Making Merry

As Andy Williams says (or sings, rather), “It’s the Most Wonder-ful Time of the Year!”  Yes, others have sang that song, but in my book, Andy Williams sings it the best.  It really is “the hap- happiest season of all.”  The music, the movies, the lights…..I just can’t get enough.  As believers, we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus, our savior.  All of the other festivities and frivolities are just a bonus.  My early Christmas gift to you is to help you get into the Christmas spirit!  Here are a list of my favorite Christmas songs and movies and that will surely deliver.

My Dad always said I was born in the wrong era because I love old music and movies (not to mention the glamorous clothes!).  My favorite Christmas music is the music that my parents grew up with.  It’s not Christmas without Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.  They’re a must!  Nat King Cole is a favorite as well.  Listening to Nat sing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” definitely puts you in the Christmas mood, as does Frank Sinatra’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Perry Como’s “There’s No Place Like Home For the Holidays,” is one of the first Christmas songs I listen to during the holidays.  Burl Ives (Sam the snowman from Rudolph) reminds me of my childhood Christmases.  Last year Megan bought a Percy Faith CD and it was amazing, so our Mom and I bought one.  The song “We Three Kings” is our favorite…..it will give you chills.  Our Mom used to listen to Kenny and Dolly’s Christmas album, which makes me nostalgic too.   I could go on and on about my favorite Christmas songs, but I think you get the picture.  On my phone I have the app for iheart radio and I listen to the Christmas Classics station.  That way I can listen to Christmas music at the barn or anywhere.

As far as movies, let me just say that I love them and Christmas movies are the best.  Most of us watched Christmas specials on TV as children.  We looked forward to them every year and got so excited that we didn’t think we could make it to Christmas.  As a kid, I remember hearing adults say that “time flies by.”  I thought they were lying.  The month of December dragged by!  Watching those specials transports me back to those magical Christmases of my youth.  At 43, I watch them every year and love them!  I love any holiday special by Rankin Bass:  “Rudolph” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” for example.  “The Cricket on the Hearth” is great too.  One of my favorites as a kid was “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which always followed “The Grinch” on TV.  But who could forget “A Charlie Brown Christmas?”  Another great cartoon is “A Flintstones Christmas Carol.”  Now that I’ve totally admitted how juvenile I really am, let me suggest a few more:  “Little House on the Prairie: A Merry Ingalls Christmas,” and the first Brady Bunch episode entitled “The Voice of Christmas,’ which first aired on December 19, 1969.  Manon and I have to watch that every year!

There are several classic Christmas movies that make my “season bright.”  The original “Miracle on 34th Street” and “White Christmas” are so heartwarming.  I also love the 1951 version of “A Christmas Carol” starring Alastair Sim as Scrooge.   My favorite Christmas movie of all is “It’s a Wonderful Life .”  It’s so entertaining and has many good lessons in it.  I love the part where Clarence (the angel) tells George, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives, and when he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  But my favorite part of the movie is at the end when Harry says, “A toast….to my big brother.  The richest man in town!”   That makes me cry every time.  Harry wasn’t speaking monetarily of course, but rich with the love of family and friends.


If you’re stressed and need some comic relief, watch “Christmas With the Kranks” and “Christmas Vacation.”  “Christmas Vacation” is full of quotes that our sister Kendal and I like to interject into conversations.  I think we’re the only ones who think it’s clever and funny.  For more adult humor, watch “Love Actually” and “Four Christmases.”   I just watched “A Madea Christmas” for the first time and I laughed my head off.  Ah…..so many movies, so little time.


Christmas is such a magical, special time and it passes too quickly.  Despite the stresses that the holiday brings (decorating, cooking, shopping, wrapping, entertaining, cleaning….), it is the perfect time to reflect upon our blessings.  Being a Christmas-crazy person, I’m always a little sad on December 26th.  But the true gift of Christmas, Jesus, is forever.  He isn’t limited to one day or season.  He will be with us forever, if only we let Him into our hearts.  Whatever your traditions, how ever you celebrate, may you and yours have a blessed Christmas season.

