Saturday, December 31, 2011

Livin’ on a Farm

(sung to the tune of Pants on the ground)So a couple hours after we finished opening presents, we were snacking at the table when Betsy announced she had another gift – and a song to go with it.

Here is the song…

Living on a Farm

Living on a farm, living on a farm

life is good when you are living on a farm

hens in field

What is to come….

Oh my, I think I may have blacked out – how is it possibly, almost 2012???  I am not sure what happened to 2011…

Well, I guess I may have lost track of time among: A new roof, a new calf, incubating chickens, a dry pond, a drought all around, a huge garden to till, plant, and harvest; four kids getting another year older, schooling 5 kids in 4 different grades, a myriad of doctor appointments (and more to come), oh the list goes on and on.

As I sit and plan our meal for New Years Eve (normally fondue is involved) I am filled with mixed emotions, excitement for what is to come in 2012, but a little bit of loss over the end of 2011.  What a year for our family.  It has been a great journey this past year, we are all finishing up our Bible reading, the boys are done with their reading (New Testament, Psalm & Proverbs) – next year they will take on the whole shebang!!  My youngest son will join in with the New Testament, Psalm and Proverbs, my daughter hopefully work in some proverbs as she gets reading down.  My husband and I, I think will tackle the whole Bible again.  I so enjoyed it this year!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas with the Cole Clan

Here is what Christmas looks like at our house…

(The night before, with all the gifts in place)

christmas eve tree ready

We start with cocoa

cocoa buffet

And donuts – it’s a tradition – Robert runs, before we open anything, to get them. 

girl and donut

We start with stockings, then move into gifts

a child plays Santa and hands them all out – this year P.

Here is J getting his Science book – both are thrilled!!

P has read almost all of his Animal Book!!

boys and book

Below is our “Santa” who picked the long thin gift for himself

(had to dig for it)

Does he look happy??

bbgun and boy


happy boy

Then, there is E with his grandparents opening a fun

Smithsonian gift!!

e Grammie and papa

Here is Papa with his new neck gator!

Leslie and gator

Here is what the place looked like when we were done

post gift mess

Then we move into the kitchen!!  Here is a festive Betsy!!


grammie in apron

Our dinner table…

christmas dinner


Finally, I had to share my pictures of Robert from his Christmas eve Birthday!  He was trying to be a goof – and he was!!  It was a fun birthday for him!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Favorite Tradition (kids)

The other day a friend told me she asked her Sunday School kids what their favorite Christmas tradition was.  With one of my kids in her class I was worried about the answer and curious too.  But, she could not remember his reply.  So I asked at the table a few days later and I was surprised, but not embarrassed (you never know what to expect sometimes).

It started that 2 of my 4 gave the same answer, then another changed to the same one too.  I should have been able to guess, my kids have been asking me when we are doing it just about every day this month.

What is it?

Christmas Store!!

We started this a few years ago.  It began out a bit of frustration, a good idea borrowed, and the simplicity!

In the past, we would take each child out to “shop” for the siblings.  They simply LOVE to exchange with each other – the giving part just delights them!!  But standing in Walmart while your 7, 8 or 5 year old “shops” is a pure beating.  You know the store is a mad house, it is just before Christmas and everyone in the world is shopping too.  And that poor child is looking for the siblings, but dreaming about their own desires.  Torture!!!

So, I think I saw this somewhere (cannot remember where) and I loved it.  I loved that I can regulate the “junk-i-ness” a bit, I can be frugal and shop year round, and I can approve everything chosen.

12 Pearls of Christmas

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

Simple or Sparkle?
by Tracey Eyster

It’s a simple ornament made of thin cheap metal and it looks quite out of place on our CHRISTmas tree. But each year I lovingly and safely nestle it amongst its expensive and sparkly peers, without a care as to how unglamorous it appears.

Many of our CHRISTmas ornaments have a story and an uncanny way of welling up emotion in me, but this certain one causes an intense stir.

You see the ornament is engraved with the name of my grandmother, Sara, and was given to me by my mother, who ordered it from Hospice, after Grandmama’s death. Yes, the months leading up to her death carry memories of a frail and failing grandmama, but that ornament carries my thoughts to sweet CHRISTmas memories of the past.

CHRISTmas Eve dinners in her home, laughing, singing, gathering and celebrating a year filled with blessings as we remembered the birth of our Savior. CHRISTmas mornings, she was always there participating with glee, in our raucous CHRISTmas happiness. Her gifts were always bank envelopes gently tucked into the pine needles of our CHRISTmas tree, fresh cut from the property she grew up on.

All memories of my Grandmama make my heart swell. You see she was my Jesus with skin on. She lived her life full of joy, serving others and approached life selflessly with an attitude of, “What can I do for you?”

