Tag Archives: traditions

Simple & Sweet

How’s your holiday wind-up going? OR, are you more of a holiday wind-down person?

poinsettiaSome days it feels as if we’re productive little elves tackling our lists and everything is falling into place.

Other days we’re sluggish and want to binge-watch all the familiar holiday shows with predictable endings.

It’s dizzying to be cast us into these extremes, yet it’s probably familiar territory to most of us.

Family Christmas card albumYesterday as I was shifting from a morning full of appointments to an afternoon at home facing a lengthy to-do list, I caught myself pausing to browse our family album of Christmas photo cards.

I smiled as I remembered the angst of assembling  outfits for professional photos at my son’s preschool. I  reflected on the fun trips that wedged their way into the Christmas card highlight for the many years we didn’t do portraits.

Snapshots in time…18 years of family life flipped through in a few quick minutes.

Christmas card Blessing Ring

None of our own Christmas cards have been addressed yet this year, but we’re enjoying the trickle of cards arriving from family and friends. As we read each one, we hole-punch it and add it to our Holiday Blessing Ring.

Several years ago I stumbled upon a trick to manage the influx of holiday cards, and it’s become a tradition of sorts. We keep a small collection of cards from previous years in a cheery red box. As the current year’s batch of cards goes in, a previous year goes out. (I think we’re saying farewell to our 2011 bunch this year.) It’s an intentional way to honor the sentiment yet manage the clutter. 

Simple activities strung together year after year build some family cohesiveness during the busy season.

Our advent countdown certainly has varied throughout the years as the boys have gotten older. We keep using the same scraps of folded paper that we did a decade ago, notes scrawled quickly then yet  holding treasured memories now.

The unique clanky notes of a musical snow globe call us together…another “tradition” that just sort of happened, but has become a sweet way to remember the grandmother who gave it to us years ago.Advent box This year another grandma is living with us and is part of our cobbled-together advent time.

When we engage in silly games we played with the boys when they were little, we’re drawn closer to one another through those collective memories etched into our hearts.Christmas bingo

The other night’s advent box prompt was “find Christmas bingo and play it.” We joked about the age of the macaroni we continue to use as bingo markers, a throwback to elementary art projects.

Some evenings we double up for previous nights we’ve missed. We share memories of past Christmas shenanigans: the Christmas Eve when our oven shorted out and shot sparks across the kitchen, torching our special dinner inside as it went out in a blaze of glory ...last year’s Christmas tree falling over and crushing ornaments in its wake …the year 9 out of 10 family members got the stomach flu. Each memory is strengthened as it’s shared again with a slightly enhanced perspective.childhood Christmas books

Simply reading a childhood Christmas book together slows us down and lures us into family snuggle time.

Some of the books are traditional, a couple are written by childhood friends, and others reflect the quirky sense of humor of our extended family.a child's letter to Santa

Occasionally we’ll find a sweet surprise tucked into one of the books.

Recently we discovered our son’s 2007 letter to Santa. This simple wide-lined page of his careful 1st-grade handwriting sparked a host of memories and launched a discussion about other wish-filled magical letters.

As Decembers pile up on one another, we’re often left with a beautifully  compressed memory of home and family. When the hustle feels like it’s too much, I turn to these small reminders of treasured ordinary moments that are Simple and Sweet.

handmade snowflake


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” James 1:17


Holiday OPEN HOUSE

~ ~ ~ Join us for some Bible Quilting fun! ~ ~ ~

Mother-daughter Bible Quilt kit

~ ~ ~ Holiday Open House ~ ~ ~

Thursday, November 29th 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Saturday, December 1st 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

$2 admission at the door OR contribute some washi tape to our BQ community supply table!

Celebrate Ring for the Holidays

Bring your Bible Quilt journal to add some creative holiday embellishments.

  • New holiday templates
  • Blessing, Celebrate, Prayer & Gratitude Rings – Great TEACHER GIFTS!
  • Gift ideas for College students
  • Stocking stuffers
  • Kids Club kits
  • Sunday School packets
  • Washi Tape Tree

We’ll have some fun stations set up for you to add some holiday flair to your own Bible Quilt journal or you can add some personal touches to your gift journals.

