Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Journal Your Christmas ::: Days 23-29 (Catch up!)

You can click on any picture and see them larger in Flickr. I hesitated to post them much bigger because this post is already a little long! :)

December 23:

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 23

December 24:

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 24

December 25:

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 25(a)

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 25(b)

December 26:

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 26(a)

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 26(b)

December 27-28:

The front (how the layout opens in the album):

Journal Your Christmas ::: Days 27-28 (front)

The backs:

Journal Your Christmas ::: Days 27-28 (back)

December 29:

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 29

Home Again

No matter how much fun it is a Grandma & Grandpa's, it's always good to be home.

We rolled in last night around 6 p.m. While little girls played with new treasures that had been left behind for our trip and ones that we waited until home to open, he and I took down the Christmas tree and did a general tidy and straightening of furniture and whatnot. The travel loads of laundry were started and must be completed today as does a grocery list for a New Year's Eve party and a New Year's Day get-together. (One of those we are going to and one we are hosting). Also, just in case you were unaware, TOMORROW IS MY BIRTHDAY (and my best friend's) and we will be celebrating together tomorrow night as said-New-Year's-Eve-party is at her home.

But for now, we had a wonderful night of sleep in our own beds and girls are playing happily and have not asked to turn the TV on yet. (We are in Noggin-detox from Grandma's). :) Now, I'm going to make a bit of breakfast and slowly work towards getting out to the store. It's a good day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Bloggy Book Review ::: Boomtown


Thanks to the nice folks at Thomas Nelson, I was sent a copy of Boomtown to review. 

Boomtown is not your average town. For one thing, it's the home of Chang's Fireworks Factory, only the greatest fireworks factory ever! And the people of Boomtown love to blow things up. This unusual town is where Arthur Button moves his family and tries not to get himself killed in the process. He's the newest pastor at Boomtown Church. Actually, he's the 25th pastor of Boomtown Church - and the 24 preceeding pastors have all perished in highly unusual ways.

On top of just trying to stay alive (!), there is also an unusual mystery that needs to be solved. Things are disappearing ... unusual things. A lawnmower, old pieces of wood, an old coat. Where are these things going? You find the answer to this mystery and a even more about what makes the folks of Boomtown so special in this book!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though I think the readership is geared to a 10+ year old boy. It has adventure, loveable characters and things! blow! up! a lot! in this book. :) One note, there is a side story (very brief) about a baby left on a doorstep and the young parents didn't feel they could raise the child. I thought it was well handled in the story, but as a parent, I would want a head's up that was in the book in case my child came to me with any questions! Even with that disclosure, I think this would be an entertaining book for a tween (especially boys) if you are looking for a last minute Christmas gift.

Journal Your Christmas ::: December 22

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 22
Originally uploaded by stephaniedshepherd

Short & sweet.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Christmas-y Meme

1. Hot Chocolate or apple cider?
Either one is fine with me!

2. Turkey or Ham?

3. Do you get a fake or real-you-cut-it-yourself Christmas tree?
We have a fake tree. I've never had a real tree (grew up with a fake one) and am not sure what I would do with one if I had it. The tree that we have was given to me several years ago by friends that didn't want to move it. The price was right for us! :)

4. Decorations on the outside of your house?

5. Snowball fights or sleddin'?
Neither ... I prefer to be on the couch, reading. :)

6. Do you enjoy going downtown shopping?
With or without children? :) I think I could enjoy it, but haven't tried it. The internet is my friend.

7. Favorite Christmas song?
O Come All Ye Faithful

8. How do you feel about Christmas movies?
Love. Them. Am working on our collection and slowly gathering some of our favorites - A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Christmas Story, White Christmas, Elf, Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, The Santa Clause ... so many.

9. When is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?
I typically don't listen to it before Thanksgiving, but that's more because I rarely slow down to listen to music.

10. Stockings before or after presents?
First thing, please!

11. Carolers, do you or do you not watch and listen to them?
Um, we don't have any usually. But, I would listen if they came by. :)

12. Go to someone else's house or they come to you?
We typically go, although this year I am THRILLED that we are having Christmas morning here at our house.

