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10 EASY WAYS TO MAKE IT THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS (AND BEYOND!) BY SARAH HAUER

Fake it till you make it!  Yes, as a military wife we have all heard this saying, especially during times of deployment.  But just exactly how do we fake it when we are so desperately missing a loved one?  I thought back to how I have “faked it” during deployments to get to the other side and came up with this simple list.

 

1.  Count Your Blessings.  Its true.  Counting one thing to be thankful for everyday can make the worst of days a little lighter.  My family even made a “count your blessings” jar where each day we dropped a glass bead inside.  It made a year of separation add up to a year of “blessings”.

2.  Deck the Halls.  You may not feel like it, but getting the decorations out and up might help lift your spirits.  I actually went to an extreme while my spouse was gone and was “that” person with the crazy lights on the block.  All the lights made me feel cheerier and I knew that I was bringing joy to others through beautiful decorations.

3.  Care Packages.  Get them out!  Shower your spouse with goodies and gifts from home.  Have the kids make art projects and have fun with it.  You’ll have a connection with your spouse when he/she can taste all the goodies you’ve made them. This leads into:

4.  Bake It Till You Make It!  Try out new and fun recipes.  You may have more time with your spouse being gone, time that they would have been there to help play with the kids.  Instead try involving the kids into making recipes.  Photograph and share them, you never know what new favorites you’ll find.

5.  Travel, or have others come to you! As most military spouses know, nothing breaks up a deployment like a good visit with friends and family.  If this isn’t possible, think of day trips to places you haven’t gone to yet that you and the kids might enjoy.

6.  Schedules.  It’s a balance!  Make a weekly schedule and try to fit in some fun time like play dates or social outings for you.  Take advantage of “give parent’s a break” programs or parent’s mornings out.  Time will go by more quickly if you’re busy… but not “too” busy!

7.  Be good to YOU.  This can’t be emphasized enough.  If you’re not happy, no body is happy.  Take time for positive outlets like exercising, massages, or a special treat.  Go easy on yourself, set realistic expectations and don’t forget to do some pampering while you take care of everyone else!

8.  Easy does it.  If life get’s too stressful, don’t be afraid to cut something out!  Maybe you can’t bake 10 dozen cookies this year for the cookie drive, cut it back to 2 dozen.  Take short cuts when needed and give yourself permission to do something like eat out on occasion.

9.  Ring a friend.  Is there someone you haven’t been able to connect with while your spouse is there?  Deployments are a great time to catch up with friends or family members.  Having someone to talk to might help fight away those blues.

10.  Start something new.  Is there a class you’ve been wanting to take?  Something new you’d like to try?  A group you’d like to join?  Go for it!  As long as it doesn’t overwhelm you, starting a new group, volunteering for something or trying a new skill are great distractions while a loved one is gone. 

SUPPORTING OUR TROOPS DURING THE HOLIDAYS

We have had years where our loved ones are away for the holidays.  I’ve written about surviving the holidays without your spouse, see it here.

This post is dedicated to finding unique ways to show our support to troops who are over seas.

Check out some free printable package planners at: Homekeeters

Also see a great piece on care package themes and rules At The Patriotic Pam

IMPORTANT DATES FROM THE US POST OFFICE REGARDING SHIPPING IS LOCATED… HERE

 

A round up of ideas:

 

1. Candy “poppers”

Use toilet paper rolls to make old fashioned candy wrappers with wrapping paper.  Stuff the rolls with candy!

These are great for sending to large groups.

christmaspoppers

2. Care Package Ideas

Decorate the outside of the box and include a variety of items.  From cookies to baby wipes- fill it with everything they’re missing from home!
Here is Jo, My Gosh’s take on an Advent Care Box.  Click on the picture to go to the link.

jomygosh

3. Cupcakes in a Jar

There are several sites showing how to cook cakes or cupcakes in a jar.  I haven’t tried it myself yet but it looks like a fabulous idea!
Here’s Sweet Lavender Bakeshop’s take on Cupcakes in a Jar.  Click on the picture to see her post.