Just months before she left us, even as the Alzheimer’s was robbing her mind she shared her love of Jesus with a sweet little old lady friend, who came to know the Lord – a divine appointment.  The very next day that little old lady silently slipped away to meet in person the One Sara introduced her to just the day before.

At the time I wept, realizing that regardless of our own frailties and failings, God can still use those of us who are willing to do His work and are well practiced at hearing His matter our lack of sparkle in comparison to others.

A simple life lived for Him, a simple ornament in memory of Sara...a simple truth for you to ponder.

Tracey Eyster wife, mom, relationship gatherer and Creator/Editor of FamilyLife’s MomLife Today is a media savvy mom making a difference where moms are, on-line. Through speaking, writing and video interviews Tracey is passionate about encouraging, equipping and advising moms on every facet of momlife. Her first book, Be The Mom will be released August 2012. You can connect with Tracey at, her personal site or www.twitter/

Monday, December 19, 2011

{more} Toxin Free Living

For almost a year now, I have gone poo-free.  To some this seems normal and right, to others very weird!

I did not share anything about it before, because I guess I thought it was a bit weird  But now, I love it!!

Why would I do this?  Well, honestly after reading all about how toxic our shampoo and conditioner is, and all those other products, I decided I was done with these items.  I also changed us over to Dr Bonners soap in the showers (all of them).

Okay, so I was inspired by Simple Mom’s post about this topic.  Next, I got a squirt bottle, from walmart, in the housewares section.  Next, I bought some more baking soda.    I added a tablespoon of baking soda to my squirt bottle and filled with water.  This is my shampoo.  I squirt it into my wet hair, rub it around and rinse

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Staying in and snuggling

It’s Saturday and I suspect it is crazy just about everywhere but here.  We had many plans for today, going and fun, but yesterday was a hard day for me.  Some vague bad news arrived yesterday and more disappointing news later in the afternoon.  The worst part?  It’s Friday and I cannot resolve anything for at least 2 days.

It has been a trying couple of months, medically speaking for our family.  We are still trying to sort through what we know and even more of what we do not know.  Needless to say it results in a bit of a rollercoaster ride, at times.

So, after just an all-around bad day yesterday I decided to stay in.  We had a few movies still on the list of “To Watch” and today turned out to be the day.  Not to mention some poison ivy, a possible ear infection…and so on.

Meanwhile, all morning I was struck by all the things we have to be grateful for.  While I never took the fact that (I thought) my children all had perfect health, I still do not take for granted that it could be worse (although in my mind sometimes it sure can seem pretty bad).  So I am falling back into the habit of offering thanks when I want to cry, maybe yell, and maybe even throw something.

Today, I am thankful for

~ adoption

~ plan B’s even though they were God’s plan A

~ friends who offer comfort and encouragement with HIS words

~ knowing I am blessed no matter how hard things can be

~ a sweet movie from a friend that all the kids loved (Samantha)

~ move Christmas cards arriving – praying for loved ones near and far

~ eggnog pancakes, eggnog coffee cake and lots of hot cocoa

~ a county willing to stand up for what they believe to be right

~ a good husband, whose silence is comforting, and who loves me

~ a God that knows all that the future holds and is not rattled by any of it

~ the plans HE has for my children, my need to set my plans aside

~ Kristen

~ a bed warmed by a little girl on a cold night, while her Daddy works, who gets to sleep with me

~ boys who are not yet all grown up – and willing to still be my little boys

And the other thing I thought I would share is just that if we knew the road ahead, we would not need faith to navigate it.  Faith is only Faith when we cannot imagine how to get through the journey without him.  Faith is trusting him when you cannot see how it can possibly be okay.  So, please pray that my faith will continue to strengthen as we travel this path.  Please pray that the news will not be as bad as I worry it might be.  Simply, please pray for me and my family.  Thank you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

12 Pearls of Christmas (Sandy Ralva)

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Babbie Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

Where is Comfort and Joy Found?
By Sandy Ralya

The year 2006 ushered unwelcome emotions into my life. My husband was unhappy in his job, two of my grown children were making poor choices, my mother-in-law was showing signs of Alzheimer’s, extended-family issues were surfacing, and I was writing a book. Things only got worse. Much worse.

Early in 2007, I was asked to represent the mentoring ministry for wives I founded, Beautiful Womanhood, and lead a women’s conference in Uganda, Africa. My husband wasn’t sure if traveling to Africa was a good idea, so we committed it to prayer. While we were listening for an answer, I sensed God asking me to fast from spending, except for groceries, for thirty days. Sometimes you know that you’ve heard God’s voice because you’d never have come up with those words on your own. This was one of those times. I’d never heard of a fast from spending. Tom needed no convincing that a fast from spending came directly from the mouth of God. He still gets excited just thinking about it!

