Friday, December 31, 2010

A treat for our neighbors

Another gift I made for Christmas was some of this home made candy....

I knew that the neighbors would enjoy receiving a package of these on Christmas Eve, so I set out to make them. You can see that there's chocolate on the tops of them, but do you know what else makes them unique?

When you turn the pieces over, you can see what the bottom layer is....

...yup--saltine crackers! The middle layer is a mix of brown sugar and butter, which makes it taste like toffee. It is delicious! I was so glad to have found the recipe here, from Money Saving Mom. She found them in a book and they are called, "crookies", but she has renamed them, "World's easiest Christmas candy." Yes, they are sooo easy--and addicting, too!

I found some holiday treat bags to place some in. Then, I placed a label on the front and tied some ribbon at the top of each bag. Along with the bag, I left our Christmas picture card and letter. They all loved it and were appreciative of this gift. I think it's a great way to reach out to your neighbors and share the love of Christ with them.

You have to try the recipe, if you've never made anything like it. After packaging up the small gifts, I had a few pieces for Q to try. He thought they were great, and went looking for more in the freezer....but there was none left! No doubt I will be making these again in the near future.:)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter has finally arrived!

While many of you have already experienced some snow (or LOTS if you live on the east coast), we've barely had any at all...just some flurries earlier this season. It is so dry in Colorado, and we desperately need the moisture. We have seen some on the mountains, but we haven't had any come and stay in our neck of the woods. It is also such a beautiful part of winter, so I've been wanting to see it.

Well, when I got up this morning, this is what I saw:

And by late afternoon, this is what the same location (right outside our front door) looked like....

There's lots of white stuff out there and it is gorgeous! Isn't God good to give us beautiful things to enjoy? While I watched the snow fall, I took down the Christmas decorations and rearranged the snowmen figurines. It was a fun project to do inside where it was nice and warm.;)

How are you enjoying the winter season? Enjoy God's beauty--and stay warm while you're at it!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bible verse candle holder

This is a little something I put together for Q for Christmas--a candle holder with one of his favorite Bible verses on it!

I bought the votive candle holder and a set of tea lights at the Dollar Tree. Then, I used some paints I had on hand to make this simple gift. Using craft paint I already had, I painted the words to the verse found in II Corinthians 4:3 which says, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." It was tricky trying to figure out how I would get it all on there, but I did, and was able to fit in the reference, too. Using some gold glitter fabric paint, I made some swirlies all around the bottom of the glass. I used a paint brush to do this.

The verse I used made me think of another one that is also perfect for this type of craft--"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16 I think if you choose to do this verse, you may have to get a bigger candle holder.:) Both verses speak about being that "light"--a testimony to the world. I really wanted this little candle to shine brightly when lit so that my husband and others who see it can be encouraged to shine for Christ.

The gold paint really makes the fire glow and I love it! This is a simple craft idea with BIG impact, don't you think? Hope you can use this idea for your home or as a gift to someone special in your life.

Let your light shine brightly today!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Swedish Meatballs

As promised, here is the recipe for Swedish meatballs that Q used this year. He tweaked it a bit this time around, and I thought they turned out wonderful!

Don't they look great?

Swedish Meatballs

3 pounds lean ground beef
1 package Jimmy Dean sausage
1 package stuffing mix
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon sage
1/2 envelope onion soup mix

Mix all of the spices in a small bowl first. Then, mix the stuffing, oatmeal and milk together in a large bowl. Add to that bowl the beef, sausage and eggs. Finally, mix in the spices. Roll the mixture into balls, then fry them until they have browned. Place them in a pan and pour a water-flour mix into it (1/2 cup flour with enough water for a smooth consistency; this will be your gravy). Bake for an hour at 350 degrees.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Christmas weekend

Q worked for a few hours on Christmas Eve, then called me on his way home. He got off a little early and wanted to know if I wanted a salted caramel hot chocolate at Starbuck's (it's the best hot drink, by the way!:). When we arrived, they were closed, so we went to the grocery store where the Starbuck's inside was open--yahoo! After sipping our hot drinks, we started looking at movies. I thought it would be fun to watch The Nativity Story, but they didn't have it. Instead, I found a Little House on the Prairie Christmas dvd for us to watch later that night.

It is a Johnson family tradition to have Swedish meatballs on Christmas Eve, so Q finished these up while I got the rest of the meal together.

I surprised Q by putting up these citrus lights (I think his parents gave them to us for fun a while back). He'd been wanting to put them up, and I said he could have these lights in the family room, so that's where I put them.:) They're not very Christmasy, but they're cute nonetheless.