13. Do you read the Christmas Story? If so when?
Throughout the season. The girls and I are reading through it about two verses at a time at breakfast and talking about it.

14. What do you do after presents and dinner?
Relax. :)

15. What is your favorite holiday smell?
Peppermint. Spiced Tea (orange/clove/cinnamon).

16. Ice skating or walking around the mall?
Neither. See #5 re: curling up on the couch. :)

17. Do you open a present or presents on Christmas Eve, or wait until Christmas day?
We've been doing one gift with the girls on Christmas Eve. I am enjoying that tradition with them.

18. Favorite Christmas memory?
I love Christmas Eve. The service at church, going to a friend's home and eating and laughing with long-time friends. Coming home to tuck tired and excited little girls into bed and then snuggling with the husband and usually watching a movie by the light of the Christmas tree. 

19. Favorite Part about winter?
The cold. I am not a hot-weather person so this extra-cold winter has been WONDERFUL for me. :)

20. Ever been kissed under mistletoe?
I don't think so. 

Thought this would be a little fun for a quick December post... :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Journal Your Christmas ::: December 17

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 17

This may be my favorite layout thus far and there is just nothing to it. But the picture totally makes me smile. :)

Saturday Linkage

And with that I wish you a happy Saturday and a very Merry Christmas. I may or may not post any this coming week (I do have one book review I would like to wrap up, but we'll see.) If I don't, have a wonderful Christmas!

Where Do I Go? ::: A Bloggy Book Tour

I am a huge admirer of Neta Jackson's writing. Her Yada Yada Prayer Series is one of my all-time favorites of Christian fiction. Why? Her writing is very real. The characters are flawed, imperfect, and need Jesus. Even those that are the church attending Christian characters. The stories are believable and encouraging to me in my spiritual walk. 

That said, Mrs. Jackson's new series is no exception to this rule. Her newest book, Where Do I Go? is a new 3-book series with a small amount of cross-over from the Yada-Yada books. (Don't go into these thinking that you will mosey right along in the lives of all your favorite Yada-Yada characters). However, you do meet a new character - Gabby - who is struggling with a recent move, new home, no church, and a tough marriage. She becomes involved in Manna House, a shelter for homeless women and things start happening, both at the shelter and in her.

If you are looking for a book that would be a great stocking stuffer for a lover of Christian fiction, I give this one two thumbs up. There are two more books to be written in this series, and in a new twist, Neta Jackson's husband (Dave Jackson) is writing a companion 3-book series about some of the men in these stories. I'm intriguided with that as well and look forward to checking out his book!

As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books. In addition to writing several books about Christian community, the Jacksons have coauthored numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

Dave and Neta live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years they were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. They are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.

They're trying something new! Not just new for them, but something completely new in Christian fiction: “Parallel novels,” two stories taking place in the same time frame, same neighborhood, involving some of the same characters living through their own dramas and crises but interacting with and affecting one another … just the way it happens in real life.

It’s something that only a husband and wife writing team could pull off. While Neta has Where Do I Go?, her husband Dave has written Harry Bentley's Second Chance.


A story of seeking-and finding-God's will in unlikely places.

Gabrielle Fairbanks has nearly lost touch with the carefree, spirited young woman she was when she married her husband fifteen years ago. But when the couple moves to Chicago to accommodate Philip's business ambitions, Gabby finds the chance to make herself useful. It's there she meets the women of Manna House Women's Shelter; they need a Program Director-and she has a degree in social work. She's in her element, feeling God's call on her life at last, even though Philip doesn't like the changes he sees in her. But things get rough when Philip gives Gabby an ultimatum: quit her job at the shelter or risk divorce and losing custody of their sons. Gabby must take refuge, as in the song they sing at Sunday night worship: "Where do I go when there's no one else to turn to? . . . I go to the Rock I know that's able, I go to the Rock."

Romantic Times Book Reviews says, “Exquisite characters coupled with God's mercy and love emanate from each page.”

Publisher's Weekly adds, “Jackson's Yada Yada series has sold half a million copies, and this new offshoot series ... promises the same.... The book's dramatic ending ... leav[es] readers eager for the next installment in the series.”

