Thursday, December 29, 2011

It Was Merry & Pretty Calendars

I can hardly believe Christmas has already come and gone!  It went so fast and was so busy that I officially failed at taking Christmas photos.  Now I feel guilty about it all, as I have hardly a thing to show for this special time.  Besides lacking photos, our Christmas was full.  A Christmas Eve meal with family and Pioneer Woman side dishes, hot Wassail, singing, games, comedy, dessert with my brother and his family and Husband's family (it is so nice to be able to combine families during special occasions), friends, naps, sleeping in late, reading, and of course, the full meaning of the holiday are the many things we enjoyed last weekend. 

We are so thankful. 

With the New Year fast approaching, there are a few things on my mind:

1) Our plans.  I'm hearing it is going to go something like...our house, Dance Dance Revolution, Ping Pong,
music, and fondue.  Having children and having friends who have children has given us a whole new outlook on ringing in the New Year.  We like to do it family style.  The kids may be asleep, but we like to at least have them near as we ring in the New Year.
2) My New Year's resolution(s).  I'm working on these.  I don't want to go overboard or anything, but I like to gear myself up for a challenge or two during the New Year. 

3) My 2012 calendar and planner:  Is it just me or isn't it fun getting a new calendar for the new year?!

I've been eyeing these...
Wild Horses
This shop will take your breath away...

12 Month Calendar by Leah Duncan on Etsy

I'm also loving this twelve month calendar from Little Things Studio.

Pretty calendars get me even more excited about the New Year, you?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

here and there

In just a couple hours our guests will arrive.  There are presents to wrap, wassail to make, food to prepare, one more pie to bake, and a table for ten to set.  I'm excited.

Wishing you a magical day!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Little Things {lately}

white lights.
the way the winter sun beams hit the trees in the morning.
enjoying the least stressful holiday, yet.
exchanging Merry Christmas! with strangers.
letting the unnecessary expectations of prior Christmases fall away. 
our sweet elderly neighbor bringing us streusle cake.  she's the sweetest, and boy, is it good.
a new journal and pens.
painting my nails.
menu planning for the holiday weekend.
writing lists and big goals for 2012.  i'm excited for the challenges and changes ahead.
believing God's plan is bigger and more sure than mine.
exercise and sweating off the stress.  i'm such a believer in exercise being the ultimate anti-depressant.
clear skies. we've had the clearest and most sunny winter ever recorded!  not entirely sure about the 'ever' bit, but this a drastic difference from the many rainy holiday seasons we've had here in Southwest Washington.
pink lemonade crystal light. 
baking Christmas goodies with the little ones.
opening up Christmas cards from family and friends.

what a special season it is.
what are your little things today?


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Treasures For Your Books

Order today and I'll ship Priority on request!

Merry Christmas!

x, Cassie

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Four Questions of Value in Life...

Thank you to my friend, Ann, of Jeremiah's Hope for sharing.

x, Cassie

Monday, December 19, 2011

Most Embarrassing Moment {Christmas Church Service Edition}

Yesterday, the kids and I went to church after having missed a few weeks due to the bazaar.  Husband wasn't able to come with us as he was busy with a list of obligations, so on our way we went--the three of us.  I signed the kids into their classrooms, hardly paid any notice to the halos and wings being passed out in Brooklynn's class and headed up the back stairs to the sanctuary.  We usually sit in the top of the auditorium near the center.  I told Husband a few months ago that we should move up front, and he responded, you could move up front.  So in the back center is where we sit.

Oh, it was nice to finally be at church.  I sat down, relieved to be free from the everyday noise and demands.  About the time I was settling in for some holiday reflection, our pastor got up and welcomed everyone saying, "who's here to see a child today?"  Suddenly, flashes of wings and halos and the children pastor's chic black blazer and heels all came together.  In about one minute the Christmas program was beginning and my kids hadn't a lick of what to do, dance or sing, and they're wearing near play clothes and tennis shoes.

I sprang out of my seat, ditched my purse and hurried to save my family.  There I found the children's pastor dolled up, like I'd previously noticed, guiding a line of 30+ 3-4 year olds, including Asher, wearing fabric tied around his head like a little shepherd boy.  He looked surprisingly thrilled with what was about to take place.  When I explained to another teacher that I didn't know if he should take part in today's performance, since he hadn't ever been to practice, she said, "oh, none of the little kids know what they're doing; they'll just stand there and look cute."  Easy enough, I guess that'll do, I thought.