BQ craft stations

Bring a friend and browse…

College Corner of BQ Templates
Personalize a Collegiate Bible Quilt kit for your favorite student!

Template Holiday Wall

Love & Marriage templates

Washi tree
Select your favorite pen pouch from our Washi Tape tree!

Hope to see you soon!

~ ~ ~ We’ll have some hot cocoa ready for you! ~ ~ ~

Christmas Ornament template

Di & Audra showing off Tree templates

It’s always fun to see how different the same template can be!

**Visit Ordinary Threads Online for Shopping in your PJs **

Holiday Template Trio

Strawberry Sensation: Whip up an Instant Family Favorite!

You know you have a winner recipe when you  jot down the date and your family’s reaction when you first try it, then add notes over the years as you tweak it here and there.

Ten years ago I tore a recipe out of a magazine and made it for my husband’s birthday. “Yummy!” was the general consensus…so I made it the following year and added another note to my recipe, “Still yummy!” (thus, a family favorite was born…)

strawberry sensation

Strawberry Sensation

4 cups fresh strawberries, divided (I use all 4 cups in step #2 and add another generous amount of fresh strawberries when I’m ready to serve)

1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk (you could decrease amount slightly to reduce sweetness or use fat free version)

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 8 oz. container cool whip (or homemade – see below)

8 Oreos (double or triple the amount so you can add a middle layer)

1 Tbsp butter, melted (depending on how many Oreos you crumble, you may want a little more butter to hold topping mix together)

I love recipes that have a short list of ingredients, and I especially appreciate recipes that can be made in advance. This one is a WIN-WIN! You can keep  one  in your freezer & pull out for an instant crowd pleaser at any time.easy recipe

Step #1 – Prep pan: Line inside of 8 x4-inch loaf pan with foil, leaving a generous overlap to allow for a full coverage later.

Step #2 – Strawberry Mixture: Slice and mash 2-4 cups of strawberries in a large bowl. Stir in condensed milk & lemon juice. Fold in 2 cups of cool whip.

Step #3 – Pour about 1/2 of this yummy goodness into the foil-lined loaf pan.

Step #4- Crush Oreos in a ziploc bag. This is a perfect job for any young helper you may have lying in wait that you can “pay” with a couple Oreos! Add the melted butter into the ziploc and blend in the bag.

Step #5 – Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Oreo topping over the strawberry mixture.

Step #6 – Pour the remaining strawberry mixture into the pan.

Step #7 – Spoon the remaining Oreo topping onto the strawberry mixture, gentle pressing the cookie crumbles into a layer.

Step #8 – Prep for freezing: Fold the foil ends over until the pan is completely covered.

Step #9 – Freeze 6 hours or until firm. I’ve left one in the freezer a couple months & it was fine. I think I made 2 for Memorial Day weekend one year and only served one. It was a happy surprise to rediscover it again just in time for a 4th of July swim party! 

Step #10 – To Serve: Invert onto a serving plate, remove pan and foil. Spread the remaining cool whip onto the top and sides. Slice fresh strawberries, then layer them on the top and along sides of the dessert. Allow to sit at room temperature about 30 minutes until it has softened enough to slice.

blowing out candlesTheoretically this recipe makes 12 servings, but not for my crew! If it’s not all gobbled up during your first serving, then store the remainder in the freezer for a lucky few to have a second round later.

This is easy enough for any summer day, but yummy enough to grant as special birthday wish!

strawberries and creamBonus touch:  Instead of store bought cool whip, make your own! Beat heavy whipping cream in mixer until peaks form, adding a splash of vanilla and a little sugar to taste.

~ ~ ~ Hope you enjoy this sensational dessert to finish your summer strong! ~ ~ ~

***If blueberries are more your jam, check out For the Love of…Blueberries 

Family Fusion

Traditions sometimes sneak up on you. A thrown-together event one year can evoke strong reactions that develop into expectations for a repeat the following year.
That’s how our annual Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza emerged…Easter eggs

Someone asked me last week “when are we getting together to dye Easter eggs?” 

