On New Year’s Eve

Photo Project 2021

Around the Haus…

Pippka also learned a few new tricks (and that lamp has been moved elsewhere)

Christmas Joy

We are enjoying a lovely Christmas season here on the farm. The weather didn’t cooperate with the girls’ wishes for a white Christmas (by a long shot!), and supply chain woes hit–of all things–the local Christmas tree farms! That’s not a joke: droughts in 2008 & 2010 and early cuttings last year when everyone stayed home for Christmas caused the local area farms to close down before December 5! So Haus Meister took some of the kids and visited the tree vendor next to the local ice cream & coffee food truck. We got a wonderful tree, the kids had wonderful ice cream, and a new tradition may just have been inaugurated.

The Advent wreath looked a little different this year because I was using spare beeswax candles we found last winter at a local candle shop (and had our priest bless on Candlemas). They lasted very well throughout Advent.

We also tried something new with the Nativity scene this Advent. Thanks to my mom and some of the girls, who sewed up cloth bags over Thanksgiving vacation, we turned the Nativity into a big Advent calendar of sorts. Each night as we gathered for night prayers and lit the Advent wreath, one of the kids would pick the bag assigned for the day, read the paper Bible verse ornament inside (then hung on the artificial tree above the stable), and pull out one or two figurines. By Christmas Eve Mass, every figurine was out (the kings are still en route through the house until Sunday). I don’t mind the girls rearranging the figures, and as you can see, Rosebud is patiently waiting for me to get the official Christmas Eve picture before she does so.

Our parish hosted a Living Nativity this Advent, and quite a few of our children participated. Princess caroled with the choir; Rascal and the Squire were Wise Men; Lil Bit was a sheep; Sunshine was Mary at the Annunciation while Miss M was Gabriel; and Posey, Rosebud, and Bright Eyes were also angels at various other stations. I did not post pictures of those stations as I didn’t get permission from the other actors in the scene. ūüėČ Suffice to say, it was very fun despite the foggy weather, and we were proud of everyone. I will just add that it was amazing to think that Sunshine could take on such a role, and sit in place for an hour and fifteen minutes! Our parish has been great helping her along the way as she makes such great progress. I couldn’t have dreamed she’d do this four years ago!

Around the Farm…

The population of assorted poultry is up by five now. The three hens on the left–the “Three French Hens”–were rehomed here from a neighbor’s coop as she wanted to start afresh with young chicks, and we had more room for older hens to retire gracefully despite being a few years older than even our first round of chickens. We’ve named them Pat-a-pan, Jeanette, and Isabella (yes, after French carols).

In November, one of our newer Buff Orpington hens suddenly decided to go broody and managed to hatch two chicks right around Thanksgiving (despite the fact that it was cold enough to frost outside). The chicks have a Silver-Laced Wyandotte for a sire, so we are calling them the Orpingdottes. They are quite a few weeks older now, and almost all their yellow feathers have turned white with some interesting black lacings on wings, tail, and the tops of their heads. I’m a bit worried that both are roosters, but we will see.

Meanwhile, on Christmas morning, I was tickled to see as I visited the parish manger that the smallest sheep looked very much like our “Lou,” down to the brown face. The sheep are doing well and getting very fluffy! We’ll be researching shears soon….

Restoring Misselthwaite…

The house painting went well this Fall! The main color of the house is “Into the Stratosphere,” and the front doors are “Parlor Rose,” both from a local paint store. We are very pleased with the lovely new look for Misselthwaite’s exterior. Indoors, Haus Meister installed a wood stove into the main fireplace that is much more efficient and heats the house wonderfully on the frosty nights. It was a craigslist win from last winter. The previous owner had only used it a few years and was ready to convert to propane. We were happy to help!

Last thoughts…

Outside the sky is growing darker, so it’s almost time for barn chores. We’ll then gather round a shrimp pasta dinner, and see how things go progressing toward midnight. The teens want to play board games with Haus Meister (in particular, “Clank! In Space!”), and I guess we shall see how the younger set fares. I think I am at the stage where I could ring in the New Year watching a live feed from London long enough for Big Ben’s tolling, and then turn in for the night, but the kids are not at that stage yet so there we have it.

I did save the best news for last, however, and want to share before she arrives in a month or so.

Introducing this sweetheart, whose blog nickname is “Docena,” as she rounds out a full dozen children in the Haus, and who will add a lot of love and fun (though less sleep) to the mix in 2022!

A very Happy New Year from all of us to all of you, and God bless you in 2022!

Yarn Along — A knitting buddy?



Gratuitous baby picture to start this post!


She’s at long last filling out those booties I knit her this summer! ¬†She’s in them as often as I can find both of the pair!

