Friday, December 02, 2011

Our 25 Days of Christmas - Day #2
Today's tea selection, Celestial Seasoning's Peppermint Tea was chosen from necessity due to Gabriella not feeling well and having a fever. It seemed like the logical choice. So we all settled in for an afternoon story with some hot peppermint tea to relax for a bit, then send Gabriella off to bed to rest. We all of course enjoyed it...after all, how can you go wrong with Peppermint?!!  This particular peppermint is particularly watered down flavor disappointment here.  Plus it helped settle her tummy & ease her fever.

We enjoyed 2 stories today, a picture book as well as a short story from the Christmas in My Heart series. Ruby's selection was: The Christmas Wolf by Michael Gay which is a very old book that we picked up at a library used book sale. It was a sweet little story. Here is a review from an reader.

"In response to questions from his cubs (how come Christmas doesn't come to their mountain home??), Father wolf travels in disguise down to the town to try and get Christmas presents for his family, gets outed and sadly starts to make his way home. I cry when I read this book, but in a good way. If you can find this book, buy it. My kids loved it. "

Our second story was called A Few Bars in the Key of G by Clifton Carlisle Osborne (**included in Christmas in My Heart Volume 1 - more info about these books at the end of today's post).   This short tale is set in the old west.  The reader is carried along pell-mell with the O' Henry-ish narrative, not knowing until the very end what in the world is really going on!  The kids enjoyed the mystery involved in this story and at the end all had a big "ah-hah" moment :-) 

The evening hours brought another tea & story time while we all relaxed with our ill patient resting in the recliner.  The kids all wanted to revisit the Sleepytime with Vanilla Tea we had discovered the previous evening because they liked it so much (note to self: will be needing another box soon).  Michael actually chose the story that would take us through several hours...his all-time favorite Christmas book:  The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper by Jean Van Leeuwen.  Now when I say "all-time favorite", I mean it!  Michael first read this story over 30 years ago, he thinks at the age of 10.  Since then he has read it (THE very same copy of this book he has kept since first discovering it) EVERY year.  When we were dating in college he read a chapter of it to ME every night throughout the month of December until the book was finished...yes ladies, I definitely thought he was the absolute cutest thing ever!  Probably one reason I married him :-)  Now he reads it out loud to our kids - now how cool is that!!??  This year he received an extra special treat; we discovered it had recently been made into an audio book - so this year Michael got to be a listener instead of a reader for the first time ever.  We all enjoyed the story for several hours while sipping our tea.

If you read any Amazon reader reviews you will see just how much of a beloved classic this book is for many.  Here is one example that also gives you the basic story line:

"A Quirky Classic about Mice and Christmas. Read it anyways (5 stars)...

Marvin the Magnificent, Raymond and Fats are three mice out to enjoy life ... in Macy's department store. When the toy department's Santa gets kidnapped they are on the case in the best manner of old-movie private eyes. But how can three mice track him down and rescue him before Christmas?  Narrated by Marvin himself, this story is absolutely hilarious. Don't be stopped by the mice. It was one of my favourite books growing up and I still recall it with great fondness (and a vague sense of irritation that my children's books got sold a few years back).  There are at least three other books about this mouse trio, and I think a couple of them are still in print. This one, however, is my favourite, and worth looking for. "

**Not familiar with the Christmas in My Heart book series by Joe Wheeler...OH MY!  You simply must explore these wonderful stories. I believe at this time, there are around 20 volumes - enough to keep you busy reading all winter! 

"Open up this precious treasury of classic stories and you rediscover what makes Christmas so special.  Fond memories come flooding back as these heartwarming tales transport you to happy times surrounded by family and friends.  What makes these stories such a special gift is that they come from the heart.  They share the spark of Christmas in all of us--the caring, the sharing, and the self-giving love.

Joe Wheeler's great discovery is that the best of Christmas is in our hearts, and we embrace life in new ways when we read heartwarming stories about this joyous season.  He was so convinced of this that he began to collect all sorts of Christmas stories, old and new, from far and wide.  With the trained eye of a seasoned English professor, and the sensitive heart of one who grew up listening to wonderful stories year after year, he knows a good story when he hears it.

In Christmas in My Heart, the author brings together the best old familiar favorites and fresh new yarns from his literary treasure trove.  The riches of master storytellers such as Pearl S. Buck, Madeleine L'Engle, Taylor Caldwell, and O. Henry are combined with stirring tales from the golden age of Christmas stories to form a priceless treasury of holiday classics.

Read them once, to loved ones or in peaceful solitude, and they will forever become a part of your family's Christmas traditions.  Because these stories sparkle and shine with the true spirit of Christmas, they will make you smile, bring tears to your eyes, and give you goose bumps all over.  You may give this delightful collection as a gift from the heart to someone you love, or buy it for yourself.  No matter what, you won't be able to put it down, or to let one Christmas pass by without opening this timeless treasury of heartwarming stories.

