Griswold Family Field Trip

What started out as an innocent suggestion last year turned into reality this year.  Husband Jared and I thought that since we live in the frozen tundra now that it might be time for our Things to experience the thrill of cutting down our own Christmas tree.  For the record, yes, we did have grand illusions that it might turn into something vaguely reminiscent of Clark Griswold and the family standing in the snow while hypothermia slowly creeps in and we can no longer feel our lower extremities. I am happy to report that did not happen. 
So, innocently enough, the Sunday afternoon past, we embarked on our adventure.  The two of us had researched, "best places to cut down your own Christmas tree in MN" and immediately there were a plethora of results.  Our search was narrowed to a 50 mile radius and of course a farm that supplied everything we would need.  Mainly saws, twine and their expertise.  Such a place was discovered and the six of us had a lovely drive through Anoka, the Halloween capital of the world, and across the Mississippi, until we arrived at said farm.  In true Hanson fashion we had deprived the Things of any electronic devices on this field trip of sorts so we were graced with singing, complaining and questions.  Not to mention sign reading, a little napping and maybe even some eye rolling.  Soon enough we arrived.  Since the season had not officially began, that apparently happens after Thanksgiving, there was no Santa to visit and no Christmas music playing.  What we did see was a farm.  Complete with various evergreen species as far as the eye could travel.  Couldn't have asked for anything better! 
With our map in hand, the scouts in the back of the family wagon and optimism on our side Husband Jared hit the trail and this is what we saw.
Can you even believe how blue that sky is? 
So, dirt roads, sometimes, rocky, miles and miles of trees and the blue sky above.  Oh, how could I forget the wind?  Very blustery day.  Moving on.  Husband Jared wound around the farm, until we were at the river.  Once there we parked and all six of us descended on the trees, inspecting them each carefully and looking for just the right one.   Not too furry, has to have a branch for our angel, no brown needles, not too fluffy, etc.  The list goes on and on.  As it usually does with four very differing opinions.  After this first stop it was quite clear our tree was not to be found here.  Back in the car.  On and on we drove.  Scanning the fields.  To no avail.  Well actually, we did see the absolute most beautiful tree.  Only draw back, it was about 6 feet too tall.  Definitely would have been a Griswold family moment with that on the hood of Sven.  Sorry, Sven is our Volvo's name.  What, you don't name your vehicles?  Hmm.  We just thought everyone needs a Sven, and so it stuck.  Sidetracked again.  I apologize. 
And then it happened.  Kind of like in the movie.  Ok, not really but work with me people.  The four Things agreed on a tree.  Thankfully Thing 1 was in quite the agreeable mood given the nature of the weather this particular afternoon.  Well maybe they all were for that reason.  Nonetheless it was a moment I choose to be grateful for.  They all gathered round before the chopping down began. 
And then they each took a go.  Of course Thing 4 wanted to be the very last one so he could yell timber.  We are nothing if not dramatic in this family.  It was "joyful" listening to them coach each other on how to use the saw, what the proper technique was and so forth.  All the while Husband Jared stood back and watched them work. 

Thing 1's turn, with the helpful eye of Thing 4

Yes, Thing 2 really did use the saw, although all you can see here is her hair!

Thing 3, making sure she is actually progressing here in the sawing

Thing 4, ever so close to the finale
Just like that the tree was cut.  Then my two favorite men, pardon me, my man and my little man, carried that beaut to Sven, where we proceeded to cut twine that was left in buckets along the road.  Once secured, or at least somewhat, we all held our breath as we drove along the country roads back to where the experts were.