I’m at that stage of Christmas preparations where despite my early shopping and all my early plans, I still feel a week behind and like there’s a thick fog between me and Christmas with zero hope of accomplishing anything. ¬†I’m still on the first of Haus Meister’s two socks. I’m still wrapping presents. ¬†I’m on the “G” page in our address book for Christmas cards. ¬†The jam hasn’t been made, and the cookies are still in potential (I have the ingredients, but haven’t put it all together).

And then Miss M, chatting to me while coming home from errands tonight, whines that Christmas is taking soooooo looooong to get here. I could use another week of prep, myself. ūüėČ

I say this to dispel the notion that I have it all together. But let’s talk yarn now.


I took this picture last week for a Yarn Along post that never got written. ¬†I’m about ten rows further on that sock, mainly because little hands got at it and took out the needles about twice a day. The little stockings are two of the four ornament stockings I did finish and will have in four of my children’s St. Nicholas stockings in Dec. 2017. ¬†I am putting a note in my August 2017 planner to start the other five that very month. ¬†Maybe I will put it back until July. That sounds reasonable. See–positive thinking. ¬†I’m not late for 2016 but ahead for 2017! ¬†Right, I don’t buy it either, but it sounds good! ūüôā


Now that bright variegated ball of yarn? ¬†That belongs to our Princess! ¬†Princess came across this book on her shelves and decided she really wanted to learn to knit. ¬†So when we had our visit from St. Nicholas, there was a ball of yarn in her stocking as well as her very very very own first pair of circular needles and stitch markers! She did recognize the yarn as a ball we had dyed using KoolAid something like two years ago, but she didn’t mind and was thrilled with the gift.


She wanted me to help her start this project that very morning, so we did. ¬†A week later, she’s still excited about it, and still knitting! ¬†She has her own little workbag, made by her Grandma out of fabric that has adorable geese on it. ¬†So she totes her work around, upstairs, downstairs, to Grandma’s house, etc. Grandma and I have both helped with “damage control,” and the little hat definitely has an endearingly lopsided appearance under Princess’ nimble little fingers. ¬†I’m pretty sure she accidentally taught herself short rows at one point and reverse stockinette in another, but for the most part she’s getting the hang of it.


At this point, and so early in her knitting career, I didn’t have it in me to make her take out all the stitches and redo those spots. ¬†She has ambitions for this hat and a deadline to meet, and I didn’t want to dampen her enthusiasm. I might be stricter with the next project, but at the moment I’m waiting to see if there will be a next project. ¬†I’d love to have a knitting buddy!


Here’s the book that has been my mainstay this Advent. ¬†I am going to miss this devotional. ¬†I want something like it for every day of the year! ¬†On top of it is a fun mug I received from one of the mothers in our American Heritage Girl Troop (we had a Christmas party and sock gift exchange for the leaders and parent volunteers). ¬†She even made me a darling Swedish Goat felt ornament, because as with every Advent I’m still checking on this guy:

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A little smaller this year, as the usual huge Goat was burned down on the first Sunday of Advent.

So, anyway, up there’s my devotional, my coffee mug, and my husband’s Christmas present. ¬†Because as I said before, it’s God, my husband, and coffee that gets me through.

And knitting.

((And yes, mom, being able to call/text my mom and sister, but a phone would really have not looked good in that picture. ;)))

Yarn-Along: A Trio of WIPs


I once wrote of my horror of too many WIPs (work-in-progress). ¬†It seems I’m bound to have to occasionally eat my own words. ¬†I have three projects on the needles at present! Three! ¬†I’m sure this is still a reaction to having two projects back to back that stretch out over a year (0r two), because suddenly I want to do All The Things!!!


From Left to Right: The Evelyn Sweater, the Quick & Thick Mountain Man Boot Socks, and Mini Stocking Ornament.

The Evelyn is on hold probably until after Christmas. ¬†I love the sweater. ¬†I love the pattern. After Christmas, during that week between holidays, I will gladly return to it as I drink my tea and enjoy our Christmas break. ¬†Besides, I chose to knit it in Icelandic wool, and it’s still in the 60s and 70s here.

The Quick & Thick Mountain Man Boot Socks began as a quick response to Haus Meister’s request to socks for Christmas. ¬†That’s now been changed to slippers since we found these soles, but the pattern is nice and I want to go back to it again sometime. ¬†I finished three inches there while waiting in line to vote. ¬†I know I got a few quizzical looks, but I also made a few ladies smile and one told me she wished she’d thought of bringing her own knitting. ¬†The yarn I am using was discontinued, causing no little shock here because that yarn had been a Christmas gift from him to me not so very long ago (I thought). So another reason I’m doing All The Things is also because I want to start going through my stash. (Yarn: Knit Picks Swish Tonal in Thunderhead)

The Stocking Ornament is something I thought of after getting this year’s Comfort and Joy Advent bundle. ¬†¬†I have been reading Elizabeth Foss’ blog for about eight years now and have enjoyed the love and attention she puts into her family celebrations. ¬†Advent and Christmas was such a fun part of our own childhoods so Haus Meister and I have enjoyed these years of blending and creating traditions. This year we are going to have the children hang their stockings on St. Nicholas Eve, and during the recent visit with my sister and mother, we discussed the idea Elizabeth puts in her book, about giving each child an ornament at Christmas that can go with them to their future home.