I went to find Brooklynn and when I found her in stretch pants and wings, I asked her point blank, You want to sit this one out since you haven't practiced, or do you want to do this?  There is a fine line when telling your child he or she can't take part in a children's activity when all of the other humans under the age of 10 are doing it, so I let her decide, and she said yes.

I held my breath as I went back to my seat and for the next ten minutes while the big kids performed.  Then it was the younger kids' turn.  Brooklynn was the first kindergartner to take the stage.  The sight of her salmon colored top made me cringe a little as the rest of the kids came on stage in their black and red performance dress.  Then the little kids came on stage lining in front of the other kids and there was Asher in his bright yellow flannel and black and yellow Nike's, dead front and center, without a clue why he was up there.

I think I slumped in my seat a little.  When the music began it was sweet.  Seventy-five or more kids singing Christmas songs in their ununison harmonies.  Then our sweet, sweet Asher decided to that since he didn't know what to do, he would do his own thing, in his yellow shirt, dead front and center. 

I should have known. 

He stomped his feet, did twirls, moved back and forth from the edge of the stage, walked around (with another boy who lost his head piece and was acting like a ghost) and bent over kicking his feet in the air. 

Look for the ball of yellow in the front
(sorry for the horribly scratched lens).

There was plenty of laughter, as Asher and his ghost-friend distracted in the front.  I overheard one guy in front of me refer to Asher and his break dancing moves, while I exchanged smiling glances with the lady next to me, who had no idea I was the mother of the boy in yellow.  With my hand on my brow, I sunk a little deeper into my seat.  When the final song was over, they asked all the parents take a few moments with their kids to take pictures, etc.  It felt as though the entire time I was walking to the stage to greet my bright yellow ball of moves that people wondered, who could be this kids' parents? 

Outcome: a smiling, happy Asher and Brooklynn. 
Me: embarrassed and shocked at the way service turned out, yet proud of my happy and adaptable children?
Asher said: "that was a fun sheep show!" 
Brooklynn said: "I was a little nervous, but not like last year."  I guess that's how it goes when you don't have time to get nervous!

Never a dull moment with children.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

Our Tree

This year, I took a whole new approach with our tree.  In the past I've been a colored lights/jewel toned ornament kinda gal.  But after making many, many antique book page and music page ornaments for my show, and loving them, I felt it was time to change up the Christmas decor.

I love the change of white lights and the natural colors mixed with the classic red and green, and the rustic burlap next to the glittered poinsettias.  Seems to be an appropriate change, too, as the entire ceiling in our home is pine, making things unavoidably rustic.  I know.  Pine ceilings. 
I should have told you.

I had to check myself as we were decorating, though, as flashbacks of the year when our family tree was torn from my siblings and I, filled my mind... 

One unforeseen year, my Mom decided she had had enough with our childhood tree.  She no longer cared for our dough and paper ornaments with all five of our precious growing faces throughout the years, but had plans of her own.

The precious ornaments were "accidentaly" left in some attic box--and were no longer marked Christmas, but old Christmas, while our tree was replaced with gold and burgundy trimmings to make a Music Tree. 

To distract me, the youngest, she had me play store with all the ornaments while she wrapped her new gold music note garland around the branches and bulged bugles and other instruments off the tree.  Very tricky.

From then on, we referred to the tree as Mom's Music Tree, and our sweet handmade ornaments and set of stockings, each unique, were never to be seen again.
I'm sorry, Mom.  I can't stop myself from being mellow dramatic, here. 

So, I've told myself over and over that I would never have a themed tree at the expense of the hearts of my children.  So, I compromised and kept the most unique and special ornaments made by the kiddos and displayed them with the rest of the new trimmings.  And it worked out lovely.

P.S. Just to clear things up--the music tree was an award winner. 
My Mom has her way like that.
Love ya, Mom!


Friday, December 16, 2011

10 Ways We're Putting Festive Into Our Holiday

AROMA:  I'm sure I'm not the only one who needs to replenish their holiday Yankee candle stash, stat.  Or, if you're into filling your home with natural scents, you could DIY with these brilliant plan-ahead stove-top scents made from fruit, herbs and spices.