About the Author

Joe Wheeler's writing career started in the fall of 1992 with a collection of heart-tugging stories called Christmas in My Heart, a series that he has become well-known for. Joe Wheeler has been called everything from Keeper of the Story to Father Christmas. He has been a frequent guest on Dr. James Dobson s radio show Focus on the Family, and today is considered to be one of America s leading story anthologizers.  When asked how he got started, Wheeler tells interviewers that it all dates back to being home-schooled by a remarkable woman, Barbara Leininger Wheeler, his mother (both a teacher and a missionary) in Latin America. His mother, an elocutionist of the old school, memorized thousands of pages of stories, readings, and poetry, and frequently recited in public. But her specialty was the old-time, sentimental, Judeo-Christian short stories. And his mother poured herself - and her stories - into her son, inoculating him with a terminal case of the storyitis virus. "

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Our 25 Teas of Christmas - Day #1

"Vanilla lovers, rejoice! We've added the creamy, nutty flavor of rich vanilla to our beloved Sleepytime® blend of floral chamomile, cool spearmint and lively lemongrass. With its comforting aroma and perfectly balanced flavor, Sleepytime Vanilla is an exquisitely soothing new way for you to wind down your day."

—Charlie Baden, Celestial Seasonings Blendmaster

Ahhhhh...good 'ol Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Tea - a long standing favorite of mine. Therefore imagine my surprise to discover this new version which is exactly the same as the original with the addition of a hint of vanilla...mmmmmm.  I plopped it into my cart this week lickety-split, and I'm so glad I did because it was the perfect tea for us to have tonight after a very long, tiring day.  Everyone was already sleepy, so the tea only provided the relaxation to listen to a bedtime story, then crawl into a snuggly bed.  Sleepytime Vanilla was given "thumbs up" by all - especially a very enthusiastic Michael who really, REALLY liked it!  (The girls added a bit of honey to theirs for extra yummy-ness.)

Tonight's tea-time story was a chapter out of our Advent book this year called Tabitha' Travels by Arnold Ytreeide. This is the third in a book series written especially to read daily leading up to Christmas.  Our family has read the entire series several times, and never grows tired of it.  The books are meant to be read out loud as a family (a different one each year), ending on Christmas Day.  Each book focuses on one character in the shared storyline of the 3 books, telling it from their perspective and experiences.  I cannot recommend this series highly enough.  It has truly been one of the most treasured Christmas traditions we have done as a family.  (Be sure to begin with Jotham's Journey, the first book in the trilogy and our personal favorite :-)

**The books also include optional added instructions for lighting Advent candles to go with the chapter readings throughout the month.  We enjoy how much this adds to our family worship & story time.

Tabitha's Travels
In a page-turner like Jotham's Journey and Bartholomew's Passage, this exciting story takes readers through Advent to Christmas as they follow young Tabitha on her adventures. Curious, competent, and courageous. Tabitha is the daughter of Eliakim, a shepherd who is taking his family on caravan to his birthplace. Along the way she meets and becomes friends with Jotham and Bartholomew, watches as Romans take her father prisoner, spends time with Zachary and Elizabeth, rescues her father, helps Mary and Joseph just before Christ's birth, and ends her travels with the wonderful climax at the stable in Bethlehem. Following each chapter is a Spiritual reflection that gives readers an opportunity to respond personally to a spiritual truth embedded in the story. Ideal for family devotions.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

25 Teas of Christmas at the Amick House 2011

December...typically a time with too much to do & not enough time to do it - at least that's how it is at our house.  Not this year.  I have purposely NOT overfilled the family calender with things to do, places to go & people to see in order to have the time to enjoy some of the activities we really want to experience; but that always seem to get pushed out of the plans as we are rushing about.

So this December I have taken it upon myself to enforce a daily time of relaxation on my family! We will be celebrating the "25 Teas of Christmas" at our house.  Each day we will relax with a hot cup of tea (a different kind each day) , and READ selections from our Christmas book collection (which has grown huge).  I will also be returning to my long neglected blog to document our experience and share reviews on the tea sampled that day & the book read.  I am greatly looking forward to having this family down-time as part of our day this upcoming month, as well as slowing down to do the things that make Christmas memorable...