During the fast, it became clear I had used spending as a way to gain a comfort fix. When I was spending money, I felt carefree and lighthearted. Instead of dwelling on the unpleasantness in my life, I was thinking of my purchases and how they would bring me pleasure. Not until I stopped spending did I realize how short-lived the fix really was. During the fast, when I felt the urge to spend—to anesthetize my pain—I pictured myself running into the arms of Jesus, the Great Comforter. Oh, what comfort I received!

One night, I told good friends my experience of gaining comfort through the power of the Holy Spirit rather than money. I exclaimed that I had never felt so comforted. One friend then told us about a dream he’d had shortly after hearing about the invitation from Uganda. After the dream, he had awoken and recorded the following thoughts:

“. . . this is for Sandy. Christ’s redemption of women is beautiful. Beautiful Womanhood is a result of redemptive wholeness. The visuals the ministry uses on the books, etc., are like a piece of beautifully veneered furniture. There is something going on with the ministry to the brokenness of abused women. In Uganda, there are hurting, abused women, and something is connecting their need and Beautiful Womanhood. Though there is nothing wrong with veneer, it is only the topping—the covering, and without good structure it is shallow and will not hold up. It is time to add a new depth to the ministry.”

Then these verses came to my friend’s mind:

All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NL

When my friend was finished sharing, everyone in the room broke down in tears, praising God for His work in my life. I’d learned to listen and God had spoken. I’d obeyed, and He’d acted. When He acted, I was changed.

Needless to say, I packed my bags and experienced some of the best days of my life in Uganda—offering God’s comfort to His troubled women.

Sandy and her husband Tom have been married since 1980 and live near Grand Rapids, Michigan. They have three adult children and a growing number of grandchildren. When not writing and speaking, Sandy enjoys shopping at yard sales for vintage clothing, cooking, travelling, and drinking really good coffee (black is best) with her husband. For more information, contact Sandy at Subscribe to Sandy’s blog at Find Sandy on Facebook at Beautiful Womanhood. Follow Sandy on Twitter @MentoringWives.

POST 4: Saturday 12/17 TEXT – Elizabeth Musser

Happy Birthday Jesus party

Wednesday is a great day for our family!  It is co-op day for us and we get the spend the afternoon with friends!

Today, we had our Happy Birthday Jesus party, with lots of yummy treats, tasty punch, and a great book too!!

party time 1


party time 2

We even had presents!!  The kids each brought 2 books, one to donate to our local food pantry, and one to swap.  They were all so pleased with their new books!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review : World of Science

If you read and enjoyed my review for the World of Animals you will enjoy this one as well.  Both of these books have many things in common : a faith based approach, highly educational, and amazing pictures!

I am so thrilled to be gifting this great book to one of my older boys for Christmas, both of my boys love books they can pour over, and books that make them feel smart!!The World of Science

This book is amazing!  There are 6 major sections of this book : Matter and Chemicals; Energy, Motion and Machines; Electricity and Magnetism; Light and Sound; Earth and Life; and finally Space and Time.

I love that there are scientists featured throughout the book, I want my kids to know the truth about these scientists, and that many had a strong faith in God.  In fact, there are science discovery highlights on almost every page spread featuring a scientist.  I know I mentioned the great pictures, but they really make you want to dive right in and figure out what all the pictures are.

Nativity Day

I have been waiting for today all month!  It is our nativity day!  We are going to watch the movie The Nativity Story (a favorite). 

The Nativity Story

I have been planning this for a while, but the kids did not know and have been asking to watch that movie each time we declare movie time!  So I know they are going to be thrilled!

We are going to make a fun nativity too.  I found Catholic Icing somewhere.  Not sure where.  Well, she has a darling nativity that the kids color in and tape/glue on toilet paper tubes.  I have been saving these tubes for ages for whatever would come along.  I am thrilled to have more than we need for this craft!!

So check it out!  I love the story of the nativity, each time we look at a nativity or talk about it is a chance to share the story again!  What a great story of all the people in the nativity and how they were chosen by God to be the ones we are still talking about today!!

Goings on here on the Farm

Oh my.  There is really never a dull moment!!

big girl hens

{mostly our new young hens –

should be laying eggs any day}


Louie and the girls

{Louie and our hens behind him}

This week Robert rearranged the pasture – moved all the coops, pulled up some garden pavers, and well rebuilt a fence.  While moving the coops the kids were all too happy to help!

12 Pearls of Christmas (Sibella Giorello)

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls™, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tamale Time {w/recipes}

Okay, day 2 of tamale making resulted in a few pictures, lots of tamales in the freezer and lots of fun time with friends!!


post steamed

I have been making these beauties for about a year now, after learning from my mom and her husband Louie Martinez … yeah, he learned from his family.  They are good!!

12 Pearls of Christmas : Welcome

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas!

Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom" from some of today's most beloved writer's (Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, Sibella Giorello and more)! Please follow the series through Christmas day as each contributor shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year.