AMBIANCE:  Christmas tree lights + fresh tree + roaring fire + family + friends + potential snow on the couldn't feel any more holiday.

EXPERIENCE:  I don't know what could put us in the Christmas spirit more than this special stop.  There are over a million lights, carolers, a petting zoo, hot cocoa/coffee stands and concerts inside the church.  I sang here through junior high and high school and the acoustics of the granite floors of the cathedral are phenomenal.  Ain't gonna lie--last night while on my late night medicine run for my girl, I sang Carol of the Bells with the most drama my lungs could handle, and then I quit, because I was embarrassing myself. 
WATCH:  I've loved this movie since college.  When we honeymooned in NYC, I was bent on going here to have a moment over frozen hot chocolate.  Sadly we found the restaurant to be closed after we had finished our cold yet romantic carriage ride around Central Park, and I was bummed.  One day Husband and I will have a romantic NYC holiday moment over Serendipity's frozen hot chocolate. Until then, here's a recipe for frozen hot chocolate.
READ: The holiday and reading go together like a wink and a smile.  I've heard wonderful things about this book.  I just saw that its become a movie and is in theaters now.  But we readers know better than to see the movie before reading the book, right?  I couldn't even bring myself to watch Water for Elephants after hearing the reviews.  I didn't want the experience to be tainted, ya know?  I was practically devastated watching Angela's Ashes many years ago, and we all know that Twilight in the theater didn't stand a chance against the book.  There's more where that came from.

DO:  Puzzles.  My Mama loves a good puzzle challenge, and I remember her doing most of them around Christmas.  Isn't this one neat?  It's made from the map of your city!  How fun would it be to put together the roads that you know.  Plus, it could make some cool wall art!
LISTEN:  I grew up partial to country and folk music, so naturally, Jewel's Holiday Collection is a favorite of mine.  Sarah Mclachlan's, Wintersong has been entrancing me as well--hence the music added to the blog.  I've had my eye on this one, and I should just make the purchase already.  She's so darn cute, isn't she?

MAKE & EAT: family holiday recipes.  When I think of Christmas, I think of more recent years when I'd come home from college on break, usually hit with a cold in no time due to the stress of finals, and my agenda of eat, sleep and Christmas parties with my friends.  Oh, how I miss the days of a leisure Christmas!  Mom baking all sorts of goodies, the can of Almond Roca that magically appeared every year, the ingredients of wassail marrying together on the stove, the delectable meals and fancy table decor--and I just basically showed up.  Now, it's me who has to plan, shop, prep, cook, present, and clean, and it'll never be like the old days, unless of course, the in-laws want to host this year and I'm game.  Not that I'd just lop out on the couch and not help, because I've been raised better than that, but hosting the full meal-deal is a lot of work, and I'm worn out just thinking about it.  I've got nine days to figure it out...or we may just be eating top ramen and drinking hot cocoa.  If all goes well, I'm hoping for a meal involving a main course like this:


Stay tuned: If I'm on it, I'll be whipping up some of favorite holiday recipes in the next few days to share.
Bon Bons anyone?
DRINK:  Wassail, holiday infused liquor, a gingerbread martini, frozen hot chocolate, an Eggnog Spritzer...basically, cheer in a cup! Here's a list of 29 holiday cocktails that will make you want to sing carols.

WEAR: It has been a long-held traditional in my family to open pajamas on Christmas Eve.  I haven't hardly thought about them until now, which scares me.  What scares me more, is that we've been planning to do handmade gifts, so I wonder if I can make pajama bottoms in a hurry?  Aren't these cute?  Makes me never want to buy store pajamas again.

These little girl bottoms are sweet, too.  After seeing these, a store purchase would be hard to make.

For the day of the festivities, I enjoy getting a wee spruced up. 

Ensemble = Yes, please!
Down to the pretty pale pink polish.

There.  I'm feeling more festive already.

What do YOU do to make your holiday festive?

Click on the button to read more from the party goers!


Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Little Things {lately}

The days when I wake up to realize there is no school today, and fall back into bed.
Speaking of bed...bedtime is one of my favorite times of the day...
yet, so is an early rise. There's nothing like waking early to the quiet, alone.
A clean house. Can I get a hallelujah?! 
Coconut creamer.
An organized studio...we're making progress, folks.
Secretly loving when Asher says, "that was awethome!"
Memories of the visit from my sisters.  Read here for the fun details.
Sponsoring two of my favorite blogs--here and here.
Having a pellet stove roaring 24/7.  It's definitely feeling like Christmas time.
Long time friends and their babies.
The Jewel Holiday station on Pandora.
Getting to know our elderly neighbors--
she wants to teach me how to make the best pies!
What are your little things today?