After our meal, we opened up presents from other family members. Since Q's family always opened their presents on Christmas Eve, and my family did on Christmas Day, we came up with this compromise--two days of opening gifts! We open gifts for one another on Christmas morning.

After sleeping in on Christmas, I put in our brunch casseroles in the oven, and prepared some hot chocolate. Q read the Christmas story then we began opening our presents. I bought Q some fun fishing things, a book, and a wallet. I also painted something for him, too, but you will have to wait to see what I did in another post. Along with a few clothing items, Q got me a wonderful and meaningful that will become more special as time goes on....

It's a pandora bracelet! He actually took me to the mall a few days before Christmas to pick it out. He had it gift-wrapped and wouldn't even let me look at the booklet that showed all of the charms in it until Christmas Day!;) He picked out the "J" for Johnson to get this bracelet started. I can't wait to fill it up with charms that represent other things I love...Q, music, and our future children.

How was your Christmas? Hope it was wonderful! Stay tuned for the Swedish Meatball recipe, and other fun things that I made for gifts this year.:)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from our house to yours....

Just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas from me and Q!

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." Luke 2:11

I came across this video recently, and I just had to share it with you all. It's the "Hallelujah Chorus", which is one of my most favorite songs of the season. I thought it would have been neat to be a part of this flash mob...maybe someday! What struck me was the fact that it was this song and not a secular Christmas tune. What an awesome thing to proclaim "For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" in front of so many people. Enjoy and sing along!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

"My Spirit Rejoices" Christmas concert

It's been almost two weeks since the Longmont Chorale Christmas concert, so it's about time I told you about it. ;) I thought that I could figure out how to download the video of my solo, but even with Q's help, we're having a hard time. We're still trying to figure out the new camera, so at least I can use it for pictures in the meantime. Hopefully, I'll be able to share that video with you some time in the near future.

The concert went really well. It was longer than the last one, but we made it through. My solo was the second number for the chorale. I didn't think Q was going to make it, but he did just in time. When we went down for the intermission, I walked down the side aisle, and he reached over at me and said, "You did a great job!" It encouraged my heart so much. He brought one of the people he works for so I had a few seconds to chat with him, too.

I was thankful that the Lord helped me through the solo, as I had not been feeling well that week. It turns out that I had infection I didn't suspect I had until the night of the concert. I went to the doctor on Monday morning for some antibiotics and that helped so much.

I had lots of encouragement from the director, other chorale members and folks in the audience. Being one of the soloists has opened doors in different ways. People have asked if I have had training and if I'd be willing to teach them (yes and yes:). Conversations also turn to my being a Christian and that I sing a lot in my church. It's neat how the Lord is using this one opportunity for me to build relationships with many people.

The first half of the program included contemplative songs, like a few renditions of "Ave Maria." We also sang, "Angels we have heard on High" and the small group sang, "Still, Still, Still." I was glad to sing songs about the real meaning of Christmas.

The second half of the program had more fun songs like, "Out on the Housetop," and "Mary's Boy Chile." By the time we were done, we were so tired, but glad that everything went well. I had a lot of fun and can't wait until the next concert. God continues to give me opportunities to witness for Him and to establish new friendships.

God is good! He is the reason we celebrate the season.:)

A Christmas Carol

It's been very busy around here lately, so I was glad to hear that Q had something special planned for us to do this week. Early Tuesday afternoon we headed to the Denver Center for the Performing Arts to see a classic theatrical show....

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was fantastic! We loved every minute of it. The music was awesome, the costumes were outstanding (it seemed like the costume designer likes ruffles because many of the ladies had them on their dresses), and the actors were great. The boy who played "Tiny Tim" was the cutest kid you've ever seen. He's on the front cover of the playbill; take a look...

The show was enjoyable and a great way to relax. Because we couldn't take a picture inside the theater, Q snapped this one of us in the lobby...

We took a long walk down 16th street mall. When I saw Bath and Body Works, we just needed to go in.;) We bought their Twisted Peppermint hand soap and a couple of small lotions. Their big sale is right after Christmas, so I may go back and stock up on a couple of things. I love the smell of the peppermint lotion because it is refreshing. That might be at the top of my list.

For dinner, we went to The Cheesecake Factory. It's our favorite spot for special occasions. We had our favorite appetizer--sweet corn tamale cakes (thanks to my brother-in-law, Jesse, for getting us hooked!;). I had a plate of farfalle pasta with creamy garlic sauce. It also had bits of bacon and peas--so delicious!

