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Christy Catherine Marshall

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December 23, 2005

Yes! Only two more days. How are you holding out? Are you like me — running to open a blog window every now and then to let in a breath of fresh air? I know I’m not the only one. Kids and toys and presents, oh my!

Yesterday, my left arm was hurting…actually throbbing in pain — as I trudged through one last crowded, picked-over thrift-mart, carrying my baby daughter who was SO NOT interested in sitting in her infant seat. As I pushed my cart through the beaded craft kit section, I thought — I’m not going to make it. I’m so tired. Lord, can you help me get out of this store alive?

Yet I cannot TELL you how many people smiled at me, stopped to make eyes with my baby, and asked if I needed help. I thought this one man was an employee, and I asked him to get something for me — it turns out he was just shopping with his family! Later, a teen girl stepped out of her car in the parking lot and asked if I needed help. I must have looked pathetic. Maybe my aching left bicep was sticking up like a Popeye muscle or something.

We made it. So I’m in the thick of it today. And I know you are too. I wish I could THANK all those people who stopped to smile at me and help me…instead I have to just remind us all to return the favor by helping someone else out.

And to my confidential childhood friend who read my entire blog yesterday and wrote me an email as long as a book…YOU totally and completely made my day! I just have to share with you this great idea she gave me!

The best tradition we have is on Christmas morning, [my husband] rings the Christmas Bell and walks the halls proclaiming in his biggest, most important voice, “THE CHRIST CHILD IS BORN! THE CHRIST CHILD IS BORN! ARISE AND TAKE PART, THE CHRIST CHILD IS BORN!” It is a glorious way to wake up.

Isn’t that wonderful? Wouldn’t it be great if we all did that in our own homes? Then all over the world, in our different time zones, the sound of bells would make its way to our Lord in heaven as we wake up to celebrate His birth. Let’s do it!


Here’s something to cook that you can just throw into a crock pot and make your house smell delightful. It will take you five minutes max to toss it in, then it can simmer while you start wrapping finish wrapping presents. It tastes great with a spoonful of vanilla ice cream on the side.

I adapted this from Table Talk by Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagerborg — great book! (And I met Mary Beth recently — she works with MOPS now.)

Crock Pot Apple Crisp

4-6 medium-sized apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp. cinnamon (I go a bit heavier than that — it smells so good.)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 cups granola cereal (I used the kind with raisins in it.)
1 cup water

Place apples in crock pot and mix in remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours or on high 2-3 hours. Serve with milk or ice cream. Serves a bunch of kids and a tired husband.


This site is making its way around, but I’ll pass it along to you, in case you’ve missed it. Our whole family loves these pictures — they might be good party entertainment. Go straight to the bunny page and look at that bunny nipping at that cookie. You will be on CUTE OVERLOAD!!

Well, I’ll be out of my blog until Tuesday — when I’ll be having major withdrawal symptoms — so here’s my LAST chance to wish you and your family:

Thanks for stopping in to read. God bless you!!

By: Heather Ivester in: Parenting | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

December 22, 2005

I read this recipe yesterday, and it looks so delicious and easy I can’t wait to try it out. Plus, nothing beats the taste of peppermint and chocolate mixed together. I also love the way this recipe is written. Doesn’t it sound like fun?

I got this from Writer’s Weekly. (Do you receive this newsletter? It’s great — full of ideas and job postings.)

Angie and Ali’s Peppermint Bark

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 bag white chocolate chips
Lots of candy canes

Melt semi-sweet chocolate chips on medium heat in the microwave for about 3 minutes; stir often.

Spread the melted goo, about 1/4-inch thick, on waxed paper, and put it in the freezer.

Melt white chocolate chips the same way, but don’t put in freezer yet.

Once the mixture in the freezer is hard enough, spread the white chocolate mixture on top of the hardened semi-sweet mixture. If you do this too early, the white chocolate will start to melt the dark chocolate.