** We'll also be having fun shopping for new teas to try and are happily accepting suggestions!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amick Family Christmas Letter 2010

Ruby (age 5)

R - reading is being learned since she's in Kindergarten now
U - unusually expressive & theatrical, she keeps us all laughing
B - busy dancing in class and at home
Y - yodeling chicken calls to her flock each day while collecting eggs

Gabriella (age 9)

G - gardener - flowers & veggies
A - absolutely "Type A"
B - beautiful dancer, blessing many through her worship dance team
R - reading is a huge joy
I - interested in playing board games
E - excellent young sewer! Made PJ's, a jumper, pillowcase & apron
L - Little Mama Hen to her pet chickens
L - loves school!
A - artistic: violin, piano, singing, dance, painting, card making & pottery class

Elliot (age 11)

E - eager to help in the kitchen, quite the baker!
L - loves brussel sprouts & sushi (but not together!)
L - learning to downhill ski = new favorite winter activity
I - itchin' for a 12 string guitar! Plays guitar & piano & helps w/ worship
O - officially a brown belt in Karate - addressed as "Mr. Amick" now in class
T - totally hates math, but suffers through it anyway

Christopher (age 14)

C - "cool" clothing freak of the family
H - helps teach Karate classes as a brown belt, working towards BLACK!
R - rockin' to Christian music bands Mom doesn't enjoy, but Dad can groove on
I - into RipStiking for fun (similar to skate boarding)
S - still wishing for an iPod-touch....(keep wishing)
T - taller every single day! Passed up mom recently, and will soon overtake Dad!
O - official Amick dog whisperer w/our newly adopted dog Maggie and our beloved Pepper
P - playing piano as always
H - helped Grandpa Mark & siblings build sq. foot garden beds in the spring
R - ready to take driver's ed this summer! (Parents still in denial)


S - super busy homeschooling the kids
U - up on kids at church, keeping them all busy & connected to Christ as their youth leader
S - sweet tooth addiction conquered 2010 - YES!
A - a burnt-out cook dreaming of hiring a kitchen chef
N - never reaches the bottom of the "to-do" list


M - multiple work trips & speaking engagements
I - iPhone addicted
C - camping motivator
H - helping with kid's church Pathfinder group (like scouts)
A - a brand new Karate pupil in the dojo (his sons help instruct him)
E - elder at church
L - likes Netflix documentaries late night to relax

Family Highlights 2010:

All kids welcomed 2010 in with Chicken Pox over New Years!
Adopted another Dog (Maggie) a Golden Pyrenees
Incubated & hatched 8 chicken eggs in April that have become beloved pets
100 mile bike ride trip this summer
Visited Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit
Multiple camping experiences
Blue Ribbon winners in the county fair this year - all 4 kids - great fun!
Attended Lifelight Christian Music Festival in SD over Labor Day
Participated in a homeless awareness event - slept outside in boxes Oct. 29th
Operation Christmas Child warehouse volunteers in November - sending gifts to kids worldwide

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Grilled Grapefruit - Warm & Comforting Winter Eats

Every winter, November through March our home is filled with fresh citrus, full boxes of grapefruit & oranges each month that we purchase from our church fundraisers. We all enjoy and look forward to this tradition and winter would not be the same without it. Eating citrus with breakfast, as snacks, and so on is not only a hit with our taste buds, but is a huge immune system booster, which is a great perk!

Despite the fact that we all usually just eat the fruit "as is" and grapefruit w/o any added sugar, we do look for a few creative recipes to use the fruit in as well. Our all time favorite is the infamous Orange Cake with Chocolate Ganache that uses entire steamed oranges (skin and all) in the recipe.

Recently we discovered a new idea for our grapefruit that has been added to our "repeat recipe" archive, and it adds an extra special touch to Sabbath morning breakfasts... Grilled Grapefruit. Below are some variations on the recipe to get your creative juices flowing... this is really a yummy way to eat them that all ages can enjoy. Ruby even loves it (and she's a picky eater)! Another perk... the kitchen smells heavenly....

Grilled Ginger Grapefruit

1 whole grapefruit
1 Tbs. unrefined sugar (or sucant, or brown sugar)
1 tsp. peeled & minced fresh ginger

Cut grapefruit in half. In small dish mix together the sugar & ginger and sprinkle over the grapefruit. Place on a baking sheet & put it under an oven broiler or in a toaster oven. Broil for 6 minutes, until the sugar & ginger start to bubble & caramelize.

Cinnamon-Honey Grilled Grapefruit

Ingredients Serves two

* 1 grapefruit, either pink or orange
* 2 tablespoons honey
* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


* Set oven to broil.
* Cut the grapefruit in half. Using a grapefruit knife separate the flesh from the rind. Then, cut along the segments toward the middle of the grapefruit; you're trying to make it easier to eat.
* Spread one tablespoon of honey over each half of the grapefruit. Then, sprinkle each half with about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.
* Place grapefruit onto a shallow baking dish and put under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes.

Maple Grilled Grapefruit

Makes 4 servings

2 grapefruit cut in half
½ cup maple syrup
2 tbsp. melted butter (optional)
dash cinnamon
handful golden raisins

Combine syrup, butter, and cinnamon, and spread over the cut half of each grapefruit (You may want to cut each section free before broiling). Sprinkle raisins on top. Place on broiler pan about 4" below flame and broil 2-4 minutes. Serve hot.