AND just for fun ... there's also a giveaway! Fill out this simple {form} and enter for a chance to win a beautiful pearl necklace and earring set ($450 value). Contest runs 12/14 - 12/25 and the winner will on 1/1. Contest is only open to US and Canadian residents. You may enter once per day.

If you are unfamiliar with Pearl Girls, please visit and see what we're all about. In short, we exist to support the work of charities that help women and children in the US and around the globe. Consider purchasing a copy of Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace or one of the Pearl Girls products (all GREAT gifts!) to help support Pearl Girls.


A Christmas of Kindness
By Suzanne Woods Fisher

"You can give without loving, but you can¹t love without giving." Amish proverb

I do it every year.

I plan for a simpler, less stressful Christmas season and, every year, by Christmas Eve I'm exhausted! After our delicious and very-time-consuming-to-make traditional Swedish meal to honor my husband¹s relatives (think: Vikings), it's time to head to church. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but the last few Christmas Eve's, I have sent my husband and kids head off without me. The pull to spend an hour of quiet in the house feels as strong as a magnet.

It's odd. My children are young adults now. Wouldn't you think that Christmas would be simpler? Instead, it's just the opposite. Jugging schedules to share the grandbaby with the in-laws, trying to include our elderly parents at the best time of day for them, dancing carefully around recently divorced family members whose children are impacted by the shards of broken relationships.

The thing is: you can simplify your to-do list, but you can't really simplify people. We are just a complicated bunch.
Here's where I borrow a lesson about simplicity from the Amish. It's easy to get distracted with the buggies and the bonnets and the beards, but there's so much more to learn from these gentle people if you're willing to look a little deeper.

Yes, they live with less "stuff" and that does make for a simpler, less cluttered life. But it's the reason behind it that is so compelling to me: they seek to create margin in their life. Not just empty spacebut space that is available to nourish family, community, and faith. Their Christmas is far less elaborate than yours or mine, but what they do fill it with is oh so right.

Christmas comes quietly on an Amish farmhouse. There is no outward sign of the holiday as we know it: no bright decorations, no big tree in the living room corner. A few modest gifts are waiting for children at their breakfast place settings, covered by a dishtowel. Waiting first for Dad to read the story of Christ's birth from the book of Luke. Waiting until after a special breakfast has been enjoyed. Waiting until Mom and Dad give the signal that the time has come for gifts.

Later, if Christmas doesn't fall on a Sunday, extended family and friends will gather for another big meal. If time and weather permits, the late afternoon will be filled with ice skating or sledding. And more food! Always, always an abundance of good food. Faith, family, and community. That is the focus of an Amish Christmas.

And it's also how the story begins for A Lancaster County Christmas, as a young family prepares for Christmas. A winter storm blows a non-Amish couple, Jaime and C.J. Fitzpatrick, off-course and into the Riehl farmhouse. An unlikely and tentative friendship develops, until the one thing Mattie and Sol hold most dear disappears and then. Ah, but you¹ll just have to read the story to find out what happens next. Without giving anything away, I will say that I want to create a Mattie-inspired margin this Christmas season. Mattie knew inconveniences and interruptions that come in the form of people (big ones and little ones!) are ordained by God. And blessed by God.

Creating margin probably means that I won't get Christmas cards out until the end of January, and my house won't be uber-decorated. After all, something has to give. But it will mean I make time for a leisurely visit with my dad at his Alzheimer's facility. And time to volunteer in the church nursery for a holiday-crowded event. And time to invite a new neighbor over for coffee. Hopefully, it will mean that my energy won't get diverted by a frantic, self-imposed agenda. Only by God's agendathe essence of true simplicity.

And that includes taking time to worship Christ's coming at the Christmas Eve service. You can hold me accountable! This year, I will be there.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, and The Keeper, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, W. D. Benedict, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award nominee and is the host of an internet radio show called Amish Wisdom and her work has appeared in many magazines. She lives in California.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

3rd Annual Pearl Girls

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Pearl Girls™ 12 Pearls of Christmas blogging series!

We've gathered several of today's most beloved authors to share their Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along beginning tomorrow (Wednesday the 14th) through Christmas day as Tricia Goyer, Suzanne Woods Fisher, Rachel Hauck, Sandy Ralya, Sibella Giorello, Susan May Warren and more, share their heartfelt stories of how God has touched their life during this most wonderful time of the year.

If you'd like to share the 12 Pearls of Christmas with your blog readers too, just email Christen and she'll send you the series.

AND of course there is a giveaway! Beginning tomorrow you and all your friends can enter to win a PEARL NECKLACE and EARRINGS valued at $450! The winner will be announced on New Year's Day! Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.

Just a quick note before the series begins on the 14th ...

As I write this, I imagine that we are sitting at my kitchen table and chatting over a cup of coffee while familiar Christmas carols celebrate the Season. My twelve year old Chihuahua, Pongo, barks for a pinch of pound cake while my Shih Tzu, Lilly, patiently sits by the chair and waits for a crumb to fall.

