Saturday, December 31, 2011


 Christmas decorating always brings out the collections and with it much nostalgia. I didn't do a lot of decorating this year but I did bring out "The Snow Village" and a few nativities. I have been collecting pieces to The Snow Village since our first wedding anniversary. One advantage to getting married on the 30th of December is the fact that most of these pieces were bought on sale after Christmas as anniversary gifts. The first pieces we purchased were the ice skaters, the basketball players and the big white farm house. The big white farmhouse reminds us of our wish to live out in the country and of course in the 80's basketball was John's life - aside from me, which goes without saying. The ice skating piece was also wedding related and reminded us of going "skating" in DC with lots of friends and family a few nights before our wedding. We also loved all the red heads in this collections - hmm wonder why? and since there are tons of kids they all got names from John's siblings. Later years saw the addition of the barn, the anniversary piece, the red truck and several other pieces. The latest addition was the soldier coming home in time for Christmas and was in Michael's honor when he made it home on Christmas Eve.

 The ice skaters usually include Sarajane and Sabrina 
and Nathaniel who has fallen down

 John and Ensign playing basketball
Andrew and Luke sledding on saucers,
just like we used to fly down hills.
 Happy Anniversary - December 20, 1983

someday a barn...

Welcome Home Mikey - 2008

Another collection I have been working on over the years is the Nativities - of course to emphasize the true meaning of Christmas. At first my goal was to find unusual ones and I have found many of those - like the red clay one from Sedona, and the wrought iron one from Lancaster, the carved wood from the Philippines and of course the homemade ones we made with the kids. This year I only set out two of my sets - my most recent acquisitions which don't really fit the "unusual" definition but they are easily two of my favorites, mostly due to size and probably due to the fact that the Willow Tree set was a gift from my kids over the course of a few years.

Santos set

 the home made set made from wooden blocks and felt. Our set has three shepherds, multiple sheep, three wise men etc. One year we made these with the kids from church - over 20 sets - that's a lot of felt to cut. We've also made them with my nieces and nephews and of course I am looking forward to making a set with my grandchildren some day.

I also have a snowman collection. These are all about 10 - 12 inches high and collection one a year for about 8 years.When the artist quit making them, I quit collecting them. Perhaps they'll be out on my shelves next year. Or maybe it will be a Chrismons year, or a vintage Christmas books year or ..... we'll just have to wait and see.

And don't even start me on ornaments. At one of my bridal showers everyone was asked to bring a Christmas ornament. Many of those are hand crafted and somewhere is the list of who gave what. But this year we had a red, white and blue tree to honor our daughter-in-law Laura who is serving on deployment somewhere out there. Each year that Mike was gone we also did the red white and blue theme so it seemed fitting to use them once again. Anything red, white or blue makes the tree along with a plethora of snowflakes and some gold ornaments from places we've visited in the grand ole USA. This year a family of cardinals graced the top of our tree thanks to Kayla. Time to visit some after Christmas sales and see what's left

Off to pack up my collections - Happy New Years!

As promised

Here are a few pictures of some of the things I made this Christmas.
I made LOTS of these. First off for the Art group I am a member of - our monthly swap was ornaments. I got some interesting ones in return. I also made one for each of my babies that I play with in childcare. For most of them it was there first Christmas and for others it is the first Christmas they participated in as they were newborns last Christmas. (not allowed to publish those pics, unfortunately cuz they are cute as the dickens!)

Then to keep tradition going I made a set of ornaments for Mike and Laura's first Christmas from wedding pictures.

Each of my kiddos (and spouse where appropriate) got this cookbook Holiday Baking. It is filled with the cookie, and other yummy recipes that we "have to have" each Christmas. Of course it also has lots of pictures from Christmas baking adventures in the past and pictures of their first Christmases.

Next for my two married kids I made perpetual calendars - you know the kind you use year after year to keep tracks of special dates like family birthdays and anniversaries etc.

I made note cards from some of my favorite photos. Shutterfly had a great deal going so I produced mass quantity to use as gifts and also to sell.

And lastly I made a Wall Word for my son-in-law who loves to read. Upon opening, the boys did some very interesting "rewording" who knows what will actually go up on the wall. No picture currently but I decoupaged on paper mache letters from Hobby Lobby the word READ, using black paint, black and white scrapbooking papers and a little distressing to keep it real.