I love that. ¬†I do have several ornaments that have come with me from my parents’ house (including the Ugly Nutcracker that my sister also wanted, so one year I graciously gave it back). The only problem I could foresee with gifting ornaments is that we tend to buy plastic ornaments by the bulk in those wannabe elegant sets from Wal-Mart or Lowes in the hope that said ornaments might survive the season. ¬†Did I want to spend an extra $4 per child ($36!) on 9 individual fragile ornaments that might last if I put them up VERY high and nothing occurs to knock down the tree. ¬†Resin ornaments are as worthless as glass when they hit the family room floor, by the way. So in the stash busting spirit, I decided to knit some ornaments and give them with my love. I think that will do just fine.

Reading? ¬†I’ve been returning to Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s The Life Giving Home often throughout this year, and especially this Fall. ¬†It has been a great aid in helping me think of ways to make a haven here during a year that has drained us all in more ways than one. ¬†Also, of course, the aforementioned Advent planner, particularly the journal. ¬†It may be early, but we’re hosting Thanksgiving and Advent comes directly after. ¬†It’s a soothing thing to plan for at the end of a year that has drained us all in one way or another. ¬†Plus it is the season of hope. And that’s a lovely thing.




Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real: Christmas Eve Edition



Advent is winding down! ¬†Oh, there seems like so much still to do. ¬†Isn’t that how it always is? ¬†Still, I wanted to pop on and wish all of you a Merry Christmas.


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The stockings are hung by the chimney with care! ¬†We did misplace¬†one of the girls’ stockings, and fortunately they aren’t personalized so I whipped out my own personal First Christmas stocking for Littlest to use. ¬†She won’t even notice, this year, at least.

No, the star does not fit above the tree.  The tree was just too tall!

And no fire in the woodstove this year. ¬†It is far too unseasonably warm. ūüė¶

The prints above the mantel are from “glorydesigns” on Etsy.


Upstairs we have our Jesse Tree and the IKEA stars that Haus Meister brought home for me last month.  When lit, they are very cheerful and may just be one of my favorite decorations this year.


I do love decorating with candles. Last year, also from Etsy, I purchased a set of vinyl Nativity cutouts to go on glass jars for a handmade candle holder effect. However, it was one of those things I didn’t get around to until this year.


This jolly St. Nick is one of the few decorations to have survived through our entire marriage. ¬†He’s been at every Christmas in every place we’ve lived. ¬†Even if he has to hide in a bathroom for survival…


And everyone was happy to get our big tree downstairs!



Everything is one toddler away from destruction. ¬†(Actually, they’re surviving okay)


As Advent ends and Christmas proper begins, I’m going to share with you some of our favorite carols. ¬†Frohliche Weihnachten!

O Come O Come Emmanuel (this version has been a favorite in the Haus this Advent)

Mitt Hjerte Alle Vanker

Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker

Mitt hjerte alltid vanker i Jesu f√łderom
Der samles mine tanker som i sin hovedsum
Der er min lengsel hjemme, der har min tro sin skatt
Jeg kan deg aldri glemme velsignet julenatt

Akk, kom jeg opp vil lukke mitt hjerte og mitt sinn
Og full av lengsel sukke, kom Jesus dog her inn
Det er ei fremmed bolig, du har jo selv den jo kj√łpt
S√• skal jeg blive trolig, her i mitt hjerte sv√łpt

Jeg gjerne palmegrene vil om din krybbe str√ł
For deg, for deg alene jeg leve vil og d√ł
Kom la min sjel deg finne sin rette gledesstund
At du ble f√łdt her inne i hjertets dype grunn

My Heart Always Lingers

My heart always lingers in the birthplace of Jesus
My thoughts gather there as their main sum
There my longing has its home, my faith its treasure
I can never forget you, blessed Christmas night

Oh come, I will open my heart and my mind
and sigh with longing, yet come in Jesus
It is not a strange home, you have bought it yourself
So I will remain faithful, wrapped here in my heart

I will gladly spread palm branches around your manger
for you, for you alone I will live and die
Come, let my soul find its right moment of joy for you
that you were born here in the deep of the heart

{pretty, happy, funny, real} Beginning to look a lot like the end of Advent!



Oh my, it seems like it’s been ages since I’ve had a chance to sit and post. The calendar is speeding forward faster than light (it seems) while I feel like we’re plodding slowly through our Advent to-do list like we’re in waterlogged boots. ¬†In a swamp. ¬†But not these boots:

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I got a great deal on these (read: 65% off retail!) and I am wearing them all the time.  In fact, the first time I went out to get the mail in them I stopped at the door, thinking I must be in my slippers because they were just that comfortable. Sorry, I digress.