Put candy canes in a Ziploc bag and smash them. The kids love doing this with a hammer but the broken candy canes can make holes in the bag and make a big mess, so be careful.

Sprinkle the candy canes generously on top of the melted white chocolate. Push them into the white chocolate (gets messy, but just lick your hands afterward) so they’ll stay there after the candy hardens.

Put the pan back into the freezer. Once the candy hardens throughout, peel the waxed paper from the bottom and break into pieces.

Serves: Two families…but only for about a day. It’s pretty yummy!

By: Heather Ivester in: Cooking & Recipes | Permalink | Comments Off on Peppermint Bark Recipe

OK — I’ll do it.

I’ve been tagged for the Seven Sevens by Carmen and Mary, who were both inspired by B.J. Hoff’s Grace Notes. I’ve put it off because everybody else seems to have such witty, creative answers. But that’s prideful. I’ll just be honest — so here goes!

Seven Things to Do Before I Die:

1. Go visit all the continents of the world with my husband and children — and worship with people who live there — yes, I’m dreaming big! (Which is why I love to travel through books.)

Specifically, I want to visit the largest church in the world in Seoul, Korea (700,000 members), walk on the Great Wall of China, see Michelangelo’s artwork in the Sistine Chapel in Rome, hear the sound of Victoria Falls in Africa that David Livingstone wrote about, climb Mt. Ranier (I’ve listened to a sermon tape about Mt. Ranier dozens of times), ride through a canal in Venice, show my children where my husband proposed to me on a mountain in Japan — and let’s also toss in Shakespeare’s house in England, tulips in the Netherlands, pyramids in Egypt, and the Holy Lands — oh, I want to see Mount Carmel where Elijah saw the miracle of fire coming down from heaven! And the places where Jesus walked. I LOVE hearing Eva Marie Everson tell the story of her Falling into the Bible — she says this:

Something happens to you when you’re there. You hear God’s heartbeat … you feel His breath. You know beyond all other knowledge that you’ve been called home … and have arrived.

2. Go live on an island with my family for at least several months, watching the kids explore along the beach, and write, write, write!

3. Watch my children grow up, be strong in their Christian faith, and marry wonderful people who also love Jesus and will make them happy (and give me lots of grandchildren! Ooh…I feel older already just writing that.)

4. Get all my scrapbooks and the kids’ babybooks caught up and make each child a book that tells their life story from my point of view. (Don’t even ASK how far behind I am…)

5. Publish something that changes someone’s life — and find out about it!

6. Tour all around the United States in an RV like Lisa Whelchel did during her Family Dream book tour. This would be the funnest thing! Go visit all those people we send Christmas cards to but never get to see. And homeschool our kids from the RV so they can document their journey.

7. Ride a horse on the beach somewhere with my family — where we can see mountains in the background.

Seven Things I Cannot Do:

I cannot…
1. Go for a whole day without reading or writing.
2. Bake bread without my timer on — or I’ll get distracted until I smell smoke.
3. Watch TV without getting bored, unless I’m also doing something else, like cooking or reading.
4. Fathom why anybody plays Solitaire on the computer — I just don’t get it! There are too many blogs to read if I have a spare minute — which is never!
5. Get our family dressed and out the door to church on time.
6. Say I’m sorry and admit I was wrong without help from the Holy Spirit.
7. Snow ski. I’ve done it twice — in North Carolina and Japan — and both times it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and my legs will not do what they’re supposed to do so I can slow down or stop. So I didn’t slow down or stop when I wanted to — and ended up in a crumpled heap at the bottom of the mountain.

