Thursday, December 24, 2015

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through our home
not a creature was stirring, not even a gnome; 

The stockings were hung by the staircase with care, 
in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; 

And Paul and Melissa were all snug in their bed; 
Yet Abigail (down the hall) could find no rest for her head; 
She knew Quinn and Emily would be sleeping next door,
and Laura in her home, would be all a-snore.

Yet she could not sleep, there was something amiss,
so she got out of her bed, her fears to dismiss. 

When out in the yard there arose such a clatter, 
She sprang to the window to see what was the matter. 

The moon and the stars shown bright on new snow,
the faint rays of morning would soon be aglow.

Yet what was that she spied by the bare flower bed?
Could it be that this vision was all in her head?

For what to her beautiful blue eyes did appear
but a big, bright red sleigh and eight reindeer!
And there standing tall in the white snow so thick,
was someone Abby knew well, it was jolly Saint Nic!
But he didn’t look jolly, oh no he did not,
and his reindeer weren’t happy, they were rather distraught.

So throwing on slippers and grabbing a shawl,
Abby snuck out of her room and tiptoed down the hall.
And reaching the backdoor she opened it wide,
and stood on the edge of the porch there outside.

And low and behold she heard Saint Nic say:
“But it was only one bear, come out Christmas day.
He wouldn’t harm you, not on business like yours."
But the reindeer weren’t happy, they sat down on all fours.

And Abby said quietly, giving Saint Nic a shock,
“But it’s almost Christmas, it’s now five o’clock!
Please reindeer you must hurry, there’s no time to waste!”
Meanwhile Saint Nic had started to pace.

“My dear Abigail, they got a fright and a scare!
While flying over Juneau they spotted a bear."
And then Abby answered with a knowing nod,
“Yes bears can be scary, they are hairy...and clawed.
But a bear-bell will help them know you are there,
and they’ll know that you’ve got business that demands the most care."

And with that she ran again to the door,
and off she went searching for bear-bells galore!
Once she was finished she ran back through the snow,
and she tied bear-bells to the reindeer so that they would know
that bears everywhere would hear them fly by,
and they would look up and see Saint Nick in the sky.
Those bears would think of the gifts in the sleigh 
and they would know not to bother the reindeer that day.

Saint Nic thanked Abigail from the bottom of his heart,
and then he was off with a push and a start.
And as Abby stood there in the yard as he went out of sight,
he called “Merry Christmas to you, and to you a goodnight!
And with that she sleepily went back up to her bed,
with visions of reindeer prancing through her blonde head.
And as she fell asleep came the first rays of light...

Christmas had come, thanks to Abby’s strange night.

~The End~
Written by Emily 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas for the Birds

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Matthew 6:26

After hearing this verse used in a sermon at church, it got me thinking about those sweet little birds (and our pet squirrel Elizabeth). After all, it was almost Christmas, and they should get a special something for being our feathered and furry friends... Sure, the Lord takes care of them. But maybe we could do something extra special for them in this happy Christmas season?

So one evening before Christmas, Quinn and I set to work. We gathered bird seed, and using a recipe I found here, we started making ornaments.

The recipe used corn syrup, and it made the mixture super sticky! Thankfully, it wasn't too difficult to press into our cookie cutters.

Now it was time to make the holes for hanging them!

Some colorful bendy straws made the perfect thing to make the holes. 
Now all we had to do was wait...

But we're not the type to just sit around, so we spent the rest of our evening making popcorn, cranberry, and peanut garlands. 

We were going to make some birds very, very happy!

The next morning dawned beautifully, with a cold wind blowing snow about in the meadows. With no snow or rain coming down, it was the perfect time to take a walk.

We gathered the family together and we were off down one of the forest trails near our home to find the perfect tree!

Laura followed behind us, skipping all the way:

Soon we left the main path and wandered out in the meadows and muskegs for a bit, searching around carefully.

Abigail and I each carried a basket packed with the tree trimmings Quinn and I had made the night before.

Finally, we found what we were looking for!
And adorable little hemlock tree, the perfect Christmas tree for the birds and little creatures of the meadow.