My name is not Martha Stewart, and I will never receive a neighborhood beautification award. Just look at my front stoop. Yes, my never-had-time-to-carve-the-pumpkin-that-now-suffers-from-frostbite slouches next to the front door which is decorated with a Christmas wreath. I plan to roll this large orange ornament to the garbage pile tomorrow. For now, however, I will pretend that my front stoop is a contemplative modern art exhibit capturing the essence of contrast.

Actually, I love the concept of juxtaposition – placing things together that don’t seem to belong together, yet somehow ultimately make sense being paired. A personal example for me this season is the phrase: “comfort and joy.” Having just completed my manuscript for New Hope Publishers about the aftermath of grief, I fully understand the contrast of those two words. How can comfort bring joy? How can one find joy in loss?

Perhaps, dear reader, you have experienced loss this year – loss of a loved one, loss of friendship, loss of health,  loss of financial security, loss of trust, loss of love, or loss of direction. Even with the best intent, words of encouragement shared by others can somehow seem insufficient to address an inconsolable loss.  A spoken word cannot fully restore joy to a broken heart; however the Word can. And that’s the bottom line message of Christmas! God gave us the most amazing gift: His Son -  the Word of God, the Holy Comforter.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but shall have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

You are not alone this Christmas, dear friend. Juxtaposed to the unexpected grit in life is the gift of God’s grace wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This year I purposely placed a pearl in the Nativity scene as a metaphoric reminder. When we place our grit into the hands of the Lord, His grace transforms our pain into a pearl.

“Joy to the world!” 

Thank you so very much for sharing the JOY of the Season with us this year.

God Bless,
Margaret McSweeney lives with her husband, David and two teenage daughters in the Chicago suburbs. She is the founder and director of Pearl Girls. For more information please visit Margaret is fast at work on several fiction manuscripts. Her book Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace was written to help fund the Pearl Girl Charities. She is also the host of weekly radio show, Kitchen Chat. Connect with Margaret on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tamale Time

Everything is more fun with friends!  And while I did not take any pics of today’s fun, trust me when I tell you it was great!

My friend Penny raided her freezer for a few pork roasts, I prepared everything else to make our Corn & Green Chili Tamales – and we dove right in today!!

Our kids played so sweetly while we cooked a few pork roasts, made about 6 cups of Masa to mix with the corn, green chilis and cheese to make about 5 dozen Green Corn Tamales!

Once things settled down this afternoon and the pork was finished slow cooking in the oven, I pulled it out, sorted through the fat and yuck – and got lots of great meat.  Then I used a pinterest tip I learned about shredding chicken breasts in your Kitchen Aid mixer, and I used my Bosch to shred our pork, instead of the 2 forks!  I hate to shred cooked meat – and oh my!!  This tip was amazing!!  So I have more shredded pork than I have ever seen, and tomorrow is full scare pork tamale production!!

Meanwhile, the kids played Monopoly, ran around outside, and jumped on the trampoline.  A perfect day in everyone’s book I think!

I will try to get some pics tomorrow of our tamales to share!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Owl Moon

We thoroughly enjoyed our Owl Moon day!

We started out by reading our new (used, former library copy) book Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.  What a sweet book!  Great book for encouraging nature exploration and learning about owls!

owl cover

After we read this great book, we dove right into our Lapbooking!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review : When the Hurt Runs Deep

You know you can never go wrong with Kay Arthur!

When the Hurt Runs Deep: Healing and Hope for Life's Desperate Moments

This book is a great book to help lead you through the why’s of your hurt.  So often, I think we get caught up in our pain and we cannot seem to get out of it.  Kay leads the reader through a scriptural journey of why God allows pain in our lives.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Review : World of Animals

As a homeschool mom, one of my favorite things is to see my kids curled up with a good book, even better when they choose to do that!


I also love that I can find good books, that I do not have to worry what they say, that they love!  My boys sure love a great fiction book, but I think another favorite genre is non-fiction.  They enjoy reading about animals and learning all the details, the ins and outs.  I am constantly amazed when we go to the zoo or a museum and they seem to know far more than I have ever known.

world of animals

When this book : The World of Animals arrived I knew immediately it would be a fast favorite in my house!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Season

We are enjoying our Christmas Season so far!

A trip to the Grinch Who Stole Christmas at the Corsicana Theater (compliments of Guardian) – lots of fun!  The kids had never seen it and it was a surprise, so that was even more fun!!

A school production of The Nutcracker Ballet – with friends made this even more fun too! 

are a few of the “outside” things we have done!

Inside we are reading lots of fun books – one that we are savoring this year is by Ruth Graham Bell : One Wintry Night.

We are making sure to get our Jesse Tree Devotion in each night too – and I cannot say how much I love that devotion!!

Today though will be even more fun that all of those things!

