So often, one of our most important holidays is overlooked as decorations, commercials and billboards for Christmas go up earlier and earlier--before Halloween, even! I want my children to look forward to Thanksgiving as much as they do any other sugar-induced celebration, if not more. Thanksgiving seems to be the least commercially tainted of all the holidays--maybe that's why I like it so much. As I was thinking about what I could do to make this holiday stand out (in a good way), I perused a few different sites on the web, and wouldn't you know, Tara had blogged just this morning about her Gratitude Tree. Tara got the idea from a friend, who got the idea from another friend...I just love how good ideas go 'round and 'round! I was so excited to find something other than paper chains to record tidbits of gratitude on that I immediately took down all the Halloween decor and set out to making my tree. Here's what 6 brown paper bags and a little painter's tape got me:I found a bunch of fall-colored scrapbook paper that I no longer use thanks to my blog. (Yay for technology!) So I cut out a bunch of leaves from them and left them in the box at the base of the tree along with tape and a pen. The hope is that the girls (and Mike and I) will be inspired throughout the month to stop and think about what they are grateful for, and make our Gratitude Tree grow. I'm so excited for Family Home Evening tonight! I love the idea of being immersed in gratitude. Hopefully that same feeling will carry on into the next holiday, as Christmas certainly tends to turn us toward what "I" will be getting. I'll post about this again after Thanksgiving so we can check our gratitude growth.