“Hark! the herald angels sing/ Glory to the newborn King

Peace on earth and mercy mild/ God and sinners reconciled!”

God Bless,

Mardi

 

 

 

Christmas at the Barn

Well, friends, Christmas has officially arrived at our barn!  Last week, Mardi and I were busy laying peel and stick vinyl flooring in our barn’s “hangout” room.  Probably not the best time of year to begin a DIY project, but we really wanted to put a tree up at the barn this year, so it was good motivation to get the job done.  And the flooring goes in so quick and easy…even Mardi and I can do it on our own.  It made such a difference in the room, too.  Now it is so much more warm and cozy feeling, which is awesome when you are doing chores in the winter!

Once we got the flooring done, we headed out to pick out a tree…at Wal-Mart.  Ugh, I know, I know.  A real one would have been so much more appropriate for a barn, but then it wouldn’t have had the beautiful fake snow on it!  We also grabbed a couple of super cheap ornaments that fit the barn theme perfectly.  Now we just needed to decorate!

Mardi made those yummy sugar cookie bars that we all love, and I brought some other (store-bought) goodies over, and we had ourselves a little tree-trimming cocoa party!  We even let the kids help decorate the tree!  Wasn’t that nice?  I thought so.  Okay, so I did move a few ornaments when they weren’t looking, but shh…don’t tell.

Christmas at the Barn

hot cocoa bar in the barn

We had a great time decorating and eating and sipping our cocoa.  And it was fun watching the horses and barn cats watching us through the window.  I said I kind of felt like we were the animals behind glass at the zoo and the animals were looking in at us humans.  All that was missing was a sleigh ride…but we are working on that, so maybe next year!

Christmas at the Barn

I hope you enjoyed this little tour of our barn decked out for Christmas.   And if you have your own little cocoa party, don’t forget to make these sugar cookie bars!  They are the perfect way to send your kids into a sugar induced frenzy! Trust me, I know from experience. That room got a little small with six of our seven kids plus our parents inside.  I’m thinking of one kid in particular that almost made this mama lose her cool.  Hey, who am I fooling?  I did lose my cool…but only once or twice!

Anybody else’s kid get super hyper (with or without sugar cookie bars) from about Thanksgiving til Christmas?  Let me know so I know I’m not alone…please…anyone…??

TLB’s Gift Guide For Older Boys

It’s officially Christmas time, friends!  I can blare my Christmas music unashamedly (I’ve already been listening to it for a solid month!)  The tree is trimmed, the mistletoe hung (not really…it just sounded good), and my shopping list is getting smaller.  I hate how fast this season flies by.  I just want to savor each and every day, enjoying the lights and decorations, the scents of candles and cookies, cozy fires and Christmas movies, and picking out that perfect gift for someone I love.

Do you have your shopping done early or are you a last-minute shopper?  Well, if you aren’t already finished (I’m definitely not!), Mardi and I have brainstormed some of our favorite ideas for kids in case you need a little help.  So for all of you needing to buy a gift for a boy…probably aged 10 and up, you’ll want to check out these ideas.  After all, we have three teenage boys between us, so we do know a thing or two about what they like!

All of our kids love these packable hammocks.  They can set them up themselves between any two trees with the adjustable straps.  It makes the perfect place to read or listen to music, and they can stack them up with friends.

If they have a hammock, then they definitely need this cool blow-up solar lantern.  It changes colors, is small and packable, and even charges devices.  Hang it on a backpack while hiking so that it charges during the day, and then enjoy the light at night from your tent or hammock.

Last year I got this cool chair for Kimball’s room and he loves it.  It works great for playing video games and hanging out, but my favorite part is that it unfolds and lays flat.  When one of his buddies sleep over, they have a place to sleep.  Well worth the money!

Here’s a fun game that just about any kid that likes being outside will enjoy.  Our boys haven’t got this yet, but it is definitely something Santa might bring!

Every kid knows Yeti stuff is cool.  Get them a Yeti water bottle to take along on outdoor adventures or sporting events, and you’ll score major cool points.