We are all in Pjs!  The fire is warm and toasty!  As soon as my students all finish their math and Spanish we are reading The Polar Express!

Then, we will have a hot chocolate snack and follow it up with the Polar Express movie!  I am excited to have yucky weather to make this even more fun!!  And so thankful to my sweet friend who let me borrow her movie!  (who knew Redbox is not carrying it??)

So, I hope Christmas is in full bloom in your warm and toasty house!

Book Review : Has God Spoken

If you are looking for a great book that digs DEEP into why the Bible can be trusted to be true – this is the book for you!

Has God Spoken?: Proof of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration

As a mom of four younger kids I am always on the lookout for a great book to help me teach my children Apologetics!

I want to know why I believe what I believe and I want to be able to help my children figure that out for themselves too. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Book Review: Mirror of N’de

One of our family’s favorite series is Chronicles of Narnia!  I remember I read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as a kid, but I think I missed the others.

At this point in my life, I could tell you the entire story about any and all of the 7 in the series.  We own the audio drama CDs and listen to them nearly every time we travel!

The Mirror of N'de: A Novel

When I was offered a chance to read and review The Mirror of N’De by L.K. Malone, I jumped at the chance.  I could see some similarities to the Chronicles Series and I suspect this would become a new favorite!

I was right!  I read this book super fast, I never wanted to put it down, and often got lost reading into the night.

This book is an allegory like the Chronicles series.  It is science fiction-y – in a wonderful way.  It is pure fantasy but based on the truths of Christ. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

All Decorated

Katie and tree close

This past weekend we followed our tradition of getting the tree up and the house all decorated.  I am not sure what the favorite part is for everyone, but I know the kids can hardly wait to dig into their treasure boxes.

We started a few years ago, getting them each a Modge Podge (plain brown) box from Hobby Lobby.  We started to decorate a couple but never finished, maybe another project for this year!  In each box we store each child’s ornaments.  They love to dig into their own boxes to pull out all their ornaments and put them on the tree.  Somehow they are able to remember where they got many of them – amazes me!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Review : Names of God Bible

I have been thinking for some time I wanted to get a new Bible.  I was not sure of the translation, just knew I wanted to get a new one.  Then, not too long ago the Names of God Bible arrived for me to review!

Names of God Bible, The


This version of the Bible is God’s Word and it was written to offer a translation of the Bible that translated the Bible from the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts to their closest natural English language.  I found this version very readable for my boys and myself to read and understand.

It’s Here!!

Advent that is!  I think Advent is my favorite part of Christmas!!  The excitement that building in anticipation of the Birth of Jesus!  I know, it can seem silly to get so excited to celebrate someone who was born, oh so long ago.  But I do still get excited!

I love how each day we use Ann’s Jesse Tree Devotion to talk about all the ways God pointed to the cross in the Old Testament, and how he used real people, people like you and me.

The Adventure of Christmas: Helping Children Find Jesus in Our Holiday Traditions

Today we took out Lisa Whelchel’s book ADVENTure of Christmas and talked about what Advent really is.  Last night we did our first Jesse tree devotion and even managed to light our Advent wreath!!

Advent – means to come.  This season is all about us cleaning out the cobwebs of our hearts and preparing for the celebration of Christ’s arrival. 

Each day we are doing something fun for this season.  Today, Day 1 (but not really since I wanted the days to line up with the days of December, we will call today Day 1 Minus 3) we are reading The Quilt Makers Gift (a family favorite) and having some scones and Black Currant Tea (I could not find Blackberry anywhere, so black currant will have to do).

Hope you are grabbing the beauty of this season, and I hope you are teaching your kids what it is really about – not the Santa at the mall (although that is fun too) not about the fun songs like Jingle Bells (which we are enjoying listening to) but it is really about getting our minds ready to celebrate the birth of our Savoir!!

Merry Christmas!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Discipleship ~ Part II

So, Tuesday  I shared some of the thoughts in my head, bouncing around (I am sure there is lots of open space for such thoughts to bounce….)

What does discipleship really look like?

How do we “do” it?

To whom do we disciple?

Many of these thoughts came from reading Radical by David Platt. 


While reading that book, I have listened to a few great podcasts too like :

Matt Chandler and Mission of God

Michael Fletcher @ Manna ReligionX

The underlying theme in all these places has been that it is not about God saving us to Save Us – it is about saving us so that we can live our lives glorifying HIM.  I just love this.  It is not about us.  Never was.  Never will be.  Wow.  I love this!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Christmas Traditions

I *love* Christmas time! We take time away from our typical studies and we focus on why we celebrate this holiday.

For us, it is really not about the presents, to keep true to this, we limit the number of gifts the kids get to three, from us. We try to find something that they need (this year 2 boys may be getting new comforters), something they want (a toy of some sort: BB gun, Bow & Arrow, games, etc) and the last thing is kind of our choice (this year I think some books). One exception is on Christmas eve they get to open their PJ pants – so, I guess they get 4.