Seven Things I Admire About My Husband:

1. He loves to read. And he gets me to read stuff that I would never have read on my own, and it’s usually way over my head — but he tries to get me to understand.
2. He’s the smartest person I know, but also the most humble.
3. He’s known me since I was 8, and still loves me!
4. He listens to me talk — a lot — even when I ramble on and on, and his “ears are full.” And he’s even learned to make appropriate comments such as “Oh, that’s a good idea” when it looks like I won’t ever stop.
5. He’s a great father and reads out loud every night to our kids.
6. He always has cool ideas about the Bible or about what God is teaching him.
7. He helps me on the computer and stays calm when I say, “I think it’s LOST forever!”

Seven Things I Say Most Often:

1. Has anybody seen my scotch tape?
2. Time to go! On y va! Ikimasho!
3. Y’all come eat!
4. Who did this?
5. How was your day?
6. I love you.
7. Please, Lord. Help me to [do all those things I can’t do on my own.]

Seven Books and Series I Love:

1. Anne of Green Gables series
2. Little Women
3. Anything Shakespeare (plays and sonnets)
4. The Chronicles of Narnia
5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
6. A Wrinkle in Time
7. The Bible, of course.
(And I’ve run out of room for Catherine Marshall’s books — and I also can’t read Frog and Toad books without laughing every time!)

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again:

1. The Sound of Music
2. The Breakfast Club
3. Swiss Family Robinson
4. South Pacific (love the song, “One Enchanted Evening.”)
5. Hamlet (with Mel Gibson)
6. Gone With the Wind (of course!)
7. My new favorite that I want to see again: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!

Seven People I Want to Join in Too:

1. Sally
2. Kara
3. Stacy
4. Lanier
5. Lorna
6. Jenny
7. Terry
(and you, the reader.)

By: Heather Ivester in: Blogging | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

December 21, 2005

If you’ve entered my blog today, the Wednesday before Christmas, then I’ve got a real treat for you. And it’s not here! There’s a party going on right now over at Two Talent Living’s Carnival of Beauty — and you’re invited. Sallie’s topic this week, “The Beauty of Tradition” elicited responses from 15 lady bloggers — and I have been blessed from head to toe reading some of these.

And here’s something I’ve already learned. From Iris at her “Sting My Heart” blog, she wrote a beautiful submission for the carnival, as well as another on celebrating Weihnachten in Germany. She did some research on the origins of Santa and sent me to this article, Saint Nicholas and the Origin of Santa Claus, where I read something I’d never heard:

But it was in the 1930s that the now-familiar American Santa image solidified. Haddon Sundblom began thirty-five years of Coca-Cola Santa advertisements which finally established Santa as an icon of contemporary commercial culture. This Santa was life-sized, jolly, and wearing the now familiar red suit. He appeared in magazines, on billboards, and shop counters encouraging Americans to see Coke as the solution to “a thirst for all seasons.” By the 1950s Santa was turning up everywhere as a benign source of beneficence. This commercial success has led to the North American Santa Claus being exported around the world where he threatens to overcome the European St. Nicholas, who has retained his identity as a Christian bishop and saint.

Another site says this is an urban legend — but still — it’s given me something to ponder.

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

December 20, 2005

What can I write about “The Beauty of Tradition?” The first thing that comes to mind is the song, Blest Be the Tie That Binds that I sang every Sunday all through my childhood:

Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.

The tie that binds our hearts throughout the Christmas season is tradition. We celebrate in certain ways during our growing-up years, and then as adults we try to continue these traditions or start something different. For many of us, marriage presents a new challenge, as we blend our own memories and customs with those of our spouse.

It’s easy for some couples to do this, but for others it can cause stress and anxiety, to say the least. The most important thing we can do is to pray and seek God’s will for our own family. This may involve letting go of some activities and clearing the way for new ones.

I’ve blogged about Christmas traditions in several of my posts this month: how we celebrate Advent using a calendar, “Adorenaments,” and daily readings — but I’ve been surprised that the most frequently viewed post of mine has been the family Christmas newsletter. It’s been interesting to see what key words people type in to end up at that post. I have to thank my dad for that — his annual newsletter is a tradition that’s deeply ingrained within me. Some people are annoyed by them; I’m thrilled to read other people’s news.