I was going to get the pictures for this post and was puzzled to see about thirty blank or blurry photos saved, until I saw this one:
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And knew from the curl that Miss M was at it again! I love that blog nickname for her. Somehow it just fits. ¬†Miss Spunkitude is another name I affectionately call her but it doesn’t look as good in print. With Miss M it can go so many ways, like Miss Mischief, Miss Marvelous, Miss Messy. ¬†It all just depends. ¬†And here I go again digressing–this is supposed to be an Advent catch-up post!


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I took a gamble and put my St. Nicholas candleholder out in the kitchen. ¬†Yes, in reach of the kids. He’s tucked in a nook between a utensil jug and my oven, and save once I haven’t seen Sunshine near him. I’m kind of fond of this fellow; I am pretty sure I acquired him the year we married (or at least the year after) and I love the starry lights he casts. I didn’t want to hide him somewhere I couldn’t see those lights often.

Meanwhile, the Jesse Tree is¬†up and smells wonderfully piney.¬†With our Bible ornaments (laminated) and the felt ornaments from another countdown calendar, it’s looking pretty decorated.photo 4It’s my favorite kind of tree, too: the imperfect “Charlie Brown” variety. This one leans.

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My kitchen windowsill in December. I opted not to keep buying flowers during Advent and instead got these little trees.

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Looks rather cheerful from the upper deck.

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A new acquisition for our room was this Christmas cactus. It sits perfectly on our bedroom sill and adds a lot to the room. I have been forgetting just how much a small touch can improve things.

photo 1Back to the kitchen for a moment. My two Tasha Tudor Advent calendars flank my Susan Branch yearly calendar. The bare part of the wall is being filled with the kids’ British Christmas Village building-a-day countdown. I took this picture on Sunday but we haven’t gotten much farther, mainly because although they keep coloring, we haven’t taped them up yet.

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I have hardly knitted a stitch since Thanksgiving break. ūüė¶ I tried to finish the second washcloth I began on the drive home only to have it unravelled twice when I left my knitting out in the open. Grr. So these skeins wait for me to have a second or two and begin again. This photo kind of reminds me of one of those “Need a Gift for the Knitter in your Life?” ads. The little bowl I found at Wal-Mart in their Hallmark “North Pole” display. That makes one other good thing to come from Wal-Mart besides the mulled cider candles.

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My Christmas goat collection! Haus Meister found the red fellow at IKEA (our new favorite store), the Annalee one came from my Mom (sorry it’s missing it’s saddle, Mom–Someone got to it when it was on the mantel last Christmas, which is why they are in my room this year), and the straw one came from my cousin. ūüôā

The Gavlebocken still stands, by the way, as of time of post.

The LEGOs are beginning to show the spirit of things around here. ¬†On the eve of St. Nicholas Day, St. Nick’s workshop appeared.

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But because we never seem to leave a design the same for two or three days running, by the weekend it was The Caballero’s Christmas Hacienda.


Then Rascal made me a LEGO goat, which would have been displayed with my Christmas goat collection only it got assimilated into some other design shortly after this.

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Ok, that’s enough for now. I’m going to try and get more Christmas cards ready for the mail before I generally resemble the sweetheart below. ¬†Hope you all have a happy rest-of-your-Advent!

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{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} in the first week of Advent


Advent is here; I am now listening to Christmas music with abandon (shame on me) although I did download a new version of “O Come O Come Emmanuel” by two talented artists called “The Piano Guys” which is amusing because one of them is¬†playing the cello.

So what’s new in these parts…



I turned my front door wreath into a perpetual Advent wreath! Or just until Epiphany, anyway. The banner above it was made by my sister and yes, it does read “Joy.” The “y” was blurred.


In our little oratory corner I was able to put out our German Advent wreath. I am so happy to have this out again. ¬†I promise it is not about to burn the ceiling. In fact, these candles are rather quick melting. Remind me next year not to order the Amazon.com special no matter how on top of it I feel. It’s five days into Advent and just lighting it for our family rosary has shortened that candle by half.



While in my old hometown for Thanksgiving, we got to see our first snow of the season. It was nothing to the locals, who had already seen some, but to us it was amazing.


We also enjoyed a trip to the Children’s Museum, with it’s “Jolly Days” in full swing.


Cousins enjoying the slide in the Snow Castle.


Checking out a mastodon skeleton.


Switching “real” and “funny” here. I already told you what we found when we got to the parking lot of the Museum.


Nota bene: if ever you’re visiting the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and they tell you there’s no room in their parking garage, avoid parking in their Waterclock lot. It may look safe being right next to the parking garage, but there’s no security camera on it, and anyone can drive in and out quickly.

To add insult to injury, it looks as though the thieves also rummaged around and found our nice camera.   And while looking through pictures on my phone, I found one with my knitting bag on our last afternoon together.


Good bye, Armas. Good-bye, knitting bag.