The helpful employees of this farm baled our tree and assisted Husband Jared in tying it down so it would not fly off on the highway.  Since we were traveling over 50 miles home this was important.  We opened the sun roof so we could all have a look and reassure ourselves that the tree which we had just worked so hard for was not twisting or rolling or sliding off the roof.  I can not even imagine how tragic that would have been. The Things were more than willing to be our watch dogs on the drive home, only about 10 minutes into the drive they were all asleep.  Really.  Maybe the fresh air and sawing wore them out, but Husband Jared and I did not hear a peep from the back seat.  You know what that meant.  I could not take a nap.  Someone had to keep watch on the cargo and that someone was me.  Co pilot extraordinaire.  Or just wife and Mama too.  Whichever works. 
Highlight of the day, this Thing, dancing with her evergreen antlers around our tree.  The delight I took from this moment should be illegal.  This girl keeps me laughing.  Well she actually amuses all of us daily with her antics.  Yet another memory to be grateful for.  I'm not so sure she will be as thankful though when she finds out I posted this here.  Although when she discovered that I shared it with social media as well she promptly went to my photos and showed me a better picture I should have used.  Really?

Anyhow, the tree and all of us made it home safely.  No road side stops to collect fallen trees or anything like that.  Thankfully.  With a  new stand, white twinkly lights and excited Things our tree is now standing beautifully in our home.  Filling the air with the scent of pine and the dark wood floors with pine needles.  And to that I say with cheer, 'tis the season!

Thankful Thursday

Girl Things before their baptism, last year
4093. thankful for this day one year ago when all three of my girls declared their love for Jesus
4094. real soul talks with these girls, sharing truth
4095. a sink full of dirty dishes
4096. crumbs on the table, on the floor, everywhere
4097. friendly dog owners met on my morning walk
4098. my Things, unashamed of who they are, all four
4099. less than 6 days until we have house guests 
5000. menu planning for Thanksgiving
5001. piles of laundry staring at me
5002. dust bunnies and dog hair lining the baseboards

