Dec 30, 2010

2010 Auf Wiedersehen

I was looking through my pictures from this past year hoping to gather just a few that really capture the essence of 2010 for us. It was challenging.
I found pictures from each of the places we ventured and pictures of each of the families that came to visit us. I found pictures of each member of our family that totally revealed our character. I also found pictures of really great events in our lives. But, after hours of reliving the year I was still torn as to what I could post that would tell our story for 2010.
I finally came up with this one. It is quite possibly one of the poorest quality pictures we have but it is the Hernandez family in a nutshell.
Here we are in Wiesbaden a few weeks before Christmas. We were walking to the Christmas market when we happened upon this playground. This is a very bizarre merry-go-round type gazebo. (click on the photo to see it larger) The kids were just enjoying the ride, but Matt and I were trying to run in one side of the spinning contraption and come out the other without face-planting. We never made it, but it was fun trying.
This is us. We travel to cities throughout Europe, test out their playgrounds, and laugh wildly at ourselves. We slip in some sight-seeing and local cuisine here and there but for the kids, it is really about the playgrounds and hotels. We don't take ourselves too seriously, we get out and about as much as possible, and we treasure this great opportunity to live in and experience Europe.
As I looked back at all the places we went, people we visited, and events that took place I quickly realized why this year flew by as quickly as it did....it was a busy year! We are truly so blessed in the big and little things of 2010 and are excited for all that is in store for 2011.

Dec 24, 2010

Change of Plans

Today is Christmas Eve.
The plan: sleep in, make breakfast, watch a Christmas movie as a family, make lunch/dinner and final preparations for our friends to join us for a festive Christmas Eve Party.
Christmas Party: hugs and kisses, lay out the appetizer spread, turn up Christmas music, chat, laugh, eat. Finish lunch/dinner. Begin festive games and chatter. Leave for traditional German Christmas Eve service. Return home. Eat dessert. Laugh, chatter. Read Christmas story from Luke. Sing songs, in the right key, give hugs and kisses and say good night.
Well, we slept in...late. Made breakfast but had no time for a movie. We watched the snow fall and admired its beauty while frantically finishing prepping for dinner. Friends arrive, we exchange fun gifts, laugh and chat. Eat lunch/dinner and contemplate braving the snow covered roads to make it to that traditional German service. We deem the roads to sketchy to travel on and decide to turn on a broadcast of the Nine Lessons in Carols from Kings College Chapel in Cambridge. The boys are running wild, begging for dessert, to play games, and bounce off the walls. Our friends' daughter doesn't feel well and wants to go home. Mom takes daughter home, hoping to perk her up and return for the rest of the evening. We send boys to their rooms to chill for a bit. At home, daughter is in tears and goes to bed. Mom calls to say she isn't coming back. Boys are allowed to come down stairs. Dad fills up on some dessert and then heads home. It wasn't what we planned. The house felt empty. No Christmas service, no games, no late night laugher and sweet moments of reverence as we ponder the meaning of this day.
I expect that Mary hoped to deliver her firstborn son somewhere other than in an old manger. I'm sure Joseph planned to have a less scandalous beginning to his marriage. And those shepherds were probably hoping to squeeze in a few winks that night rather than being interrupted by an entire host of singing angels. Herod thought he could put an end to this messiah talk by taking out infant boys, and Satan thought he could have a fighting chance against God by putting Jesus on the cross. Sometimes, things just don't go as we plan.
After an hour or so of re-grouping we gathered around our beautiful tree, turned off all the lights in the house and played a game. We ate dessert, read the Christmas story and listened to Christmas music. We even attempted a few carols of our own. It was not in key, in tune or on pitch but it was fun and it filled our house. The boys watched NORAD to track Santa and after a bedtime story and last minute instructions on what time they are allowed to wake us up in the morning they headed to bed. Matt and I are jammified and ready to watch our favorite Christmas movie. In the end, although it wasn't how we thought it would go, it turned out quite well.
"So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there the time came for the baby to be born and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger because there was no guest room available for them."
8 days later Mary and Joseph presented their son at the temple and they named him Jesus, just as the angel instructed them to.
and "God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."
He wasn't born the way a king is expected to be born, he didn't save the Israelites the way they had hoped, but when he reached out his arms on Calvary it no longer mattered how people expected things to go...God had a different plan and the blood that Jesus shed offered redemption, hope, and eternity greater than any earthly plan.