Q had this chopped steak with green beans and mashed potatoes. We couldn't finish everything on our plates, so we bought a slice of tuxedo cheesecake to take home with us. When we got home, we put in a movie and enjoyed our dessert.

Thanks, Q, for a wonderful date! I had a great time with you. I love you!:)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Church Christmas Celebration: food and fun!

Now that you've seen all of the decorations for our Christmas party, I thought I'd share a bit about the fun we had that night....

The table was filled with side dishes and desserts. Q provided the meat--sliced ham and turkey. Of course, there was so much food, but we enjoyed it all, especially the scrumptious desserts.

After singing some carols, we played some games. The first one was a news trivia game. Q had three of the members come up to the stage area. He asked questions about world events that happened this year. After a few rounds, Janis came out the winner. She won a two-jar pack of Nutella--yum! We also played a Christmas trivia game which involved the people at the table you were sitting at.

Then came the game that got everyone laughing and having a good time. We had to make a nativity out of playdoh. The more realistic, creative and characters we had, the more points we scored.

My team got second place with this creation. We had Mary, Joseph, Jesus, an angel, shepherd and a couple of animals. I thought it looked so cute!

On my team were Frankie and Sophia. I really like this picture of them, so I had to include it here. I'm glad they are a part of our church. They're such great kids, too.

At the end of our time together, we sang a couple more carols. Then, Q gave a short devotional, making us contemplate the real meaning of Christmas even more.

Well, that's all with our Christmas party! Hope you are rejoicing on the birth of our Savior in your corner of the world.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Church Christmas Celebration: the decorations

In preparation for our Christmas party, I invited the Sunday School girls to help me on Friday night. Sophia was the only one who could make it, so it ended up being just her, the other Sunday School teacher, Zann, Mary and I to do this. It turned out well and we got done in just a couple of hours.

I bought several packages of these styrofoam snowflakes at the Dollar Tree. I was glad I picked them up early, because they sold fast! We hung them up randomly on the ceiling using fishing line and paper clips to tuck them into the tiles.

I had a few of these card houses that I made last year, so I taught them how to make some more. We placed battery-operated tea light candles inside each one. These were another dollar store purchase. We also placed some fiberfill and sparkly garland around each house. A snowman sat in front of each one as well.

Each row of tables was adorned with four of these card houses. But before placing them on the table, Zann and I sponge painted snowflakes randomly all over on the paper tablecloth I put on them.

Mary and Sophia decorated this little tree on this table which became our gift exchange area. When people arrived, they placed their gifts around the tree and on the floor in front of the table.

Everyone loved our winter wonderland and we enjoyed putting it together for the party.

Next and games at our Christmas party! Stay tuned....

Andes Mint Cookies

If you have not tried these cookies, you just have to this week! They'll be the perfect Christmas treat for everyone in your family. I found the recipe here, and I'm so glad I did. I made them for our church's Christmas party last night and they were a big hit.:)

Andes Mint Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 (12 ounce) package of chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk)
2 eggs
2-1/2 cups flour
1-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 bag or 2 boxes of Andes Mint candies

Melt butter, brown sugar, water, and chocolate chips slowly in a pan. Pour into mixing bowl and add eggs, flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix together well. Refrigerated dough for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees after refrigerating dough. Line cookie sheet with foil and place dough in round spoonfuls. Bake for 8-12 minutes (depending on your oven and if you like them a bit gooey!). Immediately after removing from the oven, place and Andes Mint on each cookie. Allow it to melt for a minute or so, then spread the mint over the top of each cookie with a knife.

Enjoy! (You will not stop at one, I guarantee it!)

Next up...our church's Christmas celebration!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Winter story time

Last week, I did my winter story time with the kids at the preschool. I had a lot of fun planning it, but I must say, that I wish I could have done a real Christmas-theme for them. We are not allowed to share the Nativity story (and too much Santa) with the preschool kids. All in all, it went very well and the kids really enjoyed it.

After singing the "Hello" song, I pulled out my new friend, Mr. Bear:

He's all dressed for winter and was shivering when he came out of my bag. By the end of the time, he was warming up and enjoyed receiving hugs from the kids.

The first book I read was called The Snow Tree by Caroline Repchuck. Bear and his friends decorate a tree using items found in nature. It is beautifully illustrated and the story teaches colors and a lesson in pulling together as a team to get a great result.

Then I read the following poem and had the kids pretend to stomp on the ice while I read it a second time:

"Ice" by Dorothy Aldis

When it is winter time
I run up the street
And make the ice laugh
With my little feet--
"crickle, crackle, crickle
crrreeet, crrreet, crrreeet."