To read the Prologue and first Chapter of Where Do I Go?, go HERE.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Journal Your Christmas ::: December 15 & 16

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 15

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 16

These are the first pages that I've made back to back in this book, but the topics and layouts lent themselves well to it. :)

Christmas Treats

Red Velvet Cake Balls and Oreo Truffles. Thank goodness they are all gone now! These got two thumbs up from the family as a Christmas-y treat. :)

Kids Pick ::: Each Peach Pear Plum

If you asked my almost 3 year old what her favorite book is she would point to this one. Each Peach Pear Plum is a simple rhyming book where the reader searches to find her favorite nursery tale characters through out the pages. 

This book was a baby gift when I was expecting my first daughter ... purchased for me by a dear friend who has been a kindergarten teacher for many, many years. The pictures in this books are so sweetly drawn and the rhymes so simple, my sweet girl and I have had this book memorized for some time now. :)

Each peach pear plum, I spy ... Tom Thumb
Tom Thumb in the cupboard, I spy ... Mother Hubbard
Mother Hubbard in the cellar, I spy ... Cinderella

I love that I can say the first part of the rhyme and N2 can complete it. A sweet, sweet read-aloud book for your little one if you are looking for one.

For more kids' picks, head over to Five Minutes for Books!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook ::: December 15


Do visit Peggy's to see all the other daybook posts this week!


Outside my Window ... very wet outside right now. It's in the mid-50's so it's back to fall-ish weather around here.

I am thinking ... that I have much to think one. Some plans for the upcoming weeks and some reflection on the last couple.

I am thankful for ... how well my big girls did in the Christmas program (and how wonderful the program was in general. Re: the girls - this is the first year that our munchkins distinguished themselves by NOT crying while on stage which I was so thankful for.

In the learning room ...  not much this week that is structured. :) We're going to read lots of Christmas books and just have fun together.

From the kitchen ... most of my Christmas baking (that was planned) is done and after that, we don't need anymore. :) Meals this week include using up leftover roast from Saturday, a roast chicken some other night this week, and a breakfast casserole. I also have leftover Mexican soup in the fridge that I am looking forward to this week. These cold rainy days are great soup weather.

I am creating ... my Christmas journal. Still. :) 

I am going ... to the library today. In the rain. 

I am wearing ... jammies. But only until I finish typing this. Then it clothes and time for the library.

I am reading ... a review book and getting ready to start working through Isaiah. Um, yes, I'm a little intimidated by that book!

I am hoping ... for a white Christmas for my munchkins. :)

I am hearing ... little girls playing together. Happy sounds.

Around the house ... straightening needs to be done. A weekend of lots of go-go-going has left us with some disarray in our living space. Not to mentioned, it looks like we are going to host a get-together with some friends right after the first of the year and now, of course, I'm seeing purging that must be done. Always good to have a goal to work towards.

One of my favorite things ... Christmas mail. Cards that are slowing trickling in. Getting my own in the mail this week, eventually. :)

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week ... This week looks to be very low key, for which I am so thankful. We have nothing on the calendar, unbelievably. All our 

Here is a picture thought I am sharing with you ...

Christmas Program 08

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Journal Your Christmas ::: December 9

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 9 (a)

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 9 (b)

This day is all about traditions and I journaled a new one for this year. I'm part of a group of girls that have had bi-monthly GNO's (Girls' Night Out) for about 12 years. I am blessed. Anyway, this year, one of the gals suggested that we go and paint pottery together for our Christmas get-together. We would draw names and paint an ornament for someone else. It was such a sweet time and the friendship and love (and the history in our group) was shown by the variety of ornaments created. This is going to be our new Christmas tradition as a group, instead of a normal night out for dinner and gift exchange - taking the time to create for one another. The colorful card on the left is from the pottery place - unfortunately it was embellished with a half-dressed mermaid! :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 11

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 11
Originally uploaded by stephaniedshepherd

Our tree - it's pretty scraggly and worn, but we are adding new memories to this tree every year. This year, I've added the small stuffed animals from the girls' baby mobile. One way to preserve their babyhood as they grow.

