Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from Rob & Can!

Luke 2:1-35

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Saviorhas been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests."
15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. 
21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. 22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in    peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation,31   which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:a light for revelation to the    Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”Photobucket

Monday, December 24, 2012

Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One...

Remember this post? This was the one where I said I'd write down the Advent verses for the day with a prayer and (what was I thinking?) our Christmas activity. Needless to say that did not happen. (Go ahead, scroll down. I have Ten, Nine, and Eight Days.) Instead, I had one of the busiest weeks ever at school. That's the joy of working at a new school--you're never quite sure how long things will take. Live and learn, though; next semester will be better!

This morning, my husband and I did have a chance to read Day 24's verses, and if you haven't yet taken the time to read the Christmas story (Luke 1-2 and Matthew 1-2), today would be a perfect day.

Today's Verses: Matthew 1:18-22
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[b] did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,[c] because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.
Today's Prayer:
God, thank you for your Son and for the miraculous way you brought Him into our world. Thank you for bringing us a Savior who has and continues to save us from our sins. We look forward to His return when His kingdom is fully restored.
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Monday, December 17, 2012

Eight Days and Letter Stamps

A couple of years ago I picked up a set of foam letter stamps on clearance. There's nothing special about them, just basic block letters, but somehow when applied to plain card-stock, they become something sweet and charming. Today, I had little minutes here and there between piano students, so I made a few Christmas banners and cards to give away.
These are of course easy-peasy. My one suggestion would be, if wanting to add a little sparkle, be sure and sprinkle glitter right away because stamp ink dries quickly. And if you can, find those foam stamps! All you do to clean up is toss them in a bit of warm soapy water.

Today's Verses:
Luke 2:18-25
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.”21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.23 When his time of service was completed, he returned home. 24 After this his wife Elizabeth became pregnant and for five months remained in seclusion. 25 “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

My Prayer:
God, thank you for this story. Thank you for being a God who shines when all seems dark and who brings hope when all seems hopeless. Help us to be people who believe you, Lord.
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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Nine Days and Gingersnaps

I haven't had the time to do much holiday baking this season. Or cooking in general, for that matter. (We've spent many more meals than I'd like to admit driving through Taco Bell.) But when I have had the opportunity to whip something up, it has been these gingersnaps. I've probably made 200 of these over the last couple of months thanks to some biggies like Thanksgiving and my students' recent piano recital.

Debbie introduced these to me a few years ago, and I've since passed on the recipe to many others. They're spicy, chewy, and perfectly festive. You'll be looking for any excuse to make a batch.
Chewy Gingersnaps

Cream together:
3/4 c butter, room temp.
1 c white sugar
1/4 c molasses
1 egg

Blend together:
2 c flour
2 t baking soda
2 t cinnamon
1 t cloves
1 t powdered ginger
1/2 t cardamom

Mix all ingredients together, adding in the dry ingredients to the wet little by little. I've used both a hand mixer and a stand mixer, and both work fine. If you have time, let the dough refrigerate just a bit to firm up. Use a cookie scoop (or your hands) to make balls, then roll the balls in sugar. Place an inch apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Makes 2 dozen. (Not nearly enough. Double the recipe, for sure. I've even tripled it.) The dough also freezes nicely, so roll into logs, cover with plastic wrap, place in baggie, and store.

Today's Verses: Luke 1:14-17
14 "He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."
My Prayer:

God, I thank you for sending your servants throughout history to prepare people's hearts for your son. I pray that you would continue to turn hearts toward you and toward your wisdom. And I ask that you would make us a people prepared for you. We thank you for your coming and we look forward to your return, Jesus.
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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Ten Days and Christmas Cards

Today begins our ten-day countdown to Christmas! In just a week and a half, we will be celebrating the birth and Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. Every year I wish I would plan ahead and celebrate each day of the Advent season, but every year the same busyness takes over. We have ten days, though, so part of this countdown will be a verse, a prayer, and perhaps even an activity.
There are plenty of great places to find verses for the Advent season,
but It's Overflowing created this simple list of verses that I will use.
I'm hopping in on the reading for December 15.
Today's Verses: Luke 1:5-13
In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.
My Prayer:
God, thank you for being a God who hears our prayers, just as you did with Zechariah and Elizabeth. Thank you for bringing hope even when life and situations seem hopeless. We pray that your hope penetrates the hearts and lives of all people, that they may know the fullness of your love in Jesus Christ.

Our Christmas activity today was finishing up our Christmas cards. (Yeah, I know, a little late.) I'll have to share the card with all of you later on in the week!
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Friday, December 14, 2012

Highlights and Hopes

Oh dear...it seems I've let another month go by without sharing much of what's going on in our life. I guess the problem is that there is too much going on in our life! Sitting down to blog about it sometimes takes energy that I don't have to give.

But it's Friday morning (my day off!), the sun is shining (finally!), and I have a cup of hot coffee and a chewy gingersnap to enjoy. It's blogging time.

So today I'm bringing you a few highlights from November, and tomorrow I hope to break this blogck (blog block) and start my ten-day Christmas Countdown. (Oh, you didn't know there are only ten days left til Christmas??)

1.  My mom's birthday was November 11th, and we celebrated by heading to Gilroy to do a little shopping. There are few things my mama loves more than hanging out with her girls and shopping! The trip was successful: we bought bridesmaid dresses for Camille's wedding! No picture of those yet, though.
We met up with Chels, but I had left my camera in Starbuck's so didn't get any shots after these!
Luckily they found it and kept it for me!
2. Speaking of Camille's wedding, November was also the beginning of wedding dress shopping. Just recently, Camille did fall in love with THE dress, and she's in the process of ordering it. So exciting!