Also sold  a dozen luminaries and multiple sets of oak candle holders and 2 dozen wreaths (total). Two churches and a wedding will be graced with our oak trees and globe amaranth wreaths this season.  Santa's Workshop and the elf helpers have all been very busy

 this is what they look like for weddings.
and below with beautiful fresh greens 
and holly in the church windows

And that my friends is my home-crafted Christmas 2011.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas my friends

It is the day of Christmas Eve and aside from wrapping and cooking I have it in the bag. I can't wait to show you the gifts I made this year. I am super happy with them. Of course, if I were to show you now some surprises would be spoiled so you will have to wait, along with me, to see what I cooked up this year. Speaking of cooking, and baking, yesterday was cinnamon roll baking day. None of these shortcuts for us - it is the real McCoy - nothing beats homemade yeast dough and everytime I see those recipes for cheaters or those things in a can I feel a little self-righteous - forgive me please! Today I better finalize the menu for Christmas Dinner. I am super excited that tonight we are doing Christmas Eve at Lynnette and Drew's house. We are "killing two birds with one stone" and having Christmas Brunch for Christmas Eve so that we can actually go to church to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas Day and not miss out on any traditions. Of course we will grab some cinnamon rolls on our way to church and then when we get home tear into the gifts. Looking forward to it. We'll eat our meal at dinnertime. Everytime I plan a Christmas dinner I see so many carbs - everything we love is carb heavy - yet when I ask for favorites and must haves they all come up again. Sweet Potato Casserole, mashed potatoes and gravy, Spoon Bread, Homemade rolls, this year I am skipping the grean bean casserole and trying something new - Sweet and Sour green beans and instead of honey and brown sugar on the carrots I am going to oven roast them to bring out the sweetness. We'll see how many complaints I get. Part of me says Oh just go with it and start a diet in the New Year. Which I will do but my jeans are already feeling tight and I still have Boxing Day (Haney Christmas) and New's Year's Eve and Day to get through. UGH  - already feeling the pain.
Well I will attach a copy of our Christmas Note and bid you adieu - time to get my elf hat back on! I made my cards this year but of course they are gone and not a picture taken so here's the note and Merry Christmas

this year's family picture

Merry Christmas from the Underwoods
How blessed we are to have been given another year to love and to serve Jesus as we celebrate His birth this season. Here is a quick snapshot of our busy year.
John – survived another hard year at Loudoun Tunneling Co., Inc. We are grateful that the business is still running and we have some work to do. However it has been a long hard road in this economy and we pray things pick up soon. He recently moved his office into our home and seems to now work night and day. We enjoyed seeing many of his cousins and extended family at a reunion this summer in Lake of the Ozarks, MO.
Mary – has put on a lot of travel miles this year with over 20 states and counting. Her new project has been speaking to women’s retreats and other gatherings. The topic is “Journey of a Lifetime – Reflections on Pilgrim’s Progress” and has been well received at each event.  She also switched jobs and now works in childcare at our church. Playing with babies on W, TH, F is a highlight of the week and almost removes the itch for being a grandma.
Lynnette – continues to teach a combined 2nd/3rd grade at Lorien Wood. She is in her fifth year of teaching. Her husband, Andrew recently began a new job for the Dept. of Justice and now commutes to DC every day.  We love having them about 30 mins from us.
Michael- was married to Laura Parks this past October. They moved to San Diego where she is stationed with the US Navy. We miss her this Christmas as she tours around the world and pray for her safety onboard ship and in ports they will be visiting. It’s a rough way to start a marriage of 6 weeks, but we hope this will fulfill the necessity of a deployment for a long time.
Kayla – is a senior at Covenant College and we don’t know where the time went. She will graduate in May as a Sociology Major with a concentration in Counseling along with two minors: Community Development and  Missions. She has enjoyed her years of volleyball and decided to finish up by playing a season of basketball. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Closing Up the Farm for Winter

