Monday, December 5, 2016

Our Family Tree

I've been looking for an "advent tradition" for a few years now. Something that isn't just surface and fun and candy and gifts, but a serious look into Jesus coming to earth, and also something that will be fun, and fun year after year for all ages, with little alteration. This has been a goal of mine for awhile now, and it was no small task! Last year I finally figured out what I want to do and started to collect the needed things. This year we are "doing it" and it's marvelous, so I wanted to share. This is what we are doing, and changes can definitely be made.

For example, you could leave your tree bare and only add ornaments to it. Or make some balls and number them yourself. Be creative! I will explain what we do, and you can alter this to suit your family.
I found these ornaments at Starbucks on clearance for 14.99 with a $5 gift card!!! They are balls of varying sizes, and they open and close (reusable), they are very solid quality.

This is our Jesse Tree. I found this 4 ft tree at Walmart for $25. It's cute and will last forever. Star topper was also Walmart, and leftover burlap in my closet for a rustic tree skirt. This is the "kids tree" and they loved decorating it themselves!
"If we want our Christmas tree to really stand wondrous and full of meaning, the tree we really need to understand and be astonished by is the family tree of Jesus Christ. Because this is our story - your story. God doesn't cut off all the big cheaters, bad liars, weaselly sneakers, battling brothers, fighting families, and brokenhearted from His family tree...He adopts all the messy and broken and imperfect people into His tree and His story and His heart..."(Ann Voskamp)
Your Jesse Tree could be a large wreath, or a string of garland. It doesn't have to be a tree per se, especially if decorating space does not allow.

I took the verses for each day, and typed them out/printed them out, and filled the ornaments with the verses. Each day, we open the ornament, read the Scripture passage, and remove it from the tree, replacing it with the Jesse Tree ornament that goes for that day with the devotional.

On certain days, not every day, I've added another note to the ornament "Look under the tree for a special surprise". My mom sends certain advents treats and we incorporate them into this. She also has a few cards she's made that fit very well with certain days of the devotional, so again, we blend those in.
When you buy the book, it comes with a link to download and print your own ornaments for the Jesse Tree. I backed mine on tan cardstock. They are gorgeous.
I got all the Jesse Tree ornaments lined up by day, and ready to be hung. 
This is the book - which in the USA is about $20 on Amazon. It's absolutely gorgeous, with thick pages and pretty art. It's called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Christmas
Each day there is a shorter verse, a longer passage to read (which I put inside my ornaments), a devotional/story to read, and then questions to discuss, and things to do. Some of these things are geared for older children, some for younger. You can obviously skip the discussion if you have youngers:-)
Excerpt from Day 1:
"Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot - yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root..." Isaiah 11:1
"Once, in the truest story that you have ever heard, His-story, which is really your very own story, there was this family - Jesse's family. A family that was like yours, like a tree with branches of these relatives and those brothers and those sisters - a family that loved each other and hurt each other and forgave each other and failed each other. A family that failed God...
Out of the stump came one tender branch that would grow right into a crown of thorns, right into a rugged cross, right into a ladder..." Ann Voskamp

The questions are sometimes "more" than my kids know - but it's giving us a good chance to share with them - like the discussion point in the pic below - they haven't really noticed anything like that, but we have, even in our own lives, so we can tell them.
Whether you just read the book together, or make it more dynamic with a tree, and ornaments, or go even further and include activities and small treats or gifts, this tradition is one that we won't be without for YEARS to come. It just might be my new favourite part of the holiday! It's the perfect way also, to put a bit of a "curriculum" to advent, as the book starts at creation and traces the family tree of Jesus, from Adam, all the way to the birth of Christ.

If you are looking for a fun and meaningful way to get your kids really in love with the true meaning of Christmas, I highly suggest this! Start collecting things this year on clearance - a tree, a wreath, some advent ornaments if you want, and next year, you'll be all set!

My sister Lauryn is doing it this year too with her kids - I forced her to buy the book ;-) And they are loving it too, so at least two positive reviews so far, haha!!

(I have the document of all the passages typed up if anyone wants it, I can email it!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Kitchen Peek

I'd say "vote" but it's not really up to anyone but us, so whats the point, right? I would be interested to hear what you think though!