On Sunday after Thanksgiving, we start our Jesse Tree tradition. We have always done something Jesse tree/Advent related, but last year I used Ann Voskamp’s Jesse Tree Devotion, and trust me when I say it is THE BEST out there!! I have many Christmas tradition books, and nothing comes close in spiritual depth and truth!! In order for us to remember each night, because life around here can get crazy, we get a chocolate candy Advent calendar for each child. (Aldi usually sells these – cheap)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Crafty Christmas

So, while we are still trying to savor Thanksgiving, I am up to my elbows making Christmas crafts!

Normally, I am done about September, making Christmas crafts, this year I started a few weeks ago.  So, you can imagine how much fun I had recently spending half my day making some crafts!!

Going back to Pinterest, I saw this:

and loved it!  So here are a few of my versions :

Book Review : Big Book of History

I have wanted to get a timeline for our school.  I have looked at many, but never really found THE ONE.  You know, the one you know your kids will enjoy.  One that will grab their attention.  Many are pretty, many have good info, but those have not been The One.

Big Book of History

I found it though!  I am so excited!  My kids were excited!  That was how I knew it was The One!!

{This would be a great Christmas present for any families who love to learn together!!}

Big Book of History 004

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Making Hand Soap {DIY}

Oh my, I am in heaven!!

I saw this on pinterest a number of times, and knew I wanted to do it, but when the pin was with Mrs. Meyers soap – it became #1 on my list instead of somewhere lower!!

If you have ever smelled Mrs. Meyers Basil soap, you are missing out!  It is my favorite smell, makes me WANT to mop.  I simply love it.  I have been using a bottle (12 oz) of hand soap for about a year, I stretch is by refilling those foamer bottles.  I put about 1-2 Tablespoons and fill it up with water.  I do this for the kids too, since they tend to waste lots of soap. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Discipleship {Part I}

What does discipleship really look like? 

How do we “do” it? 

To whom do we disciple?

Those are a few of the questions bouncing around in my head these days. 


While reading Radical, and listening to David Platt talk about what it means, how Jesus did it, and how we are called not only to go and tell, but to make disciples, I am chewing on how that looks in my life. 

First, I think I am called to disciple my children.  Why?  Well, before this week I could not specifically tell you, but while I was reading Titus 1:5-9 I read why I am called to do this.

For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you, 6 namely, if any man is above reproach, the husband of one wife, having children who believe, not accused of dissipation or rebellion.

Paul tells us in Titus that to be a leader in the church you must have only 1 wife, and children who are believers and not rebellious.  Why would he say this?  Because if you do not have your own house in order, how in the world are you going to tell someone else how to get theirs in order?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review : Christmas Shoppe

Yes, this is my third book of three with the Christmas theme!  It has been so much fun reviewing Christmas books, especially reading them this fall!!  It has been easy to transition to holiday planning!!


Christmas Shoppe, The


Melody Carlson wove a beautiful story in this charming Novella.  You can read all about Melody on her blog.  This story takes place in the tiny town of Parrish Springs.  This is another story that captures all the elegance of small town life!  I love reading about little towns and how all the character know each other, I find it delightful to be known in that way.

In this story a quirky lady, Matilda Honeycutt, arrives in their small town, and many people are intrigued, while many others are very upset by her presence.  Matilda brings her own element to this story though, and as she meets the people of this town, she impacts them in a very unique way.

This story offers the reader another quick read that will quickly get you in the Christmas spirit.  Matilda embodies the true, and precious, meaning of Christmas!  I loved seeing how this little old lady impacted this town, for the better!

I would recommend this book as a great Christmas present for the reader in your life, or as a great treasure to enjoy yourself.

When you check out this book, check out many of Melody’s other Christmas Novellas as well, I think you will be happy to read any of them!

Note : I was offered a copy of The Christmas Shoppe in exchange for an honest review on this blog.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review : Day of War(Lion of War Series)

This book sat on my shelf for a few weeks since I had other books in the “queue”, but I was hooked after the first few pages.

Day of War (Lion of War Series)

This is an amazing book that takes place during 998 BC.  The author, Cliff Graham, weaves a story together with information he took from the Bible and other historic documents.  While it is obviously a fiction story, it is as true to life as I think someone could write about this time period.  I felt like it played out like a movie, through the details and depth of characters.

The main character, in this first book in a series of five, is Benaiah.  I loved this man, his character, his wrestling with who Yahweh is, and his love for his wife.  As I read through this book, in a matter of days, I was amazed by who these characters became.

Mr. Graham did an amazing job writing about David as a real man, but yet true to every facet of his character from the Bible.  The qualities that David posses are amazing and they inspired me through each story.