Since this "farm" is a work in progress, and we use the term farm quite liberally, we usually do not make many trips down during the winter. First of all - nothing is growing and secondly, and most important in my book is there is no heat. So we drain our pipes in our little trailer and say goodbye until spring. It was a very cold weekend we chose to go down to take care of this project. As long as we were working we were fine but when we went to sit down in the evening with a little shared heater it was cold! We did have a cozy almost hot bedroom for sleeping - actually turned the heater off during the night it was so warm but everywhere else in our trailer you could see your breath.
We still had potatoes to dig - lots of large sweet potatoes and we found some surprise onions that we had missed last time. And since our apple trees did not do so well this year we stopped at an orchard and got a few apples for making applesauce. We also paused to enjoy an awesome sunset. Just incredible to watch it unfold. We hightailed it up to the ridge behind our place to watch the final moments.
I also did a little shopping in Appomattox - I happened to hit their Christmas Sale in Old Town and picked up a few fun things including a Christmas ornament to join our collection of the places we've been.
In all honesty it was a bittersweet trip. In my head I kept thinking "Please don't let this be the last time." so I looked at it through a different lens as I made the rounds of each special place. We don't want to have to sell it, we don't want to let it go ever but with the economy wreaking havoc on business it may be our only option. I hate even writing that! but as we look at properties to move our business (Loudoun County is a butthead - excuse my language) one solution we're batting around is to sell our house and our farm and buy land that will house us and the business and have some room to still play farmer. Not at all what I want to do, but then again, I certainly can't live in an icy cold trailer all winter now can I? And we have seen some nice places so it might not be all bad but I love our farm and the dreams we dream there and the way it brings our family together for fun, not to mention all the great marriage building time and the photography. Oy vay! enough already!
So enjoy the pics and keep your fingers crossed that there will be years of more!
And so that we don't end on a sad note here's a funny story. We had driven about 30 minutes towards home when I suddenly remembered I had left some things on the kitchen table - a banana and a chocolate bar. I asked John if he had by any chance picked up the banana from the kitchen table and he just looked at me and said - "Really?" ha - so either the mice have had a real feast OR it froze and will be waiting for us or it rotted and our little trailer will smell like a banana next year. Ew! makes me laugh every time I think about it.

I have lots of pics for this blog but they are not loading so I'll post and have to add pics later.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

So much to be thankful for! It's a lovely day in Georgia and actually the day after Thanksgiving but since I am surrounded by family  - who are playing games and we're all stuffed again, it seemed like a good idea to once again give thanks. My contributions to this year's meal were limited - but that's kind of nice for a change. I did make pies - an apple cider pie and Grandma Hansen's rhubarb pie, and I also made the sweet potato casserole - with the crunchy cornflake topping. I am looking forward to a slice of pie in a little bit.
But thankfulness is the topic here so let me list a few things - just to keep record for myself. It has been a good year. We've kept in business another year - even though John had to move the office home and do some layoffs, we still have a business which supports us and several employees and we have work to do. We may even dig out of this hole at some point if it keeps up like this so there is much to be thankful for. I have found work this year in various forms and those jobs have helped as well. The biggest new experience job wise has been the speaking engagements that have come about - who knew I would enjoy that so much! And I have been able to do lots of craft and art projects this year. Travels have been enjoyed and over 20 states have been visited. And best of all has been the new addition to our family - daughter in love, Laura, and the fun family times that surrounded that fun event.
Health issues have cropped up over the year for several of us but God is good and things that could be worse have been solved or  solution options are being sought.
And farming has been fun. We've not spent much time at the farm but we did have a great harvest of sweet potatoes and my globe amaranth harvest was almost overwhelming. I dried tons of it and used some of it to make wreaths for Mike's rehearsal dinner. And photos were successful this year as well. I enjoyed writing the blog for Stoney Lonesome Farm and one of the pictures I used was "found" by Bon Apetit. Woot woot!
So much to be thankful for - its been a good year!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