Our kitchen is coming along nicely for the upper cabinet part - which is all going to be open shelving (microwave above the oven, awaiting install - stainless steel to match the new dishwasher, and the fridge and stove we have not yet purchased)

The "look" we are going for is somewhat industrial and mis-matched, while being cohesive. So keeping that in mind, we want the shelving area to look clean and open, seeing as all the things on the shelves will add "clutter" and we don't want that!
These are NOT real shelves. We have installed the pipes, but the shelving is just scraps of wood we had on hand, to see what we like the look of. Our original idea was to do natural wood shelves, like the colour of the lower cabinets.
Here we have a "test" of white, natural and white with a grey edge

As it turns out I think we are leaning pretty heavily towards white shelving, because it disappears the best. The real shelves will be thicker than the stuff we put up to "visually test".

Yes, I did remove all the other straws, and left only the blue. Nothing like being visually assaulted by wrongly coloured straws. I might have created a bit of a problem. I'm sure amazon sells "Artisanal Straws" or something - I can't be the only one who wants to avoid neon pink, and green, haha!

It's been a slow process, but hey, it's coming together!! The area off to the left of the "grey" shelves will be floor to ceiling shelving at varying heights for coffee maker, toaster, mixmaster, etc. The piping is installed but I didn't put any fake shelves up over there.


We decided to, over the next year, to take some family trips. Just us. It was Brian's idea, and it was a good one! This year we've been focusing on resetting priorities and "doing" all the things we "know", instead of just knowing them...'cause knowledge doesn't do a whole lot of good until it's exercised, we've discovered.

So we went to Charlottesville. Not to see family, not with friends, and there weren't any meeting us there either...As far as we can recall, this is literally the FIRST TIME in our entire marriage we've taken a vacation, JUST US. Not that there is anything wrong with family or friends. But sometimes just us is okay too.

We decided on Charlottesville because it's close enough to do for a weekend, and we had the offer of a cottage to stay in (with a hot tub!), so YES!
The weather was perfect all weekend! Charlottesville is in the Southwest Mountains, which run parallel to the Blue Ridge Mountains (separated by about 30 miles). It's gorgeous. It's about 3 hrs from us, and I've never been there before, but Brian has, for work years ago.
Jefferson's "Little Mountain" (in Italian, Monticello)
The pictures and the story don't necessarily line up but we went hiking, went to Thomas Jefferson's home (Monticello), and spent time in the hottub, eating out, and hanging in the cottage. It should be fairly obvious which pics are which:-)

Hiking to the reservoir

The cottage we stayed in

They still grow vegetables in his gardens, he liked to play around with botany and such, and he had quite the nursery, gardens and vineyards for his husbandry

Fencing surrounding the family cemetery

Those "stones" are not stones, but wood, made to look like a cinder block of sorts. Painted with sand to make them rough...I bet Jefferson and Pinterest would have been fast friends;-)

Jefferson loved the weather, and the time. This clock at the East Entrance only had the hours showing. The minutes and seconds showed on the inside.
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house - I guess that's why you pay for a tour;-) It was pretty cool though! He had many unique inventions, and things given to him by Louis and Clark, and others.

Brian took some of these - the old craftsmanship and copper eaves and such
This is the West Entrance, and the side most recognized, because it's on the nickel. It looks completely different from the other side (East Entrance) and technically the East side is the front door, as that is where the parlour is to receive guests, but officially, they are both front doors.

It was very unique to build a house at the top of a mountain. Jefferson was born at the bottom of the mountain. Because of water, people didn't tend to build on the top of mountains. Though Monticello is not huge (I mean, it's big, but not nearly what you'd expect), it was quite an attraction back in the day. People would travel to marvel it, just because it was on a mountain.

These were the 3 things he wanted put on his grave.

The hot tub! We loved it!

Those are the Blue Ridge Mountains, as seen from apple picking at Carter's Mountain in Charlottesville. They sold apple cider donuts there, and the kids thought those were pretty great!

On our way! Traffic through the tunnels was pretty bad to get out of our city, so we stopped for pizza on the way. That was a good thing, because we'd have been starving had we waited to get further down the road with how backed up everything was

They were so excited to go! 
We enjoyed our time immensely! It was such a fun get-away. We tried the locally famous Bodo's Bagels (we approve) and Zinburger (they serve burgers made from Kobe beef...never heard of it? Apparently they are cows in Japan, living in a day spa, who get their sore muscles hand massaged or something LOL), and had a funny experience as one of the kitchen hands kept serving us food we didn't order. We all shared a huge milkshake for dessert!

We truly did have a wonderful little adventure together, and we'd love to go back because there were more local things we didn't get the chance to explore!

Where will our next adventure take us?