And this last idea is probably the best deal of the bunch.  A portable Bluetooth speaker that is waterproof and floats…perfect for taking along on hikes, kayak rides, or just hanging out at the beach or in a hammock.  It has great reviews on the sound quality and is way cheap right now.  I just put a couple in my cart!

So there you have it!  I hope this post gave you a couple of good ideas for those boys in your life.  The best part about most of these ideas is that they get your kid off the video game and outdoors.  Sounds like a win in my book!

Happy Shopping!  And if you have any great gift ideas, please share!

Megan

Honoring Veterans Every Day

Veteran’s Day is truly a day to be celebrated.  Megan and I are patriots, hence our name Two Liberty Belles.  We are so thankful to veterans for the freedoms that we’ve been given.  It is because of those brave men and women, because of their sacrifice, that we enjoy those freedoms today.  Veterans have been around since the birth of our country.  In 1776, it was Captain Nathan Hale, a 21 year old soldier who was captured and hanged by the British, that said, ” I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  That is a common attitude among veterans, and we are all the more blessed by it.

Megan and I have some veterans really close to our hearts.  Our Dad was in the Navy, my father-in-law Dave was in the Army, and Megan’s husband’s dad John (he died when Chris was young) was in the Army.  This was during the Vietnam War.  Chris’s dad John was Seventh-Day Adventist, so he was exempted from the draft.  However, he served our country as a medic, which his religion allowed.  My father-in-law and John Hanks both suffered terribly from the horrors that they witnessed.  Their lives were forever changed by the war. Back then, not much was known about PTSD, so they suffered in silence.  Sadly, Vietnam veterans did not experience the hero’s welcome that World War II veterans did, either.  We owe them all a deep debt of gratitude.

Dave Brott
John Hanks

Our paternal Great Grandpa Fazakerley (also named Frank, like our grandpa) was a career Army man. He served in both World War I and World War II.  His son Art was in the Navy (which is I think why our Dad chose the Navy).  Our maternal Grandpa, Newt Cunningham, was in the Navy too.  We have the coolest pictures of him on leave in Honolulu.  Unfortunately, we don’t have pictures of our Dad in his uniform.  Since Megan and I both wore his Navy uniform for Halloween when we were 13, that tells you how small he was.

Newt Cunningham

Nowadays, it is so hard to imagine 18 year old boys (some younger lied about their age) signing up to fight as they did during World War II.  I think we owe it to current and future generations to teach them about the sacrifices that have been made by brave men and women.  There are so many excellent books and movies that portray what veterans experienced.  The DVD series “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific” are great.  I know I’ve mentioned these books before, but Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton are riveting.  I just finished reading Lucky 666 by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin and I just can’t believe what soldiers went through!  The brotherhood of soldiers reminds me of the verse, “Greater love hath no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” -John 15:13

We must not forget the members of today’s military.  Let us not let them suffer in silence as the veterans of yesteryear.  I am a proud donor of The Wounded Warrior Project and I encourage everyone to think about donating.  The Wounded Warrior Project stands behind veterans and gives them support on the long road of recovery.  For just $19 a month, you can make a difference in the lives of veterans and their families.  If interested, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.  By the way, I’m not being paid to advertise for them!

Though Veteran’s Day has come and gone, let’s remember why we have veterans in the first place, and celebrate them everyday.

“We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free, and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in.”

-Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, No. 4, September 12, 1777

God bless our beloved veterans and God Bless America!

Mardi

 

 

 

Halloween Movies to Get You into the Spirit

I’m in my room, burning a spiced pumpkin candle, and watching Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  Life just doesn’t get much better.  Megan and I absolutely love fall, and with Halloween fast approaching, there are certain rituals that must be adhered to.   My favorite fall ritual, besides baking apple crisp, pumpkin pie, etc., is watching Halloween movies.  Maybe it goes back to my childhood and watching “It’s the Great Pumpkin” when it aired on TV.  It was a special night I looked forward to every year.  I’ve always loved The Peanuts, and still do.  It brings back the warm fuzzies I felt when watching those CBS specials as a child.  So now I own “It’s the Great Pumpkin” on DVD and watch it every year.  I watch it by myself (does that sound pathetic?) but I like to have my nieces over to watch it too.  They are good about humoring me!