In our home, one tradition we’ve given serious consideration is what to teach our children about Santa Claus. On Christmas mornings of our respective childhoods, we both woke up to a vast sea of toys! We’d count the minutes until 7 am, then run to the den with our siblings and bask in the thrill of everything our hearts desired. Santa had come!

That’s the way it was in most homes in the 70s. Everybody celebrated Santa. We sang “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and left out plates of cookies and milk. It was fun! It was our American tradition!

But something happened to our hearts when our oldest son was not quite four years old. That Christmas, he started asking us detailed questions. “Daddy, is Santa Claus real? How does he come down the chimney? Can robbers come in our house that way too? How does he get to everybody’s house in one night? How does he know what I want?” And then the clincher, “Daddy, is Jesus real?”

Our hearts froze. We’d always been extremely honest with our intelligent little boy. As a scientist, my husband could actually answer our son’s questions about why the sky was blue and how plants grew. But here — we began to feel convicted in our hearts that we were not being truthful to our son if we told him Jesus was real, and Santa was too.

Now I’m not judging anyone by what they choose to celebrate — you do what you feel is best for your family! But with our children, we don’t make a big deal of it — and when they ask, we say that Santa is a wonderful story, just like Cinderella and Treasure Island — but the story of the birth of Jesus is the only true story. We tell them that Santa is a fun game that people play, and let’s don’t spoil it for other children who play this game. (And we do read them the story of the real St. Nicholas.)

I remember the first year we experienced Christmas when we had two toddlers — as they opened their gifts, they’d run over and put their arms around our necks and say, “Thank you, Daddy! Thank you, Mama!” But if the gifts had been from “Santa,” who would they have thanked? And what do you say to children who don’t get everything on their lists? Those tiny white lies must continue: Sorry, Santa had to pick only a few toys for each child. In our case, we’ve always lived on one income — and for many years, in graduate school — so the answer is, “Daddy works very hard for the money to buy you those presents.”

So — that’s how we started a different tradition with our children. I’d love to hear back from you whether you agree or disagree with me. I’m always seeking to improve the atmosphere of our home and to keep the focus on the birth of Christ. Last night at dinner, we were thinking of some new things we’d like to do this year as a family…so I’ll be browsing through Two Talent Living this week for good ideas!

What’s most important is that the ties of tradition bind us closer to the hearts of each other and to Christ, as we celebrate the joy of His birth. May He fill your homes with love this Christmas!

By: Heather Ivester in: Writing | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

I wanted to let you know that the Weblog Awards made the official announcement yesterday, and the winner in the Best Design category goes to LJC FYI — which stands for “Little Jenny C, For Your Information.” Congratulations, Jenny! (Check out this page — it’s too cute!)

I’ve browsed through her blog a few times, and I’ve definitely become a fan. I hope you’ll go visit too! She’s been blogging since September 2000 — that’s over five years! I didn’t even know what a blog was until sometime last year — so I find Jenny’s site inspiring. She updates daily with fun projects and creative ideas — and she’s very artistic! I can’t wait to read more about her summer garden. (And she has adorable pets too.)

There are over 23 million blogs out there, but I read yesterday that many of them are abandoned; the average length for a blog is six months. Interesting…I’ve been blogging for almost three months now, and I feel like I’m just getting started — but who knows?

So I wanted to say thanks again to those who voted for me — my blog came in 6th out of 15 finalists. It was fun to watch my visitor stats go way up for a few days — though I’m hoping some of my new visitors will stick around and keep reading. One day the top two winners in my category posted their visitor stats — I was in awe! They have over 2500 visitors a day! Well, I’ve passed that mark this month — but it’s only because of the contest.

I’m glad to have a blogging mentor now. If you’re a blogger, do you have one? What’s your purpose for blogging? Does it matter to you how many visitors you have? If so, how can you increase your number of visitors? It’s worth your time to write out some goals for the coming year.