I haven’t cast on a new sweater for my husband yet, although the needles are ready and I fished out some of the remaining balls of Istex Alafoss. Plus he spoiled me by having me google yarn shop locations on our way back home, and dropped me off at one that was 10 minutes from our route. Providentially there was a Chick-Fil-A at that exit so he drove around and got food for the crew while I shopped. On the way home I finished 1.25 washcloths. ¬†I love using the “unavoidable delay” of travel¬†like that.


My helper. ūüôā


Let’s end on a goofy note. Sunshine’s hair is starting to do this cute flip at the ends if you get it just right.


Then I realized we were pretty much at the “Episode IV” stage again. Sigh.

Thank you, Google Images

Thank you, Google Images

Sweet Sunshine-girl, I don’t care if we keep your hair at your shoulders… just don’t cut it again when it gets there, please! ūüėČ ¬†And no, I don’t think I trust you with a lightsaber, either.

The Advent Post

Last week on Facebook in our local mom’s group a friend asked what traditions we all had for Advent. ¬†I immediately summed up a handful of our traditions in the longest comment I’d left on FB to date. Ironically, the question was asked after a linked article which suggested ideas to keep Advent holy without burning out by Christmas. ¬†Since Advent and Christmas are our favorite holidays, we do a LOT in those four weeks plus twelve days. ¬†Immediately after posting, I began to fret. ¬†What if I unwittingly sparked a FB argument about allowing your children to believe in St. Nicholas/Santa Claus? ¬†What if I made someone feel like they didn’t do enough simply because we plan a lot? ¬†What if my comment causes¬†someone else to burn out?!¬†¬†And when no one else had time or inclination to post their traditions in the com box that afternoon, I chickened out and deleted it, only to have people respond more the next day and wonder where my post had gone. ¬†Comparison is the thief of joy, someone smarter than me once said, and they are right. ¬†And I was, after all, being silly and thinking way too hard about it.

So I decided to come over here and wax eloquent about¬†our Advent traditions, because here I can be verbose and often am! ūüôā Those of you who have been following this blog over the last 5 years can probably take a snooze because you’ve seen it all before, and will most likely see it again. ¬†So without further ado….

The Sunday before the First Sunday of Advent:

I make the Christmas pudding, keeping up an English tradition. Whether we actually eat the pudding, any or all of it, depends on the year, but I make it anyway. There was one year we forgot to eat it on Christmas. There was last year when we were sick and didn’t eat it until later. Still, the smells of the pudding steaming are quite delightful and it’s a great Advent treat because you have to let it sit for the interim between “Stir-Up Sunday” and Christmas Day. ¬†This dessert is obviously not for everyone–it is made with brandy–but it smells good, looks Dickens-ey, and my husband gets to light it on fire. Win-win.

photo 2 (2)(Last year’s Pud, steamed and ready for the wrapping)

First Sunday of Advent


We get out our Advent wreath, which depending on the year may be the lovely wooden German one I bought several years ago, or the felt toddler one. This year it is going to be both, but the German one will be kept out of reach. We bring out the Advent calendars and I go to Wal-mart and get a small real tree for our Jesse tree. ¬†Some years that has doubled as our real Christmas tree–like the year we went to Indiana for Christmas and we put the tree in the van between the two front seats. When it got dark we plugged the lights in and gave everyone some Christmas cheer. Lots of people appreciated it as we passed. It was fun! But I digress. Anyway, the ornaments for our Jesse tree have varied from year to year from ones I’ve drawn myself to ones that I’ve printed from the computer. This year we’re doing these.

A perennial favorite are these sticker calendars. I’ve been using them with the kids every year since Trooper was probably 3 or 4. I like these because the kids get to put the figures anywhere they want, which leads to quite interesting and individual presentations. ūüôā ¬†I generally change up some of the numbers so the Holy Family are the last to go in.

"Sorry Mom, I gotta put Baby Jesus up here." "Why is that, son?" "There's no room for Him on the floor."

“Sorry Mom, I gotta put Baby Jesus up here.” “Why is that, son?” “There’s no room for Him on the floor.”

We also do a color-a-day calendar of an English Christmas village.I bought the downloaded file from here and just print off a copy for each interested child.  I allow them to tape the village to the walls of their room and thus add some seasonal decor of their own styling.

Then the Advent tree my father-in-law made for Trooper’s first birthday goes up as well. I usually put little notes in each door with an activity/prayer request/suggestion for the day to help the kids keep a “giving” mindset.


(Picture taken while we still had wallpaper in the foyer. SO glad that’s gone!)

And then there’s The Goat. ¬†In Gavle, Sweden, a 3-ton straw goat is erected every year for the Christmas festivities. A webcam allows you to see the goat in all it’s sometimes snow covered glory for ostensibly from the first Sunday of Advent through New Year’s, but I have only once seen it last remotely that far. This has been going on for 50 years (though not the webcam), and it’s an unofficial tradition for someone to burn the goat down at some point. Why the Goat-watch has become part of my Advent I can’t tell you for sure. I guess chalk it up to my love of the random.