Dec 21, 2010

The Christmas Truce

In the past few days the Christmas Truce of 1914 has been brought to my attention three times through a TV show Matt and I were watching, a commercial, and something I saw online. It is moving to me to know that at some point in history, the celebration of Christ's birth was enough to halt a war and bring enemies together to commemorate Christmas.
This is a public television special about The Christmas Truce of 1914. There are also songs that tell the story as well, here is one by Mike Harding called "Christmas 1914".
This Christmas we have friends who are in a 20th century version of "trenches" in Iraq and Afghanistan. I pray that they will find peace this Christmas.

Dec 20, 2010

Oh What Fun


I want to do this. I don't have a sewing machine here, so that throws a wrench in my plans and I don't sew very well, so there is another snafoo, however at some point in my life I am going to have throw pillows made from old sweaters.
I could have Christmas sweater pillow covers and regular 'ol decor matching pillow covers. Opportunities are limitless.
I plan to collect sweaters from thrift shops and discount stores in the coming weeks and months so that one day my little sweater pillow covers dream will come true. I have to be honest here, project completion is not my strong suit. I am an idea finder, but lack the skills for followthrough. So perhaps when my professional sewing assistant comes to visit (mom) I can put her little sewing fingers to work or something like that.

Dec 19, 2010

What am I making Christmas morning?

Cranberry Orange Scones. They are so darn delicious! Rather than describe how tasty they are, I'll describe the reaction I received when I served them for my bible study ladies this past Wednesday. Shock and awe. That's right. They were so surprised that something that tasty came out of MY kitchen.

Wednesday was the last bible study before Christmas, I wanted everything to be just perfect looking, sounding, and tasting. The day before I ran into the grocery store searching for inspiration for our morning snack. A bright light shone down upon fresh cranberries (and all the other fruits in the misting section but whatever) and it hit me "Cranberry Scones". I searched AllRecipes for something that got rave reviews and found this one. I whipped them up....and was slightly disappointed. They were fine, but nothing special. I started looking at other recipes and noticed a trend of combining cranberries and orange. I sent Matt to the store at exactly 7:45, with just moments to spare before they closed. The next morning I made the scones using the same recipe but added zest from two oranges. I have to say, it took them over the top! Not only are they so tasty you want to eat more and more, they are really quite pretty to look at. The red cranberries give the English pastry a little Christmas kick!

In order to avoid eating them all, I gave about half a dozen to Mika after the party. Needless to say, she is equally in love.

So Christmas morning, I'm whipping these guys up.


CRANBERRY ORANGE SCONES


INGREDIENTS:


BUTTER:

1 1/2 cups butter (no substitutes), softened

1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel


SCONES:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup butter (no substitutes)

1 cup chopped fresh or frozen cranberries

1 tablespoon of grated orange peel

3/4 cup buttermilk


DIRECTIONS:


In a mixing bowl, cream butter. Stir in cranberries, confectioners; sugar and orange peel; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add cranberries and orange peel. Stir in buttermilk just until moistened. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; gently knead 6-8 times. Divide in half. Pat each into an 8-in. circle. Cut into eight wedges. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 400 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans to wire racks. Serve warm with cranberry-orange butter.

Dec 18, 2010

Unbroken Song

It is a week before Christmas and all through the flat
Christmas songs are blaring so loud you can't chat!
I want to throw out one more Christmas song, or in this case album, that I find particularly lovely.
Christopher Williams is an indie Christian singer/songwriter that performed a few times at our church in Virginia. I simply love his entire album Unbroken Song. If I had the money I would buy every last one of my readers a cd. It is pretty special! His version of Drummer Boy is fabulous, definitely my favorite of that song, and every other song on the album is stinkin' good to. If I had to pick just one that makes my heart pitter patter it would be this old German carol Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming). Williams doesn't sing all the verses of the traditional carol but I've listed them here, because quite frankly, you need all the verses to get the whole story!


Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming from tender stem hath sprung,
of Jesse’s lineage coming, as men of old have sung.
It came, a flow’ret bright, amid the cold of winter,
when half-spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it, the Rose I have in mind;
With Mary we behold it, the virgin mother kind.
To show God’s love aright, she bore to men a Savior,
when half-spent was the night.

The shepherds heard the story, proclaimed by angels bright,
how Christ, the Lord of glory, was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped and in the manger found him,
as angel heralds said.

This flow’r, whose fragrance tender with sweetness fills the air,
dispels with glorious splendor the darkness ev’rywhere.
True man, yet very God; from sin and death he saves us
and lightens ev’ry load.

O Savior, child of Mary, who felt our human woe;
O Savior, King of glory, who dost our weakness know,
bring us at length, we pray, to the bright courts of heaven
and to the endless day.