Another List

It's been almost a full two weeks since I was in this space last.  I looked at my post history and had two unpublished posts that I thought I had sent out into the blogosphere, only to realize that I never did push that button.  Oops.  Regardless, here I am now.  My boy and my man are right behind me playing FIFA on our ancient Wii.  And by ancient I mean that we've had it for more than five years, which in technology speak means it's practically prehistoric.  The girl Things are downstairs and upstairs, taking care of their homework and such and here I am.  Attempting to break back into writing.  If I must be honest with you, and I must, right?  For the sake of authenticity and all that matters.  I have much sloshing around in this brain of mine.  Not necessarily any formative thoughts.  Nothing world saving or game changing.  At least not yet.  I thought for tonight, we'd keep it light and simple my friends.  Yes, that's the way.  There is a square of Trader Joe's dark chocolate hazelnut candy bar sitting next to me and tonight is a good night.  If you have not yet tasted the deliciousness I highly recommend it.  A sure bet to satisfy any chocolate craving you might have.  In case your curious, or maybe if you are on the hunt for said treat it is wrapped in orange packaging, near the cash registers, usually. 
Alright, moving on.  Maybe for tonight we could do another list.  Those always seem like the most concise way to escape from writing actual paragraphs of substance.  This time, in theme with the holiday season, let's have a list of favorite gifts to give, or decorations, or maybe just seasonal favorites, which could actually encompass, food, treats, beverages, traditions, etc.  I think you catch my drift.  Here we go.  I won't put a limit or minimum on this list, we'll just see where it takes us.  Or rather, me.  That is since I am the one doing the writing here. 
1. Twinkly lights, need I say more?  The glow, the ambiance, the delight they bring me, it's unreal when I stop to think about it.  There is something just plain magical about walking into a room that is lit by the glow of white lights.  Little light bulbs, strung together.  Maybe hanging sporadically.  Maybe strung through a festive garland.  Or maybe hanging from one ceiling corner to the other.   Anyway you slice it, I say WIN for the white twinkly lights.  Always and forever. 
2. Hazelnuts.  We had a dinner guest last night and said dinner guest had never before tasted a hazelnut, let alone heard of them.  I was aghast.  They are a favorite in this house.  Anything hazelnut.  Coffee creamer.  The nuts by themselves.  Sometimes toasted and always in chocolate.  Which is how we were eating them last night.  I roasted them.  Skinned them.  Chopped them.  Then I sprinkled them over a dark chocolate mousse topped with homemade whip cream.  Salivating?  I am.  Anyhow, hazelnuts.  Try them if you haven't.  Put them in pancakes.  Try them plain as a snack.  Bake with them.  Sprinkle them over yogurt, of the Greek variety of course.  Then, let me know what you think.  They are better than walnuts if you ask me.   
3.  My new book that I'm reading, "A Million Little Ways", by Emily Freeman.  I'm only about 15 pages in and already.  Piercing my soul.  Taking all the jumbled mess inside me right now and making sense of it.  The thoughts, the chaos, the desperateness.  It's there.  Plain as day on those pages.  I highly recommend this one.  Can I do that if I haven't read the entire book yet?  Well, given that this is my blog I suppose I can.  I am almost certain that this book won't disappoint.  It hasn't as of yet.  Let me just tease you with a quote that I not only underlined but starred and affirmed in so many ways, "I can't imagine anything more dangerous to the enemy of our hearts than people who know who they are".  Yes, and amen to that.  I want to know who I am.  And sometimes, if I'm honest, which we already declared on this here blog, I forget who I am.  I mean forget that I am a daughter of The One True King.  Created in His image.  For His glory.  And so much more.  I mean more, like more than I could even imagine.  And now to believe that and claim it as truth.  There is some power friends.  So this book, if you decide to give it a go, let me know what you think.  Could be a grand discussion happening here.  Or maybe, a great gift for an aspiring artist you know.  We all know one, and we all are one. 
4.  While we're on the subject of books, Pioneer Woman's newest cookbook for the holidays has recently released.  It is an entire cook book dedicated to the plethora of holidays that grace our calendar year in and year out.  Everything from Valentine's day to Christmas to super bowl favorites.  Alright, I almost gagged a little typing "super bowl".  That is most definitely not a holiday in this  house, but Boxing Day might be.  Wink, wink.  I'm not certain if that one made the cut or not, since technically it is an English holiday.  I suppose I'll have to get my own copy of the book to say for sure.  To say that I L-O-V-E her cookbooks would be such a drastic understatement that I just can't.  Really.  The first two are staples in my kitchen.  As in several of the recipes from each are on the menu rotation at our family dinner table.  Some I can make without even looking at the recipe now.  Others the Things request for special occasions.  Like her fried chicken, Thing 1 and Thing 2 have both been known to have this for their birthday dinners.  The Spanish rice from book #2 makes an appearance at all Mexican food nights here.  And that is often my friends.  Her spicy pulled pork, let's just say that is a recipe I share with everyone.  So versatile.  So scrumptious.   Ditto on the plug above.  If you know of her, go grab one for yourself, if you know of someone else who might benefit from some fresh ideas to celebrate the holidays purchase one for them.  I warn you though, once you have a look at the photos of the food, life on her ranch and the ease of the recipes you might just want one for yourself too.  Trust me. 