The birdseed ornaments we had made turned out wonderfully, and oh-so pretty to look at!

A twist of candy-stripped baker's twine to hang them and they were ready for the tree!

Now all that was left to do was to decorate the tree!

Everyone had a wonderful time trimming the little hemlock tree with presents for the birds, and the tree looked magical when we finished:

A very happy sight to be seen just off the trail.

Oh! But don't worry, we remembered the friends at our home too! We made something very extra special for them...

With some leftover birdseed and cranberries, we made them a yummy wreath as a Christmas present.
Our squirrel friend Elizabeth has inspected it and we think she approves!

Don't forget your feathered and furry friends this cold season, I'm sure they would all like to wake up to a birdseed wreath hanging up in your garden.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Emily's Saint Lucia's Day

If you look into the hidden recesses of piled up boxes in the Barn entryway, you will be rewarded with very old pictures of Paul, Melissa, and of course all the kids (along with some old ski or camping equipment Abigail thought was lost forever). With the date of Quinn and I's wedding drawing ever nearer, he and I had gone on an archeological expedition to find pictures of himself as a kid for a slide show we were putting together. 

This happened over a year ago, yet my mind can still see the huge boxes as they came out of hiding (from behind the sleeping bags and boxes of Alaska String Band CDs). They were full to bursting with books, cards, and envelopes full of pictures. 

 I loved looking through everything, and along the way I found some real treasures. My favorite was a photo of Laura all dolled up and looking positively unimpressed with whatever Melissa was having her do:

One Christmas, Melissa had decided Laura and the family needed to celebrate Santa Lucia Day, or Saint Lucy's Day, a very old Swedish tradition that takes place in the darkest of winter. The oldest daughter of the family got up early in the morning on the 13th of December and made saffron buns (or in Laura's case, cinnamon buns) and served them to her family wearing a white dress with a red sash and a glowing wreath of candles on her head.

In Laura's own words: "This is it. This is how I'm going to die..."

Even though she says it was the worst thing ever (and her expression in that first photo really speaks truth to that), I think her smile - and Quinn's too - show that she was having a good time. Maybe.

After seeing the adorable photo of Laura I became really interested in Saint Lucy's Day - and the little girl in me longed to dress up all pretty and serve my family cinnamon buns (I AM the eldest after all). 
I told Quinn all about how I wanted to celebrate Saint Lucy's Day, and being the wonderful husband that he is, he encouraged me to do it. I don't think he planned for me to go quite as far as I did though...

Saturday the 12th finally came and Quinn and I stayed up late into the night making saffron buns from a recipe I found. 

I had never cooked with saffron before, and I was so excited to see how the buns turned out!

While we rolled out the dough and curled it into little 'S' shapes, I told Quinn the story behind the Swedish holiday:

According to legend, Lucia brought food and supplies to Christians hiding away in catacombs. She wanted to carry as much as she could, so she wore a wreath of candles to light her way.

However, the story comes to a sad end with Lucia being martyred for her faith. With such a beautiful story of devotion to the Lord and her fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, I hope to celebrate this holiday every Christmas as a reminder that we should always put others before ourselves, and that even in the darkest of circumstances, light can always be found. 


As we finished up the last of the buns, Quinn and I got everything ready for the following morning. We didn't want a repeat of the previous Sunday, where Abigail had found out our secret Saint Nicholas plans by accident, so we planned to get up extra extra early.

Quinn might have also been re-thinking how encouraging he had been when I asked him to do something extra special for me...

You see, in Sweden not only girls dress up for Saint Lucy's Day, the boys dress up to! They're 'star boys', also lighting up the darkness.

I found this pretty painting here.

Quinn didn't seem very excited at first, but when I told him he got to wear a tall, pointy cone hat, he agreed.

Now all that was left to do was to wait till morning...

The sun hadn't come up yet when we woke up, it was still hiding behind the mountains far away. I hurriedly went down the stairs in the barn and started to get ready, while Quinn followed sleepily behind me. 

We stuck the saffron buns in the oven to warm them up, and soon we were all ready. We carefully snuck next door and Quinn tried to open the door and...

LOCKED! The door was LOCKED!