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Neighborly Christmas Gift Ideas

The sun is shining and the stove is roaring here at the McCully ranch,
and I have one particular question on the mind this morning...

Do you give your neighbors Christmas gifts? 

Last year, we delivered plates of cookies to almost all of the neighbors in our culdesac.  I couldn't bring myself to deliver to the home where the older couple lived, who told my other neighbor, "we were probably drug dealers," because we appeared to have money.  I have to admit I was completely offended when I heard that that woman was talking like that about us.  I wanted to knock on her door and tell her that my husband works 50+ hours a week planning and coordinating large building and remodel projects, and that she should keep her judgements to her nasty little self.  Now, that's the Christmas spirit, no?  So instead, I kept her plate of cookies for ourselves.

Growing up, we had close family friends that lived down the street from us, who made a Christmas stop at our house every year.  They were a large family of five kids, like mine, and even when the kids went off for college, they continued to gather together as a family and visit neighbors during the Christmas season.  We looked forward to their holiday visit each year, as they would begin singing Christmas carols before we had even opened the door to greet them.  All seven of them, and then ten to twelve of them (once they started marrying off) would sing a few carols in their beautiful family harmony, all while holding their trademark candy cane shaped cinnamon rolls.

Think this:
and this:
I just might have to track this old-family-friend-mama down,
and tell her where my family lives, now..
and ask her to teach me her tasty cinnamon roll pointers.
Here's a few more fantastic ideas that would be fun to give and receive!

Do you give neighbor gifts?
And do you have traditions for what you give?


cinnamon roll
apple pie candy cane

Monday, December 12, 2011

Perfect Pumpkin Bread

The weekend was long, lazy and nice.  It was so lazy and relaxing that I can't remember much of it, except that our good friends, who just moved near Seattle, stayed the evenings at our home.  My friend and I both were having an especially tired weekend, that two of the nights we fell asleep on the couch during TV and talking. 

Last night, in effort to utilize Brooklynn's still-fresh pumpkin that hadn't yet been removed from the porch (don't judge--it's a huge porch), the kids and I made pumpkin bread.  This bread is so good, that it brought highlight to the weekend (besides our company of lovely friends, of course)!

You know I only pass along the best, right? 
So don't delay!  This recipe should be copied, jotted down or baked, now.

Perfect Pumpkin Bread

16 oz. fresh pumpkin
or 1 (15 ounce can pumpkin puree)
4 eggs
1/2 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. apple sauce
splash of vanilla
2/3 C. water
 1 C. brown sugar
2 C. white sugar
3 1/2 C flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Grease and flour three 7 x 3 inch loaf pans.
2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended.  In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.  Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until well blended.  Pour into the prepared pans.
3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. 
Loaves are done when inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Want to make this recipe supreme?  Add cream cheese frosting to the top!
Go here for my family's cream cheese frosting recipe.  It's the best.

What have you been baking lately?


Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Olsen Twins

I grew up watching the Olsen Twins on Full House, and they were as cute as ever.
What stunning beauties they've become.

So glam; so unique in their sence of self--
and I can't help but admire their strong sisterhood.


Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Little Things {Sister Version}

Telling stories together.  Our versions are always the best--whether they actually happened that way or not...
Treating each other to head and foot massages.
Buying matching nail polish.
Honesty from one sister to another.  You want to know my honest opinion?  That nail polish makes me want to throw up.  Shock first, laughter second, then the follow-up question--are you still going to get it?  Yeah, probably not.
Receiving a back rub while eating ice cream.  Could there be a better combination?
Relating through husband-talk.
My kiddos loving their aunts.
My sisters pulling through the bazaar madness with me and coming home when it was all finished and insisting on helping me clean my disaster of a house.
Gleaming home decorating inspiration from two great decorators.
Making up scenarios that quite possibly only we find humorous--like imagining breaking out in Adam Lambert's song "Whatta You Want From Me?" when a foreigner walks into your house uninvited.  The walk-in happened to my alarmed sister, while the song was a retrospective insert.
My sister doing Flight of the Conchords imitations outside my booth...?
My booth neighbors loving my sisters, knowing us all by name and saying, "I hope you are my neighbors again next year!"  I hope so, too, Jean!
Flowering our talk with words such as whilst, wake, heed, shenanigans etc.
The help given when choosing the perfect pair of feather earrings.
Sharing sweet treats galore--only okay during sister escapades.
Thinking, I want to get knocked up so my girl can have a sister, too!