Yesterday, Stacy at Mind & Media posted a nice review of what she’s accomplished with her blog this year. If you’re interested in Christian book publishing, you’ll definitely want to go check out her post.

By: Heather Ivester in: Blogging | Permalink | Comments Off on Congrats to Little Jenny C.

December 19, 2005

I read a great post the other day that I wanted to link to so I can remember to read it again when I have more time. Lisa wrote about an experience she had during her first month as a nurse, A 36-Hour Day. Thought-provoking, to say the least. Her writing made me feel like I was there — experiencing the stress and worries along with her. She also made me appreciate what nurses go through. Here’s part of her blog entry:

I guess tonight it dawned on me that this will be the first Christmas in 15 years that I’m not spending with a live pager on my hip with the very likely possibility of having to be called away from my own family on Christmas day to go help someone else’s family….or fill in when the nursing staff is so short staffed they simply can’t cope.

The last 5 years – I spent working in home hospice. I wore a pager all the time… 24/7. I’d be afraid to go to sleep at night..worried that 30 minutes after falling asleep, my pager would go off and I’d have to get up, get dressed and drive for an hour to help a patient who was in intractable pain… or help a family member deal with the death of their loved one in the middle of the night. Usually, it was the nights that I talked myself into actually going to sleep..tell myself that the pager would be kind – – those were the night the pager would definitely go off.

I will actually be able to spend this Christmas with my family without the worry of being called away. The first time in 15 years.

Well, I hope you have the best Christmas ever, Lisa!

While I’ve been caught up in the whirl of parties and to-do lists, I forget that many people will either be patients or staff in a hospital over the holidays. If you’re around any nurses this week, take a moment and tell them how much they’re appreciated. Even a smile can make a difference in whether someone has a good day or not.

I have several friends who are nurses — and they always amaze me. I don’t see how they do it — they work long shifts at weird hours, with little sleep. Then when they get off work, they go back to their other full-time jobs as wives, moms, students, etc.

So, this is my tribute to all the nurses who work throughout the Christmas season, without a break — thanks for all you do!

On a different note — since we all know that laughter reduces stress, here are a couple of links that made me chuckle:

Not every child is happy to see Santa

Nothing says Happy Holidays like a photo of sweet little toddlers screaming at Santa. The first 25 photos in this gallery are from the Chicago Tribune’s “Scared of Santa” contest. All the rest of the photos were submitted by readers. Enjoy!

Dave Barry’s Christmas Gift Guide

This is not your ordinary gift guide, the kind that features gifts that somebody might actually want or use. These gifts were selected because they meet a very strict criterion, which is that when we saw the item advertised, we said to ourselves: “Are they SERIOUS?”

By: Heather Ivester in: Uncategorized | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

December 17, 2005

I went to see the Nutcracker last week — and it was truly magical. Have you seen it before? The older I get, the more I love it. My favorite performance this time was “The Chinese Dance.” The bright red costumes, music and choreography were simply divine. You can listen to Tchaikovsky’s music here.

We gave our daughters their own Nutcrackers last Christmas, and we like to turn on a CD of the Nutcracker music and let them dance. (Makes all those hours of ballet lessons worth it.) If you’ve never seen it, I hope you’ll be able to experience it in a live performance.

By: Heather Ivester in: Music | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

December 16, 2005

A couple of days ago, I was wearing a sweater that had an itchy tag in the back. It was a familiar feeling. I recognized that same annoying itch from last year. Whenever I wore it, I thought to myself — I need to cut that tag off, but I never got around to doing it.

Instead, I’d fiddle with it, tuck it down, and try to ignore the uncomfortable, raspy feel. But the other day, it just bugged me! So I decided I’d had enough. A pair of scissors and two seconds later, it was gone. I couldn’t believe how easy it was — and how much better I felt afterward!