The next book I read was called Inside, Outside Christmas, by Robin Spowart. It showed pictures of mice doing different Christmas activities, and it had pairs of rhyming words throughout.

I read a poem called, "Christmas Gifts" by Betty Cooke. It goes well with the next activity I did with the kids.

Some packages are lovely
With fancy bow and tie;
The paper looks so glossy
It captivates the eye.

It's not the pretty ribbon
or cover bright and bold,
But the spirit of the giver
Hidden in the fold.

Wrap a little of yourself
And tie it with a smile,
Fill it full of warmth and love
And give a gift worthwhile!

I decorated this tissue box with a bow and some Christmas figures (gift tags). Inside, I placed a few pieces of papers that said things like, "Color a pretty picture and give it to someone you love" or "Bake some cookies for a neighbor." I had children pull them out and I read them. They were just simple gift ideas that they could do as a three or four-year-old with some help from home.

The last book I read is called, Cookie Count, by Robert Sabuda. It is a fantastic pop-up book! Each page shows a different type of cookie that can be counted. It begins with one chocolate chip cookie and ends with ten windows for hiding--inside the gingerbread house! I think this was the favorite book of them all.

I made a cookie matching game to play at the end of our time together. I made chocolate chip cookies using felt, then backed them with magnets. Then, I placed six different holiday shapes (two of each kind) on a small cookie sheet and put the cookies on top of them. The shapes were gift tags I bought at the dollar store. I had the kids take turns making matches. We had a lot of fun playing this game together.

I took Mr. Bear back out of the bag to sing our good-bye song. It was hard to leave, but we'll be back in January for more reading fun!

Hope this gives you some ideas for some holiday fun! Merry Christmas.:)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Uncle Neil's Christmas card

Christmas cards have been arriving for several days now, while I'm still trying to finish up ours (oh well....they should be done in a day or so)! One particular card that we receive each year comes from Q's Uncle Neil. He draws a country scene, has it copied, and then mails out his creation to friends and family. He has been doing this for about ten years, blessing others with his gift.

What impresses me so much is the spirit in which he does this. You see, Uncle Neil and most of his siblings (including my mother-in-law) acquired polio as children and teens. They had to learn how to deal with the affects of the disease through out life.

I met Uncle Neil a couple of years ago in Wisconsin. He lives in a nursing home and manages to keep busy tending to a garden and drawing. He has an incredible spirit about him that is contagious. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to get to know him a bit.

Here is his card that we recently got in the mail. Isn't it just great?

Thank you, Uncle Neil for your beautiful creations. We are encouraged by your wonderful spirit. Keep on keeping on!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup

Three years ago, I went into the ER with appendicitis. A few hours later, I was in surgery. I suffered from an infection after that, and it was such a hard thing to deal with. The Lord helped me through it in so many ways, including the people He sent to help me. There were a couple of ladies who just came over to stay with me (and they also helped with dishes, laundry, etc.). Then, there were some who volunteered to bring a meal (sometimes including dessert!;) for me and Q. It was such a blessing!

Yesterday, one of the ladies in our church had surgery. She was able to go home in the afternoon. Q asked people in our church if they would be willing to take a meal over to her and her husband this week. I had the first day, so I decided to make something that someone brought to me when I was recovering from surgery--chicken noodle soup. I bought some Goldfish crackers and made chocolate chip cookies to round out the meal.

I've made this recipe once before and it is delicious! After making this big batch, I kept some for us to have tonight. I have been sick these last few days, so it sure hit the spot. So whether your family is trying to get well from sickness, or you need a meal to take to someone in need, this is a great recipe to try. Enjoy!

Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup (source unknown)

2 cans condensed creamy chicken mushroom soup (10-3/4 ounce)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 package frozen mixed vegetables (9-10 ounce package)
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper or garlic-pepper seasoning
1-1/2 cups dried egg noodles

In a 3-1/2 to 4-quart slow cooker gradually stir 5 cups water into the soup. Stir or whisk until smooth. Stir in chicken, vegetables, and seasoned pepper. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours. If using low-heat setting, turn to high heat setting. Stir in noodles. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more or until noodles are just tender. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What God wants for Christmas

During a trip to my favorite thrift store in town, I found a neat tool I can use with the kids in church or with our future kids at home. It's called, "What God wants for Christmas."

It's a nativity set that is hands-on for the entire family. When you first open the box, you'll see this:

There are seven smaller boxes that are numbered. Inside six of them are characters from the nativity story (the seventh box is a surprise!). A pop-up background scene and a booklet is included. The booklet includes a page for each character (poem and Scripture references) and further ideas on how to use this ministry tool.