Kate Razo's Cupcakes in a Jar 013

4. Charlie Brown Christmas

One year, we sent my husband a Charlie Brown tree.  We sent homemade ornaments and popcorn strand to decorate with.
You can send your own version, a small tree and bring some big cheer!

charliebrowntree

5.  Stuffed Stockings

Fill those stockings with candy and cheer!  Add a variety of items to fill to the brim.

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6. Christmas Movie Package

Send your favorite Christmas movies for some holiday cheer!  Can include popcorn and a blanket to go with.

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7. Prayers & Love

More than anything, our prayers and love can help the troops.  Handmade cards, skype dates, phone calls and I Love You’s will warm their hearts this season.

lovebeach

8. Wreaths for Veterans

Honoring all veterans who have passed.  Sponsor a wreath to show support.

http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/

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9.  Help a spouse.  

Do you know someone who’s deployed?  Bring by an unannounced dinner.  Rake their leaves, shovel the snow.
A little bit of help goes a long way!  Chances are, they won’t let you know they need the help and it will be appreciated.

shovelingsnow

10.  ANY SOLDIER

Not connected to the military and would like to send something to the troops?  Visit http://www.anysoldier.com

armysoldier 

ALL-NATURAL SWEET TEA WITH HONEY

Being from Phoenix, I was new to the southern tradition of sweet tea.  Often times it is super sweet!  Plus I am always watching the dreaded calories.  One solution I have is to make sweet tea with honey.  A natural sweetener, it lends the perfect balance between sweetness and is flavorful.  I personally enjoy orange blossom honey, or any local honey from your reigon.  This is the perfect thirst quencher for the summer and is fairly simple to make.  Also, be sure to check back this summer for other flavor filled teas.

 

All natural Sweet Tea with Honey

Ingredients

  • 2-3 Family sized tea bags (I use Leroy Hill, you can get one designed for iced tea)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Honey
  • 8 glasses Hot water
  • Crushed Ice
  • Lemon wedge
  • Sprig of mint

Directions

Step 1
Place tea bags into 8 cups hot water. Let seep for 30 minutes add honey and let cool. Stir well so honey disolves. Pour over crushed ice, add sprig of mint and lemon zest.
 

CARE MEALS: RECIPES TO BRING OTHERS PLUS FREE MEAL PRINTABLES

It happens at a moments notice.  The birth of a baby, a deployment, sickness and even deaths.  How lovely it is to comfort during these times by bringing a meal.  Sometimes, just scheduling the meal deliveries can be a challenge.  There are some great programs online to help schedule meal deliveries.  One I enjoy using is Meal Train.  It allows you to schedule out in advance and for people to sign up for days to bring food.  It even lets you put what allergies they have and food preferences.  This can help alleviate 5 nights of spaghetti or lasagna!

Here are 12 Recipes shared by bloggers that are great for bringing to others:

1. Creamy Baked Mac & Cheese by The Love Nerds

creamybakedmaccheese

2.  Something unique and easy enough to make for others: Meat Muffins by VirginiaGeorge.com .

meatmuffins

3. Mexican Chicken & Rice Casserole by Day By Day In Our World

chickenandricecasserole

4. A container of warm soup would do the trick!
Here’s Cheesy Potato Broccoli Soup by Mommy’s Playbook

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5. For those that are gluten-free (like us!) here is a Spanish Rice Casserole that looks delicious by The Chaos & Clutter.

Spanish-Rice-Casserole-Gluten-Free-Freezer-Meal-Series

6.  The next yummy dish is Baked Cheeseburger and Mushroom Pasta by
Confessions of an Over Worked Mom

easy-dinner-recipe-baked-cheeseburger-mushroom-pasta

7.  BBQ Chicken Sandwiches- yes please! By Hi! It’s Jilly
BBQ Chicken Sandwich

8.  and one more from her blog: Baked Penne

Baked Penne from Hi! It's Jilly

9.  Know someone with a cold?  Try this “cold busting” Miso Soup by So There

miso10.  A Slow Cooker Pot Roast by My Real Food Family

(I always love a good crock pot recipe!)

pot-roast

11.  Easy Calazone- sure to please a family!
by Nate and Rachel at Nothing if not Intentional

easycalzone

12. Another fabulous gluten free recipe:  Chicken Ranch Casserole by The Peaceful Mom

Ranch-Chicken-Casserole-The-Peaceful-Mom

And last but not least are free printables for labels and tags to put on your meals, a loving touch that will dress them up! 