3. That same weekend, we had a lot of fun snapping pictures of Camille and Scott for them. Here's a fave. Adorable, right?

4. November also is Chelsea Stem's birthday month, so we had a lovely "Roomies Plus One" lunch with her. (Robby was the plus one.)
Ha - I just noticed Camille and Chels both are holding similar bouquets.
I guess I need to add a little more variety to my flower arrangements!
5. And what girl could forget that Breaking Dawn came out last month? I did not see it on opening night, but I did show a little of my obsessed side by attending a Twilight party before our viewing. It was a lot of fun and super creative! And yes, I won (along with Steph) the Twilight Trivia. I'm not sure if I should be proud of that.

6. Last but not least I had a visit from Kelly...but we have no pictures to prove it. But she did come, and it was awesome! We treated ourselves to a great dinner out and then lounged around on the couch gabbing and watching tv. Just what we love :)

Those events along with Thanksgiving and all the celebrating that comes with it made November a fabulous month! No wonder I didn't have time to blog :)
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Friday, November 23, 2012

Four Thanksgivings!

What's better than a delicious turkey dinner with all the fixings? Four delicious turkey dinners with all the fixings! We celebrated our first Thanksgiving a week ago with a bunch of friends up at a cabin in the mountains. Everyone brought a tasty dish to share, and nearly twenty of us crammed into the dining room to enjoy our first Thanksgiving dinner of the year. It was a lot of fun and a great way to kick off the holiday season!
On Sunday after church, the Vander Kooi side gathered together for a grand family meal. My uncle and aunt hosted it in the awesome space above their barn (seriously, it's fantastic for parties!), and all of us were able to sit at one very long table! I wish I had a picture from this year, but here's one from a couple of years ago:
Yesterday was stuffed with more turkey, potatoes, and gravy! We headed over to Robby's parents around 10 am, and his parents, grandmother, and we had a lovely lunch together. It would have been greater had the rest of the family been able to make it, but we're looking forward to seeing them soon! The food was amazing (as usual), and I was excited to get to share a homemade pumpkin pie for the first time. Around 4 we said good-bye to the Feely's and hello to my side for more celebrating. This seems to be the one time a year all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins are able to be together, and we take advantage of that time. After a few more platefuls and lots of singing by the campfire, we finally decided it was time to head home around midnight. The fun wasn't over, though! We made a last-minute decision to stop by Target on the way home! We didn't score any good deals, but it was kind of fun to be part of the crazy Black Friday madness!
It was a great Thanksgiving, and we were reminded just how much we have to be thankful for! I hope you were able to spend it with those you love, as well!
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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy November!

I had grand plans for dressing up this year, but time got away from me, and I had to be a cat once again. I did change it up and at least was a white cat instead of a black cat. The way I am with my cat costume is how Rob is with his farmer costume. Next year, I'm starting on costumes earlier!

Happy November, all! It's nearly time for the holiday countdown! 
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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Say Cheesecake!

 We had a late birthday celebration for Roger last weekend, and although he's not much of a sweets person, Chels did say that he's a cheesecake fan. I set out to bake him a birthday cheesecake, but was much dismayed by the difficulty of some of the recipes. I stumbled across Emeril Lagasse's New York Style Cheesecake, tried it, and loved it! Seriously, it was a hit! The best part was that it was one of the easier recipes I found. This will definitely be my go-to recipe, as there are quite a few of us in my circle who can hardly pass up a piece of cheesecake covered with fresh strawberries or caramel.

If you love cheesecake, you must try this.


  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1 orange, zested
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Butter the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. In a mixing bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar and mix well. Press onto bottom of springform pan and bake until golden, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool. When completely cooled, butter the sides of the pan.
Increase oven temperature to 500 degrees F.
In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, combine cream cheese, sugar, zests and vanilla and beat until light and creamy. Add the flour, then the eggs and yolks 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the sour cream and mix until smooth. Pour mixture into prepared pan and bake for 12 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake for 1 hour more. Transfer cake to acooling rack and let cool completely. Refrigerate cake overnight before serving.
To serve, top with sauce of choice. Slice with a knife dipped in hot water and wiped with a clean cloth, and serve.
Note: The only changes I will make in the future are the following: cut back just a tad on the zest, add a dash of salt to the batter, bake the crust a bit longer so it's really firm, and bake the whole cake another hour. If you like a creamy cake, leave bake time as is, but if you like it a bit firmer, add time.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Camille's Engaged!

Last weekend was the greatest weekend ever, so prepare for exclamation points! Chels and Roger came to visit (the first time we've all been together since their wedding!), and while we were celebrating their arrival, Camille and Scott showed up with a wonderful announcement! There's going to be a wedding!!! I can't believe my baby sister is getting married. We are all thrilled and already in excited-planning mode! Pinterest, are you ready for us??
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Sunday, October 7, 2012

DC at Night

DC has this amazing characteristic of being especially beautiful at night thanks to the lit monuments everywhere. For Rob and Jeff, it was a real highlight to go out together and take pictures three of those nights. Jeff, an experienced photographer, gave Rob some great tips--as well as a loan of a tripod--and helped him produce some real beauties.
Just outside the Capitol Building...before a policeman came and told them to move! Apparently, tripods are not allowed this close to the Capitol, and one must have a permit at any rate. Oops!
Washington Monument
Look closely! That's Abraham Lincoln sitting up there.
The Capitol...after the said permit was acquired.
Another great one of the Washington Monument
The Smithsonian Castle
The Jefferson Memorial
Reflection of the Washington Monument
Jefferson Memorial...see him?
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