so neglected

4 weeks! since I last blogged - what a violation to blog land. I've thought about it, and certainly had plenty of inspiration around me but just didn't get there. So my apologies to anyone who has missed me and if you didn't well then here's a new read.
I've been across the country and back. Exactly four weeks ago I was packing up to fly to San Francisco and speak at a women's retreat. I had a lovely time, made new friends, saw new places, and made a decision that it was a good time to search out my roots. I've made this decision before and things did not pan out for one reason or another but this time I have committed to the search and the find. I have a very knowledgeable friend working on it who lives locally (I was born outside of San Fran) and I am digging through everything I can get my hands on to get info to her. Adoption was a very different ballgame in the 60s than it is nowadays so we will see what we can find.
Speaking was greater fun than I expected. Aside from the fact that sweat was rolling off my back, I felt calm and felt like it went well. Comments were favorable and follow up emails have been great. I could get used to this as another ministry for this phase of my life, provided there are more people who want to hear what I have to say. I did another retreat here in VA which also went well. It was at Grave's Mtn Lodge which is a beautiful setting. I have one more speaking engagement in December for a senior group in PA and then next year for a MOPS group. I'm also working on some different material so people have options.
On the home front we've been rolling along nicely. Getting used to having John's office in the house and his assistant a couple days a week. I've been up to my usual tricks - made about 8 qts of applesauce and have another batch to do. Roasted 6 pumpkins and froze that for future feasts. I made a delicious apple cake this week which was gone in a flash since I took it to small group. I've also been busy crafting since Christmas is coming. My yahoo art group made Thanksgiving banners and now we are swapping Christmas ornaments. I am having a Mary and Bright sale in early December so working on some surprises for that too. Will start to feature those after Thanksgiving.
Speaking of Thanksgiving we will be headed to Atlanta via Lookout Mtn to see Kayla play basketball. Then we'll all head to Ensign and Lisa's for the weekend.
But first this weekend we have to head to the farm and winterize the place before the pipes burst.So our last trip down there for a while. OF course there will be pictures from there too so perhaps it won't be 4 weeks between posts this time.
thanksgiving banner each member of CPA donated a pennant 

 a delicious harvest lasagna with kale, butternut squash, Ricotta cheese and Parmesan

 In the meantime - Blessing to you on this Thanksgiving week. May your attitude be one of gratitude. We have been given MUCH!

Monday, October 17, 2011

playing with the goats and the electric fence

My daughters and I went for a Sunday drive, cameras in tow, to look for pretty pictures. Well actually our goal was to pick up our last CSA share. Yes another season is over - almost - turns out we get a bonus week! Yay! While at Stoney Lonesome Farm we enjoyed walking the farm and enjoying the crisp air and the view. The leaves didn't seem to be too much changed at the farm (there's an awkward sentence). but Fall was definitely in the air. We were walking along minding our own business, calling to the horses and goats in the field, when "something" bit me. "I think that fence is electric," called Kayla! DUH! without thinking she had put her hands down on the wire. As she got zapped she pulled back which cause the wire to rock and hit me while leaning over to take a picture. No one was hurt but it sure gave us the giggles for a few minutes. Kayla refused to open any gates or touch anything after that. The scenery was gorgeous and I am happy to share it with you.
 still coming - pumpkins

 a group of kids were picking beans for "the hungry" in DC
 a little taste of fall

 another "taste" of fall...colorful swiss chard
" come play with me"

keeping her distance from the fence

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fall...My Favorite Time of Year

I do love fall; the cooler temps, the beautiful colors, the pep in the air, the time of renewal. But this year I have let it get away from me. It's been a busy month+ with a wedding, some travels, sickness and more travels. We have been to the farm twice - quick trips each time but oh so relaxing as you drive onto our property and feel peace. If only it were closer! We even missed out on most of the apples this year. It wasn't too great a year for production with the crazy weather but after one picking we returned to find the majority of them on the ground. Darn - I am almost out of homemade applesauce too! The Arkansas Blacks are still on the tree and will get picked next trip. They really are best if they sit a while over the winter so hopefully I'll get a few pies and so forth out of them around the holidays. Here's a review of the last month - in pictures and if you "read" all the way down to the end have I got some fun news for me - squeal!!!

 the last of the flowers from the farm
and "Making Hay while the Sun Shines"
 Baby boy gets married - Oct 1, 2011

Mike and his lovely wife Laura
 playing peek-a-boo - see the bride on the right? 
great shot captured by our friend Steve
 Grandma and Kayla - after collapsing at the rehearsal dinner and spending much of the night in the ER, grandma was present and perky the next day!
 The Underwood clan
My daughter shows me what she'll look like as a mommy - Be Still my Heart
 The Love of My Life!
 The signature Underwood candle holder
available for sale
Goodbye flowers - hello leaves

And my news - which really isn't that big but still exciting - Bon Apetit magazine has contacted me about using a picture of mine in an upcoming issue - they actually found it on my other blog - the one I get paid to do - Woot Woot - will let you know the details when I know them.