I loved Benaiah though, because he is a real man, who wrestles with real things that we each wrestle with.  He has seen things in his life, few have seen and dealt better with.  He loves David and follows hi, as a solider in his Army.

My favorite element that occurs throughout this story is the “covering.”  David teaches his men about the Covering – he calls on it when he is in battle, weary and about to collapse and it gives him renewed strength.  Not only does David call on the Covering, but the Three, and many other followers of Yahweh, and soldiers.

David’s band of the Three are in this story and they are amazing!  Not only are they specialists in many weapons, but their love and dependence on Yahweh is inspiring.

I cannot say enough good things about this book.  It is a book that will draw you in for the Biblical elements, but it will keep you through the amazing details of the character, the scenes and every part of this book.  I will be following Cliff Graham in the future and I am already eager to read the next book in this series!



*** Great News!!

While finding links for this review (Author’s blog, and pics) I learned there will be a movie about this book!  Oh, my!  Cannot wait!!  Read it first though!!

Cliff Graham


Cliff Graham :

Check out his Documentary about the research behind Day of War.




This book is not a book I would pass along to my son.  While this is a more masculine book, it is quite adult in nature, and at times graphic with battle scenes as well as some of the implications for the women during this time period.

Note: I was offered a copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review, by Zondervan Publishers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thanksgiving Traditions

It can be so easy to jump from Halloween/Fall festival planning, right into Christmas!  But, I hate to let that happen in our home!  I love Thanksgiving!!  One of my favorite holidays because there is much less stress associated with it!

I love that we usually get together with family, usually have some wonderful food, and usually have lots of down time.  But, it can be missed in the rush for Christmas if we are not careful!

In our home, this year, we are capturing the  Thanksgiving spirit  by our annual listening to Thanksgiving, A Time to Remember.  This is put out by  Family Life Ministries and we LOVE it!!  It is an audio drama that Barbara Rainy put together that tells the real, historic story of Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving (A FamilyLife Book): A Time to Remember (Family Life Books)


Book Review : Remembering Christmas

This is the second of 3 books I have to review for this coming Christmas Celebration!!  Reading these books in September and October may explain why I have already jumped into the Christmas Spirit and it is not yet Thanksgiving! I have loved it!

Remembering Christmas

by Dan Walsh

I really enjoyed reading this book.  It is a sweet story about a young  man, Rick, who goes “back home” when his step-father has an accident.  Rick does not have strong faith, in fact he is simply living his life to get the most money and stuff out of it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Weekly Wrap Up : 11/11/11

Happy Veteran’s Day to all who are serving and have served!!  May God bless our friends who continue to stand in harms way!!

homeschool journal

In our homeschool this week…

We started working on our Gratitude Lapbook – the kids are enjoying it and I am hoping to cultivate a more grateful heart in each of them! 

I am inspired by…

Podcasts – this week I have listened to several from Matt Chandler at the Village church in DFW, and Michael from Manna in NC.  I have really enjoyed both and been incredibly inspired!!

Places we’re going and people we’re seeing…

This week we stayed close to home, but next week we head up to Dallas for AG’s heart appt.  She will have an EKG & ECHO on Monday to make sure her heart looks exactly like it should.

Last Sunday I did get to take AG to a Clover Kid field trip to see many animals.  It was lots of fun!!  She got to see a Sheep, goat, many chickens and even work with a heifer!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Planning Time

It’s Wednesday in our week of “vacation” of sorts.  The other little girl who schools with us is on vacation, so we are taking a bit of a break too.   It is nice to get a break every now and then, especially to make you appreciate what you have!!

The extra time I have had has been spent researching a plan for November and December.  While we will keep on track with regular school in November, I wanted to incorporate something dealing with Gratitude and also with the history behind Thanksgiving.  I found a couple different things for these topics, but my favorite, and the one I think we will use is Attitude of Gratitude Lapbook.  It is a 12 lesson plan with some great ideas!! 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Fall Fun & Yummy Recipes

I love fall!  I love the cool temps, the yummy food and the occasional bonfire!

These days occasional is none – with the burn ban, a fire was not an option for our Fall “Party” but that was okay, we still had lots of fun!

whole gang

We had tractor rides, compliments of our 10 year old driver.  The girls (and boys) colored lots of pumpkin coloring pages.  We all enjoyed watching Clarabell check out her new field!  She even made friends with Max our neighbor horse (that E.D. named, since we do not know his real name, and he will not tell us)

We had yummy snacks!!  To include :

Boilermaker Chili

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles {love, love, love this website – I have made many of her recipes and have loved them all!!!}

Smoked Turkey (our last of 3 – Christmas was served this afternoon)

and corn bread

Finished off with some yummy Pumpkin Cake  - thanks to Lisa!

We had a great afternoon with the other Cole family and our friends the Kincaids.  Hope to see more friends in the weeks to come!! Come on our and visit us, anytime!!  We love to have friends over to play!


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