Friday, December 31, 2010

foody friday for a New Year

I am guilty of putting on Holiday pounds - more so since we have moved to Minnesota - I blame it on the cold. I start to hibernate around Thanksgiving - durn turkey - and then wake up in a mad dash around March.

I have been trying to be more pro active this season, but alas, I have still put on a pound or five. In addition to moving more and signing up for a running race, I have been looking at LaaLoosh for months. I have tried a couple of her recipes, and they are awesome - AWESOME! So, as you ring in the New Year this eve, I encourage you to take in a few of her recipes and try them out for the New Year.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jeanette Walls brilliance

Oh my, is she. Between The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses she has me mesmerized. The first is her memoir about growing up with her parents. The second is told from Lily's perspective, Jeannette's maternal grandmother. Both treat hardships and set backs with hope and perseverance, and still gives a raw, realistic view of the challenges these families faced.

Rosemary, Lily's daughter, is a free spirit lost in the practicality of Lily's life, and yet Lily's gumption is admirable and inspiring. The pairing of these books adds such an enriching understanding of families and how each generation affects the next. It offers a study of human nature, the will to survive, and the fragility of emotions.

Both are available on Kindle here and here.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

genuine thanks

Though we say it, make calls, and email, I haven't taught the boys to write true, genuine thank you cards - and after listening to this interview, I realized that it is such an important piece of our family culture that I want to foster. It was even part of our wedding vows - to not take each other for granted and be grateful for each other every day of our lives.

To be sincere.

I wonder if this is a quality that is being choked out with our busy world...and in our desire to get closer to a simple life that is enriched with the beauty of the natural world and enhanced with the wonders of our modern world, I know sincerity is a quality we want instilled in our family values.

So this week we will sit down together at dinner and fill out our thank you cards together and I just might take Kralik's lead and try to write one each day - what a way to create the kind of world we want to live in instead of accepting the one that has been given.

I like creating.
I like sincerity.
I like where this is pointing us.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Aftermath

It is Monday, the first weekday after Christmas, and the guests are gone, the presents open, with remnants of wrapping here and there, and the snow blows off the trees, visible with a peak of sunshine. It is the first work day after Christmas for Randy, and a week of break for the boys and I - don't worry, there is work to be done around the house as well.

What a beautiful holiday this Christmas was. The boys loved every rip of paper. Their oohs and aaahhhs could not be beat this year - they are at that age where the magic is real, the love is pouring and infectious. It was a gorgeous day - gorgeous.

Now, as I schedule this week with play dates and work. As I start to clean up and get back into a routine, the realization of the want, need, and desire for a bit of Christmas to carry forward and fill the days to come with that togetherness feeling, that love, that way that we all say "Merry Christmas" to the person behind the meat counter or the person we pass on the street. It is the warmth within the cool temperatures that, yearly, I crave.

As I close this year and open the next there will be fewer desires for less weight, or more organization (though both would be nice), but instead, I am looking for a greeting, a way to see all people that says, "Merry Christmas" all year round. One that is intentional with eye contact and smiles. One that surpasses the idiocy of my little frustrations and stresses. One that meets people and warms them. A way to say, "hey, I see you and you matter because isn't this a beautiful time of the year?" at any time during the year.

Indeed, I am in the aftermath of the holiday - the holding week between what is and what will be - and I hope to carry this residual love through out the year, because it was a gorgeous, gorgeous day and I'd love to experience a gorgeous, gorgeous year.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours...I hope you're having a warm and wonderful holiday season.
Here's to a joy-filled 2011 for all of us!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays!

Wishing everyone a safe and wonderful holiday season! I have so much to be thankful for! Just look at my fun xmas photo out takes.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Simplifying the Season

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. In the name of simplifying this year, I did less. I did less Christmas baking. I did less Christmas blogging. I did less less Christmas cards and letters. I did less, and already I am feeling more.

I am present for the boys' excitement as we head toward Christmas eve and the arrival of their aunt and uncle. I am present to read all the cards and letters we are receiving, and I love them, absolutely love them. Because it has been less hectic, I was able to get the boxes out to my family on time this year, which is a Christmas miracle in its own right.

But through it, there has been a battle within. Am I letting others down? Am I disappointing my friends? Happily, Randy has been incredibly supportive and loving. He has reminded me that, indeed, I am not letting anyone down by taking care of our family - which is good to hear.

I have to say, as I listen to the boys assure me they are not "shaking" the gifts and merely checking the tags, my heart is in the right place. We are here, in the present - and that is such a gift the eve before Christmas Eve.

Much love to you and yours from us - Merry Christmas!

The Brocks:
Randy, Julie, Drew (7) and Owen (4)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


In my imagination, there is a lovely, wintery, holiday-themed photo right....


In reality, the camera, where the aforementioned holiday photo is stored, is in our car, three floors down from our roadside hotel for the night. I am in my nightie, watching my teenager fall asleep and listening to the last wimpers of protest come from my toddler as she tries to settle into her portable crib in another new place. Our family has been on the road for three days now, logging 1100 miles so far on our trek from Michigan to my hometown in Florida. We have a little over 200 more miles to go today.

It's a photo of the lovely gingerbread men we made during the weekend, the ones we brought on the road with us and have been munching on along the way.

While trying to salvage the situation, I even tried to fudge it, searching for some appropriate photo in my library already. 8000 photos, not a one fits the bill. Fudge.

I suppose it is all a reminder to me that the events of our daily lives are rarely picture-picture, but they are always worth being present for.