I've gotten behind on a few days so I'm catching up as I can. :)

Friday Felicities

1st Snowman of the Season!
Originally uploaded by stephaniedshepherd

The first snowman of the season! :)

Happy Friday.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thursday Thirteen ::: December 11

Just 13 random things...

1. I should make banana bread more often. Yum.
2. I love Isaiah 54:10.
3. My Christmas letter is becoming my nemesis this year.
4. I am learning that I don't relax well.
5. The Star Wars Wii game is a blast!
6. I have said no to more things than I have said yes to in the last few weeks. It's been hard but they've all been the right decision.
7. God has given me a theme for 2009 - I Choose Joy.
8. Sometimes (a lot of the time) I don't understand prayer.
9. A brand new calendar for a brand new year makes me giddy with the possibilities.

Dear Noelle

When did she start looking less like a munchkin and more like a young girl?

11. N2 managed to literally EJECT herself from the table at breakfast this morning sending herself, her blanket and her bowl of cereal flying. Still not sure what happened. Suffice it to say, it was a mess!
12. E's new game - she pulls her hand inside her sleee and says, "Where hand, Mommy?" All present express shock and dismay over the missing hand! She then thrusts it out of her sleeve and says "'ere is!" Endless entertainment!
13. This Guy. Spent his Saturday afternoon building a gingerbread house with N1. He's favorite person in the whole world. 


Every Year

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Surely, I am not the only one that finds these completely hysterical ... I mean besides my girls. Enjoy!

Another ... a little bit country. :)

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Few Christmas Gift Ideas

I wanted to share a few Christmas gift ideas that I've come across this year that have made it to my list for others. 

First, I want to give you a heads up about a new prayer journal that I ran across. The Legacy Prayer journal is a CD that gives you different forms to print and fill out as you create your own prayer journal. The CD comes with over 20 printable prayer journal templates - scripture lists, pages for adoration, personal requests, missions, church, friends, etc. It can either be assembled as a scrapbook (12x12) or you can make an 8 1/2 x 11 binder. I'm very excited about this! I've been trying for months now to get up and going with a prayer journal for me and have either kept it in my planner or my journal. The problem was, when I filled the journal and moved on to my new one, a lot of times I forgot to go back and grab those prayer requests that needed transferring. Legacy Prayer journal is being very gracious to send me a copy to check out so I will let you know what I think once I get my hands on it. But, in the meantime, if you like the looks of it and you think it might make a good gift for someone or help you with a new year's resolution you want to keep, they have given me some discount information to pass on:

LPJ is running a sale for Christmas! Just use this code "CHRISTMAS" in the "special instructions to merchant" section when checking out and the transaction will automatically refund your account 25%! That makes your $20 CD only $15!

If you buy more than one you'll get 50% off of each additional CD you order when you use the code "CHRISTMAS"!

This sale ends December 25th!
Tell your friends and don't miss it!

*****What's New with LPJ???******
1. we've added a new version for Empty Nesters!
2. we were able to adjust our shipping and handling to a lower rate!

The second CUTE gift idea I ran across were these adorable tea wallets. Unfortunately, now that I went back to link to the post, I'm noticing that Megan is no longer making them for pre-Christmas delivery. However, there are probably some of you out there that can figure out how to make your own, or might like to order one for some other gift-giving occasion. (Teacher end-of-the-year gift?)

Third, I want to spotlight one of my favorite Etsy stores - HomeStudio. I love these little pendants and they are a great price, even if you purchase a chain as well. I bought several of these this summer and they have held up well to the fingering of small munchkins, too. :)

Fourth, and I think last, I am so pumped about this out. I have one sweet nephew that is ALL BOY, and as you can imagine, ALL BOY is something that I am not so familiar with. Check out these adorable reversable Superman/Batman capes! With mask! I can't wait to see him try them on. :)

Okay, I'm stopping now. It's rest time and I have things to do while the girls are otherwise occupied. Let me know if you have made any good finds this year! I love supporting S@HM moms in their creative efforts - as I appreciate those who support me in mine. :)

Bloggy Book Tour ::: Engaging Father Christmas (Giveaway!)