Finally our creche goes out–but not the Holy Family and their donkey. Despite my best efforts to have the kings travel up from the basement from Advent through Epiphany, they usually appear in Bethlehem pretty quickly. More on that in a minute.

Over the years, being a bookworm, I’ve amassed quite the collection of Christmas books for the children. ¬†Generally I find we don’t read all of them, so this year I’m doing what I’ve seen other families do and wrap each book so that a child unwraps a book a day, then we read it together.

The Eve of St. Nicholas Day, December 5th.

By this time our Jesse tree readings bring us to Abraham and the promise God made to him that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars. So on this day we put lights on the Jesse tree.

We also put our window candles in the window to light the way for St. Nicholas. Our shoes go out either next to the Jesse tree or on our kitchen table (it used to be on the floor in the hall until the corgis arrived), and the children’s letters to St. Nicholas are left out for him instead of being mailed. My parents would practice this tradition for my sister and I (the shoes, at least), and even when I went to college I still received a St. Nicholas package. At college I’d put the contents of that package in my slippers and Mom always put some in for my roommates as well. One year I played St. Nicholas and left a treat outside everyone’s door on our wing of top floor St. Catherine’s. ¬†Only one year can I remember not putting out my shoes for St. Nicholas day–and that was the year Trooper was born.

St. Nicholas Day, December 6th

So what do we find in our shoes come St. Nicholas day in the morning? Generally an apple, an orange (or clementine), and some form of sweetie. Mom used to give us peppermint nougats and a walnut, but somewhere along the line I gave my kids the Little Debbie Christmas tree cake. It’s the only day¬†of the year I buy those things. A small gift is left behind for the kids as well.

Upon reading about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s childhood Christmas traditions one year, and how he mentioned a new figure would appear in the family nativity set each year, we began to add to our set as well so each St. Nicholas Day a new person or animal will show up. ¬†I plan to have a pretty epic set by the time we have grandchildren.


And some years the kids “add” their own animals from their barnyard set.

St. Nicholas day is also Trooper’s birthday so we celebrate big on this day.

St. Lucia Day–December 13th

In the evening we serve hot cocoa and saffron buns (if I’ve been industrious) or refrigerated cinnamon rolls (if I haven’t). ¬†One of the girls will be our Lucia Queen. This year I might find a wreath that will stay on the older girl’s heads. ¬†Hmmmm…..


Fourth Sunday of Advent

By now our calendars are in full swing and we have made a lot of homemade cookies and lots of kid-colored decorations.

Generally if we are going to get a larger-than-tabletop tree we do it this day of the year, unless Christmas Eve coincides with this day. On those years we get the tree on the 3rd Sunday. We hold off decorating as long as we can, but it’s usually before Christmas Eve. (sheepish grin) And I will confess, we listen to Christmas music from the First Sunday of Advent through Epiphany (and sometimes earlier, but always until at least Epiphany).

On Christmas Eve the Holy Family appears in the creche scene.

But I think that covers Advent, and if I write any more, ¬†I’ll be going into Christmas. ūüėČ

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No plans for Christmas….

Or rather, a multitude of little plans, all hinging on the outcome of a big round of colds that currently afflict the Haus. Will no one be running a fever for Christmas Day? Will we be tag-teaming Christmas Mass instead of attending the sparsest attended one as usual, as a family? We almost always go Christmas Day in the morning anyway because it’s the one Mass guaranteed to have enough seats for us without coming two hours in advance. Will we still be hosting Christmas Day dinner on Christmas Day??

Things began to unravel last Friday when what seemed like a simple cold for Rascal escalated to a fever of 104.6. A trip to the pediatrician’s office ruled out strep or flu, and his first ever chest x-ray ruled out pneumonia. Just a bad bad cold, we came home to begin the rounds of fluids, Mucinex, vaporizers, and relaxing. The very next day all the other children began coughing. On Sunday Sunshine woke up with a fever of 102, Dino at 101, and today Princess peaked at 100.5. ¬†The upshot of all this is that I have a handy new thermometer¬†(ack! It was cheaper on Amazon?! Oh well, I needed a new one fast).¬†It makes me feel like Dr. McCoy.


The kids love it. They¬†ask¬†me to take their temperature. Even Sunshine, who hated the regular ol’ thermometer even being under her arm! I just didn’t think I’d be using it as often as I am, especially right now.

So over the weekend plans began to be tweaked and changed. For once, we are doing most of our decorating tomorrow, on Christmas Eve. We achieved this goal of ours partly by laziness–Haus Meister’s giant boat was blocking my way to my boxes in the garage and I finally used the last 65 degree day we had last week to dig them out. ¬†I opened a few things and put them out. My Advent box had already been opened and dispersed through the house, making sure there was at least a little cheer in every room, even if it was only a window candle. I’m glad of that.