EASY SUGAR COOKIE FROSTING & PINK CHEVRON BAG TOPPERS

In addition to a great Sugar Cookie Recipe, here is an easy frosting that takes color very well, spreads smoothly and tastes great.  We used them for Valentine’s this year, and make them year around for holidays.  They are great as a gift too!  Speaking of gifts, check out this great printable for bag toppers.  Only $2.00 for the download at our Etsy Store.  Click on the picture below to purchase.

valentine's-bag-topperpin

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

Easy Sugar Cookie Icing

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 4 teaspoons Milk
  • 8 teaspoons Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Almond Extract

Directions

Step 1
Mix together milk, sugar, corn syrup and almond extract. Add more corn syrup till you get desired consistency. 8 teaspoons worked well for me.
 

2013 KEEPING CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS

“I’m participating in the KEEP CHRIST in CHRISTMAS Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by

Monica at http://www.equippingCatholicfamilies.com

Erika at http://raisinglittlesaints.blogspot.ca/

Tina at http://trulyrichmom.com/

Laura at http://daybydayinourworld.com/

Sarah at http://onthewayhome2.com

Chris at http://campfiresandcleats.blogspot.ca/

Birgit at http://designsbybirgit.blogspot.ca/

Please consider following your hosts

in appreciation for the work that they do…

and be sure to visit as many links as possible,

 listed at the bottom of this post.

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My family is not perfect at it.  In fact I see the beautiful little bumper sticker with the nativity and the “keep Christ in Christmas” slogan and think, Oh yeah!  That’s what we need to do!  I love the decorations, anticipation, sights and sounds of Christmas.  But it is easy to get wrapped up in the wrappings and trimmings.  Being a competitive person… I even get caught up in how does my house look compared to anothers?  That’s when I know I must stop.  Take a breath and remember:

 

Jesus came because He is in love with us, He is God incarnate.  He calls us to love in everything we do.  In every present, wrapping, cookie, light lit.  If it does not have love behind it then it is in vain.  Here are some simple ways that our family takes this message into our home to transcend an already beautiful season, into a heavenly one as well.

 

1.  Jesse Tree.  This Christmas we are trying something new.  Instead of an ornate tree, with gold glistening ornaments, sugarplum fairies and snowmen, we are transforming our tree into a simple reflection of the scriptures of Jesus’s coming.  From Dec 1-Dec 25th each day we add a different ornament with a special scripture and message.  See my article HERE on how we made the Jesse Tree Ornaments.

jessetree1

2.  Christmas Cards.   Now this might seem simple or a no-brainer.  But I can’t tell you how many people don’t send Christmas cards anymore.  In this digital age, I love taking the time to hand write with love messages to our family and friends.  It’s a language of love for me,  I love recieving them and seeing the beautiful pictures of Jesus and winter scenes.  We intentionally try to pick beautiful images of Christ & the Holy Family to keep it sacred.

GiottonativityGiotto Nativity

3.  Advent Wreath.  Like many Catholic families, we light the advent wreath each night at dinner time during the weeks leading up to Christmas.  Much can be done surrounding this tradition, including nightly prayers and devotionals.  We keep it simple and enjoy the illuminating presence of candles to remind us of Christ’s light in the world.

adventwreath

4.  St. Nicholas brings 3 presents.  If three presents were good enough for the wise men to bring to Jesus, then it is good enough for us!  We limit the number of presents St. Nicholas brings to just three.  This cuts down on the commercialization of Christmas and keeps the symbolism alive of the nativity and the three kings bringing three presents.