You can introduce each character every day during the week of Christmas. If you're using it for a Sunday School class, you can do a character or two over a few weeks--or do all of the lessons in a nutshell at a Christmas party.

I really like this special set. I'm so glad God allowed me to find it at the thrift store at a great price! It will definitely be used for many Christmases to come.

If you'd like to get a set of your own, go here and check it out! Perhaps there are some children in your life that would love something like this.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A party invitation

Last week, I mailed off a card to each of the Sunday School girls inviting them to a special party. Keeping with a wintery theme, this is what I came up with...

First, I cut a blank note card in half. I used a cotton ball to sponge paint the card to make a blue sky. Then using a small snowflake stamp, I covered the card in blue and silver snowflakes. Lastly, I wrote "Let it snow" with a black pen.

On the back side, I wrote the details about our decorating party. You see, I've invited the girls to help me decorate for our annual Christmas party which is next Sunday. When we're done, we'll enjoy some hot chocolate and cookies.

On the envelope, I stamped blue and silver snowflakes on one side. Then, off the cards went and arrived in the hands of these special gals. I hope they can all make it to the party. It will be lots of fun!

By the way, I'll keep the details of our decorating a secret for now...don't want to ruin the surprise for those of you who go to my church. ;)

Friday, December 10, 2010


Just wanted to share great news with you all....

Today we are certified foster parents!

So what does this mean? Well, it means that we completed all of the requirements for becoming foster parents in the state of Colorado. The last thing on our checklist took place yesterday with our CPR/first aid class. From the time we first met with the agency to now, it has taken us less than four months. Yes, it has gone really fast, but we are so thankful.

It also means that any time now we can get a call from the agency asking us if we would like to take in a young child. It would be awesome to have someone by Christmas, but if not, we will wait for the right child (or children) to come along. Then, as parental rights are terminated, we will pursue adoption as soon as possible and make them a part of our family.

Will you pray with us regarding the child(ren) placed in our home? Of course, we will let you all know when that happens, so stay tuned!:)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Look what I found...

...when Mary and I were going through the Christmas decorations at church:

This reindeer craft is adorable! He's made out of a colored light bulb (you know the kind that used to adorn many Christmas trees back in the 80's). Pipe cleaners were twisted to make his antlers. Then googly eyes and a pom pom nose were glued on. I suppose you can hot glue a magnet on the back side of him and stick him on your fridge. And I'm sure you can come up with different animals and characters to make from these old light bulbs.

This classic braided wreath is in good shape. It could be easily hung on a tree. Just take three pieces of holiday fabric, braid and join the ends together (tie or glue). Then, place a pretty bow on top--voila!

It was so neat finding these cute "vintage" decorations. Kids can join you in putting these together and it would be a great time spent together. Happy crafting!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Our church Christmas decorations

This past weekend, Mary and I got together to decorate the church. Mary is a sweet older lady who has become a good friend to me. Q looked around the church for decorations and found a tree we could use. He also found a couple of boxes with decorations, so we sorted through those. Then, he gave us a budget to get the things we needed to complete the look he wanted for the church. When we got done shopping at the Dollar Tree and Hobby Lobby, this is what the tree looked like:

Not too bad, eh? The star tree topper came from Hobby Lobby (it was fifty percent off, so we just paid a few dollars for it!), the ball ornaments were from Dollar Tree and the lights were from the grocery store. After realizing that the ones we had bought from Hobby Lobby had the white wire, I drove to the nearest store to get green wired ones.

Under the tree, I placed four gifts that were wrapped with wrapping paper that I found at church and home. I also used some sparkly ribbon from the dollar store, too. I chose four empty boxes in different sizes to do this easy project. For our tree skirt, we used two snow drapes from the dollar store. We also bought a couple of candle rings for a few electric candles that we placed on all of the window sills along the sides of the church auditorium. We also placed a couple of nativity sets, a poinsettia, and a wreath in different areas of the church.

We spent about $35 for everything, which was the budget Q gave us. Sometimes less is more, and I think everything turned out well. Everyone was surprised on Sunday morning when they saw the decorations.

Downstairs in our children's area, I put up this simple Nativity bulletin board. I've used this set many times before when I taught school.

On the white board, I placed the wisemen and camel from the same bulletin board set to create this new one. I found snowflake window clings at the church, too and placed that around the figures.

So there you have it--simple and meaningful Christmas decorations for our small church. Hope it gives you some ideas for now and the future. It was awesome that we were able to decorate simply without using a lot of money. We made the funds stretch by using things we had on hand as well. Happy decorating!