The Nativity set still stands, if in disarray. The Holy Family are due to arrive tomorrow.

My straw goat stands proudly on the mantelpiece. More than I can say for his Swedish counterpart, who got torched last Saturday morning.

Until next Advent, Gavlebocken!

Until next Advent, Gavlebocken!

When Haus Meister informed me at dinner tonight that he was starting to feel a little under the weather, I seriously began to think about postponing our big dinner. After all, Christmas lasts twelve days at least! Extended family are arriving at different times throughout the week (my parents at the weekend, armed with chicken broth and whatever it is they take for colds these days :)), so there’s always going to be someone to help us eat that 26lb turkey I nabbed at the grocery store before Thanksgiving when turkeys sold for 59cents a pound. NOTE: If you have the freezer space and are planning a turkey dinner for Christmas, shop before Thanksgiving. My frugal tip of the week.

Seriously, I told my husband I would make empenadas on Christmas Day if it was just going to be us here for dinner. We all love empenadas (except Trooper, the mac and cheese maniac). ¬†I will just need to go out tomorrow morning for peanut oil. I could tell he didn’t like that idea much–especially as he’s in the shop cranking out a Christmas present for our girls–but (sssh!) I also forgot the licorice that Princess wanted to give him for Christmas. And four more over-the-door wreath hangers so we can hang stockings the way we did at our last Christmas in the Old Haus. Somehow the lack of those two things bother me more than any other plan gone awry right now, and I chalk that up to pregnancy loopiness.

But you know what, whether or not we have the feast on the 25th, whether or not anyone’s still coughing, whether or not I get those over-the-door hangers, whether or not my Christmas village ever gets out of the box, whether or not I ever make my homemade buckeyes, it’s all going to be okay. We’re all here and we’re all together.

And really, Christmas never was about our plans or decorations or parties anyway.


It’s about welcoming Him into our lives. ¬†I thought a lot during Advent about how the people in Jesus’ day didn’t recognize Him at first when He came. Not everyone in Bethlehem flocked to the manger. That only happens in Fontanini! Sometimes we in our day to day life don’t see the way God manifests His will for us because we’re looking somewhere else, for something else. We expect everything to be just as we ordained it, just as the people looking for a Messiah thought He would come in the way they ordained it. This year, if He came to our house this Christmas in the form of seven kids with coughs, sniffles, or fevers, then that’s how I’ll meet Him.

And it will be perfect.

(There we go, Star Trek, Swedish Goats, pregnancy loopiness, Mucinex and an Advent meditation. Classic Haus Frau at her best blogging randomnymity!)

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real


Back again for another week of pictures! If you’re wondering where I went, let me just put it in two words: Christmas Cards. Rather, trying to decide if I really wanted to put a Christmas letter in those Christmas cards. I ¬†hemmed and hawed over the subject for a week because, you see, about eight years ago I decided to stop doing a letter per se and doing something quirky and rhyming in each. I’m no true poet, mind, as I rather operate on the Sir Percy Blakeney definition of poetry:

“The pretty thing rhymes in four places/ don’t you see?/ And if a rhyme rhymes, it makes a poem/ If you follow me.” (Anthony Andrews in¬†The Scarlet Pimpernel,¬†1982)

To make a long story short, five minutes after deciding that I just wouldn’t do anything extra in my card this year, I hammered something out and it worked. And so I finally got started on my cards.

Family Christmas Tradition #28: Mom spends a week stressing about something she doesn’t have to do anyway, but does it all the same. ūüėČ

So, in Advent news our Jesse Tree arrived on St. Nicholas Day. It did come from the Wal-Mart garden department but as there was a measly $2 difference between a 3-4′ tree and a 5-6′ tree, I went for the larger. It’s in the corner of our upstairs family room, which I affectionately call the Advent corner. My Tasha Tudor Advent calendar is on the wall next to it and a side table is holding our basket of Christmas picture books. Now ironically, we haven’t been keeping up as well with our Jesse Tree ornaments this year. Perhaps it was the late start. Perhaps it’s because I’m forgetting until the end of the day. At any rate, the other Advent calendars in the house are up and running well so I won’t stress this one this year.

So, in no particular order, our family Advent doings.

Happy Funny

The Advent corner

The Advent corner at 6am. Need to take another picture with more light!