So, of course then I had to dash for a piece of paper to jot down “FlyLady — Itchy tag stuff.” Because I’ve realized that’s what FlyLady’s emails are all about. She reminds you every day of those “itchy tag” things that are bothering you, but you keep putting off doing.

If you keep reading day after day, you finally decide, “OK! Enough is enough.” So you grab a trash bag and start flinging in 27 things that you’re sick of looking at. It’s fun because it’s 27, and you know other souls have gone before you 27-fling-boogie-ing their way to peace and order.

Another “itchy tag” is using my crock pot, which FlyLady calls a “Secret Weapon.” You’ve got to get it going in the morning or right after lunch when dinner is still hours away. Just do it — stick something in there and let it simmer all day while you’re doing something else that consumes your time. Then you’ll know dinner is already in the works. (We made pinto beans in it yesterday.)

The last thing I’ve picked up this week from FlyLady is to use a timer ALL the time. She suggests using it whenever you’re doing something you love to do — like homeschooling your kids, reading a book, working on a craft project, sitting at the computer, etc. — you do that fun thing for 45 min., then when the timer goes off, go do something that’s not too fun for 15 minutes. It will help your kids to stay on track too.

I think I remember that as being one of Terri Maxwell’s secrets — homeschooling mom of 8 — she used a timer all the time, and divided her day into 30-minute increments. She assigned one-on-one time with her kids that way — and she also got a ton of sewing projects done, little by little, working a half-hour a day.

Found this cute picture to remind you of the itchy tag. I hope you get something “itchy” done today!

December 15, 2005

Dai Yorokobi. Is that how you say it? Big joy. Great joy. Maybe I made this up, but this is what I’m feeling today.

Our mail carrier delivered us a wonderful package of rice cakes from my friend Yoko in Japan. I haven’t seen her in over ten years, and yet she’s never forgotten to send me something special for Christmas.

This year we’ve exchanged email addresses — so I can thank her right away. And she’s been reading my blog — so maybe she already knows I got her package. Domo arigato gozaimasu! Totemo oishikatta desu! I can’t imagine how long it must take for her to write me in English — I sure could not write in Japanese without spending hours with a dictionary.

I don’t know if I have the right word for these — I say they’re Japanese rice cakes — senbei. But there may be another special term for them since they’re so exquisitely wrapped. (Almost like this picture, though they’re wrapped in lavender floral paper.)

Each individual package contains about 6 small rice cakes; some have nori (seaweed) wrapped around them, and others have different flavors. We all enjoyed them, and I taught my kids to say, Kore wa oishii desu, which means “this is delicious.”

Last week I received an enthustiastic email from a high school student who is head over heels in love with Japan. She’s trying to figure out how she can go there, and she’d love a pen pal to correspond with. Are any of my Nihonjin readers interested in corresponding with an American high school student? Please comment or email me. Here’s a little bit of her message to me:

My plan is to be there for a semester next year (my junior year). I know I am young and I haven’t been away from home much, but this is my dream…I hope to get a job soon and then I will spend the rest of my time studying this language and culture. Do you know of any families in Japan that are looking for a penpal?

How exciting! More dai yorokobi. There’s nothing better to do while you’re young and in high school than to get away from the stifling peer pressure and do something DIFFERENT. When I was her age, I was so caught up in petty, boring things — like what to wear on the weekends — when LIFE in the real exciting world was passing me by. I didn’t know anything existed beyond the walls of my high school. So this student is WAY ahead — and I’m thrilled that she shared her dreams with me.

Here’s something to memorize — from my Japanese Bible:

Itsumo yorokonde inasai. Taezu inori nasai. Subete no koto ni tsuite kansha shinasai.
(If my romaji spelling is wrong, it’s been a while — sorry.)

“Be joyful always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a.

P.S. Thanks to those of you who have faithfully kept voting for me during this 10-day Weblog Awards polling. Today’s the last day you can vote.

By: Heather Ivester in: Japan | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)