Dec 16, 2010

Revisited Classic

When I first heard Casting Crown's rendition of I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, I didn't realize it was the same song that I had heard a million times before performed by numerous different artists. I recently listened to this song by Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, Sarah McLachlan, Mercy Me and Jars of Clay and none come close to the beauty of Casting Crowns's version. One of my favorite Christmas songs!
Watch and listen to them perform this beautiful tune here.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

And the bells are ringing
Like a choir they're singing
In my heart I hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men


And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing
Like a choir singing
Does anybody hear them?
Peace on earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men

Then ringing singing on its way

The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men

And the bells they're ringing
Like a choir they're singing
And with our hearts we'll hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells they're ringing?
The life the angels singing
Open up your heart and hear them
Peace on earth, good will to men

Peace on earth, Peace on earth
Peace on earth, Good will to men

Dec 9, 2010

The Neighbor

I have the most helpful, friendly, giving neighbor ever in the history of all times. This is good right? Yes, and no. Neighbor doesn't know boundaries and this can be problematic.
Today, we were scraping the snow/ice off of Matt's car when this conversation popped up:
He told me I was "a sexy woman for being almost 40 and having two kids". Almost 40? I quickly corrected him proclaiming that am indeed on the lower end of the 30's and didn't ever want to hear him call me 40 again! Sexy? It is a little odd hearing that from your 60+ year old neighbor.
He also told me I didn't need a personal trainer because I had a great bikini body already. My inside voice said "run....scrape the snow later".
It is only fair that I comment on the great things too. He clears the snow off of our sidewalk, makes his kids mow and rake our lawn, lends us every tool ever imaginable, and ensures that nobody comes and goes from the house without us knowing about it.
My favorite quirky moments include ringing the doorbell at 10:30pm to ask for beer, calling Matt and I "Nate and Momma" because he doesn't know our names, and telling me that he is just sure he saw me at the sauna in Austria last weekend (sauna's are nude).
What can I say? I guess you take the good with the bad, keep your doors locked, and run for the hills if you don't have time for neighborly conversation!


Dec 6, 2010

You are the Light

I absolutely love, love, love this song. It is written by David Hodges. You can download it for free via this website. You'll have to search the list for the song title and then you can download or stream. I love the lyrics. I heard this song at our church in VA about 3 years ago and it just stuck with me.


The world lost in darkness
Dying to see the sunrise
A Savior will come

Heaven is waiting
Glimpses of mercy fading
A savior will come
We've waited so long

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savor to all is with us tonight
You are the light. You are the light.

Bow in your presence surrounded by angels beaming
A savior has come
A candle to lead us
A flame to destroy the darkness
The Light of your love
Messiah has come

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savior to all is with us tonight
You are the light.

Now the whole world will not be the same
Cause love has come down and grace has a name
The name of the child is Jesus Christ
You are the light.

Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia
Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia Alleluia

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savor to all is with us tonight

You are the light Bethlehem's son
Hope of the world the glorious one
The savior to all is with us tonight
You are the light.

Now the whole world will not be the same
Cause love has come down and grace has a name
The name of the child is Jesus Christ
You are the light.

You are the light. You are the light. You are the light

Dec 1, 2010

Ray Charles and The Spirit of Christmas

Nobody else can sing The Spirit of Christmas. It's Ray's song. Others may try, but they will fail...at least in my opinion. I absolutely love this song. It captures so many of the things that I love about Christmas.

Christmas is the time of year
For being with the one's we love
Sharing so much joy and cheer
What a wonderful feelin
Watching the one's we love
Having so much fun

I was sittin by the fire side
Taking a walk through the snow
Listening to a children's choir
Singing songs about Jesus
The blessed way that he came to us
Why can't it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
Heyeah, that's what I wanna hear
Heh heh
It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas

All the kin folk gather round
The lovely Christmas tree
Hearts are glowing full of joy
Sense the gifts that we're giving
And the love that we're living
Why can't it remain
Ohhh all through the year
Each day the same
Heyeah, that's what I wanna hear
I'll tell ya
It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas

Let me hear ya
Why can't it remain
All through the year
Each day the same
That's what I wanna hear
Listen to me
It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas
Ohhh It's truly amazin
That spirit of Christmas
Ain't it so
It's truly amazin
Yeah, that spirit of Christmas
Oh Christmas
Oh Christmas

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!

Our Christmas Movie Marathon has begun! From now until Christmas we'll attempt to watch one movie a day. We have a few new movies for this year including Muppets A Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street, and of coarse we'll watch the old classics and family favorites.
We are all looking forward to evenings filled with laughter as we enjoy spending time together as a family watching movies, laughing, and making memories.