Oh, and to add a littleReal to this, you can barely see at the top of the tree below the star there is our felt Advent wreath. Our Advent wreath refused to stay on a table this year. I kept finding it on a toddler’s head or left on the floor so decided to take matters into my own hands. It really looks pretty fetching up there when you see it in person. I am looking forward to the year I can trustfully put back out our lovely German wooden Advent wreath. But by then, I’ll miss this chaotic season, maybe a little. ūüėČ

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Our Fontanini Nativity is up and going again. It is never the same for more than a few hours at a time. It was Rascal’s idea to add pine needles that fall from the Jesse Tree (and Wal-Mart doesn’t have one of those lovely machines that jiggle the loose needles off the tree before you bring it home) as “hay” for the manger. The little tonka truck on the left makes hay deliveries apparently. For the record, I did have the kings and their animals traveling up from the basement (this is in our foyer, which has been de-wallpapered and repainted since this picture was taken), but one day the little girls brought them all upstairs and we haven’t been able to move them. Or rather, I could probably move the kings if the animals were allowed to stay. It’s my own fault for insisting on three pretty elegant animals.

St. Nicholas brought a new figure this year:

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John the Farmer. I thought it rather appropriate that there is a bit of green and yellow paint on John.

Family Tradition #62: After reading last Advent that Pope Emeritus Benedict’s family would add a piece to their family nativity each year, I thought that was a great idea. Saves the expense of adding a lot all at once, and quite frankly if you play your cards right you can find some nice pieces on eBay for half the retail price.


The visit we made to a Christmas tree farm in Indiana where my sister and brother-in-law and their little girls picked out their real Jesse tree (to become a full fledged Christmas tree on the 24th). We didn’t pick out a tree for the obvious reason that we had no way of transporting a large tree home as I mentioned last week, but as I also mentioned we don’t have tree farms like these down South (at least in our town) so I wanted the kids to have the experience.

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{pretty, happy, funny, real)


More from our Thanksgiving trip this week! Meanwhile, anyone else having trouble getting ready for Advent? It seems to me that usually having a day or two of November before the Advent calendars start on Dec. 1 does in fact make a lot of difference–particularly when much of ours is DIY. Of course, my issues are mainly strategic planning related. If I’d had my act together I would have had my Advent box upstairs before we left on our Thanksgiving trip. I would have found four of the Advent calendars the kids needed that I had hidden from eager hands–these sticker calendars from Adoremus Books that I’d bought in October–and would have found them¬†before yesterday. And we would have had both our Advent trees up–the real and the wooden. The wooden one is still on the other side of the boat and the real one is languishing in a Wal-Mart garden center (unless I find another place that sells 4ft trees between now and Saturday)

However, I plead extenuating circumstances. When Advent officially began I was 500 miles from home. Purchasing a real tree for Advent at that time would have entailed it being strapped to the van for said 500 mile trip. Would much of it have been left upon arrival? And the kids aren’t complaining about the delay in calendars much. They’ve been able to open 2-3 doors a day or add 3 stickers or color 4 houses. Starting today it’s 1–just 1–from now until the 24th.

Another new thing I introduced was the idea of choosing a random sibling name on a slip of paper and being that sibling’s Secret Santa. I wanted them to get a better idea of keeping a secret and participate more in the¬†giving of the season besides wrapping Daddy’s present or seeing that our UPS man ¬†and mail-lady get a bag of cookies. The key is to do a good turn for the brother or sister (only the oldest four are participating this year) and then choose a gift to give them on Christmas, wrapped by their very selves. Rascal took to it right away. He’d picked Dino’s name and thought of a good deed to do on the sly for his brother. Later in the day Rascal came over to me and said: “Hey, Mom! I just made [Dino’s) bed. If he thanks you for doing it, just say ‘ok,’ okay?” Then he scampered off, which is good because I was already smiling wryly at the thought of Dino thanking me for making his bed. ¬†It would surprise me if Dino even noticed the bed was made! Rascal also began dreaming of pricey gifts for said brother but I reminded him that Dino would love a plastic dinosaur from the grocery store just as well. ¬†Ironically, Dino has Rascal’s name and when I suggested a good turn would be to take the clothes Rascal had left on the floor and toss them into the laundry hamper about ten steps away, Dino was shocked: “You mean I have to¬†clean?!

Oh boy.



On Saturday we went to the Children’s Museum thanks to my parents’ awesome grandparents membership. The Museum had its Jolly Days exhibit open replete with faux snowball fights, a tiny “iceskating” rink, “ice-fishing”, a huge play kitchen and family room, meeting Santa, and other great fun. Princess sighted a museum volunteer dressed as the Sugar Plum Fairy (I assume), and couldn’t rest until we found the wandering ballerina and Princess exuberantly divulged her life-long ambition to be a ballerina, too. I honestly don’t think the poor volunteer knew what to do with the redheaded ball of enthusiasm that bounced her way, but she took it pretty well.


Pretty Happy

One person in the Museum totally capable of handling excited five year olds is the Jolly Old Elf himself.



exuberant ice fishers


Grandpa and the train-watchers

Grandpa and the train-watchers


Real Fun

The slide behind the water clock!

Princess and her cousin

Princess and her cousin

Rascal and Dino

Rascal and Dino





Grandma and Miss M

Grandma and Miss M



Saving the best for last.

Ah, the quintessential first picture with Santa.


Happy first week of Advent to all, and to all a good day!