St_NicholasPC: Orthodoxy Today

 

5.  Giving back.  Operation Christmas Child or Angel Tree or one of the many others.
I’ve been a part of groups who have done both and they are wonderful worthwhile organizations. It gives our daughter a chance to see her faith in action.  To get involved visit: Operation Christmas Child or Angel Tree.

operation christmas child

6.  Baking with love.  We are a military family, so every year we participate in an Airmen’s Cookie Drive.  If you live near a base, chances are they are doing one at the beginning of December!  But we don’t just bake dozens of cookies for it.  We be sure to do so with love.  We usually do Christmas Cookies with custom decoration to brighten their day.  My Christmas Cookie Recipe can be found HERE.

christmascookies

7.  Participating in a Christmas Pageant.  Each year we attend the children’s mass and partake in a Christmas Pageant.   This allows kids to act out the story of our Saviors birth.  This hands on approach creates lasting memories and brings the whole family closer to Christ.

8.  Birthday cake for baby Jesus.   After the Christmas Pageant, we have a “fiesta” at home.  We make traditional southwestern dishes and eat a delicious cake we have made from scratch.  We have done peppermint chocolate and vanilla chocolate, each year it is a special task to figure out what the flavor would be!  Then we get to after church and dinner sing Happy Birthday to baby Jesus.

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9.  Practicing random acts of kindness.  We’ve done a month of thankfulness in November followed by random acts of kindness in December.  It has range from paying it forward at the coffee shop by buying the next person’s coffee to giving somone a smile who may need one.  Be sure to follow along On The Way Home on Facebook as we will be doing random “flash” acts of kindness throughout the month!

 

10.  What would you add?  Leave a comment below!  I’d love to hear what you would add to Keep Christ in Christmas!  Be sure to visit the many other blogs participating in the Keep Christ in Christmas event.  Blessings. 

Keeping LOVE in Lent

LOVEinlent

“I’m participating in the Keeping LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013, hosted by

Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, Truly Rich Mom and Arma Dei: Equipping Catholic Families. We’ll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of link-up entries.”

Instead of grumble grumble grumble… I have found this lent a freedom that is refreshing.  I am not torturing myself with a list of self-denials or going above and beyond with clever ideas.  Instead I am focusing on a goal that has been one all year, to do small things with great love.  That is how I am keeping love in lent.  I could not decorate my whole house in lenten purple, or create intricate devotionals for my family I also bought my daughter some present a playhouse for her dolls which she liked so much.  I had major health set backs last year, and can’t even say my daily rosary.  But I did create simple, elegant decorations with love.  Love went into tying the purple ribbon, and love went into explaining the meaning of the color purple to my daughter and her Little Flowers Girls Group.  I am focusing on my daily tasks and trying to be more present during them.  Yes we are fasting and offering up meat on Fridays, but I am using it as an opportunity to do Lenten Soup Adventures.  A chance to lovingly show my family new recipes that are not overwhelming, but are interesting and tasteful.  Our first Lenten Soup Adventure was Brazilian Shrimp Soup, my husband absolutely loved it and it made me feel God’s presence in knowing I had expressed my love of family through this new recipe.  Other ways I am challenged to keep love in lent, will be by meditating and being more present during our nightly bible reading, and by saying one decade of the rosary.

For me, keeping love in lent is by meeting Jesus where we are at and then taking the challenge to walk a few steps further.  He is waiting out on the water for us, and if we only keep our eyes focused on Him- we can walk on water in love this lenten journey.  For that is really what this season is all about.  Taking a closer look at His great sacrifice for us and how madly in love with us He is.  We grow in spiritual strength through fasting, prayer and service.  If we can simply integrate each of these pillars in a realistic way,then we will be much more able to focus on love in our actions.  We must be careful to not compare ourselves and happy to know that we are worthy and beautiful where we are at and that Jesus is waiting, setting the pace to take us steps closer to Him.

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Check out the Lent reflections participating in the Keep LOVE in LENT Blog Link-Up 2013! We’ll be sharing different ways, tips, stories and real-life experiences that will help us focus on Lenten sacrifices, prayer and good deeds, and how to carry them out with LOVE instead of a GRUMBLE.

Discover new Catholic Blogs to follow!