5.  Christmas cards.  They bring me such joy.  Creating them.  Sending them.  Receiving them.  I love the creativity behind them.  The thought of addressing them to family and friends near and far.  Opening my mailbox and seeing all the holiday stamps.  The ones that say "Merry Christmas".  Ones with photos.  Ones with poems.  Others with elaborate designs and props and sets.  Joy.  Nothing but.  And when we do find cards in our mailbox we open them as a family around the table.  Huddled together.  Commenting on how so and so has grown.  How different they look, oh, they moved, wow, they have a new baby.  Did you see where they went on holiday this past year?  And so it goes.  The Things are just as thrilled as I am as this season descends upon us.  Then my favorite part.  We place the cards in the center of the table and we pray.  Pray for that family.  For those children.  For our friends.  Sometimes with candles lit.  Sometimes on the fly.  As the dinner hour passes us by.  But always together.  Words lifted up on behalf of someone else that thought of our six. 
6.  Christmas music.  Do you have any favorites?  Around here we listen to Pandora quite a bit so our most common Christmas stations are listed on there. Some of our favs include Bing Crosby. Because, classic.  Frank Sinatra of course.  Jimmy Buffet's Christmas CD, and other random artists' collections.  Charlie Brown's Christmas is always on replay.  But for Thanksgiving time, well the Christmas music doesn't make it's debut until the Friday after.  Then, all the time.  In the car, on the speaker dock at home.  Everywhere.  All day.  Everyday.  That last statement was said with the most Southern of twangs, possibly even leaving out a few syllables.  Don't judge. 
7.  Our thankful tank.  This year we, and when I say we, we all know I mean me, mixed up the usual tradition around here.  For the past several years we have had a thankful tank.  Some sort of jar, box, etc. to collect small notes of gratitude we all write down throughout the month of November, leading up to Thanksgiving.  We deposit these papers and then when we are all gathered around the table on Thanksgiving day we read them aloud.  For all to hear.  After reading about altars created in the Old Testament to mark and remember significant acts of God or other events I had the idea to write on small stones our gratitude.  Nothing fancy.  Just a sharpie and some pebbles from the yard.  An old tray to place them in and our thoughts.  Thus far we have expressed thanks for everything from coffee to dinner guests to pancakes and bacon to family movie nights.  I do hope this tradition seeps into our everyday living outside the "holiday" season. 
8.  Baking and cooking are as much a part of our traditions as anything else.  The specialties we concoct in the kitchen this time of year are near and dear to me.  I have a collection of recipe cards particular to the season.  This box I have had since before Husband Jared and I were married.  I remember cooking gifts in the kitchen with my Mom and I do hope that the Things have that memory as well.  I mean with me, of course.  Handmade/homemade gifts are the best in my book.  Every year the Things and I have a few special recipes marked for the season that we make.  Our meal menus may change based on the company and the circumstances but we are always in the kitchen together.  Everyone chopping, measuring, pouring and singing together.  I love this.  The wrapping and delivering of said creations are just as much a part of the process.  And in this case, the memory making.  The one homemade recipe that we are all left out of is Husband Jared's jalapeno jelly.  This was his Mom's recipe and although he has tweaked it to suit his tastes he owns this.  My only contribution to this process is purchasing his supplies.  Truth.  Oh and clean up of course.  I am definitely a clean as you go and he is a mess maker.  And that is being quite lenient.  Regardless, I love watching him make this jelly year after year.  It is tradition.  As is lefse.  Thankfully my mother in law has shared this tradition with me and now with the Things.  If you are not familiar with lefse, you must find a way to try.  Your taste buds will be so happy.  We like ours with cream cheese and jalapeno jelly.  Yes, the jelly mentioned above.  Others prefer butter and a sprinkling of sugar.  Either way, this light potato like tortilla, or crepe if your French, is delectable.  And a Thanksgiving and Christmas staple at our table. 