Here we were all dressed up, myself holding a tray full of hot saffron buns, and the family had locked the door! Quinn was kind and ran around the house to the back door - which thankfully- was open. 

Nothing else could go wrong...right?

Hahahahaha! You must not know me.

Quinn came around and unlocked the front door and let me in as he whispered, "Mom's sleeping on the COUCH! I'll go sneak and turn the music on, you light your head on fire!"

As it turned out, Melissa woke up super early and couldn't sleep, so she had come downstairs and cleaned the whole kitchen before laying on the couch to sleep some more. But even though it was unexpected, she still woke up with a big smile on her face when I walked through the door to the song "Santa Lucia" playing.

She was so surprised, the first thing she said was "Emily, you look like an angel!" 

Then it was off up the stairs where Paul and Abby were still snug in their beds.

Quinn and I snuck into each of their rooms and offered them saffron buns. Meanwhile, Melissa was already making hot cocoa and tea downstairs for a very scrumptious breakfast together.

But before we sat down to eat more saffron buns, Abigail was kind enough to take some pictures of us out in the morning sunshine...

Quinn's robes I had made from two sheets, and the dress I wore was a vintage wedding dress found at a local thrift store for $20. I had made my candle wreath back in September - I had been so excited for Saint Lucy's Day even then! 

Back inside around the table we read the Christmas story from the Bible and drank our hot cocoa. Quinn put a sheet over his head to show just how tired he really was.

"Next year," Abigail said to me, "I want to help you and dress up too!"

We had such a fun morning, even if it didn't go quite as we had planned. And I think we have a new tradition in our family, and maybe next year Laura will be Saint Lucia instead of me.

~The End~

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Secret Saint Nicholas

When we first arrived back home, Quinn was sad to see there was no snow on the ground. He had been constantly watching our local ski area's webcams, waiting and hoping for the skiing he would do this winter.

Though there wasn't any snow, we quickly busied ourselves with unpacking our two huge suitcases from our travels and it was finally time to start decorating for Christmas!

When we first moved into the barn, there were icicle style christmas lights on it from ten years prior! 

Because of the painful memories Quinn had of taking them down, we hadn't yet put lights of our own up. 

This was the year to change that!

Quinn did a wonderful job putting lights up, and we'll be sure to take them down once the season is over (because leaving your Christmas lights up ALL YEAR ROUND is a huge no-no).

While on tour, I had plenty of time to dream up Christmasy things to do while home. Maybe I day dreamed a little too much...because I've kept Quinn pretty busy with all the ideas I've had.
My first idea came from the old tales of Saint Nicholas when he would come to good children and fill their clogs or slippers with treats. Saint Nicholas day fell on the first Sunday we were back in town, December 6th. And Quinn and I were prepared to spread some Christmas cheer in Saint Nicholas' honor...

We woke up extra early on Sunday morning, thinking that Abigail and Melissa (who were the only ones home) would still be fast asleep. Imagine our surprise when, as we were sneaking up to their front door, Abby opens it and wishes us a good morning! 

There we stood. 

Our arms filled with treats and surprises for her. 


Needless to say we quickly tried to hide everything and asked her to go back inside and we would come get her in a bit.
She was rather confused (and I'm sure surprised by the bags of slippers and candy in our hands), but she was kind and left us to our now not-so-secret work.

Together, Quinn and I set out the slippers we had picked out for each person and filled them with candy canes, oranges, nuts, caramels  and pomegranates.

Abigail and Laura got the most exciting pairs of slippers, with Abby getting puppy dog ones and Laura getting pink piggies! 

We set a little note from Saint Nicholas in front of each pair of slippers. All that was left now was to go get the good children (or in this case, good mom and sister). 

I think they were a little bit surprised!

Mom and Abby were so excited to find a pair of slippers from Saint Nicholas just for them by the front door. And I was so happy that Quinn and I had gotten up early and surprised them. 

As we later found out, they were just about to leave for the early service at their church (something Quinn and I had not taken into account).

Even though Abigail caught us in the act of our secret plans, she still said that she was very surprised. 

And really, that's what we had hoped for...

Little did they know that I had other things in mind for more secret Christmas things!