Oops! I hadn’t cracked out of our spring break recovery mode yet.

I quickly sent out some FB invites for  our “2nd annual” Hot Dog Roast Eggstravaganza and later realized it was actually our 3rd. April Fools!

(How can it already be our 3rd one?)

Each year it’s been a different mix of family and friends. Everyone wanders around loosely from one activity to another. dyeing Easter eggs
Egg-dyeing was interspersed with kids taking turns climbing up the rope as adults cheered them on.

We paused our egg decorating when the fire reached its prime for roasting hot dogs. The crowd meandered toward the food…

Dinner was interrupted when large raindrops beckoned the abrupt beginning of the Easter egg hunt as kids scrambled for buckets and I corralled the dog so she wouldn’t steal our hot dogs.

The ebb and flow of a family gathering takes on a life of its own.

March Madness lured some to stay inside and chat over the games.

Egg dyeing experiments continued outside. Have you tried it with Cool Whip? Messy Fun!

Pockets of conversation occurred in passing as people came and went.

Local family fused with family visiting from out of town.

Family lines blurred as a grandma from one side of the family connected with a granddaughter from another side, 

roasting smoresMemories of loved ones were discussed as we lingered in front of the fire, acknowledging those that weren’t with us this year but would have added their own personal spark to the occasion.

s'mores

As I watched this eclectic mix of family gather around to do their own special version of s’mores, I observed the  sweet fusion of family blending into their own unique flavor, too.

Simple hospitality…charred hot dogs, sticky marshmallows, plastic eggs strewn about the yard, and the love of Christ ebbing through our various interactions.

That’s how simple moments become shared traditions, intended or not!


“We love because HE first loved us.” I John 4:9


egg hunt dash

Gingerbread all the Way!

baking gingerbreadLast weekend our two families had our 17th annual Gingerbread House baking session. Flour floated about in the air and candy sprinkles bounced to the floor as every cookie sheet I own was in action.

This year’s theme was “Jenks Trojans” since this is the one and only year that our combined crew of boys is attending the same school district.

Our boys range from Kindergarten to Senior year, covering the campuses of Elementary, Intermediate, Middle School, and High School. Several of us parents are Jenks Alumni, so it was fun to focus on our alma mater, too…and look through old yearbooks.

Jenks Gingerbread house

The photo of the completed project typically yields satisfied smiles and a well-tended gingerbread village, all neat and tidy. Yet it represents so much more.

Di & Audra with 1st gingerbread house

We started this tradition when my oldest was 1 and Audra was newly married. An additional 1/2-dozen  kids have joined the process since that first Christmas Eve when our only helpers were our reluctant husbands and one very enthusiastic mother-in-law.

We had no Pinterest to consult or Facebook to scroll for ideas. We had a generic gingerbread recipe from an old cookbook of Audra’s and my risky idea that melting granulated sugar until it became searing hot liquid could be the “glue” to fuse gingerbread walls together.

Each year we talk fondly of that first little house with its gaping roof hole and wonky proportions. We wince as we remember burning our fingers repeatedly with that molten sugar. We persevered that first night into the wee morning hours though because we were hopeful of starting a tradition between our two families.

the Flour KingMany versions of the Gingerbread House have been constructed since then, some more elaborate than others. Significant family events have been rolled into these Gingerbread gatherings  just as consistently as we have rolled out the dough year after year.

gingerbread team

We’ve made our Gingerbread creations in 3 states and 9 different houses. For several years running we added another child to the mix.