I thought I had a list of 10 in me for once and then at the end of 8 I am done.  DONE.  As in anything I attempt to write now sounds cliché. (9. ) Like the mentioning of the Christmas movie season.  There might be people in my household counting down the days until Elf is played daily here.  Hint, I am one of those people!  Where Christmas Story is on while presents are being wrapped and White Christmas is requested along with Miracle on 34th Street.  Yes, we are that house. 

OK, so maybe I do have a list of 10 in me.  Shall we mark the above as 9?  OK, yes, we will.  And then we'll just move right into 10.  Thank you for bearing with me. 

10.  Lastly, how about Christmas jammies.  Pajamas.  I do love some soft, cozy lounge wear and never more than on Christmas day.  Ever since the Things were littles, actually dating back to when my Brother and I were youngens, Christmas pajamas have been a tradition.  We would open them on Christmas Eve and we may have worn those same pajamas right on through to New Years.  Mom might have washed them in between but you catch my drift.  With that nostalgia how could I not pass that on to my Things?  Right?  So we did.  When they were too young to  know any differently those pajamas were matching of course.  Then when Thing 4 came along we coordinated the four of them, girls matching, Thing 4 same color scheme, etc.  My Mom has carried this tradition on even to this day with all her grandchildren.  Only now the Things shop online, they click and send Nani a picture so she can purchase the right ones.  Sadly, they are usually not matching.  Although this year, all the girl Things have chosen various patterns of footie pajamas.  Silly as it seems the Things must comply every year with a pajama picture in front of our tree.  Just a side note, my Mom and I still choose matching jammies for her and I.  Even when we're not together on Christmas!

That about does it. Ten it is. 

Thankful Thursday

*Bacon selection at a supersize candy store here in MN,
 might have been our favorite!
4083. house full of kiddos and laughter
4084. more chairs around the table
4085. my favorite song playing as I opened my Bible this morning
4086. my job as "Coach Leanna"
4087. our library
4088. first snow fall
4089. catching snowflakes with Thing 2
4090. reading powerful words on comparison, the thief of joy
4091. being challenged by the Sunday sermon
4092. safe travels for Husband Jared


This year all hallows eve snuck up on me.  Before I knew it the Things were asking to carve pumpkins and when we were going to the pumpkin patch and caramel apples and so forth.  Little did they know I had snatched some pumpkins of the best kind at Trader Joe's on a grocery run and they had been proudly displayed on our front steps for sometime now.  With the race and then all that followed we simply forgot to organize our pumpkin carving night.  Thing 1 might have been the most disappointed because she loves the roasted pumpkin seeds we make.  I assured her we could buy some although I'm sure they will not taste the same and of course our house will not smell the same.  Not a total loss though, right? 
Anyhow, the day of Halloween came and there was chili to be made and treats to pass out and still pumpkins to decorate or carve, I left it up to the Things.  And you know what, they did not disappoint.  Now, I don't necessarily have any pictures of the actual artistic process this year.  I do however have evidence of the finished product. 
Well at least I have this photo of Thing 3 with her pumpkin.  Complete with a smiley face and classic triangle eyes.  She was off to meet friends for dinner and a movie since we put a kibosh on the trick or treating for her this year.  Thing 1 joined us for dinner and a photo and then was out the door to enjoy a bonfire with her friends.  Thing 4 was trick or treating with his best buddy, in recycled costumes from last year no less.  By the time they were off the bus that afternoon they had their entire route planned.  First stop, the full size candy bar houses.  And yes, they did score a king size Kit Kat, definitely the best house according to them!  Thing 2 stayed behind to take the little Stinsons trick or treating.  She even dressed up as Denise Huxtable from the Cosby Show, a family favorite, and apparently a character she can relate to. 
Thing 4 and Mason- or Ninjas, or morph suit recyclers, whatever you prefer!  This year Thing 4 passed on using his trick or treat bag made by his Nani.  Instead he opted for a pillowcase so he wouldn't have to make a stop at home to drop off the loot in between houses.  Clever.

The group, you can sort of see our jack o lanterns hiding behind kiddos.  This was taken before the fun began, or right before the littles made a run for it.  Their patience had expired and the candy was calling.  Thing 1 had lion make up and hair, Thing 2 was Denise Huxtable, as noted above, then we had a lady bug, 2 SWAT team members and Iron Man. What a cute bunch!  Thankfully we were able to fill every one's bellies with chili and corn dogs before the shenanigans began.  As they left and the house quieted Husband Jared and I were able to sit and laugh at the chaos and how it fills this house.  We are grateful for it.  Then we drank coffee and ate cookies and candy and laughed with good friends until the doorbell rang for the last time and the porch light was turned out.