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

I remember watching “The Birds” as a kid at our old house.  It was a Saturday afternoon in the fall and I just came across it on TV.  I was in our “hobby room,” which was like a little family room.  It had dark paneling and orange plaid carpet, and it was my favorite room in the house.  Hey, it was built in the 70’s!  Anyway, I watched “The Birds” and got really creeped out.  I didn’t see it again until I bought the DVD a few years ago to show my kids.  I told them how scary it was, how I remembered it.  We brought the movie to my friend Jennifer’s house and our families watched it together (after we dressed up like zombies and played zombie tag).  My kids teased me about how NOT scary it was and Sander said “well, that’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back,” after watching it.  Sander at 12…..now that’s scary.  I just noticed this year that “The Birds” is based on a book written by Daphne Du Maurier.   She also wrote My Cousin Rachel, which I just read this summer.

Alfred Hitchock's The Birds

Another must-see Halloween movie is Disney’s “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.”  I remember watching it as a kid, but Kendal for years has put the movie on for the kids after trick-or-treating.  “Hocus Pocus” is a favorite too….it will get you into the Halloween spirit.  My girls grew up watching the “Halloweentown” movies on Disney channel and Manon says it’s not Halloween until she’s watched it.  Movies like these are a fun part of childhood, or in my case, adulthood!

The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad

My daughter Marek loves Tyler Perry’s Madea movies, so last year we saw “Boo!  A Madea Halloween” at the theater.  It was hysterically funny.  The sequel comes out in a few days and we can’t wait to see it.  So whatever your fall and Halloween traditions, make sure you include a few movie nights.  Pop popcorn, make treats, light a candle, invite friends over, and watch a Halloween movie.  Or if you’re like me and your kids won’t watch them with you, watch them alone or invite your nieces over.  Enjoy the season because Thanksgiving and Christmas are just around the corner!

Mardi

What’s your favorite Halloween movie?

Spooky Crow Wreath

Happy Monday everyone!  Hope you all had a nice, relaxing weekend and are ready for a brand new week.  We had three soccer games this weekend, but other than that it was pretty laid back.  And it was cloudy, rainy, and windy…which I actually love this time of year (except when I’m at said soccer games).  This kind of weather makes me want to stay inside and do something crafty.  I know, I’m a nerd.  The problem is, I waste all my time looking on Pinterest trying to figure out what craft to do.  I pin and I pin and I never actually commit to making anything.  Does anyone else do that, or is it just me?  Well, if this is you too, then hopefully this post is a call to action for you.  I have a craft all picked out for you, and once you have the stuff you need, it can be done in no time.

So, step away from Pinterest (it’s okay…take a deep breath…you’ll survive), and make plans to head to the store.  You need to make this spooky little wreath now!  I already did the hard part…figuring out what to make…for you.  I did the Pinterest research and found this adorable wreath last year and made two of them with my girls (I cannot find the original pin to give credit for the idea, but I remember it being a Williams Sonoma knock-off). These are eight inch wreaths, but it would look just as cute with a bigger wreath and bird. They hang them on their bedroom door for their own little Halloween décor.  Aren’t they adorable?

Best of all, they are super easy. So here is what you need:

  • grapevine wreath, any size
  • moss
  • black crow (usually you can find these at the dollar store or a craft store like Jo-Anns or Hobby Lobby)
  • hot glue gun and glue sticks
  • black spray paint

First of all, spray paint your grapevine wreath black.  Make sure you get into all of the cracks and crevices.  After it is dry to touch (I didn’t wait long), wire or hot glue (or both) your crow to your wreath.  Next, glob on some glue and moss all around your crow.  Just don’t burn your finger like I always do.

See!  You are already done!  Now go grab a command hook or wreath hanger and hang your simple, spooky wreath up. And hurry, because Halloween will be here and gone before we know it!

Megan