I thoroughly enjoy Robin Jones Gunn's books. Her Sisterchick series has been one of my favorites - she writes real characters that struggle and love and live. But this post isn't about a Sisterchick book. :) She has also written a short Christmas novella called Engaging Father Christmas which I received. It was a perfect book for this time of year. Not too long (because I didn't have much time for reading), but still packed with wonderful characters and a sweet story set in England at Christmas. Truthfully, a book by RJ Gunn set in England would have roped me in, but adding the flavor of a small town at Christmas - delightful. :)

The publisher has graciously offered me one copy to give away, so if you are interested, please leave a copy on this post ... I'll draw for a winner this Sunday night and announce on Monday (12/11). You can also read the press release below for more information about the book!

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Engaging Father Christmas

FaithWords (October 30, 2008)


Robin Jones Gunn


Miranda Carson can't wait to return to England for Christmas and to be with her boyfriend, Ian. She has spent a lifetime yearning for a place to call home, and she's sure Carlton Heath will be it, especially when a hinted-at engagement ring slips into the conversation.

But Miranda's high hopes for a jolly Christmas with the small circle of people she has come to love are toppled when Ian's father is hospitalized and the matriarch of the Whitcombe family withholds her blessing from Miranda. Questions run rampant in Miranda's mind about whether she really belongs in this cheery corner of the world. Then, when her true identity threatens all her relationships in unanticipated ways, Miranda is certain all is lost.

And yet...maybe Father Christmas has special gifts in store for her after all.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Engaging Father Christmas, go HERE

Monday, December 08, 2008

Nesting Dolls, My Style

Lrg > Med > Sm
Originally uploaded by Kodamakitty

I love nesting dolls. I have one set of Santa nesting dolls that a dear friend brought me from Germany many years ago. The girls are now fascinated with them and they were the first things that they requested be unpacked from the Christmas decorations.

I'm not much of a collector of things. (Besides, pens and scrapbooking paraphanalia!) However, I could see enjoying a collection of nesting dolls! They are cute - there are so many different styles and from many different countries! And that would give me an excuse to buy these to add to my collection. :)

Journal Your Christmas ::: December 7

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 7

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Journal Your Christmas ::: December 5

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 5 (a)

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 5

Our Christmas Book List

Christmas Books

As promised, here's a peek into our December book basket! You will see quite an eclectic mix below. There are also a few that I wasn't able to get at the library so I'll try and remember to post those titles as well. :) 

To preface: In our home we do talk about Santa as well as the true reason for Christmas - the birth of the Christ child. There is a GREAT resource book called Santa Are You For Real? that talks about the real St. Nicholas and how is goal was to keep Christ as the true focus of Christmas. I want my girls to enjoy some of the traditions that I grew up with for Christmas and Santa is part of that - the key is finding the right balance between the emphasis of Jesus' birth and some of the Santa traditions.

And now, on to our library stack! :) 

Christmas Books up close

Some that didn't make the picture:
And, I'll point you in the direction of some other Christmas lists that I've seen (although I have not read all the books so I'll give that disclaimer!)

I'm sure I'm leaving something out, but I have to stop now. Must be off to get girls dress for their Christmas program rehearsal this morning. Happy Saturday!

Friday, December 05, 2008

Journal Your Christmas ::: December 4

Today's prompt was to write/journal/create what you think would be a perfect Christmas. The paper below is actually a repurposed Christmas card from last year that I guess I happened to stick in my scrap box. I glued the edges shut and slipped in a picture of a favorite Christmas coffee mug. :) The journaling is a on a card that is slipped inside - accessible by the little tag. 

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 4 (a)

Journal Your Christmas ::: Day 4 (b)

Friday Felicities ::: December 5


Things that make me happy...

  • early morning coffee
  • little girls that sleep in (note: I don't have any of these, but they make me happy) :)
  • playing with paper
  • etsy and a simpler Christmas
  • sweet emails from friends that understand
  • little girls that like to tell jokes as evidenced below...

Happy Friday ... and play along at Becky's if you are inclined. :)

One of my goals this year has been to diversify my reading. As I've spent the last 17 years homeschooling anywhere from 1-4 kids, I woul...