Baked then Broiled Grapefruit (from Susan Powter)

One Serving (double, triple the recipe depending on the amount of people)

1 large juicy fresh grapefruit
1 tsp soy butter (optional)
Organic Maple Syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon

Cut grapefruit in half. Using a sharp knife cut the sections and loosen fruit from shell. Dot each half with a tiny bit of soy butter. Drizzle maple syrup over the top of each and sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon over that.

Place in a baking pan and bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, then broil until top is bubbly. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Ginger Grilled Sliced Grapefruit

4 servings

2 large Ruby Red grapefruit
2 teaspoons light sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced gingerroot
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
4 tablespoons orange blossom honey
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds, toasted

Remove the skin and pith from the grapefruits and cut the flesh into 1-inch-thick wheels. Remove the seeds and arrange the slices on a broiler tray. In a small bowl, combine the sesame oil, ginger, salt, pepper and brown sugar. Brush the grapefruit with the seasoned oil.

Preheat the broiler or grill until very hot. Grill the grapefruit slices on one side for approximately 2 minutes, until the sugar begins to caramelize. Remove from the heat.

To serve, arrange the fruit on a warm platter. Drizzle with the honey and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

Laundry... the Battle Continues

Remember "My Daily Battle" post ? If not check it out to refresh your memory on my war with laundry, then read on.

Well thanks to a problem with water backing up in our basement repeatedly over the past few months (now finally fixed) I have been forced to stay on top of the laundry (no, not sitting on top of the pile for you wise guys reading this)...

Yet, now that there is so little to deal with I notice that some things "just don't belong here", as the old Sesame Street song goes. My sleuthing led me to discover why I likely had such excess to begin with! It's summed up in this lovely little cartoon...

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pumpkin Pop-sicles - Cooking Class with the Kids

This recipe is so easy anybody can make it!

Today we are enjoying one of the cooking class projects done by the kids and we all highly recommend the recipe to our friends of ALL ages!

Pumpkin Pie-sicles anyone? They are not only an incredibly healthy dessert/snack but they are delicious too! YUMMY.

We followed the recipe from Family Fun Magazine, except we substituted coconut milk for the cream. Also, be sure to get the mixture nice and creamy in your blender, food processor, or vitamix machine before putting in your molds or dixie cups.

Mike came home from work for lunch so he could sample one and gave it 2 thumbs up!

This recipe is a winner folks - try it for yourself! What a great way to sneak those orange veggies in on the kids :-)

PS Oh, we had some leftover after we filled the molds last night, so we warmed it and had it with supper - it was awesome!

Pumpkin Pie-sicles

These butternut squash ice pops taste just like the classic Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

2 1/2 lbs. butternut squash
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
2/3 cup light cream (we used coconut milk)
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Step 1
To make a batch, cut a butternut squash into quarters and scoop out the seeds.

Step 2
Boil, bake, or microwave the squash until it's soft. Let the squash cool a bit before scooping its flesh into a medium-size bowl.

Step 3
Add pure maple syrup, light cream, and pumpkin pie spice to the bowl. Use a potato masher to mush the squash and blend all of the ingredients.

Step 4
Spoon the mixture into ice pop molds (we were able to fill 10), add sticks, and freeze for at least 6 hours before serving.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tracking New Year's Goals with Smiley Joe

Okay... you may be asking WHAT is with the big ol' smiley face today (interestingly following the big ol' Grinch post)?

Well... I'm just happy today I guess. Now you of course ask, "why?". Well, I'm feelin' good today because I had taken some time in the last few month of 2008 to contemplate my life over the past year and decide on some changes I want to make in 2009. So, some simple, but important goals were set for myself to attain during 2009... some may term this process as making New Year's Resolutions.. call it what you wish.

In a nutshell, my 2009 mission statement could read, "To take the time needed for myself to strengthen me spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically in 2009". Self is a thing that I have neglected in recent years, my cup is empty when it should be runneth over - therefore... this year I'll be requiring a refill.

My smiley little friend is my new icon that will be my reminder and my tracking device via a fabulous free online goal tracker program I found at Joe's I highly recommend this helpful tool for anyone of any age to track daily goals/habits (good or bad), and it also includes an optional log to add any details you want to remember. I may just get my kids using this to track their goals as well.... it's super easy, quick to do and fun. You'll even get an email from "Joe" after a few days if you have not recorded your progress - a helpful reminder to keep you on track and be accountable to.

Anyway... so far so good here with goal keeping, but I have a long year ahead to keep myself on task - I'm relying on my "Smiley Joe" to keep me in check!

**You can see my progress too by simply checking the chart on the right margin of my blog. If you see me having difficulty, please feel free to send a note of encouragement - I probably need it!