We’ve taken turns soothing hurt feelings and nurturing burned fingers. We’ve broken dishes, chipped rolling pins, and even taken a door off its hinges to move a super-sized gingerbread creation to another room. The one constant in all the candy chaos was the fusion of our families through this joint endeavor. gingerbread in production

Throughout these annual Gingerbread adventures, cousins have connected in various ways, solidifying  their family foundation just as our go-to cement icing strengthens the gingerbread structures firmly into place.cousins

Each year we gather together with only a loose theme in mind and then begin the process of making large batches of gingerbread dough to see what the crew creates.

candy-eating decorating

As ideas unfold, we reminisce about past gingerbread house successes and failures. Everyone seems to have a different “favorite” house based on a fun technique or unusual theme.

Our collective memories merge into heartfelt agreement that the sticky messes, the unforeseen challenges, the countless hours, and architectural frustrations are worth the sweet legacy kneaded into this culinary tradition.hospital gingerbread

Batman gingerbreadAs the boys have gotten older, they’ve become more involved in  creating and constructing.

The adults have gradually learned to downshift into more supportive roles, allowing the smaller hands to manipulate the dough into their own unique concoctions.

Sugar Cube Castle

generational gingerbreadseniorsGrandparents weave in and out of the frenzied activity, lending a helping hand or showing us how to pace ourselves.

Although we do like to “ooh” and “aah” over the completed gingerbread display, the true  joy of finishing is seeing the individualized inputs synthesized into a cohesive creation.

As the dads set up tripods and arrange wiggly boys for a full team photo, the sugarload effect looms large as we grasp for one last “decent” shot with all eyes open. (Sometimes the photo sessions seems to take as long as the construction phase!) When the crew inevitably collapses into silliness and giggles,  we shoo them out the door to run off their pent-up energy.

Superhero City

Each year we take a few moments to cherish the closure of another triumphant gingerbread round, wearily rejoicing and ignoring the crunchiness of my floor.

Here’s to family and GINGERBREAD all the way!

Yay!

A Touch and Feel Christmas

When I was a little girl, my mom and I would spend a week putting up Christmas in our home. It is a highlight in my childhood. We removed everything from table tops and hearth and brought in boxes of nativities, lights and garlands. We played carols and sipped on hot cocoa and apple cider the whole week. We reminisced about ornaments and even decked out the ceiling fan!! It was magical in every sense of the word for me. In the evenings, I would curl up with a blanket in the far corner of the room and bask in the glow of the lights from the tree; I dreamed grand dreams there. It still is one of my dearest places tucked within my heart.

Lean in, Linger, Listen to God’s voice. Let your Loved Ones Touch and Feel Christmas…it Touches Their Lives Forever.

 

We have these 5 Senses… and the Christmas season is a wonderful opportunity to play up every single one of those beautiful gifts! It is vital to all of us; young and old, to engage with one another. There are traditions, memories, and new starts all tangled together. There are candle smells, crackling fire sounds, warmth of familiar blankets, and tastes of yummy baking all swirled together in our memory banks. There are joys and sorrows interspersed too… they’re captured in the promise of Redemptive Peace during this month! 

So let the children decorate the tree.  Give them a step stool so they can stretch on tippy toes to hang their ornament high.  Pile books near so that you have the fun of catching them sprawled out by the tree reading in the glow of the twinkle lights.  Set up an Advent Box and let the finishing touch of each evening end with something nourishing for the soul and a sweet treat for the taste buds!

Leave space on a table for a puzzle or crafts to be dreamed up. Decorate a Gingerbread House or Cookies and make a HUGE mess!! (And don’t stress about it in the process; let your loved ones AND you enjoy and play.)

As I grew up surrounded by cousins, we annually created a play to perform on Christmas Eve together.  We dreamed up the story, wrote out the lines, created scenery even!  When the big night arrived, we passed out programs and felt the excitement mount… All our senses were engaged.  It was equally as fun preparing those plays  to opening the presents. We lingered longer with one another and had so much fun. 

As I write and reflect.  I feel very blessed to have had so many Touch and Feel Christmases in my life so far. It’s become such a part of me, that I pass that on to my kids from my heart. Whether you share the same experiences or not, it is never ever too late to engage those around you in the same feelings.  You can go whole hog, or simply linger in more intentional time with someone; both result from the same desire. 

Joy to the World!