Happy Holidays to All. May goodness and kindness be yours, and may you pass it on to every soul you meet during this season.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Pageant Magic.

Thirty kids. Thirty costumes. Thirty sets of nervous families.
Two set changes.
Only four rehearsals.

These are the reasons I love my job.

* yes that's the back of my ponytail. I photograph much better from the back, I tell you.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Have a Wonderful Holiday Season!

From our home to yours...warmest wishes for the season.

Heather and family

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter Traditions to Keep You Warm!

Living in the winter wonderland that is the Midwest, most of us are hunkered down with blankets and fires, trying to avoid the blustery wind outside.

Kids, however, don't feel the cold at all!  They can't wait for the snow.  When the flakes are just beginning to fall, they're outside as quickly as possible, ready for anything, especially a good snowball fight.

But when they finally come inside, we're all ready for a little warmth.  Here are a few ideas that don't involve kids running wild through the living room (although that can be fun, too):

  1. Enjoy a movie together.  Whether you go for something traditional, like It's a Wonderful Life, or something more humorous, like Elf, doesn't really matter.  Just be sure to set the scene--have popcorn and drinks and lots of togetherness.  Make the movie an event, not just a thing to pass the time.
  2. Read aloud.  Light a fire, make some cider, and choose a wonderful book--you can go for a classic, a kid favorite, a holiday story.  Again, the 'what' doesn't matter; it only matters that you do it together.
  3. Bake and decorate cookies.  Duh.
  4. For little kids: homemade playdoh.  This is easy, fun, and just a little messy. It's a great way to spend time together and have fun, while you're nice and warm inside1
Homemade Playdoh Recipe, courtesy of Mrs. Murphy, my neighbor from 10 years ago!
2 c flour
1 c salt
4 t cream of tartar
2 c water
2 T oil

Mix all ingredients in a pan.  Cook on low for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat & stir in food color.  Pour out onto waxed  paper and knead until ready (add more flour as needed).

Have fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now That's a Happy Pup

If that isn't a Wordless Wednesday, I don't know what is! Check out more photos here and here.

The Hunt

We took them out to find a tree.

First, we went to this farm.
Seriously, this cow is about to give birth NOW!

We got a saw...

We threw some snowballs.

We took the obligatory "we cut our tree down here" photo.
But no luck.  No tree for the weary.

We left the first farm and headed to another.
Horses!  Of course we'll find one here.

We found one all right.
We just didn't exactly cut it ourselves.

But, still, we took a photo in front of the lovely pre-cut trees, after we spent an hour tromping through the fields of smaller ones.

So, hey, it LOOKS like we cut our own, and in the end, 
isn't that what really matters?!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Salt Dough Christmas Ornaments: Gifts & Indoor Entertainment in One

When it's dark around 5:00, and cold and blustery outside, I find that having a few indoor activities for kids is a good idea.  Math may not be my strong suit, but even I can do this one:
Energetic kids + nothing to do = no good can come of this.

photo credit: Erin B.
Despite my complete lack of craft skills, I enjoyed making ornaments to give as gifts when I was a kid.  Now my kids enjoy it, too.  If you find yourself in need of indoor entertainment, you can take advantage of this idea and cross a few small gifts off your list at the same time.

There are lots of Salt-Dough Ornament recipes on the Internet.  Basically, you need:

1/2 c salt
1 c flour
1/2 c water

Beyond ingredients, one of the best descriptions I found for how to make salt dough ornaments was here, at katy's blog.  She also has beautiful photos and great tips for baking and decorating the ornaments.

Cheap, easy, fun:  it's the perfect indoor winter activity!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Good Grief.

Last week, I received one of those phone calls that was not unexpected but yet was still a shock: a family member, sick from cancer and in hospice care only a short time, had passed away. And so I crawled back out of bed at 10:30 p.m., and started a load of laundry, then cracked open the laptop and began sending the emails that would extricate us from our various activities and responsibilities over the weekend. And then I lay awake most of the night, staring at the ceiling, contemplating how I would tell my boys in the morning that their uncle, only a few years older than me and their dad, was gone.

I wrote about this a couple of years ago for SavvySource, when my grandfather passed away. But he was 93 years old, had been ill and fragile for years, and my kids didn't really know him that well, other than as that old guy we went to visit sometimes in the nursing home. But it's different when the person who has passed is younger.

One thing I can tell you when a situation like this comes up, is don't be afraid to talk about it with kids. Tell them what you know, and then just sit back and listen. Let them ask questions, and have simple, easy answers. Second, be in contact with teachers, neighbors, friends who may be around when your child is grieving. Kids can act out at school, fall off on homework, other things that teachers won't understand if they don't know the root cause. I had a long conversation with the counselor at my boys' elementary school, and she had some good resources, like the book Lifetimes, and Maria Shriver's book What's Heaven. Lifetimes is more about the lifecycle of nature, which is a very non-emotional approach. Shriver's book is specifically about a little girl and her mom having a conversation about her grandmother who had died, and is not only more emotional, but is based on Judeo-Christian concepts of Heaven and God.

I think the best thing I did was to tell my kids what was going to happen. That we were going to the airport, getting on a plane, and going to visit their cousins and their grandparents. That there would be two different funerals, one in a church, and one in a cemetery. That lots of people would be sad and maybe even crying. That they would meet lots of people for the first time. That it would be hard and exhausting, but that they would get to spend a lot of time playing the Wii and distracting their cousins from their sadness.

Now we are back to work, to school, to our own lives. But my oldest came home from school with a giant sympathy card that his class had made, to help him feel better. It did. Sometimes it's the little things that get you through.