Seriously, what is better than sisters?


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

3 Symptoms of Killing Our Dreams

Most of you have probably already read the book, The Alchemist or The Pilgrimage or another book by Paulo Coelho.  If you haven't, put reading one of his books on your list of to-dos now.

I first read The Alchemist (and The Pilgrimage) my senior year of college.  It was then that a small seed was sown; a seed that has since flourished; truth that we all have gifts and personal callings that we should be living toward and for, in this life.  Don't get me wrong, I knew of talents, gifts and callings before I read the work of Coelho, but it was when I read The Alchemist that the pieces came together.  Although, my own personal calling has been buried a time or two or three, and has been placed on the back burner recently, the wisdom of Paulo Coelho continues to press deep--especially since I've liked his Facebook page and receive almost daily nuggets of wisdom from his enormous bank of life lessons. 
Like Paulo Coelho on Facebook and be inspired.

Yesterday, Coelho posted on Facebook his blog post,
'3 Symptoms of Killing Our Dreams,' and once again, I'm pondering over my calling, the excuses and my priorities.  I'd say they're each worth thinking about, and with the New Year around the corner, the timing feels especially appropriate.

Paulo Coelho

The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time. The busiest people I have known in my life always have time enough to do everything. Those who do nothing are always tired and pay no attention to the little amount of work they are required to do. They complain constantly that the day is too short. The truth is, they are afraid to fight the Good Fight.

The second symptom of the death of our dreams lies in our certainties. Because we don’t want to see life as a grand adventure, we begin to think of ourselves as wise and fair and correct in asking so little of life. We look beyond the walls of our day-to-day existence, and we hear the sound of lances breaking, we smell the dust and the sweat, and we see the great defeats and the fire in the eyes of the warriors. But we never see the delight, the immense delight in the hearts of those who are engaged in the battle. For them, neither victory nor defeat is important; what’s important is only that they are fighting the Good Fight.

And, finally, the third symptom of the passing of our dreams is peace. Life becomes a Sunday afternoon; we ask for nothing grand, and we cease to demand anything more than we are willing to give. In that state, we think of ourselves as being mature; we put aside the fantasies of our youth, and we seek personal and professional achievement. We are surprised when people our age say that they still want this or that out of life. But really, deep in our hearts, we know that what has happened is that we have renounced the battle for our dreams – we have refused to fight the Good Fight.

When we renounce our dreams and find peace, we go through a short period of tranquility. But the dead dreams begin to rot within us and to infect our entire being.

We become cruel to those around us, and then we begin to direct this cruelty against ourselves. That’s when illnesses and psychoses arise. What we sought to avoid in combat – disappointment and defeat – come upon us because of our cowardice.

And one day, the dead, spoiled dreams make it difficult to breathe, and we actually seek death. It’s death that frees us from our certainties, from our work, and from that terrible peace of our Sunday afternoons
in The pilgrimage

What's your dream?
And are you seeking your dream?
Just curious.

One of my dreams is to be published one day,
and with the effort I've been giving it,
I'm a long ways off.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bookish Things: A Christmas Wish List Perhaps?

A set of cloth bound childhood classics
Book Page Cuff. Genius--need. want. now.
A book-spine covered crate for organizing

Yes, please!

Such lovely things made from books, no?

3. Etsy

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Survived...

America's Largest Christmas Bazaar.
I should create a t-shirt for this sort of survival.

It was long--six days long.
My feet hurt, my back aches, my legs are sore from bending up and down, up and down as I worked in my booth.  I heard free sample of fudge! too many times, had an encounter with a customer who I learned was one of Husband's cousins, ate a full bag of wasabi covered nuts to keep me alive over the six days--my help didn't care to fight over those...and I think my smile hurts.

But it was good.  `
I feel accomplished.
And I'm happy.

Until I'm further rested--

“You must write every single day of your life... You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads... may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.” ― Ray Bradbury
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